Patient Twelve

Chapter Thirty-Four

I managed to convince Ben to follow me into the bathroom. He had removed his T-shirt and was leaning against the counter. I searched the cabinets in the bathroom, but all I could find was gauze and Vitamin E gel. I washed and cleaned his infected skin. Ben flinched whenever I touched him, and grabbed my wrist.

“Di, that really hurts,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “It looks awful. You need to see a doctor.”

“You know why that can’t happen.”

I wanted to tell him that the infection would spread and it was basically a death sentence, but I bit my tongue. If I told him that we would both be dead.

“You need antibiotics,” I said.

“I’m aware,” he said.

“Didn’t you take those prescription pads from Bethany?” I remembered what Ben had told me back in Oliver’s basement. “We can just write a prescription for you. We won’t have to go to a doctor.”

Ben let out a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. I don’t know if it was because of the bright lights on the vanity or because I finally had my glasses back, but I noticed the dark bags under his eyes.

“I can’t use them,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I can’t write Bethany or Oliver’s name down on them,” he said. “I don’t have a signature I can use.”

“You can’t be serious, Ben. Did you not think of this before?”

“I wasn’t planning on them dying. That wasn’t in the original plan.”

“What about the pills we take? Those immunosuppressants? What are we going to do when we run out?”

“I haven’t thought about that yet. I was more concerned with getting us here.”

I shook my head and looked over at my reflection in the mirror. I may be staying alive, but once those pills run out I am losing my sight.

“We’re here now,” he said. “I will think of something tonight.”

“Ben, we could lose everything,” I said.

There wasn’t much more I could lose. All I had left was my life and my vision.

“As long as we’re together we’ll be okay,” he said.

He cupped the side of my face, but I pulled away from him.

“Let me finish cleaning that for you,” I said.

I didn’t wait for his response before putting a layer of the cream over the infection. I knew it wouldn’t do much, but it was better than nothing. I wrapped the gauze around his waist to cover it. Ben slipped his shirt back on after. He kissed my temple before leaving the bathroom. He went into the kitchen. I stepped out to see that he was looking at the cans and other boxes of food in the cupboard.

I walked over to the sliding glass door on the side of the living room. It lead out to a wooden deck with a set of stairs right at the edge of a lake. The sun had already begun to set, and the sky was being taken over by darkness. I looked over my shoulder to see Ben’s back was to me.

My hand grabbed the door handle. I could run out of this house. I could run and get help. I took another look over my shoulder to see Ben still looking through the cupboards. If I ran he wouldn’t be able to keep up with my pace, especially with his infection. He did have a car though. No matter how fast I thought I was, I knew that I could not unrun that.

“What are you doing?” Ben asked.

I looked behind me again to see Ben had his arms crossed over his chest. I let my hand fall from the handle.

“I really want to watch the sunset,” I lied.

Ben uncrossed his arms and smiled. I could see the tension leave his body as he walked toward me.

“All you had to do was ask,” he said.

He grabbed my hand and unlocked the door. His grip on my hand tightened as we stepped outside. There were two wooden Adirondack chairs on the porch with a small wooden table between them. Ben sat down in one chair. He grabbed my hips and pulled me onto his lap. He shifted my weight so that I was not resting against his infection. He wrapped his arms around me and rested his chin on my shoulder. I pulled at the hem of my dress. The cold wind was causing goosebumps to cover the bare skin on my legs.

“I could definitely get used to this,” Ben said. My teeth started to chatter, and Ben rubbed my arms. “We shouldn’t stay out for too long. I don’t want you catching a cold.”

I nodded. I looked around the lake to see only one other cabin. I had to squint to make out that it was even a cabin. It was on the opposite side of the lake. As it got darker outside, I was praying I’d see a light turn on. Some kind of signal that someone was living there.

Ben pulled me back into the house before any light turned on.

It must be someone’s summer cottage that will be abandoned until spring.

Ben didn’t leave my side for a second once we went back into the cabin. We ate a can of soup that we found in the cupboard. Ben kept his hands on my waist as I heated it on the stove. He insisted that we took another shower together. I struggled not to push him away as his hands ran all over my body. When he started to kiss my neck, I complained that I had a headache and he stopped. After we dried off and got changed, he pulled me into the bed.

I scooted my body over to the edge of the bed as I listened to Ben walk around the bedroom. I heard a jingle and a zipper. The lights above me flicked off and the bed dipped. Ben’s arm slipped around my waist and he pulled me across the bed and into his chest.

I lied there in silence. I tried to wiggle free out of his hold, but that just caused his grip to tighten. I stopped moving, and Ben let out a deep breath.

I listened as his breathing became deep and rhythmic. It felt like I was lying there for hours listening to Ben breathe. His breathing was all I could hear. During the nights at the series of motels, the voices from the other rooms would echo into ours. This was just a further reminder that we were out here alone.

I could see the shapes of the large, antique, wooden furniture in the room. A dresser and thick mirror were across from the bed. Two empty bookcases were on Ben’s side of the bed. A wardrobe was on my side. The doors to the wardrobe were wide open. It was empty, except for a row of wire hangers pushed to the side. The duffel bag Ben had been carrying around was at the bottom.

I remembered that noise Ben made before he crawled into the bed. The noise of that zipper I heard every night. It was the sound of him doing up the duffel bag. That jingle must have been the keys to the car.

