The waiting room was filled with silence as the nurse glanced around, waiting for someone to stand up. Amelia looked left, and then right until finally, her eyes widened. It was her. Her legs were unsteady as she hopped to her feet, raising her hand.
The nurse smiled at her, her clipboard pressed into her chest as she gripped the edge. “Follow me, please.”
Amelia nodded as she shoved her cellphone into her back pocket. Her hands crisped into fists as she followed the nurse into the big, white, pristine hallway. Her heart strained against her chest as her heart rate picked up.
This was a bad idea.
She still had time to turn around and leave, right?
She needed the money.
This was easy money.
Most clinical trials involved a lot of poking and probing… which wasn’t for her. She had a fear of needles. This one was perfect for her; it was a pill. Three times a day. It was supposed to help with light anxiety.
So… she didn’t have anxiety.
What was the big deal?
It wasn’t like they could test her for it. She researched it thoroughly. She could answer their questions about her supposedly anxious behavior and then she’d fake her recovery.
Yes, it would mess up their trial. Maybe. But…
It circled back to her main point; she needed the money.
Ever since she’d turned eighteen years old, she’d been working 2-3 jobs in the hope to save enough money to attend school.
Her family didn’t have much money and she wasn’t particularly smart - at least not enough for a scholarship - which left her with limited options.
This trial paid up to 1,500$ per visit and if she was a prime candidate, she might have up to 8 visits. She couldn’t turn her back on that kind of money. She could do this. She could stay.
Lost in her thoughts, Amelia almost bumped into the nurse who had come to a halt. She quickly waved her hands, wincing. “I’m sorry.”
The nurse′ smile never faltered. She reached for a shiny metal door handle and opened it. “Please, come in. Someone will be right with you.”
Hopefully, it would be someone who wasn’t so… creepy. The nurse hadn’t been rude or anything but, her demeanor was off-putting. And that smile? She shuddered. It was fine. She had to get through this, do the visits, and then it would be over.
The room was rather empty; two metal chairs and a white table. One of them was for her. She sat down, hearing the metal scrap against the white ceramic tiles. She felt like she was in a hospital; everything was so clean and sterile.
Then again, it was a medical facility.
She waited, drumming her fingers on her jean-clad thighs. She peeked around the room, trailing her glance alongside every corner, every inch of wall, and every part of the ceiling. All she found was a small camera in the top right corner.
It made sense. This was a closed-off room and they were interviewing potential anxious patients. Better safe than sorry.
Amelia lifted her hands, slapping her palms together, trying to offset the feeling creeping down her spine. How long was she meant to wait?
As if on cue, the door opened with a creak. A tall man stepped inside, short brown hair carefully gelled back. He smiled at her, his green eyes sparkling.
“Sorry for the wait,” he said as he closed the door with his elbow. His hands were filled with packed sterile supplies, which he carefully put down on the table as he reached it.
She gently waved him off. “I’m sure you have a lot of people to interview and assess.”
He grinned. “We tend to receive more applications when oral medicine is involved.” He cleared his throat. “I’m Dr. Harper. Nice to meet you, Miss…”
“Amelia. Amelia Parks.”
He nodded before sitting down. “Could you please review the information on this chart and confirm all the information is accurate before we begin?”
Dr. Harper slid the clipboard over to her and she grabbed it, bringing it closer. Her eyes roamed over the information which mostly contained basic facts about her; age, name, weight… “It is.”
“Perfect,” he said as he retrieved the clipboard. “Now, did you have any questions regarding the information session you attended this morning?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“Great. Now, we would love to accept all applications. Unfortunately, we need healthy subjects and we can’t risk our medication interfering with other treatments. People don’t always tell the truth about their health condition or what medicine they are taking.”
“Good, because to ensure you can take part in our trial, we’ll need to take a blood sample. A quick vial, we’ll analyze it and then we’ll be able to proceed. Is that acceptable?”
She gulped; so much for avoiding needles. You’re a big girl, Ames. You can do it. She nodded. “It’s fine.”
“I’ll need your arm please.”
Amelia pushed her sleeve up, exposing the pale skin of her arm. The doctor wrapped a tight band around her upper arm and then, unpacked a needle along with an empty vial.
She looked up at the ceiling, feeling the coolness of the disinfecting wipe. She winced when she felt the needle break the skin and she pinched her lips white.
Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts.
She closed her eyes tightly enough to form wrinkles around them. It felt like an eternity by the time he pulled out the needle and relief washed over her. Once she dared to look in that direction again, Dr. Harper was putting the half-full vial in a small gray machine.
“This is our newest technology. It’ll get us the results we need in a few minutes.”
“Great. And if I qualify?”
“Then we’ll be able to sign the required paperwork and you’ll be on your way. The trial will start in a few days - once we have gathered all the necessary participants.”
While he resumed scribbling something on the sheet in front of him, she kept her eyes locked on the machine, waiting. She hadn’t lied; she wasn’t taking any medication. She didn’t always make the best choices but she did keep herself as healthy as she could.
