“So what, you think you’re better than the rest of us? Don’t want to break those designer nails of yours.” The big girl sneers. She wasn’t just big, she was big and square. Her body was built like a soggy card board box. I am so glad she’s not talking to me. The pretty girl looks scared.
“No, I just don’t like sports,” She stammers. “My brother was killed playing football. He took a hit so hard that his rib went through his lung. He screamed in pain until he drowned in his own blood.” The big girls face goes blank. She walks away.
Ms. Sweetsir, looks at the new girl for a minute-long-second then says, “You don’t have a brother.” The girl shrugs and looks the other way… I wonder if she’s crazy.
My knee brace gives me a good excuse not to do this stupid morning exercise group. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much. A little pain is good. It makes me stronger, like cutting. The pain makes me feel alive. I like seeing the blood. My pain, the stuff I can’t see, it makes it go away. I can control the pain. I glance at my arms and wrists. There are only faint lines left from the last time I cut but I can concentrate on the pain of my leg. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.
When I first got here from the hospital, a guy offered me pain meds but I refused. He is such a jerk, Mr. Drumard… what a stupid name. Mr. Dumb, that’s better. Last night was really bad though and I asked for my meds and he wouldn’t give them to me. He said I refused three times so I couldn’t have them anymore. My leg is pounding so hard I have to keep holding my breath so I don’t cry.
“It’s time to go, Miss Summers, Miss Bates.” Ms. Sweetsir says to the new girl and me. “Miss Summers, you will be joining us in group therapy.”
As we walk the pretty girl looks at me. “What happened to your leg?” She asks. Ms. Sweetsir is far enough ahead of us so I can talk freely without that stupid, “War stories” rule where we can’t talk about all the cool stuff we’ve done.
“I broke it jumping from my boyfriend’s car in a police chase.” I say, watching to see her reaction.
“Huh,” she replies, “and I thought I was good with the stories.”
“It’s not “A Story” “I snap back. “Me and my boyfriend got drunk. He’s on probation, couldn’t get caught by the cops so he sped off when the lights came on. I told him to stop but he wouldn’t. He almost lost control of the car and spun out. Before he got going too fast again I jumped out. I wrenched my leg really bad when I landed. I heard he took out someone’s garage. I haven’t heard anything about him since.”
“Oh. Sorry.” The girl says. She picks up her pace until she’s walking next to Ms. Sweetsir. It figures, another but kisser.
“Nice wiggle,” Rocky says from behind.
“What do you want?” I growl at him, as I try to cover up my smile by wrinkling my face. Rocky is hot. His muscles are all ripply under his faded Tee shirt, not just blocky like my boyfriend.
“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost on the way to group.” He says. “You know, I’m a pro at this place. I can show you around, this being your first week and all.”
“Yeah,” I snap back at him. “I heard your making this place your life long goal of habitation.”
“I just thought you might want to benefit from my experience, not to mention, if you’re not nice to me you might end up with a nick name liiike,… Pumpkin Butt. Of course I’d just call you Pum so the staff wouldn’t qualm about it.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” I say, my face turning red.
“Well, “He beams. “Since I have seniority, I get to pick the names of new kids. I call dibs on you.”
I play along with the game, wondering where he’s heading with it. “So what do I have to do to get a good name around here?” I ask.
“Just stick with me.” Rocky says, “and be real nice.”
Rocky, the new girl; what was her name again? Oh yeah, Miss Summers, a spindly kid named Little Dickey; A name Rocky said came from the boys shower room and Peach; a short little girl with orange-red hair, all gather in room 213. I’ve seen this same crew, except for the new girl, for the past three days. It will be nice not to be the new kid any more. I wonder if I looked that scared on my first day. Her eyes look like big blue saucers. They do go nice with her blond hair though.
“We have a new person in group. I want everyone to introduce themselves and state the goal we’re working on this month. Mr. Dunn, since you have seniority, why don’t you start.
“Hi, my name is Mr. Dunn, I’m working on getting a date with Ms .Sweetsir.” Rocky says. Everyone chuckles.
“Let’s keep it serious Mr. Dunn.” Ms. Sweetsir warns. “Keep going around the circle” She says.
“Um, my name is Mr. Nielson” Little Dickey stammers. He adjusts his glasses before he continues. “I am, Uh, working on not lying about stuff.”
“That is very good Mr. Nielson.” Ms. Sweetsir says warmly. “Next.”
