I swear, you’d think I was suffering a coronary the way they treat me at the hospital. They stick all these monitors on my chest, and even put me on oxygen. They draw my blood, and I have to pee in this little bedpan they stick under me. A few times, I try to protest that I’m just here with a sprained ankle, but nobody listens. They do X-ray my ankle, at least.
Christ, if someone could just get me a pair of crutches, I’d be on my way.
I’ve been at the hospital emergency room for at least two hours when a doctor finally comes in to see me. He’s maybe in his mid or late twenties, wearing blue scrubs, and even through my haze of irritation, humiliation, and ankle pain, I have to admit that he’s very cute. He looks like he could be on one of those television dramas where all the doctors are having sex with each other.
“Emily Davison?” he asks, glancing up at me from the clipboard he’s holding.
“Yes…” I say. “Are you here to discharge me from the hospital?”
“I’m Dr. Cooper,” he tells me, not answering my question. “We need to have a talk about your condition.”
I shift in the creaky ER bed and my ankle throbs, despite the pain meds the nurse gave me. “Is my ankle broken?”
“Your ankle isn’t broken,” Dr. Cooper says. I sigh with relief. “It’s just a sprain. Just ice it and we’ll give you some crutches to use until you feel comfortable putting weight on it.”
“Great,” I breathe.
“Unfortunately,” he adds, his eyes darkening, “your ankle is the least of your problems. Ms. Davison, when you came in here, your blood pressure was dangerously high. It’s come down a bit, but it’s still well above normal.”
“Oh,” I say.
“And on top of that,” he continues. Christ, there’s more? “Your blood sugar was significantly elevated. There was also sugar in your urine sample, which is abnormal. I think we can conclusively diagnose you with adult-onset diabetes based on this.”
I flash back to what Dr. Richmond said to me when I saw him for my breast fungus. Diabetes. That sounds so frightening. “But I’m only 24…” I say.
Dr. Cooper shrugs. “Considering your weight, it’s not entirely surprising. Do you have a primary care physician, Ms. Davison?”
“No,” I mumble.
He snorts. “Of course you don’t.”
My cheeks grow warm. I really don’t like this cute doctor. Who the hell does he think he is? He met me five minutes ago, and he’s acting like he already knows everything about me, just by looking at me. Typical.
“I’m going to have you admitted here overnight,” Dr. Cooper says. “I’d like to keep an eye on your blood pressure. I’m going to put you on medications for your blood pressure and something for the diabetes. I’ll have the nurses show you how to check your blood sugar. But you need to make a follow-up with a primary care doctor as soon as possible.”
“Okay,” I say. “I will.”
Dr. Cooper actually rolls his pretty, blue eyes. Like he doesn’t think there’s any chance I’m going to do what he says. Which would really make me angry, except for the fact that I actually don’t have any plan to do what he says. I mean, I know I don’t have diabetes. If I did, I’d have symptoms. Which I don’t.
“And of course,” he adds, “you don’t need me to tell you that you desperately need to lose weight. Your health problems are just going to get worse as you get older if you don’t lose weight.”
“Yeah,” I say. I roll my head away, not even looking at him anymore. It’s obvious that to this doctor, I’m not even a real person. I’m just this fat thing. There’s no point to any of this.
Dr. Cooper sighs. “We’ll get you a bed for the night and keep you on the monitor. You can go in the morning unless there are any surprises. You might want to call someone to help you get home. Do you have any friends or family?”
“Yes,” I snap at him.
What the hell kind of question is that? Does he think that I’m so disgusting, none of my family has anything to do with me? And I couldn’t possibly have any friends, right?
Although actually, I guess I don’t really have any friends. Not at the moment, at least. Crap, who can I call? My mother is my geographically closest relative, but I sense that calling her would open up a huge can of worms—she hasn’t seen me in a while. Then there’s Brody, who I obviously would never call in a million years, even if he did have a way to help me get home.
That leaves Abby. Damn.
As soon as Dr. Cooper leaves the room, I get out my cell phone that Ben was nice enough to make sure arrived safely at the ER. I find Abby’s number and call her. I brace myself as the phone rings on the other line.
