// BELLEVUE HOSPITAL //
In a hospital bed on the East Side of New York City lays a woman heavily wrapped in bandages. The night has taken hold over the city and a bright moon casts long shadows that leak in through the windows.
The woman’s name is AVAELLE EASTON.
A week prior she arrived at the hospital after suffering severe burns during a fire at her boarding house. Her face, hands, and legs were burned while she tried to escape the blaze that ravaged her residence. At first ecstatic that she’d survived such a near-death experience, the cold nights at the hospital have become slow and quiet. Despair has begun to fill her, every waking moment full of the fear that she’ll never be able to regain her normal life.
She lays on the bed, largely immobile due to her dressings and injuries. The wind rattles the window. The small room is gripped in the quiet of night.
AVAELLE stares at the white painted window, focused on the untidy covering that’s left some paint on the glass pane. Her mind is otherwise too active to sleep, intensely preoccupied with the uncertainty of her future outside of the hospital.
She’s received no visitors. Her father’s been dead several years and she hasn’t heard from MAURICE for near on a year; she’d sold EASTON HOUSE and let MAURICE go after his own affairs. They’d kept up a while but he’d eventually written that he’d found work. She didn’t want him to know what had happened and where she was. Doubt lingered in her mind that she’d be able to continue her livelihood if her face and hands were permanently scarred.
So much for getting married.
Down the hallway, a woman suddenly wails loudly. AVAELLE listens intently, filling her mind with the weeping, knowing she has no such leisure. Her face was in far too much pain to scrunch it up with tears – she’d already tried. Her mind repeats the same platitudes over and over again, trying to burn them into her memory and accept the truth of her situation.
“There is no going back.”
“There is no going back.”
“There is no going…”
Her eyes are shut when the door opens. She is still facing the window and can see nothing of the visitor. Her eyes flutter open to see the window blue with night sky.
Her voice is raspy and fatigued from disuse.
The footsteps halt but no reply comes.
She had become accustomed to the bustling about of hospital staff during the daytime hours, but it was unusual that she’d be visited at this late hour.
Her only thought was that it was someone to tend the embers in the fireplace but then why hadn’t the individual spoken to her, if only to give her fears quiet?
Her heart sinks in fear. Was someone here to do her harm?
She stutters in anxiety.
She is left in stunned stillness when a voice she recognizes breaks the mystery.
YOU LOOK AWFUL.
Could it be? How many years has it been?!
She considers attempting to turn her head to see him but the tightness that’s drawn her skin together makes it impossible.
YOU NEVER WROTE.
She’d always meant to…
I ASSUME YOU RECEIVED WHAT I SENT?
His voice is curt and accusatory.
THAT SPRING YOU RECEIVED CORRESPONDENCE FROM ME.
BUT I NEVER RECEIVED ANYTHING –
NOT A WORD –
It was true.
His reproachful tone hurts her. Her bandages make her feel a prisoner.
WHY DIDN’T YOU COME TO ME?
HAVE YOU HAD OTHER SUITORS?
DID YOU NOT WANT ME?
WAS I NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
And though she tries to resist it, her eyes begin to well up with tears. Her face twists in pain and she tries to stifle the expression best she can.
She is stuck, motionless, helpless.
She had always resisted the siren’s call of adulthood. For so many years, she’d been Father’s little girl; she’d never wanted to change. Even when he’d gone, she hadn’t wanted to give up her autonomy. She hadn’t been without a few men that’d shown interest in more than just her paintings, and yet…
BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID!
WHAT DID YOU FEAR?
YOU APPARENTLY DID NOT FEAR LEAVING YOUR LITTLE FARM, FOR HERE YOU ARE.
AND YOUR FATHER DIED ALONE.
DOCTOR, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND –
She breaks off her own speech, leaving a chasm between the two.
She feels very small, very childish. But for even a moment, she’s forgotten her dire condition; as if she’s bedridden out of shame rather than necessity.
MY NAME IS LENARD.
He walks around the edge of the bed and approaches the side where her head is laid. He kneels down and they finally catch each other’s eyes in the moonglow.
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU?
Her eyes are still brimming with salt water. It stings as it wets the bandages. Even her cheeks were damaged from the flames.
YOU CAN’T GO TO THE BALL LOOKING LIKE THAT.
He stands up and begins to run his hands over her silhouette, distanced, as if warming his hands over hot coals.
