Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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21. Solidarity

Maia scooted herself to almost a sitting position as her bed was wheeled through the pediatrics department. She just wanted to check out the new digs and how she could escape as soon as possible. After waking up today, she had no plans of sticking around. Maia felt as though she couldn’t trust Paul and Joey. Even at eight o’clock at night, it was definitely noisier than CICU and Maia was wide-eyed taking in the sights. Suddenly she heard a piano.

“Where is it?” she asked.

“What?” asked Joey as if he didn’t know any better.

“The piano, of course, don’t you hear it?”

“Oh that, probably in a rec room somewhere.”

Maia nodded. “I can’t wait to get out of this bed.”

“I’m sure you can’t,” he said, as he watched the hallway and that they were moving her farther away from the activity on the floor.

“Where am I going?”

“Wherever they had an available bed, I’m sure,” said Joey, smiling at the charge nurse as he introduced himself to her. Maia rolled her eyes at his gregarious nature, almost happy for him to go to the hotel tonight and let her alone.

The orderly pushed Maia into a smaller room at the hallway’s end, and the nurse pulled the curtain.

“Dr. Shahere will be here in a few minutes, Maia. How are you feeling?”

“Better now that my wicked stepmother has left the building.”

“I take it that you don’t like her?”

“She tried to kill me today.”

“Oh wow. Where is she now?” asked the nurse.

Maia wryly considered her words, wondering how much of the story leaked downstairs to pediatrics.

“Off to a funny farm instead of jail. Celebrities’ mothers get special kinds of justice, apparently.”

“Wow,” said Joey, “Harsh.”

Dr. Shahere, a tall Persian woman with a gold and white hijab entered the room and hit the hand sanitizer, rubbing it into her long fingers.

“Is this the infamous Maia Lenci?” she asked. Joey beamed at her while Maia rolled her eyes.

“That would be me. DOB 4/13/96.”

“Thanks so much for verifying that. You have a birthday coming up.”

“Yes.”

“In a minute, I’m going to have Mr. Cravens step out. I’m going to do a full examination of you. We are going to determine a few things. Whether you need to remain bedridden or if we can remove the catheter, how your breathing is, and the condition of your frostbite and other skin issues.”

“What other skin issues?”

“You are covered in a rash.”

“Oh yeah, that will go away once I get to shower.”

“You’ve had it before?”

“No, I just know I’ll be okay.”

Joey’s phone buzzed. “I’ll be out in the hallway,” he said. “It’s your brother.”

Joey stepped out and shut the door as the nurse followed behind and shut the drape.

Dr. Shahere washed her hands and dried them then reached for a pair of gloves. “All right, Maia, we’re going to get personal here and remove your gown so I can check the rest of your skin.”

Maia, embarrassed, didn’t say anything while the nurse removed the gown and had to maneuver around the tubes and wires.

“Maia, when was your last menstrual cycle?”

“I’ve not had a period yet.”

“Are you sexually active?”

“No.”

“Have you had intercourse before?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“My foster father took my virginity on November 20.”

“Did you want him to do that?”

“No, he raped me.”

“Did you tell anyone?”

“I told my guidance counselor, I left messages for the social worker who never answered her phone, even my doctor’s nurse called CPS with me in the room. They did nothing about it.”

The doctor sighed. “And you still haven’t had a period?”

“No.”

“I want a panel done.”

The nurse wrote it down. “Was this protected sex, Maia?”

Without emotion or making eye contact, Maia replied, “No. He also sodomized me on November 24th.”

The doctor stopped and looked at Maia’s face and covered her with the gown.

“I’m going to have Sheila help me turn you over, so I can see your back and sides of your legs and torso.”

Sheila helped Maia move and the doctor saw the rash all over Maia’s backside.

“Impetigo.”

“No, I don’t,” said Maia.

“You do. We’re going to get you on an anti-parasitic too and medicated soap.”

“Ugh,” said Maia.

“Stool sample, let’s look for hookworms too.”

“Ohmygod,” said Maia.

“You are now in isolation,” said Dr. Shahere, “I can’t have that on the ward.”

“I guess not,” said Maia. Dr. Shahere then looked at Maia’s hands.

“They are still pretty swollen from the frostbite.”

“I can’t use a knife to cut up my food.”

