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Author's note: This is the third book in the Glimpse series
My mind is like a darkroom without a photographer. Whatever images, whatever memories that should’ve been stored away were just…gone, as if the photographer in my head had never taken any pictures of what I was experiencing. My memories were gone. They disappeared.
I opened my eyes and I realized almost at once that I was in a hospital—St. Mathew General to be specific. Most of my hair was a tangled mess of jagged locks by then—some hair burned off, and some cut so that they could treat my injuries—and when I looked in the mirror, I realized that this was not the only difference. Although I had amnesia, although I couldn’t remember my name, how old I was, or where I came from, I knew that my face had not always been this way.
I knew that before, I had not had the bright irritated burns curling like angry claws scratching their way from a thick mass at my left temple, to thin lines that stretched to the left corner of my mouth. I knew that at one point, I had been able to see clearly out of my left eye, and now, all I saw was blurry blotches of color. I knew that before, my hands had always been smooth and gentle, never the mangled ones I woke up with, with torn flesh on my knuckles just starting to heal. But that was all I knew. They called me Jane, as in Jane Doe, and I respond, because I have no other name.
I stayed in the hospital for about two months, eating their nasty stale bread, and rubbery Jell-O, and endured their frequent and annoying memory tests, in hopes that someone might come and claim me, but I failed each one. I played one-sided checker games with my roommate, Tilly, who was in a comatose state, and went to the bathroom in the metal bedpan as instructed, but then the Doctors told me it was time to go. At first I was afraid. I had no idea who I was, and they were going to kick me out? But Dr. Franklin assured me that I had no need to fear, even laughed a little at my frantic questions.
Dr. Franklin said that my body was healing, enough that I no longer needed their treatment. As for my head, he said that they couldn’t fix it. Originally caused by the trauma I suffered—what that was, they still weren’t sure—my amnesia, was now just psychological, a mental barrier that my mind put up to protect itself. “I have a place where you can go, and be safe. A friend of mine is a psychologist there, and I think he might be able to help you remember who you are, Jane,” he said, handing me a pamphlet as the white van pulled up to the curb, and a wide nurse with the last name Ratchet, got out from the driver’s seat and waddled over to us on her stumpy legs.
The sign on the van advertised a Twin Oaks Retreat, and on the ride out of the city, I read the pamphlet. It was just as it advertised, a sprawling ranch, green and lush with horse stables, a recreational area, a garden, and a mansion turned into dorm rooms for patients, but I soon learned that the ‘retreat’ part tacked on the end of Twin Oaks was just a nice way of putting asylum; mental institution; Looney Bin.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to go it alone. Becky, my roommate, was relatively sane, or seemed that way to me at least. She was beautiful, with cherry-like cheekbones, deep-set grey eyes, and smooth blonde hair that gleamed in the sunlight. She dressed like a model too, no outfit below party-suitable, not even her pajamas, and never worn twice. Our room was divided. Becky’s side was wall to wall posters of popular boy bands, stacks of CDs that towered like shimmering skyscrapers, and frequently, gifts sent to her from her parents and friends back in Pennsylvania; which was more to say about than my side of the room.
With no personal belongings, the one pair of faded blue jeans, a white t-shirt with a quarter-sized hole in it, and sneakers with frayed shoestrings I was wearing were donated. And that was all I had to my name. My half of the room was a stiff twin mattress with a hotel style comforter army-tight on it, and a set of rock hard pillows with stained off white pillowcases. That, with the poor sight of the blank white walls truly made it look as if it belonged to an asylum.
At first, I wasn’t sure if the sleeping arrangements were going to work out. The day I showed up at Twin Oaks, Nurse Ratchet practically shoved me in my room, and the first thing Becky said was, “I’m not sleeping with that ugly thing.” She was sitting on her bed, her small feet crossed at the ankles, with a foam pedicure separator between her toes as her blood red nails dried. She had looked up from the latest issue of Cosmo magazine, and her pretty face twisted up in the ugliest scowl I had ever seen as she popped her metallic purple gum in her mouth.
“Becky, be nice,” Nurse Ratchet scolded, and then turned to me with a worn fake smile, “I’m sure you’ll like it here, Jane.” And she left, shooting an I’m-warning-you look over at Becky who flipped her off.
Becky laughed and placed her magazine down, shoving a ribbon in her place before she got up and extended her perfectly manicured hand.
I shook it warily.
“I’m Becky Pearl. Sorry about the ‘ugly’ crack, it’s just something I do to annoy Nurse Ratchet. And you’re Jane…” She said pausing, because she didn’t know my last name. That made two of us.
“Doe,” I replied, biting my lips as she stared at my burned face openly.
“Amnesia case, huh? I suppose that’s better than sharing a room with a kleptomaniac or something. I was roomed with a real basket case one time. She bit one of the Doctor’s ears off and no one has seen or heard from her since,” Becky chuckled, flopping back down on her bed. “Where’s your stuff? I can help you unpack if you want.”
I blushed and looked down at my feet self-consciously, “Actually, this is it.”
“What?! Well that’s not right, those cheapskates could’ve at least dug up a few more outfits for you,” Becky exclaimed, making me jump in surprise. She hopped up from her bed, and rummaged around in the nightstand that separated both of our beds. She dug out seven pairs of lacy panties, seven pairs of socks, and tossed them on top of my bed.
“What are you doing?” I asked, wondering if my initial assumption of her sanity had been incorrect.
“Getting you some clothes. If you’re going to be my roommate, you have to look it,” she replied, grabbing a stack of clothes from an organizer tacked to the wall. She handed them to me, and set a new toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant on top of the clothes in my arms, all of which were still in their boxes.
“Becky, I can’t take these.”
“Sure you can, my parents send me stuff practically everyday. I won’t miss them. Now if only they could send me some Cigs.”
“Is that what you’re in here for?” I asked, placing the stack of clothes on my bed, wondering where I should put them. I wondered idly if they’d fit under the bed, and I ducked down on all fours, pulling up the bed skirt to find that the space between the floor, and the bed wasn’t big enough to do that.
“No, they don’t send you here for underage smoking, maybe for dope, but not for regular cigarettes. Oh, and by the way, it’s kind of frowned upon here when someone asks about other people’s mental conditions, just so you know.”
“No problem, that’s what you have me here for, to serve as your big sister,” she said, winding an arm around my waist. I permitted a smile when I realized that my ‘big sister’ was at least two heads shorter than me. “Did they give you your schedule yet?”
“Um…is this it?” I asked pulling a crumpled piece of paper Nurse Ratchet handed me when we were in the van.
“Yup, let’s see, you have art with Orchid, you have silent reflection in the library, and ew,” She said making a face.
“What,” I asked; hoping the small grease stain wasn’t the thing that disgusted her. That had been there before it was given to me.
“You have Dr. Var as a psychologist.”
“Yeah, my Doctor at the hospital made sure I got Dr. Var. He said that Dr. Var is the best psychologist to go to if you’re suffering from amnesia.”
“That guy is a creep, I used to have him as my psychologist, and I think he tried to make a pass at me,” She said, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
“Surely it was just a misunderstanding,” I replied, biting my lip nervously, hoping that I was right.
Becky shook her head, grabbing my arm, and tugging me out of our room, into the hallway. “No, I don’t think so. Two other girls, Remy, and Sue had him too, and they both said that he tried pulling the same thing on them. Sue had it worst. She woke up one time in the middle of the night, and he was just standing there at the foot of her bed, watching her.
“Of course, none of the staff believes us. They all think we’re nuts, and they won’t listen. I was just lucky I got off so easy. I have inside connections, and I was transferred to Dr. Holloway. Remy had him until she was released to go home, and Sue finally got a new psychologist when she had a nervous breakdown about Dr. Var being out to get her.”
Becky gestured to a rail thin girl strapped to a wheelchair, mumbling to herself as a male orderly wheeled her down the hall. “That’s Sue.”
I bit my lip, glancing over my shoulder as we passed her.
Becky paused at one door, and tapped on a name plate that read Dr. Pennway, art instructor, “This is the art room, the first place to go after you eat breakfast.”
I nodded, and she continued on, turning down a hallway to her left, and she gestured to a set of double doors that clearly read library big enough so that a half blind person could see it, which was good since I could only really see out of my right eye. We turned down another hallway, which was twice the size of the others. This one had textured grey wallpaper with alternating flowers pictures in glass frames running down the wall. The floors switched from the dull white tile to a dark grey carpet that muffled the sound of our feet as we walked down it, and I noticed that this hallway was also a lot cooler than the other muggy hallways.
Becky pointed at a rich oak door with two long frosted glass windows on both sides of it. “That’s Dr. Var’s office,” She whispered, and I was about to ask her why she was whispering, when I saw the sign that had a person with a finger to her lips. “Please be respectful, patients are in counseling sessions,” it said in huge black block letters.
“Becky, I’ve noticed something that’s really odd,” I said when we stepped back into a muggy tiled hallway.
“What, that you should have the stylist see what she can do with your hair” She asked playing with my ratty ponytail.
“No,” I sighed, swatting at her hand, “Why is it that on everyone’s nametag, they have letters under their name in different colors?”
“It’s so the staff will know what you’re here for,” she replied, and tugged me into a massive cafeteria already filled with people piling in for either a late lunch, or an early supper. “The letters stand for mental disorders. ‘E’ is for a generalization of eating disorder, whether its anorexia, or bulimia. ‘D’ stands for drugs. ‘PS’ is for paranoid Schizophrenic. ‘SM’ is for Self mutilator. Etcetera, etcetera,” Becky replied, holding her Styrofoam plate out so that the lunch lady could splatter two heaps of mashed potatoes on her plate. “Although with some of us, it’s kind of obvious what we’re in for,” She continued, glancing from my burns to the ‘SM’ on my nametag.
I wanted to tell her that I had never tried to hurt myself, but I didn’t think she really cared one way or another, and besides, I couldn’t remember if that was true or not. All I had was the evidence, my face, my hands, and the curious scars around the rest of my body, and they all agreed that I was an ‘SM’. I pursed my lips thoughtfully, realizing that Becky had an ‘E’ on her nametag. I watched the lunch lady do the same to my plate, pouring chicken noodle soup over the top of it, not bothering to ask me if I wanted it, whereas Becky turned it down for a slice of cheese pizza.
“So what’s with the different colored fonts then?”
“They stand for the level of threat each person poses. Yellow is minimal, red is likely, and black is most definitely.” She replied, swiping two cellophane wrapped brownies from the counter. I grabbed a small plastic cup of strawberry ice cream. “Black tags are the one’s who have their psychologists always sitting by them, just in case they decide to suddenly flip out or something.”
Becky grabbed two sets of plastic wrapped silverware, and handed me one. I stood deliberating for a moment, when I saw that my font was red, and hers was yellow, and she raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow quizzically.
“Becky, do you think I’m dangerous?”
She laughed, clearly amused, and tapped my nametag that was pinned to my shirt, “If I was just going by this, I’d say yes, but now that I’ve talk with you for a while, I don’t think you’d hurt a fly. I’m actually having a hard time believing you’d even hurt yourself.”
The feeling was mutual. Becky was so confident, and so beautiful, that even if she was fat—which she wasn’t—she wouldn’t have gave a crap how people saw her; that she’d be secure about her weight.
“That’s just it,” I said, following her, “I don’t think it was me who did this to my body. I mean, I can’t remember, and I do have all these scars, but it just doesn’t feel right. I don’t peg myself for a ‘SM’.”
“Were you in some sort of abusive relationship then?” She asked, slowing to scrutinize my face.
“I’m not sure. Like I said, I can’t remember anything.”
“Well, your memory should come back eventually; I mean if they sent you here. Although, if you were abused, or if you were into something bad, maybe ignorance in your case is bliss.” Becky replied, and then perked up, waving to a table of people already eating, “C’mon, I’ll introduce you to the gang.”
I bit my lip and followed her reluctantly, wishing that I was a turtle so I could sink down inside my shell. I was grateful I wouldn’t be eating alone, but the people at the table looked kind of scary.
“Everyone, this is Jane, my new roommate. Jane, this is Alicia, Kirsten, Arnold, and Evelyn,” Becky said, gesturing to the people as she sat down. I gave them a shy wav, and squeezed in next to Becky, only one of my butt cheeks actually on the seat.
Alicia was a brunette with kinky curls, blue eyes, and a small mouth. The letters on her nametag were scribbled out in a black sharpie marker, but I think I could barely make out the shape of a ‘D’.
Kirsten was sandwiched between Alicia and Becky. She had silky black hair, fair skin with a yellowish tint to it, and a large Egyptian nose. Becky was blocking most of my view of Kirsten, so I could see her tag.
Evelyn sat across from me, picking her bread apart with her two inch long black nails. She had platinum blonde hair sticking up at odd angles from a lack of brushing, lazy blue eyes, and rumpled looking clothes. She yawned around her mouthful of Salisbury steak, and I wondered idly if she had just woken up, or if she always seemed this tired. The letters on her nametag were ‘MD’ in a yellow font, and I guessed that might stand for ‘Manic Depressive’, but I wasn’t sure.
Arnold was the only male if left out the bored looking psychiatrist sitting with his arms across his chest as he stared up blankly at the high ceiling. Arnold was tall, with his long dancer legs crammed in a painful looking position under the table. His hair was blonde with a teal skunk stripe down the middle. His fingernails were a shiny black, and they matched the black lipstick slathered on and around his lips, making him look like a depressed clown. He was shoveling food in his mouth so quickly it almost looked like he was in a food eating contest, his eyes shifting restlessly around the cafeteria either searching out competitors, or for some sort of unseen attack.
I unwrapped my plastic spoon, and pushed my food around my plate, studying Arnold curiously from the corner of my eye. His tag was black with the letters ‘PS’, and I assumed the psychiatrist sitting next to him was nonchalantly supervising him, although he hadn’t once looked away from the ceiling to see what Arnold was doing.
I scooped a spoonful of chicken noodle soup in my mouth, and nearly choked on it. I spit it out in my napkin, and tried to rub the meat taste off of my tongue, my stomach clenching painfully. A brief flash of images flew through my mind unexpectedly; meatless spaghetti; a soy dog with extra ketchup; an “I love animals” bumper sticker framed on a wall as a decoration. I shuddered.
“Is there something wrong, Jane?” Becky asked, pulling me back to reality. “Why aren’t you eating?” I looked at her, and blushed, realizing the whole table was looking at me. Even Arnold’s psychiatrist paused from his ceiling gazing to look at me curiously.
