A strange thing occurred to me the more time I spent alone in my house.
I could not stop thinking about her.
I wondered if she was okay, how therapy was, what her school work was. I wondered how she and Charlie were getting along. Mostly, though, I wondered if she thought about me at all.
I kept thinking back to that night. She had not seemed like she had really wanted me to go. Had she? Was I just blinded by stupidity? Was I convincing myself of something that would be easier on me?
I spent a lot of time in my living room, listening to my ridiculous music collection. I spent a lot of that time with a single song on repeat. Eventually, once the song had buried itself beneath my skin, I retreated back into my room and pulled out my acoustic guitar.
Charlie really didn't like my smoking. At all. He disliked it so much, in fact, that he agreed to allow hypnosis during my therapy sessions. I put up a real fight on that one. Charlie and I ended up screaming at each other in the living room for more than an hour. Then he put Renee on the phone and she mumbled something about agreeing with Charlie. I slammed the phone down and left the house. I went for a drive and it was boring and didn't help at all. I continued fuming when I returned home at midnight. Charlie had already gone to bed so I just went right to my own room and tried to sleep.
The hypnosis sessions had been going on three times a week for just over two weeks now. Being the first week of February, Valentine's Day crap was everywhere. People were always walking around with stupid smiles and roses and holding hands and stuffing tongues down throats. It was revolting.
The hypnosis left me wondering what I'd said throughout the session. That is, until I walked in for my Tuesday session and stupid old Howley was sitting there looking at me with a grim expression on his face.
"Have a seat, Miss Swan." I did. "We need to have a talk about something. I've already talked to your parents, but I need you to understand what is going on."
"We are going to be enrolling you in... Well, in a program of sorts."
"A program?" The acid was back in my voice. It felt good, if I were being honest.
"Yes. We... Well, my diagnosis of your condition leads me to believe you need further treatment."
"Your diagnosis of my condition? You mean your half-considered prescription for issues you barely know considering I've only been in here SEVEN times?"
"Miss Swan, please calm down. Just let me explain."
"There is a facility just outside of Port Angeles that is equipped to help you. I'm not going to prescribe you any pills. These people can help."
"You're sending me to a mental institution?! On what grounds?" The acid in my voice was starting to burn my own throat. Or perhaps that was the screaming.
"Miss Swan, the symptoms are indisputable. You have a severe form of psychosis. You show signs of hallucinations, delusional beliefs, disorganized thoughts and even, as both of your parents agree, severe personality changes. I'm sorry, Isabella, but there's no arguing this."
"Hallucinations? Delusional beliefs? Disorganized thoughts? What kind of crap are you talking about?"
"When under hypnosis, your topics of discussion change rapidly, usually occurring mid-sentence. That is a tell-tale sign of disorganized thoughts, Miss Swan. And as far as hallucinations and delusional beliefs are concerned... You talk a lot about creatures that don't exist. You tell me memories that even your parents contradict. Such as having been attacked by a vampire in a ballet studio back in Phoenix, but your parents tell me that at the time you claim this happened, you had fallen down a flight of stairs and through a window while visiting with an old boyfriend. You talk about a vampire who used to visit you a few weeks ago, who 'rescued' you in the woods? Miss Swan, your hallucinations and delusional beliefs are inarguable."
And that was the end of it. I got up and left. I tried talking to Charlie, I'd even called and begged Renee not to do this. They were both set in what they thought they had to do. So, on Monday of next week, they would be signing me in to a mental institution.
I walked up to my room, having skipped dinner, and slammed the door. I threw myself on the bed and pulled my pillow up to my face. My nose hit something hard and plastic and I lifted myself up to see. A CD case. That was odd. I would have sworn I'd tossed this across the room. My eyes lifted to the wall I'd thrown it at and, sure enough, there it was lying on the floor. The case was shattered and the disc was probably ruined. Good. That still didn't explain the CD case on my pillow. I lifted it and looked at it from a different angle, tilting it towards the light.
In sharp, deliberate script, there was an address printed on the disc. That was it. I took the CD out of the case and grabbed my portable CD player, popping it in and turning it on. It appeared there were only two tracks.
I hit play and pulled the headphones over my ears.
"No one is harder on me than myself, or so it seems." I knew the song. I knew the song well. This was different. This was acoustic, it wasn't recorded in a studio anywhere. And the singer's voice was completely different. It was softer, much more mellow. There was no straining, vocally it was all a very fluid almost-whisper.
"Some say that you are my curse, my own worst enemy. I think they're wrong. They never thought our life could be like this. They never thought. / I'll be your safe ride home when you call me, I'll be everything and more when you call my name. / I thought no one is smarter than me. No, I don't need anyone's help or so it seemed. You changed me for the good, they never understood. But even if they tried, I doubt they could. So take my nervous hand and we can take a stand, we don't have to live by their demands." I had always enjoyed the song on it's own, but the lyrics meant something completely different for me today. The tears started to come swiftly.
"I never thought life could be like this. I never thought..." And then it hit me. The voice. So melodic. Unnaturally melodic. James.
"I'll be your safe ride home when you call me, I'll be everything and more when you call my name. / When I'm with you there's no worries. When I'm with you there's no shame. When I'm with you I'm secure. We choose to live against the grain. They could say we lack the progress. They could say that we're a mess. They could say we'll never make it. And I know we're better than their test and I don't hear them anyway. / I'll be your safe ride home when you call me, I'll be everything and more when you call my name."
I was sobbing uncontrollably by the time the final chorus ended. There was a short pause as the tracks changed. I waited, listening intently even over my harsh sobs. The next song I was less familiar with, but the voice was still James.
"Read me the letter, baby, do not leave out the words. Stories and cigarettes ruined lives of lesser girls, and I wanna know 'cause I want you to know. / And it's a strange condition, a day in prison. It's got me out of my head and I don't know what I came for. / Send me the money, baby, do not leave out the wage. You know you're the best thing ever to come out of this place." I giggled in the middle of my tears.
"Hey, I want you to know 'cause I wanna know. / And it's a strange condition, a day in prison. It's got me out of my head and I don't know what I came for, I want you to know, I want you to know, I want you to know..." I got the impression throughout the song that certain lines weren't as important. Perhaps it was because he mumbled those.
"So leave out the others, baby, say I'm the only one. Cut out the uniforms and settle with the sun. Hey, I want you to know 'cause I wanna know. Yeah, I gotta know." The sobbing was overwhelming as the song ended. I knew without a doubt that the final few lines were exactly why he was singing the song to begin with. I hit the repeat button twice so it would repeat both songs, and I continued sobbing to myself. Everything that had been happening in the past few months welled up beneath my eyelids and ripped through me, choking me on my tears and aggravating the gaping hole in my chest.