Secrets lie in our words, sometimes we don't even mean to speak them.
Ever since I was a small child I had a desire to help; to cure those in pain. She was in pain and she needed my help. She hadn’t said it yet but I knew she did. I knew I had to help her. It was becoming a two way street. I needed her just as much as I knew she needed me.
Madelyn needed me.
The ringing finally stopped. I wasn’t interested in talking to anyone but her and I knew it wasn’t her that was calling. We’d made nothing more than tiny steps tonight and though they meant everything to me I knew we had a lot further to go before she would even start to be okay.
The clock read 5:45 am in bright red font and I rolled out of bed, knowing I wasn’t going to get anymore sleep than I’d already gotten.
It took me two tries to get my shirt on the right way and then as I glanced around my room I realized I hadn’t been taking very good care of myself. I’d spent all of my waking hours at the institution, seemingly forgetting that I had a life outside of it.
As I glanced in to the mirror above the bathroom sink all I could see was a deep loneliness, far surpassing my own. How could I be happy in this world when I knew so many were suffering? That was something my father seemed to be able to look past but it was something I was unsure I’d be able to. It seemed his importance in the community, his entire life… it came with a price; one I wasn’t sure that I could pay.
Fifteen minutes later and I was on my way to face down several lonely faces. If I could just save one of them I knew it would be all worth it though and I was set on saving Madelyn.
She wasn’t too far gone.
No one was.
It felt as if worms were crawling through my hair, over my forehead, and their soothing words of… words?!? Worms did not speak! My fluttering eyelids couldn’t seem to open fast enough and I found that the blinds were drawn, forcing in unbearable sunlight that blinded me temporarily, as the white walls usually did when I first woke.
“Good morning sleepyhead.” The all too familiar voice clouded my mind, like an overwhelming wave about to drag me out to sea.
My eyes moved past him, on to the next figure in the room.
Despite my strong desire to not trust anyone ever again, for fear of being crushed all over again, I felt myself relaxing at the sight of Gerard. He was sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, where he’d usually sit and watch television with me while I refused to speak. He filled the silence sometimes, other times choosing to be silent with me.
Now he simply watched, and I felt as if he were my guardian angel and within this room nothing could go wrong. I knew the feelings were foolish and I wished to push them back but with just one small smile, Gerard forced a smile out of me.
My unwelcome guest smiled in return, thinking the smile was for him. “It’s been too long sis, I apologize for not seeing you sooner.” His fingers traveled back to my forehead, pushing more hair behind my ears.
I said nothing, trying desperately not to tremble under his cold, unfeeling fingers. Frank Iero shared a mother with me, but not a father. My father had been kind, dying much too soon. His father had been with my mother before my father had been and then as soon as my father died he took his place, or tried very hard to. Frank was four years older than me and acted as if he owned everything, he had always acted that way. I watched girls swoon over him, and I watched teachers turn the other cheek to his antics. Now that we were out of high school things weren’t much better. He still thought he owned everything and everyone and he didn’t like it when people didn’t go along with his delusion.
Frank stood suddenly, moving closer to me. I sat up in bed, watching his every move. “Happy Birthday.” He finally whispered, eyes saying more than he ever would.
It was my birthday. I had forgotten. I turned twenty today and though this wasn’t particularly where I expected my life to take me… I didn’t want to fight to get out. Not with what I knew I would be facing.
Freedom wasn’t all it seemed to be.
Frank sighed heavily, taking his fingers away from my skin much to my relief. “Now that Jason is gone I plan to free you little sister. Don’t fret. You’ll be out of this place in no time.” Gerard, who suddenly stood, didn’t miss the sinister smile upon Frank’s lips.
“Visiting hours are officially over. You’re going to have to leave now.” Gerard left no room to argue as he opened the door, gesturing that Frank should leave.
Frank cast one last longing glance in my direction and then he disappeared. I heard the door shut behind him and I looked away, quietly speaking. “You didn’t have to do that.” How had things changed so dramatically between Gerard and myself over night?
“It’s like a chemical, binding us. When one chemical is off then the other is as well, and I could tell… something was off.” Gerard said, shaking his head. “I hope that didn’t sound too ridiculous.”
I was beginning to see something in Gerard that I had foolishly overlooked before. “What are you truly looking for Gerard?” He’d been here every single day for three weeks…
Gerard shrugged, “What should I be looking for at this point?”
“Don’t psycho-analyze me.” I shook my finger at him, feeling a small smile creep upon my face. “It just surprised me that my- my brother was here.” It was an attempt to cover the truth but like most cover- up’s the truth was breaking through with each word spoken. That was why I never should have opened my mouth but I’d already gone too far.
“A bad surprise?”
“Just a surprise.” Frank wanted to get me out of this… this safety net but why? Why couldn’t he just leave me alone?
“I’d say it was a bad surprise from the look that’s still on your face.” Gerard moved closer, hesitating only slightly. “Look, it’s okay… if there is something you need to talk about… I’m-“
“You’re here for me?” I laughed at his words, “Listen Dr. Way, you’re going to have to try a little harder with your wording if you’re going to grow up to be just like your daddy.”
“Why are you attacking me?” Gerard didn’t possess the calm that psychologist’s here did and I couldn’t imagine him ever possessing it. He was a lot more alive than they probably ever would be.
“I’m not.” I pulled the blanket tighter to my chest as I wondered why I was attacking him. It wasn’t his fault that Frank showed up. It wasn’t his fault that I was starting to feel safe around him. It wasn’t his fault that I’d decided to open my mouth… “I’m sorry.”
“Do you want to-“ Gerard paused, looking down at his fingers. “Would you like to go out with me today?”
“For another walk?” I knew very well that I couldn’t leave the institution grounds.
“I was thinking to, like a movie…” Gerard awkwardly stretched, “It’s your birthday and, happy birthday by the way, and I kind of got you a day pass… as long as you promise not to run away from me.”
I laughed nervously, “Um, okay… that would be nice.”
Gerard laughed as well, “Great. Well, um… I’ll just go so you can… get ready, without me standing here.” He nervously made his way out of my room.
Once he was gone I put one foot on my floor, the other closely following. If only everything in life were as easy as putting one foot in front of the other…
“What do you mean he doesn’t have the money?” The words slipped from my mouth as I frowned in disgust.
“He… he ran in to some bad luck.” The shaking hands, the flurry of tears… All of the things that made me love life more, with each passing day. “He said he’ll-“
“I don’t actually care what he has to say about not having the money, I’m more interested in the money itself. I’m a little too busy to throw him a visit tonight but if I don’t receive the money by next week I’ll come knockin’…”
The man nodded and ran off, in to the dark alleyway. It was funny how all you had to do was shed a little blood to earn the fear of a hundred men. I had the entire town in my hands, all except for Madelyn.
That would change very soon though.