“Okay, well, we will help you with that,” said the nurse.

“Maia, do you hurt anywhere?”

“My feet do sometimes.”

Dr. Shahere went to the foot of the bed and lifted up the sheet and blanket. She turned off the circulation boots from her calves and examined each foot. She touched the soles and Maia did not feel much pain in them at all.

“You lost a couple toenails.”

“No pedicures for me.”

Dr. Shahere smirked at her.

Maia sighed and watched the doctor lift each and press on the edema at the top of the foot.

“Does it hurt on the sole when I press there?”

“It’s not terrible,” said Maia. “Like a 4.”

“A four isn’t so bad then?”

“No.”

“When was the last time you had a breathing treatment?”

“This afternoon around 2. I got so sick from it, and I vomited.”

“Really? Has that ever happened before?”

“No, the ampoule tasted really gross and not like what I’m used to having.”

“I will look into it when I consult with respiratory.” She nodded to the nurse who wrote something on the tablet.

“Maia, a couple things I think are evident here. I think we’ll remove the catheter and let you get up to use the bathroom.”

Maia smiled.

“You have been raped? It sounds like twice?”

“More than that.”

“Okay,” said Dr. Shahere, chucking the gloves into the trashcan. She washed her hands and pulled the stool by Maia’s bed and sat down. Sheila handed her the chart.

“I’m concerned about STD’s and pregnancy.”

“Oh,” replied Maia.

“So, I need to do a couple things that won’t be very pleasant. I need to do a pelvic exam on you.”

“Ew.”

The nurse and Dr. Shahere laughed. “I will be as quick as possible.”

“Okay.”

“We need to do some bloodwork.”

Maia sighed, “Okay.”

“We need to treat your frostbite and continue respiratory therapy.”

“Okay, what else?”

“You get your own personal suite.”

“Quarantine.”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

Maia sighed. “Damn, how long?”

“Until it’s gone.”

“And the catheter?”

“We will remove it when we do the pelvic exam. There’s one more thing we need to talk about.”

“Sure.”

“You endured quite a trauma this morning.”

“You know about it?”

“I do.”

“Can you call the cops and report it for me?”

“No. It’s already been handled, Maia. She’s getting help first, and then she’ll be prosecuted for what she’s done to you.”

“Oh.”

“Justice is coming. Don’t worry.”

“Okay, good.”

“I’m going to have a child psychiatrist come see you tomorrow. You’ve been through a lot and we want to help you through it. Likewise, she will assign a therapist to start working with you on what happened.”

“I’m not crazy.”

“No one thinks you’re crazy, Maia. You are a crime victim. You lost your family. Now you discovered the other family and you are trying to fit in with them too. That’s a lot for an adult my age to manage, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be you and your age dealing with all of this.”

“Can I get a shower tonight?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Shahere.

Maia smiled.

“Okay then, we are in agreement of this treatment?”

“Yes, but don’t you have to talk to Joey first? I’m not fourteen.”

“I will do that now while Sheila gets what I need to do the pelvic exam.”

Maia laid there and bit her bottom lip. STD’s, pregnancy, hookworms, parasites, ringworm, respiratory still and now psych. Tears dripped down her cheeks as Sheila returned to the room seeing her.

“Hey there,” she said as Maia wiped her face with her hand. “I’m going to remove the catheter and prepare you for Dr. Shahere,” she said. Sheila turned on the TV and handed Maia the remote. Maia clicked the remote until she found the History Channel and watched some show on Nostradamus while the catheter was uncomfortably removed.

“I’m just going to clean you up some down here,” she said. Maia did not look at her, she was so embarrassed. If these people only knew how fastidious she had been about her own self-hygiene, they’d understand her level of complete embarrassment.

“I can’t wait to shower,” said Maia.

“Well, I will get you all set up in no time,” said Sheila. Dr. Shahere knocked twice on the door then opened it.

“We’re just about ready for you, Dr. Shahere,” said the nurse. “How are we doing, Maia?” asked Dr. Shahere coming to her head.

“I’m okay, I guess.”

“I talked to Joey.”

“And?”

“He agrees with us about what needs to be done.”

“Okay.”

“Do you want him in here while we do this?”

“No,” said Maia, her eyes filled with worry.

“I didn’t think so. Listen, I want you to think of something else when I do this. I will be as quick as possible, but I have to be thorough.”

