Sleet drizzled down steadily, leaving the snow pockmarked and slippery. It turned Tobi's long black hair stringy, and the wind whipped strands of it into her face, where they clung to her ivory skin like vines. Her parka and jeans became stiff as they froze, and each step took more and more effort as she traveled further from her hometown.
Tobi closed her eyes as she stomped along in her heavy black combat boots and thought of what she was leaving behind. She had been born in that town; had friends and family there. Tobi was leaving the only place she had ever called home for a place she had only been on weekends. "Maybe I should go back," she thought, doubting, not for the first time, her decision to go to New York.
Headlights splashed over the pavement, flooding the road and throwing the scenery into high relief. Every muscle in Tobi's body tensed to the point of aching and her breathing became fast and shallow. Her large green, almond shaped eyes were wide as she looked around frantically like a cornered animal. If it was – the blue pick-up rattled by and Tobi nearly sighed with relief, the tension easing from her shoulders. It was not him. If it had been him, it would have been the end of the line.
The wind plucked at Tobi's coat, hitching the sleeve up her arm. She reached down irritably to tug her sleeve back into place, but the marks on her pale wrists caught the girl's attention and she stopped walking.
Tobi stood there on the shoulder of the country road for seconds, minutes, hours. She felt frozen on the spot as she looked at the scars and cuts, some still fresh, which ran from her wrist up to the crook of her arm. Emotional pain welled inside her, slamming against the walls she had so carefully constructed to hide from the world. The sound of a young girl's sobbing brought her thoughts crashing back to reality. It was Tobi's own sobbing which had wrenched her free from her thoughts, though she felt no tears on her face. She glanced quickly, one more time, at her wrist, before fixing her coat. Those scars, emotional and physical, were why she was leaving.
She lurched forward, stumbling into a run. The black backpack she carried in her arms added ten pounds to her petite frame and, even at a run, the going was still slow.
Headlights flared up over the crest of the hill looming before Tobi, blinding her momentarily. She slipped, dropping her backpack and landing hard on the frozen asphalt. Tobi lay there, unmoving and praying to a God she had long since lost faith in, as the car rolled to a stop beside her. A man climbed out of the car and lumbered through the snow towards the prone girl.
Panic rose in her like bile, bitter and caustic, and Tobi struggled to rise to her feet. The back of her father's hand hit her face with a sickening smack, sending Tobi sprawling on her back. He pinned her body down with ease.
Tobi's eyes slanted from side to side, showing whites like a spooked horse. Her numb fingers scrabbled for a weapon, for anything, but the snow folded in Tobi's frantic grip, stuck to the ground. It was too late; there was nothing she could do.
Pain seared through her right arm, something sharp stabbing up through the snow and into Tobi as he pushed her down with more force. He was leaning in close now, breath raising goose bumps where it brushed Tobi's face.
"It's alright, sweetheart. Shh, shhh…" The face of Tobi's father distorted and melted into one of a kind young woman in a nurse's uniform. She gently smoothed Tobi's hair from her forehead as she removed the needle from her patient's arm.
The snowy highway had dissolved into a blank white room, empty except for the bed to which Tobi was tied down spread-eagle. "Where am I?" Tobi asked, her voice low. The nurse looked at her with a pained expression.
"You know where you are, honey," she replied kindly, her face impassive. It was her eyes that betrayed her compassion and pity. Tobi seemed not to hear or accept this answer.
"Where am I? Where am I?" Tobi chanted in a singsong manner. The nurse sighed and walked towards the small room's bolted door.
"You're in Bellevue, Tobi, the asylum," the young woman stated patiently, though very matter-of-fact. "Where you were when you asked yesterday, and everyday before that for the past three years." Tobi smiled at this, raising her head just enough to look at the nurse. There were dark circles around her eyes, and scratches on her face she had inflicted when untied. Tobi had been beautiful once, but she lay there on the bed, sunken looking and haggard. Hollow.
"He can't find me here!" she sang, arching her back and tugging at her restraints. "Can't find me! Can't find me!" The words became a musical hum as the cocktail of tranquilizers the nurse had given Tobi began to work.
She scowled at the white ceiling drowsily, her humming having abruptly stopped. Tobi faded back into unconsciousness, eyes closed tightly in fear, body tense against her bonds. "I hate the cold. There's nothing I hate more…"
© Kelsey Sanderson 2004