Cynthia Porter. That was her name. I knew Cynthia Porter, I had talked to Cynthia Porter, I liked Cynthia Porter. I had memories of her, and although there were only a few, they were still memories all the same. She had been in the institution as a patient. She had even been in Lori's office for the monthly check-ups.
The only problem was that she didn't exist.
Or at least to Ms. Hellman she didn't. I remembered how this dumbfounding theory had come about a few days ago, when I went to Lori, asking her if Cynthia was supposed to be in surgery. Lori hadn't seemed to remember Cynthia, but she had told me that she's getting old and is having a harder time remembering the numerous patients here, so this was normal. But, she claimed, she hadn't admitted anyone to surgery in the last week. So then what happened to her?
Since Lori didn't know anything, this is when I went to Mrs. Hellman's office to find out more about the situation. I was always nervous when I spoke to her. Not only because she was my boss, but because she was an intimidating person in general with her patronizing and superior attitude. She had been surprised to see me entering, and was even more surprised when I told her what happened. I questioned her about the mysterious employee and about what happened to Cynthia, and this had been her reply.
"The employee you saw may have been Thomas, he just got transferred from the second floor. He's completely harmless. And as for this girl, you must have been mistaken. I oversee everything that goes on at Wickendale, and like Lori said, there hasn't been any surgeries in the past week. Are you sure Thomas didn't go in there alone, to get supplies or something?" Her expression was condescending, and her voice reminded me of a cackling witch.
"No, he had a patient with him. That's why I was confused," I explained. "I don't know why this would've happened, and I'm concerned."
Ms. Hellman sighed in annoyance. "What was the patients name again?" She asked.
As soon as I said the name, something changed. Ms. Hellman's face flashed an expression I couldn't identify. It might have been stress, worry even. But there was no trace of either emotion now, her features immediately returning cold and hard a second later. She remained silent for a short moment, seeming to gather her thoughts, then looked me dead in the eye.
"You must be mistaken, Rose. There is no patient here by the name Cynthia Porter."
I could instantly feel my eyebrows knit together in confusion at her statement. That can't be true.
"Ms. Hellman, I don't mean to disagree with you but yes there is. I've talked to her before, I saw her just minutes ago."
Ms. Hellman continued to argued with me, as I argued back. She kept denying that a Cynthia existed in this institution, which was absolute bullshit. I described Cynthia to her, trying to jog her memory, put to no prevail. We went back and forth as I tried to be as polite as possible to my boss even though my patience was growing thin.
But eventually I resorted to demanding that she check her files for the name. "Look in your files, her name's in there; it has to be," I said. And what the woman did next angered me and worried me beyond belief all at once. She actually laughed at me, but it was a condescending laugh of disdain, as if she pitied me.
"Rose, dear, I know all that goes on at Wickendale. I am the warden, I have eyes and ears everywhere. I know every staff member, every patient. And I can assure you, there is not a single person here by the name Cynthia Porter. You must be seeing things. Are you feeling alright?" She asked with not an ounce of concern in her voice.
What the hell? She was lying, she had to be. There is no way this Cynthia woman had been a figment of my imagination. No way. I had seen her, Lori had seen her. Lori just doesn't remember . . .
"I have to go," I said. "I'm sorry for taking your time."
And I was out of there, jogging down the hall. I ran and ran, not sure where I was going. This was way to much, this was all way too much. Stress after stress was forcing its way into my cluttered mind, and now this. Was I really going crazy? Or was Ms. Hellman lying for some anonymous reason? And what the hell happened to Cynthia? Or did she not even exist to begin with?
No, of course she did. I didn't imagine this. Because she had been in the nurses office. Lori and I had both talked to her. Or did I imagine that as well? No, I thought again for the tenth time. I'm not fucking insane. Those memories were real.
But then why did Ms. Hellman lie? Well, whatever the reason, it was better than the alternative of me being delusional. Either way, all of this stress and all of these events had taken a toll on me as I ran into the bathroom, and puked.
