Chapter 1 : Mannequin Display Case
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A/N: Thanks so much to my beta, Broken_Innocence!
They think that I'm crazy. I suppose that's why I'm here. I want to
tell them that their wrong, but the words always seem to get jumbled
or don't even make their way out of my mouth. It's a bit of a pain,
really, this assumption that the torture made me crazy when I don't
believe that it did. I was crazy prior to the
torture. It was the torture that brought me back to reality and
the world around me. I've always been one to linger on the past, but
that was yanked out from under my feet. And when it was pulled, I fell into
this pit of reality, leaving the craziness dangling on the cliff above
Frank always liked that red dress of mine. He said, and I quote this
directly, that "I looked like a robin hopping along the grass at noon
on a warm summer day". Frank loved that dress. So I saved it up,
limited the wearing of that old red dress. If you wear something too
much, the magic wears off. The same logic applies for many things-
saying something too much, doing something too much, and so on. I try
to do things less frequently than most. That way, those things still
have that element of magic to me, even if they're a bland, everyday
procedure to the rest of the world. I like having that little bit of
magic in me.
"You look like a robin hopping along the grass at noon on a warm summer day."
"And you look like Frank Longbottom."
"Romantic, aren't you?"
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, although they tend
to keep us away from mirrors at this hospital, as though seeing our
reflection will add to our supposed insanity, and I see myself. Not
just see my reflection, like most people see when they look in the
mirror, but really see myself. It's scary to see yourself. You don't
quite know what you will get. Maybe yourself today is different from
yourself yesterday or yourself tomorrow. People claim that they know
who they are, but I don't think you can quite define you. It's a lie,
it is, when people say that they know who they are.
I wish I had that red dress on and I could waltz around this hospital
with Frank. He used to give me bubblegum wrappers, you know. Crisp
ones, still with the scent of bubblegum clinging to the crinkled
paper. He would fold them, in neat careful lines. You can never quite
smooth out a bubblegum wrapper, but Frank got close. The wrinkles were
only visible if you looked close enough. Otherwise, it was just a
smooth little square. A crisp one, with the scent of bubblegum
clinging to the crinkled paper.
"Why do you always give me these?"
"What do you mean?"
"These wrappers, Frank. These silly little bubblegum wrappers. What
are they for?"
"I don't know."
"Then why do you give me them if you don't know what they're for?"
"I don't know."
I still keep these wrappers. People think that this makes me crazy,
keeping bits of trash. The fresh cent of bubblegum is gone and now,
when I try to sniff them for some lurking memory of the past, I just
get the smell of paper.
It's funny how hushed up the nurses here are about my situation, as
they call it. I do think I'd prefer it if they called me crazy
directly to my face. Saying that I have a situation hardly sounds
better, though I suppose they think it adds to their cheery persona.
The fakeness of this hospital is having more of an effect on my
insanity than my actual situation, as they, whomever they may be,
would call it. We're all just here to die, aren't we? It's inevitable,
this death. Maybe death is better than this situation, again, as they
would call it; maybe I should be dead right now. People can't be very
fake when they're dead, now can they?
I slept with a piece of wedding cake under my pillow after my aunt
married when I was in my second year. I snuck it all the way home from
the wedding reception, careful not to smear the icing on my fancy
junior bridesmaid dress. I was terribly tempted eat the cake, but I
resisted. I resisted the entire way. My friend had informed me a week
earlier that if you slept with wedding cake under your pillow, you
would dream under your future husband. I believed her and I cried for
hours the next morning when I couldn't remember my dream.
"Let's trade hearts."
"Trade hearts. I'll take your heart and you take mine."
"See, I just grabbed your heart. Grab mine."
"Grab my heart."
"Okay, I grabbed it."
"Don't tell anyone. Let's keep it a secret that we traded hearts."
I never liked jigsaw puzzles much. I was never real good at them.
Frank was. He could whip up a jigsaw puzzle in no more than five
minutes. He thought that I was good at them, as well, but I cheated
with spells. I never told him that. I wanted him to think I was real
good. But the pieces didn't fit for me. My jigsaw puzzle never wanted
to turn out like the shiny image on the box. It wanted to go its own
way and become something other than a couple of dragons sitting in a
cave or a faerie ball. I wanted to trust the puzzle and let the pieces
go where they wanted to go. But even more, I wanted Frank to think
that I was real good.
"We can fight him together. I'm going to fight him; I've already
decided. And I'll win."
"Where did the years go? What happened to the simplicity we used to cherish?"
"Nothing is simple with him."
"Remember that one night when we stayed up late, watching the stars?"
"Let's go somewhere. Let's get out of here and just hide away and
watch the stars some more."
"I don't want to run away from these problems."
"I just thought that you might want to watch the stars with me. Real
quick and all."
"Alice, we aren't kids anymore. Grow up."
"I thought you liked watching the stars with me."
"I've moved on. You need to move on, Alice, let go of the past."
"Remember that red dress?"
"Let it go."
"Don't you remember it?"
"No, I don't. Let it go."
I hate this hospital. It makes me feel like I'm some kind of mannequin
in a clothing department, on display for people to gawk at. I used to
like mannequins before I came to this hospital; I used to talk to them
when I was younger. I'd go right up to those still, inanimate
creatures and ask them how they were. No one else could hear them, but
I could. I could hear those mannequins and they answered me. Some
days, they were just fine. And others, they were tired of being on
display. I eventually stopped talking to them, but I still thought
about them. I decided that one day, one day far in the future, I would
meet up with them again. We'd discuss our lives and what had happened
to us since those polite conversations in the clothing department.
"You used to call me a robin."
"And you used to give me those bubblegum wrappers."
"And you used to care about me."
"That's where you're wrong. I never stopped."
Frank always liked that red dress of mine. I saved it up, though. I
wanted to make the magic last.