The Present

The grandfather clock in the corner of the room chimed noon. It had not felt like I had been sitting in that wooden chair for nearly four hours, but the growling of my stomach said otherwise. Sometime during my story, Dr. Christianson’s position matched mine, leaned back in the chair until the front legs were up off the ground with his ankles crossed on the desk. His hands were folded on his stomach. He was the picture of ease, but the eyes bulging from his skull hinted at his close attention to my story.

“Lunch time,” I announced in a sing-song voice, pulling my knees to my chest and rising to my feet. He didn’t move to get up, but he nodded and I backed out of the room, pulling it closed after I crossed the threshold. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting alone again, while those bimbos gossiped about me while in clear earshot, but I really was hungry. Most people stayed clear of me, afraid that I would snap and hurt them, but someone bumped into me on my way out the door. It was such a surprise that I fell into the wall.

“Oh, sorry,” an amused, musical voice said, not sounding sorry at all. It was a voice I was unfamiliar with, and I knew everyone here (It had been a hobby of my upon my admittance to ‘borrow’ the patients’ files and read up on why they were here, then return it to their rooms so that they would be blamed and not me. That was part of the reason no one liked me; they would then confront me, knowing it had been me, and I would fake a violent episode and pretend to go after them and they would run. I didn’t do that anymore, by Dr. Christianson’s pleading, but I made it my business to spy on the new patients.)

Out of curiosity, I looked up into the face of the new kid.

He was quite good-looking, in the Goth guy kind of way. His hair was sandy-blonde and straight, hanging over one of his glacier green eyes. He was ashy pale and tall and lean. His ears were pierced and dangling skull earrings. His lips were thin and grey, sickly.

He reached out one elegant hand to help me up; he was cold and I wanted to pull my hand away, but I didn’t. His fingers were long and thin and they wrapped around my hand easily and he hauled me to my feet with no effort at all. For a moment, I forgot where we were and seriously believed that he was some kind of male model for vampires. He smiled, displaying perfectly squared, white teeth.

“Who are you?” I demanded. And why don’t I know you? I added mentally.

“New guy,” was all he said.

“Well I know that. Most people here don’t walk into me,” I raised one eyebrow in challenge. “And no one here but the nurses smile at me. So either you’re new or you suffer from short term memory loss. Who are you?”

His smile got bigger with each passing word and amusement glinted in his eyes. I noticed he still had my hand in his, but when I tried to pull it away, he held fast and pretended it was to greet me. “I’m Jagger,” he said, shaking the hand he held captive. I pulled it away and he showed the first sign of disappointment; his smile wavered for only a second, but he caught himself and showed his teeth again.

Rolling my eyes, I turned away from him and began nonchalantly in the direction of the cafeteria. He caught up easily and walked beside me, though his walk was more of a strut. “I’m sorry,” he laughed charmingly, “what did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t,” I replied curtly.

“I didn’t think so; I’ve told you mine, now you tell me yours.”

I thought about it for a moment before I decided that it would only be fair of me to tell him my name. “Paige. So what’re you in for?”

“Pyro. Burned my school down, and my house, and my foster family’s house,” he ticked off, sounding proud of himself. He struck me as the kind of person who didn’t feel sorry for anything they did, regardless of how awful it was. “Third times the charm I guess, the cops didn’t figure it out ‘til then. That was the big one, though. There’s also the stolen cars and the robbery, etc., etc., etc. I’m pretty sure it was in this week’s paper. Do you read the paper?”

I had not gotten the chance to read anything beside my own article, having been so angry at everything. “Ya, but I got a little sidetracked by my own article.”

“Why? What are you in for?” he countered.

“Suspected murder, a couple times over,” I shrugged.

“Which article was yours?”

Margaretville Massacre to be Made Movie?” I snapped, angered anew by the contents of that stupid article.

His eyes got big and his jaw dropped in admiration, even awe. “You’re Paige Taylor?”