Maia nodded and took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She concentrated on her breath and thought of her Jonny and Sunday mornings when she was little. Maia wanted to be the little girl with his hands entwined in hers as she moved from position to position in Sunday morning Tai Chi. If she did Tai Chi, she could share his bagel and schmear for the bagels were too big for her to eat a whole one. Besides, Jonny’s bagel always tasted better. When he wasn’t looking, she’d steal the last sips of his cold coffee, leaving behind the tell-tale crumbs of bagel and cream cheese on the rim. He’d smile at her and kiss the top of her head then put it in the sink before she could finish it off. Then they would sit in his favorite chair and grade papers together, but she had to read them to him.

She knew so much about the Romanticists because of it. Coolidge, Wordsworth, Thoreau, she knew all their popular works. She learned how to catch a plagiarist, recognize the rhetoric change before she was 12. Most kids would find their Sunday morning ritual boring, but she loved it. Sitting on Jonny’s lap reading the selected papers he had skimmed through. He’d pick the best and the worst, only 5 papers, and they would read them together. The rest went to the TA to earn their keep, meaning their dorm room or tuition in exchange for being a slave to him and his red pen for a semester. No TA ever stayed on for more than a semester with “Doc” Reardon. He was a hard taskmaster and demanded complete anonymity of his TA with the other students for their own protection on campus. All the grading was done in the English department. He never let a paper leave with an undergraduate TA. He’d photocopy those that he wanted the sources checked on by another fact checker for the humanities department. Sometimes, though, he’d do it himself. Library field trips were like a treasure hunt with Jonny. They’d go to the Northwestern library instead of The University of Chicago where he taught English.

They’d peruse the online card catalog, Maia would write down the Dewey decimal codes, and when she was little she would skip through the stacks. When the book would be too high on the shelves, Jonny would lift her and let her pull out the book. She’d land on the floor with it and ask for the page number in the bibliography. Jonny would tell her, and she would turn to the page. While she was searching for it, he would sit down on the floor with her. She’d hand him the book, and he would hand her the yellow highlighter. If she found it, she got to highlight it on the paper. Where it would start, and where it would end, always more than where the quotes started and ended. She’d give anything to search for sources with him again.

“Okay, Maia, we are all done,” said Dr. Shahere loudly. Maia blinked her eyes awake as she heard the snapping of the rubber gloves and chucking them into the can. Once it was all over, they hoisted her back towards the top of the bed and helped her sit up. The nurse moved the bedrail and helped Maia to stand up.

“We are going to move you into a wheelchair. This bed won’t fit in there.” Maia nodded and they assisted her into the wheelchair and moved the oxygen and IV pole with her. As they opened the door, Joey stood there with his sad face on.

“No, you stop that right now,” she barked at him.

“What?” he asked, shocked by her response.

“That pity look. Get rid of it. Pity is for sissies. I’m not a sissy.”

“Okay, okay,” he replied, with a smile.

Maia about gagged when she saw the room. Yellow walls with big red ladybugs painted in random directions and sizes. This room was narrower than the others and had a huge flat screen TV mounted on the wall, a table and chair, as well as a soft chair recliner, like the one Joey had slept in CICU.

The door shut and latched behind them. It was ‘that’ kind of door, she thought. Maia sighed as it instantly shut.

“So, I’m in Quarantine.”

“You are.”

“Fuck.”

“Oh my, someone needs a swear jar,” said the nurse.

“Yes, she does, doesn’t she?” asked Joey.

Maia shot him a look as he pulled back the blankets on the bed he just made.

“Oh wait, I get it,” she said, seeing the bed. “This is a Reaper Room.”

“We use it for both hospice and quarantine,” said the nurse.

“Can I get a shower now?”

“We can make that happen,” said the nurse.

“Okay then, let’s make it happen,” said Maia. “If I got to be in the Reaper room, at least let me endure it while I’m clean.”

“While you do that, I’m going to the gift shop to get you some books. What kind do you want?”

“Actions and thrillers. No girly Twilight crap or romances.”

“You got it. Anything else?”

“Peppermint lifesavers, real shampoo, body wash, and deodorant. And a large tube of toothpaste. Peppermint only.”

“I will see what I can do. Anything else?”

“Hershey bar with almonds.”

