Chapter 2: Lenora Whitmore
“Miss Whitmore, do you know where you are?”
A voice carried down through the painless darkness. Her eyes strained to see past the burn of the new light. The only things she could comprehend were white walls and bright lights.
Lenora struggled to inhale past the tension in her chest; and through a suffocating hold on her neck that traveled through the tightness of her face and trailed out of the corner of her eye.
Odd that a tear could hurt so much.
“Hush, Miss Whitmore, calm down.”
Her whole body jerked in surprise when something soft and cool touched the back of her hand.
That was when pain erupted, seemingly from everywhere at once, and Lenora remembered why she was in this sanitary little bed.
A strangled cry answered the blurred white figure beside her. More hands touched her – checking this and that, shushing her, soothing her. One stroked her brow and gazed at her pained face as more hands explored deeper, more intimate injuries.
She squirmed against the intrusion, but every movement was a lance of fire through her body.
“Miss Whitmore, look at me sweetheart, it’s going to be all right. You’re safe now.”
Lenora struggled to open her eyes further, break apart the sticky lengths of eyelashes that blurred her world. She wanted to see who was speaking. Who was being so kind? Was this someone she knew?
A nurse, female and matronly, stood beside her and held her hand. Her eyes were brown, and full with almost doting concern. Her face was round and sort of plump, and for a moment she felt all right, muscles slowly began to relax –
And with the touch of another gently probing hand, the memories flooded through her mind in a rush of red flags and nightmares. All of them cascaded out and the last of them forced her to look away from the kind face, horrified to see it. The plump nurse pulled a sob from Lenora’s lips; Hers too closely resembled another round face, a recent acquaintance, one that mocked her from the back of her mind.
Words from that other old face, the memory of them glinted in her mind; “Don’t you worry, sweetheart, it’ll all be over soon. Girls like you? It’s more of a … single use investment.”
She felt bile rise up inside her, and a cool hand fell to her forehead, that same sickly familiar maternal voice trying to soothe her.
Her stomach heaved and nothing came out. Instead, whatever spit she could summon was hurled into a wastebasket provided by a man in a white coat. The nurse dabbed at her lips.
A jerk in Lenora’s abdomen arched her back in pain, and through dry, cracked lips, she cried out in alarm. Those cool hands firmly held her down.
“Hold her still; I have to check these stitches. Miles; get the anesthesiologist. Nurse Getty, calm her down please.”
Nurse… nurse… doctor… good. It’s all right.
You’re safe now. You’re safe now. Her mantra began as the nurse mimicked it. Even as the doctor arranged her legs, she kept her eyes transfixed n a spot just above Nurse Getty’s head.
When her eyes began to blur, she felt fingers gently probe her. The pain that came from it was a slow numbing burn. After what seemed like forever, her legs were straightened and covered. A man with a clip board told her to stay still and take her meds when they were given to her.
Some indeterminable length of time passed before she realized he had stopped speaking.
Very swiftly after, she started to feel warm and sleepy, but she still tried to cling to the shreds of her consciousness.
How did this happen to me? She found herself thinking. She could feel the dull throb where pain should be, and her head felt thicker. I always walk home that way…
She wiggled her fingers.
“…Amazing she didn’t bleed to death.” Someone – Nurse Getty – said to the doctor.
“This shit gets worse every year.” The doctor mumbled from a mile away.
“…The officer who ran her Ident. told me that she hadn’t been to work for the past two days. And no one saw whoever dropped her at the E.R. They said she just appeared…”
The doctor made a noise.
“Nurse Getty, stop poking your nose around, this isn’t one of your soaps.”
The haze around the edges of her vision started to creep inwards. She tried to recall things – easy things – to make herself fall asleep easier.
Lenora was a secretary. Her bosses were Sandal and Crustack, financial attorneys. If Nurse Getty was right then today was… Friday?
“I was just thinking how lucky she is.”
The nurse’s distant voice seemed to be worlds away. The ring of darkness tightened warmly around her.
“Pretty girl like that? Yes. Very lucky.”
“How did the surgery go?”
She drifted along the currents of her thoughts as the lights in her vision slowly danced away.
She remembered darkness and fire – and she could see monsters and faces of people who were cruel and cold. She remembered someone named Cushion. Maybe. She remembered…
“I don’t want to talk about it, Nurse Getty.”
“I’m sorry doctor, it’s just –“
A cool touch on her forehead pushed her gently towards rest, but when her eyes fluttered, she did not see nurse Getty’s genuine concern as it glimmered like hope in her eyes. No, Lenora saw another round, elderly face, one with too much make-up and a rotten toothy grin.
“She… just reminds me of my daughter. That’s all.”
A sigh wisped down the tunnel of her ears, and her eyes fluttered shut.
“These surgeries are always… difficult. She was lucky…”
An image burned behind her closed eyes, brighter for a moment because of the darkness there. A face. She would always remember that face…
“She was lucky the cuts were so clean... ”
Soft splatters of blood, a quirked smile that flashed ivory teeth, and eyes bluer then the crackle of lightning in the night sky… A song, like a lullaby gently murmured in her head.
“I’m sorry Nurse Getty.” An uncomfortable cough trickled past her reverie.
“It’s all right, Doctor. I understand.”
Blissful silence as the blue eyed man’s face drifted to the recesses of her mind.
“Do you want some coffee, Doctor?”
Distant shoes padding away. A click and the flutter of papers.
“Yes Doctor?” Farther away now. Almost too far to hear through the descending curtain of sleep.
“She’ll be fine.”
The pinpricks of light faded, and she let her head loll to the side, plush and clean pillows like clouds beneath the rivulets of her hair.
“…No she won’t.”
Dreams began to collect behind her eyes, nightmares of red and black, silver flashing claws and dagger teeth. She stirred in her slumber.
Footprints disappeared amidst the roaring of screams in her ears and all the pristine whiteness was inked out by blood.
But the face remained etched as a relief on the backs of her eyelids. Lenora’s mind brushed it often, like a blind man reaching to sample the textures of his surroundings. She had opened her eyes through the pain and someone had been carrying her. She remembered the bright lights of the Emergency Room. She remembered touching a hand, and someone placing her gently on the ground.
Lenora remembered a smile.
And then she slept.