His hands reached out faster than striking cobras and grabbed my forearms. I was too shocked to pull away yet, but I wasn’t sure if I want to. I was starved for companionship, and Jagger was so willing to give it. He was so much taller than me, even taller than Marshall had been, but he was much less brawny.

“I am your biggest fan!” he squealed like a fan girl.

“Right,” I mumbled, holding the word out to three syllables. He dropped my arms, but kept even closer than before, until my shoulder was pressed against his arm, it was all I could reach. I was caught between him and the wall, and when I tried to speed up, he sped up as well, and when I slowed down, he matched my pace. I couldn’t get away.

I approached my table like I would any other day, but this time I had company. I placed my gray sweatshirt on my chair and turned to get lunch in my equally gray sweatpants and t-shirt. He did the same. I felt like we had been coordinated like twins, except we looked nothing alike, but we wore the same thing, down to our shoes. Stupid uniform.

“Who else sits with you?” he questioned, smiling down at me. I wasn’t short, as far as people in my town went, I was very tall, but he made me feel short, very short.

“No one.”

“Really? You look like the kind of person who would have lots of followers. You’re too pretty to not have any friends.”

“Well who can really blame them,” I overlooked the compliment. “As far as they know, anyone who’s friends with me ends up dead. And not everyone is my biggest fan like you.”

He crossed his arms. “I don’t get it. I think you’re great.”

“Well why not? I’m awesome,” I giggled. He looked proud of himself again.

We grabbed our gruel and went to the table, where Jagger told me of his sentence. Five years, followed by three years of prison, depending on how his rehabilitation goes. He dug his fork into his first lunch and I waited eagerly for his reaction. It did not disappoint. He bit off a small piece of the slop and spit it out, in my direction. I ducked, holding my sweatshirt over my head, and it hit the back of someone’s head. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw that it was the unnatural blonde I had hit with the newspaper at breakfast. She must have been plotting something and moved closer to my table.

“Ugh! That is awful,” Jagger complained while I held my side, sitting back up.

“Ah!” the girl, Keira I think her name was, shrieked resentfully standing and trying to shake the gruel and spit out of her hair at the same time; needless to say, she lost her balance and fell backwards over the chair she had been sitting in. I laughed so hard I fell into Jagger and we both dropped to the floor. We rolled around on the floor with tears streaming down our faces. Keira picked herself up and combed her fingers through her hair until the green mush fell out.

“What are you laughing at?!” she screamed, throwing herself onto me. She got a couple good hits in while I recovered from the surprise; Jagger seemed to be under the same spell as me. I kicked out and the heel of my foot connected with her stomach. She crashed into the table she had been sitting at, causing it to collapse. Jagger pulled me up by my underarms while I tried to catch my own balance.

“Are you okay?” he asked, keeping me upright; my feet were barely touching the ground.

Keira held her head and staggered up from the ruin she had created. I pushed Jagger away and stood my ground. She ran at me and I frantically threw my fists out at her face. One of them hit and she fell again.

“Enough!” someone yelled. It was the scary nurse, the one that sat at the front desk and distributed pills. She pulled Keira up by the back of her shirt and grabbed me by shoulder. I tripped and started falling, but the butch woman caught my arm.

“Ow!” I complained trying to twist away.

“Let’s go, Taylor!” she ordered, “You may be able to scare everybody else, but you can’t scare me.”

“That was awesome,” Jagger whispered, following me, again.

“Mr. Jagger! Please return to your lunch,” she rasped thickly, caught up in Jagger’s face. He really was gorgeous. Jagger didn’t even smile this time, his eyes flickered between me and the nurse.

“Just sit down, Jagger, it’s nothing that hasn’t happened before,” I snarled, scowling up at my captor.

He nodded, looking displeased, and sat down, alone, to play with his food. He watched me go with a strange look on his face, one I didn’t think I would ever see on his face. Upset.

His face gradually disappeared behind the door that swung back and hit my butt on the way out.

