Katya wants to find her real family but what's ahead she may not have ever wanted to know.
Cold darkness surrounded her as the young girl’s eyes adjusted. She felt weak and confused. Sweat dripped softly off her cheek onto the floor beneath her. Light danced across the slit beneath a door to her left. Her mouth felt dry, her throat swollen, she moved to feel her face but found she could not move her hands. She realized her hands were bound to a pole behind her as she sat kneeled on hard cement flooring in what could only be her prison. She fought to push the gag out of her mouth, wished to scream for help, but only found her strength failing and her eyes closing once more.
The leaves were slowly turning red as autumn grew near. The summer quarter had long passed and the short break between classes was over. It was time once again to begin her classes and continue her studies as a journalist.
Katya stared up at the tree limbs that seemed to reach far above the sky as she lay beside the stump. It was a tree she often went to when she needed to think, or concentrate, and sometimes- just to get away. Away from the drama and hardships life had seemed to throw in her direction.
The letter K and a question mark were inscribed within a circle carved deep into the bark. Katya had always known she had been adopted, that her real family was out there somewhere. She loved the family that had taken her in and loved her as their child. They couldn’t have children of their own so they had adopted her as a last hope when she was very young. They had almost been denied the adoption because of their age, and the agency was afraid that Katya might outlive the adoptive parents and become a ward of the state once more.
A tear slid down Katya’s cheek as she thought of the upcoming funeral. Her adoptive father had grown ill in the last few years and had died of heart failure only a few months ago. In her old age, Katya’s adoptive mother couldn’t handle the stress and had passed on to be with her loving husband, side by side in the graveyard.
She heard the sounds of footsteps stop just beyond the tree behind her. A hand reached out to her shoulder and gripped her bare skin.
“Katya,” the sound of a familiar voice brought her back from her thoughts, “it’s time.”
She looked up into the deep blue eyes of her neighbor, and close friend, Jeremy Cravens. The sun was setting around them as Jeremy helped Katya to her feet and walked her to the other end of the graveyard. The service had just begun as Jeremy led her to the front of the large crowd. In this small town, everyone had known the Walkers.
Katya’s eyes lingered over the faces of the people surrounding her adoptive mother’s coffin. She listened to the priest, who was mumbling over names of the beloved and how her parents were now lying together in the eyes of their lord, as she glanced at the neighbors who had all brought flowers and baskets of baked goods for comfort, and the friends she had made in school and at work. There were the in-laws that had always frowned on her mother’s inability to conceive and bear their son’s children as well as the family that had always been grateful that her parents were able to adopt and have Katya as their own. And lastly, the few faces which she could not identify.
A man with broad shoulders, a beer gut, short dark hair, the slight beginnings of a beard, and piercing gray eyes stood straight in front of Katya. Surprisingly, this man was not staring at the coffin or priest, but directly into her own dark green eyes.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” Katya averted her eyes back to the priest as the ceremony concluded. She walked to the coffin and laid her flowers on the casket. Closing her eyes, she placed her hand on the side of the coffin and whispered her love and affection towards her parents. When she had opened her eyes, the strange man had vanished.
The crowd had begun their way back to their cars for the journey home. Katya had refused to host a wake, said she had just wanted to go home in peace and pack her things. She was the sole heir to her parents wills and was going to sell the house to pay for her school, room, and board. A wake would just delay her plans.
“Let me help you pack.” It was a demand, not a question.
Katya had learned not to argue with Jeremy, but just to let him take over in situations like this. She nodded.
“Katya, look at me,” when she didn’t respond Jeremy added, “please?”
Her eyes burned to cry, yet she had no tears left to spill, her lip quivered and her jaw was sore from clenching, but she looked up into Jeremy’s warm eyes once more that day.
Jeremy reached forward and pulled Katya into his strong arms and held her for a few minutes as she heaved and sobbed dry tears onto his shoulder. He ran his fingers through her long brown hair as he kissed her forehead softly. “It’s going to be alright, I promise, I’ll take care of you.”
Winter was finally setting in around campus. Snow had fallen for the first time all season. It was the beginning of January, the roads were slick and scenes of accidents were all over the news and roadways. Jersey seemed a bad place to live during this time of year, but Katya, Jeremy, and the rest of the students at Jersey State had made it so far, and seemed determined to carry on.
Katya’s government issues class seemed to drag on for hours, even though the allotted time for class was only forty five minutes. The trees swayed in the snow blown wind outside the window of the classroom. Christmas and New Year’s had passed, the first holidays since the funerals.
