Wasn't sure I was going to make a word count at all yesterday. Weekends are going to prove difficult. Especially when in the middle of major house works going on. However managed to get a few words down after dinner - when the girls had both gone to bed and the house regains that wonderful sense of serenity that just doesn't happen in the day. Had clocked in just under 800 words, so I allowed myself the wi-fi back on my laptop. Pleased I did because I hooked up with some of my NaNoWriMo buddies. @RachelCarterYA
Wrote a really intense scene so it was good to have some company - Thank You ladies.
CHAPTER 4 Ward 16 (copyright 2012 Katie M John. No part of this excerpt may be copied or reproduced without author's permission. Thank You)
I walked into Ward Sixteen to be greeted by over-jolly Christmas decorations. Paper garlands were strung along the corridors and happy, laughing Father Christmas posters lined the walls wishing patients a ‘Happy Christmas’. The irony of it all seemed a little cruel and I wasn’t sure whether their presence made me angry or just desperately sad. I checked in at the nurses station. They were drinking hot chocolate whilst wearing reindeer antlers. Jean the ward manager, came in behind me, greeting me as she did.
“Hello Sweetie,” she said. “Here to see your mum?”
I smiled and bit my tongue, holding back the sarcastic responses that came immediately to mind. She was only trying to be friendly.
“Yep, is she in her room or down in the common room?”
“I don’t know lovely. I’ve only just come on shift.”
Sally, my mother’s key worker had been on the phone but seeing me at the door she hurried the end of her conversation and held out her hand to stall me. Her smile of greeting quickly passed into the face saved especially for breaking bad news.
“Hang on a minute poppet, I need to talk with you in the family room. Is your dad with you?”
I nodded and pulled the bud from my ear winding the headphones around the iPod as a stalling technique. I didn’t want to hear what was going to be said - it wasn’t going to be good news.
“Come on then.”
She led the way towards the cupboard they called the ‘Family Room’. It was a dingy room, always cold and smelling of stale cigarette smoke carried in on the clothes of patients and relatives. There was a row of three plastic covered armchairs and a table that had a spread of old, tatty ‘women’s’ magazines. Sally pulled one of the chairs around so that we were facing each other. She leaned forward, trying to connect.
“I need to tell you that there has been a particularly unpleasant incident on the ward today and it has upset your mother very much.” She paused waiting for the information to process. “I can’t go into details but it involved the young woman who was pregnant.”
“Celia?” She’d arrived at the weekend and my mother had made a friend of her. She’d been sat with my mother when I’d visited yesterday. Mum was showing her how to knit booties. Mum told me after she’d left that Celia had an extreme fear of giving birth and she’d tried to kill the baby. They’d sectioned her for her own safety and that of her unborn child. I noted Sally’s use of past tense and guessed that the hospital had failed.
“And my mother?”
“Unfortunately it was your mum who found Celia. She didn’t react well and we had to make the difficult decision to place her in the safe room.”
“The safe room?” I shook my head, not quite understanding. “What is that exactly?”
Sally shifted uncomfortably in her seat and looked awkward. “Its a room that has been designed to prevent patients injuring themselves when they’re ….”
“A padded cell!” The overwhelming urge to throw up took over and I rushed my hand to my mouth and tried to steady my breathing.
Sally nodded her head as she nervously chewed her lip. “It’s not as bad as it sounds - and it isn’t for long, just until the sedatives take effect and then she’ll be transfered back to her room.”
“Can I wait for her?”
Sally nodded, “I’m sorry, darling that isn’t going to be possible tonight. She’ll be right as rain by tomorrow though.”
She slapped her knees and stood, unconsciously displaying her thought that another job had been crossed off the ’to do’ list. I stood. My legs had a slight tremor and for a moment I thought that I might not be able to walk. Sally held the door open for me. The alarm bell rang went off in the office and took her attention from me.
“Code Four!” Jean shouted as she ran her wobbly body down the corridor.
“Sorry, got to go!” Sally said, following Jean down the corridor. Her glasses swung out side to side as she ran.
With nobody in the office to open the secure door, I was forced to stand and wait until whatever Code Four incident had finished. Somewhere inside the ward, a man was yelling and screaming. It was a strong sound, full of anguish and frustration. It sounded like some great mythological beast was being captured. I pulled my iPod out of my pocket and stuck my buds in with the hope of zoning out. The noise was tapping into a raw human instinct and I couldn’t bear the weight of any more tragedy.
I stood there for over ten minutes, my head leaned back against the door, my eyes closed against the garish Christmas decorations. Then something made me look down the corridor and I wanted to start yelling and screaming too. To be placed into a safe room so that I could lash out against the world - and kick and punch and not stop moving until the darkness came and took me.
