1. The Banishment

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                I hated the way the sun tried so hard to shine through the blinds of the tiny hospital room. It made the room look slanted like a barren funhouse. The smell of rubbing alcohol and the sickness underneath it was worse than Shady Oaks.

            There were only a few good things about that visit. For one, I didn't have to have an IV put in. It wasn't that I hated needles or anything; I just couldn't stand watching something foreign being pumped into my body. It was like whatever my body was doing to fix me wasn't enough.

            "Hey, Charlie," Dr. Campbell greeted, amiable as always. He wasn't fat, but he was far from slim, and I found his beet red face a relief from all the expressionless nurses'. Dr. Campbell was the second good thing about that appointment. I liked Dr. C because he didn't treat me like a tender victim. His meaty hand clapped me on the back and his laugh was loud and abrupt. Actually, he didn't even treat me like a victim.

            "Everything is healing fine, I swear," I said, my voice almost foreign to me.

            Dr. Campbell chuckled and looked over my chart for less than two seconds. The stray rays of sunlight glinted off of his slick, thin gray hair. Tossing the clipboard on the bed I sat on, he walked to me and pulled the bandage off my neck. He murmured a lot of mmm's and mhm's, never once touching the stitches on my throat.

            I didn't wince or flinch or even bite my lip as Dr. Campbell examined my healing wounds. Hopefully, if I stayed stone-faced, then the good doctor would believe me.

            "How's the forearm, Charlie?"

            I held up my arm, the wounds were now just brown scabs and pink scars. Again, some approving murmurs escaped from under the doctor's bristled mustache. It was the kind of mustache you had to work hard not to stare at. It looked like the bottom of those brooms that janitors used to sweep the big gym floors.

            "You know your girlfriend is waiting outside," he said, sealing the bandage back over my neck.

            Was he trying to make small talk or did he really think I didn't know? I cleared my throat and nodded, hoping it was the right response. Dethany was the third reason that the visit wasn't as bad as usual. She wasn't exactly my girlfriend. Or maybe she was. She'd been glued to my side the first week and a half after she left. My chest burned for a moment before I shoved the feeling down and away. Probably into an organ that I never used. Like my gall bladder.

            I'd asked Dethany out last week, and it had just kind of stuck. Like coffee, she kept me grounded, cleared my head.    And it just made sense to date my best friend. No drama. No angels. Dethany had been making a valiant effort at trying to make me forget about—

            "You're good to go, Charlie. If you need me, I'm always here." To my incredulous look, he laughed and amended, "On Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays between the hours of eleven and four."

            I smirked and nodded.

            "You don't talk much, do you Charlie?" he asked, scooping up the clipboard. I tried to steal a glance at it, tried to see what parts of my life he had on there. I didn't answer his question with anything but a shrug. I'd always thought I was pretty talkative. Maybe I'd changed.

            Before he walked out of the room, beckoning me to follow, I thought I caught sight of a strip of crimson ribbon on the bottom of his shoe. My whole body felt like it was caving in on itself, and I stumbled after Dr. Campbell. When I got to door I couldn't see him anymore. My breath came in waves, crashing against my throat in painful gasps. I blinked when I felt cool fingers on my back and shoulders. I imagined soft, warm hands comforting me. I imagined I'd turn around and find her there, see her blue eyes.

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