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Shattered Memories

V. C. Andrews

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  I was dozing when my therapist, Dr. Sacks, entered my hospital room. I didn’t know how long she was standing there, but the moment I realized she was there, I sat up. She smiled and sat at the foot of my bed.

  A dark-brown-haired woman in her mid-forties, with hazel eyes that held you firmly in her gaze, Dr. Sacks had an overpowering intensity. During our sessions, it wasn’t easy to avoid an unpleasant memory she wanted me to confront. Despite her diminutive size, standing just more than five feet tall, I saw that she had a very strong presence wherever she was or whomever she spoke with. Other doctors and nurses moved quickly to satisfy her demands.

  “You’re going home tomorrow,” she said, in the tone of a fait accompli.

  After all I had been through trapped in Anthony Cabot’s basement, chained and starved at times, my self-respect all but crushed, crying until there were no more tears, pleading and praying until I was struck dumb and resigned to die, anyone would think her words would make me happier than I had ever been.

  But the thought of going home had become almost as terrifying as Anthony Cabot’s basement. I had never lived a day in my house without my sister, Haylee, who right now was incarcerated in an institution for the criminally ill because of what she had done to me and our family. She had enabled Anthony Cabot to abduct me, and she had kept silent about it while my parents and the police frantically searched for me. My mother had suffered a nervous breakdown. She and my father had divorced before all this had occurred. If anyone should feel like Humpty Dumpty, it was I. I had no reason to believe that even a skilled therapist like Dr. Sacks could put me back together.

  “What about my mother?” I asked.

  “It will be a while more for her,” Dr. Sacks said. “Your father has moved back to be with you until your mother is well enough to return. I’ve spoken to her therapist, Dr. Jaffe. He doesn’t think it will be much longer, but she will need home care for a while.”

  “Maybe I do, too.”

  “No. You’ll be fine,” Dr. Sacks said, with that now familiar firm assurance. “Your father will help. However, I think it would be better if we kept you from attending school for the time being. In fact, I’ve been discussing the idea of your transferring to another school, perhaps a private one, sufficiently far away to enable you to get a new start.

  “But before any decisions are made,” she quickly followed, “I think it would be best for you first to reacclimatize yourself to your home, get stronger, regain the weight you lost, and try to regain something of a normal life.”

  “A normal life?” I smirked at how ridiculous that description sounded to me now.

  “You’ll recuperate, Kaylee. You’re young and you’re strong. Not many could have survived what you have endured. You’re very bright and resourceful.”

  “Am I? How did I misread my sister? How did I fall into the trap she set?”

  “You trusted and you loved. In the end, you’ve given her more reason to be envious,” Dr. Sacks said. She stood. “The truth is, you won’t have time to pity yourself, Kaylee. When your mother comes home, you’ll have a lot to do. I find that’s the best medicine for anyone who’s suffered: to care for someone suffering more.

  “I’ll see you weekly until the new school year starts, and then we’ll figure out what you need in terms of therapy sessions. I’ve said it many times, Kaylee. If you constantly think of yourself as a victim, you’ll be a victim. You’re a survivor now. You’re not a victim anymore.”

  “Okay,” I said, my voice sounding small, like the voice of a child. Despite what she said and how she said it, hope, like a newborn canary, still struggled to sing.

  “Your father will be here soon. I’m taking you completely off the medication.” She stared at me a moment. “I’ll be here for you, Kaylee.” She squeezed my hand gently and left.

  I lay back on the pillow. Vivid memories of the terror I had endured still came up like some sour food. Dr. Sacks once told me I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, not unlike the psychological illness some soldiers suffered after being in horrible battles. Just like them, I experienced flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. She had just said she was taking me off the antianxiety medication, and while I knew I should be happy about that, surely she saw how frightening it sounded to me. I felt like someone who was learning how to ride a bike. Someone else was holding the bike as I mastered balancing and pedaling, and then suddenly, he or she let go, and I was on my own, sailing along but terrified of crashing.

  In our therapy sessions, Dr. Sacks had worked on my finding ways to avoid thinking about the horrible experience and fearing their recurrence. At one point, she even had me visit the basement in the hospital with her to face down my fear of dark, closed-in places.

  “Most people suffer some claustrophobia, Kaylee,” she said, “but yours has been heightened. You’ve got to defeat it every chance you get.”

  I had so much more to overcome than anyone else my age. I longed for normal fears and anxieties, like taking an important test, being accepted by friends, meeting a boy you liked and hoped liked you, choosing the right things to wear, styling your hair so it flattered you, and dealing with the rules your parents laid out for your social life. Would that ever be all I faced?

  About an hour later, my father appeared. I had been so centered on my recovery and therapy, I really hadn’t considered how all of this had affected him, but when I looked at him now with clearer eyes, I saw the fatigue in his face and hated how it was aging him. I hoped he would enjoy a recovery, too.

  “So, good news,” he said. “Dr. Sacks believes you’re ready. Tell me what clothes to bring back for you.”

