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Trust No One by Teresa Cooper. Sample of Chapter Thirteen.

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By Teresa Cooper

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We were in the sitting room playing records after school and Bridget was dictating the playlist, as usual. Since I wasn’t enjoying her choice in music, I got out my favourite Aswad twelve inch. When the track she had chosen came to an end, I went to put on my record.

Hey! What do you think you’re doing?’ she asked. What does it look like?’ I kept my voice light.
I’m putting on the next one,’ she said, swaggering over to the record player. Sorry, but this comes first. ’ I pressed my disc firmly down on the deck. She looked around the group for support. I don’t think so!’ she sneered. Does anyone else here want to listen to Teresa’s crappy reggae?’

The other girls said nothing. They were waiting for me to react. I didn’t disappoint them.

For once I wasn’t going to give in to Bridget. I placed the needle on the record and the Aswad song began to play. Come over here if you’ve got a problem with it.’ I met her eye and held her gaze steadily. A tiny hint of uncertainty flitted across her face. I had never challenged her so directly. In fact, since Maya had left, no one had. She seemed to hesitate, but there was no way she could let it go. Her position as queen bee of Kendall House was in jeopardy and she knew it. We all knew it. She flew at me like a demon, spitting venom and abuse. I fought back angrily. Although she was a solid lump of lard and muscle, I had a feeling that I might be able to beat her just this one time. But the next moment someone was forcing us apart.

I heard Harriet’s voice, then Benita’s, and felt the prick of a needle in my bum.

I remember falling to the floor, face down, and then I blacked out. I woke up in Sick Bay feeling woozy and disorientated. Whatever Harriet had put in the injection had totally cancelled out every last ounce of energy I had. I tried to get up, but could barely raise my head from the pillow. It felt floppy on my neck. My body was bruised and achy. I tried to call for help, but all that came out of my mouth was saliva.

Instead of speaking, I was dribbling. My eyelids kept closing against my will. I had often thought I was dying before, but this time it had to be true. I couldn’t even lift my arm up from the bed. I’m paralysed, I thought. My heart raced in panic, but I found that I still couldn’t move, not even with adrenalin pumping around my body. I tried to call out again. Help!’ I mouthed the word but no sound came out. My head felt dizzy, as if I’d come to a sudden halt after spinning round and round in a circle.

My mouth filled up with saliva again, before overflowing with sour, creamy vomit. I turned my head and spewed it onto the pillow, coughing as it caught in my throat. Despite its acrid smell, I didn’t bother trying to brush it away, or turn the pillow over. My eyelids started flickering; a muscle in my cheek twitched uncontrollably.

I had an involuntary spasm in my leg. My foot flew towards the ceiling and fell heavily onto the bed again. So perhaps I wasn’t paralysed after all? Thick waves of tiredness overcame me and I passed out. The next thing I remember is that Janice was in the room. She made me take some pills. Finding that I could speak at last, albeit in slow, slurred tones, I asked what they were. Sparine and Valium,’ she said matter-of-factly.

What will it do?’ Keep you sedated.’  Why?’ Dr Peri’s orders.’ I inhaled a disgusting whiff of dried vomit. I’ve been sick.’ She smirked. You don’t have to tell me. I can smell it.’ Tears welled up in my eyes. Can you change my pillowcase?’ She bristled. Let’s make sure this medication goes down first.’ When can I go back to the dorm?’ She took my pulse. Not yet.  You stay here with the door locked and no visits from anyone, apart from staff.’ My heart sank. How long for?’ However long it takes.’ Why?’  think you know why.’ I don’t! What have I done wrong?’ Well, for one, you deliberately started a fight with poor Bridget. She was very upset afterwards.’ Poor Bridget? But she’s the bully¦’ It was incredible.

I felt sure that Bridget hadn’t been locked up for fighting with me. I didn’t even bother to ask. Miss Woods has decided that you should be isolated from the group for the time being. Hence you stay here until such a time as she decides to reintroduce you to everyday life.’ How long will it be?’

She pursed her lips. That’s not for me to say.’ I slept a little after she had gone and woke up in a cold
sweat, with red blotches all over my skin. My vision was blurry. The ceiling kept zoning in and out of focus. My stomach started cramping up. My groin was painful and needed to go to the toilet, but I was locked in and didn’t have the strength to get up and bang on the door. I called for help but my pronunciation was skewed and it came out sounding like Howrp’. I tried again to get my tongue around this simple word. This time it emerged in a throaty, unintelligible rasp.

Lying on the bed, repeatedly trying to call for help, I realised that the sounds I was making seemed barely human. I had no idea what was happening to me, or what I was becoming. It was terrifying. Shirley came into the room.  There were two of her. Both Shirley’s enquired if I wanted a drink. I slowly shook my head. Tor-lay,’ I said. The Shirley’s merged into one and then divided again. They cocked their heads. What’s that, Teresa?’ With effort, I raised my voice. Tor-lay!’ Do you mean the toilet?’ I nodded as vigorously as I could. Can you get up?’ she asked. There was only one of her again.

I tried to sit up, but instead my arm flew upwards and fell across my face. My legs played dead. It felt as if I had no control over my physical movements. I tried to explain. Can’t, can’t . . .’
She drew back my sheets and dragged my legs around until my feet fell to the floor. After helping me to sit up, she put her arms around me and heaved me into a standing position. My legs gave at the knee, but she managed to hold me up. Almost in slow motion, we shuffled out of Sick Bay to the toilet. Once there, she helped me to pull up my nightdress and sit down on the toilet seat. My head flopped forwards. I almost lost my balance and rolled off the seat.