“Emily!” she answers rather breathlessly. “What’s going on? Why are you calling?”
I bite my lip. “I need your help, Abby. I’m sort of… I’m in the hospital.”
Abby gasps rather dramatically. “The hospital! Emily!”
“I just sprained my ankle, that’s all,” I say quickly. Before she can start guessing. I’m definitely not telling her about my bathtub adventure. “I’m being discharged tomorrow and I was hoping you could come pick me up.”
“They’re keeping you overnight for a sprained ankle?” Abby asks incredulously.
I sigh. “My blood pressure was really high. They want to monitor me overnight.”
“Why is your blood pressure high?” Abby asks.
Christ, what is up with all these questions? “Look, can you pick me up or not?”
“Yes, of course!” Abby quickly agrees. “Just tell me when to be there.”
When I hang up with Abby, I feel a little better. Abby isn’t so bad—she’s trying to be my friend, at least. It’s hard to fault her.
Soon I’ll be home again and this whole experience will just be like a terrible nightmare.
Between the medications and the excitement of the last night, I sleep soundly, even with the nurses coming in to check my blood pressure practically every five minutes. One of the nurses was kind enough to tell me that she’d “never heard a woman snore that loudly before.” Gee, thanks. My sister Denise once told me that I snore, but I didn’t think it was that loud. Maybe it’s gotten worse.
At around eight in the morning, my doctor finally comes in to discharge me. I was expecting Dr. Cooper, the nasty cutie, but instead, it’s a tall, gray-haired man with a disarming white beard. Instead of standing over me the way Dr. Cooper did, he pulls up a chair next to me.
“Is it all right if I call you Emily?” he asks me.
He smiles, and it’s a toothy white grin that makes me like him instantly. “I’m Dr. Kraus. How are you feeling, Emily?”
“My ankle still sort of hurts,” I admit. Overnight, my ankle has puffed up even further and turned a deep purple color, despite being iced and elevated on two pillows. It looks awful.
“Any chest pain? Shortness of breath?” he asks.
I shake my head no.
“We need to talk a little bit about your diagnosis, Emily,” Dr. Kraus begins.
No, we don’t. My stomach clenches up.
“Dr. Cooper told you that you have adult-onset diabetes, right?” he presses me.
“Yes,” I murmur. “But… I think it might be a mistake. I haven’t had any symptoms.”
“The symptoms in type 2 diabetes can be vague,” the doctor explains. “Some people notice they feel more tired than usual or that it’s hard to concentrate. Sometimes people are more hungry or more thirsty, and find themselves going to the bathroom more frequently to urinate. Some people notice blurred vision as a symptom.”
Oh my God. I’ve had all those symptoms. So that’s why I can’t read the blackboard anymore in class.
“I need you to take this seriously, Emily,” Dr. Kraus says. “There are a lot of people living with diabetes these days, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. What do you know about the disease?”
I bite my lip. “Something about my blood sugar being high?”
Dr. Kraus raises his white eyebrows at me. “Do you know about any of the complications of diabetes?”
I shrug. This seems like something I ought to know, but I don’t.
“If you don’t take care of this, Emily,” he says, “the disease could affect your eyes and you could go blind. It could destroy your kidneys, and you could spend the rest of your life on dialysis. It could affect your healing ability, and if you end up with a cut on your foot, you could wind up losing your entire leg.” He lowers his voice a notch. “And when I say that it could do those things, what I really mean is that it will do those things. If you don’t treat the disease.”
I feel a shudder go through me. I could go blind? Lose a leg?
“It stinks being in the hospital,” Dr. Kraus says sympathetically. “The last thing you want is to be here for months because you have a wound that won’t heal or an infection that won’t go away. You need to take this seriously, Emily. Or else this hospital will become your home away from home.”
All at once, the fear I felt the other day when I almost couldn’t get out of bed comes flooding back to me. Maybe I’ve let this go too far. Maybe…
“You’ve got a lot of life left, Emily,” Dr. Kraus says to me. “Please don’t spend it here.”
