The Cabin - Jasinda Wilder
An Icarus Love
“All right, Mr. Bell. You’re all set here, I think.”
The nurse is that peculiar, unique brand of brusque efficiency and Zen-like kindness you only find in an oncology department. She fiddles with the IV line puncturing my left arm, the off-white, veiny medical tape securing it to my forearm. Her eyes are brown, the exact shade of a chocolate Labrador’s fur. She is warm, and caring, but lurking beneath that veneer of caregiver kindness is the detached iciness of someone whose job it is to watch people die.
“It will take a couple hours for this to drip through, and then we have to monitor you for—”
“I know,” I interrupt. I open the lid of my laptop. “I’ve been through this a few times.”
She smiles. “Of course, Mr. Bell. If you need anything, just press the call button.”
I hesitate a few seconds and then say, “There is something.” Then I glance at the curtain which is not quite pulled shut.
She catches my meaning and brings the two ends of the curtain together, the metal rings rasping with a rattling ring. “What can I do for you, Mr. Bell?”
I reach into my messenger bag, sitting on the floor next to this monstrosity of a chair—a freakish, Frankensteinian thing, not quite a lounger and not quite a clinical, medical device, but something in between. It’s made from a rubbery plastic or vinyl material that squeaks at every slight movement, and is too hard and too upright to be truly comfortable, but when you kick back in it and lift the footrest, it forces you into a near-horizontal recline in an unnatural defiance of gravity.
The chair is distracting, and I hate the chair almost as much as I hate the ward, the IV, and the whole damned morbid circus.
In my bag is a thin manila folder. On the label I’ve written three letters in neat block handwriting, in black Sharpie: NDA. I withdraw a single sheet of paper, on which are two and a half paragraphs, single-spaced. It’s in tight, clear legalese, drawn up by my attorney, printed on formal, intimidating letterhead. I hand it to the nurse whose nametag, clipped to her pale green sleeve, announces her as Tiffany Snell, R.N, O.C.N.
“This is an NDA, a nondisclosure agreement.”
She allows a frown, briefly. “Okay?”
I keep my voice low, not whispering, but pitched for her ears only. “I’m here alone, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
“Yes. Which is why your observation period has to be so long.”
I reach into my bag and pull out a pen—it’s a nice pen, hefty, metal, with a satisfying clicker, and on the side is my name: Adrian Bell, and my logo, a coat of arms with my monogram. It’s recognizable to most people, that logo; you see it on the title page of my books, on my website, and expensively animated as a production company logo during the title sequences when you watch movies made from my books. I hand her the pen, tap the NDA with it.
“This says you will not disclose to anyone that I was here at all, let alone why. I’m paying for this with cash, so there’s no insurance paperwork trail.”
She frowns again as she reads. “Why is it a secret, may I ask?”
“I have my reasons,” I say. “Whatever else must be done in the process of this infusion, I would like you to do, including observation and my eventual discharge. All right? This means that just one person has to sign this little item.” I tap the NDA again.
“And if I don’t sign it?” It’s not meant belligerently, just…a simple question.
I smile. “Tiffany—Miss Snell. Do I really need to spell this out? You know who I am. I don’t want this getting out. That’s all. I’m protecting my privacy.”
She breathes out gently—it’s not a sigh, more of a thoughtful breath. “What about your wife? Why isn’t she here?”
It takes all I have to not wince at the question. “I’m going to have to decline to answer that, Miss Snell. Can you please just sign? It just means you don’t tell anyone I was here. If coworkers ask, you simply say you can’t talk about it. Don’t make a big deal about it, just that—I can’t talk about it. That’s all.” I pause, smile again. “Would it help you to know I’m a yearly donor to this facility?”
She rolls a shoulder. “Not really. I’m just a nurse.” Another of those thoughtful out-breaths. “Mr. Bell, I’ll sign your NDA. But I have