Read Hold: Hold & Hide Book 1 Online

Authors: Marilyn Grey

Hold: Hold & Hide Book 1 (3 page)

BOOK: Hold: Hold & Hide Book 1
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“Second rule, you have probably noticed that everything in your room is white. You are required to keep everything as white as possible. Cleaning products will not be provided. If your room is found to have the slightest bit of dirt you will not be permitted to leave your room for one to three days depending on the severity.

“Third, bathroom breaks are permitted when your door beeps once. You are only allowed to use the bathroom situated on the fourth floor at the end of the hall. Please keep it clean. This is also where you will take a shower when needed. 

“Fourth rule, listen closely now. There is a box in the corner of your room just above the chair. Every morning at six o’clock an alarm will sound from this box and allow you ten minutes to provide a blood sample. Missed blood samples will require one day of skipped meals. It’s a very simple process. Await the alarm and the box will open a small compartment where you will place your finger. It’s only a short prick and very easy. Please be sure to keep your room clean. No drops of blood are permitted.

“These are the main rules. If you have further questions you may ask me at any time and I will do my best to answer. The television is always on and ready to be used. Further instructions will be provided via this screen or the speaker near your bed. Please relax until meal time. Tomorrow the fun will begin. Do you have any questions?”

I hesitated, then whispered, “Um, are you real or automated?”

“My name is Josephine and I am an automated but fully aware program of streaming consciousness. You can talk to me at any time as though I am your friend.”

I nodded. Can she see me? I waved.

“No, I cannot see you, but I can hear you. Please get some rest as you will need it. The bell for meal time will chime soon.”

“Oh, um, okay. Thank you.”

The television turned off automatically. I looked around the room, afraid to move, afraid to think, afraid to get dirt on something. I leaned back on my bed and let my feet dangle off the side so they wouldn’t mess up the blanket. Staring at the smooth ceiling, I tried to force myself to think positive thoughts, but tension squeezed its way around my chest whether I allowed it or not. Holding my breath, I counted down from ten, but it didn’t help. A tear formed in my right eye. I shut my eyes, hard, willing the anxiousness away and within a second it was gone. 

I calmed down and my chest slowly loosened back to its normal state. It would be okay. Everything would be fine. I just needed to see Blake and Audrey and as soon as that bell rang I would. Hopefully. 

I drifted off into a light sleep and woke to one ding of the doorbell. Good timing because I needed to go to the bathroom like you wouldn’t believe. I stood and smoothed the blanket on the bed, making sure everything looked white, including the floor where I had walked. Good to go, I turned the knob and entered the hall as Emily entered from the door across the hall.

I could’ve hugged her and squeezed the life out of her. I was so relieved to see a familiar face, albeit a face still new to me. 

“Claire!” She rushed toward me, looked around, and whispered, “Did you meet, uh, Josephine?”

I nodded, also looking around, feeling like I was doing something wrong by talking about it. 

She linked her arm with mine. “Let’s go.”

We walked to the stairs, assuming we were to follow the others back down to the main entrance. Apparently we were right as we found the cafeteria on the first floor near the back. It was just as amazing as the rest of the building, minus our rooms of course. I expected something similar to our school cafeteria with plastic green benches and a gymnasium floor. Instead, the cafeteria’s ceiling appeared to be two floors high with an extremely large chandelier hanging from the center and small chandeliers dangling down to each long wooden table, complete with individual wooden chairs with pretty designs etched into them.

Everyone else sat down and there didn’t appear to be a line for food, so Emily and I sat down too. Of course I looked around for Blake and Audrey every chance I could, but so far didn’t see them. After about ten minutes every seat was filled and men and women servers dressed in fancy suits poured out of a room near the entrance. They pushed carts toward the tables and one-by-one handed each person a plate of food. I couldn’t see what it was yet, but it smelled like delicious blackened chicken and buttery potatoes. When the steaming plate was finally set in front of me, I was surprised to see some kind of fish, quite gourmet, surrounded by rice and vegetables. I looked around and decided to wait, like the others, for some kind of sign that we could eat. Sure enough, when all the servers vanished behind the door they appeared from, a bell rang and a voice sounded from speakers. Josephine, telling us to eat. 

We did. And it was the best food I’d ever tasted in my life. I savored every bite so much that I didn’t notice the conversations going on around me, people discussing the oddness of Josephine and our requirements. Perhaps I didn’t want to think too much about it all. One day at a time, that’s all I could do. 

After dinner we were given dessert. A warm brownie with peanut butter, caramel, and vanilla ice cream dripping down the sides. I had only seen a brownie in old photographs. Those photographs did not do it justice. It was absolutely amazing and I wanted more. Warm, gooey chocolate with cold ice cream. Perfect. So perfect. 

Emily nudged me with her elbow. “Enjoying that?”

I scooped the last bite into my mouth and raised my eyebrows while nodding. 

She smiled so wide I wondered if she could possibly had been as nervous as I was. Did anyone else cry in their room before meal time? Did anyone else feel too weak to endure this ... experiment, or whatever it was?

We were ordered to exit one table at a time. When ours stood I peered around for Audrey and Blake again. Nothing. It didn’t seem like an overwhelming amount of us, but it was still too many faces to find the ones I wanted to see.
Blake, I miss you
, I said inside.
I need to find you

I thought of Josephine and wondered if she heard me, if she knew my thoughts at all times, but I brushed it off as silliness and silently walked with Emily back to the fourth floor. We said goodnight with as much awkwardness as possible and turned toward our doors. Her door closed a second before mine and I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. 

The white room did nothing for me. 

THREE

At home I always overslept, but here I woke before the sun and watched as its rays climbed through my window and lit the room little by little. I didn’t change my clothes and I refused to sleep under the blanket, worried that I might mess something up, so as soon as the bell rang three times at eight o’clock I was ready to go. I stood, brushed my hair, careful not to shed any on the floor, and waited for the door to unlock. 

