It was a breezy evening as I sat on a stone bench outside Sunshine Rehab Centre with my brother beside me.
"Riella, it's nearly 5 o'clock," Derek noted as we stared at the lake and those odd swan boats that people were riding on it on.
"Why do you have to be such a spoil sport?" I grumbled as I turned to look at him, he shrugged at me, a small smile playing on his lips, his black hair ruffling in the breeze.
"Come on," he said getting up and stretching.
"Are you aware of how boring therapy is?" I grumbled as I remained seated.
"It's a necessity here Riella," he said looking down at me. "I'm pretty sure it sucks. But, let me put it this way kiddo, the more you go to these sessions without making trouble and skipping out on them," he looked at me pointedly at this and continued, " the sooner you'll get out of this place and get back home."
"Well that's a tough choice," I said as I rose from the bench. "Which mental institution do I prefer the one I call home or this one?"
"When did you start becoming such a pessimist?" he joked.
"A while before I tried to kill myself the first time," I replied. All humour from Derek's face drained. "Okay. I didn't mean to kill the mood…"
Derek obviously didn't know what to say.
"I was just joking around Derek," I said. People always got this way whenever I mentioned what I attempted to do. I did not see why they acted this way, we all knew what happened.
"Don't joke about it Riella," there was no trace of the humour in his voice from before. I rolled my eyes.
"Okay. Well then Derek, I 'll see you later." He looked at me for a moment as if contemplating something, and then, as if he had come to a decision, his face returned back to normal and he smiled at me.
"Am I gonna get a hug?" he asked opening his arms. I hesitated for a second, but then… this was my brother, Derek, my best friend… my only friend. And with that, I stepped into his embrace and he pulled me into a rib crushing bear hug.
"Are you trying to kill me?" I gasped. He laughed as he let go of me.
"Want me to walk you out?" I suggested in an attempt to delay my therapy session. Derek narrowed his eyes at me.
"Bye Riella," he said with a tone of finality in his voice. He ruffled my hair lightly, turned away from me and headed towards the reception which guarded the only exit from this place.
"Bye," I muttered to his back as I fixed my hair. I stared at his retreating figure for a few moments, longing to be able to leave at my wish the way he could.
Sighing, I turned the opposite direction and made my way to the psychiatric building which housed all the therapists' offices.
As I pushed the glass door of the building open, I was greeted with a blast of cold air. The door swung shut behind me as I stepped in and looked around.
The smiley receptionist was sitting behind the counter reading a magazine. I walked up to her and cleared my throat; she looked up startled and set her magazine down.
"Good evening Zeriella," the bubbly blonde greeted me brightly. "Doctor Heath is ready and waiting for you," she informed me, gesturing towards the spiral staircase on the right side of the room.
Without a word, I walked towards the wooden staircase and ascended slowly, taking my time. I was in no hurry. When I reached the end of the hallway, I stopped in front of the elegant wooden door that had a metal placard reading '(Mrs) Doctor Heath'.
I hesitated and checked my watch. It was only seven minutes past five. Even after all my stalling I only managed to get seven minutes late.
I lifted my arm to knock on the door, and my sleeve fell back revealing the healing scars covering my forearm.
"Come in," said a soft female voice from inside as I shook my sleeve back over my arm.
I opened the door and stepped inside Annie Heath's brightly lit office. The shrink herself, was seated on the white armchair she always occupied, and she was smiling her warm, homely smile at me.
"You're late," she stated standing up as I shut the door behind me.
"Yeah," I said nonchalantly. "I was with my brother." I shrugged.
"Ah, well, that's alright Zeriella," she said still smiling. Annie Heath always smiled. She was a woman in her late thirties, with brown curls that reached her shoulders and soft brown eyes framed by square spectacles, and a mouth that never stopped smiling.
"Take a seat and let's get started," she said gesturing to the couch directly in front of her armchair. I walked quietly past the couch she indicated to and sat on another armchair further away from her than the couch was.
This was how every one of these therapy sessions started; my shrink asks me to sit on the couch in front of her, I ignore the request and sit on the chair further away from her instead.
