I sighed. This was going to take a while. “I trapped it in a door.” I said. Was that a bit cliché? Well, they were cliché for a reason…
“I see, can I take a look?” I held it out, she took my hand in her cold fingers. “May I take off the dressing?”
I nodded, and she carefully unwound the tape Beth had wrapped around to bind them together and stop me from moving them, much. I probably shouldn’t have used that hand for anything but I’d just been gritting my teeth and ignored it.
“And you didn’t get this seen to at a hospital?” she asked. I shook my head.
“My friend had a look at it,” I said. As the last scrap of fabric fell away it revealed the swollen red mess that were my broken fingers. It looked worse than it was. I’d been using it quite a lot, if I could use it how bad could it be? It was functional!
“Is she a doctor?” she poked at it, which hurt. I didn’t make a noise though. Couldn’t let her know.
“No, she’s my friend.” Those two are mutually exclusive. “I go to school with her.”
“So the only person who’s had a look at this is your schoolmate? You haven’t had it scanned?”
“No.” Fuck, fuck, fuck. This just kept getting worse.
“John, we always have a scanner free, can you book a slot?” No John. You are nice, don’t do what the mean lady tells you.
“Sure.” He went to the other side of the room with his phone and started a quiet conversation. Betrayal. But I still wanted him back.
“We can give that a quick look and get it dealt with properly.” She smiled as if that was a good thing. “Right, I notice you have a scar on your face, how did you get that?”
I sighed. Oh, you noticed that did you? I couldn’t think of a sensible story about it. There was little that could explain away that kind of wound. And what was the point lying about the core detail, people got attacked all the time. “Knife.”
“What?” she said, frowning.
“A knife, someone cut me.” I didn’t want to expand on that unless she asked.
“Oh… Well, err, when did that happen?”
I thought back, let’s see… “Two weeks ago, three maybe?”
“Really?” She sounded sceptical. “There really is no point in lying to me, it looks months old at least.”
Well, it’s definitely not months old.
She touched my face gently, tracing it’s path down my forehead – neatly skipping my eye and curving down my cheek. Not pretty. “And you didn’t get this looked at by a doctor? It looks like it was pretty deep.”
“Oh, that one I did!” I said, happy to please her for once.
“Which hospital?” She asked.
“No, it wasn’t a hospital. It was a friend of my… teacher. She used to be a nurse and she knew this doctor and he had a look.” A nurse and a doctor. Ha, that’ll show you.
“Ok, well. Again, it’s a past injury and it’s not really going to impact anything in the future, your sight was unaffected I assume? No limitation to your field of vision?”
“Nope.” Good news at last.
“Ok, well I need to listen to your chest for a moment, could you please pull up your t-shirt?” Ah. This was the bit I really wasn’t looking forward to. I looked around her and John was there, looking the other way carefully. I wished the doctor lady would do that, I didn’t want her seeing me.
Blushing, like that would somehow improve things, I pulled my t-shirt over my head and clutched it to my chest.
I really wish I wore a bra. Maybe I should get one in case this ever happens again? I didn’t need one, I was embarrassingly flat. Seriously, I’d seen boys with larger… you know, not even overweight ones.
“Alex, I need to see you, is that ok?” No. I lowered my hands though, grudgingly. I hoped this wasn’t some awful setup to humiliate me and loads of people were going to burst into the room and laugh. No one did.
She placed a headphone in her ear and a small black button on my chest, just above my left breast. It was cold. “Hmm, your heart rate is very low, but everything sounds good.”
“She was amazing on the stress test.” John perked up from the back of the room.
“These bruises look pretty nasty, when did you get those?” I looked down, I hadn’t even noticed them.
“I… I’m not sure.” I said, panicking. “Erm, I do this martial arts thing at the gym every week, I might have gotten them then?” I smiled, smug that I had a valid reason to look beaten up.
“Do you bruise easily?” She asked.
What was the best answer to that? My smile quickly faded. Yes, I do, there might be something wrong with me. No, I don’t I just get beaten up a lot. “I’m not really sure. Nothing to compare it to.”
She made more humming noises and turned my shoulders a little to place the button on my back. “Wait a minute, what’s this? John, come look at this.”
