-prologue-

room 475

:becka meets jonah:

The water in the sink dripped every twenty-seven seconds.

There were 135 ceiling tiles, and 67 of them had ugly yellow water stains.

One of them slightly resembled the profile of Elvis Presley.

Obviously, I had spent way too much time on the 4th floor of the hospital—specifically, section 7a, room 463.

I sighed, pursed my lips, and looked around the blindingly bare room lazily for something new to count. My eyes landed on the annoying fluorescent lights.

Three flickers in thirty seconds, accompanied by a high-pitched buzz. In the following thirty seconds, it only flickered once.

I wasn't crazy, right? I couldn't be crazy. I bet that people who are stuck on this floor go crazy from the confinement. I was only here as a standard procedure. A filler, because this floor had rooms to spare. Right?

I needed to take a walk.

Not much was going on today; not that much happened any other day, really. A few of the older residents looked forward to the Bingo nights and craft days. Occasionally, there was the new addition to the floor, and that tended to be exciting. But that only lasted for a day or two, and I, on the other hand, had absolutely nothing else to occupy my time.

An orderly paused when she saw me exit my room, her hand waving to get my attention. I turned towards her vaguely, my interest elsewhere.

"Good morning, Rebecka. Have you had your medication today?" she asked politely, smiling in a gentle manner. She looked new. Perfect; something to amuse me for a moment.

"Oh, my medication? No, I flushed it down the toilet. I decided that I want some room for creativity. I felt too confined by it's legal poison," I would say, shrugging. I would watch her eyes grow wide. Her mouth would open and close dumbly for a few moments, and I then I would grin.

"You know, I was actually just on my way to paint on the walls with my own blood. Didn't Picasso or someone do that? Maybe Van Gogh? Either way, I'm inspired. All these voices in my head; they have the greatest ideas. But don't worry, I know the drill. Get the tranquilizers and straight-jackets. Do I get to stay in the fun padded room again?"

"Hello? Miss Rubenson?" the orderly said, looking at me curiously. I blinked, coming out of my internal conversation. Instead of having any fun, I sighed.

"Oh, my medication. Yeah, I took that this morning with some mandarin oranges," I replied instead. I was still grinning, though, and she took a wary step away from me.

"Alright, good," she mumbled before turning and going the opposite way down the hall.

My breathing evened out considerably as I was able to pace along the odd numbered hospital rooms, counting the number of hand sanitizer dispensers lining the walls. My mind drifted as it often did; pondering the simple complexities of life.

And how short it could be.

I couldn't be crazy.

I got to dispenser number thirteen when I noticed that there was movement in the room between Old Tom and Chatty K. I waved at Old Tom as he poked his head out, and I got a salute in response. I paused, curious. There had never been movement in room 475 before.

After I'd walked by, I allowed my hand to reach out absentmindedly towards dispenser number fourteen. I pumped the machine five times, and ran my hands over each other another satisfactory five. After breathing through my nose, I turned on my bare feet and walked past room 475 again, trying not to look blatantly obvious as I curiously peeked into the room.

I slowed down for the tiniest fraction of a second, trying to register what was in between the oh-so-unique white hospital curtains. A shock of black among the standard order sheets and pillows... black, disheveled hair.

Hair?

I bit my lip and leaned against the wall between room 473 and 475, before deciding to get a better look. I turned and walked by again, pretending to be extremely interested in the label on his door that read 'Psych Ward'. As if I hadn't seen it the hundreds of times I'd walked these halls within the past 2 years; but, hey. This was the first time there had ever been someone to occupy room 475.

It wasn't until I'd walked by three more times that the figure in the bed called out to me.

"Are you gonna come in or what?" said a smooth tenor. He hardly tried to hide the smirk in his tone, and I flushed crimson as I looked on either side of me before sticking my finger in my chest.

"Me?" I asked, faking shock. I cocked my head and tapped my foot five times before slowly stepping into the doorway. He raised an eyebrow, and suddenly I felt self conscious in my hospital gown.

The gaping hole in the back had never bothered me before.

And why didn't I think to wear a freaking bra?

The answer was quite simple: I had never had a Greek God staying 6 rooms down the hall from me at the Psych Ward of Peemes Medical Center.

Duh.

"No, the other girl who's walked past my room 6 times. I never realized how much traffic that hallway must get. I mean, I know that there are quite a few messed up people in the world, but, hey... we're not all crazy, right?" He said, the corner of his mouth turning up into a half-smile at his own bitterness. My mouth opened and closed a few times before I nodded.

