Dark Ch. 04byValentineSatterlee©
I wake to clear sunlight streaming through my tiny window, muted by frost. I feel like I've been asleep for days, my body stiff and needing to stretch.
I only vaguely remember dreaming, though I know for certain it had been of Tammany again. Something about blood? I don't dwell on it- my dreams are very nearly always nightmares.
I throw the sheet off of me and over to the wall side of the bed, swinging my legs over and planting them on the cold stone floor. Padding silently to my full length mirror I notice a small red spot on my nightgown. Then the cut on my arm. Then, as I lift my gown in horror, two more long, angry lines crossing my torso.
I drop the gown to the floor and scream.
I don't know how long I stood there like that, wailing like a banshee and pawing at my tattered torso.
Ellis Banner is the attendant assigned to the Orphan's Ward this morning. He bursts through my door, his gray-green eyes becoming wide as they fall on me.
"What did you do?" he asks, confused, stepping towards me with outstretched arms. I am instantly furious.
"ME?!" Even in my own ears I sound like a madwoman. "You think I did this?"
He reaches onto the dresser and grabs at something, and I gasp as I recognize the scalpel. "No," I start, confused and enraged. "No, I did not do this!"
"Calm down," he moves closer to me, the scalpel tucked safely into the back of his trousers. "Vernon!" He turns his head towards the door to shout, but his eyes never leave me. He truly believes I am having some sort of episode.
"Don't you touch me," I snap, pointing a finger at him. "Leave me alone!"
Ellis steps too close and I take a swing at him, but miss. A moment later Vernon Gaier looms in my doorway, his huge black shoulders nearly as wide as the frame. A needle filled with a milky liquid is in his massive left hand.
"Don't you dare," I spit at him, backing further into the little room until my bare back presses into the corner. Ellis holds his hands high in a gesture of surrender.
"Joleine, it's OK. Just calm down, we don't want to hurt you, but I can't have you hurting yourself, either."
I swear my vision turns red and my blood boils. "I. DID. NOT. DO THIS!! Why would I?" I lash out at Ellis wildly, a cornered animal.
Despite his hulking size, Vernon moves quicker than I thought him capable of, grabbing my tiny flailing wrist in one massive hand and plunging the needle into my arm with the other.
I think I swayed about two steps before my eyes roll back and everything blinks out.
The room I am in is somehow even smaller than my own. The only thing in it to suggest habitation is the pallet made up on the floor. I've woken up not on the pallet, though, but huddled in a corner. Besides my intimates, I am still starkly nude.
The door is a heavy, metal affair with a tiny barred window in the top portion. There are no lamps set to light here, the only light comes from the far, high window and what little can seep through the cracks around the door. It would be absolutely maddening to stay within this dark, empty, dank room for any length of time.
I shiver in the cold and crawl to the pallet, sitting miserably upon its edge. The sheets stink terribly and there is no way I am going to bundle up in one of them, no matter how cold it gets. I wrap my arms around my tiny body and curl in on myself, freezing and miserable. I can't help but begin to cry.
My time with the Sisters had certainly not made me pious, but in times of trouble I do pray. I whispered the Lord's Prayer and begged for savior. I don't know how long I lay like this, shivering and sobbing, feeling sorry for myself. The cuts on my stomach burn each time I take a breath, scrunched up as I am, and it only makes me cry harder. Eventually I cry myself out, allow my scratchy, swollen eyes to close, and begin to drift off into an unrestful sleep.
After some time there is a tiny knock on the glass on the door, waking me. I look towards the door and it taps again. All I can bring myself to think is now what? The sound of metal on metal, a bar being pulled back from its bolt, rings throughout the room. It is only then that I realize I've been truly locked in all this time. The door inches open, flooding the room with light and momentarily blinding me. With it comes warmth, and my skin instantly raises in goose flesh.
It takes my eyes a moment to adjust to the light, but when I can finally make out his face and recognition settles over my features, Tammany smiles at me. He rushes over and begins planting kisses all over my face, and while I want to accept his comfort, want to trust him, I feel utterly betrayed.
"Leave me alone!" I yell at him. "It's your fault I'm in here. They think that I...that I'm the one who did THIS!" I gesture disgustedly at my wounded body.
He gets down on one knee in front of me, reaching out to touch my face, but I turn away. I never want him to touch me again.
"I'm so sorry, love," he puts his left hand against my dirty, tear streaked face, turning it to look at him. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen. I wasn't assigned on until evening, and I had no idea you'd react so...badly."
Oh, yes. It's all my fault.
My eyes well up again in anguish. I hate him, loathe him, never want to see him ever again, but I know that he is the only one who can get me out of here, wherever here is. I start to sob, putting my head in my hands, body curled into a tiny ball. Tammany leans in and scoops me up, cradling my head to his chest. He strides quietly from the room and into the hall, leaving his still burning finger lamp behind.
I can sense us moving steadily down a long corridor, then he turns and puts his back to a door, turning to step through and letting it fall shut again behind him. Soon I recognize the familiar sounds of the East Wing, the orphan's ward.
"Jolie?" Stacie asks, voice full of concern.
"It's OK," Tammany tells her. "Don't worry, she'll be alright." I hang limply from his arms, and I know Stacie doesn't believe him. I turn my weary face from the shelter of Tammany's chest to meet Stacie's eyes. I nod at her weakly, and they soften a bit.
"Could you get her door for me?" Tammany asks of her, and without turning back to Stacie he walks quickly through the doorway and into the room. I hear it close gently behind us, and we sink together into my soft little bed, still cradled within his arms.