I throw up more than the average person, especially when I'm stressed or worried. So that's where I had been, puking in the bathroom. And now here I was days later, and the questions still remained. I had tried to see if James knew who Cynthia was, but Kelsey had given me a ride home that day, so I didn't get the chance to walk with him like I usually did. And the next day James had been sick, and the day after that he had a day off. So I hadn't been able to ask him about Cynthia.
I also asked Kelsey, but she always excused the matter and changed subject, which was a little strange, but I was used to her acting strange lately and I didn't want to interrogate her. I had also tried to talk to other patients about the seemingly missing Cynthia Porter, but they didn't give me much information, minds and speech unstable. So far, nobody knew Cynthia.
So now I was desperate for some information. And the one person that might be of assistance was someone I least expected to be going to for help. Someone who was intelligent and always seemed to be one step ahead. Someone who was thankfully being released from solitary confinement today.
And that someone was Harry.
"That's fucking bullshit!" I exclaimed. "I've been trapped up in a dark room by myself for a whole week with no human interaction, no real bathroom, no change of clothes, and now I'm finally out of that hellhole and I can't even smoke a damn cigarette?"
"I'm sorry, Harry. No smoking in here, you have to wait until you leave," Kelsey told me for the third time, pointing towards the No Smoking sign. I had come here straight from solitary confinement, not even being able to shower. I just sighed a huff of annoyance and shook my head. "I had to shit in a hole in the ground."
"So tell me Harry," she said, wasting no time and ignoring my remark. "Is there anything you want to talk about today?"
"Nothing bothering you?"
"Anything you wanna get off your chest?"
Now it was her turn to be annoyed. "Okay, let's start with a different question. How was your day?"
"How was yours?"
She was obviously getting more irritated, although she tried to hide it. "Fine, but I asked you first."
"Listen, Harry," she sighed. "You've been in here almost every week and we've made no progress."
"Not my problem," I told her.
"Yeah, but it's my problem. I'm just trying to do my job, and your not making it any easier by giving one-word answers. Don't worry, nothing you say is recorded and I'm obligated not to repeat it to anyone. So I'll let you pick what, but you have to tell me something. Anything."
"Why do you care so much?" I asked. "No matter what I say, it won't do anything. You can scribble down anything I tell you in your little notepad, you make up whatever diagnosis you want, label me with whatever mental disease, and it won't change one damn thing. I'll still be here, and you'll still be there, so what's the point."
"The point is to get you better," she said. "You're in here because your lawyer was smart enough to plead insanity, or else you would have gotten the death penalty. So if we can prove to the warden that you've gotten better and that you're no longer crazy, she might consider letting you out of this place before you're seventy."
Well if there's one thing I want, it's to leave Wickendale. So maybe I should give this whole therapy thing a try. Tomorrow.
"Can I leave now?" I asked. "I really need a shower."
Kelsey just sighed in annoyance and defeat. "Fine, go. It's not like we're getting anywhere."
"Thank you!" I said in exasperation. Finally. As I walked out the doors of her office, Brian grabbed hold of my left arm. Brian was my main guard, always walking next to me and making sure I didn't skin more people. It was quite comical, though, because I towered over him. He wouldn't stand a chance against me. But I never tried to overpower him, because I knew it would only lead to me getting whipped as punishment. So instead I said stupid shit to piss him off in any way I could. And man, did I love to piss him off. It was really the only fun thing to do around here.
But it goes both ways, the guards piss me off too. They were everywhere. There was one in Kelsey's office, a few in the cafeteria, some in the "Special Activities Room" where we do stupid shit everyday like bake or arts-and-crafts. There was one following you when you went to the toilet, one to walk you to dinner. They were everywhere. And if not a guard it was someone else, there to sedate you at any moment. There to judge you with their false superiority. Every single direction I turned my head, there was an employee.
And to make matters worse, any one of them could be a murderer.
