Two months. It had been two long months of loneliness. If you don't count the endless string of shrinks they'd sent into her room. Plus Callum, there was always Callum.
She only got to see him once a week in group therapy but it was always the best part of her week. He would make her laugh for practically the whole hour and none of the staff dared interrupt them as it was the only time the blonde would laugh, or even talk.
She refused to talk to the psychiatrists as they all seemed insincere, like they were just going through the motions, not really listening to what Belle had to say.
It was also the only time she left her room, or cell as she liked to call it. For a place called Sanctuary Hospital it wasn't very… sanctuary like. She'd initially pictured it with colourful walls, lots of comfy furniture and activities. A few of the common areas showed that they'd tried to make an effort, there were a few board games in one of the rooms, a few sofas in another but all the wallpaper was peeling and faded. There was one room that was painted a bright blue, but she prevented herself from going in there as blue was her mother's favourite colour and she avoided everything and everyone that reminded her of her family. This was the main reason she stayed in her room, which was white and barren, the only furniture was her bed, a wardrobe and a desk. The bed was hard, the wardrobe was almost empty and the desk was unused. Her room also featured a small ensuite which contained a sink, a toilet and a small shower which was barely big enough to stand in and she often had trouble moving around to wash or lifting her arms to shampoo her hair.
After the last shrink quit, fed up from her yelling at him the whole time, they brought in Judy.
Judy was a middle aged woman with blonde hair, grey-blue eyes and a comforting smile. Her style was very biker-chic, with a leather jacket and ripped jeans that hugged her legs perfectly. She was kind, generous and the perfect fit for Belle's condition.
She was about to go into the room, but stood for a moment to realize the irony, her father, Agent Stansfield, couldn't save Belle's family from being murdered, or her own husband from being blown up. The other coincidental thing, was that the girl was living in the same room she'd once stayed in.
"Okay Dad. Let's see how much you've fucked her up." Judy whispered to herself and then walked into Belle's room, making herself at home on the girl's bed.
Belle, who had been sitting on her bed reading, looked up at the intruder.
"Hi Belle, I'm Judy." The woman smiles, offering her hand to the younger blonde.
"Right?" Belle questioned, not shaking the stranger's hand.
"I hear you've been having trouble with the psych's they send in." Judy wasn't surprised by this fact because the hospital funds were a joke.
Belle frowned, she'd never heard an adult talk that casually in this place. She took the opportunity to take in the woman's appearance. She seemed different to everyone else who had been sent to talk to her, she seemed… nice, caring even.
"They wouldn't listen."
"That's odd, considering it's their job." Judy joked, but Belle didn't laugh. "I hear they've been bringing them in from as far as Columbus and Cincinnati."
"So we're in Ohio?" Belle asked.
She'd figured out they were at least in America from everyone's accents, but no one told her the state, in case she contacted someone she'd guessed. Not that she had anyone to contact.
The memories of the last time she'd been in America flooded her brain now and tears sprung to her eyes. She was 15 and they'd spent a summer in Florida, she'd spent most of her days playing in the ocean with Warren before they had to move once again. For 6 years they'd been floating from place to place, never staying long enough to call somewhere home. Not since Brooklyn.
"Belle? Are you okay?"
A comforting hand landed on her thigh and her hazel eyes locked onto it, vision blurred from her tears.
"I… I was just…"
"Thinking about your family?"
"How did you know?" Belle sniffed.
"I've seen this before."
"Someone who has lost the person, or people, they love, right in front of them, I know what it feels like because this room holds a lot of memories, and since those shrinks they sent you didn't earn their money, I'll listen to you." Judy told her and before Belle responded, a nurse walked in.
"Belle, it's time for group therapy." She announced before her gaze landed on Judy. "Oh, Ms Fabray I didn't know you were here, I'm sorry to interrupt, Belle can skip therapy today if you wish."
Belle's face fell at the thought of not seeing Callum and Judy saw this.
"No it's okay, we can pick this back up tomorrow." Judy said, addressing Belle.
Tomorrow? Belle thought. No one ever bothered to come more than twice a week and it was never consecutive days. Maybe Judy really was different.
"Will you really be back?" Belle asked, a flicker of hope in her voice and in response, Judy took off her leather jacket, winked and lay the jacket down on the bed before walking away.
