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About the author:
Writer of Our Demons, Best Friends, Love Me While I’m Gone and Color Me Yours. Perpetually sleep deprived, but never sorry. I am a colorful mix of the things I love. Chocolate eclairs. The sound of a guitar. The first snow of the year. Sleeping on freshly washed sheets. The smell of a new book. Man buns. Using rock-paper-scissors to settle an argument. Old, washed up jeans. Comfort food. Old people acting like kids. The ocean. My dog. My family.
Here is a short sample from the book:
My eyes were shut so tightly it actually hurt my temples. The male nurse asked me to take a seat on the side of my bed as he positioned himself in front of me and put his arms around my shoulders. He kept me still in a solid embrace, while my hands were wrapped tightly across my chest so I couldn’t move an inch. That would not only ruin the procedure, but the worst-case scenario would be damage to my spine. The needle had to find its way through the vertebrae with as little resistance as possible.
As creepy as it sounds, I already knew all the details about the operation, the do’s and don’ts. And I still had trouble staying calm. Not only because of the huge needle I had seen a few seconds ago on the tray beside my bed, which was now gone—that probably meant it was now approaching my spine—but also because I was experiencing one of the most claustrophobic hugs ever. As far as hugs go, this is not one of my favorites.
You know what they didn’t teach us about in medical school? The god-awful screeching sound the needle makes while it forces its way between two bones. It probably wasn’t as loud as I imagined it, but in my head it was absolutely excruciating. I was so focused on this unexpected and almost shocking occurrence that I totally forgot about the pain. In fact, I honestly didn’t feel any pain at all. Even the abdominal pain I’d felt since I got up this morning—which made me curl up, scream, cry, and utter profanities to anyone trying to touch me (in this exact same order)—now was miraculously gone. The anesthetic hadn’t even made its way through the needle yet, so my terror-stricken brain was clearly doing its job.
After the screeching stopped, the nurse helped me lie face-up on the bed. He instructed me not to move, and especially not to try and lift my head from the pillow. For which, of course, I knew the possible side effects—headaches after the anesthesia wears off. But for once in my life, I had to ignore the doctor’s advice and try something I’d always wanted to do.
As the nurse walked out and told me to be patient until the anesthesia takes effect, I lifted my head from the pillow, supported my dizzy self on my elbows and concentrated really hard on moving my legs despite the total numbness in my lower body—the kid in me was probably surfacing with much more ease now that my mature self was so heavily drugged. I was not planning on repeating the procedure anytime soon, so I had to give it a shot.
I am now sure the whole telekinesis theory is bogus. My feet were not capable of moving on their own, but I was staring at them so hard that if telekinesis worked, I would’ve moved them nevertheless. My legs decided to ignore me completely, so I changed the focus on my thumb, like the size mattered in that particular situation—a small thumb surely must be easier to move than an entire leg. Again, it didn’t work, and since my mature self was just dizzy and not unconscious, I decided to wait for the doctor lying down, as instructed.
Three minutes later, I was flanked by two very preoccupied nurses who began “prepping the patient” even though the patient was, on most counts, awake. They were probably too accustomed to sleeping patients because they were acting like I wasn’t in the same room as they were; I was kind of expecting them to badmouth me any second. But they didn’t and as I recognized my uncharitable thought, I realized I was probably not very good at handling my high.
I wondered why I didn’t recognize the faces of the people around me. True, the hospital was considerable in size and I was not a surgical intern, but I’d been roaming its halls for almost five months now. Was I that self-absorbed?
Shaved (God, the shame!) and hooked to an IV, all tucked in—like an infant who had to be protected from accidentally scratching her face while sleeping—and more dizzy than ever, I laid there waiting as the nurses lifted the green sheet that acted like a screen so I wouldn’t see the doctor working on me.
