The Twisted Heart

05 – What Never Came Next

Days came and went without care. Without- Anything. Food was ordered, and food was delivered. Items were requested, delivered, and sat in their bags. The laptop sat unopened.

Stef slept.

There were thoughts, but they crossed like butterflies in the wind. Nothing seemed to catch. Nothing seemed to work. There had been the want to do something when she’d arrived.

Music played from her phone as she peeked out from her pillow fort.

There was the want to just go to sleep and never wake up again. To pretend that the next few weeks she had in Applegate Court were all she had – with all the good and bad that came with that.

And that wasn’t the way the world worked.

After an hour, she got out of bed, made coffee, added too much vodka, and stumbled back to the bed. After half a cup of alcohol-and-caffeine, she made an appaling attempt at making the bed, tidying the pillows and pulling the quilt into something that pretended to be orderly.

In order to move forward, there had to be order.

In order for there to be order, there had to be…something.

One of the things she’d had Keanan buy was a notebook and some pens – there was a shitty spiral-bound notebook in the bag she’d packed in her dorm room, but if she was going to make any attempt to get herself into line, it seemed like something that should cost twenty quid and not seventy-nine-p.

The notebook had a nice, dark sakura theme. The pen was silver. Both were completely unused.

‘So, I’m crazy.’

She stared down at the bedspread and squared the expensive notebook in front of her crossed legs. Notes might be dangerous, but allowing for their possibility seemed important. Seemed…sciencey.

If she was sensible – if the real part of her were sensible, and not just the voice in her head – it would have been easier. If she were sane, it would have been easier to be insane.

‘Because of course that makes sense,’ she scolded herself.

There was experience and examination, and to survive, she had to focus on the experience. Stopping to examine took up mental CPU power that she just didn’t have.

By and large, it came down to a few things.

There was the voice in her head. She sometimes saw things that weren’t there. And the less said about her sense of self-worth, the better. Paranoia and depression were base states of being.

She uncapped the pen.

She opened the book.

It was…annoying, almost, that her experience of crazy wasn’t more theatrical. That she wasn’t some perfectly beautiful waif, who cried perfect tears while soft music played in the background.

Cinematic crazies never had to deal with the fallout of forgetting to shower for days at a time. Of knowing that you were sitting in dirty clothes, hating yourself for every minute, but unable to do anything about it, grounded and stuck like glue from the inability to do what most people considered even the most basic of tasks.

She carefully wrote the words “I’m crazy” into the notebook.

The inherent fragility of her situation scared her more than anything.

She was surviving.

All she was doing was surviving, but she was surviving.

“Are you me?” is a question she’d asked over and over, in the middle of the night, when she’d been crying in bathrooms, and when she’d desperately wished the answer was “no”.

Once more for science.

‘Are you me?’

Who else would I be?

She closed the notebook.

The problem wasn’t the voice. The voice was-

Tears dropped onto the embroidered cherry blossoms of the notebook’s cover.

The voice wasn’t the problem. The hallucinations – the visual hallucinations – could get bad, but at least they were infrequent. The voice kept her safe. Kept her on track.

The problem was her.

The her that wasn’t the voice. She was the problem. She was the weakling. The waste of space. If the voice could just take over, be the Stef that she couldn’t, then-

She gulped down another mouthful of coffee-and-vodka, then went to retrieve the bottle.

If only she could keep her mouth shut.

The problem with someone being sensible and telling you what to do…was that someone was telling you what to do. And sometimes – a lot of times – most of the times – it was so impossible to stop herself from responding.

Stef unscrewed the vodka and took a long drink.

She was nothing. She was no one.

‘I can’t do this.’

She pushed the notebook and pen off the bed, pulled the blanket over her head, and aimed for sleep again.

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