“Not everyone can be bought,” she said.
Mark frowned and rubbed his forehead, where a headache was brewing.
“Gloria, that’s not what I’m doing and you know it.”
Her thin shoulders rose and fell and her gray eyes tracked away from his to scan the tiny kitchen. Her leg was jiggling as she sat, rattling the dirty dishes stacked haphazardly on the sticky surface of the table.
The restlessness, the jerky movements, the inability to make eye contact: he’d lived with her schizophrenia long enough to know what they meant. Mark sat at the table, careful to move slowly.
“Gloria, we’re worried about you.” He linked his hands and rested them on the table, ignoring the likelihood that his suit would be irreparably stained by whatever coated the table.
When she just stared at the far corner of the room, he continued, “We just want to make sure you can get your medication.”
She jerked at the mention of her medication, and a quick grimace contorted her face.
“Is…is there a problem with your medication?” He fought rising frustration when she didn’t respond. “You can talk to your counselor. Maybe there’s something else they can suggest?”
Her eyes flashed briefly to his, and in that moment he caught a glimpse of the Gloria he used to know.
The older sister who told him stories in the dark to help him fall asleep, who’d made up games to entertain him on long car rides.
He remembered her laughing encouragement as he pedaled away without training wheels for the first time. And only a few minutes later, her gentle hands were smoothing a Band-Aid over his scraped knee while tears rolled down both their cheeks.
That person had been stolen away.
It was the memory of the person he remembered that compelled him to keep trying. It was the memory of the sister he’d worshipped that nourished the hope that someday they’d find the perfect blend of treatment and medication that would bring her back for good.
“Gloria, I’m not trying to bribe you into doing something you don’t want to do. I want to give you money for your medication, so you can feel better.”
“No, you want to control me.” Her voice was sullen, and she picked fitfully at her fingernails. “You want me to be someone else. Well I’m not someone else, I’m me, and you can’t buy a different me!”
Mark winced as she shoved away from the table and stormed to the bedroom to slam the door. The snick of the lock carried clearly across the small apartment, the all-too-familiar ending to an equally familiar conversation.
He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.
This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge – we were supposed to write a story of 450 words, beginning with: “Not everyone can be bought,” she said. And ending with: He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.
Thank you for stopping by, and please let me know what you think!