James couldn't tell whether Mary had passed out or fallen asleep. Her head was rolled to one side and she was drooling on the seatbelt. He was suddenly very glad Tristan had driven that night, his own car thus spared from this abuse. She'd already managed to get drool and he didn't even want to know what else on the window before he'd gotten it rolled down. He made a mental note to get that wiped off before returning it to Tristan. He unbuckled her, mopping off the seatbelt, then tried to lift her out of the car. Her eyes fluttered open and she shoved him away.
Mary: "Don't touch me!"
James closed his eyes and ground his teeth. He wanted nothing more than to leave her there in the parking lot and drive away. He was tired and out of patience, and she was far more trouble than she was worth. He had no idea what made him decide to help her in the first place, but he suspected that he was the only one that wasn't too afraid of Mary to get her to do something before she had the idea to do it herself first.
James: "Blood and sand! I don't know why anyone puts up with you!"
Mary blinked up at him, the remnants of sleep, confusion and fever leaving her disoriented. She got her bearings, stepped out of the car and stalked to the entrance of the medical building. James took a deep breath and reminded himself that Mary was Emily's best friend. For now, at least. Maybe he could find her a new one. He turned back to the car and put his
hand on the door handle, but couldn't seem to make himself open it.
James: "Oh, hell."
He turned around and jogged to the building's entrance. Mary had gone through one set of the double doors, and then stopped. She was peering in through the second glass door, one hand on her forehead.
James: "What is it?"
Mary: "You know... I'm feeling much better now. Could you take me home?"
James: "Sure, it must be the antibiotics they pump through the ventilation system, I saw it on the news. No... wait.. that was the SciFi channel. What are you, afraid of needles or something?"
Mary made a face at him as if he had offended her.
Mary: "Of course not! It's just... I don't actually have medical insurance."
James looked at her sadly.
James: "That's too bad. They'll never treat you. Come on, I think I saw a lovely ditch down the road that you could crawl into while you're waiting to die."
James pushed the door open with one hand and gave Mary a shove inside with the other. He then took her firmly by the arm and led her to the receptionist. To her credit, she didn't fight him. She sat down in a waiting room chair as James checked her in.
It was only half an hour before Mary's name was called. James flipped through a golf magazine from 1982, not bothering to look up as a nurse led Mary away. Once she had disappeared behind a set of swinging doors, he put the magazine down and closed his eyes. He was exhausted and sore, and something else he couldn't quite put his finger on. An hour went by before he finally checked his watch. He sighed and walked up to the desk.
James: "Excuse me, I came in with Mary McMally, do you know how much longer she'll be?"
Nurse: "She was admitted 45 minutes ago."
He paused and thought about every TV show he'd ever seen, before adding:
James: "I'm family..."
The word tasted funny in his mouth, like a bite of moldy fruit. He squeezed his eyes shut and told himself that he just wanted to get her status so he could call Emily with an update and go home.
Nurse: "She was running a fever of 104 degrees and severely dehydrated - pneumonia will do that to a person. We have her on an IV for antibiotic treatment and to rehydrate her. The doctor wants to keep her overnight or until the fever goes down, but she should make a full recovery. You can come back for her at 9AM tomorrow. Is there a number we can call if there are any problems?"
James stared at the nurse for a moment as he realized he didn't have Emily and Mary's home number. He then sighed inwardly and recited his own number as the nurse entered it into the computer.
James: "What room is she in?"
Nurse: "She's on the third floor, room 312, but visiting hours are over."
James nodded, then walked toward the front doors. As soon as the nurse had turned her attention to someone else, he ducked into the door to the stairwell and made his way up to the third floor. He peered through the small glass window, making sure the hallway was clear before he opened the door. He was nearly to room 312 when an orderly backed out of the room, followed quickly by a harvest gold colored plastic pitcher full of water that exploded at the orderlies feet.
James quickly ducked into room 314 as he waited for the commotion to pass. The room was dark, but he heard the quiet beeping of a heart monitor behind him which had noticeably sped up when he entered the room. He turned around, ready to apologize to whomever's sleep he had interuppted. In the bed was a woman, still sound asleep. She lay on her back, perfectly straight, an IV in her arm and a monitor clipped to one finger. Moonlight
from the window gave her pale skin an eerie bluish cast. Her hair was either a dark, rich brown or black, it was too dark to tell. She was thin, her arms spindly and unused. Her cheeks were somewhat hollow but she was otherwise beautiful.
James found himself staring at her, wondering why she was here. He picked up her chart from the the wall and flipped through it. The handwriting was horrible and everything was too abbreviated to make sense of. But he did find her name - Katrina Wilson. And by the amount of notes on the chart, James gathered she'd been here for quite awhile.
He put the chart back and walked to her side. There was something about her... he reached his hand toward her face, wondering momentarily if she was even real.
Suddenly, her hand was around his wrist, eyes wide as she pulled herself up to him in an instant.
Kat: "I've been waiting for you..."
Just as suddenly her head was back on the pillow, eyes closed, perfectly peaceful. James put a hand to his mouth in an attempt to keep his heart from leaping out of his throat. He glanced at the monitors - none of the readings had changed. Clearly he'd imagined the entire exchange. He backed out of the room, trying to ignore the fact that he still felt a chill on his wrist.
He hurried into Mary's room, stealth abandoned as he shoved past the nurse that was preparing to take Mary's temperature.
James: "Listen, I need your phone number."
Mary looked at him crossly.
Mary: "I'm not going out with you."
James rolled his eyes.
James: "Thank god for small favours. I need to let Emily know where you are and when she can pick you up tomorrow."
Mary: "You're not staying?"
James: "Are you kidding?"
Mary blinked once, then twice.
Mary: "Of course I am. Why the hell are you still here?"
James repressed the urge to strangle her with the tubes from her IV.
James: "Telephone. Number. Now. Please."
Mary nodded to a cabinet against the wall.
Mary: "My purse is in there. I have cards in the front pocket."
James waited for the nurse to unlock the cabinet, unzipped Mary's purse and rifled through no less than three small canisters of pepper spray before finding a small stack of business cards held together by a rubber band. He took one without a word and headed for the door.
Mary: "James? Tell Emily not to worry, okay? I'm fine."
James' posture softened as he turned around and looked at Mary.
He was about to add that he hoped she felt better soon, but Mary was too busy arguing with the nurse about the hospital's policies on visiting hours to have heard him.