This story is by Charm Harris and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“One, two, three,” Madison tapped the white cinder block wall with her fingertips, and she spun on her heels. “Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen,” she continued to count each step until she tapped the cinderblock wall on the opposite side of the tiny room. “Rinse and repeat.” Madison whispered to herself.
“Good morning, Madison,” Dr. Jayden Harrison said from the doorway. He held the cool steel doorknob with his right hand and pushed the door closed with his left hand. The metal bed squeaked when Madison plopped down on the thin mattress covered with white sheets. She glanced over her shoulder and gave a slight nod.
“I was told you paced the floor all night,” Dr. Harrison said. He leaned against the small desk bolted to the floor.
“I never sleep well when I have the dream,” Madison snapped. She turned her head and glared at Dr. Harrison through half closed eyes. Dr. Harrison rose slowly and wrapped his fingers around the doorknob. Madison closed her eyes. She inhaled deeply and exhaled.
“Was it a dream or a memory?” Dr. Harrison loosened his grip on the knob. Madison shrugged her shoulders.
“It will be 25 years next week,” Madison closed her eyes, tilted her head back, inhaled deeply and exhaled. She opened her eyes and glared at the ceiling tiles she counted on many sleepless nights.
“Yes, I remember,” Dr. Harrison said. “There are two anniversaries that day. It was the day we began our work together as well.” The corners of Madison’s mouth turned down. “It’s also going to be the date you will be discharged from the hospital to begin your new life.” Dr. Harrison’s dark eyes were filled with concern. “You should be happy.”
“You’re right, I wish I could remember…especially that day,” Madison lowered her head. “It’s the twenty-fifth anniversary of the…of what I did.” Madison gasped. She inhaled and exhaled slowly. She pushed up the sleeves on her gown. Again, she inhaled and exhaled slowly.
“Good job using your coping skills,” Dr. Harrison said.
“Deep breathing helps me calm down when I feel anxious,” Madison said. “The dream seems so real.”
“How often are you using coping skills to calm down?” Dr. Harrison asked. His thick brow formed a single line. “I might have to increase your medication.”
“Last night was the first time in at least four months,” Madison said with confidence. “Why, does Jenny want to meet with me?”
“I don’t know,” Dr. Harrison said. “I will ask her when we meet for lunch today.”
Two Hours Later
“Hello, Dr. Harrison,” Jenny said when he pulled the wooden chair away from the table. “Thank you for meeting with me.” She looked down at the menu.
“My pleasure,” Dr. Harrison waved to a waitress before sitting in the wooden chair.
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years already,” Jenny said. She looked up from the menu into Dr. Harrison’s warm dark eyes.
“Madison has been doing very well for the past 15 years,” He wondered whether or not to mention how well she handled her feelings of anxiety earlier.
“Will we be safe when she doesn’t even remember what she did?” Jenny asked. She leaned back in her seat.
“To answer your question,” Dr. Harrison folded his hands. “I can’t say definitively.”
“That’s a problem,” Jenny grabbed the glass of water and took a long sip. “I’ve spent years in therapy and the nightmares have finally stopped. Jenny shook her head in disbelief. “Grandmother never should have told me what happened.”
“Why do you want to meet with her?” Dr. Harrison asked.
“I want to see for myself that my mother is not faking the amnesia,” Jenny’s tone was firm. She leaned slightly forward in her chair. “The meeting has to be on the 25th anniversary.” Dr. Harrison nodded, and with his palms pressed against the table he rose slowly to his feet. He buttoned his coat, and walked out of the diner.
Two Weeks Later
Madison sat across from Dr. Harrison. A female orderly waved to a Security Guard seated behind the desk next to the door that led to the outside world. Madison shivered when she pictured herself walking through that door.
