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Rabbits in the garden, p.7

Rabbits in the Garden, page 7


Rabbits in the Garden

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  “So you admit to killing them.”

  “Yes, but not on purpose. Well, it was, but I didn’t want to.”

  “So you feel like it was out of your control.”

  “I guess, but I never would’ve done it if my mom hadn’t told me to.”

  “When did she tell you to kill rabbits?”

  “When she taught me about the garden. She said that the world is a garden and people are like the rabbits. If they get bad water, they do bad things, and they have to be put out of their misery.”

  “What kinds of bad things, Avery?”

  “Being with one and then with another. Switching. Being dirty. Being bad.”

  “I see. So you killed the rabbits because they were having sex with each other.”

  “I guess so.”

  “Just like all of those teenagers. Just like your father.”

  “No!” Avery screamed.

  “Your mother told us that it was you who first discovered your father’s infidelity, that you caught him with another woman.”

  “I don’t know anything about that. She’s trying to make me sound crazy, but I’m not. I didn’t even know my father was dead until a few days ago. I thought he left us.”

  “No one is saying you’re crazy, Avery. You’re just a very confused girl. You need help from people who understand you; people like me. But I can’t help you if you won’t let me. That’s why I’ve decided to call in your mother. I think some face to face time with her will be good for you.”

  “No, I don’t want to see her.”

  “Please send in Mrs. Norton,” he said into his intercom over the din of Avery’s objections.

  When the door swung open, a chilly breeze accompanied Avery’s mother into the room and managed to freeze Avery all over again.

  “Good morning, Mrs. Norton,” the doctor said pleasantly and shook her hand.

  “Please call me Miss Hayworth. I'm going back to my maiden name. I thought it might help distance me from all of this horrible business.”

  “What are you doing here?” Avery hissed, and when Faye sat down next to her, she scooted to the very edge of the sofa.

  “I know you’re angry with me, Avery. I’m angry with me too. I should’ve done something about your problem long before it got this bad.”

  “You’re the one with the problem,” Avery spat, and Faye pouted her bottom lip.

  “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Doctor Aslinn.”

  “We just need to get the lines of communication open. Miss Hayworth, how does it make you feel that your daughter believes you are the cause of these murders?”

  “Horrible. It hurts so much, but I’d rather endure that pain than have her suffer any. I wish I was the cause. I wish I could bear this burden for her.”

  “I don’t want your pity. Besides, you’ll pay for all of this too. Even if I take most of the blame, you’ll still go to prison as an accessory to murder,” Avery said.

  “You’re right. Luckily, my lawyers don’t think it’ll be too long of a stretch. It should be though. It hardly seems fair for what I allowed you to do to all of those innocent people. Apparently since I only knew about the earliest victims, I’m not being held accountable for all of the people you killed.”

  “You lying bitch.”

  “Avery, I understand that you’re upset, but don’t speak to me that way. I only came here because I thought it would help you. I brought some of your things too: dolls, clothes, your diary. And I don’t care what you say or how much it hurts me. I will keep coming to visit you for as long as it takes for you to get well,” she replied dramatically and reached out for her daughter, but Avery turned away and pulled the blankets tighter.

  “I’m not going to yell at you, and I’m not going to fight you even though it’s what you deserve. I know what they do here to punish you for fighting,” Avery replied meekly.

  “Yes, unfortunately, Avery had an altercation with another girl the other day,” Doctor Aslinn said.

  “Oh no, she didn’t hurt her, did she? Oh my God, that poor girl.”

  “She’s alright. A few bumps and bruises, but nothing serious.”

  “Thank God,” Faye said as she crossed herself, and Avery groaned. “Maybe you could introduce me to some of the girls. If it’s alright with you, Doctor Aslinn.”

  “I do believe it can be therapeutic for my patients to see that bonds don’t have to be broken just because their minds are, but I’m not sure this relationship is quite ready to be put on display. Let’s give Avery some time to assimilate and get comfortable, and then we can decide whether she can give you a tour of the ward.”

  “I don’t want to give her a tour!” Avery screamed and stomped her feet on the floor repeatedly.

