In 2003 I had the opportunity and privilege to be a fellow at The Maine Writing Project Summer Institute at the University of Maine in Orono. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I form life-long friendships with the other people who attended the program, but the work I had to produce truly challenged me.
As an English teacher, I constantly ask my students to step outside their comfort zones. I ask them to complete assignments that require skills that often don’t come naturally to too many people. Being asked to produce a work of fiction that summer provided me with just that kind of challenge. In fact, I was absolutely terrified throughout the entire process. Oh yes, ask me to compare and contrast two Victorian novels and I’m absolutely in heaven. Ask me to analyze the character development of a protagonist from the beginning of a novel to the end, and I can do it with my eyes closed. But ask me to write a work of fiction and you’ll see me crawl under the table and hide. It’s just not the kind of writing that comes easily to me.
What follows is the story I came up with that summer. In order to help get me through the experience, I relied heavily on Stephen King’s book On Writing, as well as on some of the short story elements often found in the pieces written by two of my favorite writers, Kate Chopin and Shirley Jackson. While my work of fiction is certainly not the greatest piece of writing ever produced, it’s mine, and remembering what I had to go through to get it completed serves as a great reminder to always be patient with my own students.
“You’re insane, you know that?” Lizzy whined. “It’s 7:30 in the morning and you’ve already opened every window shade in the cabin. Why do you do that when you know I hate it?” She hid under the blankets so she would not have to listen to the rustling sound of her mother scurrying around the room like a petrified rodent. The corners of Lizzy’s mouth curved up while she imagined the skewed look on her mother’s face as the woman separated piles of clothes on the floor waiting to be packed.
“Elizabeth, I am not leaving this room until I see that you are out of that bed. Now get up!”
When she’d hidden under the covers long enough to be sure that her mother was gone, Lizzy crawled out of the sanctuary of her sheets. The short walk to the bathroom did not give her enough time to mentally prepare for another crazy day. It was a day she had been dreading for several weeks, and although it was a time that most of her friends had anxiously awaited, for her it was a huge disappointment. She committed her high school years to earning the grades required to be accepted to Yale. It was the school that she had longed to attend since her family had driven through New Haven, Connecticut on a summer vacation seven years ago.
But it was not to Connecticut that Lizzy was headed.
As she entered the stark white bathroom, she squinted and looked into the mirror just as she had hundreds of other times that summer. The image that stared back at her was more dull than pale, and like a photograph taken out of focus, her features seemed less defined than usual. Waves of sorrow rushed through her body as she struggled to forget the days that she had been proud of her reflection. She knew the vision she saw now showed how she really felt; drowned in confusion and anxiety about heading off to college. She wanted to be more excited, more positive, and she had even attempted to write one daily entry in her journal describing the reasons that this change in her life was for the best. But by the end of the summer, her efforts had produced a collection of empty pages.
The last few months of her senior year of high school had been perfect. She enjoyed close friendships, graduated with honors, and received her acceptance to Yale. With that in hand, she had been able to nurture her dreams for the future that she hoped to share with David. David. The only cause of stress that she remembered about the two years that they had dated was her parents’ constant nagging that she was wanting to spend too much time with him.
“David?” she whispered, and she wondered why it came out sounding like a question. The familiar feeling of uneasiness summoned by the sound of his name embraced her tightly. She missed him, but she knew that he must be happy where he was. On their last day together, she had pleaded with him not to go away to the Naval Academy and desert her. “He said we both needed to do what was best for ourselves, and he was right,” she said, a bit more self-assuredly. After having said this to a reflection that she was growing to despise, Lizzy noticed that the smile spreading across her face was the same one David had always said was the sweetest smile he had ever seen.
“Lizzy, what is going on in there? Turn off the water, you’re going to overflow the sink!” Too late. The water had already escaped and had begun to spread across the blue tile floor. “What are you doing?” Her mother had burst through the door and was standing in front of her, her stockinged feet now soaking wet. As she watched her mother attempt to steady herself by holding onto the sink, Lizzy wanted to laugh out loud. She thought the woman looked more like a newborn calf learning how to walk than a parent trying to discipline her child. Instead, she just looked at her mother blankly as she slowly and deliberately twisted the fixtures and brought the rushing water to an abrupt halt.
“Mom, why does everything always have to be such a big deal all the time?” After pulling the plug to free the water still trapped in the basin, she walked out of the bathroom and away from her mother. As far as Lizzy was concerned, the time her family had spent at the cabin on the lake had somehow driven her mother completely mad.
