I groaned at a massive headache I wished to rub away. My temples pounded mercilessly making me dizzy. I made a motion commanding my hands to move towards my head but I was unable to.
With tightly closed eyes, I furrowed my brows giving it a second attempt tugging my arm from the shoulder. It stayed in place. So did the other. Careful to understand what was happening, individually I wiggle each one of my fingers.
“Phew,” I expelled. None were broken yet I still couldn’t move my arms.
Realizing the attempt to pull my lids open was futile, I sought to assess where I was. My body was stretched and a bed was below me. I knew with certainty it was not my own. The mattress was thin and I could feel the springs pressed at my spine.
With what I believed to be minimal movements, I waggled my toes and consciously felt up my legs. I didn't seem paralyzed and based on the pain, I could tell I had a severely bruised thigh. Squirming, I winced fully aware of it. I let out a sharp gasp and made a face. I felt my left hip was hurt and perhaps some of my ribs.
A compressed bandage-like cloth was tied around my waist up to my chest and I wondered, thanks to my shivering frame, if I laid half-naked. Making myself aware of each part of my body, I realized I was freezing and my body was exposed.
I gave another try at peeling my eyes open, but they did not respond.
Momentarily distracted by firm steps echoing into the room, I instinctively tried to speak. My vocal cords were unresponsive and the taste of bile along with a puncturing ache in my throat prohibited me from articulating sounds.
I brought my focus up to my ears and grew aware the steps paused at the side of my bed. I perceived someone’s face leaning in over mine and their eyes on me. I felt myself burn from the inside consumed in embarrassment.
Help! Help me!
I screamed clearly knowing it was all inside my head and they couldn’t hear me.
The click-clop of the heel of dress shoes moved along the side of the bed towards my feet. I perceived something, maybe fingers, run over my chest and waist, and then slither down from my hip to my leg.
Although vaguely unaware, I took offense to the touch and trembled.
The thin sheet covering my body was pulled back and fingers compressed a few of my toes on one foot and then the other pressing tighter from one digit to the next. The last squeeze hurt but I couldn’t yell. Instead, tears stung behind my eyes.
A piercing pain pricked my big, left toe, and ripped up my body.
Fuck it hurts!
I wriggled, at least that’s what I felt to be doing yet my body was immobile. The temporary warmth of liquid puddled at my bottom and I realized I peed myself from the excruciating agony.
Did he puncture my toe with a needle? Am I in hell?
A rush of thoughts hit me at once and I discerned where I last had been. The thought of my friends, Jonathan, and arriving at the asylum became clear. The terrorizing sounds and visions inside of it, I recalled too.
Why can’t I talk or open my eyes? What happened last? What was it? Think!
I searched the corners of my mind. Jonathan! He was running away from me. But why?
“Goddamn it! Nurse!”
I became alert at the aggravated, male voice which demanded a nurse to assist him.
I’m at a hospital!
My thoughts move to Paul and Rebecca and how badly hurt they looked before disappearing. I hope they’re here too.
“Yes, Sir?” The voice appeared to be owned by a young woman.
Perhaps in her 20s?
“Clean her up! She’s urinated all over herself and it’s gone through the mattress. Do you expect me to do it?!”
“No, Sir.” Her voice faltered.
“Do you want her skin to stick to the mattress once the piss freezes?” The voice mocked.
“No-no, Sir. Of course not.”
“Then clean her up. Now!”
“Ye-yes, Director. I need Ja—”
“Ye-yes ... Would you please step out? I—”
“Does it look like I follow orders from you, Miss?”
“Miss Everleigh, Sir.”
“I wasn’t asking your name, nurse ... I know what it is. Furthermore, I will not take offense to your insolence and questioning. I understand you were recently hired.”
“Yes-yes, Mr. Director.”
“Call me Director Graeme, nurse.”
“Yes, Sir—Director Graeme.”
“Fine then, go on! Ugh, my shoes! Give me that!”
A few moments later, my body was turned sideways by gentle, soft hands. She pulled at the sheet to keep my dignity intact but it wasn’t necessary. It had left me when the piss exited my body.
“Here, I’ll help.”
Gruff hands held me tight at the ribs and the curve of my hip, where it hurt like hell. But it was clear he had no concern for my bruises.
He tilted my body closer to his with one hand and removed the flimsy sheet with the other exposing my behind.
