Through the fog I heard beeping. Slowly they got clearer and I heard other sounds as well. I heard walking somewhere behind a closed door. I heard a whispered conversation in the room. I knew it was a room I was in because there was no wind against my skin, and I wasn’t cold. I felt soft fabric on my skin.
My feet were cold, though, despite the fabric wrapped around me. My hands felt cold as well.
I opened my mouth in a gasp, remembering what happened. I felt my hands grip tightly around the fabric, and then suddenly someone where beside me, putting a warm hand gently on mine. My eyes sprang open
And stares right up into a sharp white light. I clamped them shut again and turned my head away, digging my face into the pillow.
“Sweety, Ellie, look at me.” A woman’s voice said. No, not a woman. My mother. And she didn’t say it - she pleaded with me to look at her.
But my eyes were hurting. It hurt to open my eyes. How could I look at her then?
Instead I turned my head towards her, and whispered “Mom…” I could barely recognise my own voice. It was hoarse and raw. It sounded like I hadn’t talked for days. Then I broke into a wild cough, my entire body shaking. I felt someone helping me into a sitting position and a warm hand matching the one on my hand was on my back, keeping me sitting. When the coughing died down, I managed to open my eyes slowly. The light wasn’t that bad anymore.
I was in a hospital. I should have expected that. The beeping continued beside me. I looked down my arms. There was a needle going into the back of my hand, and a tube connecting me to a bag of some sort of clear liquid. Then I noticed something on my chest. Something was recording my heartbeat. That was where that annoying beeping was coming from.
Then I realised something else. I had tubes by my nose. Tubes that helped me breathe. Just like Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars.
I was helped back into a lying position. I looked around, only then concentrating on my surroundings. My mom was in my right side. She was the one who had helped me. On a chair on the left side of the bed I was lying in sat Arthur, almost as pale as the wall behind him. The room was filled with all sorts of medical stuff that I really wouldn’t want to start naming, because I would be wrong.
A woman I seemed to recognise stood in the doorframe. She had a kind face and blond hair. She was dressed like a nurse, so I guess that’s what she was. I didn’t recognise her until she took a few steps toward me and started talking, though.
“Well, Eliza, it seems you had quite a though time. How are you feeling?” she asked me.
“Mrs Martin?” my voice was still hoarse. It really did hurt to talk. My feet were cold.
She smiled kindly at me. “Emily. But yes. How are you feeling?”
I thought about it. I was annoyed by the beeping. My heartbeat sounded just fine, though. My throat was hurting like hell, and I was pretty sure my head felt like I was having a serious hangover. Not that I’d ever been drunk, but it was as I imagined being hangover felt like. My muscles felt sore.
“Like I’ve been drunk and fell down a good handful of stairs,” I finally managed to say. I heard Arthur make a weird choking sound. I looked at him. He was smiling through the veil of paleness. I looked back at Emily. “What day is it?” I asked her.
“It’s Thursday evening. You’ve been out cold for 20 hours. But mostly because of the medicine we gave you.” I noticed a clipboard under her arm. Her face shifted from something half professional, half personal to something totally personal. “I promised Thomas to tell you that he is worried and would like to see you as soon as you’re ready for it.” She looked at me with a glance that I didn’t really like. Pity and something else. I didn’t like pity. I didn’t like being in this bed. I was annoyed by it. I didn’t like the beeping noises. I wanted out. My fingers were cold and stiff. I wanted out.
I sat up.
“Ellie, no, stay in bed.” Arthur said, getting up. “You really shouldn’t get up. Stay.” He put a hand on my shoulder.
“I don’t want to. I don’t like it.” I argued. I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere with it, though.
“You need to stay in bed. We’re not sure what happened, we need to take some tests to see if we can figure it out. So you need to stay here.” Emily said. I leaned back in the bed again. I couldn’t go against a nurses’ order. I had to stay.
My dad came to pick up my mom and Arthur after an hour. We sat together for some time. They told me that the doctors really didn’t know anything. I would have to stay in the hospital for at least another night. My dad brought a book and some of my own clothes for me, which were nice to change into. Until then I had been wearing a hospital night gown and I really didn’t like it.
When my parents left to go home, my room was quiet except for the beeping. It still annoyed me. I was in a black pair of sweatpants and a dark blue sweatshirt with ‘74’ printed on the front. I looked out through the window on the wall to my left side. It was dark outside, and all I could see was the horizon and the sky, suggesting that I was rather high up. I wanted to get up and go to the window, open it and feel the wind on my skin. But when it came to it, I couldn’t be bothered. I was too tired, despite having slept for almost a full day.
