“Scarlet” by Madison Prosser
“Scarlet?” I called across the seemingly empty hospital room.
“Yes.” a scratchy voice hissed from the shadows.
“Come back to bed, you know the doctors are going to be here soon.”
Silence filled the room like iced tea pouring into an empty glass. I felt it seeping into my lungs during every breath I took. I panicked and I flipped on the light. Bad idea. The light irritated Scarlet, or whatever she was at that time. She was crouched in the corner, coiling like a snake. She looked up and instantly I could tell that a shadow had taken over the “sister” I had known.
She smiled at me, and then everything went black.
My mom has an obsession with troubled teens. My twin brother and I were only two when she brought the first orphaned, traumatized foster child into our home. My father highly doubted that she could turn him around, but after two months in my mother’s care, he went on to graduate high school and became a lawyer.
Scarlet seemed like another one of those cases, but a little more emotional. She didn’t just come from a broken home, she came from a shattered one. Her mom had left just two days after she was born to pursue her heroin addiction and her dad was an uncontrollable, angry alcoholic. Scarlet could never catch a break. She was thirteen when her dad was killed in a car accident. He had beaten Scarlet in a drunk rage, then vacated the house. He didn’t make it very far, though. He ran a red light at the first intersection and a transport truck slammed into him.
That’s when the social worker contacted my mom.
“Of course I’ll take her,” I remember my mom sobbing into the phone. “There’s no better place for her than here.”
So the next day I had a new “sister”. I didn’t really think anything of it, considering I had seen probably fifty other “sisters” come and go. It was just another project for my mom to turn her attention to, she would be gone in a month when she was found a permanent home.
But no one knew Scarlet’s history. No one realized what all that trauma did to her brain. She was altered mentally, but no one ever thought to evaluate her. This little mistake would probably change my family and I forever.
“Are you okay?” screamed a terrified nurse.
I tried to sit up, but a sharp pain in my head crumpled me back to the floor.
“Doctor! Come quick!”
I was in and out of consciousness as the doctor maneuvered me into a bed and plugged various cords and wires into my veins. When I was finally stable enough to talk, there was only one thing on my mind.
“Where’s Scarlet?” I slurred to the doctor.
“Well,” he said, hesitantly, “We don’t actually know. After she took you out, she was gone. She slipped under our radar.”
“Are you kidding? We’re talking about a m-me-mentally….”
“Lucy, stay with us. Lucy?”
The black shadow that had consumed me earlier was coming back, and it was getting harder and harder to resist.
“She’s crashing!” I heard someone yell.
Scarlet and I shared a room. It wasn’t fun for me, because from day one she hated me. She would act all polite and quiet around my parents and brother, but as soon as we were alone, I could see a switch flip. Her personality would morph from light to dark instantly,
I remember one day, just before things got really bad, when she lost it on me. We were home alone because my parents had taken my brother to his hockey game in the next town over. Scarlet was reading on her bed when I came into the room.
I was walking over to my closet, when she began to scream.
“What are you doing!”
“Scarlet, calm down, I’m going to my closet.”
“You’re stepping on my sweater. Get off!”
Her jaw clenched and her veins popped out of her neck. You could imagine lava boiling behind her eyes, the way she looked at me. It wasn’t Scarlet anymore, that I was sure of.
“Scar, calm down, I’m sorry.” I soothed.
She closed her eyes in frustration.
“If you ever do that again, I will kill you very slowly,” she breathed, with that same, distant smile she saved for me.
After that, I convinced my mom to take Scarlet in for a psychiatric evaluation. I was scared that she would be mad once my mom told her, but she took the news surprisingly well.
The next day the two of them went to the hospital and got some tests run.
That night mom came home without Scarlet.
Turns out Scarlet suffered from multiple personality disorder. They admitted her the day my mom took her to the hospital. Apparently her case was very rare because she only showed her “shadowed” personality around me. This made it very hard to diagnose, but very easy to get her treatment.
When she takes her medicine, the light and nice part of her sticks around. When she doesn’t, she turns back into the devil. Problem is, she doesn’t like pills.
Because she wouldn’t willingly stick with her medication, the hospital and social services had no choice but to commit her into a permanent care facility.
That day was the first time in two months that I felt safe in my own room.
“Lucy? Can you hear me?” my mom whispered.
“Yes. What happened?” I replied, still groggy from the anesthetic.
“You had brain surgery. When Scarlet knocked you over, she made your brain bleed.”
“I came to visit, mom, but she hates me. She’s crazy and she hates me.”
“Yes, Lucy, I know.”
“Is she gone?”
“From our lives? Yes, she’s gone.”
“Good.” I smiled, and drifted back to sleep.