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Authors: Alyson Noel

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BOOK: Fated
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Interpreting my sigh as consent, he lowers the sheet, causing me to cringe under the press of cold metal that works its way along the edge of my tank top as he orders me to take several deep breaths. And after looking into my eyes with a harsh lighted instrument, staring into my mouth and depressing my tongue with a smooth wooden stick as I’m told to say,
he places two fingers to the side of my neck, just under my jaw, where he locates my pulse as his gaze tracks the second hand on his expensive gold watch.

“Excellent,” he says, nodding when he adds, “I trust you slept well?” He tucks the stethoscope into the bag and busies himself with inspecting my bandages, turning my arms this way and that without bothering to untie them, which really burns me up.

“You want to know if I slept well?” I lift my head and frown. “Untie me. Untie me right now, and I’ll fill you in on whatever you want to know.”

The disingenuous smile that seemed glued to his face just a moment ago quickly fades, as Jennika rushes to my side and rubs her hand over my shoulder in a failed attempt to subdue me.

“You can’t keep me like this! I have rights and you know it!” I shout, but my words fall on deaf ears.

Dr. Ziati just looks at me and says, “Young lady, do you have any idea what brought you here in the first place?”

Yeah—glowing people, decapitated heads, and crows—thousands and thousands of them. And because of it, I had no choice but to maul a major up-and-coming movie star so that I could break free. What of it?

But of course I don’t say that; it’s a truth no one wants to believe, much less hear.

“Do you remember the things that you did—the things that you said?”

I shrug in reply. There’s no use going on. One look at his smug expression tells me he’ll never be on my side, wouldn’t so much as consider it.

“You exhibited all of the symptoms of one who is under the influence of drugs—a hallucinogen of some sort. I’ve witnessed this type of behavior before—always with tourists.” His tone smacks of the same disdain that glints in his eyes. “Only in your case, it has just been confirmed that the blood sample we took came back clean. Which leads me to my next question—have you experienced this sort of delusion before?”

I glance between him and Jennika—her face stricken with worry, his creased with morbid curiosity—then I roll my head ’til I’m facing the other way, preferring a view of the elaborate blue-tiled bathroom to either of them. There’s no point in defending myself to those who refuse to be swayed.

“You spoke of glowing people chasing you, large black crows taunting you, along with thousands of severed bloodied heads that filled up the square and beckoned to you.”

A gasp fills the room, prompting me to turn just in time to see Fatima clutching the small golden
charm that hangs from her neck, her head bowed in hushed, fervent prayer, until a sharp word from the doctor warns her to stop.

“I’m afraid these can easily be classified as delusions of a rather paranoid nature.” He returns to me. “And while I have no idea what might have provoked the episode as there were no drugs or alcohol involved, I will say that it’s not uncommon for a genetic, chemical imbalance to begin showing signs of itself during the latter part of adolescence.” His words now directed at Jennika when he adds, “It is my understanding that Daire has just reached her sixteenth birthday?”

Jennika nods, lifts a hand to her mouth and chews on a purple-painted nail.

“Well, excuse me for asking, but is there any history of mental illness in your family?”

I slide my gaze toward Jennika, seeing the way her face tightens. Her eyes brimming with barely checked tears as she stammers, “What? No! No. Or at least not—not that I’m aware of … nothing that I can think of … at least not offhand anyway…”

Her gaze grows distant as she shakes her head—two sure signs that she’s lying—holding on to some pertinent piece of info she refuses to share. A suspicion so horrible she’s unwilling to admit it to herself, much less the doctor, which only makes me even more curious. I have no idea who she could possibly suspect.

Jennika’s an only child who’s been on her own for a really long time. Didn’t even realize she was pregnant with me until after my dad had passed on. And though it took a while for her parents to adjust to the idea of their seventeen-year-old daughter giving birth when she should’ve been sitting for her SATs, they came around eventually. Helping her get her diploma, looking after me while she went on to get her cosmetology license at night school—she’d just scored her first job as an on-set makeup artist when they perished in a small plane crash on their way to a much-anticipated weekend in Napa Valley.

After selling the house and just about everything in it that didn’t fit into a duffle bag, Jennika and I hit the road, moving from set to set, staying either in short-term rentals or with random friends between gigs. She enrolled me in Internet school as soon as I was eligible—ensuring that we never slow down, never commit to anything we might miss when we lose it.

