He woke the following day to a glaring light slipping in through his window and his gut twisting in painful knots. A cold sweat broke out across his body as he dashed for the bathroom.
The tile wasn’t cold enough. Weight settled heavily in the hollow behind his lower spine. He felt like his guts had been ripped out of him. Exhausted and empty, he crawled back to his mattress, but he could not make it to lay back on the bed. Brushing his teeth sounded like a pipe dream. He laid his arms and head on the mattress while he curled against the cold tile. A wave of nausea washed over him, and another cold sweat ran up his back.
His morning proceeded in such a cycle. Soon, his joints flared up. Every spot where pins and plates were attached ached. Do I have food poisoning? He sure felt like it. Eventually, as empty as he could get, he crawled onto his mattress and fell back asleep. He knew there were plans for him for the day, but that wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t have a direct line to anyone to tell them he’d have to call in sick. He’d have to wait for Shelly to come get him. Mustering one last effort to extract himself from the bed, he unlocked the door and tumbled his way back to the floor next to his bed. At this point, if someone wanted to kill him, they’d have to do so fast before his own body did it. It might be a pleasant experience in comparison to this, he mused as he shut his eyes.
Floating, his room came in and out of focus. He thought he remembered seeing Shelly’s face. He couldn’t remember saying anything to her but felt he should. Then there was a man, Ajay. He didn’t remember Ajay’s face, but the arms that could have been the same size as him, he remembered those swirling into his vision at some point. There was a shock of platinum blond hair and concerned amber eyes. He didn’t know why they made him feel sad and guilty. Then there was a man in a white lab coat. The world turned black on him again for some time.
He came too late in the day. Blinking up at his ceiling, his senses picked up as much information as they would tell him. The mosquito netting was pulled around him in a halo. He settled into the cocoon of soft drapes and bedding. Crisp, coarse white sheets were pulled around him. He breathed in deep, the heavy smell of jasmine wafting in through the open windows. The harsher smell of antiseptics and bleach clung to the undertones of the flowers in an off-putting way.
He turned his head to analyse the rest of his room, only to encounter a significant throbbing in his head. His right arm felt odd. He glanced down at it, wary of the headache, to find an IV drip. His heart took off in his chest. Why am I on an IV drip?
He mustered his courage once more to look around the room, trying to let the headache slide out of him. A man in white napped in a low chair at the foot of his bed. Fane cleared his throat. The man came to with a start, glancing at Fane, concern washing his features.
“Good sir, you are awake!” The man found his feet.
“You speak English?” Fane croaked, relief washing over him.
“Enough,” countered the man as he pulled aside the mosquito netting. A wash of cold air brushed across Fane’s exposed skin.
He shivered at the intrusion into his nest. “Food poisoning?”
The doctor had a stethoscope out and was checking Fane’s vitals. The old practitioner smiled and shook his head with a tender glance. “You have the problem many of your kind has when you come to these places. Your stomach does not like the food or water for a long time. Prince Ishan has asked me to oversee your recovery. You must be ready to dine with His Majesties by tomorrow evening. We will start you on a liquid diet for now, and hopefully, you will be on your feet properly by then,” the man reassured him.
Fane gulped. He wished he could step out of his body and move into another one. Then it dawned on him. “Was Prince Orlov here?” An edge of concern crept into his voice. The doctor nodded, smiling as he helped Fane sit up.
“Would you like help to the facility?” The man offered, gesturing towards the bathroom.
“I really want to say no, but let’s forgo ego,” Fane muttered.
“That would be wise, sir,” the doctor cautioned. Between the two of them, they got Fane on wobbly feet and to the bathroom. The movable IV line came in handy. He was able to use it as a balance. Fane wanted his privacy, and it took some prodding to convince the doctor to give him that much freedom.
“Ms Shelly found you this morning at about ten. She was deeply concerned you had not met her for breakfast. She came to find you delirious. She fetched Mr Ajay, who tried an old folk recipe for stomach aches, but you couldn’t be coerced into ingesting it. At that point, they called for the Prince, who came to check on your condition personally,” the doctor informed him from the other side of the door.
“He didn’t,” Fane stated in denial, mortified as he washed his hands. He let himself out of the tiny bathroom, leaning heavily on the door handle. The bed was too far.
The doctor shook his head, his eyes round. “No, he did come. He was very concerned. He rang for me personally. He has never been so concerned as to personally ring for me before.” The doctor helped Fane back into the bed.
He was exhausted already from the short trip to the bathroom and back. His gut pinched and grumbled. Fingers shaking, his heart kept skipping beats.
“Were the sheets not to your liking?” the doctor asked, eyeing the heap of gold silk.
Fane ignored the mess of fabric, instead fixating on the ratan ring at the top of the mosquito net. “It was too weird for me. I don’t sleep in luxury regularly. I couldn’t sleep in it. It gave me strange dreams,” he admitted.
“It breathes nicely in this heat. At first, I protested these sheets when Ajay mentioned you might find them more comfortable.” The man motioned to the coarse white cotton with a disgusted frown. “They are for the staff, not esteemed guests.”
“I am staff. It is appropriate,” Fane tried a weak smile. All he wanted to do was sleep.
“No,” the doctor cautioned. “No, you are not ‘staff.’ You are here in the main building, in the same wing as the Prince. He gave you a nice room. He has great hope for your teachings and respects you. He is concerned for your health. You are not ‘staff’ to his highness,” the doctor prattled on.
He offered Fane a bowl of a cool, mint smelling liquid. Fane sipped it cautiously. It wasn’t entirely off-putting. He came away recognising ginger, lemon, salt, and mint but wasn’t confident what else might be in it. It did feel nice, though, on his stomach.
“I am sorry for the inconvenience and that I forced the Prince away from his duties. I’m sorry he had to see me like this.” Fane rubbed his left shoulder, his thumb brushing the line of a long healed surgical scar.
The doctor observed him casually. “You are embarrassed about your skin.”
Fane immediately lowered his hand. “I would rather not concern my coworkers with trivialities.” Fane laid back into his pillows and pulled the sheet over his shoulders, covering himself once more. The doctor regarded him solemnly.
They chatted quietly late into the evening. Fane learned more about the proceedings of the palace through the man. He learned about the doctor’s family, his schooling, and many details he would have considered intrusive and nosy. He took it with a grain of salt. The doctor’s goal was to get him on his feet and able to meet Orlov’s parents the next day.
Eventually, the man pulled out a small, worn, travelling chess board from his medical bag and asked Fane to play him. The redhead agreed, smiling. He enjoyed chess, not at some professional level, but as a way to pass the time. The doctor was a calculating man but a fair competitor who took his losses with his wins all in stride.
By the time the evening wore into darkness and the moon was spilling silver pools indiscriminately across his floor, Fane was more stable on his feet. His digestive tract was no longer trying to mutiny. Probably around one or two in the morning, the doctor finally determined he could be taken off the IV and left on his own for a couple hours of sleep. He appreciated the freedom as he curled under the mosquito netting once more. , though he had slept much of the day away, exhaustion weighed heavily on his shoulders. He hoped the next day would play out better than his first day there.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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