It was intimidating standing at the foot of Riverside Institution’s steps, not knowing what lay ahead beyond those tall, dark medieval-looking doors. This could possibly be the key to unlocking all the answers I was in search of, or maybe none at all. Maybe this city’s high-class mental institution would provide me with the solace I was in desperate need of while dealing what the problems I’d been escaping over the past year. Whatever I needed to deal with my intense emotions, I knew I could find it here.
I knew that this was an extreme step I was taking to escape Leo’s grasp, but it needed to be done. I had no other choice. And though I loved him, I couldn’t be with a man that shows his love in tortured ways. Especially in ways that put my safety at risk.
I’d dealt with a lot of shit from him since we started dating. I could deal with the drunken fights, the outbursts of jealousy, and the sorry excuses he makes in the name of his love for me. But I couldn’t deal with the lies, nor the betrayal and manipulation, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to put up with verbal abuse or being harmed in any way.
Leo Carmichael was a tortured soul. And all the red flags that pointed to problems were there in the beginning, I just failed to acknowledge it. But it wasn’t my problem or burden to fix him, that was work he needed to do on his own. Yet he profusely refused and I had no idea why.
Although at this point, it didn’t matter. Like a coward, Leo had fled LA when he realized the damage he’d done. He was gone with the wind, taking every ounce of trust and respect I had for him. I no longer recognized him as the man I fell in love with, only the man that took away every shred of dignity I had. Since learning from one of his ex-friends about his involvement in the death of my ex-boyfriend, I didn’t care what happened to him.
All that mattered to me and all I cared about was how I chose to move on from here. How I chose to put him behind me. To think about the demons from my past that I had to confront in order to make sense of my future.
And I guess it started with Riverside.
Solemly, Gwen — my best friend — takes my luggage out from the backseat of her car as I continued to take in the daunting property of what would be my home for only god knew how long.
She sighs as she sets my suitcase wheels down on the ground and glances over at me, “You sure you want to do this?” She asks of me as she bites her lip.
I let out a small laugh without turning to look at her, as my back remained turned and my eyes focused on the doors that awaited me to walk through. “Funny,” I say, “my mom asked the same thing when I told her that I was doing this.”
“Well, it is a big step and Lani has a point,” Gwen replies, walking up to the stand next to me as she takes in the sights of Riverside herself, “and I’ve heard that people that go into this place don’t come out the same.”
“Gwen, I have no other choice,” I respond to her, looking down. “Leo’s fled LA and this is my one window to get to safety, because who knows when he’ll be returning.” I let out a deep sigh. “And besides, I have nowhere else to go.”
In these fleeting moments, I wasn’t sure what I was doing and obviously had my doubts about whether I needed to do this. But there simply weren’t any other safe alternatives available that would guarantee the safety I required while offering the help and support that I clearly needed.
“I know, Ella-bell,” She agrees, “I just wish this wasn’t your only safe haven.” She concludes, speaking softly as she pulls me into a tight embrace. I wrap my arms around her and screw my eyes shut as I nestle my face in her shoulder."Do me one thing while you’re in here, will you? Even though I know it’s gonna hurt.”
"While on your journey of forgiveness, find it for yourself.”