“For all of us?”
“Part of the package,” Jamie said as the line moved forward. “Drug therapy in conjunction with talk therapy, yadda yadda yadda.” And then it was his turn. He took two little paper Dixie cups from the counselor, the one who broke up the almost-fight.
“Hi, Wayne,” Jamie said cheerfully.
“Bottoms up.” Jamie tossed the contents of one cup back, then the other.
Wayne glanced at me then. “You’re next.”
“Mara Dyer,” he said, handing me two cups. I peered into them. One was filled with water, the other with pills. Unfamiliar pills; I recognized only one.
“What are these?” I asked him.
“But I’m not on all of these.”
“You can talk to Dr. Kells about that later, but for now, you gotta take ’em.”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Rules are rules,” he said, shrugging. “Go on, now.”
I tossed them back and swallowed.
“Open your mouth,” he said.
I did as I was told.
Do I get a gold star? I didn’t say it, but I wished I had. Instead, I trudged after Jamie and we ate together. Miraculously, I even laughed.
Just as I was beginning to think this place might not be so terrible, Dr. Kells appeared in the corner of the room and called my name.
“Good luck,” Jamie said as I rose from our table.
But I didn’t need luck. Despite my bad night and worse morning, I knew the script well. I could pull this off.
As I left the dining room, though, fingers tightened around my wrist and pulled me into a niche. My eyes followed them up to Phoebe’s face. I glanced behind me; we were out of view.
“You’re welcome,” she said tonelessly.
I wrenched my arm away. “For what?”
Phoebe’s face was a blank mask. “For fixing your eyes.”
SO PHOEBE THE PSYCHO SCRATCHED MY EYES OUT. Not Jude.
I was relieved and angry at once. Jude took the pictures and made sure I found them today, and that was terrifying and awful, yes.
But I was glad he hadn’t scratched out my eyes. I didn’t know quite why, but I was.
Phoebe drifted away before I could say anything else. I took a deep breath and followed Dr. Kells down the long corridor, but it felt like the walls were closing in. Phoebe had unbalanced me, and I had to get control.
After what seemed like a ten-mile walk, I reached an open door near the end of the hall. Dr. Kells had already gone inside.
The room was white like all the others, and the only furniture in it was a blond wood desk and two white chairs dwarfed by the open space. Dr. Kells stood behind the desk, and a man was by her side.
She smiled at me and gestured to one of the chairs. I obediently went to sit but almost missed it. Weird.
“How did your tour go?” she asked me.
“Fine,” I lied again.
“Wonderful. I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Vargas.” The man next to her smiled. He was young—in his twenties, probably, with curly hair and glasses. He looked sort of like Daniel, actually.
“Dr. Vargas is a neuropsychologist. He works with some of our students who have suffered from head trauma and other acute illnesses that are causing them problems.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
“You too.” Still grinning, he moved behind me toward the door. “Thank you, Dr. Kells.”
He closed the door, and then she and I were alone. Dr. Kells rose from behind her desk and sat in the chair next to me. She smiled. She didn’t have a pen or paper or anything with her. She just . . . watched.
The air felt heavy and my thoughts became slow as seconds stretched into minutes. Or maybe they didn’t; time was elastic in the giant empty room. My eyes darted around, searching for a clock, but there didn’t seem to be one.
“So,” Dr. Kells finally said. “I think we should begin by talking about why you’re here.”
Showtime. I reached into my memory to recall the symptoms of PTSD to make sure whatever I divulged mimicked that diagnosis and not schizophrenia. Or worse.
“I’m here,” I said carefully, “because I survived a trauma. My best friend died.” Meaningful pause. “It’s been really hard for me, and I keep thinking about it. I’ve had hallucinations. And flashbacks.” I stopped. Would that be enough?
“That’s why your family moved to Florida,” Dr. Kells said.
“But that’s not why you’re here in this program.”
I swallowed. “I guess I’m still not over it.” I tried to sound innocent, but I just sounded nervous.
She nodded. “No one expects you to be. But what I’m asking is whether or not you understand why you’re here. Now.”
Ah. She wanted to hear about Jude—that I believed he was alive. I had to answer her, but it was a dangerous tightrope to walk. If I spoke too carefully, she’d realize that I was manipulating her. But if I spoke too candidly, she could decide that I was crazier than I actually was.
So I said, “My father was shot. I—I thought he might die. And I freaked out. I went to the police station and just started screaming. I wasn’t—I didn’t feel like myself. It’s been a lot to deal with.” My stomach churned. I hoped she’d move on.
She didn’t. “At the police station, you mentioned your boyfriend. Jude.”
I hated hearing his name. “Ex,” I said.
“Ex-boyfriend,” she repeated, giving me that same look I’d seen on Dr. West’s face a few days ago. “You mentioned your ex-boyfriend, Jude. You said that he’s here.”
The words FOR CLAIRE appeared in red on the white wall behind Dr. Kells’s head. I felt a jolt of terror before I blinked them away.
“The information in your file says that your boyfriend, Jude—ex-boyfriend, I’m sorry—and your friends Rachel and Claire died in the collapse of the Tamerlane State Lunatic Asylum in Rhode Island.”
“Yes.” My voice was a whisper.
“But you said that Jude’s here,” she repeated.
I said nothing.
“Have you seen him since that night, Mara?”
I was stone. I modulated my voice. “That would be impossible.”
Dr. Kells rested her elbow on her desk and her chin in her hand. She looked at me with sympathy. “Do you want to know what I think?”