I sighed as I stared out of the window, the raindrops falling from the grey sky a perfect resemblance of my life. It was almost funny how messed up someone could be. Almost, I say, for I had lost most of my good humor these days. Traumatic experiences and mental illnesses tend to do that to a person.
A soft knock on the door of my room made me turn away from the window, the soft patting of the rain moving to the background. I didn’t wait for him to enter, instead I already moved to the comfortable chairs that were now placed in one corner. Although I hated to be confined to the room, it was definitely a big step forward from being confined to the bed.
‘So,’ Dr. Hurst started as he took a seat in the other chair, his legs crossed and the notepad perched on top of the right knee – as always. ‘How are we feeling today?’
‘Same as always, I guess.’
‘Could you elaborate on that a bit more?’
Shrugging my shoulders, I took to studying my feet. ‘There isn’t much to do besides thinking, it makes me restless. Also thinking about the future is well.. depressing.’
‘Depressing, how so?’
‘I am sixteen-year old teenage girl, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder and a prone-ness to having psychoses. How is that not depressing?’
He didn’t answer my question – probably because he knew I was right – and instead scribbled something down on the notepad. ‘But you have already made some improvements, haven’t you?’
‘It’s going too slow,’ I countered, suddenly angry with him, with myself and the entire world. ‘If it keeps going at this rate I will be stuck here until I’m seventy.’ Taking a breath to calm myself down, I waited a moment before I continued. ‘I know you’re doing everything you can to help, but I want to get all of this over with. The medication you’re giving me is really helping and I know that I am ready to get out of this stuffy room, that I can deal with everyday life.’
He nodded. ‘It does seem as if the medication is doing its work, since you’ve had no psychotic episodes ever since we started with them. And I do think you’re right when you say that you’re ready to face the world again – when we talk about the psychoses. However, before you learn to deal with the trauma, we are not done here.’
I didn’t like it when we talked about that subject. Although at first I had remembered nothing of that day, slowly bits and pieces had returned to me – some of which I’d rather had they’d have stayed away. Now, with the help of Dr. Hurst, I could recall it all in painful detail. It was part of the process, he’d explained to me, for to get over it we had to get ‘through it’. Or whatever that meant..
It explained why I hadn’t known how me and Veronica had gotten along on those skiing holidays, why I had no memories of before I came to Forks with my family in them, why I knew all those things about the Cullens and about the future. It was because there was no Veronica in my family. Not anymore. It was because she wasn’t there on those skiing holidays with my family. Because those skiing holidays never happened. It was because my mind had desperately tried pushing everything relating to my real life aside. It was because in the end, it really all turned out to be in my head: I decided what would happen, because I was the one imagining it.
‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
Dr. Hurst sighed softly. ‘If you don’t talk about it, you will never get away from the treatment center, Dalia.’
Biting my lip, I forced away the emotions that came up just by thinking about what had happened. Even without the flashbacks, the reliving and the physical sensations this was as much as I could take. I didn’t want to hear them scream in my head over and over at night, didn’t want to hear them beg for mercy, to feel their blood on my face and hands. I couldn’t take another night of screaming due to the hands that were touching my body, those hands that wouldn’t stop no matter how much I asked them, prayed them to. I couldn’t take it.
I smiled softly when I opened the door, finding myself in a white, empty hallway lined with doors as far as the eye could see. It wasn’t much of a change of scenery compared to my own room, really, but it was good to be out there for once. Wrapping my arms around myself for comfort, I started my way down the corridor, walking towards loud voices. It was weird, really. I had wanted to get out of the room so badly, yet now I was here, I was almost reluctant to move away from the only real safety I had in this world. That didn’t stop me though, for I was determined to prove to Dr. Hurst – to myself – that I could do this. I was not crazy.
As I neared the voices, I felt my body freeze automatically, the prospect of being around other humans almost too much to handle. Biting my lip, I closed my eyes for a moment, willing myself to calm down. These exercises – along with another pill added to my pile of medication – were a courtesy of Dr. Hurst, meant to help me deal with the world. Taking another deep breath, I rounded the corner.
What I found was some sort of relaxation room. With a lot of people. At first they all just stared at me, seemingly unbothered by how rude this was, then they all turned back to what they were doing. I moved further into the room, my arms still tightly wrapped around my torso, keeping me from falling apart. A small television with a couch, a couple of bookcases and a table with art supplies were crammed into the room and I swiftly made my way over to the table, seeing that the others were apparently watching some cartoon on the TV. Being in one room with others would be accomplishment enough for today, I decided.