The speaker hissed, then came her voice. “413. 413. 413. Please exit your room and travel to the main floor where you will meet 301 for your first assignment.”

301?

“Your sister, Audrey Connelly. Do not delay.”

The door clicked and I obeyed, walking back into the hallway, down the spiral stairs, and to the main floor where an older woman dressed in a simple black dress smiled. 

“You must be 413.”

I looked behind me, then back to her. “I’m Claire Connelly.”

“Yes.” She smiled and I swear her teeth sparkled in the morning light. Why did everyone’s teeth look so polished? “We refer to everyone by their room numbers when here. Did you sleep well?”

Clacking echoed through the room. I turned as Audrey held the railing like a princess and gracefully walked down the stairs in her three-inch heels and silver dress, still wearing her orange shirt over top like I last saw her. As she neared me I could tell she hadn’t slept. The circles under her eyes were obvious even under the makeup. She glanced at me as she stood beside me. 

“Now that you’re both here,” the woman said. “I will escort you to your examination room.”

The woman seemed nice enough, smiling as she led us through a library of sorts, then another door, and a hallway that turned into a slope that seemed to go into a basement. The temperature dropped a few degrees as we entered through a large locked door with flashing red lights. Audrey’s heels continued to click and clack, a sound that oddly enough comforted me. For once.

“Right this way.” The woman held the door as we walked through, then followed behind. “You will be in this room here to the left.” She opened the door and motioned for us to go inside. “Please take a seat inside. Dr. Braikenridge will be with you in a few moments.”

We sat down on the cold, metal chairs as the door closed, leaving us alone in the strange room. We stared blankly at what appeared to be two operating tables waiting for our bodies. I cringed and tried to hide my fear while Audrey’s foot shook both of our chairs. We didn’t dare speak, but I knew I wasn’t alone. The unknown scared us both. 

“Good morning, girls.” A kind-faced man stepped into view from a door behind the beds, smiling with his eyes. “I’m Dr. Braikenridge.” He stuck his hand in front of me. I shook. Then Audrey shook. “I hope you slept well.” He tapped the beds ... operating tables ... whatever they were. “We need to perform an initial examination. I will need both of you to take off every article of clothing and place them in the bin here.” He gestured beside the door. “Feel free to cover yourselves with this sheet while you’re waiting. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

He left us there. 

“Naked?” I said. “Like underwear and everything?”

Audrey yanked her shirt off, then her dress. “Just do what they say, Claire.”

I slipped my shirt over my head. “But ... underwear too?”

She lowered her gaze and rolled her eyes, then continued undressing with force, tossing each piece of clothing into the bin with a frustrated jerk. I slowly took everything off and reclined on the bed, pulling the sheet over my body as I blinked at the fluorescent light above me. It blinked back. 

A few seconds after Audrey climbed into her bed Dr. Braikenridge came back into the room with a young woman in a nurse uniform.

“Okay, girls,” he said. “This is Nurse Popland. The other girls call her Poppie. She started out just like you.” He smiled and pat her back. “Now, first thing we are going to do is draw some blood.”

Nurse Popland came toward me with a needle. I closed my eyes and imagined I were back home at a normal checkup for school. Everything would be okay, everything would be fine....

The needle pricked my arm. 

Everything will be fine....

“Great,” Nurse Popland said. “Now, Audrey.”

I opened my eyes. Audrey stared at them as they drew her blood with the same needle used on me. Did they even wash it? She didn’t seem as afraid as me. Her fear was covered by a stoic anger, which surprised me since she was so excited for this and I dreaded it from birth. 

Wasn’t the pageant she hoped it would be, I guess. 

“I’m just going to remove these sheets,” Nurse Popland said with confidence and charm. “We will be examining your bodies in detail. Please relax as this will take a few hours.”

“Hours?” I said.

She nodded, then pulled the sheets off and stuffed them beside our bed. Audrey and I looked at each other, our bodies completely exposed to strangers in a cold, dim room with a nervous twitching fluorescent light. I wanted to reach across the space between us and hold her hand, but I didn’t think they would allow it. She probably would have shoved me away anyway. So I turned my face back to the lights and took my mind back to the treehouse with Blake, back to happy thoughts.

Then an ice cold hand touched my cheek, startling me back to reality. Nurse Popland felt my jaw and cheeks and pressed around my eyes, taking notes as she went. Dr. Braikenbridge stood behind my head at the end of the bed and felt my head, then they both examined my hair and plucked a few out. Nurse Popland moved over to Audrey while the doctor stayed with me and began to push on my shoulders and arms. Every few seconds they would compare Audrey and I to each other. “This one has a mole on her left arm, but this one doesn’t,” they’d say as they continued jotting things in a notebook. I still hadn’t gotten used to my body being exposed for strangers and I desperately wanted to pull the sheet back on me. Audrey kept her eyes closed and didn’t say a word. 

They examined everything from our toe nails to the lines on our palms. This continued for quite some time until they finally reached what I hoped they wouldn’t touch. But they did. They touched and analyzed every single part of our bodies and even noted when our pulse rose and fell. Mine rose and never fell. I wanted to be back home. I wanted Blake. But if anything ... I would had gladly taken my white room over that bed. 

I fixed my thoughts on Blake and the treehouse until the entire thing was over and Dr. Braikenridge handed us a gift bag.

“For you,” he said. “Open it in your room. It’s a small token of appreciation for your cooperation. You did great. Please dress in the clothes provided here.” He plopped them by our feet. “And then exit and return to your rooms in a quiet manner.”

BOOK: Hold: Hold & Hide Book 1
11.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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