Leo found himself getting up and walking around the waiting room constantly. He would sit by the window, then pace around the room, then sit down in another chair.
"Try not to worry so much, Leo." Ms. Nelson said.
A doctor came into the waiting room holding a clipboard.
"Excuse me, are you two with Tae-Hyun Nam?" He said.
Ms. Nelson stood up next to Leo. Leo's eyes instantly started watering.
"Yes..." He said shakily, "Is he okay?"
The doctor gave Leo a confused look.
Leo's eyes widened and he didn't say anything. Of course, the doctor knew Tae-Hyun was a girl.
The doctor looked at his clipboard and said, "Well, she has an infection of the stomach lining called Gastritis. No ulcers have developed yet, but she still had to be treated immediately."
Leo swallowed anxiously and said, "I have no idea what that means."
"Basically, the gastric acid in her stomach is eating away her stomach lining." The doctor said.
Ms. Nelson knit her eyebrows and said, "Um, Dr. Lee, are you sure you have the right patient?"
The doctor, Dr. Lee, looked confused and said, "What do you mean do I have the right patient? Tae-Hyun Nam is the patient I am speaking of."
Ms. Nelson looked even more confused.
"But..." She said, "Tae-Hyun Nam is a boy."
Leo's heart pounded so loud in his chest that he almost thought Ms. Nelson and Dr. Lee could hear it.
Dr. Lee shook his head and said, "Follow me to her room. Tell me if this is Tae-Hyun Nam. This patient is a girl."
Ms. Nelson looked at Leo and he stared at her with wide eyes.
They followed Dr. Lee to Tae-Hyun's room.
Tae-Hyun was awake. She smiled when she saw Leo.
"Leo..." She said, beaming.
Leo smiled, relieved, and sat over by her bed.
"Oh my God, you're okay." He said.
Tae-Hyun smiled and said, "You were worried."
Leo laughed and said, tearing up, "Like you wouldn't believe."
He held her hand and just laughed with relief.
Ms. Nelson exchanged a look with Dr. Lee. Dr. Lee said, "Excuse me, Miss Nam."
Tae-Hyun looked at the doctor and her face fell. She looked at Ms. Nelson, then at Dr. Lee, and said, "Yes?"
Dr. Lee pulled up a stool to Tae-Hyun's bed and sat down, "I would like to ask you some questions. About your condition, your childhood, etcetera."
Tae-Hyun looked at Leo and back at Dr. Lee.
"Okay." She said.
Dr. Lee held up his clipboard, pen in hand, and said, "Alright. Are you sure you're well enough to talk?"
Tae-Hyun let out a breath and she said, "Yes, I think I can."
Dr. Lee nodded and said, "Okay, tell me when you need a break. What was your childhood like? Did you ever eat or swallow anything like rat poison or any other foreign objects?"
Tae-Hyun shook her head and said, "No, I never ate rat poison. I lived in an apartment in Seoul, South Korea. Um, I lived with my brothers and my parents."
"Any pets?" Dr. Lee asked.
"No," Tae-Hyun said, "Most people don't have animals living with them, like cats or dogs."
Dr. Lee scribbled something on his clipboard and said, "Okay. Were you happy? Did you get stressed very often?"
Tae-Hyun shrugged, "I was not very stressed, but I was kind of... Sad."
"Sad?" Dr. Lee said, "How so?"
"My... Father..." Tae-Hyun said, "Didn't pay very well attention to me. Mostly my... Other... Brothers."
Dr. Lee set his clipboard on his lap and pushed up his glasses on his nose.
"Miss Nam," He said, "... Did you tell these people you were a boy?"
Tae-Hyun's eyes widened slightly and she didn't say anything. She squeezed Leo's hand and he squeezed it back. He was there for her.
"I..." Tae-Hyun said, her eyes moistening. She laughed quietly and said, "It is a very long story."
Dr. Lee and Ms. Nelson exchanged a look.
Tae-Hyun looked up at Leo and whispered, "Leo..."
He nodded and held her hand with both of his, "Yes? I'm here."
"Will you..." Tae-Hyun said hesitantly, "Explain everything... To Dr. Lee?"
Leo looked surprised and Tae-Hyun said, "Please. I am in his care, he should know the truth."
Leo's eyes watered and he nodded, ".... Yes. Whatever you want."
He stood up and said, "Dr. Lee, I can explain. Shall we go into the hall?"
Dr. Lee looked at Leo, then at Tae-Hyun, then at Ms. Nelson. He looked back at Leo and said, "Sure, let's go."
Leo and Dr. Lee went into the hall and Leo explained everything. He told Dr. Lee about Tae-Hyun's childhood and how her father always ignored her. He told him about Tae-Hyun's plan to come to the U.S. and pretend to be a boy.
Ms. Nelson watched them talk outside the room through the large glass window. Then, she felt cold, gentle fingers wrap around her wrist.
Ms. Nelson looked down at Tae-Hyun.
"Please," Tae-Hyun said softly, "Don't tell... If... The other students find out... My plan will be ruined."
"Tae-Hyun..." Ms. Nelson said gently.
"Please." Tae-Hyun said, "It won't hurt anyone to keep my secret. Please, don't tell. Please."
Ms. Nelson's face softened. The girl lying in the hospital bed next to her looked so helpless. Tae-Hyun's hair was messy, her face was pale, her grip was weak. Her stomach acid was devouring her stomach lining and she was using her energy to beg.
Ms. Nelson stroked Tae-Hyun's sweaty hair gently and whispered, "Alright, I won't tell."
Tae-Hyun smiled up at her and blinked back tears of relief.
"Thank you so much." Tae-Hyun said, "That means a lot to me."
Ms. Nelson nodded and turned away. She almost started crying, too.
Leo and Dr. Lee returned and Dr. Lee looked at Tae-Hyun.
He said softly to Ms. Nelson, "Should we finish the questions later?"
Ms. Nelson nodded, "That would be good."
Leo held his fist up to his face and cried quietly.
Ms. Nelson put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Come on, let's go back to the waiting room and give her some time to rest."
Leo nodded and wiped his face, following Ms. Nelson out of the room.
Before leaving, Dr. Lee said, "That's quite the story you have, Miss Nam."
Tae-Hyun nodded tiredly.
"Good luck." Dr. Lee said, closing the door as he left the room.
Tae-Hyun watched him walked away through the floor-to-ceiling window. She watched the people in the hospital.
Three or four paramedics rushed in with a gurney. There was a woman lying on it and she appeared to be unconscious. A man carrying a toddler and following behind them and he was holding a little girl's hand.
Was this what it was like when I was emitted yesterday? Tae-Hyun thought.