The #NazandRoz #AndPenny Series - Chapter 8
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Naz and Roz Blog Series
The Aftermath (of England): Part 2
The sixteen-year-old tucked into the window bench, overlooking the backyard of the infirmary where she had been placed—a temporary hold until, one, she was no longer a threat to herself, and two, they figured out what to do with her by placing her somewhere safe—didn’t even acknowledge Roz when she approached. She didn’t take it personally. It was quite obvious that Penny Masterson had plenty of things on her plate to deal with it, and Roz bet she was simply a very small portion of that.
“I noticed they have a music room down the hall,” Roz said.
Penny didn’t look away from the window.
Roz didn’t let the silence bother her too much. Stuffing her hands into the pocket of her dress, she peered around the quiet room that seemed to be some type of area for communal gathering for the patients. Stark white, the walls and floors gleamed. The light fixtures above were the same bright white and flush with the ceiling. A setting of couches and chairs had been set up in one corner next to a row of bookshelves, and another sitting section in the other corner faced a large flat-screen television. Toward the west side of the room, hallways leading further into the complex showcased a few scattered people moving from what seemed to be different rooms.
A single woman wearing gray scrubs came out of the hallway, but didn’t even pass Roz a look before she disappeared behind a door where a wall of Plexiglas windows gave them a clear view of the many medications sitting on shelves.
That was the only indication this place was something different than it appeared on the surface. Specifically, the institution handled teenagers from thirteen to eighteen—on their eighteenth birthday, if still here, they were transferred to a different institutions with adults—dealing with mental illness.
Those illnesses ranged from behavior, eating, and other disorders, not limiting it to just that, they also handled cases like Penny.
“Why are you here?”
Roz jumped a bit at the question, surprised the teenager had even spoken to her at all. She came to visit three times in the last week, and each time, Penny said nothing. Each time, she sat in this same window, stared out the window, and stayed silent.
She wasn’t willing to give up, though.
“And where is your shadow?” Penny asked when Roz didn’t answer her right away.
“Tall guy,” Penny said, “dark hair, never leaves your side when you’re here, and glared at a guy when he checked you out.”
Had Naz done that?
Because only Naz had come with Roz to visit Penny, although he stayed back as to not intrude on their conversation … or rather, the total fucking lack of it, for the most part.
“Naz … he’s my boyfriend,” Roz said. “And he thought maybe it would help if he didn’t shadow me, as you might say. Because maybe he was making you uncomfortable.”
Penny made a face, and looked back to the window. It struck Roz, then, how childlike Penny seemed in a lot of ways. She was small featured, and small-bodied. With her hand propped up to use it as a rest for her chin while she stared out the window, she almost seemed like a little girl. Put her in a white dress, and wipe the red lipstick stain from her lips, and she could probably pass for a twelve-year-old.
It was disconcerting.
“He doesn’t bother me,” Penny said, “I can tell when they’re … bad. I see it in them. There’s a way they look at you. They’re all the same, you know.”
“I don’t, actually.”
She couldn’t imagine the horrors this girl had gone through. She couldn’t begin to consider what it was like to look at every strange face that passed you by, and think, is he like one of them; is he a monster, too?
“I haven’t used the music room,” Penny said.
So, she had been listening to Roz. That made her wonder, what else did the girl listen to when people thought she wasn’t paying attention?
“Why not? Their baby grand is beautiful.”
“Needs a good tuning,” Penny replied dryly.
Roz laughed. “I am sure Kyle could come in and—”
“He’s not like them, but he’s the same as them in that he wants something from me. It might not be the same thing—he’s not like that,” Penny said, looking back at Roz with her wide, blue eyes that just always seemed so fucking haunted. “He’s not like that, but he wants something from me, he’s only interested in what he can get from me.”
“And what is that?”
“For me to play,” Penny said simply. “The piano, I mean. That’s all he’s focused on. It isn’t the same thing as the rest of them, but it’s still something.”