A student entered the room, a quarter to the end of session. Katya’s teacher hated interruptions and usually took out her frustrations on whoever the disruption ended with. In this case, Katya became the recipient of her instructor’s wrath.
“This better be important Katya. What couldn’t wait until the end of such a short class is beyond me! Take your leave miss Krevenski, and take it quickly.” The instructor scowled at Katya as she stood, accepted the note from the student and walked out of the classroom.
The cold bitter air hit her hard as she exited the building. She had yet to look at the note that had freed her from the mind-numbing class. It was folded and creased at the edges with care. Katya fumbled with her gloves as she opened the letter.
I know of your real family Katya Krevinske. Please meet me at the tower tomorrow at noon.
“I don’t get it Jeremy,” Katya paced the room as Jeremy finished reading the letter for the fourth time. “How would anyone know who my real family is out here? We came from Pennsylvania. How would someone in Jersey know?” Katya threw herself onto the cushioned couch beside Jeremy and buried her head in her hands as she leaned back.
“Maybe it’s just a hoax, I mean, look at this,” Jeremy pointed to her name written on the paper. “Whoever wrote this misspelled your last name. They spelled it Krevinske, I-n-s-k-E, not Krevenski, E-n-s-k-I.”
“Jeremy,” Katya tilted her head towards him and sighed as she spoke. “Do you know how many people have misspelled my name? You could probably count the amount of people who have spelled it correctly on one hand!”
“I’m only trying to help you understand, and to keep you from getting hurt. Do you remember how you felt when someone told you they knew who your real father was when they found out you were adopted, and gave you a picture of a Russian serial killer as a kind of cruel joke a few years ago?” Jeremy reached out and grabbed Katya’s hand. “I’m just trying to look out for you, you know?”
Katya looked away from Jeremy. “I know, I know you just want what’s best for me, but I decided to be a journalist for a reason Jeremy. I want to be able to find my real parents, maybe even write about their story. No matter how heart wrenching or breaking it may be. Whether it becomes a tale of their only hope to allow me to survive was to abandon me, or that they died and the state took me in, or that they hated me and wanted nothing to do with me. I don’t know, and that is what has always bothered me. I just want to know who they are Jeremy!”
Her eyes locked in with his in a stare down Jeremy knew he could only lose. He nodded, sighed, and stood up. Katya rubbed her face in frustration.
“I’ll help you Katya.” Again, she knew, this was a statement, not an option. “Whatever it takes.”
Jeremy walked to the door, pausing only for a moment at the doorway, and then continuing on down the hall of apartments to his own door. He looked back at the apartment he had just left in time to see Katya close the door softly. Jeremy dropped his forehead against the wall, and squeezed his eyes shut in frustration.
“What is going through her head right now?” he whispered to himself as he punched his fist into the wall beside his head. Groaning, Jeremy slipped the key into the lock of his door and stepped inside.
“It’s time for you to visit the good doctor sweetie. Come on.” A cheerful middle aged nurse pulled on the arm of a long dark haired girl sitting in the corner of the rec room at New Jersey Psychiatric Institute. The girl’s dark green eyes were staring out the window at the cold snowy day.
“It’s too cold to play outside today dear, maybe tomorrow. Let’s go see Dr. Williams now honey.”
The young girl stood abruptly and walked towards the door to the hall. The door that led to the doctor’s office, the nurse’s station, and the door to the outside world.
“Nurse Jones,” said a man in a white coat. “Thank you m’dear, I’ll take her from here.” Dr. Williams was a balding man, a bit plump in his old age, which gave him the look of a young Santa Claus. A jolly old grandfather, the girl often thought.
He sat her down in a chair across from his desk and took a seat behind it. “Do you like it here? I know you’ve been having some trouble making friends. Is there anything I could do to help you?”
The girl’s eyes wandered around the room, she spotted a picture of a young man with Dr. Williams. She must have been staring at it for some time because the doctor had noticed and was speaking to her again.
“That’s my son. He doesn’t visit me much anymore, but he goes to school out here so I see him more often than I used to. Do you have family dear?”
The girl stared into the doctor’s brown eyes, hidden behind the bifocal reading glasses he had propped on his nose. Her breathing became heavy, yet she still did not speak. The doctor could see slight fear building in her face and turned the subject on to another matter.
“Okay, how about pets, do you like dogs?” The doctor forced a smile as the girl glared at him still. The door opened behind them and her eyes dropped to the floor.
“Doctor, there’s a call for you on line one, it’s your son.” The nurse glanced from the doctor to the girl and back to the doctor again.
“Yes Delia, take her back to the rec room,” he turned his head towards the girl once more, “we’ll talk again tomorrow alright?”
