A drop of saltwater plummeted to the scrap paper in my hand, marring the last few words written in red ink. I was shaking, and the whole desk was shaking with me. I was red down to my fingertips and the sobs ripping up through my throat were loud enough to echo through the empty corridor; I struggled to calm down. “Shit,” I whimpered, drawing the word out to three syllables and rubbing furiously at my eyes. It had been a year now. It was time I got over it.
There would be vicious nightmares tonight, I could feel them already. Throwing my chair to the floor, I stood and strode over to the wall. My sweaty forehead fell over of its own accord to press itself against the frigid wall, splattering droplets of tears and perspiration against the white paint. It wasn’t an odd occasion that I would find myself resigned to the corner, trying to get the tears to stop coming but getting angry at myself for crying and bringing on a whole new round of hysterics. I was cursed.
I was the grim reaper. Everyone I cared about suffered worse than I did. Everyone I touched died. I should have gone like the rest of them a long time ago, it was only fair, but for whatever reason, I had been spared. Laughing grimly, I told myself to get off my high horse. I wasn’t spared, this was the worst punishment that sick bastard could have imagined for me!
Clenching my fist, I punched the wall as hard as I could, and shuddered at the satisfying crack my knuckles made upon impact, barely chipping the paint. Blood seeped through my fingers from the wound I couldn’t see, spilling vivid red across the colorless floor. I lost track of the time as I stood staring at my hand, seeing Cody’s face in the maimed flesh, but when I finally came back to reality, I realized, my hand is bleeding. Shaking my head, I pulled my wounded hand to my chest and screamed for help. A group of nurses came running seconds later.
“Oh my God!” my favorite staff member, Nurse Joanna, gasped, grabbing my injured hand. She swiftly looked it over before a male nurse pulled me away by my arm and injected my bicep with a clear sedative. My limbs went slack immediately before one nurse swung me up into his arms bridal style, my head and legs lolling over each arm, and carried me toward the infirmary. My eyes caught ice-cold green ones on the way to the room two halls down. I did my best to keep from drooling from my numb mouth, then closed my eyes, and embraced the medically-induced unconsciousness.
“Paige,” a familiar voice slurred through the darkness.
Oh god, I realized, he’s come back for me. “Where are you?” I yelled back, looking through the dark for some sign of him. In every direction I turned was only darkness, unbroken and blank. “Show yourself coward!”
“I’m here,” he answered from behind me. With slow, deliberate steps, I turned to face him, but he wasn’t there. Whipping back to my previous position, I came face to face with the clown mask. “Hello, Paige.”
“Why are you here?”
“I thought you would be happier to see me,” he laughed. “It’s been so long since I last saw you. When was that?”
“When you killed Joel,” I snapped, taking a step back.
“Aww, Paige, it wasn’t me and you know it,” he mocked, circling me with a hungry look in his eyes. Cody looked different from the last time we met; he was taller, his grey sweatshirt fit better than before, and his eyes were bigger, reflecting blue.
“I saw you!” I argued, leaning back away from his face. He was too close now, our noses were almost touching.
“And what does that mean to me?”
“I know it was you. You killed Brianna, you killed Joel, and you killed Marshall! I wish you were dead!”
“I know you do,” his grin was blinding.
“Stop smiling!” I shrieked, reaching out to slap him and tearing the mask off his face as well. It wasn’t Cody that stood before me, though. The person before me had red hair falling around their head under the huge grey hood. The acne that had adorned Cody’s face was substituted by smooth, pale skin, full lips and blue eyes. In other words: me.
“No,” I replied.
“Paige, wake up!”
I woke up to a bright light above me and soreness in my throat. I had been screaming, I could tell, and someone was holding my hand. “Paige.”
“No!” I yelled, throwing myself backward. The sweaty palm of someone’s hand clapped over my mouth and another flattened against the back of my head, sitting me up against their shoulder. My screams were muffled, but I knew he could hear the profanity I was screaming at him. He was speaking to me, but I wasn’t listening.
“’et owf me!” I ordered, scratching at the obstruction with my fingernails.
“Paige! It’s me! It’s Jagger!”
“Jagger!” I snapped, biting his hand as hard as I could. With a cry of protest, he dropped my head and jumped away from the bed I was lying in. “What are you doing in my room?”
“You’re in the infirmary, Paige, they sedated you!”
After a brief investigation of the room, I realized I was not in my room. My hand was bandaged from my wrist to my fingertips, but my crippled appendage looked like it had shriveled up from the blood it had lost before I had arrived here. Stupid, I’m so stupid! There was no measure of time in this room, I had no idea how long I had been here. I had no idea how long Jagger had been here, waiting for me.