If I got the keys out of the bag, I could get Ben’s car and drive until I found a city. I would drive until I found a police station or even until I found a house. I would bang on the door and beg for them to call the cops. My photo had been all over the news. They had to help me.

Ben muttered something in his sleep and curled me in closer to his chest. It was like he knew what I was thinking. I curled my fingers around his and pulled his arm back. I slipped out of the bed and placed Ben’s arm onto the mattress.

My bare feet hit the cold floor. I tiptoed over to the wardrobe. I picked up the bag and carried it over to the kitchen. I didn’t close the bedroom door because all of the doors creaked. I set the bag down on the kitchen counter. I did not turn on the light because I did not want any of the light to flood into the bedroom and wake Ben.

My ability to see in the dark had improved drastically from the surgery. I was able to make out shapes in the darkness. I slowly pulled back the zipper to the bag. Without the light, I was still able to differentiate between the different items in the bag. I was hoping that the keys would be sitting on the top, but it wasn’t. I dug through the bag. My hand ran along with the soft fabric of our clothes. I undid one of the side pockets and looked through it. I could see a collection of medication bottles. I pushed a few of them to the side and I saw it.

The car keys were in there. I pulled them out and set them down on the counter beside the bag.

The light turned on above me. I jumped and clutched at my pounding heart. I spun around to see Ben in the doorway. He was digging the heel of his hand into his eye as he yawned. He combed his tangled hair back with his fingers as he walked into the kitchen. He raised an eyebrow when he saw me.

“What are you doing, sweetheart?” he asked.

I glanced back at the duffel bag. I couldn’t tell him the truth. I could see the array of bottles. I picked one up and gave him a faint smile.

“My headache is still really bad,” I lied. “I wanted to see if there was anything I could take.”

“You should have woken me,” he said. He pulled the bottle out of my hand and read the label. “You could have taken the wrong thing and hurt yourself.”

“I had to read that nursing textbook,” I said. “I know what ones I need to take.”

“Then why do you have anti-inflammatory?”

The heat rushed up to my face. I was afraid he was seeing through my lies. Ben chuckled and put the bottle back into the bag. He pulled out a small white bottle and took out one of the pills. He poured a glass of water before handing me the pill.

“This is Tylenol,” he said. “It should make you feel better.”

I nodded and swallowed the pill. Ben tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear and pressed his lips against my forehead.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I would have given you something earlier if I knew how bad it was.”

“Thank you,” I said.

I glanced behind me to see that the key was still sitting on the counter. My heart was beating so loud I could hear it pounding in my ears. Ben had yet to notice. I could still follow through with my plan.

I set the glass down and wrapped my arms around his neck. Ben put his hands on my hips. He smiled and I leaned up higher to kiss him. He chuckled as he deepened the kiss. He must have been pleasantly surprised by my actions.

“Head back to bed,” I said. “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Come with me,” he said. “I can’t sleep without you. I woke up when I noticed you weren’t in bed.”

“I just need a minute.”

“For what?”

Ben’s fingers curled tighter into my waist. The smile dropped off his face. I let out a slow breath and tried to control it so that it was not shaky. I slid my hands down onto his chest. I gave him a smile and smoothed out the wrinkles in his shirt.

“I just wanted to wash my face and stuff,” I said, unable to think of a really good excuse. “I just feel really gross.”

It was a dumb lie, but it was enough to extract a laugh out of Ben. He shook his head before kissing me again.

“You’re so ridiculous,” he said. “Come on.”

He bent down and slid one of his arms under my knees. I yelped as he lifted me off of the floor. He curled me into his body as he walked toward the bedroom. He set me down on the bed. He propped himself up on one elbow and brushed my hair out of my face.

The keys were still sitting on the counter. Even if I could not run away tonight, I needed to put the keys back in the bag. If Ben saw the keys out of the duffle bag, he would know that I was trying to escape.

I reached up and cupped the side of his face. Ben let his head fall into my hand.

“I think I want another glass of water,” I said, thinking of a new excuse to get up.

“I’ll go get it for you,” he said.

“No!” I bit my lip after I realized that I shouted at him.

“Why not?”

“Just lie down and rest. I’ve already disturbed you enough tonight.”

“Di, you’re not feeling good. You’re the one who needs to rest.”


He grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand away from his face.

“I’m going to get you some water,” he said. His voice was much harsher. “I better not see you get out of this bed for the rest of the night.”

Before I could respond, he got off of the bed. He left the room and went into the kitchen. He had turned on the lights, but he was too far away for me to make out what he was doing. I just saw a blurry blob moving around the kitchen.

I squeezed my eyes shut and bit on my fingernails. Ben would see the keys on the counter and know my plan. He would barge into the bedroom with his gun and threaten to kill both of us. I don’t know how I would explain this one away. He’ll probably be so enraged that I could not calm him down before he would start shooting.

I was shaking as I listened to Ben move around. I opened my eyes when I heard the bedroom door creak shut. He looked pretty calm as he turned on the lamp and sat on the edge of the bed. He smiled and rested his hand on my knee.

“How does your head feel?” he asked, handing me the water.

“Good,” I said.

I managed to give him a faint smile.

My plan may have been a failure, but at least I did not get caught.

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