“My name is Miss Bligh and I’m working on not fibbing too.” Says Peach in almost a whisper.
Now it’s my turn. “My name is Miss Bates. People say I don’t tell the truth but that’s only when I’m drunk or I’m trying to get drunk.” I say.
“That’s a little better Miss Bates but you need to let go of the excuse part.” Ms. Sweetsir says.
Finally all eyes are on the new girl. She looks like she’s going to barf. “I don’t lie!” She blurts out.
Ms. Sweetsir raises her eyebrows and tips her head. She always does that before she nails someone. “What about your brother?” She asks.
“Hey that was just creative damage control.” The new girl replies. “That mountain was going to flatten me.”
“Actually we call her Wally.” Rocky interrupts.
“Let’s stay focused.” Ms. Sweetsir warns. “Just introduce yourself, last name only.” She says.
“Miss Summers.” The girl says flatly.
“Thank you.” Ms. Sweetsir says. “Today we are going to work on communication and social skills. I would like each of you to share a story about something you brought from home and have here at the facility. Who wants to go first? Miss Summers, how about you.”
“If everyone here is a liar then how are we supposed to believe what we’re told by anyone?” Miss Summers asks.
“Good point, “Ms. Sweetsir says. “Miss Bates, how would you respond to that?”… I hate when she does that!
“We only lie when we have to.” I say. Boy what a stupid thing to say. I hate being put on the spot.
“Like your police chase?” the new girl says. “I knew you were lying.”
“I was not!” I yell.
“Now let’s stay calm.” Ms. Sweetsir interrupts. “Miss Bates, How does it feel to tell the truth and not be believed?”
“It sucks, how do you think it feels? This group is so lame! My Dad wouldn’t believe me if I said the house was on fire and it was burning down around him!” I continue to yell. “What do I care if you believe me?” I glare at the new girl. “For all I know my boyfriend could be dead and my Dad won’t even call to let me know.”
“Do you think your Dad not believing you might have to do with the lies you’ve told him in the past?” Ms. Sweetsir asks.
“Maybe” I say, slouching in my seat with my arms crossed. If I just say what she wants to hear then she’ll leave me alone. Why do I always fall for her stupid questions?
“That’s a start” Ms. Sweetsir smiles. “Miss Summers, tell us about something you brought from home.”
“I don’t have anything from home, my mom drove me here straight from school.” The girl says as she squirms in her seat. It is so good to see someone else being asked the questions.
“Well how about something you brought from school then, I noticed an embroidered 4-H zipper tag on your back pack.” Ms. Sweetsir prompts.
“Yeah, I used to be in 4-H. A friend of mine made it for me.” She replied.
“Miss Bligh, how about you?” Ms. Sweetsir continued.
“I have a nice blue sweater. It’s my favorite sweater. It keeps me warm.” She says.
“A sweater;” Rocky laughs. “The best thing you got is a sweater?”
“That’s enough Mr. Dunn. Let’s hear what you have to share.” Ms Sweetsir says.
Rocky takes center stage like the star of the show responding to an encore. “I brought Mr. Stewards car but they wouldn’t let me drive it down the hall way.” He says. Everyone laughs-Everyone except Ms. Sweetsir. “Well ,it is the truth.” Rocky responds to her stern glare. Rocky is so cool. One of the other kids told me he stole Mr. Steward’s car after sneaking away from exercise group. Which is kind of a bummer ‘cause Mr. Steward is really nice. Rocky drove it right through the front gate but he damaged it too much to make a clean get away. Now they have to park outside the gate, the new gate that is.
“Mr. Neilson.” Ms. Sweetsir continues.
“Um, I have a retainer I wear at night time to help my teeth.” He says.
“Lame.” Rocky says.
“One more rude interruption Rocky and I will be forced to take disciplinary action.” Ms. Sweetsir warns… Now it’s my turn again. With that warning maybe Rocky won’t have a come back to what I say but I don’t have anything. Just cloths, which is just like Peaches’ sweater, my knee brace, no different than Little Dickey’s retainer… I have my prayer bear…
“Miss Bates.” Ms Sweetsir says.
“I have a bear. It’s made out of real Alpaca skin. I’ve had it since I was born.” I say, and hold my breath.
“Cool a dead animal,” Rocky says. He looks at Ms. Sweetsir, “What?” He asks in response to her pursed lip. “ It was a supportive comment.” He defends. She just sighs.
