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The Third Person
I've always had an interest in both physical and mental disorders, but mostly mental and especially Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The boy, Alec is loosely based off a friend of mine and Honour is a very complex girl and I enjoy writing about complex people
Dear Emery… The words lie still before me, flat and unmoving, printed on snow white paper that occasionally jolts upright in the wind. The tip of the black pen flaps back and forth, leaving scribbly marks on an otherwise perfect page. This journal is brand new. The latest addition to my collection of chronicles hiding around my bedroom. They are all different on the outside, some with photographic covers of black and white images, some with fuzzy spring flowers shaded with warm colours, some that are plain coloured with a velvet feel. This one is a hard cover with a glittery black texture. However, they’re all the same on the inside. Long colour coded paragraphs gossiping about the good, bad and all things in between. That’s how we communicate. The black paragraphs are me, and the pink ones are her. It doesn’t necessarily go black-pink-black-pink though, like we were having a conversation, no, it depends whose eyes are viewing the day. Most of the time it’s mine but I guess my own mind needs a rest sometimes and hers needs to stretch. I continue decorating the white page with messy black splotches as the summer sun warms my smooth skin.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” I say to no one “Sitting under the sun not caring about getting wet or a cold”. My eyes lift from the journal to what’s in front of me. A grey tombstone decorated with roses and various bouquets, sparkling under the bright light. Ivy Emelia Summers 1997-2005 “An angel taken to young from her friends and family” is what it says. Being dragged to counselling sessions when you’re eight years old is no fun. I didn’t really understand what was going on, all I knew at the time was something horrible had happened to my best friend. She was gone. Forever. Mama told me that the couple who killed her had put her in an eternal sleep but even then I didn’t believe it. If they wanted her to simply go to sleep then why was she screaming and crying? Why did they have a knife? I shuddered remembering the nightmarish memory. Strangely I fail to recall every detail about what I witnessed, but that makes me happy. Well, less miserable. I stretch out my arms and let them fall to the ground, except for the left one which hits a hard fabric instead of collapsing on soft grass. My school bag. Oh s***. I’m supposed to be at school. Grabbing the bag and journal I leap to my feet and sprint for Crystal Creek Secondary College.
When I reached the senior hall, out of breath and covered in sweat I was greeted by unwanted test papers and various rubbish. The hall was empty which meant that the bell had rung and everyone was off to class. School started at ten o’clock and went to four. A few years ago a couple of psychologists had tried to convince the government hat later school hours were better for the student brain. Being tired in the morning prevented full concentration and resulted in a lack of listening and learning. At first our stuck up prime minister resisted but caved in after thousands of students in the state uprose to support the scientists’ view.
The year elevens and twelves had their own everything at Crystal Creek: their own hall which consisted of the year eleven and twelve locker rooms as well as a library and private study area, their own canteen, their own courtyard and their own toilets. Basically, we were blocked off from the rest of the school. We were separated from the younger year levels by a rose hedge that had only one gap in it and that was where the main building went through. The main building was the smallest of the three structures in the school, the others being the junior and senior halls; it consisted of the school office, wellbeing office and “private chat rooms”, the teachers’ offices and the canteen. The canteen was a long rectangular room that had automatic glass doors at either end, each leading to the junior and senior courtyards. It was the only place where the older and younger kids ever really mingled.
My schedule which was taped inside my locker with the subjects colour coded told me I had psychology in room 13 so I stashed away my bag, grabbed my pencil case, homework diary and psychology folder and dashed off to class as quick as I could.
My psychology teacher was a newbie. They were common around Crystal Creek Secondary because no many stayed for too long. I guess they didn’t like the smallness of our town and the way everyone knew everyone.
“I’m going to call you fairly floss” he said when I entered the room, a whopping fifteen minutes late.
“Fairy floss? Why?” it seemed and odd nickname until he pointed to the glass window behind me, I turned to view my reflection, my beautifully fair skin, bright pale red lips and candy pink coloured hair. Candy pink like fairly floss
“Are you making fun of me sir?” I asked
“Absolutely not” he smirked “I died my hair orange in the summer and told my nephew I was a leprechaun”. Ok. He was definitely making fun of me.
“What’s your name fairy floss?”
“Risa Grant’s daughter?”
“Yes”. As I walked over to my seat I pondered how this man knew my mother. Like I said, everyone knows everyone but not when their newbies, they have to meet people first. My mother was always friendly though; she made friends quickly and was popular among the locals because of Happy Horizons, the support centre she opened a year ago. I chose the seat next to my best friend Patrick who was smiling widely at me. He was a muscled boy with tanned skin and dark hair. He enjoyed bragging about his six pack and the wonders of sport cars, in other words he was the last person people would expect me, the keep-to-herself alternative girl to be friends with.
“And we’re have you been missy?” he inquired
“Don’t call me that”
“Answer the Q”
“I slept in” it was a lie and I knew unless I came up with a realistic reason he would see right through me “only a week into school you know” I shrugged “still adjusting my body clock”.
“You were here on time every day last week”
“Mum wasn’t home to wake me up today” we were talking quietly as Mr ICantRememberHisName had begun speaking about what we did last week.
“So my memory of calling your house his morning wondering where you were, and your mum answering the phone telling me you left early for school is just a very realistic dream?”
“Yes” I nodded
“Honour please promise me you weren’t at the cemetery”
“You know we should really be listening to what’s-his-face”
“Mr Whitney. Please, please tell me-“
“Fine, I was at the cemetery”. His face fell and he looked away from me. Shaking his head he kept muttering “I don’t know what to do with you”. We stopped talking after that and I tried to pay attention to Mr Whitney and I swear his eyes darted to me more than once, in fact repeatedly during the lesson. When the bell finally rang I began to follow Patrick and the rest of the crowd out the door but stopped myself when I realised I had a query for my teacher
“Excuse me, Mr Whitney?” I tapped on his shoulder as he was busy typing away on his computer
“Hello, fairly floss, what can I do for you?” he asked without looking at me
“Um, how do you know my mother?”
“That seems like a strange question to ask in a town like Crystal Creek” he smiled
“Yeah but you’re new” I said, surprised at the sound of surprise in my voice “at least I think your new. And if you’re new, you don’t know everyone yet.”
“I guess that makes sense and I guess I’m sort of new but I lived her years ago and I knew your mum when you were only young, about seven or eight think you were”
“Oh, sorry I don’t remember you” I felt guilty but in fact I tried to forget most of young years as they were all mostly memories of me, Patrick and Ivy. And with Ivy gone, thinking about her hurt me.
“It’s ok” he smiled “It’s been years, I barely recognise you” and with that he waved me off and told me to go enjoy my break.
The senior courtyard was abuzz with all different activity. You had the quiet, responsible teens with folders and laptops on their laps, except for the ones giggling at videos at YouTube, you had the constant exposure of PDA , hands being held and couples engrossed in each other, you had the girls whose dresses were way to short and mouths were too busy talking about crap like who was a real backstabbing b****, when all the outside viewers knew they all were, you had the teachers who were supposed to be on guard but instead they just stood behind the students chatting, the only one that ever really watched us was the assistant principal, who also happened to be my English teacher, and last but not least you had the average friendship groups who were scattered all over the place just talking, laughing and easing. Pat and I found an empty spot on one of the benches and sat next to a group of studiers, I knew they wouldn’t bother us and I was going to try to not distract them from their learning. Instead of immediately conversing with Patrick I looked up at the sky at an angle so my eyes didn’t ache from the sun. I liked watching the simplicity of a blue sky when there was so much chaos in front of me. It made me forget I’m in the middle of a zoo.
“I think you need to see a counsellor again”. At first I didn’t realise Pat was talking to me until he nudged me in the arm
“I said I think you need to see a counsellor again”
“No way is that happening. And why?”
“Because it’s been nine years and you’re not moving on from Ivy’s…..you know”
“Death? Murder? Which one were you looking for?
“So what, I’m not allowed to visit my friend? It’s the first time I’ve been there in months. I never went all summer holidays, I avoided her, for you ad for mum I avoided my best friend”. The hurt in Pat’s eyes made me feel guilty immediately and I looked away from him, apologizing quietly. He was my best friend now. Ivy was gone. Move on. That’s all they wanted, for me to move on and be happy with my life, but how can you be happy after you saw what I saw? My thoughts were interrupted by an unpleasant smell in the air. It was unpleasant but at the same time tempting and familiar
“I think we should find somewhere else to sit” Pat sounded concerned and I felt him stand up. The study group beside as had noticed the smell too because they scrunched up their noses and one looked up to investigate
“What is it?” one of the students asked her friend
“Tobacco” she answered “Someone’s smoking”. I heard the words “disgusting” and “druggie” from the group and turned away from them back to Pat who was now standing.
“Come on” he beckoned “Let’s go”. I followed him as we weaved through the crowd of gossiping teenagers and I realised unhappily that we would have to walk past the smokers to get the senior hall where I assumed we were heading. One of the boys smoking had floppy brown hair that fell over his right eye, his skin was pale and his chin was decorated with lots of lovely red pimples, a ring pierced his lip and another two his left eyebrow, he pulled the ciggy from his mouth and blew a cloud of smoke our way as we tried to go past them without being noticed
“Hey you” acne boy addressed me “I know you. Yeah we used to be buddies” he grinned, I could see a glimpse of yellow teeth as his lips were partly opened “You remember her, Nelly?”
“Oh yeah!” the girl next to him exclaimed “Honour! You dyed your hair!” she waved her cigarette around carelessly “It used to be blue I think”. I nodded trying to ignore the smell of tobacco tickling violently at my nose
“Come on, Honour let’s go” Pat pulled at my arm. I nodded at the smokers and tried not to look to desperate to get away as I followed him.
“Who were they?” he asked when we walked into the year 11 locker space. I didn’t even look at him when I answered “Chris and Nelly” I said quietly
“And you know them, how?”
“Everyone knows everyone, remember?”
“I don’t know them” he sounded sort of angry and had his arms crossed. His big muscly arms folded across his skinny little chest. He softened though and looked at me in a concerned way “I mean, I know you used to…you know”
“Smoke?” I opened my locker door in a quick angry movement and looked for my next class “Yeah Pat, I used to smoke and when I did I hung around with others who understood me and why I did” I didn’t meant to sound like a b****. I preferred to be the quiet innocent girl so that people wouldn’t remember I used to be one of the rebels who smoked, drank alcohol and wagged school because it was how I coped with my pain .A year ago I managed to quit smoking with help of one of the support groups my mother forced me to go to at Happy Horizons, I put down my last alcoholic drink and in the last twelve months I’ve been to ever single class except for the occasional sick day. But still, people swapped from worrying about me to judging me. I suddenly felt the need to pull up the ends of the black fingerless gloves I always wore. Not every piece of evidence was as easy to remove as cigarettes and beverages. The bell rang for next period and Pat, who must have been in his own head hugged me from behind “I have to go to sport now” he said
“Ok, have fun” I looked back at him and forced a smile. I had a study period and made my way to the library on the upper level on the senior hall. Halfway up the stairs I was still in my own head, going over the run-in with Chris and Nelly in my head when I bumped into a blonde haired boy, causing him to spill his open pencil case and drop the A4 sketchbook he’d been carrying.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I knelt down quickly to pick up the pencils that were rolling down the stairs. I dashed downwards to grab a couple that had already fallen. The boy picked up his sketchbook without saying a word. I packed the runaway pencils in the pencil case and handed it to him. When he reached out his hand to take it I noticed he was rather skinny, not anorexic but not as much meat on his bones as he probably should’ve had. He had hazel eyes and longish blonde hair that was tucked behind his ears. He didn’t say thankyou, just sort of half smiled for a second without really looking at me and then walked past me and down the stairs. I couldn’t help but watch him and also couldn’t work out why. But I t only took me a minute to realise I’d never seen him before.
“Oi! Move your bloody bag!”
“Piss off you creep!” the town bus was alive with noise as the few adults sat tense, controlling their anger and impatience with the rowdy students of Crystal Creek High. The limited space was full of blue and white checkers as over thirty school girls gossiped, laughed and shouted. By the time I’d paid the bus fare and clasped one of the overhead handles I’d heard at least five different insults. The words “slut” and “douche bag” were the most common ever heard on the town bus. Colt Taylor, a brown haired daredevil in my year was treating the bus as an exercise gym as he used the railing to do chin-ups.
