It was almost midnight and the moon loomed like a big orange pumpkin in the dark, clear sky. Curled on the hard-narrow bed in a fetal position with a blanket over her, Susan Cole gazed at the moon’s reflection through the octagonal window eight feet above her. Depending on how she moved her head, the unevenness of the safety glass stretched and squeezed the moon’s image, much like a carnival mirror. Susan was struck by the moon’s brilliance, gazing at it until she saw black spots. She squeezed her eyes shut, and when she opened them again, the black spots were gone. She detected footsteps coming down the hallway and suddenly halting at her door. Bob, the charge nurse, was making his final rounds for the night.
The door opened and a bright light shone in her face. Susan lifted her head and squinted into the flashlight’s beam, then pulled the blanket over her head. The door closed, and for a minute or two Susan listened as Bob walked down the hall. Once his footsteps faded, Susan sat up, wrapping her blanket around her, and stared at the light shining underneath the door. When the light finally went out, Susan knew Bob had settled in for the night at the nursing station.
Now safe to move about, Susan threw off her blanket and hopped out of bed. She stooped to the floor, reached under the bed, and pulled out a shopping bag. She set it on the bed carefully and opened it, trying hard not to rattle the crackling paper. In the bag, she kept three outfits along with a pair of Reebok tennis shoes. She took out her jeans and a black sweater and quickly dressed.
Happy to be rid of the dull tan pajamas she’d had to wear since arriving at the hospital two weeks ago, Susan lingered on the edge of the bed and slipped on her Reeboks, tying the strings into neat bows. Leaping to her feet, Susan tiptoed to the closet, opened the door, and took out her black coat and matching wool hat. She threw on her jacket, buttoning it to her chin. With her hat in her hand, Susan tiptoed back to the bed, sat on the edge, twisted her curly blond hair into a bun, and pulled her hat over her head.
Then she sat there staring at the door, twiddling her thumbs while she waited on Doctor George Benny. He was her knight in shining armor, her psychiatrist, and her new lover. He promised to whisk her away from this crazy, awful place she’d found herself in. He promised her a better life from the dreary world she had always known.
While she waited, Susan found herself reflecting on the events that brought her to Salter’s Point Regional Hospital. She didn’t know if she’d been born cursed, or if her perpetual bad luck was a result of her father abandoning her to be raised by a drug-addicted mother. On welfare and high on crack most days, her mother just didn’t seem to care about her, so Susan learned to fend for herself. She came to hate herself as much as her mother seemed to and acted out by sleeping with men and making superficial cuts on her wrists with a small switchblade. She never intended to seriously injure herself, the cutting just made herself feel better. She always treated the cuts and wrapped her arms with thick white gauze, and she wore shirts and sweaters with long sleeves to hide the damage. Except for the nurses and doctors at the psychiatric hospitals she often stayed in, Susan never told a soul about her terrible secret.
Eventually the cutting and sleeping around no longer soothed her, and she graduated to suicide attempts. She would take a bunch of pills and end up in a hospital getting her stomach pumped. Her intention was never to kill herself, she was just desperate for someone, anyone to care about her.
Hoping to leave her troubles behind her, Susan moved from California to Salter’s Point six months earlier, but things didn’t go as she’d planned. She couldn’t make enough money waitressing to pay her rent. She lost her apartment and found herself on the streets. Despondent, homeless and broke, Susan resorted to her old bad behavior. After overdosing on Tylenol, a man found her lying on the town sidewalk moaning in pain and he called 911. After spending time in a local hospital ICU, Susan’s doctor committed her to Salter’s Point Regional, her tenth commitment on record. Susan was saved, guaranteed free room and board for the duration of her stay.
It was at Salter’s Point Regional that Susan met Doctor George Benny. He was working the late shift when she was transferred in, and he assigned himself as her doctor. Susan immediately fell in love with him. When he spoke, she hung on his every word. The doctor’s marginal good looks and charming personality reminded Susan of her estranged father. Caught up in his seductive web, every day they would make love in the doctor’s office. Susan was ecstatic when George offered her a place to stay.
