The Beginning of the End
One Year Later:
As soon as she opened her eyes Florence knew she wasn’t in her bedroom at home, her bedroom didn’t smell like anaesthetic, she opened her eyes slowly, they felt heavy with sleep and unshed tears.
She wriggled around as much as she could and doing so made her realise that under the blanket she wasn’t in her own clothes, someone had put her in a hideous checked hospital gown with blue and white squares. The realisation that someone had undressed her out of her normal clothes, violating her private space caused panic to rise in her chest.
“My name is Florence Clarke” she whispered to the empty room around her.
“And I absolutely do not have a problem”
Her skin felt like it was crawling with hundreds of insects all intent on taking little pieces out of her and her throat felt hoarse with screams that hadn’t been screamed. At the back of her disorientated mind she knew where she was and what had happened, but it was easier to be in a state of denial right now.
And then she heard voices, voices outside this strange room that she didn’t recognise. She took deep breaths calming herself long enough that she would be able to work out what they were saying.
“Our new admission is in there, everything fairly standard and on the charts”
“Seems easy enough Mitch, hardly worth all this fuss everyone’s been making on the ward”
She worked out that there were two people speaking, one older voice that was familiar but couldn’t be placed and a younger man.
“Careful with her, she might seem small, but the girl can punch hard” came the same elderly gruff voice and she remembered where she had heard his voice, he had been one of the men who had taken her from her home. He hadn’t spoken much but a harsh voice like that wasn’t easily forgotten.
“They have her on SW until further notice, she’ll be due for meds in the next hour which should keep her sedated overnight, so she won’t be any trouble.”
It was all starting to come back to Florence, being cornered in her room, trying to hide behind the gap in between her drawers and bed but being hauled up, a needle entering her arm and the weight of her parent’s betrayal weighing heavily on her heart.
How could they have done this to her?
The guys outside were still talking
“We’re keeping her on them throughout the night?” the younger man asked.
She couldn’t hear an answer although she strained her ears.
The other guy spoke again “Okay then, she did that to you?”
Florence couldn’t help but smile, she hadn’t gone down without a fight when they’d come for her, and she was proud of that at least. There wasn’t much else to see as a victory about her situation.
There was a loud sigh, “Okay Griff, see you tomorrow”
So that was the man’s name, the one who had taken her, Griff, she’d kicked him squarely in the face. He and a stern-looking woman had entered her room expecting an easy job, she’d showed them.
Footsteps started up again, softly padding towards her room she didn’t know whether to pretend to be asleep or not. The set of footsteps came ever closer and she waited, barely breathing, tears slipping down her cheeks. There was a jingle of keys and then she heard someone curse under their breath and footsteps in the opposite direction.
When the door to the room finally clicked open she closed her eyes quickly, she’d rather go for the option of pretending to be asleep than face some ignorant questions from someone who had no idea, absolutely no idea who she was or what she had been through. Instead of trying to understand her and make things better her parents had chosen the easier option for them and tossed her into a clinic.
The guy walked in, she could hear the scribble of pen on paper, he was filling out some kind of form. She could sense his presence moving closer and didn’t like that she couldn’t see what he was doing, she needed to open them even just for a quick glance. All her senses were on full alert but she certainly wasn’t expecting the gasp that she heard, it echoed through her mind like it had been magnified tenfold. It was so shocking to her, that her eyes flew open as if of their own accord.
“Oh god” the man whispered, and he certainly wasn’t a stranger.
It took a moment to place him, she knew she had seen him before but her swirling thoughts couldn’t put a name to the face. And then it came to her, standing in front of her was Chase, Chase Roberts who had disappeared almost without a trace from her school last year leaving room for hundreds of theories about where he had gone.
She couldn’t respond.
Seeing him, someone who had been there before it had all happened made it painfully real. She expected him to begin speaking, say something consoling, something nice or even something patronising. But as she watched him his expression changed from shocked to severe, as if he’d decided something hateful about her, an immediate dislike.
Florence became instantly defensive.