Belle's thoughts ran wild as she was led off to room 101 for this week's group therapy session, but not before she'd picked up the jacket and put it on. It fit her perfectly, just like Judy would.
Group therapy had always been pointless in Belle's mind. It was a group for teens with PTSD and she felt like she didn't have this disorder, because if she did, she wasn't making any progress. She spend the hour listening to the other kids talking about what milestones they'd hit, when she wasn't laughing at something Callum had said, and it just made her more angry that she hadn't reached those points herself.
As she half listened to one girl talk about finally having a peaceful night sleep, she pulled Judy's jacket tighter around herself and let her mind wander. She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept through the whole night without having flashbacks or nightmares flood her brain. It was torture, it was worse than living through it the first time.
"You okay?" A soft voice pulled her out of her daze and she turned her head to the right to face Callum. "You haven't said a word since you got here."
It wasn't unusual for the blonde to not join in on group discussions but she often whispered a few comments to her friend.
"I'm fine." She mumbled.
Callum turned his attention back to the girl who was addressing the group, whilst Belle observed the boy. He seemed different but she couldn't put her finger on it. His brown hair was styled the same, slicked back in a small quiff with an excessive amount of gel, his grin was as cheeky as it had always been, he was still wearing his dad's old military jumper, but still, something had changed.
"What's up with you?" She asked him, quietly.
"What do you mean?"
It was then that she noticed it. His brown eyes gave off a twinkle.
"And that's a bad thing?" He laughed.
"No, but I guess I'm just curious as to why?"
"Do you forget everything? It's finally May, my last month here."
"Oh, right yeah."
Secretly she'd forced herself to forget about that fact. She didn't want to picture life at Sanctuary without him. She was currently only just into the second week of the third month of her sixth month program. That meant she'd have to spend just under three months without him.
"Will you come visit?" She asked, already knowing the answer.
"Belle, you know I'm going back to England, I can't stay in America anymore. It reminds me too much of him…"
As Callum looked down at his jumper, Belle noticed the happiness slide out of his eyes. Callum and his parents had moved to America four years ago when his dad, Steven, enlisted in the US army. Steven had been born in the States so had loyalties to his country, deciding to fight for them instead of enlisting in the British army. He'd met his wife, Rebecca, in the UK almost fifteen years prior to that when he was studying in the country and decided to stay there with her once they'd graduated. Callum had been born in London and was 11 years old when they moved. Tragically, Steven hadn't died on duty, but had been shot by a maniac in the town centre whilst trying to protect his son from the killer. Callum had been transferred to Sanctuary the very next day. His mother visited him every weekend, taking him out on Saturday's and spending the day with him in one of the common rooms every Sunday. Recently she'd discussed moving back to England with her son and he'd agreed almost instantly, having made progress in group therapy, he knew that going back to the town in which he'd watched his dad die would cause him to slide back into his depression.
The news had initially shocked Belle but she knew it would be best for her friend and he promised to call at least once a week. She'd have to take the call in the middle of the visiting centre as that's where the only phone was and patients weren't allowed cell phones but it was better than nothing.
"Where'd you get that jacket?" Callum suddenly asked.
"Oh, a woman, Judy, came into my room earlier and sort of gave it to me. Well she left it in my room and I put it on but I think that was her intention. At first I thought she was just another psych but she seems different, I think she could actually be helpful."
"Well that's good, I want you to make progress Slothy."
Belle chuckled at the nickname, he'd called her that on her first day of group therapy because she'd walked so slowly into the room. She then gave him the nickname of Mouse because he was short and shy.
"I'm trying, but it's still hard to listen to everyone hit milestones that I haven't even scraped the surface of. When did you start to see an improvement?" Belle asked the boy.
"In myself? Probably about a month and a half in, but everyone is different. I heard someone had to do a whole year of treatment because they'd made no progress in six months."
"Great, so I could be here for years."
"Belle come on, you've got to think of the positives."
"What positives? My whole family is dead!" She screamed, forgetting they weren't alone.
All eyes turned to her. She looked around seeing the faces of the ten other teens, the group leader and even the security guards looking at her.
