Chapter 11 - July 10
Part 2 of 5
"She's not good," I told Silas. "She's beyond the seventy-two hour hold, staying on voluntary status, and admitting that she's really sick this time."
"I don't know how she can stay there," Josie said, and shuddered. "I stopped in to see her for a few minutes on Friday, and the whole place is vibrating with sick people. Weird, crazy people. A lot crazier than Mellie."
I agreed. "I know. But she said she has to stay or the doctor will commit her again. I really didn't think she was that sick."
"Oh, come on, you guys," Liz said, giving us each a hard look in turn. "We all know her drinking has gotten out of control. Don't any one of you pretend you didn't notice."
I'd noticed, sure. The fiasco with Travis the party guy, the night I gave Mel and Caleb a ride home because I didn't trust that Mel's little nap left her sober enough to drive… yeah, I sure noticed.
"Is it going to be like it was before?" Josie asked. "With her in and out of the hospital over and over again for months?"
I shook my head. "No, I don't think so. Dr. B is determined to help her, fast. He's got a plan, and Mel said she's on-board with it. In a day or two she'll be off all meds, and starting over. That's why she feels like shit, because she's withdrawing from her meds."
I shied away from telling them the other, awful thing in Dr. B's plan.
We were mostly done eating. Jo-Jo got up and went into the kitchen to wash her hands, and then came back and picked up her present. She drummed her fingers against the silver foil wrap. Whatever was inside was protected by a solid box.
When Jeremy was the only one still eating, Silas said, "Go ahead and open it, Jose."
She grinned and did her usual gift-opening routine; starting at one corner and peeling back the paper in long, thin strips, prolonging her anticipation. Until she caught a glimpse of the lettering on the box and let out a squeal.
"Is it really? It's not, is it?" she asked Silas, her eyes getting wide.
He laughed out loud. "Keep going and find out."
She tore the rest of the paper off in a rush, shaking her head. She stared at the box for a second, then looked around the table and held up crossed fingers.
It was an iPad box.
Of course, throughout our lives we've all played the fooled you game by hiding gag gifts in fancy packaging. Or hiding really awesome gifts in toaster boxes.
Josie waved her crossed fingers around for a few seconds, then tried to lift open the box. It didn't lift. She fought with it for a second, then bent her head to examine the sides. "Round plastic tape. Looks like the genuine article, guys."
She slid her fingernail under the clear adhesive disc and peeled it off.
She squealed again, louder this time. "Oh, Silas! Really? You really bought me an iPad? Why?"
"I told you. It's a get-well gift."
She lifted it out of the box, peeled off the temporary screen-protector, and turned it on. And I swear she was connected to the internet in five minutes flat.
"What should I Google?" she asked.
"Bi-polar disorder," I suggested, and Josie made a face at me for being boring, but obliged.
Melanie let me visit yesterday. I don't know what I expected, but certainly not any of what I got.
The psych unit isn't a warm, fuzzy, comfortable place. Part of me can't believe Melanie can even stand to stay there – not on purpose.
It's a small space, one long hallway and one short, like a capital L. There's a TV room, and a dining area with the tables and chairs bolted to the floor. Mel wore green hospital scrubs, and let me tell you, they weren't much of a fashion statement. She looked like she hadn't showered for days.
The first thing she said was, "I haven't showered for days."
I laughed – funny thing about sisters – sometimes we shared the same brain. "Why not?"
"My roommate is super psychotic. She screams at the wall, she screams at the mirror, and she flushes the toilet constantly. The thought of her walking in and flushing over and over while I'm in the shower freaks me out."
"Want me to guard the door?" I asked.
So that's how the visit started. Me, standing with my back to the bathroom door, holding it closed, while Mel took a shower. Bodyguard Jessamine. Hey, it's what sisters do, right?
She came out of the shower looking like a new woman.
"How did it get this bad?" I asked, but what I wanted to ask was how we didn't notice it was this bad, and why didn't she tell us?
I pushed a low vinyl-covered chair with wooden sides over to Mel's side of the bed. It was heavy.
She crawled into her bed and curled up on her side, facing me.
"Mom and I… well. We had a special relationship. Not easy, but really unique. And important. I feel more abandoned by her now than ever. I don't know how to survive without her."
"You survive with us," I said, because that was completely obvious.
She squeezed her eyes shut for a second, then opened them. "I hated her, Jessie. I mean, there's a part of me that's never forgiven her for what happened to me. And lately it's all I can do to stop myself from screaming out loud fifty times a day."
Oh, God. More shock. I didn't know if I could deal with this. "What? But that's not what you told mom. At the end, I mean. You said you hardly ever think about it."
She snorted. "You spied on us? You heard my private talk with mom? That's so not cool, Jess."
I felt hot all over. I lifted my hands to my face, first clamping them just over my mouth, but she was staring at me, so I moved my fingers over my eyes, too. If I can't see her, she can't see me.
She was right. It was totally not cool. If I could take it back, I would. Not the eavesdropping part, but the slip of my tongue.
"Shit." I said, finally, because I could feel her eyes on me, and the look I imagined in them contained boat-loads of pain, and that made me feel ashamed. A little. "You're right. I'm very, very sorry. But that's not the point, is it? You were getting really sick, and you hid it from us."
"I wasn't hiding it, Jess. Not on purpose. It was more like I thought if I pretended to be okay, maybe I would be. Maybe it would blow over, you know?"
"No, I don't know. Does it ever blow over?"
She sighed, and her fingers crept upward to twist into her hair. "No. It's like a bad tooth. You can pretend for a few days that you just need to floss more, but the pretending doesn't change the fact that you need a root canal. You know I hate having to change my meds. It's a horrible process, and it goes on for weeks, and sometimes it takes more than one change, so it goes on for more weeks."
"I know," I said. "I know, I know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for listening, and I'm sorry for ignoring the signs that things were getting bad. It's awful for all of us, but you and mom… well, you're right, you had something special. And I disrespected that."
"Thank you," Mel said. "I forgive you."
I peeked at her. "Really?"
"Of course. You're my sister. I have to."
I dared a tiny laugh. "I love you. I didn't mean to hurt you, I'm just so curious."
"Nosy, you mean."
"Yeah, okay. Nosy. So. Dr. B is changing your meds? Did he suggest anything new?"