Becca Murphy was a normal girl. She was average in height. She had blue eyes and brown hair. She had a sarcastic wit and a slow temper and, without others really knowing, managed to keep people at arms length. She always seemed to know more about them than they did of her.
If asked, the populace would be pretty evenly split in their opinion of her- One half would say they loved her. The other half would insist she was a demon on earth.
And, for the most part, Becca was okay with that.
There were a few people who understood that Becca was wounded- but without probing, they wouldn't comment. And it took Becca a few drinks and a quiet night before she could even consider probing them.
All in all, Becca's emotional support system was weak and the encounters in it far and few between.
So, after twenty-two years, she felt lost and broken. She had always just turned off when she was stressed, but suddenly she was unable to do so. Which left Becca with an unusual problem- dealing with her emotions.
Becca was born equiped to deal with the emotions of others- She could council and aid her friends and families as if she had gotten a degree in it. But, for some reason, perhaps years of emotional repression, perhaps from never having anyone care about her, she was woefully ill-equipped to deal with her own.
So it surprised everyone (aside from herself) when she had a break down at work- a job she'd been doing for five years and knew like the back of her hand. One minute she was walking down an aisle, straightening some items on a shelf, and the next she was throwing them, glass and wood and metal bouncing and scattering across the store. The paramedics and police would later tell her she was screaming and crying. That, because of her strength, it took three men to drag her out of the store.
She didn't really remember much of it, to be honest. But the security cameras did. The company didn't press charges, and actually agreed to hold her job for her, as long as she got help.
And so here she was- twenty-two and in a live in psych ward.
Mr. Richardson was also normal. He was medium height and medium build. He wore sweaters and ties. He had facial hair. He owned loafers.
Basically, he was a shrink, and he dressed the part.
His office had two oversized leather armchairs, a fainting couch and a desk with an armed desk chair. There was carpeting and generic paintings.
Basically, this was a shrink's office, and it dressed the part.
Becca took the room in with a quiet, impassive eye. She wasn't expecting bright colors and a guy who told her to call him by his first name and had her form a drum circle to get in touch with her feelings. She knew what she was getting into. The room and the man in the room surprised her very little.
"Where would you prefer me to sit?"
"Where ever you'd like, Becca."
She took the chair.
"I thought we would use today to just get to know a little more about each other. My name is Mr. Richardson; I've been a psychiatrist for twenty years now. I graduated from Harvard medical and started a private practice in Boston before moving here."
Becca sat quietly, maintaining polite eye contact and not much else.
"What about you?"
"How much do you already know?"
Mr. Richardson shifted slightly, but pulled her chart out anyway. "Rebecca Murphy twenty-two, born in Peconic Hospital in 1990. Graduated from Weston High School in 2008, got 3/4ths of her way through an anthropology degree before quitting school. No allergies to medication, but is allergic to cats and specific food colorings. Prefers to not be medicated."
"Well, there you go then."
"Is there anything you'd like to add to that?"
"I'm a cancer."
"My Meyer's-Brigg's personality test scored me as an INFJ."
Mr. Richardson shuffled through his papers and made a notation, "I suppose we can skip that test, then."
Becca remained silent, her eyes flickering to look at the art behind the desk. It was an ocean scene, with a small clipper ship breaking the waves to the distant left.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"I had asked what your favorite color is."
"That depends on my mood."
"What is it today?"
He made another notation and Becca looked at the painting again. It wasn't a bad painting. She wondered if he drew it or bought it. There was no signature on the bottom, so it could be either. If he painted it, with a little practice he could be very good.
Too bad art doesn't pay the bills.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I said, what's your favorite animal?"
He made another mark, and Becca knew he was writing about her inattentiveness.
"I like lions. I also like turtles and snails. And slugs. Penguins are good, too."
He marked them down, a strange look passing over his face when she said slugs.
"And what do you do for fun?"
"When I'm not here?"
A faint smile passed over his face, "Yes, when you're not here."
"I hang out with friends. Mike and Kat. Sometimes we see a movie. Usually we go out to dinner or cook."
"Do you like to cook?"
