Let The Death Bells Ring (1)

Finally, after two whole years of captivity, I'm free. Free of my small, bland, white-walled room, free of Dr. Caldwell, and free of the Georgia Mental Health Institution.

"Are you ready to go?" Aunt Lily asked me.

"You have no idea," I replied.

She grinned, "Come on,"

So I followed her into the main lobby of the institution, carrying my duffel bag while she took my two suitcases. Dr. Caldwell was waiting for us in the lobby and approached us when we walked into it.

"Dani," he said to me, "if you ever need to talk about anything, just give me a call. You have my number, so don't be afraid to use it."

He gave me one of his bright, Crest white-strip smiles and I nodded in return. "Don't worry, Dr. Caldwell, I know that I can call you if I need to." I assured him.

"Good, now I'm going let you two get going. I know you probably can't wait to get out of here."

"Yeah, you could say that." I returned, trying not to sound like I was too eager to leave. But I couldn't contain myself. It seemed like I'd been trapped in this place forever.

"Alright, bye, Dani." Then he gave me a stiff hug. Dr. Caldwell wasn't exactly the type to give hugs so it was kind of awkward, but a nice gesture.

We pulled apart from each other and he surreptitiously wiped his hands off on his long white lab coat, but I saw him. He was a bit germaphobic, and usually wore white rubber gloves. Although, at the moment, he wasn't wearing any.

I disregarded his phobia and slung my duffel bag over my shoulder. "Bye," I called out to him as Aunt Lily and I walked out the large double doors.

Once we were outside of the building, I felt like I was truly liberated. I looked back over my shoulder at the all-too familiar white pillars that held up the semi-circular roof over the front entrance. I would never have to look at them again.

I followed my aunt into the parking lot, heading straight towards the bright green punch buggy. It was pretty hard to miss among all of the sleek black or silver Jaguars, Audis and Volvos. But it suited Aunt Lily perfectly, because just like her, it was unique and one-of-a-kind.

We both climbed into the small car and piled my suitcases and duffel bag into the backseat. Then Aunt Lily started up the car and we pulled out into the street.

"So how does it feel to no longer be a patient at Georgia Mental?" she asked me.

"A lot better than it did to be a patient at Georgia Mental." I replied.

She laughed briskly, but as her laughter died, so did the cheerful mood. And I knew that it was time to discuss the serious stuff.

"Alright, Dani, I know that it's a touchy topic, but it has to be dealt with. How do you feel about everything after the incident?" she asked.

The incident was the murder of my parents. That's what put me into the institution in the first place. My parents went out one night and never came back. The next day were found murdered behind a couple of bushes in the woods. They had been strangled, and red hand marks were found on both of their necks. I hadn't actually seen them after they died, but I'd seen the reporters talk about it on the news.

But the part that bothered me the most was that after two whole years, the killer hadn't been caught. After I found out about their deaths, I just had a complete emotional meltdown. So I was sent to Georgia Mental.

I sighed as the memory came flooding back into my mind. "Well, I've learned that no matter how hard it is, I just have to move on. I should still remember them, but only in a good way. I can't get too stressed out about it."

She nodded, a nostalgic expression filling her face. "Just remember that you don't have to do this all on your own. We can get through this together."

"I know." I affirmed.

"Good, now we can talk about the good stuff." she said, sounding like her normally cheerful self once again. "I bet you can't wait to see all of your friends again."

I smiled to myself, my excitement building up. "You've got that right,"

"Yeah, they're pretty psyched to have you back too."

I bit my lip, thinking of Madelyn and Lauren and Sean. I missed them all so much. And I was glad that they missed me too. They came to visit me whenever they could at the institution, but that was just the courteous thing to do. I wasn't sure if they really were happy to have me back or not, but now I was.

"Plus, you get to go back to school now." Aunt Lily added.

"Yeah, I never really thought I would say this, but I can't wait!" I exclaimed. I would actually get to go right back to a normal school schedule. At the institution, they had me doing all of my assignments online and e-mailing them to my teachers. And the teachers would e-mail me my lessons, notes, and assignments too.

But since I was only at the end of first quarter of sophomore year and I'd been in the institution for two years, I'd never actually got to attend real high school, so it would be a new experience for me. And I was really excited for it.

"Well I'm glad that you're so enthusiastic about your education. That institution must have really helped." she joked.

I laughed, feeling so care-free and content that I didn't even think about my parents for the rest of the drive back to Fairburn, Georgia, where I lived. Except now, I would be going back to a new house, Aunt Lily's house. Aunt Lily was divorced, so it would just be the two of us living there.

But I didn't mind it. I was just so grateful that she was taking me in. She was such a great aunt, the best. I was so lucky to have her in my life. Things had been rough after my parents died, but Aunt Lily was always able to lighten the mood.

The drive back to Fairburn wasn't too long, considering that the institution was in Augusta. And as we pulled into the driveway of Aunt Lily's quaint, two-story brick house with the red front door, my heart raced. I'd grown restless as we got closer and closer to my new home. And now that we were here, I'd lost all of my patience.

"Home sweet home," Aunt Lily said as she parked her little green Punch-Buggy. I grinned eagerly and hopped out of the car, practically sprinting to the front door. Aunt Lily followed behind me, at a regular pace, which made me even more antsy since she was the one with the keys to unlock the front door.

Once she was standing at the door, inserting the key into the lock on the brass door knob, my adrenaline raced. Then the door opened and I stepped inside. All of the sudden the lights were turned on and the word "Surprise!" was shouted at me.

Madelyn, Lauren, Sean, and another unfamiliar teenage guy were all standing there with their arms spread open to add to the "surprise" effect.





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