“I think I just remembered something.”
“Really?! What is it? Do you remember your real name?”
“No. No, I think…I think I’m a vegetarian,” I replied, staring at the chunks of rubbery chicken on my plate, my stomach rolling nauseously.
Becky laughed, and swapped our plates. She had already eaten her pizza, but she still had two big clumps of potatoes on it. “Thanks.”
“No problem, I’m not a big fan of their mashed potatoes anyways. The lunch ladies don’t listen to what people actually want to eat, especially me because of the ‘E’ on my nametag,” She replied, still chuckling softly in amusement.
“Hold still,” Becky ordered. She leaned over me with her tweezers glinting sinisterly in the light as she plucked another hair from my eyebrows. It was six thirty in the morning, much earlier than my body deemed decent for such a cruel act as this in the name of beauty, especially since half my face was screwed up anyways.
“Are you almost done,” I whined.
“Almost, now shhh, you’ll get us in trouble.”
“I wouldn’t take you as the girl who cares whether she gets in trouble or not,” I sighed trying to hold still, focusing on the pink clouds giving way to a blue sky outside our barred window.
She rolled her eyes and packed her instruments of torture underneath her mattress. At Twin Oaks, patients were hairy, even the girls. No one, not even the staff was allowed to have anything that was in a form of razor, tweezers, or scissors, because an ‘SM’ could get a hold of it, and do some serious damage to themselves, or a ‘PS’ could go all homicidal with it. So, most girls wore jeans, and t-shirts to hide their hairy legs and armpits, all except for Becky.
Her inside connection, which I later found out was her Aunt who worked at as a Nurse at Twin Oaks, dropped little hints about inspection days, and Becky would deftly tape her beauty products to the inside waist band of her jeans, or stuff them in the padding of her bra. And ta-dah, she had hairless legs and underarms.
“You should wear this dress today,” Becky said after rummaging through her clothes organizer. She produced a dark purple dress with a clear black polka doted sheath that made the purple seem even more dark.
“Oh, Becky, I couldn’t. It’s too pretty, you should wear it.”
“I’m too busty for it,” she replied, “Besides, I look terrible in purple.” She tossed it at me without a second thought, and turned her back to me, studying her posters as if she were seeing them for the first time. I realized then that she was giving me a little privacy, and for that, I thanked her silently. I stripped out of the silky black pajamas she had given to me, and she did the same, changing into a black lacey blouse, a white miniskirt that I think might’ve been a headband at one time, and two calf-high lace up wedge boots.
She turned around before I got the chance to pull the dress on, and she stared openly at the scars that were usually hidden beneath my shirt. Both were perfectly circular, puckered and pink as if they had never healed, although the doctors had said they were less recent injuries than the ones like my face and hands. I blushed, and pulled the dress over my head quickly to cover them up. The doctors had speculated for a while on what could’ve caused them, and they all agreed that I had been shot twice, rather, they thought I had shot myself twice.
“Get up,” A voice called, surprisingly loud, even though it was muffled slightly by the thick bedroom door. There was a rattling on the doorknob, the sound of a deadbolt, and a chain being removed before the feet of Nurse Ratchet waddles to the next door. That was something I had forgotten to mention. They lock us in our rooms at night. We have an eight o’clock curfew, one that can never be broken without some form of punishment. That punishment, even Becky didn’t know, because no one dared to break curfew.
“Shut up you old hag,” Becky screamed back.
“Why are you so mean to her?” I asked, collecting my toiletries, and Becky did the same, only she had a huge black tote bag to carry hers in.
“It’s not real,” she replied with a smile, opening our door, “It’s a way to keep things interesting. Nurse Ratchet knows I don’t mean anything by it. Now come on, if we don’t go now, it’ll be lunchtime before you get to brush your teeth.”
I followed her wordlessly, and soon found what she meant. Even though we had been preparing ourselves for a good twenty minutes, there was already a line fifty people long by the time we made it to the girls’ bathroom. Once we finally made it in, there were three nurses hovering behind us, watching our every move. I put a dab of toothpaste on my toothbrush and scrubbed my teeth self-consciously, keeping my eye on an opportunity to jump in one of the always occupied bathroom stalls.
I moved out of the way so another girl could squeeze in at the sink, and tried to focus on other things besides the running water in the sinks. Finally, before I had to resort to the potty dance, I heard a flush, and I practically tackled the girl who came out of it, sprinting in before another girl could. After I was done, I squirted a good sized amount of anti-bacterial germ-X in my hands instead of trying to fight my way back to the sink.
Becky rolled her toiletries back in her tote, and we shimmed out of the bathroom, pressing against the walls to avoid grinding on the other girls too much as we squeezed our way out. At this point, we didn’t sprint like we had done to get to the bathroom. We walked at normal pace, and I noticed that the bathroom line was going on seventy strong with signs of more coming. We stowed our stuff in our room, and we walked down to the testosterone filled cafeteria, two of only ten female patients.
The tables were full of boys, most looking as if they had just rolled out of bed, and some were still in their pajamas, and others smelled as if they hadn’t even bother to put some deodorant on before they left their rooms. They must’ve devised this system to avoid the frantic bathroom rush completely.
I kept my tray close to me, not letting the lunch ladies bully me into any meat this time. I tried to hide my disgusted look as I watched them pile fried eggs, bacon, and biscuits n’ gravy on Becky’s plate. I grabbed an apple juice, a milk carton, and a plastic container of cinnamon toast crunch cereal. Becky waited for me as I stopped at the fruit table.
“So, you in for a movie tonight,” She asked as we sat down at the same table as yesterday. Arnold and his psychiatrist were the only ones already sitting there.
“You watch movies here?”
“Yup, each day we have a schedule of different activities, to you know take our minds off of why we’re here, and to keep from doing the same old boring thing all the time. Mondays we go outside. We learn about different vegetation, we ride horses, and soak up as much vitamin D as we can handle. Tuesdays we get into small groups and do a little improve acting for fun. Wednesdays are our free days, and we can pretty much do anything we want. I usually stay in my room, because being around all these crazy people is very tiresome. Thursdays we follow our assigned schedule, and then around five, after dinner, we do to the auditorium and we watch a movie. It’s just like going to a movie theatre; they even pop up some popcorn and serve soda. It’s caffeine free of course, but it beats milk or juice any day.”
“Fridays we have relay races to keep us all from turning into fat blobs,” Becky said around a mouthful of bacon, and Arnold’s psychiatrist made a face at her choice of words, “Saturdays we pick one place to go that’s an artistic outlet, I think they call it, and we learn different ways to express ourselves,” She continued, rolling her eyes, “And Sundays are devoted to religion, or free time if you don’t believe in a religion. But it’s not all day. It’s from like seven to ten, and then we have lunch, and then we screw around some more with our free time. I usually go to the art room then.”
“Cool, so almost like summer camp.”
“Yeah, summer camp for the insane,” Becky replied rolling her eyes, “Anyways, I think the movie tonight is a toss up between Tangled, and Toy Story 3. It’s pretty lame since we’re all in our teens or early adulthood, but psychos like Arnold make them hilarious. They whisper conspiracy theories about subliminal messages middle aged men stick in the movies secretly, and argue whether or not Woody really means “Reach for the sky”, or if he secretly means “Look for the aliens, they’re coming to get you.””
“Becky,” The doctor said sternly.
“What, it’s the truth. Besides, I wasn’t trying to be mean. Arnold knows I didn’t mean anything by it. Right, Arnold?”
Arnold gave her a nervous smile, his eyes darting around the room as he nodded.
“See, case closed.”
The doctor sighed and dropped the subject assuming his normal stare-at-the-ceiling position. I dug the schedule I had jammed down in my sneaker, and freaked out when I read the time slot of my art class, and glanced up at the clock, “Oh, crap! I’m late!” I exclaimed, shooting up from my chair, gathering my trash frantically.
Arnold’s doctor watched me with a half worried, half bemused look on his face, calming Arnold who had started to shriek, and scratch his head as if he were being attacked by a pack of flees. I guess my suddenness had scared him.
Becky jerked me back in my seat by a handful of my dress, “Art is cancelled for today, because Orchid is out sick.”
“How do you know that?”
Becky snorted, “They had it posted in a big letters on the art room door. Didn’t you see it?”
I shook my head.
“Man you’re unobservant. Its amazing you’ve lived this long. Anyways, you can just chill. You’ve got a good twenty minutes to kill before you have to go meet with that quack, Dr. Var.”
“Becky,” the doctor sighed.
“Hey, all you shrinks want us to express ourselves, and how we feel, and I feel that Dr. Var is a quack,” she replied.
“Perhaps you should keep opinions like that to yourself in the future,” he said.
So I waited fifteen minutes, and headed out, and I made it to the carpeted hallway right on time. Dr. Var’s office was chiller than the already artic hallway when I peeked my head in shyly. It was dark, with all the lights off, and the thick curtains blocking out the sun. I turned to leave, and I knocked into a person. I lost my balance, and two strong hands shot out, and caught me before I could fall. I heard a loud thud, and I jolted slightly in surprise.
“Whoa, where’s the fire,” the man chuckled, still holding onto me, “Are you okay?”
“I’m…fine,” I said, stepping away from him uncomfortably, and he let his arms drop. I looked timidly up at his face, and saw that he was a strong chinned, green eyed man with sandy blonde hair flecked with grey streaks. His skin was a light caramel, as if he had just come from a vacation in Florida. I bit my lip, blushing with embarrassment as he scrutinized my face.
“Jane,” he asked, bending over to grab the motorcycle helmet he had dropped, off of the ground.
He checked his watch, “You’re right on time and I’m late. Sorry about that. My name is Dr. Var, by the way, and I am your psychiatrist.” He opened the door, and I stepped in shyly, watching him flick the lights on. Dr. Var tossed his keys and his jacket on his desk, and set his helmet on the floor. He wheeled his computer chair over to the large black one armed sofa that was pushed up against the wall.
I bit my lip unsure what to do.
“Take a load off,” he said, gesturing towards the couch as he pulled a pen out, and flipped to a clean page on his yellow steno notebook. “That is unless you have somewhere better to be,” He said, raising an eyebrow with a bemused smile.
I smiled back self-consciously, and sat down on the edge of the couch, unwilling to sink down into the invitingly soft cushions. I was on guard. I remembered what Becky had told me about him, and her, and Sue, and that other girl. I doubted he’d try anything, but I wasn’t sure. We were alone after all, and the door was shut. I wondered idly if I’d be able to fight off such a big man if he decided to overtake me.
“So, Jane, tell me a little about you.”
I furrowed my brow, “Didn’t they tell you? I have am-“
“Yes, I’m fully aware of your memory problems. I was shown a full medical report, and the doctors explained that there was nothing physical causing your amnesia at this point. But what most people don’t realize, Jane, is that even with amnesia, they recall little things about their life, trivial things they overlook. All I want is what you know. Anything at all. You can even tell me abut your day if you can’t think of anything.”
“Well, I remembered…” I said making an uncertain face, “That I am a vegetarian.”
“Good,” he said, nodding approvingly as he scribbled something unintelligible down on his notebook.
I fidgeted with the hem of my dress, and his eyes caught this slight movement, and he scribbled some more. I tried to ignore his scrutinizing eyes, and glanced around the room as I tried to think of what else there was to say about the nameless me. I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, but it fell back in my face. I crossed my legs at the ankles to stop the foot tapping, and I brought my thumb up, chewing on the nail. I wiped my salvia on my leg, and folded my hands in my lap; then I unfolded them. My legs undid themselves at the ankles, and I crossed them, my bottom leg tapping up and down.
“Is this really so bad?” Dr. Var chuckled.
“You can’t seem to sit still, Jane. Do I make you nervous?”
“No,” I lied, and thankfully my voice was even, and my face was relatively smooth, “I just hate not doing anything but talking. I hate being cooped up inside all the time, something that has been happening for the past two months.”
Dr. Var smiled, laying his pen and paper down in his chair as he got up. “Finally we’re getting somewhere. It just so happens I hate being cooped up too,” he said, shrugging out of his white lab coat, and loosening the death grip his tie had on his throat. I watched him warily, unsure of where he was going with this.
He unclipped his beeper from his belt loop, and turned back to me, sitting on the corner of his desk with an excited smile. “Do you know why I keep these curtains shut all the time?” He asked jabbing his thumb back at the tan curtains choking out all the sunlight.
“To keep your patients focused?”
He chuckled and jumped up to his feet, making me flinch involuntarily. Dr. Var walked around his desk and through the curtains back. Golden sunlight rained in, flooding the once dark room. Dr. Var pressed his palm longingly against the window, “No, Jane, it’s so I don’t get distracted. You see, I suffer from a severe case of inside-itis, rather deadly if not treated. I suspect you’ve come down with a severe case of it yourself. In my expert opinion, I suspect an hour of sun and play might turn your condition around.
“Coincidentally, my office just so happens to have a door that leads to the recreational field,” he continued, opening the door despite the sign that clearly read “for emergencies only”, “What do you say, Jane? Care to join me?”
I smiled, and then put a serious look on my face feeling my forehead as if searching for a fever, “I do say doctor, I believe your diagnosis is correct. Do you think that I’ll be saved? I’ve lived in darkness for so long.”
Dr. Var smiled, pleased that I was playing along, “We can only try.”
I laughed, and stood up, trying to fight the urge to run to door. However, the urge overtook me as the warm sun caressed my skin. I shot off like a rocket, laughing as I ran, not caring who might be watching. From my peripheral vision, I saw Dr. Var sprinting after me, and at first, I thought I might’ve done something wrong. What if he thought I was trying to escape? But then I heard his throaty laughter behind me, and I relaxed. He might’ve even been enjoying it more than I was, and I was happier than a kid locked in a toy store overnight.
Dr. Var wasn’t quite old enough to remind me of a father figure, but I did think of him as an adult brother to his little kid sister. A memory flashed unexpectedly in my head like it had in the cafeteria, momentarily blinding me as I saw a young man the same height as Dr. Var, but a few years younger than him. He had kind eyes, an amused grin always lighting up his face, and long artist fingers that were feather light when they touched you.