  “I thought you said you wouldn’t yell.”

  “I guess I lied. Just like you.”

  “Avery, there’s no need to act out. Everyone understands that you need time, and we’ll give you that. I think your mother showed tremendous courage coming here today, and you showed a great deal as well for facing her. I think we have a long road ahead of us, but we’ve taken a few bold steps today, and I’m proud of both of you,” the doctor said. “Now, Avery, I’m willing to ignore the incident with Pam and lift your common room restriction if you promise to behave yourself from now on.”

  “That sounds reasonable,” Faye commented.

  “Fine,” Avery grumbled.

  “That’s my girl. Well, I suppose I should be off then, but I’ll be back soon if that’s alright,” her mother hummed.

  “Of course. I must say it’s very refreshing to see a parent take such an interest in her child’s wellbeing. I’m afraid the parental visits around here are few and far between.”

  “I want Natalie to visit. I want to see Natalie,” Avery said firmly.

  “Natalie is your sister, yes? Of course she is welcome to visit,” Doctor Aslinn said, but Faye shot him a sad look and shook her head.

  “I’m sorry to say that my other daughter has no interest in visiting. Apparently, one of the boys in the basement was a friend of hers. An old boyfriend, I guess,” Faye said. “I’m sure she’ll get over it eventually, but right now, she doesn’t want to see you.”

  The thought that her sister believed her a murderer just like the rest of the world made Avery feel sick. It could’ve been just another one of her mother’s lies, but she couldn’t be sure. Natalie hadn’t been there. She didn’t know what Avery and Paul had seen. If she really did believe that Avery was capable of murder, maybe Faye’s lies about the violent blackouts weren't lies at all. Maybe Natalie had witnessed them too.

  No. Avery knew herself. She knew her mind and her capabilities. There was no way she could’ve done those horrible things, no way she could’ve imagined what she’d seen her mother do. But then came the other side. If she had been blacked out at the time, doing some unspeakable thing, her mind might have substituted the memory of murder with a visual justification for blaming someone else.

  No! Avery’s mind screamed.

  She wanted to cry, but she refused to give her mother the satisfaction of knowing she’d won the battle of composure.

  “I’m sorry, Avery. Perhaps Natalie will come around,” Doctor Aslinn said.

  “Just like those few and far between parents?” Avery replied bitterly.

  “Thank you for coming, Mrs. Norton - I mean, Miss Hayworth. I think Avery could use a bit of rest now.”

  “Of course. Goodbye, sweetheart. I’ll see you soon.”

  Avery was so distraught over the news of her sister that she actually felt slightly sad to see her mother go. It was fleeting, however, and disappeared completely when Faye leaned over to kiss her daughter’s forehead and Avery caught a glimpse of her brass ring on a chain around her mother’s neck. Faye knew she saw it. She’d wanted her to see it. It was obvious in the way she smiled at her and blew out of the room as coldly as she’d blown in.

  “Could you send for Nurse Day to escort Avery back to the ward
?” the Doctor said into his intercom. “It was nice to meet you, Avery, and I’ll be seeing you again really soon.”

  When Nurse Meredith arrived, Avery got a sour feeling in her stomach, mostly because she knew that that nurse had surely had a hand in the ice bath punishment, but neither of them mentioned it as they headed back to the ward.

  “Some of your things have arrived.”

  “Yes, I know.”

  “I do hope you’re feeling a bit more at ease now and ready to join the rest of the girls for our group therapy session in a few hours.”

  “Do I have to?”

  “As long as you’re not catatonic, yes,” she said jokingly, but there was also a visible solemnity in her answer.

  She went straight to her room to lie down, but when she opened the door and saw a boy sitting on her bed in a blue Sunday dress and hat, Avery yelped and turned to run. Flint grabbed her arm before she could get out of the door and hushed her.

  “Calm down, Lizzie.”

  “Don’t call me that.”

  “Sorry. Avery. Don’t wig out.”

  “There’s a boy in a dress on my bed,” Avery whispered and Flint chuckled.

