Arya signed her name in the book, and wrote the time next to it. Another day of work ahead of her. She hated this job, but she really needed the money. She stopped to tie her shoe, then walked into the office to pick up her list for the day. Only two patients were assigned to her hours. That meant she could pick one, and the other girl who shared her hours would take the other. She shrugged and randomly picked one. His name was Lewis, and he was a strange case, according to his chart. Now, Arya’s job was as a nurse at an insane asylum. Not the best job, but it paid, and so she took it. She came to Lewis’ room and checked his chart for his needs. That section was almost blank. He needed food, to be looked in on almost constantly, and wasn't allowed sharp objects, forks, knives, pens, pencils... The list goes on. Anyway, Arya was confused. She shrugged and pushed the door open. Her surprise hit the roof at the person she saw. He was no more than fifteen years old, and was sitting on his cot, staring vacantly at the ceiling. Arya put the chart down on the table and smiled at him cheerily, as she was supposed to.
“Hello, Lewis! How are you today?”
The boy looked up, surprised, as if he hadn't noticed her.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Arya. I’ll be looking after you today.”
“What happened to the blonde girl?”
“Your last nurse? How long was she with you?”
“I don’t know. She was here yesterday.”
“She must have been assigned another person today.”
“When will I leave?”
“I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
Lewis stopped talking and stared up at the ceiling again. Arya stood for a moment, then came over and sat in a chair.
“Are you hungry, Lewis?”
He didn't answer.
“Do you want food?”
Still no answer. Arya was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
“What do you want to do today?”
Lewis blinked and looked at her, as if just noticing her. Then he fell sideways and started jerking about. Arya quickly got down next to him. She knew that some patients had brain conditions that caused muscle spasms, but this was different. She tried to grab his arm, but he was moving too much.
“Lewis. Lewis! Can you hear me? Lewis. Lewis, stop for a second! Lewis, listen to me. Are you okay? Lewis, can you stop? Can you stop for a second? Lewis, what’s wrong?”
She managed to grab his hand, but it was soon torn from her grasp. After several minutes, he stopped jerking around, and lay on the floor, breathing heavily. Arya checked his pulse, his temperature, and carefully pulled him to his feet, leading him to the cot. He lay down, looking absolutely exhausted, and fell asleep in mere seconds. But it was a fitful sleep. He tossed and turned and moaned. Arya did what little she could without waking him up, but finally, all she could do was leave him alone. She checked out for twenty minutes, then came back to check on him. He was awake, and staring at the ceiling again.
“Hi Lewis. Are you feeling better now?”
Lewis glanced at her, as if for the first time, the way he did, and blinked.
“You just took a nap, is all. You were pretty tired, huh?”
He looked back up at the ceiling.
“Are you hungry? We have lunch ready.”
Arya left, and came back with a tray. Lewis’ required lunch was mostly soups and puddings, a sandwich allowed sometimes. Nothing that needed forks or knives. She also noted that he was not allowed to eat alone, so she stayed and lunched with him. He was silent through the whole meal, and most of the day, staring at the ceiling the majority of the time. When the day was finally over, Arya put Lewis to bed, helping him brush his teeth, get his pajamas on, and the other things that nurses were supposed to do. She pulled up the blanket, smiled, and called in the night shift nurse to watch him until he fell asleep. The next day, she found herself assigned him again. He was just as quiet as the day before, and Arya noticed for the first time that he had a tic. His head twitched oddly every now and again. She hadn't noticed it the day before, but now that she thought about it, she had seen it yesterday. She tried to keep up with his odd ways patiently, knowing that he was mentally unstable, and should be treated gently, according to his condition. She was becoming interested by his case, and wondered about his past. The next day, she was assigned him again. For the next week, she was assigned his room every day. He started talking more, not staring up at the ceiling as much, but so gradually changing, that Arya didn't notice. He still had seizures at least once a day, and afterwards fell into fitful sleep, but his tic even began showing signs of improving. Arya felt herself becoming attached to Lewis, and started volunteering for his room. Then one day, about two weeks later, she caught a cold, and had to call in sick. The next day, when she came back in, she signed in, then went straight to Lewis’ room. As soon as she came in, she knew something was wrong. Not just that, but she stopped stock still and stared for a whole five seconds. Then she ran over to the little cot and the boy sitting staring at the ceiling. She put her hand on his shoulder and he turned and looked at her in his special way, as if just seeing her.
“What happened?” she asked, looking into his eyes. He looked at her, then asked,
“Where were you yesterday?”
“I stayed home, because I had a cold. That’s beside the point. Why are you like this?”
He looked back at the ceiling without answering. Arya left him and went out to find her supervisor. He was in the office filing papers.
“What happened yesterday?” she demanded.
“What do you mean?”
“Lewis! What happened?”
“Room 5-29! The teen boy!”
“Ah, yes, Lewis Richards. He attacked his nurse yesterday. Madison, I think it was. Tried to push her out the window, so we had to restrain him.”
“He’s in a straightjacket! Michael, he’s fifteen years old! Don’t you think that’s too much? And why would he attack her? He’s been doing so well.”