“I promise Kyle isn’t only interested in making you play. That was a big factor that drew him to you, and he would still love to see you play at a piano, but it’s not at all the only thing he cares about, Penny.”
The noncommittal sound made Roz sigh quietly.
“But you,” Penny said, looking Roz over with a pensive stare, “I don’t know about you. I can’t figure you out. Everybody always wants something from me—they don’t care how they get it, but I can’t find what it is you want. And I don’t like that.”
“Nothing,” Roz whispered.
Penny raised a brow in silent question.
Roz shrugged. “I just want to help, Penny.”
That was the reason she was still in this fucking country. Instead of being at home, telling her parents they were going to be grandparents again, or letting Naz share the news with his parents. It was why she had allowed Naz to buy tickets that he had to cancel last minute because she couldn’t zipper up her luggage knowing this young woman was stuck in this place, hurting and broken.
“I’m angry,” Penny said.
Roz nodded. “I don’t doubt that.”
“No, you don’t get it. I’m mad, Roz. At everything—at the world. All the time, it never leaves. It’s right under my skin every waking moment of my life. I tried to cut it out, and I can’t get it to leave. I look at people like you—happy and good. There’s not things in your head that aren’t right. There aren’t people in your life who hurt you when they were supposed to love you. And I’m so fucking bitter about it. I look at you, and all I see is everything I can’t ever be. And that makes me angry. I don’t want to be angry anymore. I don’t want to be anything anymore.”
“And you think you can help?”
“I think you need someone who is willing to try,” Roz replied. “So here I am, willing to try. I’m not asking for your permission to do it because if it was left up to you, I don’t think you would let anyone help. And yeah, I’m here whether you want me to be or not.”
That quieted the girl.
Finally, Penny muttered, “They’re saying I have to go back to the States … for a lot of reasons.”
Yeah, Roz knew that, too.
Because Penny needed to bring charges in the country where the assaults happened. Because she wasn’t a citizen of this country, she couldn’t be placed with a family or conservatorship here. And there were more details that just … muddied all of this up.
“I applied to foster you when they bring you back to the states,” Roz said quietly.
Penny’s head snapped up. “What?”
“It was me, or a random family. A random foster home. I am here to help,” Roz said again, “whether you want me to or not.”
“Oh, I bet Kyle will love that,” Penny sneered under her breath. “Put the prodigy in with the washed-up prodigy, and he gets exactly what he wants.”
Roz brushed the girl’s attitude off.
“I have spent the last several years headlining one of the biggest orchestra companies in the world, and I chose to leave the company because I want to begin my life with a man who waited for me despite all the odds,” Roz said, “and I truly don’t give a single shit if you never put your fingers back on the ivory again, Penny, but in case you haven’t figured it out yet, lashing out to hurt me doesn’t actually fix you.”
Penny wouldn’t look at her, but her shoulders sunk a bit. “Sorry.”
Roz decided to go in a different direction with the girl. “How are you feeling about the fact they’re going to make a second formal statement about your father’s abuse to US officials once you’re back home? I imagine you don’t want to go through that a second time.”
Something akin to a bitter sneer curved the girl’s lips.
“What is that for?” Roz asked.
“You think it was just my dad?” Penny gave Roz a look over her shoulder, and in that moment, it felt like her heart fell to the floor and shattered. “It’s more than just him. There are a group of them, Roz. It’s a network. And I am not the only one they did it to. We’re a commodity to them … something to be traded, kept, or borrowed. He only sent me away because I was getting too old, my body changed, and I was getting louder. I was causing problems—I was a problem. That’s why they started sending me away.”
She felt sick.
“I haven’t broken the surface yet,” Penny continued, “but when I do, nothing is ever going to be the same, and that is what scares me.”
“A network,” Roz echoed.
Because she was still stuck on that.
Why would this girl lie?
“They’re everywhere. But you’re not like me, so you can’t see them. Monsters are very good at hiding in plain sight.”