A tingling sensation echoes over her skin. It is pleasant at first, as the pain dissipates. But the feeling becomes more intense and she’s not sure what to feel except fear.
She grimaces and struggles against the instinct to scream.
LENARD presses his hand against her mouth, silencing her.
QUIET! DO YOU WANT THEM TO HEAR US?
I’M CHANGING YOU BACK TO THE WAY THAT YOU WERE.
His hand is buried in her mouth, pushing her teeth apart. The white-hot burning in her skin hurts, but she tries to obey, now biting down on his hand to focus her endurance.
VERY CUTE, LITTLE ONE.
YOUR BURNS ARE BAD.
YOU WOULD NOT HAVE RECOVERED WITHOUT MY AID.
The feeling is now neither quite hot nor cold. It is the singeing needle of the bright sun in the center of the pupil, stepping out into the sun from a darkened room.
He continues to wave his hand over her body.
I WAS SENT HERE TO HELP YOU.
YOU WERE MADE TO HELP ME.
BUT YOU CANNOT HELP ME IN THIS STATE.
She writhes, trying to keep from screaming. But upon her skin she feels every sensation; rashed skin rolling upon hot sand. The sharp edges scrape into every pore.
He shushes her, an attempt at being soothing.
THIS PART IS THE WORST.
BUT IT’LL SOON BE OVER.
Soon, the sand seems to be washed away by the lapping of cold sea water.
AVAELLE is exhausted. She releases her jaw from its vice-like grip upon his palm.
He brings his hand back and examines it. She stares off into the distance, mind blank, and closes her eyes.
DON’T YOU WORRY.
YOU DIDN’T EVEN BREAK SKIN.
He chuckles lightly.
IT EVEN… FELT GOOD.
AVAELLE lays on the bed, chest heaving up and down. The tightness of her skin is gone and she breathes without restriction. She is absolutely incredulous. She’d been calling him ‘Doctor’ but the word she’d wanted was…
REST, A MOMENT.
BUT NOT MUCH MORE, WE’VE GOT TO KEEP MOVING.
She’s still trying to regain her breath while he speaks.
He raises a finger to silence her questioning.
SHH. ALL WILL BE KNOWN IN TIME.
WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO TALK ABOUT IT.
LENARD retrieves a white dressing gown from a hook on the wall.
I’M SORRY I HAVEN’T ANYTHING PRETTIER.
ARE YOU ABLE TO MOVE?
AVAELLE sits up in bed. The gauze is loose around her, skin having shrunk from its swollen state. But it’s still not enough for her to get up from the bed.
She struggles and attempts to sit.
IT’LL HAVE TO DO.
He bends over and supports her with one hand, then propping the pillows up behind her back. He pulls the gown over her and it falls about her lap.
AVAELLE flops uselessly against the pillows when LENARD withdraws his supporting arm. He walks over to the window and pushes it up with one hand. A cold breeze seeps into the room.
ARE YOU READY?
AVAELLE nods her head.
SPEAK, IF YOU ARE ABLE.
AVALLE swallows the saliva pooled in her mouth.
[whispering] I’m ready.
LENARD turns to face her and puts his hands out, pushing underneath her body on either side. He lifts her from the bed with relatively little effort.
She, however, is unable to wrap her arms around him, bandages still too tight against her skin.
Nothing, however, stings.
He walks to the window and somehow climbs and leaps out of it, with her in hand. In a second, they are flying down through the cold night air, hurtling to the ground. She has no time with which to react but LENARD keeps a tight hold on her.
They land, suddenly, on the grass with a firm THUMP.
He looks at her. Her eyes are glassy and wide in the moonlight.
She nods and hums agreement.
He begins to walk.
WORDS, GIRL. WORDS.
I KNOW YOU HAVE THEM.
WE’LL WORK ON YOU.
I’M JUST GLAD TO HAVE YOU BACK.
LENARD carries the motionless woman across the small field toward the street, where two horses shuffle restlessly at the front of a carriage.
An attendant opens the door for them. LENARD lifts AVAELLE into the carriage and sets her on the seat. In the cool night air, she begins to feel dizzy and tired.
The last thing she gleans before her eyes fall shut is THE DOCTOR –
No, THE MAGICIAN –
No – LENARD – laying her down on the bench, placing a pillow beneath her head, and wrapping her in a thick blanket. Exhaustion overwhelms her and she falls asleep in the jostling carriage.