“Yes,” I insist, through a slightly thick tongue. In all honesty, practicing this in my room in front of the mirror was a whole lot easier. Never mind, I’m doing it now. I’ll just have to find a way to make it work. “Haven’t I been a model patient recently? Honestly, it’s as if you don’t think a leopard can change its spots.”
“Hmm, sure.” But she stands up slowly, sending my heart flying with excitement. I’ve done it, I’ve actually pulled it off! “Well, Mr. Baker will be in to see you in a while anyway, so we can go from there.”
Urgh, of all the people I hate at the New York Institute for the Criminally Insane—not that it’s really called that, but I have to make jokes about my situation. If I don’t, I’ll end up crying—Mr. Baker is the worst. He’s the dreaded psychologist, and the methods he uses to try and ‘get me to open up’ make me absolutely shudder.
Maybe I don’t want to talk about the things that brought me here, maybe I don’t find it helpful to dredge up stuff that happened in the past, maybe I personally think it’ll set me back to relive the horrors from before. Maybe...just maybe, it’s up to me what I do. I just wish he’d see it the same way.
As soon as the door clicks closed, I cover my mouth with my hand and feign a cough, all the while spitting the small white pills, that send me into a zombie-like state, into my hand. I know this place well, having been here for years. I know there are cameras everywhere, I had to learn that the hard way when I tried to make my escape last time. The staff knew what I was up to for ages, so however prepared I was they were on top of it and I had no chance. They sedated me for weeks afterwards, it was one of the worst times ever.
I never, ever want to go through anything like that again.
This time though, things will be different, this time I’m more than ready.
I tuck the wet, chalky pills in the waistband of my underwear as discretely as I can, praising myself for being such a smart ass, they’ll never think to look there, no matter how little they trust me. I’m pretty sure people forget that before all of this happened, I was a serious clever person. They can drug me up to the eyeballs and try to take that away from me, but it’ll always be there, deep down. And the less of the pills I take, the clearer my mind will become.
Oh, God...I can already feel a chill running through my body, which means he’s here. The Devil in disguise. It’s time.
“Hello there, Miss Rowles,” Mr. Baker sneers at me, causing my whole body to tense up. My stomach coils like a metal spring and I can feel my lip desperate to curl up in a snarl, but I don’t let it. I’m trying to play the role of ‘model patient’ here, I need to stick to that even when dealing with this. “Now, I hear you’ve been more cooperative recently, so let’s see what we can do for you today.”
I watch intently as he flicks through the papers attached to a clipboard in front of him. He might put on that caring expression, which I’m sure has everyone else fooled, but I know he doesn’t care. Not really, we’re all just paychecks to him, he’d probably prefer it if we never healed!
I attempt to remain composed around him, but after a few moments of silence, my body starts freaking out all by itself. I tap my foot, shift my butt about, and eventually sit on my hands just to prevent me from flapping them about like a mad person. Since he already thinks I’m mental that’s one thing I desperately need to play down.
“So, I know that you’ve been trying to avoid talking about it, but maybe it’s time that we discuss the day you were brought in here?”
My blood runs icy cold, nausea rises up into my throat. “I...I just don’t remember it,” I lie. “It’s so long ago. And it doesn’t matter now anyway, I’m so far past it.”
Leave me alone...let it go...
But of course, he won’t. “You screamed ‘monsters’, you were afraid that someone was out to get you. Can you recall what caused you to start feeling so trapped?”
He knows this, I’m sure he does. He’s only bringing it up to torture me. Maybe this isn’t a psychiatric hospital after all, maybe it’s a prisoner of war camp. It sure feels that way sometimes. “Look,” I sigh, flickering my eyes down to the ground. “Things had been...tough,” massive understatement. “I didn’t cope too well,” again, talk about playing things down. “And my mind started playing tricks on me. I still don’t believe that I should’ve been brought here, and I don’t think I need to remain here now.”
“Amy, you were found at Grand Central Station, freaking out about monsters. When you were brought in and we suggested you go back to Kansas, you literally curled up into a ball and screamed.”
I shrug and roll my eyes, acting like I think he’s the nutty one, but we both know he’s right. I didn’t want to go back, I still don’t, but I really don’t want to be here either. That’s all in the past now, I’m totally beyond any of it. It’s time to move on, I don’t even need to think about it anymore...
Okay, so maybe I did freak out, maybe I did take things really badly, but when you live a life filled with stress, when you’re constantly at the brink of what you can handle, one additional problem can send you over the edge, never mind the entire foundation blocks that your life is built upon tumbling down around you. I think anyone would have reacted the way I did.
First, I started to feel sick. Everything became that little bit harder to do, things wore me out a whole lot quicker, I couldn’t quite fit as many activities into an hour that I once did. I assumed it was exhaustion, so I popped to the doctors for some tests, basically to grab some rejuvenating pills, but what I ended up with was something much more horrifying. The doctor spouted terrifying words, sentences I can barely remember now, the gist of them being that I actually had something wrong. Something potentially serious. He couldn’t tell me what though, just that I needed to wait patiently for the results.
I don’t think anyone can wait for potentially life-changing health results ‘patiently’.
That caused everything within me to crumble. As I staggered home, gutted and heartbroken from the news, I couldn’t wait to unload. I needed the positive outlook of my long-term boyfriend, Jack. He always had a way of seeing the silver lining around the big, black cloud, and I relied on him for that. I always got lost in the mist instead, unable to see anything positive.
But he wasn’t home.
In fact, as I slowly drifted from room-to-room, my heart sunk lower in my chest until it had settled like a big, thick, weighty block in my stomach. Jack wasn’t there, and neither was his stuff. Something had happened, something bad, and as my brain darted from one side of my head to the other, I couldn’t quite work out what it was.
Until I spotted the note.
‘Amy’, it said on the envelope, written in his beautiful, cursive handwriting. Despite knowing that the contents of the paper would shatter my heart, I traced my finger along the letters, just enjoying that one last moment of ignorance.
Then I tore the envelope open and felt the rug ripped from beneath me.
I’m so sorry to do this to you, in fact, I hate myself because of it, but I’m sure you’ve been expecting it for a while now. I’m not happy, and I’m sure you aren’t either. If we look back at it, maybe we never were, maybe we just settled for one another....'