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I remember it like it was yesterday. I want so badly to forget it, but it’s so deeply etched into my mind that I’d probably need to hypnotize myself to make it disappear.
There was one day that I’d had an unusual appointment that resulted a little… differently. However, “different” is an understatement. When I was a prison psychiatrist, I got to meet quite a lot of people in my life. It was a hard job and I’d been tempted so many times to quit. There was one specific occurrence that sent me over the edge, making me give in and quit that very night.
This was that occurrence.
. . .
I was flipping through the patient’s file attached to my clipboard when she sauntered in. Amber was her name. She had a last name, but unfortunately, I cannot give out that information because it’s classified.
The guard escorting her stumbled over his shoelaces on the way in, and sheepishly bent down to tie his shoe. When he stood back up, she glared at him. Although the man was nearly a foot and a half taller than she, I could tell he was extremely intimidated by her presence.
He cleared his throat and fidgeted with his pocket while the other hand was in a death grip around the patient’s arm. She did not struggle.
“Good afternoon, Miss Amber,” I spoke in a light cheery voice. She did not respond as the officer sat her down in the chair opposite my desk. He began to cuff her hands to the restraints on the chair, but I stopped him.
“There’s no need for that, Officer. I’m sure we’re going to get along just fine.” I smiled at him, but he did not return it. His eyebrows went halfway up his forehead. I mirrored the look, hoping to get the message across that I was being completely serious. He bent down next to my ear, and I could feel his breath tickling the side of my face.
“Ma’am, if you need help with restraints or immediate sedation, just press this button,” He slid a remote into my hand with a tiny square button that glinted underneath the fluorescents, “And I’ll be right outside the door if you need me.”
With that, he walked briskly out of the room letting the door slam and bolt shut.
We were alone.
. . .
I stood up and dusted off my khakis. Amber’s eyes followed me as I walked leisurely towards the small rectangular window and eyed the other cons weeding the gardens outside. My hands absent-mindedly slipped into my pockets, and I cleared my throat.
“So… Tell me, Amber,” I began slowly. “Why you were sentenced to live the rest of your life in this prison? Not only that, but in solitary confinement?”
She made some sort of noise that I later realized was a snort. Her dark hair tumbled in waves down her shoulders—dark in contrast to the bright orange jumpsuit she wore.
“Why don’t we cut to the chase, doc. I’m here because I’m deadly to society,” she said as-a-matter-of-factly. I lifted my eyebrows.
“Deadly to society, you say,” I repeated. “Where’d you get that quote from?”
“It just sounded nice in my head.”
I nodded. She snapped the gum that she was quietly chewing. Her hands were still in her lap, but her foot was tapping very quickly. I wondered if she was waiting for something to happen. I crept towards my desk and perched on a corner.
“What makes you think you’re deadly to society?” I asked. She was quiet for a moment until her eyes eventually locked on mine.
“Because I killed people,” she replied. I still remember the glint in her eye when she said it. I nodded once again. I could almost see a smile hinting at the corners of her lips. She crossed her arms and swung one leg over her knee with that glint still glaringly obvious. Usually every con is extremely regretful of their actions. A memory suddenly came to mind about the day when some juveniles paid a visit to the prison for a lecture from the cons.
“You didn’t just kill them. You murdered them. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about— “
“Yeah, I know. We’re here to talk about how I FEEL. Well, Doctor, I feel great. I’m not ‘overcome with sadness’ and I’m obviously not ‘crying out with remorse.’ So, can I go now?”
I pursed my lips and replied with a flat “No.”
She scoffed at me and rolled her eyes. I squatted down next to her and peered through the curtain of hair that separated her gaze from mine. Something was missing but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just needed to ask the right questions. The silence was deafening for a little while except for the hum of the radiator that sat in the corner of my office. Eventually I stood up, crossing my arms in frustration from her refusal to talk.
“You were incarcerated for the murder of ten students and placed in solitary until you turn eighteen. And let me tell you, if you weren’t as lucky and placed with the other cons,” I leaned in close, and her eyes flicked in my direction, “we both know you wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“You know,” she started, “for a psychiatrist, you sure know how to get under someone’s skin. You’re supposed to be helping me feel better instead of explaining my whole life story.”
I stopped short. She was right. The dust covering the floor tiles rubbed against my shoes as I walked over to my chair and sunk into it. I don’t know why I was getting so frustrated with this patient. I’d dealt with murderers and rapists and nearly everything you could possibly think of. As I ponder it now, maybe it was because she was only a child. Or rather, a teenager.
“Well then, if you don’t want me to explain it, then why don’t you tell me,” I retorted. “Get to know each other a little better, hm?”
She sat back in her chair with a heavy yawn, and her eyes looked everywhere except in my direction. I leaned forward in my own chair and clasped my hands together, my fingers just barely grazing my lips.
. . .
After a long moment of silence, she sighed once more and sat up in her chair. A few locks of her hair fell easily over her shoulder. She didn’t bother to look up at me.
“My parents started fighting when I was around twelve years old, and I knew that eventually they would get divorced. I tried playing it off and be oblivious to what was goin’ on, but it just got worse. About a year later, just after my thirteenth birthday, they signed the papers and were officially divorced. I couldn’t believe it, but it happened.”
