“Hey Thomas, how are you?” Dad asks.
I avoid looking him in the eye. “I’m fine.”
It’s taking all the willpower I have not to just spout out everything Lenny has spilled about my dad to me at him. I’m also grappling not to let it slip that Mr Blanchard’s death wasn’t a coincidence. Mum will think I’m even more insane than before, and Dad’ll probably make sure I’m watched like a hawk in here. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had this hospital in his pocket. I mean, he owns half of Eventide, so what’s to say he’s not. I know he doesn’t think I’m entirely insane. I’m adamant that having me admitted here was part of a scheme to keep me quiet and get me out of the way. I know he’s my dad, but I strongly believe that he knows more about the Grim Reaper than he’s letting on. I know that if I ask him about it, the odds are that he’ll deny it. And this is even more likely in Mum’s presence. Which is why I’ve got a plan. But, to execute it, I’ve got to make him believe that I myself think I’m insane and that I belong here. I’m also going to try unnerve him over Mr Blanchard’s death.
“Mum, Dad, thank you,” I swallow.
Mum raises her eyebrow. “I know now that you were only looking out for me, I’m sorry I got so annoyed about it. You were right. I do need help.”
Mum bites her lip and pulls me closer to her. Dad frowns at me. He’s not buying this.
“Dad,” I say. “I think I need to stay here for a while longer. Because right now, the medication is not working fully. I think I need stronger doses.”
“Thomas,” he says. “Are you still having your episodes?”
“Yeah,” I tremble. “I have at least one every day. And most nights, I wake up in the middle of the night after having dreams about the Reaper.”
He swallows slightly and his shoulders tense. “Go back, what happened in your first nightmare?”
I shudder, and tense my body. That is not part of the act. It’s my genuine reaction to thinking back to that night in the chair. “In the nightmare, the Reaper tied me to a chair. He put a laptop in front of me. He told me he was going to give me three possible choices as his victim this year. The three people he showed me were Belle, Lucy and Mr Blanchard.”
Dad’s face turns to stone and he tries to disguise it as Mum looks to him in shock. “I chose Mr Blanchard, because I couldn’t choose Lucy or Belle. I know now that it was just a nightmare, but it felt so real.”
Dad looks away. Mum is eyeing me with terror written all over her face. She looks to Dad, who shakes his head slightly. “What happened after that?” Dad asks.
“He told me he had darkness in his soul that he could share with me, and he grabbed a knife and cut my arm with it. He half filled a small tube with my blood and then he did the same thing to his arm. He mixed our blood together, and said that I’d temporarily help his soul,” I swallow. I bow my head and observe his body language from the corner of my eye. “Then he threw the tube onto the fire and it’s like my blood being on the flame caused my body to physically catch fire. It felt like my skin was on fire and my flesh was burning.”
I can see Dad swallowing. Something deep within is telling me he doesn’t think I’m delusional. He knows I’m not. I can tell.
“Okay,” he says. “Thomas, I’ll talk to your doctor and see to it that they do more for you than they’re doing right now.”
My heart sinks at his response. I know he was keeping up a pretense, but for a moment, I thought I saw guilt residing in him. I thought he’d admit to it. But, I guess not. So, I’m keeping my pretense going too. “Thanks Dad.”
He nods. “We’re going to get you better.”
I smile weakly and nod. What an asshole. He’s continuing to lie. It’s so obvious, I know Mum has picked up on it too. I can’t believe how spineless she is. She’s knows that my vision came true and Mr Blanchard was killed and she’s not challenging Dad’s pretense that he thinks I’m ill. This just frustrates me, because she’s always been like this. The majority of the time, she just shuts up, lets him bring money in and asks no questions. She allows him to pull all the strings and be the one in control. She allows him to dictate everything. It’s even illustrated in the way she’s just sitting there in silence, allowing him to make all decisions about my ‘mental illness’. The mental illness I’m convinced she knows that deep down, I don’t have.
“Thomas,” Mum swallows. “We’ve got to go now. We’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
No, I think. You won’t. “Yeah, Mum. See you tomorrow.”
She leans in and hugs me. She rises from the chair and rushes towards the door. Dad stands up to follow her. “Honey, wait.” He turns to face me. “What’s up with her?” I ask.
Dad swallows. “She’s just on edge. You know, still a bit tense about last night, that’s all. I’m going to go after her. I’ll see you tomorrow, Thomas.”
He approaches me awkwardly. For a second, it looks like he’s going to hug me. But, he stops, and places a hand to my shoulder instead. It’s not in my Dad’s nature to be affectionate, and I think this is about all the endearment he can afford me right now. “Take care of yourself.”
As he walks way, I blink back tears. My own dad has had me unjustly admitted to a mental institution to keep me from discovering whatever skeletons he has in his closet. He cares more about concealing it than he does about his own son. But his intention is going to ultimately. Whatever it is he’s hiding, I’m going to discover it.
“What is this?” Cole asks, as he, Matt and Lenny hurry into my room.
“Cole, you’re sick of this place, you want out. Matt, Marc’s an asshole you and you want to get away from him, Lenny, you want to get back to your parents. And I want to find out just what my dad’s been hiding all this time. So, we’re all getting out of here, tonight.”
“How exactly is that going to work, Thomas?” Lenny asks.
“I have a plan,” I utter. “But I’m going to need your help in pulling it off. And, Lenny, there’s something I’ll need your help with. It involves exposing whatever sordid secrets my dad is hiding.”
He nods. “I’m in.”
“Me too,” chime Matt and Cole.
I lower my voice. “Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do.”