Bea woke up and blinked. She took a look around her room: cold and sterile, fake wood panels and linoleum floors. She blinked again, rubbed her eyes, and tried to orient herself. The bed was…comfortable, but not her own, or probably not her own. She sat up and felt a tug on her chest.
A cord ran from her thin, white and blue dress to a screen of some sort propped up on a metal stand. The idea, the words, the thoughts, the meaning of the screen, it tickled her brain, begging her to think just a little harder, a little longer, but the purpose, the meaning, it slipped past her.
Next to the stand was an end table, sparse and utilitarian, matching the fake wood panels that ran along the wall. Sitting on it was a picture frame. In the picture were two figures, laughing. The one on the left she knew, or was fairly certain she knew. It was a woman with short cut hair and prominent laugh lines around her round dark eyes. But thinking about it for too long upset her, caused the tickle to grow.
The first woman in the picture was wearing a black suit and holding the remnants of a piece of cake. The other woman in the picture was a thin, brown-haired woman laughing so much that her eyes were closed. Smeared across her nose was the other half of the piece of cake in the first’s hand. This second woman seemed so familiar. The curve of her neck, how it met her shoulders. Even the white dress she was wearing felt like it should bring to mind something. The screen was a tickle, but this, this was an itch.
Bea reached out to grab the picture. As she moved forward, her hand began to shake, and her fingers felt numb. She lost her balance, realizing that the end table was much further away than she guessed.
She fell back into her bed, and furrowed her brow. The itch grew to a full blown headache, and then shallow and sudden breaths. She took another look around, hoping for another clue, but found the room wanting.
Then the door knob turned, and the door opened. Bea closed her eyes and collected herself.
A woman in a long white coat and holding a tablet walked up to the side of her bed. On the woman’s coat was a small golden rectangle. Bea squinted and tried to understand the symbols, but it was fruitless. Despite this, the name Dr. Quitslund came crawling back from that growing itch in her thoughts.
Dr. Quitslund brought a walker from the closet over towards Bea’s bed and then sat down in a thick, cushioned chair.
She flicked and swiped at her tablet, not looking at Bea, until she turned and spoke up. “Bea, we have to talk about tomorrow’s treatments. It should greatly reduce your shakes, and you likely won’t even need the walker most days.”
Bea nodded before the doctor continued. “It will probably affect your memory again. Memory loss only shows up in about a third of patients, but with your history,” Dr. Quitslund swiped the screen a few more times, “it’s almost a certainty.”
“H…how…how many treatments have I had?”
Dr. Quitslund sighed and squeezed the bridge of her nose. “You already signed up for it, but I have to stress that you can back out if you’d like. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you are allowed.”
Bea looked past Dr. Quitslund toward the door. In the window she could see the second woman from her picture talking with another doctor.
Bea started to move her way off her bed and towards her walker. “Thanks doc, it’s fine, everything is fine.”
Bea could hear the doctor try to continue the conversation behind her, but she stayed focused on the woman from her picture.
When she opened the door, the other woman turned and gasped, “Bea.”
“How do you know my name?” Bea took a step back and looked around.
The other woman turned to the doctor she was talking with before and said “We can talk more later.” He walked away and towards a third patient’s room.
The woman turned to Bea and pulled a locket from her medical gown and opened it. Resting in the two halves of the heart were the two women from Bea’s picture, but younger. Under their faces were the names Sarah and Bea. The pictures turned the ache to a throb.
Bea looked up from the locket and into Sarah’s eyes and said, “Why do you have that?”
“I don’t know. I woke up with it on my end table.”
Sarah grabbed Bea’s hand and Bea’s heart began to race. Bea turned to look at her hand while Sarah continued talking, looking in Bea’s eyes. “When I look at you, I feel happy, peaceful, like, like, like sitting on the beach when the sunsets. But I don’t know why.”
Bea turned away from the woman and began to walk away before stopping and leaning on one of the walls of the long hallway.
Sarah continued, “I think… I think we were together.”
Bea turned back around. “Huh?”
“This locket, right? Like, I think…”
“Stop.” Bea looked down to the floor and noticed her shaking feet, grateful she still had the wall.
Sarah said faintly, “Sorry.”
“I don’t know what’s going on.”
Bea walked back towards her walker, between her and Sarah and grabbed Sarah’s hand. “I don’t know how to feel. Okay. And I might not remember today, or even tomorrow.” Looking into Sarah’s eyes, directly, the throb started to dissolve, to lessen, a dull roar.
“And…and I don’t want to hurt a stranger.”
Sarah pulled her hand back, and Bea’s hand followed before she pulled it back. “But maybe, maybe when this is over.”
“Maybe we will meet again.”
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