“OPHELIA!” my mother screamed at me down the corridor.
She looked wild. Her hair stood out like a giant ball of spun candy floss. She had violent scratches all over her face and they were bleeding. It was this dramatic violence that prevented me from seeing that she was encased in a straight jacket. Christ I had no idea they still used them. Mum had urinated and now an undignified yellow stain spread out across her nightgown.
Jean turned to the wardens dragging my mother along the corridor and unsuccessfully tried to talk without me hearing. “Shit! Take her back.”
She charged up the corridor, her arm extended and a sympathetic smile on her face, “Still here, sweetie. I thought you’d headed off.”
I turned to the door and managed to stammer, “It’s locked. Nobody to press the button.”
“Oh, silly me!” Jean said as she leaned around the door of the office and inserted her key into the locking system.
I pushed the door and hesitated, turning around to see if I could still see my mother. Jean was watching me.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
I shook my head and walked out. Somehow I caught two buses and made it home. My hand shook so badly that it took several attempts to put the key in the lock. Finally it clicked and I threw myself into the cold dark of home.
Sat in my room, I starred at the blank page of my journal. The pen wavered in my hand. I wrote down the date, Sunday December 16th. The words wouldn’t come. My mind refused to accept the horror I’d seen back at the hospital. I let the pen loose on the page, doodling as I lost myself in the music. The image of a lock and key came through the ink. I worked into them, shading and toning until they almost gave the illusion that they rested on top of the page. I tore the page and folded the piece of paper sharply in half. I gathered an envelope from my writing set and slid the doodle in between the thick lavender folds. I sealed it and wrote Malachi’s name and address across the front. Despite the fact that we both attended the same college, I always sent my letters to him via the mail. We never acknowledged my correspondence. We barely acknowledged each other.
Our chess game had been over a week ago and although we had walked passed each other several times, we didn’t speak - mind it was difficult what with Lucy being constantly on his arm - and I mean literally ‘on’ his arm. I wondered that Malachi did not get muscle fatigue from her hanging off him. When we walked past each other, Malachi would smile at me, sometimes he would wink and I’d look at him impassively but smiling a great big cheesy grin on the inside. Just the sight of him would make my heart hammer so hard that sometimes I had to stop and pretend to search through my bag just so I could catch my breath.
Even thinking about him now made me feel slightly light headed. I smiled at my own patheticness. I dumped the iPod into the dock and switched the playlist to ‘meditation’. It was a list I’d compiled from some of mum’s old CD’s. She’d had a spell of being really into new age music back in the early nineties. Some of it was pretty good - although perhaps not the stuff you’d share with your mates. The haunting sound of Native American music filled the cold space of my room. Ly-O-Lay Ale Loya was my favourite song by a group called ’Sacred Spirit’. There was something about the rhythm and the beat that lulled me into a completely different zone. I switched off my desk lamp, leaving me no other light than that of the moon. I sat cross legged on my bed and practiced the breathing techniques I’d seen them demonstrate to mum.
My thoughts drifted to the cavernous rooms of Elsinore and to Malachi’s father’s study. I began to recall every detail in order of placement. I’d been gifted with a photographic memory - not for anything useful like pages of text books, but for places. Ever since being a small child I had been able to recreate every detail of a room or place on paper, even if I had been there for just a few minutes. It had provided a great novelty to my parents when this talent first emerged but they had soon grown worried that it was becoming an unhealthy preoccupation. My dad worried that it might be the first signs of my own form of madness and it was clear that looking after one mad woman was enough for him to handle. So I stopped doing it on paper and did it in my head instead. It made me feel like a sneak thief and the feeling was quite delicious.
I walked over the faded Afghan rug and up the stairs towards the study. The fifth step creaked a little when your foot left it. The banister had a small protruding nail head that teased the palm of the hand just as you hit the top step. I walked passed the aspidistra in the Chinese dragon planter and up to the study door and pushed it open and walked around the room, taking my time, reaching out in my mind’s eye to touch objects I had not dared to touch when Malachi had been with me. The desk drawer was slightly open - just a fraction. Because I had not opened it, I couldn’t see what was in it - my skill wasn’t magic - just good old fashioned memory recall. But now I had time to stand and stare at the teasing glint of metal …
My eyes flew open. ‘Oh, my God!” I whispered into the night air. The hairs on the back of my arms had sprung to attention, sending a spreading nerve jangling sensation over my body. “It was a gun!” My mind raced at warp speed. An entire dialogue opened up in my head. I reasoned that I was mistaken; that there was no possible way that I could have known what the object was from the tiny amount of it I had seen. It could have been a novelty lighter for all I knew.