Together they planned Susan’s escape, and now, finally, the night had arrived. Susan was eager to begin her new life and leave the old one behind. So, with her hands clasped tight in her lap, Susan waited for the doctor. The shopping bag with her two additional outfits sat on the floor next to her feet. Susan stared at the door for some time, and when it opened, Doctor Benny entered the room. Susan’s eyes lit up, and she dove off the bed. She fell in his arms, almost knocking him over, and clung to his waist like an expectant child, gazing lovingly at him with bright blue eyes.
“Whoa,” he laughed, “slow down!”
“I thought you’d never get here!” Susan giggled like a schoolgirl. “I’ve been waiting all day!”
“I’m here now. I told you I would come.” George smiled. He was tall and slender with silver-gray hair and a mustache. George’s eyes were intense and sparkling blue. Years of smoking pipes every day left the doctor’s smile with mustard yellow teeth.
George embraced Susan and kissed her forehead, then released her and pointed to the bed. “Get your bag. We need to go. We don’t have much time.”
“What about my medication? I need my pills. They keep me calm.”
“Did Bob give you medication this evening?”
“Yes,” Susan said, snatching her shopping bag and following George to the door.
“No need to worry. I have plenty of medication at home.” He stopped for a moment and looked in both directions. Satisfied the coast was clear, he and Susan tiptoed toward the unit’s exit. When they passed the nursing station, Susan busted out laughing at Bob’s loud grizzly bear snore.
George became incensed. “Be quiet! You’re going to wake Bob up!”
As soon as those words left his lips, Bob’s snoring stopped. George and Susan held their breath as they stood frozen in place. Susan’s heart thumped hard in her chest as they watched Bob smack his lips and yawn. Seconds later, a soft snore rumbled from his lips, and a stream of clear liquid drooled from his mouth. Susan felt George squeeze her hand, causing her to cringe in agony. “Ouch! That hurts!”
“You almost got me in trouble,” George sneered.
“I didn’t mean to. Bob looks so funny sleeping there,” Susan whined as she poked her bottom lip out.
“Just be quiet, and let’s go!” George dragged her down the hall. Sweat dripped from his face. He fiddled with the key ring, dropping it, and it clanged on the floor. George moaned in exasperation and glanced down the hall to see if anyone was coming. “Shit, I just can’t get it together!”
Susan stooped over and picked up the key, handing it to George. “I think you need some of my medication. You’re a nervous wreck.” George cut his eyes at Susan, and she made a face. “Don’t look at me like that! I was only kidding!”
“If you say so,” George snapped as he unlocked the door. He hurled his slender body against the door, shoving it open. George grabbed Susan’s hand, and together they stepped out. After he closed the door, it automatically locked. The two lovers sprinted through the lobby and out the main entrance. The cold, crisp wind stung Susan’s face as they ran across the lit parking lot. They slowed down to a brisk walk as they made their way to George’s red Porsche.
While Susan waited for George as he fumbled with his keys to unlock and open her door, she looked back at the hospital. Dense white fog hung over the hospital, and its gloomy appearance reminded her of a haunted house. In the clock tower, a small light flickered on and off every three seconds, illuminating the clock’s sizable white face. The clock’s black hands crept to the numeral twelve, and Susan heard the clock chime twelve times.
Startled by the sound, bats that were hanging off the clock’s wooden ledge took off with their wings roaring like rushing water. They swooped back and forth over the clock tower. Once the chiming ended, the night creatures settled on the clock’s narrow ledge, lined up like big black crows on a picket fence. One by one, they flipped upside down with their naked bodies suspended in mid-air as if posing for a Halloween portrait. Susan shuddered, turning back around as George opened the car door. “It’s creepy around here,” she mumbled under her breath.
Susan slipped into the soft leather seat of George’s Porsche while he dashed around the car, opened the door, and slipped into the driver’s side. They snuggled together briefly, then George zoomed out of the parking lot with lightning speed, passing through the open the iron gate and down the road. Susan suddenly realized she hadn’t seen John, the security guard, in the lobby when she and George left the hospital.
“Honey, I didn’t see John when we left. Do you know where he might be tonight?”
“Who cares where he is? Be glad we didn’t run into him. Do you want me to go to jail?” George quipped as he stepped on the brake, slowing his vehicle down.
Susan withered in her seat. She hated when George snapped at her. “No, George, I was just asking. He’s usually around.”