“Life is impermanent,” she likes to say. Claiming the majority of the people spend the majority of their lives trying to dodge all signs of change only to find that they can’t. As far as she’s concerned, we may as well embrace it—may as well seek the change before the change can seek us.

I’m the only lasting attachment she allows herself to have. For as long as I can remember, our family’s consisted of her and me and a slew of random people that stream in and out of our lives.

Somewhere out there is a grandmother I’ve never met—my dad’s mom. But Jennika refuses to talk about her. From what little I’ve managed to glean, my grandma disappeared right after she lost her only son. Pretty much just fell off the face of the earth, as Jennika tells it, and since she had no way to reach her, my grandma doesn’t even know I exist.

All of which brings me right back to … nothing. I have no idea who in the family might have gone psycho. Might’ve caused me, through some faulty genetic link, to go psycho too. Jennika is the only family I know. And while she certainly has her fair share of crazy, it’s normal crazy, not clinical crazy.

Like any parent, her only goal has always been to protect me, but from the distraught look on her face, I see that she’s beginning to doubt that she can.

Dr. Ziati glances between us, his voice calm, face placid, looking as though he’s spent a lifetime dispensing exactly this kind of life-changing news. “I’m afraid your daughter is in serious need of help. Left untreated, this sort of thing will only get worse. And while we’ve managed to stabilize her for now, it won’t last. It is imperative that you return to the States as soon as you can. And when you do, you must get her to see a mental health care provider, preferably a psychiatrist, without delay. They’ve made great advances in psychiatric drugs in the past several years. Many people with imbalances such as Daire’s go on to live normal, healthy lives. With the right kind of treatment, regular counseling, and provided she stays on course with her prescribed medication, I see no reason why she can’t move forward in a productive and positive way.”

Jennika nods, her eyes so watery, face so weary, I can tell she’s
close to crumbling.

Then before either of us can form any sort of reply, the doctor reaches into his bag, retrieves a needle, flicks it on the side, squirts a spray of whatever into the air, and stabs me in the crook of my arm. Causing my body to sag, my tongue to grow heavy and flat, and my eyelids to droop until I can no longer lift them.

Dr. Ziati’s instructions to Jennika are the last thing I hear: “This should hold long enough for you to pack up your stuff and make preparations to leave. When she wakes, give her one of these tablets every four hours to help you get through the flight. After that, you need to get her the kind of help she so desperately needs. If not, I’m afraid the delusions will only get worse.”


It happened again on the flight.

About a quarter of the way across the Atlantic, poor exhausted Jennika collapsed into a heap that saw her sleeping well past the alarm she’d set on her watch.

Well past the four-hour allotment between Dr. Ziati’s prescribed doses.

Awakened by an angry flight attendant who was quick to fill her in on my breakdown. Telling her it took five crew members and three passengers to contain me—to stop me from shrieking, and raging, and trying to bolt through the mid-exit door—before they were able to shove me into a seat and restrain my arms and legs with the same kind of Ziploc ties normally used on trash bags.

And while I can’t recall any of it, I’m told that because of my actions, the pilots were consulted, calls were made, and we were almost diverted to Greenland.

What I do remember is being met by a team of very angry, very official-looking authorities who whisked us off to a windowless room, where I slumped on a table in a drug-fueled stupor, as a tearful Jennika fought to explain. The whole thing ending with my flying privileges being revoked for the next several years, along with a hefty fine they told us to be grateful for. Supposedly, it could’ve been worse.

A psychotic break—that’s what they’re calling it. That’s what a battery of tests and in-depth interviews have seen me reduced to.

Another sad story in a succession of many—another teenaged girl held hostage to her own paranoid delusions.

These things happen.

It’s nobody’s fault.

But all it takes is one look at Jennika to know she blames herself.

We sit in silence as she starts the borrowed car, cranking the ignition once—twice—until the newly restored sky-blue Karmann Ghia is sparked back to life.

I stare out the window, watching the ugly gray cinder block hospital shrink smaller and smaller as we trade the black asphalt parking lot for black asphalt streets that lead us to Harlan’s—Jennika’s on-again, but mostly off-again, photographer boyfriend, who was kind enough to lend us the use of his car and his place while he shoots an editorial piece somewhere in Thailand.

