Amity by Kate Ditchburn

            “My brain feels fuzzy.”

            “Fuzzy?”

            “The bees are buzzing.” The patient hums a vaguely familiar tune – though where it’s known from remains a mystery – while staring at the ceiling with dull brown eyes.

            “Does it hurt?”

            “Oh no. These bees left their stings at home. No room up there, you see.” A stumpy finger pokes at her temple.

            “And how is Ezekiel today?”

            “Sulking.” The patient lifts onto her elbows; all the while her head cranes back as though lifting it presented a real struggle. “He had a bad day.”

            “I’m sorry to hear that.”

            Finally, the patient rolls onto her side, balancing her head on the palm of her hand. Dr. Green scrutinises her patient. Every detail of her body language and her mannerisms must be noted.

            Amity Price is a nineteen-year-old woman who still has a long life ahead of her; this is just a minor bump in the road. Ezekiel is her imaginary friend.

            Dr. Green sits back in her seat. The cold plastic is hard and unyielding, but she knows to present herself as calm and comfortable to create the safe space that Amity needs to open up. The ward wasn’t the best place, but some things were out of her control, and this situation required a neutral location.

            “Why is he having a bad day?” Dr. Green wanted to engage her patient. While Amity had no difficulty in talking quite happily with Ezekiel, she sometimes struggles to connect to other people in her vicinity.

            “He doesn’t like it. I sleep. Then what should he do?” She pressed her fingers against the sheets and dragged them around, twisting around to lie on her stomach. Her feet wiggle in the air behind her.

            “I understand.”

            “No.”

            “No?”

            “…no.”

            She’ll explain in due course, hopefully.

            “Do you remember why you are here?” 

            “Yes. I’m not stupid.” 

            “I don’t think you’re stupid.” 

            “Mad, then.” 

            “I don’t think that either. I just want to know your side of the story, and Ezekiel’s, too.” Dr. Green knows that Amity wholeheartedly believes in everything that her mind showed her. Dr. Green needs to understand how deeply this affects Amity to assess what can help her in returning to a normal nineteen-year-old’s life. 

            “It was your fault.” 

            Dr. Green’s eyebrows furrow and she bites the inside of her cheek. What did she mean? How could it be her fault-

            “You did, too!” She is talking to Ezekiel. Now muttering, “Wound me up.” 

            “He was winding you up? How was he doing that?” she probes, setting her pen to the page to write her response.

            It took some time for a response. It is often the case that people like Amity can be withdrawn and secluded. They talk less to ensure they seem less crazy. Dr. Green wants to assure her that she isn’t crazy. It’s one of the reasons that she doesn’t like to put a title to anything. A title can help with a diagnosis, but it also hinders a person’s recovery to just those methods tried and tested for that one disorder. What if Amity was the exception and she was stuck under a title that limited her possibilities? She would be shunned from one therapist to the next, from a doctor to a specialist, and back again. No. It’s best to know the whole story. 

            “My dress didn’t match my skin.” 

            “Oh, I’m sure that’s not true.” Amity had soft dark skin, but in her current state, it is dark under her eyes and her lips are paler. There was a picture of Amity from the day of the incident. She was wearing a checkered blue dress. Dr. Green wants to flick through her notes and find the image: a selfie taken outside her school as if taken with another, though half the screen is bare. Dr. Green declines the urge for fear of upsetting her further. 

            “It is.”

            “It was a blue dress, right? You look pretty in blue.” 

            “…no.” 

            “Are you saying no, or is Ezekiel? I’d like to know what you think.”

            She mutters too low for Dr. Green to comprehend. She leans closer and tilts her head to hear better.

            “I guess it’s alright, maybe.” 

            “What makes you feel pretty?” 

            “Ezekiel!” The shout takes Dr. Green by surprise. She sits back again. “I like makeup.” 

            “Would you like to try some lipstick on? I have some here.” A little can go a long way. In her handbag, having swapped from her briefcase for a calmer approach to the patient, she retrieves her neutral lipstick with a pinkish hue. She holds it out, tempting the nineteen-year-old out of her shell. Amity takes her chance and rushes towards Dr. Green but takes the lipstick with surprising gentleness and dabs it against her lips. She giggles gingerly before handing it back.