I thought back to right before I started having breathing problems. When Thomas had told me that he was in love with me, I felt so in love. How ironic. I let out a sigh and looked straight up into the ceiling. I wondered if I could crawl through on of the tiles. They were big enough for me to crawl through anyway; it was getting it up that was the problem. What was on the other side of the tile? Darkness, dust, something secret maybe?
It was while I was in the middle of those crazy thoughts that a slight knock was heard on the door. Emily was standing there, sticking her head through the door.
“Ellie, are you feeling okay?” she asked me. I nodded.
“Tired and like I’m having a serious cold, but apart from that I’m fine.” I told her.
“Thomas is here.” She said, smiling a little at me. “Do you want him to come in here?”
I had to think about it. I felt embarrassed about all this. I felt so bad that I had probably scared the living hell out of him. I didn’t want to look him in the eye, but I didn’t know how to say no to it. I looked away from her, fixing my eyes on the wall to my right.
“No.” I simply said. Well, no, I didn’t say it. I whispered it. She was quiet, and then I heard her walk away. I closed my eyes. I wanted to sleep. I didn’t want that beeping in my ear. I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to stay in this cold, white room with its beeping and the sounds travelling through the wall from the hallway.
I turned to my side in the bed, hugging the pillow to my chest and buried my face in it. It smelled of nothing.
I fell asleep like that. And that was how they found me the next morning, curled up around the pillow.
The woke me up gently, saying my name and touching my shoulder. Half asleep, I only registered unfamiliar voices and hands I didn’t know, and I wrestled away from them.
It was 2 nurses. I didn’t know them. They told me that I was allowed to take a shower and get ready and that they would bring me some breakfast.
They just didn’t tell me that I was not allowed to shower alone. The brown-haired nurse helped me shower, which were a whole new level of awkward. And pathetic, when I realised that I actually needed the help. My muscles hurt when I stood up, and I started shaking if I stood for too long. I asked the nurse if she knew why.
“It’s due to lack of oxygen in your blood, really. The muscles need the oxygen, but don’t get enough of it.” I nodded along. It seemed to make sense.
When I was finally back in my own bed, I was exhausted. The nurse who had helped me shower brought me a tray with bread, cheese and some jam. She even got me a class of apple juice. I asked her if we could move my bed to the window. She said that she had to talk to someone about it, since they would have to move with the equipment as well. Then I told her to just forget it. I ate my breakfast alone in the room. Around 9, my dad showed up. He sat down in the chair beside the bed.
“Hey. How are you feeling?” he asked. He looked tired, like he had been up all night.
“I’m okay. I just had a shower and everything.” I told him, pointing to my wet curls. He nodded. From his bag he drew my phone.
“This has been ringing for a while now. I think it’s for you.” He said with a small smile. I took it from him, turned on the screen. I had 6 unread messages from Maria. I even had 2 missed calls from her. “We told her mom yesterday. Maria has been trying to reach you furiously since. I think you should talk to her.” I nodded, but I put the phone away.
“How are things at home?” I asked him. He shrugged.
“We’re choked, of course. Arthur went to school this morning though he didn’t really want to. Mom is at work. I took the first few hours of to come and see you.” He told me. I looked down at the duvet that was covering me.
“Do any of you know what happened? How did I end up in the hospital?”
“Thomas told us that you suddenly couldn’t breathe. That you passed out when he called for Arthur. Arthur called for an ambulance, and you were brought here. The hospital called me and mom.” He told me. I stared at the duvet. It didn’t seem real. Stuff like this did not happen in reality. At least not to me.
“I’m sorry,” I told him, looking up. He looked at me, confused. “I scared you a lot, didn’t I? I’m sorry for that.”
He looked at me. We had the same eyes, both a deep green. He looked kindly at me.
“Don’t me. You just focus on getting back to health.” He said. “I have to get back to work now, though.” He got up from the chair, his jacket draped over his arm. “By the way. I think you should consider calling Thomas. He called me this morning, asking if I knew how you were. I think he is very worried about you. And you do owe him some. If he hadn’t reacted so quickly, you might not have been sitting here.” He said. I didn’t know what to say. He grabbed my hand, squeezed it and then left me to myself. I looked at the ceiling again for a while. Then I closed my eyes, sighing. I didn’t know what to do.
