Sarah, Returned--Chapter Six (A Steemit Original Novel)
I freeze. The only way to the back door now is through Karen, and I can’t plow her down, much as I would like to.
And, there’s Matt, standing beside her. A cascade of emotions makes its way across his strong, dark features: sadness, confusion, anger, disappointment. He genuinely hoped Karen was wrong about me. I just proved I can’t be trusted.
“You’re right,” he says, slowly. “Sarah, what were you thinking? What is happening with you? I’m worried. Sneaking out the back door like a kid? You didn’t even do that when you were a teenager. We always had total honesty between us. What happened?”
A guilt trip, Matt? Really? You’re better than that. At least, you used to be.
“You’re a high school teacher, Matt,” I grind out between clenched teeth, my patience for this nonsense completely gone. “Master’s degree in English and everything. You read a lot of mysteries. Figure it out.”
“Sarah,” Matt laughs, like he can’t believe what he’s hearing, “do you even know what you’re saying? Do you realize how you sound?”
“Crazy?” I demand, eyes narrowed. If he says "yes," so help me….
I’ll kill him. Metaphorically, of course. With words. When all this is over.
“I am not going to the psych ward, Matt,” I inform him, an unintended hint of danger in my tone. “No way in hell.”
“Yes, you are. It will be okay. I’ll go with you, to make sure you’re settled in, calm, and being treated well. It’s going to be okay.”
Oh, Matt. Love makes fools of us all. Or, so I’ve heard. Carter is my first serious boyfriend, and I can’t honestly say I’m madly in love with him, though I do care about him an awful lot. Matt, on the other hand, is apparently so in love with Karen, he’s lost his good sense.
“I won’t do it,” I tell him, looking him right in the eyes so he knows I mean it.
“Yes, you will,” Karen chimes in, her voice harsh, like she’s scolding a child. “And, Matt. I think you should stay here. Let the ambulance or police take her. You don’t need to go.”
“I want to make sure she’s okay,” Matt insists. He sounds like a child pleading with his mother to let him go outside and play with his friends, not the confident, independent Matt I’ve known my whole life. That Matt was always master of his own domain. But that Matt disappeared about four months ago, and I haven’t seen him since. Maybe I should file a missing persons report on him.
“Darling, she will be absolutely fine,” Karen says gently, putting a hand on his arm. “These are professionals who are going to be tending to her. They know what they’re doing. Honestly, you’re too soft on her. She’s used to having you to herself, anyone can see you’re wrapped around her little finger. It’s probably why our relationship has been so difficult for her. It’s better if you stay here, and just let the experts handle it. I’m sure they’ll let her call you when she’s stable.”
“Are you saying you don’t think I should visit her?” Matt is rightfully incredulous at this suggestion.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. It will do more harm than good at this point. If you think someone from the family should be with her, I’ll go.”
Oh, this just keeps getting better and better. She’s going to ban my cousin, the one who raised me on his own since I was 12 and he was 22, from going to the psych ward with me, but she’s going to go? Someone I’ve only known a few months, and clearly can’t stand? Man, I cannot believe Matt is buying it. And Karen claims I’m the crazy one? In what world does any of this make sense?
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Matt ventures cautiously, lest he awake the beast inside his girlfriend. “You’re the one she has a problem with, after all.”
“Which makes it even more important that if anyone goes with her, it’s me. She has to get used to me being around, and participating in family decisions.”
Matt pauses for a long moment, looking from me to Karen and back again, over and over. He even glances Jacob’s way a few times; Jacob’s face is practically advertising in neon letters that Matt is an idiot for not seeing what’s going on here. I hate to admit it, because I’ve always looked up to Matt, but it’s true. Karen’s games are not sophisticated, and should be plain to anyone with even a hint of intellect. I’m still going with magical vagina as a reasonable explanation; men will do practically anything for a woman if the sex is good enough, and it can even make previously reasonable men become addicts, willing to do anything, go along with any wild scheme, to keep getting their fix. The only thing is, they mistake the addiction for love.
Finally, after what seems like forever, all four of us standing in a sea of palpable tension, Matt comes to a decision.
“I really think I should go with her, Karen.”
Wow! Color me surprised. I didn’t think he still had the balls to stand up to her.
