I turned the door knob that opened into a stark white room. I stepped in and let the door close of its own accord. Keeping my hands in the pockets of my coat, I took a minute to absorb my surroundings.
The room was so white it practically dazzled. The walls were plastered with a kind of foam. It had a homely resinous smell to it. And at a corner, curled up, was she.
“Hello. My name is Lorraine. You must be Cavie,” I spoke indulgently.
She looked up with skeptical eyes. “I am,” she replied.
“Do you like this place, Cavie?”
She seemed to consider the question. “Well, it’s nice.”
“What do you have there in your hands?”
Cavie glanced at the small glass bottle tightly packed within her fingers. “This? It’s my vial.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?” I asked.
“Sure. What do you want to know?” She sat up more freely. Her short cotton tunic, also white, reached upto her bare thighs; the long sleeves cladded her arms. She was just as white as the room, only void of colour. Pallid.
“Well, what’s inside it?”
“I—” she bit her lip. “Honestly, I don’t know. I know it’s something red. Probably a colloid.”
“How is it a colloid?”
“From the texture of the substance, it feels like shampoo or lotion, and those are emulsions, so…”
“You give me the impression you’re smart.”
She narrowed her eyes, as if slightly affronted. “Maybe I am, Lorraine.” Her fingers twirled the curls of her brown hair as she stared at a corner of the ceiling.
“Do you mind if I check it?”
“Yes, I do.” She trained a sharp gaze at me. Without a single blink, she coldly asserted, “It’s my lifeline. You would do well to remember that, Lorraine, or else I will cut off your fingers and eat them for dinner.”
The tension persisted another minute before she went back to glaring at the corner. I realised I was holding my breath and had to chuckle to ease the atmosphere. “You’re a mean one, aren’t you?”
“Only to people. I hate people. I hate talking to them. I hate everything about them. They are so chatty and uninteresting and ridiculous,” she replied in a deadpan voice.
“You hate me too, then?” I said, pushing my spectacles up with a ring finger.
“Of course, Lorraine. I hate every human by default.”
“And the vial?”
“It isn’t like you. It understands my worth and treats me accordingly.”
“Do you have a name for it?”
“No. That’s puerile.” She sighed disinterestedly.
I observed her figure. She seemed so dreamy and practical at the same time. “Why do you love it so? It’s hurting you for so long. It’s literally scarring you.” I yanked one of her hands out of her lap, letting the sleeve fall back. “Look at yourself, Cavie! What are you doing?”
She grabbed my wrist and extricated her arm from my grasp before socking me hard across the face. The glasses stumbled off my nose to the ground. “Don’t fucking touch me!” she seethed in an explosive rage. “Stay in your place, woman! Robyn was better than you. He knew his place and respected the boundaries. Stupid, worthless replacement.” Cavie walked away to the opposite corner and curled up there on the white tiled floor.
I had doubled up with my throbbing face. Scrambling around, once I found my spectacles, I gritted my teeth in pain and tried to contain it by breathing slowly.
“Look, Cavie, I’m trying to help you. I know it’s hard for you to accept your parents but this once, they’re right.”
“Right?! And what did they do to establish their righteousness?” I watched her flinch at the cut on her cheekbone.
“Go away, Lorraine,” she spoke dejectedly. “You won’t understand, just like Robyn didn’t, and my parents don’t. This vial is all I have to hold on to. I know I’m addicted to it. I don’t mind.” She clutched it tighter inside her slender fingers.
“It’s killing you, Cavie,” I tried to reason again. “I might be new but I have checked the reports on your vital signs. Robyn told me you’ve gotten thinner and paler. I can see your veins from here.”
She shook her head. “I don’t care. I just want to be worthy of the vial. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“Don’t you see you’re withering away?”
She looked at me with heavy eyes. “Anything. Forever and always.”
I held her gaze for another minute before heading to the door. “I’ll be checking in next week, Cavie. Take care.” She barely seemed to register my leave.
Once outside, I entered the adjacent Observation Chamber. There was one for each room. Dr Murtagh, old but warm, greeted me. “How’s the nose? I told you she has a history of violence.”
“Yeah, no, it’s okay.” I shrugged it off though it still ached.
“We need to get that vial away from her, Doc.” I told the old man.
“Robyn had some improvement before his transfer. I’m afraid you have to start over. She gets… antsy at any hint of being separated from it.”
I nodded. “That was my last session for the day. I should get going.”
“Okay then.” He passed an affectionate smile.
As I walked out, I rubbed my eyes under my glasses, sighing in relief. I traipsed the length of the hallway and pressed the elevator button. First week at Child Protection Services and I get a delicate case like Chrissy Cavie’s. I had paid a prior visit to her family. As reluctant as they were for a conversation, they hinted that the vial symbolised a person.
The elevator dinged. An emergency alarm went off, shocking the lights out of me. My eyes shot to the room I had just left. In a blur, I saw Dr Murtagh run out of the Observation Chamber and into Cavie’s room.
I dropped the files in my hands and ran even as my legs felt weary. I pushed in through the door.
Among the white of the floor, the walls, the ceiling, Dr Murtagh’s hair and lab coat, Cavie’s tunic, there was a staggering red.
My stomach lurched at the sight of her. Her slender throat was vertically slashed open. Blood ran cold in my limbs.
As Dr Murtagh yelled for paramedics, I saw Cavie’s head limply slouching from his lap. The vial remained shattered in a myriad of tiny pieces, the biggest shard lodged in the base of her throat. Bright red blood gurgled out of her mouth.
“Hey, Lorraine.” She literally grinned. “Look, I broke the vial. Tell Robyn I broke the vial. I hope the vial forgives me.” I could barely make out her slurring words.
Dr Murtagh remained distracted with the paramedics, his wrinkles creasing even more in distress. I collapsed on my knees as they lifted her up. Her fingers found my lab coat and latched on with an inhuman strength.
“Hey, Lorraine,” she croaked. “Guess you won’t be checking in next week, huh?” I watched her tears and her life seep out of her eyes. “But it’s okay, Lorraine. I’m…” she said the last word inaudibly, coupled with her last breath, “… free.”
The writer is a part of the TDA Editorial Team.