Note: The following contains some content which may be difficult to swallow and some language.
Did you know Judy? You couldn't miss her. She had the biggest smile and these wide, green eyes that made anyone fall in love with her. Judy's the cutest little girl you've ever seen and I am so proud of her. She got the highest marks in school and her teachers couldn't stop bragging on her to me. I love her so much.
She's creative too! She can take finger-paints or markers or even a pen and just start going to town! She makes the loveliest things. I simply adore it when mothers day comes around and Judy makes me something. And she always comes up with something new. Sometimes she'll just draw me a picture and other times she'll come up with an elaborate masterpiece. My favorite was when she made me a pop-up book! You can't say my daughter isn't a genius now, can you?
She's so quiet too. I could be working at my desk and she could be in there playing, but I would never know she's there. She was always thinking. Judy didn't like asking questions, you see, she preferred to try and figure out the world for herself. She only asked the questions she needed to ask; the things she couldn't get on her own. She could get so many things on her own. Because she's so smart!
I remember how much she liked it when I would take her to the lake. She would sit there and just watch. Sometimes she would watch the water, but usually she would find an animal of some kind to ponder about. I remember one time she saw a stork eat a frog and then she asked, “Mommy, why do animals eat each other?”
I'm no biologist, but I think my answer was good, “That's just how it is, sweetheart.”
“I think it's because they have to, darling.”
“Do you think the frog was scared?”
“Well, of course he was. He was about to be digested, after all!”
“I don't think he was scared, mommy.”
“Because he wanted the stork to be fed. I think the frog understands that the stork is only doing what he has to.”
Oh, she had such a way of seeing things! Those are the terms with which only a child can see the world. It's a strange combination of innocence and naïvete. Little Judy was just so good at coming up with these deep thoughts, and, curiously, she had no idea she was saying anything worthwhile. I wish I had kept a notebook or something of all the things she said. I bet people would pay good money just to hear what a child had to say about all these things she came up with.
There were a lot of things I wish I still could have done with Judy. But it was just like that she was gone....
She was beautiful in more than a few ways. Her hair was an autumn color and her eyes a soul-catching green. The best guess Doctor Paul Abrams had was that she was in her mid-thirties. And she always came to visit her mother, usually about twice a week. Someone had to; that poor woman had no one else. No one but the doctors, the nurses, and the other patients. Her name was Judith Lowell and she was one of the kindest people who came for visits.
Doctor Abrams found her checking in at the front desk, “Mrs. Lowell, how pleasant to see you again. How are you?”
She showed her large, inviting smile, “A little rushed this week, but I can't complain. Just thankful I've got someone to watch the kids this time instead of that awful daycare.”
“Oh, I won't get you started on that,” Abrams returned the smile. “Walk with me, I'll take you to your mother. She's in the cafeteria waiting for you.”
As they walked, Judith asked, “Busy work day, doctor?”
“Not particularly,” he sighed. “The problem here isn't being overworked or overwhelmed, it's just getting bored. We can go months without anything happening. I can't help but feel like it'll be a while before we get any excitement around here.”
“A lot of people wish their jobs would be a little less exciting, Paul.”
“Yeah, the grass is always greener,” he chuckled. They stopped in front of the door. “Hey, if you don't mind, I'd like to watch you and your mother talk today. I want to see if she's making any progress.”
“Well, feel free,” she smiled at him again, “it's your asylum, after all.”
“I hate that word,” Abrams said pushing the door to the cafeteria open. The room was empty, save for an old woman sitting at a table alone. There were two meals. One before her and the other for the person sitting across from her. Since Judith visited so often, they gave her lunch for free. “Go ahead, Mrs. Lowell, I'll just stand over here. Pretend I'm not here.”
Judith nodded as she sat across from her mother. She was only in her mid fifties, but looked as though she could be seventy. Such a sad ordeal. The old woman paid no acknowledgment to Judith. Nonetheless, Judith pushed on, “Hey, Mrs. O'Connell, it's me. It's Judy. Do you remember me?”
“Why yes, you're that sweet girl who comes and visits me. I do appreciate it darling, but you are wasting your time on a terrible old woman.”
“Mrs. O'Connell, I'm not wasting my time. You're my mother.”
The old woman smiled, “I know what you're trying to do and it's sweet. I only had one daughter and she was killed by my husband. You can't be my daughter.”
“But mother, I'm right here. I'm alive,” Judith placed her hand on her mother's.
“You do have her eyes,” Mrs. O'Connell studied the younger woman before her. “Those big, green eyes, but I know my daughter is dead.”
“Mom, I was there. Dad was messed up; he was terrible. He did a lot of things he shouldn't have done, but he never killed me.”
Doctor Abrams watched the ensuing pause very carefully. Neither broke the silence as they ate the mystery meat before them. He feared that Mrs. O'Connell had shut herself off so soon. Patients often did so when their illusions of reality were shattered. But, his fears were not yet realized.
“They let me watch The Jetsons last night. I like that show.”
“You've been watching The Jetsons for almost thirty years now, mom, don't you get tired of it?”
“No, I don't.”
“Because, dear, that's the future. It's all going to be better in the future.”
“Mom, The Jestons isn't real. None of that is.”
“Won't you let an old woman believe what she wants to?”
“No, mom, you believe your daughter is dead. You can't just believe things that aren't true. I'm not dead,” she picked at her mashed potatoes with her fork. “I'm right here.”
