“Are you crazy? I’m not staying here that long!” Harla protested at the unfavorable news.
“Sweetie, calm down. People can hear us.” Margaret was always worried about reputation and the impression her family left on others.
“Oh, my God. I don’t care if people can hear me, I’m in a freakin hospital. If we go home now, we’ll never have to see anyone here again.”
“Harla, we’re not going home. You have a problem, ok? You’re sick.”
It shocked Harla to hear her father raise his voice to her even if it was slight, he was usually so quiet and often avoided arguments. But this was different, she deceived them. She hurt not only herself but those closest to her and to his chagrin, she didn’t seem to care. Who was she? He felt as though he didn’t know her anymore. Maybe he never did.
“Dad, I’m fine. I promise to keep it under control from now on.”
“Under control? Do you even recognize yourself? Because I don’t.” He glared at her in complete disbelief before walking away.
“It’s just hard for him to see you like this, sweetie. You could be more compassionate to his feelings after all you put him through.” Margaret stood silent, studying her daughter’s frail state. She blamed herself. How could she not notice such drastic changes in her daughter’s attitude and form. Anyone on the outside looking in might gather that she hardly cared enough to know what was going on in her own home. She decided she had to fix her family. “I’ll talk to him, you just relax, dear. And please eat something.”
It was difficult for Harla to feel empathy for very long when everyone kept telling her to eat. Is it really a sickness if you have control over it? Does she have control? She was starting to believe her parents might be right which was a dangerous thing to admit in her mind. No. No! She’s not sick. She wouldn’t admit to anyone, especially not herself.
Suddenly, she noticed something. She looked around the room and realized she was alone again. Well, if she was going to be stuck in this godforsaken hospital, she might as well explore further outside her room than she was able to yesterday. She stealthily snuck on the other side of her door and past the nurses, as if they cared enough to pay attention to patients walking around aimlessly. They weren’t her babysitters. Her sly maneuvers were unnecessary but still, she felt as though her parents would pop out of any corner and ruin her moment of short-lived freedom. She walked along the halls swiftly unsure of what it was she searched for. If she found a door that led to the outside world, that wouldn’t be so bad. And now that she wore actual decent clothing, she would fit right in with the everyone else. Just as she spotted the elevators and started towards them, a nurse darted around the corner and sped past her pushing a child in a wheelchair causing Harla to back up abruptly and bump into yet another person.
Will not a day go by that I don’t bump into somebody in these wretched, white halls? She thought to herself.
“Sorry, I’m a known clutz in these halls,” she explained before turning to face the person she backed into and immediately recognized him as the original boy she bumped into just the day before. “Oh, my God, again? I’m really sorry.”
“Hey, it’s cool. Look, no chips. We’re good,” he said with a cute chuckle, holding his hands up on display.
“Why are you still in your hospital gown?”
“It’s comfy. No, I’m still recovering from surgery and it’s really hard for me to dress and undress myself. Then the family wants to help and it’s just a nightmare.”
“Gotcha. Wow, surgery. That’s serious.”
“Nah, not really. I get out of here in a week. What about you?”
“My parents are making me stay here for another three days.”
“That’s not so bad. Where are you headed?”
“Trying to escape,” she admitted with her eyes on the elevators.
“Already? Damn, you’re impatient. How about I show you around and you won’t cause a panic from being M.I.A.?”
She shot another glance at the elevator door as it closed and sighed softly. “Sure, exploring a hospital sounds fun,” she spoke in a sarcastic tone.
“Eh, it’s no rave but it beats lying in bed all day.”
After an hour of Levi showing her the entire pediatrics ward and introducing her to some of the other teens admitted there, he walked her back to her room where her parents paced frantically fearing the worst.
“Harla! Are you crazy? You can’t just up and leave every time we walk away. You were gone so long this time, I had the whole hospital searching for you,” Margaret scolded dramatically until she saw Levi walk up next to her daughter. “Who is this? A new friend?”
“Yes, and you’ve already done an awesome job at embarrassing me in front of him so thank you for that, Mom.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I was just showing her around and we lost track of time.”
“Well, you’re very polite. Maybe some of your good manners will rub off on Harla.”
“All right, we’re done here. Bye, Levi.” With that, Harla closed her room door on him before he could respond. Then she turned to her mom in disapproval. “That was thoroughly humiliating.”
“Harla, that was extremely rude. That poor boy was so nice to you and you just slammed the door in his face. Well, there goes your only chance at a good friend. I mean, my god.”
“Dial down the exaggeration, Mom, he’ll be back. Where else is he gonna go, honestly?”
The next day was slightly more tolerable for Harla since her parents had to go back to work. They were reluctant to leave her alone in the hospital but the nurse assured them she would be fine. Margaret tussled with the idea as if she had the choice to stay but finally she left and Harla was instantly relieved. She roamed the halls freely uncertain of where to go.
Anywhere but here please.
Surprisingly she didn’t see Levi and she wondered if her mother was actually right about driving him away with her unpleasant attitude. She rolled her eyes at the very notion of her mother’s dramatization of the situation being even remotely accurate. As luck would have it, she returned to her room to find a piece of paper taped to the wall by her bed with a note scribbled on it.
Meet me on the roof after dinner and bring snacks. You owe me. – Levi
She smiled as she read the note. It was early and she found herself counting down the hours until dinner for the first time ever. After she ate a few bites of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, she grabbed a few bags of chips and cookies from the snack machine and raced to the roof. Her mom was right about one thing, he was her only chance at friendship right now and she’s never had a real friend before. She tried not to pity herself as she opened the large door leading to the roof. She felt a cool breeze blow through her tiny figure as the door swung open and her first sight was Levi sitting up against the wall watching the sun set in the distance.