She sat down and noted something down on her clipboard like she always did, then looked at me and smiled. "So how are you today Zeriella?"
"I'm fine." I glanced out the window at the lake.
"Well that's good to know," she said. That was followed by a quick scratching of pen on paper. "So, what did you do today?"
"I mostly just read, and then my brother came so I hung out with him," I said monotonously.
"Ah, how's your brother doing?"
"He's fine," I answered in the same tone.
"He's still at college, am I right?"
"What's he majoring in?" she asked, obviously trying to keep the conversation flowing, expecting longer answers from me.
"Aerospace engineering," I said glancing at the clock on the wall behind my shrink's head. It had only been four minutes since I came in.
"Mhmm," Annie said crossing her legs. "So Riella, tell me, how did you feel when your brother visited you?"
I looked back at her and raised my eyebrows. I did not speak.
Annie Heath did not look affected by my condescending stare. She waited a few moments for an answer, then; "Were you happy? Annoyed? Unaffected?"
I rolled my eyes at her. There was silence for another few seconds.
"It's an easy question Zeriella," she encouraged me. I looked back at her, my face blank.
"I'm annoyed now," I replied in a flat tone. Annie cocked her head at me and then once again scribbled on her notepad.
There was silence in the room, and then my shrink looked up at me. I knew what was coming now.
"Zeriella," she started, "Are you ready to talk about what happened the first night? What drove you to do what you did?"
My shrink never used the word 'suicide', she always referred to it as 'what you did'. As a matter of fact, mostly everyone found in uncomfortable to state exactly what I did to my face.
I answered her question with a stony look. That was answer enough.
"Come on Zeriella, I'm your therapist. I won't lie to you and tell you that I'm your friend or anything. But I am your therapist, my job is to help you and I cannot help you if you give me nothing. I won't tell your parents, doctor-patient confidentiality Zeriella," she said, with what I guessed was a reassuring smile; I continued to stare at her mutely. "You know I won't tell anyone. I just want to know why, if I know why it will help me understand, and if I understand, it will help me to let you go home earlier."
"Can you just give it up?" I snapped at her my patience finally burning out. I had to go through this every day, at every session.
Now I had finally had enough of staying silent through it.
"I'm not stupid okay? I know telling you the reason won't help me get out of here. I'm so fucked up that if you actually knew everything, my time in here will be so much longer; I'll never leave this hell hole.
"And anyways, you guys are keeping me in here to make sure I'm not depressed anymore, but how is sticking me in this shit hole supposed to make me 'love life'. Hell, it makes me hate life even more. I'll tell you this Annie, my life is shit, the only good thing in my life is my brother, he's the only person I felt guilty about leaving… the rest, well, I was just glad to be rid of them." I was breathing hard by the end of the speech, and my chest was rising up and down rapidly.
All this talk about the past… The memories were starting to stir.
"Come on Zeriella don't be like that, you know your parents love you and they sent you here so that you'll get better. Your parents want you to get better. That's why you're here, I will help you get better, just talk to me."
I snorted, and started laughing, sarcasm laced thickly in it.
"My parents love me? Whoa, who fed you that bullshit?" Annie tried talking, but I cut her off and continued. "They think that all they have to do for their children is to send them to a snotty little private school and to get them whatever they want. Love was not part of the deal; they think that money makes up for it all. They think that money makes up for the fact that they treat me like shit and ignore me most of the time."
Annie scribbled something again. "Why do you think this?"
"I don't think this. This is how it is." I was poised rigidly on my seat now.
"So nowhere inside you, do you feel that your parents love you? Maybe somewhere deep down?"
I rolled my eyes at her and looked at the clock. It was fifteen past five. I got up from the chair and made for the door.
"Where are you going Zeriella?" she said, surprise colouring her voice.
"Well, we're done here. I just shared more than I've ever shared with you in any of our sessions, so I think I deserve to leave early." My shrink started to say something but I simply turned my back towards her and stalked out of the room leaving the door wide open behind me.
