Marija had wanted to be a doctor ever since she was a little girl. All through high school and college she had studied hard, even to the detriment of her social life. She was pretty in an ordinary way, not a statuesque beauty. She had a neutral shade of brown hair that her mother frequently reminded her looked like it was going gray already but wasn't, which she usually wore in a pony tail to avoid having to take the time to do anything else with it. She had the kind of skin that burns red easily, and freckles, and was mostly pale from spending time indoors. She was petite, but not without a butt that she always saw as too prominently sticking out. In her own assessment she'd rate herself a 5 out of 10, but most of the young men at her school would have said 7 at least, but this was irrelevant because she so rarely had time to spend with any of them.
Her hard work paid off. She was very excited to get into one of her top choices for medical school. Only a week or two into the semester, it was already getting tougher than she ever expected, and she had started to sit up all night studying. She was so nervous about failing out of med school that she couldn't sleep if she tried, so she filled the hours with pouring over the textbooks again. She was too nervous and too busy to eat, and began to look a bit thinner and paler to those around her. After a while her body was mostly running on coffee.
All of which led up to the day, three weeks in, when she was sitting and watching Dr. Stephens' lecture.. trying to keep her eyes open.. Trying to keep her mind on his words, and not on his body. She didn't know how old he was, just that he was clearly older than herself but clearly younger than her father, but whatever he was, he was in good shape for a man his age. He was tall and thin, but you could sometimes make out through his shirt that he was lean but muscular. Did he work out? How could he have time to work out, being a doctor in the hospital and also teaching classes? And his hair was golden with just a few threads of silver. And his hands were wiry, like a pianist's hands, but strong looking... And then she lost consciousness, right in the middle of class.
She woke up in a hospital room. She didn't know how she got there, or how long she had been there. For a long time, she sat motionless, trying to recall anything, but the last thing she remembered was sitting in class.
A knock at the door. A nurse, an older woman, matronly. She poked her head into the room and said, "Oh I see you're awake. I'll go tell him".
Before she could ask, tell who?, the woman was gone.
Dr. Stephens strode into the room, looking concerned.
"How did I get here?", was all Marija could think to say.
"I had you brought here after you collapsed in the middle of my lecture. I asked around with some of your classmates, and they were pretty worried about you. You're going to burn yourself out young lady. I want you to relax. That's why you're here."
"Oh... ok. I'll try. Let me get back to my dorm.."
"No. I want you to relax, not go back to your habits. I need you to stay right here for a few days at least.."
Marija just stared at the wall, not believing what she was hearing.
"I want you to rest, stay in bed, eat your food and drink nothing but water. I'm not giving you access to your textbooks, or your laptop, or your smartphone, because you'll just use those to work yourself up trying to study again. There is a library of books down the hall. I have carefully made sure it contains nothing you could mistake for medical or other textbooks, it's mostly paperbacks donated to the hospital. And of course you can watch TV if you want. All of your things are safe in a hospital locker and will be returned to you when you check out. Is that clear?"
"You may have visitors only during posted hours."
Marija nodded again, although she actually didn't know anyone yet at this school who would think about her enough to come visit her in the hospital.
She thought for a moment, then said, "I've got to get out of here. Sorry.."
She pulled the sheet and blanket off, and was actually surprised to see for the first time that someone had removed all of her clothing and dressed her in a pink polka-dotted hospital gown, cloth not paper. It didn't come down anywhere near to her knees, her legs and feet were bare. And her legs needed a good shave, what a thing to notice at a time like this. She had started to lift her legs to swing them off the bed but she immediately threw them back down to make sure the gown didn't ride all the way up her thighs. Oh, shit, she realized.. I'm not even wearing any underwear. This must be what he meant when he said her "things" would be returned to her! Her hands involuntarily went to the bottom edge of the gown, pulling it as far down as possible. The shock of embarrassment overtook her impatience to leave. How had she been so unaware of herself to not know what she was wearing? And her she'd just uncovered herself looking ridiculous like this in front of...
"I don't believe I made myself clear, Marija. I'm concerned enough about you that I've placed you on an involuntary hold. You are here for 72 hours or until I decide you can leave. Do you understand?".
"Do you understand?"
Now, while I'm here.. I was able to conduct some examinations of you while you were out (the thought of this filled her with dread! had he been the one to take off all of my clothes, she wondered?), but there are other things I need to check now that you are awake.