Switched Page 11

I already felt the sting of Finn’s absence. Why hadn’t I gone with him? I was more attracted to him than I had ever been to anyone, and it was more than just physical. In general, people didn’t interest me, but he did.

He promised me a life where I fit in, where I was special, and, maybe most important, a life with him. Why was I staying here?

Because I still wasn’t convinced that I was evil. I wasn’t ready to give up on the good I had worked so hard for in my life.

I knew of one person who had always seen through my façade and known exactly what I was. She’d be able to tell me if I had any good in me, or if I should just give in, give up, and run off with Finn.

“Hey, Matt?” I stared down at my hands. “Are you busy this afternoon?”

“I don’t think so . . .” Matt answered tentatively as he turned on the block toward our house. “Why? What’s on your mind?”

“I was thinking . . . I’d like to go visit my mother.”

“Absolutely not!” Matt cast me a livid glare. “Why would you even want that? That’s so completely out of the question. No way, Wendy. That’s just obscene.”

He turned to look at me again, and in that moment, staring directly into his eyes, I repeated the same thoughts over and over. I want to see my mother. Take me to see her. Please. I want to see her. His expression was hard, but eventually it started to soften around the edges.

“I’ll take you to see our mother.” Matt sounded like he was talking in his sleep.

I instantly felt guilty for what I was doing. It was manipulative and cruel. But I wasn’t just doing it to see if I could. I needed to see my mother, and this was the only way I could do that.

I felt nervous and sick, and I knew Matt would be irate once he realized what he was doing. I didn’t know how long this persuasion would last. We might not even make it to the hospital where my mother lived, but I had to try.

It would be the first time I’d see my mother in over eleven years.

There were several times throughout the long car ride when Matt seemed to become aware that he was doing something he would never normally do. He would start ranting about how terrible my mother was and that he couldn’t believe he’d let me talk him into this.

Somehow it never occurred to him to turn around, but maybe it couldn’t occur to him.

“She’s a horrible person!” Matt said as we approached the state hospital.

I could see the internal battle waging underneath his grimace and tortured blue eyes. His hand was locked on the steering wheel, but something about the way he gripped it looked like he was trying to let go but couldn’t.

Guilt flushed over me again, but I tried to push it away. I didn’t want to hurt him, and controlling him like this was reprehensible.

The only real comfort I had was that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wanted to see my mother, and I had every right to. Matt was just being overzealous about his protective duties once again.

“She can’t do anything to hurt me,” I reminded him for the hundredth time. “She’s locked up and medicated. I’ll be fine.”

“It’s not like she’s going to strangle you or anything,” Matt allowed, but there was an edge to his voice hinting that he hadn’t completely ruled out the possibility. “She’s just . . . a bad person. I don’t know what you hope to gain from seeing her!”

“I just need to,” I said softly and looked out the window.

I had never been to the hospital, but it wasn’t exactly as I’d imagined. My entire basis for it was Arkham Asylum, so I had always pictured an imposing brick structure with lightning perpetually flashing just behind it.

It was raining lightly and the skies were overcast as we pulled up, but that was the only thing similar to the psychiatric hospital of my fantasies. Nestled in thick pine forest and rolling grassy hills, it was a sprawling white building that looked more like a resort than a hospital.

After my mother had tried to kill me and Matt tackled her in the kitchen, someone had called 911. She was hauled off in a police car, still screaming things about me being monstrous, while I was taken away in an ambulance.

Charges were brought against my mother, but she pleaded guilty by reason of insanity, and the case never went to trial. They had originally given her a cross-diagnosis of latent post-partum depression and temporary psychosis brought on by the death of my father.

With medication and therapy, there had been the general expectation that she would be out in a relatively short amount of time.

Cut to eleven years later when my brother is talking to the security guard so we can get clearance to get inside the hospital. From what I understood, she refused to admit any remorse for what she’d done.

Matt went to visit her once, five years ago, and what I got out of it was that she didn’t know she’d done anything wrong. It was inferred, though never actually spelled out, that if she got out, she’d do it again.

There was a great deal of bustling about once we finally got inside. A nurse had to call a psychiatrist to see if I would even be able to see her. Matt paced anxiously around me, muttering things about everyone being insane.

We waited in a small room filled with plastic chairs and magazines for forty-five minutes until the doctor came to meet with me. We had a brief conversation in which I told him that I only wished to speak with her, and even without persuasion he seemed to think it might be beneficial for me to have some closure.

Matt wanted to go back with me to see her, afraid that she would damage me in some way, but the doctor assured him that orderlies would be present and my mother hadn’t had a violent outburst in eleven years. Matt eventually relented, much to my relief, because I had just been about to use persuasion on him again.

He couldn’t be there when I talked to her. I wanted an honest conversation.

A nurse led me to an activity room. A couch and a few chairs filled the room, along with a few small tables, some with half-completed puzzles on them. On one wall, a cabinet overflowed with beat-up games and battered puzzle boxes. Plants lined the windows, but otherwise it was devoid of life.

The nurse told me that my mother would be there soon, so I sat down at one of the tables and waited.

A very large, very strong-looking orderly brought her into the room. I stood up when she came in, as some kind of misplaced show of respect. She was older than I had expected her to be. In my mind she had stayed frozen the way I’d seen her last, but she had to be in her mid-forties by now.

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