The Dark Lens
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Janine started screaming when they woke her up. She’d only been sleeping for two hours before the two orderlies, Rocco and Manny, came sneaking into her room. Typically, the brown hair, blue eyed Janine would be sleeping in the same room with the other girls, but her psychiatrist, Dr. Robuck, thought it was best she had a cooling off period. She did, after all, blow up on a fellow patient out in the quadrangle that day and gave the nursing staff grief. Her punishment, he thought, was justified.
She’d been hospitalized at St. Barnabus Psychiatric Hospital before – once for setting a cat on fire and the other for suicidal ideations. Being 13 years ago, her parents thought she was probably psychotic and old enough to exploit it considering her propensity for histrionic behavior at times. She was the one with the loud, unpredictable speech, the intermittent exaggerations of her greatness, and the one most likely to achieve, in her young mind, wealth and fame based on beauty alone. She never was really popular with the other school kids, but that was how she preferred it.
One thing people did notice, however, was how buxom she was for a young teen. Not in the supermodel sense, but more like she was 18 going on 19. And the two hospital orderlies, Rocco and Manny, did pay attention all the time she was in their care. In fact, once they learned she’d been given a night in the padded isolation room, they believed it was their one chance to extract from her what they’d only dreamed about. Of course, they weighed the consequences, but guessed her history of improbable boasts and outright lies would serve them well should they be investigated.
Unlocking the padded room that night, they had both grabbed her. Rocco kept his hand covering her mouth lest her screams awakened everyone else. Even with her struggling, they were able to take the staircase down to the basement where she was brought to a maintenance room already outfitted with blankets and sheets on the floor.
Locking the door behind them, they let her go. No longer screaming, she stood in the shadow of the water pipes and scattered brooms eyeing them both.
“Don’t look at me like that!” Rocco told her.
“I think she likes us,” Manny added. “She’s quite the vixen, huh?”
“Hey, Janine,” Rocco teased her, “say something. Don’t be shy.”
“You two did a bad thing,” she growled, her blue eyes seething with crimson hate.
“Oh, not yet,” Manny bragged, unbuttoning his pants.
He turned to his pal.
“Grab her, will you?”
Rocco stared at her.
“Come here!”
Running to secure her, she suddenly jumped up on his chest, grabbed his head, and twisted it rapidly to one side causing the bones in his neck to snap. Manny stared as his partner fell limp to the floor.
“Oh man!” he shouted. “What the hell!”
Pulling up his pants, he ran for the door. Like a fast gust of wind, Janine jumped on his back and wrapped her arms around him.
“Help me!” he screamed. “Somebody help me!”
She whispered in his ear.
“This is your punishment, messing with little girls!”
Right in her arms, Manny suddenly burst into flames. Walking away casually, she watched as his body succumbed to the orange red conflagration. As the flames died down, she opened the door and walked out.
The next day, a janitor found the two bodies. When the police investigated it, they were thoroughly baffled. Was this foul play gone wrong? Were they attacked by some intruder? And why were they down in the basement that late at night to begin with? Were they lovers? Perhaps this was some sort of suicide pact.
The newspapers had a field day with the story, but it eventually died down as the detectives had no leads. Indeed, they couldn’t pin this incident on any of the other staff or residents because, as far as administration was concerned, the two men were off duty and trespassing.
Three weeks later, Dr. Robuck decided Janine might be well enough to go home, but she just needed a little more time. Having been back in general population for just over two weeks, he saw a remarkable improvement in her personality and character. She was not only compliant with her meds but also developed friendships. Actually, she only made one friend there, another girl her age named Cassidy.
Like everyone else, Cassidy had her issues. A green eyed girl with brown hair, she had a penchant for lemon-lime ice cream, her favorite. She said it matched her eyes. The doctors diagnosed her as being manic depressive, avoidant, and schizotypal. Every morning, she’d be given a cocktail of pills that could choke a stallion. Through group and individual therapy, she’d begun to show some improvement in her social skills. However, because she was essentially a loner, she was hard to get through to.
Perhaps she found a kindred spirit in Janine that they were able to connect. The two sat together in the day room and quadrangle, ate meals together, and played board games with each other. They even told each other secrets which no one else was privy to. When, however, it was time for Cassidy to leave the institution, Janine became depressed.