“Clean her up, Miss Everleigh,” he said with fake sweetness.
I mentally gritted my teeth and clenched my fists. I had an urge to punch the asshole’s face for belittling me and the nurse.
“Yes, yes, Sir Director.”
“Ugh!” he uttered. “How, with such a small brain, were you able to become a nurse, Miss Everleigh? Is your father well-off?”
“No-no, Sir.” Her voice quivered and I heard a tightness in her throat as if she was about to cry. "He's fighting for this country, Director Graeme."
“Is he? You can’t be that smart if you didn’t make the nurse's war draft.”
“I wasn’t of age, Sir. I’m nineteen.”
There was shuffling of feet and moments later, her hands were slipping my underwear downwards to my thighs. Then, she proceeded to wipe my skin with a coarse towel.
“Mmm. Very nicely done, Miss Everleigh.”
A third voice entered the room. It was that of an older female.
“What?!” He seemed agitated.
“You have a phone call at your desk, Sir.”
“Can they wait?! Or call later?”
“No, Sir. It is Dr. Morley. He said it’s an emergency regarding your mother, Mrs. Graeme.”
The director muttered something under his breath. “I’ll be there shortly, Mrs. Cason.” There was a pause. “And, why have you stopped cleansing our patient, Miss Everleigh?”
She continued to stroke my bottom a few more times. I heard some more shuffling. The director still held me by the waist, his clasp had grown tighter.
“I have her.” I felt her hands on me. “She’s clean,” the nurse said before turning me on my back. She’d placed towels where it had once been soaking wet. Now, it felt slightly damp.
“Are you not removing her underwear?”
“Yes, yes, Sir.”
“Director Graeme, he insists you come to the phone now.” The phone lady was back in the room.
“Damn it,” he muttered letting my body go. My skin burned where his fingers had imprinted me. His feet click-clopped out of the room.
“Yes, nurse Everleigh?”
“Could you please ask Jack to come in here if he’s available?”
The nurse pulled the sheets back again and shimmied the wet underwear off me.
"What are these?" She questioned aloud.
I had no idea what it could possibly be. I hoped it wasn't something protruding from my skin. With a towel, she created a mock panty and covered my body with a clean sheet. I smelled a faint hint of rosemary on it.
“Good morning, Ruth. You needed me?”
“Yes, Jack. Come in. I need you to lift her for me while I change the sheets?”
“Rhatz! What did she do? Is that urine I smell?”
“Yes. I’m not sure what transpired but the director was in here when it happened.”
My body lifted but I could scarcely feel where he placed his hands. I felt numb in most places and believed my mind was slipping away from me.
“How’s your mother, Ruth? I remember you were in a flap about her.”
A giggle escaped my nurse. “Doing much better. Thank you for asking.”
I knew her to be blushing without giving her a look. I was perceptive with almost everyone even in my state of mind.
“Turns out she was acting out because she doesn’t believe in the women's suffrage movement. Her friend, Dorothy, said we should be guaranteed the right to vote and my mother dramatically fainted after Dorothy gave her a piece of her mind,” she sighed. “My mother is old-fashioned and manipulative.”
Suffrage? Right to vote?
“What do you think, Jake? Should women be allowed a voice?”
He took a moment too long.
“Well, Miss Everleigh, I think if women are needed on the battlefield and expected to support the war, they should have the right to choose who is president of this country. I think women can do more than maintain a home and take care of children.”
How noble. Barf. I rolled my eyes. What nonsense do they speak of?
“Oh, Jake. I wasn’t aware you are such a modern thinker,” she said clearly impressed. “Place her on the bed, it’s clean now.”
He straightened up. “I am, Ruth.” Gently, he lowered me unto the cot. My arms and legs dangled.
For a long moment, the two were silent and I went in and out of consciousness although I could hear them moving around the room.
“I know you are a modern woman, even if your upbringing, or more to the point, your mother, is not. I would always support you working if you and me—”
“Mr. Harlan! I may be here thanks to your recommendation but I won't allow you to disrespect me.” Ruth fell quiet.
“I don’t mean to disrespect you, Ruth. I can mind my own potatoes. But I wanted you to know if hypothetically you and I were married, I would support your right to work and vote. It is 1917, after all.”
Wait, what?! I panicked.
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