"What are your favorite movies?"
"I like Kamikaze Girls. Lilo and Stitch is also very good. Anastasia. I like a lot of animated films."
"Any idea why that is?"
"They're fun and lack significant drama."
He took some more notes and nodded. She let her eyes wander to the painting across the room, near the bookshelves. This one was a grassy field. The style was different. The two paintings were drawn by different people. He wasn't an artist.
"Are you religious?"
"When it suits me."
"Would you care to elaborate?"
"It depends on my mood. Sometimes we're controlled by fate, sometimes we control fate. Sometimes We're all Gods of our own worlds. Sometimes I pray to gods to help me. It depends, really. I won't pretend it's not hypocritical."
"I never said it was."
"You didn't have to."
He shifted again, putting his pad down.
"Do you often believe you can tell what others are thinking?"
His dark gray eyes met her blue ones and he sighed.
"I think that's enough for today. Why don't you go back to your room and get some rest before lunch."
And she stood and left. Because in this place, there was nothing else to do but listen to people who don't know what's wrong with you any more than you do.
Mr. Richardson had been working in his field for a long time. He knew the look of someone without hope. Becca Murphy was, most definitely, someone without hope. He reviewed her file again- No record of abuse. He looked over the notes, written in short hand and sighed softly. Any one who looked at her would assume she was a normal girl who just somehow suffered a nervous breakdown.
That, in and of itself, made her abnormal.
Her orientation the day before had been thorough. Today was her first full day at the St. Claire medical rehabilitation facility. It was set on something close to 10 acres in upstate New York. Somewhere near the Catskills. The entire facility reminded her vaguely of X-Men. She kept expecting to hear the roar of a jet in the middle of the night.
Lunch would be soon, but she wasn't hungry. She made her way towards the library, where the people who 'vacationed' here were able to relax or continue their studies.
This place wasn't called a psych ward. It was a 'rehabilitation center'. It was a place for people who needed a 'rest'.
She sighed heavily, cutting off that train of thought. Ultimately, she was there because she 'needed a rest'. Who was she to act holier than thou, when she herself was there with the rest of the broken, fragile people? She opened the large door to the library, and was relieved. It was empty, aside from a librarian of sorts. She knew total privacy wasn't something she could expect in a nut house. This would do. It was about two hours later, she supposed, when a nurse called out to her. She looked up from her book, confused.
"Becca. You missed lunch."
"I wasn't very hungry."
"Lunch isn't optional, I'm afraid. We'll be expecting you for dinner. It's at five."
"Fine." The nurse left and Becca turned back to her book, and, for a few blissful moments, she was able to pretend that she was alone with the sounds of pages flipping in the quiet room.
Dinner, for Becca at least, was a quick affair. She showed up. She spooned some vegetables onto her plate. She ate it standing up. She left.
They couldn't say she didn't attend.
She decided that it would be better to lie in bed then to pace the halls like a crazy person. Especially since there was a nine pm curfew.
She opened the door to her room, closing it quietly behind her. It was small. It would've been a shared room, except that her grandmother was footing the bill.
It was also a terrible off white color with beige tile floors. There was a single bed with a light blue comforter.
She laid back on the bed, which creaked a little under her weight, and stared at the ceiling. It was also white.
The window, she knew, showed a view of the courtyard. There were woods and a small river to the back and open land to the sides and front. There were fences, she was sure, but they must been further than she could make out. Maybe nestled in the woods or out past the plains.
She didn't really care.
There was a nightstand next to her bed- pine. White washed. A small desk in the corner that matched. A dresser for her five pairs of identical sweatpants and t shirts. If she'd brought casual clothing, it would be there, as well. Her phone sat, off, on the nightstand. She knew if she turned it on, she'd be barraged by texts and voicemails. Her Facebook would have a hundred notifications. It somehow made it all worse. She turned over and stared at the wall. It was empty, though she had been told she could put some art up if she wanted. She curled up into a ball and threw the blanket over herself.
With her eyes closed, she could pretend she was anywhere. She could pretend she was in someone's arms. That they were holding her safe, holding her together.
