My Soul to Lose Page 10

Great. I’m psychotic and sparkly. And there was nothing else in the bag. No books, and no puzzles. Not even any of Sophie’s useless fashion magazines. With an angry sigh, I stomped down the hall in search of reading material and a quiet corner, silently daring Paul or any of the aides to comment on my epic wardrobe disaster.

After supper, Aunt Val and Uncle Brendon walked through the door next to the nurses’ station, both empty-handed; they’d had to empty their pockets and turn over Aunt Val’s purse to the security guard. That way, I wouldn’t be tempted to try to kill anyone with her lip gloss and travel-size pack of tissues.

Seeing them standing there was like seeing my dad every time he came home for Christmas. Part of me was so mad at them both for leaving me there that I wanted to shout until I went hoarse, or ignore them completely. Whichever would come closest to hurting them like they’d hurt me. I wanted them to feel scared, and alone, and without even basic comforts like their own clothing.

But the other part of me wanted a hug so bad I could practically feel arms around me already. I wanted to smell the outside world on them both. Soap that didn’t come in tiny, unscented, paper-wrapped packets. Food that didn’t come on labeled, hard plastic trays. Shampoo that didn’t have to be checked out from the nurses’ station, then turned in along with my dignity.

In the end, I could only stand there staring, waiting for them to make the first move.

Uncle Brendon came first. Maybe he couldn’t resist our actual blood bond; my bond to Aunt Val was by virtue of her wedding vows. Either way, Uncle Brendon hugged me like he might never see me again, and my heart raced a bit in panic at that thought. Then I pushed it aside and buried my face in his shirt, smelling his aftershave, and Aunt Val’s favorite spring-scented dryer sheets.

“How you holding up, hon?” he asked, when I finally pulled back far enough to see his face, rough with evening stubble.

“If I’m not crazy yet, I will be after one more day in this place. You have to take me home. Please.”

My aunt and uncle exchanged a dark glance, and my stomach seemed to settle somewhere around my knees. “What?”

“Let’s sit.” Aunt Val’s heels clacked all the way into the common area, where she glanced around and looked like she wanted to take her suggestion back. Several other patients sat staring up at the TV, most with glazed looks of half-comprehension. Two more worked on puzzles, and one thin boy I’d hardly seen was arguing with his parents in the far corner.

“Come on.” I turned toward the girls’ hall, leaving them to follow. “I don’t have a roommate.” In my room, I sank onto my bed with my feet tucked beneath me, and Uncle Brendon sat next to me. Aunt Val perched stiffly on the edge of the only chair. “What’swrong?” I demanded, when all eyes turned toward me. “Other than the obvious.”

Uncle Brendon spoke first. “Kaylee, you haven’t been released. We can’t take you home before the doctor has even seen you.”

“Why not?” My jaws were clenched so hard they ached. My hands curled around fistfuls of the blanket. I felt freedom slipping away like water through my fingers.

“Because you tried to rip your own throat out in the middle of Sears.” Aunt Val frowned, like it should have been obvious.

“That’s not…” I stopped, swallowing back tears. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying to make the screaming stop.”

“I know, honey.” She leaned forward, frowning in serious concern. “That’s the problem. You could have seriously hurt yourself without meaning to. Without any idea what you were doing.”

“No, I…” But I couldn’t really argue with that. If I could have stopped it, I would have. But a stint in Lakeside wasn’t going to make that any better.

My uncle sighed. “I know this is…unpleasant, but you need help.”

“Unpleasant?” That sounded like a direct quote from Aunt Val. I gripped the footboard of the bed so hard my fingers ached. “I’m not crazy. I’m not.” And maybe if I kept saying it, one of us would actually believe it.

“I know,” my uncle said softly, and I glanced at him in surprise. His eyes were closed and he took several deep breaths, like he was preparing himself for something he didn’t want to do. He looked ready to cry. Or to beat the crap out of something. I was voting for the latter.

Aunt Val stiffened in her chair, watching her husband carefully, as if silently willing him to do something. Or maybe not to do it.

When Uncle Brendon finally opened his eyes, his gaze was steady. Intense. “Kaylee, I know you didn’t mean to hurt yourself, and I know you’re not crazy.”

He seemed so sure of it, I almost believed him. Relief washed over me, like that first air-conditioned breeze on a hot summer day. But it was quickly swallowed by doubt. Would he be so sure if he knew what I’d seen?

“We need you to give this a shot, okay?” His eyes pleaded with me. Desperately. “They can teach you how to deal with it here. How to calm yourself down and…hold it back. Val and I…We don’t know how to help with that.”

No! I blinked away unshed tears, refusing to let them fall. They were going to leave me locked up in here!

Uncle Brendon took my hand and squeezed it. “And if you have another panic attack, I want you to go to your room and concentrate on not screaming. Do whatever you have to do to resist it, okay?”

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