Inside Out Page 61

I jumped when Doctor Lamont placed her cold hand on my back, guiding me into the room.

“The surgery is over there.” She pointed to a wide door on the right. “And my office is back here.”

We entered a small alcove in the back left corner, which opened into her workplace. A far friendlier place than the last. My gaze was drawn to the oversized quilt hanging on the wall. Small squares of color had been sewn together in a pattern. I squinted and stepped back, trying to discern it.

She noticed my gaze. “It’s a stethoscope.”

The shape of the long tubes and round bottom became clear.

“You’re wondering why a stethoscope.” Her thin eyebrows arched as if inviting me to speculate.

“No. It’s one of the tools of your trade.”

“But why not a thermometer or a scope or a scalpel?”

“It’s your quilt. I think you would know the answer better than me.”

She laughed. “Yes, but I want your opinion.”

I hid my surprise by focusing on the quilt. All the doctor’s instruments were important. Each played a role. A stethoscope listened to a patient’s heart and lungs. I imagined working as a doctor as patient after patient came through the doors. After a while, I thought doctors would view their work as just another job. How would a doctor make a connection with so many different people?

“You picked the stethoscope because hearing a person’s heart beating is a…” I moved my hands as if I could pull the right word from my throat. “Treasured part of being a doctor. No one else can hear it unless they’re really close to the person. By letting you listen to their heart, they’re trusting you.”

She nodded her head as if impressed by my answer.

“Am I right?” I asked.

“There is no right or wrong answer. You could have said it was my favorite instrument, which is also true. One thing I like to do with my stethoscope is listen to Inside’s heartbeat.” Doctor Lamont pulled it from her neck and handed it to me. “Go ahead. Press it to the wall.”

Curious, I placed the ends in my ears. My left lobe throbbed when the instrument brushed the earring. Touching the wall with the round sensor, I braced for an amplified Hum. Instead, a distinct rumble sounded, alternating from louder to softer. A series of knocks also repeated in a steady beat. I returned the device.

“Interesting, isn’t it? Our ears can’t discern all those mechanical noises. To us it’s just the Hum. Unnoticed until we make an effort to hear it. I enjoy listening to the different components of Inside’s heartbeat. It comforts me.” She swept her hand out in a dismissing wave. “Silly, I know.”

“It’s not silly.”

“Well, I’m sure you didn’t come here to discuss my quilt. I’m guessing my offer sounded more inviting with time.”

“Yes.”

“Any trouble on the way over?” she asked.

“None at all.”

A tired sadness filled her olive-colored eyes. “I’m not surprised. People have been afraid to get to know others who are outside their families. The halls are filled with strangers.”

Sounded liked the scrubs. “Why?”

“When noticed by the Travas, the friendship is immediately a cause for suspicion. The Travas view any group of people as potential rebels. Also, people are afraid of being reported. If you don’t have a friendship with another, then when they get mad at you, they can’t call you a scrub-lover and have you arrested.”

I stared at her. If I exchanged Trava for Pop Cop, she could be talking about the lower levels.

She shook her head. “You don’t want to hear about this. Wait here, let me check to make sure my clothes aren’t all over the floor.” The doctor disappeared through another door.

This place reminded me of a maze. I glanced around the rest of the room. Her computer occupied the middle of her neat desk, and two big armchairs faced it. A basket of toys sat on the floor. I knelt next to it and rooted through the meager contents. When disappointment stabbed, I realized I had been searching for Dada Sheepy.

“For my younger patients,” she said behind me. “The shower is clean, but I want a peek at your incision before your stitches get wet.”

She led me to her suite. Bigger than Riley’s, it had two bedrooms, a sitting room, a small kitchen and a washroom. I peeled the uniform down and showed her the cut. In the brutal glare of the daylights, the bruises appeared purple, and black thread held together a swollen and angry red line. I swayed and rested against the wall.

“Healing nicely despite your adventures.”

I gave her a dubious look.

“Trust the doctor.” She sniffed and eyed my uniform. “Shower. I’ll bring you a bowl of hot soup and a change of clothes.”

I removed all the devices and decoder and hid them under a towel. The warm water felt wonderful despite the sting of the soap. When I finished, a steaming cup and a clean jumper waited for me as promised. I could get used to this attention.

Perhaps I could let Trella die in the air shafts so Ella could remain here.

“Better?” Doctor Lamont asked.

“Much.”

“Your room’s on the right. Get some sleep.”

My room, I repeated in my mind. My room. With a narrow bed and single table with lamp, it wasn’t elaborate or even special. But it was a rich luxury compared to sleeping in the barracks. The mattress springs creaked when I sat on the bed. Fun. I bounced, enjoying the feel. The bunks in the lower levels were cushioned with thin mats. Not that it mattered to me, I could sleep in an air shaft. But this was the first time I felt a real difference between the uppers and lowers.

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