“What did you say to them?” Jennika’s eyes dart between the road and me as she punches all the presets on the old FM radio. Finally settling on Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee”—a song I know well because Jennika always sang it when I was a baby, even though it stems from a time well before hers.

I shrug in reply. Force myself to concentrate on the horizon, hoping it will somehow work to stabilize me, ground me. This latest dose of pills is making my head so light and airy I fear I might flit through the window, drift with the clouds and never return.

Jennika brakes at a light, turns in her seat until she’s fully facing me. “Seriously, Daire.” She uses her
voice, the one that tells me she will not rest until I acknowledge her. “What on earth did you tell them back there?”

I slump down in my seat, shielding my gaze from hers. “Nothing.” I sigh, tucking my chin to my chest and allowing my hair to fall in a long, thick drape over my face. “Trust me, I barely said anything. I mean, what’s the point of defending myself when everyone’s already made up their minds—convinced themselves of the worst?”

I peek at her through the strands, seeing how she mashes her lips together and grips the wheel so tight the blood retreats from her knuckles and turns them the color of bones. Two very good signs she’s debating whether or not to believe me, which is all I need to return to window gazing. Taking in a stucco slab of a mini-mall featuring a dry cleaner, a nail salon, a tattoo parlor, and a liquor store running a weekend special on beer.

“Well, you must’ve told them something,” she huffs, her voice competing with Janis’s until the song fades into “White Rabbit” and she lowers the volume. “Because now they want to
you.” She glares, pronouncing the word as though it’s fresh, breaking news—as though I wasn’t sitting right there alongside her when the doctor first mentioned it.

I swallow hard. Gnaw the inside of my cheek. Aware of the way her breath hitches, how she swipes the back of her hand under each eye in an effort to steady herself.

“Do you get the significance of this?” Her voice rises to the point of hysteria. “
of the meds are working! And I don’t know what to do for you. I don’t know how to help you—how to reach you—and I’m no longer sure that I can. But if you continue to insist that—” She pauses, sighs. “If you continue to insist that these delusions are real, then I’ll have no choice but to—”

delusions!” I swivel in my seat until I’m fully facing her, staring hard into a pair of green eyes that look remarkably like mine, except hers are lined with glittery purple eyeliner, while mine are shadowed with drug-induced dark blue half-moons that spread to my cheeks. “The glowing people are
. The crows are real too. It’s not my fault I’m the only one who can see them!”

Jennika’s face crumples. Scrunches in a way that tells me I’ve failed to make my case. “Well, that’s the thing—according to the doctors, that’s what everyone in your condition claims.”

in my condition
?” I roll my eyes, shake my head, swivel back in my seat ’til I’m facing the window again. Counting an import furniture store, a vegan café, and a psychic with a blinking neon eye in the window among the local offerings.

“You know what I mean,” she says.

And something about her tone—a tone that perfectly mimics every smug doctor who’s ever had the pleasure of reviewing my case—causes me to lose it. To let out every pent-up thought I’ve held back until now. “No, Jennika, I don’t know what you mean. I really, truly
. And while I get how hard this must be for you—trust me, it’s not like it’s some kind of picnic for me! When your doctor friends aren’t drugging me into a stupor, I’m being terrorized by images that are all too real despite the fact that no one else sees them. And even though you refuse to believe, I’m here to tell you that
time really does stop
! There are moments when everything just comes to one big crashing halt. And, for the record, I am not suffering from some sudden bout of adolescence-induced crazies, this has been happening for a while now. Ever since I mentioned it that time we were on location in New Zealand when you refused to believe me, just like you refuse to believe me now. But just because I stopped mentioning it doesn’t mean it stopped happening. I mean, have you ever stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, you’re wrong? That there just might be more to this world than you and the oh-so-smart-white-coat-crew want to believe? You’re all so eager to draw scientifically based, logical conclusions—to reduce me to some convenient, textbook diagnosis—but you
. It’s just not that easy. And I wish—” I pause, curl my hands into fists that lay useless in my lap as I fight to catch my breath. “I wish that just this once you would listen to me instead of them! I wish that just this once you would trust what I tell you!”

BOOK: Fated
11.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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