“100, 101, 102.”
“Shutup Colt you’ve done like five.” Colt’s sister Kace was one of the lucky ones who had managed to get a seat. Kace Taylor was one of the few people I liked. She was quirky and sweet and was famous for her dislike towards footwear. Even now, on a public bus she let her bare feet skim the ground, her school sandals swinging in her hands. Colt paid no attention to his sister and persisted to exaggerate his strength. The green lawns of Crystal Park rolled past as the bus made its way to Main Street. There were a few stops on the way and after the third stop I managed to find an empty seat. I quickly sat down before anyone else could, including Colt, who glared at me.
“What does a guy have to do to get a seat around here?” he shook his head then looked at the person next to me
“Oi stoner! Give me ya seat!” I turned to see that the person sitting next to me was Nelly, whose cracked lips were turned down into a frown as she stared at her feet.
“Hey smoker girl! I’m talking to you!” Nelly was about to stand up but I put my arm out to stop her
“Don’t, Nel. If you give him the seat he’ll just think you’re weak and it will give him more of a reason to be an ass.” Her eyes widened a little and I suspected she hadn’t noticed me when I sat down, probably too busy thinking about when she could have her next cigarette since it was illegal to have them on the bus. She sat back against the seat and Colts eyes narrowed.
“Fine. Whatever.” Colt looked over at Kace
“Oi Kace! Wanna give me your seat?”
“Not on your life, dickhead!” Nelly smiled at me “Thanks” she said softly. Her teeth, like her skin had a yellow tinge to them and I tried not to watch at her mouth as she spoke. Some heavy tobacco users did manage to either delay or prevent the cosmetic effects of smoking, but not Nelly. Her hair was pretty though, brown thick locks that fell over her shoulders in curls.
“How are you?” I asked, trying to erase the awkwardness between us. I used to be good friends with her, we’d skip class and go down to the oval where we’d share her sparkly lighter to light our smokes and she’d tell me how in love with Chris she was and I’d tell her funny stories about the patients at Happy Horizons. I’d call her Nel, and she, being more creative than I, would nickname me to whatever colour hair I had at the time. Red had been “fire girl”, green was “grasshopper”, purple was “princess” and blonde had been “Baby Doll”. When mum found out I had started smoking and forced me into support groups, I’d been banned from spending time with Nelly, Chris and the rest of the smoker gang, still I disobeyed. However, Chris started flirting with and a spark of envy had ignited in Nelly. I didn’t and still don’t see what she sees in him and I always brushed off his pick up lines and “romantic” gestures like they meat nothing, which to me, they did. But to Nelly it obviously did because our friendship had become fragile. One day at school she confronted me and asked if i ked him. I told her the truth but she didn’t believe me. Like a typical Nelly would, she broke down in tears and called me a liar, telling me I was a fake friend. She started accusing me of only wanting him to torture her because I knew how she felt about him.
“Why would I want to torture you?” I shouted “You’re my friend!” She never answered that question, just sort of stormed off and we barely spoke again.
“I-I’m good.” she shrugged, not looking me in the eye “Where are you going?”
“The Centre. You?”
“Don’t you live close to school?” I asked, remembering the days walking to her house in a cloud of happiness.
“New foster parents.” She spoke quietly “my old ones couldn’t handle me anymore”.
“Oh. I see.” Nelly’s old foster parents had been nice. They had taken to her tobacco use better than my parents had but they did lack the ability to be strict. She had had two younger foster brothers around nine or ten who were real pains in the ass and coping with naughty preteen boys and a moody, tobacco abusing teenage girl had to be difficult when you didn’t see screaming at kids as a reasonable punishment. When my little sister Gracie was naughty, shed lose her music player or E-reader for up to a week and if she sulked or argued, there would be added time. For me, my parents had tried grounding me when I was young but as I got older they decided I had some sort of psychological illness and I would be forced o go through support group sessions at the centre. When I was younger I would have memory blanks and lose whole days, my parents also noticed me acting strangely and started to become sort of dethatched. I also started to call myself Emory. At the age of eight, six months after Ivy’s death, I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Turns out Emory was a whole other personality my mind had created to help me escape what I saw on the night of Ivy’s death. A night I can barely remember. Emory didn’t turn out to be much of a problem, however, someone else did.
Happy horizons overdid happy to an extreme. It was like an artist had got a white building and thrown a whole bunch of rainbows on it. There was colour everywhere. Someone could get dizzy not knowing where to look. It was the largest building in Crystal Creek as it had many functions. It was a day-care centre, a counselling office, a disability care unit, a mental issue care unit, a recreation centre, youth service centre and a local house. It also had strong connections with the local primary school, high school and TAFE. There were many volunteers and paid workers around and the place was always populated. It was hard to believe my mother owned it. It was four storeys of colour splatter and smiles. Out the back was an oval, a tennis court, a playground and a basketball court. Mum not only owned this place, but she also worked in a lot of the areas, mostly the disability care unit. The DCU (Disability Care Unit) consisted of therapies, educational programs and general care for anyone with a moderate or severe disability. It was also a chance for them to socialise with people who understood that their life’s enjoyment was limited. Most of the patients didn’t live in the housing floor of the centre but a couple did. I made my way to the Disability Care Unit where my mum was speaking to an older woman in a wheelchair.
The DCU was on the bottom floor as it was difficult for some of the patients to get upstairs; a woman in a wheelchair was a perfect example. We had an elevator but mum was persistent that it was easier to just to keep them downstairs with the day-care. On the second floor was counselling and mental patient care. Third floor was youth centre and recreation area and the fourth floor was the housing. This was mostly for homeless teens that had run away from the city or other suburbs but there were locals living there to. Crystal creek was a home for runaways as we were a very welcoming and caring community. A budget went in every year for the outsiders who came in, and surprisingly, the city council and government were rather generous in helping with funds. Sometimes the teens were legally adopted as it was easier than the process of getting out and into the city to have a baby at the hospital. It wasn’t just the drive. Getting in Crystal Creek wasn’t very hard, but getting out was difficult. You also had to go through a test to ensure you were parent material and if you weren’t, no baby. That didn’t make it impossible to adopt though.
Mum looked up when I came in and she smiled “Honour! Come meet Anastasia! She’s a new patient.” Anastasia looked somewhere around forty to forty five with long blonde hair twisted into a bun, she looked a little bit overweight but she was still quite pretty. She wore jeans with a long flowing white blouse that had a thin see through material, underneath looked to be a white long sleeve shirt and she had a silver chain that dangled a heart at the end.
“Hello Anastasia” I smiled at her and extended my hand. She seemed to study me for a minute before extending her hand slowly and at the same speed, her mouth widened into a smile.
“Hello honey, what’s your name?” she spoke slowly as well, making it easy to emphasise each syllable
“I’m Honour, Rosas’ daughter”. With a confused look on her face, Anastasia turned to face my mum
“I thought you said your daughter’s name was Gracie.”
“That’s my younger daughter” mum replied cheerfully “I have two girls.”
“Do you have any children, Anastasia?”
“No I don’t actually. Well not any of my own, but my nephew lives with me, he’d be about your age. Goes to the local high school”
“Oh, what’s his name?”
“Alec”. I didn’t know anyone named Alec which mean he was either an extreme wallflower or new. New kids were quite rare, in face extremely rare. I could honestly say I’ve known at least 98% of the students at my school since kindergarten.
“Are you and your nephew new to town?” I asked
“Yes. You see Alec was held in custody in the city and I-“ but before she could finish the doors to the unit were burst open and a man in tears ran in screaming “There’s a killer! Doctor Grant help theres a killer upstairs!”
It took a whole twenty minutes for mum to calm down the scared man, a 23-year-old mental patient named Seth. I was resting cross legged on a wooden chair tilted up against the wall; standing next to me was a young woman with crossed arms and straight shoulder-length blonde hair. She had a wicked smile on her face and was stroking a butter knife.
“Do I freak you out, Honour?”
“No” I didn’t look at her “but you definitely scare the crap out of your brother.” Seth was sipping on water from a paper cup as glass wasn’t allowed in the Mental Patient Care area. His face, which had gone white with fear, was now returning to its natural colour and his breathing was slowing
“Mimi, get your brother some more water” mum said without looking up from Seth
“He has arms and legs. I think. Or are my meds making me hallucinate?”
“Just get the water.”
“No arms and legs? I always found you suspicious Risa, and now you’re giving me dodgy medication.” Mimi shook her head, but still she grabbed Seths cup and filled it up at a water dispenser in the corner of the room
“I don’t organise your medication, Mimi. The psychiatrists do that.”
“Not one to take the blame, huh?” Mimi handed the cup to Seth “My mother always taught me to own up to the things I do.”
“Don’t talk about mum!” Seth cried “You killed her! You heartless monster!”
“Clearly I have a heart, brother, otherwise I would be dead.” Mum dropped her shoulders and exhaled “You’re not helping”
“Do you want me to cut him a cake? An apple maybe?” she put her thumb to her chin and looked deep in thought “A cake. Definitely a cake. Now, chocolate or raspberry swirl?”
“You are not going anywhere near a knife Mimi Howard” By now Seth was breathing normally and had stopped crying, his tears were dry on his face and he turned to glare at Mimi before standing up slowly and walking away. The other patients in the room had barely noticed the situation. A mental breakdown or a dangerous threat was no excitement to them, almost like something you could add into a daily schedule. My mother crossed her arms and glared at Mimi “I will put you in detention” mum scolded. It sounded so stupid really, like she was threatening a fifteen year old who was chewing gum in class, but it often worked on bad behaviour. Not being allowed to leave the wards for a few days usually taught them a lesson. Even Mimi, the most fearless and cold-hearted of the mental patients wouldn’t risk confinement.
Mimi was given two days of detention for threatening Seth. I honestly did find it funny that a twenty one year old woman was being forced to stay in her room with no outside social interaction. It sounded like such a high school punishment. I pictured her whining about how life wasn’t fair and how her parents had no idea what it was like to be a teenager. Neither Mimi nor Seth could drive, or were allowed to drive and so Leo Howard wasn’t extremely happy when he come to pick his son and daughter up, only to find out that only one would be accompanying him home. Along with Leo was his youngest and only sane child. Patrick.
“We really think it would be best if Mimi were to take up residence in the wards for a while.” Mum sighed after explaining the situation to them both. Seth, who had severe anxiety and was schizophrenic, had this suffocating false memory that Mimi killed their mother. In truth she committed suicide, but having a hormonal daughter full of mood swings, an unusual obsession with knives and no respect, sympathy or concern for others; well it wasn’t a hard-to-believe theory.
“For how long?” Leo Howard let out a deep exhausted sigh
“Well she can go home after serving detention and I, well we, will have a good chat to her psychiatrists.”
“About the appropriate action to take”
“Action for what? It’s not she has actually harmed anyone has she?”
“No. She hasn’t but-“
“Then what’s the massive problem?” Leo turned to Seth “Seth, how badly did Mimi scare you? What did she say?”
“She said she’d kill me if I told anyone she killed mum.” He slapped his mouth with his palm and his eyes widened, tears forming he cried “She’s going to kill me! Oh no I told! She’s going to kill me dad!”
“She’s just trying to scare you bro” Patrick sat next to Seth and put his hand on his older brothers’ shoulder “C’mon you know Mimi’s a bitch. Remember when you two tried to convince me the boogie man was real?” Seth smiled, which was a rare sight and I felt privileged to see it. “Yeah, I do.” At that moment a grumpy looking psychiatrist exited the elevator holding Mimi by the arm. She was now wearing the typical ward gear of white. A loose snow coloured tee-shirt with matching pyjama like pants.
“Hello daddy.” She smiled.
“You are in so much trouble young lady.” She took no notice of the comment and looked at Seth with a wide, intimidating smile “Hey brother, feeling better?”
“Like you care.”
“Mimi, why do you have to be so nasty?” Patrick asked
“I’m a sister, it’s my job.”
“Off to the wards now” the psychiatrist said “Anything else, Risa?”
“No that’s ok. Thankyou, Ida.” As they left I could hear Mimi annoying Ida with the fact that her patient now knew her first name.