I have to admit, I think a lot about what Dr. Kraus said to me for the rest of the morning. I think about it when the nurse shows me how to prick my finger so that I can check my blood sugar. I think about it when they send in a nutritionist to come see me, her arms brimming with pamphlets about heathy foods and support groups and something called “bariatric surgery.”
“Some people need the stomach stapling, Emily,” the nutritionist tells me. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Abby is due to pick me up at noon, and by that point, my head is spinning. I’m clutching prescriptions for a medication for my high blood pressure and one for diabetes. I have diabetes. I actually have diabetes. I don’t know what to think about any of this.
One thing I do think is that maybe it’s really time to change my life.
At twelve o’clock sharp, I hear a thump on the partially closed door to my hospital room. Abby is always really prompt—definitely a good quality. I can’t wait to get out of this place. My crutches are leaning against the wall, and the nurse helped me get dressed in some scrubs they had lying around, since I didn’t have any of my clothes with me.
“Come in!” I call out.
I start struggling into a sitting position, which is actually a whole lot easier when the bed controls get me most of the way there. I need one of these adjustable beds for home.
I look up, and practically fall over again when I see Brody sitting in his wheelchair, two feet away from me. I may look different, but he sure doesn’t. Christ, I forgot how cute he is. I see that crooked smile on his face and half of me wants to throw myself into his arms. The other half of me wants to hide.
“Brody,” I manage.
I see his blue eyes traveling over my body, and the urge to hide grows stronger. Then his eyes rest on my face. “It’s been a while,” he says.
“Yeah,” I agree. “How did you know I was here?”
“Abby told me,” he says. “She doesn’t have a car, so she asked me to pick you up.”
“You don’t have a car either,” I point out.
“Sean’s got the van outside.”
Sean. Ugh. Speaking of people I really, really don’t want to see right now. I can only imagine his face when he sees me.
“You guys are getting along now?” I ask.
Brody shakes his head. “We always got along. Sean is my best friend—he was just… going through some stuff. But he’s better now.” He adds, “I definitely couldn’t have gotten through us breaking up without Sean.”
“Oh,” I mumble.
“I wasn’t very good for a while,” he admits. “Fell off the wagon a few times, if I’m being entirely honest. But I’m okay now. Over it. You know.”
I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed that he says that he’s over me. There was a tiny part of me that wished he was still pining for me desperately. That he was here to beg me to get back together. But that’s obviously not the case. After all, like Jess said, he’s got a plus one for her wedding—he’s moved on.
“I’d like to be friends, Emily,” he says. “If that’s okay with you.”
I look Brody over. Yes, he’s in a wheelchair. Yes, his fingers are curled up, his forearms are bony, and he drops half his food when he’s trying to eat. But even so, he’s hot. He’s still really hot. He could find a woman who isn’t so fat she gets wedged in the bathroom and requires four men to wrench her free. I don’t blame him for only wanting friendship from me now.
“It’s fine,” I mumble.
“So,” he says, looking me in the eyes, “since we’re friends and all, maybe you could tell me the real reason you had to spend the night here. Because I’m guessing they wouldn’t keep you in the hospital overnight just for a sprained ankle.”
I stare into his kind face. It was always so easy to talk to Brody—I cared about him so much. I loved him. And the truth is, I still do. Maybe it’s time to be honest. If I can’t admit that I have a problem, how am I supposed to get better?
“My blood pressure was really high,” I admit. “And also, it turns out that… I have diabetes.”
And then I start to cry. I didn’t cry when Brody and I broke up, but I cry now. I cry into my hands, and then Brody awkwardly pulls his chair up to the side of my bed, I cry into his shoulder. He doesn’t say anything—just lets me cry.
I can’t believe I let this happen to myself. I can’t believe I became this way. And if I don’t do something about it, it’s only going to get worse. Until I’m dead.
“I don’t want to be this way,” I sob. “I know I eat too much. It’s just so hard to change…”
“I know how hard it is,” Brody whispers, attempting to stroke my hair best he can. “I went through the same thing. It took me almost dying to shape up.”
