Nancy's pager beeps and she gives us a hard look. "It's time. Go look like you belong here." I grab Jenna's hand but avoid looking at her as we make our way over to the area with the books.
"I don't know what they have written down in the files besides what she told us, but Jo sketched all the time. It helped with the whole words thing." When I explain this, Jenna nods. "They'll probably have something about my relationship with her in there somewhere. The nurses cared about it a little bit too much. So just do your best with what she told you to do. I'm glad that you know ASL too. That makes a difference." She just nods again, completely impassive. She picks up a book with teeth marks on the cover and starts to flip through it.
When I glance up, there is a man with neatly combed hair and a tailored suit. The woman next to him is wearing heels that make too much noise and burgundy lipstick. They both carry clipboards, tablets, and are wearing headsets. Jenna glares up at them through her hair. The way that she immediately embodies Josephine is eerie. I sign some gibberish to her and she just nods, casually tracing loopy letters on her arm with her finger. My eyes drift up and immediately lock on one of the old guitars sitting in the corner. I haven't touched one since leaving this place. I stand up and stride toward it, returning to Jenna as quickly as possible. The strangers are making slow rounds along the cafeteria, their faces passive and detached. My fingers start to strum absentmindedly when my eyes catch the trails of dried blood leaking into Jenna's shoes below the ends of her pants. Carefully, I pull her left leg up into my lap, shifting the cloth to expose whatever I did with that bottle. She winces and looks away when I do.
There are still small chunks of colored glass lodged in her skin, thin trails of what looks like dried grape juice running into her sock. I glance up at her, but she just closes her eyes and shakes her head. "I deserve it. I'll clean it up later." I'm about ready to protest, but I'm stopped when I notice the woman in the burgundy lipstick clipping her way too close to us. It doesn't help that we're the only patients out right now. Glancing at the basic clock on the wall, I'm guessing that most will either be in tutoring sessions with volunteers from the local college or getting their medicines. In a quick motion I cover Jenna's wound with the fabric and place her leg back on the floor.
"Is there any place that you two are supposed to be right now?" The woman glances down at her tablet, scrolling through something. When I don't respond, she glares at me. With a huff, I grab a piece of paper from the low table in front of the couch and scribble, "No. My name is John Montgomery, and this is Josephine Lawson."
Without responding, she flicks through whatever information she's reading. "American Sign Language? How do you think the program for that is here?"
Jenna glowers at her lap while I scribble down a response. "I learned everything that I know from here when I was a child; I've lived here all of my life and I am fluent. All of the nurses here are as well because the majority of the patients rely on it."
She nods slowly after reading my note, typing something down with her index finger. "How did you get an education here?" She completely ignores Jenna, who is now sketching something on a paper, strategically hiding it from both of us. How does she know all of these little, annoying things that Josephine used to do? It's sort of bizarre.
"Those of us who have the mental capacity to learn take online classes from the college a few blocks from here, and students who are going into education of any sort usually spend their required volunteer hours here helping out or reading to those who can't take conventional classes." Jenna bumps me with her knee and I think that she's telling me to chill on the refined voice. Someone with all of my listed problems wouldn't talk like that. I was never an idiot, but she's right.
The woman's eyes finally turn to Jenna. "How has this facility adapted to your rather rare medical conditions?" Jen glares at her from underneath her hair and shrugs.
YOU ARE READING
Skin Deep (Featured - Completed)Teen Fiction
John is blank in a world where everything anyone says appears on their skin. They're held accountable for every secret, every demand, every sacrifice scrawled across their foreheads in bold black letters. He grew up in an insane asylum and had acc...