Not Forgotten

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I haven’t forgotten these characters. But I’m also trying to finish another draft of my next novel, work on a few commissioned art pieces, grade student papers, work on our house, spend time with my family, go to speed skate practice, and sleep.

I’ve cheated though. I’ve skipped ahead. When I finish my novel, I’m going to come back to this, map it out, and fill in all the gaps. My goal is to have something pieced together in a readable form by the time next year’s Story-a-Day comes around. We’ll see how that goes. At least, I don’t have to go to chemo anymore! Yay!

As always, thanks for reading.

Hannah and the old woman waited for Meredith to return. They sat together in the cramped space of the closet in the dark. Maybe not being able to see the old woman made Hannah bold.

“Do you have any children?” she asked. Hannah had come to the Asylum, after all, to find out about her grandmother. Possibly even meet her. Earlier the idea would have horrified her, but she was getting used to the old woman. Calling her a friend seemed unlikely, but she did feel a bond that was hard to explain.

“Nosy girl, you are,” the old woman replied. “Why would you care?”
Hannah could hear the frown in her voice. “There has to be some reason why we came across each other and have been sticking with each other,” she said. “There has to be some reason you’re still with me.”

The old woman didn’t reply. Hannah knew the old woman was there only because of the sound of her breathing and that there really was no where to move.

“Do you believe in horoscopes and fortune telling too?” the old woman asked.

“What?”

“You appear to ascribe happenstance to supernatural or mystical sources.”
In the dark of the closet of the Asylum, muffled sounds beyond the door, the supernatural felt immensely close. “Don’t you believe in the supernatural?”

“I believe in what I can do and what I can not do. The rest I leave to others.”

“But you could’ve taken off without me. But here we are together.”

“You’re welcome to leave any time,” the old woman said.

“I couldn’t just leave.” Hannah wrapped her arms around her knees and gripped her hands more tightly. “We’re a team.”

The old woman laughed and then coughed. “I’d love to hear the doctors discuss my suitability for a team. Have you never been taught how teams work, child?”

Hannah was glad the old woman couldn’t see her reddening face. “We have worked together.” It wasn’t that she believed in fate or serendipity, but she didn’t not believe in them either.

“We’ve managed not to die,” the old woman replied.

“Do you think dying is likely?”

“Dying is certain. It’s the timing that’s unknown.”

Hannah pushed images of the dead security guard and the dead patient away. Thinking about who they were wasn’t going to help her. “I don’t see what has to be certain about it.”

“Maybe you won’t die here. But you will die some day. You can’t deny that.”

“Well…no, but that’s kind of morbid to think about.” Hannah thought she saw a glint of the old woman’s eyes in the darkness. In her normal life she liked talking about death and dying, but now that it felt as if these things were close at hand, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to say.

“Meredith will be back soon. And everything it going to be fine.”

“Right. If she doesn’t give us away.”

“She’s on our side now.”

“Is she?”

“Doesn’t she have to be?”

Silence again hung between them. “They won’t let her walk away from this either. As a traitor, she should be the most frightened.”

Hannah wasn’t sure about her feelings for Meredith, but she’d placed her trust in the nurse and perhaps the nurse had put trust in her as well.

But she didn’t want to think about Meredith now. There wasn’t anything she could do for her. Meredith would either succeed, or they were all in deep trouble.

Right now in the dark and waiting, she hoped that maybe the darkness would encourage the old woman to talk. “What happened to you here?” Hannah asked.

“This is a closet. Not a confessional.”

This time Hannah didn’t reply. She resisted the urge to fill the silence. Her dad once told her you had to give people time to answer rather than rush in to hear your own voice.

The old woman breathed in deeply. Hannah imagined she could feel her exhale.

“Maybe I was young once,” the old woman said. “Do you believe that? Youth is a fairy tale, don’t you know? Can’t you tell?”

Hannah sucked in her bottom lip to keep herself from talking. She didn’t move. Anything might quiet the old woman, and a moment like this would likely not happen again.

“Once upon a time there was a girl they called Zeenia. Her parents adored her, of course. Adored her more than good sense allowed, and so no one prepared this child for the real world because why bother when everyone thinks you’re a princess? A princess must never sully herself with the real world. Never mind that she will grow old one day. No one ever thinks of this. Do you?”

“What?” Hannah asked, surprised the old woman seemed to expect a real answer. “I guess I never thought about it.” Cinderella old? Sleeping Beauty? Snow White with gray in her hair and crow’s feet at her eyes?

“They think about it here,” the old woman said. “Here in the Asylum they think about it. They think about everything and plan accordingly.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Nobody wants an aging princess with a mind she knows how to use.”

“Were you a princess?” Hannah hoped her voice sounded as if she believed what she was hearing. Where did princesses still exist? “Are you from another country?”

