I opened my eyes to a bright room. The sun was streaming through my barred window and shining directly on my face. I lay in my bed motionless for a few moments. The ceiling of my room seemed so far away. What would it be like if I could fly up and touch its popcorn texture? To feel nothing against my body as air surrounded me on all sides?
My eyes roamed from the ceiling and down the white walls. They had been cleaned since last night; blood no longer smeared across the smooth surface. Finally, I stretched my arms above my head and into my line of vision. No blood there, either. I had to give them credit, they did a marvelous job of keeping this place spotless. Though, why they chose white, I will never know. If they were so efficient and meticulous about cleanliness, a cheerier color would have added character to the drab surroundings. Perhaps a springtime yellow or a sky blue.
I sat up, not needing to check my sheets for I knew those were clean as well. My feet swung out of bed and hit the cool tiled floor beneath me. Closing my eyes, I padded my feet across the ground until they found my slippers. I smiled as I dug my toes into their fuzzy warmth. My t-shirt billowed as I stood up and I eagerly stripped it from my body as I walked to my closet.
What to wear today? What would he like to see me in? I grinned like a fool as I picked up my favorite pair of jeans a black t-shirt, the neck cut low enough just to see the smallest amount of cleavage. It felt like a casual day. We wouldn’t go anywhere fancy for dinner tonight, he wouldn’t take me dancing. But that was just fine with me. Maybe we could go for a walk, sit by the lake and just hold each other. Maybe we could play a board game, Monopoly perhaps.
“Sarah,” I heard a voice behind me and jumped.
“Fuck, Lenny! Don’t you knock?” I turned to see Lenny, one of the younger orderlies standing in the doorway of my room.
“Sorry,” he mumbled as he blushed and looked at the floor.
“It’s fine,” I said, slipping my top over my head and pulling it down to my waist. “What’s up?”
“Um,” his eyes ventured up to mine but quickly returned to the floor when he saw I had yet to finish dressing. I picked up my jeans and stepped into them, shimmying them up to my hips. “I just wanted to make sure you made it to breakfast this morning.”
“I always make it to breakfast, you know that.”
“I…I know,” he stammered and turned to leave.
“Thank you for the thought, Lenny,” I called to him before he could walk away.
He smiled brilliantly and blushed. “You’re welcome, Sarah.”
I smiled back and waited until he had left before turning to my vanity and picking up my hair brush. 100 strokes a day to keep my dark chocolate locks shiny and smooth. The first twenty to rid my hair of last night’s dreams, the next twenty to remind myself that beauty comes at a price, the final sixty because 100 is a perfect number. I wanted to live to be 100. I could eat 100 Hershey kisses and not have a stomach ache. I could kiss him 100 times and it would never feel like too many.
Standing up, I walked confidently into the hallway. At least in the hallway there was a little bit of color. The walls were a soft mauve and the doors painted a dull brown. Other women had left their rooms. Some were standing against the walls, leaning into them as if they needed their support. Perhaps they did, I didn’t know. Others were talking to themselves in low voices, some were singing incoherent melodies and the rest were doing exactly as I was: walking to breakfast. The food here was never anything great, but we all ate it because without it, our morning meds would do a number on our stomachs.
The cafeteria, if it could be called that, was dreary and uninviting. The food was collected from the far end of the room, a buffet of minimally prepared items waiting to be scooped onto a plate. The tables were varying in size and stability. It wasn’t uncommon that one would collapse under the weight of more than four lunch trays. We joked that the cafeteria was where the tables came to die, where they were put out to pasture. The murals on the walls were left over from the days this place was a children’s hospital and depicted warm and happy families doing warm and happy things in the hopes of evoking warm and happy emotions from the current residents of the building. But the colors were faded, a harsh reminder that our lives were fading as well. Oh, the irony.
I didn’t know where I would find him that day, but I didn’t expect it would be so soon. Yet there he was, dressed very similar to me in dark jeans and black shirt, sitting at one of the breakfast tables, smiling and waiting for me to join him. I hurried through the line, grabbing some cereal and some fruit. My tray wobbled in my hands as my nerves took over. I was always nervous when he first greeted me, his lilting voice saying ‘good morning’, his hand in mine or on my back as he kissed my cheek. He would never show more affection in public for he knew that the other women were jealous of what we had. Jealous they didn’t have someone who loved them the way Sawyer loved me.
I smiled as I reach the table, his handsome face was eager for me to sit down and I chose the chair next to his.
“Good morning,” he cooed quietly in my ear.
“Good morning,” I blushed and looked down at my plate.
“You look beautiful today.”
“Thank you,” I replied as I started to peal my banana. “I’m a little surprised to see you this early in the morning.”
He quickly kissed my cheek and touched my knee under the table. “I couldn’t wait to see you.”
I smiled and glanced at him. He was beaming at me, clearly a love-sick fool. But then again, so was I and I scooted my chair a little closer to his as I began to eat. His hand stayed on my knee and he simply observed me, mesmerized by my movements.
When I finished, I pushed my tray across the table. No one else had joined us which encouraged me to speak to him. “I thought we could go for a walk down to the lake today.”
“I like that idea,” he smiled.
“Wait for me outside?”
He remained sitting in his chair as I pushed away from the table and picked up my tray. I could feel him watching me as I walked it to the trash bin and emptied the remaining contents. I turned around once on my way to the door and saw him smiling at me, still sitting peacefully in his chair. Giddiness came over me and I smiled back before turning around and skipping out the door.
“Sarah?” A familiar voice stopped me.
“Hey, Lenny,” I smiled at his sweet face. He was young, probably no older than twenty and still had all of his child-like mannerisms and expressions.
“Where are you going?”
“To the lake. It’s going to be a wonderful day!”
He looked at me with a sad expression on his face. “I’m supposed to remind you of your appointment with Doctor Rollins today.”
“When is it?” I asked, my mind already at the lake with Sawyer.
“Right after lunch.”
I nodded and hurried away, not wanting to keep Sawyer waiting any longer than necessary.