Chapter 11 - July 10
Part 4 of 5
We marched into the hospital en masse. Every one of us, including Jeremy. No way were we going to defy Liz's sensibilities and give her this to hold over us.
There was an intercom outside the unit door with a white button. Liz pushed the button with the force of a raging bull.
"Can I help you?" a voice that sounded female tinned through the speaker box.
"Melanie Meyerhoff's family to visit," Liz said, and I could hear the God help anyone who tries to keep us out in her voice.
"Somebody will be down to let you in," the voice assured.
I cringed a little. The nurses had been incredibly kind to me yesterday, and there was no reason for Liz to put on her bully hat.
A staff person in plain blue scrubs opened the door, looked us over, then raised her eyebrows until they practically disappeared into her hairline. "You're all here to see Melanie?"
Liz stood up straight. She was a formidable woman when she chose to be, able, somehow, to appear taller and sterner than your average lady. "Yes. We all get together every Sunday, and this one is no exception."
The nurse looked nervous. "We only allow two visitors at a time," she said it kindly, but without apology.
"Well," Liz said with a bright smile. "That's not going to work. You'll have to make an exception."
The nurse looked uncomfortable for a second, and then bobbed her head in a rhythm that almost looked like counting. Then she shook her head, as if she'd come to a decision.
"Two at a time. Who wants to come in first?"
Liz rolled her eyes. "Is there a charge nurse or a manager in there?"
The door guard gave a quick shrug that looked like a yes.
"Me and Jess, first. And I want to talk to whoever's in charge."
The nurse nodded and held the door open for us. "There are more comfortable chairs for waiting around the corner, by the elevator," she said to Silas, Jeremy, and Josie.
The nurse invited us into the foyer where we emptied our pockets, locked our purses in lockers, and received guest badges. There was a door on each side of the foyer, and yesterday I'd been led through the door on the right. But now the nurse led us to the opposite door.
"Huh. They moved her to the quieter unit," I murmured under my breath.
"Good," Liz said. "Then they'll definitely notice the ruckus. You'd better go hang with Melanie while I go raise hell."
Liz was running on full-steam-ahead. It would probably get embarrassing, but at the same time, be effective. I suspected Silas, Josie, and Jeremy would be joining us very shortly, rules or no.
Mel was just coming down the hall. I gave her a little wave. She acknowledged me with a nod, then shot a sharp look in Liz's direction, and made a jerking hand motion that clearly communicated curiosity about what Liz was up to.
"We're all here," I explained. "But the only want to let us in two at a time. I don't know if you want to watch the fireworks, or go hide somewhere, but Liz is pretty wound up about leaving Josie and Silas in the hall."
Melanie groaned. "She's going to embarrass me, isn't she? It's a rule. Why can't Liz see that I shouldn't be treated any differently than anyone else?"
"You know how she is," I said, and tried to hug her, but Mel pulled away from me.
"Wait a minute. Maybe Liz doesn’t have to make a fuss. The therapist asked me for phone numbers this morning, because Dr. B. wants us to have a family meeting. And if the family's all here…"
Melanie approached the nurse's station and parked herself right next to Liz, who was talking to someone, her voice quiet, her tone expressing urgent panic. I heard her say, "We're her family, we need more information. How do you know she's capable of making this kind of decision?"
I went to stand beside Mel. "Who's that?" I whispered.
"The therapist," Melanie said, and I could hear the relief in her voice.
I felt relieved, too, because maybe Liz wouldn't have to create a full-blown scene before she got her way.
Liz worked her pit-bull magic, and in less than ten minutes I was being sent out to collect the rest of our family.
I found the elevators around the corner. Silas and Jeremy shared a puffy chair meant for one. Liz would lose her mind if she saw them like that. Josie waited in a similar chair, across from them and I could tell from her expression, and from the look on Silas' face, that she'd been teasing Silas unmercifully.
When she saw me coming, she grinned and gestured at them. "Don't they look like just the cutest set of little lovebirds ever?"
"Oh, stop badgering him, Jose. The poor guy doesn't want to be here as it is."
Silas stuck his tongue out at Josie, then made like he was licking his finger and drew a line in the air.
"We can go in now. They want to have some sort of family meeting."
"Perfect, " Silas said, "because I'm pretty sure that's what we're all here for." He pushed Jeremy off his lap, stood, and then held his hand out, as if he were going to lace his fingers between Jeremy's.
But Jeremy shook his head, begging off. "I'll wait here. You guys are the family. I already told you about my grandma, and I don't know Melanie well enough to offer anything else."
Silas shrugged his agreement, tucking his hand into his pocket.
The therapist, Joe, met us at the door. He was a small guy, wearing tan chinos that looked crisp, like they'd been ironed, and comfortably worn boat shoes. He wore a shirt with a collar, but no tie.
He brought us into what looked more like a rec room than a conference room. It had a window without a curtain, two couches and four chairs, a TV, an exercise bike, and even a piano.
"We don't need a meeting," Liz told him, right off. "If you need to supervise us or the room, or whatever, you just do what you need to do. But do it without talking. We don't need your opinion.
Joe's lips twitched, as if he were trying to suppress a smile or a laugh, but he easily agreed, and he looked affable enough.
"Mellie." Liz's voice softened, as she took Melanie by the arm and pulled her to sit on one of the couches. "Mellie, Mellie. What's happening to you, little sister?"
I still stood by the door. Mel's eyes flicked over to me. "You told them, didn't you?"
I nodded. "Of course."
"Did you report it all then, word for word? Fuckin-A Jessie, can't I trust you with anything?"
I almost stopped breathing. "That's not fair, Mel. I just told them about the plan for ECT."
She screwed up her face. "All right, let it rip then. Who wants to start?"
I pressed my lips together. I wasn't saying one more word.
"Liz?" Melanie said. "Come on, tell me how stupid I am."
So Elizabeth started, speaking through lips held tightly together in a firm line. "What makes you think shocking your brain is a good idea?"
Melanie shrugged. "I don't think it's a good idea. It scares the piss out of me. But Dr. B want me to do it, and I'm trying to listen to him. He's always helped me."
"Please don't do it, Mellie," Josie said, and instantly there were tears both in her voice and on her cheeks. "I don’t want to lose my sister."
Silas had wandered over to the window, and now he turned to face the room, leaning his upper back against the safety-glass, elbows bent, hands resting on the sill. He didn't say anything, just watched.
I copied him, because Liz and Jo-Jo were saying everything I needed to say. And Mel was already prepared to be mad at me.
"Even considering such a dramatic gesture is ridiculous," Liz announced. "I think you just wanting attention."
It was too much, too harsh, for Melanie to take quietly.
"Fuck you, Elizabeth," Melanie said, her voice infused with fury and her face as animated as I'd seen it recently. "It's a treatment option, not a dramatic gesture. What do you want me to do? Because I can't live like this."
"You probably just need med changes," Liz suggested. "And to stop drinking again."
Melanie let out a frustrated groan, so loud it was almost a shout. "I am so sick of your perfect routine. Okay, how about this, my holier-than-thou-perfect-sister, the one who always knows best… Fuuuuuck you! You have no idea. Maybe you're wrong and drinking doesn't make me sick. Maybe getting sick makes me drink. Maybe it's the only way I can fool myself, for a little while, at least, that I'm not falling apart."
This was turning into a train wreck. I couldn't look away from them, not even to try to guess how Silas was taking in the sister cat-fight that was flaring up from our adolescence like a poisoned ghost.