“Come on sweetie, let’s go back again shall we?”
“Thank you, Nurse Jones, I’ll take the call now.”
The girl stood and moved toward the door. She stopped as she heard the doctor answer the phone. “Jeremy, it’s good to hear from you again. I was just---”
“Come on darling.” The nurse tugged on the girl’s arm once more as she led the way back, away from the door to the doctor’s office, the nurses’ station, and that blissful door to the outside world.
There was a crowd of people surrounding the tower. He had not left her instructions to do anything, just to go to the tower. His note plainly said that he would know who she was. There would be no need to have her carry or wear anything to identify her by, he would know immediately.
His palms were sweating as he hid behind the tree nearby and watched over the crowd of people. He stared at the note he had placed on the bulletin board hoping that she would see it, and that no one else would take it. But Katya was a pretty distinct and unusual name for New Jersey, and he felt certain that the random passerby would not take any special notice to the envelope he had placed there.
He was not to meet Katya just yet. Only to see her, to give her these instructions, letters, and fill her mind with wonder. It was 11:58. The pounding of his heart seemed to be the only sound on this cold January day.
Katya’s dark brown hair glided over her shoulder as she entered the mass of people. Looking at her watch, she wondered how she would find whoever had sent her that mysterious note. There was no description, no instructions other than to go to the tower at noon. It was 11:59.
“She was right,” he whispered to himself as he realized he knew exactly who Katya was the moment he laid eyes on her. “Look at the board Katya, see your name, pick up the envelope.” His toes tapped the snow covered ground in anticipation as Katya fumbled her way through the people and to the tower.
All around her students were swarming, making their way to and from classes, finding friends, and huddling together to keep warm. All of them had a purpose and knew what they were doing. None of them were looking at her. None of them seemed to want anything to do with her.
Katya walked along the tower thinking, maybe whoever she was supposed to meet was on the other side, or that they were running late. She kept looking for someone, anyone, to come up to her, slip her another note, or say something that would catch her attention.
She knew how ridiculous she must look to other people right now, walking around like a dazed and confused freshman who had no idea where her next class was. She was in her senior year at Jersey State, she knew more than half the schools’ student body and faculty members.
Her hope almost gone, Katya sat on a bench facing the tower, wishing that her mysterious person would finally arrive, or she would find something that would lead her to the truth about her parents.
Finally, Jeremy walked up to her with a note in his hand. Her name was written on the front of the envelope in the same scratchy handwriting from the first note.
“Jeremy?” Katya’s head tilted to the side in confusion. He couldn’t be her mysterious person. He’d been with her since the beginning trying to find her family. If he’d known he would have told her rather than send her on some goose chase. No, Jeremy was not her person, yet he had a new note, in an envelope with someone else’s handwriting on it.
“I found this pinned to the bulletin board on the tower. I guess whoever knows something, also doesn’t want to be known just yet.” Jeremy handed the envelope to Katya and sat down beside her.
Katya took the envelope from his hand and held it in hers. Her eyes were darting everywhere, trying to find whoever may have left this for her. Jeremy never took his eyes off of her, he waited until she had finished surveying the people.
“There’s no one there that looks suspicious, is there?” His hand moved to the small of her back while the other reached for the envelope. “Do you want me to open it?”
A look of surprise and confusion washed over Katya’s face as her head turned abruptly towards his. “Jeremy,” she said almost in a whisper. “There was a man at my mother’s funeral, a man I’ve never seen before, or at least I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before,” panic and excitement traveled through her voice as she spoke. “Do you think he could be the one behind all this? He never took his eyes off me, and then he disappeared before the funeral was over. I literally looked away for a matter of moments and he was gone, vanished, no where to be seen.”
“Katya,” Jeremy’s voice sounded bitter against hers, “I don’t know who that man was, I don’t even remember if I saw him. Let’s just stick to what we do know, okay? Just for right now. We’ll make a note to figure out who he is later.”
The envelope burned to be opened, but Katya folded it in half and placed it in her pocket. “Come on, let’s go back to my apartment and read this. I don’t want to open it out here.” Katya stood, her shoulders shrugged and her enthusiasm almost gone, and walked towards the school parking lots.
Jeremy stood to follow her. He took a few steps and looked over his shoulder at a tree nearby where they had just been sitting. The oddest feeling of someone watching them overcame him, but he shook it off. No one was there. He must have been imagining things he told himself.
The man had been watching, trying to listen to Jeremy and Katya. That was a close call he thought to himself as he walked cautiously back to his car. He had parked in visitor parking, a two hour metered space about 20 yards from the tower.
