Authors: Aimee L. Salter
aimee l. salter
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to
historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other
names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination,
and any resemblance to actual events or places or people, living or dead, is
Copyright © 2013 Aimee L. Salter
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this
book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information on author
appearances, discount or bulk sales, or to contact the author, visit
First Edition, Aimee L. Salter, November 2013
Designed by Kelly Geister
Manufactured in the United States of America
for letting me
chase my dreams.
in the room of
and way more
than doing the
dreams come true,
but He used
you to fulfill mine.
Table of Contents
the Psychiatrist enters the room, he offers a patronizing smile. I return it in
sinks into a plump chair, looking just like a doctor should: greying hair, a
well-trimmed beard, badger-stripes framing his lips, and wire-rimmed glasses he
must have purchased in the last ten years – unlike the rest of his polyester
office looks like a living room, complete with coffee table squatting between
bad there’s only two doors here – one into the hospital, the other with a
combination lock. Kind of kills the good-time vibe.
are you, Stacy?" Doc’s voice is too loud for the muted tones of the room —
all earthy browns and soft corners. Even the furniture whispers
clock in the corner ticks quietly, tells me it’s only 9:34am.
already been a rough morning. But I can’t tell him that. Not yet. So I start to
shrug, then freeze. My stitches are nothing but a memory now, but searing pain
lights up along the hard, pink lines spiderwebbing across most of my upper
body. I breathe and wait for the jagged bolts to fade. The other doctors
in my life say I’m healing. Yet, underneath I am still many layers of mangled
nerve endings and fractured flesh.
hears me catch my breath and his eyes snap to mine. The benign disinterest was
an act. He is measuring me.
he asks, softly this time.
But it's not bad. I just moved wrong."
pain crackles under my skin until I want to scream. I won't tell him that. For
him I will be untouched. Ready to face the world. Sane.
get out of here today. I must. If I can get home in time, I can
lips press together under his perfectly trimmed mustache. After a second he
see you brought your bag.”
duffel bag my mother packed when she shoved me in this place sits on the floor
under the combination lock. I don’t plan to touch it again until he’s opening
that door for me.
you’re confident about today?”
confident that I’m not crazy.”
smile twists up on one side. “You know we don’t use that word in here, Stacy.”
are a lot of words they don’t use in here.
See you later
, for example.
take a deep breath. Cold. Calm. Sane. “Sorry.”
meets my gaze, face blank. “I’m glad you’re sure of yourself. However, I do
smiles in a way I’m sure is meant to be reassuring. But when he sits that way,
with the over-bright anticipation behind his eyes, it kind of makes him look
like a pedophile. Someone should mention that.
changed therapists three times during your stay. Do you know what I think when
I hear that?”
think the question is rhetorical, but he waits for me to answer. “Um… no?”
eyes lock on mine. “I think as soon as anyone gets close to the truth, you
hasn’t looked away. I can’t break the gaze without confirming his suspicions.
But I’m suddenly certain I can’t talk without him hearing the lie, either. So I
swallow and stare and wait.
calm is maddening.
he starts talking again in the cool tone of a professional. “Your three-month
assessment is coming and you’ve requested to leave our facility.” He plants his
hands on his knees and eases to his feet, speaking as he turns to reach behind
his chair. “As the Dean of this hospital, I have a responsibility to make sure
it’s in your best interests to return to the rigors of daily life. I’ve read
your file, spoken to your nurses, and been briefed by your therapists. Now I
want to talk to you. About this.”
stands straight and – with a flourish – reveals a round mirror about the size
of my head. The brass frame is hinged, allowing it to pivot.
watches me from the corner of his eye as he places the mirror on his side
table. It’s positioned at enough of an angle that I can't see myself in it – a
kindness, or a challenge? Doc sinks back into his chair without taking his eyes
off my face.
gauntlet is thrown.
eyes slip to that shining surface, glinting under the light of the lamp at his
if I look and
there? She wouldn’t understand why I’m ignoring her.
She’ll freak out. She’s been through enough. We both have. And breaking her
heart is breaking mine.
have a hunch if we examine whatever it is you see in the mirror, we’ll find the
truth about the rest, Stacy,” Doctor says.
I nod because he’s right.
of his eyebrows kicks up. “Well, then…?”
?” I tear my gaze off the mirror and back to his face.
tips his head. “Unless you have a better idea?”
guess I’d better find one.
bite my lip and look away to buy myself some time. I’d expected this session to
be like all the others – glib exploration of my past, patronizing questions
about my psyche, along with self-congratulatory compliments when I “make a
breakthrough”. I was prepared to do whatever it took – would have agreed to
anything – to convince him to let me out of here.
we haven’t been here five minutes and he’s already got me scrambling. I shift
in my chair, hissing through my teeth when the scars on the back of my shoulder
catch. For a moment I just breathe and force my body to relax. Let the needles
of fire ease.
I’m ready to talk again, he hasn’t moved. He’s still waiting. If I don’t come
up with something, this will be over before my second cup of coffee. But his
eyes are on me like spotlights in the dark. What was I thinking, agreeing to
talk to this guy?
won’t understand,” I blurt, cursing the humming nerves that make my voice
I mean the mirror. It won’t make any sense unless… unless you have the whole
face remains impassive, but his eyes narrow just a hair. He’s onto me.
know the story you’ve fed your previous therapists. If there’s more, I’m
willing to put the mirror aside for a time–”
sigh with relief. But he raises a single finger.
you tell me everything. In fact, I don’t hesitate to say there’s only one
route to getting my signature on your release forms, Stacy. That’s the
unvarnished, comprehensive truth.”
eyes lock again and this is the moment. The marble of his patience rolls along
a slim edge, precariously balanced between examining me and sending me back
through the door without a lock, to let me rot in that cell they call a
I don’t give him something, I’ll lose. Right now.
again, I try to make myself pitiful. I drop my head into my hands. “Okay,” I
breathe into my palms.
tell you the truth.” As much of it as I can. I’ll let him think he’s gotten
through where others failed. Hell, I’ll even consider what he has to say if it
means he’ll let me out today.
takes a good minute of staring into the blurring shadows of my own palms to
realize he’s waiting for me to start. I raise my head, frowning at him. “So…?”
eyebrows drift up again. “So, start. The truth.”
snort. I can’t help it. “Well, we could be here a while.”
fine with me.”
my head I roll out a flippant, fairy-tale version of my life, just to irritate
him. It might be fun. But he has to take me seriously. I can’t afford to
piss him off. Or be here past two-thirty this afternoon.
How far into the sordid tale of my life do you want to skip? Where do you want
too dramatic. Start with the night you planned to give Mark the letter."
dramatic, he says. I feel the grin slide off my face. I’ve got one shot at
this. And I’m planning on giving him more of the truth about my life than I’ve
ever given any other single human being. Except one.
can't help glancing at the mirror.
follows my gaze and, when he sees where I’m looking, opens his mouth. I launch
into the story before he can speak.