Chapter 1: Melanie
‘Are you comfortable, Mrs McCornick?’
Am I comfortable? Oh sure, I’m comfortable. The bed’s a little lumpy, the duvet’s a little thin, my only view points are either the three hundred and eighteen tiles on the ceiling, the shit stained walls or the insides of my own eyelids, and I don’t know, I suppose the padded leather bands strapping my bleeding wrists and ankles to the bed while simultaneously cutting of my circulation are a little irritating… Other than that, I’m perfectly comfortable. Thanks for asking.
Honestly, what kind of question is that? And what’s worse is that she asks it in such a patronising way; with a falling intonation that leaves her sounding like a transvestite by the end of her question. She leans over me with this look of sympathy etched on her combination-skinned face, but I’m not buying it.
‘Melanie… May I call you Melanie?’
‘Sure.’ You know, it’s amazing; since I’ve been called Melanie my entire life, I’ve gotten pretty good at responding to it, so go ahead, knock yourself out. What the hell else are you going to call me, you stupid bitch?
She sits down in the chair next to my bed, fingering the restraint sleeves on the arms of it – boy, I wonder when I’ll get to try that baby out. I mean, come on; this is the kind of shit Hannibal Lector was tied up with. Why they think I need to be strapped down is beyond me – I’m five foot, three; hardly a threat to a five year old let alone to doctors armed with sedatives strong enough to knock a three-hundred pound sumo wrestler out for a week and a half.
‘Do you understand why you are here?’
Why yes, because you think I’m a spanner short of a toolbox, a bulb short of a chandelier, a sandwich short of a picnic, a few fries short of a Happy Meal…
‘Your husband is very worried about you.’
Of course he is. He pulls off fake concern very well.
‘Melanie, this whole process will go a lot more smoothly if you co-operate. Hope Found Psychiatric Hospital is a centre for helping people…’
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Amelia Trent; acclaimed psychiatrist, raging red-head and world champion of stating the fucking obvious.
From her oversized nerd glasses to her hideous yellow polka-dot blouse that for some reason unknown to the rest of mankind, she paired with a brown pencil skirt, she just screams ‘Therapist’. She’s dressed like a fifty year old, but can’t be more than thirty seven or thirty eight; I don’t know, maybe she’s just got good genes.
She’s rich, I can tell that much. Why else would she wear quality fabric to a place where people foam at the mouth and spit at you because their dead hamster told them to? She can’t be on that high a salary though; she’s probably got a wealthy husband who buys her affections.
‘Melanie, I’m here to help you.’
‘I don’t need your help.’
She looks offended, as if I’d told her Boy George has a better sense of fashion than her or that her ginger curls are about as aesthetically pleasing as what I imagine Satan’s pubes to be.
God, some people are so sensitive.
Chapter 2: Amelia
Melanie’s problem is she thinks she’s too good for all this. Wealthy patients get this way – they’re so used to controlling their world and everyone in it and rebel when they aren’t allowed to do that anymore.
‘Your husband asked for our help.’
She glares at me. There’s something quite terrifying about her, but not in an obvious way. She’s a beautiful woman – you’d never guess that she’s forty-five – but her eyes are dark and she seems to be able to voice her anger, her frustration, her unhappiness through them better than words could. She’s a spoilt bitch, no doubt about it, but she’s interesting.
Watching Melanie McCornick – the Melanie McCornick – being dragged into reception this morning was surreal. And then to turn around and see Senator Richard McCornick at the front desk – I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone famous step foot in Hope Found, let alone the McCornicks. We’re so far out here in the sticks of Texas that very few people even know the hospital exists. My husband, James, idolises Richard; he always says that he would give his right arm to have a career like his. He’ll kill me for not getting an autograph, but I could hardly go up to the man and say ‘Hi Senator, sorry your wife’s a little cuckoo bananas, but can you sign this for my husband – he’s a big fan.’
James makes me sit through Richard’s speeches constantly. Up on stage he’s so powerful, outspoken and fearless; you forget that a man like that has a life outside of politics. At the front desk he looked so pained, almost scared, with a swollen black eye and bloody lip. Melanie always looked happy stood by his side, holding his hand, smiling proudly while he spoke so passionately to a sea of adoring voters. Now she’s strapped to the bed in front of me, her famously flawless makeup smudged across her face, her usually voluminous, shiny brunette hair matted on the pillow and her graceful and refined reputation replaced with a fierce, hate-filled look embedded deep in her eyes. She would claw my face off if she could.
She speaks through gritted teeth, her jaw line tightening, holding back ninety-nine per cent of her fury from her cool, calm Oklahoman accent, ‘I didn’t ask for it.’
She seems to have a constant look of disgust smeared across her face, like she can’t wait to get out of here so she can have a full body chemical peel.
‘Sometimes the person that needs help is the last person to realise that they need help. Your husband-’
‘My husband is a liar.’
Some patients need a while to adjust before they are willing to accept help. I think Melanie will take longer than most; Richard warned me that she’d be resistant.
‘In what way is your husband a liar?’
She looks away, not wanting to meet me in the eye. Is your husband a liar, Melanie, or are you?
The story Richard painted of her wasn’t pretty. He said that Melanie had suffered with depression and anxiety for most of her adult life, yet had always refused to seek help – well except the help of a bottle of wine. She’s a delusional, pathological liar and lately she had begun losing touch with reality all together. She managed to convince herself that Richard was having an affair, was holding her hostage in their own home and was trying to kill her by poisoning her drinks in order to acquire her interior designs company. Unlike her various other delusions, this one didn’t go away. Poor man; you could tell with every ounce of his being that he hated bringing Melanie here, but it was clear he could see no other option.
My pager starts bleeping, the sound of it cuts through the silent awkwardness in the room, making us both jump.
‘I’ll be back to see you in a little while, Melanie. We will continue this discussion then.’
‘Great, can’t wait.’
Sarcasm: the lowest form of wit. To me it’s nothing more than a repressed person’s defence mechanism, but I’m sure if I told Melanie that she’d just roll her eyes so far into the back of her head that they’d get stuck there.
So, she doesn’t think she needs my help. Well, I don’t know who else is going to untie her restraints.