That kid was not supposed to be there, but the man had also expected Katya to find the note herself. So the fact that Jeremy had shown up helped a little. It would be difficult to find another messenger to give Katya another message. Maybe his next instructions would be to tell her the next information himself somehow.
As he unlocked his car, his phone vibrated in his pocket. Had she called a minute earlier they would have heard him behind them, trying desperately to hear their conversation.
“Did she receive the package?” A woman’s voice spoke loudly from the other end of his phone line.
“And she read the letter?”
“Not yet, she just put it in her pocket and left.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and licked his lips. He didn’t think she would be very happy from this news.
“Fine,” there was tension in her voice as she spoke, “You should go back to the hotel now. Wait for my call.” He heard the phone click as she replaced the receiver on its hook ending their conversation. The man closed his eyes and sighed as he put the phone on the passenger seat.
He looked once more at his watch, 12:20.
Katya sat at a table in the library looking over her notes from her government issues class. It seemed to be the only class she’d had to study for all year, it was also the only one in which she couldn’t pay attention.
The door to the studies room opened drawing her attention once more from her notes. Distraction was too easy as she looked back to her three-hole punched blue lined paper covered in illegible scribbles. Half the paper was doodled on rather than written and her sentences barely ever read full. There were maybe ten words she’d written in whole, the rest were missing vowels in quick writes and coded letters.
She pushed the stack of papers forward and leaned back in her chair, her hands flying to her forehead in frustration.
“Having trouble?” A voice whispered in her direction.
Katya sat up and looked at the man who had spoken. She seemed to recognize him from somewhere around campus. He was very handsome. Tall, with an athletic build, he had short blonde hair that reached the tip of his ears in a bowl cut hair style. His bright green eyes caught her attention as she looked him over cautiously.
“I didn’t mean to startle you, I’m sorry,” his face turned to a look of confused happiness as he tried to smile. He stuck out a hand for Katya to shake.
She reached out her hand to meet his and smiled, “you didn’t startle me. I just didn’t know anyone else was in here. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
He sat down across from her. “Sorry, I’m Josh. You’re Katya aren’t you?”
Astonishment covered her face, she looked at him carefully, thoughts of the notes from a mysterious person darted through her mind. Could he be the one sending me those messages?
“I’m in your government issues class,” he looked down at the papers she had shoved away, “I thought you might want some help studying for midterms. You usually don’t seem to be paying attention in class. I’m sorry if I’ve bothered you. I-” He made a move to stand.
“No, I’m sorry.” Katya smiled and chuckled softly. “I just thought maybe you were someone else.” She nodded her head, “I could probably use some help studying. You actually pay attention in her class?”
“Hey, are you hungry? I was just about to go down to the café and grab some lunch, care to join me? We can talk about government issues, or the weather,” he laughed, “whatever catches your interest better.” Josh winked at Katya as he stood and reached out his hand once more.
Katya gathered her papers and slid them back into her bag. She grabbed his hand as he helped her up and nodded. “I’m starving!” She said as she rolled her eyes and smiled.
Jeremy walked into the studies room in the library to find Katya. A few people had their heads drowned in books and stacks of papers, but no Katya. He glanced at his watch. It was a quarter past three. He was supposed to meet her here at half past. He was a little early, he thought to himself and took a seat at a couch chair in the middle of the room.
The clock above the bookcases in front of him read 3:39, it wasn’t like Katya to be late. Jeremy pulled out his phone, he didn’t want to sound paranoid, but he wanted to call her, make sure she was alright. He flipped the phone open and scrolled through the caller id.
The sound of his ringtone made every person in the room jump and look at him with scowls and contempt. Jeremy ducked out of the room as he saw the name and number of the caller.
“Katya? Where are you?” He whispered as he walked out of the room, kicking himself for not silencing his phone.
“I’m on my way up. I’m sorry I’m late, I went to lunch and didn’t realize what time it was. Meet me downstairs.” Katya closed her phone and walked into the lobby of the library and looked up. She could see Jeremy peering down at her from the balcony.
She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. She waved him down and tilted her head towards the door.
“You have a sibling. That’s all the note says, I can’t believe that it doesn’t say more. You have a sibling. It doesn’t even tell me if I have a brother or a sister, just that I have one or the other!” Katya’s voice carried from the kitchen through the hall to Jeremy in his bedroom.
It had been three days since she had gotten the note. “It doesn’t even give me any new instructions, not even an apology for not being there to tell me in person, just left me another stupid note!!” Her voice rose even higher as she cut through an orange on a cutting board.
