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Strings Attached

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Dr Phillips steepled his hands on his desk. "So, Maya, it's been three months. I don't want to pressure you, but I have to know if you are going to have the surgery or not."

I wiped a bead of sweat from my brow and fiddled nervously with my bag's strap. "Can you explain it one more time?"

Dr Phillips sighed almost irritably as he swung his chair around. He ran his fingers over the spines on the jam-packed bookshelf. When he found the right title, he slipped the book out gently, as if it was embellished with precious jewels. The doctor laid the large book carefully on his cluttered desk.

'Heart-wire Surgery' was written across the top of the cover in a boring Sans font. Underneath the text, a collage of pulsing hearts, surgical tools and smiling surgeons and patients littered the aquamarine surface.

Dr Phillips opened the book, and the plasticy-sweet smell of brochure paper filled the air. "Okay, Maya. As you know, you have an enlarged heart." I nodded meekly as the doctor pointed to a diagram of a larger-than-average heart. He turned the page. "Heart-wire surgery is when we remove the heart and replace it with a pump. That's what the pump looks like." He tapped a picture of a small blue and white contraption that looked like a portable CD player. "Then, we wrap the heart in a special type of string that's infused with pieces of steel. We keep the heart in a container filled with nutrient-rich liquid for six weeks, in which time you'll be in a medically-induced coma." The doctor showed me a couple more pictures, before snapping the book shut. We never got farther than page nineteen.

"How much does it cost?" Money was tight.

"Zilch, because it's experimental." My eyes widened, and the doctor amended, "But so far, it's worked one-hundred per cent of the time." I had to wonder how many times this had been performed.

Dr Phillips leaned back and watched me.

Feeling that I had to say something, I blurted, "What's after page nineteen?"

"Medical files. It's not important. Miss Clarkson, please can you give me your answer."

"I don't know. Can I?" I desperately tried to stall by using the world-wide teacher's catch-phrase.

The doctor stared at me in disbelief.

"Sorry," I murmured, ashamed. I looked back down at the collage of hearts. "Is it really my only chance?"

"So far, it is. Again, I offer my condolences about your..." He trailed off. No one knew what to call my heart. A disease? A deformation?

"Okay. I'll do it," I sighed. The coma terrified me. My best friend had died in a coma after over-dosing on heroin in eleventh grade. But I decided that I had to risk dying in a coma, or know for certain that I'd die out of one.

Dr Phillips nodded. "Come in on Thursday for the procedure."

*

The air in the pristine hospital waiting room reeked of disinfectant. I tapped my foot in a nervous rhythm on the tiled floor.

The clock said I had ten minutes.

I reached over to grab a 'Garden and Home' magazine. I flipped through the pages to see if anything caught my eye, but the words just blurred. I tossed the magazine back onto its table.

I absently searched for my phone, then scowled. We couldn't bring anything to the hospital besides ourselves.

I glanced back at the clock. Six minutes.

I sighed and walked over to the little tea-station. I poured myself a cup of strong coffee and took a sip, hoping it wasn't my last.

My head had started to pound from the cold glare of the fluorescent lights, so I walked over to the secretary's desk and rung the bell.

"Yes?" A bleach blond wandered into the little box.

"Um, could I please have an Asprin?" I knew that we weren't supposed to have anything beforehand, but my migraine was terrible.

The blond lowered herself into her office chair and turned on the computer's screen. "Name?" I realized that she was chewing gum. Loudly.

"Maya Clarkson."

The blond looked up at me and blinked her makeup-laden eyes once. "Maya with an 'ay-ah' or an 'ee-ah?"

The blond tapped her inch-long cherry-red nails impatiently while I figured out what she meant. "Oh! An 'ay-ah.'"

She slowly typed in my name. "No."

I frowned slightly. "No?"

The blond looked at me as if I were a moron. "No you may not have an Asprin."

"Oh." I turned around to head back to my seat.

"Maya with an 'ay-ah', it's time for your surgery," the blond called after me. "Theater twelve."

"Thanks." I walked down the hall she pointed to, scowling. I had spent what could be my last moments alive and conscious bickering with a chick as fake as a Barbie about Asprin.

A young male nurse stopped me as I approached the theater. "Miss Maya Clarkson?"

"That's me."

"This is your stretcher-bed-thingy. I'm not exactly sure what it's called. Here's a robe, and you can change in the bathrooms at the end of the hall."

"'Stretcher-bed-thingy?' Do you mean a gurdy?" I asked. I was incredibly worried about the outcome of this surgery if the nurse didn't know what my 'stretcher-bed-thingy' was really called.

"Yes, yes. A gurdy. Sorry, my mind just went blank there."

I took the papery blue gown cautiously and did what the nurse said.

Once I exited the bathroom, I handed the nurse my clothes, which he then deposited in a little, blue ziploc bag.

I sat down on the bed, and the nurse inserted a drip into my forearm. I immediately felt woozy, and soon I fell into a deep sleep.

*

"Maya. Maya. Maya!" Someone was shouting in my ear.

I groaned. Everything hurt, especially my chest.

I opened my eyes. I was back in my own bed.

My sister stood beside my bed, an overly-bright smile plastered on her face. Despite her fake cheeriness, I could see that she'd been crying.

I tried to sit up, and gasped slightly at the gut-wrenching pain on my left side. "What?"
Sara sniffed, and said thickly, "I-It was... a s-scam."

I grabbed my sister's arm. "Sara," I said sharply. "Stop snivelling and tell me what's going on."

My sister sat down on my bed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She took in a deep breath. "Turns out that it's not an official surgery, but a scam. Dr Phillips has been selling hearts, among other organs, online. He was arrested last week. Your heart went for $20,000 to some guy in New Zealand."

"But... How am I still alive?" It didn't make sense.

"You have the pump in."

"Okay. That's fine, though. I'll be fine."

Sara shook her head sadly. "The pump expires tomorrow."

I stared at my sister for a moment. I was going to die. Tomorrow. "What time?" I asked hoarsely.

"At around twenty past five tomorrow afternoon." A thought dawned on Sara. "I shouldn't've woken you up. It's just... You were so afraid of... it happening while you were still in your coma. I'm sorry Maya. I-I'm so so so sorry. Here! Have a sleeping pill. I carry them around, just in case. They're in here somewhere..." She fumbled desperately through her red bag.

I placed a hand on her knee and smiled weakly. "Don't."

Sara nodded.

"Sahr, can I have some time alone?"
"Okay." She stood up, then bent down to kiss my forehead. She left the room silently, except for the occasional sniffle.

I looked at the ceiling. Dr Phillips had lied to me, and I was going to die because of it.

Maybe the fake doctor had thought there weren't, for him, at least, but he was wrong.

There were strings attached.



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

CammyS said...
Dec. 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm:
This was completly outstanding. I loved it so, so much! The twist ending was phenomenal, and the whole story was amazing. Keep writing. Keep writing!
 
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Dakota88zxc said...
Sept. 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm:
I love the twist...And how Maya just acts so peaceful at the end. Kind of like me.
 
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