After group we have a break before lunch. My leg is still pounding and my head hurts really bad now. I know Mr. Dumb won’t give me any pain meds but I need something. I walk up to the med counter. Instead I see Mr. Steward there.
“Hi Miss Bates, How can I help you?” He asks with a smile.
“I know I wouldn’t take my meds before but my leg really hurts and I have a headache.” I say. “Can I please have something for pain.”
“Well, let me look in the chart.” He says. After about a minute he gets out a bottle of pills. “You have a prescription here for pain. It’s a PRN so you can take it or refuse it whenever you want.” He says.
“But I was told ‘cause I refused it I couldn’t have it any more.” I questioned.
“That rule only applies to certain medications, not PRNs.” He explains. He gives me two tablets. “Those should help you feel better.”
“Thanks” I say.
“So you brought a teddy bear.” Rocky whispers in my ear. “How cute.”
“Not just any bear.” I defend. Then I lower my voice to a whisper as well. “It happens to have a flask of brandy inside it.”
“You’re kidding me?” He says, his eyes twinkling. “Why haven’t you had any then?”
“Because I sewed it back up real fine so my Dad wouldn’t find it. There’s nothing around here to cut the stitching with.” I explain.
“I have something.” He smiles.
“What?” I ask. He gets really close so his arm is resting against my breast. I can feel his heart beating. He shows me a piece of metal .
“I stole this from one of the staff and I’ve been sharpening it. It cuts really well. When you free up the flask we’ll have to get together and have a party.” He says. His face is just inches from mine as he places the piece of metal in my hand. “Don’t let the staff see it, Brandy” He winks. “It’s considered a weapon.” I put the piece into my pocket as he walks away.
“Miss Bates,” Ms. Sweetsir says as she walks up to me with the new girl tagging behind like a dog, “Miss Summers is being assigned to your room. Will you please show her where it is?” Oh great, a roommate. I knew my luck couldn’t last.
“Sure” I say “this way.” As we enter the room. I point to the plastic bed and wall desk directly opposite my plastic bed and wall desk. “That’s yours. We share a bathroom with the room adjacent to ours so never open the door without knocking first.” I warn her. “The sheets are in the draws under the desk.”
“I’m sorry about what I said in group.” The girl says “I know I haven’t made a very good first impression. My Mom always says the first impression is the most important.”
“Don’t sweat it.” I say “It’s not like we’re building a lifelong friendship here. Here today gone tomorrow.”
“So how long does someone usually stay here?” She asks.
“The minimum stay is six months.” I say.
“Six months??” Her eyes get wide and fill with tears. “I was told I would only be here a week!”
“Don’t freak about it, they tell a lot of first timers that, then wonder why us kids lie so much, we’ve got great role models. ”
It’s time for lunch and we all get in line, like cattle lining up at the feeding trough. I feel great to have a sharp object in my possession again. Now that the pain meds are working I wonder if I’ll be able to feel the blade across my arm and of course the brandy. I haven’t had anything to drink in three days. I feel high just thinking about it.
“Hey,” says a soft voice from behind me in line. “Can I sit with you today?” It’s Peach.
“Sure why not.” I say. Lunch blows by, I am too excited about the brandy to eat. Peach talks the whole time. I ignore her.
“So can I hang out with you during break after we have individual sessions?” Peach asks.
“No I’m busy.” I say.
“Well I’ll stop by any way in case you change your mind.” She persists.
“Don’t bother.” I say. I didn’t realize she could be so annoying.
“Can I see your teddy bear?” Peach asks.
“You can wear my sweater.” She says.
“You’re half my size, it wouldn’t fit.” I scowl at her.
“But you can wear it any way that’s what friends do, share stuff. You’re my friend right.” She looks up at me, kind of stupid like.
“No.” I say. “I’m not your friend.”
“Oh you don’t mean that. I’ll see you later, after session. Bye.” She says as she gets up to leave. Man she is annoying like a little rat chewing on your head board at night.
My therapist is a push over. All she does is sit there behind her desk watching me till I say something but today I am going to play her like these people always play me.
“So how are you doing today?” She asks. I don’t give her the usual silent treatment.
“Horrible” I say. “I am in a lot of pain. My leg really hurts and my head is pounding. I just want to go back to my room. It really hurts.” Tears swell in my eyes and my voice cracks. I am such a good actor, especially since those pills before lunch worked great. They were those fancy pills only the hospital can give you. I was hoping to get more.
