A Danger to Herself and Others(2)

By the time they sent me here, Agnes was out of the ICU, but she was still in a coma, still had that tube taped to her mouth. They said it wasn’t safe to move her to a hospital closer to home in her condition.

When the doctors asked me what happened, I told them. Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. Never Have I Ever. Truth or Dare. When they arrived, Agnes’s parents asked me what happened, so I told them, too. And of course, I told the police when they asked.

Agnes’s mother had never heard of Light as a Feather, so I had to explain how the game worked: One person lies on the ground while everyone else gathers around, putting their fingers beneath her and chanting light as a feather, stiff as a board until the girl (or boy, but in this case, girl) in the middle levitates. Mrs. Smith looked so alarmed that you’d have thought she actually believed the game was some sort of satanic ritual that caused its players to float through the air.

I explained that you can’t really play Light as a Feather with only two people. That of course no one really levitates—the group simply lifts someone and sets her back down. I told Mrs. Smith that wasn’t what had happened to Agnes. I said we switched to Never Have I Ever—each of us trying to trick the other into confessing a secret—but that got boring, so eventually we started playing Truth or Dare.

I explained how Truth or Dare worked, in case Mrs. Smith didn’t know that either. (You take turns asking each other truth or dare. If you pick truth, you have to honestly answer whatever question you’re asked. If you pick dare, you have to do whatever task you’re given.)

The day after that, they brought me here.

I didn’t put up a fight, didn’t kick and scream and protest my innocence like people do in the movies. I came calmly and quietly because I knew this was all a misunderstanding that would get sorted out once Agnes’s parents had some time to calm down. They were probably still in shock, too upset to see straight. After all, their daughter had just fallen out of a window two floors off the ground. But soon they’d realize that if I’d actually done anything wrong, I’d hardly have been sitting at Agnes’s bedside (more accurately, in the hospital waiting room, since they wouldn’t let me in to see her anymore), where it would be easy to find me. They needed someone to blame, and I was the only available scapegoat. Their daughter was my best friend. Playing the scapegoat was the least I could do under the circumstances.

This room is eight feet by seven feet. I don’t mean feet as in twelve inches, I mean the number of steps it takes me to get from one end of the room to the other. I’ve had plenty of time to count. Maybe I should’ve been counting the days instead of my steps, so I’d know how long I’ve been here, but it’s hard to keep track when every day is almost exactly like the one before it. The only furniture is the narrow bed where I sleep and another bed on the opposite wall. The only light, other than the fluorescent beams overhead, comes from a tiny, square-shaped window on the wall opposite the door. The window is off-center, so it’s slightly closer to the bed I sleep in. At night, a tiny strip of light comes in under the door because the lights in the hallway stay on twenty-four hours a day. The overhead lights must work on a timer. I don’t know exactly what times they go on and off, but suffice it to say, they let me know when to wake in the morning and when to go to sleep at night.

The walls in here are made of oversized bricks. Not tile, and not rocks or stone, but some kind of manufactured material, complete with fake divots and imperfections like someone thought it would look less institutional that way, like that would help whoever was stuck in this room forget what kind of place this is.

Someone—maybe the same someone who picked the oversized bricks—thought it was a good idea to paint the walls green. Maybe they thought this place would feel more natural that way, but the only natural way for a wall to be green is if it’s covered in ivy or moss, and ivy and moss don’t grow here and even if they did, they aren’t this color green, this industrial vomit green that vaguely reminds me of the never-used classrooms in the basement of my school where they supposedly discovered asbestos in the walls. The classrooms we actually use are aboveground and asbestos-free, painted yellow and blue and even purple because someone’s parent read that the color purple was good for your brain.

There’s fog here, but it never rains. I stand on my tiptoes to look out my small window and wait for the few plants and trees I can see to dry out and die.


Too old for these games. Too old for these games. Too old for these games.

I hear the words over and over, like a song I can’t get out of my head. It’s Agnes’s voice I hear, not my own. Like she’s in the room with me. I can practically see her flipping her long blond hair over one shoulder. Her hair is thinner than mine, but less unruly. Plus, mine is brown. So much more ordinary than Agnes’s hair. At least, that’s how Jonah must’ve seen it.

On the other hand, Jonah said once that my brown hair paired with my light green eyes made me pretty in a striking sort of way. He didn’t say it like it was a good thing. More like it was merely something he’d noticed.

Too old for these games.

You’re never really too old for games. The games just change. You’d think someone with a name as grown-up as Agnes would’ve understood that.

Come on, Agnes. It’ll be fun.

I’m not sure we have the same idea of fun, Agnes said. But she was smiling, so she must have been having at least a little fun.

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