The memory took my body captive, and I felt myself skid to a halt. I hoped to learn more, but the memory slipped from my mind like sand through my fingers, coming as quickly as it came. Dr. Var, caught up in his manly frolic didn’t see me stop. He crashed into me at a painful speed, and we tumbled down the grassy hill until we rolled to a stop at its base. He was on top of me, his green eyes piercing into mine as he tried to catch his breath, and I could feel the soft soil giving way under our combined weight. He didn’t move at first. He just sort of laid there as we panted together, his heartbeat tap-dancing against my skin as mine thrummed just as quickly against his.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, he eased himself in a girl push up style position, and rolled off, sitting up with a groan, “Sorry, I didn’t see you stop.”
I nodded breathlessly, noticing for the first time how easy it was to breathe when you didn’t have a two hundred pound psychiatrist lying on top of you.
“Are you okay? Did I hurt you?” He asked urgently when I didn’t sit up.
“I think I remembered something,” I said, unsure if I could move just yet, “That’s why I stopped like I did.”
“What did you remember?” He asked studying my face as I stared up at the blue sky, folding my hands on top of my stomach.
“It was a face. It was some man I knew, but I can’t remember his name. You kind of reminded me of him. He was like a big brother to me…or, maybe not,” I said, blushing when I remembered the softness of his hands caressing my skin, the tenderness of his lips against mine.
Dr. Var stared at me with an unreadable expression, his eyes still wild from the fall. He sighed after a moment, and eased himself up to his feet, offering a hand to help me up. I took it, and he pulled me to my feet, and steadied me when my body threatened to fall again from dizziness.
“It’s probably time to start heading back.”
“Perhaps we’ll make a habit of this. I do have to admit I enjoy running more than I do sitting in that drafty office all day.”
“Yeah, but hopefully we can do that without the whole hill part; that I can live without.” I answered, and Dr. Var laughed. This laugh reminded me of a flute, soft, and airy.
Dr. Var was in his office bright and early the next morning, bent over with his foot on a chair, lacing up what look like a new pair of running shoes when I walked in through the door. He glanced up when he heard me come in, and smiled when he saw it was me. “Hello, Jane, care to join me for a run today?”
“Sure,” I replied, thankful I had opted for a pair of jeans over Becky’s choice—a tight jean miniskirt short enough to be worn as a headband. I pulled my hair back in a loose ponytail, securing it in place with a rubber band Becky had swiped from a desk yesterday. I frowned because something just wasn’t right. For some reason, fear was starting to gnaw at my stomach, not just a general fear either. This fear was an extreme paranoia of being found out, for being discovered. But discovered of what?
I ripped the rubber band out of my hair, realizing that my ponytail was lopsided, and when I did this, the fear evaporated. My hair tumbled down my back, cascading down my shoulders like a thick brown waterfall. Dr. Var raised an eyebrow when he saw me do this, but he didn’t comment on my odd behavior. Instead he walked over to the door and threw it open with an inviting you-go-first gesture. I smiled and walked out, closing my eyes as I held my arms out, trying to catch as much sun as physically possible.
The warm sunlight mixed with the cool October air sent a chill down my spine, and I got a glimpse of a memory from long ago. I was small, maybe ten, and I was dressed as the passionate Jacqueline Du Pre`, a female cellist born in 1945. I had a blonde wig, and I carried a plastic costume prop cello around, and wore my Sunday best—a knee high black velvet dress with a red bow around my waist, and a pair of hand-me-down Mary Jane’s. I remember being mad that my eyes weren’t blue like hers, I remember being mad that no one could come close to guessing who I was supposed to be in the mess of Buzz Light-Years, cowboys, Frankensteins, and fairy princesses.
I remembered a hand holding mine, strong and comforting. I remembered looking up and smiling with a gap where my two front teeth had fallen out and long been placed under my pillow for the tooth fairy, but the memory faded before I could see the face that belonged to the hand in mine. I took off running, ignoring Dr. Var’s concerned “Are you okay?” I raced forward; hoping to catch the memory like Alice had the white rabbit with the pocket watch and white waist coat. My lungs burned in the cold air, and my breath came out in little visible clouds. I looped around the field twice before I realized that the muscles in my legs felt like they were on fire.
But unlike Alice, I didn’t find my white rabbit; I didn’t find my wonderland of memories. My legs buckled beneath me, and I sank to the ground letting my hair curtain my face from the rest of the world. I stared at the browning grass and cursed softly at my weakness as a fat tear rolled down my cheek. I wiped it away angrily, and looked up when I heard Dr. Var’s long strides nearing me.
“Jane, are you okay?” He asked, coming to a jerky stop.
“I’m fine, I just got tired,” I lied, panting. Dr. Var nodded and sank down beside me, putting his head between his legs. I felt an amused smile tug at the corner of my mouth, “Are you okay?”
“You know, I ran track when I was in high school. I won metals, and I never broke a sweat. It’s been ten years since I’ve ran like that, and I think I’m a bit out of shape.”
“Not out of shape, just a little out of practice,” I replied.
Dr. Var smiled, and then checked his watch, “That would be the end of our session, My Dear. Same time tomorrow?”
“It’s a date,” I answered, wondering if I had actually seen a lightness sparkle in his eyes when I said this, or if I had just been imagining it. I struggled up to my feet, and Dr. Var did the same, putting an arm around my shoulders as we walked back.
Since art had been cancelled the day before, all of Dr. Pennway’s charges had to miss the relay races that were going on outside to make up for the missed hum-drum express-yourself-through art session. Most of the patients in the room didn’t seem to mind. Becky was ecstatic. She told me that she usually feigned illness on Fridays to get out of the relays anyways, and when the nurses were on to her little ruse, she merely refused to participate. It’s not like they could do much to her anyways.
I on the other hand was bored out of my mind. I sighed, glancing at the closed blinds, listening to the joy filled shrieks as the other patients moved back and forth in the recreation fields doing anything but macaroni art. I flicked a piece of uncooked macaroni across the table, and Becky glanced up from her art with an amused smile. She looked down again, and added the piece I had flicked to her masterpiece. Becky had been at this for a good fifteen minutes, fitting each piece with the deepest concentration as if she were constructing a famous Byzantine mosaic out of gold tiles.
Dr. Pennway—aka “Orchid” as everyone else called her—saw my clear displeasure, and walked over with her hands in a prayer-like position at her bulging pregnant belly. “Is there anything the matter, Dear,” she asked in her whimsical sing-song voice.
I looked up, trying my best to hide the misery that was written all over my face. “I’m really no good at this. I think I was absent when God was handing out macaroni art skills.”
Becky snickered under her breath, and Dr. Pennway reprimanded her with a stern look. She turned back to me with a kind smile, peering hopefully through her thick glasses, “There is no right or wrong with macaroni art, Jane. All you must do is express your emotions. As long as you do that, your work will reflect them.”
I bit my lip as another memory blinded me. I saw myself in a mirror without the crimson burns on my face. I was peeking over the tops of thick glasses that I didn’t need, playing with my hair. I was wearing an itchy grey jumper with a white button-up shirt with an annoying collar under it. I was about to read the emblem sown to the right breast of the jumper, but then the memory was shattered when Dr. Pennway’s belly brushed against my arm as she bent over me to get a better look at my piece of paper.
Dr. Pennway’s butterfly shaped lips pulled down in a grimace. My paper was drenched in white Elmer’s glue with macaroni scattered chaotically in a senseless design. All the other patient’s pictures were well developed. Becky’s motif was a cheeseburger silhouette with a skinny girl inside it, vomiting up macaroni shaped puke. Arnold’s was himself being carried off into space by a UFO, flipping off all the unbelievers who were gathered on the ground, standing in awe as they watched the UFO fly off. Even Nathan, the boy with Down syndrome made his in the shape of a happy looking five legged dog.
“It is…interesting to say the least,” Dr. Pennway choked, leaning in involuntarily to get a closer look. “It reminds me of one of Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings. Um, Jane, could you excuse me a moment? I just remembered that I need to call someone.”
I nodded, but she was already gone. She practically sprinted to the old fashioned off-white phone hanging on the wall beside her dated chalkboard. To my mortification, the subject of the call being placed was me. Either the woman had no idea how to whisper, or she honestly had no idea how much her soft chiming voice carried in the art room, because everyone could hear everything she said into the phone.
“Yes, could you come down? I fear that Jane is a more serious case than we had initially anticipated. No, she’s not crying. We are doing macaroni art and hers is…rather disturbing. Yes, of course you can come see it for yourself. Thank you.”
My ears blazed a bright pink in embarrassment and Becky chuckled; “Now you’ve learned your lesson. Always do something recognizable in art, even if it’s a stick figure, otherwise Orchid will flip out, and blow the whole thing way out of proportion.”
I sighed and stared at my art miserably. It wasn’t like I was an underachiever. I had actually spent the better most of the half hour working on my picture, but since my emotions consist mainly of being confused, my picture ended up being a mass of chaotic macaroni. But then again, maybe that’s why Dr. Pennway was so worried about me.
Ten minutes after the call, Becky made a disgusted face, and I felt a large hand clamp down on my shoulder. I knew it was Dr. Var by Becky’s reaction before I even looked up. “Hey, Jane, are you feeling okay? Dr. Pennway seemed rather worried about you over the phone,” he said, his forehead creasing with worry as he squatted down to my level like an adult would to a young child.
I glanced over at Dr. Pennway and she ducked her head guiltily, re-tidying her already spotless desk for the third time now. I wondered idly if she was a little OCD, and then snorted at the thought. Wouldn’t that be ironic; a shrink having a mental problem? I looked back up at Dr. Var’s face as he studied my picture with deep analytical eyes. “Jane, would you mind taking a walk with me?” He asked standing up, peeling my picture off of the table.
I nodded half-heartedly, and got up, pushing my chair in. Dr. Var followed me with his left hand placed on the small of my back, gently propelling me forward. He paused for a moment as I walked through the door, and he gave Dr. Pennway an everything-is-going-to-be-alright nod. Dr. Pennway smiled worriedly and placed her hand on her heart. Dr. Var shut the door behind him quietly, and strolled over to where I was pessimistically standing with my hands on my hips.
He chuckled when he saw the ticked off expression on my face and he glanced at my picture again, “Dr. Pennway is convinced that you’re a disturbed child, Jane. She thinks you need double the therapy you’re getting with me, just because you did this picture. However, in my expert opinion, I believe that you’re right where you need to be mentally for someone who’s been through as much trauma as you have. I see that you are angry, and confused, and earlier today, I saw fear in your eyes that I didn’t quite comprehend, and your art clearly shows these emotions in their raw form as you experience them. Stop me if I’m way off the mark.”
“If you were any closer to the mark you’d be Robin Hood,” I replied sourly, blowing a strand of my hair out of my face. Dr. Var permitted a self-congratulatory smile.
I watched him wad up my picture, and he shot it into the nearest trashcan, “Dr. Pennway is a prestigious psychiatrist wise beyond her years, but she reads too much into things. I’m not worried about you at this point, Jane. You seem like an intelligent young lady. You just need a creative outlet to express your emotions that is more tailored to your needs, and I don’t think macaroni art is going to cut it.”
A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth, “Yeah, I do suck at macaroni art.”
Dr. Var chuckled, and we set to work on finding my ‘outlet’. We stopped in the library first, where the book club was discussing Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, and how pop culture seemed to explode in a vampire/werewolf craze in response. Of course I couldn’t remember if I had read any of her books, or the series called the Vampire Diaries, or Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, so I immediately felt left out, and at a total loss.
Dr. Var drug me to a improv dance class next. In the class, everyone made up their own dance moves on the fly, to random music that was spliced together in a chaotic train wreck off noise. We stopped in the game room after that, and played a few rounds of air hockey as I tried to recover from my twisted ankle and embarrassment.
I was about to call it quits; throw in the towel, especially after getting hit in the head with a projectile knight while playing chess. I was happy to assume that I had no special ability, and to go on with a mediocre life, but Dr. Var didn’t let me give up. He refused to let me until we had tried out every artistic activity he could think of—even synchronized swimming—that Twin Oaks had to offer.
We still hadn’t found my talent by eight that evening, and I was exhausted and cranky, so I was less enthusiastic about being shoved into a large round music room.
“Hello? May I help you?” A man with a crooked nose that resembled a beak asked.
“Good evening Jacques, Jane and I are in a search to express our emotions, so we were wondering if she could try out a few of your instruments to see if this might be her outlet.”
“Of course,” Jacques replied, “So this is the girl that caused Dr. Pennway to have a meltdown?”
“The one and only,” Dr. Var answered with a chuckled, and my ears blazed in humiliation. I bit my lip and moved away from them. I ventured over to an alluring grand piano with a glossy black paint that was like staring into a mirror. I plucked a simple scale, my fingers moving without hesitation, and they both started in excitement, and then furrowed their brows when I moved away from it in disinterest. I picked up an acoustic guitar next, strumming Beethoven’s fifth. I sighed, frowning as I turned back to them. Dr. Var and Jacques were both staring openly at me, Dr. Var’s eyes alight, and Jacques with his hand on his chin studying me thoughtfully.
“Is there something is particular you’re searching for? You seem to know your way around instruments.”
I pursed my lips, walking around, touching each instrument I passed, “I went to a private school on a scholarship for playing an instrument…but its name seems to have escaped me.” Dr. Var marveled at the fact that I remembered a detail like that, but I was less impressed. I realized I still had the guitar in one of my hands, and I sat down, holding the guitar vertically, “Do you have something like this?”
“A guitar?” Dr. Var asked.
I thought about that for a moment, “Yes, and no. It’s bigger than a guitar.” I laid the guitar across my body, and made a motion with my hands that felt right for the instrument I was thinking of.
Jacques smiled, and disappeared into a large walk-in closet as Dr. Var stared at me with a puzzled expression. I set the guitar on its stand, and took the hulking instrument from Jacques as he carried it out in its black case.
“A bass?” Dr. Var asked.
“Actually, it’s a cello,” he replied, watching me lift the cello out with a new found delicacy. I sat back down on the bench, and laid the instrument across my body, resting the metal foot on the black and white tiled floor. I took an uneven breath full of excitement, and full of fear as I slid the bow across the strings. My shaky hands felt like a fire had ignited, and I watched in awe as the flew across the strings. I felt my soul pour into the notes not memorized from any song published. My arms jerked wildly, and my eyes closed, a faint smile ghosting at the corners of my lips as my fingers rushed to press the right strings for the right notes.
I shuddered involuntarily as the memories of my first cello, of my first recital as I fidgeted in an itchy grey jumper and high knee socks, me playing for countless hours in my closet sized room until my fingers bled without end, and my hands felt like they could fall off. My arms sped up in the final verse of the melody, and finally stopped, the last poignant note hanging in the air with a brief sense of melancholy as if it felt lonely.”