“Dad, will you speed up? We’ve been driving for over four hours. If I were still planning to go to Yale instead of WMI, we would have been there by now.” Lizzy’s parents looked at each other uncomfortably in the front seat. “Tell me again why you are doing this to me.” It wasn’t a question, it was a command.
She didn’t have to look in the rearview mirror to know that her father was doing everything he could to avoid making eye contact. “Elizabeth, you know that we are just trying to do what is best for you. You’re not ready to deal with the stress of Yale. Not just yet, anyway.” She watched carefully as her father glanced sideways at his wife, who was losing her battle to fight back tears.
In her head, Lizzy took inventory of her parents’ recent attempts to do what was best for her. They thought it would be best if she quit her summer job at the pool even though it meant making money and being able to hang out with her friends. They thought it would be best when they decided the family should spend most of the summer on a lake that none of them had ever even heard of. They thought it would be for the best if they didn’t allow her to give her friends the address at the lake. She wrote in her journal that her experience there felt more like being a criminal trapped in the lock-down ward of a prison than a teenage girl on vacation with her parents. It seemed they wanted her all to themselves during those last precious months before she went away to college and she resented their selfishness. It wasn’t her fault she was an only child.
She would have gone on silently stewing if her ears had not begun to pop. When she complained, her mother said, “Can’t you try to enjoy the view? This part of New Hampshire is spectacular this time of year, just look at those mountains.”
Lizzy took a moment to peer out the rearview window. She was annoyed to discover that a state trooper was directly behind the car, so she knew the chances of her father speeding up anytime soon were non-existent. “Nope. I guess I don’t have your talent for trying to make everything seem so perfect all the time, Mom,” she sneered.
Startled, her mother shot her husband the contorted look that Lizzy had become so accustomed to over the last few months. It was an expression that displayed her confusion and unease better than words ever could. After this exchange, Lizzy knew that her father would be watching her closely, and she made sure to put on a great show. The image that he saw in the reflection of the rearview mirror was jarring. His daughter sat gazing straight ahead, appearing catatonic, staring out the window and silently praying that she would not catch a glimpse of herself reflected in the glass.
The car tackled the twists and turns of the mountainous terrain until it began the ascent through the ominous black gates of WMI. Lizzy noticed that her mother had started crying again, but she pulled herself together as her husband slowed down to talk to a man sitting in a small booth just around the first curve of the entrance. When he pulled to a stop, Lizzy could see a crowd of girls in an open patch of grass just ahead of them. Upon first observation it was clear that these girls had arrived much earlier and were already comfortably acquainted, or they had come to the school together as a large group. Either way, they were familiar enough with each other to be playing jump rope at their age and seemingly having a great time. Even more bizarre than the playing of a child’s game was the fact that all of the girls were wearing similar grey suits. Lizzy growled internally and she could feel herself becoming silently enraged about the fact that her parents had neglected to tell her anything about a dress code. However, if there was one thing that she learned over the summer, it was that outwardly displaying her anger would get her nowhere. She struggled with herself to remain calm by trying to recall the last time she had played jump rope, but her memory, as usual, would not cooperate.
When her father finished his conversation with the faceless man behind the plate glass, he pulled the car forward, giving Lizzy the chance to peer out the window. It was then that she noticed an older woman standing off to the side of the field observing the girls who were jumping rope. The whistle around her neck indicated that she was somehow in charge. Lizzy couldn’t help but feel relieved when she realized that the whole scene must have been part of the freshmen orientation activities designed to encourage teamwork and an atmosphere of fun for all the new students.
Teamwork. It surely hadn’t worked for her and David. He had promised her that they would be teammates for life. She found herself not knowing whether to laugh or cry, and she cringed when she thought about how different her first day of school would have been at Yale. Nope. There wouldn’t have been any jump ropes at Yale, that’s for sure.
It was then that Lizzy cried, too.
When her father noticed that she was upset, he said, “Elizabeth, please try to understand. Just settle down and you’ll get through this.” Get through this? It wasn’t exactly the pep talk she expected to get from her dad on the day he sent her off to college.
After the patch of grass that, in Lizzy’s opinion, doubled as a playground for a bunch of jump roping lunatics, the car trudged through a few hundred yards of forest. The trees, mostly birch and pine, opened into an even larger field. The green pasture would have seemed infinite had it not been guarded by the piercing posts of a wrought iron fence.
On the opposite side of the field her new school waited for her patiently. She eyed the gigantic brick buildings that engulfed the area and thought it strange that most of them were connected by small enclosed bridges. Then she remembered that not everyone was used to good old fashioned New England winters. She figured the bridges were a clever way to keep students from having to struggle against the vicious attacks of winter blizzards so common to the area.
“Elizabeth, get out of the car. Don’t you want to get this over with as soon as possible?” Her father was bent at the waist talking to her from the other side of the car window. He pleaded with her using the same tone he used when she was a small child and needed to be coaxed down from the top of the monkey bars. In a way she felt sorry for him; his hunched body looked more like a clay sculpture crumbling in the warm September sun than a human being.
“No Dad, I do not. This place looks like a prison.” Glaring back at her father through the closed window, Lizzy accidentally caught a glimpse of herself in the glass. She noticed immediately that her appearance had changed since earlier that morning. Rather than having to look closely to make out all of her dull features, they now seemed swollen and grossly exaggerated. There was no doubt in her mind that the warped expression on her face and the wildly gnarled hair that the wind from her father’s open car window had produced, matched her mood perfectly.
“Honey, calm down now.” Now it was her mother’s turn to plead. “Your father and I would not have brought you here if we didn’t think it would be good for you.”
Taking a closer look at her mother, Lizzy wanted to spit at the woman. She was tired of her trying to make everything so pleasant all the time. Without warning, Lizzy released a sharp giggle at the sudden thought that her mom looked like a paper doll who always wore the same expression, but had a different outfit for every occasion. She wondered what her mother’s reflection would look like from inside of the car window. Would it be an out-of-focus image like Lizzy’s, or would it be the same veiled creature that was gaping at her from the other side of the car door?
Tired of playing games, Lizzy got out of the car and looked around. Immediately she turned her back on the building in front of her and on her parents, who she knew were extremely relieved that she had finally agreed to step out of the car on her own. Their hopes were shattered when they realized that the abruptness of their daughter’s body language indicated that she was not planning to take another step in the direction of the building marked ADMISSIONS. Within seconds, however, the slamming of a large metal door altered Lizzy’s reserve. She spun around to see the outline of a short, squat woman at the top of the staircase. Because the sun was reflecting off large strips of metal that bordered the bottom of the brick building, it was impossible for her to make out the person’s features. However, the slow, very deliberate steps the figure was taking as it descended the stairs reminded her of every horror movie she had ever seen.
“Charming,” Lizzy growled under her breath. “I’m in the middle of a Stephen King movie.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Daniels?” Lizzy found the voice to be immediately antagonizing. “I’m Dell Belmont. I believe we’ve spoken on the telephone several times.” Rummaging through the papers on her clipboard, she continued. “I’m the administrator on duty this afternoon and I’m here to welcome you. I’m positive your daughter will get on just fine with us.” The harsh sound of the woman’s voice made it sound almost rusty, but her insincere tone made Lizzy wonder how many times a day Dell Belmont made that same statement to countless other parents. When she reached the last step at the bottom of the stairs, the woman’s silhouette finally came into view, and Lizzy was puzzled as to how a person with such a small stature could command such a powerful tone.
Rather than introducing herself, Lizzy’s curiosity won out. “How come everyone else is already here?” she blurted. Her father looked at her and cleared his throat violently and her mother caught her eye for only a second before looking away. Although it had only been for a quick moment, it was the first time in a long time that Lizzy had looked her mother straight in the eye. She noticed the crying had caused her mother’s eyes to become two crimson sponges, and they looked very unnatural set inside her prefabricated expression.
“It seems like they’ve been here forever,” Dell Belmont stated flatly. It was an unexpected attempt at humor and Lizzy’s abrupt laughter echoed off the side of the building and into the open field behind her.
Dell Belmont did not crack a smile. As she gestured to the suitcase that Lizzy’s father had just taken out of the trunk, she said, “After reviewing your paperwork, it has been decided that you will not be assigned a roommate. I imagine you’ll have enough room to store all of your things.”
Lizzy was not even listening. Suddenly she felt nervous and that was not a feeling she was used to experiencing. She was always in control. Even when her parents made her do things against her will, she found ways to be in charge. Hadn’t she found a way to contact her friends from the lake that summer? Hadn’t she continued to send letters to David?
“Let’s go inside and I’ll show you your room. You have been assigned to room 109.”
Climbing the steps to the brass door that would lead them inside, Dell Belmont’s pace was heavy yet brisk. The more labored her breathing became, the softer it sounded. Lizzy decided that it would take a little while to make sense of this woman since everything about her seemed so contradictory.
As they made their way through the building, the fact that Lizzy would be safe became immediately apparent. If her parents wanted to protect her, they had certainly found the right place. She had been told that her room was on the first floor. However, what should have been a thirty second walk evolved into a five minute journey because Dell Belmont kept stopping to unlock and re-lock every single door that they passed through.
In a newspaper article that her guidance counselor gave to her before she graduated, Lizzy read that dorm room security had been increased at many colleges and universities in major cities because of the ever increasing crime rates. This was especially true in New Haven where Yale was located. In fact, she figured it was the crime rate in and around Yale’s campus that had been the major factor in her parents’ decision not to send her there after all. She had no idea the security would be so tight at this small New England school, a community folded and tucked away in the protective arms of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
It had been four hours since her parents left her sitting alone in the dorm and she was still frustrated that her first introduction to her new room had been so disappointing. Lizzy had noticed immediately that very little of the original mint green paint was left on the cinderblock walls; it was either chipping badly, or it had been carved with names of former residents of the room. It had taken her a little longer to discover that the floor appeared to be in even worse shape. When she bent over to pick up her suitcase, she noticed that what had first appeared to be a common black and white checkerboard pattern, was actually the result of so many broken or missing tiles.
Her feelings of discouragement about the room were quickly replaced with guilt, not about treating her parents terribly that day, but about her lack of remorse when they finally left. If anything she felt relieved. Rather than cry and carry on as she had witnessed another girl do earlier in the hallway outside of her room, Lizzy had simply started to unpack. It was strange, she thought. She fought against going to the school for so long, but once she found herself inside the confines of her room, she felt more calm and relaxed than she had in months. The nerves that she had experienced when she first met Dell Belmont disappeared. It was almost as if each turn of the woman’s keys during their long walk to room 109 set Lizzy free from her anxieties.
As she emptied her suitcase, she was surprised by how many pictures she had packed of David. Seeing pictures of him left her feeling a strange mixture of tenderness and anger.
Tenderness. Anger. Tender anger. Angry tenderness. Were such emotions even possible?
She wondered if David would ever write back to her. How much would it have taken for him to write her just one letter? She had waited all summer to hear back from him, and each time she had opened the metal mailbox to reveal nothing but empty space, numbing pain had enveloped her. She consoled herself with the reminder that he probably could not have contact with the outside world for the first few weeks of his training. Everyone knew how strict those military schools were.
When she was completely unpacked, Lizzy decided to lead herself on a tour of the grounds. After classes began there would not be much time for exploration, so she went out the side door that Dell Belmont had shown her as an exit to the courtyard in front of her building. Enjoying her newfound sense of independence and security gave Lizzy time to think. The biggest realization that she made was how silly she had been at the end of the spring when she had made life so hard for David. She had told him at least twice a day that she would not be able to stand being apart from him.
David had not shared her sense of loss.
“Why didn’t he at least try to give me what I needed? Things could have been so different,” she gasped. The alarm in her voice was not the result of having said the words out loud, but of having caught a glimpse of herself in that same metal border of the building that had obscured Dell Belmont’s image earlier that day. She hadn’t even realized she was leaning her forehead up against it and she couldn’t help but wonder how long she had been standing there in that position. The surge of pain that the memory of David created tugged at her stomach like a sandbag being dropped into the waters of a heavily flooded river. Facing herself only made it worse since the picture she saw in the dulled metal reflection was that of a stranger.
Lizzy sat alone at dinner that night, and every night for the next few weeks. She spent all her days and evenings trying to make sense of her new surroundings and attempting to create a routine. The daily meetings she attended with her counselor to discuss her new schedule added to her irritation that classes had not officially begun. This annoyance was surpassed only by the hurt that she felt about being neglected by her friends. She had been writing to them daily, but had not received a single piece of mail in return. Having so much time to think had been great at first, but then her thoughts had turned to summer, a summer that had dimmed in her memory. Like some people fall in and out of love, Lizzy felt like she was falling in and out of time.
Her recollections of the past few months often reeled through her mind like a roll of underdeveloped film; all of the images appeared blotched and grey. Her perception of the events of the past summer reminded her of the experience she had had on her first day at the institute when she saw Dell Belmont. The faded memories were like that first view of the woman coming down the stairs; dull, undefined, featureless. She wished the footage in her head would process and expose itself with as much purpose as Dell Belmont had descended the staircase that day.
It was a Friday evening, and Lizzy wondered why she had not yet received any of the usual offers from other girls on her floor to accompany them to the arts and crafts room. Whoever heard of arts and crafts in a college dorm anyway? Lizzy chuckled. She would rather play jump rope.
The one time that she had caved and had actually agreed to go with them, she had become overwhelmed with memories. She wasn’t sure if it had been the smell of melted crayons escaping from the heating vents, the vinyl red, white and yellow pillows piled high in the corner, or the metallic taste of the water that had burst forth too quickly from the water fountain, that set her off. Either way, the assault to her senses had been overwhelming, taking her on a nostalgic voyage back to her youth. Even though her childhood had been a time filled with the soft laughter of family and friends, the memory served as another painful reminder of how lonely she felt these days.
It was on that same night that Lizzy had experienced her first real episode at WMI. She had been reading her favorite science-fiction novel in her room and it was almost 10:00 p.m., which everyone knew meant lights out. She decided she better hurry and get to the bathroom before the other girls descended upon it like vultures. Over the years she had discovered that taking showers always helped her to relax. Lizzy always believed that there was just something about clear, crisp water that had the power to wash away life’s unpleasantries.
Lizzy understood why she had not been invited to the arts and crafts room as soon as she opened her door. Hanging in the archway was a carefully constructed sign, dangling lifelessly from a piece of colored yarn. Her first thought was that it had been created by the careful hands of a small child intent on showcasing it on the family fridge; upon closer inspection she saw that, spelled out carefully, in macaroni sprinkled with red sparkling glitter, someone had written the word MURDERER.
A few of Lizzy’s floormates stepped from behind the bathroom door and pointed in her direction. Their whispered giggles enraged her. Pulling tightly at the sides of her worn, white nightgown, Lizzy charged forward and began scratching, kicking, and pulling the hair of any girl that came within her reach. It didn’t take long, however, for her to begin feeling the sensation that had occurred so many times over the past summer. Although she was still very aware of her every move, she could slowly feel herself beginning to block out the images of the people around her. Within seconds, the outlines of the girls faded away, one by one, until they became only fragmented shadows escaping into the far corners of her mind.
On a black and white television monitor from inside a security booth three floors away, Dell Belmont looked on as two male security guards tackled Lizzy, pierced her with a long needle, and dragged her away like a forgotten, tattered rag doll.
On a Monday morning, three days after blacking out during the incident with her floormates, Lizzy made a call to her parents from deep inside Dell Belmont’s office. Although she had made every attempt to ask for permission, a girl on her floor had barricaded herself inside her room and was threatening to harm herself, leaving all of the security guards preoccupied. Lizzy didn’t think anyone would care if she just slipped inside Dell Belmont’s office to make a quick call.
Her mother answered the phone sounding exhausted as usual. When she asked her how she was doing, Lizzy droned on about the events that had occurred during the previous week. After she described the practical joke that some of the girls had played by hanging that sign outside her dorm room, an incident that Lizzy had given very little thought to since it had occurred, she heard the phone crash to the floor. After that the only sounds she could make out were her mother’s muffled sobs.
“Lizzy? Honey, are you OK?” It was now her father’s voice on the other end of the line. Even though he tried to explain why her mother was so upset, Lizzy didn’t really pay attention. She was used to her mother’s meltdowns over the phone by now.
Ten minutes later Lizzy said goodbye to her father. For the first time, she looked around and realized that she was still alone in Dell Belmont’s office. Wanting to unlock the secrets to this peculiar woman, Lizzy decided to poke around. Normally she would have been worried about getting caught, but somehow she felt safe in this space. It was protected by thousands of books overflowing from shelves that were built into all four walls, and the sea of books was interrupted only by two huge floor to ceiling windows at each end of an enormous brick fireplace in the very center of the room. The few times that Lizzy had been called to this office, she had actually enjoyed the time she spent there. The caramel colored leather furniture gave the space a warm, almost cozy feeling, so unlike the rest of the rooms on the campus.