Jeremy came out of his room, his work shirt unbuttoned and hanging off his shoulders. His muscled chest and chiseled abs open for Katya to drool over. She had always found Jeremy attractive, but she’d never admit it, he had been her friend for far too long, it would be too weird.
He stole a slice of her orange as he walked past her and held it high above her head as she tried to take it back from him.
“Yes well, maybe it’s another hoax, or maybe you do, maybe this is all a big cat and mouse game to see how far you will go to find the truth. Did you think about that?” Jeremy tilted his head towards hers and lowered the orange slice.
Katya jumped to get it back as he pulled it higher above her forcing her to give up the fight. She leaned her head closer to his, “yes,” she said shaking her head at him. She picked up her orange slices, put them in a bowl, and walked over to the couch.
“Come on, it’s movie night, let’s pop something in and watch it,” for the past 13 years that she had been friends with Jeremy, every third Friday of the month was movie night. It seems like an odd tradition, every third Friday, and people that had known about it would usually ask why that specific day, but Katya and Jeremy had never been ones for norms. They had chosen this night in the 4th grade, it was their special night to hang out and their parents would sit in one room and watch movies and the kids would sit in their rooms and play games and be kids.
The only time the tradition had been broken was when Jeremy had come down with the chicken pox in the 6th grade and their parents had refused to let her go into a room with him. That had been when they were 11, they were 22 now and still every third Friday was movie night.
Jeremy came over and selected a scary movie for them. He placed the DVD in the player and let the trailers begin as he walked back to the bedroom to finish changing out of his work clothes.
Katya sat sucking on her orange slices in her shorts and one of Jeremy’s shirts as she usually did when she came over. He came back out to the living room and sat next to her in his sweat pants and no shirt, a sight Katya was used to seeing since they were teens, but still enjoyed nonetheless.
Grabbing the remote, Jeremy pressed play on the DVD’s menu and the movie began. He looked over at Katya.
She couldn’t read the look on his face. She scrunched up her eyebrows and smiled at him. “What’s up Jeremy?”
He smiled at her and put his arm around her. “Nothing, nothing at all.” He reached over and took another orange slice, “you really should have cut two you know that?”
Scowling at him as he took yet another one of her orange slices Katya stuck out her tongue. She laughed as he mimicked her and bit into the stolen fruit. She leaned her head against his shoulder and curled her feet up onto the couch as she turned back to the t.v. screen.
They had begun the movie a bit later than usual and Jeremy felt Katya’s head grow heavy as the movie got closer to the end. He tilted his head down to see that her eyes were closed and she was in a deep sleep.
Katya felt Jeremy kiss her head as she passed out on his shoulder. She could watch the movie another night, tonight she just wanted to sleep in his arms.
Jeremy moved her head to his lap and pulled her feet onto the couch so that she was laying down using him as a pillow. He ran his fingers through her hair as he watched the end of the movie. He leaned his head back and began to feel sleep overwhelming him as he too fell asleep on the couch.
Katya woke the next morning still on Jeremy’s couch, her head resting on his lap and his head tilted back in what looked to be the most uncomfortable position it could possibly be in. She was half tempted to wake him with a kiss, but instead went into the kitchen and began searching for some breakfast.
She didn’t even hear the man as he walked into the kitchen, nor as he left through the window in the back bedroom. She did, however, notice the note under the magnet on the fridge. The note with the same scribbled handwriting with her name on the front.
The man had been standing outside the window for hours. He’d been waiting for the perfect moment. He wanted to see her up close, but he knew that would be risky. When the lights dimmed as the credits began to roll on the movie, he knew it was time.
He walked around the corner to the guard at the front door of the apartment complex. He had been “seeing” a tenant on the fourth floor for a few weeks now. Nothing serious, but enough so the guard wouldn’t remember his casual comings and goings as anything suspicious.
Katya and Jeremy’s off-campus apartments were on the third floor. He rode the elevator to the fourth as usual and knocked on the door marked 4B. A jolly little woman answered the door with a sweet smile on her face. The man hated that he was only using this poor woman for her access to the apartment, but it was all part of the plan.
“You’re late,” the woman said in her soft, kind voice. She wasn’t angry and she wasn’t confused. The man she’d been seeing kept a slow and steady pace to his walk. She knew he would refuse to take a cab and preferred to walk where he wanted to go. He’d been late many times before, she didn’t mind. He was as patient with her as she was with him.
The man walked to the wet bar and poured a small nightcap for each of them. “Here darling,” he said as he kissed her cheek and placed the drink in her hand. “I’m going to go wash up, I’ll join you in a moment.”
