14 hours later...
I storm into the hospital, almost running. Eventually, I slow down, so people don’t think I am some kind of a maniac and that nobody puts me in a strait-jacket. I pass the main hall and head for the reception like the last time, wanting to ask the other nurses for him and then I stop. There must have been an accident not long ago because the noise increases and finally turns into words.
Words that only I could hear. It’s the part that I hated the most.
Make the pain stop...
Where is everyone? Why am I alone? Why can’t I move?!
I can’t feel anything. Somebody help me, please help...
Stop that! Don’t take her away! No, she is still alive. No, don’t she is so tiny...
I pass the reception and start to look for him desperately. The voices taking over my head. He has to be here somewhere. I watch patients in all sorts of states. Older people slowly moving forward, some with their IV bags. People sitting with their hands and legs wrapped around in bandages. Others are just worn out by whatever sickness was eating their bodies. I close my eyes, willing it all to stop.
He’s gonna pay for this, the fucking murderer. He’s gonna pay for what he did to...
I flinch and start walking faster. Maybe he’s with a patient? Or in the bathroom? I look for the latter and walk in without even thinking. I hear a lot of offended voices, see frowns and try to ignore a lustful grin from one guy. I lift my hands in surrender, saying that I am looking for someone (the idiot with too much testosterone in his blood, waves at me and winks). Then I call out Charlie’s name a few times and after not hearing any reply, I quickly evacuate from there. Where else can I look?
Why did you do this to me, Lord? Why did you take him away from me? WHY? You were supposed to take me, we had a deal...
I wince as I hear the cracking voice and all the emotions and pain wrapped around in those words. Honestly, I didn’t know what was worse here. The threats, blasphemy, and venom spat out of people, or the pain of a broken spirit crumbling apart. I just couldn’t find the strength to fight them, no matter what words fell in my head.
I notice the light getting brighter again and I start to panic, No, I couldn’t let it get as bad as before. This wasn’t a joke or something that could just go away. I could feel that whatever was happening to me, was in some way damaging my brain cells. And the loss of weight, insomnia, and nervous ticks were just a small addition to my falling apart state.
I stop walking for a while and put my hands against a nearby wall. I try to concentrate on calming down, my breathing irregular and I feel like I just ran a marathon, almost out of breath. I hear my heart pounding in my chest and try not to panic when it keeps skipping a beat. I begin to sweat when I realize that there are short times when it isn’t beating at all. Calm down. You have to calm down. I straighten my back and head for the cafeteria. My feet drag across the floor as I look around.
Most of the tables are empty, only a few people sitting and not really eating anything. Just moving their food on a plate or drinking cold, cheap coffee. I scan the room as I start to hear the lightbulbs buzzing and my insides twisting. Finally, I notice him. He’s sitting there, eating a small pizza and what looks like a salad. He’s reading a book, but I can’t really see the cover from this far. I start to walk up to him and not think about anything, in case I might mentally fall apart. He must hear me, because he looks up from the book and quickly gets up, seeing my state. He takes the first step and then I start to run. I reach him in seconds. I’m completely on autopilot now.
I stand next to him and put my hands on the sides of his face, needing the noise to stop. I close my eyes, concentrating deeply, and can feel him freeze under my touch, but I ignore it. The pain was too much for me again. I fought it as long as I could, too afraid that if I needed his help too much, he would finally say no. That he would be done with my sorry ass... but now that I knew that something was able to turn off this horror for even just a little bit, I couldn’t resist. I just couldn’t.
Just for a moment, I promise.
I’m sorry. I didn’t want to bother you but the pain is increasing and I had nowhere to go. You’re the only one that can help me. I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t so bad, because believe me, it was. I know how important your work is and how busy you are...
He stops my senseless rambling and grabs both of my hands. I open my eyes and look up, embarrassed. I want to pull my hands out of his grasp but he doesn’t let me.
It’s okay. I understand. Hold on, as long as you need.
He says calmly and somehow I have this intense feeling that he doesn’t just mean this moment. My eyes start to water but I hold it in and blink a lot. I lower my head and close my eyes again. After twenty or thirty seconds it finally works. I sigh with relief, but somewhere in the back of my head, a dark thought slips out. It took much longer this time as if my body was starting to get more immune to his touch. It worked just like the first time but I could feel some new blockade in my mind. If the pain was big, I had to concentrate more on calming myself down so it could work.
It’s gone. You can let go of my hands.
He jumps back and let’s go abruptly. He seems just as embarrassed as I am. He clears his throat and his hand goes through his messy hair. I smile. I have grown to like this gesture of his. He looked so young when he did that. I sit down and decide to take pity on him.
So what are you reading?
I point a finger to his abandoned book and take a slice of his pizza. I was starving again. I take a big bite and my stomach grumbles as if I have a whole orchestra in there.
I don’t think I want to tell you.
I furrow my eyebrows and snatch the book before he can stop me. I stare at a used up copy of Jane Eyre*. I smirk at him.
Oh, nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a classic... but tell me, do you consider yourself closer to Mr. Rochester or our little Jane?
You know, Nora, rudeness does become you. In so many ways.
I open my mouth, ready to start a whole tirade where he can exactly shove those words, but once again I remind myself how much he is helping me. I think about the fact that I bother him at work, how I make a complete spectacle of myself in a hospital and on top of all that, I am now eating his food. I swallow my arrogance with another bite of the pizza and give him a guilty look.
You’re right. I’m just tired so you are welcome to ignore everything I say in the next couple of minutes.
I finish my food and try not to stare at the remainings of the pizza.
You wanna finish that, too?
He lifts his eyebrow mockingly but his voice remains kind as always. I shrug.
