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” my brother, Nick, asked, completely exasperated. “They forgot to return my shoes,” I replied, my voice so small you could scarcely hear it. This surprised me because, despite how calm and composed I sounded on the outside; inside, I felt as though I was about to spontaneously combust at any moment. My heart beat so hard and so fast that I had to look down at my chest just to make sure it wasn’t visible. “God Audrey,” my brother finally said, turning his attention from the road down to my feet, “What are those on your feet? They look like shoes to me.” I glanced down at the battered up flip flops the hospital lent me during my stay, “No,” I said. My throat felt so tight and swollen every syllable was a struggle to get out. “They have my Chucks. You know, the ones dad bought me in France last summer.” “Jesus Audrey, I don’t have time for this shit. I’m already late meeting Tara because you landed yourself in the fucking mental hospital and mom practically begged me to come pick you up today.” “But…” I finally managed, after what felt like hours, “they’re my favorite.” “They’re just shoes Audrey,” he said in what I could tell was an earnest effort on his part to be a little nicer. How could I expect him to understand? On the one hand, I knew he was right. They were just shoes, and no sane person should be this attached to a material object. But, on the other, these were the shoes I’d worn every single day since the summer my life changed. The summer I’d finally stopped being a stupid little girl, gotten drunk for the first time, gotten my first tattoo, my belly button pierced, my first kiss, stopped being a fat-ass… He was right though, they were just shoes. But that didn’t change the fact that I’d felt completely naked since the day the hospital forced
What a joke. “You’re right. I caught her yelling once at my eight-year old sister. blonde haired idiot.V and glaring at any unsuspecting person who got in her way. I had pretty much subsumed full responsibility for Zooey’s well being. In addition to that. four years ago.” I finally managed. Yes. try not to stare at her naked body. she was beautiful. my brother. . Ever since they started dating. as she always seemed to feel the need to parade around completely naked whenever any male was present. but I thought my dad had a little bit more self-respect than that. the only person she really had it out for.” II. I couldn’t really blame them though. Actually.me to turn them in. was me. My friends. knowing how much I loathed the woman. a feat that proved completely impossible. it’s pretty clear what he sees in Linda. in the fear that I might try to hang myself with the shoelaces. I was wrong. Who am I kidding. out of respect for me. “They’re just shoes. in case I tried to get drunk off of them. trying to make my voice sound convincing. Ever since my parents’ divorce. in case I tried to cut myself with them. Zooey. I had to refrain from inviting any male friends over to the house. brainless women to tend to. the silicone breasted. I didn’t want my brother thinking I was any more pathetic than he already did. she’s beautiful and the complete opposite of my mother in every respect. and replaced them with “safe” alternatives. My mom was too busy drinking to pay attention to much of anything else. “Audrey would you pick up the damn phone?” Linda yelled. Linda. What he saw in her was beyond me. would. was my dad’s first long-term girlfriend since the divorce. and confiscated all my toiletries that had alcohol in them. strike that. barely glancing up from the television set in front of her. too busy being a complete ass hole. Clearly. Linda was my dad’s new girlfriend who had recently taken to sitting on our living room couch for hours on end staring at the T. and my dad had his collection of beautiful. but I put an end to that as soon as it started. they’d made me take out my belly button ring and earrings.
“Alright. my all-time favorite soda. popping open a Tab. “some other time then. Hence the reason I risked breaking hospital rules and giving him my number in the first place. “Hey sexy.” Daniel was the only friend I’d made during my stay at Peachrogue Hospital. which was charging two feet in front of Linda. I did meet him at a mental hospital after all. to see if he’d completely lose his shit if I couldn’t do what he wanted me to do the moment he wanted me to do it. or completely and utterly psychotic to the point where I found myself running from them at every chance I could get. “Why I’m hurt. You know. Daniel. Daniel.” he said. “Listen.” To be honest. “I’d love to Daniel. Everyone else was either attention crazed . “Congrats. his voice mocking. I thought maybe I could pick you up and we could go out for drinks or something. I mean. I just got released today.” I paused and considered this for a moment before responding.there for repeated attempts at suicide with a goddam piece of string.” a smooth.” he said. but I have to go pick up my sister from school in a few minutes and I know she’s really dying to spend time with me.” . and you never can be too safe these days.” I set my Tab down and ran over to my phone. running up the stairs away from Linda’s ears. “It’s giving me a headache. “Don’t sound so excited. flipping open my phone that displayed an unavailable number on it.” I said. “Now!” she yelled.“Just a minute.” I said finally. although it was true that I needed to pick up my sister.” “Oh. “Hello.” the voice retorted. normal from what I could tell.” I yelled. deep voice bellowed from the other line. although he did seem pretty normal to me during my stay. addicted to meth or some other hard drug. for the most part. “Who is this?” I asked. “It’s me. Possibly because he was the only semi-sane person there. on the other hand. seemed. this was one of my tests of sorts.
