This isn’t right. None of it. I can’t say why, but it’s all so wrong. There are tiled walls and plastic floors, lit ceilings and dark rooms. It isn’t right and it needs to change, but I can’t do anything about it. It’s beyond me, sitting in the same chair every day while the world goes on.
Raven is here. She never leaves, and I can’t remember if it’s my fault or her own or my father’s or someone else’s. She’s here, and I guess that’s all that matters because she shouldn’t be. She didn’t break like I did. I broke. My mind broke. All I remember is pain. Crippling pain. The anger came later. Or was it before?
Raven tells me the story every day, but all I hear is the droning of fluorescent lights and clicks echoing on tile. When she reaches the end of the story, the part where I break, I lash out. Every time. I can’t stop myself, though some days I wish I could.
I think she wants me to get better, but this isn’t helping. I can’t even think straight, and this chair is just. so. gah! I hate this chair. It’s so gray and full of cushions. I wish they’d bring in a wooden chair for me to sit in every day. It would be more comfortable. I hate the cushions and the color and the shape and the everything of this chair. Every day I wake up, take my medication, and sit in this chair and stare at the nothingness on the wall of my room while Raven recounts the worst parts of my life to me in a vain and pitiful hope that she’ll heal me.
Raven is a good storyteller, but I wish she weren’t. We’re held here against our will in this sanitarium and she devotes herself to telling me stories I wish I could forget.
Her story is different today, though. I mean, it’s the same story, but she’s telling it different. She’s not just reciting what happened, she’s talking to me and asking questions. I shouldn’t respond. If this is her last attempt to bring me back, I should let her assume it’s impossible. Then she’ll leave me alone and they’ll have to let her go. She doesn’t belong here, can’t they see that?
I remember the other kids. Really. I just don’t remember their names.
Is that a sign of madness? Raven blames the drugs, but I know it isn’t. They don’t do anything, do they? They just turn my thoughts in circles and keep me from throwing things, like this chair that I hate so much. I wish I could throw it, but the drugs take away my strength and my willpower. I think. Or do they do something else? Do they do anything at all?
None of what happened is Raven’s fault, though. I know she thinks it is. I would have opened my father’s letter eventually, just like I opened all the rest. She thinks I hadn’t heard from my father in years, but that’s a lie. My father wrote to me every month. Kieran wrote to me, too, but I opened his right away instead of waiting like I did with Vasilis’s letters. They didn’t have names to differentiate them, but I knew which was which. Sometimes it took me three to six weeks to open one of my father’s letters, and by then, I had another one to open. I think the longest I went without opening a letter was three months.
I was prepared to wait that long to open this one, too, but Raven saw it and asked about it. When she saw it, unopened, on my desk, I cursed myself for not hiding it with the others. I knew there was something different about this letter, but I didn’t want to know what.
If I wanted to be stubborn, it would have been wasted on Raven. Sometimes I thought I was the only one who truly understood that. She could outlast anyone for stubbornness and sheer willpower. Maybe even my father. We were young enough then that she hadn’t quite started to explore how much that could really do for her, but it came easy to her.
I should have hidden it. Raven’s curiosity is a legendary thing. Paired with her stubbornness, I doubt there’s anything that could stand up to it except maybe my father’s stubborn brutality.
By the time she left, I knew three new things: I had to return for Kieran, I needed closure for my own past, and I was the only one who could delay Raven from hunting my father down.
No matter how much I told myself not to, that it would only end badly, I knew I had to go; for Kieran, I told myself, but more than that, I needed closure. Raven’s nagging voice rang in the back of my head, a question I’d been asking myself for as long as I’d been with the Amoses: what if he didn’t do it? I’d run from it for too long, and now it had run me down. If I left it alone like I wanted so badly to do, it would continue to hunt me.
Raven would follow me. I didn’t want go on my own–I didn’t want to go at all–but it would be better not to bring her with me. She’d find me eventually, and that would be that, but I had to face this without her on my heels when I arrived. It would make her more of a target. I didn’t want to see what happened when my father’s will met hers.
I left that night, telling Mr. and Mrs. Amos (I’d never been able to call them Mom and Dad like they asked me to) that I was heading over to a friend’s house and that I’d be back in the morning. Maybe.
When Kieran opened the door at our old house, I couldn’t breathe. Vasilis was somewhere inside, waiting for me. I hugged my brother tightly and walked inside before I let the strange concoction of memory and emotion overwhelm me.
fiction prose Writings amwriting cyril amos fiction kieran mcmann mystery prose raven ives remembrance short fiction short story story vasilis mihal writer writers writerswednesadays writerswriting writerwednesday