You dreamt about me?” Kauffman asks from across the table. We are having breakfast in the cafeteria. We both ordered scrambled eggs with toast and a cup of coffee. As I grabbed for the hot sauce so did he and our fingers touched. I tried not to blush. He chuckled a bit.
He looked like his normal self again. His eyes glistening as the sun hit them. I was glad he was being nice to me again and when I had told him about my dream he didn’t laugh; he was surprised.
“I never had a patient dream about me before” He smiled.
“There’s always a first time for anything” I said, blushing. Was I flirting? I became upset because I was confused by my emotions.
“Don’t get upset. It’s okay” Kauffman told me as he cupped my hands between his. I looked him and he leaned forward and smiled. I smiled back.
“Now, I have a surprise for you. You’re going to love this” he said as he led me out the cafeteria. He had me by my right hand and we ran to the main hallway with the glass walls overlooking the garden.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Kauffman asked, breathlessly.
“It certainly is” I responded. Then he dragged me out through the exit door into the garden. It was a warm day and the snow had melted away a few weeks ago. I raised my hands to the sky taking in the sun, twirling myself around with glee. I was outside for the first time in three years. I let myself fall onto the wet grass smelling fresh honeydew as Kauffman lands right beside me. We stare up at the sky and watch the birds fly by.
Lying there, Kauffman opens up to me about how he had lost his parents when he was young and had to take care of his younger brothers. He had to grow up fast at thirteen years old. I slid my hand into his as to comfort him. For a while, after he had confiding in me about his past, we just laid there in silence. I didn’t think about anything really; was too happy to be outside.
I wanted to milk this newfound freedom until I had exhausted the day for all its worth. Abruptly making my way up, I made my way around the garden in total awe of the new born flowers. Kauffman followed and watched me from afar. While sliding my hands through a shrub, I pricked a finger on a sharp twig that had been poking out.
“Ouch!” I yelped. Kauffman rushed over to me, pulled a handkerchief from his jean pocket and wrapped it around my finger.
“I think it’s time to go back inside; you’re going to need a band-aid.” He told me looking at my bloody finger. I didn’t protest as he led me back inside. He had a nurse attend to my finger in the session room. She was quick and a bit rude, but my mind was preoccupied with other pressing matters.
The whole day I had the feeling that I was being watched even though you were always being watched here. In the garden I thought I saw a man watching us from the extended garden, but when I had looked back he had disappeared. I couldn’t shake the feeling.
A strong lavender aroma from Victoria’s newly washed hair blended with the freshly brewed Columbian coffee from the cafeteria that alarmed everyone that lunch was ready. She placed the red food tray on my desk and smiled.
“They made peach cobbler, your favorite” Victoria told me, pointing at the peach cobbler. I never told her I loved peach cobbler. Only Victoria knew this. I didn’t say anything back because I knew how the discussion would end. I ate my lunch in silence leaving Victoria and Kauffman to chat over their lunch.
Again, I had that uneasy feeling that someone was watching me. I turned my head to the door but no one was there. Kauffman and Victoria were immersed in discussion about the poor care of the third floor patients. Many of them weren’t being fed because the nurses were scared of them.
Some were even being mistreated by the orderlies who took pleasure in beating them. Six third floor patients died last week of alleged unknown causes. Corruption roamed free here and those who talked were never seen again.
I had overheard Demetrius talking to another Russian orderly, named Marcus, who was known to have the tendency to act violently against patients brag about molesting a second floor patient. It was common for orderlies to molest or even rape female patients. I was one of the lucky few that had not been subjected to such indignities.
For the most part, I was grateful for Demetrius. He always kept a watchful eye on me and protected me but I always wondered why. Why is he so nice to me? He treats everyone else like sewage rats but I’m the exception. I’ve always been skeptical of him; you always have to trust your gut. Sometimes I feel like he is just fattening me up like a pig for slaughter; not to sound morbid or cynical, though.
Savoring every single bite of the peach cobbler as the sweet and pungent flavors electrified my taste buds; as I finished my lunch. I tried not to think about the harsh reality seemingly construed like a blockbuster horror story.
Then a shrilling scream rounded the lively souls silent and my heart pounded like a mad man playing the drums. It had come from the third floor and soon I heard the pounding footsteps of orderlies and nurses running towards the screams.
“Stay here!” Kauffman yelled at me as he rushed out with Victoria. I locked the door behind them, just to be safe. The officials will not like this or perhaps they are not aware of the increasing deaths and disappearances. I make my way to a corner and hide away from view. I have to get out of here. I fear the worst and I will not stand around and wait to be caught by the killer.