Obviously, neither did she, because her face turns a bright shade of ruby red, and her eyes narrow to mere slits. Oh, she’s furious, and it’s not an act this time. Is this the first time Matt has asserted himself during their entire relationship? It has to be, or she wouldn’t look like she’s about to murder him with an ax. Karen thinks I’m used to getting my way with Matt? Pot, meet kettle.
She speaks slowly, her voice low and menacing, and punctuates each word to be absolutely certain he hears her. “Matthew Emerson Morgan.” She points a lethal looking red-painted fingernail at him. “If you set one foot outside of this house when that ambulance comes for Sarah, you will never see or hear from me again. We will be over. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal.” Matt’s eyes go wide and his face is ashen. He wasn’t expecting this kind of ultimatum. She didn’t even bother to fight with him about it. The woman just stated how it was going to be. It’s plain she expects Matt to fall in line, and I think he will. He isn’t my Matt anymore. Karen has turned him into some kind of servile automaton.
“Then it’s decided,” Karen says, turning away from him, not even bothering to give him a chance to say if he agrees to her terms. “I will be going with Sarah.”
Matt says nothing, just stands there and stares at me like even he doesn’t know what just happened. Though things seem to be decided, no one moves. This could be my chance. Going out the back door is the obvious choice, and Karen expects me to try for it. So, I look over to Jacob with purpose, making sure everyone sees it; I want to make it appear like I'm going to make a play for the front door.
To my surprise, Jacob winks knowingly at me. I almost laugh. He knows. Oh my gosh, but I love this awesome old man already. He’s got the most expressive face I’ve ever seen, and he’s on my side. Without saying a word, he’s telling me to get out of here, and he’ll back me up with whatever authority he needs to. Since I’m absolutely not letting Karen and her minion who used to be my cousin do this to me, having Jacob’s support means so much. In fact, it may make all the difference in the world in how this turns out.
Karen continues to stand in my path, blocking my access to the door, while Matt goes to call the paramedics. That leaves Karen alone between me and freedom, and I’m taller than her. We’re both naturally slim and willowy, but I doubt she’s stronger than me. She seems too prissy to do anything like work out and get sweaty. My car keys are in my hand. All I have to do is push past her.
I need to be swift and sure, and move while she’s distracted by my staring at the front door. She’ll be prepared to move in that direction if I make a break for it. That means she’ll be off balance when I go the other way. All I have to do is move quickly, push her as gently to the side as possible, and make a dash for my car.
One, two, three!
I jump down to the bottom step, put one hand against Karen’s shoulder, and push. She stumbles to the side just enough for me to get past her, but instantly reaches out and grabs my hand before I can get to the door. Unfortunately, it’s the hand that has my keys. No. Not unfortunately. On purpose. The Evil Queen isn’t grabbing for my hand at all. She’s grabbing for the keys.
I immediately pull my hand back, but not before she manages to grasp the tip of the longest key, the one to Carter’s apartment. I try to snatch it back, but she tightens her grip so hard I can see her fingernails digging into her palm, making little white marks where they press into her creamy skin. Then, shooting me a look of pure deviousness, she tugs down hard, twisting her hand slightly. She let’s go, steps back, and screams.
I freeze, and Matt turns around, finally noticing the commotion going on behind him. Karen’s hand is bloody, with tiny droplets falling to the dark wood floor. Oh my God. She grabbed that key so tightly the jagged edges of it cut her palm when she pulled down on it. She purposefully injured herself to make me look bad. No. To make me look insane. And, it worked.
Jacob, though...he saw what really happened. He lets me know with only a glance. But, it’s too late. Thanks to Karen’s Machiavellian machinations, I’ve now become violent in the eyes of everyone else who matters. Jacob will have a hard time convincing Matt, the paramedics, or the police of any other possibility. With Karen’s calculated and frankly psychopathic action, Jacob will now just seem like a kindly old uncle who refuses to see me for what I really am: a wild, mentally ill danger to others, who needs to be locked away in the psych ward indefinitely.
