Home > Tied (All Torn Up #2)(6)

Tied (All Torn Up #2)(6)
Author: Carian Cole

My mother showed up three days ago with several new outfits for me to wear for my weekend visit home. I thought this was extremely strange as I already have new clothes, but she informed me I should always have lots of new clean, fashionable clothes for visits outside of Merryfield and she would take me shopping for more. Personally, I like my jeans, which Feather showed me how to distress and put little holes in, and my cozy sweaters and sweatshirts.

I’ve learned my mother is seriously focused on clothes. So much, in fact, that maybe she needs a week or two at Merryfield to discuss her worries about shirts and pants and the potential perils they could cause. I suggested this during our last family therapy session, and the idea was not well received.

My doctor says I need to learn to filter my thoughts and not just say everything I’m thinking. In the same breath, she also told me not to keep all my thoughts bottled up inside. I don’t like all the contradictory and confusing rules of social behavior. I just want to be me. In some ways, I think my parents expect me to be all trained up as a normal eighteen-year-old woman, with no defects at all from a deranged past, after my almost-one-year stint at Merryfield. I wish it could be that easy, but I’m still a work in progress, learning new things every day.

“Do you remember living here?” my mother asks as we walk toward the front door.

“A little…” I say, frowning and glancing around again, “but I don’t remember the flowers. And I thought the big front window was different.”

She smiles, and I know I’ve said the right words. I almost expect a little pat on the head for remembering correctly. “You’re right,” she says brightly.”We didn’t have flowers like this back then. We have a landscaper now who does all that. There’s also a pool in the backyard now. And all the windows were replaced a few years ago, so you’re right about that, too.”

When I follow her through the front door, I’m welcomed by a sprawling Welcome Home banner stretched across the foyer, and Zac, his girlfriend Anna, and Lizzie take turns hugging me hello. I count to ten in my head until the touching is over. I reward each hug with a smile and a thank you. My brother usually comes to Merryfield twice a month to visit me. Sometimes Anna comes with him. I don’t mind because she’s always nice to me and brings me chocolate, magazines, and books. She seems to have a keen sense of what I like and takes the time to learn about me by asking me questions with real interest. Lizzie has never visited—not even for the required family therapy sessions that happen every month.

“I’ll show you to your room, then we can have dinner and maybe watch a movie if you’d like that?” my mother asks, leading the way out of the living room.

I nod. “That sounds really nice.” The others remain behind, offering smiles of encouragement. I follow her upstairs, and memories of living here start to filter through my mind. I stop at the second door in the upstairs hallway, my emotions bubbling up. Strong emotions I don’t usually feel. “This is my room?” I say excitedly, peering inside. My excitement quickly dissipates. Everything is different. My pink comforter is gone, along with my bookcase full of books, my unicorn posters, and all of my stuffed animals, which used to sit on my bed.

Now everything is yellow, and there aren’t any books or stuffed animals. There’s a dollhouse and a tiny table in front of the window with little dolls sitting on the chairs, drinking imaginary tea. I hate dolls and their creepy eyes. What are they doing in my room and what have they done with my teddy bear?

“No, honey, this is Lizzie’s room now.” My mother takes my hand and leads me away from the door. “You’ll be staying in Zac’s room when you visit. He cleaned it up and painted it just for you, and Daddy and I helped decorate it with things we thought you would like. And it has its own bathroom.”

“B-but I w-want my room. Th-that’s my room,” I stammer, choking back tears and trying to pull my hand from hers. The need to be in my own room is overwhelming, almost crippling. I need something that’s mine here. I want to be home, in my own bed, with my own things. I don’t want any more new things. Mom stops walking and smiles sympathetically at me.

“Holly, I know this is very hard for you,” she says slowly and with mild frustration in her voice. “It is for us, too. We’re all doing the best we can. You’ll love your new bedroom, it’s very grown up. You don’t want a little girl’s room anymore. Come see, okay?”

But I do. I want the little girl’s room. I want to be the little girl again and have my life back.

