She’s exhausted. I nodded, my alcohol-soaked brain taking in the massive ornate building.

The stilettos on my feet carry me closer and closer, the clicking sound they make matching the hard and fast pounding of my heart. I stop in the entryway, my eyes fighting to adjust. The room is even dimmer than the main area I’ve come from. The low, sensual music thumps softly in the background. There are a few couples and small groups sitting together, quietly talking and sipping drinks, but Hale’s not one of them.

I know this must be a shock. I’ve attached quite a few test results here and I recommend that you get a second (and a third) opinion.I believe that you should get another physician besides your mother to verify my findings. Physicians should never practice on their families.

It is my medical opinion that in Hawaii last month you had an episode of myocarditis triggered by a viral infection. I believe that your immune system is especially fragile given what I could surmise about the nature of your upbringing.Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Good luck.I read the e-mail six times before the letters form words and the words form sentences that I can understand, but, even then, the meaning of all the words taken together eludes me. I move on to the attachment showing lab test results. All my numbers are adamantly average—not too high, not too low.

Of course there’s some mistake. Of course this is not right. Dr. Francis has confused my chart with someone else’s. There’s another Madeline Whittier. She’s an inexperienced doctor. The world is casually cruel.I believe all these things to be true, but still. I print the e-mail, lab test results and all. I’m not moving in slow motion. Time does not speed up or slow down.

The words on the printout are not any different than the ones on the screen, but they feel heavier, more weighty. But they can’t be true. There’s no possibility of them being true.

I spend an hour googling each test, trying to understand what they all mean. Of course the Internet can’t tell me if these results are correct, can’t tell me if I’m a perfectly average teenage girl of perfectly average health.She places her hand flat against my belly and meets my eyes. You’re aroused, she says. Her touch is gentle, but I can still feel the heat of her warm palm against my skin. Her honesty is beautiful. Her words are simple, but she always speaks the truth.

Yes, I say, hoarsely. I’m in bed with a beautiful woman.She blinks and her eyes fall from mine. She’s never been great at taking a compliment. Placing two fingers under her chin, I lift her face so she’s looking at me again. You’re incredible. The way you were tonight. I swallow. I have to take a moment to compose myself, otherwise I’m going to admit things that are better kept quiet. You’re amazing. And I can’t lie, you turn me on so much.

I want you to kiss me again, she says, her tongue dampening her lower lip.Trust me, I want to. I clench my fists at my sides. I have to deal with...