Fixing Beth

June 11, 2010
August 20th found Beth Beddow and Rosa Gomez sitting side by side in wicker chairs, arguing over a watermelon.
“Please, chica, have some sense. I have watched you longer than you can even remember, and I have never hurt you. Am I wrong?” Rosa’s voice grew shriller with each word. She sat facing Beth, leaning towards her a bit and balancing a plate of watermelon on her lap. Rosa used both hands to slick back the black hair in her tight ponytail. She eyed Beth tiredly and sighed.
For her part, Beth lounged back with her eyes closed and hummed to herself, unfazed by Rosa’s pleas. “Oh just eat a little bit for me! We need to get some food into you. Your father will be so unhappy to hear you have not eaten one thing today.” No response, or acknowledgment for that matter, from Beth. “You are too old for this! Sixteen! You need to trust me, corazon.”
At that, Beth cocked her head to the side and opened her hazel eyes, focusing them on the empty space above and to the left of her face. “Did you hear that, June? Did she say trust? Trust! You’re the only ones I trust.” She paused for a moment, still gazing into nothingness. “Oh, of course I know. I do, I do. I won’t eat it.” Beth closed her eyes and resumed her humming.
Rosa exhaled sharply. She put the watermelon on the side table next to her and rubbed her temples. She stood up abruptly, placing her hands on her full hips “Ay! I will get you something else to eat. That will be good, right?”
Beth laughed and began swaying from side to side.
“No! Of course it won’t,” Rosa sighed and stroked Beth’s light ringlets. “What am I going to do with you?”
Rosa crossed her arms and walked into the house, leaving Beth rocking in her chair with the remnants of a smile still etched on her face.

* * *

The bedroom door clicked shut on a sleeping Beth. Rosa thought she looked so distant in her slumber, not that she was all that responsive when she was awake. But distant was a normal expression for a sleeper, not so much for someone conscious. That was just it – while she was asleep, Beth looked so normal that Rosa almost believed it herself.
Rosa headed down the hallway to the staff wing and closed herself up in her room. She collapsed on her bed, closing her eyes to the world. Today had been a hard day. Rosa wished, and not for the first time that she could change Beth, fix her. But Beth without schizophrenia wouldn’t really be Beth at all. It wouldn’t be the Beth she loved.
Rosa watched the hands on the clock spin. It was getting late and Mr. Beddow would be home soon. Should she wait up to tell him of the day’s events? She wouldn’t have the chance to tell him in the morning – he left for work much too early. She wanted nothing more that to forget her troubles in a deep sleep…
Rosa awoke to a sharp rapping on her door and a deep voice calling her name. She scrambled out of bed and opened the door to find Mr. Charles Beddow.
Charles Beddow was the kind of man you might see on the cover of an issue of BusinessWeek. His lined face was an eternally impassive mask, hardened by years of working sixty hour weeks. His hard work had paid off by his late twenties when the president of his company, who was especially fond of him, had a sudden heart attack. In his will he had specifically asked for his position to be given to none other than Charles Beddow, rather than his vice president. He spent his days dealing with the un-dealable, disagreeing with the un-agreeable, and overall, talking money.
The result of this was a stress-ridden, prematurely bald man who was ready to snap at a moment’s notice.
“Good evening, sir. Forgive me, I fell asleep.”
A curt nod was his only response to her apology. “Was Beth good today?”
“Ay, not quite, sir,” she mumbled, looking down at her toes.
“What does ‘not quite’ mean?” he asked, crossing his arms and tapping his foot.
Rosa felt ashamed and Mr. Beddow was causing her fingers to twitch and fidget. “She would not eat for me, not one thing all day.”
“May I ask why not?”
“The voices she hears tell her not to.”
At the mention of Beth’s disability, Charles grew stiff. Quickly, he changed the subject. “Now, I just want to go over my plans for Beth tomorrow.”
“Plans?” Rosa questioned. Beth’s father rarely made plans for her. That was Rosa’s job, to plan her day, to keep her entertained and content.
“Yes, plans. I’ve been in contact with a local private school and have enrolled Beth for the upcoming school year. She’ll meet with the school’s guidance counselor tomorrow at one o’clock.”
The moment he said that, everything that was passive in Rosa morphed into aggression. School? School! Has he lost his mind? Beth? Gentile, fragile Beth? She couldn’t. She wouldn’t make it through school!
“Sir!” Beth exclaimed, her tone piercing. “With all due reArman, I do not think you have thought this through! Do they have a special needs program? The doctors said she shouldn’t be put into any overwhelming situations! Her condition, it is too severe, she-”
“Enough. This decision is mine to make and it is final.” Charles’ face was beet red and Rosa knew she had gone too far. “I need her to be, I mean, she needs to be equipped to go off on her own when the time comes. Her…handicap…will not hold her back.” Mr. Beddow turned to leave.
Did he really think there would ever be a time when Beth didn’t need supervision? Of course not. Could he really be preparing her to be kicked out of his house? How could he be so selfish, so cold? Beth’s symptoms could be somewhat treated, but she would never be cured.
Putting Beth into school had never been a question. Her home schooling had always been sufficient. The only time Beth had ever gone to school had been a few short years before her onset, a time Beth herself had most likely forgotten.
All of this Rosa thought, but didn’t dare to say out loud. She said only, “Mark my words, Charles Beddow, this will not end well.” She said it so quietly that she was the only one to hear.

