Voices: The Unusual Case of Eliza James–Part Three
Author’s Note: This is the third installment of Eliza’s story. Hope you will thumb back and read the prior to posts to catch up.
“You have to go,” said her mother.
“But I don’t want to,” Liza pleaded.
“It’s for your own good. Don’t be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid, Mother. I just don’t see the point.
They left before daylight, arriving at clinic before nine a.m. The nurses and attendants greeted Liza with benign smiles and the kind of “poor thing” indifference that teenage girls despise. A middle-aged woman with thick ankles and drugstore make-up escorted Liza through the door down a corridor that smelled of disinfectant and despair. The woman urged her onto the scales with a bite mark covered Bic pen.
After the woman took Liza’s blood pressure, she made some notes on her clipboard and motioned for Liza to follow. Approaching another set of doors, Liza noticed the sign.
BEYOND THIS POINT VISITORS MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY STAFF
PLEASE WEAR YOUR NAME TAG AT ALL TIMES
There, at the bottom of the sign, the afterthought Have a nice day! punctuated the command.
Liza didn’t think she would have a nice day. In fact, she didn’t think she would have a nice day for the next three. At fifteen, this was the third time her mother had subjected her to an extended time of the invasive poking and prodding of her mind, body and spirit. Once, she had been to a clinic where “they help people like you,” as her mother said. Once, she had gone to a sort of religious camp where well-meaning people quoted arcane verses from the King James Bible and prayed for Liza to be healed.
“You like fish?” the woman asked, guiding Liza into a small colorless room.
“Fish sticks for lunch today. French fries, too. Jus’ wonderin’ if you like fish?”
“It’s okay,” said Liza.
“Thursday’s always means fish sticks. Lunch’ll be in around Noon. Sheet says Doctor gonna see you at 1:15. Somebody will come by to get you.”
As the woman left, Liza realized the lock on the door could only be opened from the hallway. She sighed and sat down on the bed, her back to the door, and for a moment thought she’d heard the voices say something that gave her hope.
She was sleeping soundly, her feet propped on the coffee table.
She stirred, more sensing a presence than hearing her name being called.
Liza bolted upright like a jack-in-the-box bursting from its dark tomb. She looked around for Jason. Before she could let herself decide whether she had been dreaming or if it had been them, Liza heard the muffled sound of her phone ringing. She recovered the phone from between the sofa cushions and answered.
“Hi, Jas. To what do I owe the honor?” she asked, hoping she didn’t sound as anxious as she felt.
She could tell he was trying to be casual. But the uncharacteristic absence of inflection in his voice told her something was up. Something was wrong.
“It’s Mom. She’s gone?”
“What do you mean gone? Gone where?”
“I mean gone. She’s dead.”
As impossible as it was to believe, Jason was right. Their mother had been found by a friend, someone from the church who had stopped by to give her a ride that night. The woman had rung the bell, she said. She had banged on the door. She had called out for their mother to come. But she had instantly known something was wrong.
Even on the coldest winter nights, Angela Goddard was always sitting in her chair, barely visible in the shadows of the dim yellow porch light, waiting. The friend said she had been reluctant to open the door. Angela was a private woman. But the woman’s concern had been prescient. She found Liza’s mother lying on the floor, her body as cold as the floor upon which it lay.