The days ran together, the seasons had come and gone a couple cycles. It had been long two years. Tevin and the girls used to visit me, but, as they got older, he felt it wasn’t good for them to experience such an environment. The last time I saw them was around the year and a half mark. Each time they would visit, I was amazed at how big the girls had grown. Ashland share the look of Tev. She wore her hair long, in two pigtails with a headband, she carried a book at all times, and she was very mild mannered. Lauryn hadn’t changed much either, personality wise. She picked on her sister and she thought herself to be grown, though I was grateful she had respect for adults. All except me, apparently. Strangers probably got bad news vibe from her, with the way she carried herself, arms folded and nose in the air. Surprisingly, missed my family dearly. I tended to sit in the community room silently, daydreaming about when I could be with them again. With my meds adjusted and weekly therapy sessions going well, I wasn’t too far from going home.
Routine was the focus of Hillbrooke Institute. The facility was broken up in sections. On the west wing, the adults with severe psychological disorders were permanent occupants. It’s the loudest section. I thought they would put Cameron there when we were young, if he didn’t get better. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did make over there at some point. The east wing held the children and teens. They were broken up in smaller sections to keep them separated by age groups. The older kids couldn’t interact with the younger ones for safety reasons. I sometimes liked to peer through the door on my way to the courtyard for outside time. Then there was the center of the facility which had a north and south wing. It was a bit smaller than the east and west because the occupants weren’t permanent residents. Typically, those who stayed in the north were there to complete stress programs. The south was for extended residents who need a longer stay but would, eventually, interact with the world again. That’s where I called home. The best part of being an adult at Hillbrooke was that once you feel you are ready, they would allow you to leave. Of course, there was a little more that went into it such as your behavior, you weren’t in the west wing, and you’ve completed the two-month treatment. Most temporary residents didn’t stay beyond the two months however, our “family friend” Dr. Rivera ran the place.
“Mrs. Jones, it’s almost time for dinner. Will you come out and eat with everyone today?” The nurse asked from my doorway.
“Of course.” I replied.
There were times I had become depressed and wanted to keep to myself. This particular day, I didn’t mind interacting with everyone else. I followed the nurse down the hall, into the dining room. Several of the tables were filled and some were already eating their dinner. In the far corner, there was a table that remained unoccupied for months. No one wanted to sit there because a resident died during lunch at that very table. The staff never explained what happened, which did not help with subsiding the rumors. Personally, I was surprised a place like that even had rumors and gossip at all. What they did disclose was that the person “didn’t kill themselves”. Being it was the only table that didn’t feel crowded, I took a seat in the chair next to death. As I waited patiently for my meal, my mind transported me elsewhere.
It was dark. I could tell I was at home by the scent. It was a mixture of my favorite cookie scented candle and Tevin’s cologne. I walked in the dim moonlight peeking through the sheer curtains, making my way to our bedroom. The hush over the home was a bit eerie, though I suppose it wasn’t too out of the ordinary. On the way to our room, I passed by the twin’s door. It was cracked open. I looked inside, expecting to see them sleeping in bed. Ashland turned over in her sheet, sighing deeper into her pillow. Lauryn’s bed was disturbed, empty. The sheets were gathered at the foot of the bed.
I turned about myself, searching for her in the front rooms first. The hallway was the only exit from the back of the house. Unless someone were to jump out the window, they would have to pass through it to get to the front and side doors. Before making my way back, I grabbed the broom from the front closet. I needed to protect myself from her. Quietly I crept down the hall. I intend to check every room. The first door was the bathroom. I gently touched the handle, afraid it might jiggle and alert her of my presence. The click from the latch unhooking itself caused me to wince. I hoped she didn’t hear it. The door swung open, revealing the empty commode. As a precaution, I used the broom to pull back the shower curtain. It too was empty.
The feeling of being watched stirred inside of me. I looked towards the door into the stillness of the hall. Unfortunately, there were no windows to allow the moon to access the space. I reluctantly entered back into the darkness and continued up the hallway. The next door was the linen closet, holding the proper things inside. Similar to my childhood home, we had an office only it doubled as a guest room. My heart thumped against my chest as I neared it. The room had many places to hide. Under the bed, behind the thick blackout curtains, in the closest, under the desk and many crevices that a tiny six-year-old could squeeze into. Immediately I crouched down onto my hands and knees, that way I could see the whole room and under things at the same time. I drug the broom in my hand as I crawled. The desk was clear. I poked the curtain with the bristle side of the broom, careful to not hurt her. She wasn’t there either. The longer it took to find her, the more antsy I became. I imagined her watching me from the perfect hiding place, waiting for me to get close enough to jump out and stab me. The more those thoughts flooded my mind, the less I cared about hurting her. I jabbed underneath the bed with my weapon in hopes to hit her. I lifted the skirt of the bed and my heart sank. Nothing but a suitcase. This had to have been the most twisted game of hide and seek. I used the bed to help me to my feet and nearly jumped out of my skin. Ashland stood in the door rubbing the sleep out of her eye.
“Mommy? What are you doing?” She asked.
“Shhh. Come to mommy.” I motioned for her to come out of the hall, but she hesitated.
“I heard something in your room. What’s happening?”
My room? It dawned on me, she was after Tevin. I shoved Ashland out of the way and rushed to the door. Bursting through, I saw Lauryn next to the bed with his blood dripping from the knife in her hand. ~
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