I stuffed the money into the cab driver’s hands as I stumbled out and ran into the hospital. I stopped for a few seconds, then continued up to the reception desk. “Shaun Arbour. Car. Accident. He arrived around 1:30. Can you tell me in which room is he moved to?” A lump formed in my throat, and I gulped it down back with the panting.
The nurse typed on her computer, and looked up at me with a smile and said, “Left corridor, third floor, room number 309. You can take the stairs or the elevators.” I muttered a quick ‘thank you’ and jogged towards the stairs. I can reach the third floor before the damn lift.
I took a deep breath and ran up the stairs, without waiting to take a breath in between till I reached the third floor. My lungs burned, but I ignored it as I searched for room number 309. I let out a sigh as I finally found it, tucked around the corner of the corridor. I quickly opened the door, and tears sprang to my eyes after I saw him.
Shaun was lying on a bed, a light green hospital dress covering his body. His left hand was in plaster and his forehead and right leg were covered in bandages. There were small wounds across his face, especially near his mouth. The tears in my eyes blinded my vision for a moment before I blinked them away.
“Oh. Hey Brooks,” he said, passing me a bright smile, but I could clearly see his struggle for that. And I lost my control. “You asshole! I had told you to stay for a night and come back in the morning, but you didn’t listen to me, as always! What the hell were you thinking?” There was a nurse in one corner of the room, her back to me. She turned to look at me and thankfully for her, she stayed silent and went back to her work.
“I am sorry, Brooks. I know I should have stayed at Peter’s.”, he replied, and I ran towards my brother, and carefully without hurting him, I gave him a small hug. “You know I won’t survive if I lost you too,” I whispered, sniffing. Shaun rubbed my back with his good hand, comforting me, and silently muttered, “Does Karen know?” I looked at him. There was a hint of fear and sadness on his face, and I felt like laughing.
This idiot is not scared of me, he is scared of his wife. I should have brought her along.
“No. I sneaked away while she was sleeping. I left her a sticky note on the fridge, just in case.” His eyes went wide and he laughed slightly and said, “I guess we are both going to be in trouble now.” I gulped, starting to regret about the sticky note.
“They called Peter after I woke up. He came to talk about the fee while the doctor was checking on me. He said he would come in the morning with Karen and some clothes for both of us. I told him not to wait.” I nodded. Peter was Karen’s brother. Shaun was at Peter’s house the previous day, and as it was not safe for him to travel back to Philadelphia from Manhattan. I had told him to stay here. Dumb asshole never listens to me.
“He should get some sleep now. The doctors checked him half an hour ago, and I think he should get some rest.” The nurse said, walking towards us with a writing pad in her arms. I nodded and kissed Shaun on his forehead lightly, over the bandages, and walked out. The nurse switched off the light as we went out in the corridor.
“Do you want me to arrange a room for you for tonight?” she asked. I considered that but instead shook my head. “Thank you, but I think I will stay here.” She looked at me, gave me a broad smile, and walked away, her heels clicking on the marble floor.
I slumped on a bench, feeling tired and sleepy. I was still in my pajamas, and an over-coat I had grabbed in a hurry. I gave it a hitch as I leaned back comfortably. The light in this part of the corridor was brighter, and I felt safe, even though the only thing I had was my purse with a few dollars.
I was just going to drift away in my sleep when I heard a strong banging voice upstairs. Bewildered as well as scared, I jumped up and ran up the stairs to the fourth floor. I looked on both sides of the dim-lit corridor, and on the left side was a boy in his pajamas, standing in front of a vending machine. He was muttering something angrily, as he kicked the machine.
Bewildered, I ran towards him. He spotted me even before I reached him, and groaned loudly as he ran his hand through his hair. “What are you doing?” I asked him, trying to sound as polite and calm as possible. He looked at me, shook his head, and pointed his chin at the machine.“Stupid machine.” he muttered, as he kicked it again, this time slowly.
I looked at him in confusion. He looked older than me, yet didn’t know how to use a vending machine. “What do you want though?” I said, moving closer to the machine.
“Aah, leave it. I would have tried for the Coke, but I guess it’s not in the mood now,” he replied, eyeing the machine like a mother scolding her six- year old child.
I put my hands in my pocket, took out my purse and fished out two dollars, and without saying anything, put it in the coin acceptor. Even though I am a college dropout, I still remember how to use one of these.
The machine made sounds as a can of coke fell onto the pickup window. I put my hand inside and took it out and handed it to the boy.“Next time, try putting real money to get real products instead of kicking it”.
The boy looked amused as his lips bent into a smile. He took the can and walked slowly to my side. “Thanks, though I usually get a coke for free after two to three kicks,” I raised my eyebrows.
“Does no one complain about kicking noise in the middle of the night?” I asked him, looking at the closed doors in this side of the corridor. He smirked and replied, “Trust me, there’s just three more people here. One is a diabetes patient. Another is a kidney stone one. And then there’s a seventy year old. None will even wake up if you set off a bomb,“. I chuckled.
He began walking ahead and looked back at me. I realized he wanted me to come too, so I walked and caught up with him.
“I am Hugo Sowers,” he said, extending his right arm. “Brooklyn Arbour,” I replied, shaking his hand. He looked amused again, and repeated slowly, “Brooklyn Arbour.”
I felt my cheeks getting warm. Something, some feeling, made that. Either it was getting too cold, and my jacket wasn't helping. Or it was the first time I am talking to a stranger who is not a customer or a family member. I tried to remember the last time I had talked to someone like this. Nothing after graduating from high school. I couldn't help sighing as we walked ahead.
“So, you are not a patient. I have never seen you here.” He eyed my clothes, and I regretted having worn my pajamas to a hospital, if people think wearing pajamas in a hospital means you are a patient. “No, actually. I am not a patient here. My brother got into an accident, and the hospital called me to come as soon as possible, so I didn’t get enough time to change.” I said, feeling smug. Instinctively, I raised my hand to my hair and smoothed my bun.
He nodded his head. Slowly, we came to a stop, a few meters before the end of the corridor. Hugo shrugged as he walked over to the other side and stopped in front of a door. “You stay here?” I asked, rearranging my sentence. Are you a temporarily- permanent patient here?
Hugo turned back to me and bit his lip. “Yeah,” he said slowly, as he opened the door and went in quietly and closed the door on my face. I frowned. Strange. I walked back to the stairs and then to the same bench I had occupied earlier, and soon drifted away to sleep.