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Padded Rooms and Stiletto Heels

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Victoria Grayson visits Amanda Clarke once. Just once.

Impeccably dressed and with more confidence than she really has, she walks to the end of a long hallway, her heels going clack, clack, clack on the linoleum floor the only sound.

She observes the girl through an opening in the door that is, maybe, 2 by 8 inches.

“Why is she here?” she asks the orderly who accompanies her. Samuel, the nametag reads

Amanda got into a fight, and when the other girl mentioned her father, she tried to claw her eyes out. They had to sedate her and then put her in isolation.

Victoria doesn't react, she doesn't show any outwards sign of understanding or caring about what happened, and she doesn't let herself be affected by it, but she wonders what it was that other girl said, and thinks about how much she wants to claw her own eyes out every time she hears David Clarke’s name.

The young man offers to call the resident in charge, to see if she can actually talk to Amanda but she shakes her head, says it’s alright, she doesn't want the girl to know she’s there.

She watches for maybe 45 minutes before the girl moves. She coughs, her whole body shaking.

“Is she sick?” she asks the orderly who is now sitting next to the door, a magazine in his hands.

“I’ll make a note in her chart,” he says, without looking up.

Victoria remembers a time when the little girl would laugh so loud the sound carried into her own house. When she would lean against her balcony and watch as she splashed around on the shore, her father always just a few feet away.

She also remembers, with startling clarity, Amanda’s screams. She remembers watching the girl struggle against the arms that restrained her, her tears and her screams, and the heartbreaking desperation she called her father with. The girl trashed and fought against the men holding her back, long after David had been taken, she still tried to break free until the final devastating moment she went limp and had to be carried outside, still crying, her voice hoarse and tired. She remembers standing there and doing nothing.

She doesn't know why she’s here, why she felt the urge to see Dr. Banks’ work first hand, but she can’t look away. She needs to bear witness to this.

The orderly looks at her, annoyed. He probably has better things to do than watch her watch a girl that’s doing a whole lot of nothing, but Victoria hardly cares about it. She can afford to waste time, today. Michelle arranged this visit personally, and Victoria knows whatever excuse she gave, no one will bother to look into it.

Inside, Amanda pulls her legs to her chest and rests her head on her knees.

She looks so small, so little, so young and defenseless. So easily broken. Her own child, her sweet boy, is not that much older than her, and for a second, she imagines him sitting against a padded wall and staring into nothing and the dread takes over the place in her chest where her heart is supposed to be. Daniel is a bright boy. Sweet. Kind. He’s the best thing she ever did; the only good thing she’s done and the thought of losing him to despair like this is sickening.

She asked David, once, if he could love her son. If she were to leave her husband to be with him, would they be a family? Could he love another man’s child as much as he loved his own daughter? And David had said “I love you so much, Victoria. He is a part of you, how could I not?” and she believed him. She’s glad, now, that he didn't ask her the same question.

She’s here today, looking at the broken remains of a happy little girl, seeing what she did, the pain she’s caused, seeing someone that will never be whole again because of the lies she told and the truths she couldn't face.

Samuel turns the pages of his magazine.

She shifts, uncomfortable. Her neck is cramping from having to crouch to peak through the small window and the muscles on her back are tensing. She rests her hand against the door, tired. She’s so tired all the time. Ever since David, she doesn't sleep. She hardly eats. She is 8 weeks pregnant and Conrad doesn't know yet.

David would have been ecstatic. He would have taken her in his arms and spin her until she was dizzy with happiness and love, but all she feels now is fear. She is constantly waiting for the world to come crashing around her, for all of her carefully crafted lies to crumble and dissolve into nothingness.

Through the window, she sees Amanda lift her hand and rub her eyes with her pajama sleeves. She’s crying.

“We’ll be serving lunch in half-an-hour,” Samuel tells her. “Maybe you can talk to her then.”

“There’s no need,” she says.

She turns around and starts walking away. Her steps are even, her posture perfect. She doesn't look back, and she doesn't wonder about those other rooms and those other windows.

Outside, it’s too hot. The air is heavy and thick and she feels like she can’t breathe. She drove herself here and she is not looking forward to the driving back to the city. It’s sunny and hot and she’s still so very tired. Her forehead against the steering wheel, she takes a deep breath. For a minute, she doesn't move. David loved his daughter more than anything in the world, more than he loved his wife, more than he loved Victoria. She understands, of course. She understands and she knows that this child’s pain, her loss and her grief, will prevent the same for her own child, for this new baby. It’s a trade she’s more than willing to make.

She can do this.

Victoria Grayson visits Amanda Clarke once and that’s enough.