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Rabbits in the garden, p.14

Rabbits in the Garden, page 14


Rabbits in the Garden

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  “What are you going to do to me?” Avery whimpered, but Nurse Meredith just looked at her with her lips clamped together and then nodded to orderlies Verger and Thomas standing behind Avery.

  They grabbed her arms and pulled her out of the chair. She felt like she was thrashing against them, but her body was still so weak from the sedative that she hardly moved an inch. They slammed her down on the table and Thomas pinned her with his gargantuan hand while Verger strapped her down. She grunted as he pulled the straps tight and buckled them, but when Meredith started rolling a cart stacked with strange electronic equipment toward the table, Avery began to sob.

  “I didn’t kill those people, and nothing you do will ever change that. This whole thing is pointless. I’m innocent. Please, Nurse Meredith, don’t do this.”

  After years of begging and bargaining in that room, the staff had learned to tune out the sobs. Their hands moved quickly with the equipment and electrodes as they prepped Avery for treatment; the screaming, pleading, and thrashing was just another part of the process.

  “Bite down,” Verger said, holding a rubber mouthpiece with a strap that buckled behind Avery’s head.

  She could hear the equipment whirring, dials being turned, and switches being flipped, and although she was curious, she didn’t crane to see it. She figured that, like getting a shot, it was probably best not to look at the needle. Thomas rubbed isopropyl alcohol on her temples and stuck the electrodes to the sides of her head, and when she heard Meredith say “ready?” to the orderlies, Avery began to whine loudly in fearful anticipation.

  The current obeyed the nurse’s hand and sprang to life, but once it reached its cerebral playground, it ran wild and free. Avery was burning, breaking, and convulsing madly on the table, but the current didn’t care. Every step of its wild dance stole a piece of Avery away, and although she wasn’t completely cognizant of it, she felt it on an unconscious level. When the current began to surge through her, the lights in her mind began to flicker in malfunction, and when they became steady again, she found herself surrounded by four walls that were covered with sheets of paper.

  “Hello, Avery,” a gentle voice said, and when she saw her mother with arms outstretched, she moved into them and allowed Faye to kiss her cheek.

  “Wait, don’t I hate you?” Avery asked.

  “Not here. This place was built before our hatred,” Faye replied. “It is a grand place, but it is far too cluttered. We need to make some room.”

  Faye began scanning the walls, and when she delicately ripped one of the pieces of paper away, a beam of light shone into the room.

  “There. Isn’t that better?”

  “What’s that paper?” Avery asked.

  “Learning to ride a bike,” she replied with a smile and the sheet suddenly ignited to a blaze that disappeared with a puff of smoke.

  As Faye tore more papers away and more light shone through, Avery felt each burst of flame leave a charred hole in her mind.

  “Fractions!” Faye exclaimed as the paper vanished into smoke. “The last baby tooth falling out!”

  “What’s happening to me?” Avery moaned as she sunk to her knees; even though her head felt like it was emptying, it seemed to get heavier in its desolation.

  “Tap dancing! Piano lessons! The color pink!” Faye boomed louder and louder with each exclamation as the papers sailed down like ribbons of flame, but the next thing she said, she yelled loudest of all. “Paul Dillon!”

  The room shook violently, and all of the sheets fluttered down at once, flooding Avery with harsh light. The pressure of emptiness had forced her to her stomach and although she could hardly see, she knew that someone was standing over her.

  “Alright, Avery. You can hate me again,” Faye whispered, and when Avery looked up and saw her illuminated face, she didn’t understand what was going on.

  “How can I hate you?” she replied in confusion. “I don’t even know you.”


  Avery awoke to a world she’d never seen before and it forced her back under the covers in dread. She felt extremely disoriented and the sunlight hurt her eyes, but her shoulder hurt much worse. When she made herself get out of bed, she realized that her right arm was in a sling, and as she tiptoed across the strange room, she felt each step as pain shooting from her shoulder throughout her body. The other bed in the room was empty, along with the open drawers of the dresser beside it - except for one thing. Tucked in the back of the bottom dresser was a folded piece of paper. A farewell note.