I strolled the edges of the tennis court, kicking a large rock along with my school sandals. Patrick ran his fingers through his hair as he tagged along beside me.
“Does it suck?” I asked
“My hair? Nah it’s not bad.”
“No you goof. Living with them.” His smile faded quickly and he stopped stroking his head
“It doesn’t suck. They’re family; I love them, but-“he sighed “Mimi’s insensitive, Seth’s too sensitive. I don’t know, it doesn’t suck, family don’t suck, but it’s not great.”
“Hmm” I remember days at the Howards waking up in the middle of the night to Seth crying into his pillow because he had a bad dream. The man was scared of almost everything, I swear! It didn’t seem right to call him a man either because he reminded me of a little boy. Patrick seemed more like the big brother than the baby brother most of the time. He put his arms around my shoulders and smiled at me
“Maybe you could be my sister, even out the level of sanity a bit”
“Yes. Because a girl with two distinct personalities is totally sane.”
“At least you don’t break down in panic attacks or threaten cut off people’s hands and hang them on the washing line.”
“Oh dear who received that one?”
“My charming self of course. I stole the last of her chocolate.”
“You stole chocolate off a psycho?
“Crazy, I know. I have never made that mistake again.”
“Sometimes I think that having a four year old sister is a nightmare, but at least she’s not a sociopath.”
“You don’t live with her.”
Gracie is adorable, but mum didn’t think so when she came home to find two packets of chips on the lounge room floor next to an open DVD case.
“Gracie!” Gracie came running down the hall and skidded to halt when she saw us, tripping over the DVD cover, her dark brown curly hair falling around her
“That” mum smiled “is why we pick thing us, young lady” my baby sister was back up on her feet in seconds
“It wasn’t me it was daddy. I swear mummy I swear” I picked up the DVD and rolled my eyes at the cover “Yes Gracie Bear, because dad loves to watch Tinkerbell.”
“IT’S THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!”
Turns out dad had sat and watched Tinkerbell as it was one of the many obligations that came with having a young daughter.
“Because otherwise you’d never watch such a girly movie, would you dad?”
“Of course not” dad exclaimed with a cheeky smile “we’ll be watching terminator tomorrow.” Mum, who was stirring pasta looked over at dad with a “Don’t you dare” sort of look
“Just joking love. How was your day Honour?”
“It was a day”
“Excellent. Good to hear. I hate it when days pretend to be days but actually it is night time”. He tapped my nose over the table where we were waiting for mum to serve dinner. Dad thought he was really funny. He was always the one dressed as a clown at kid’s parties and making light of everything. Like me and Gracie, dad had dark brown hair (of course mine was no longer brown) and matching eyes. He was smaller than your average man and I think he felt a little embarrassed that his seventeen year old daughter was almost as tall as him. There’s a photo above the fireplace mantelpiece with the four of us at the renewal of my parents vows. My hair natural brown, wavy hair fell down my back in a half up do and I was wearing a knee length cotton dress with a black denim jacket. I was leaning into dad whose face was stretched with a massive grin. Mum looked stunning in strapless red dress that fell loosely around her. She was kissing dads’ cheek while holding Gracie, who was at the time about six months old and dressed in a pretty pink fairy dress, wings included. It was a gorgeous photo, one I loved to look at. I just wish I’d been there when the photo was taken. After kissing my family goodnight, even though mum still hesitated in fear of getting some sort of disease or cancer from me, and tucking and Gracie into bed, I crawled under my blankets and closed my eyes.
When I opened my eyes, I wasn't in my bed, I was drowning. My breath had left me and my mouth was filled with water and soaking wet pink hair. My vision was blurred and I had a jabbing pain in my neck. A corner of my mind recognised a loud banging and I heard voices shouting. I struggled, trying to remove myself from whatever water I was under and it took a few seconds before my shoulders were yanked backwards and I collapsed, hitting hard ground with my back and coughing violently.
"Honour! Honour!" a voice cried out "Shit, someone get a doctor quick!"
"What the f is happening in here?"
"Get a doctor, Mimi! Now!"
"Honour, can you hear me?" a bright light pierced me as my eyes struggled to make their way open. My eyelids fluttered, trying to get use to the blinding glow. My sight slowly came to me and I saw a man with glasses peering over my face with a torch. My face was itchy and my throat tight. When I became fully conscious the tightness in my throat worsened and I coughed to get rid of the water that was swimming about inside of me. The man with the glasses lowered the light and smiled at me "Can you sit up?" he asked. It took almost all the strength in my arms as I used my elbow to force myself slowly upright. I coughed again and after a few splutters I could feel more air coming through to my lungs.
"Where am I?" I asked, not recognising the white walled room filled only with a bed opposite a table and chair. I barely noticed the person sitting on the chair.
"You're in one of the psychiatric wards." glasses man informed me. He nodded over to the person sitting at the colourless table "Miss Howard here was kind enough to lend us her room for you to recover." I looked over at Mimi, who looked bored and tired.
"I'm in..the wards?" I let my eyes wander the constant no colour of the room and wondered how anyone could stay here, it looked stale and felt like a scientists lab "I'm not crazy, am I?"
"And I am?" at first Mimi looked genuinely offended, but her following smile proved that not to be
"Why were you here?" the doctor asked. In a friendly, concerned tone "I believe you are supposed to be at school right now." He sat at the end of the bed, pushing my legs to one side and kept smiling at me.
"I-I don't know" I stammered "Last thing I remember is I went to sleep in my bed?"
"And what day was that, Miss Grant?" Mimi moved her hands to a position as if she was writing down notes. Her right hand was flat like a notepad and her left hand was positioned to hold a pen..
"Miss Howard, I'd appreciate it if you could stay quiet and let me do my job"
"But I told you!" Mimi threw her hands up in the air in exasperation "She has some weird disorder where her body is taken over by aliens that erase her memory" she had a an excited but somewhat evil look o her face. The doctor shook his head but I could tell he was trying not to smile
"Aliens? Is that so?" he asked me
"She's referring to my Dissociative Identity Disorder"
"Ah, now that makes more sense." Mimi's excitement had faded "You ruin all the fun Honour", We ignored her. "How many other personalities do you have?" the doctor asked "Not including you."
"Ok. Tell me some things about him or her."
"Um, ok." I said "but, in all honesty, you're better off asking someone else, someone who's actually met her." We both turned to Mimi who let out an exasperated "fine".
Mimi described Emory in such detail that I could picture a whole separate person in my mind. She explained the Emory was about her age, very optimistic but with almost no sense of humour, extremely smart with a love for books, kind and compassionate and selfless. While many would view this as a lovely person, Mimi's tone suggested she found Emory rather boring. While we looked the same; same pink hair and brown eyes, we dressed completely different. Em was a bit more girly and liked to wear dresses and jewellery. She also hated the look of my nose piercing and always took it out. The easiest way to tell which one of us it is, is whether the nose stud is in.
"Sounds like a lovely person." the doctor said when Mimi had finished.
"More like boring. I prefer Honour." she winked at me
"Thanks." I wasn't sure whether to take Mimi liking me as a good or bad thing
"I still would like to know why you or Emory came to the wards when you are supposed to be at school." he went from friendly to serious mode in a split second "Does Emory usually wag school?"
"No. Well, not that I know of."
"What's the trigger?"
"Trigger? Oh, um, I don't know, it's almost always when I'm asleep." He nodded "That's interesting. Well there's not much we can do at the moment, I'm sure Mimi would like her ward back."
"Actually no I'd really like to leave my ward." We both ignored he again "Do you still feel like you have water in your lungs?"
"No I think it's all gone."
"Excellent, so we don't have to go to the hospital."
Walking through the halls of the Psychiatric Centre aka "The wards" always made me feel nervous. There were very few dangerous patients, and the ones that imposed a threat were under strict supervision and confinement, but it was always a little queasy coming here. Unlike Happy Horizons next door, there was little colour and far less life. Some patients were simply on detention like Mimi but others were either short term or long term residents. The walls were white When the Doctor and I reached reception, I noticed the nurse attending straight away, and the queasiness multiplied. She was a small lady with a short sleeved tee shirt that did nothing to hide the massive scar running down her arm. She smiled when she saw me and I forced a smile back, trying not to look at the damage on her arm, a damage I know for a fact was caused by a patient. She continued to watch me, her blue eyes darting from the computer screen to my face. Stop looking at me! I wanted to scream, but I stayed silent as the doctor signed me out.
Mum was angrily huffing and puffing on the phone when I walked into the DCU, accompanied by the ward doctor. She was straining herself from tears and her cheeks were going red.
"I don't know!" she shouted "That's why I'm calling! If I knew where she goddamn was, would I be calling you asking to help find her? No I wouldn't!" I recognised Anastasia, who was enjoying the drama as she sat in her wheelchair, reading a book and pretending not to listen to mum. Sitting cross legged next to her chair, was a blonde haired boy around my age who was scribbling something in a textbook. The boy looked somewhat familiar but i couldn't see his face and therefore I couldn't put a name to him. The doctor slowly walked over to my fuming mother and tapped her shoulder, she turned, ready to strike her interrupter but then her eyes widened when she saw me
"It's ok, she's here.". My mother hung up her phone and launched into an impressive speech, that at first confused me.
"Look , I may no be your mother but as long as you look like my daughter, you will live my daughters life and go to school on Monday through to Friday. Is that clear?" It took me a minute to realise she thought i was Emory.
"Mum, it's me. I am your daughter."
"Oh, well that speech was pointless then, what happened? where have you been? How long have you been you?" I didn't have to explain what happened in the wards bathroom as the doctor did it for me. He explained that one of the security patients had been released from her ward and attempted to drown me because she thought I was her abusive sister.
"She asked to go to the bathroom and was supposed to be accompanied by a nurse, but when Mimi got there, there was no nurse."
"Mimi?" she genuinely looked confused "Why is she-oh right I put her in detention, so many things so many mind." she checked her watch "Oh right Alec, it's time for speech therapy, Honour would you mind taking him?"
"Um ok, but uh, who's Alec?" I looked around and noticed Anastasia now had her hand on the head of the teenage boy, he looked up at her as she explained that it was time for his speech therapy. She then turned to me and smiled. "And this is Honour, she's Dr. Grants daughter." Alec didn't look at me, but he got to his feet and shuffled towards the door.
"Honour" mum said to me as i started to follow him "Be nice, Talk to him." That proved to be difficult. I walked slowly next to Alec who swayed nervously side to side, his sketch book against his legs. Just as we got to the therapy rooms, I realised why he looked familiar. He was the boy from the stairs whom I ran into the other day.
"Hey, I'm sorry for knocking you, you know, on the stairs, at school, on Monday." he didn't reply in anyway, no words, no nodding, not even looking at me. It was like he hadn't heard me.
"So you're Anastasia's nephew, right?" we entered speech therapy and I was welcomed by about six teenagers who all sat shy in plastic chairs along with Mr Whitney, who was sitting in the middle of the circle.
"Oh hi Honour, thank you for accompanying Alec. I saved a seat for you my man." Alec took an empty seat next to a small girl, who looked about eight. I proceeded to exit but my psychology teacher stopped me
"Why don't you stay?" he asked "Observe. Learn. This could be of real interest for someone whose interested in psychology." I stood for a second. I didn't really have anything to do, i was only at the centre to let mum know I was safe. I decided to take a chair from the side of the room and place between Mr Whitney and Alec.
"Ok group. Now that everyone is here, let's begin."
There was one thing I noticed very quickly whilst leaning back against the plastic chair, Alec and I were easily the oldest ones there. Except for Mr Whitney-or John as the kids called him. And when I say kids, I mean kids. The girl next to Alec wouldn't have been any older than eight. They all seemed to be between the ages of seven and ten.
