Thankfully I didn’t feel woozy today. Maybe I could leave before the weekend was over, be back at school on Monday.
“All right, let your feet come down to the floor, slowly.” The nurse held the bag from the top, and I had to look away from the yellow fluid sloshing inside. Good grief. This was worse than having a baby. The gown rode up as I moved, and the long white bandage holding the tube in place on my thigh peeked out. I could not have been more glad I had asked Gavin to go to class.
The nurse offered her arm. “All right, pull yourself up carefully. Let’s see how steady you are.”
I definitely felt the weakness in my legs as I held on to the nurse’s meaty arm and braced myself with the bed rail. As soon as I was vertical, my head began throbbing.
“Excellent. A few steps.”
The first movement forward was a little tremulous, but once I had taken a couple steps, it got easier.
“Okay, that’s good,” she said. “I can pull this.” She led me back to the bed.
I sank onto the mattress with relief, my thighs still quivering.
“Once we get some food in you, you’ll be good as gold.” She helped me move my legs back up. “This will just be a little pinch.”
The ceiling tiles were much easier to stare at than her ministrations down below. I winced as the bandage came off, then sucked in a big gulp of air as something came free between my legs.
“All done,” she said.
She whisked the tubing and bag away. “Someone will come in with breakfast shortly.”
I released a long-held breath when she left. This part was almost over. I wanted to be home, back to my books. I would be so behind in classes. It was only Friday, so at least I hadn’t missed a star party for astronomy yet. But the literature, the reading. I would have to ask Gavin to bring my books so I could catch up.
The thought of him settled me. My parents would come around, even Dad. Everything would be fine.
Someone knocked at the door, and I scurried to drag the sheets back over my legs. “Come in!”
I expected someone with a food tray, but a youngish woman with funny cat’s-eye glasses came in. “Corabelle, you up?”
This was it. I sat as straight as I could, hoping to present a normal, and more importantly sane, appearance.
She moved across the room and extended a hand. “I’m Sabrina. I work with the patients here.”
I accepted the handshake, feeling suspicious of every word. Why not just say she was a social worker? Or was she some sort of therapist?
I realized I hadn’t answered. “Hello, Sabrina,” I said. Manners, Corabelle. Normal and sane.
She pulled a stool next to the bed, smoothing out her zebra-striped skirt that fluttered over her knees, another anachronism. “Your doctors asked me to stop by and chat with you.”
My face burned as my heart rate accelerated. At least I wasn’t on monitors anymore, so Sabrina couldn’t tell. “Did we get my insurance squared away?”
“Oh, I’m not with billing or anything. I came to talk to you a little about your history, and what happened the other day.”
I didn’t answer, not sure what to say, what could cause trouble for me.
She opened a folder. “I got your records from the UCSD health clinic.”
Now my heart really hammered. The doctor there had written me a mental health referral. God, I wished I’d never gone. If Gavin had just told me about the vasectomy before, I wouldn’t have been in there thinking I was pregnant.
I realized I was clenching the sheets and forced myself to let go. “Yes, I’ve been there just once,” I said.
“For a pregnancy test and an STD screening.”
This was so humiliating. “So what does that have to do with my pneumonia?”
Sabrina arranged her face into a clinical smile, and I immediately stiffened, on guard. “I just thought you might want to talk through some of the things that might have led to the event a few days ago.”
“Do you think they are related?” I had to be careful. Every question felt like a trap.
“Well, I just see some elements in your file that might indicate you’re under a lot of stress.”
I looked down at my hands, not able to keep my gaze as steady and calm as I wanted. Everyone told me I had the poker face of a kitten, so there was no keeping up the ruse that my life was normal. “My classes are going fine. I’m a little behind now, of course, but it should be all right.”
She leaned forward, her black glasses sliding forward on her nose. “Corabelle, I know about the baby. That must have been really hard.”
I knew I should look her in the eye, show how well adjusted I was, but I couldn’t. She had no idea how hard it was. The NICU, the monitors, the doctors saying they wouldn’t operate, the ventilator going silent. Holding Finn until his chest stopped moving.
My hands were pale against the white sheets. I would wait her out, say as little as possible. I wished I knew my rights, if they could keep me here.
She was going to make me talk. I needed an interruption, a fire alarm, something to get me out of this. I wished for Gavin. He was so much better at this sort of thing, acting nonchalant, disarming people with his charm. “It was a long time ago. I’m fine now.”
“The doctor at the clinic seemed to think you could use some assistance working things out.”
“He didn’t seem too concerned. It was optional, just there if I needed it.” I moved my gaze to the window, the blinds tightly closed. I wanted them wide, to see something outside this oppressive room — open air, the sky, and maybe the sea.