Let me just say that being in a hospital is one of the most depressing things in the world. It smells like death and disinfectant, you see old crippled people wandering the halls looking like they're going to fall over, and have you seen the children's ward? Those kids are bored out of their minds and coughing their guts out.
That's what I have to endure every time I visit my dad's work. Today was Saturday and I was visiting the hospital where my father worked, or "Dr. Cullen", as he is called there. I was just meaning to stop in to deliver his lunch that he forgot, but he absolutely insisted on taking a walk with me and telling me about the hospital's new "organization system".
"When someone is scheduled for a surgery that day, we put a yellow tag on their door, and when they are being released from the hospital that day, we put a green tag on their door..." He kept going on and on and on...
I was absentmindedly looking around and pretending to be enthusiastic about this, but it was hard when you were looking at the solemn faces of the doctors and the gaunt faces of the patients. I settled for watching the door handles of the rooms go by, seeing if I could find someone who was going home that day to cheer me up.
I saw two yellow tags, one green tag, and one red. Funny, I didn't think my dad told me what a red tag meant, and he had already moved on to the new infant hospital bracelets that couldn't slip off.
"What does the red tag mean?" I interrupted him as he rambled on about the new bracelets.
"Oh..." His eyebrows pulled together and a saddened look came over his face. I was beginning to think I didn't want to know what the red tag meant. "Well, that's for patients that are expected to die within the month. The ones we know we can't save."
Yep, definitely didn't want to know. I glanced back at the room with the red tag, and I couldn't help looking in the window, too. Lying in a bed was a girl about my age with long brown hair and a pale heart-shaped face.
I stopped dead, and so did my heart for a moment. It was Bella. Suddenly her disappearance from school made sense. Poor girl...it couldn't be true. Bella couldn't be dying...
Carlisle sighed sadly and put his arm around my shoulder, pulling me away from the sad scene.
"Wait," I said suddenly, surprising myself. I never took my eyes off of Bella. "Can I...can I go see her? I know her, she's Bella, a girl from my school. Please, Carlisle?"
He probably would've argued, but right then a nurse came up and told him that he had to prepare the operating room for a surgery, and he agreed hastily. I walked slowly back to Bella's room, trying to gather myself before I saw her. The door creaked open and the red tag swung on the handle. I glared at it, needing something to blame for Bella's early death.
She was asleep, wires seeming to sprout from her skin to bags of medication, a heart monitor, and a couple of other things I didn't recognize. The heart monitor was beeping unusually slowly, the points lower than they should be, as if her heart was weak. She took shallow, uneven, rasping breaths, really sounding like a dying person.
I walked in further and sat down in a plastic chair beside her bed, not quite sure what I planned to do. I noticed her hands folded across her stomach and I had the urge to hold them in mine, but I didn't want to wake her.
There was no need to worry. Bella had a coughing fit almost as soon as the thought entered my mind and it was so bad that it woke her up. I leaned forward in my seat, wishing I could help, and when she was done coughing her eyes fell on me.
"Edward?" she said confusedly in a hoarse whisper. I nodded, not knowing what to say. "What are you doing here?"
"I, uh...I saw the red tag on the door, and...I wanted to talk to you, I guess," I said awkwardly, examining the bedsheets carefully. Bella processed that for a moment and I got the courage to look up. her expression was slightly confused, but I could tell she was a little pleased that someone had stopped to talk to her.
"I wish I could get out of here," she said irritably. "I get so bored I just have to sleep in my free time, which is all the time." She sounded horrible, and she kept on having to take shallow breaths in the middle of her sentences.
"I could come by after school," I offered shyly, looking at the bedsheets again. "I get pretty bored sitting around the house, too."
Bella smiled a bit. "That would be great," she wheezed, and I grinned back.
"I should probably get going now," I said absently, glancing at the door to see if Carlisle was waiting. "So...I'll see you Monday, then?" She nodded meekly and I left the room in a daze, already getting impatient for Monday to arrive which, let me tell you, is a first.
Forks High School was within walking distance of the hospital, so as you can imagine I ran there as soon as the bell rang. I nearly threw open the door of Bella's room, and I'll admit I sighed with relief to see her. I had asked Carlisle to keep tabs on her, make sure she was doing okay, but he hadn't worked yesterday and I had become unnecessarily worried. She smiled when I walked in and I sat in the plastic chair again.
We talked for a bit about school, how her friends were doing without her, what they thought happened to her, stuff like that. I found myself wanting to hold her hand again, but I knew she might not like it.
"See that box on the side table?" Bella gestured to the table next to her, her hand shaking. "The colorful one?"
"Yeah," I said, examining it. Was it just me, or did Bella sound sicker?
"It's a book on tape. Can you put the first one into the tape player over there?" I nodded and took out a tape with a big 1 on it and popped it in the player. Once I made sure it was on the right side I pressed the play button and a man's voice announced that I was listening to an "unabridged production of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling".
I went and sat next to Bella again, who had settled down and closed her eyes. "My mom got me the first book when I was eight," she explained, her eyes still closed. "I've listened to the series at least a hundred times." I noticed a trace of sadness in her voice.
"What happened to her? Your mom, I mean," I asked, hoping I wasn't offending her. It took her a moment to answer.
"She died," she said simply, looking me in the eye steadily. "Both of my parents did."
Could her luck be any worse? "I'm sorry," I murmured after a moment. Bella looked at me as if contemplating something. "What?" I asked.
"It's just...I've never actually told anyone that before, and I'm trying to figure out why I told you. Hmmm..." She shrugged indifferently, though still looking puzzled. "it feels kind of good to tell someone, though." I nodded understandingly.
"Well, you can tell me anything," I assured her. "I'll keep your secret." She smiled a bit and then closed her eyes, listening to the tape.
"Have you ever read the Harry Potter series?" she asked after a moment of comfortable silence.
"I've seen the movies, I just haven't had the patience for the books," I admitted. "The movies were good, though."
"You should read the books," she told me, her eyes still closed. "This is the seventh one, so if you've seen the sixth movie then you should be caught up in the story." I listened more intently after that, and I thought it was pretty good. "You could borrow my tapes, if you like," Bella muttered, sounding embarrassed.
"Maybe I will," I replied thoughtfully. I listened some more, my eyes on Bella, watching her rest. She looked like an angel when she slept.
We sat in silence for a while, listening to the tape. At five thirty I left, bidding her goodnight and worrying that I might not see her again.