"Oh right!" Mr Whitney cheered "Who wants to play frog hop?" he pulled out a number of plastic pockets from his bag, each had a name on it and what looked like large flash cards inside. The girl next to Alec stood up and walked toward Mr Whitney with a smile on her face
"Ah, I had a feeling you'd be the first Sherri" he gestured towards the bags "go on, find yours". Sherri, who was adorable in a blue dress and curly blonde hair kneeled down near the bags and ruffled trough them before picking one up that had her name and a butterfly sticker on it. She turned and gave it to Mr Whitney who opened the pocket and laid six cards in a straight line. The closest ne to me said "bunny" and another one looked to say "dad". Mr Whitney took Sherri's hand and led the little girl to stand just in front of me. She turned and smiled at me. I smiled back. When Mr Whitney let go of Sherri's hand, she quickly lowered herself into a crouch. I at first thought she must have fallen but she stayed in that position, facing the line of cards.
"When I say three, Sherri, you jump." Sherri turned and nodded her little head
"Ok. One. Two. Three." Sherri leaped onto the first card and then lowered her head to read it, in only a few seconds she turned to Mr Whitney and in a squeaky little voice she said excitedly "Bunny!"
"That's right! Good girl!" She quickly leaped to the next one and said "dad!" She did this three more times with three different words. Her speech to me seemed like it didn't have any problem whatsoever, until she reached the last card. She faltered there. I couldn't see what the word was but she did manage to get out a "k" sound. After about three minutes or so she gave up on her crouching position and fell to the floor on her bottom.
"It's ok Sherri." Mr Whitney walked over to help him up "You'll get it one day." Her cheery smile had disappeared and she looked glum as she sat back in her chair. The next few children who had their turns at frog hop weren't quite as eager as Sherri and were far less fluent. During the go of the fourth child i noticed Alec reaching under his seat for his scrapbook, Mr Whitney's pupils flew from the boy hopping to the boy next to me
"Honour, can you please take Alec's scrapbook for me?" confused pulled the book out of his grasp with some resistance. Alec looked suddenly angry but it faded quickly and began to watch his hands
"If he wants it back, he'll have to ask for it in some way, even if he gestures that's ok." I knew Alec wanted his scrapbook but to my surprise he never did ask for it, i watched him eyeing it every now and then but he never asked for it in any way. After the last frog hop round, Mr Whitney bought out one of the most basic picture books I'd ever seen. Each child had a turn at reading out loud and most did so quite well. There were struggles of course but the only one who didn't speak at all was Alec. When Mr Whitney gave permission, all the children stood up and left except for Alec, who stood but stayed put. Mr Whitney smiled at him "Would you like you scrap book?" I was holding the book in my arms and started to give it to him but Mr Whitney held out his hand in a stop motion
"Can you ask for it?" he said. We stood there for a few minutes as Alec would look around the room but mostly at the book in my arms "Come on mate, you can do it. Just point." Another minute of a silence form Alec and encouraging smile from Mr Whitney passed before Alec looked at me and then his shoes, he raised his right hand with his pointer finger aimed at the sketchbook
"Good job, kiddo. You can give him the book now." I smiled at Alec and placed the book in his hand. He barely looked at me for a second before escaping out the door.
Mum had to work late at the centre which meant an unpleasant bus ride for me and Gracie. As usual the interior stunk of body odour and was packed to the full. There was a silver lining, however. Kace, her bare feet brushing the floors surface and still dressed in the blue and white uniform smiled when she saw me and offered for Gracie to sit on her lap. At first Gracie was uncertain as Kace was a stranger but I assured her she was in safe hands
"You'll stay here, right?"
"Of course" I smiled reaching up to one of the over hangers. Kace had one her arms around Gracie's stomach for support and her phone was resting in her other hand, the glow bright on her face. Her friendly smile had faded.
"You ok?" I asked
"Yeah, yeah." she smiled. Something deep inside of me told me she was lying but I couldn't picture carefree shoeless Kace Taylor feeling anything unpleasant. She was one of the most uplifting people I knew. I chose not to question her further and simply stayed quiet for the rest of the bus ride. But that was the minute that an uneasiness started to settle over me.
I lay in bed awake that night, Gracie curled up by my side in cotton pink pyjamas, her brown hair in a tangled mess. My mind was full of racing thoughts . From the water clogging up my throat, to Alec and his troubled anti-social behaviour to the vanishing smile on Kace's usually cheery face. I had no idea why Emory was in the wards and what was even more unsettling was that she hadn't written anything in the journal, the last paragraph was in black writing and about the incidence between Mimi and Seth. I heard the front door open and the sound of heavy footsteps across the wooden floorboards, the sound was muffled when they hit carpet, most likely entering Gracie's room. I should have known the footsteps belonged to my father, home from whatever meetings he'd had today, but I didn't and so I cowered in my bed, cocooning Gracie and myself in the doona cover. My heart began to race and Gracie suddenly opened her eyes
"Shush" my dad whispered as he held his hand out for Gracie "Come here, back to your own bed, but don't wake your sister up"
"She's already aw-"
"I said quiet Gracie". My little sisters legs kicked me multiple times as my father lifted her into his arms, he didn't check to see if I was awake, just left the room and shut the door. It was then that I saw 12:13 in bright red numbers on my alarm system and couldn't help but think that this was an extra late night for dad.
I couldn't understand why little kids were bubbly and live at eight o'clock in the morning. By ten thirty I was still stretched out on my double mattress living in a strange dream. I was scared, trapped and on the verge of tears. As I scanned the darkness, I heard a creak and a bright light pierced my vision, forcing me to hold my hands up to shield my eyes. My wrists were yanked and squeezed together in a tight grip as my sore body was pulled out of the gloomy space, which I soon realised was the dark interior of a closet. I was now on my backside on the carpet of a long hallway with two pairs of long legs on either side of me. I stayed curled up in a ball feeling like I needed to cry with no ability to shed tears. I felt in some ways, inhuman, with no emotion to feel. It was like one second I was frightened and the next minute I was numb. Nothing really happened for a while, i just lay there focused on the pairs o legs on either side of me.
"Honour! Get up!" an angry voice spat "Get up!" and then they kicked me, and then it went black.
"Honour! Breakfast!" Gracie burst through my door and plummeted onto my half conscious body "Breakfast! Breakfast!"
"Why do I have to have breakfast now?" mum had given up at getting me up early in the morning and it wasn't unusual for me to stumble into the kitchen at two o'clock in the afternoon.
"We have guests!" she said excitedly "Anna and Alex are here"
"Anna and Alex?"
"Yeah! Yeah!" and just like that she was gone again.
"Kids" I chucked off my doona and quickly swapped my pyjama pants for clean jeans before swiftly brushing my hair. It would have been nice if mum had warned be about guests.
"And she's up!" dad smiled when he saw me before realising he'd lost focus on his current pancake flip and someone's breakfast had now ended up on the floor.
"You know if you're going to try and show off that you should succeed at your endeavour unless you want to expose yourself to public humiliation"
"Honour" dad said, ignoring my comment "say hi to our guests"
"Hello Honour". I turned to see Anastasia in her wheelchair with her hair in a nice braid and her bright smiled I'd come to recognise.
"Good morning" I turned back to dad and gave him a quizzical look
"Your mother is taking Anastasia out for brunch and Alec is going o stay here while they are out"
"Not just me" Anastasia corrected "There's going to be a couple of the DCU clients there. Your mother is such a lovely woman."
"Where is mum?"
"Here! Here!" she came running out of the lounge room, stuffing her phone in her bag "Ok, ok I think I'm ready to go, ready Anna?" she kissed dad on the cheek "Gracie's showing off her latest art to Alec and she wanted me to see."
"Wait Alec is like, communicating with Gracie?" I couldn't help but ask
"He feels most comfortable-" Anastasia started but interrupted herself "well less uncomfortable around younger children"
"Go say hi!" mum said before planting her lips among my cheek "Ok let's go! Let's go!" and in one second she was pushing Anastasia out the door. Dad held a plate of pancakes to me "take these out to the lounge room and you three can share, Alec may have had breakfast but it's still nice to share". I slowly went into the lounge room with the pancake stack, trying carefully to balance the plate so it wouldn't fall and saw Gracie cross legged with some papers sprawled out in front of her and Alec on his stomach and propped up on his elbows. I thought he must be hot wearing jeans in summer but he didn't seem bothered at all
"Pancakes!!" Gracie jumped up and stole the plate of me "Where's the stuff to put on it?" her face went from excited to miserable in one second
"why don't you go get some toppings from dad?"
"Ok!" and like that she was out of the room. Alec either hadn't noticed me or was ignoring me, he was looking at Gracie's drawings and moving them around with his right hand and hadn't looked up once.
"Hey Alec" I sat opposite him and reached out for a drawing he had his hand, a drawing of a purple elephant. Don't get me wrong, it didn't look realistic or anything but I have to admit my sister has artistic talent way beyond her four years. When I took the picture from Alec his face went from calm to obviously sad and he withdrew his hand looked down at his arms
"I'm sorry" I said quietly "I just wanted to look, here you have-"
"You upset Alex!" Gracie came stomping up next to me and placed some jam, cream and maple syrup next to the plate of pancakes then her hands went straight for her hips "don't be a bully, Honour!"
"I didn't mean to" I pushed the picture back to Alec, instantly feeling guilty like I'd upset a young child instead of a seventeen year old boy "and it's Alec, not Alex"
"Are you ok Alec?" Gracie poked his arm and he turned his head to look at her
"Did you like my pictures?" she continued . To my surprise, he nodded, not straight away but he nodded, still looking down and not at us.
"Do you want to look at some more of Gracie's pictures?" I slid down to my belly so I could look up at his face, at first he seemed to resist eye contact but it was long before he looked at me
"Did he understand you?" Gracie's cute little voice broke my concentration on Alec
"I-I don't know" so I asked again, holding up a picture that was close to my hip. He took it from me and then placed it in front of him on the ground, continuing to look at it for a whole two minutes or more.
"You". It took me a few seconds before realising that the picture I'd barely looked at was a rough but kind of accurate drawing of me. A sort of wonky slim figure with long pink hair and deep dark brown eyes."I" was in my school clothes with my dark red back pack on my shoulders and my arms crossed over my school dress with the checkers quite defined. Her talents really did exceed the expectations of a four year old It wasn't until I looked up from the paper and saw Gracie's expression of surprise that my bran registered that Alec had spoken.
Of course, bubbly and excited Gracie wanted to be the one to tell Anastasia that her mute nephew had spoken. I couldn't help but feel a little uplifted myself, I wanted to laugh when Gracie ran into the kitchen, hand in hand with Alec, who was much, much taller than her, just as mum and Anastasia came in an hour and a half after our miracle moment.
"No shouting inside, Gracie" mum said sternly, looking a little disheartened that her daughter wasn't excited to see her
"How was brunch darling?" dad greeted mum more gratefully, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and kissing her on the cheek.
"Extravagant. Now what's all the excitement about? Honour's smiling and Gracie is shouting."
"I believe Gracie called dibs on this one"
"Oh! I am too excited!" Anastasia clapped her hands "Ok little darling what is it you want to tell me?"
"Alec talked! Alec talked!"
"Really?" both mum and Ana looked at each other, then Gracie, then Alec, then me.
"Like a sentence?" mum asked me
"No, just one word. "you." but, that's still an improvement, right? Hasn't he never spoken before?"
"He has" Anastasia admitted, but before the excitement died down too much she added "but not to anyone outside of family!" she smiled specifically at me "He must like you."
Sundays were always boring in my household, unless it was a festive day shared by all of Crystal Creek or someone's birthday. Otherwise it involved homework, chit chat, household chores and backyard work if needed. Gracie and I would usually lounge about watching a movie we've seen a bazillion times. I'd grown tired of kids films as I was sick of their predictable nature but my preferred entertainment was not-according to my mother- reasonably suited for kids. To my fortune, Gracie had pleaded for permission to go and have a "play" with her friend Aria. This wish was granted and I had free television rights. Mum and dad were going grocery shopping and so they offered to take her but I had to walk down at four o'clock to pick her up.
