I sat silently, fiddling with my hands while Cheyenne and Florence bickered above me.
“Take that back, bitch!”
“Make me, twig!”
“I’m not a twig! I’m a perfectly healthy weight, thank you very much!”
“Yeah, ‘cause all the models of perfect health have ribs that look like they’ll snap any second.”
“Jest because you’re fat doesn’t mean you have to take it out on everybody else.”
A silence fell over the group. I glanced up, quickly examining the faces of everybody around me. Zach was staring at Hailey who was muttering something to Cheyenne who was gaping at Florence who was smirking right back.
“You… think I’m fat?” Cheyenne asked incredulously. “Really?” She shook her head, laughter making her voice shake. “I’m so fucking hurt right now. Like, I’m going to starve myself stupid because of one dumb bitches opinion. Wow, Florence. You really know how to hit ‘em hard.” The laughter died, a sneer taking over instead. Gone was the carefree Cheyenne and sat in her place was a cold, cruel one instead. “Why don’t you take your salad sticks and fuck off back to the toilet stall that you crawled out of? And mop up your puke after you’re done. Last time I could smell the stomach acid.”
Florence flushed, looking hurt for a moment before it was wiped away. She huffed and stood, disappearing from the room in the same way she’d suddenly appeared, silently and without a trace.
Unfortunately, the silence didn’t leave with her. I glanced at Hailey, who grimaced at me.
“Oh God what did I say that for?” Cheyenne whined, head dropping into her hands. “I’m such a bitch! God, I need to apologize to her.” She went to stand, but Zach’s hand shot out, grabbing her wrist and holding her back.
“No. You don’t. She was a bitch to you. She deserved it. Leave it.”
It was the most I’d ever heard him say, and the calm, level voice he spoke in did wonders. I was no longer keyed up and feeling awkward, Hailey was smiling softly and Cheyenne sat back down without protest, nodding in agreement.
“Okay. Thanks Zach.” He merely inclined his head. “So, you’re sure you’re not joining us for music therapy?”
“Yeah. I’m sure. Not my cup of tea.”
“What is then? Reading, art, standard group session?”
Honestly? If this were anything but a psych ward, I’d be raring to join the groups. But this was a psych ward. And I was crazy. And I still didn’t trust the doctors. So I wouldn’t be joining anything.
“No. None of them do it for me.” I heard Hailey sigh, and a pang of annoyance rocketed through me. She probably thinks you’re incapable or something. Probably thinks you’re not taking part because you can’t. Probably thinks you’re stupid and ignorant. I’m not. I’m not I’m not I’m not. “I’ll watch music therapy for a while though, see what it’s like.” I said, lip curling slightly as I watched Hailey. She grinned, nodding enthusiastically.
“That’d be great, Lily! I think you’ll like what you see!” She babbled on and on about how fun and rewarding it was, how it brought the ward together. I simply nodded, not really processing anything she said. I was too busy listening to everything else going on inside my head. Every counter argument they made. And then a trolley was wheeled in and Hailey was clapping and real life hit my round the head with a tambourine. Literally.
“Shit, sorry.” Zach mumbled, passing the tambourine to a giggling Hailey.
“It’s okay. No harm done.” I smiled at him, receiving a small one in return as he passed a small electric keyboard to Cheyenne and took a guitar for himself.
“Alright people, take your seats!” A man called, gesturing to the fold out chairs arranged in an arc. It was like they were a choir or something. The three stood, walking over, heads ducked and whispering. About you. No, they’re not. How do you know? Zach glanced back for a moment before taking a seat, attention focused on the man in front of them all. See? Shut up. “Alright people! For the new guys, I’m Alex. I run all the therapy sessions. Hey, you.” It took me a minute to register the fact that he was talking to me.
“You not joining us?”
“No. Not today. Just watching.”
“You’re new here, right?” He asked, grinning crookedly.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Lily, it’s nice to meet you. I hope you join in next time, and until then I hope you enjoy our tunes.”
“Cool. Thanks.” I mumbled as he turned back to the group, producing a conductor’s baton and waving excitedly.
“He’s pretty cute, isn’t he?” Someone murmured in my ear, making me jump.
“Shit, Florence. Can you not do that?” I asked breathlessly, massaging my chest.
“Sneak up on people.”
“I don’t sneak up on people. They just don’t notice me.” She frowned for a minute, before steeling her appearance again. She did that a lot. Hide behind a mask of indifference.
“Why’re you here?”
“Figured I’d keep you company.” She shrugged, putting bottles of nail varnish on the table in front of us.
“Alright then.” I mumbled, settling myself on the sofa and folding my arms across my chest, shivering slightly in the nonexistent cold.
“Okay, you guys ready?” I heard Alex ask, receiving a chorus of ‘yes!’ from his entourage. “And a one, and a two, and a one, two, three!” And… they were good. Surprisingly so… Or at least they were for the first 3 or 4 minutes until the kid on the trumpet choked, squeaking out a painfully high-pitched note. Then everyone sort of descended into fits of giggles, which bloomed into full on laughter. I couldn’t help but smile watching them. They all looked so bloody happy. But I guess Florence saw it as a smirk.
“Pathetic, aren’t they? I don’t know why Alex bothers with them, if I’m honest. They don’t take it seriously and they find the stupidest things funny.” I heard her roll her eyes. “So fucking childish.”
I closed my eyes, trying to block the sound of her prattling on and on and on, wishing she’d just shut up already. Just strangle her. Grab her throat and squeeze until her last breath fans across your face, until the blood vessels pop and blossom against the whites of her eyes. My eyes snapped open, my breathing coming sharp and fast as I stood, muttering an excuse to a disgruntled Florence and hurrying out of there. That was new. That was something completely and utterly new.
My breathing evened out as I wondered around the ward, taking myself on the tour that was never offered to me on arrival. I guess they were a bit preoccupied, in their defense. I found bathrooms, toilets, 5 vending machines modified to take wizarding coins, two pay phones with the same modifications, one fireplace with restricted access, a help desk, a check in desk, a pair of double doors that lead to the rest of the hospital, a library and Dr. Moon’s office, in which was sat a stiff-backed couple, having what looked like an intense conversation with her. A couple that looked familiar. I paused for a moment, cocking my head and narrowing my eyes. As I did, the man turned slightly. His eyes widened almost imperceptibly as he saw me, before turning back around again quickly. Startled, and slightly embarrassed, I carried on back to my room, head down, not trusting myself to look around again in case I did something horrifically nosy again. He’d looked so startled that I wondered if he hadn’t seen the papers, didn’t know I was here. But it looked like it was more than surprise. It looked a little bit like fear.
It was only as I was drifting off to sleep that night that I recognized the couple sat in Dr. Moon’s office. The last thought that passed through my brain that afternoon was what exactly were Draco and Astoria Malfoy doing in Mungo’s psych ward?