“So…I’m not pregnant anymore. Did you give me an abortion?”

Sheila put the chart back and gave me a dry look. “No, dear. We did not give you an abortion. You had a miscarriage. We had to make sure that it was removed safely and properly. That’s what we had to do; it wouldn’t have been safe for you otherwise.”

She looked between Ada and me and added, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It occurs more than you think, especial y first pregnancies and especial y when the mother isn’t looking after herself. But I assume the baby isn’t something you would have wanted.”

Wel , no, it wasn’t. Or wouldn’t have been. But it didn’t mean it wasn’t a shock to my body, my heart and my mind. I felt a mil ion things but the one that stood out the most was that I was very, very afraid.

As if catching a bit of that feeling, Sheila came over to me and patted my arm. “You’re with your family now. You’l be as right as rain. I’l go get your mother and the doctor, in case you have more questions. You have nothing to worry about.”

She left the room and walked out into the fluorescent lit hal way.

I looked at Ada. “What happened?”

“It’s like she said. Shay and Ash said they found you on the floor. You were total y passed out. They said…there was a whole bunch of blood around you.”

“Oh no,” I closed my eyes. How embarrassing this was, how bad it looked for the company.

“Perry, be happy you’re alive,” she admonished me.

“How could I have been pregnant?” I repeated, even though it was starting to make sense to me. It did explain a lot of what had been going on.

“I know,” she said. “I actual y thought it last night but I didn’t want to say anything in front of mom. She doesn’t know you slept with Dex. well , she didn’t know.”

“Oh, God.”

“Yeah, she obviously knows now. Dad too.w ba “Fuck.”

“I think they both want to kil him. Like, way more now than before.”

Surprisingly, I felt no hatred toward Dex about this. This was just as much my fault. We didn’t use a condom. The thought had crossed my mind but I decided to ignore it and deal with the consequences later. And here I was. While I probably wouldn’t have kept the baby, the end result was the same. I was left with a ravaged body and a guilty conscious.

“Perry, honey,” my mom said as she came inside the room. Her face was at maximum worry levels. However, as concerned as she looked, I picked up a tinge of frustration.

After it was established that I was going to be OK, I was going to be in big BIG trouble with her and dad.

“Hi mom,” I greeted her quietly. I suddenly felt extra embarrassed.

She leaned over me and kissed my forehead, smel ing like her heady tuberose perfume. Didn’t the hospital have rules about no smel s?

I was going to stay strong and stubborn but the moment her eyes searched mine and I could see how upset she actual y was, I weakened. “I’m so sorry, mom.”

“It’s fine. We’l talk about it later,” she said, burying that last hint of annoyance somewhere. “The important thing is you’re going to be OK. It’s all going to stop now.”

“She may have more cramps and bleeding over the next few weeks,” a man’s voice cut into our conversation.

I raised my head to see who our new visitor was and my body froze in a mix of panic and shock.

It was the same doctor from my dream and from waking up during surgery.

He paused at the foot of my bed, looking nonplussed at my reaction, at my face scrunched up in horror. He even smiled.

“Glad I could meet you under more appropriate circumstances,” he said. “I’m Dr. Cain.”

Of course you are, I thought wildly. I looked at my mom and Ada to see if they found anything amiss about the situation. I couldn’t tel . They certainly weren’t terrified.

“What’s wrong?” my mom asked me.

I could only shake my head and looked back to Dr. Cain with fear.

“She’s all right,” he told her. “I’m probably quite the sight to her. You remember me, don’t you Perry?”

I couldn’t find the words so I just nodded. I noticed I was gripping Ada’s hand real y hard. She said “ow” under her breath.

He looked back at my mom with the same kind eyes that had accompanied me down that hal way with the demon girl. “It can be traumatic for patients when they wake up during surgery.”

“I would assume so,” my mom replied haughtily. “Poor girl; you should have known how much anaesthesia to give her.”

“It was a difficult cal . We thought we made the right one.

But Perry would have stil been in a painless, dream-like state. It was shocking to her, but she was in no pain.”

I calmed down enough to narrow my eyes at the doctor.

How did he know? I remembered some of that pain very well . His eyes may have been kind, but they weren’t fooling me.

“We’l be keeping her here overnight for observation,” he continued. “The circumstances that brought her here weren’t the usual. But, aside from the breakthrough bleeding and cramps that may fol ow, she should be fine.

We’l give her some medication to keep her afloat and it’s best if she stays at home, in bed over the next few days.”

The doctor rattled on with some more instructions to us but the wooziness and shear overwhelming nature of the situation had my thoughts bogged down to a minimum and my eyes were slowly drooping shut.

When I woke up again, I was alone. The small , windowless hospital room was awful y dark, with the only light coming from various machines that flanked my bed. I wasn’t hooked up to any of them – only the IV was attached to my arm – yet their lights were on and they gave off an impersonal hum.

