Now I was in my room again, the room where everything started. This was where I had used to sit before, listening to the Voices as they flattered me and vyed for my attention. And I replied, talking to them like friends, because that was all we were: then.
It seemed a little more like home now that Nick -- Dad -- was gone. And I had to remind myself the memories weren't all bad.
"Shelley? Are you okay up there?" Sophie was outside the door, knocking gently. It was dinner time, I supposed, and she was sure to have cooked something delicious. But I couldn't eat. I had hardly ingested a mouthful since I returned home. The good food just stuck in my throat and wouldn't go down.
"I'm fine, Mum," I said. That was one of her rules. To get back to normality, I had to call her 'Mum', like any other teenager on the planet. But I wasn't any other teenager. How many other seventeen-year-olds had been through what I'd been through and seen what I'd seen?
"There's a letter here for you." She opened the door and handed me an envelope. "Posted at Heathrow. I don't know who it's from."
"Thanks." I closed the door, flopped onto the little bed and opened it.
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to keep things from you, but I was sworn to secrecy. Don't you understand? My life would have been forfeit had I told you the truth. But of course, that's no excuse. If I'd warned you, perhaps none of this would have happened, and you would still be a girl in a hospital for a mental illness she didn't have. Or perhaps it would have happened. Perhaps it was inevitable.
I was on my way to see you, but I've been told that I can't. You have to let go, they said, to forget me. Please, don't forget me. You have to let go of the past and I know that, but I beg of you one thing: if ever I were to come to your door, you would recognise me.
You were like a daughter to me. The daughter I never had, and I loved you as I would have done my own child. Every time I heard you scream on board that ship, that hell, I wanted more than anything to take your pain on top of my own, so that you could be happy. I would have given anything to make you happy, even if it meant that I endured the inch-deep cuts and broken legs.
Now I'm far away. By the time you read this I will be in Australia. Don't come looking for me, because you have to carry on.
Every night when you look up, whether you can see the stars or not, think of me. Rest assured that I will be thinking of you, though our time zone is different and our gazes will never cross. Who knows. Maybe one day I will see you again. Maybe one day we'll meet and you will run into my arms -- as a daughter would.
Please, Shelley, look after yourself. For me.