Prologue

Monitors beeped throughout the room, slow and steady, like the high pitched beating of electronic hearts. The girl lay in the midst of the machines, her eyes closed and her breath coming through a clear mask on her face. Wires sprouted from her forehead and chest, hooking her up to the machines, making her a part of them. Covered with a shroud of white cloth except for her head and left leg, she seemed like a piece of draped Greek sculpture than something alive. Her face was that of an angel, while her leg seemed something out of Hell.

A man stood in the corer of the room, watching the girl, his arms folded and face nearly hidden behind an upturned collar of his coat. His chin rested on his chest and occasionally he twitched, as if falling asleep with his eyes still open. The monitors beeped and the girl breathed through the mask.

Finally her eyes flickered open. A monitor let out a long tone, then went back to beeping normally. Soon a nurse would be hurrying in to check on the patient. The man moved forward, into the girl's field of vision.

She didn't see him at first. She started at the ceiling, as if trying to make sense of why she was there. She blinked, but didn't move. Her breath increased a little in speed though. A monitor somewhere began to beep just a little faster. Her eyes flicked around then, taking in the bright lights of the room, the edges and corners of machines, and finally the man's face. Her head did not turn, her face did not change expression. Her eyes just studied him, blinking very slowly. The man stared back for a long moment without saying anything. Then he turned swiftly and went to the door, locking the knob. Then he strode back to the girl, coming to a stop near her horrible leg. He picked up the chart hanging from the end of the bed.

"The charts say you should be out of here in a few weeks at most." he told her. She still hadn't moved her head, but was trying to stare at him as he stood at the bottom of her bed. There was a moment of silence between them. Then she tried to speak, but her words were muffled by the oxygen mask covering her face. He moved next to her head and pulled the mask down from her mouth. She gasped for a moment and a monitor beeped alarmingly. The man punched a series of buttons on the machine with a furious finger and it silenced. Already someone was knocking on the door.

The girl coughed once and finally spoke.

"This isn't what you told me was going to happen."

"It is not what I was expecting to happen. But did you think it was going to be easy?"

"I didn't want this!" The girl twisted in frustration, then pain.

"What did you want?" the man bellowed. The knocking at the door became a slightly frantic pounding. "This is nothing. Nothing!"

The girl winced and panted heavily. The man set the mask over her face again and looked at her leg. Twisted and black, it promised to scar horribly at the very least.

The girl tried to speak again, so he removed the mask. Her words were pained now, and very quiet.

"They let me go."

"Of course they did. They never liked you."

"No… They said it was… my leg. I'm crippled now."

"They said that because they can't appreciate you. They think this crippled you. What it has done is freed you. They have freed you. That was never what you were supposed to do. There are greater things that you will achieve."

"No…" She closed her eyes and gave a small whine of pain. The pounding at the door was becoming desperate and raised voices could be heard. "No, I'm just not good enough."

The man leaned down so that his face hovered just above hers.

"No, you aren't."

She closed her eyes as if trying to shield herself from him. But he reached up with a hand, sheathed in a soft leather glove, and pulled one eyelid up so that she could, had to, see him.

"But do you want to become good enough?" he asked. She just stared at him, her eye beginning to water. He released her eyelid and she winced in pain again. Monitors began to go haywire. He leaned back and looked down at her leg. At that moment, the pounding on the door ceased as the door itself flew open with a groan of strained hardware. Doctors and nurses swarmed into the room, frantically tapping on keyboards and fiddling with controls as they tried to bring the sudden cacophony of beeps under control again. A doctor laid his fingers on the girl's throat, taking her pulse even as he watched the monitor in charge of such a thing.

"Sir, sit down." It was hospital security, who had stormed in after the doctors. A burly guard in a uniform planted a big hand on the man's chest and shoved him back into the plastic chair. A doctor came over, seething with indignant authority.

"You idiot," the doctor demanded, "didn't you hear us at the door?"

"Yes. We did not want to be disturbed."

The man said this to the doctor, but as he did, he stared directly at the girl, who was staring back at him. Her head had flopped to the side as the nurses ministered to her and her eyes bored holes in him.

"Who are you anyway?" the doctor continued to demand. "I had specific orders for no visitors. You could have killed her by denying the medical personnel access to this room."

"I'm her employer." They had not broken eye contact.

"Her employer? Her former employer was here this morning."

"Yes. I'm her current employer." The girl's gaze was swallowed by the scrubs of the nurses. The man turned back to the doctor, who was indignantly and authoritatively puffed out.

"Employer or not, sir, you are not authorised to be in here. Your presence could severely jeopardise our patient's recovery."

The doctor tried to escort the man out.

"No."

A small voice came from the bed surrounded by nurses. They all froze a little, and the nurses industriously looked at the doctor for instruction, inadvertently parting and leaving the line of sight between the girl and the man wide open. The girl had thrust a small arm, bandaged and splinted, from underneath her shroud and pushed her mask aside enough to speak.

"Let him stay. Please?" The girl's voice was tiny and pained. "I need him here."

The doctor looked at the girl, then to the man, who was staring at the girl, seemingly lost to everything else. They looked at each other as if they were the only two beings on the planet.

"Employer, huh?" the doctor scoffed. He jabbed a finger into the man's chest. "I should have you arrested for being in here against hospital policy. In fact, I am going to have you arrested. Teach you to respect the rules around here."

He looked for a reaction from the man, but it was as if he hadn't heard. The man and the girl were still staring at one another. The doctor shifted uncomfortably, as if the electricity of their gaze was making him itch. The security guards were not so affected. At the doctor's words, they manhandled their new prisoner out the door.

"I'll be back for you," the man said as he made his way into the hallway, managing to make it look like it was of his own free will even as the guards shoved him.

The girl closed her eyes. One of the nurses noticed a tear running out from her left eye and trickling down to pool in her ear.

"You okay, sweetheart? Does it hurt?" the nurse asked, brushing the tear away with a square of gauze.

No answer from the girl.
"It's okay, you know," the nurse soothed. "He'll come back. He said he would."

"I know," the girl whispered as they settled her mask back into place. Another tear, this one from her right eye, slid down her face.


A/N: Omigoodness, it be my second year of NaNoing! Beware of grammatical mistakes, plot holes and just plain shoddiness as I forge forward in my race for the 50,000 word mark!