“Mom,” I called. Her face appeared everywhere I turned. Her jingly laugh bounced off the walls, spreading happiness around the room. And then I saw her. She was smiling; her golden locks went up and down as she pranced around the emptiness.
“Emily,” she whispered. She seemed to be fading. “Can you feel it?” I had no idea what she was talking about. Maybe this is what the doctors had been saying. Was she really crazy? “Can you feel the ocean breeze?”
And I could. I hadn’t noticed it before; there was a soft stinging on my cheeks. I could hear the gentle whooshing sound from the crashing of the waves from far away. I called out to her. “I can feel it!” She smiled again.
“I love you, Emily.” She was fading away. She was slipping away from me.
“Don’t leave me!” I pled. I ran for her, but as I ran she seemed to be getting farther and farther away from me. And the she was gone. “Mom!” I shrieked. I couldn’t see her face anymore. I tried to picture her but every detail was gone. When she left me, she took my memory with her.
I faced a long white hallway. It was empty. No noise, beside the echo of my scream.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Emily,” a soft sweet voice sang to me. Soft fingers stroked my forehead. Where was I? Was I still in the white, empty, terrifying hallway? I forced my eyes open. No, I was in a large room with blue walls like the ocean, and dark smooth wooden floors. Windows stretched from the floor to the ceiling on one wall, but they were concealed by thick dark blue drapes. It all came back to me then. I was in my room, at the Chicago Mental Asylum. I don’t know why I was put here when my mother died, I was sure I wasn’t mental. But I liked it here.
I liked the nursery. It held everything anyone ever wanted. It held your desire. The places you wish you were at the most. For me it was the ocean, the beach, the hot sand, tingling on your feet, and the natural salt sprays gently touching your face. Of course, in the nursery, to everyone else, it was just a dull picture of whatever you wanted it to be; just a brief tease of something that you could’ve lived with, but instead you were put in the Chicago Mental Asylum. But I had lived with it. I used to go to the beach with mom every day, we would splash each other, and we would walk on the beach together, holding hands, having the salt sting our eyes, and then we would laugh together, and picnic on Gramp’s old picnic blanket, red with white polka-dots. Tears stung my eyes as thought of this memory, as I knew it could never happen again. That’s why I visited the nursery. It was real to me. It wasn’t just a dull picture; I could feel the hot sand on my feet, I could feel the salt sting my eyes, and I could swim. I could swim in the beautiful ocean like I had when mom and I had swum together.
And then it was gone. They shut it out of my life. I wasn’t allowed to go there anymore. And I cried. I cried about it every day. It was the only place I could feel real again. I hadn’t been in since March.
It was May now; the flowers were in full swing. My birthday was creeping up on me. I made an oath to myself I would visit the nursery by then; at least before 3:17 AM.
Time chugged on endlessly. It seemed like years were passing, but they were only days. I waited patiently for the day to come when I would be able to see the nursery again. Finally it arrived like a package in the mail. I opened my mailbox and fished it out. I lay in my bed. Waiting. 12:14. Everyone had to be asleep by now. I crept out of my bedroom past the sleeping nurse and into the hall. I knew exactly where the nursery was. I raced down the stairs and tiptoed into the great hall. I faced the sky blue door and placed my fingertips onto the golden knob. The door opened easily.
I sucked my breath in as the overwhelming summer day overtook me. I slipped my shoes off and let my feet imprint onto the hot sand. I closed the door behind me and breathed in the fresh air. The salt spray rubbed against my cheeks and lifted my smile higher. And there was the ocean. Rough and loud, just like it always was. I slipped of my clothes and ran into the water. I splashed the empty space, trying to picture mom playing with me. I couldn’t. I’d forgotten everything she was. So I just stared out into the open ocean. This couldn’t be a room.
The undercurrent was strong. I felt myself getting pulled farther into the sea. And then I was pulled under. All I could see was the vast blue ocean. Nothing more. I tried to go up, but I couldn’t tell what direction I was going.
And then I saw her. Her golden curls bounced as she glided through the water. I could hear her jingly laugh again. I couldn’t feel the pain as the water seeped into my lungs. All I knew was that I could finally see her again.
And then she was gone as fast as she came. It was the empty ocean all over again. And then it was black.
Ruby Dawes, Age 12, Grade 7, Saint Anns School, Silver Key