XVII | Something To Hide

Tammie peels open
that soggy
piece of paper.

There’ll be

new writing
on it.

A warning

from the nurses.

In messy pencil marks,
a hanged man swings

with a cheshire cat’s smile

and a speech bubble floating over his head:

The blanks
are filled with my handwriting:
S U B S T I T U T E.



we left it before.

‘How strange…’

Tammie’s grey eyes
meet mine with a question.


What will you do now?


I shrug.

‘There’s nothing else to do.’


We can steal
another plastic knife.


Tammie follows me
to my bedroom

even though I tell her

I really want to sleep.

She sits at

one end of the bed
and wraps my blanket

around her.

I switch off the light

and take the blanket from her.

‘go going to sleep.’


I can’t sleep,


Tammie says.


Talk to me.
Play with me.

Hey Fifi,
let’s do something.


‘No,’ I reply,
pushing her to the edge of the bed

with my toes.

She falls off the bed
with a loud thump.

There’s also a crack.

I raise my head to
make sure

she’s okay.
She’s already standing up,

grey eyes

glittering in the dark.

She flicks black hair
out of her eyes.

Stands up.


Let me put you to bed.

I’ll be the mum.


I don’t have time
to protest.

Her face comes close to mine
and I’m holding my breath

to keep the bile down.

Her lips are soft
when she kisses me

on the cheek.


Good night, Fiona.


Her thin hands
stroke hair from my forehead

and she smiles

a sleepy, apologetic smile.

I breathe in
the scent of her,

my eyes


on the dark figure looming over me,
stroking my head.


she’s gone
and I realise

my heart’s

beating faster.

She left the door open
so light from the sitting area


like a torch
into my room.

I hear muffled shuffling, doors closing.


Even with eyes squeezed shut,
I take a while

to fall asleep.




During morning medicine time,
I repeat the antics of

the night before,

hiding the two new pills I’ve obtained
in a crumpled tissue.

I’m bidding my time.

I watch the nurses

every medicine time

when they take out their cards,
put them back inside,
what else they have in their pockets.


By the time
I’ve accumulated

a handful of pills,

I’ve figured out that the nurses

must be instructed to carry
almost nothing with them

when they come into the asylum.

There’s a button
attached to their belts

which allows them to communicate

with other nurses
(and raise the alarm I suppose)

and other miscellaneous items
tucked in various places:

Scraps of paper,
a pencil and pen,
a phone.

(I know because I asked Mason’s nurse for a pen
in the dining room and he took it out of his vest.)

They carry no weapons.


The few days
I spend staring at the nurses,

Tammie spends
staring at me.

She doesn’t ask questions.
at least,
I don’t remember

hearing any.


Hiding the pills in tissue paper
has become

and suspicious now

so I remove the ink tube
from the pen (given by Mason’s nurse)

and hid
most of the pills

One random night,
Tammie follows me into my room

like before.

‘Are you going to sleep with me tonight?’
I ask.


Do you want me to?


She sits at the edge of the bed,
playing with

a corner of my blanket.

No. Not really.

She smiles apologetically.


Then let me tuck you into bed.


She sings a lullaby

(Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?
Baa Baa Black Sheep?)

and strokes my hair
with her thin fingers.

My heart’s

beating fast

in the dark
like I’ve done something wrong.

(I haven’t.)

(Not yet.)

Tammie leans over,
her smell enveloping me

like gas in a locked chamber

and her lips
touch my cheek.


Good night, Fifi.




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