"I have to go supervise Mimi's release from detention, too." mum did her usual kiss on the forehead and was off, pulling dad by the hand behind her. I found it a little odd, my parents. So many families had gone through divorces or were in a whirlwind of constant bickering but my parents seemed to still be utterly in love. They'd been high school sweethearts and bonded through a group project in their social studies class. You know, the realistic fantasy every adolescent girl dreams of making real. In all honestly, it's a little easier for all of us living in Crystal Creek to stay with one person. We are such a small and tight community that we know almost everyone, which means we're unlikely to meet someone new who will up the qualities of the person you're already with. I curled up on the couch and had the air conditioner on low because high was too noisy. The movie I watched was a high school comedy about an attractive basketball player who, to everyone's surprise comes out of the closet. The first time I had watched this movie I had felt guilty for being surprised as I hated stereotypical judgements. But he was extremely opposite from the typical gay character. Instead of a high pitched voice, love for fashion and obsession with untalented boy bands, he was a muscled up star athlete who listened to AC/DC and played basketball. He even had a girlfriend. The typical blonde with the "I'm so freaking perfect" attitude. After the movie finished I only had half an hour until four so I got changed into something that was "publically appropriate". ( so in other words, not my PJs). Walking out into the Summer afternoon sun left me feeling dizzy in an instant, I hadn't realised that the AC was on inside. I was wearing a loose tee shirt and denim shorts which made much of my skin vulnerable to the UV exposure that was likely to result in a lovely and fresh sunburn. Still, my sun smart concern had walked me halfway down my street and I was too lazy to walk back to the house and apply sunscreen. Gracie's friends house wasn't far, it was near the high school, close to the cemetery and Crystal Creek Gardens-a stretch of freshly mowed lawns with various gardens, barbecue sites, a playground and the nicest area of the creek for swimming. As I came near the cemetery and the gardens I was surprised to hear a loud beeping. I ignored the beeping and pushed open the gate to the cemetery-just one quick visit. Ivy's headstone was where it always had been, once again decorated with various flora. I wondered how often the Summers came down here; Karolyn Summers with her motherly smile and endless collection of teddy bears and Jake, Ivy's brother who I'd had an enormous crush on as a child. I don't really see the anymore as they-unsurprisingly yet amazingly- left Crystal Creek. Distraught had driven them away and at the time I was too young to find their sudden movement unusual, but growing up and learning the systems-I did find it odd. My dad found it easy to go in and out of the neighbourhood because it was his job as the Crystal Creek representative on the District Council but other than that it was supposedly "a real nightmare" as some people joke. I don't know exactly what this "real nightmare" involved and I'm sure it was an exaggeration. As I rested by the gravestone with my legs crossed and the sun burning at my skin, I didn't even notice my phone vibrating against my skin. I did however hear the crinkle of leaves nearby, I quickly looked up to see where the sound came from but there was no one in sight. I assumed it must have belonged to a bird until I heard more leaf crunching noises. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a pair of black and white runners head towards me. In a panic, I jumped up quickly and as the approaching stranger was coming from where I had entered the cemetery, I had to sprint the other way. My heart bet rapidly in my chest and my eyes were tearing up, Please don't hurt me! I wanted to scream. My feet bet hard against the ground and my legs ached from running so fast. When I reached the east side gate I pushed it open with shaking hands and stumbled out onto the road where I turned and flew towards the comfort of the gardens that were often packed with picnickers and laughing children. This time it wasn't. I stopped dead in my tracks as I remembered the beeping and laid my eyes on a massive yellow truck destroying the beloved gardens. I suddenly felt someone come up behind me, instinct led me to turn around and knee them in the sensitive area, pushing them down to the ground. The stranger struggled underneath for a few seconds then started crying
"No!" he pushed me up "No!" I suddenly looked down in to familiar hazel eyes...
"Alec!" I sat up abruptly and realised I was sitting on something far softer than the path I was on a second ago. My legs were spread in front over the scratchy blanket that rested over our lounge room couch, my feet had kicked the blanket so that it drooped down the floor and I faintly became aware of my phone buzzing on the arm of the couch, right next to where my head had been. I looked up at Alec who was standing over me in a red hooded tee shirt and black shorts. His blonde hair was pulled back with a bandana.
"Alec...what...what are you doing here?" I reached out for my buzzing phone and realised it was 4:32. Shit. I also had 4 missed calls from mum. Completely forgetting about the silent teenage boy in my lounge room I rushed to my drawer and changed into shorts and a tee, not even caring if I looked at all stylish. I was grateful when I saw Alec by the front door as I had forgotten to shut my bedroom door and well, most teenage boys I knew would have taken advantage of that to get a sneak peek.
"You can explain to me...well somehow why you're here but I'm late picking my sister up." He followed me down the driveway and out onto the street. My phone vibrated in my pocket and I saw mums name on the screen.
"Mum, I'm sorry" I apologised quickly "I fell asleep..."
"It's ok" mum said sternly "Right now we have other things we need to worry about."
"Like the fact that Alec is missing and Ana is frantic."
"Well that I can resolve as he is here with me" I flipped my head around just to make sure he was following me and he was, his hood covering his blonde hair and his long legs walking quickly to catch up with my pace.
"With you? What? Ok, explain later. The other thing is about the Hendersons." I winced at the name of Ivy's murderers "What...about...them?" I stopped dead in my tracks and Alec walked out in front of me and turned, raising his eyebrows at me. Mum didn't answer straight away but I did hear her take a deep breath.
"They're, they're being released Honour."
My legs gave way and I barely noticed the arms wrapping around my waist.
Images of a young girl with long shiny red hair played like a movie in my mind, a small frame with porcelain skin, covered with a floral dress and white cardigan. I was on the bus with Ivy, Patrick, Jake, Mimi and Seth. As usual it was crowded. The younger of us; Ivy, Pat and me were eight year old children jumping up and down on the crowded bus because it was full and there was nowhere for us to sit. Seth had joined in to and was tackling his brother. No schizophrenia. No anxiety. Just a normal preteen boy in school uniform with a bright big smile on his face. I watched as in slow motion a blonde haired girl pushed herself between the wrestling brothers
"Cut it out you two" she asserted sharply. I barely recognised her. The girl I knew was taller with shoulder length blonde hair and wore either a devilish grin or an angry frown. This girl was young, about fourteen and was wearing a chequered high school dress. Her hair wasn't cut to her shoulders but in a long braid over her right shoulder
"Go away Amelia!" Patrick laughed and it felt weird watching her not react to the use of her full name. These days if you dared call her Amelia-a name she had shared with her mother-she'd cut your throat. Ivy and I were arguing about whether I had a crush on Jake or not. I did. I had a huge crush on him but I wasn't willing to let her win an argument. Ever since Ivy had died and Jake left town, I never really had an interest in boys, I've never been worried about relationships or whether guys liked me but at such a young age I thought I was madly in love. I couldn't help but smile at my blushing cheeks as Ivy's teasing continued. The bus was slowing as it reached the main street. Standing hand in hand was the most normal looking couple. wearing a short sleeved blouse and denim skirt. The man was tall and in a loose tee shirt and shorts with his arm around his partner and the woman had long dark hair in a plait. They were talking quietly, the bus halted at the bus stop, and the memory vanished.
I opened my water soaked eyes and coughed as I felt liquid run down my throat. Blinking droplets out of my eyelashes, gasping for air and shivering as coldness washed over me. As my vision and other senses came back to me I became aware of the scratching of grass on my legs and when my vision finally cleared I looked up at familiar eyes. Alec was kneeling by my head and poking at my shoulder, still wearing the red hoodie he had been when he came to my house.
"Alec," a slow womanly voice came out of nowhere "why don't you go find something else to do for a few minutes while we talk to Honour". I pushed myself up on my elbows and smiled at Alec who slowly stood up and walked out of my sight, pulling his hood over his head so that I could barely see his long blonde hair that was tucked behind ears.
"What happened?" I asked my mother as she coaxed me up with her hand on my back.
"We're not entirely sure, honey" she said quietly "I think you freaked out and went into shock. I do know you scared the wits out of Alec. He was in a fit when we found you two."
"Well, Alec and Emily" Anastasia said
"Emory." mum corrected "Which freaked Alec out even more because he's never met Emory before and she's never met him."
"Ok," I tried to wrap my head around the situation "Next question. What's with the need to drown me?" the Summer heat had dried up most of the water but I still felt little droplets run down my hair, neck and shoulders
"We finally figured out the trigger!" mums face suddenly went from serious to excited "It's water! Emory's afraid of water!"
"Huh? How did you know that?"
"The last time you switched back was at the wards where you were having your head dunked in the sink," mum chirped "which we still have to order a punishment for, but anyway I remember other times such as going swimming in the river or at the pools and you have suddenly changed back to you. Emory mustn't like water for some reason."
"What about showers?" I often change to Emory in my sleep which means that she's the one who gets up and goes to school a lot of the time which means she must have showers. Unless she couldn't care less about hygiene.
"Maybe showers are different? You're right though that is a little odd"
"You can't drown in showers" Anastasia suggested out of nowhere. I had forgotten she was there. She hunched over in her wheelchair, her blonde hair slipping over her shoulders "perhaps she is afraid of drowning."
"How can she have a fear?" I asked "She's not even a person, she's just another me."
"She is a character, Honour." replied Ana "another personality with likes, dislikes, quirks, hobbies and most certainly fears. She dresses a different way, talks a different way, sees the world in a different way-even though she is looking through the same eyes as you." The crippled lady I knew, the one who always wore a smile and never raised or lowered her voice in anger had suddenly appeared wise and judgemental
"I didn't mean to offend anyone" I stammered, surprised at the change in Anastasia's facial expression and tone of voice.
"You didn't. It's ok love. My younger sister had DID, whether she still does I'm not entirely sure."
"You have a sister?" but then a thought struck me "Alec's mum?"
"Yep. My baby sister. Her name's Leila."
"How come Alec doesn't live with her?" mum frowned at me as if I was asking too many questions but Ana didn't seem phased
"Let's just say Leila and her husband aren't exactly fit to look after any of their healthy children, let alone one with a serious intellectual disorder."
"Alec has siblings?" this time it was mum who spoke up with clear surprise in her voice "I thought he was an only child." Anastasia shook her head "No, Alec has two sisters and a brother. He's the second youngest."
"So where are the others then?" mum had stopped glaring at me as she was just as curious now to the unheard tale of the Shepherd family.
"With my parents. They live in another town-in the city actually, it's called Addison. I grew up there."
"So did I!" mum exclaimed "I used to play chicken on the Addison bridge with my friends."
"And...you guys didn't know each other?"
"Addison, or really any other town beyond the tunnel isn't like Crystal Creek," Ana started "It's more populated and it's hard to meet everyone."
"Think about it, "mum said "I know we are a tight community here, but I'm certain you'll find faces you don't recognise, even our population is growing."
"Huh" I couldn't really think of anyone I didn't know but I guess it wouldn't make sense if I could. I looked over mum's shoulder at Alec, who was cradling sticks into his arms
"Sticks?" I gave Ana a quizzical look
"Sticks? Oh Alec!" she smiled at her nephew "He just has some different behaiours, that's all. You should see the stuff in his bedroom!"
"Honour, autistic children..."
"He's not a child." Ana interrupted my mother "'He's 18 in a over a week actually, then he'll be an adult. He may have Autism but he's no more a child than any boy his age." Alec slowly started walking over towards us and looked longingly back and forth at mum and Ana as if asking for permission to return to us.
"Yes, you can come over now Alec." mum called. Alec looked at Ana and she waved him over. He slowly strolled back to us and sat down by Ana where he laid his collection next to her
"You'll be washing them before you bring them in the house, Alec Shepherd." she said, scratching his head over his hoodie. He leant forward and handed me one of his sticks, it was long and smooth with a long slit down the side that didn't quite reach the end.
"Ah, thanks" I smiled at him
"You wilcom" he smiled back. You wilcom was close enough for me
"Wel-come" Patrick leant forward with his elbows on his knees and white cards laid out in front of him, each had black words printed on both sides. I failed at suppressing a smile as my eyes darted back and forth from my journal to Alec and Patrick, sitting opposite each other as Patrick practiced Alec's speech cards with him. Alec didn't seem interested and a he looked a little uncomfortable, probably because the Monday back after the weekend was the first time I had introduced them and that was only two days ago, so to Alec ,Patrick was still a stranger. It was lunchtime and the four of us- including Kace, lying with her head on my stomach and her bare feet on a beanbag- were lounging about in the library with open textbooks and spread out speech cards.
