V | Hospitals and Stalkers

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Hospitals aren't nice places. Sure, they advertise their friendly staff and their doctors are legally required to care for you...

But hospitals are cold, with squeaky clean tiles and an overwhelming antiseptic smell. Everything is too clean, unlived in...died in. Kaia shivered.

"Are you cold, dear? I can turn up the heat," offered Kaia's nurse, a portly lady with a gentle, round face. She was the kind of lady Kaia figured would bake cookies in her free time. They'd be delicious cookies. 

Kaia slowly shook her head. "No, I'm fine. Thanks."

She was not fine. She wanted with all of her being to be anywhere else. She wanted to be in the woods again, the smell of smoke all around her and nature swallowing up her worries. She wanted to lean against her wolf, bury her face in his fur and stay there until her dad forgot all about the little cut on the back of her head. Oh god, what would her dad think about her being so close to a wolf?

Kaia stared at her dad, asleep on a chair next to her bed. It was late afternoon now, and the light that streamed in from the floor to ceiling windows revealed how tired her dad was. One morning and a little blood, and her dad had aged ten years. ...He was always like this.

She didn't want to be there when he woke up, see the sadness and subtle frustration in his eyes. "Can I go to the vending machine in the hallway? I'm a little hungry," Kaia said to the nurse, who was folding sheets in the corner of the room.

Her eyes filled with regret like it hurt her to say no, "I'm sorry, love. I don't think it's a good idea for you to be up and about until your scans come back. Can I get something for you?"

Kaia fought to keep her frown suppressed. She wasn't hungry at all; she just wanted to escape the crispy white hospital room.

"I just...I want to go for a walk," Kaia confessed, "I'm tired of sitting here."

Another look of regret, "I'm sorry, but you're to stay here. But I'll go fetch something for you if that'll help." She disappeared out the door. No one ever expected Kaia to think, to be more than a weak, helpless child. Maybe that was Kaia's fault, for never having tried. But her nurse had made it too easy. 

Kaia swung her legs off the bed, shivering again when her bare feet touched the freezing tiles. She padded over to the door and pulled it open bit by bit until she could peek out of it. Her nurse was nowhere in sight.

She couldn't believe she was doing this, sneaking away. It wasn't like her to do so, but it was just for a little while. That's what she kept telling herself. Her dad might not even wake up, and he wouldn't know anything had happened.

Soon she was standing in front of an enormous wall of windows that stretched the length of the entire building. She could see the hospital entrance from so high up, the busy desk and the people waiting for care.

But instead, she just turned and looked out the windows, watching snow fall lightly over the sprawling woods below her. The mountains in the distance were snowcapped, like sleeping giants. She leaned against the railing, watching the snow, imagining her wolf flying through the trees like a shadow. It seemed like a perfect world, so different and peaceful compared to the bustling reality behind her. 

"Excuse me?" 

Kaia bolted upright, turning to see a man in front of her. He looked like he was in his thirties, wearing a red plaid shirt and dirty jeans. He looked like a lumberjack, with the beard and the stocky build and everything. "Do you know where a restroom is? I'm lost, this place is huge." He had a lumberjack voice, too, baritone and gravelly. There was something off-putting about his face as though his eyes were maybe just a little too close together or his nose was a bit too slanted. 

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