He walked in 15 minutes late, with a damp mop of curls and Brian at his left arm. But the employee immediately released Harry once inside the room, joining the other guards that lined the walls of the cafeteria. Harry was left to approach me without company or handcuffs, but that fact didn't scare me like it had a week ago. I don't know what I had been thinking, that he would appear with dark circles under his eyes, grime-covered skin, and maybe greasy, dry hair.
But the opposite seemed true as he approached the vacant seat across from me. His full lips and strong jaw were as alluring as ever, surprising me once again; he seemed to get more and more beautiful every day. And he always seemed to have a sort of glow about him, especially in contrast to the other patients. The front few buttons on his uniform were left undone to reveal smooth tanned skin. His piercing eyes glistened as they met mine for the first time in a week. And I hated to admit it, but I had missed those eyes. Seeing them for the first time in days was . . . refreshing.
He opened his mouth as if he were about to speak, but before he could say anything I asked, "Do you know Cynthia Porter?"
"Well hello to you too," he said with his usual smirk, scooting himself closer to the round table.
"Hi. So do you know her?" I pressed further, wanting to get answers as soon as I could.
Harry put a hand up as if to say "give me a second," and then rubbed his eyes. I waited impatiently as he pulled the cigarette and lighter from his pocket, cupping his hands around the cigarette to keep in the warmth. He stuck it between his lips, dragging on the cigarette as long as his breath would allow. "Who is this again?" he asked.
"Cynthia Porter. She's a patient. Dirty-blonde hair, dark eyes. She's probably around thirty."
He thought for a moment, eyebrows coming together as he tried to remember. "No, I don't think so," he said after about a minute, cigarette dancing in his mouth as he spoke. "Why?"
Shit, so he didn't know her. He was my last resort, what was I supposed to do now?
I sighed, mentally debating whether I should just tell Harry about the whole situation. Being an actual patient, he might be able to help me find out what's going on better than anyone else. Plus, I felt like I could trust him a little more after he had rescued me from Norman's assault. So I told him everything.
"Well, there's an employee named Thomas that works on this floor now, and I saw him take Cynthia into the surgery room when he wasn't supposed to."
"Do you think he could be the murderer?" Harry abruptly asked. My eyebrows shot up in surprise, he must know about the suspected murderer among the employees. I guess when you have a week to do nothing but think, you figure out a few things.
"No, I don't think so. Because then I went to ask Lori, the head nurse, about it and she couldn't remember Cynthia. So then I asked Mrs. Hellman, the warden, and she claimed that there's nobody here by that name. And now you don't remember her, so basically there's a patient here that I remember and nobody else does. And if Mrs. Hellman's in on it Thomas's probably isn't the killer."
"Wait," Harry interrupted. "So you're saying that this Cynthia person was taken into surgery by Thomas, you knew she wasn't supposed to be there, so you asked people about it and nobody knows who she is."
I nodded, realizing how crazy it sounds.
"Have you seen this Cynthia person since that day?"
"No," I replied.
"So you're basically going insane?"
"No!" I protested. "I'm not going insane, I just need to either find her or someone that remembers her."
"But that's the thing," Harry said. "Nobody else remembers her. Except you, so you're probably crazy."
"I'm not crazy!" I said, a little too loudly. Harry grinned, amused by the whole thing. "Something happened to Cynthia, and I need to find out what."
He nodded, trying not to laugh at me. "Well the only alternative is that this Thomas guy might be the killer and Cynthia was another one of his victims. But then why would the warden and the head nurse both be in on it? Rose, it makes no sense."
"I know," I sighed. "That's why I have no idea what's going on. I don't know what to do."
"If I were you, I would just wait it out. See if Cynthia turns up. And if not, just don't worry about it, and don't tell anyone else. It's not your problem, and you don't want people thinking you're a psychopath. Trust me, it sucks."
I just nodded my head, I needed a break from this whole Cynthia thing. It was going to make me crazy, if I wasn't already. "I guess you're right, maybe I should just ignore it."
Harry nodded, damp curls falling just above his intelligent eyes.
"So anyway," I asked, changing subject. "How was solitary confinement?"
"Awful," he said. "It felt like years rather than days. I just had so much time to think, you know?"