Normally I wasn’t a squeamish person (I was training to be a doctor and all), but who knows . . . I didn’t get a chance to see my insides either, so it was probably a good thing. I wondered how many times a patient fainted or freaked out during surgery before the invention of the green sheet. See, this is why I was so sure I would never enjoy any kind of drugs. My brain was taking me places I really didn’t want to visit. And the feeling of not being in control of my own body (and mind) made me feel like I was two steps away from a panic attack. That, and the nausea I was beginning to experience because of the anesthesia, made me turn my head to one side and keep it like that, with my cheek resting on the cool pillow—that seemed to help, slightly.
I stayed in this position until the doctor came in and asked why I wasn’t moving. When I told him I was afraid I’d vomit while looking at the ceiling and inevitably on myself, he started laughing and explained that the queasiness was a normal symptom of the anesthesia and I shouldn’t worry about it actually happening. As he reassured me, I remembered my stomach was empty anyway, so he was probably right.
My head was facing the entrance of the OR and that was perfectly fine by me. That was, until the nurses put the screen right in front of my eyes. Now I was forced to choose as a focal point the only thing I could see: the dim corner of the room, a few feet away from me. I was mostly in the dark; the only light in the room was shining directly on my belly, and there was nothing to look at, no one to see or talk to. Except for the beeping from the monitors and the occasional interruptions of a low voice asking for instruments, everything was quiet. Too quiet.
“OK, Ava. I am going to start the appendectomy now. I’m sure you already know what the procedure entails and have probably sat in on a few by now. This is not going to hurt, and if you want, I can explain the steps as I go. What do you say?”
“Thanks, doc, but I’d rather not learn anything today, if that’s OK with you.” Oh my God, I just called one of the attendings “doc”! Shut up, brain, shut up!
“I’m sorry, Dr. Green, I’m a bit outside of myself today. Are you sure you don’t want to put me under? We both know this isn’t going to be my last inappropriate comment.”
He was laughing, thank God! “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal; your brain is not in the mood to process everything you want it to.”
“Just what I needed. . . .”
“That is why most of the patients don’t remember much after the anesthesia and sedative wear off,” he said.
“Well, that’s great for me, but you’ll see me in the hallways and giggle remembering my charming outbursts.”
“Doubt that. I’m not a big giggler.”
“I love that word. ‘Giggler.’ Do you mind if I steal it from you? I will totally use it from now on! That’s if I’ll remember it. . . .”
“Sure, go ahead,” he said, laughing again.
I sure hoped he had steady hands. Maybe he wasn’t such a great “giggler,” but he was full-out laughing now, and that was the last thing I wanted him doing so close to me with a scalpel. My brain goes to some dark places when I’m high. . . .
“Now that the area is disinfected I am going to start the first incision. You won’t feel a thing,” he said in a calming voice. He would’ve made a good pediatrician. Should I ask for my candy now? I decided to answer his question instead, and intercept anything else ridiculous that may come out of my mouth. “I’m ready, go ahead.”
Before I got a chance to convince my brain to brace itself for the incision, I heard the door open and someone entering with squeaky shoes, but the screen was blocking my view, so I had to wait for a voice to figure out what was happening.
“One second, please,” said the doctor. “Ava, the first incision is made. Did you feel anything?”
“Absolutely nothing, and I can’t tell you how relieved I am.” I really was.
“Good, I am too,” he said, amusement in his voice. “Yes, how can I help you, Sebastian?”
Sebastian? Sebastian is here? My Sebastian? No, not yours, stupid! I had to remind myself.
I suddenly felt more confident about moving my head, although it didn’t help much because of the huge screen that was acting like a shielding apparatus, separating not only my head from the rest of my body but also preventing me from seeing Sebastian.
“I’m sorry, sir, I realize you didn’t ask any residents to scrub in but I was wondering if you’d mind terribly if I kept Ava company. I know she scares easily.”
I’ll show you who scares easily! If I could just reach my baby blue slipper I could throw it with a direct aim at his head! I would, but I really wanted him to stay with me and, to my surprise, my brain listened when I begged it to say nothing.
“She seems fine and as brave as ever, but if you don’t have anything better to do, be my guest.”
“Thank you, sir.”