“Why’d you stop?” Jacques asked as Dr. Var stared at me with shock written all over his face. “Surely the song cannot end there. Who was the composer?”
“I was, and I never finished writing the song.”
Jacques gaped at me for a moment, and then clapped his hands in approval, and Dr. Var shook his head in disbelief.
“Genius. This girl is a genius; a protégée!”
Dr. Var smiled, “This is definitely a better fit than macaroni art.”
I felt my lips force themselves into a smile, but it didn’t quite touch my eyes. This instrument…this cello, was my key; my ticket to my forgotten memories. I could feel them just below the surface, churning in a deadly whirl pool in my brain. They were a mirage always just out of my reach.
“You are truly exceptional! It’s a wonder no one is missing you, my dear.” Jacques said with an excited smile, unaware of how deeply his careless words cut me.
Dr. Var shot him a dirty look, and Jacques’s grin disappeared when he realized what he had said. “You’re a spectacular musician, Jane,” Dr. Var said, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder, trying to distract me from his colleague’s blunder. “I’ll see to it that you get switched from art to a music class with Jacques. It may switch your schedule around a bit, but hey, no macaroni art!”
I nodded and stared vaguely at nothing in particular as I packed the cello away in its black case mechanically. “It will be the first time in five years that we finally have someone who knows how to play the cello,” Jacques chirped, taking the case off of my hands.
“Thank you. This has been nice…but I’m tired, so I think I’m going to head back to my room now.” I said flatly.
“Would you like me to escort you? It’s on my way.” Dr. Var said, his forehead creasing at the dead expression on my face.
“No,” I replied, forgetting to tack a polite “Thank you” on the end. I walked out without another word, and let the door swing shut behind me. My legs walked mindlessly as I brooded over what Jacques had said. If I was so exceptional, why hadn’t anyone come to claim me? Why did I have these injuries and old scars if I had been loved? And if I truly was a self-mutilator, had my life been so terrible that I wanted to end it? Had I hoped that death would be easier? Had I tried to blow myself up, or shot myself like the scars suggested?
These thoughts weighed so heavily on my mind that I had stopped in the middle of the hallway, and just stood there without realizing it. Finally, I gave up on walking all together, and I leaned against a wall, sliding down until I was sitting on the dirty floor. I pulled my knees up to my chest, and laid my head down on them, staring into space as I tried to order my thoughts as my mind fought against the deadness that seemed to spread through me.
I made two lists, the only reliable things I had left, one for the bad life thought, with exhibits a, b, and c being my scars, my amnesia, and the fact that no one had tried to look for me. The other list was for my good life with a few bumps in the road thought, my only evidence being a gut feeling that somewhere, somehow there was a person; maybe even more than just one actually worrying to death about my whereabouts, but that didn’t seem to have as much weight as the physical evidence. It wasn’t a strong argument, but I had to admit, my gut usually knew what it was talking about.
“Hey, you! What are you doing out past curfew?!” A voice demanded, and I looked up slowly to find a male orderly in blue scrubs, and white shoes stomping my way. I scrambled tiredly to my feet, and sniffled, realizing for the first time that I was crying. The orderly slowed when he saw me try to quickly wipe the moisture from my eyes, and he glanced around nervously, walking towards me with his hands up in an I-come-in-peace gesture, “Are you okay?”
My lower lip trembled, threatening to cause the dam of moisture building up behind my eyes to break.
“Jane, there you are! Did you get lost?” Dr. Var called in relief, and the Orderly and I looked his way. We watched him as he walked towards us with a pack of concerned staff members following him in a quickly formed search party, “Are you okay?”
I bit my lip, and smoothed my hair, trying to calm the shortness in my breath as I fought back the sob heaving violently in my chest. Dr. Var closed the distance between us, and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder that was meant to comfort me. My chin crumbled and the sob won. It ripped through me with a painful sound. Fresh tears scorched their way down my cheeks as they tumbled down from my tired eyes. I attached myself to Dr. Var, my arms not quite fitting all the way around him as I pressed my face into his shirt, ashamed of my weakness.
Dr. Var glanced around uncertainly, and when prodded with a couple of encouraging nods from his colleagues, I felt his arms wrap themselves hesitantly around me, holding me as I wept like a child. Finally I let myself be me. I was a broken child without a family, and without a name, or knowledge of who I was. I let the tears flow, and I let him hold me. What else was I supposed to do?
It felt odd to wake up without the shrill screech of an alarm clock at six thirty, or Beck’s promises of a cold shower if I didn’t get up, the next morning. I blinked tiredly against the bright light flooding in from the window. Usually it was still dark out when we got up, so I knew almost instantly that it was later than six thirty. But how much later? I sat up with a groan, and froze in mid-stretch when I realized that I was not alone. Dr. Var was leaning against the wall at the foot of my bed, and Nurse Ratchet sat on the edge of Becky’s bed, something that would’ve thrown Becky into a fit if she had been there.
“Good morning. Did you sleep well?” Dr. Var murmured softly, as if to make sure I was actually awake and not sleeping with my eyes open.
“Where-how-“ I began, confused. Last night had been a blur. After crying into Dr. Var’s chest, I couldn’t remember anything. I didn’t even remember walking back to my room.
“You collapsed, and I carried you back to your room once the physician made sure you hadn’t sustained any injuries. We came in early this morning, and told Becky it was best to just let you sleep. I imagine yesterday was quite an ordeal for you, so I thought rest was the best medicine.” I rubbed my eyes, trying to wake myself up. If they weren’t here, I could’ve burrowed back under the covers and slept another good couple of hours. “Now, if you’re feeling up to it, we can all go down and get some lunch, and then we can go for a run.”
“Lunch?” I asked, confused.
“It’s twelve thirty, Dear,” Nurse Ratchet answered, rising to her feet slowly, as if this movement pained her.
I sat there for a moment, and then threw back the covers, too frazzled to be embarrassed that Dr. Var was seeing me in the skimpy hand-me-down pajamas Becky gave me. I maneuvered around Dr. Var, and grabbed a stack of clean clothes from the floor at the foot of my bed, and grabbed my toiletries, almost dropping then as I stumbled over my long forgotten sneaker.
“Can you give me like, ten minutes?”
“Take all the time you need,” he replied, “I’ll be down in the cafeteria.” He ducked out the door. I made sure I had everything, and then left the room, heading towards the bathroom with Nurse Ratchet at my elbow. At first I thought we might be coincidentally heading in the same general direction, but then she followed me into the bathroom, and I assumed she had some business to take care of, however, it was not the same kind of business I was thinking of.
She leaned against the wall, and I realized she was sent here as my escort, no, worse, my babysitter. Nurse Ratchet watched as I squirted toothpaste on my toothbrush. Before I had a chance to ask her why she was sent to watch me, she answered my unasked question.
“Jane, you’ll notice that some things will be changing in the days to come. Everyone was worried about how you would adjust here at Twin Oaks, and judging last night’s breakdown, Dr. Var has decided that you aren’t adjusting as well as he had hoped. So, from now on, you’ll have an escort at all times, and you’ll be attending at least two sessions with Dr. Var a day, more so if needed.”
I spit my toothpaste out in the sink and rinsed my mouth thoughtfully. First they wanted me to open up and tell them every feeling I was experiencing. Now, after I had done just that, trusted someone enough to cry on their shoulder, I was to be punished? There was no winning with them.
“Am I a black card now?”
“More or less,” she replied, and I nodded, gritting my teeth angrily, “You’ll also have a required examination once a day by a doctor to make sure you aren’t secretly harming yourself. You’ll like Dr. Grant, she’s a nice woman, and she’s gentle too.”
I grabbed my clothes and stomped off to a shower, hoping that I wouldn’t loose my cool and yell at her. This wasn’t her fault. She was just a messenger. Nurse Ratchet flitted in front of me, and poked her head in the shower stall looking for any razors, or other things left behind that I could cut myself with. I closed my eyes hissing through my teeth, pinching the bridge of my nose. She moved out of the way, after she had inspected the stall for the third time, and let me in. I slammed the door in her face, and listened to the lock rattle for a moment before I locked the stall door.
I was sure that the ten minutes I had asked for had expired at that point, but I didn’t care anymore. Dr. Var and Nurse Ratchet could wait for an eternity for all I cared. It wasn’t like I was going anywhere. This thought made me freeze for a moment as I wondered if that would be true. Who was to say how long I was supposed to stay at Twin Oaks? Would I be here for the rest of my life? If not, where would I go? How did a person with amnesia fill out a job application, or sign a contract to rent an apartment? Doe, Jane?
The water turned for warm droplets to ice water in a matter of short minutes, and I turned it off halfway through rinsing off, my teeth chattering wildly as I tried to dry myself with a poor excuse for a towel. I walked out of the stay fully dressed, cursing softly at the fact that my socks were went inside my shoes. I should’ve left them outside the stall. I walked to the mirror, towel drying my hair, and I combed through it roughly, aware of the concerned look that was on Nurse Ratchet’s face with each stroke ripping through me hair. I wadded my dirty clothes up, too angry fold them, and stomped back to my room with Nurse Ratchet on my heels. Becky may just pretend to dislike her, but I was truly starting despise that woman. She thought I was crazy, that I’d hurt someone, or myself, even though I knew that I wasn’t capable of such things.
Nurse Ratchet took me by the hand after I stowed my things, and she tugged me through her secret “short cut” to the cafeteria. The “short cut” was a treacherous trip through a janitor’s closet that led to the cafeteria. I nearly tripped over a bucket, and I just knew that I’d have a bruise on my shin from the edge of a cabinet I bumped into. Nurse Ratchet lead us to the short line, and I grabbed a tray, and set my jaw stubbornly when she asked me, “Are you sure you don’t want that?” and said, “Your plate seems awfully empty.”
“I’m a vegetarian,” I explained as I loaded up on salad and other greens to make up for my practically empty plate. I grabbed a peanut butter sandwich, and two milks.
“Well, we don’t get many of those. I’ll have to pass the word along. Maybe the lunch ladies can start serving soy burgers, or tofu.”
“I don’t want to be a bother. I’m perfectly content with peanut butter sandwiches,” I sighed. She was really starting to infuriate me.
“Is that what you think? That you’re a bother?” She asked her eyes wide with a sneaky innocence. I clamped my mouth shut, realizing that she would be reporting everything I said right back to Dr. Var. I didn’t answer her, and she pursed her lips searching for a table. Finally she spotted Dr. Var, and she started towards him. He was three tables away from my friends, sitting by himself. I looked longingly over at Becky’s table, and she saw me and mouthed, “I’m sorry. They’re idiots.”
And that’s when it happened. I was so focused on wanting to sit with Becky that I didn’t see Arnold stop dead in his tracks to tie his shoe. I tripped over him, taking me down with him, and the contents of my plate splattered all over him as I fell chest first in his meatloaf and mash potatoes. I scrambled off of the plate, my face blazing a bright red when I realized that the whole cafeteria had gone completely silent, and everyone was staring at me.
“I’m so sorry, Arnold. I didn’t see you,” I gushed, trying not to gag when I realized that I had meatloaf all over my shirt. Thankfully, I had another shirt under that, so I extricated myself from the drenched top shirt, thankful that none of the meat or gravy had soaked through to my undershirt. I stood up, and offered my hand to help him up, “Are you okay?”
Arnold stood up, refusing to take my hand, and he wiped the splattered gravy off of him face, flicking it off of his fingers like you would after washing your hands when you didn’t have a towel to dry them.
“Jane,” Nurse Ratchet cautioned, eyeing Arnold fearfully. I picked a piece of asparagus out of his shirt pocket, and tried to help him clean himself off.
“I truly am sorry. I hope you can forgive me,” I said.
Arnold’s fist came so fast that I hadn’t seen it coming. It knocked me down on my butt, and I barely missed the tray I had fallen in not even a minute ago. His fist had hit me square in the jaw, and I had no time to get my bearings before he jumped on top of me, straddling me like he would a horse as he hit me over and over again. He hit me in the stomach when I tried to block his fist from hitting my face for the umpteenth time, and then jabbed me in the ribs with enough force that my bones should’ve gave way under it. I stared into his eyes without fear, watching as they blackened with a sudden viciousness that made me understand why he was a black card; why he had his psychiatrist with him at all times.
It took seven people to yank him off of me, and to restrain him. Dr. Var rushed in, placing his hands on my shaking body, trying to comfort me when I didn’t need to be comforted. “Keep still,” he said when I tried to sit up from the hard cafeteria floor, “We don’t know the extent of your injuries.”
I didn’t cry like he might’ve expected. I didn’t turn to him so that he could hold me. I snapped. I tore away from his hands and shot up to my feet with murder in my eyes, and rage that made me see red. By this time Arnold was starting to calm down, but I was far from it. I tackled him, knocking him out of the doctor’s restraining hands and gave him tenfold the punishment he had dished out on me. I hit him so hard, and so many times that my fists were covered in his blood and my own. I was so wrapped up in trying to kill him that I forgot momentarily about my squeamishness.
“Don’t you ever hit me again! You are a brainless, mucus sucking, yellow-bellied psycho, and if I ever so much as see your ugly face again, I will kill you,” I shouted, because I couldn’t hear myself over the loud crunching of his nose.
I wasn’t sure if it was because they were letting me get my payback, or if they were just too stunned by my merciless attack, but I had nearly destroyed Arnold’s face by the time I felt someone rip me off of him. The fight was still in me, and I clawed the hands that tried to hold me still, drawing blood despite the short dullness of my nails. “Get off of me! Let me go,” I growled, thrashing. Hot tears stung my bloody face as they started to roll down from my eyes. “Let me go!”
There was a hard bite of a needle when someone was finally able to trap my arm long enough, and I felt my breath whoosh out of my longs in a surprised moment. My legs buckled beneath me, and I slumped in someone else’s bleeding arms. I cried in my last moments of unconscious, not because of the pain. A small voice inside me told me that I had suffered worse. I was crying because I was terrified, terrified of the monster lurking inside of me that had just busted its way out. Who was I underneath this thick veil of amnesia?
My eyes fluttered open, and I found myself lying on a mattress that was sitting in the middle of a dark empty room. My hands were trapped mummy-pharaoh style across my chest in a tight straight jacket that made it hard for me to breathe. I whimpered softly in fear as the pain returned to me in thick piercing waves that seemed to erode me away a little more each time. My mind remembered a dozen different situations worse than this: a shark cage being lowered in the ocean with me locked inside it with no air, and a piece of raw steak strapped to me; manacles too tight around my wrists and ankles, stretching me out flat as a laser threatened to cut me in half; an airless bubble sucking the life out of me as a crowd of people in grey bodysuits cheered as they watched me start to die; a scalpel biting against my temple as it cut me open while I was still conscious; an explosion high up above the clouds burning my face.