“What have I told you about fighting, Taylor?” she growled, tightening her grip on my arm until it burned.

“She started it,” I gasped.

“No!” she yelled. “She spit food in my hair!”

“Jagger did it and it was an accident!” I annunciated.

“She’s too banged up for you to go unpunished, Paige,” she threatened.

“It’s not my fault some people go into fights and lose,” I chuckled halfheartedly.

She didn’t say anything and I knew I had won. We went to my room at the end of the hall and she unlocked it, keeping a firm grip on the both of us before she threw me inside and slammed it shut. I heard the lock turn and, sure enough, I was unable to get back out, though I was clueless as to what I would do if I did get out.

“Ugh!” I yelled pounding my fists against the wall. “Come on! I’m hungry!”

She pounded back on the other side of the door. “Keep quiet, Taylor. Be grateful I don’t do worse to you for this.”

I sighed. I hated getting into fights because then I was forced to sit in my room, by myself, without any contact with anyone. Most of the time I was also doped up on meds. Violent behavior. I remembered seeing that somewhere. Hostile. I could remember that, too.

I kicked the trashcan, sending it flying across the room to hit the wall with a metallic bang. The small scraps of paper fluttered to the ground. I wanted paper. I wanted a better pen than the one I had waiting on my desk for emergencies such as these. I wanted to write. I wanted to be able to do something.


So bored.

I dropped onto the cheap, stained, once white mattress, and tried to suffocate myself. Unfortunately, I lacked will power, and therefore I turned on my back after thirteen seconds. I felt like throwing a tantrum, but I had been there and done that, and I knew from experience how little that had helped anything. In the end, all that had been accomplished, was getting the nurses and doctors to sprint faster than they ever had to my room and challenge the other patients for the most syringe holes in one arm.

So I waited.

By the time I got my pills, I had finally realized that I had been waiting for someone to drag me to therapy. It was a strange feeling to want to go and be unable to go.

I wished Jagger was in my room, if only to provide meaningless conversation. I would even take Dr. Christianson, if only to have someone to talk to.

I had read once that going for a long length of time without human interaction could cause a person to go insane, or lose social skills. I could feel them slipping away. I could feel my vocabulary waning and my learned skills, shake hands firmly, look the person in the eye when you talk to them, always smile, beginning to disappear. The ability to communicate was gone. The strategy to make small talk was gone. I was slipping into a void of loneliness and despair, and I couldn’t claw myself out…

…Of course, that was ridiculous.

I had only been left alone for a few minutes, but each passing minute felt like another eternity, but I had to get a hold on myself. I remembered what I had normally done to get myself through these trying moments, to remember the events that had landed me in this horrible place; it was so horribly realistic that I couldn’t think anything other than the truth. I had a pen on my desk, I could write it down, but I was being punished, they wouldn’t give me anything if I asked for it. So, I would make due.

But, what to use…what to use…

I rushed to the wall where the paper scraps remaining from a poor attempt at arts and crafts lay strewn upon the ground. I shouldn’t kick trash cans, it’s not very becoming. I set the silver can to rights and picked up the slips of paper, laying them to rest on the desk. The pen was crappy, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The scraps could potentially be as good as notebook paper, as long as I could keep track of the order. I could even push the story under Dr. Christianson’s door to make up for our lost session this evening. He had most likely been notified of my indiscretions this afternoon, and the loss of my appointment would be taking its toll on him. It was like keeping story time away from a child.

First, I numbered the scraps and began to write.

Dr. Christianson,


I’m sorry that I got in trouble, but really Keira had it coming, it was self-defense, I swear! But, I felt bad that I couldn’t keep telling the story, and I felt like it could be detrimental to my health to wait until tomorrow to continue on with the story. Sorry about the paper, but I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to get any good paper, since I’m being punished. Anyway, I left off when I saw Cody watching me through my living room window.


I involuntarily shivered, but I kept writing…