The tears were really coming now. “I’m sorry I refused the meds earlier, I was just mad but it’s been hurting so bad and I just can’t stand it anymore, Can I please have something for the Pain? Mr. Drumard wouldn’t give me any ‘cause he said I refused but Mr. Steward said I could have them whenever I needed them and I really hurt.” I sob. She really looks concerned.
“Of course you can. We can cut session short and after you take your medication you can go rest in your room for awhile.” She helps me get up and I limp to the door and down the hall. She helps support me the whole way.
Mr. Drumard is at the med counter again. “Miss Bates needs her prescription.” She says forcefully.
Mr. Drumard takes note of her tone and the tears streaming down my face. He gets the med book out. “She’s already had some meds before lunch.” He says. I let out a stifled whimper.
“Isn’t her prescription PRN?” my therapist asks.
“Well yeah but these are pretty powerful meds, she can wait awhile.” He tries to say but his voice trails off as her back stiffens.
“Mr. Drumard. You may be certified to hand out the meds but you’re not a Doctor. I already know that you’ve refused this girl her medication in the past and unless you want me to fill out a written complaint, I suggest you follow the PRN prescription.” With that I got my extra meds and time alone in my room while all the other kids were still in session. The new girl would probably be late getting back as well since she had to go through care planning. This was perfect.
I lay on my bed for a few minutes to avoid suspicion. The second batch of meds is working and I’m starting to feel like I’m floating. I pull the sharpened piece of metal out of my pocket. It has writing on it. Some Bible verses. I know who he stole this from; It used to be Mr. Stewards Bracelet. The verse is John 3:16. Yeah, Mr. Steward is a great guy. It’s a shame about his bracelet but hey it does make a handy knife. I slice open the back of my bear, stitch by stitch. My Mom gave me this bear. She called it my prayer bear. She said that all her hopes and dreams for me were inside of it. Some dream she turned out to be. I barely remember her anymore. Dad didn’t believe me when I said she went to sleep in the pool with her clothes on. I was too young to know to get help when she tripped and fell in. I didn’t know she hit her head. I thought she went for a swim and feel a sleep. I was only five. It wasn’t my fault.
I feel for the flask and pull it out. An envelope falls out with it. I use the bracelet to open it.
An angel sent from heaven. Today is your birth day, your first day in the sunshine but God knew you and loved you before you were conceived and I have loved you from the moment of your conception. You have been a part of me, growing, breathing, our hearts, beating as one. I thank God for your miracle. I pray he keeps you safe in all your days and that you come to know his love just as I have come to know him. His love is even greater than mine is for I am only here for a moment. God is here always.
If I were to die tomorrow I would still be the happiest woman in the entire world for being blessed with you. I pray you will be patient with your father and I as we grow together. We will do our best but we all make mistakes along the way. I pray you find in your heart the unconditional love and forgiveness that only God can give. I pray he keep you and guides you all your days.
I crumple the letter up and throw it against the wall. I’m not waiting for Rocky, this is my Brandy. Yeah, that’s what they can call me, Brandy! I drink it down all at once. The burning feels good but it’s not enough. I look at the faded scars on my wrists. I need pain.
“Whatcha doin?…” that annoying voice. Peaches!
“Nothing, get out of here!” I snarl at her.
“But session is over; I want to see your bear… Is that alcohol?” She asks stepping closer.
“No, it’s empty!” I say. The brandy is really hitting me now, not like it ever has done before. It must be the pills and I am getting really angry at this annoying little brat.
“You know that’s not allowed.” She continues. “I’m telling.” She says and turns to leave.
What do I care, it’s empty so what can they do anyway. The knife however is a different story. I quickly stash it in the other girls back pack then I lunge at Peaches. I can’t help but laugh, creamed peaches. She is so small I pick her up without a problem. I feel great, my blood is racing and this little rat deserves it. I throw her into the bathroom and she hits her head hard on the toilet as she goes down. She screams like a rat too but she stops screaming before she hits the floor…
They take her out in a stretcher, that’s all I know.
They take me out in cuffs.
The lights on the police car look like a color war between hell and heaven, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue.
My mind goes black then white, I’m at the hospital and a light is in my eye.
Black then white like red-blue, everything goes black. It’s white again; I’m in a padded cell, Detox? It is black, night, it is white, day. Breakfast? No way. I’m being read my rights. I think about mom’s letter. Does God really forgive? Does he really love me?… The door closes behind me.