Nathan woke when Mya wiggled a little to get into a more comfortable position. He felt her breasts against his ribs and he imagined she was also making little curves in the beanpole body she had been. The breasts were still small, but he imagined she did not grow that much while they slept. All the same, he hoped they were nice ones for her sake, in whatever way she imagined breasts should be nice. He looked down and he knew he had judged about right. Mya appeared to be about thirteen, fourteen at most, and she was looking up at him. Her hand came up to touch his face – not such a little hand now, but he spoke before she could say anything.
“You have bumps.” He said.
“I have bumps?” Mya’s mouth opened in a tremendous smile and her eyes and hands shot instantly to her own chest. “I have bumps!” She declared and she rushed into the bathroom and shut the door.
Nathan sat up more slowly. It was not that he was stiff like he used to be when he woke at home, but because he was savoring the morning and feeling truly rested for the first time in ages. He thought of Mya as he heard a little squeal of delight come right through the door. If she was fourteen, he recognized that she was now twice as old as she had been only a day ago. He was happy for her when he thought about it. He had no idea what kind of relationships they might form in the next million years, or more. He could not encompass that though; but even so, he felt that she should not have to go into eternity always being referred to as a kid. He had heard the word used twice already and both times he heard it spoken unkindly.
He looked down at his own clothes. They were not as wrinkled as they had been, and what is more, his handkerchief was pressed and clean again, as if it had never been used. He imagined Mya’s clothes were adjusting as well as she got older and taller, though he could not imagine how that might work. He did not worry about it. He did not know how a lot of things worked, like microwave ovens, but it never stopped him before.
After waiting for a very long time, Nathan stepped to the door and knocked. “Are you all right in there?” He raised his voice just a bit against the wood.
“Yes. I’m fine.” The answer came sharply through the door. Something was happening but he could not guess what.
“I’ll be right here when you are ready,” he told her.
“Fine! I’ll just be a minute!” She responded, and Nathan shook his head and wondered what it was about women and bathrooms. He imagined he would never understand that either, so he did not let it bother him. He stepped into the hall and watched the shift change at the nurse’s desk. He followed one of the morning nurses with his eyes as she went from room to room with her tray of morning medicine. Out of curiosity, he looked in on room 312, but there was a new man in the bed and the business man had gone; then he hustled back to 307. He did not want to be found wandering when he was supposed to be waiting patiently for Mya.
Nathan paused outside the door to their room. There was a woman on her knees in the hall, cleaning. He thought little of it until he saw her give a furtive glance in his direction and immediately she started scrubbing a little harder for a few strokes of her brush. This was a hospital, he remembered. It was where people often went to die. Nathan imagined that most of the staff was immune to having ghosts wander the halls, but there would always be some that were sensitive to it.
The woman glanced his way again and squinted as if she could not quite grasp what she was seeing, or thought she was seeing, or maybe she was not quite seeing at all. Again, she started scrubbing harder for a few strokes, and Nathan wondered if the woman thought that she could clean and sterilize the ghosts away. Nathan was sure that was one thing she could not do, and he felt a momentary twinge of sorrow for the woman. He could almost taste the woman’s fear, a kind of palpable sense of foreboding. He felt it as surely as he had felt the cruelty of the woman with the puppy and concluded that ghosts must be hyper-sensitive to the emotional state of the living. He imagined this woman might have a break down, or anyway, this would likely be a very short-lived job. He felt sorry for her again, as he walked slowly back into his room.
Mya did not come out of the bathroom until it was seven, nearly an hour after she went in.