“How long have you been here?” I murmured quietly, looking up at him from under my eyelashes.
“Don’t sit up,” he ordered, though I immediately ignored his command and leaned up against the wall behind the bed. He rolled his eyes. “A couple hours.”
“I came to see if you were still breathing. You looked pretty messed up when they took you out of your room; what the hell happened to you?” he demanded, sitting beside me on the bed.
“Punched a wall,” I muttered unintelligibly, throwing the thin, rough sheet off of my legs.
“What?” he squawked loudly.
“I punched a wall,” I hissed again, crossing my arms over my chest.
“You punched a wall,” he repeated incredulously. “You were unconscious!”
“When I punched the wall, they sedated me,” I shrugged. “Now shut up and leave. As you can see, I’m breathing.”
He hesitated, like I knew he would. Men always had ulterior motives, even crazy ones like Jagger. And when men had ulterior motives, they wouldn’t keep them to themselves with the simple excuse that they were ‘just checking on you.’ With this realization, I sat silently, waiting for him to bring it up to me. I didn’t have to wait long.
“I also came to…” he trailed off, looking away from me so blatantly, he couldn’t have been more obvious if he tried.
“To what?” I asked curtly, trying to force him to make eye contact; failing at trying to make eye contact.
He sighed and the defeated look on his face made him look much older than the boy I met this morning, “To make you a proposition.”
I gaped at him for a long moment. “What do you want?”
“In simple terms, Paige, I want you.”
Snorting, I countered, “Good luck with that.”
“No, I want you to come with me!” he whispered fervently after a moment of looking around.
When he didn’t clarify, I continued, “Where?”
“I’m getting out of here, and I want you to come with me.”
Wrinkling up my face in confusion, I stared at him. For a while, neither of us said anything, choosing instead to watch each other suspiciously. Understanding that I would have to be the one to break the silence, I said, “Why?”
“You’re my idol,” he answered simply. When I scowled at him in a way that screamed, liar, he pursed his lips. “I like you,” he mumbled.
The subject was in desperate need of changing, which I was all too eager to acquiesce to. “How are you getting out?”
“In two days, I’m going to create a distraction for the nurses. While they’re all busy, we can escape through the…” he gestured to the ceiling where we could hear the heat blasting through the vents.
“That seems a little farfetched,” I said doubtfully.
In a very final tone, he snapped, “It’ll work.”
“What if it doesn’t?” I inquired in a tone that was icier than I intended.
“What if it doesn’t?” he repeated. “Do you have any privileges that they could take away? ‘Cuz I don’t!” he rambled. “What’s the worst that can happen; we get caught and dragged back to our rooms?”
Biting my lip, I thought over his words with care. I couldn’t stay in this hospital forever; I would end up like all the other crazies in this place. I would never see my parents again as it was, and all my friends were dead. What did I have to lose? Bringing my eyes back up to connect with Jagger’s expectant gaze, I replied, “If your distraction works, feel free to find me.”
The flat line his mouth had become tilted up into a blinding smile. “I knew you’d see things my way,” he stood to leave. “It’s the Jagger charm. Don’t feel bad; many-a-woman has fallen for the charm.” I rolled my eyes at his incorrigible ego. “Goodnight, Paige.”
“Wait!” I called, grabbing his wrist and pulling him back down onto the bed.
“Yes?” he chuckled, glancing from my face to the hand wrapped around his cold arm. I dropped it and reclaimed my hand immediately when I noticed the look he was giving me, but it just made him smile bigger.
“Where would we go?” I inquired, trying to ignore the expression painted across his handsome face.
I hadn’t expected the humor in his face to drain away with my words. He grabbed my good hand in both of his and explained, a little too forcefully, “We would reinvent ourselves, Paige, just you and me. We’ll go far away where no one knows who we are. We could be happy together with new names and, maybe later, we could get married.”
I choked on the air in my mouth.
“Ya if you want to,” he nodded seriously, then, like flipping a switch, he took on an atrociously high voice and squealed, “and if you ask really nicely with a really big ring…”
“Shut up, Jagger.”
“Love ya too, babe. I’ll see you at breakfast.”
“Bye, Jagger,” I waved as he left the room.
I heard him singing as he walked down the hall in a voice as awful as the one he had used before, “Goooooooing to the chapel, and we’re gooooooonna get married!”
I stayed in the infirmary for what felt like weeks, but was, in actuality, only a few hours. After that, I was put on suicide watch, which basically meant house arrest. I wasn’t allowed back in Dr. Christianson’s office until two days later, the day for Jagger’s escape plan to unfold. As usual in the last few days, after exchanging few pleasantries, I continued with the story.