Say “Cheese” – Part 1

The girl held her shaking hand out, palm up, and Tollin took it with gentle fingers, peeling the worn black cardigan sleeve back to reveal the white wrist beneath. She put her fingers over the pulse and counted, eyes on the second hand of her wristwatch. Fifteen seconds later she set the girl’s arm down on the blanket.

“Sweetie … are you taking … any drugs?”

Melody gave an emphatic swing of her head. “N-ne-never did drugs. N-never w-will.”

“It’s okay, I’m not going to tell your parents, but I need to know to make sure I don’t do something to hurt you accidentally — you know, give you the wrong medicines or something. Okay? It’s really important.”

“N-no drugs!” Her face contorted in agitation, a set of lines forming over the bridge of her nose.

“All right, Melody … it’s okay, I just have to be sure. All right? I don’t mean anything by it, but I have to be sure. It’s amazing how many people don’t tell doctors everything, and they end up being hurt. Then they want to sue us.”

Tollin winked, and Melody looked down, the corner of her lips twitching into a half-smile that died as fast as it appeared.

“Okay, so now I’m going to tell you you’re heart’s really working overtime in there, and if you’re not using drugs, something else is wrong. I prescribed a dose of sedative that should have calmed you more than this, but you still seem pretty wound up. Are you allergic to any medicines? Do you know?”

“It’s n-not from the s-sedative,” Melody said, and stared into her lap.

“Is it from —”

“The nurses didn’t hurt me.”

“Well, can you tell me —”

“You have to promise to listen,” she said, and narrowed her eyes at the doctor, face set, cheeks flushing. “To a-all of it.”

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