Protect Me (Rivers Edge Book 4)(2)By: Lacey Black
I take one last look around the small hospital room and snatch up my black clutch that is sitting on the bedside table. I know there isn’t anything in there of value, but at least I feel like I have something of my own. Especially since I can’t go back home to retrieve any of my belongings or the hidden shoebox containing enough money to live off of to get me wherever I’m going.
I slowly pull the door open the rest of the way and peek out into the hallway. The hallway is fortunately empty though filled with the steady stream of beeping and low volume televisions from other hospital rooms. At the end of the hallway is an occupied nurse’s station. The woman at the desk has her head down, vigorously writing in the chart she has laid out on the counter.
I take my first steps out into the hallway, away from the woman at the nurse’s station, and head towards my exit. Fight through the pain. Fight it. I keep my back hugged against the white wall. My shaking legs carry me further and further away. I fight the tears welling up in my dry eyes as my smarted ribs protest each and every step I take, the breath I fight to take getting lodged in my throat.
Finally. I reach the end of the long corridor. I glance to the left and then to the right, looking - searching - for my exit. And then I finally see it. Stairs.
I hold my breath as I reach for the metal bar across the door. It’s not a fire exit so there shouldn’t be an alarm. Just the thought of being this close to freedom and having it ripped away from me with some attention-grabbing alarm is terrifying. But’s also a necessary risk.
I give the bar a gentle push. It releases with a loud, echoing bang but I try not to dwell on it. I need to get out of here, and I need to go now. I step into the stairwell and slowly start my descent. My ribs continue to protest with each agonizing step, but I can’t think about that right now either.
Once I descend three floors of stairs, I finally find myself on the ground floor. Sweating and fearing that I might pass out, I contemplate momentarily if I should head down another floor to the basement, but without knowing the layout of the hospital, I realize that it could slow down my exit considerably.
I glance out the little window on the door but don’t see anyone I know. Thank you, God. I slowly open the door, look left and right, and walk out of the stairwell and into the main hallway of the ground floor of the hospital.
The emergency room is to the left. I know because that’s where they brought me this evening after my little “accident.” The room where I pretended to sleep so that I didn’t have to answer any more questions or look into the gray eyes that have haunted me for years.
Beyond the emergency room is a large set of sliding glass doors. Daytona traffic buzzes by on the busy street out in front of the hospital. That traffic represents my freedom.
I slowly start to make my way towards those sliding doors. I try to walk as normal as possible even though my steps falter from the pain and lack of shoes, and my breathing is labored with exertion. Twenty yards.
As I reach the front counter, I see an older woman typing vigorously on the computer in front of her. She glances up as I approach her workstation. Ten yards.
I avoid eye contact as I do everything I can to steer clear of recognition. I know that I must look like hell with my up-do no longer “up”, my makeup all but gone, replaced by swollen and bruised skin. Bare feet. The dried blood doesn’t help either. Five yards.
The sliding door begins to open as the woman finally speaks. “Miss, can I help you?” she asks with concern evident in her voice.
“No thank you. I was just leaving,” I reply, giving her the warmest and friendliest smile I can muster considering the situation, and continue to walk.
The woman stands up and looks around. I notice the security guard at the same time she does. He’s on the opposite end of the waiting room near the emergency department. I pick up the pace a little and start to walk through the opened doors.
“Miss, wait! You can’t just leave. Miss!” I hear her exclaim as the warm night air slaps me across the face.
I don’t stop, and I don’t turn around. This is it. My chance to escape. My freedom. I have nowhere to go, no money to my name, and no plan whatsoever. But I don’t care.