She prayed to never have to open her eyes again.
"I heard you missed lunch yesterday?"
"I was caught up in a book."
"And barely ate dinner. In fact, you didn't even stay for it."
"You know, Becca, it wouldn't hurt to sit with some of the other people here. Having a friend could make things easier- especially since they know what you're going through."
She felt her temper flare. She kept it under control, not allowing her face or posture to show her anger.
Know what she's going through. They don't know. No one knows. They're all too busy politely averting their eyes.
She stared at the carpet.
Mr. Richardson sighed, "What do you want to do with your life, Becca?" He asked it casually, and she continued looking at the rug. It had a neutral pattern sewn into its neutral color.
"I don't know."
"No ideas? What about archeology? You must have started the degree for a reason."
"I don't know what I want to do anymore."
The walls were latte colored. There was white wainscoting along the perimeter. The desk had a leather top. It looked to be mahogany but she'd have to get closer to know for sure. Grandma spared no expense.
"Is there something interesting about my desk?"
"Is it mahogany?"
Mr. Richardson paused, "It's oak, actually."
"Why do you ask?"
"It's funny. I would've thought it was mahogany. If you try hard enough, you can make anything look like something it isn't, can't you?"
"Are we still talking about the desk?"
"Are we done?"
"We can be- for now. I still want to see you for your 4 o'clock. And try to stay for the meal this time."
She went back to her room and curled into a ball on the single.
When one o'clock came around, she dragged herself out of bed and down the hall. A flight of stairs and a few left turns later she was at the 'dining room'. It was a beautiful room, honestly- she hadn't bothered to take it in the day before.
Five or six square tables sat scattered across the large rectangular area, a buffet set up against the far wall. Meal options included pastas, meats, vegetables and the occasional fish.
Dinner had varied only slightly from the lunch menu.
Despite it being well prepared, it all tasted like sand to Becca.
The other 'guests' seemed to love it. They gathered in their groups with plates piled high with four star food and laughed and joked with each other.
Didn't they know where they were?
Becca dished some roasted broccoli on her plate and sat at the least inhabited table. She stared at her food and prayed to every god she knew that no one would talk to her. A few seconds later, she realized for the hundredth time that week that the gods either abandoned her or didn't exist, but either way, she was stuck with talking.
"You're Becca, right? You just moved in the other day?"
"Yeah.. It's nice to meet you..?"
"Ashley. "Becca forced a smile and reached out her hand to shake. The other girl smiled back and took it.
The girl was wishy-washy. She went with the current opinion and never stood up for her own beliefs. She may have even forgotten them after pushing them aside for so long.
If you stand for nothing, you fall for anything.
"How long have you been here, Ashley?"
"Six months now. They say if I continue to do so well, I'll be out soon. I'm here because I had an eating disorder. Why are you here?"
Becca forced a coy grin, "Isn't that a question for the third or fourth date?" Ashley laughed and Becca laughed and secretly she wanted to curl back up into a ball on her bed and never leave the room ever.
Ever, ever, ever...
"I wish they had a better DVD selection here. Next time my parents come to visit, I'll have them bring some good ones. You wanna join me? I have a TV in my room." "Sounds fun"
Ever, ever, ever.
"Did you have a good lunch?"
"Are you asking if I ate?"
"I had some broccoli."
"I wasn't very hungry."
Mr. Richardson wrote something down and Becca found herself feeling annoyed. She supposed feeling annoyed was better then feeling hopeless, however.
She stared at the painting behind his desk again, the ship cresting the waves, the sun glittering off the water.
She was filled with the sudden desire to be anywhere but here. She stayed seated.
"Have you made any friends yet?"
"I talked to a girl at lunch today."
"That's good. Have you spoken to anyone back home yet?"
"Are you purposely speaking less formally in an attempt to get me to open up?"
"Are you normally this suspicious?"
"It's not suspicious if I'm right." She mumbled, but he heard her anyway and sighed.
"I know you don't want to be here, Becca. No one does. But going into it with a good attitude will make this take a lot less time. Then you can get back to your life and pretend this never happened. "
"And what exactly is waiting for me there?"