“I’m from another plane of existence.”

Hannah stayed silent. Her questions weren’t getting her anywhere. Maybe the old woman needed to be locked up in the Asylum. Maybe all the patients were truly sick and she had this all wrong.

The old woman snorted. “I wore beautiful dresses once upon a time, my dear, but I tired of their weight. I complained to my husband, my prince, and he showed me that jewels and brocade are so heavy when wet that they’ll drag you down to the bottom of the sea.”

Hannah tried to make sense of what the old woman said. Sitting in the dark for so long was affecting her senses. She lost track of time and wondered if she were dreaming.

“But I was saved, if that’s what this life is called. Saved.”

The door startled them both. The room beyond the pantry was a paler darkness and they could just make out Meredith’s shape. “Hurry,” she said. “Your lives depend on it.”

Day Eleven and False Starts

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I had a decent chunk of time this afternoon to write. And I did. I sat on my patio and wrote about Nate’s experience with Security before he hurtled himself at Hannah in the hallway.

But I need to do more research on things like punches and kicks and injuries. (Fun times!) It didn’t ring true for me (though maybe that sounds weird in light of the story I’m writing), and I don’t know if readers need to know that anyway. Maybe I’ll come back to it in the rewrites.

At least, I know what happened!

So, I stopped writing, had guests over for dinner and Cosmos, and now before bed I find myself staring at the page again. Tomorrow is my first day of my summer semester, and I need to get some sleep.

I still wanted something to post.

*

Nate searched for a hiding place. He’d wait for Hannah to come back out. He’d follow her, and when she needed help, he’d be ready.

He spotted a large potted plant near a door. It wasn’t the best hiding place, but if she weren’t looking around, she’d miss him.
Running hurt, but he did his best to dash over and hide himself. A girl was already there, curled into a ball, her arms around her knees. She didn’t move except to look up him.

He wasn’t sure what to do. She wore sky blue pajamas with clouds dotted all over them.

“The donkey talks to me,” she said.

“What?” Had he heard her correctly? “Are you okay?” he asked.

“They cut off its head, but it still talks. Haven’t you seen it? It hangs on the wall in The Room.”

He didn’t have time to solve riddles from strange girls. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He looked up and down the hall for another hiding place. “I’m sorry.”

She nodded and returned to staring straight ahead.

A few yards away was an open door to a dark room. He’d try there. He took one step, stopped, and patted the girl’s shoulder. “Everything will be okay,” he mumbled. “You stay right there.” He didn’t know why he said it. He doubted it was true.

To his relief the dark room contained no surprises although he didn’t turn on the light to check. He settled in the shadows to wait. He had a good view of most of the wide dim hall. He was confident that he’d see anything coming.

Day Nine!

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It seems like everything is due at once. But I wrote another day.
Thanks for another day of reading.

*

Nate grew up a few houses down from Hannah. She played with him like she played with all the neighborhood kids, because he was there. He was always good to have on your team, any team. He ran fast, and he didn’t care about anyone’s size. He certainly didn’t care about getting into trouble. It’s why she’d asked him along on her plan in the first place.

He’d agreed of course. Nate never said no to a chance to show off his strength and his recklessness. Hannah, however, was never that impressed. She was practical when it came to devising a plan to sneak into the most heavily guarded place in town. But when she’d stood on the Asylum wall, she didn’t want him tagging along. He was supposed to go home. What fool thing had he done to end up and bloody mess in an Asylum hallway?

Hannah shook her head. She did have stupid friends.

Tommy came to mind. Where was he? He was more likely to do what she asked, but not likely to leave Nate on his own. At least, not when she was also around. Tommy knew more about the Asylum than most. His mother came to the Asylum every Christmas with a bag of clothes and games and books collected from around town. He was never allowed to go with her, but she talked about it sometimes. His mother was never sure any patients were given any of the donations, but she brought them every Christmas anyway. She’d been doing so since before she married Tommy’s dad.

Hannah realized she’d never asked Tommy’s mother why she cared. Maybe she too had a family member hidden away.

That she saw Nate and not Tommy nagged at Hannah. She’d asked Tommy because she trusted him. Because he’d side with her if Nate didn’t. Because he was always around. Tommy wouldn’t abandon anyone, not even Nate.

Nate would leave anyone.

“Girl,” the old woman said.

Hannah looked up. “What?” She wondered if the old woman really would have hurt Nate with her knife.

“You’re no good if you’re not focused,” the old woman said.

“I know,” Hannah replied. She pushed the boys from her mind. They were no good to her now. “I’m good. Don’t worry.”

The old woman smiled. “I don’t worry. I do.” She looked around the basement. “One of the first things I’m going to is gut this room.”

Meredith frowned. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean, when I’m in charge, everything’s going to change,” the old woman said. “Everything. Even you.”