  “Sure is,” she replied and dragged Avery over to the willowy boy with raven hair. “Avery, this is Frankie. Frankie, Avery.”

  ‘Nice to meet you,” he said in a voice so soft and gentle that it surprised her when she felt how forceful his handshake was.

  “Is this your boyfriend?” Avery asked curiously and both Flint and Frankie started howling with laughter.

  “Frankie’s a patient like us, Avery. Well, not exactly like us but a patient nonetheless.”

  “But I thought girls and boys were supposed to stay separated.”

  “Frankie’s the exception. Besides, he’s more of a girl than any of the girls in the ward,” she said as Frankie jumped off of the bed and gave a little curtsy.

  “I was on the boys’ side, but I was moved over here a few months ago because, well, I guess they couldn’t quite handle my particular brand of crazy. Prudes,” Frankie said slyly.

  Avery smiled. It had seemed so long since the last time, it felt slightly unnatural. Not since Paul had given her the brass ring - the brass ring her mother had stolen and was wearing; no, flaunting.

  “What’s wrong?” Flint asked.

  Avery looked at the boy in the dress, the girl with her fingers twitching, the random patient that decided to strip down to her socks and dance down the hall singing “Polly Wolly Doodle” and all of the other girls with just one loose screw too many for the outside world to handle. She felt like she was the most normal person in Taunton, but considering the crime for which she was accused, she was probably considered the most disturbed.

  Flint sang a few bars of “Frankie and Johnny” as she and Frankie skipped around the room, and when Flint spun him into Avery’s hands, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and dipped himself. Avery giggled as she looked down at him with his head tilted back and arm extended theatrically.

  “I guess nothing,” Avery replied. “Nothing’s wrong.”


  “Finish the fucking story, Brianne.”

  “Like I was saying, it was the worst day ever. Horrible, ghastly, the worst word you can think of to describe the worst day ever. I mean, oh my God, I couldn’t believe so many things could go wrong in one day. So, I get up, go downstairs, and - hey look, that bird is back,” Brianne said and she promptly moved from the couch to the window, leaving Sheila to groan in frustration.

  When Pam went to take her place on the sofa, Brianne turned and said,

  “Don’t. Tyler’s sitting there.”

  “Well, tell him to move. I want to sit down.”

  “Just sit down,” Sheila whispered, and Pam flopped onto the sofa.

  Not two second later, Brianne spun around with her eyes peeled in horror, dashed over to the couch, and wrenched Pam off of it.

  “Pam! God, I can’t believe you would do that! Can’t you hear he’s in pain?”


  “Look, you broke one of his whiskers. I should report you to the ASPCA.”

  Avery just sat back and watched the events unfold. After more than a month in Taunton, she’d become accustomed to the girls, but they hadn’t stopped amusing her. Brianne was definitely the most endearingly quirky girl in the ward. She was absolutely crazy, but she was so sweet that you couldn’t help but love her…and her invisible, but not imaginary, cohort Tyler. She was only a year younger than Avery, but she was far more childish. She was almost never out of her braids and pink nightgown, and when she was, they were replaced by rag-curls and pink jumpers.

  Sheila was also someone Avery enjoyed being around, mostly because her mother would’ve disapproved of her friendship with “that kind of girl”. Although she was surrounded by females almost all day every day, Sheila was always dolled up: make-up on, hair done, ensemble carefully coordinated. She never would've admitted it, but beneath her brazen confidence, she was self doubting and despised being alone. Because of it, her door was always open.

  “Marlon Brando could walk in here at any moment,” she would often say. “And which one of us do you think he’d go for? You look like you’re ready to go to sleep, but I’m ready for a night on the town.”

  Her other common phrase, “Boys want BJs, not PJs,” had to be explained to Avery, and once she was filled in, she gasped in shock and slight intrigue.

