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Follow the Butterflies
“Stop it, stop it! Avery, control yourself!” The nurse’s screams meant nothing to me. She wasn’t going to force me to do anything. “Someone, help!”
Doctors and nurses burst into my room. “Hold her down!” I heard someone yell. But they weren’t going to stop me. I was not going to let them spoon feed me crap to muffle my brain to what they really were. What they really were, though, I was unsure of.
I kicked and thrashed and screamed and bit all the hands that came towards me. “No!” I screamed. “You evil bastards! You have drugged me for the last time!”
There were only three doctors and two nurses holding me down. I could easily escape them. I had before, hadn’t I? I threw them off my arms and charged towards the door. They couldn’t hide the truth. Whatever it was.
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain on the back of my right leg, just below my butt. I felt the sedatives spread down my body as my legs went numb and I fell to the floor. Tears escaped my eyes and I began to sob. They had won again.
On her bed, my roommate Leah looked at me sympathetically. “Oh, Avery, I’m so sorry! Oh, Avery, please be okay!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll fine!” I snapped at her. Leah always worried about me, crying every time I got in trouble. She was afraid I’d be shipped away to someplace else. But they couldn’t do that to me. I was high in the system. I was untouchable.
Those were my last thoughts before I blacked out.
“Now Avery, you can tell me. Why did you hit Nurse Chelsea?” Dr. Cart said.
Was that her name? Hm. There were so many nurses that came and went, I never bothered to learn their names. They were just “Nurse” to me.
“I don’t want any more medicine,” I said.
“That is not a good reason to hit, Avery. It just shows you need more medicine. Now we should address the fact that…”
“That’s not a good reason to hit, Avery. You need more medicine,” Drake mocked. I smile a little.
Dr. Cart’s voice faded away. I was tired of listening to him. Besides, Drake was much more fun to talk to. He would follow me everywhere, willing to talk to me when I was bored or lonely. He always made me laugh.
“This guy is a nut job, girl. Who in the right mind gave him those precious degrees on his walls, huh? Monkeys?”
Drake was such a good friend. He always took my side. He never gets caught, either. That’s because Drake lives in the walls. That’s how he can follow me and not be seen. He used to be a patient here, but one day he got in so much trouble the doctors locked him in a closet and forgot about him. Eventually he dug his way into the wall and stayed there. He likes it in the walls. I don’t know why. I could never live in there.
“I say those precious pieces of paper should be ripped out of their frames and shredded, then he come live upstairs with the rest of us. Filthy turd.”
With that comment I burst out laughing. Dr. Cart stopped talking and stared at me.
“Why are you laughing? What’s so funny, Avery?” he asked.
“Nothing.” I smirked. He would never know.
Drake also has a tendency to get me in trouble. Soon Dr. Cart called in Dr. Jones to tell him about my laughing. They sat at his desk while I stayed where they placed me in the corner, pretending to play with the puzzles and soft dolls. I’m too old for toys, anyway. I outgrew toys when I was, like, fourteen.
“I was asking her to tell me any feelings she’s been having, but she didn’t respond. She was looking around, at the walls, completely oblivious to me. I called her name and she burst out laughing. I tell you, she needs a higher dosage.”
“We’ve been concerned with her for a while,” Dr. Jones said. “I’ll take her to Mrs. Wood. We’ll elaborate, and then decide on a better treatment plan for her.”
Dr. Jones told me to get up and follow him to Mrs. Wood’s office. Mrs. Wood was like the head advisor or something. That means she pretty much ran the whole place. You don’t go there unless you have special needs. She smiled at me when I came into her office, because I visit her a lot.
“Good afternoon, Avery. How are you doing today? Did you enjoy today’s lunch? I heard cake was served.” I like Mrs. Wood. She’s the only doctor I like. It’s just kind of the way she talked to me. She made me feel special.
“Yeah Mrs. Wood, the cake was pretty good. But you know what it needed more of?”
“What did it need more of?” she asked.
“Chocolate!” We both laughed. It’s a well-known fact that I love chocolate.
“I have a feeling sugar isn’t what you need, dear. Now, why have you been brought to visit me today?”
Dr. Jones spoke up from the corner of the office. “I have a file.” Oh great. A file. He placed a manila envelope on Mrs. Wood’s desk. I saw my name sprawled on the side: Rebecca Avery Dane. She opened it and read its contents. I shifted uncomfortably in the leather seat. They probably filed a report on my incident this morning. I’ve been trying to convince Mrs. Wood I’m a good girl. These stupid nurses with their stupid pills aren’t helping.
She set down the envelope and folded her hands together under her chin. Her eyes met mine from behind her black-rimmed glasses. Without taking her gaze from me, she dismissed Dr. Jones. “I’d like to talk to her privately, please,” she told him.