When he entered my field of vision he was carrying a small chair and a smile that almost made me whimper. Like I haven’t had enough embarrassing moments today. As he placed it to my right, near my head and proceeded to sit on it, I was beginning to feel lightheaded and I knew better than to think it was because of the anesthesia. With that shy smile on his face that killed me even when I was fully alert, he put his index finger to his lips to let me know I should be quiet, and pulled a weird-looking rubber glove from his coat pocket.
It was my blue iPod, all wrapped up in an ivory glove using two of its fingers to secure a knot over it. All but the tiny white earbuds, which he proceeded to untangle as softly and quietly as possible, while glancing slightly over the green screen to avoid being caught by the nurse or Dr. Green.
Still smiling, he placed a bud in my left ear so the right one would be free in case we wanted to talk, and placed the other bud in his right ear. He hit play, placed the rubbery iPod back in his coat pocket, along with my heart and everything inside me, and leaned his head on his folded arms, near my shoulder.
I was having trouble determining the possibility of this being a dream. If it was, my brain had outdone itself this time—the almost unnoticeable but ever-present frown between his eyes, the smile, his scent—it was dead-on. Not wanting to ruin the dream if I were to wake up, or this perfect moment if it was actually real, I stayed quiet, looking at him through half-closed eyelids, and enjoyed the fitting song that had just started playing.
“I was sure you were going to comment on my ‘scares easily’ remark,” he whispered while raising the hand closest to my face and stroking my cheek lightly with the back of his fingers. I was having trouble breathing at this moment, my lungs refusing to cooperate since the second Sebastian’s breath tingled my face and invaded my senses, so it took me a few seconds to be able to answer.
“It seems I’m losing my edge. I would’ve asked for a rain check, but I really appreciate the music so I’ll just let it go,” I replied. As I turned my head to be able to look fully into his eyes, he was reciprocating my smile, his head now slightly elevated as if he wanted to see me clearer as well.
Breathe, Ava, breathe!
I should’ve trained my brain with a few drunken nights—maybe it would have handled this whole situation with a little more self-composure. Because I was looking at Sebastian, and for a split second it seemed like this might be the first honest look between us. Everything I felt for him was bubbling inside me, surely as clear as day for anyone looking at my face, and for a moment it seemed like he might feel the same.
I must have the lowest of thresholds to start dreaming so soon. The only thing I was praying for at this point was that my brain wouldn’t decide on some idiotic course of action on its own and ruin my friendship with this gorgeous man who, by the way, was still unusually close to me, still looking intently into my eyes. Did he lose something in there?
As I was enjoying this honest moment of rambling and arguing with myself, I didn’t realize I was frowning at Sebastian. He raised his fingers from my cheek—I kicked myself internally for making him do that—and smoothed out my frown with his thumb, the rest of his fingers like feathers against my forehead. It seemed to me that every touch of his, no matter how brief or innocent, had the power to jump-start an engine. Any engine of mine, at least. Because my breathing was coming in fast, shallow bursts and my heart was begging me to jump from this table and into his arms. If I hadn’t been tethered to reality with the IV, there’s no way I could have stopped myself from getting off the table and doing just that.
I was seeing him blurred by the finger between my eyebrows, but our eye contact never broke. And while my vision was refocusing after the disappearance of his hand and Ellie Goulding started singing one of my favorite songs of all time, I swear I saw a different look cross his face. So fast I only managed to take a sharp breath, he reached forward from his chair and did the one thing I was dreaming about, but couldn’t do. He kissed me. Carefully at first, his lips slowly tasting mine like a soft caress and his hand so light on my skin, I wasn’t sure he was still touching me. I wanted so badly to be able to reach his face, bury my fingers in his messy hair, pull him closer to me so he’d know how much I wanted this and how unnecessary his fears were. But my right hand was trapped under the green sheet and my left arm was attached to an IV and a few other machines.
Like he could read my mind, he threw caution to the wind and, with a sigh, he held my head tightly between both hands as his lips parted mine, deepening the kiss and allowing me to feel his soft beard tickling my chin. I slightly angled my head and parted my lips when I felt his tongue so soft between them. I was dying to discover his taste. How I managed to not moan as soon as our tongues finally found each other, I have no idea. He only tasted me once, one soft caress of his tongue against mine, like he knew he shouldn’t but couldn’t contain himself. When he stopped, he rested his forehead against mine, our lips still touching, our breaths mingling.
