Asleep

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“Hey,” Rose said, feeling stupid and idiotic for even trying to start a conversation with someone in a mental institution. “My name’s Rose.”

The guy didn’t respond. He merely stared at her the way she would a model in Life Drawing class, his intense brown eyes hooded by his forehead and lined by thick black lashes, soaking her in, memorizing her, making Rose feel raw and exposed. Every now and then his jaw clenched and popped. So much emotion simmering just below the surface, so much insanity. He’d make a perfect model himself with all that silent misery, hair swept to the side, broad shoulders and muscles stretching the sleeves of his white, cotton shirt, muscles he’d never get to use because he was stuck in here. Rose could almost envision him in one of her drawings, this guy standing in the background, still, hands in his pockets, staring at a girl in the foreground.

Shaking her head, Rose snapped out of her daydream. Drawing was part of the past that no longer mattered.

“Lights out,” Nurse Judy called, startling them both so badly they bumped into the table and left it quaking. She laughed. “Didn’t mean to scare you, dear.”

“It’s okay,” Rose said, rubbing her sore knee. “Keep it up, though, and I’ll have bandages everywhere.”

“My eldest daughter Isabel tells me I’m always sneaking up on her too. I insist she must have a guilty conscious to be so jumpy, but with you, I’m not so sure.” The nurse smiled again, kindly, her eyes glazed over, and Rose knew the woman was thinking about her daughter. “Well, I’ll try to be more careful in the future. But for now, off you go, to your room.”

“Good night,” Rose said to the guy.

But he didn’t respond, not that she expected him to. He gave Judy a long, hard glance, then got up and marched to a door on the opposite side of Hall A. Judy didn’t pay any attention to him as she wrapped her arm around Rose and ushered her off to bed, holding out a pill cup. 

“Here you go. Meds and rest, Rose. Meds and rest. The best thing for you, aside from being open and honest with Dr. Underwood.” The nurse smiled in a way that said she knew open and honest hadn’t occurred earlier today.

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