I fell into pockets of sleep. The beeping beside me and the pain behind my eyes kept me awake. Every time I woke up, my heart pounded, I would forget where I was, and I pulled on the metal around my wrists. I did not hear Dr. Sweeney come back into the lab again.
My head continued to throb, and there was a new pain in my abdomen. My stomach growled. The last time I ate was at lunch before going to track practice. I had no idea how long ago that was.
Footsteps echoed and Dr. Sweeney was back. He pushed my head forward and pulled the plastic mask off. He jammed something in my ear and there was a beep.
“No fever,” he said. “You’re doing a lot better this morning. Are you hungry? I brought you some food.”
“Yes,” I said.
I used my elbows to push myself up higher on the bed. The chair squeaked as he wheeled himself over.
“Open your mouth,” he told me.
“I can do it,” I said. “Untie my hands.”
“I’m not taking your bandages off,” he said. “I cannot remove them until tonight.”
“You can keep the bandages on. Just let my hands go.”
He let out a deep breath. The wheels squeaked and there was a rattle. He grabbed my hands and freed my wrists.
I rubbed the sore skin and pushed myself up higher on the bed. I touched my face. Soft gauze was under my fingertips. I brought my hands down to my chest. There was a thin gown covering me. Wires were stuck to my skin and I traced them as they ran to the side of the bed. My fingers hit a plastic tube of my IV. Sweeney put his hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t pull anything out or try to get up,” he told me. “If you do I’ll be forced to keep you restrained after I take off your bandages.”
“You’ll take off the restraints when this comes off my face?”
“Yes, but only if you behave.”
He placed something light down on my lap.
“I made you a sandwich,” he said.
His chair squeaked, and then I heard the clicking of a keyboard. I brought my hands down to the weight on my lap. I ran my fingers across the cold plate until I felt the bread. I took a bite of the sandwich. The bread was dry, and the awful taste of mustard and bologna filled my mouth. There was nothing in the world I hated more than mustard.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
I must be making a face of disgust while eating.
“I don’t like mustard,” I said.
“I’ll remember that,” he said.
I finished the sandwich as Sweeney typed on what I assumed was a computer. I thought about throwing the blankets off of me and running, but it seemed pointless. I was connected to so many different wires and tubes that I would trip and stumble onto the floor. Sweeney would catch me and tie me back down to the bed. He would never let me go, and I would not have another chance to run. Who knows what would happen when I rip these bandages off anyways? I might be blind, and then I wouldn’t know where to run.
Sweeney passed me a glass of water. I drained the cup. He snatched it out of my hand and picked up the plate.
“How’s your pain?” he asked.
“Better, but it still hurts,” I said. “Am I going to die?”
“I have a good feeling about you,” he said. “I think you’re going to make it. I can’t wait to see my creation.”
He grabbed my wrist, and the metal ring tightened around my skin.
“Please, don’t,” I said. I held my free wrist behind my body. “I promise I won’t run.”
“It has to be this way, Kitten,” he said. “I can’t have you ruining my work because you start to panic.”
His sweaty fingers wrapped around my free wrist. I yanked my arm away. He grabbed my wrist again and gave it a sharp twist. I shrieked as the pain shot up my arm. He used my moment of weakness to push my wrist down and lock it back in the restraint.
“Get some rest,” he told me.
Time dragged on. Sweeney came down every hour or so, but he never said anything to me. I didn’t move and pretended to be asleep as he walked around the bed. The chair squeaked and I listened as he typed for a few minutes.
A lump formed in my throat as I heard him wheel himself toward the bed. His fingers grazed along the inside of my arm. A shiver to run up my spine.
“Are you awake, Diana?” he asked.
I couldn’t pretend to be asleep forever. He said he would take my bandages off tonight and free my wrists. That’s probably why he came down here.
“Yes,” I said before letting out a shaky breath.
“How are you feeling?”
“My head still hurts,” I said. “How long will it last?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll keep you on your painkillers for the next few days.”
He pulled down the top of my gown, and something cold touched my chest. I pulled away from Sweeney and brought my hands up. I wanted to push him away, but I couldn’t get my hands far.
“Calm down,” he said. “I’m listening to your chest. Take a few deep breaths for me.”
I took in a deep breath. I curled my fingers into a fist. He moved his stethoscope across my chest. The cold chill of the air across my bare chest. I wanted to pull my gown up and curl up into a ball.
When he was done, he pulled my gown back up. His wheels squeaked, and I heard his rifle through a drawer. I hoped that he was looking for the key to the restraints. I listened as he walked around the room. A new set of wheels were rolling toward me.
Sweeney pulled the blankets back. I snatched a handful of the sheets before he could pull them down. I pulled the small section I had back over my body. He fought with my fingers to try and uncurl them.
“Diana, don’t fight me,” he said. “I need to take your catheter out.”
He yanked the blankets out of my grasp.
My older sister, Marcy, was a nurse. When she was still in school, she used to tell me all of her gross stories when she came home for the holidays. She told me about learning to put catheters in. I realized that it was the plastic tube between my legs. I didn’t want him going down there, but I knew I had no choice.
I thought it was embarrassing when he was touching my chest, but this was much worse. When he pulled up the bottom of my gown, I bit down hard on my bottom lip. My fingers curled into the sheet covering the mattress. My heart was pounding he touched my skin. I kept reminding myself that he was a doctor and that he sees people naked all the time.
Relief washed over me when he pulled my gown down and threw the blankets back onto me. He walked away from me and wheeled something across the room.
There was a jingle, and then Sweeney’s hands on my wrist. He unlocked whatever was wrapped around my hand. He reached across the bed and freed my other hand. I pushed myself up to sit straighter. I brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around myself. My arm ached, and the tape holding my IV in place was pulling at my skin.
“I can’t wait to see my work,” Sweeney said.
The bed dipped as he sat down on the edge of the mattress. He placed his hand on top of my knee.
“Are you ready for me to take off the bandages?” he asked.
I sucked in a deep breath and curled my fingers into my skin before nodding my head.