* * *

“We’ll beat this thing right out of you and you’ll be in classes with all of the normal kids in no time.”
Beth looked up to see the guidance counselor, Ms. Arman, eyeing her expectantly. June and March had been diverting most of Beth’s attention throughout all but the very end of Ms. Arman’s rant, so Beth didn’t have the slightest clue as to what she had said. What Beth had gotten out of the past five minutes had been a couple of meaningless bits of Ms. Arman’s speech buried by June and March’s overpowering slur of insults directed at the guidance counselor. Beth was glad Ms. Arman couldn’t hear the nasty things they said about her, but she couldn’t bring herself to like the woman.
Beth didn’t know the words to say to make Ms. Arman let her go back to Rosa. She looked away, towards the little window March and June were trying to open. Beth hoped they could open it up; she itched for some fresh air in this dark and stuffy room. She watched March and June’s wings fluttering, silhouettes against the light from the window. She wished more than anything she could join them. She wished she could fly away with them, away from this woman and this world that didn’t understand her.
“Beth?” Ms. Arman asked, a hint of agitation in her voice.
Beth picked at the skin on her thumb. She searched her mind for how to reply to this woman, this stranger. She yearned for Rosa. June and the others may not like her, but Beth felt safe with Rosa. Rosa would know how to reply. No, Rosa would save her from replying. She tried to think of what Rosa might do and decided to give Ms. Arman a nod, hoping it was an appropriate response. It seemed to be because Ms. Arman went on and said, “Now, Beth, your father tells me your schizophrenia causes you to create imaginary friends. Can you tell me about them?”
At the same time, June scoffed and March knocked a row of books off of a book shelf. Is she talking about them? Beth didn’t have any imaginary friends. She was not a child. The doctors told her Daddy that she didn’t make anything up.
But maybe, if Beth told Ms. Arman about her friends, then maybe she could leave. She opened her mouth and waited for the words to find their way out.
“They aren’t imaginary. They’re not made up. You, you just can’t see them. They’re March and May and June and July and…” Beth trailed off, loosing her train of thought. She quickly willed her head to make more sentences before that awful woman could speak again. “They talk, play. They tell me things about people, whether they’re good or bad. And they say things about people and tell me to do things to people.” Once she started speaking, the words started to come on their on accord, without Beth forcing them out.
“See, they’re all faeries, one, one for each month, and I am, too. They told me that we can do magic and fly, but not yet. One day, I’ll know when, I’ll join them.” That was as much as she could say before Ms. Arman cut in.
“Beth, sweetheart,” she said with a falsely sympathetic look on her face, “what I’m going to tell you will help you in the long run. Some other people may try to spare your feelings but this is something you need to know. These, these people you see, they aren’t real. They’re nonexistent, figments of your imagination.”
Upon hearing this, June and March began to shriek a fresh stream of blasphemies. Not long after, all of the others arrived. Their stomping, their roaring, their overwhelming fury consumed every nook and cranny of Beth’s head. They pushed at and stretched the boundaries of her mind until she was sure it would split. Wasn’t there one little corner she could have just for herself? She screamed, she tried to cover both her ears and her eyes from the flood of senses, she kicked at the desk. If Ms. Arman was saying something, Beth couldn’t hear a word of it.
Ms. Arman seemed to pick up on that and raised her voice to add to the cacophony. And above the crashing and screaming, Beth could here Ms. Arman’s voice. “…this! This is not normal! This is what we need to fix!”
Normal! There’s that word again! It infuriated Beth; why couldn’t they understand? This is my normal, she thought. Beth was happy. Why did they need to fix her, change who she was? And then Beth found an out.
Beth stood up, pushing her chair back, and dashed out of the room. Her heavy breathing echoed through the hallway. She didn’t look back but she heard the clatter of Ms. Arman’s high heels pursuing her. Beth would have to find a staircase fast. She slid around corner after corner, turning when the fairies told her to. There! She came across a set of stairs. She climbed them two at a time, sure that Ms. Arman couldn’t match her pace in those ridiculous shoes. She skipped the first few landings, praying for an exit to the roof.
Through a stroke of luck, she found an exit. She fumbled with the deadlock for too long. The clatter was getting closer. When she swung the door open, Ms. Arman was no more than a few stairs behind her, shoes in hand.
Beth ran to the edge of the building. When she reached the ridge, Ms. Arman paused. Her hands were held up, as if to fend off an attack.
Beth didn’t understand. Why would she do that? Beth didn’t understand why anyone did anything. She tried again and again to wrap her mind around the motives people have for the things they do. Why did she have to eat the watermelon? Why was she here? Why was every one always trying to fix her?
Beth didn’t need to wonder anymore. It was her time to fly with her faeries, the only ones who understood her. She said, to no one and everyone, “I’m leaving your world. It’s time to escape to mine,” right before she jumped.

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Schnookie said...
Jun. 24, 2010 at 10:54 am
This story is captivating, and so well written!  I felt as if I was reading a few pages from a bestseller!  Keep up the great work, I would love to read more of your articles!
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