  Dear Avery,

  I guess we won’t see each other after all. They decided to move me early, but I didn’t want to go without saying goodbye. You’ve been a true friend to me, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that because I know I’ll never have it again. You are a good person, and you deserve happiness. Although I’ll miss you terribly, it makes me happy to know I’ll never see you again. Because that means you’re finally free. Good luck and don’t forget me!!

  Your friend always,

  Francine a.k.a Flint.”

  She didn’t know who Avery or Francine were, but they sure sounded like nice people, too nice to be in such a stark, empty room with bars on the windows. But then again, she was in that room, so what kind of person did that make her? She was peering out the barred window when the door opened and a woman with a round, rosy face walked in wearing a smile and a nurse’s uniform.

  “How are we today?” she asked.

  “Who are you? Where am I?”

  “Well, I guess that answers my question,” the nurse chuckled. “How are you feeling otherwise? You’ve been in and out for a few days now.”

  When she squeezed a bit of ointment onto a cotton ball and approached, Avery shrank back in fear.

  “Don’t worry. It’s for your burns,” she replied, and when she dabbed the ointment onto her temples, Avery winced in unexpected pain. “The electrode must’ve still been wet when I flipped the switch. It doesn’t happen often, but we don’t want the burns to get infected, do we? How’s your arm?”

  “Well, it’s in a sling.”

  “You’re very welcome,” the nurse replied.

  “Where am I? What am I doing here?”

  “Don’t worry about that now; it’ll all come back soon enough. You should just try to take it easy. Would you like to look out the window? Violet always finds it rather comforting afterward.”

  “Sure. I guess.”

  As she led Avery toward the lounge, a number of eyes crawled toward her, and she even got nods of recognition that made her think that it wasn’t her first day in the hospital.

  “Here,” the nurse said as she dropped a pill into Avery’s hand.

  “What’s this?”

  “A vitamin. It’s good for you. Take it.”

  She didn’t want to, but the look in the nurse’s eyes suggested that she should or else, so she popped it into her mouth and swallowed with a dry gulp. The girl in the purple chair in front of the window looked half-dead, and there was a sinister scar carved into her forehead. Her eyes were unfocused and her expression vacant, but when Avery was sat down beside her, her gaze shifted slightly to the right.

  “If you need anything…” the nurse started, but she trailed off as she walked away.

  “Hi,” Avery said after several minutes of staring at a bluebird flitting from branch to branch, but the girl in the purple chair said nothing. “That’s a nice color. All of the other chairs are orange. You must be the lucky one.”

  The girl turned her head with unnatural fluidity and stared at Avery in such a way that made her feel stripped of her armor. Considering she didn’t even know she had armor, Avery felt even more defeated.

  “So why are you in here?” Avery finally squeaked.

  “Wouldn’t you rather know why you’re in here?” Violet asked, and the girls sitting in the lounge gasped in shock.

  “She talked! Did you hear that, Tyler? Violet talked!” Brianne exclaimed, but Violet shushed her with her eye
s glued to the window. “The nurses ordered them not to speak to you, not to tell you who you are, but they didn’t order me. I guess they figured it was needless since I don’t usually talk much anyway.”

  “Why not?”

  “What’s there to talk about? Nothing I could ever say would save me any more than your protests can save you. I have no stories of interest because I have no memory, and these few moments of clarity are growing fewer and farther between. New vitamins are being made every day, and someone has to be the guinea pig. So I just look out the window. There are much lovelier things out there than in here, and they are the only things that can rescue me from the pit my mind has become.”

  “What lovely things?”

  “Trees, birds, rabbits…”

  “What did you say?”

  “I said ‘rabbits’.”

  The word felt important to Avery, but she didn’t know why. Piece by piece, an image entered her mind: a white rabbit with a pink dot on its belly, and although it confused her at first, the explanation suddenly slammed into her brain. The lights of recognition flipped back on and Avery realized how dim everything had so recently been.