"Zeriella, wait!" she called out after me, but I ignored her and kept walking.
The bubbly blonde behind the counter looked up from her magazine as I walked past her. She looked mildly surprised to see me, she opened her mouth to say something to me, but I stalked past her before she could word anything and exited the nightmare building.
I took a deep breath of the fresh air outside. It helped clear my mind slightly, but the memories still stirred in my head.
This was why I never liked talking about what happened that horrible night, it always brought back memories of the night; the incredible pain and the feeling of utter helplessness.
I had to get back to my room. This was no place to be when the memories took over.
I walked quickly in the direction of the buildings housing the patients. I followed the grey brick pathway that led to the residential buildings that were placed in a massive circle around a huge fountain.
I headed towards building number four, where I resided, where I was once again greeted by a blast of cold air as I entered the building. The front door entered into a great lobby, with a counter on the right side. Today, the counter was manned by the balding man and the plump lady.
Without a second glance at them, I walked straight ahead to the elevator and pressed the down button. I tapped my foot on the floor as I waited, urging the machine to descend faster.
When the doors finally slid open, someone else was standing inside.
It was Lance, the recovering drug addict from room number five. He looked like a zombie. All pale and lifeless.
I waited till he exited the elevator before I entered it. I jabbed the button reading two and waited impatiently. The doors barely opened fully before I slid past them and stalked down the corridor. I had to get to the privacy of my room, and quick.
As I walked down the corridor, at the back of my mind I noted Lisa's door open. She was hunched up, sitting against the door frame, hugging her knees to her chest and rocking back and forth. Lisa did this a lot.
When I finally reached the door with a number six on it, I slid my key card in with more force than necessary and rushed inside.
I have to distract myself, I thought to myself.
I hurried to the television and switched it on. It was paused on the movie I was watching last night. I pushed the play button and immersed myself into the fictional world on screen.
Anything to forget reality.
I headed to dinner that night, my nerves calm and my heart beat steady, but the wall in my head seemed a bit unsteady, as it always did after such close calls.
The door of the cafeteria/restaurant, was opened for me by a man in black trousers, a white shirt and a bowtie, who was always present at dinner, and I stepped in, silently acknowledging him with a nod. And only halfway to my table did I realize how much like my father that gesture was on my part.
Still somewhat shocked on this, my thoughts dwelling on it, I chose something from the wide choice of meals, and headed to a secluded corner in the room. I barely tasted what I ate, and ate for the sake of eating, as I had been doing a lot lately.
As I finished off the last of my meal, I glanced up just to scan the room and my eyes landed on what looked like a familiar figure.
My hands instantly slackened, and my cutlery fell onto the table with a clatter masked by the noises of dozens of conversations in the room.
There, by the buffet was a tall, broad shouldered boy with spiky dark brown hair that looked horribly familiar.
It was him. What was he doing here?
My breaths started coming out in gasps, my palms got all clammy.
Then, when I started to feel light headed and felt the darkness that came before fainting coming on, he turned around and started walking towards a table and I saw that he wasn't who I thought he was.
He looked so much like him though.
I sat there staring at the boy, still unable to breathe, my heart pounding madly in my chest for the second time today, a ton of memories threatening to break through the walls I worked so hard to build.
I got up hastily, pushing my chair back so hard that it nearly fell over; the people at the table closest to mine looked up at me in shock. I ignored them and hurried out of the room.
I did my best to keep a calm demeanour, I have learnt from experience that showing my feelings here, leads to an 'emergency therapy' session. I kept my face expressionless, not revealing the craziness going on in my head, as I stalked towards the door.
I was just about to push it open when one of the restaurant staff walked towards me.
"I have to check you," she said holding out her hands. And I nodded, of course, she had to perform the routine check up on me, making sure I wasn't smuggling out anything sharp. I kept my eyes on her as she patted me down. I shuddered as her hands touched me.
I wanted to run, to cringe away. But that wouldn't stop her… much like it did not stop him…
Just as I was on the brink of exploding, she moved away from me and gave me the okay. I kept my calm, brisk walk until I turned the corner away from the view of the staff.