The woman sipped on her cup and walked to the back bedroom. She was drowsy and would be asleep in a few moments time, he knew because he dosed her drink with a mild sedative.
Dawn was breaking over the horizon. The man had gone to Katya’s apartment and rifled through her papers, her journals, and her notes as he tried to find out anything about her that he didn’t already know. As he was getting ready to leave, he picked up the note and a few of her things, a magnet on her fridge caught his attention.
“Jeremy??” Panic overwhelmed her as she ran back into the living room and shook Jeremy awake. “Jeremy!”
Tears were flowing from her eyes as Jeremy woke suddenly. “Katya what is it? What’s wrong?”
Katya handed him the envelope. He knew it was a new note, but he didn’t know where she had gotten it from. She hadn’t opened it yet.
“I got up, went into the kitchen, it wasn’t on the fridge when I took out the eggs. But when I turned around, it was under the magnet of the picture of us.” Fear filled her eyes as she continued, “that magnet was at my house.”
Jeremy stood quickly and began to look around. He grabbed his baseball bat and checked every door, window, and room for any intruders. Katya tugged along behind him like a scared child, never letting go of the waistline of his sweats.
They checked the kitchen first, the window was open but there was no one on the fire escape below them. He knew someone must have been in the apartment. He was not one to leave a window open, or unlocked. He went to the front door next, it was closed, locked, and there were no signs- as far as he could tell -of a forced entry.
“Katya,” Jeremy swallowed and thought of how to put this gently. “Someone has been in here, I don’t know if it was just to deliver this note, or if it was more sinister. But that magnet is from your apartment, and I want to go and check it out. I don’t want to leave you alone in here, but I also don’t feel comfortable with you going with me if there is someone over there.”
She bit her lower lip still fighting the frightened tears back. Her grip tightened on Jeremy’s waistband as his hand moved to the side of her face. He wiped away a tear sliding down her cheek and looked into her eyes. “I want you to go over to Eric’s across the hall. I’ll go knock on the door with you and wait until you are all the way inside and the door is shut before I go to your apartment okay?”
His chest was heaving as he tried to control his breathing. Katya nodded, it was all she could make herself do at this point. His hand moved from her face to behind her back as he guided her across the hall to Eric’s door.
They could hear Eric stumbling to the door muttering to himself about this and that. When the door finally opened however, Eric became wide awake.
“What’s going on, man?” The boys leaned forward for some male handshake bonding moment, but Jeremy’s facial expression never changed.
“I need you to keep an eye on her for a moment while I check out her apartment. Someone was just in mine, and we think he came from hers.” Jeremy looked from Eric to Katya and spoke again, “I want you to call the police and alert them to what has happened over the last few days, about all the notes and about just now.”
It was another one of those moments that Katya knew to agree and do exactly what she had been told, because she could only lose arguing with Jeremy right now. So, she nodded and walked into the room with Eric, finally letting go of her grip on Jeremy’s sweats and finding a place to sit in Eric’s apartment.
As the door shut completely, Jeremy turned and faced the door at the end of the hall. Katya’s apartment was four apartments away from his, their intruder could not have used the fire escape to enter both apartments. He must have had a key.
Katya’s door was locked as usual. Jeremy pulled out his keys and unlocked her door careful not to touch anything with his own hands. He’d watched too many episodes of CSI to know that one fingerprint could screw him over for life and if he touched anything at the scene of a crime he could lose evidence.
Ears perked for the slightest sounds, Jeremy walked around each corner carefully, his bat ready to swing. The sound of sirens getting closer relieved him, the police would be here soon and they would be safe. Safe from who though?
He heard the sounds of footsteps around the corner. His heart raced, palms sweaty, he took his stance, ready to attack whoever was there.
The scenery never changes out any of the windows. Snow falls, leaves turn colors and disappear, and flowers bloom throughout the different seasons, but nothing ever changes drastically. She could never see anyone coming or going, couldn’t see much other than the yard, the moon and stars, and the sun.
It was the same inside the asylum, the nurses could decorate for the holidays, but it was all the same anyways. The same white walls, the same dull nurses, the same hallway to the door she desperately wanted to get to.
She still heard the screaming at night, she didn’t know why it bothered her so much. She had always figured it was just another patient, yet somehow that didn’t answer her question.
The nurses were standing on chairs holding up ends of a banner. She recognized the green and white lettering on the black banner and a slight bit of hope ignited inside her. It was visitor’s day. Maybe she would get to see her mother again today, it had been quite a while since her last visit.