"Honour, help me" Patrick cocked his head, he'd volunteered to do Alec's speech practice but it was clear he was having difficulties
"Alec" he didn't respond "Alec, Alec, Alec, Alec" my voice went heightened I began to reach over and poke him, which was proven tricky with Kace lying on me, finally he turned and raised his blonde eyebrows at me
"Say ONE more word for Patrick and I'll give you back your scrapbook" I pulled it out from behind my back and waved it around to tempt him.
"Ok then" Patrick turned back to Alec "Wel-come" he held up the card just like I had held up the scrapbook without the waving. No response from Alec.
"Try a simpler one, Pat." Kace suggested, she had the back of her head to the boys and her eyes on her music text but she propped herself up on her elbow to watch them. Patrick found a card that read "Book" and showed it to Alec, also pronouncing the word. Alec sighed and glanced at me, he was clearly done practicing.
"Last one" I said and he looked back at Pat
"Come on mate, you can do it." Patrick was trying to be encouraging but he sounded just as tired as Alec looked. Summer was draining all of us and the library's cheap AC could only do so much.
"That's it! Come on Mate!"
"Boo..." and it was at that moment that the fire alarm went off.
The teachers were yelling for us to exit the building in an orderly fashion but mind you that wasn't really working. There was panic everywhere. Everyone was sent out to the basketball courts and told to sit in their year levels which wasn't a big plus for us as Kace, Pat and I were in year 11 but Alec was in year 12. I watched out of the corner of my eye as the year 12 form leader seated Alec with the rest of his year, right next to Cole. Poor boy. He searched the crowd and eventually we made eye contact, I gave him a small smile before looking to the front. It took at least ten minutes for everyone to be quieted down and it wasn't until then that I noticed the absence of smoke.
"Crystal Creek Secondary!" Mrs Kroll-also known as Kroll the troll- bellowed into the unnecessary microphone
"It has grabbed my attention, as it may have yours, that there is no present fire. So, the question must be asked, why did the fire alarm ring?" she walked back and forth along the front of the court, her hands waving back and forth in gestures "Why? Why is that?" The teachers were lined up against the fences and the first face I noticed was Mr Whitney, who had his arms crossed and a serious frown on his face. It was then that a police officer walk down the court to Kroll the troll. He looked sharp with a navy blue uniform and polished black boots. He walked with his hands behind his back and a spectacular posture.
"This," Kroll the troll shouted "is officer Robinson from Diamond city and he will find the culprits behind this selfish and punishable act."
"I already have suspects, Principal Kroll" the officer stared at the crowd "Could I please ask Cole Taylor, Angelo Patterson and Alec Shepherd to come up here." I watched, not surprised as Cole and his best mate Angelo proudly walked up to the officer. Alec, also unsurprisingly stayed in his seat.
"Alec honey, you have to go up to the nice officer" I could hear irritation in her voice but I honestly didn't think it was at Alec. I knew Alec would hate to have everyone's eyes on him and when I turned around the teacher was leading him down the far side. Alec joined Cole and Angelo at the front. Unlike Cole and Angelo he kept looking at his feet.
"Do you have something to hide?" Kroll the troll tried to look Alec in the eyes, which wasn't hard as she was small and he was tall. I gritted my teeth, how dare they blame such an innocent boy?
"He's just shy!" Kace yelled out angrily "Don't patronise him!"
"Whoever that was can have an after school detention all week!" the troll shouted into the crowd. Two days and Kace and Patrick were already treating Alec like a long time friend.
"Do you want to speak with anymore students Officer Robinson?"
"Then everyone is dismissed!"
"I'm so happy you three are here!" Anastasia beamed at Kace, Patrick and me "I'm so happy he has made friends, it's been really hard for him in the past." We were all seated at the Crystal Creek Police station where Angelo was currently being questioned. Alec would be after him.
"I'm sorry about your brother to, Miss Taylor"
"Oh don't be" Kace sighed "This is a common thing with him and I couldn't care less, I'm more worried about Alec."
"No offence Kace, but I think Cole could use a bit of time in Juvi." Patrick said
"I couldn't agree more." A few minutes later a police woman with blonde hair in a bun came to collect Ana. Even though it was only a couple of days until Alec was officially an adult, he still was classed as a minor and needed an adult present during interrogation.
"So Honour" Kace said slowly "I heard...that Ivy's killers were getting released."
"WHAT!" Patrick stood up in an instant "They were supposed to get twenty years! What the hell!"
"Yeah, mum told me" I sighed "I don't understand"
"It's still being considered" the police man at the desk suddenly said out of nowhere "If it happens you're looking at, at least another month before it does"
"It should be ten more years" I growled, knowing I was pushing the line with authority. I was surprised when he replied with "I completely agree."
"So why is it happening?" Patrick demanded
"Even if I knew, which I don't as I don't have that authority, It would be classified and I couldn't tell you."
"I think the family and friends of the victim have every right to know!" I spat
"Honour, Patrick calm down" Kace said quietly "We're here for Alec, nothing else." I relaxed in my chair and focused on Alec. His blonde hair, his kind hazel eyes, "you" the first word he ever said to me, the first time i met him on the stairs and the stick that was sitting in my desk at home.
"Honour," Kace queried "why are you smiling?"
A bored police officer bought Anastasia and Alec back out to the foyer, thanked them for their patience and apologised for the misjudgement.
"Alec! Look, your friends came to see you!" Alec looked at us with a surprised expression and stopped walking. I couldn't tell whether he was happy to see us or uncomfortable with the number of us here. Probably both.
"Hey Alec" Kace waved "I see you were proven innocent, and Cole?"
"Cole and Angelo were proven guilty" Anastasia said apologetically to Kace, not like Kace cared.
"Any Idea why Alec was a suspect?" I asked
"I honestly don't know" Anastasia sighed, but I could tell she was lying. I couldn't help but feel a sort of coldness around the Shepherds lately. Like there was a deception that I had somehow missed. A little lie behind Anastasia's warm smile and ALec's hazel eyes.
"Alec, how would you like for your friends to come over for dinner on your birthday?" Ana reached up and placed her hand over her nephews, his hand was rested on the handles of her wheelchair.
"That'd be cool!" Kace jumped in "I could make you a wicked cake!" Alec wasn't very responsive and was too busy watching his feet tapping against the floor
"Honey, your birthday? Would you like Patrick, Honour and Kasey there?"
"Kay" he finally said
"Kay as in Ok?"
"No, Kay!" Anastasia looked confused "What do you mean, honey?" I could see the frustration set in for Alec. It must be hard for him, not being able to communicate well and understanding himself while others don't understand. I, like everyone else tried to rack my brain and discover what he was trying to tell us, it took barely a minute before it hit me.
"Kace! Alec did you mean Kace?" I asked pointing to Kace who was getting told off by a police officer for not wearing shoes in the building
"Yes" he looked relieved
"What about me?" Kace smiled at Alec
"Anastasia called you Kasey, I think Alec was correcting her".
"Oh!" Anastasia laughed "Sorry honey" she apologised to Kace. In a few seconds the room was full of laughter as we fell into a fit of giggles, except for Alec who lowered his head
"Oh honey, we're not laughing at you!" Anastasia comforted him "Well, we kind of are but that's ok. Now would you like your friends over for dinner on your birthday?"
"Yes." he said.
Thursday afternoon I had psychology last and tried not to melt in the heat as Mr Whitney went on about the visual perception-by far the most boring psychology subject. I remember deciding to take psych as a class because I wanted to learn more about illnesses so I could understand me and quite a few of the people around me, not because I wanted to learn the process in how we see. How is it that my mind changes between two different people? Why is it that Mimi has little to no empathy? How is it that Seth can see and hear things we can't? Why is Alec comfortable around children but not people he's own age? It was hard to think that the vulnerable childlike boy I know would be an adult tomorrow. No longer a boy but a young man. It just didn't fit.
"Miss Grant" Mr Whitney looked at me with mocking eyes "feel more like daydreaming than learning do we?"
"No" I answered casually
"Do you find this subject boring?"
"Uh-yeah a bit i guess." and just then the bell rang.
"Honour, can you please stay? Everyone else enjoy your Friday and you're weekend. I cannot wait to hear you're tragic love stories about how the super nice guy you've known for five minutes and you fell in complete love with-stole your clothes and your comic book collection."
"Girls don't read comic books" I tell Mr Whitney as I pulled up a chair by his desk
"Oh, I was talking to the guys" he smiled "and girls can do whatever they want. Except drive."
I didn't know where to go from there so I just decided to question my presence after the home bell.
"Sir I promise I was paying attention"
"You weren't, but that's not what I wanted you for," he said "I want you to come to t therapy tomorrow." Speech therapy was an odd place to be, with all the children being barely older than Gracie. I remember feeling like a giant, with only Alec and Mr Whitney to make me no feel like a giant. It was awkward and slightly uncomfortable.
"Why, may I ask?" I queried unsurely
"I think you have a good affect on Alec, I think you uh-bring him out of his shell a bit." his glasses had fallen to his nose and he was pushing them back up as he leant back in his chair, looking a lot more comfortable in this conversation than I was. Do I? Do I bring Alec out of his shell? I didn't think so.
"I heard he's spoken to you"
"Barely-" Mr Whitney raised his hand as if to interrupt me
"Barely is more than what many, including myself have achieved"
"I don't see it as an achievement. I didn't do anything, I think"
" So see it as a compliment. Evidence to your approachable , gentle personality." I hesitated. Was I approachable? I hardly see that. Maybe I was no longer Identified as one of the junkies but I reckon people still avoided me. I thought of Nelly who seemed uncomfortable whenever she was in my presence. But then again she may be like that with everyone.
"You think he'll speak at therapy if I'm there?"
"I don't know if he will speak, but he may respond, smile even. I'm looking for any sign of communication, recognition, Things it has taken people years to get out of Alec that you achieved in one day." I thought if Saturday and hearing Alec speak for the first time. I had met him the day before in the DCU, the day I went to therapy.
"Do you think I'm the only reason?" I asked
"No" he admitted "I think he's new environment and living arrangements have been good for him as well. I'd like to say my therapy would have something to do with it, but I'm not sure."
"Ok" I finally said "I'll go"
"I'm glad." I got up and turned to leave but one last question crossed my mind "Mr Whitney?"
"What were Alec's living arrangements before he came to Crystal Creek?"
"I don't know, exactly" he replied quietly "but less pleasant than they are now."
"A birthday cake?" Emory leant over the kitchen bench to peer at Risa's work. Admiring the chocolate layers decorated with blue frosting that said "Happy 18th"
"We have a birthday dinner tonight," Risa smiled "Which I expect Honour to be present for"
"I guess I can make sure of that. Whose birthday?"
"Alec, a friend of Honour's and my friend's nephew. You met him the other day."
"Ah, the blonde one-who was eerily quiet?"
Emory moved around the bench to the sink where she began to do the dishes. She tried her best to do things that made the Grant's and others like her, so they wouldn't be as desperate to get rid of her as they were for Lexi. Even watching the water fill up the sink made Emory a bit nauseas, the fear of drowning had been implanted in her mind as long as she could remember.
"You are going to school today aren't you?" Risa pleaded
"Of course" Emory didn't take her eyes off the sink "Any assignments or school drama I should know about?"
"Not that I know of, check your Journal though, just in case. Can't be outdated on high school drama." Risa smiled and it was that smile that comforted Emory and helped to remove the tension she felt. She quickly ran upstairs to change into a school collar shirt and one of the chequered skirts. I'm 23, she thought. I'm 23 and I still go to high school.
"Happy birthday!" Patrick let a party popper go wild and spray all over Alec's hair and locker. The blonde haired boy swiped away the streamers looking half annoyed and half happy.
"Look whose hear!" Kace waved at Emory as she walked into the senior school locker area "You missed the party"
"Oh I saw it" she joined Honour's friends with a smile
"What no excitement? No birthday hug?" Kace was way more excited than anyone else, including the birthday boy
"I don't know if Emory actually knows Alec" Patrick, who could easily identify the difference between his best friend and her alter ego, said
"Sorry, Kace." Alec was clearly confused as he kept looking from Patrick to Honour
"I'm Emory." the young woman smiled at Alec "We met once before, I'm Honour's alter ego, I guess. Happy birthday." she held out her hand to shake, but was left with no response from Alec, who still looked confused and a little upset.
