Chapter 1: 16th Boarding
“Happy Birthday Jemma.”
I immediately start coughing over my forkful of ice cream cake at the sound of his voice. Geez, he really needs to learn to give me some kind of signal before he speaks.
My mom, dad, and sister all glance at me in unison, wondering if I’m dying or something. I wipe my mouth slowly at their gazes.
“Sorry, I-I just remembered something important.” I state quickly with a small smile. Dammit, I didn’t want to make this cake eating session anymore awkward. We haven’t even said a single word to each other since we sat down. It’s mainly my fault.
“What was it?” My mom then asks curiously. Oh, I was not expecting an answer back. Well, they did say they would try and make an effort in getting things back to normal again, or in other words, me normal again. I know they still think I’m insane though.
I shift uncomfortably in my chair. I remember when my mom got this dining room set. It was exactly five years ago, a little after I started hearing the voice. She thought that I needed a sense of change in my surroundings, something that would help cure me. That’s what my doctor suggested after all; too bad it didn’t work.
My mom is still eyeing me, waiting for an answer. Can’t we just go back to the awkward silence? I clear my throat to speak knowing that the eyes aren’t going to stop until I do. “Uh, that I um, that I need to call Lennox for homework.” Wow, Horrible lie Jemma. You stopped talking to your so called, “friend” three years ago. You know, after you told her your secret and then she went around the school telling everyone you were quote, “mentally-insane”. Anyone with a brain would have known that that made no sense at all. I guess no one at my school has a brain because I’m still friendless.
“I thought you stopped talking to Lennox after she spread those rumours about you.” My older sister Jet speaks up from over her melting piece of cake.
I bite my lip anxiously. Shit, I forgot that Jet heard the rumours too. I need to start remembering that she hasn’t graduated from my high school yet. “Yeah I know,” I quickly think. “But we have a project we have to do together so I unfortunately have to call her.” Hey, that was a pretty good cover-up Jemma.
“Well get to it then!” My mom exclaims suddenly, gesturing me away from the table. “Don’t worry, we’ll finish up here.”
I slowly grab my runny plate of melted ice cream cake and scrape my chair back as I stand up to leave. My eyes accidentally glance over at my dad. He’s still avoiding eye contact with me. So, what kind of effort is he making exactly?
I decide not to answer my question and head into the kitchen to dump the rest of my cake into the garbage. As I place the plate in the sink, I reply back to my annoying voice.
“Thanks Chance.” Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe, but the voice I’ve had in my head for five years now has a name. I didn’t make it up though, he actually told me.
“You sound pissed off. What happened?” He asks curiously. It’s those kinds of sentences that make me wonder how old he is. By his voice he sounds like he’s a teenager, but a bit older than I am, maybe eighteen. But does that even make any sense? I mean, if he’s a part of my mind that means he can’t be real, so how can he even have a legitimate age? Whatever, an insane girl can dream.
“You happened.” I reply haughtily.
I leave the kitchen and make my way up to my bedroom. When he talks to me I need complete silence. I guess I could have stayed at the table with my family; it’s not like we were talking much anyway.
“What did I do?”
I close my door with a click. What did you do Chance? Oh yeah, you kind of made everyone around me think I’m, “mentally-insane”. Thanks bud.
“It’s nothing, just forget about it please.”
He sighs; it’s like I can hear everything he does. That creeps me out, like a lot.
“I don’t want to be your enemy Jemma.”
I groan and clamp my hands over my ears. He doesn’t want to be my enemy? What the hell does that even mean?
“You’re not my enemy Chance, geez, just drop it already will you?” I’m pissed as you can see. It’s just that nothing makes sense anymore. How did this guy get in my head? And why is it my head he's in? But maybe I’m not the only one with this problem. I mean, there is always the chance of schizophrenia which is something that a lot of people have. And I am considered to be mental in the eyes of other people after all. But if it’s schizophrenia; then why haven’t I been diagnosed with it yet? My doctors still don’t know what’s going on with me; that means something right?