My mouth was drier than the Sahara and when I ran my tongue over my lips, it felt like sandpaper against cracked concrete. I wanted water and I wanted it now but I had no idea how to cal the nurse. I thought Ada or my parents would have been around and their absence stung a little.

Sure, I was in no danger, but what I had gone through was pretty traumatic. I was having a hard time even fathoming all of it.

I placed my hand on my stomach and pressed down slightly until it hurt. Had the bit of weight gain real y been a result of pregnancy? The cramps and the bloating and the mood swings? I felt stupid for ignoring the symptoms for so long and ignorant that I just brushed the idea aside just because I had my period. You’d think I’d know more than a 14-year-old girl before Sex Ed, but apparently not.

I sat up careful y, conscious of that icky feeling of the IV needle as it pul ed against my skin and vein. A machine beside me beeped three times, sounding almost menacing in the dark. I peered at it, wondering what the hel it could be monitoring, and the light pulsed, alternating between red and yel ow.

As the lights flashed against the wal s, I thought about going for a wander down the corridor. I’d probably have to take the drip with me but at least I’d be able to get some water and maybe find out where my family took off to. They wouldn’t dare leave me overnight like this; they could be cal ous sometimes but not that bad.

Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I gently lowered my bare feet until they met the cold, linoleum floor.

A sharp stab of pain flooded my insides and the growing sensation of wetness flowed between my legs. I brought my hand down and felt around. It was like I was wearing diapers and it added to the thick, muddled feeling that I felt all over my body, from my head to my groin. I took in a deep breath and fought for clarity. I grabbed onto the portable IV drip with one hand and with the other, made sure the back of my paper-thin hospital gown wasn’t open for the world to see, and cautiously walked over to the door.

I opened it with some effort – it was heavier than I anticipated – and stuck my head out into the harshly lit hal way. I blinked rapidly. I felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t be, even though there were no rules about getting out of your bed. It’s not like I had escaped or anything.

Surprisingly, there was no one about and the corridor was entirely empty and devoid of any sound except for a dripping that seemed to come from nowhere. I wondered what time it was. Hospitals were usual y a hotbed of activity.

I padded my way down the hal , wincing at the squeaky wheels of the IV drip that seemed to echo around me. all the doors were closed, dark and quiet. It was as stil as a tomb and that lack of movement, lack of humanity, frightened me. An icy trail went down my spine, as if the IV needle relocated to the back of my neck, and I stopped walking.

Up ahead, at the end of the hal , came a shuffling sound, like the slow, uncertain walk of an injured or old person. I waited, holding my breath.

An elderly woman came around the corner. She was dressed in the same hospital gown as I was, holding a similar IV machine with her papery, varicose-veined arms.

Her face was done up in a bouquet of bright colors: Red cakey lips, thick magenta blush that swept from nose to temple along her sagging cheekbones, vibrant green eye shadow that was partly obscured by the heavy folds of her eyelids.

Creepy Clown Lady.

I was stuck to the floor, unable to move and unwil ing to take my eyes off of her. She slowly came my way but didn’t look up at me. Though the sight of her was eerie as all hel , in some way, I was glad to see her. It felt like it had been awhile and once my tongue found its movement again, I knew I would have a lot to ask her.

It felt like an eternity until she was halfway down the hal and right in front of me. She went to the left of me in her slow shuffle. She kept her eyes on the ground, only looking up at me at the last minute. Her pale blue, clouded eyes met mine, briefly, and in them I saw a multitude of warnings.

I opened my mouth to say something but she kept going, as if she didn’t know me. Somewhere I found the strength to speak.

“Hey,” I croaked ineloquently. I reached out and grabbed her arm lightly and a green/blue spark erupted from the contact. It seemed to fuse my fingers to her skin and she stopped, reluctantly turning her pin-curled head. I had never touched her before. Her solidity surprised me.

She looked into my eyes, obviously recognizing me, and her accented voice flooded my brain while her chalky, dried lips remained closed.

I can’t stay. I have to go, she said.

Where is everyone? I thought, trying to project it to her.

You’re not supposed to be here. It’s happening too soon. There was a tinge of alarm in her voice, which made the hairs on my arms stand up.

What is?

Her eyes dropped to the ground and for the first time I realized how small and frail she was. Despite the crazy makeup, in her hospital gown she looked someone’s forgotten grandmother, lost in the world.

I tried to warn you. I left that message. I know you heard it.

I did but I didn’t know what it meant. Am in trouble?

Yes, she said matter-of-factly . You’re in terrible trouble, Perry. And I haven’t been able to come see you. I can’t anymore.

You’re seeing me now.

You’re not where you think you are.

The thought struck me cold. I looked back down at my gown, at the glossy floor and the empty, sterile hal way. It suddenly occurred to me that I may not be in a hospital. I may not be anywhere.