"Yeah," I agreed. I always over-think things, and I know how being trapped in your own thoughts can feel.
"What did you think about?" I asked. I knew it was a personal and nosy question to ask, but I couldn't help myself. I loved hearing him talk, and I always yearned to learn more about him. It was one of my greatest fears and my greatest wishes, to unravel the intricate mystery that was Harry Styles.
I was grateful when he answered with no reluctance, seeming almost relieved to have someone to tell.
"Everything, really. Mostly about the bodies I found, that uh . . . seeing that shook me up pretty bad."
I studied his strong yet somehow delicate features, looking for any waver in his statement. It shouldn't have shaken him up at all, seeing that he was a serial killer himself. But his eyes were distant, as if remembering the incident. And not for one second did I notice any hint of change in his troubled expression.
"About that night," I began. "I don't think I ever got to thank you properly for what you did for me. That was amazing."
"It was nothing," he told me, trying not to be flattered by the comment.
"No, it wasn't nothing. Harry, you saved me from getting raped. I can't thank you enough."
"Really, it's fine, I was just glad I got there in time. And I was glad to put that dick in a coma while I was at it," he grinned.
Even though his coma-inducing strength was intimidating, I couldn't help but laugh at the comment.
"I'm just sorry you had to go to solitary confinement for it," I said.
"It really wasn't that bad, to be honest," he reassured me. "I think the worst part about having nothing for a week was just realizing how much you miss everything, you know, out there," he said, referring to a world beyond Wickendale. And again I imagined myself in his shoes, never leaving this building. "What do you miss most?" I asked, not really even noticing I asked it.
But Harry didn't really seem to mind. "Everything," he said simply. "Just the little things that you wouldn't normally think about. Being able to chose what you eat each meal, getting to chose what you want to do every day, getting to chose what to wear. Just having choices in general." I nodded, hanging on to every word his gravely voice spoke. I loved when he talked like this, not with his arrogant and vulgar front but when he told me how he really felt.
"And I miss being able to see my friends, my family," he continued. "Oh and french fries, God I miss french fries. I miss my dog, my bed. I miss arcade games, TV, sports, beer . . . sex." My heart skipped a beat at the way he said the last word, his deep voice slow and drowsy so that it was almost a purr. I swear he did it on purpose as curious green eyes scanned my body.
Suddenly an image of Harry appeared in my mind, his skin bare and glistening with sweat above me as low, raspy moans rumbled through his chest. But the impure thought was immediately pushed back as a third person approached the table.
Harry and I snapped our heads up to find James in full uniform, looking down at us. "Oh, hello James," Harry greeted with mock friendliness in his voice. "You just missed our conversation about sex and Rose's mental health."
I rolled my eyes, ignoring his remark. "Hi James," I smiled.
"Hey," he grinned. "I just wanted to come over here and see if you were okay, you didn't come back to the cafeteria the other day and I didn't have the chance talk to you since."
"Oh yeah, I'm sorry about that. Lori, uh . . . Lori stopped me in the hall and needed me to do a few things," I lied.
"Oh, okay," James smiled. He seemed like he wanted to stay and talk, but Harry's "can you leave now" expression seemed to drive him away. But before he could get far he turned back around. "We're still on for dinner Friday, right?"
"Yeah," I nodded. With everything going on I had actually completely forgotten, but now that he had reminded me I was really excited.
"Cool." he grinned.
"Cool," I laughed. James' face held the cutest of smiles that lingered for a moment before he turned away, going back to his shift. I realized I should probably do the same, but talking to Harry was so much more interesting than just sitting there pretending to work when I was really doing nothing. Speak of the devil, as I turned my head I found him staring at me with his mesmerizing eyes. He glanced back and forth between James and I, his expression thoughtful.
"So are you two fucking now?"
"No!" I immediately protested, shocked by his choice of words. "We're just friends, Harry, for the love of God."
Harry chuckled at my reaction, dimples on full display. And in that moment I realized no matter how much I loved James' smile, it would never compare to the stunning light of Harry's.