Authors: Calia Read
Copyright © 2014 by Calia Read
Photography and Cover Design by Regina Wamba, Mae I Design
Editing by Lori Sabin
Interior design by Angela McLaurin, Fictional Formats
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the above author of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Also by Calia Read
Every Which Way
Breaking the Wrong
Every storyteller deserves to have someone like you.
I gaze out the window at thousands of snowflakes fluttering to the ground. I press my face against the pane, aching for freedom. But it isn’t a thin layer of glass that’s blocking me from the outside, it’s the truth.
Most people believe the truth is a delicate little bird. They think it’s harmless.
But I know something they don’t.
If they dare to move their hands away from their body, they’ll discover that the little bird is gone. It’s torn their skin apart, traveled to the core of their souls, right where it hurts the most.
And that’s why I’m here and they aren’t.
I press my forehead against the window and breathe on the glass. Mist forms and my tally appears. I put another mark on the glass. Thirty days.
Thirty days since I’d been involuntarily admitted to Fairfax Mental Health Institute.
720 hours of opening my eyes every morning to an unfamiliar room. 720 hours of having nurses coming in and out of my room every hour. 720 hours of being monitored around the clock like I’m a toddler and can’t be trusted.
I watch a fly moving across the window, frantically trying to find a way out into the world.
“I’ve already tried, dummy.” I tap my finger against the window. “They have these suckers bolted tight.”
The fly stops moving like it can hear me. Sooner or later, it’s going to find a way out. I feel jealousy, thick and powerful, flow throughout my body. I want to slam my palm against this insect, killing any chance of it’s escape.
This is what my life has been stripped down to. I’m jealous of a fucking fly.
Loudly, someone knocks on my door.
One, two, three…
Three is the magic number for my nurse. It’s like those few seconds will allow her to brace herself for what she’ll discover on the other side.
Mary stands in the doorway. I take in her short brown hair and colorful scrubs. “You have a visitor,” she says.
I move away from the window. My heart beats the same monotonous rhythm every day, but in seconds it speeds up. The tone sounds different. It isn’t dull. It’s interesting and new and exciting. It’s beautiful. And it can only mean one thing.
Before I leave the room I look over my shoulder. The fly’s gone.
“Lucky,” I mumble under my breath as I walk out of my room.
If anyone ever doubts whether madness exists, they only need to look right here. It drifts throughout every room. It slides down the sterile hallways and attaches itself to every patient, stripping them of their hope and covering them with despair.
Some people don’t react. But the ones that do, scream. Their shouts echo throughout the building. The nurses run down the hallway and a few seconds later those screams turn into moans and then stop. When I first arrived, those screams sent a chill down my spine. But now I’m used to it.
As Mary and I walk down the hall, a nurse and brunette pass by. My steps get slower. I stare at the brunette. Her hair is cut short. Her skin is pale, but underneath the fluorescent lighting the tone of her skin takes on a yellow hue. Her body is emaciated. There are track marks all over her arms, telling their own story. She meets my gaze. Her soul shines through her eyes, and asks: “How the hell am I still alive?”
I have no answer.
Mary stops at two locked doors. She enters a four-digit code and the doors slowly open. It’s like we’re entering hell. The rec room is the most depressing place in Fairfax Mental Health Institute. This is where everyone is shoved together.
Mary pushes me forward. The blinds are open, letting sunlight pour in and making the tan linoleum floors blindingly white. Tables are spread throughout the room. A few people are sitting down, playing board games or watching the television mounted on the wall. The news plays so softly the captions are on.
But most people do nothing. They stare straight ahead, their eyes vacant.
There are so many minds around me that are wasting away. But I have someone that keeps me coasting above insanity, and he’s only a few steps away from me.
My body relaxes as I watch Lachlan. He’s sitting at a table next to the windows. His thick brows slant low, as he scans the outdoors. His tan hand reaches up and loosens his dark blue silk tie. His brown hair is still cut short with a few strands brushing his forehead.
If I blink, he’s just a boy with a cocky smile that comes from a child’s naivety. Wiry frame. The best friend that stole my heart. When I open my eyes that image disappears, and in front of me is a man. His cockiness has evaporated into experience. His body has filled out. And now, not only does he own my heart, he possesses my soul.
He’s always been an extension of me and you cannot be that close to someone and expect your pain not to spread. I know that my sadness is his sadness.
I move across the room. Lachlan is still looking outside. I squint my eyes and follow his gaze to the naked tree closest to the window. It’s the same tree I always look at. Its branches have been stripped of its leaves and bow from the cold wind. For the last week, I’ve watched a frozen water drop on one of the lower branches. It hangs there, looking ready to fall.
The weak branch sways in the air, but the water drop remains. If the ice drop can hold on, then perhaps I can hang on to my small bit of sanity.
I pull out the chair across from Lachlan.
His eyes meet mine. It’s a shock to my nerves. My blood rushes straight to my head.
“How are you?” he asks.
My feet rest on the edge of the seat. I place my chin on my knees, refusing to look away from him. He visits frequently. But the time between those visits seems to stretch further and further apart.
“I’m the same as two days ago,” I say.
Lachlan stares at me levelly. His eyes are sharp. They miss nothing. “Have you been talking to your doctor?”
I look out the window, away from his gaze.
An exhausted sigh escapes him. Lachlan drags his hands through his hair. “I miss you, Naomi.”
“I miss you too.” My voice cracks.
“You know you don’t belong here, right?”
“Then you need to try and get better.” Lachlan looks around the room like he’s watching a circus. His jaw hardens. “It fucking kills me to leave you here.”
I reach across the table and place my hand on top of Lachlan’s. His eyes become hooded as he looks at it. He turns his hand over and his fingers move across my wrist, making my skin burn. With his palm face up, he swallows my hand in his own. “You love me?”
I look Lachlan dead in the eye. “You know I do.” My words should’ve given him hope, but now he just looks deflated. “If you love me, then you need to get better.”
“I’m trying,” I insist. I try to move my hand.
Lachlan’s grip tightens. “No, you’re not.”
“I can’t ignore everything that’s happened,” I say in an intense whisper.
He leans in, his face inches from mine. “I told you I wouldn’t stop fighting. I told you that you weren’t in this alone and you crumbled.”
I jerk my hand back. He lets go. I can handle a lot of things, but hearing those words come out of his mouth feels like someone has cut a piece of my heart off.
He stares down at the table, where our hands were once intertwined. “This is destroying you,” he murmurs. “The Naomi I know would have never just given up so quickly. She would have fought to stay in the present.”
“I am fighting. Look around you, Lach,” I say. “How do you think I’ve lasted this long here?”
“You know why you’re here?” he asks sharply.
I don’t say a word.
“You’re here because you fell apart.”
I flinch because, true or not, I can’t go up against Lachlan’s words. He’s going to come out as the sane one. His words will make sense before mine ever will.
My heart thunders in my ears, and my vision blurs. I see a woman with sad eyes, staring at herself in the mirror. And I see Max lying beside me in bed. In one quick move I’m above him, and he smiles up at me, his hands gripping my waist.
And then the image disappears. I groan and press the heel of my hands into my eyes.
“Naomi, look at me.”
I lower my hands. Lachlan sits across from me, staring at me intensely.
His hand is around my neck. His thumb brushes across my skin and my body jolts.
“Are you with me right now?” he asks.
Yes… no… maybe. Every day is an unknown for me. Every day I wake up feeling like I’m surrounded by a heavy fog and I know I’m missing a piece of myself, and I don’t know where it is.