  How easy it would be for any other girl my age to rattle off a specific blouse, a pair of jeans, a favorite light jacket, shoes and socks, I thought, but the request seemed enormous to me. Our mother had been a major decider of the simplest decisions in Haylee’s and my life. Her neurosis, as Dr. Sacks described it, to keep us similar in every way had a major influence on how we perceived ourselves. I couldn’t simply tell him, “Anything. It doesn’t matter.” It would always matter, because I would always wonder what Mother would want me to wear, want us to wear.

  For a few panicky moments, I couldn’t recall my wardrobe and where things were. He saw the fear in my face. How was I going to adjust to what Dr. Sacks called a “normal life” if I couldn’t even deal with such an ordinary request? What made her think I was ready?

  “I could pick things out for you,” my father said quickly, seeing my hesitation. “I warn you, however, that your mother never thought I had any sense of fashion. Whenever I dressed myself, she would pounce like a drill instructor in a marine training camp and send me back to the closet. Remember?” he asked, smiling.

  “Yes. Just choose any pair of jeans. I have some white blouses in the closet, and you’ll find a light pink sweater on the shelf. There should be a blue denim jacket beside it.” I almost couldn’t say the words, but I did so quickly. “You’ll find my bras and panties in the dresser drawers with my socks. Just any pair of running shoes.”

  “Got it,” he said. “They’re doing your paperwork, so I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

  One of the nurses stepped in to take my vitals. She told
my father she would help me take a shower and get ready to leave. I still didn’t have enough hair to brush. One of Anthony Cabot’s punishments was to cut it down to my scalp. After the nurse left, my father sat on the bed and took my left hand in his.

  “We’re going to be all right, Kaylee. Both of us will help each other through all this. I promise.”

  He leaned in to kiss me, and instinctively, I cringed and turned my head. He kissed me on my temple.

  He didn’t have to tell me. I thought it myself instantly.

  The longer I suffer, the longer I fear, the more I will hate my sister.

  Mother, of course, would say, “The longer you will hate yourself.”


  It had taken me almost two months after my rescue and recuperation to build up the courage to visit Haylee in the juvenile detention center where she was undergoing psychiatric evaluation and counseling, the result of an agreement between the district attorney and the defense attorney my father had to hire for her. With Mother also still in a mental hospital at the time, my father, despite how disappointed he was in Haylee, was the only one who really could be involved in her present and future. Our grandparents and my father’s brothers and their families were too far away to be of real assistance and still in quite a state of shock over what had happened to me and what Haylee had done.

  My father was overwhelmed himself by all that had occurred and had decided to take a leave of absence from his work for a few weeks after I was released from intensive psychiatric care following my rescue. He wanted to spend more time with me. Dr. Sacks had explained to him as well as to me that I had constantly to learn how to live with the memories of my horrible entrapment. He wanted to be there to help. Even though he needed the quiet time to handle all the legal and family issues, I knew he had put aside his professional life mostly to be there for me. In his mind, one of his daughters was probably lost forever. There was still a chance to save the other.

  My father had lived with Haylee alone, too, while I was still trapped in Anthony Cabot’s basement apartment, because Mother was in a mental hospital. No one at the time, including him, knew what Haylee had done. My father admitted that the police detectives had some suspicions concerning Haylee, but he wouldn’t let them pursue her because he couldn’t imagine her doing what she had done. A central part of her plan was never to reveal to Anthony Cabot that she had a twin sister, so he was convinced that I was Haylee when I met him at that clandestine rendezvous my sister had arranged.

  Returning home felt so strange. Everything reminded me of Haylee and Mother, and it was weird at first not seeing either of them or hearing their voices and footsteps. Everything familiar had a different look to it. During those early hours at home, I anticipated Haylee popping out of a room or rushing up the stairs to tell me something “we must never tell anyone else or hope to die!”

  The silence was loud and in some ways was the most difficult thing to contend with, especially those first few nights, when I had to have my bedroom lights on and the door open. I don’t think my father slept very much, either. He was probably lying there in his bed, poised to jump up and rush to my side because a nightmare had exploded behind my closed eyelids.

  Gradually, things improved, but almost as soon as my father brought me home, he and I immediately began to talk about my attending a private prep school, just as Dr. Sacks had intimated. From the things my father said, I realized he had obviously done a good deal of research on them.

  “I agree with Dr. Sacks. I think you need a fresh start,” he said. “Make new friends. I found what I think is one of the best schools for you, Littlefield. It’s about sixty miles northeast of here. It has a great academic reputation. I took a ride to see it. It’s on a beautiful campus just outside the city of Carbondale, and what I like the most is that the class sizes are pretty small. You’ll get a lot of personal attention.”

  “Personal attention? More counseling?” I grimaced. “All my teachers will know and be expected to handle me in a special way?”

  “No, no, of course not. Nothing concerning what has happened will be anyone’s business,” he quickly said. “We’ll tell no one anything, not even the administration. You’ll be just like any other student transferring in from a public school or a different private school.”