“You got it. I’ll be back. You get clean.”

###

When Joey returned from getting a coffee and his trip to the gift shop, Maia was sitting in the chair with a pen and paperwork in front of her. She was freshly showered, her hair still wet and in a towel wrapped on the top of her head.

Hey, what do you got there?

“Intake paperwork. Stuff you wouldn’t know the answer to.”

“Like what?”

“Foods I like, foods I don’t like, what makes me poop, what constipates me, stuff like that.”

“Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t know the answer to any of that. How was your shower?”

“Hardly long enough. I ran out of soap after two showers.”

“I will bring you some body wash and a loofah tomorrow. They didn’t have any there.”

“Deodorant?” she asked hopefully. He reached into the bag and pulled it out.

“Yes, thank you,” she said cracking it open and generously swathing each armpit.

“Toothpaste, they didn’t have peppermint, so I will be bringing that too.”

“White peppermint. No crazy shit in it.”

“Ohmygod, as if you have lived with your brother your whole life.”

“Colgate Total.”

Joey’s mouth dropped open. “Shut the front door.”

“I’m serious. Why?”

“That is the only kind he will use.”

Maia laughed at Joey and resumed writing the paperwork.

“What else did you get?”

He started to unload the bag on the table. Her Hershey bar, and peppermint lifesavers, a Sudoku book and pens and a stack of four books. Maia checked them out.

“I read these two,” she said, “This one I started and found too formulaic. When I read the last page, I had figured it out in the first three chapters.”

“Don’t say that I love her stuff.”

“She bores me now.”

“Well, I haven’t read it, so don’t spoil it.”

“This one, I haven’t read yet, and was waiting for.”

“It’s very good. My copy is at home.”

“Did you read the rest of these?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Well, there you go.”

Maia went back to writing the list of things she won’t eat. Joey peered over at it.

“Miss Picky Pants are you?”

“Yep. I got a certain regimen of food that I like and when I like to eat it.”

“Like what?”

“Coffee with One Cherry Pop Tart for breakfast.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep, and I don’t like them toasted.”

“No seafood?”

“None. Not even shrimp.”

Joey sighed. “We eat a lot of seafood. Kool-Aid? What do you have against Kool-Aid?”

“Artificial colors and flavors.”

“No ice tea?”

“None. Coke with nothing in it. And I’m drinking this decaf shit under complete duress.”

“Noted. Do you like Sudoku?”

“I prefer logic puzzles but it’s okay.”

Joey borrowed her pen and wrote himself a list on the back of his receipt from the gift shop.

“Logic puzzles, Paul toothpaste, loofah and body soap. What kind of body soap?”

“Shea butter. Nothing too flowery or prissy. My skin is so dry so I’m thinking probably high moisture would be recommended.”

“How do you not itch?”

“I do now that I’m clean. I’m getting my snack and a Benadryl here soon.”

“Oh, what’s for a snack?”

“I don’t know. Probably Oreos and milk.”

“Good standby.” Joey yawned.

“You should go get some rest. After all, you get to sleep in a bed now.”

“I know, do you want me to tuck you in first?”

“No, I want to sit up for a while. I’ve been in bed for too long. Besides, Sheila will be here to put me to bed later.”

“You sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure, Joey.”

Joey stood up and kissed her on the forehead. She hugged him, and he held onto her for a minute.

“Good night, Joey,” she said.

“Good night, Maia,” he replied.

“Sleep in tomorrow. I’m not going anywhere, and I doubt if anyone’s going to knock me off tomorrow unless Rosa sends Gino or Ronaldo after me.”

“They are both dead now, so no, she won’t be sending them after you.”

Maia smirked and waved him goodbye through the plate glass window. Then she finished the page and flipped it over to acceptable visitors. She wrote down Paul’s name as her brother, then Jonny’s name. She listed him as Daddy and Jimmy as Dad. She wrote Joey’s name as brother-in-law and Alex Corwynn as godfather. When Sheila returned bearing gifts, Maia had the paperwork completed. Maia smiled smugly, proud of herself for signing and dating it with Jonny’s signature that she had learned to forge over the years to keep him from knowing about detentions. The nurses wouldn’t know what Joey’s handwriting or signature looked like and Paul was gone. Most importantly, Joey didn’t know any better.

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