Reluctantly, I allow her to lead me to the other end of the hall to Zac’s room. Or to what used to be my brother’s room and is now mine for visits. She finally lets go of my hand as I enter. New paint, pretty colored throw rugs over the polished hardwood floor, a dark purple comforter and matching drapes—and presto!—new bedroom for the lost daughter. A huge flat-screen television is mounted on the wall across from the bed, and beautiful watercolor paintings of butterflies and flowers hang on the other walls. On the nightstand is one of those iPad things that Zac taught me how to use during one of his visits. This one is bigger than the one I have at my apartment, so I assume it’s a newer model. In one corner is a chair next to a small table that has a stack of paperback books waiting to be read. I smile, knowing they were put there by Anna. She promised to buy me new books after she and Zac caught me reading my old childhood storybooks at Merryfield. I don’t think they understood that I wasn’t reading them because I had no other books. I read them because their familiarity always makes me feel grounded when nothing else does. They’re still my anchor.

“It’s beautiful…thank you,” I finally say as politely as I can, remembering my new social etiquette. And the room is pretty and so incredibly luxurious. After years of sleeping on an old bean bag chair without a blanket or a pillow, with a cold concrete floor under me, this room is amazing. My small bedroom at my tiny apartment in Merryfield is nice, but nothing compared to this.

“I knew you would love it,” my mother gushes.

I step farther into the room and set my suitcase on the floor in front of the bed. “I do. It’s perfect.”

It’s not perfect, though. And it’s not that I’m not grateful that they’ve made this beautiful bedroom for me. It’s just not my room. There’s nothing of me here, no sign that Holly Daniels grew up here. No photographs, no favorite toys from childhood sitting in the corner. No scratches in the paint or scuffs on the floor from me growing up in this room. It’s clean and sterile.

Unlike me.

Maybe a part of me was hoping my childhood toys would be in this room. Or at least some of them. I thought for sure my favorite teddy bear that I slept with every night would be waiting here for me. Or maybe one of my favorite posters framed and hung on the wall. Something that said, “This is your home. You grew up here, for a little while, and we remember.”

Thankfully, my faded purple backpack and my books are hidden in my suitcase, despite my mother’s continued insistence that I get rid of them because they are filthy reminders.

Filthy reminders for her, not for me.

“If these items give her comfort, let her keep them,” Dr. Reynolds said to my mother during one of our recent therapy sessions. “She’ll let them go when she’s ready.”

Standing here in this room that isn’t mine at all, I’m not sure I’m ever going to be ready.

Later that night, after a home-cooked dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with my family and watching a cute comedy with them in the living room, Zac and Anna go home to their own apartment, almost as if they can’t leave fast enough. I get the feeling family time doesn’t happen often.

I catch Lizzie staring at me as our parents clean up the popcorn and soda from the living room. “Do you want to help me set up my new dollhouse?” she asks shyly. “I just got a couch, a fireplace that lights up, and a cat in a bed to put in it.”

Before I can answer, my mother has practically warped herself into the room with lightning speed. “Lizzie, Holly must be exhausted with it being her first day home. Maybe another time she can play with you. I’m sure she just wants to go to her room and relax.” She clears her throat. “Besides, it’s late and Grandma is coming tomorrow, so you should be getting to bed soon yourself.”

I stand. “Mom’s right,” I say, even though the last thing I want to do is go to my room and be alone. I haven’t spent the night alone in a dark room since I was in the bad place. Feather, who slept in the bedroom next to mine at Merryfield, is quiet like me, but she’s still good company.

Our mother visibly relaxes, like she just dodged a bullet, and I smile weakly. I wonder if she notices my smile rarely reaches my eyes. Most likely not—she never looks at me long enough to notice. I turn and give Lizzie a real smile, because she’s young and innocent in this whole mess.

“I think I’ll go to bed,” I tell Lizzie gently. “But I’d love to spend some time playing with you tomorrow if you want.” From the corner of my eye, I watch my mother’s face and, just as I suspected, she grimaces slightly at my last comment. At first, I thought I was imagining that she’s been purposely keeping Lizzie away from me, but now it’s too obvious to ignore. For some reason, she’s doing her best to keep the replacement from getting too close to the defective daughter.

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