When he was gone, she began. “Now Avery. I know you wouldn’t tell Dr. Cart what happened this morning during your… incident. I understand it might be hard to tell him what you were feeling. But you can tell me. You trust me, don’t you Avery?” I nodded. “Good. Because I just want to help you. I need to know your side of this story. To get my facts straight.”
“She was trying to give me another pill,” was all I said. She motioned for me to continue. “That’s all, I guess. I already take four different pills twice a day. I don’t like them and don’t want any more.”
Mrs. Wood brought out a notepad and wrote something down. When she saw me watching, she pointed to her head. “So I don’t forget,” she winked. She wrote a few more words then set the pen down. “Okay Avery. Can you tell me the emotions you were feeling? Were you angry, or scared?”
“I was mad. I took the new pill last night. It made me feel dizzy, Mrs. Wood. I woke up crying and didn’t know why. I don’t want her to make me take it again.”
A few more scribbles. “So you have a problem with taking all the medicine?” I nodded, and she continued. “Okay, then we will drop that medication. It seems the side effects are out ruling what little benefits it may have.”
“Okay!” I grinned.
“But if we take that away, you will need to spend another session per week in therapy. It will help with your anger issues.”
I nodded. I only go to therapy once a week, so I could handle another session. My therapy sessions are actually enjoyable, even though my therapist is Dr. Cart. I think they’re relaxing.
“But you do need to take your medicine, Avery,” Mrs. Wood said. “It will only make you better. Would it help if we crushed some of the medicine into your food?”
No. That wouldn’t help. It wasn’t taking the medicine that was the problem. It was the feeling of being drugged, of having my problems covered just to shut me up. Mrs. Wood had told me that isn’t true, but it’s how my mind feels.
Drake spoke up. “You’re right, Avery. But I don’t think you have problems. I think you’re fine the way you are. Just different.” Just different. I liked that explanation better. “You’re special. You think in ways others can’t. And society just can’t accept that. But I accept that.”
I noticed Mrs. Wood staring at me funny. I composed my dazed expression. I realized I never answered her question. What was her question? Oh, I remembered.
“Yes, Mrs. Wood. The cake was pretty good. But do you know what it needed more of?”
She just stared at me blankly and scribbled once more on her notepad.
“I heard you got in trouble again,” Sadie said.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal.” We were out in the yard during exercise period. The yard was basically an acre of grass, flowers, benches, and swings (they were supposed to be for the younger kids, but everyone liked the swings) enclosed by all the buildings of Pennington Psychiatric Hospital.
“I’ve heard all our floor’s doctors were brought into it. And you gotta go to another therapy session,” Sadie said in her spacey way.
“Yeah, yeah.” We sat down in the grass and picked at flowers. We were silent for a few minutes, watching some young kids playing tag in the field. One of the kids stopped when he saw us, and then came over.
“Hey, Jimmy,” I said as he grew closer. He smiled and waved enthusiastically.
Jimmy is a very distant relative of Sadie, like, third cousin removed. I like him, and so does Sadie (she kind of has too; they’re family) but sometimes he’s a little weird. He’s autistic, like most of the kids on our floor. But not me or Sadie. The doctors are still trying to figure us out, I guess.
“Hey Avery! Hey Sadie!” Jimmy said. “Wanna come play?” Spit dribbled out of his mouth. Sadie wiped it away affectionately.
“Sure, honey. What are you playing?”
“We were playing tag,” he said, “But Bradley and Harris want to play spy, and Kayla didn’t want to play boy games, so she and Gracie are picking flowers or something girly like that.” Jimmy put his hands on his hips and looked at us expectantly.
“Yeah, we’ll play with you,” I said. Sadie and I stood up and brushed the grass and dirt from our white uniform skirts.
“Okay then…” Jimmy backed up slowly. “Come and get me!” He took off full speed towards the field. We ran after him, but slow enough for him to stay a good ways ahead. “You can’t catch me!” His words were burbled with his laughter and the natural slur he had. Of course we could’ve caught him, but it was fun to see him so happy. Soon enough we chased him around the field and out, so he headed towards the swings and garden.
The garden wasn’t much more than a few flower patches and a couple of benches. By one of the flower patches were Kayla and Gracie, making flower wreaths. Gracie is our age, sixteen, and Kayla just about two years younger.
“Hiya Kayla! Hiya Gracie!” Sadie called as we ran by. Gracie waved hello, but Kayla didn’t seem to hear us. She went right on picking flowers, stuffing some of them in her shoe.
Sadie stopped short, and I had to skid my shoes on the grass to avoid slamming into her. “Sadie, why’d you stop?” I asked, but she doesn’t answer. She stared off at a patch of flowers. I followed her eyes. A butterfly was flying around the flowers. It was a different sort of butterfly, though. The wings were a bright bubble-gum pink with blue spots. Jimmy, too, came and marveled at it with us. A few other butterflies joined the pink and blue one, and they flew around the flowers, seeming to dance.
Sadie and I walked closer, watching the butterflies. I was amazed by the pink and blue one, but Sadie stared at all of them in fascination. Jimmy eventually got bored and wandered away.
