Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 5
When Daddy opens the car door, I climb into the backseat and settle in the middle. I don’t ask where Zac and my new little sister are. In fact, I haven’t seen them since that first day at the hospital.
“Will Poppy be there?” I ask my parents from the backseat. Buckled in, as Mom put it.
I catch them exchanging an uneasy look that I can’t read as we pull out of the hospital parking lot.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, alarmed. “Is Poppy okay?” I was told Poppy wasn’t allowed in the hospital, so I’m sure he must be waiting at home for me.
My mother turns in the passenger seat to face me. Her blond hair is swept up in an intricate knot at the back of her head, and her eyes study me for a moment. She always pauses before she speaks to me. “Holly, Poppy’s gone to live with another family for a while. He’s safe, and he’s happy, and he’s being very well taken care of. I promise.”
I blink several times and gulp over the lump in my throat. “What? Why? Why isn’t Poppy coming home with me at my house?”
My father jumps in before Mom can answer. “We spent a lot of time talking to your doctors about everything that’s happened to you. You’re not going home yet, Holly.” He glances at me in the rearview mirror. “You will soon, but just not yet. You’re not ready.”
“Can I go live with Poppy, then?” His new home sounds really nice. But somehow, I’m not sure Poppy really is safe and happy. Something about my mother’s voice didn’t sound honest to me.
My heart sinks as Mommy firmly states, “No, Holly. That’s not possible—”
“But why? Wh-where am I going?”
Back in the hole. Until you can be a good girl.
My mother touches my father’s shoulder, stopping him from answering me. “You’re going to be staying at a very nice place for a little while,” she says, not meeting my eyes. She gives me a quick, strained smile. One of many I have seen. From everyone. “It’s different, kind of like a hospital but not like the hospital you were just in. It’s also like a school, and there are small apartments, too. It will be like your own safe little world. It has everything you need. There are really nice doctors and teachers that will help with more…life things that you need to learn.”
I crinkle my nose. “Life things?”
“Yes. Like math, and reading, and social skills, coping, and behavior. Cooking and laundry. You’ll be around other people your age that have been through similar…experiences. And once you get better, you’ll even have your own little apartment and a roommate. A girl close to your age.” Again, my parents exchange a look, but this one I read perfectly; it’s one of discomfort. “A special doctor will talk to you about the things that…happened…to you, so you can feel safe and normal.”
Safe and normal? I’m not sure any amount of talking is ever going to make me feel safe and normal. “I don’t even know what that’s supposed to feel like, so how will I even know if I feel it or not?”
“Honey, you will,” she says, slightly exasperated. “That’s what the doctor is going to help you with. It’s what they specialize in. Don’t you worry.”
The familiar feeling of panic and helplessness starts to creep up again. “I don’t want any help,” I say emphatically. “I just want to go home and be with Poppy. Please…”
My begging is ignored. As usual.
“We know, and we want you to come home soon, but your father and I think it’s best that we take it slow.” My mother hesitates and shakes her head slightly. “We both have extremely busy jobs, we can’t be home during the day to be with you. Zac has his own condo with his girlfriend, and Lizzie has piano practice and gymnastics.” She rubs her hand across her forehead. “We just have to figure it all out. But it’s not far from where we live at all. Just across town, actually. We’ll visit you, I promise.”
Defeated, I pull my backpack across the seat and onto my lap, ignoring my mother’s look of disapproval. I might not know a lot of “life things,” as they said, but I’ve seen this on TV many times. They don’t have time for me. They’ve all moved on and built their lives around each other, and I’m just the oddball in the way now.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” I protest, but it comes out weak and immature, which I am well aware is something I need to work on to fit in. “I can find things to be busy at just like everyone else.”
“We know you can, Holly,” my mother says. She sounds almost too confident. Another quick, strained smile follows. “And you will. It’s just going to take some time.”
“And what about the prince?” I ask, worried that it might take him another ten years to find me again now that they’re moving me. “Are you going to let him know where I am?”