"Why don't you tell me?"
"Fine. Your twelve o'clock still stands. Have a good night."
She left without saying a word.
After her session was a scheduled "recess" period.
The patients were free to roam the courtyard and the grounds- there was a fountain in the center of it all, shooting water upwards into the sky.
Change shined in the bottom.
Becca sat at the edge of it, trailing her fingers through the cool liquid.
Soon it would be winter, but right now the leaves were just starting to change. Geese we're making their way across the sky, heading south. She could hear their calls in the distance.
She laid backwards, the tips of her hair floating in the current. In another life, she'd be at the beach. There'd be wood for a bonfire and food to grill and sand between her toes. She closed her eyes, and pretended the quiet gurgling of the fountain was the roar of the ocean.
In another life, she'd be a clipper ship. Cresting the waves, water glinting off her bow.
She'd be free.
After suffering through dinner, listening to Ashley's inane babble about her boyfriend and how much she missed Starbucks, Becca made her way to her room.
Shutting the door, she cursed at the fact that she couldn't lock it. She face planted onto the bed, burying herself into the covers and wishing that this were all a dream.
She couldn't look her friends in the eyes after it happened. They understood. They tried to make her feel better.
That made it worse. She didn't want people to understand.
She was tired of people 'understanding'.
Why couldn't someone just shake her and tell her to wake up?
She realized, with sudden clarity, that it was because they were all asleep, too.
No one wants to know what she knows. So it's better to have her go back to sleep; a nameless face, eyes half-lidded, broken and loving it, just like everyone else.
Not her. She was never going to sleep again.
"What were you thinking about yesterday? During recess."
Becca's eyes snapped up to meet his, not bothering to hide their anger.
"You're spying on me?"
"Not at all. The nurse just told me that you seemed lost in thought."
"So you're having your nurses spy on me."
Mr. Richardson sighed, removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"She said you looked content. I was just curious."
"I was thinking about the ocean."
"Do you like to go to the beach?"
"There has to be something you like more than, 'I guess'. Please, Becca. Work with me, here."
"What do you want from me?"
"I want more committed answers, for one."
Becca shrugged and Mr. Richardson almost growled. There were people who had honest problems. This girl, however, was just screwing with him. Waste of his time.
"What do you mean by 'committed answers'?"
"I mean, I want you to answer a question with something more than 'I guess.' I need you to work with me, or you're going to be here for a very long time."
"You can't keep me here. I'm an adult."
"Then you'll loose your job."
"I can get another one."
"Not by putting that one on your resume."
Becca leaned back in her chair, and Mr. Richardson realized that somehow, she had gained control of this session.
"Do you want to hear a story, Mr. Richardson?"
"What kind of story?"
"Yes or no, Mr. Richardson. I'm going to need a committed answer from you."
"Fine. Tell me a story."
"Once upon a time, there was a girl. She loved things with to the fullest extent of her heart. Then, one day, an evil queen decided to take away everything that little girl every held dear. And every day, another thing that the little girl loved was taken and destroyed, until there was nothing left. And that little girl was broken and bleeding. She was left to live her life, knowing that if she ever fell in love with anyone or anything again, it would be stripped from her. Such was the power of the evil queen."
"Is this story a true story, Becca?"
"Define true for me, Mr. Richardson."
"Did an evil queen take your loved ones from you?"
Becca surprised herself, because suddenly she was laughing.
"Now, now, Mr. Richardson. There's no such thing as evil queens."
He'd been unable to get her to say anything else of value for the rest of her session. But at least she stayed for the full hour.
He looked over the notes from the session; just like with the comment about his desk, he felt that there was something else hidden there.
The story wasn't about an evil queen. That much was obvious.
But was it about a girl who lost everything she loved?
That didn't sound probable, because Becca hadn't experienced any deaths to her immediate family or friends.
So the story wasn't true. It didn't even seem likely, considering how she started laughing.
She was just wasting his time. Again.
Unless she wasn't.
That, Mr. Richardson decided, was the problem with dealing with the sane. They were too good at hiding.