I stumbled up to my feet, and flopped into a wall when I lost my balance. “Jane,” someone murmured, and I looked up to find the silhouette of a man sitting in a chair in one of the dark corners of the room. He got up, and came into the light, and I saw that it was Dr. Var.
I bit my lip trying to keep the tears from coming as my eyes darted around the room again, searching for any other people that might be hiding in the shadows. “Don’t be afraid. You’re safe in here.”
“Where am I?”
“Solitary, until you gather your wits about you again. You really scared us,” He continued, putting a finger under my chin, and lifting my face up, because I had looked away in shame, “Poor Arnold was sent to the hospital. You broke his nose, and his jaw. The doctors had to wire it shut.”
I made a face, “I don’t know what came over me.”
“The more important thing is that you’re alright,” he replied cupping the side of my face with one hand, rubbing my lower lip with his thumb, as his other hand stroked my hair, “And I can get you out of here, out of this straightjacket…provided that you’ll be a good girl.”
I furrowed my brow in confusion. There was something off about the look on his face, something wrong in his eyes, and the way he touched me. “You can be a good girl, can’t you, Jane?” He asked, fingering the strings on the straightjacket almost tauntingly. I nodded uncertainly and he smiled, unknotting the strings at an agonizingly slow pace. I wiggled out of it as soon as it was loose enough, too impatient to wait for him to undo the bottom string. I stumbled slightly when my foot snagged on it, and Dr. Var caught me without hesitation…but he didn’t let do.
His lips brushed softly against mine, and when I tried to pull away, his hand held my face there with a gentle firmness. “Jane, good girls do as they’re told, so stay still.” He murmured cupping my face with both of his hands as his lips traveled seductively from my burned cheek to my swollen eye, and then to the corner of my mouth.
“Dr. Var,” I said, trying to turn my face away. I would’ve tried to push him away, but our bodies were so close that they were trapped against both of our chests. The odd thing that I noticed, was that my face didn’t hurt much at all, it was my hands that were in pain. I knew they were raw from beating in Arnold’s face, but this pain was different, it wasn’t on my skin. My hands ached clear to my bones, and they felt like they were on fire.
“Warren,” he whispered against my neck.
“My name is Warren. Dr. Var is so impersonal, especially for us, Jane. I think I love you. I almost couldn’t control myself when we rolled down the hill together. I almost took you right then, but I knew it was too soon. And then, in the hallway when you came to me, crying into my chest, I was nearly overcome with desire for you that I almost couldn’t handle it,” he said, and backed me into the closest wall, pressing up against me so that I couldn’t wriggle out of his grasp, “Relax, Jane. We were meant to be together, you’ll see. When the time is right, I’ll sneak you from this place, and we can run off together. They won’t miss me. There are always younger, more talented psychiatrists out there, and they already wish they were rid of you the way you nearly massacred Arnold.”
“But, Dr. Var,” I grunted, struggling against his constricting arms, “I don’t want to-“
“Jane, please don’t make me punish you. You promised you’d be a good girl,” he said, his tone light, but scolding as if he were talking to a little kid who broke the glass vase in the living room after he was told not to throw things in the house.
Dr. Var sighed, yanking a preloaded needle out of his coat pocket, “Do you see this, Jane? This is what you will get if you’re a bad girl. Now I don’t want to start our new life together with a fight, but I will use this if you keep being difficult.” I stared at the needle fearfully, and he smiled, taking my moment’s distraction to wedge himself closer to me. His lips found mine again, and he stuck the needle back in his pocket for a moment as his hands groped around my stomach. Finally, he was able to do what he was struggling with. He yanked my undershirt out of my jeans where it had been tucked in.
“No!” I shouted, hoping someone would hear me, but all that got me was a hard slap across the face that made my ears ring. The force of his hand against my face made the back of my head crack against the jagged part of the brick wall. I felt my body go limp, and start to slide down the wall as dots filled my vision. Dr. Var permitted a self-congratulatory smile, and lowered me gently to the ground. “No,” I moaned softly as he crouched over me.
I was too disoriented to fight. I could feel blood rushing from my head onto the cold floor. But just when I started to think I was done for, I heard the muffled rattling of keys outside the door. Dr. Var heard it too, and he climbed off of me, cursing softly under his breath. He stood there for a moment, and I tried to sit up, but he wasn’t having that. He pushed me back down impatiently, and pulled the needle back out of his pocket. He tore the red safety cap off of the needle with his teeth, spitting it out on the floor, and trapped one of my arms, sliding the needle in without hesitating.
My eyelids fluttered, too tired to stay open as the door to the room finally slammed open. “Dr. Var, are you okay?” An orderly asked as he rushed in with Nurse Ratchet on his heels. They both took in the blood running down the wall, and me fighting unconsciousness on the floor, with blood dripping from a cut on the back of my head.
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“What happened?!” Nurse Ratchet asked, rushing to my side. My fingers reached towards her numbly. I wanted to tell her what Dr. Var had done, what he had planned to do, but I couldn’t find my mouth.
“I came in to check on her, and someone must’ve let her out of her straightjacket, because it wasn’t on her when I came in. She was so frightened, and traumatized by Arnold beating her up, that she thought I was him, and that I was going to finish the job. I managed to neutralize her with some medication I had on hand, but not before she slipped and hit her head on that wall,” he replied, his face smooth as stone, and his voice taking on a concerned tone as he looked at me, “You should probably get a doctor in here. You know how harmful a double concussion can be.”
Why that…In my drug clouded mind, I couldn’t think of a nasty enough name to call him. Dr. Var must’ve had all this planned out, just in case he was to get caught. I wanted to beat the crap out of him so much, but I was too tired. I had fought the medicine as long as I could, but finally my mind gave way to the swirling darkness, unknowing of what I might face when I woke up again…if I would wake up again.
I didn’t wake up in the empty room. I didn’t wake up in Becky’s room. I woke up in a bright unfamiliar bedroom with two large bay windows that gave way to the morning sunlight. From the floor up, on the walls was a striped flower-patterned wallpaper, and when the flowers ended in the middle of the walls, the walls were painted a vintage pink. Directly in front of me was a large fireplace where a small fire crackled an odd green color from the salty driftwood the flames were slowly devouring.
There was also a pair of thin winding glass shelves nailed to the wall that held a lifetime’s collection of books. There was a small iron Ifle tower in the corner of the room beside the windows, and hanging on the walls were framed pictures that had calligraphic words written in French. They were too far away to read clearly, but from what I could tell, they were talking about a well known bistro, and a gondola ride.
I blinked, confused as I looked around. I was laying in a vast white king-sized bed that had a metal headboard and footboard that was made of a twisted black metal, ornamented with black metal roses. My head ached and when I reached up to touch the part that had hit the wall in the empty room, I realized there was a thick bandaging wrapped loosely around my head. I threw back the covers, and fingered the long, white negligee that was two sizes too big, that someone had changed me into while I was unconscious.
I threw my legs over the side of the bed, but when I tried to stand, my knees buckled uselessly beneath me, and I fell to the floor painfully. After laying there for a moment to catch my breath, I struggled to my feet and tested my balance. When I was sure I wouldn’t fall on my face again, I walked to the windows in hopes of finding out where I was. Outside, there was a beautiful botanical garden, much like the one at Twin Oaks, but this one was more elaborate, with gurgling streams, and stone angels worked in with the flowers.
“I planted those for my wife six years go,” Dr. Var said, and I gasped, whirling around to find him standing in the doorway, with one hand on the doorknob as he watched me. He shut the door, and locked it before he walked over to me. I collapsed on the window seat—my wobbly legs no longer to hold me up—and I stared up at him fearfully as he leaned around me to look out the window, “She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and when they offered her treatments, she saw no point, and she came home, and waited to die. In her last few months she couldn’t move too much, but she always liked it when I would carry her over here, and we would both stare at that garden for hours until she would fall asleep. She died last year.”
He looked at me from the corner of his eye, and he touched my swollen face. I flinched away, and I turned my face to stare at my hands shaking in my lap. Dr. Var sat down beside me, and lifted my face up gently with one of his hands, so that I was looking at him. “How’s your head? Are you in any pain?”
“You’re worried about my head?! You’re the nutty psychiatrist who stole me away.” I hissed.
“Don’t be petty,” Dr. Var replied, his hand probing the back of my head. I winced, squeezing my eyes shut when his hand brushed along the sore spot. I let out a shaky breath, and opened my tear-filled eyes, confused by the concerned look on his face as he studied my pained expression. “I am truly sorry I had to hurt you like that.”
“Then why did you do it? Why am I ever here?!” I shouted angrily, shooting up to my feet. But then the dizziness came, and I felt myself sway as dots filled my vision. Dr. Var reached out to steady me, but I jerked away from his hands, and I stumbled, falling back on the floor.
Dr. Var sighed and got up to his feet, bending over to get a secure hold on my waist, and he pulled me up off of the ground. He hugged me, his silky blonde hair brushing against my shoulder as his hands rubbed small gentle circles into my back. “You are here, because we belong together. You don’t have to love me now, but you will come to love me with time.”
I felt the pinch of a needle against me skin, and Dr. Var drew back slightly, watching me face contort with fear and betrayal as I started to loose myself to the medication. I slumped weakly in his arms, and he picked me up, and carried me back to the bed, laying me down. He positioned my head so I wasn’t lying on the sore spot on the back of my head, and he pulled the covers up to my chin. His hand disappeared beneath the blanket for a moment, and then reappeared to pull my arms out from under it.
“It’s okay, Jane, I promise you’re safe. You just sleep now; you need to heal,” he whispered as he bent over me, and he kissed me softly on the lips. Dr. Var straightened, caressing the side of my face, and then turned, and walked out of the bedroom. The door slid shut with a soft click, and my eyes closed unwillingly.
The sky was starting to darken when I woke up again, and I stared at the sunset, mesmerized by the brilliant colors. And then twilight came, swallowing the sunset up with its ugly dull grey. I moaned softly as I struggled out of bed. I felt my way to the wall, and flicked the lights on, momentarily blinded by the bright bulbs in the chandelier overhead. I staggered sleepily to the door, and to my surprise, it wasn’t locked when I tried the doorknob.
I opened the door quietly, and peeked out first before I crept into the dark hallway. I walked as quietly as the creaky wood floor would allow, and nearly toppled face first down a flight of stairs, because it was too dark for me to see that there was no more hallway. I eased myself down the first step, clutching the railing in my shaky hands. I tiptoed down them a little more confidently, but froze when I reached the base of the stairs. There it was: my escape.
The front door was not even five feet away, standing tauntingly before me as I hesitated. I looked around, not able to see much, because the whole first floor was darker than the second floor. I edged cautiously to the front door, and jiggled the knob dubiously. It was unlocked. This had to be too good to be true…and it was. When I opened the door, Dr. Var was standing on the other side with one arm wrapped around a paper sack of groceries. He cocked his head to the side, and stared at me with a slightly bemused look on his face at the fact that the thought of escape had even crossed my mind.
“Jane, dear, it was so sweet of you to meet me at the door, but you shouldn’t have troubled yourself. You should be resting,” he said, flicking on the light as he stepped through the door. I faltered a step back, and he locked the deadbolt, jamming the key in his pocket. He looped a gentle arm around my waist and tugged me in the direction from which I came, but he didn’t force me upstairs like I had expected. Instead he walked me into a large kitchen, and released me, starting to work on unloading the bag.
“Are you hungry?” He asked, pausing with the fridge door open.
I stood frozen in the middle of the kitchen, watching him with wary eyes. Dr. Var looked at me for a moment when I didn’t answer, and then shut the fridge door, and walked back over to me. His hands placed themselves on my hips, and he hoisted me up on the countertop of the island. “Are you feeling okay? You look a little peaked.” He said, his hand brushing gently against my forehead. “Hmm, you have a slight fever. I bet I have something for that.” He said, walking back to the fridge.
Dr. Var stooped over, and produced a small blue box from a drawer, shutting the door again before he walked back to me. He put the box on the counter, and jammed his hand inside it for a moment, his fingers searching blindly. His hand reappeared, holding a small blue rectangle with a paper backing. He tore the backing off, and he moved to put the blue rectangle on my forehead, but I cringed away from his hands.
“It’s okay, Jane, I put these on Jeffy all the time,” he said, and he smoothed it against my forehead. I shivered involuntarily at the coolness of the gel rectangle against my skin. “They’re for children to control their fevers, but they work just as well on adults.” He continued, stuffing the box back in the fridge.
“Who-“ I started, and then dropped my eyes when he turned back excitedly. I realized I hadn’t spoken once to him since I had woken up.
I closed my eyes with a sigh, “Who is Jeffy?”
Dr. Var chuckled, and came to stand by me, “Jeffy is my son. He’s coming back from his first sleepover tomorrow, so you’ll get to meet him.” Dr. Var touched my face, “How is you head? Do you need to take anything? I think I’ve got Tylenol.” I shuddered slightly as another memory past through my head unexpectedly. I saw myself rummaging through as set of cheap wooden cabinets in frustration, with one hand pressed against my aching head. The memory slipped from my mind when Dr. Var touched my shoulder, “Jane, are you okay? Are you feeling faint?”
I looked at him for a moment, and then nodded. Dr. Var kissed my cheek, and then helped me down from the counter. He led me upstairs, and helped me into bed, which incidentally was too high up for me to climb into without assistance. Dr. Var flicked out the lights, and shut the door, and I stared into the darkness, wondering how I would ever get out of this mess.
I jolted awake the next morning to the sound of the bedroom door being unlocked, and sat up when I heard Dr. Var close it behind him. “I hate to wake you, Jane, but you need to get ready,” he said plopping down beside me.
“Get ready for what?” I asked sourly, bringing my knees up to my chest to block his good-morning kiss.
“To meet Jeffy, silly,” he replied with and adoring smile. He leaned in to try to kiss me again, and I turned my face.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked, hiding my face in my knees.
“Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answers?”
“Because your answers are insane!!!!” I exclaimed, looking up at him angrily.