So I grabbed my phone and texted Maria back. All 6 messages screamed at me, asking what was happening and so on. I told her that I was in the hospital and felt fine. Maria replied immediately, telling me to tell her what was happening. I wrote her back that if I did know, I would tell her. That they were going to take some tests and then hopefully let me go back home.
I had only just sent the message when a nurse appeared.
“Hello, Eliza. I’m going to take some tests on you now. I have a wheelchair in the hallway for you, could you follow me please?” she asked while undoing the tubes from my body. I waited for her to finish, then I sat up in the bed slowly. She helped me from the bed to a black and grey wheelchair outside the door. The hallway was pale white with ugly paintings that were supposed to be soothing or relaxing or something. She pushed me down the hall. The light was hard on my eyes, and I had to suppress the urge to close them. Around me, nurses were milling around in purple, mint green and orange outfits.
We entered a room far down the hall from my room. I felt awkward in the wheelchair. I wasn’t handicapped, and I wasn’t old. But the walk did not seem appealing, so I kept my mouth shut.
First she took multiple samples of my blood. Then she listened to my heart, took my pulse, and a bunch of stuff I don’t even want to try and name. Medical stuff wasn’t really my thing.
She spent over an hour, dragging me through test after test. When she finally drove me back to my room in the wheelchair, I was tired. Back in my bed, I grabbed my phone. The lunch break had just started at school, and I made a quick decision and dialled Thomas.
“Ellie, what’s up? Are you okay?” he asked, his voice was frantic and tired. I could hear the sound of many people talking. He was probably in the cafeteria.
“I’m okay. I’m tired.” I said, rubbing my face. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you in last night, Thomas. I just… I couldn’t, just then.” I said.
“It’s okay. Can I come see you soon?”
“I would like that. I’m just waiting for them to give me results from all the stupid tests they just did, so I have nothing to do, really.” I admitted.
“I’ll come as soon as school is over. Okay?” he said, sounding relieved that I wanted him to come.
“Yeah. Can I ask you something?” I said.
“Sure. What is it?”
“Could you bring cake or something? Nothing fancy-“ I was cut off by his laugh, and I felt the knot in my chest loosen a bit.
“Sure, I’ll bring some cake. But only if you will let me feed it to you.” He said.
“Okay, so I’m not really allowed to leave my bed, the roll me around in a wheelchair, and now I can’t even eat myself?” I said, trying to sound annoyed, but it was hard. I couldn’t be annoyed with him.
“Nope. You are my little, very much dependent bookworm.” He said, laughing lightly.
“So now I’m a worm?” I asked him, barely able to contain my laugh.
“Yes. But you’re my worm.” He said.
“I can deal with that.” I answered.
I hovered in and out of sleep for the next few hours. When there was a knock on my door, I jerked awake. In the doorway stood Thomas, a box under his arm.
“Hey there,” he said, his voice gentle. He walked inside slowly, and I sat up in the bed. He put the box down on the table that was also in the room. He sat down on the chair next to the bed and took my hand.
He had dark rings under his eyes and his hair was ruffled up in a messy way that was not from styling it. The top button in his button down shirt was not buttoned and I could see the neck of the t-shirt he was wearing underneath it. He grabbed the remote and lifted the head end of the bed so that I could lean back and still sit up.
“How are you?” he asked me, stroking my hand gently with his thumb.
“I’m fine. A nurse was in here an hour ago. I’ll be able to go home tonight if everything goes as it should.” I told him. I put my free hand on top of his, and then he grabbed both of my hands with both of his. “How are you feeling?” I asked him. I was worried. He didn’t just look and sound tired - he looked and sounded exhausted. Like he had barely slept since I went to the hospital, which was almost 48 hours ago by then.
He shrugged a little. “I’m okay. I am okay now.” He said, smiling at me and I smiled back. Despite all the fears I had had about seeing him, it felt good to feel his hands around mine, to have his voice flooding around me, caressing my skin.
He leaned in and pressed his forehead against mine, closing his eyes. I closed mine as well.
“I was so worried about you,” he whispered. I could feel his warm breath against my skin. “I was so worried.” His voice was thick and heavy, like he was trying very hard to supress sobs. I clutched his hands, and he clutched mine back.
“I’m sorry, Thomas. I don’t know what happened. They have results for me on Monday. I’m so sorry that I scared you.”
“It’s okay. It’s okay. You’ll be fine.” He said
God I wish he had been right.