“He wouldn't talk to anybody, so we don’t know why he did it, but Madison has resigned, so you’ll be taking her night shift. Debbie will oversee the day shift.”
Arya walked back to Lewis’ room. She sat down in a chair quietly. There was silence in the room for several seconds while Lewis looked at her apprehensively. She finally spoke.
“Lewis, why did you attack Madison?”
“You mean the lady yesterday?”
“Yes, the lady yesterday. I heard you tried to push her out the window. Why did you do it?”
“Why weren't you here?”
“I couldn’t come and get everyone sick, could I? That’s not the point. Why did you try to hurt Madison?”
“I’m sorry I tried to hurt her. Is she okay?”
“She left. She isn't working here anymore.”
“Because she left, I’ll be working the night shift now.”
Lewis shuddered, then looked at the ground remorsefully.
“I’m sorry, Arya.”
Arya looked up sharply.
“What did you say?”
“I said I’m sorry.”
“No, no. You said my name. Why?”
Arya thought for a moment.
“Lewis, why did you try to hurt Madison?”
“I’m sorry I hurt her.”
“I know you’re sorry, Lewis. I want to know why you did it.”
“She said you left,” he said quietly.
Lewis turned around.
“She said you left,” he said a bit louder. Arya heard his voice crack. She grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. He was crying. Arya’s heart melted.
“Lewis, you thought I wasn’t coming back, didn’t you?”
Lewis nodded silently, tears dripping onto his chest, he, unable to wipe them away.
“So you were upset and tried to push her away, right? And they thought you attacked her.”
Lewis nodded again, and Arya pulled him in close.
“It’s okay, Lewis. I’m not going to leave you. It’s okay. I’m here. You don’t have to cry.”
Lewis closed his eyes and leaned in, his tears flowing free. That night, instead of calling in the night shift, she stayed at Lewis’ bedside after getting him ready. He couldn’t fall asleep, though. Arya had taken off the straightjacket and thrown it out, but when it came right down to it, he was lonely. Arya held his hand and sang him a lullaby to help him to sleep.
Remember that I am right here,
And I will always be here.
My child, my child,
Remember that you I will love,
Forever, for always, for now.
Goodnight. It’s time for sleep.
So close your eyes,
Close your pretty blue eyes.
When you wake,
I’ll be right here.
You don’t have anything to fear.
Go to sleep, dream your dreams,
You’ll be alright when you wake.
And nothing can take you away.
Remember, I’ll be right here.
And you have nothing to fear.
Lewis’ eyes slowly drooped shut, and he slept. For once, without nightmares, without tossing, turning, moaning, or even frowning. His expression was peaceful, and as soon as his eyes closed, Arya smiled, smoothed his straw-colored hair, then lay down on the floor and fell asleep. The next morning, Arya went to talk to the supervisor, reassuring Lewis that she would come back. She marched into Michael’s office and said,
“Michael, you need to release Lewis.”
“Lewis, the boy from room 5-29.”
“You know I can’t do that. He’s mentally unstable.”
“He’s not mentally unstable, he’s autistic! I did some research, I asked around. His grandfather put him in because he didn’t know what to do with him. He didn’t understand Lewis’ condition, and checked him in as unstable. He has seizures, he has a tic, and he’s quiet because no one took the time to understand him. He’s not insane, Michael, and you need to let him out.”
“He attacked Madison.”
“Madison made him think that I’d quit working here. He’s become quite attached to me, and when she said that, he shoved her out of frustration. He didn’t know how to tell her how he felt, so he just pushed her. He didn’t attack her, it was one push, and she immediately called in security. He apologized profusely for hurting her, and asked if she would be okay. He understands that it’s wrong now.”
Michael was silent for a moment while he thought it over.
“Arya, you understand that his grandfather is his only living relative, right?”
“Where would he stay if I checked him out of here?”
“I’ll keep him at my house, if it’s okay.”
“I don’t know. There would be a lot of legal stuff to work out.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“Very well, then. By the power vested in me, and all that jazz, Lewis is officially released from our proud establishment, pronounced mentally sane. You can take him home for tonight, but get in touch with his grandfather about becoming his guardian.”
Arya shook his hand heartily, then went off to tell Lewis the good news.
“Lewis, I’m going to go home.”
“Will you be back tomorrow?”
“No, Lewis, I’m not going to come back.”
Lewis was shocked. His face fell, and his eyes grew watery.
“But... but... you promised!”
“I’m not breaking that promise. Lewis, you’re coming home with me!”
Lewis stopped stock-still, and his face lit up. He sat down and stared at her in amazement. She smiled widely and caught him to herself in a big hug. They danced around, hugging madly.
Two months later, Arya and Lewis, now wearing a nice white shirt with a tie, walked out of the courthouse, and let the sun beat down on their faces. Arya turned to Lewis, waving a paper in the air.
“Well, Lewis, you've been adopted as my ward. How does it feel?”
Lewis looked back at her, beaming, not even a trace of his old tic remaining.
They both laughed, and hugged, then went back home to their house together.