A Danger to Herself and Others(11)

You think so? Her voice was hopeful.

I know so.

Her blue eyes widened. When you say it, I actually believe it.

Except Agnes is stuck in one place now. They said it wasn’t safe to move her.

Not in her current condition.

Apparently, they don’t think it’s safe to move me either.

Slowly, I shake my head. I stand up.

“I have to be back in the city by September seventh.” The first day of school. First semester senior year grades are important for college applications. “What’s today’s date?”

I take a step forward, and Dr. Lightfoot flinches. I’m a few inches taller than she is. “Let’s not focus on dates. Let’s focus on your treatment.”

“What treatment? I’ve barely done anything but talk to you since I got here.”

Lightfoot smiles the way you’d smile at a small child who doesn’t understand the ways of the world. My parents didn’t look at me like that when I was a small child. “Talk therapy is part of your treatment.”

I narrow my eyes. Treatment can go on a long time. Treatment can go on forever.

Agnes’s voice: I’ll always be trapped.

Now it’s my own voice I hear. It singsongs like I’m taunting myself from deep inside: You’ll get out, you’ll get out, you’ll get out.

Quick as a snake, I grab Dr. Lightfoot’s flimsy plastic chair and throw it against the wall as if I throw it hard enough, I could make a hole to crawl out through. Instead, the vomit-green stone breaks the chair into three pieces that land with a crash.

When you say it, I actually believe it.


They gave me a sedative after the chair incident and told me if I didn’t get into bed on my own, they’d have to restrain me.

Have to. As if they didn’t have a choice in the matter.

I didn’t like the idea of being tied up, so I lay on my back and closed my eyes. The sedative made it easy.

Jonah was from Washington State. He spent his weekends hiking through the mountains instead of studying for his SATs, and he still got a near-perfect score. He said fresh air was good for your brain. I said there were plenty of brainiacs in New York, and no one ever called our air fresh. I almost smile at the memory, but my muscles aren’t cooperating.

It wasn’t anything as corny as love at first sight when Jonah and I met. The day we moved into the dorm, I left Agnes in our room to unpack her things while I explored. Jonah stuck his head out his door when he heard me walking by.

I’m Jonah, and I can’t unpack anymore. His voice was low and deep. When he smiled, his hazel eyes narrowed. It made him look like a fox.

When he shook my hand, I felt this strange sort of tug in my belly, like a string pulled taut.

I’m Hannah, and I haven’t even started unpacking yet, I said. It was a lie. My suitcases were empty and stowed beneath my bed, my clothes folded neatly in the dorm room’s small dresser drawers.

He repeated my name, and his eyes met mine. I could feel my pulse speed up. I pulled my hand away like I was scared he’d feel it, too.

You haven’t unpacked at all? he asked.

I shook my head. Nope. But my roommate’s putting her things away as we speak.

How will you decide who gets to put what where if you’re not there to supervise?

That’s some pretty serious sentence construction.

Jonah smiled like a fox again.

Anyway, I explained, she got here before I did. So she got to decide where her things would go first.

That’s a little cold.

I shrugged. Fair’s fair. I paused. But maybe you should stop by our room later. Two twelve. In case she uses up all the closet space and we need someone to mediate.

Or break up a fight.

I shook my head. Nah, we’re not the kind of girls who fight.

How do you know? Didn’t you just meet her? The summer program hadn’t given us our roommates’ names ahead of time. They didn’t want us looking each other up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Like they were worried it would spoil the surprise of seeing whom the school’s computer algorithm had decided we should live with.

Well, I’m not the kind of girl who fights with her friends.

Sounds like your roommate is a lucky to be living with a girl like you.

Jonah shook my hand a second time before letting me go, and I felt that tug in my belly again. I’ll stop by later, he said. Just in case. Your roommate might be a fighter, even if you’re not.

I nodded. Good idea.

It’s not that Jonah was the handsomest boy at summer school. Most all the girls agreed that honor lay with the tall, raven-haired, French exchange student named Bastien. But Jonah carried himself like no one ever told him that he wasn’t the best-looking, the smartest, the tallest. As the summer went on, his light-brown eyebrows turned blond in the California sunshine.

And then he chose Agnes over me.

I wasn’t there when Jonah and Agnes met. He told me later that he’d come by our room looking for me, but found her instead.

You were right, he said.

About what?

I didn’t need to worry that you two might fight. Agnes wouldn’t hurt a fly.

She’s a sweet girl, I agreed.

A sweet girl, Jonah echoed. He said the words like they were exotic. Like he’d never met someone so sweet before.

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