Her face flushed instantly. Callum placed a comforting hand on her arm which she immediately shrugged off.
"Can I be excused?" She asked, standing.
"Belle we still have 20 minutes left." The group leader, Jen, tried to reason.
Jen could see the desperation in the blonde's eyes so nodded and watched helplessly as the girl ran from the room.
The next day, Belle sat on her bed, looking forward to seeing Judy, it was the first time in months that she'd felt a positive emotion towards anyone other than Callum.
That excitement, however, soon faded and turned to anger as Judy walked in, but she wasn't alone.
"What are you doing here?" She snapped, ignoring Judy and directing her rage at Agent Stansfield. "Two months ago you ship me off here and haven't even checked in once since then. Don't say you care about me then never visit."
"I was busy… I…" Robert stuttered.
"Dad, maybe you should give us a minute."
Wait. Belle thought. Did she just say 'dad'?
Her angry eyes landed on Judy.
"You're his daughter? I thought you were different."
"I am, Belle please let me explain."
"No, get out." The blonde ripped off the leather jacket that she hadn't taken off since the day before, except to shower, and threw it at Judy. "And don't come back."
"Go. Away." Belle screamed, throwing herself onto her bed, face down.
She felt the bed dip beside her, but was too tired to fight it anymore, it was like her emotions were controlling her, drastically changing from one minute to the next. Judy began rubbing circles on the girl's back and before Belle could stop them, tears started rolling down her cheeks. The tears lead way to sobs and soon she was bawling into her pillow.
After a few minutes, Belle began to get a grip on her emotions and slowly sat up.
"I'm sorry." She sniffed.
"You're entitled to your emotions Belle, the anger, the sadness, all of it. No one can dictate how you feel."
"The shrinks did a pretty good job at doing just that. Telling me what I should be feeling and when."
"Well that's just not helpful now is it?" Judy chuckled, handing Belle a tissue. "Now, will you let me explain some things?"
"Yes, Agent Stansfield is my father but we have a very… complicated relationship. He didn't know I was visiting you and I bumped into him in the hallway, he asked if he could pop in to see you and I said that was up to you, not me."
Belle hesitated, taken aback by the word 'visiting'. She didn't say 'working with' or anything else that made her seem more like a therapist than a friend. Is that what she was? A friend?
"Why are you here though? Who sent you?"
"I'm here because I've had a very similar experience to yours and they felt I could help."
"So that's why you said this room holds so many memories? You've been a patient here? I thought it was just a centre for teens."
"That's right, it was just a couple of years ago and no they treat adults too. Anyone can get PTSD."
"Can we talk about that?"
"Talk about what?" Judy asked.
Belle sat back on her bed to lean up against the wall and Judy copied her movements.
"PTSD." The girl replied after a few beats of silence.
"Don't you do enough of that in group therapy?"
"I don't really join in but I don't want to talk about my experience. I want to know the symptoms."
"Are you doubting whether you have it?"
"Well, I haven't made any progress, so I was thinking maybe I don't, maybe I have something more extreme that can't be helped by therapy." Belle admitted, keeping her gaze fixed on her hands in her lap.
"Okay, well you know everyone recovers at different speeds right?"
"Yeah I know, I'm just getting fed up."
"Did your group therapy leader not go through the symptoms?"
"I'm not sure, I found it difficult to pay attention during the first few weeks."
"Well that's actually one of the symptoms." Judy smiled kindly when Belle finally made eye contact. "So it's perfectly normal to lose concentration. Do you have flashbacks?"
"All the time."
"Those are both symptoms too, so it sounds to me like you have PTSD Belle."
"Will you help me?"
Judy's heart melted, she'd never heard such a small, innocent voice. She reached across to take Belle's hands.
"Of course. I'm a licensed therapist Belle, I can help however you see fit. Whatever you tell me can stay between us but you have to show some progress in group therapy in order to be released. So you can have time to get comfortable talking about the difficult topics with me before sharing them with others okay? You won't have to share everything you say to me in group therapy though, just enough to show you're taking steps towards getting better. I want to help you get out of here."
"Do you have any questions?"
"Just a couple. When do we start and can I keep the jacket?"
Judy laughed, her heart starting to fill with love for the girl. "As soon as you like and yes, it's yours."