Louise didn’t wake up until nearly noon.
When she did get up, she moved slowly, achingly, her hip screaming its annoyance at having been abed so long. Every motion of going to the bathroom, washing her hands, and brushing her teeth seemed dreamlike through her body pain and gummy eyes. Her sinuses throbbed with the crying she did the night before, and possibly during the night, she didn’t know for sure.
At one point she just paused, naked, leaning her cheek against the cool paint of the bathroom door, pressing her hands against the smooth surface. Her fingers and wrists held the promise of the bone-deep misery of arthritis, and she thought, vaguely, about taking some pain meds before it all got too bad. She stood there until the coolness turned too cold against her flat breasts and sagging belly and painful hands. Then she went out into her tiny apartment and put on granny panties and stretchy trousers and jog bra and pullover sweatshirt. She sat down to pull on socks and her orthotic shoes. She plied her comb briefly to eliminate the bedhead effect, but once she was done with that, she sat and stared at the wall for a while.
She was pretty sure Mick was gone. She hadn’t wanted to wake up the whole time they were lying in bed together. She didn’t know whether she would know if Mick died while she was there or not—would she become intangible? fade away to vanish without a trace? In the end, Mick had stopped murmuring about what she could remember of their years together—sometimes wrong, sometimes painfully truncated, but Louise never corrected her—and just went quiet. Her body didn’t change at all, but it also didn’t really move, and Louise didn’t want to ask. She just stayed, holding Mick in her arms, until she woke.
And now… what now? Mick thought that Sheila wanted to kill her, had begged her not to return. Sheila had threatened her, clearly told her that the only reason she was still alive was Mick—who might or might not be gone.
She moved dreamily over to her screen and sat down at it. She looked at email and for the first time in months, she opened the folder where she normally auto-filed one of her favorite mailing lists, always meaning to go read it, but never quite getting to it. Her eye passed over various subject headings without interest until it hung up on one in particular: Question about Cognizoid.
She opened it, hardly thinking.
It began, Has anyone else prescribed Cognizoid for a patient? Is the requirement to send the patient’s entire file to the pharma company something new or has it been like this all along?
Her interest sharpened and she passed beyond the signature to the threaded responses.
It’s been like that all along, said someone whose name she recognized slightly. It’s part of the patient registration process, since there were some deaths in the early clinical trials.
The company manages the registration? another person asked, someone not a physician, it looked like, but a student.
Yes, said someone she didn’t know from the agency. Our agency does not have the resources to monitor restricted medications, so the company registers the patients. However, I was unaware that the company was also reviewing patients.
I thought that was really odd, said the original poster. Usually, we’re trusted to make decisions for our own patients. I just had a patient with severe dementia rejected by the company, and I thought he was a perfect fit for the drug.
I heard a rumor that there was a problem with male patients and Cognizoid, another physician said. They think that men are more prone to severe psychiatric disturbances on the drug than women.
She closed the email, then forwarded it to Penelope. The data haze rising from the screen distracted her for a moment.
And now. It was time to talk to Penelope.