“Yes,” she says with an eye roll. “Now please, stop getting yourself all worked up over silly things. Look out the window, it’s a beautiful day.”
She turns back around in her seat, and both my parents stare out the windshield of the car as if I’m not even there, leaving me confused and forgotten.
Beautiful day or not, I’m going from one prison to another. For so long I wanted to go home and be with my family again, and now that I can, it’s all gone. Time has taken everything away from me.
One year later
I feel numb as I’m once again sitting in the backseat of my father’s latest BMW, watching all the houses go by, as we enter the outskirts of town for my first visit home. I vaguely wonder if I’ll recognize my childhood home when I see it or if it, like everything else, will be different. There were many promises of me coming home for the holidays and weekends over the past year, but there was always an excuse, at the last minute, about why it wasn’t a good time or it couldn’t happen. After a while, I just accepted it and stopped looking forward to it. I got used to feeling disappointed. To be honest, I’m not even excited about the weekend visit I’ve suddenly been granted by my parents. I have my own schedule now, just like everyone else.
At least, being at Merryfield, I’ve watched less television. In fact, everything there was very regulated at first. My exposure to televised news, newspapers, and other outside influences was limited. The focus was learning and coping. And talking. Talking and talking and talking. I learned to cook, do laundry, and plant flowers and vegetables in a garden. I caught up on my education and found out that I was actually very smart. Sometimes the bad man would bring me school books during his visits, and he would teach me math and spelling. He would even quiz me randomly. I learned the hard way that he did not like bad grades. At Merryfield, I learned to share my feelings with a group, and I learned that, later, most of that group would whisper about me behind my back. They called me the Girl in the Hole. Thankfully, my roommate, who had named herself Feather, didn’t say bad things about me. She became my first, and only, friend.
The prince hasn’t come for me yet, but I know he will. I dream of him and his sky-blue eyes all the time, and each dream is more vivid than the last, with a little house in the forest, friendly bunnies, garden faeries, and singing birds. In my mind, Poppy is also there with his broken bark. It’s all there, the things that matter to me most, waiting for me.
“Here we are,” my mother announces in a singsong voice.
I snap out of my daze, my mind having gone blank the whole ride here. I still lose my sense of time often, hours, days and months merging together. For ten years I had no idea what day it was, or even what time of day it was. For me, time was segmented by what was on TV.
Gazing out the car window, I finally notice my surroundings. The artistic New England neighborhood, the perfectly manicured lawns, the big fancy houses. On TV, everything is perfect. Like what I see around me right now. In the TV shows, problems are always easily fixed, and doubt is merely a momentary inconvenience, quickly smoothed over and forgotten until it can be conveniently brought up again to create drama, only to be forgotten again. I’ve learned that real life isn’t like that at all. But sometimes I wish some of the fake world I immersed myself in daily was actually real. Then I would know what to expect. Nothing is predictable to me outside of Merryfield, and that’s one of the things I need to learn to cope with.
Wordlessly, I step out of the car as soon as it’s parked in the driveway and gaze up at the two-story brick house. It looks somewhat familiar to me, but I don’t remember all the brightly colored flowers in a perfect circle around the tree in the center of the front lawn or the stone walkway leading to the front door.
The warm fall sun beats down on me, and I’m sweating slightly despite the cool early afternoon breeze. I wipe my sweaty palms on my new mom-purchased clothes—a blue ribbed sweater, dark gray skirt, and black knee-high boots—while gazing up at the house. A few old memories emerge. They are hazy at first, then crystal clear. I’m bombarded with new sights and sounds, like the first day I left the safety of the hospital. I am, once again, a stranger in a strange land.
My father takes my small suitcase from the backseat, and I immediately take it from his hands. “I can carry it myself,” I say quickly, afraid they will take it away from me as soon as we get inside. He frowns, nods, and moves away after he slams the car door shut. He never seems to know what to say to me, and so he simply doesn’t say much at all. I don’t know what to say to him either, so I guess it’s all fine and this is just how things will be. At least for now. I hold on tightly to the handle of my suitcase and keep it close to my body as I tentatively walk forward.