"If you don't switch by the end of school I'm dunking your head in the sink," Patrick grinned leaning against the locker "Anastasia wants HONOUR at Alec's birthday party. Wow that sounds really mean, I'm sorry Em."
"It's not a party," Kace corrected "It's a dinner."
"Same thing." It was then that the bell went and Emory still had Honour's backpack on her shoulders
"You've got English first, Em." Kace said "We'll meet you at recess."
"Miss Grant." Mrs Fraser, the assistant principal and Honour's English teacher threw out her arm to halt Emory in her tracks as she entered the classroom "I need a word with you about Daniella Hayes."
"I'm sorry, who?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Grant!" Emory didn't mind may of Honour's teachers but Fraser was the worst. For one she could never tell the difference between Honour and Emory, she also knew how to be one shit strict and scary woman.
"Miss this is Emory, I do not know who Daniella Hayes is, I don't know everyone Honour does."
"You've never spoken to Daniella?"
"Never." And it was true, Emory had never heard the name before.
"Sit down then, Emory," Emory took a seat at the back, next to a scruffy looking boy with horrible acne and greasy hair
"Honour's never told you about Nelly?" he asked surprised
"Daniella, those who speak to her call her Nelly."
"You know her?"
"She's my girlfriend."
"Then do you know why the assistant principal wants to speak to Honour about her?"
"Probs cause she disappeared." he shrugged
"You don't sound very worried, considering your her boyfriend." Emory frowned
"She's a wimp, one thing goes wrong and she panics. Runs away, but where to? The girl was dumped by her family.
"Cause she got problems, that's why."
"What's your name?"
"I don't think I like you, Chris."
"Not many people do."
When I saw Kace through watery eyes, it was lunchtime and I was holding a soggy sandwich in my hand. and was on the floor of the girls bathroom, with my hair stringy like spaghetti
"Really?" I spat water "You lunatics can't think of a better way to get me back?"
"Not really, no." Kace shrugged "Plus I always wanted to dunk someone's head in the toilet."
"You dunked my head in the-"
"It was the sink, chill pill." The bathroom door opened and closed and girls walked in, always in groups of 2-5. They looked at us with questions in their eyes and I heard one whisper that they should tell a teacher
"I'm not bullying her, don't worry" Kace reassured them, but I still made contact with worried eyes
"I'm alright" I coughed. When I finally towelled off and tied my hair up to hide it's stringiness, I asked KAce what I had missed.
"Not much," she said "but Mrs Fraser wants to talk to you."
"One of the stoner girls disappeared, one you were apparently friends with, Danielle I think her name was."
"You mean Daniella?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Nelly disappeared, when?"
"Last night, no one's sure what happened, but her boyfriend is sort of sleazy I think, so I reckon he has something to do with it."
"Boyfriend?" It took me a second to realise she was referring to Chris "Yean I don't like him very much."
"Oh well, let's not worry about that, but the assistant monster does want to speak to you. For now, what do I get Alec for his birthday?"
"Oh right, the dinner's tonight isn't it." I thought for a second, I just bought some art pencils from the main street. "I don't know," I said "If it were Patrick I'd buy him condoms as a joke, but that doesn't seem right for Alec."
"I think if you bought Alec condoms, Ana would shoot us."
"I think she would." We laughed.
"Honour Grant" Mrs Fraser drawled while writing notes when I entered her office, I walked past Chris who gave me a sly smile on his way out.
"Mrs Fraser" I mimicked, watching Chris leave "You wanted to speak to me about Nelly."
"Yes, I know you to were once good friends with Daniella." she said, looking up at me. I highly doubted Mrs Fraser was ever pretty, she wasn't very old but already had wrinkles on her face and hands, her hair was cut short and was a dirty blonde colour. Her eyes small and blue.
"I suppose so." Were we good friends? Or just drug buddies.
"Are you aware of Miss Hayes has vanished from her home?"
"I recently became aware of that, yes" I wasn't sure whether I should sit on the leather chair in front of her desk, I didn't want this to be long. I also wasn't sure I'd call Nelly's foster home a "home".
"Sit." she ordered, so I did.
"When was the last you spoke to Daniella?"
"A week ago, I suppose. On the bus."
"And what did she say to you?"
"Not much really, just told me she had changed foster homes."
"That's all?" she sounded surprised "Nothing else? You two not best buds anymore?" she had a look of mocking in her eyes that made me want to strangle her. She was just as bad, if not worse than Kroll the troll.
"We were never best buds" I murmured "Just...close acquaintances" I was trying to hide the fact that she was digging deep, into a past I tried to forget, but I knew my fists were curling.
"I may not smell the tobacco on you anymore, but to me that doesn't separate you from your friends." she explained "I've been watching you closely Honour, and I'll think you spin off the rails again one day. Just because you have a family, unlike many mentally impaired youth, does not mean you fit in with the healthy people."
"Then where do I fit in, Mrs Fraser?" I asked sharply. She stood up from her chair, walked across the room and opened the door
"So you have no idea what has happened to Daniella Hayes?"
"Then you can leave". And so I did, nails digging into my palms.
"Teats!" a little red haired girl jumped up and down when Mr Whitney came into the therapy room, carrying a bag of sour snakes. Some of the kids got really excited, and some, who were more like Alec, just looked up at the lollies, some with greedy eyes.
"Ok guys, who thinks we should sing happy birthday to Alec?" Mr Whitney queried
"It's Alec's birthday?"
Alec stood silently next to me in a grey shirt and denim three quarter pants, his hair pulled out of his face by a bandana. Sherri, the girl who had played leap the frog the first time I was there leaped up to give Alec a hug, she looked so tiny next to him as her arms wrapped around the top of his kegs. He was clearly startled and lost balance a little but I was surprised, and happy to see him smile and ruffle her hair. The whole room went into a chorus of "happy birthday" and the bag of snakes were shared around.
"Ok, ok group, quiet now" said Mr Whitney "Your parents don't pay me to give you lollies." I expected another game like leap frog but we quite simply, had blocks of letters and were practicing pronouncing them.
"Honour" Mr Whiney called me away from the group "So you have been practicing his speech cards with him?" he asked
"Well these," he began, holding out a plastic pocket oh cards "are his leap frog cards, you know like the ones Sherri had last week?"
"I know" I took the cards from him "You want him to practice these?"
"Yes" he nodded "These are words Alec wants to learn. Names of family members, some art words I think, etc"
"Has he tried leap frog yet?"
"No. Despite being the oldest in the group, he's the least developed."
"Why is that?"
"Not entirely sure. It could be because of his autism, though he isn't the only autistic in the group. It could be an issue with his brain from birth, it could also be due to social factors."
"Social factors, sir?"
"Family, living arrangements, school. Especially negative social factors like bullying and abuse. Also education."
"Alec went to primary school, right? And high school, before he came here I mean" To my shock, Mr Whitney shook his head
"I'm pretty sure Alec's been home schooled his whole life."
It wasn't a long walk from Happy Horizons to the Shepherd's. Mum couldn't make it to the dinner as she had to work, but she had given me the chocolate cake she made for me to carry. I tried to find the best way to support the big white box, but after about ten minutes Alec took it from me and comfortably placed in under his arm with a teasing smile.
"Just 'cause I'm physically awkward" I huffed and again he smiled. "Oh!" I exclaimed "I have a present for you". We sat on a nearby park bench that had been decorated with graffiti and I pulled out the art supplies, in a paper bag, out of my schoolbag. We hadn't had any wrapping paper. Alec didn't seem to mind and placed the cake at his feet before taking the bag from me. When he pulled out the packet of art pencils, a pack of groovy looking erasers and sharpeners and a block of dairy milk chocolate that I had completely forgotten about-he looked up and smiled at me, as if to say thank you. We continued to walk towards his house and I placed the presents back in my bag as he was carrying the cake. I felt more comfortable with him then I did when first met him a week ago. I already felt kind of close to him, like I was responsible for helping him. Like an older sister, looking after her younger brother when he first starts high school. But he wasn't my brother, and he was older than me. An adult today. A boy who stood at least five inches taller than me and to others would look like an average young man. Those strangers didn't know he was just as shy and vulnerable as a child.
"Hey, Alec?" He nodded "Did you go to school, before Crystal Creek?" At first he didn't respond and I wasn't sure If i had struck a nerve, or maybe it was just the autistic lack-of-response thing mum had informed me about, but eventually he shook his head, and surprisingly, said "no"..
"Do you like school?"
"Yeah" he said, nodding slowly. I still felt surprised when he spoke, for one his voice was deeper than expected and I had to remind myself over and over that he wasn't completely mute.
"You're getting better." I said "At speaking, I mean" He smiled at me again and I felt a little flutter inside my stomach.
When we reached Alec and Anastasia's house, I gasped. The porch was freshly painted and decorated with a large arrangement of flowers. A quaint rocking chair was perched at the furthers corner, facing the front garden, A ramp began at the side of the concrete driveway and ended a the porch. It also had two storeys, which was strange considering Ana couldn't walk let alone climb stairs.
"This is gorgeous" I marvelled, half to myself. There was a wooden welcome sign on the door, the letters gold and curvy. It was in one of the more isolated areas of the town, serene and beautiful with more garden than road. There weren't many areas like this, a lot of Crystal Creek was apartments and busy roads. I lived in a house, but close enough to the high school that it could be kind of hectic at certain times. The door was unlocked and Alec walked in, I kind of expected him to hold the door open for me but he didn't. I caught it as it sang slowly shut.
"Sorry sweetheart, some social norms still escape his mind." Ana was in the foyer, which was unusually large. I guess that made sense though because of Ana's wheelchair.
"How was your day, my birthday boy?" Ana reached up to touch her nephews hand as he grabbed a hold of her wheelchair.
"Good." he replied
"That's great! Now off to the kitchen!" he turned around effortlessly and Ana beckoned me to follow. I followed them into the kitchen which was again large and open, there was a small dining table sitting separately and then a large space in the middle of the kitchen, probably so Ana could easily move between the appliances and benches. A light was on in the oven, but the see through glass revealed cupcakes instead of dinner.
"I've already made pasta" Ana said, as if answering my unasked question "It's in the fridge, ready to be heated up. Pasta is Alec's favourite." I took a slow walk around the kitchen, admiring more flora and also some artwork, some of which I thought may be Alec's work.
"Alec, why don't you show Honour all your collections?" Ana asked
"You don't need any help, Ana?"
"Oh no honey. Anyway, Marlene will be over soon. She's my neighbour, and my little helper." Ana giggled "Get Alec to show you his room, it's up the stairs."
"Stairs?" I spun around to realise there were in fact stairs leading up from the kitchen, just before you reached the hallway. I hadn't noticed this was a two storey house. "Ana, why would you have stairs in your house? You can't walk." I felt a little rude saying that out loud. Ana didn't seem fazed.
"True, but Alec can. Upstairs is just his space. His own bedroom and his own bathroom. An eighteen year old boy, even an autistic one, doesn't need his old aunt hovering around him all the time." she smiled at me "I'm sure as a teenager you understand."
"I do." I looked around for Alec, who-without me realising, had wondered off. He was sitting on the carpet of their lounge room. I only then realised that the house was being cooled by a silent air conditioner that was attached to a cream white wall, above Alec's head. There was also a number of glass boxes on the walls, some looked to hold puzzle pieces and other odd objects. One had leaves. The ones closest to Alec were empty. Alec had a number of shiny looking rocks, all different colours and looked to be colour coordinating them on the floor. I sat across him and asked "Can I help?" He didn't reply but when I went to move one of the rocks, he didn't stop me. In a few minutes they were all separated into groups based on colour, about 3 or 4 for each group. Alec scooped up one of the collections and placed them in one of the empty glass boxes. There were four sets of shiny rocks: blue, pink, white and an aqua like colour. I noticed, after Alec filled 4 boxes, that they surrounded an empty box.
"Why is that one empty?" I asked, but when I looked around, I saw that all the boxes were set out in the same fashion. He didn't answer my question so I asked "Do you want to show me your room?". He finally looked at me and quietly replied "ok".
The stairs up to Alec's room were steep and the wall was lined with paper. There was a lot of sketches spread out across this paper roll. From simple drawings such as a cat to something more complex like a picture that looked to be Ana's wheelchair.
