Thursday February 4th, 2016

The exercise:

It's time for our second visit of the year to House of Mercy.

But first I need to say that this morning was remarkable. I got Max to daycare with no complaints. Not a one. None whatsoever. And when we got there I stayed for like half a minute, got a hug and a bye, and I was out of there. Zero fuss.

That was undoubtedly the easiest drop off I've had with him. Like, since he started going back in November. Nothing else even comes close.

I think - and I hesitate to say this, for obvious reasons - but I think we may have turned the corner on this whole daycare thing.


Anne was sitting in her car, drumming her fingers against the wheel and trying to decide whether or not she was doing the right thing. The parking lot was busy enough that she would have to make up her mind quickly, lest she end up in the mental hospital herself.

She had dropped Julie off two and a half weeks ago. They'd said they would call in two weeks but her phone had been deathly silent, the answering machine as empty as the fishbowl in her bedroom. Anne had given them another two days before dialing the number in the phone book for House of Mercy.

No one had picked up. There wasn't even a voicemail where she could have left a message. She knew this because she had counted the rings up to fifty-five before hanging up the final time she'd called.

They had told her they'd take good care of Julie. They had told her not to worry. But she was worried. She wanted to know how her friend was doing. If she was close to being released. If she needed more clothes or more shampoo or more... anything. That was reason enough to stop by, wasn't it?

Anne decided that it was. She got out of her car and strode across the parking lot before she could change her mind again. Or start worrying that she was only being a bother. Or interfering. Or...

She slipped into the lobby and approached the front desk. There was a man with thin, grey hair wearing a frayed suit in line ahead of her, so she was forced to wait. She tapped her foot on the soft carpet and kept her hands trapped in the pocket of her jeans in order to avoid chewing on her fingernails. Finally the man turned and shuffled away and it was her turn.

"Hello there," the receptionist said with an insincere smile. "How can I help you?"

"Hi, yes, I would like to see my friend, if that's at all possible," Anne said before stopping to take a deep breath. "I dropped her off on the 10th?"

"Her availability will depend on her status," the woman behind the desk said as she turned to her computer. "What's your friend's name?"

"Oh, right. It's Julie. Julie Miller."

"Let me have a look in our system," the woman said as she tapped away at her keyboard. A few clicks of her mouse later she returned her attention to Anne. "I'm sorry, there's no one registered here under that name."


Greg said...

That sounds like quite an achievement with daycare – I hope it lasts!
Hmm, so the House of Mercy is cautious about revealing things about its inmates then? Or perhaps Julie wasn't dropped off entirely at this House of Mercy. Or... well, there seem to be a lot of options really, don't there?
I like the tone of worry here and the small details about the (short) queue and the chewing of the fingernails. I can imagine the reception pretty clearly and it feels like a sad, depressing place to be, with what little hope there is left leaking out of the cracks in the window-frames and freezing in the air outside. Nice work, Marc!

"That can't be right," said Anne. Her voice sounded distant in her own ears and she could feel her heart beating in her chest. The smell of the fawn carpet – vomit, if she wasn't mistaken – seemed to catch in the back of her throat. "Perhaps I got the date wrong, could you check again please?"
"Oh I'm sorry," said the receptionist. She sounded pleased, not apologetic. "I thought you were telling me what floor you left her on." Her fingers rattled on the keyboard again and Anne felt her chest tighten. What if Julie really wasn't here. Where was she then? "What did you say her name was again?" asked the receptionist.
"Julie," said Anne. "Julie Miller. Ms. Julie Miller." Maybe getting her name right was all it took for the computer to find her.
"No, sorry," said the receptionist. "Unless..."
"Unless?" Anne's word came out as a squeak as the tension drew in on her.
"Unless she came in for a sex change? Was she Mr. Peter Daveport when you left her?"
"No!" It came out as a shout, and it somehow brought the room back into focus. "No! She's Julie Miller. You were here when I brought her in. I remember you! You said it would all be alright!"
The receptionist didn't stop smiling but she must have done something because a door opened in the wall behind Anne and a rosy-cheeked woman bustled in. Anne turned to see who it was, and then turned back to the receptionist, almost expecting her to have drawn a gun on her. The receptionist still smiled though, unmoving, like a mannequin.
"You said it would be alright!"
"Are you alright, dear?" The rosy-cheeked woman came to a stop a safe distance outside Anne's personal space and held both her hands out downwards, palms turned up.
"She's lost my friend," said Anne. The woman was plump and reminded her of her grandmother. "She won't find her in her computer."
"What's your friend's name, dear? I'm Babs, by the way." Babs lifted a hand as though to touch Anne's shoulder, but held it in mid-gesture, waiting for permission.
"Peter Davenport," said the receptionist.
"Julie Miller!"
"It's alright dear," said Babs. Her voice had a practised calmness about her, and Anne noticed that she was wearing the same perfume as her grandmother too. There was a subtle hint of iris in the air. "We can all get a bit worked up in here, there's a stigma, you know. Is she a relative? Your daughter?"

morganna said...

Anne took a deep breath. Getting upset would do no good. "Her name is Julie Miller and she's my friend. I brought her here 2 weeks ago. I was told she could have visitors in 2 weeks and I would get a phone call. I never got a phone call, so I came to see how she was doing."

Babs smiled at Anne. "Good girl. A nice clear story." She moved over to the computer. She hit a few keys and smiled again. "I thought I remembered the name. Julie is doing great, but has requested no visitors." She frowned at the receptionist. "You should have seen that the first time, dear."

Anne frowned. "I'm sure Julie would want to see me. I'm her best friend."

"Sometimes, honey," Babs said, "people here are embarrassed and don't want anyone to see them, not even their best friends. Your friend is making good progress and should be ready to come home in a few weeks. We'll call you."

Babs sounded so reassuring that Anne nodded, smiled, and was all the way to her car in the parking lot before she realized that there was no way she could count on a phone call in a few weeks -- it wasn't like they'd called her the first time they'd promised to call. She started to go back to the hospital, then thought better of it. They wouldn't have a different answer, and she didn't want to look crazy.

She drove home slowly, thinking. By the time she was back at the apartment, she had a plan. She would break into the hospital tonight, and find Julie herself.

Marc said...

Greg - thanks, us too :)

The sex change suggestion cracked me up. And then you upped the creepiness about Babs with the perfume detail. That's nicely done. I'm starting to get excited about where things can go with this tale!

Morganna - great dialogue with Babs and Anne. And I like the way she got all the way to her car before escaping Bab's calming influence (or whatever the hell it is she's got going on there).

And a break-in! Perfect. Now I'm definitely excited about what's to come :)