“I saw your body. You were on your bedroom floor, dead; covered in blood.” Was that a glimmer of a tear in her eye? She turned to Doctor Abrams, “Why are you doing this to me, doctor? Why are you doing these wretched experiments?! Just leave us alone!”
“Calm down mother, we're only trying to help you.”
“There's nothing for you to help.”
“Yes, there is, mom, because I want my mother to know I exist before it's too late.”
“So, get on the telephone and call your mother. I can't help you with that, girl.”
Judith closed her eyes, inhaled, then exhaled very slowly, “Mrs. O'Connell, you are my mother. Don't you remember me? It's me, Judy! Little Judy.”
“Yes, mom, it's me. I'm here!”
The old woman perked up, like something had just clicked, “Judy, I like that name. Just like Judy Jetson!”
Judith laughed to herself as she slumped in her chair, “Is that why you named me Judith?”
“Well, that is why I named my daughter Judith, one reason anyway, but you can ask your mother why she named you. She probably took it from the Bible.”
“Do you read the Bible anymore, mom?”
“Why, yes, we should never forsake our duties to the Lord.”
“Have you read the part about honoring our fathers and mothers?”
“Why, yes, but I don't see how that applies. My mother and father are dead, dear. Long gone.”
“The Bible says we should honor our fathers and mothers. That's why I'm here, Mrs. O'Connell. You are my mother.”
The old woman looked into Judith's eyes very carefully. Judith wondered what she was thinking. She had been coming in for twenty years and nothing like this had ever happened. Perhaps reality would finally break through. Perhaps Judith could be with her mother at last. But it was hopeless, “Dear, I hate telling you this, but I am not your mother. I have only one child and she's been dead for a long time now. I know what you and Doctor Lanning are trying to do, but it's not needed.”
Judith slammed her silverware on the table, “Mom, we're not trying to do anything. I am your daughter, I am Judy! I've grown now. I'm married and you have grandchildren. They would love to meet you, but they can't. They can't because you're so convinced that they don't exist. How can you do that to children?”
Old Mrs. O'Connell cocked her head, “Do these children watch The Jetsons?”
Judith sighed, “No, they don't. I don't like having it on because it reminds me how you care more about that cartoon than your daughter.”
The old woman snapped, “How dare you! My daughter meant the world to me! She was all I had left to love in the world before- before... oh, God, I've killed my husband. And he's killed my daughter...” She sobbed.
Judith grasped her mother's hand, “No, mom, I'm right here! Dad didn't kill me. You saved me. You did it.”
The old woman slumped. Her eyes widened and became vacant. There was nothing there. Her mouth held open as she again lost her grip on the world.
“Mom? Mrs. O'Connell? Mom, what are you-”
Doctor Abrams interrupted, “It's alright, Mrs. Lowell, she'll be fine. Sometimes when our patients are overwhelmed, they simply... shut down.”
Judith stood and approached the doctor, “When will she come around?”
“We don't know, but it's usually just an hour or so. It's good that you've done that though. Keep making her face the truth and perhaps one day, she'll understand it all.”
As they slowly walked back through the halls, they talked, “Doctor, maybe you can tell me, you said there's a reason that mental cases like my mother do the things that they do. Why does she insist on believing I'm dead?”
“We will never know for certain, but I have a theory. Would you like to hear it?”
“I suspect that her subconscious convinces her that you are dead because she wants to protect you.”
“Yes, it sounds odd, but she can be pretty adamant that she would have made a terrible mother after-” He searched for words.
“So, I think she wants to believe you are dead so that you could find a better life. You certainly came out no worse for wear. You have a husband, children-”
“Doctor, that's all fine, but all I've wanted since I was just a little girl is a mother.”
As Judith signed out, Doctor Abrams said to her, “Don't lose hope. You've kept it this long, Judith.”
“Thanks doctor, I'll see you in a couple of days, then.”
He watched as she walked out the doors. A good part of him felt sorry for her, but he also admired her greatly. She had the courage to show up and face her crazed mother week after week. Most people would simply forget about their loved ones after a while. Mrs. Lowell did not. She kept going. Whether that would pay off or not is another question entirely.
Her father was a drunk, you see. After he lost his third job, he started coming home more and more drunk. He would be angrier too. It started with just maybe yelling and a bit of that I could tolerate. Zachary had every right to be angry. He was twice fired for the most ridiculous reasons and shouldn't a good wife be understanding? But then he got violent. He would put words I didn't want my daughter hearing into his ramblings and he would break things. I tried so hard to be understanding, but then he broke my grandmother's china. It was the last thing I had of hers and it was a priceless set! And then he started to hit me. Where was that kind, young man who had promised to love me forever?
He isn't here anymore.
I already had the divorce papers filed when Judy told me. She told me that daddy had... 'touched' her. You know what I mean, right? My husband had- his own daughter! What kind of sick bastard does that?
That's when I did it. When I knew he wasn't around, I took his shotgun from the closet. I kept it hidden where I could get to it easily. I had to wait until the perfect moment. Then I saw him go into our daughter's room. This was it. I took the shotgun and crept in. He didn't see me. I put the barrel to the back of his head and whispered, “Die you sick son of a bitch.”
I was too late though. I'll never forget the sight. There she was, the perfect image of innocence. She was lying on the floor, dead. And it's my fault. If I had acted sooner, she would still be alive. I could take her to the lake again or watch her paint. But no, that... bastard had to kill her. Now I'm the only one left. Now I'm stuck here; stuck here in these soft walls of white....