This was it. George was finally going to see the woman he had been in love with all those years ago. He had it all planned out. He was going to walk in there, she was going to light up and seeing him as her knight to the rescue, she would be cured and the two would go live their new, happy lives together. He figured that sure, she been through a trauma but so had he, and the two were meant to be together so the way he figured it, things would just work out. He hadn’t felt so good about anything in so long; he had forgotten what it felt like to have hope.
Even still there was this sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, obviously if she was here it meant something terrible had happened. He just hoped that seeing him again would bring a spark of joy to her life. He stood there looking at the front lawn of this building she was supposedly staying at. It looked nice enough, like a nursing home so he figured she must be well taken care of.
The lawn was well kept; the windows and doors were spotless. This place had the look of a very professional medical facility and that made his fears subside considerably. He walked to the front door and was stopped by the receptionist. He looked around amazed at how clean the place looked. He always imagined a mental health facility would look like a dungeon with people crammed in padded cells. This was not like that at all, which gave him high hopes that Stephanie would be okay when she saw he came for her.
“Can I help you?” the nice receptionist asked in a shockingly polite manner.
“Why yes, I am here to visit an old friend of mine, I was told she was staying here, her name is Ashley Taylor, um sorry I mean Erickson”
The receptionist began typing into a computer and she found the name and looked up at him.
“I am not showing that she is expecting any visitors today, do you have an appointment?”
He pulled the note that the old lady gave him and handed it to her, his hands were shaking. He was sweating furiously now, his heart was racing; he hadn’t realized how nervous he was. She looked over the note and pressed a button on her desk and spoke into a headset. A few moments latter a very well dressed doctor approached him.
“Hello there, my name is Doctor Samuel Whitfield, how can I help you today?”
“uh, yes my name is George Thompson and I am a friend of Ashley Erickson and I uh, was hoping to get a chance to maybe see her?”
“I see, you do understand she is in a delicate place right now, why don’t come with me.” the doctor said.
He led George down the hall into a mid-sized office. He looked around and saw that the walls were fairly plain, nothing really grabbed his attention.
The doctor sat down at his desk and waved his arm at the chair in front and said to him.
“Why don’t you have seat?”
George pulled out the chair and sat down, he was even more nervous than before.
“Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself, let’s start with how do you know the patient. What is your relationship to her. What your intentions are, and we will kind of evaluate your situation from there.”
“I guess I don’t understand, I gave you the note saying I had permission from a family member to see her.”
The doctor looked at George, showing a hint of suspicion on his face.
“Here at the Nelly Bly Mental Health Institute we take great care of our patient’s well-being,’ the doctor said. “Ashley is one of our more delicate patients and so we like to screen all of her visitors, especially the male ones that aren’t family members. Think of it as for her protection. It’s nothing against you personally we just have to make sure that our patients receive the best possible care we can provide them.”
George sat there for just moment thinking about what he was going to say, and then he realized his nervousness must be what is making the doctor uncomfortable, so he took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves by reminding himself he was here to rescue her. With his confidence restored he sat up straight, looked the doctor square in the eye and began.
“Well I am an old friend of Ashley from high school,” George said. “We kind of dated for a while and then went our separate ways when we went off to college. I guess she married Bruce Erickson, he was on the football team, and I kind of lost track of her over the years. I recently went through a very grueling divorce a few years ago. I took some time to do some soul searching. I remembered how much the two of us had been in love back then. I figured I would look her up see how she was doing. When I found out what had happened to her, it broke my heart so I just thought maybe if she saw a familiar, friendly face it might touch her, you know warm her heart.”
The doctor looked at George with a somewhat disbelieving look, waiting patiently for George to tell his story. He asked some questions about the divorce, he asked him if he felt good about striking his wife, told him that with Ashley in as delicate as a place she was it might not be good for her to have a man who hit his wife be the one to cheer her up. The two spent nearly a full hour talking about everything the doctor felt would be important to his decision.
He would nod occasionally as if he understood where George was coming from, yet his arms remained crossed the entire interview. Finally the doctor had heard enough to make up his mind.
“Well Mr. Thompson I am sure the two you of you were great friends at some point in time,” the doctor said. “However you have to keep in mind this is not high school, she might not have the same fond memories of you that you have of her. There was more to the abuse than what her aunt had told you.
“Ashley was tied to a chair and forced to watcher her husband sexually abuse the children. He would hit her, he would starve her and the last few years of their marriage he basically kept her a prisoner in that house”
The doctor told the story how finally one day she had enough. How she got loose from her chains and killed her husband who was in the middle of a gruesome act with the youngest daughter. The kids are not in protective custody because their father abused them, they are in protective custody because their mother killed their father in front of them.
“The boys had no clue what was going on,” the doc said. “They were allowed to leave the house, but they were not allowed to have company over because the dad acted over protective of the girls in the house. Ashley is in a state of mental shock that is very delicate right now.”
He told George was the technical diagnosis was, but all he remembered about it was she was basically a zombie from the description the doctor had given him.
George asked if he would be allowed to see her at least, and the doctor said he would not do that, he said it was for her protection as well as for his own mental well-being.
“Does she ever bring up the past?” George asked.
“All she does is sits in a corner drawing pictures of goldfish,” the doctor said. “Sometimes we catch her uttering to herself how much she hates goldfish.”
With that George was escorted off the property and returned to his car to contemplate what he had learned.