No, I’m fine.
Of course, you are... look, you can eat that and I am going to get another one.
You don’t have to...
He walks away before I can say anything else and goes to the register. I shake my head, amazed. I quickly finish my food and take his book to occupy my thoughts with something. I stare at the used copy and start to read from the first fragment I find.
“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell” was my ready and orthodox answer.
“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there forever?”
“What must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”
A sour smile spreads on my lips. How very true, dear little Jane. I close my eyes for a moment. If this was just the beginning of my hell on Earth, I didn’t even want to imagine what would happen after this thing in my head finished me off... and something deep inside me told me that day would eventually come. Charlie was making it last longer but he couldn’t be by my side forever. I shake my head again and look for a different fragment to read. There has got to be something less depressing here.
“I have little left in myself -- I must have you. The world may laugh -- may call me absurd, selfish -- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.”
I shut the book abruptly. This was too real all of a sudden. I massage my temples and look up as he sits opposite to me. I inhale the smells and my eyes widen.
Not liking the book?
It’s good... just not today. Not in these circumstances.
He looks at me for a while and moves the plate towards me. I grab another piece without even pretending to have some manners left.
You always have that kind of appetite?
Mmm... actually yeah. But usually, I eat slower.
So how long has it been since you threw yourself at someone else’s food?
He has a concerned look on his face and it bothers me somehow. I didn’t want his pity right now. I push the plate back to him and cross my arms tightly over my chest. I gaze at the book and then at him.
Jane Eyre isn’t the most obvious choice for a guy... you sure, you wouldn’t prefer to read “The Shining” instead? Butch it up a bit?
No. I think I see enough of horror in this place.
He waves his hand around and I try not to wince. I was doing it again. Saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things. Hardly ever acting the way I should.
Sorry, my bad, but Jane Eyre isn’t exactly the most optimistic book to be reading either. Don’t you think?
Well, it’s more optimistic than a guy turning insane in a hell hole hotel.
He smiles and takes a slice of his own. He opens the book, seeming to be looking for something. I stare at him, trying to figure out what this guy is really about. I mean, people were not born this good, right? He had to have some flaws. If not, I was ready to lay on the floor here and now, and wallow over my life. My thoughts start to get dark as he passes the book my way and points to a sentence. I look down, feeling depressed, then read the words. I snort loudly and then cover my mouth.
“Mademoiselle is a fairy,” he said, whispering mysteriously.”
He grins back as I try to regain some fake dignity.
Are you implying anything here, Mr. Rochester?
Of course not, Jane.
I narrow my eyes at him and flick through the pages. I put my finger on the old yellowed paper, and wait until he sees it.
“I mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its inaccuracy.” Mr. Rochester”
Oh, Charlie boy, I have been called many things in my life, but cute wasn’t one of them.
And what were you called?
Trouble - I say simply and shrug my shoulders.
Now, this I can believe. So, did you think about what I asked you last time? Ready to tell me something about yourself?
I wriggle uncomfortably on my chair. Alarm bells ringing in my head with double force. I couldn’t just tell him everything and risk losing him. I couldn’t survive without him. And not in a soppy, melodramatic way like in some cheap romance novel but the literal way.
Not yet. Sorry.
But you will have to tell me eventually. You know that?
Because I can’t be helping you if I don’t know what the real problem is.
Trust me, I know , but it isn’t easy to say. I’m really messed up... and I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for what you are doing for me. I...
The day we met I made some bad choices.
I look up at him, suddenly feeling sweat on my back. So this was the moment when he finally decided that I was better off in prison. I look down at my hands spread on the table and feel mixed emotions. The thought that I would no longer have him as my friend, my ally... the thought was devastating. But the idea that I would most definitely get locked later in a mental institution with the “silencers” given to me in the form of drugs... now, that thought was all too soothing.
I’m sorry about that. I understand. Where do you want me to wait? At the nurse’s desk or with you outside while you make the call.
He lifts his eyebrows hesitantly, and I notice the confusion on his face.
What are you talking about?
You are going to finally call the police.
No. Why would you think that? Listen, Nora. All I meant was that, yes, I should have not done what I did. I should have reported you trying to steal drugs immediately. Those are the rules and the law that I always followed. It was the first time that I did something like that.
I know, and I’m sorry.
No. Stop. This is not where I am going with this. What I did was unprofessional and might one day get me out of my job if someone found out. But still, I don’t regret it.
It’s my turn to look confused.
But you said...
Yes, but what I meant was that I need to know what happened to you so I can help you. I don’t want you to get worse. I worry about you.
You do? So I am not just some weirdo, that has been bothering you with her mental problems?
Oh, you are... but you are also so much more. So, stop beating yourself up and finish ‘my’ food. I need to get back to work. There is a whole horde of angry nurses bound to show up and yell in unison “Off with his head!”.
He grabs his book, takes a big bite of pizza and rushes out the door. Then he freezes and turns back, takes my hand and pretends to shake it.
Goodbye, Jane. May your way home be pleasant for you.
My mouth opens wide and he grins at me. I feel the warm touch of his fingers heat my skin and bring calm to my haggard mind. I watch him almost run back to his patients. I really needed to understand that man better and what he was all about. My lips part and I whisper almost to myself.
Safety travels, Mr. Rochester...
*Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë, published under the pen name “Currer Bell”, on 16 October 1847, by Smith, Elder & Co. of London, England. (...) Jane Eyre follows the experiences of its eponymous heroine, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, the brooding master of Thornfield Hall. The novel revolutionized prose fiction in that the focus on Jane’s moral and spiritual development is told through an intimate, first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity.