Penny had been told all of her life to embrace her wings and fly, but she wasn’t a fucking bird. Nor was she trapped in a nest or a cage. Well, maybe a cage. Penny had been trapped within the confines of her mind for as long as she had been alive. Sometimes was she trapped in her childhood home, other times it was the room of a hospital. Eventually she would be free – Penny always believed she would have to be dead first though.
Currently her doctors were having their say in her life expectancy and insisting that she wait for a natural demise. That if she would only spread the wings of her mind and embrace recovery, her life would be peachy. What that actually meant Penny couldn’t comprehend – she assumed she had been doing just that until four days ago when her father explained to her that she had been very wrong about that notion. Now Penny was back at Angletree Hospital. The one hospital she had sworn she would never return to, clearly that plan had gone swimmingly.
According to Penny’s father not only was she not doing well, she was doing awful. According to him Penny hadn’t left her bedroom in three weeks. The fact that he left for work before four in the morning and returned around one in the afternoon had no bearing on the situation. Penny argued it was all horseshit. She couldn’t quite remember all of the last three weeks, but Penny had a terrible sense of time. She knew she had stayed in this weekend. The week had been exhausting. So many social gatherings and events – sometimes it was just too much for Penny.
She had celebrated Kiernan’s birthday with him and his family and friends on either Thursday or Friday night. Maybe it was Wednesday? Regardless, she had decided to take it easy over the weekend. She wasn’t on the schedule to work at the coffee shop where they featured, “hot beans and cold brew.” So what had been the big deal?
The big deal was that again, according to Penny’s father, Kiernan’s birthday was three weeks ago. No one at Beanery had seen or heard from Penny. She had missed twelve shifts. She hadn’t been responding to texts, calls, emails, or social media of any kind. To the best of his knowledge and sense of smell, Archard wasn’t entirely sure that his daughter had even left her room to relieve herself. He knew she hadn’t showered, he only hoped she had done the later. If not, he would clean it all up in time for her return. If she returned.
This had been Penny’s countless time in trouble, but her third time at Angletree. Archard wasn’t sure if it was the hospital that needed better programs or Penny that just needed more help. Archard always feared that one of these trips Penny would go in as his but come back out assigned to the care of someone else. He had tried to prepare for that day, just in case, but how does a father prepare to lose his only child – his daughter no less.
Archard had already lost his wife to a flashy salesman who swept through town when Penny was seven and already exhibiting signs of a lifelong battle. He couldn’t lose his daughter to Angletree or Oak Leave Home. His wife he didn’t mind losing, but losing Penny would kill him. He loved Penny the way she was – the good or the bad. The good was like Christmas everyday, and only reinforced by how bad the bad days were. More than anything he wanted Penny to heal for her sake. Though it was episodes like this that made Archard question whether he was getting Penny help for her sake or his.
After all, she had just been dormant in her room for twenty-one days. It wasn’t like she had killed twenty-one people or went missing for twenty-one days on a bender. Not that he ever had to worry about either of those things happening. Well, that wasn’t quite true. He knew Penny would never commit a mass murder, but – the thought was too much. Archard sat down on the floor leaning against his daughter’s bed. He needed a moment to settle his stomach. Moving over an old sweatshirt Archard unearthed an awful smell. It was the smell of old vomit. He held his breath and he put the sweatshirt back in its place. Hopefully there wouldn’t be too many surprises.
Penny looked at the door as if she were expecting a surprise to walk through. She had gotten a little angry at the nurse earlier and had been stuck with something to subdue her. The nurse had been insisting on checking her for bodily harm. Had Penny been in a dark place she would have been fine with the once over. But she hadn’t been. She had been perfectly fine. She had been to Kiernan’s birthday party three days ago. Maybe two or four. Either way, Penny had been to his birthday party. She was having an okay time. She had known Kiernan’s family for a long time. Her favorite uncle of his had passed away recently. It was the first time the family had had a function since. But it was still pretty enjoyable. Penny had picked at a few of the appetizers and was acclimating when PJ had walked in. There weren’t many spots open, one next to Kiernan’s mom, the other next to Penny. PJ being the world class fuckface he was sat down directly next to Penny. Penny felt Kiernan reach under the table and squeeze her knee. He was her best friend, up until last year they all had been best friends. Now, PJ and Kiernan were friends and Kiernan and Penny were friends. Bonds that had once been made were broken. Penny didn’t stay too much longer after that. She had talked to most of the birthday boy’s family and had made plans with him to do something early next week. She had been excited to go home and curl up in her bed. But that had been three or four days ago. Maybe two.
That had to be at least a week old, Archard reflected as he cleaned up the second pile of throw up he found underneath piles of clothing. So far in addition to the throw up he had found small patterns of blood drops – mostly specs – and a much larger pile under Penny’s pillow. He had found several objects with dried blood and a crusty shirt thrown in her trash bin covering a heap of puke. Archard remembered what the doctors had told him. None of this was his fault. He had noticed that Penny had been shutting herself in her room after work, but it wasn’t until the coffee shop had called him that he realized she hadn’t been leaving the house. Archard had worried that telling the nurses she hadn’t left her room was too harsh, that before he started cleaning her room. She had been down for dinner a few times. It took him a full week and a half to realize the extent of how bad of a state Penny had been in. And now she was in the hospital. Archard called her doctor and relayed the findings in her room. He was sure Penny would protest. What he wasn’t sure of was whether or not Penny knew how far down she had gone. Picking up her trash and emptying it in the larger bag he was carrying around Archard got an unofficial answer to his question. Her daily medications were practically full – all four of them. Her emergency pills – the one bottle – was empty. Archard’s heart broke as something inside of Penny’s room told him this was it. This was the time Penny wouldn’t return home for quite sometime no matter how much he cleaned her room.