My eyes shyly canvased the way his own blue paper nightgown pulled tightly across his biceps. His dark hair was constantly in his eyes, moving as he blinked with his long, dark lashes. Compared to his light face and dark accents, his stunning green eyes really stood out. I cocked my head again before I realized that those stunning green eyes were boring into my brown ones.

"Do you do that a lot?" He asked, nodding slightly at my furiously tapping foot.

5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30...

"Well, yes. It's sort of like... a nervous, um, tick?" I said, hitting myself internally at the way my words had come out: squeaky and more like a question than an answer.

He simply licked his lips, looking me up and down. I grew defiant and uncomfortable, so I folded my arms across my chest and starting counting the ceiling tiles.

"So, are you mentally unstable?" The guy finally asked, breaking me out of my trance at only tile number forty-seven. I quickly counted to fifty, making it a multiple of five, before his words registered.

His tone didn't indicate it in a cruel way; in fact, he had made the statement seem as common as 'what's for lunch?' or 'how's the weather?'.

I burst out laughing.

"Flattering," I finally said, smiling. He smiled back, revealing straight white teeth.

He was gorgeous.

"Hey, I try. But there's got to be a reason you're stuck on this floor," he explained, waving half-heartedly towards the sign that I'd been not-so-intently studying earlier.

"Minor OCD," I said, brushing it off. He snickered, raised both eyebrows, and said, "Minor?"

I huffed, tapped my foot five times, and rolled my eyes.

"Fine, Mr. Wise-guy. Maybe I'm more screwed up than I've let on. So? What about you? What'd you do to welcome yourself among the ranks of the eternally challenged and forever misunderstood?" He nodded his head in surprise and appreciation at the wording.

"Ha, interesting self-appointed name. May I ask how long it took you to come up with that?" I opened my mouth immediately, about to lie, but something about his genuine unwavering gaze stopped me.

"12 days, actually," I admitted, and his expression turned to one of amusement. He was looking at me intently, and I lost whatever courage I'd had.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

5, 10, 15, 20...

"I don't think you're really only in here because of your cute OCD," he said, and I blinked. Once. Twice. Three times.

Cute?

"Well, maybe I am and maybe I'm not. What's it to you?" I spat, and he raised up his hands in defense. He smiled in an apologetic way.

"Seems I struck a nerve, darling? Anyways, if it doesn't matter to me why you're in here, why should what I'm in here for concern you?" He asked, and I pursed my lips.

It matters because it looks like you don't need to be here. It matters because you've never been here before. It matters because you're incredibly gorgeous and the fact that we're here, together, is the only thing that we have in common. It matters because you're treating me like a human being, and I want it to stay that way.

He was treating me normal. The first male teenager I'd come in contact with for two years, and he was treating me normal.

It felt so nice.

Hell no was he ever finding out why I was really stuck in the psych ward, section 7a, room 463.

"Good point," I murmured, and he seemed as if he had forgotten what we were talking about.

"Why were you spying on me, anyways?" He asked, smiling coyly. I rolled my eyes at him.

"I wasn't spying, I was merely pacing the hallways. Plus..." I stopped, and bit the inside of my cheek.

Stay normal, stay normal, stay normal...

"Plus...?" He urged.

NORMAL! NORMAL! NORMAL!

"Plus... I like your room number," I admitted, and felt like an idiot. The little warning bells that had been furiously chirping at me died. I went over and sat down in the uncomfortable chair they put next to the beds.

Yup, I was definitely crazy.

To my surprise, he burst out laughing. It wasn't condescending, simply surprised and humorous.

"You are so absolutely predictable, already," he murmured, shaking his head. "And I don't even know your name."

"I like fives, okay? It's Rebecka. 3 syllables. But I go by Becka." I smiled, and he took my hand as I offered it.

"Pleased to meet you, Becka."

"And you are...?"

"Jonah. As in, I was swallowed by a giant fish and then regurgitated back onto some crusty beach. Jonah." I smiled at the Bible reference, and he shrugged, as if admitting the fact that his joke was lame and making it very obvious that he didn't care.

"So, Joe—I..."

"Jonah." He said firmly, cutting me off. I closed my mouth, and he nodded intently.

"It's Jonah. Two syllables," he added, as if I was confused or something.

As if counting the syllables was not the first thing I had automatically done, without event thinking.

I smiled.

. . .