Dr. Var chuckled, and tapped his temple, “I believe I am the only one in this room that is qualified to dictate if something is sane or not, Jane. Now hold still, we have to take your bandages off so they don’t scare him.” He said leaning over to undo the bandage wrapped around my head. Once he was done with that, he turned slightly to toss the wad of bloodied bandages in a nearby wastebasket, and then turned back to me, examining the back of my head, “You’ll have to take a shower. There is no way you’ll be able to brush your hair with it all clumped up with the blood.”
“Please, you’re going to make me sick,” I replied, making a face.
“Not much for the blood and gore?” He asked, leaning over the side of the bed to grab a plastic bag he had set on the floor.
“Not particularly,” I replied, wondering idly if I should try to escape now. The way he was bent over like that, I could probably get a good hold on his neck, and hold on long enough to choke him out, or if I had something hard, I might be able to hit him upside the head with it and knock him unconscious. But where would I go? Not Twin Oaks; he’d find me there. Dr. Var sat up, shattering these thoughts, and plopped the bag in my lap.
“What is this?” I asked, digging around in it curiously. When I pulled it out, I saw that it was a midnight blue silk short-sleeved dress.
“It’s so you’ll look nice. My wife always dressed beautifully, but she was a bit bigger than you, and her clothes are a bit dated too. I was on my lunch break yesterday when I happened to see this is in a shop window, and I decided that I couldn’t pass it up. I knew you’d look too cute in it.”
I sighed, and put a hand on my forehead. This was going to be more difficult than I thought. Now he was buying me expensive dresses. What next a car? No, probably not, since he wanted me to stay with him forever. “Don’t you like it?” He asked, touching my face.
“It’s not the dress. How can you do this to your son, and to yourself? This isn’t going to be a happily ever after, I can guarantee you that right now.”
Dr. Var smiled at me as if he thought I was being completely adorable. “What do you mean? You being here means that Jeffy can have a mommy again…and perhaps a few younger brothers and sisters too,” he continued, kissing me on my surprised mouth. My stomach twisted up anxiously.
“Is that why I’m here, to replace her?”
“No, Jane, of course not. You’re here because we were meant to be together. You’ll soon see that. But until then, I don’t want to hear anything more on this ludicrous subject. The bathroom is behind that door,” he said, touching my shoulder as he pointed at an ivory colored door.
I sighed and slipped out of bed, and opened the bathroom door, looking around curiously. There was a large glass shower with shiny tile, and a glass sink with two cabinets, one on each side. Dr. Var followed me, and at first, I assumed it was because I had forgotten to grab the dress, or that he wanted to show me where things were, but then he started to take his shirt off, and I understood his thought process almost immediately.
“Whoa there, what do you think you’re doing?!” I demanded, and he froze with an almost too innocent look on his face.
“There was a lot of dried blood in your hair, so I thought I’d help you wash it out.”
I snorted and snatched the dress out from under his arm, “In your dreams.”
“Frequently,” Dr. Var smiled coolly, and put a finger under my chin as his body swallowed up the doorway.
“Look, kidnapper or not, if you so much as look at me in the wrong way, I swear you’ll regret it,” I growled, jabbing my finger at his chest.
“Kidnapper, really? I was thinking more along the lines of savior.”
I groaned and slammed the door in his face, angry that he had moved his hands just before the door slammed shut. He deserved to loose some dexterity for a while. I grumbled softly to myself setting to work after I was double sure the door was locked. The shower was longer than any I had taken in the past two months. I was pleased with the way the warm water seemed to sculpt the tension away. I enjoyed it as it loosened my muscles, and soothed my aching head, but I knew that sooner or later, this thin curtain of a distraction would be pulled back, and the fact that I was being held captive would soon disturb me once again.
The water shut off with a hiss as I turned the knob, and I skittered out of the way as the last few water droplets fell, cold as ice. I left a path of wet footprints on the floor behind me, and dried myself off twice before I squeezed into the dress Dr. Var had bought for me. Either the man thought I was smaller than I was, or he had a sicker mind than I thought. The dress was a size too small, not in the way that would make people say, “Oh, she’s fat”, but in the tight alluring way of a seductress with it hugging my form tighter than a glove. I wondered idly if I’d even be able to sit down in the blasted thing.
I fixed a light layer of makeup on my face that I found under the sink after raking a brush through the tangled mess that was my hair, but it wasn’t because I was trying to impress anyone. I hardly ever wore more than a thin slash of eyeliner, but I found myself caking on a light layer of red lipstick, and a nude eye shadow that made my brown eyes pop, to stall myself. I folded my dirty clothes unnecessarily before I laid them neatly in the awaiting hamper, but by then, I realized I had run out of things to do to stall any longer. I guess I could’ve just sat there and listened to the slightly leaking faucet in the shower, but I felt even more uncomfortable about lounging in the bathroom than rejoining with my deluded kidnapping psychiatrist.
The door creaked open, and I peeked out of the crack, searching for Dr. Var, but he wasn’t in the room, so I straightened up, and opened the door all the way. I heard the muffled sound of a car door slamming shut, and I darted to the window hopefully. This might be my chance! If someone could see me…but there would be no chance of that. What was a luxurious Garden of Eden replica without a ten foot tall hedge? Only a thin sliver of the van could be seen, and I felt my face fall in desperation. Dr. Var rounded the far edge of the hedge waving as he walked. The van sped away, out of the driveway I had never seen before, and went away with my hope of escape. I sank on the window seat, feeling like a candle that had just been snuffed out.
Dr. Var paused a moment, and waited for someone, and I looked vaguely to see who it was. A small boy toddled after him, dragging an overnight book bag behind him on the ground. Even from where I sat, I saw that his hair was a striking white blonde. Dr. Var smiled, and knelt down to the boy’s level, and then looked up at me in the window, pointing directly at me. The boy followed his finger, confused for a moment, and then his face lit up like a Christmas tree, and I felt my heart sink down deep in my chest.
The boy darted inside the side door excitedly, and Dr. Var stood up slowly, his eyes never leaving my horrified face. He grinned at me openly, and blew a kiss in my direction before he walked through the same door. I sat for a moment, too stunned to move, and then I started to shut down inside. I felt my legs stand me to my feet, walk over to the door, and I felt my arm lift up mechanically, turning the knob before my legs took over and propelled me slowly down the hallway without any prior command from my mind.
Dr. Var was all grins when he greeted me at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes looking me over with an innocent greed. He leaned over, brushing my hair aside, and he fastened a golden chain around my neck with a pendant in the shape of a woman holding her child. “There, now you’re perfect. That was a gift for my wife on her birthday, I know she’d want you to have it,” He said, caressing the side of my face. “Would you like to sit? Your cheeks are a bit flushed. With excitement I hope?”
I nodded to his first question about sitting down, but his face brightened, so I knew he was convinced I had nodded to the second question about being excited. To be honest, I couldn’t feel my legs as he led me to the soft plush couch. I was in too much shock. He was really going along with this. He was going to try to ruin my life to make a better life for him and his motherless son. Dr. Var sat down beside me, placing an arm around my shoulders, and he nuzzled his face into my neck adoringly. “I told Jeffy he had to go put his things away before he could see you.” He sat up slightly, and kissed my stony face, his lips moving around mine freely now that I had no will to move let alone to push him away.
“Mommy?” A small voice called, and I managed to turn my head a fraction of an inch to find a small two year old boy standing in the doorway as he clutched an abused stuffed bunny and a worn looking blanket close to his chest. He had white blonde hair, fair skin, and brown eyes that were a mirror copy of my own. “Mommy!” Jeffy called excitedly, and ran to me, climbing onto my lap with Dr. Var’s assistance.
I looked up helplessly, and my eyes went past Dr. Var’s encouraging expression, to the mantle where I saw several pictures of a woman that I assumed to be the late Mrs. Dr. Var. I felt my face pale when I saw the uncanny resemblance. Even ten to twelve years older than me, Mrs. Var could’ve been my older sister or even me a few years down the road if she had the same scars.
So I was right? I was a cheap carbon copy of her; something that would make Dr. Var sleep soundly at night, and would give Jeffy the mother he was growing up without. I didn’t know why this hit me so hard, after all, I had thought it up, but still, it was like a hard slap across the face. I looked back at Dr. Var’s coy smile, and I felt so sick, so used as his son nestled his face into my chest, fingering the smooth silk with an odd fascination. Dr. Var didn’t correct Jeffy. He didn’t tell him that I wasn’t his Mom. He didn’t say anything. He just watched with a sense of an accomplishment as his son treated me as he would his real mother.
“Mommy, why you have dis?” Jeffy asked, placing a small palm against my burned cheek.
“Remember when I told you Mommy would be going a way for a while?” Dr. Var asked, leaning in so that his face was within touching distance of Jeffy’s. Jeffy nodded mournfully, and I felt my heart squeeze in sympathy. “That’s why. Mommy was cooking and she got too close to the stove and burnt herself. That’s why we don’t touch the stove, right?”
“Mmmhmm,” Jeffy said with a serious nod, and then he nestled deeper into my shaky arms, holding the pendant around my neck in his grubby little hand as gently as a two year old was capable of.
“Jeffy, do you know what time it is?” Dr. Var asked, leaning in with an excited smile. I stared at him incredulously. His two year old could tell time?
But Jeffy knew what Dr. Var meant. He smiled brightly and slid off of my lap. “Elmo! Elmo!” He shouted, jumping up and down excitedly.
“That’s right,” Dr. Var chuckled, picking up the remote, and going to list where he had Tivo-ed what looked like every single show that Elmo was in. Jeffy giggled excitedly, and jumped around in his floppy version of the Elmo dance. Dr. Var got up and danced with him, and it was almost sweet, watching both of them together. I didn’t realize I was smiling until my lips sunk into a frown when Dr. Var pulled me up to my feet, expecting me to dance too. I stood awkwardly, and swayed my hips slightly as I bent over to hold Jeffy’s outstretched hands.
Jeffy giggled, and I couldn’t help humoring him with my own laughter that bubbled up unexpectedly from my chest. That’s how our day went. It seemed like nonstop Elmo; silly dances; laughs. That is, with the exception for the short break consisting of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, and playing with our food. I hated it, because I was actually enjoying myself. Jeffy was one of those toddlers with the face that you couldn’t say no to. He had the soft voice that was even cuter when his grammar was wrong, and when he said words like “Pascetti,” instead of “Spaghetti”. By the end of the day, I had nearly become attached to him.
He even insisted that I was to be the one who tucked him into bed, and to tell him a story. Instead of grabbing the many picture books on the shelf beside his car-shaped bed, I sat down beside him, and told him a story about a princess who was taken captive by the family physician. In truth, it was a thinly veiled way to vent about my situation, but I had Jeffy hooked until the very end where the princess finally escaped. I had to admit, I also enjoyed myself. It wasn’t everyday that you were able to irritate someone like Dr. Var, and trust me, he was practically seething with annoyance.
Jeffy fell asleep in the middle of asking me to tell another story, and I kissed him softly on the cheek, unable to resist my maternal side. I pulled the covers up on him, and secured his bunny under his arm before I got up and walked past Dr. Var. “You truly are wonderful,” He said, after closing Jeffy’s door.
“I get paid by the hour,” I joked coming to a stop at the closed bedroom door, and he gave me an irritated smile. “Goodnight.”
“This day doesn’t have to end just yet, if you don’t want it to,” he replied, placing his hands on the wall beside both sides of my head, his face close to mine. Despite two plates of spaghetti and a good dozen pieces of the endless supply of garlic bread, his breath still smelled minty-fresh.
“Oh, yes it does,” I replied, and he backed off, caressing my cheek before he chuckled and walked downstairs.
The next morning I woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking, and when I walked downstairs, I found Dr. Var sitting at the island in a tan suit with an ugly tie, reading a newspaper, and Jeffy sitting beside him munching on a piece of toast. At the stove was a short Latino woman who regarded me with a pessimistic look as she flipped an egg in a skillet.
“Good morning, Jane, I trust you slept well.” Dr. Var said, standing up. He put his paper on the island, and walked over to me, pecking me lightly on the lips.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Jeffy called, grinning with butter smeared all over his chubby pink cheeks. I permitted an amused smile, and extricated myself from Dr. Var’s arm to wipe Jeffy’s face off with a napkin. I sat down at the barstool beside him, and Dr. Var sat down beside me, resting a possessive hand on my knee. His hand moved up my thigh, and I removed it before it could become too adventurous.
“Jane, this is Sarita, Jeffy’s nanny. She’s been taking care of him for a year now.”
I smiled shyly, and Sarita nodded dismissively at me.
“Would you like something to eat? Sarita is an amazing cook.”
“No, I’m fine,” I replied, leaning over to pour coffee into an empty mug that I assumed was for me.
“Now, I’m going to the office today, so Sarita is in charge. You won’t need to worry about cooking, because she gets paid for that too. My one simple rule is: don’t go outside. You think you can follow that?”
“I’m pretty sure,” I replied with narrowed eyes, “And my simple rule is that you don’t walk out of the house in that hideous tie.”
“Is it really that bad?” He asked, lifting it up with a slightly dejected look, as if he thought he had done amazing by picking that one out.
“Especially since you’ve gotten egg all over it. It was burn worthy even before that,” I replied, unknotting his tie. I set it on the counter, and undid the top couple of buttons on his shirt, “There, now you look better.”
Dr. Var smiled, his eyes unreadable, “You know, Jane, you’re better at this wife thing than I would’ve expected. I should’ve taken you sooner.”
“I’ve changed my mind. Wear the blasted tie!” I growled, flinging it at him angrily.
Dr. Var chuckled, stuffing the tie in his pocket, “Do you know any Spanish? Sarita doesn’t speak much English.”
“Not really,” I lied. I knew Spanish like the back of my hand. Now that I thought about it, I knew several different languages, even sand skirt, and Latin. Who am I?
“Well, Jeffy knows enough to get by, so you should be fine. Anyways, I’ve got to get going, but I promise I’ll stop by a few stores to get you some more clothes today. But until I get back, feel free to rummage through the closet. Who knows? I may even buy you some new pajamas,” he added with a playful smile, picking at the holey sweat pants I had found in his wife’s old dresser.
“If you do, buy them as if you were buying them for your daughter,” I called, shuddering at the thought of what skimpy thing he might come home with.
“You planning on giving me a daughter?” He called back, and I chucked Jeffy’s rubber ball at Dr. Var’s head. It was a direct hit, and I heard him swear softly before the ball hit the floor.
Dr. Var didn’t get home until seven, and I was exhausted by the time he got back. Jeffy was an energizer bunny. He had no off switch. As soon as we started to play one game, he was ready to play a different one. And don’t even get me started on bath time!
