I wasn’t sure how long I’d been back home. Time kind of seemed to roll on continuously. No night or day. Getting out of bed seemed almost impossible at times. In my dreams, Dank was there. I just wanted to sleep. Talking was something I just wasn’t ready for.
I’d seen the questions and concern in Leif’s eyes on the flight home but I hadn’t spoken to him. I hadn’t wanted to face him now that he knew I had issues, even if he didn’t really know what they were. He thought I was crazy and that wasn’t my problem at all. My problem was I loved someone I couldn’t have. I saw souls who wandered the Earth lost and I’d been attacked by a soul who was intent on killing me. I was the only person who remembered Dank Walker had gone to our school and if I brought up his name again everyone would really think I’d lost my mind. So, yes, I had issues, but not psychiatric ones. I had supernatural ones.
A knock on my bedroom door startled me and I turned to stare at the closed door, knowing it was my mother. My very worried mother. How could I explain to her I was hurting so deeply I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to recover? There was a loss in my life like nothing I’d ever known.
“Come in.” My voice sounded hoarse from lack of use. My mother opened the door slowly and stuck her head inside as if to take in the atmosphere before walking all the way in.
“You not up to going to school this morning?” she asked with a smile that didn’t meet her eyes.
I’d forgotten what day it was but I knew I wasn’t ready to face school. I wasn’t ready to face Leif or Miranda or Wyatt. I needed to remain in my room and find the strength inside me to keep living. I shook my head and she gave up the pretense of smiling, a worried frown creasing her forehead.
“Honey, you’ve missed a week of school so far. I have let you stay in here hoping you would overcome the trauma you’ve experienced. But now I’m getting worried you aren’t going to pull out of this. I’ve been studying your symptoms on the internet and you have all the signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You’re having horrible nightmares and screaming out in your sleep, yelling for dank or sank or crank—I can’t understand it through the sobs. You won’t leave your room and you aren’t taking calls or visitors. When I try to talk to you it’s like you black out on me. You aren’t listening to me.”
I sat there listening to her. I was suffering from having my heart shattered, broken beyond repair, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. I just stayed silent. She seemed to take my silence as encouragement. “I’ve made a few calls and I got you an appointment with a psychiatrist. I need you to go talk to her. She’s really good and works with teenagers solely. She comes very highly recommended and we don’t have to tell anyone you’re going to see her.” Tears sprang into my mother’s eyes. She swiped at them and let out a ragged breath. “I…the truth is, I should have sent you years ago.
When you were little you would talk about the people in the walls. I thought it was your imagination but now I wonder if somehow you have some unbalanced chemicals and this trauma you’ve experienced has triggered something.” She sniffed. “You talk to yourself at night in here. I hear you speaking to someone. Honey, you need some help.” I nodded. I knew it would ease her fear. She was so worried and I couldn’t explain any of this to her without her truly thinking I was insane.
She smiled through her tears and nodded. “Okay good.
I’ll give you some time but you need to get up and get a shower. Then get dressed and we will ride over to see Doctor Hockensmith. She’s expecting us today.” I nodded again and watched as my mother left the room, leaving the door open as a reminder I needed to get up. I had just agreed to go see a psychiatrist. My mother was wasting her money but I knew I had to go or she was going to need to see a psychiatrist from the stress I was putting on her emotionally. I hated that I was upsetting her but I couldn’t seem to see a way out of the despair consuming me.
* * * *
The large, two-story, white stucco house stood on stilts facing out over the Gulf of Mexico. My mom slowed down and stared up at the house large enough to hold at least five families comfortably. But then, it wasn’t a house for a family.
The cheery house on the beach was a place to heal for female teens suffering from psychiatric issues. I glanced over at my mom, who was waiting on me to make the first move. She’d packed my things with me in silence after I’d agreed with the psychiatrist that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and needed help. I’d been ready to agree to anything to get me out of the office where it was obvious she really wanted me to change personalities on her or admit to cutting myself. I wasn’t a psychopath and this seemed to be the one diagnosis she’d given me I was okay with lying about.
“Do you want to make a few phone calls before we go get you settled in? One of the rules is you can’t have your phone here.” Mom’s expression told me she was afraid the news of no phone was going to be a deal breaker for me. I nodded thinking of Leif and Miranda. I needed to let them know where I would be for a while. Mom nodded. “Okay. I’ll start taking your bags on up and getting you all checked in.” She said the words with a small hiccup as if she were about to break down and cry. She’d handled this all so well and been so strong, thinking this was what I needed.