“Why are you getting angry at me?” He whispers shakily. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that this guy is a total baby. You can’t even snap at him without him freaking out at you.
I press against my temple with my fingers. He’s giving me an honest headache right now.
“Ok, Ok, I’m sorry alright? Now what do you want?”
“I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, that’s all.”
“How old are you now?”
“Can’t you do the math? You popped into my head when I was eleven and it’s been five years since then, which means I’m…”
“Oh, right, you’re sixteen now.”
Sixteen. Wow Jemma, I can’t believe you’ve made it this far. How extraordinary! There was sarcasm implied there just in case you didn’t notice.
“Yep, and people still think I’m a psychopath.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
I chuckle to myself. He’s sorry. A voice in my head is apologizing to me; wow I just realized how screwed up that sounds.
“I hope you have a good birthday though.”
And with that he’s gone; but not fully of course. He’ll probably return again, either later on in the day or tomorrow. I’m hoping that it’s tomorrow.
I climb out of my bed about to leave my room when I hear shuffling outside my door. I fly forwards as quickly as I can and yank it open. I notice my sister by the top of the stairs, trying to make an obviously failed attempt at escaping. Oops, caught you red handed Jet.
I try to control my sudden burst of anger by crossing my arms in front of my chest. It's better than punching her out. “What are you doing?” I hiss, though I already know the answer. Of course she’s spying on me for my parents, I mean, why would they ever believe something their mental daughter ever told them?
She turns to face me as she tightens the blue rubber band around her jet black ponytail. That’s how she got her name, because her hair is the colour of a raven’s feathers. And me? I got Jemma because I was my parents’ second gem. Well guess I’m not much of a gem to them now.
“I was just coming to see if you needed any help with your project.” She shrugs super casually. Oh Jet, don’t even try. You've been mom and dad’s super spy for these past few weeks because they know the voice is getting worse. They know the reason why I lock myself up in my room so frequently these days is because he’s starting to visit more often than usual. But that’s not my fault; or maybe it is. You know, because I’m no longer mentally stable and all.
“Do you think I’m an idiot?” I shake angrily. I can’t stand this anymore. This is my birthday, it shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't be feeling more crazy than usual.
“Jemma, calm down.” Well, well, she’s getting scared now. It’s not like I've never seen that look skitter across almost everyone I knows faces in the past five years.
I step towards her. “OK Jet. But if you really want something good to bring back to mom and dad, tell them that I was talking to the voice in my room. I’m pretty sure that’s what they would love to here anyways. That’s why you came up here right? To see if I was really telling the truth about my "project" with Lennox?”
“Well obviously I wasn’t, so go Jet. Go spill the good stuff so that they can come up here, tell me I shouldn’t lie, and then go on their merry way as if their little pep talk actually worked. The voice is still going to be there Jet, he’s always there and he’s never going to leave!” I shout now. Hey mom, hey dad, can you hear me shouting? I must be having a mental breakdown right? No, I’m not. I’m just being a sixteen year old girl who is tired, tired of being looked at as something horrible just because she’s different from everyone else. Tired, not insane.
“Jet? Jemma? What’s going on up there?” My mom calls from the bottom of the stairs.
Jet doesn’t take her eyes off of me as she replies. “There’s something wrong with Jemma.” She says ever so simply, as if she’s been rehearsing it in the mirror or saying it to her best friend Mona on her free time.
“There’s nothing wrong with me!” I snap angrily. They never listen to what I have to say! The first thing they think when I start freaking out over all this bullshit is that I’m having a mental break down; all because of the voice.
Footsteps. They’re coming happily up the stairs now, just to come get exactly what they wanted. You know, a chance to care and a chance to make an effort. But wait; where are the second set of footsteps. Oh yeah, my dad still doesn’t give a crap about me. Best feeling ever.
“Jemma honey, is everything alright?” My mom asks softly as she comes to stand beside Jet, who's eyes are still on me.
