Excerpt from Forget You!
I doze off again and am woken up by the sound of the door to my room opening up. It’s dark now, and there’s something a little ominous about how the door creaks open. After all I’ve been through, is someone now going to try to murder me? I grip my blankets, preparing to make a run for it from the Hospital Strangler.
Except it isn’t a random murderer at my door. It’s that guy with the kind hazel eyes and the wheelchair. Riley, I think his name was.
Well, he could be a murderer, I suppose. But I don’t think so.
He pushes my door open, then closes it behind him. He grabs onto the end of my bed to pull himself forward, towards me. I’ve never known anyone who used a wheelchair before and I’m sort of impressed again with how he navigates the room. I let go of my fear completely and just watch for a moment.
Now that he isn’t right on top of me, I have a chance to look Riley over a little more carefully. His black hair is just as disheveled as it was earlier today, maybe more so. And the five o’clock shadow has darkened considerably in the few hours since I last saw him—he must be one of those guys who needs to shave like twice a day. (Unlike Walt, who can get away with shaving every other day.) He’s wearing a wrinkled button-up shirt that’s half tucked into his pants and half loose. His pants are unfashionably baggy, like they were made for someone with much longer legs than his. And the tour de force is his shoes, which are resting on a single footplate attached to his wheelchair. He’s wearing two different shoes. Two completely different shoes. They’re not even the same color.
As Walt likes to say, some people look like they got dressed in the dark.
“What are you doing here?” I ask. I check my watch. “Visiting hours are over.”
“Snuck in,” Riley says, grinning as if pleased with himself. “Pretended I was a patient and said I was going back to my room. I knew this wheelchair would come in handy.”
I frown at him as I reach for my nurse’s call button. “So it’s a fake? You’re not really disabled?”
The smile fades from Riley’s face. “What are you talking about? Maggie, you know I am…” He shakes his head at me. “Seriously, what’s going on?”
I locate the red button just to the side of my hip and jam my thumb into it firmly. I want this guy out of my room. “Nothing’s going on,” I say.
“Please tell me, Maggie,” he says, his dark brow furrowed.
“Stop calling me Maggie!” I snap at him. “That’s not… you don’t know me well enough to call me that!”
Riley stares at me like he was slapped. “Then… what should I call you?”
“Margaret. Or Dr. McDaniels.”
“Okay. Margaret.” He stumbles a little bit over my full name.
He leans forward in his wheelchair until his elbows rest on his knees, then he drops his face into his hands and starts rubbing his eyes under his lenses. He looks so pathetic right now that I kind of feel sorry for him.
“I’m having some trouble remembering things,” I finally admit.
He lifts his face to look at me. “You are? Like what?”
I heave a sigh. “Like, I don’t remember anything from the last three years. Since my wedding day.”
Riley stares at me. “Are you serious? You don’t remember anything?”
“You must remember something?”
I shake my head no.
Riley looks like a truck just slammed him in the chest. He bites his lip. “So you don’t know who I am?”
“No,” I admit. And because he looks so crestfallen, I add, “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry,” he mumbles, shaking his head. He grabs the wheels of his chair and shifts his position slightly. He lowers his voice several notches when he speaks again, “Maggie… I mean, Margaret… I don’t know exactly how to say this, but…”
It’s at that moment that a middle-aged brunette wearing scrubs bursts into my room. The timing is impeccable. “Hello, Mrs. Davenport!” she says cheerfully. “What can I do for you?”
Riley jerks his head in the direction of the nurse then back to me. “You… you called for the nurse?”
I’m too embarrassed to tell him, but it’s pretty obvious. The nurse is looking Riley over, as if unsure what to make of him. Finally, she says, “You’ll have to go back to your own room, sir. Would you like me to take you back there?”
Riley makes a face, and for a moment, he actually looks cute. “I’m not a patient. I’m just visiting.”
“Oh,” the nurse says, although she has this suspicious look like she doesn’t believe him entirely. “Well, then let me take the wheelchair out of the room.”
“I hate hospitals,” Riley mumbles under his breath. Despite myself, I giggle a little at the aggravated expression on his face. He flashes me a hopeful smile, but I quickly compose myself. I don’t want him to get any ideas.
“This is my wheelchair,” Riley explains to the nurse. “I need to keep it. Unless you want me to crawl home.”
“We don’t have any spare wheelchairs,” the nurse says, as if she didn’t hear him. “We need to use that for a patient.”
“I’m telling you, this one’s mine,” he insists. I can hear the weariness in his voice, which makes me wonder if he’s had this sort of conversation before at a hospital. “Does it look like a crappy hospital-grade wheelchair?”
It doesn’t. Unlike the hospital chairs, this one is narrow and sleek, with a single footplate and tilted wheels. It doesn’t even have push handles.
The nurse hesitates. She looks like she’s thinking of asking him for a proof of purchase. Finally, Riley says, “I own it. Really.”