Dr. Harrison waved when Jenny approached the table. Madison was frozen in time and space when her tear filled eyes fixed on her daughter for the first time in 25 years. Her entire body began to shake uncontrollably. She braced herself, and clenched her teeth as her mind raced. Madison didn’t want Dr. Harrison to think she couldn’t handle the meeting, and send her back to her room. Madison closed her eyes, and breathed in as much air into her lungs as she could. She slowly exhaled, and opened her eyes. “Thank God.” Madison whispered to herself.
Jenny turned toward Maddison, and extended her arms. The security guard raced from behind the desk, and stood next to the orderly.
“I’m not violent anymore,” Madison whispered to herself. She buried her face in Jenny’s bosom and sobbed.
“I must tell you about my dream,” Madison said. “I was intoxicated but I don’t know what drugs I took that night. I was definitely drunk and high when Aunt Skylar and your Grandmother arrived at my home. I started to scream when I saw them,” Madison’s eyes stared off into the distance. “They were standing in front of 14 Hall Avenue in the middle of the sidewalk. I blocked the red steel door with brass numbers. The concrete porch was stained with blood.” Madison blinked and shook her head slightly to bring herself back to the visiting room. Jenny swallowed hard to keep from choking on the lump in the back of her throat.
“My heart slammed against my chest. Blood flowed from beneath my sleeve and dropped off my hand onto the porch,” Madison licked her dry lips. “Skylar stood next to Mom. Their eyes were wide with fear,” Madison glanced at the scar on her wrist. “Skylar spun on her heels and ran across the street to the neighbor’s house,” Jenny’s eyebrows formed a single line. “I stepped backward to stand directly in front of the door.”
“Why did you block the door?” Jenny asked. Madison shrugged her shoulders.
“The sirens were getting louder and louder. I covered my ears. Your Aunt Skylar ran toward me. I swung my arm back and…” Madison blinked and tears flowed down her cheeks.
“Drop the knife,” a Police Officer demanded. I swung my arm forward and stabbed my baby sister in the stomach. The door opened and Skylar fell into the hallway. Her blood dripped from the knife I held in my hand, and mixed with my blood in the puddle on the porch.
“You stabbed Aunt Skylar?” Jenny leaped to her feet and the chair slammed against the floor. “No,” she shook her head in disbelief. Dr. Harrison walked over to Jenny and placed his hand on her shoulder. Tears rolled down her cheeks and dropped off her chin.
“The Police Officer pulled his gun from its holster,” Madison continued. “The knife blade slammed against the concrete. Police Officers grabbed me and squeezed handcuffs onto my wrists. The toes of my shoes dragged across the concrete. My screams sounded far away. The Paramedics raced past me toward Aunt Skylar. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.”
“Why did you stab her?” Jenny asked as she turned and bent down. Jenny picked up the chair and dropped into the seat.
“Drug induced psychosis,” Dr. Harrison said.
“I saw Mom run into the apartment building,” Madison blinked to see Jenny clearly.
“Grandmother told me she ran down the hallway and up the staircase,” Jenny said. “She turned the knob and the door swung open. Grandmother raced into my bedroom and grabbed me out of my crib. I was swaddled and sound to sleep.” Jenny looked from Dr. Harrison to Madison. Madison covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
“It wasn’t a dream…it was a memory,” Dr. Harrison said more to himself than to Madison.
“Jenny, I am so sorry,” Madison said. Jenny lowered her head. “I want to get to know you.” Madison’s voice was hoarse. “I pray Mom and Skylar will forgive me someday.” Jenny nodded slowly and wiped her cheeks with the back of hands.
“I’ve worked hard on myself the past 15 years. If you let me come home with you,” Madison whispered. “I want this anniversary date to be a celebration instead of a reminder of tragedy.” Jenny smiled.
“That’s why I wanted to meet with you today,” Jenny held Madison’s hand and squeezed gently. “From now on this will be a happy anniversary.” Jenny wrapped her arms around her mother and squeezed.
Two Hours Later
Madison stood next to the open door. She stared at the clear blue sky as the cold air stung her nostrils. “One, two, three,” Madison smiled because she knew she tapped the cinderblock wall for the last time.