We watched them for a long while; long enough eventually we just sat down on the ground and stared at them going from flower to flower, petal to petal, but never touching. Suddenly the wind picked up and the butterflies flew away with the wind. Sadie jumped up and ran after them.
“Sadie, where are you going?” I called after her, still sitting in the grass.
“The butterflies, Avery! Follow the butterflies,” she said dreamily. I watched my best friend in wonder as she skipped after the beautiful winged creatures.
I bounced on my heels excitedly as Miss Taylor passed out our name tag necklaces. This wasn’t my first field trip- I’ve been on some before- but this was my first trip to the zoo. My teacher Miss Taylor had been teaching us for weeks about all the animals that we would get to see in the zoo; I knew they had monkeys and stuff, but they have elephants too! How would they fit an animal that big into a zoo?
Sadie held my hand tightly as Miss Taylor handed her a name tag. She was just excited as I was.
“Will they have butterflies there, like in the garden?” she asked.
“No,” Miss Taylor said, “But they have other things that fly, like birds.” She handed me my nametag. It had my first and last name printed on it, and also the letters PPH- Pennington Psychiatric Hospital.
The van pulled up and we all rushed on. There were only six people in our class, so we filled up the van perfectly. We were the oldest class in all of Pennington. Sadie sat beside me, Kayla and Gracie in front of us, and behind us Harris and Ken.
“What do you wanna see at the zoo?” Ken asked me.
“I like elephants. I want to see how big they are,” I said.
“Maybe we can see them together!” Ken said. I liked Ken.
We made up songs about animals and sang them all the way to the zoo. Miss Taylor, in front beside the driver, even sang along with us.
When we arrived, everyone hurried off the van. Miss Taylor made us wait while she checked to make sure we all had our tags and told us the rules.
“First, you must always stay with the group. If you get lost, ask a zoo worker to help you; if you show them your tag they will know where to take you. Second, don’t touch the animals, this isn’t a petting zoo. And, in general, behave.”
We walked through the crowds of people, hands linked, following Miss Taylor. She was studying the map of the zoo. “Who would like to see the Panda bears first?”
Everyone agreed excitedly. I had never seen a Panda not on T.V. before! I ran and stood beside Ken. “Do you like Pandas, Ken?”
“I guess they’re cool,” he said, “but I really want to see some tigers!” He let out a roar.
“That’s a really good roar, Ken! You sound just like a tiger!” Miss Taylor said.
Ken’s face was full of pride. “I try my best, Miss Taylor.”
Sadie came and walked beside me, and held my hand while we walked. “We are almost there!” Miss Taylor called back to us.
I walked faster, dragging Sadie along with me. Suddenly she stopped, and my arm jerked.
“What is it?” I asked. She was looking at a bush of flowers nearby beside the sidewalk. On one flower bush was a single, yellow butterfly.
“Come here, let’s go see the butterfly,” she said. I followed. I didn’t see what the big deal was about. Yeah the butterfly was pretty, but I really wanted to see the Pandas.
“Let’s go,” I said. “The Pandas are waiting!”
Reluctantly she agreed and we headed back on the sidewalk. We looked up the path, and didn’t see Miss Taylor. She wasn’t behind us either. We looked left, and we looked right.
“Oh no,” Sadie said. “I think we’re lost.”
“It’s okay. Let’s just head to wherever the Pandas are. That’s where the class is going.”
We walked down the path in the direction the class had been walking. Eventually though, the path broke off into three other paths. We stood there confused.
“Now which way are we going to go?” I asked.
“Let’s ask those kids over there. They look our age.”
Over to the side was a group of three girls and four guys. They were teenagers, like us. They stood there talking and drinking Cokes.
“Hey!” I said. Sadie and I walked over to them. They looked at us with weird expressions. “Do you know where the Pandas are? Cause Sadie wanted to look at the butterfly on the flower bush and our class and Miss Taylor walked away and weren’t there when we came back. We might be a little lost.”
They just stared at us for a while. I wondered what they were staring at. Finally, one of the boys said, “Are you retarded or something?” The rest of the kids started laughing.
Sadie and I just stood there and didn’t say anything. The boy spoke again. “I don’t think they even know what retarded means! Look at their faces!” They all burst out laughing again.
I knew what retarded meant, and so did Sadie. It was a mean word; it meant stupid and dumb. Miss Taylor said if you were ever teased to not say anything to the bullies and they will stop. So we stood there. But they didn’t stop.
“Aw you got lost while looking at the butterfly? Ha! What are you, three?”
“Look at that one, her eyes are twisted!”
“Haha oh my gosh they’re holding hands!”
I glanced at Sadie, and we agreed without words that we needed to leave. We turned and started walking away.
We walked a little faster. A tear rolled down Sadie’s cheek.
We began running. Tears were in my eyes, too.
Sadie and I ran as fast as we can, barely breathing through our sobs.