Taking a seat, I pulled an empty paper and some crayons towards me, an idea already forming in my head. Setting out to work, it took me mere seconds to forget the world around me, the picture in my mind the only goal in my life.
Startled, I looked up, frozen like a deer in headlights. Next to me stood a young girl, her unevenly cut hair a light shade of brown and a wicked smile on her face.
‘You’re the girl from room 104, right?’ She asked, taking a seat beside me.
Forcing myself to answer her, I nodded. ‘Yes, I am.’
‘I’m Jeren.’ She said, not offering her hand – which I was glad about. Then she looked me up and down. ‘You don’t look as crazy as they said.’
‘The others,’ she shrugged ‘We had whole theories about you, really. What caused you to get stuck here?’
I was slightly taken aback by her bluntness, but also found that I appreciated being talked to like a normal being for once. Jeren had something about her that drew people in. ‘My parents died.’
She nodded, seemingly satisfied with that answer, then looked down at my paper. ‘You’re an artist! Could you draw me?’
‘Dalia? Dalia, are you listening?’
Looking up, I was reminded of my therapist who was sitting there patiently and the conversation we had been having. It was so easy to wander off in memories of better times in a place as depressing as the treatment center. ‘I’m sorry, I had drifted off..’
He smiled softly, writing down something on his pad. ‘I was asking how you slept last night.’
‘I was unable to fall sleep for some time, thinking about something Jeren said that evening.’
Dr. Hurst didn’t say anything, but gave me a look that clearly asked me to elaborate – as usual. Sometimes he gave me the feeling that I was talking to myself.
I sighed, realizing that was what he was paid to do. ‘She said that since my parents are.. well, dead and I am under-aged, I will be placed in a foster family when I’m released.’
‘There’s no need to worry about that now, since you’re nowhere near ready to be released. Now let us return to your sleeping pattern. Did you have any nightmares last night?’
I peeked into the relaxation room, only to find Jeren wasn’t there. Frowning, I leaned back against the wall. She had promised to be there at three, just like every other day. Only now.. she wasn’t. I didn’t like it, especially because I knew how much she hated people breaking promises. Gathering my courage, I walked to the nurses post, finding a big, red-haired lady behind the counter. She reminded me of Mrs. Cope.
‘Excuse me, would you perhaps walk me to Jeren Miller’s room?’ Patients weren’t allowed to go to each other’s rooms at the center, since the staff was afraid they might hurt each other or damage their property. Ridiculous.
Slowly, almost painfully so, the nurse looked up to meet my eyes, then she looked down at her papers again. ‘Jeren Miller you say? I am afraid Jeren cannot receive any visitors today.’
‘No visitors? Why?’
‘I am not allowed to give you any information, but I can assure you your friend will be fine. You will see her again in a few days.’
My suspicions were proven right: something was terribly wrong with her. Nodding to the nurse, I pretended to go back in the direction of my room. Then, I took a left and walked until I reached room number 27. Jeren’s room.
I knocked softly on the door, making sure no nurses were coming. When no answer came from within the room, I pushed the door open slowly. ‘Jeren?’
The room was dark, the lights turned off and the curtains pulled shut. Silence met my ears and I was about to head back, forget I ever came there, when a soft voice called out my name.
Spurred on, I took another step into the room, letting the door fall into its lock. ‘Can I turn on the lights?’
I waited a few seconds, then decided to take my chances and flipped the switch. For a moment I was blinded by the bright fluorescent tube, then the room came into view. The same white, empty walls lined Jeren’s room, the same hopelessness and depressiveness in the air you breathed. In the middle of all that, sat a girl, perched up in the bed, looking at me with hollow eyes.
I almost didn’t recognize her as Jeren, with her empty stare, her expressionless face and the unevenly cut hair that hung blearily to her shoulders. ‘Hey.’
Hesitantly, I inched closer to the bed, wondering if I had made the right decision to come here. ‘How are you?’ It was only then that I noticed the white bandages that covered both of her forearms, disappearing in the sleeves of her hospital gown. ‘I am sorry.’
She shrugged, the ghost of a smile on her lips. ‘Now you know, the living contradiction that is Jeren Miller.’