            “Do you have a mirror?”

            Dr. Green points her in the direction of the metal table with a shiny top. She could see most of her reflection in that. She couldn’t give glass to the patient. Amity leans over the surface, plucking her lips and pouting as if for a photograph. Dr. Green notices that she was glancing to something over her shoulder a lot.

            “What do you think of it?”

            “It’s pretty. It suits you more though.”

            “That’s very kind. What does Ezekiel think?”

            There was a pause. It felt almost stifling.

            “He doesn’t mind it too much.”

            Dr. Green knows she needs to steer the conversation back to the day of the incident, but she wasn’t yet sure how. Luckily, it would be done for her.

            “I was wearing redder lipstick that day. I left a smudge of it on Ezekiel’s cheek.”

            “Is that why he was winding you up?”

            “Maybe.”

            “Do you know what else happened that day, Amity? Just after that.”

            Amity stares off into the distance, with an almost pained expression.

            “Ezekiel fell down the stairs.”

            “Ezekiel?” Dr. Green confirms.

            Amity nods and turns towards the wall, dragging her fingers along the white surface. She nods once.

            “How did he fall?”

            A long pause. She was losing Amity’s interest.

            “What was Ezekiel wearing?”

            Her hand stops; her fingers pause against the grout. “He was wearing jeans, and butterfly wings.” A shrill laugh follows, taking Dr. Green by surprise. Amity jerks her head round to look at the doctor and whispers, “he wasn’t really. It was a red shirt.”

            The red shirt was familiar, and this time Dr. Green really did look back through the notes to find the pictures. In one picture was a woman with a red shirt and blue jeans standing behind Amity in the photograph. She scribbles a note in short hand.

            “Was anyone else there with you, Amity?”

            “Umm. No. Probably not.”

            “Why probably?”

            “No one hangs around me long.” In a quieter voice, she continues, “I think it’s all the bees.”

            Dr. Green nods knowingly.

            “How did Ezekiel fall? Was it an accident? Or on purpose?”

            “An accident,” Amity is very sure of that fact.

            “If it was an accident then there is nothing to fear, could you have pushed him… by accident?”

            Again, the pause came. Dr. Green was used to such pauses. They allowed her patient to talk, to lead the discussion. Amity felt no different. She merely needs some guidance to get her going.

            “Maybe a little. But he lost balance all by himself.” Amity’s perception of reality is worse than Dr. Green first thought. She gulps and decides to plunge into the deep end. A reaction is what she hopes for.

            “Amity.” She begins with her name to regain her attention. “It was not Ezekiel that fell down those stairs that day. It was a woman. It was your teacher.”

            “No! There was no one else there. Weren’t you listening?” The response was instantaneous.

            Dr. Green remains still and quiet.

            “Ezekiel fell. Tell her.” She turns then to the empty space in the room, then extends her arm to it pleadingly. “See.” She settles then and droops into her covers, sulking.

            “What is your teacher’s name?” Dr. Green asks after enduring the silence for a few long minutes.

            “…Which one?”

            “The maths teacher.”

            “Mrs. Davis.”

            “Yes. That’s right. Do you like her?”

            A pause.

            “Yea.”

            Dr. Green adjusts herself in the plastic chair ever so slightly. “She’s in hospital.”

            Amity’s dark eyes turn towards her. “Is she okay?”

            “They aren’t sure yet. She fell a long way.”

            “Oh.”

            Silence drifts over the room and it lingers there for the rest of the visit. Dr. Green elicits no other response from the teen. It doesn’t bode well for Miss Amity Price. Perhaps a title would help in this particular case.

            Dr. Green takes her leave, humming a familiar tune. Later that evening, she places it: ‘In a world of my own’ from Alice in Wonderland.

About the Author

Kate Ditchburn is studying in the MA Creative Writing course at Northumbria University. She is working on writing her first of a three-part novel series. In future, she hopes to write full time through freelance writing and her larger trilogy project.

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