They were stacked dangerously on the side of the table, threatening to topple over and etch away at Aoibhinn’s patience; the waste of time it would take to perfectly assemble them scared her. Alphabetically correct in order of length, Aoibhinn prayed she wouldn’t have to rearrange them again.
Grabbing her school bag, she plopped the contents onto her study table, the books wobbling moderately. She counted the copies and stacked them next to the books, making sure they were close but never touching.
She sighed in relief and collapsed down on the chair, a stiff wooden seat that creaked worryingly, at risk of snapping under Aoibhinn’s slender build. Aoibhinn shifted on the chair, trying to get comfortable. The back of the chair dug into her back, forcing her to sit straight, as if it were trying to reconstruct her spine.
Observing her study room, Aoibhinn smiled with satisfaction, noticing how everything was perfect. The Irish vocabulary posters hung faultlessly on the cream walls, not a dog-ear or crinkle in sight. Little pieces of paper marked with bright red pen screaming 600 were placed around the room. The windows were cleaned to perfection, giving her an adequate view of the football pitch facing her. Her bookshelf was only filled with helpful study books and exam papers, in order of subject and difficulty. The room was quintessential of her disorder, but she decided to ignore that; her mother was the one that stated her infirmity, not her.
Aoibhinn repositioned herself on the chair, her back achingly straight and shoulders correctly positioned, and opened her Physics book, pondering over the various questions, ranging from simplicity to near-impossibility. She bit her lip, cracking the skin with her sharp teeth, causing a trickle of blood to flow. She screamed at herself, smacking her head and counting to ten before reached for a piece of tissue. Looking everywhere but at the blood that was staining the material, her haemophobia kicking in, she tried to divert her mind and concentrate.
“Aoibhinn, are you having dinner?”
Her mother opened the door slowly, her head peering in. The daughter made no movement, no awareness of the other presence in the room seeming to trigger in her mind. It was as if she was in a trance, or a blinding raged state. Her mother tried again, only to have Aoibhinn snap.
“Nobody’s allowed in the study room,” she bellowed, kicking the table, the books finally toppling to the floor, the pages wrinkling and turned back after their impact with the wooden boards.
Aoibhinn started to scream, her hands flying up to her dark hair as if to pull the strands from the roots on her pink scalp. Her mother jumped back in fear, slamming the door, a little click noise indicating she’d locked it. Rushing high heels skimmed outside the door, before a loud bang shook the room. Aoibhinn glanced quickly to the books, which stayed perfectly positioned, not a tremble.
It’s too much, Aoibhinn thought, throwing the contents of her bookshelf on the floor. The past seven months had been filled with stress and concentration, her need of 600 points etched in her head and her consciousness never letting her forget. Ever so slowly, her sanity had began to deteriorate. She discontinued going outside, severed any friendships she had once loved, relinquished her joy of music for the sack of the desire to study medicine. Her disorder slowly started creeping up to her; tiny mistakes on her homework were torn straight from the copy, written out over and over until flawless. Her personality became that of an asylum patient, her study room her chamber, a place that kept her mind hostage. It had taken over the role of a parent, ordering her to study, the books shouting at her to sit down and memorise the contents within. The study room had become her own personal demon, a place where, if she stopped studying, she was sure it would collapse around her and obliterate her being.
Taking a deep breath and taking her seat again, she noticed a black Mercedes pulling up outside her house. The windows were darkened, the body of the car clean, not a speck of dirt on its silky black shade.
A short, bald man emerged from the driver’s seat, dressed impressively in a black suit, a brown suitcase in his hands. He looked straight at the window, meeting Aoibhinn’s gaze, a look of pure neutrality clear on his aging face. A rush of hope ignited within Aoibhinn, a hope that he would disenthrall her. Suddenly, her mind snapped. She didn't want to leave; this was her cocoon, her safety net. She never wanted to leave, not until she knew everything. She watched the man walk out of her vision, a glimmer of joy and misery intertwined rushing through her.
Aoibhinn opening up her experiment copy and tried to learn off the calculations that she couldn’t understand. The theories and formulas sounded like they belonged in a Doctor Seuss book, spiralling around the page as her eyes became drowsy.
Suddenly, she heard a little click, a sound of footsteps. One, she knew, was her mother, her work heels scratching on the floor, the others she didn’t recognise. As the door began to open slowly, Aoibhinn felt a chill. She needed to be rescued, to be exempted from this seemingly perdition.
“Aoibhinn?” came a deep male voice. This was it. She knew why he was here; he had come to save her. To release her from this study room, and deliver her to a fresh hell.