Although, everything felt as though it took forever, there was virtually no sense of time in the building. Of course the nurses would give them all their meds and meals and various other events on a time based schedule, but the girl never truly knew what day, month, or year it really was. Only when she had her visits with the doc did she ever really know when it was. The calendar on his desk was turned every morning upon the new day, with a new joke or riddle to be read with a cartoon.
Patients lined up to see the list and search for familiar names. As usual a fight broke out between the Trundalt sisters, they were in here over the same guy, who always came to visit them one at a time. She referred to them as the thing one and thing two sisters.
Nurse Delia came to the girl’s side and sat with her. After a few moments she looked at the girl. “You know dear, your mother is coming to see you. She should be here in about an hour, would you like to change into something special for her?”
The girl smiled and nodded frantically to the plump and jolly nurse. They stood and walked down the hall to her room. As they entered the girl looked around her room, something seemed different, but she couldn’t place her finger on it. The nurse helped her find an outfit to wear amongst the closet of clothes her mother had sent her. After they had chosen a suitable dress attire, the nurse left her to change.
The hour had passed slowly, as it always did, and nurse Delia guided the girl to the visitor’s area. All the visitors were seated at tables with the patients name on a sheet of paper taped to a stuffed animal. Other patients were being led to their friends and family members as other nurses led them in.
Delia and the girl stopped at the entrance. The girl looked around for her stuffed animal. At her table there sat a man, not her mother. Delia signaled another nurse to come and stand with the girl as she left to speak with the man who should be the girl’s mother.
The girl could only hear bits and pieces of their argument, something about a girl named Natasja, her mother, and danger. Delia walked back to the girl, reached for her hand and began to lead her towards the door back into the patients’ area. The girl turned and tried to go to the strange man who should have been her mother.
“No, Natasja, you aren’t to see that man, he is not your mother. Your mother is not coming today, maybe next time,” Delia pulled the girl now. Anger rising in her voice, a sense of underlying annoyance sounded under her breath as she muttered and pulled the girl back to her room.
Sitting on her bed, the young girl thought about what Delia had said to her. “Natasja.” Was that her name? She couldn’t be sure, she couldn’t even remember anyone ever calling her anything other than ‘my dear’, or ‘sweetie’, or other such nicknames.
Confused and alone once more, the girl laid on the bed and reached under the mattress. She pulled out a very worn photograph of two identical girls about 5 years old. She flipped over the picture as she always did hoping that by miracle the names of these two girls would appear on the back, but it never did.
Footsteps in the hall outside her door made her jump, she returned the crinkled photo to its hiding place and rolled over onto her back. Nurse Delia came into the room and handed the girl a small glass of water and a cup of pills. It was time to sleep again.
Sirens sounded outside the window as Eric replaced his phone on its cradle. His hands moved to his head, one pulling up his hat as his other hand ran through his hair and itched the back of his head in confusion.
He looked over at his neighbor as she sat balled up in the fetal position on his couch, “Are you ok Katya?”
Tears were streaming down her face as she stared at the door to his apartment. She wasn’t sure if she was staring at it waiting for Jeremy to safely reenter the room, or if she was waiting for her secret messenger to walk through. She wasn’t sure if she should even be afraid of him.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine, I—“ She couldn’t finish her sentence, she couldn’t even begin how to explain to Eric what had been happening the last few weeks. She cleared her throat and choked back more tears, “Do you have anything I could drink?”
Eric pulled his hat back onto his head and walked to his kitchen, he opened his fridge and was about to list off the different beverages when a loud noise from the door down the hall interrupted him.
Katya had jumped to her feet and was starting to run for the door when Eric grabbed her and knocked her down. “Jeremy!” Katya screamed as she fell.
“There’s no way to know if that noise was Jeremy. We can’t know from that sound if he’s been hurt, we don’t know what that noise was,” Eric whispered to the sobbing Katya, “Now, I have no idea what is going on here, I’m not about to ask, but from how frightened you look, I’m going to have to assume it just may be dangerous. The plain fact that Jeremy left you in here with me justifies that assumption, and the fact that you haven’t disagreed with me yet also proves me right.”
Katya nodded on the floor as Eric began to lift himself up and help her to her feet.
He led her to the closet in the front of the apartment, “I’m going to put you in here and then I’m going to go check to see if Jeremy is alright. I need you to be quiet ok?”
Katya nodded again and stepped into the closet filled with jackets. She sat down on the shoe-covered floor and placed her hand over her mouth as she tried to stop sobbing. She looked up at Eric as he closed the closet door, his eyes filled with worry and concern.