I lift my face to look at him. I see his brows knitted together.
“Tell me what I can do to help you, Emily,” he says. “Whatever you need, I’ll do it. I’ll go to meetings with you. I’ll diet with you. I’ll go with you to the gym. I mean, I wouldn’t be able to work out, but I’ll hang around for moral support. I promise—whatever you want.”
“Thank you,” I murmur. “Thanks for being a friend to me.”
“Yeah,” Brody breathes.
I bite my lip. “And I completely understand that you don’t want to be anything… more than that. I mean, I get it.”
Brody frowns. For a moment, a dark look comes over his face and he seems almost furious. “Of course I want to be more than that!” he cries. “How could you say that? I don’t want to be your friend, Emily. I want to be your boyfriend.” He shakes his head. “I’m trying to be a good guy here. Jesus.”
My heart starts to pound in my chest. Good thing that cardiac monitor isn’t still attached. “You really still want to be with me?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” He blinks his blue eyes. “I think about you every single day. I was beating myself up for months for blowing things with you. When Abby told me you needed me here, I called Sean and said he had to get his ass over here ASAP.”
“But,” I sputter, “Jess told me you RSVPed ‘plus one’ for her wedding.”
For a moment, Brody looks completely confused. Then he laughs. “I RSVPed ‘plus one’ and you thought…? Jesus. There’s no one else. Believe me.”
“So who are you taking to the wedding?” I ask.
Brody sighs. “Emily, you realize I can’t take a trip to Maine all by myself, right? Since Jess banned Sean, I had to ask my mother. She’s my ‘plus one.’” He smiles crookedly. “It may make me a bad son, but I have to say, I’d ditch her for you.”
“I put on a lot of weight though,” I mumble, squeezing my hands together. As if he hadn’t noticed. Like he was blind.
Brody shrugs. “So what? You could put on 500 pounds and I’d still think you’re beautiful.”
Part of me thinks he’s full of shit. But part of me thinks he genuinely means it.
“The truth is,” he says with a nervous smile, “I’ve always sort of thought bigger women were sexy. I mean, really sexy.”
I stare at him. How is it possible that never came to light until just this second?
“I don’t want to creep you out by saying that though,” he says quickly. “I mean, it’s not a thing or anything. It’s just, you know, something I like. That I’ve always liked.”
“Oh,” I say breathlessly.
Brody raises his eyebrows. “So, um. Are you creeped out?”
“No,” I say. “I’m not. I’m really not.”
“Good.” His shoulders sag in relief. “I was terrified to tell you all that time. I thought you’d take it the wrong way and freak out.”
“Actually,” I say, “it sort of makes me feel better. About everything.”
Brody smiles at me. “So I’m an idiot for not saying anything sooner, huh?”
“Pretty much,” I say. “But I get it.”
“Still,” he adds. “Even though I think you’re sexy as hell, I can’t watch you making yourself sick. I can’t. So if we’re going to be together, you have to make an effort to live a healthier lifestyle. I don’t want to have to pick you up at the hospital again until we’re good and old.”
“Or I’m having a baby,” I joke.
Even though it was a joke, Brody’s cheeks turn pink. “Yeah,” he says softly. “That would be okay too.”
We sit there, just gazing at each other for a minute. I don’t know how I got so lucky to find Brody. He knows how messed up I am and he’s okay with it. All right, maybe it’s because he’s a little messed up himself. But that’s okay with me. “I want you to make love to me,” I hear myself saying.
I don’t know why I said that. I’m in the hospital. I weigh the most I’ve ever weighed in my entire life. I can barely walk on my stupid ankle. But at the same time, I know I want this. More than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life.
He smiles nervously. “Yeah?”
He rubs his nose with the back of his wrist. “Like, soon?”
“As soon as possible,” I whisper.
“Okay,” he says. He still has that nervous smile. “Let’s make it happen then. If you’re ready.”
I’m so ready. This has been a long time coming.
To be continued...