Slowly, Sebastian separated his lips from mine. I could feel his ragged breathing against my face, his fingers flexing against my cheeks like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to let go of me yet or not. I felt him lift his head slightly, but my eyes were unwilling to open. I couldn’t face his intense eyes, not yet. Afraid he was already gone, I forced my eyes to cooperate and saw him still there, a few inches from my face, eyes still closed, frown deeper than ever, his thumb lightly stroking my left temple.
“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this,” he whispered, his breathing making the statement sound like the words were chocking him. It made my heart contract in a painful way, all the feelings Sebastian put inside of me pounding at its walls.
Can a kiss be filled with pain? Because that’s how our kiss felt—like all his pain was suddenly unguarded and free for me to see and experience. And it broke my heart. More composed and without opening his eyes, he slowly kissed my lips again, moving from one corner to the other, making my head spin and my heart melt. He didn’t allow me to lift my head to taste him again, so I was left with the lingering taste of him still on my lips.
You know how sometimes the first kiss is just . . . awkward? You can get to know each other and both grow into these amazing kisses, but the first one is just awkward—one is too slow or too fast, noses suddenly get too big for your faces, clashing teeth and so on? Sebastian’s kiss, our kiss, was the unicorn gliding on a rainbow: magic. It was passionate, in perfect sync with my . . . everything, and basically so amazing I was suddenly afraid I wasn’t going to be able to live without his kisses from now on.
He was still breathing against my lips when the occurrence synced into my heavily drugged brain and with this realization my heart finally started reacting as it should have done from the first second our lips touched.
“Are you all right, Ava? Your heart rate is suddenly through the roof. Do you feel anything strange?” Dr. Green asked.
Oh God, this couldn’t get any more embarrassing. Yes, I feel something strange. Strangely painful but oh so beautiful for this perfectly flawed man in front of me. Of course I would be the one strapped to a heart monitor while kissing the guy of my dreams, both conscious and unconscious. In case he had any doubts about my feelings for him, I think it was safe to say, now he knew.
“I’m fine, Dr. Green, I’m just . . easily impressionable, I guess,” I said, looking again at Sebastian, who was sitting upright in his chair, his face composed and smiling.
“It’s my fault; I was telling her a sad story,” he said, with no trace of strain in his voice and my iPod already gone from between us. I wasn’t even sure where I was, my brain still swimming in endorphins and yet he managed to right himself up and get rid of the musical evidence. Man, he’s good.
After my erratic pulse calmed down and the nurse checked my blood pressure again, adding a few more shades of red to my already burning face, I turned to Sebastian and asked the one question I wouldn’t have had the nerve to ask in any other situation but the one we were in.
“Did you change your mind?” I whispered.
He seemed wounded as he considered his answer.
“Not exactly. . . . I honestly couldn’t stop myself. But I know you won’t remember a thing tomorrow, so maybe it’s for the best.” he said, although the words seem to bother him. Well, they bothered me too.
“Does that seem fair to you? Maybe I wanted to remember our kiss, too.”
“It was amazing,” he conceded, beguiled, his head again by my side, propped on his folded arms.
“Yes, it was the perfect first . . . last kiss,” I said, mostly to myself. If he said it would be for the best if I didn’t remember anything, it was probably safe to assume there wouldn’t be any more kisses in the future for us. I knew he felt hurt as I said this last sentence. I saw his eyes close and his too-familiar frown deepen again, but I was suddenly too tired to make something out of his reaction, and as my eyes filled with unshed tears, I turned my head away from his face.
I exited the operating room with a missing appendix and a broken heart. The flashing fluorescent lights passing hurriedly above me as the nurse pushed me to my room were making me dizzy so I closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them again, it was six in the morning. I must have slept for at least seven hours.
On my bedside table were a glass of water and my iPod.