  “What if someone looks me up on the Internet? There were newspaper stories.”

  “Why would anyone do that, Kaylee? Look,” he added, leaning forward, “you have to let it go, too. I know it’s very difficult to do that, but if you don’t, then, as Dr. Sacks says, you’ll always be a victim. Right?”


  I wasn’t going to disagree about the school. I was still quite fragile, and talk about making so dramatic a new move frightened me. However, Dr. Sacks and I had spent a great deal of our time together talking about how I thought I was going to feel when and if I returned to my present school and my friends began asking me questions, hoping to get me to give them the disgusting details. I knew what concerned her as well as me. How could I not think everyone would look at me and think of me as a victim forever? Most would assume I had been raped repeatedly during my abduction. They would see my denial as some sort of mental defense, smile, nod, and tell me how happy they were that it hadn’t happened, but surely they would whisper about it when I wasn’t around. Their suspicions would haunt me. Their eyes would study my face, my hands, my arms, any part of me that was exposed, looking for scars.

  Actually, that sort of thing began as soon as people heard I had come home. Friends began to call, each one eager to be the first who had heard something, but I refused to speak to anyone. I knew what really lay beneath something as innocuous as “How are you now?” or “Thank God you were rescued.” They would all hope to trigger a flood of information from me, information they would take and spread like birdseed at the front door of every other classmate.

  My silence was unambiguous. I wouldn’t tell anyone anything, no matter who it was. Some tried a few times and finally gave up. Soon no one called. I wouldn’t accept any visitors, either, nor did I go anywhere on my own. My father was aware of how troubled I was about having to face down those inquisitive eyes. He tried to fill my time by taking me to restaurants out of our area and shopping in Philadelphia. At times, I thought he was in almost as deep a depression as Mother, who remained in the hospital. His emotions were inside a ping-pong ball bouncing from rage at Haylee and, of course, my abductor to sympathy for me, even sympathy for himself, and sometimes careening to compassionately consider Mother’s condition, although I always had the sense that he countered her accusations against him by placing all the blame on her.

  For weeks after I came home, he and I tried to make sense of it all. We talked for hours sometimes after dinner, and when I was finally able to describe in detail some of the terrible things I had endured, his face would redden and his lips would drip his rage at Haylee. I didn’t want to upset my father, but Dr. Sacks had urged me to do this, to confront the demons. “The more you do, the faster you will defeat them,” she said. Nevertheless, I knew it gave my father nightmares, as it still did to me.

  Ironically, however, the more he voiced his anger at Haylee, the sorrier I felt for her, which also made me sorrier for myself. I guess I couldn’t help it. It was instinctive. We had lived this long protecting and sympathizing with each other. How could I stop doing it now, no matter what the circumstances? Mother was never angry at one of us without being angry at the other. That was still true.

  Haylee wasn’t in a terrifying basement of terror like I had been, but just like me, she had a seemingly impossible challenge to overcome. How could she ever return to this world, her friends, and our school? The story was out; she was quite the villain, and I was quite the victim. Neither of us could face familiar faces. The irony was that we were still looking at the world in a similar way, and it was still looking at us the way it had. We were never able to throw off the oddity of being so similar in appearance. People called us the “Mi
rror Sisters,” no matter what we did, apparently.

  Would my visiting her now change any of it? Even when my father’s anger simmered down to a low boil, he didn’t push for me to visit Haylee and certainly never even suggested that I find a way to forgive her. In fact, he said, “If you never wanted to see or talk to her again, I’d understand. Who wouldn’t?”

  However, even though time has a way of frustrating vengeance, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want to see her where she was suffering for what she had done and enjoy her pain. During the early days after my rescue, when I was in the hospital, I found relief in raging about Haylee. Dr. Sacks thought that was healthy. “Get it out. It’s like steam. You need the release,” she said. But even before that week ended, I was tempering the things I was saying about my sister, and if I did say something nasty, I always added, “But I bet she’s sorry now.”

  I guess I was hoping that she was. Was I being stupid? I always looked quickly at Dr. Sacks to see if she would tell me any reason I should think Haylee was feeling sorry, but she either had no knowledge of Haylee’s situation or didn’t think it was wise to say. Whenever I asked my father about her, he would only say, “She’s being processed through the system.” That made it sound as if she were some sort of product being manufactured. She was placed on the assembly line of rehabilitation. What about me? Could I ever really be rehabilitated? Haylee could finally realize her guilt and feel remorse, maybe, but how would I really recover? The nightmares might hibernate, but they’d be back. I could go to another school, but could I make new friends? Would I ever trust anyone again? Friendships needed trust. Love especially needed it.

  As my rage subsided, though, my curiosity about Haylee increased. Just what sort of state of mind was she in now? Did she really regret anything? And if she did, did she regret it only because she had been caught? What had been her real intentions for me? Did she want me gone forever, or in the back of her mind had she been planning to rescue me herself and become a hero instead of a villain? How much was she really hurting now?