I take another step forwards. “If any of you come near my room again to spy on me, I’m going to kill you!” I snap suddenly. Whoa, back it up there Jemma. You know you don’t mean that, but how else can you get the message across to them? Come to think of it, this is honestly the only way; a threat. I can’t believe I have to threaten my family just to secure my privacy. Unbelievable.
Well, there go the looks of fright again. Except now, they're looks of absolute horror. I did make a death threat after all. But I didn’t mean it; I think.
My mom puts a slow hand on my sister’s shoulder then. “Ok Jemma, we’re sorry for disturbing you.” She says as calm as possible.
“Snow!” Jet suddenly calls out randomly. Snow? In September? I turn to glance out my bedroom window just in case, but there’s no snow.
Then I hear beeps. They’re beeps from a phone; and they’re coming from downstairs. I wonder who my dad is calling.
“There’s no snow.” I reply, feeling highly suspicious now.
She scratches the back of her neck as if she's actually confused. “Oh, I thought I saw some falling or something.”
I glance at my mom; she’s too busy peering downstairs. But why? What’s so important downstairs? There’s definitely something going on here.
“Who’s dad calling?” That question stumps them. I can tell they know; so why aren't they telling me? It’s just a simple phone call; right?
“Um, who knows?” My mom laughs with a small wave of her hand. You know mom.
I take two steps closer. “Who is dad calling?” I press harder. It makes sense now. My family must have created a code word behind my back to signal someone to call 911 just in case I got out of hand. I guess the fake death threat was somehow, “out of hand”. But it was a joke. I start to chuckle softly.
“Guys, calm down," I smile. "I was joking about the whole killing you thing.” I brush it off as if it’s a fleck of dust on my shoulder. But they still look unsatisfied. But why? Why don't they believe me?
“H-He doesn’t need to call the police. It was a joke.” I say more seriously now, looking them both dead in the eye. “I just don’t like when you guys spy on me, OK? Yeah, I was talking to Chance but,”
“Who’s Chance?” My mom asks now, her voice getting a whole lot sharper.
I point to my head. “The voice, his name is Chance. I know this is gonna sound completely crazy, but he told me. I just never said anything about it until now.”
My mom stares at me with a twisted look. Her suspicions were confirmed; the voice was getting worse. I mean, a voice shouldn't have a name unless it's a real person.
“Snow!” My dad calls out from downstairs now. “There’s snow falling outside guys!”
I don’t have to turn around to know that there isn't any snow. He actually called the police on me.
“Why didn’t you tell him to cancel the call?” I ask in complete disbelief.
She steps towards me now. “Because you need help Jemma. We’ve been thinking about this for a while, it’s time to put it into action.”
“What have you been thinking about?” I ask, not really wanting to know the answer.
“I think it would be good for you to go somewhere that’s made for people like you. There's a boarding school a few miles away from here, we're sending you their for your own good and well-being. You know, so that you can become comfortable with what you’re going through, because unfortunately Jemma, this voice is not going to go away without any professional help. And I know that that is going to be hard for you to handle.”
What? Did she just say she’s shipping me off to a boarding school for people that are, quote, “like me”? She’s joking right? She’s joking. I know I didn’t hear her right, I couldn’t have. There’s no way she is doing this to me; not on my birthday.
I begin to laugh hysterically. I’m laughing so hard that I drop to the floor onto my knees and double over into a loud fit of cackles.
“Jemma, this isn’t a joke." She continues. "I’m sorry, but this is what’s best for you right now. You’ve been suffering too long honey, you need help. And this wasn’t my decision; the doctors recommended this for you. They’re even paying. We’ve known for a while, we just didn’t know how to tell you.” She says softly, her eyes beating down into my back.
I sit up. “So you’re calling the police to take me away on my birthday?” I ask hysterically.
“I’m sorry honey.” Boom. There goes the realization, she’s not lying. I’m actually leaving.
“Where?” I whisper.
I see tears now. They’re clouding my vision.
“New York.” I repeat.
They were sending me one hundred miles away from home. So why am I not fighting it? Why am I not trying to stay? Maybe it’s because I knew this would happen.
I knew that this normal wouldn't last forever.