She hardly even knew Chase Roberts, he had been at her school for maybe a month before it happened before anything happened, everyone said he’d moved out of town, yet here he was judging her before he even knew her story.
“Florence what happened?” he finally asked.
“Griff told me they had taken in a girl around my age but I didn’t think it was someone I actually knew, they said you were on SW?”
She sniffed “What’s SW?”
He looked at her strangely.
Two words that carried so much meaning, she wouldn’t have described herself as suicidal, but they’d given her that label just like they had all labelled her at the very beginning. For something that was meant to be such a personal decision she wasn’t even allowed a say in her own mental health status.
“What time is it?” she blurted out.
When he didn’t respond she grew more desperate.
“Please you have to tell me! The time?”
Chase blinked, obviously shocked at her seemingly irrational behaviour but glanced at his watch nevertheless.
“Seven p.m.” his brow furrowed “Why?”
Relief washed over her, and the terror started to subside, she couldn’t have been in here for more than four hours, they couldn’t have fed her anything to bloat her already bloated body in four hours. She sunk back onto the cushion gripping onto the metal bars around the bed to stabilise herself.
Chase went back to the end of her bed and picked up a folder, a blue folder with ‘Oakwood Clinic’ emblazoned on the front. He flipped through the pages, reading quickly and totally ignoring her existence. He paused at one section before coming back over to her side.
Chase regarded her with a look that she could only have described as a look of disgust, though she didn’t know why, he had simply read her folder. She wanted to see what exactly her folder had said about her, what she felt and what she’d been through didn’t make sense typed out harshly on a piece of paper.
Then it hit her, the folder would tell him what she’d done to herself, and what exactly she was.
“It’s not like that.” she said, feeling a desperate need to explain herself.
“It says they think you may have broken your own arm.”
He looked ill at the suggestion.
She shook her head again, she wanted to shout that she would never do something like that but for some reason her lips were tightly sealed.
“No. No, I didn’t. I... I fell –”
He cut her off.
“Down the school steps.” he finished.
Florence closed her eyes. She didn’t want to really remember how she had broken her arm, the altercation at her house, squeezing behind the tiny space between her wardrobe and her bed but knowing she was trapped.
She had been so preoccupied with the past that she didn’t make a move to stop Chase when he pulled down her blanket.
“Wait. What are you doing?’”
Unfortunately, she knew exactly what he was doing.
He glanced at her, determination in his eyes. She wondered why this seemed to mean so much, they barely knew one another. He lifted the sleeve of her hospital gown, revealing her makeshift bandages.
It had been more of an experiment, a way to see how her pain could be dealt with on the outside rather than keeping it inside. Once she had begun she’d realised the only thing she would be getting from the small cuts was an infection, she’d panicked and went to the department store to buy as much cotton bandages as she could.
“And these happened, how?” he muttered.
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” she said sharply, it was a lost effort really because he knew everything that was deemed to be medically important
He ignored her and started unwrapping the bandage until he got down to the plasters. He was shaking his head, not looking at her.
She tried to squirm away. “Don’t touch me.”
“Trust me, I’d prefer I didn’t have to. But these need to be cleaned properly. Did you even bother to wash them, or were you hoping you’d die from an infection?”
His eyes darted from her arm to her face, daring her to argue. Carefully, he began removing the bandages.
She bit the inside of her cheek and refused to show any reaction when the last plaster, which had dried to the wound, was eased off. Chase was breathing heavily through his nose, shaking his head every few minutes. She felt like a two-year old being admonished for something she hadn’t done.
He disappeared and came back with a tray of ointments and fresh bandages.
“I don’t need this from you,” she said, after one too many disappointed head shakes.
He paused, mouth half open like he was about to say something, but then just went back to playing the role of a nurse. She didn’t think she’d ever met anyone so frustratingly obnoxious.
She felt her face heat up. “If you just undo these straps I can do it myself”
“That’s not going to happen.”
Now it was her turn to shake her head.
“You don’t know me. You don’t know the first thing about me”
“Let me guess. There’s more than one of these harmless not self-inflicted little cuts on your body?”
She didn’t answer.