And as soon as I turned the corner I ran down the path towards my building, the memories were starting to come now, I started running faster.
Chase Wilson, the reason for all my misery, the one who started it all.
Chase, with his charming smile that always made my heart flutter and made me forget whatever I was saying,
Chase and his charming ways, able to get anyone to do what he wanted them to.
I trusted him, and he betrayed me in a way I didn't think he was capable of. I chocked back a sob and started running even faster.
I was now running down the path towards building number four, as fast as my legs would allow me. I slowed down my pace as I pushed open the doors hastily fighting back the tears now.
As soon as the door opened the two supervisors sprang apart, they were cuddled up on one of the couches in the lobby sucking faces. But I barely paid them any mind, and I was grateful for how they were averting their eyes from me, in embarrassment of being walked in on, it benefited me as they didn't see my expression.
I held back from running in here, and hurried to the elevator and started pressing the down button over and over again. The elevator finally arrived as I chocked back another sob, the doors slid open and I jabbed down the button with the number two on it.
By the time the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened I couldn't hold my tears back anymore and they were flowing freely down my face. I kept my back towards the supervisors while the doors closed.
I hurried to the door still managing to hold back the loud sobs that were threatening to break free.
At the door, I fumbled a bit with the key as my vision was blurred by the never-ending flow of tears.
When I finally managed to get the door unlocked I pushed it open and slammed it shut, finally in the privacy of my room I slid down the door and finally gave up trying to hold back the sobs. I sat with my head on my knees as the memories finally hit me hard.
I remembered the first time that I officially met the charming boy who changed my life, the one who changed it from bad to good to even worse than it was in the beginning.
I remembered the feeling of elation I felt that day.
I remembered the first time Chase Wilson used his irresistible charm on me.
The bell rung signalling the end of the day's lessons, I stuffed my books into my bag, glad that math's was finally over.
I got up without looking up and bumped into something hard and nearly fell backwards, but a pair of strong arms caught me around the waist.
"Whoa," said a deep male voice as the pair of arms steadied me.
I looked up to see a pair of dazzling green eyes, I took a step backwards to get a better look at who these eyes belonged to; it was Chase Sandler, the most popular and best looking guy in my school.
I blushed at how close I was to him; he smiled down at me then as if suddenly realizing that he was still holding on to my waist, let go of me.
"I'm so sorry," I said all nervous and quiet, he shook his head.
"Oh, no, it wasn't your fault, don't apologize. It was me, I wasn't looking at where I was going, I was looking down at my phone," he said smiling and gesturing to the iPhone that was still in his left hand. I was impressed at his ability to catch me with that phone in his hand and not drop either the phone or me.
"I should look up before I get up too," I said shyly giving him a small smile; he returned it with another gorgeous smile of his.
"Chase Sandler," he said in his irresistible voice sticking out his right hand for me to shake.
"I know," I blurted out, he gave me an amused look and lifted an eyebrow at me, and then I realized how stupid I must have sounded and started blushing yet again, "I mean, I'm Zeriella, call me Riella," I said taking his hand and shaking it.
He didn't let go of my hand for a while, and held on a bit longer than was necessary, when he did let go, my palm was tingling with the feeling of his warm hand.
"Well then, I'll see you around Riella," he said still smiling.
"Bye," I said looking up at him, his emerald green eyes met my brown ones and I blushed again for no apparent reason, and at that moment, I was extremely thankful of my dark skin that made it hard to see me blush.
With that, he winked at me, turned his back towards me and walked out of class leaving me standing there, shocked by the fact that I actually had a conversation with Chase Wilson and confused about that wink.
I was brought back to the present; that memory was from when I was so innocent and clueless. I can't believe I fell for his charm.
It was before I went through all the betrayal and hurt, before I found out the truth about so many people.
How naïve I was.
I sat by the door sobbing with my head on my knees, with my tears flowing endlessly until I finally fell asleep on the hard floor curled up in a ball.