"This is so cool" I exclaimed, running my hand along the sheets "Did Ana do this for you?"
"Yeah". I noticed other pictures that struck my curiosity: a crying face, a closed wardrobe that was amazingly drawn and detailed, but scribbled over, why would he scribble over such a good drawing? Closer to the top there were rough sketches-stick figures really-that looked to represent people in Alec's life. I felt my cheeks go warm, but a smile spread across my face when I saw my name under a female stick figure with pink hair. It was funny because everything else was just black and white. Gracie was there too, so was Patrick and Kace. The last stick figures had sad faces where the rest had smiles. These were named Micah, Joy and Selena. I had stopped to study these unknown faces and Alec mustn't have like it, because he tugged on my arm
"Sorry, I'm coming." We finally reached his room and my feet reached the comforting feel of comfort. I had ditched my shoes at the front door and the wooden stairs had proved to be a hurdle on my naked feet. I don't know Kace does it. Alec's room was rather large, like all the other rooms. He had a neatly made double bed by the window that faced the backyard. His desk, which was white to my surprise, was also very large. Various sketches were blue tacked to the painted green walls. He had a double door wardrobe beside a smallish desk of draws. To my surprise, when I opened the wardrobe out of curiosity I didn't find any clothes beside his red hoodie. Next to his wardrobe was an open door to a small abthroom. It was however, stacked high with puzzles and what looked to be memory or other card games. On the outside of the wardrobe was his school schedule, a calendar and a couple of photos. One was of a baby girl wrapped in a white blanket and wearing a pretty pink headband.
"Naw She's cute" I turned and smiled at Alec who was clearing up his desk. He pulled open a draw in the desk and slipped in the presents I gave him. There were more things on the wardrobe. A picture of him at Crystal Creek, holding a backpack and wearing a grin on his face. It must've been his first day at Crystal Creek. There was a photo of him and Ana in the DCU and one of him and a little girl on a swing set. He was also younger, his hair was much shorter and he wasn't smiling. The girl was though, she had a massive silly smile on her face, had blonde hair just like Alec's and looked to be about five or six. Alec couldn't have been older than thirteen.
"Who's that?" I asked, pointing to the little girl. He looked over at the photo, opened his mouth slightly but didn't answer. Maybe he couldn't say her name. I joined him by the desk and got to admire more intricate drawings. The detail and shading was impressive in all his sketches
"I wish I could draw like that." I sighed. I also noticed more odd collectives. Sticks, pebbles, shells, flowers. They were on his desk, stuck to the walls and also the wardrobe.
"Quite a collector aren't you."
"Alec! Honour! Your friends are here!" Anastasia called from the kitchen. Alec immediately turned and left the room, I hurried to meet him at the stairs. When we reached the three stick people whose names I didn't recognise, he put his finger on the smallest one that said Selena and looked at me. I was confused at first until he pointed to his room
"Oh is that the girl in the picture?" He nodded. "And the baby?" He nodded again. As we went down the stairs I remembered what Anastasia said in the park about Alec not being an only child.
"Hey Alec?" He stopped and turned to face me "Is Selena your little sister?"
"Yes" he said quietly and continued to the kitchen.
Kace and Patrick had rocked up at the same time, both with wide smiles and what I assumed were gifts for Alec.
"Still in your school clothes?" Pat asked me "C'mon Honour, even I bothered to look decent." And he had. For once. He was wearing jean shorts, an ironed black tee shirt and a short sleeved denim jacket. Kace looked pretty in a black, lace, singlet top and denim skirt, she'd taken her hair out of its usual pony tail and done up in a pretty low bun with two small braids running along each side of her head. I was still in my school shirt and skirt and I didn't have to look in the mirror to know that the Summer day will have messed up my hair and makeup. I did however, have a change of clothes in my bag.
"Oh right" I blushed "Ana, do you mind if I use the bathroom to get changed?"
"Sure honey, Alec can open his remaining presents while we wait". I hurried to the bathroom that Ana pointed out for me, school bag on my back and quickly changed into the black tee shirt and skirt I had brought with me. I liked this tee shirt and wore it to almost every special occasion, it was a thin but solid material except for the very short sleeves and top strip that were lace. I hurriedly redid my makeup and brushed my hair before putting together a neat side ponytail. When I rejoined everyone in the kitchen Alec was tossing up a soccer ball I assumed would be from Patrick. Since Ana had let him have the day off from school on his birthday, he didn't need to get changed.
"Ravioli for all!" Ana cried, handing the bowls of pasta to Alec who placed them around the table "Is your mum coming Honour?"
"She's going to try," I said "but there's just a lot of work at the centre."
"Of course, of course." And so we ate, stuffing tomato pasted pasta squares into our hungry mouths. When we finished we dived into conversation. Anastasia asked us about school and Kace asked what it was liked to be confined to a wheelchair. I learnt that her spine had been damaged in a car accident.
"My sister was never a good driver" Ana sighed "but her other-other personality," she looked at me "she was immature and reckless. Once I went driving with her, god I can't even remember why. And well, I've been confined to a wheelchair ever since."
"And your sister?" I asked, assuming this had something to do with the fact Alec's parents were never spoken about. I was wrong.
"Leila? She was lucky, very lucky. Broken arm and a fractured ankle was all she got." Just then there was a knock on the door
"That must be your mother" Anastasia smiled "I'll get it." she wheeled herself out to the foyer and the front door. We heard the door open and then silence for a few seconds.
"Micah?" Anastasia said surprised
"Hey Aunty Ana."
I knew who Micah was the minute he set foot in the kitchen. How did I know? He and Alec cold have almost been identical twins. Micah was taller and looked less like someone with an eating disorder but he had the same hazel eyes, same long blonde hair, just even longer. He even walked with a similar hunched posture that Alec did. Alec had frozen when he saw his older brother, the two looked eyes for an uncomfortable long moment before Micah grinned and cheered "Happy birthday little bro!" Then I saw something unique, I saw Alec smile. And it wasn't just a half smile or a the sort of shy, saddened kind of smile I had seen a couple times, it was a sign of clear happiness from ear to ear.
:everyone this is Micah," Ana explained, wheeling back into the kitchen "Alec's brother." Ana smiled up at Micah "Joy? Selena? Your grandparents?"
"Afraid not," Micah sighed "Selena wanted to come, really. She practically begged but Joy shut her down pretty quick. She's kind of taken control back at home, that's partly why I left. Sick of being bossed around by my little sister."
"Partly?" I asked
"Other part was that I'm freaking twenty-five and I realised I was still living with my grandparents!" he sort of hit himself in the head as if to show how stupid he was but he still had a massive grin on his face. He may look like Alec, but their characters were completely opposite.
"Oh god" Patrick groaned "I can't imagine living with my family for that long."
"I think you should be proud you've made it this far." I agreed. I felt uncomfortable having dinner at the Howard's. I could not imagine living with them.
"Family of psychopaths?" Micah asked
"No, just nutcases. I've got a schizophrenic brother and a sociopathic sister."
"Sounds terrifying." Micah nodded
"Well Micah," Anastasia cut in "we've finished dinner but Honour's absent mother made us some cake and Alec made cupcakes."
"Alec made the cupcakes?" Kace asked, sounding impressed. Patrick shook his head at her "He's autistic, not brain dead." Alec did look a little offended and I felt guilty for thinking the same thing as Kace. After wiping our faces of chocolate frosting and whipped cream, Mrs Taylor came to collect Kace. She thanked Anastasia for having her daughter over and said happy birthday to Alec. Kace went out put her arms around Alec, to give him a friendly birthday hug. His serene expression changed quickly
"No!" he pushed her away and sort of freaked out. Suddenly looking scared, shoving Kace hard before turning around and trying to escape, but coming in contact with the wall. The joyful, chilled atmosphere immediately dispersed as Alec fell against the wall. He crouched down onto the floor and hid his face between his knees. Before he had though, I saw is expression. He was trying not to cry.
"We should probably go." Mrs Taylor said softly, tugging on Kace's shoulder, but Kace, her face now white stayed put
"Did...did I do something wrong? I'm so sorry." she was looking at Alec with guilt painted on her face
"No. No of course not, dear." Anastasia soothed, but she didn't sound very convincing. She wheeled her self over to Alec and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"It's ok Kace." Pat comforted her, placing his hand on her shoulder "I'll walk Kace out" he whispered to me and I nodded in return. I felt awkward after Patrick left with the Taylors as the three other people in the room were all related. I felt like an outsider. Micah had gone quiet and watched his younger brother silently. To my surprise, the scene didn't seem to shock him at all.
"Come on honey, get up. It's ok. You're safe here, no one can hurt you." Ana was rubbing his shoulder and trying to coax him out of his little turtle shell. This was another one of those moments where it was hard to remind myself Alec was an eighteen year old young man, not a little kid.
"Ana-" Micah stepped forward but Anastasia shot out her hand like a bullet "Just, stay there. Both of you." I was surprised Patrick hadn't rejoined us by now and figured Mrs Taylor had offered him a ride home
"Come on, honey" Ana whispered "It's just me, your brother and Honour-your friend." Alec finally looked up but his face made me want hug him, it made me sick. He looked terrified, like he had seen a ghost, like Kace had tried to suffocate him. He seemed to relax a little but still didn't stand up. He unfolded his arms and legs, and used his wrists to wipe what was likely tears, but I didn't see him cry.
"I'm going to make you some tea. Honour can you take him to his room?" Anastasia finally looked at me and that seemed to make some of my discomfort disappear.
"Sure" I replied quietly and walked over to Alec, holding out my hand to help him up. He stood but not with my assistance and my hand was left hovering until we turned and journeyed up the stairs.
Alec did seem to relax a bit when we entered his bedroom, but he barely seemed to recognise my presence.
"Do you want me to stay?" I asked softly, walking over to him after he sat on his bed. No answer. He had started breaking apart one of the sticks that were taped to the wall. Little brown broken bits fell to the ground. I tried to digest what had just happened and figure out a way to get through to him, a strategy that would settle him and break him out his shell. I did what I would do for others, I placed myself next to him and his bed squeaked under both of our weight
"Kace didn't mean to scare you" I reassured "It was just her way of saying happy birthday". Still more stick destroying.
"That's an odd way to vent. Or cope. Or occupy yourself. I don't really know what you're doing, but it
it's definitely odd." He finally turned his head to me and stopped cracking apart the environmental object. He sort of chewed on his lower lip, a look of consideration on his face. Like he was deciding whether to share something with me. Instead he just turned away and began to snap the stick again. I was about to give up when he finally said "cope"
"It helps you cope?" he nodded. I got up and removed the tape from one of the sticks on the wall, I could feel his eyes on me. When I joined him back on the bed I said "Well then, let me help you cope" and began to break apart the doomed brown object. I looked at Alec and he smiled at me, making me feel warm and funny all over. I felt that it was my turn to share a part of me with him
"Do you know what dissociative identity disorder is Alec?" He nodded. At first I was surprised at his knowledge until I remembered that his mother had it.
"That girl you met, when we were walking towards Gracie's friends house," I paused, would he remember? I decided yes. "Emory, do you remember meeting her?" Another nod. "Emory, she's really nice. At least that's what others tell me. So, I guess some people from the outside wouldn't see her as a problem. But I do." He finally looked at me and I felt like we had something in common. We had issues others didn't know or understand. Issues that were hard to control, difficult for others to relate to. How many people had more than one person inside their body? I remember what Ana said about Emory being just as much of a person as I was, a person with thoughts, feelings, even relationships. I knew mum liked her because she was mature, so did Patrick and dad. That made it harder to wish she'd disappear. Disappear and give me my life back.
"I hate the memory blanks" I said quietly "I hate suddenly being in a random place, missing out on important events." The renewal of my parents vows. " My parents were married before I was born, so that renewal was me getting to experience their wedding, experience my parents happiness as they made a lifelong commitment. I picked out the dress the night before and sang Gracie to sleep in her crib. The next thing I remembered was waking up on a bed of white sheets and staring at a bland ceiling. Not my bedroom. The wards. And it was a full month after my parents special day.
Alec was still staring at me, probably waiting for me to say something else. I didn't. Instead I started screaming.