Baltimore, Monday, December 23, 11:00 a.m.
They wouldn’t stop talking. The people came into her room and talked and talked, but Lana didn’t talk back. Because she knew what would happen if she did.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been here. Her head hurt. It was hard to think.
Especially because the people were still talking. This time it was the doctor and the lady who wasn’t a nurse. The lady was nice. Her name was Heidi. She’d brushed Lana’s hair and touched her face and smiled. Like Lana’s mama used to do. Before she got sick.
The man was a doctor. Lana knew because he had a white coat and that thing he used to listen to her heart. The stethoscope. He’d held it in front of her and said, “Steth-o-scope,” slowly, like she was too dumb to understand. But I’m not dumb. I’m not. I know things.
Like her name. Her birthday. She’d be seven years old soon. She knew that she was in the United States. And that she was in a hospital. And her hands had gotten frozen. Lana stared at her hands, all wrapped in bandages. They still hurt, but not so much as they did before.
Lana knew that she had a sister. And that she didn’t have a mama. Not anymore. Or a papa. Papa. Mama. Please come back. Please don’t leave me here.
But she knew that they were never coming back. Because they were dead.
She wanted to cry, but she didn’t dare. Nurse was here. Nurse was always here. She didn’t dress like a nurse, not like she did before. When she took care of Mama. herhHere she dressed like a normal lady. Not mean. Not bad. She’d fooled everyone. But not me. I know who she is.
Nurse didn’t come into Lana’s room. Except that one time. But that once was enough.
Now Nurse stayed out in the hall, always walking by so slowly, her finger over her lips. Sshh. Don’t tell, Lana. Don’t tell. Or you know what I’ll do.
Lana knew what Nurse would do. She knew what Nurse had already done.
The doctor and the lady kept talking and Lana tried to ignore them. Please leave me alone. They thought she couldn’t talk. But it wasn’t true. Lana could so talk. She wanted to beg them to help her. But she could not. Because of Nurse.
Oh no, no. Lana’s heart started to race. She’s here again. Nurse was outside the big window in Lana’s room, carrying the baby. Lana’s sister. Her sister didn’t know that Nurse was bad. She didn’t know about Mama and Papa. She was just a little baby.
Nurse stopped in the doorway and brushed her fingertips over the baby’s pretty blond hair. Then pressed a finger to her lips and gave Lana “the look.” Mama had thought Nurse was a good person, but Mama had been wrong.
And now Lana didn’t know what to do. All she knew was that she couldn’t say a single word or her little sister would die. Nurse had said so and Lana believed her.
“Sweetie?” Heidi knelt next to the bed, holding clothes.
Pants and a top. Shoes and a new coat. My size. They’re for me.
Where is my coat? This coat was an ugly brown color. Lana’s coat was snowy white and had real fox fur. She and Mama had picked it out before they’d left home. I want to go home now. Please, Mama. I want to go home.
Heidi held up the top with a cheery smile. Lana nodded and Heidi pulled the hospital top off and tugged the new top on – and Lana understood. They were leaving the hospital.
Lana’s heart began to race. Maybe Nurse won’t know I’m gone or where they take me. I can tell. I can get help.
Then she looked up and her heart sank. Nurse was still there, standing at the window. Nurse’s eyes turned to slits and she shook her head slowly as she touched the baby’s hair.
Lana nodded. She understood. She wouldn’t say a word.