Lizzy was curious to see what kind of personal items a strange woman like Dell Belmont had hidden in her desk. Making her way through clusters of piled up paperwork spread across the floor, she decided she would begin with the long skinny drawer in the middle of an oversized antique desk sitting in one corner of the room. But just as she was about to place her hand on the oak handle, her eyes swept across a file that had her name written on the tab in large black letters.
Daniels, Elizabeth T. What could possibly be so interesting about her that a folder with her name on it would be filled to overflowing? It was so thick that the crease had begun to fray. However, that was not what Lizzy was suddenly so enthralled with. She was more interested in the fact that, as she had begun to flip through the pages of her file, she was sure that she had seen his name.
She would not stop until she found it.
Papers titled Incident Report appeared one after the other and her efforts to find that one sheet of paper with his name on it seemed hopeless. Strangely, as she sifted and scanned, Lizzy realized that some of those underdeveloped photos, the ones containing blurry images of her summer, were beginning to come into focus. The more frenzied her search became, the faster those faded snapshots began to flash through her mind.
She spotted it. The information on the page read like the headlines from one of those crime-infested tabloids found while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Patient: Daniels, Elizabeth T., 17
Crime: First Degree Murder
Victim: Blithe, David G, 18
Sentence: 25 yrs.at White Mountain Institute: Clinic for the Mentally Ill
The report went on to describe how David’s bloated corpse had been found floating in a river three miles from her home. Even though it was one of the memories that she had not been able to process in a long time, Lizzy remembered that she had done her best to weigh his body down with sandbags. It had resurfaced when the bags had been pried loose by the rushing waters of a spring time flood.
Paperclipped to the back of the report was a photograph of his body after it had been recovered and dragged to shore. Lizzy nodded her head slowly up and down as she stared at it and remembered that, as much as she had loved him, David had turned into one of life’s unpleasantries that she had needed to wash away.
The paper that she was holding in her hand became soaked with tears and the black ink that his name was typed in streaked down the side of the sheet and onto her fingers. Suddenly her body felt more calm and relaxed than it had in a long time and she wanted to enjoy the moment. Hugging herself tightly, she stared at the combination of words on the paper. She took in a long deep breath and allowed them to unlock the collage of lifeless photographs that for so many months had been vaulted deep inside the darkroom of her mind.
As the images continued to reel through her mind at a steady pace, Lizzy crawled over to the gigantic window just behind Dell Belmont’s desk. She took in the burst of color from the fall foliage of the White Mountains and realized that she was slowly beginning to feel whole again. As the waves of memory washed over her, she let them develop themselves, one after the other, and become submerged in her conscience. Like the green leaves that had turned into brilliant reds, yellows and oranges outside the window, the dull pictures in Lizzy’s mind were transforming themselves into bright snapshots drenched in color.
As memories of the summer continued to saturate Lizzy’s mind, Dell Belmont headed down the hall toward her office. The first indication she had that something was wrong was the reflection she saw in the window of the open office door. It was of a child, sitting at the window, swaying back and forth. Like a discarded life preserver rocking in the water on a windy day, the image appeared to be gently guided by an unseen force.
Lizzy was posing for a picture of her own design.
The image Dell Belmont saw in the reflection of the window was the same one that Lizzy’s father had observed in the rearview mirror on the day he had dropped his daughter off at the institute. She sat gazing straight ahead, almost catatonic, looking out the window.
This time, however, there were two huge differences. The first was that Lizzy was not sitting in her father’s car surrounded by the police escorts that met them outside of the Northern Maine Juvenile Detention Center, a large, lakeside log cabin that had been renovated to house convicted criminals with mental illness. It was a fairly new kind of facility designed to allow the parents of young offenders to stay with their children until they were assigned to institutions or prisons.
The other difference was that rather than having avoided her reflection in the window like she usually tried to do, Lizzy met her image dead on. While she studied her face in the glass, she reached into that recently unlocked vault in her mind and selected a memory-the memory of a long forgotten smile.
Standard procedure required that Dell Belmont write an incident report about what happened with Lizzy that day in her office. These routine reports were used by psychiatrists to monitor the patients’ progress. It was not the first write-up that she had needed to complete on Lizzy, but this account proved more difficult than usual because the expression that had been on the girl’s face when she had been found was haunting. When Dell Belmont sat down at her computer that evening she documented the events exactly as they had unfolded.
The first line of her account stated that when she was discovered, the smile on Lizzy’s face had been the sweetest smile Dell Belmont had ever seen.