The door to Katya’s apartment was still open as Eric slowly moved towards it. He cursed himself for not grabbing a weapon, but that may have been a smart move if Jeremy had been hurt and the cops showed up, he thought.
He moved through the identical apartment silently. As he turned around the corner to the hall leading to the bedrooms he stopped cold. Jeremy was sprawled out on the floor at the end of the hall, his baseball bat lying next to his lifeless hand. Eric looked around frantically, there didn’t seem to be anyone in the apartment, he ran to Jeremy.
There was no blood on the floor or on Jeremy, Eric closed his eyes and breathed deeply. “Please, let him be alive!” Eric reached forward and placed two fingers on Jeremy’s neck searching for a pulse.
“POLICE!” Came a voice from the front of the apartment. “CLEAR OVER HERE.”
“Help! Please Help! My friend, he needs an ambulance!” Eric couldn’t move, he couldn’t feel a pulse.
A police officer came around the corner and began firing questions at him, who had hit Jeremy, why was he in here, where is the weapon, what’s going on…
Eric couldn’t hear anything the officer was saying, he thought of Katya hiding in his closet. He jumped up and tried to run past the officer. “Katya! I have to get to Katya!” The officer released his grip on Eric and followed him as he ran past the other officers collecting evidence.
He slid past his door and doubled back to the apartment he had locked only a few minutes prior. Frantic to see that Katya was safe now that he had seen his friend in her apartment unconscious, he didn’t even bother with keys. Eric kicked at his door until it broke open.
Pulling the closet door open the officer stood behind him moving all around Eric’s apartment with his gun out at arms length ready to shoot.
She wasn’t sure, but the girl thought it had been at least a few days since the visitor’s day when a man had come to her table rather than her mother. She hadn’t seen Nurse Delia since she’d been brought back to her room and no one else had called her Natasja either. The girl wondered if that was why she hadn’t seen Nurse Delia.
Maybe no one was supposed to know her name. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to know her name. She would have to ask the Doctor next time she saw him.
A new nurse walked up to the girl and handed her a cup of water and a cup of four different colored pills. She stood and watched the girl as she sipped the water into her mouth and poured the pills into her mouth. The girl gulped down the water and opened her mouth to the nurse to show she’d taken the pills.
When the nurse was satisfied and had walked away, the girl spit the four pills into her hand and shoved them into the cushions of the couch she was sitting on in the main patient’s area. Other girls were sitting by her watching t.v., reruns of The Loveboat were playing today.
The girl looked around the room, one of the girls that was usually sitting with her watching the sappy old shows was missing. She stood and walked to the hall of rooms, wandering past each room looking for the girl she thought of as a friend.
“Who you looking for love?” The new nurse stopped her after the third door, her friend’s door was two more farther.
“I was looking for my friend,” the girl thought quickly, but she couldn’t recall her friend’s name, in fact, she couldn’t remember any of the patient’s names. The only names she could think of were the nurses names and the names she had overheard the strange man say. “My friend Natasja.”
The nurse looked at her and cocked her head to the side, a confused look flushed her face as she moved to the side and let the girl pass her to continue looking for her friend Natasja.
The girl walked to the room she knew her friend to sleep in. The room was empty except for the bed. There were no linens, no pictures, and no sign of life in the room. Confused, the girl walked back to her seat in front of the t.v., her friend would have told her she was leaving.
The new nurse walked to the nurse’s station outside the patient’s area. “That girl, Natasja, why aren’t we supposed to use her name in front of her?” She asked one of the senior staff nurses.
“Nurse Stacy, I know you are new at this, but if the good doctor tells us not to call a patient by their name, we don’t. Is there a reason you are questioning this practice?” The senior nurse stared at the new Nurse Stacy. Impatience was written all over her face and body language.
“No Ma’am, I won’t do it again. I’m sorry.” The nurse walked back to another part of the clinic and sat down. She wondered how the girl learned her name, but more or less, why she was referring to her friend as Natasja. The nurse deemed the girl must have multi-personality disorder, and that must be the reason she was placed in this facility. The nurse continued with her usual work detail for the day, but the thought lingered in her mind.
The girl had watched the nurses talking. She had seen the new nurse upset with Nurse Catherine, the nurse who had been here the longest and was probably the oldest as well. It was never a treat to have to speak with Nurse Catherine, as it usually meant you were doing something you weren’t supposed to have been doing.
Curiosity struck the girl. She would befriend this new nurse, Nurse Stacy. She seemed weak, and ready to crack at any new information. She just might be the key to getting to the door that leads to her freedom.
...To be Continued...