“Honey, I’m home,” Dr. Var called mockingly, and I threw a pillow from the couch at his head, placing a finger to my mouth as I motioned to Jeffy’s sleeping form nestled against my thigh. I had just gotten him down, no thanks to Sarita, who was happier watching reruns of the Bold and the Beautiful rather than actually doing her job. Dr. Var chuckled at my disheveled appearance, and pulled me up to my feet, kissing me passionately on the lips.
“Did our boy give you troubles today?” He asked, smoothing my hair.
“Jeffy,” I corrected, “terrorized all three stories of this house.”
“What can you say? Terrible twos. Anyways, I bought something that should keep him distracted for a while,” he said, and disappeared out of the front door momentarily, and returned with a large silky-furred golden retriever that nearly tackled me when he brought it in.
I gave him a disparaging look, “You went shopping for clothes…and you got a dog?”
“Isn’t she beautiful? I had to get her. I saw a sign on a store window that said she’d be euthanized if she wasn’t adopted,” he replied, “I mean I got your clothes too. Don’t worry.”
I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t worried abut the clothes. Do you know how much of a responsibility a dog is; especially a dog this size?!”
“We’ve had dogs before, Jane,” He replied defensively, patting the dog’s head. I could already tell he was becoming attached.
“And what happened to those dogs?”
“…They…died. But that’s not the point!”
“Mommy,” Jeffy asked, blinking tiredly as he stretched. Then he spotted the dog, and his face lit up, fully awake. “Puppy!!!” He screeched, and the dog ran to him immediately, hopping up on the couch, and licking his face wildly.
“What are we going to name her, Jeffy?” Dr. Var asked, brushing past me to sit down beside the dog who decided to plop down right on top of Jeffy.
Dr. Var chuckled, “Goldie.”
The next morning was like a terrible remake of yesterday morning. Sarita gave me the same dirty look, Jeffy had jelly smeared in his hair, and Dr. Var had picked out an even uglier tie than the last. I sat down with a huff, and rested an elbow on the countertop, my hand on my forehead. I could feel a migraine starting to form. I peeked over at Dr. Var’s newspaper, and did a double take, lifting up the corner of the front page when I saw a familiar name.
Andrew Cunning, it read, is making his way in the photography world. After tragedy struck when his girlfriend died last year, Andrew’s career has been booming. Blah. Blah. Blah. I didn’t care about his career. All I saw was his crooked smile in the fuzzy black and white picture, and I knew I belonged with him.
Dr. Var saw my preoccupation, and he flipped the newspaper over to see what had caught my attention, “Are you a fan? I’ve got every magazine with his work in it.” He got up, setting the newspaper down, and pulled a thick stack of magazines out of a drawer in an antique china cabinet. He plopped them down in front of me, and sat back down, watching my face as he sipped his coffee.
I opened the top magazine, and flipped to Andrew’s section. There, was a series of pictures of a brunette girl staring irritably at him with her dark chocolate eyes. The last shot was of them kissing in the city, with police caution tape, and a crowd watching them behind that tape. He held the girl so desperately, bowing her body slightly like they did in the old romance movies. He was handsome in a regular pair of jeans, and a t-shirt. She was in a tight body suit. He clutched her close to his body in one hand, and in the other, he held a bright blue wig, just below where her brown hair ended.
A soft moan escaped my lips as the memories careened through my head like a train wreck. “Jane?” Dr. Var murmured softly, touching my shoulder, “Are you okay?”
I looked up at him with a pained expression, my finger on the picture, “That’s me.”
Dr. Var furrowed his brow uncomprehendingly, and looked closer at the picture in the magazine. I saw his face pale slightly when he saw my resemblance to the girl, and then, it fell into a smooth façade, and he removed the magazines, dumping them all in the trash. I stared at his back in confusion. “You are mistaken. You’re name is Jane, and you belong with me,” he said, not turning around, and he walked away without even glancing in my direction. I heard the front door open, and then slam shut, and moments later, the screeching of angry tires as they sped down the driveway.
I shot up from the barstool, and fished the top magazine out of the trash. I glanced at Jeffy’s curious face, and then walked away, nearly sprinting up the stairs. I lay across the bed for over an hour, staring into Andrew Cunning’s deep-set eyes, wondering what he was to me; if I was truly the girlfriend he thought was dead.
“Rita? Rita?!!” I heard Jeffy call, and I sat up. “Rita!!!!”
I sighed, and got up, changing quickly out of the pajamas Dr. Var had bought for me, and pulled on a short sleeved black dress, rolling my eyes at his inobservance when I saw that the tag said “Oh Baby” By Motherhood, and had a picture of a pregnant women stitched into it. Normally, I probably wouldn’t have worn it, but I figured no one important would see me in it, and when I finally had it on, I realized it looked just like a normal dress anyway.
“Rita!!!!” Jeffy called, and this time he sounded as if he was almost to the point of tears. I raced downstairs and found him sitting in the middle of the floor, sobbing as he stared at a monstrous pile of dog crap. “Mommy, I sorry,” He cried, running to me as fast as his stubby legs would allow.
“It’s okay, Jeffy,” I said, picking him up, “Where’s Goldie?”
Jeffy sniffled and pointed to the kitchen. I carried him to the kitchen, and saw that Goldie was at the door whining. She pawed at the door when she saw me, and she gave me those big puppy dog eyes.
“I don’t think Goldie done,” Jeffy said, calming.
“I don’t think so either,” I replied, and opened the door. Goldie ran out into the yard, and I inched after her, glancing around as if I expected an alarm to go off if I stepped outside. It didn’t, so I walked out further, shutting the door behind me softly, as I made my way hesitantly into the yard.
I knew it was beautiful when I gazed out at it from the window, but actually being able to smell the intoxicating aroma of so many flowers made the yard seem like a paradise. I carried Jeffy to a large fountain that was obviously the focal point of the whole yard, and set him down on the edge, smiling slightly when he giggled as he watched the coy fish swim lazily in it. I caught movement in the corner of my eye, and I saw that our assumption had been correct about Goldie not being done.
“What have you been feeding that dog?” I joked.
“Cheetos,” Jeffy said, with a serious look on his face that made me laugh.
“Well, I think it’s best just to feed her dog food from now on,” I replied, tousling his hair. Jeffy grinned up at my, and stuck in hand in the fountain, wiggling his fingers in the water. A coy fish came up, and brushed against his finger, and he shrieked excitedly.
“It kissed me, Mommy!”
And then I heard Sarita scream at us. She came flying out of the door with one of those horror movie knives that every household seemed to have for some odd reason. “Don’t move,” she yelled in Spanish, her hands shaking as she clutched the knife away from her body, pointing it towards Jeffy and me as she walked closer.
Jeffy cried in terror, and I stood up, putting myself between him and the knife. “I told you, don’t move,” Sarita yelled, almost too quickly for me to translate in my mind as her words slurred together.
“Mommy,” Jeffy sobbed, clinging to my leg.
I shook Jeffy off gently, and walked up to her, twisting the knife out of her hand, and tossed it safely away from us, as she struggled against my hands.
“Sarita,” Dr. Var called, and I looked to where he was leaning against the brick facing of the house, and I wondered idly how long he had been standing there. Sarita ripped away from my hands, and faltered a few steps back. “Calm down, she wasn’t trying to leave. She wasn’t going to hurt Jeffy either,” He called softly, slouching off of the wall, and walked towards her cautiously with his hands up.
Sarita swallowed hard, and looked back at me with distrusting eyes.
“Take Jeffy inside,” Dr. Var said to her, coming to stand beside me. Sarita stared at us for a moment, and nodded, picking Jeffy up as he wailed, and reached over her shoulder, his fingers searching for me.
“You’re bleeding,” he murmured softly after she had shut the door. He grabbed my arm gently, and he brought it closer to his face to examine it. I saw the blood oozing up from where she had slashed me on the wrist, and I turned my face away quickly, my stomach churning nauseously. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I lied, leaning into him for support. Sure I could face down an angry nanny with a knife, but a little blood and you might as well call it a TKO. My migraine crawled back into my head as he guided me to the house, with on hand wrapped firmly around my waist, and the other holding my knife wound, trying to stop the bleeding.
Dr. Var pulled me into the living room, and made me sit down on the couch, laying my hand on the armrest, palm up. He left in search for a first aid kit, and I rested my head against the back of the couch, closing my eyes as I focused on not puking, and not fainting. I jolted slightly at his touch when he returned, but I kept my eyes closed, rubbing my left temple, trying to erase the stabbing sensation in my head.
“Is it covered up?” I asked when I heard the metal lid of the first aid kit being shut.
“Yes,” he answered, kissing my forehead, and when I opened my eyes, I saw that my arm was wrapped lightly in white gauze.
“You’re really squeamish aren’t you? I thought you were joking the other day.” He said.
“Mommy?” Jeffy called, inching cautiously towards us. He saw me, and then ran, and tried to jump up into my lap. He didn’t quite make it, and I caught him before he could bash his head against the coffee table. I set him on my lap, and he nestled into my arms. He touched the gauze on my arm, and stared up at me worriedly, “You is okay?”
I smiled, “I’m okay. Do you want to watch Elmo?”
Jeffy nodded, and Dr. Var flicked the TV on, and selected an Elmo show at the bottom of what seemed like an endless list. There was no dancing, or giggles this time. Jeffy watched Elmo in my arms with a serious look mashing his eyebrows down in a hard line. He was unwilling to leave me. Every now and then, I would see his eyes flicker to my face to make sure I was still there, that the arms holding him belonged to me, and then he would look back to the screen.
By six we had watched four Elmo shows, and moved onto my favorite movie of all time, The Brave Little Toaster, but I couldn’t enjoy it, because my head was like a ticking time bomb of pressure, getting tighter and tighter with every minute. My hands that were holding Jeffy, hung limply now, because they were throbbing even worse than my head.
Jeffy turned back to me, for one of his frequent inspections, and I saw his eyes go wide with fright when he looked at my face, and it took me a moment to realize what had scared him. A thin line of blood slithered down from my nose, and dribbled down my chin, splattering on my black dress. “Mommy?” He whimpered softly, tears starting to form in his eyes, “Mommy!!!!!” He cried, and Dr. Var shuddered awake from where he slept in the arm chair across from us. He blinked tiredly, and he looked from Jeffy to me, wondering what was going on.
When he saw the blood, he shot straight up from his chair, and handed me a wad of tissues he ripped out of the Kleenex box beside him. “Sarita?” He called, as I tried to calm Jeffy. I hadn’t realized Sarita was still here. She rushed in, hearing Dr. Var’s urgent tone, and looked at us all curious, Dr. Var with his concerned expression, Jeffy sobbing hysterically on my lap, and me with a wad of blood drenched Kleenexes pressed against my nose.
“Take Jeffy to his room,” he said, picking Jeffy up off of my lap, and handing him to her. Once she was gone, and Jeffy’s wails were only a distant murmur, Dr. Var grabbed a waste basket, and set it down in front of me as I focused on not fainting in response to the blood. He grabbed a bunch of Kleenexes and handed them to me, to replace the ones I tossed in the trash, and sat down beside me. The blood stopped flowing after a while, and I leaned my head back, trying to put the pain out of my mind.
“Are you okay?” He asked softly, placing a concerned arm around my waist.
“I don’t think so,” I admitted. There was no sense in lying to him. Now that Jeffy was gone, I had dropped the smooth façade, and my face was twisted up in anguish. “My head is killing me and my hands…” I trailed off. There was no way to describe the pain accurately. They felt like they were being crushed underneath a semi. They felt like I had gotten close enough to touch the sun. They felt like I was holding onto a livewire. They felt wonderful and completely terrible at the same time. I hugged them close to me, hoping it my dull the stabbing sensation in my bones.
Dr. Var furrowed his brow, “Is it because you were cut earlier?”
I shook my head slowly, this action making me dizzy, “No. I’ve felt this pain before, sometime before I got my amnesia and lost my memory. But it was never this bad.”
Dr. Var nodded, and unclenched one of my hands, holding it gently in his as he examined it. “Your fingers do seem enflamed, and your hands, they’re…hot.” He said, looking at me quizzically. I knew they felt hot. They felt like I had shoved them in a river of molten lava, but I was surprised to find that he could feel the heat too. I shivered lightly against his cold touch. My skin was on fire, and his normal human temperature felt like ice against it.
Sarita reappeared and came to stand in front of us, bowing slightly, and asked something in Spanish. Normally I would’ve understood her without much thought, but my mind was such a jumbled mess of dizziness and pain that I barely understood myself, let alone trying to translate what she meant from Spanish to English.
“Yes, I need you to go get a bowl of ice, and one of those fever patches from the fridge,” Dr. Var replied, and Sarita murmured something to the effect of “Si`, Senior,” before she disappeared into the kitchen. Dr. Var grabbed a blanket, and threw it over me, bringing my hands out from under it. The fire started to climb, scorching my wrists, and then slowly started to engulf my forearms, then above that, and then my shoulders. I wondered idly if I was having a heart attack, but from what I could remember, I had always had a strong heart.
I closed my eyes, trying to compose my face, but a low moan escaped my lips when I felt Dr. Var shove my hands in the bowl of ice Sarita had brought from the kitchen. He pressed the fever patch to my forehead, and gripped my wrists gently, to keep me from snatching my hands out of the ice. All of this ice was no good. It made me feel ten times worse. Instead of just burning alive from the bones out, I was burning and freezing at the same time, and this sensation about did me in.
I sagged into Dr. Var, and the first tears started to tumble down from my eyes and pool on my cheeks. I bit my lip, but the sob came anyways. It ripped through my chest with its ragged claws.
“It’s okay, Honey. It’s okay,” Dr. Var murmured, petting my hair as he tried to comfort me. My crying intensified to match how the pain increased. The fires caught in my chest, and burned its way down my stomach into my legs, blazing like an inferno in all my joints as it engulfed me completely from head to toe. I opened my tear blurred eyes, and watched my fingers clench into fists inside the bowl. The ice had melted in a matter of five minutes, when it typically would’ve melted in somewhere around fifteen to even twenty minutes. I watched as a puff of steam billowed up from the water, and wondered idly if I actually saw this, or if it was a hallucination.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew it couldn’t be a stroke, because they didn’t work that way. A stroke usually started speech, to the arms, the face, and then overtook its victim. I didn’t think it was an aneurism either. Those were deadly, killing people instantly. I almost found myself wishing that were the case. If I died of an aneurism at least that would mean the pain would be gone.