Amber laughed, but I heard bitterness instead of joy.
“And do you want to know the worst part?” she asked, looking up at me with a sour expression on her face. “They fought over me. But they didn’t fight because they wanted me. They fought about who had the burden of taking care of me. THEY DIDN’T WANT ME,” she repeated, her lip quivering.
My heart ached for her. It really did.
“So, you lived with your mother, is that correct?” I adjusted my glasses as I scanned through her file once more. She nodded. Her eyes were glancing at the ceiling tiles above us.
“She always called me a grade A pain in the neck. She never said it to my face though. I could hear her talking on the phone with her friend. And she’d never pay any attention to me. She missed all my band concerts and every award has ended up in the trash because it sat on her desk too long without being read. I was just a burden to her.”
Amber’s eyes hardened. She looked at me with a sudden expression of disgust.
“That’s what made me see the foulness of humanity. We’re just a bunch of selfish jerks who only care about themselves.”
I looked up from my clipboard and suddenly she was in my face. Her hands gripped the edge of my desk making her knuckles turn white.
“Amber,” I said calmly while slowly reaching into my pocket for the little remote. She smiled at me like a snarling wolf. I looked deeply into her eyes while I pressed the button hard with my thumb.
The officer rushed into the room and immediately grabbed the patient by both arms. She struggled a little bit as he sat her back down in her chair.
“Do I have permission to cuff her now?” he spat out bitterly. I nodded, clutching my hands to my chest. He forced her hands behind the back of the chair and I could hear the click of the restraints locking in place.
“Amber, you’re going to have to learn how to control your temper,” I said softly. She snorted again. The officer left once again, and she looked up at me.
“I’ve always hated spring,” she said after looking away,” Winter has always been my favorite, especially the snow. Everyone else complains about it because it’s not their cup of tea. But you know what?” she leaned forward in her chair, “I see it like a punishment. Everyone complains about each season and looks forward to the next one. Then they complain again. No one is ever truly happy here.”
My eyebrows furrowed. I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Are you happy here, Amber?” I asked. Her face suddenly went slack and she stared at me for a moment. The typical teenager “obviously” look was very apparent.
“I’m stuck in a prison. No, I’m not HAPPY here.”
“Then why on earth would you commit such a heinous crime towards ten people your age? Why set yourself up for being arrested and sentenced to prison for 40 years?”
She smiled at me, and I noticed her attempting to pull against the restraints on her chair. I heard them creak, showing her strength as her muscles flexed.
“To show people that there are worse things to complain about. Their lives are perfect. They don’t know how to deal with real loss.”
“And why would you want to spread your pain to more families? Wouldn’t you want to try and provide the love you never received to other people?” I questioned her. She shook her head.
“No one bothered to help me. So I’m not going out of my way for them,” she explained, “And if they want to try and tease me for everything that went wrong in my life, then they know I will beat them down— “
“And kill them,” I said. She crossed her legs while her eyes flicked up towards me.
“If they’re asking for it, then yes. No person should have a right to live if they’re just going to make others miserable with it.” My eyebrow twitched up a little. I crossed my arms and leaned forward.
“Then the same can be said of you, Miss Amber. You made the lives of their families beyond miserable. You caused destruction and pain. And yet, you believe that you don’t deserve death?”
She shook her head once more.
“You think I don’t want that? There’s nothing more I’d want than to just end it right here and now. To sleep for the rest of forever. That way I wouldn’t have to feel this pain,” she spat out bitterly. I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts.
“Sometimes death is too easy,” I spoke slowly.
The tension that I felt earlier between the two of us was gone. As I looked up, I just saw a girl. Her shoulders were slumped forward—only to the point that the restraints would let her—and her hair covered her face.
“Amber?” I asked, getting up from my seat. Before I could reach her chair, she stood up and her fist connected with my jaw. I stumbled backwards into my desk as she grabbed the gun from my holster. She held it out towards me and I held my hands up. I gritted my teeth, cursing under my breath for forgetting to unarm myself before I entered the premises. I realized with dread that this was the reason why they had this rule.
I could hear the door creaking as the guard tried opening it, but it wouldn’t budge. Amber’s breaths were heavy and her eyes wild.
“Please don’t shoot me,” I whispered. A few tears slid down Amber’s cheeks and the gun shook in her hands.
“I wasn’t planning on it. But you might want to turn around,” she said quietly. I obeyed her command and turned to face the white brick wall behind my desk. I tried to speak but my voice wouldn’t come.
Don’t do it, Amber, I thought. I could only muster up a silent plea.
The gunshot was loud, but the part that haunts me still is the sound of her body hitting the concrete floor. I squeaked and slowly turned around.
There wasn’t any sign of life. A pool of dark red surrounded her, and I reeled back in horror. The guard burst through the door with his gun pointing at the chair.
“She’s dead,” I said, my voice escaping my mouth in a dull moan. He holstered his gun and crouched down next to the body. My hands covered my mouth and I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to get that awful sound of her smacking against the cement out of my head. It wouldn’t go away. It still hasn’t.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered as I stumbled through the doorway. Tears blurred my vision as I wound my way through the dimly lit hallways, trying to hold back the vomit rising in my throat.
Since then I have not looked back.