  Avery and Pam eventually made up after their spat, but while they were friendly to each other, they were definitely not friends. Pam still called her Lizzie behind her back, but as long as she didn’t have to hear it, Avery didn’t really mind. As boorish as Pam could be, she was also one of the most mysterious girls. Except for doctors and nurses, no one knew what Pam had done to cause her to be committed when she was ten. A Taunton resident for over seven years, she had been in there longer than anyone. She was also the most frequently released and readmitted. There were a lot of girls who kept their reasons secret, but most of those were the extremely quiet ones: the ones that sat in corners or stared out windows and hardly talked to anyone. One such girl was Violet. She never spoke and hardly ever moved from her favorite chair in front of the window. In fact, after a few years, the nurses had painted the chair purple to differentiate it from all of the others, and it was well understood that no one sat in the purple chair except Violet.

  “She used to talk,” Flint told Avery. “When I first got here, she talked and moved around, but now, nothing.”

  “What’s wrong with her?”

  “All I know is that she’s an orphan. She was left on the hospital doorstep when she was three.”

  Avery often found herself staring at Violet. The girl was several years younger than her, but her back was hunched and her eyes dull. It was as if she’d seen too many ages of the world to bear any view except the one from the common room window. As time passed, Avery noticed that while Violet was a common fixture in the room, she was also occasionally absent for days at a time. She just assumed that Violet spent those days in bed or staring out the window of her private room, but when Avery decided to investigate one day, she found the girl’s room strangely empty.

  Taunton was a puzzle, one which had many oddly-shaped pieces that had to be forced into fitting. But still, there were empty spaces into which no piece seemed to fit. Like Violet. And the horrible, blood-curdling screams that blasted from the bowels of the hospital. By the time a month had turned into two and two into four, the screams became no more than the soundtrack to daily life and the mysteries nothing more than the mind’s way of keeping Avery at a distance; according to Doctor Aslinn, that is. Suspicion about Taunton and its inhabitants was Avery’s way of dividing herself from the rest of the hospital community. In her mind, she was normal, Aslinn had said, and everyone else was crazy. Even the staff.

  “The first step to recovery is admitting that there’s a chance, just a chance, that everything you believe could be wrong.”
  “Well, I suppose there’s a chance,” Avery whispered, but where the doctor felt progression, Avery felt confusion, and it only got worse as time passed and her therapy continued.

  The nurses had ways of subduing the patients with words alone, but when talk failed, the vitamins appeared. Daily, vitamins were administered in pill form, but in cases determined urgent by the staff, they came in sharp doses through the neck, arm, or wherever else a vein appeared in a pinch. Avery had taken vitamins before, but she'd never heard of vitamin P or M, and especially not vitamin LB. It took her longer than she cared to admit to acknowledge that the drugs weren't vitamins, but it didn't matter whether she acknowledged it or not. The nurses weren't breaking any rules in deceiving the girls; deception was most likely encouraged. After realizing what the vitamins really were, Avery felt a few months of righteous indignation and useless battles against her scheduled medications, but she grew to love and eagerly anticipate the vitamins. They became thankful moments of darkness that often provided more luster than her everyday life in Taunton.

  Every week, letters arrived from her mother that counted down to her next visit, but each time the visit was to occur, she received a call stating that something else had taken precedence. Despite her stance of indifference, Avery was wounded by her mother’s broken promises. The fact that both she and Natalie didn’t want to see her along with Doctor Aslinn's increasing pressure to admit the possibility of Avery’s guilt, made her really start to question her mind, her motives, and her capabilities. She spent a great deal of time in reflection, running through reams of memories and wondering if they could be trusted. Time was all she had, it seemed, and she tried to fill it with anything that could to draw her away from the sensationalized Martha’s Vineyard Massacre splashed across the television screen. Seeing, and even hearing, anything about the incidents made her increasingly edgy and extremely angry, although she was no longer sure with whom. She tried to ignore it, but could not ignore the day that the official condemnation was laid out for all to see. Because of her mental condition and reaction to the incident, Avery was forbidden to attend the trial, but it wouldn’t have made a difference if she had. Any testimony she would have given would’ve been written off as ramblings of a diseased mind, and her mother’s willingness to admit her own guilt in covering up her daughter’s early crimes was all the law needed to condemn the young girl. The final verdict sentenced Avery to Taunton State Lunatic Asylum until she turned eighteen, and Faye was to serve sixty days in Framingham State Prison.

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