"Ms. Smart, is it?" a man asked. I looked over at him, my heart dropping. He was the kinda of guy you'd expect to be sitting behind a desk. He was about forty years old, his hair peppered with gray hairs, and big glasses that clung to his face, shielding his eyes. He wore a cheap brown suit, making him look more like an accountant than someone who worked at a hospital. I stood up, and tripped over myself as I made my way to the man behind the desk.
"Y-yes?" I breathed. My voice was soft with fear, fear that she was gone. "Did it...is she...?"
He stared at me for a moment, taking in my appearance. "She's doing fine, ma'am--" I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding and choked. "Oh, thank God," I whispered. I licked my lips and put my hand on the desk. "Thank God."
"Ma'am?" he inturupted. I looked at him expectantly. There was now a smile on my face. I could have laughed, but it was a good thing I didn't. "She may be doing fine, but we've recieved a notice that she doesn't have the money to pay for her treatment. The hospital has also found that she has never fully paid off any bill that she's--"
"No," I cried. This was just my luck! Never any good news without bad. Tears gathered in my eyes, and I wiped them away viciously. I took a deep breath to calm myself. This was no big deal. It was going to be okay. How much could it be? "No," I said, "It's fine. I can pay it...just how much are we talking about?"
The man licked his lips this time and cocked his head. "Well, I see about..." He clicked around on his computer and then glanced up at me, taking in my appearace again "...about thirty thousand dollars in expenses with interest and taxes."
"Thirty thousand?!" I yelled. "Fuck!" I slapped my hands to my mouth, ashamed to have cursed so loudly. I looked at him, at how his eyes widened, the way his hands tensed. I shook my head. "I'm so sorry, that was..."
He smiled wrily. "It's okay, ma'am." He clicked another button, and the printer whirled to life.
"No, it's not," I said. I ran a hand through my hair and laughed. "I'm such a mess. I don't know how I'm going to pay all of that. I'm sorry."
The man looked uncomfortable. "I'm sorry to have to say this, but if you can't pay, we can't help you."
"Can't help me?" I repeated. "What? What does that even mean?"
"It means that we'll have to stop treating your mother."
"But she just had a heart attack for God's sake, you can't cut her a break?!"
He licked his lips. "I'm sorry I have to be the deliver of bad news, but I can't help you. She has too many unpaid bills for the hospital."
My head fell into my hands and I sobbed. I sucked in a large breath, and then released it, pulling myself together for a moment. It was silent for a moment and I could hear the news on the TV behind me. "How much?" My voice was broken.
"Thirty thousand dollars," he said. He turned and pulled a paper off of the printer.
"No," I said. He turned back to face me and handed me the paper with all of the expenses on it. "How much time do I have to pay all of this?" I looked over it, and sighed. She was in some deep shit.
"Uhm," the man adjusted his glasses, "you have a month, I'm afriad."
"What?" I hissed. My head snapped back up to him.
He licked his lips and lifted his hands to show me his palms. "I'm sorry, but she was informed of all of this eleven months ago. She was told she had a year to pay it all off, and we've gotten no payments since." His eyes were sulken, like it broken him to tell me this. Like he was the one suffering. "I'm sorry ma'am."
I shook my head. "Don't be..." I glanced at his nametag. "Jim. Don't worry about me, I'll figure it out." I turned around, and stomped off to the door.
"Ma'am?!" he called after me. I heard his chair scrap on the floor as he stood up. "You can't see your mother yet!"
"I'm not," I said. "I'm leaving." And with that, I stormed out of the hospital into the cold winter day to try and get a clue as to how I was going to pay off my mother's debts.