  “The rabbits, the garden,” she whispered as her memory careened back to her, but when she turned to thank Violet for jogging her memory, the girl looked as slack and vacant as ever; perhaps even more so. The rest of the lounge was empty too, and despite the world appearing brighter than it had the minute before, it was actually much later than she’d thought. The sun was down and the ward was quiet, but Avery’s mind felt more awake than ever before. As memories continued to stream back to her, she retraced her steps mentally until she reached the last thing she remembered clearly: being strapped to a table while electrodes were stuck to her temples. She touched the raw flesh on the sides of her face and winced, but the sharp pain that shot up her shoulder was even worse. Her brain backtracked from there. She was given the electroshock because she bit Patrick. She bit Patrick because he tried to hold her back from attacking her mom. She tried to attack her mom because Faye lied about Paul and stole Sophie away. Faye lied and stole Sophie because Natalie wasn’t there to stop her. Natalie wasn’t there to stop her because…

  She remembered. It was Natalie’s funeral. Her sister was dead. Although many things had returned, there were still some fuzzy spots in Avery’s mind. She could remember Natalie’s birthday but not her middle name. She remembered that she loved Paul, but she couldn’t remember their first kiss; that was the most lamentable of holes in her memory.

  “What did you people do to me?” she asked sadly and then boomed it across the ward. “What did you people do to me?!”

  Nurse Radcliffe rushed out with her syringe ready, but Avery dodged her and dashed down the hall. She got so close to the exit doors that she didn’t care whether they’d be locked or not, but just as her fingers were about to wrap around the handle, Patrick emerged from the shadows and grabbed her injured arm. He twisted it backwards and Avery screamed as she sunk to the floor, but she couldn’t help but notice his wounded hand and the slightly satisfied expression on his face. When he plunged the syringe into her neck, he hit the same injection site as her last dose, but the vitamin P dulled the raw pinch along with her many other aches. The pain in her heart remained, however, and it followed her into the dark.

  She expected to wake up in the electroshock room again, but when her eyes opened, the walls on either side of her were moving. Or, as she realized when her head cleared, she was moving past them. Orderly Thomas pushed her wheelchair swiftly through the sunbridge, and despite her many inquiries as to where she was going, Thomas kept his mouth shut and eyes fixed forward. Two orderlies she’d never seen before opened a series of double doors for them, and the last set of doors put her face to face with a room full of authoritative eyes. Eight doctors and nurses were seated at a long table littered with charts and folders, but the only faces she recognized were those of Doctor Aslinn and Nurse Meredith.

  “Good morning, Avery. How are you feeling today?” Meredith asked calmly.

  “Honestly? I’m a little confused as to why I’m still here,” Avery replied. “My mom killed my sister. She stole her baby.”

  “No, Avery. None of that happened.”

  “Yes it did.”

  “No, Avery, you’re mistaken.”

  “How do you know? You don’t know anything!” she barked.

  “Be quiet!” Doctor Aslinn roared and Avery immediately felt her eyes fill with tears.

  “You don’t know. You’re not even bothering to find out,” she mewled.

  “That’s not our job, Avery. Our job is to get you well, and I’m sad to say that we’ve failed. You’re no better than you were the day you were brought here. I’m at my wit’s end with you, and I’m afraid there’s not much else I can do to help you. But I believe Doctor Yingling can.”

  “Yes, I think I can help you, Avery,” said a sturdy man with small, round glasses. “I think you’ll do much better when you’re among adults. After all, you’re not a child anymore, are you?”

  “Wait, you’re not moving me to the adult ward, are you? You can’t! My review isn’t supposed to be until my eighteenth birthday!” she protested.

  “Yes, but considering the recent events, the board was inclined to bump it up a few months.”

  “That’s not fair!”

  “Neither is your refusal to cooperate with us, Avery. We’ve only tried to help you, and you’ve fought us every step of the way.”