George remained silent as he navigated down the sharp, curvy road that snaked through the town of Salter’s Point. Susan gazed out the window at the tall evergreen trees that lined each side of the street. Salter’s Point Regional sat on a cliff, and on the right side of the road was a deep, vast valley. Susan lurched up and strained her neck, trying to look down. All she saw was darkness, and a cold chill rippled through her spine. The whole scene was eerie, and it gave her the creeps.
Susan sighed heavily and sat back in her seat. She glanced at the clock on the dashboard and realized they’d been driving for fifteen minutes. Eager to see her new home, she cleared her throat. “Um, excuse me, George, do we have far to go?”
“Just another fifteen minutes,” he smiled.
“Cool, I can’t wait!” Susan laid her head on the headrest and gazed out the window, counting stars in the midnight sky. Fifteen minutes later, the car came to a stop and George announced, “We’re here.”
Susan straightened in her seat. George’s home took her by surprise. Instead of a mansion like she’d envisioned, his house was a modest white bungalow. It had two front windows with windowpanes painted black. Thick fescue grass grew in the front yard, and red roses crept along the white picket fence. A cobblestone sidewalk led up to the porch, with four steps going to the front door. The door was red with a white wicker chair on each side. Susan sighed with disappointment. Very cute! No mansion. Oh, well.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” George said as he flipped the lock and opened the car door. He stepped out, opened the rear door and he grabbed Susan’s bag. George shut the door, and Susan was already out of the car. “I like your home,” she fibbed.
“Thank you,” George said as he reached over and pulled Susan to him. She, in turn, wrapped her arms around his waist. George lowered his head and planted a wet, passionate kiss on her thin lips. He pulled back and stared into her eyes. “Darling, welcome to your new home. I hope you’ll be comfortable here.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Her lips erupted into a childish grin. George opened the gate, and Susan followed him in. They walked up the steps and George unlocked the door,
twisting the knob and opening it. He flipped the light switch on the wall, and the ceiling light came on. Susan heard soft jazz playing in the background as she followed George inside. He shut the door and Susan looked around wide-eyed. “I hear music. Where is it coming from?”
“I’ve built-in speakers wired throughout my home so I can play music all over the house.”
“So cool.” Susan smiled taking in the ambiance of George’s home. In the living room, along the back wall sat a black leather couch. A few feet from the couch was a matching chair. Next to the chair, a CD Player with CDs stacked on each side sat on a cherry wood entertainment console and a large abstract oil painting with red, blue and orange colors hung over the console. Across the room, a huge stone fireplace with ash residue on the hearth sat between two front rectangle windows with white blinds. So, simple! Susan thought.
Doubled glass French doors separated the living room from the dining area. George opened the doors and stood on the side so Susan could go in. The dining room was simply decorated with an oak oval table and four chairs in black upholstery. On the wall hung another abstract painting with black and burgundy colors. The painting caught Susan’s attention. “George, I love this painting. The colors are so striking.”
“I collect abstract art. I find the art interesting,” he said.
George passed thru an archway leading into the kitchen. Susan followed him and was shocked by the kitchen’s small size. The black refrigerator and stove took up a lot space along the wall. On the other side of the kitchen, there was a black shiny sink, with granite counters. Black painted cabinets hovered over the counters. Susan wondered if black was George’s favorite color. Boy, he had so much of it. “George, is black your favorite color?”
“Black is a masculine color. I like decorating with it.”
“Oh, I definitely see that,” Susan replied. She followed George out of the kitchen, passing through the dining room and out the French doors. George turned left stepping into a short hallway with wood stairs. “Time to show you my room.”
He ran upstairs with Susan on his heels. George pointed to a small room as they walked down the short hallway. “This is one of the two bathrooms. The other one is in the master bedroom.”
“Oh,” Susan said taking note. At the end of the hall was another set of French doors. The doors opened into the master bedroom and when George opened them, there sat a king-sized bed with a black comforter. On the wood floor was a black fur rug and to the right was the bathroom. The walls were bare, except for the rectangle window on the far wall. George dropped Susan’s bag and closed the blinds. Susan plopped her behind on the bed and looked around. George walked over and gently pushed her back on the bed. He covered her face with sloppy, wet kisses and Susan wiggled and giggled with delight. Hopelessly excited, Susan knew she had arrived. Despite all the bad things that had happened in her life to this point, she could finally relax and live her happily ever after. Happy Sunday and Thank You for Reading!
Categories: Short Stories