I reached over and took her hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Mom, I’m okay with this. I think it’s going to help me. Don’t look so upset. It’s all going to be okay.” She nodded with tears filling her eyes. I knew I had to get better for her. I had to find a way to live with the hole in my chest.
Mom headed up the stairs with my bags in her hands and I picked up my phone and dialed Miranda first.
“Well, it’s about flippen’ time I see your name pop up on my screen. Jeez! Pagan, you’ve been scaring me.” I smiled at the relief in her voice. “I’m sorry.” I took a deep breath. “I’ve been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’m waiting to be checked into this rehabilitation center for people with similar issues. I can’t keep my phone but I was told I could have visitors if you want to come see me sometime.” Miranda was silent and I started to wonder if my phone had dropped her call.
“So, they can fix you...I mean, this?” she asked slowly sounding as if she was terrified.
“Yes, they can.” I told her reassuringly. But I knew they couldn’t heal me. I would never be fixed. I would just learn to go through the motions of living so those I loved didn’t worry about me.
“Have you told Leif?” Her voice had lost its earlier cheer and I hated that it was my fault.
“No, I called you first.”
With a ragged sigh she said, “I love you.” I felt tears spring into my eyes for the first time. I loved her too. “Call Leif and I’ll be there to visit ASAP.”
“Okay. See you soon. Bye.” I pressed end and then called Leif.
“Pagan.” He sounded as relieved as Miranda had.
“Hey you,” I said, needing to reassure him before I dealt him the same news I’d just given Miranda.
“You feeling better today? I hope so, Pagan, because I’m missing you like mad.” I smiled at the warmth his voice always caused.
“I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Leif. I went to see a psychiatrist.”
“What is that? Are they giving you medicine to fix it?” His voice sounded panicked.
“It’s exactly what it sounds like. I’m having trouble functioning normally due to the trauma we all experienced.
You all handled it normally. I didn’t. It could be a chemical imbalance; they’re not sure. But I’m going to be in a psychiatric center for a while. They’re supposed to be able to fix me here. I’m not going to be able to keep my phone but I can have visitors.”
Leif seemed to be taking a deep breath. “So I can come see you? How long will you be there?”
“Yes, you can, and I’m not sure yet.”
“I’m sorry this is happening to you, Pagan. I’m so sorry.” His voice sounded full of pain and guilt.
“Listen to me, Leif. I’m dealing with this because of things that are wrong with me. What we saw just triggered it.
I’ll get better.” I needed to hear that lie as much as he did.
After reassuring him several more times I hung up and left my phone on the passenger seat of the car. My overnight bag was all that was left in the back seat so I grabbed it and headed up the stairs to my new home, at least for now.
* * * *
The pale yellow room I’d been assigned contained one small round window overlooking the beach. I’d hugged my mother goodbye downstairs thirty minutes ago. I reminded myself I was doing this for her. It would help her deal with her fears of my being crazy. And being away from my bedroom, where so many memories of Dank existed, would help me find a way to live without him. An older lady stood outside on the sand with a bag of what looked like sandwich bread, throwing it into the air while seagulls circled her head. Either she wasn’t a local and didn’t realize that was a really good way to get pooped on, or she was a psychiatric patient who was too mental to care about a little bird poop.
I turned away from the growing flurry of hungry birds and studied the small room at least half the size of a regular bedroom. Considering this place held twenty-five patients at one time, and ten nurses and two doctors, the rooms couldn’t be too big even if the house was a really large two-story. A single bed sat in the middle of the room with a small, round, white table holding a shell-covered lamp. One single oval mirror hung on the wall over a dresser with three drawers. A very small closet, only large enough to hang up fifteen items and hold three pairs of shoes, was on the opposite wall. I was only allowed one hour in my room during the day. I could use it all at one time or spread it out throughout the day. It was their way of keeping patients surrounded by other people. Seclusion bred depression was their rule of thumb around here.