  “To be fair, she did seem receptive for a while. She seemed to be making progress,” Nurse Meredith said.

  “That’s why I still believe she can be rehabilitated,” Doctor Aslinn replied. “We did make strides together. You were starting to admit the possibility of your guilt.”

  “But I’m not guilty,” Avery attested, and the committee groaned as they shook their heads.

  “That’s why we can’t allow you to stay in the juvenile ward anymore, Avery, and it’s why we can’t discharge you.”

  Avery didn’t think her heart could break any more than it already had, but sure enough, she felt what was left shatter so forcefully that she grabbed her chest in pain.

  “It’s not all that bad, is it? You’ll get to see some of your friends again.”

  “I’m not crazy and I’m not guilty, but I’ve been locked up in this place for almost six years for being both. I’ve been electrocuted into amnesia and told repeatedly that I’m a bad person when I know I’m not. Do you really think that seeing some of my friends is going to make it all better? I was supposed to get out of here. Natalie and Paul were supposed to get me out.”

  “Paul Dillon, correct? The man who was accused of killing your sister?” Doctor Yingling asked.

  “My mother killed her. Her and Noah. She killed them to get custody of Sophie. I know it.”

  “Do you have proof?”

  “No, but...”


  “She's done it before. Not like this, but she is a murderer and now she's trying to steal Sophie.”

  “Avery, your mother doesn’t have custody of Sophie Dillon,” Doctor Aslinn said.

  “She doesn’t? But they gave her to my mom at the funeral.”

  “Only to care for while Mr. Dillon was being questioned. She’s back with her father now and your mother is back on Martha’s Vineyard.”

  “How do you know that?”

  “She called for you a few days ago, but you were still so woozy, we thought it was best to wait.”

  “She told you? She could be lying! Paul could be in jail right now. She could still have Sophie.”

  “She doesn’t, Avery. Your niece is safe and sound with her father in Boston.”

  “For now maybe, but my mother won’t just give up. She won’t stop until Sophie is hers. You didn’t hear that fake letter she wrote. She’s ruthless. She’s crazy. She’ll do whatever it takes to have her way,” Avery pleaded as she leapt out of the wheelchair and flew towards the table. “We have t
o warn Paul! She could be in Boston right now!”

  Thomas grabbed her and wrestled her back into the chair, but when he withdrew a syringe, Doctor Yingling instructed him to put it away.

  “We’re not going to knock her out in order to deal with her anymore. That’s for children, and Avery’s not a child. Do you understand what I’m saying, Avery? I won’t allow you to sleep through your psychosis anymore. Under my care, you will deal with it. You are a murderer, and you will acknowledge it, or so help me God, you will experience things I don’t even want to describe. If you think the last six years have been hell, you have no idea what you’re in for if you don’t make a concerted effort toward recovery. Do we understand each other?”

  She closed her eyes and the tears streamed down her cheeks, and when she nodded her head, they fell onto the linoleum. She couldn’t help but wonder how many tears had fallen there, how many hearts and spirits had been broken in that room.

  “Your things will be packed for you and delivered to your new ward. Nurse Meredith will take you there now.”

  “Do you want to walk?” she asked, and Avery shook her head.

  “I’m feeling a little dizzy,” she whispered, but before Meredith could wheel her out, Doctor Yingling said,

  “I’ll be seeing you soon, Avery. Very soon.”


  The patients were was in the middle of group therapy when Avery was rolled into the ward. No less than twenty-five pairs of eyes turned toward her. Some looked at her in disgust, some in intrigue, and the minimal remainder in youthful recognition; notably, Flint and Pam.

  “This is Avery Norton. She’s not quite eighteen, but I’m sure you’ll make her feel just like one of the group,” Meredith said, turned on her heel, and promptly marched out.

  “Welcome, Avery. I’m Nurse Foster,” a trim, raven-haired nurse with a bouncy British accent said from between large, clenched teeth. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting you to show up here sometime.”

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