I know what will happen if I let them take me. I had a friend in high school whose dad went through the state’s psychiatric mill, and she told me all about it. I’ll be restrained until they’ve pumped me so full of psychotropic drugs that I have trouble remembering my own name. Only then, when I’m fully subdued, will I be allowed to talk to a psychiatrist or counselor. More meds will be prescribed. I’ll be forced to attend group therapy for who knows how long before the facility even considers releasing me to outpatient treatment. I’ll have to check in with a doctor regularly for blood work to make sure I’m taking the meds they prescribed me. If I don’t, I’ll get sent back to the ward. My free will, my Constitutional rights as a citizen, won’t make a difference to anyone anymore. The people at those places know they can get away with it with impunity, even though psychiatric patients ostensibly have rights. Those “rights” don’t matter once you’re behind facility walls. There’s no one there to be your advocate, and you are abused both mentally and physically until you comply. I’ll come out a shell of my former self, with Matt in control of me and everything I own, possibly forever. It all depends on how much “progress” the doctors think I’ve made. Any decision to release me from care, and Matt’s conservatorship, could take years.
No thank you.
“Sarah, what have you done?” Matt gasps in horror.
“She cut me. Your cousin cut me,” Karen cries, real tears streaming down her cheeks. She really is an excellent actress, better than I thought. “Matt, if this doesn’t convince you I’m right about her, I don’t know what will. Do something!”
“You need to come pick up my cousin,” Matt says into the phone, his voice tinged with disbelief. “It’s important.”
“Come with me, my dear.” Great-Uncle Jacob goes up to Karen and takes her injured hand, turning it over so he can see the wound. It must look pretty bad, because he grimaces. The key is jagged, but not razor-sharp. With the pressure Karen put on it when she grabbed it, it would leave a cut that looks worse than it probably is. Jacob puts an arm around her shoulder, and holds her hand out in front of her with his other arm. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
As he leads her away, toward the kitchen sink, he looks back at me, and silently mouths the word, “Go.”
In a flash, I’m out the back door, letting the screened one behind the main, wood door slam shut with a metallic bang as I sprint away from the house to my car. Thankfully, it’s parked on the grass in the back yard instead of the garage like usual. We wanted to open up as many good parking spots to our guests as possible. That means my means of escape is right here, a few yards away from the deck. Bounding down the deck stairs, I land in the soft grass, and head toward it with the same focused intensity I would use if the Loch Ness Monster were chasing me.
I’m only halfway there when I hear the screened door open, and Matt and Karen calling to me. I pay them no attention, but soon hear footsteps in the grass behind me. Well, I guess Karen wasn’t hurt that badly if she’s chasing me down with Matt. She made sure the wound was deep enough to bleed, but superficial enough to heal quickly without leaving a scar on her pristine palm. That’s calculating on a level just this short of evil. Or maybe actual evil; I'm not sure where the moral line stands on these things. Yet. I have a feeling I'm about to get an education.
Thank God for keyless entry. I raise my car key high, rainbow heart keyring and other keys dangling below, and press the “unlock” button. When I reach my car, I open the door and slide right in. I immediately lock all four doors behind me, and start the car, just as Matt and Karen reach the driver’s side window and begin banging on it, shouting words through the glass I can’t quite decipher.
They’re going to have to chase me, and I’m sure they will. But, they have to go back inside to get Matt’s keys first, and around to the front of the house, where he parked his Hyundai on the street. It's just to the side of the garage, so we could leave the driveway open for guests to use. Even if they’re moving as fast as they can, it still gives me a good two or three minute head start, and that’s more than enough.
It’s dark this time of night in Dover, especially so in the early spring. Even better, the entire county is a maze, full of tiny, time-forgotten towns and unpaved back roads you won’t find on any map or GPS. And, I know it all intimately, having explored it at length with Mom and Dad, and then with Grandma, when I was a kid. I don’t know if Matt did the same thing. There’s a chance he doesn’t know Strafford County as well as I do. As long as I don’t go anywhere obvious, I may not have to go far.
As I pull away from the house, around the deck, and toward the driveway out front, Matt and Karen race back to the porch, doing exactly what I expected. They’re just reaching the door when I pull out of their sight. They’re so intent on chasing me down, they don’t notice Jacob is standing by the porch railing closest to where the driveway and backyard meet. They brush right past him, oblivious to his presence. But, I see him. He’s got a huge grin on his face, and waves to me as I go.
Laughing and smiling for the first time in days, I wave back, then peel off into the inky Dover night.