“Would you feel better if you were to lie down in bed?” He asked, rubbing a continuous circle on one of my arms. I sniffled, trying to hold back the endless ears as I nodded miserably. I hated to cry, especially in front of Dr. Var, my kidnapper, but I was almost delirious with pain at this point. I almost asked him to kill me, not that he would’ve complied, but still…
“Can you walk?” He asked, and when I hesitated he said, “I can carry you.”
I shook my head, and stood up on wobbly legs, resting most of my weight on Dr. Var as we climbed up the stairs at my snail pace. After he had helped my drag myself into the bedroom, he picked me up in his arms, cradled me against his chest for a moment as he pulled the covers back, and set me down, tucking me in. Dr. Var left the room for a moment, and I curled up into a ball on my side, my sobs vibrating the metal headboard against the wall.
Dr. Var returned quickly, carrying a black wooden chair and a glossy black box in his other hand. He set the chair down on the floor by my head, and sat down with a soft groan, placing the black box on his lap.
“It hurts so much,” I moaned to him as if I expected him to be able to help, as I writhed under the already sweat drenched bed. I sat up slightly, trying to alleviate the pain by shifting positions, but this only made me hurt worse.
“I know, Sweetie. You just lie back now. I’m going to make things all better,” H replied, pushing me back down with a gentle firmness. He pulled one of the five syringes out of the black box, and slid the needle into my skin, “That’s it, just try to relax.” Dr. Var sat up slightly, closing the lid on the box before he tossed the emptied syringe in the trashcan behind him, obviously not safe protocol when dealing with needles. I felt myself sinking deeper into the bed, as if I was laying flat on a pile of quicksand.
“How’s that? Jane?” He asked, touching my arm, but I was already gone.
I couldn’t be sure how long, but when I opened my eyes, blinking against the bright, mid-afternoon sun that peeked through the gap in the dark curtains, I could tell that I had been asleep for quite a while. I waited for the pain to start splitting my head. I waited for the fire to burn me up again, but there was nothing. There was not just an absence of pain, there seemed to be a total lack of feeling altogether, as if I was not lying on a bed, as if my hands were not folded sleeping-princess style on my stomach.
“Are you awake this time?” Dr. Var murmured, and his face appeared above mine, because I didn’t have the strength to move my head.
Dr. Var chuckled, sitting down on the edge of the bed beside me, but even as he did this, I couldn’t feel the shift of weight on the bed like I should’ve.
“Wait, what do you…mean…by…this time?” I asked, struggling against my heavy eyelids.
“You’ve been in and out of consciousness for the past week,” he replied, brushing his fingertips along my lips tenderly, making them tingle numbly. “If your fever hadn’t gone down when it did, I would’ve called a doctor. I’m glad to see you’re fully awake.”
“Am I?” I questioned, looking at him strangely when I realized that my mind had commanded my body to sit up, and my body hadn’t responded, “I can’t…I can’t…move.”
“It’s okay, that’s just a side effect of the medicine. You woke up a few days ago crying about how your body hurt again, so I gave you another shot to alleviate some of the pain. Are you in any pain now?”
“No,” I whispered, after I realized my head hadn’t moved when I meant to shake it. I shifted my gaze back to the ceiling, because this didn’t take as much energy as it did to look at Dr. Var from the corner of my eyes, “I’m so…tired…”
“That’s okay. You just sleep.” He answered, placing a gentle hand on my forehead as he watched me start to succumb to my drooping eyelids. I was about to tell him that I had slept too much, but then my eyes rolled back in my head, and the darkness took me.
The room was empty when I opened my eyes again, and I struggled groggily to a sitting position, thankful to have my mobility once again. I kicked the covers off, and stood cautiously hanging onto the headboard for a moment so I could get my bearings, and when I was sure I wasn’t going to faint, or in any other way, fall on my face, I set to work, tidying myself up. I took a short shower, making sure to scrub my skin extra hard to erase the musky scent of dried sweat. I brushed my teeth twice, and applied a thick layer of deodorant after pulling on a black t-shirt and a loose fitting pair of jeans I found at the bottom of a hamper in the closet.
I eased myself cautiously down the stairs, clinging to the railing for support, and searched the whole first floor, but found no one. I started to head towards the basement door, when I heard the front door open.
“Jane?” Dr. Var called, and I looked at him curiously as he carried in a long white dress bag in one arm, and held Jeffy’s hand with the other.
Jeffy tugged out of his other hand, and ran towards me, nearly knocking me over when he attached himself to my leg, “Mommy, I missed you.” Dr. Var walked over to us both, and Sarita came in behind him, shutting the door. She scowled when she saw me, and made a tsking sound as she stomped into the kitchen. Dr. Var was oblivious to her overreaction as he studied my face.
I scooped Jeffy up in my shaky arms when he started to whine and reach up towards me. Dr. Var set the dress bag on the back of the couch and felt my forehead, his other hand hovering just below mine just in case my weak arms might give out and drop Jeffy. “You’re fever is back,” He said in a disapproving tone, “You should be resting.”
“Mommy see Elmo?” Jeffy asked, pointing at the blackened screen of the TV.
“Okay, Jeffy. We can watch Elmo,” I replied, carrying him quickly to the couch so I could sit down. My arms were tired, and my legs had begun to shake weakly. What is wrong with me? Dr. Var flicked the TV on, and put it on an Elmo show I had seen at least two times already. Jeffy sprang up from my lap, and started doing his Elmo dance on the couch, until Dr. Var set him on the floor.
“Do you hurt anywhere?” Dr. Var asked, sitting down beside me.
“Shhh,” Jeffy said, turning back to us with his finger to his lips.
“Sorry,” I whispered back, winking at him. Jeffy giggled, and turned back to the screen, continuing where he had left off on the dance, even though Elmo was done dancing on the TV.
Dr. Var got up to his feet, and beckoned me with a finger. I sighed softly, and struggled to my feet, following after him into the kitchen. Sarita tried to look oblivious to our presence when we walked into the kitchen, and I rolled my eyes, wondering what her problem was when I sat down on the barstool. Obviously she was in on the fact that I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, judging from her knife incident, but how informed was she really? She couldn’t honestly think I was Dr. Var’s wife the way I always stopped his advances.
“Are you in any pain?” Dr. Var asked, sitting down in the barstool beside my own.
“My head hurts, and my hands are a little achy,” I admitted, placing my head in my hands as I rested my elbows on the countertop.
Dr. Var got up, and retrieved a glass from a cabinet, placing a few ice cubes in the glass, and filled it up with water from the tap. I noticed the faucet had one of those Brita Filters on it. He fumbled with the cap on a pill bottle momentarily, and retrieved a pill, placing it in my hand. I stuck the pill in my mouth, and washed it down with the water.
“So what was that thing you were carrying in earlier?” I asked, resting my head on the cool counter top.
Dr. Var’s worried expression brightened a little, and he darted out of the kitchen for a moment, returning with dress bag in hand. “I know it’s a little sudden, but I decided since we’re living together, we might as well make it official.”
I stared at him in confusion, and Dr. Var gave me an amused smile as he unzipped the bag, and pulled a flowing whit wedding dress out. He held it up against him and looked at me expectantly. “Who’s the lucky guy?”
Dr. Var rolled his eyes, “Please don’t toy with me. I figured once you started to get up and around again, we could have a private ceremony. I have a guy on call who can marry us, and everything will be legal because he has his marriage license. What do you think?”
I stared at the white dress with its long flower-lace sleeves, its sweetheart bodice, and flared skirt with a long train, and I envisioned myself in it, holding the hand of my kidnapper as we both pledged to be one for as long as we both may live. “Are you trying to kill me?!”
“No! Of course not. I’ve just been thinking about the way you always draw back from me, and I’ve come to realize that I haven’t been going about this in a way that you may deem…virtuous,” he said, and I blanched. He thought I pulled away, and refused to invite him into bed because I wanted to stay virtuous?! Sure I wanted to wait until marriage, but even if I was forced to marry him I still wouldn’t…
“I understand that I’ve put you in a rather awkward position, especially the way I acted the night I took you from Twin Oaks, but this is my way of making that right. I was going to wait until you woke up, but I was sort of surprised to find you up and around today. As highly drugged as you were, I expected at least a couple more days. But now this changes everything. I’m going to call the guy who will be doing our ceremony and tell him that the wedding is on for tonight,” Dr. Var said excitedly.
My mouth fell open, and he darted out of the room in search for his cell phone before I could object, and when I did get the chance to tell him no, he only smiled and caressed the side of my cheek. “You’re just getting cold feet. I remember how my wedding was for the first time, and how nervous I was, but that all passes.” He shooed me upstairs with my wedding gown folded over his arm neatly, and he left me alone with Sarita so that she could help me into my dress.
“Look, you’ve got to help me,” I whispered to her, “I don’t belong here. Dr. Var kidnapped me, and is trying to force me to be his wife. Please, Sarita! Help me escape!” But Sarita zipped me up as if she didn’t understand what I was saying, when I knew she did. She always understood Dr. Var. I repeated my message in Spanish, and she ignored me, as if she didn’t hear me at all as she twisted my hair back roughly into a braid that made my headache even worse. I ignored the nervous twinge in my stomach when I saw my hair pulled back, and grabbed her arm as she turned to go.
Sarita shook her arm from my grasp, and stalked out of the door, Dr. Var maneuvering himself into the bedroom as she pushed past him down the hall.
“You look beautiful,” he grinned, extending a hand towards me invitingly. “Are you ready?”
“No. I’m not doing this, and you can’t make me,” I said, folding my arms across my chest defiantly.
Dr. Var furrowed his brow uncomprehendingly as he took a half step towards me, “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t love you. I can’t be what you want me to be.”
“All I want is for you to be happy. I want you to be you,” he replied, his eyes soft.
“But I can’t be myself around you. I’m always going to be a cheap copy of what your real wife was. I’ll be lying to Jeffy until my grave about the fact that I’m his mother when I’m not.”
“We’ll tell him when he’s older. He loves you so much, he won’t care. He was too young to know his Mommy.”
“He’s old enough to remember her. Have you not seen his sad little face when he misses her?!”
“But you’ll be there so he won’t. We love you with all our hearts. We can’t live without you, Jane,” Dr. Var said, cupping my face, pressing his forehead against mine as he stared into my terrified eyes.
“You will,” he said firmly, and his grip tightened on my face, almost to the point that it was painful, “I’m trying to be kind, I’m trying to be gentle, but each time you push me away, I want to hurt you so much. You belong to me. Mind. Body. Soul. I can take what I want,” He growled, and his lips forced themselves on mine angrily, and I felt my back press against the wall. “Now, are you going to go downstairs and accept your fate, or will I have to hurt you and take what belongs to me?”
“You can’t have me!”
“Wrong!” He yelled, and slapped me hard across the face. I heard the ringing in my ears again, but I didn’t crumple to the floor. I spat the blood from my mouth into his face. Dr. Var cursed unintelligibly, and started to pummel me, his fists landing where they may. My hands burned with the fire, and my head split with the familiar pain as I feebly tried to protect myself from him. I pushed against his shoulder to get him off of me as he pressed close to me again, to plant his lips on mine.
I knew I hadn’t shoved hard enough to do any damage, but then again, I hadn’t thought that a rainbow of energy would’ve shot from my hands and threw him across the room like it did. Now I recognized it; the pain. The pain was caused by the power stored up in my body. It radiated out of me like another appendage as I stepped away from the wall, my eyes locked on Dr. Var’s limp body, slumped against the crater in the opposite wall that the impact had caused. I walked towards him cautiously, and dug the magazine with Andrew’s article in it out of the dresser drawer where I had hidden it.
“What are you,” Dr. Var asked his eyes wide as blood dribbled down from the cut on his head. I didn’t answer him, because I honestly didn’t know what I was.
I heard Sarita’s fast footsteps approaching the door in the hall, so I ran to the window, and threw it open, standing on the sill as I stared down at the ground two stories below. I jammed the magazine in my mouth, and held onto the sides of the wall so I wouldn’t plummet to my death. I wondered idly if I would die on impact, or if I’d die at all if I were to jump. I didn’t have much time to decide. I felt Dr. Var’s hands try to yank me back in the room as the bedroom door slammed open, and when I wouldn’t be sucked back in, he pushed me, and I lost my grip.
Terror seized my stomach as I fell, my arms waving frantically, as my lips gritted around the magazine in my mouth. I expected to be something that needed to be scraped off the ground, but then something odd happened: I suddenly stopped falling. I could feel the pull of gravity tugging on me, but it was as if I was suspended in the air, and when I moved, I began to fly. I glanced back in time to see Dr. Var’s stunned expression, and smiled around the magazine, flying away from his house, out of his yard, out of his street, and headed towards the bright city lights just ahead.
I landed on a busy sidewalk when the sun was starting to rise again; I wondered how odd I looked as I wandered down the streets in a wedding dress. The sky at the horizon turned pink and gave way to the orange sun that was climbing in the sky, but then dark clouds started to form overhead, and choked the sun out. A fat rain drop hit my skin, and I looked up into the menacing grey sky, and watched as the rain began to fall all around me.
Within a matter of moments, I was soaked, and I fumbled quickly to the page with Andrew’s office address on it before the rain could soil it beyond legibility. I tucked the magazine under my arm, trying to save it from the rain, and picked my skirts up, and ran down the streets, ignoring the angry shouts from a cab driver, and the near collision I had with a yellow taxi.
By the time I made it to the Gillian Arts center, the place advertised for being the building Andrew worked in, My dress weighed at least ten more pounds, and I had to force myself to keep going as the inferno in my bones blazed without end. I pushed through the revolving door, making eye contact with the curious man on the other side of the revolving door, and then finally, I stepped into the building, already buzzing with life.
I shivered as I stared at the U-shaped receptionist’s desk, partially from the cold, but mostly because I recognized the man leaning against it. It was Andrew. The receptionist looked up, and glared at me, calling for security, and Andrew glanced up at me curiously. I saw him recognize me as soon as he was able to see past the drenched wedding dress, tangled braid, and scarred face.
“Riley?” He called, his face going pale, and I smiled, because that sounded right. I ran to him, and he shook out of his trance and ran towards me, picking me up, and crushing me against his chest. His lips found mine, and his hands held me against his warm body.
Riley didn’t tell me what I was. Riley didn’t tell me where I came from, or who my family was. But I was happy, because I finally had a name.