I glanced over at the small alarm clock they’d left on the round table. I had used up ten of my minutes in my room. I needed to go walk around and be seen so I would have time left to come back later. I walked into the hallway and closed my door behind me. The small key they’d given me was in my pocket and I locked my door. Apparently, there was cause to worry about theft with some of the patients. You weren’t allowed to bring anything of value with you but those suffering from personality disorders would take anything and I needed my clothing. I’d only been allotted a small amount and I needed what I had.
A door opened up down the hallway and a girl with bushy, brown hair and large round glasses stared at me, and then quickly slammed her door shut. I heard the lock click behind her. She was easily startled and frightened. She must be someone truly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD as they referred to it here. I stared at the other closed doors wondering if everyone on this hall had the same disorder. If so it was going to be loud at night with the screaming caused by nightmares.
I walked down the stairs to the main living area, or what they referred to as the Great Room. It was where the televisions played sitcoms and board games were set up on tables. There were no computers or internet available for patients. A nurse smiled at me brightly as she walked by with a basket full of snack foods.
“We’ll be eating our afternoon snack soon. Hang around in here and you can get something to eat and meet some of the other patients. We have several your age.” Meeting teenagers with psychiatric disorders wasn’t really appealing to me. But I didn’t say anything. Instead, I walked to the double glass doors leading out onto the front deck.
“You won’t be able to open them. They lock them. You know, for us crazies who may take a wild notion to see if we can fly. Although, I figure the sand isn’t going to kill us when we hit.” I turned around to see a young girl with bleached blond hair that I guessed was probably shoulder length. She had it pulled up in piggy tales on top of her head. She wore bright red lipstick, which stood out against her pale skin.
She shrugged. “No problem. If you want to go outside and enjoy the beach you can get a nurse to go with you. They like having an excuse to go outside.” I remembered the lady outside earlier feeding the birds. She’d been alone.
I didn’t really want to know who she was so I again nodded and said, “Thanks.” She tilted her thin face from side to side and acted as if she was examining something rather dramatically.
“You aren’t a mental, are you?” I hadn’t expected this strange girl to make such an accurate observation. After all, the doctors all believed I needed help. I shrugged, unsure how to respond.
“Well, they seem to think I am.”
She raised the dark eyebrows she’d left out of the bleaching. “They can be wrong. They have been before.” I wondered if she was referring to herself. I glanced over at the nurse who sat behind a desk working on a laptop. She didn’t seem to react to the accusation that they had people in here who didn’t belong. “Karen knows it’s true. She just won’t admit it. Will you Nurse Karen?” The blond was grinning at the nurse, who glanced up and rolled her eyes affectionately and went back to typing. “She knows it but she’s too busy on Twitter to admit it.”
The nurse reached over and patted the stack of papers she had beside her before glancing back up at the blond again. “I’m plugging in meds and test results.”
“Blah, blah, blah. Don’t let her fool you, she’s a Twitter whore. On it all the fucking time.”
The nurse shot her warning glance. “Language please.
You’ll lose ten more minutes from your room time if you aren’t careful.”
The blond shrugged and stared back at me. “Like I said, they aren’t always right around here. I can see it in your eyes.
You’re very sane. You don’t have the demons in your eyes most of the people here do.” She stood up and stretched, showing a very pale, flat stomach. She had a large black bar through her belly button. “I’m Gee, by the way.” She held out her hand for me to shake and I went to return it and she jerked her hand away. “Rule number one, don’t shake anyone’s hands. This place is full of mentals.” I smiled. “I take it you aren’t one of them.” She let out a cackle of laughter. “Oh no, I’m as screwed up as they come.” She sauntered away and slapped the papers the nurse was working on as she walked by. “Don’t Tweet too much, Karen, it’s bad for the eyes. Gotta pull back off that shit.”
“Ten minutes, Gee,” the nurse said without looking up.
Gee glanced back at me and winked. “They don’t like dirty words so if you have a shitty mouth you need to reign it in.” “Twenty minutes, Gee,” the nurse said again, still focused on the screen. Gee cackled with laughter again and headed back toward the dining room.
The nurse glanced up at me. “Gee is definitely a special case. You’ll learn to ignore her. It’s snack time in the dining hall if you want to go get something to eat and meet some other patients.”
I smiled. “Thank you, but I’m not real hungry. Can I just stay here and watch the television?” Nurse Karen nodded and went back to her work. I curled up in a chair and stared blankly at the television screen feeling lonelier than ever before.