There shouldn’t be any reasons for her to not get the all-clear.
A knot formed in her stomach and the twitching of her fingers won over. She began fumbling with the wavy brown locks spilling from her ponytail.
There was a small screen on the device along with a few off lights. She wondered what it would look like once the results came in. Would she get a green light? An approved message blinking across the screen?
Unfortunately, it was neither of these.
Instead, the machine beeped three times.
She could have assumed it was a good thing, but when she noticed the doctor’s eyes widening, her heart sank.
“That bad huh?” she half-joked, trying to lighten the mood.
The corner of his lips twitched as he miserably tried to smile. “No, no.” He cleared his throat. “We try to use these devices to save some time, but sometimes, they don’t work as well as we’d like.”
He picked up the vial from the machine. “I’ll run it through our other machine. It’ll take a bit longer. Can I offer you some water while you wait?”
Her nervousness had made her mouth pasty and her tongue feel like cotton. “Sure, thank you.”
He nodded, closing his palm around the vial, and then he reached into his white lab coat pocket, pulling out a sealed water bottle. He put it down in front of her and then stood up. “I’ll return shortly.”
Amelia grabbed the bottle, twisting the cap and bringing it to her lips. Just my freaking luck. A device that usually worked didn’t want anything to do with her blood.
She drank half the water bottle before putting it down on the table with a sigh. She allowed her glance to trail to the door as if it would magically open.
Logically, she knew they couldn’t tell if she had anxiety. At least, not by looking at her blood. Still, her foot tapped against the floor, her leg bouncing as she waited. What if, they knew?
Despite all logic and common sense?
She needed this, she needed a break from overworking herself. She had one shift that started at six in the morning. She worked it until noon and then, she’d skip over lunch to go to the next job. That one ran from a quarter past noon until six in the evening.
Then came the night job. That one was the toughest one. At that point, she hadn’t eaten all day. She’d find a way to snack: a granola bar, a stale donut, anything she could get her hands on.
From then, she’d worked another six hours shift that added a little past midnight. Then she’d sleep. About three hours.
Just to do it all over again, six days a week.
It used to be seven but then at some point, her body broke down and she was out for two weeks. Ever since then, she forced herself to take one day off. She’d usually spend it sleeping the whole day.
Or waiting to qualify for a clinical trial.
If she could get this, it would be like a vacation for her. Sure, her jobs wouldn’t wait for her but they were bottom-of-the-barrel occupations. There were always jobs that people didn’t want to do, and she was willing to do anything.
This was better. More money, faster. It might shave months off her agony.
No matter, she had to qualify for this. It was her third try. It was how she discovered that she and needles didn’t like each other. She fainted five times. They were forced to let her go without giving her any money. She’d lost her previous jobs for nothing.
This one had to be different.
Amelia took another sip of water, nearly emptying the bottle this time. On the plus side, she was getting to sit down and hydrate. A rare occurrence for her.
Maybe that was the reason behind the sudden sleepiness that hit her. Her eyelids grew heavy, her eyes begging to close. She had skipped her nap this morning.
She brought her free hand up, rubbing her eye with a closed fist. She prayed that the doctor would come back soon. She’d sign everything and go home.
She blinked a few times, thinking it would chase away the sleepiness, but it didn’t. No, instead, it got worse. Everything became blurry, the chair in front of her doubling while the edges of the table went fuzzy. She stretched out her arms, a foolish attempt at clutching the edge of the table, but all she did was a swipe at the emptiness in front of her.
Her body grew heavy, her head tilting backward and as darkness swallowed her whole, she felt herself falling.
But she never reached the ground nor felt the impact.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
Her left eye twitched, the blaring sound etching itself deep within her brain. She smacked her dry lips together, feeling the cracks in the thin membranes widen with each motion. Blood. She lifted one hand, dragging it across a soft surface, feeling like it weighed a ton, before smacking her palm across her face. The sting of the slap lingered, but it did little else.
Come on. Open your eyes.
Sheer stubbornness grew in her chest and after a few grunts, her eyelids slowly lifted, allowing her to see. But why the fuck did her head hurt so much?
This wasn’t headache territory; it was as if someone was attempting to rip her head open with their bare hands. She wallowed in pain as she lifted her upper body, realizing she was laying on a bed.
No, no… she had… fainted.
She licked her lips. Yes, she had fainted. Was this a test room, or a recovery room, or something? She allowed her brown eyes to roam across the tiny space, her sensitive iris assaulted by the pristine whiteness of the room.
Yes, this definitely looked medical. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, her head spinning. They must have put her somewhere for her to regain consciousness again.
One quick glance was enough to confirm she was still wearing her clothes; a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. The only thing missing was her shoes. Oh and her bag. They probably kept it in one of the cupboards or something.
It made sense. She swallowed hard, her throat bobbing before she pushed herself into a standing position.
Her movements were sluggish, her body heavy, but she did drag herself to the door. She laid one palm flat against it while her other hand fumbled with the handle. But, no matter how much she tugged, turned, and pulled, the door remained closed.