She expressed her disappointment to the staff, but they told her there was nothing they could do as her parents really wanted their only daughter home. Janine didn’t take this news well, however. She, too, wanted to get out of the hospital. She was fed up with the nurses who, she thought, treated her like a stepchild. She was fed up with the doctors who she believed thought she was incurable. She had it up to here with the janitors, wait staff and maintenance crew who she thought talked behind her back and whispered things about her to one another.
One night, while the girls were asleep in their wide spacious room, and the nursing staff were either nodding off outside in the hall or not paying attention, Janine woke up, sneaked over to Cassidy’s bed, and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Cassidy!” she whispered. “Wake up!
Almost immediately, the youngster woke up.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“The kitchen’s unguarded now,” Janine whispered.
“Huh? So?”
“I saw the delivery truck this afternoon when I’d finished my outdoor therapy session with Dr. Robuck.”
“So? You woke me up to tell me that?”
“Part of that delivery was lemon-lime ice cream!”
“What? You saw that?”
“Yes. It wasn’t much, but you know how they play favorites with the boys’ wing. They’ll get it before us. The staff might even take it home.”
Cassidy groans.
“I’m going home tomorrow, Janine. I should be sleeping.”
“Didn’t you tell me your parents don’t buy you that because it’s one of the things that triggers your isolation and avoidant behavior?”
“I guess so.”
“The staff’s asleep,” Janine informed her.”Let’s go get some.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“They always sleep at night. Lazy bums!”
“I’m nervous, Janine.”
“Oh, come on. It’ll be our last time hanging out.”
“Oh, okay.”
Getting up, Cassidy donned her slippers. Seconds later, they sneaked past the nurse’s aides who were, sure enough, getting their beauty sleep.
Creeping towards the floor’s small dimly lit cafeteria, they entered then crossed over to the door to the kitchen.
“I think it’s locked,” Cassidy explained.
Janine reached for the knob and turned it.
“No, it’s not,” she corrected her.
Together, they entered the poorly lit kitchen and walked straight over to the refrigerator. Pulling open the freezer, they saw the tub of lemon-lime ice cream.
“Yay!” Cassidy emoted.
“Shh!” Janine warned her. “Don’t wanna wake anybody up.”
“Oh, right.”
Cassidy placed the ice cream on a shiny metal table and opened it. Looking around quickly, she saw a spoon, grabbed it, and dug herself a scoop of the icy dessert. Tasting it, she smiled.
“This is great!”
She raised her spoon.
Your turn.”
Looking around for Janine, she realized she was alone in the kitchen.
“Janine?” she called out. “Where did you go? Janine!”
Walking around the room, she saw there was neither hide nor hair of her buddy.
Turning to leave the room, Janine, glowing like a flame, suddenly ran up and grabbed Cassidy from the back. She screamed.
“Let me go!”
“Not till you do me a favor!” Janine whispered in her ear.
The next morning, it was time for Cassidy to leave the institution. Her parents, Philip and Elaine, had arrived early. After saying her goodbyes to the staff, her parents helped carry her bags out of the facility. Elaine looked at her.
“Did you enjoy your stay, honey?”
“Oh, I made friends,” she answered. “One. Her name’s Janine.”
She turned and looked around.
“As a matter of fact,” she added, “there she is now.”
Her parents stopped, looked at Janine standing in the entrance to the hospital, and waved hi. Janine waved back.
“Bye, Janine,” they called out.
Janine waved but doesn’t reply.
“Does she talk?” Philip asked his daughter.
“No,” she answered. “She’s as quiet the falling snow. I guess that’s her issue.”
Getting in their car in the facility’s parking lot, they drove off.
“I hope never to go back there again,” Cassidy stated.
“Us, too,” her mother agreed. “Maybe you’ll make some new friends at school.”
“I hope so, but people think I’m ugly.”
“No, they don’t, pumpkin,” her father explained. “Why do you say that?”
“Sure, they do. You’re just trying to make me feel good.”
“I think you’re the prettiest girl on the block,” her mother attested. “You’re wonderful.”
“Anything to make me feel better.”
Her mother reached in her leather handbag, brought out a mirror, and handed it to Janine.
“See?” she asked her. “Don’t you look good?”
Janine took the mirror, studied her brown hair and marveled at her glowing eyes as blue and bright as the Pacific Ocean.
“You’re right, mom,” she smiled. “I think it’s wonderful.”