Despite this. Zooey hates when I’m late picking her up. Not that Ash was a bad person. No one did. Although. from every which way. Zooey had always been exceptionally smart for her age. I’ll admit that Ash can come off a little strong at times. Maybe she was impulsive. about how much they disliked Ash and how she was a terrible friend for me. perhaps because the only people she ever spent time with were me and my friends. so we pretty much spent every day of the week except for Sundays together. it wasn’t that long ago that I was forced to sit out front amongst the multitude of people I despised. figuring that she already had enough bad influences in her life. But they didn’t understand. Zooey liked to tag along and watch our rehearsals on Saturday’s. I’m sure my parents. and thinks it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Zooey to have more friends. Cole was my dance partner at the Decatur Ballet Conservatory. just not the kind of person you’d want your eight-year sister emulating. My mom and Linda don’t get it. She’s the only person who’s ever managed to get me out of my head for more than five minutes at a time. got my license. however. You couldn’t fault her for that. and most of my teachers would have to disagree with me on this. “I’d like that.” I smiled. because it forces her to “fraternize” with people she doesn’t like after school. my brother doesn’t care. and felt an overwhelming sense of freedom fall over me. Ash. I took my drivers test. psychiatrist. and my dad thinks it would be good for her to spend more time with people her own age. brother. I grab my bag and car keys and rush out the door. I made it a point to try to keep her away from my best friend. maybe a little promiscuous. whom she was hopelessly in love with. the bigger part of me completely understands. After all. but that’s part of the reason I like her so much. The minute I turned sixteen. For our entire friendship everyone was constantly preaching at me. but she just liked having a good time. waiting desperately for someone to come pick me up. Most of the teachers at the Conservatory absolutely adored her.” III. Even if part of me does agree with this.“Yeah. Yes. insisting that she continue her ballet studies so . Mostly she just hung out with me and my good friend Cole. I did have to agree that she might not be the best person for Zooey to spend too much time with.
beaming at me. I knew she didn’t want to pry. and I loved her for that. “Audrey!” She screams. “but they were really busy with stuff and I don’t think Linda likes me very much. innocent little sister dancing at a company level.” I say. The rest of our drive home was completely silent. there was something unnerving about the idea of my sweet. where they would pick at every part of her until there was nothing left. I roll down my window. throwing her stuff in the backseat and hopping into the seat next to me. She jumps up from the bench. Although I really did love dancing more than anything. the school that my dad had insisted all three of us attend. I pulled into The Lycée Français D’Atlanta. Did Daddy and Linda treat you alright?” I ask.that one day she too could join their dance company. . yell her name about five times. “Maybe so. Stella. “I’ve missed you so much. wondering if I was alright. Despite the fact that my dad.” she says.” she says.” “I’ve missed you to Zooey. he lives in constant fear that the three of us will grow up not knowing the language and forever become labelled as “dumb Americans” by everyone else in the world. her nose buried in a book. until she finally hears me and looks up from her book. grabs her purple backpack and I Love Lucy lunch box and runs over to my old. beat up red volvo. “Yeah. trying to ease her anxieties. patting her hand next to me. pulling out of the school and into the direction of our house. I could feel Zooey’s eyes glancing up at me every so often. I see Zooey sitting on the bench out front. I was very protective of her. completely oblivious to all the commotion surrounding her.” “Linda doesn’t like anyone but herself.” I say. When I pull in front of the school. Olivier (Oliver in the States). “I just think she’s sad. fearing the answer. her voice so sweet and innocent it would make anyone melt. is french. “I thought about you every day I was gone.” I say. to ensure that we all be able to read and write in French with the utmost level of fluency.
“I’ll be back there with you as soon as I can. I’m not sick. “There’s nothing wrong with me.” It had killed me that I was there.” I’d demanded. “Be strong Audrey. “Shhh. “Where am I?” I remember asking. You’re here for your problems with Anorexia and Self-Mutilation. until I’d been awakened in the middle of the night by an elderly black woman who had shoved a needle into my arm.” “What am I doing here?” I’d asked. to convince her that everything would be alright. “What are you talking about? Those are complete lies.” . I was so mad at myself for drinking that night. “Calm yourself.I only spoke to her once during my stay at the hospital. swallowing the lump that had been rising in my throat.” “Yeah. drawing blood. completely disoriented.” Silence… “Tell me why I’m here.” I had replied. I wanted to take away all of her pain. away from her. but it felt weird saying much of anything with the head nurse sitting directly in front of me.” she’d coaxed. I want to go home.” “But. in the hospital. I remember thinking that her voice sounded so far away and concerned.” She’d said. “You’re at Peachrogue Hospital. Go back to sleep. monitoring our phone conversation. I’m fine. “I know you’ll be out soon. completely hyperventilating by this point. Everything will be clear in the morning. For having no idea that my mother was driving me to the hospital. in a very matter-of-fact tone.” I remember her saying before we hung up.” she’d said. “You’re sick child. “What’s going on?” “Hush child. They’ll explain everything to you in the morning.” I’d cried. For not being in control. calm yourself. Unable to protect her.
And maybe they would never understand. “Torture.” “Oh my god. “I was surrounded by a bunch of freakin’ loonies. even if nobody else did. Perhaps it was all the crying that had exhausted me. “Thanks Zooey.” I laughed. the scars and fine hair accumulating all over your body say the opposite. you have to tell me everything. Yes she was blunt. I knew that. But I did. No one understood why we were friends.” How I’d managed to fall back asleep that night I’ll never know. That’s just the way Ash was. But I knew that wasn’t true. thought she was a heartless bitch who didn’t care about anyone but herself. . without a clue as to where I was. “I was just about to go bust you out myself if you weren’t out by next week. I looked up at her.“Honey.” IV. Now go back to sleep. “I managed to convince them I was sane I guess. her voice sounding so enthusiastic it couldn’t help but draw you in. that bewitching. completely intoxicating. and yes she was selfish.” Zooey said. lip gloss and three books into my bag. “I’m glad you’re feeling better. V.” She laughed.” she said. But my throat suddenly went dry. energetic laugh of hers that lit the whole room up. I knew some people didn’t like it. I threw my concealer stick. she really did care about me. “You’re out?!” Ash screamed into the phone. I thought about telling her everything.” “Yeah. and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.” I finally managed. blinking back tears I’d only just realized had been building up. bringing my thoughts back to the present as I pulled into our driveway. recounting every last memory I had of the place. but below the surface. I thought about telling her how I felt waking up there. I didn’t care.
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