Chapter 4

Sleep did come, but was restless and I woke that morning as I often did, with a feeling of dread. It took me a moment to register where I was, and once I had, the feeling grew. 

"Breakfast in ten," Lauren said when she realized I was awake. She was sitting on her bed applying mascara with a deft hand. 

The towel that had been wrapped around my hair when I went to bed was now on the floor and I could tell just by touching it that my hair was a mess. I stumbled sleepily to the bathroom and assessed the situation. I decided it was salvageable and pulled a brush gently through it. I didn't have time to do much else beside get dressed and brush my teeth. I told myself I didn't have anyone to impress, anyway. 

The line for food was long and Lauren seemed annoyed at having to wait. The eggs looked rubbery; I opted for cereal and juice. I wasn't surprised when Lauren led us straight to where Taren was sitting with Callie. She was nothing if not persistent. 

Callie seemed brighter eyed this morning, but tensed at our approach. 

"Good morning," I said, trying to put her at ease, yet wondering what her problem was. 

"Hey," she replied in her usual soft tone. 

"How was your first night?" Taren asked before taking a bite of toast. 

"She was thrashing around all night," Lauren complained. "I could barely sleep myself." 

"Sorry," I mumbled. 

"I get nightmares too," Callie said with a sympathetic smile. 

"Do you have them often?" Taren asked with an interest that bordered on obtrusive. 

I wasn't sure I wanted to discuss my sleep issues, but Callie saved me from needing to. 

"Taren, I don't feel so well," she said. 

Lauren looked at me and mouthed, every time. 

"You're OK, Cal, I'm here." Taren's reply was so soft I almost didn't hear it. Not for the first time, I wondered at their relationship. 

Callie was panic stricken. "No, I have to get out of here. Get me out—" 

"Please," Lauren interrupted, "do as she says, get her out of here." 

"Shut up, shut up SHUT UP!" The voice that erupted from Callie seemed too big to be housed in such a small girl. She lurched up from the table and launched herself across it—straight at me. 

I was taken by such surprise that I didn't have time to react. One instant I was sitting in a folding chair, the next I was knocked to the cold tile. Callie was stronger than her looks suggested; it was all I could do to fend her off. As blue as her eyes were, they seemed on fire. Her hand arced up and I saw it—a plastic knife. My eyes widened. My last thought was going to be what the fu— 

And then Taren was there, pulling her off me. Stunned as I was, I saw him try to pocket the knife, but orderlies had rushed over by then and took it from him. 

Taren no longer needed to restrain Callie, she was sobbing into his chest. The orderlies pried her off, though she clutched at him. 

Her eyes bore into me as they dragged her away. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I swear I didn't want to. I'm so sorry..." 

The entire dining hall was silent, though it wouldn't have needed to be to hear Callie's scream a moment later. 

"What are they doing to her?" I asked, still trying to calm my racing heartbeat. 

"Taking her to the elevator. They're going to move her upstairs." Taren looked tortured, helpless. 

I suppose I shouldn't have cared—she had just tried to stab me after all—but she was so small, even if freakishly strong. And the way she'd looked at me as she apologized... I believed her. I couldn't imagine her with people who were truly dangerous. 

"They'll let her chill out in solitary until Monday when Shaw comes back, " Lauren explained. 

"Why so long?" That was three days from now. 

Lauren shrugged. "It's a mandatory twenty-four hours, and Shaw is off tomorrow. She should have known Thursday is the worst day to go off the rails." 

"Not everyone manipulates their every behavior so that it only serves them," Taren said, his voice hard. 

Before Lauren could answer, Taren tugged at my arm. "Can I talk to you for a second?" 

He didn't wait for my reply, just pulled me a few feet away. 

"Did she hurt you? Your head hit the tile pretty hard." That explained the spinning, and the pain that was starting to seep through the cracks of my shock. 

I reached up to touch the back of my head. 

"Ow! Yeah, I guess she got me pretty good. What was that about, anyway? What's her problem with me?" 

Before he could answer, one of the nurses approached. "We'll get you checked out now, dear." 

"I was just going to get her some ice," Taren said, his hand on the small of my back, steering me away from the nurse. 

"Don't be silly, she could have a concussion. We need to take her to the E.R." 

I stifled a laugh. Well, I had wanted to get out of here. Maybe if my mother knew I was just as likely to lose my life inside the mental hospital as out, she'd spring me that much sooner. I let the nurse take my arm. 

"Wait," Taren leaned close, his breath in my ear. My pulse went back to racing. "Do you have any... birthmarks?" 


His question was so bizarre I was heedless of the pain and snapped my head to face him. His eyes were inches from mine. For a second he stared... the only way I could describe it would be to say he stared into me. Then he grabbed both of my wrists and pushed up the sleeves of my hoodie, searching. I tried to pull away, but his grip was too strong. 

"Do you?" He demanded again. 

"N-no," I stammered. 

Intensity didn't usually unnerve me, but at this moment, his definitely was. 

"Taren, enough! What are you doing?" The nurse demanded. 

Taren came back to himself. "Nothing, sorry." He dropped my wrists. "Sorry, I hope you feel better." 

He turned abruptly and strode away. 

The End

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