“I’m so sorry,” she started and then immediately dove into discussing the restraints they had to use on her arms. “She was eating the gauze, Beth. I have no idea what to do with her other than restrain her. I’ve never had a patient with pica and I don’t know what to do.”
“She loves pickles. So make pickle ice.” I rattled off what I’d been doing with Michelle. She’s a new patient, pregnant and newly diagnosed with pica. It’s a psychological disorder where patients have an appetite for non-nutritive foods, or even harmful objects. “It’ll most likely diminish after the pregnancy.”
“I know, but what am I supposed to do?” The stress and frustration were all too relatable. “She can’t stay restrained for six months.”
“Listen to me,” I said as I gripped the phone tighter. “Mix half pickle juice and half water, add in a soluble supplement, freeze into ice chips and then give them to her throughout the day, constantly.”
“That can’t be it.”
“I’m telling you, you keep that by her bedside and she eats it slowly. Something about the cold makes her pace herself.”
“Okay… okay,” Marilyn sounded hopeful and I felt it too, until I heard someone ask who she was talking to and then the line went dead. When I get back to work, I’m going to kill my boss. I can hear his excuse now, that I’m a workaholic and I wouldn’t be able to help myself, but that they should know better.
That was the only distraction I had.
I’m slow to sit up, forcing myself to rise although I have no plans, no control, nothing at all I want to do… but read I suppose. Thank all that’s holy for books.
The small piece of me that anticipated – and looked forward to a note from Jase – is disappointed when I find his nightstand empty of any slip of paper.
I shouldn’t feel so hollow in my chest. I shouldn’t feel this kind of loss.
Bringing my knees up to my chest, I rest my cheek on my right knee and wonder what happened to me. What the fuck happened to the woman I was? Without work… I’m no one. My life is utterly empty and the one thing that’s filling it shouldn’t be in my life at all.
One breath, and the screaming thoughts quiet. Two breaths and I find it hard to care. This will all be over soon. It’s temporary and nothing more. I’ll be back to work, unraveled or not.
Until then… I’ll read and let Jase fuck me. Maybe one day, I’ll even get out of bed.
The Coverless Book
Three quarters through the book
I remember all the times Miss Caroline took me to the appointments. Mother always met me there. It was Miss Caroline who took me on long drives and told me stories the whole way. No matter how many hours it was. That’s all I can remember as we sit outside of the shed. It’s a large shed, with running water and an outhouse with plumbing around the back.
Jake said it’s his cousin’s place, so it’s okay that we stay here.
I can remember the trips to the hospitals. The long drives we took to get to them. The hotels we stayed in. Miss Caroline always stopped for ice cream on the way to and back. And she let me eat all sorts of things I never had at home.
I remember all those trips… but those are the only trips I’ve ever taken.
Until this one.
“What’s wrong?” Jake’s voice breaks my thoughts. His hand cradles my chin. “You look like you regret this.” I hate how his voice sounds like he really believes that.
My hair tickles my shoulders when I shake my head and tell him, “You’re crazy to think that. I love you, Jake.” He needs to know that. “I was just hoping to go inside. It’s been a few days since we’ve slept on a bed.” I want to give myself to him. But not like this.
His lips part and instead of words coming out, he closes them again, kicking the rubble under his shoes. “We can’t go inside, Em.” He stares off at the large farmhouse. “Your mom filed a report and the sheriff called. We can’t go inside.”
Feeling a wave of nausea, I lower my head to my hands. “Your family doesn’t know we’re here?”
“My cousin does, and he’s bringing us blankets. I’ve got money once we get out of this town. But, for tonight… Our parents are looking for us.”
The crickets from the cornfield get louder as the sun sets deeper behind the crimson sky. It’s nearly dusk already.
“I’m sorry I can’t give you more right now, but soon I can.”
I find his hand in mine, and tell him, “It’s why running away is so scary. The unknown.”
His eyes stare deep into mine as he says, “The only known in my life I need, is you beside me. As long as I have you, nothing else matters.”