John approached, looking interested now rather than embarrassed. I felt like a specimen in a lab, a curiosity. That said, I was mostly worried she’d recognise a gunshot wound…
“Wow. That looks nasty,” he said.
“I know. How did you get this?” she asked. I struggled to find a response… “It looks awfully like the kind of thing we get in here… penetration injury, high velocity – look at that, the bruising pattern is still evident even though it’s in a pretty advanced stage, nearly completely scarred over.”
“Yeah, certainly looks like a gunshot. It must have passed through something first though, this is the entrance – there’s no exit and it’s a pretty big hole, it was already partially flattened.” I felt more fingers prodding at me.
“How did this happen?” She asked.
“Same time as this.” I said, touching my face. “I don’t really want to talk about it.” I really didn’t want to talk about it.
“Please tell me you went to the hospital with this.” She said, sounding stern.
“Same as before, doctor saw it. I think I got a scan, I don’t remember much.” I looked at my hands, fiddling with my swollen fingers. The pain… it was pleasantly distracting.
I heard them muttering about exit wounds, surgery and scans – I kind of blocked them out for a little while. Eventually I heard the doctor say “Shit, I didn’t even notice that!” followed by John saying “I’d wondered why you’d left it.”
“Alex? What’s that dressing on your arm?” She said. She touched my elbow and lifted it to have a closer look at my bicep.
All the poking, prodding and discussion on my recent injuries was getting too much. I slipped down off the bed and skipped out of their reach, holding my arm across my chest. I just needed a little breathing space. I could feel myself starting to get panicked and when that happened, someone touching me never helped.
“Whoa, calm down. We just need to have a look that’s all.” They were crowding me. I didn’t want them touching me.
They were going to say something to someone and I wouldn’t be allowed to go home. Coming here was a bad idea, I’d be sent to a foster home or something and it would be full of Haleys.
I was stuck with an overwhelming urge to run away from this place and their probing.
But I was here for a reason. I had to pass this to get into the Cadets, and I had to do that to get into the military. My one goal in life was to be a pilot. I’d dreamed of it since I was old enough to understand that there were people whose job it was to fly ten thousand tonnes of steel across the galaxy…
Were my chances really fucked here? I had to continue, even if there was the slightest chance I could pass. I took a deep breath and moved back towards them. “Sorry, I…” Have no idea what to say.
“It’s fine dear, just come sit back down. John, go get a new dressing.” He hurried out of the room. “We’ll just take a look that’s all… We won’t fail you over few cuts, not if they aren’t going to impact you in the future. There’s nothing wrong with it, we just need to be thorough.”
I hoped she wasn’t lying, but it did make sense. Why would they not let you though if you had a few scars? I held out my arm so she could cut away the bandage Beth had clumsily tied.
“Who did this?” She asked. “When was it last changed?”
“Last night, by my… schoolmate.” I used her terminology to differentiate from Mz Gregory.
“I see.” She cut it away and peered at the jagged gash in my skin. John returned with a few bottles of liquid, new bandages and a some other paraphernalia I didn’t recognise.
“I could only guess what the cause is. I mean it could be anything… Do you want to tell me?” She looked to my face. I did not. Not much point lying.
“No. I’d rather not.” I said.
“Hmm.” She pulled at it a little. “Some swelling, signs of infection but it’s not bad. Little muscle damage. You should have it seen to by a professional though.”
Unprompted John handed her a vial of liquid, which she dabbed on a cloth and then the wound. It stung enough to make me hiss. He handed her a tube, which she squeezed onto jagged edges and then pinched it shut as best could be managed. I was half familiar with the procedure from when Mz did it.
Finally, she applied some cream and expertly tied a fresh bandage. “You can put your top back on now.”
I grabbed it and shoved it over my head before she changed her mind, feeling a lot more comfortable now I was covered.
“I hope you haven’t got any similar injuries to your legs or… any other problems you haven’t mentioned?” I had no idea what she meant by ‘other problems’ but I was pretty sure that meant no, so I shook my head.
Grazes and bruises probably didn’t count.
“Right, I’ve got quite a bit to write here.” She returned to the desk. “John would you take her for that scan?”