The muscles in her hand tensed, adrenaline spreading through her and forcing her heart to jump in her throat. She was trapped. Why was she trapped? No. No, it didn’t make sense.
She’d passed out - they wouldn’t. What was happening? She used both hands to pull at the handle, but the fucking thing wouldn’t bulge.
Logic flew out of the window and Amelia began pounding her fists against the door. “SOMEONE HELP ME!” It was a mistake. A mistake. It had to be.
She had looked up the company before coming. They had a good reputation. Why would they do this?
Then, it happened. She felt the handle turn in her hands and she immediately let it go. She took a step back, keeping her hands near her face so that she could protect herself from whoever was coming in. The door creaked as it opened, and then a short blond nurse walked in.
“Miss Parks? Are you alright? I heard shouting.”
Her hands stayed up, close to her chest. “The-the door was locked.”
The nurse’s eyebrows rose, her forehead wrinkling. She turned to look at the handle and then pushed it in as she twisted it. A click was heard and she smiled. “I’m sorry, the locking mechanism is a little weird. We usually explain it, but you were passed out. It must have locked on accident as we closed it. Our apologies.”
Oh. Oh okay. She closed her eyes, shame swirling in her chest. Her mind was still foggy - she hadn’t considered that this might have been an accident. “I-I’m sorry. I tried to get out.”
The nurse’s smile never faltered. “Of course, you must have been so confused. You were out for a few hours. Do you need anything? Water? Food?”
God no. There was a queasiness filling her stomach and she was convinced that if she took a drop of liquid or a bite of food, she’d puke. “I’m fine, thank you. Could- could you tell me what happened?”
It didn’t matter how hard she tried to think; her last memory was her sitting in that office, drinking water. And then darkness.
“You fainted,” the nurse answered as she closed the door. “Do you usually get faint around blood? Had you eaten this morning?”
Needles were not her friends. That might have been it. She had been nervous about getting caught in a lie. Maybe she was right, though it didn’t explain why she felt like a truck had run her over. She wasn’t an avid fainter, but it had happened to her a couple of times in the past - and it had never left her feeling like this.
“A few times. I had a small breakfast.” A toast. That counted, right?
“Lack of food can often lead to fainting, especially when one is anxious.”
Fainting. Not enough food.
It made sense.
Yet, despite the friendliness of the nurse, and the perfectly sane explanation, she couldn’t shake off the creepy feeling, the shiver in her spine. None of this seemed right.
“Well, hm, I - can I go home now?”
“Oh - do you no longer wish to be part of the trial?”
“W-wait. Did I qualify?”
The last thing she remembered was that they couldn’t analyze her blood. Of course, they had time to finish while she was out.
But did she want it to be good news?
The nurse smiled at her. “Yes, as a matter of fact, you’ve qualified for one of our higher trials.”
“It pays a lot more.”
The bad feeling in her gut had convinced her that the right thing to do was to walk away. But more money? How could she say no? A few good nights of sleep, a break… more money? So what if the trial was maybe sketchy? What was the worse? They weren’t completely regulated?
So what if she was stuck with a few side effects forever? Could it truly be worse than her current life? It couldn’t.
“And- and what kind of trial is it?”
“Yes, you’ll have to stay at the facility. We have to monitor daily and you would need a new regimen, it’s very strict.”
“So I’d stay in one of these hospital rooms?”
She laughed. “Oh no, we have apartments in one of our buildings. It makes it much more comfortable for long stays.”
“And by long stay you mean…”
She had wished for a long trial, but this was something else. It also implied that she would stay here which meant that she would have to quit her other jobs. They would never let her take two months off work. They were a million of her who would take that job.
But… she could find other meaningless jobs right? Even if they were awful, even if they were a pain in the ass. This kind of money though…
“Everything would be provided of course. The food, the basic necessities. You’d be very comfortable.”
“And when you say a lot more?”
The nurse smiled. “You’d leave with about triple the amount from the trial you originally applied for.”
…Triple?! She couldn’t… this was crazy but… “Alright.”
She clapped her hands together, obviously beaming. “Perfect, I’ll go get the doctor and the contract. It’s all very standard.”
“Okay. Could- could you leave the door open?” The thought of feeling trapped in this room again was enough to send chills down her spine. She knew it hadn’t been on purpose but…
“Of course. It won’t be long.”
Amelia watched the nurse disappear, a lump in her throat. It didn’t matter how many times she tried to swallow; it didn’t go away. Her head remained a big sluggish from her recent wake-up. She could recall having fainted before, but she didn’t remember feeling so fucking bad.
It was fine, right?
She had done her research, they were reputable. Nothing bad had happened anyway. They were even offering her more money. Honestly, wherever she’d stay, whatever the food would be… it had to be better than where she was currently living and what she was eating on a daily basis.
It would be alright.
This was the right decision.
This would bring her a few months of relief.
Two months and she’d go back to her normal life.
A/N: After a quick survey, I decided to go ahead and post it! Let me know what you think!t