A harvest moon had arisen above the bleak Victorian style brick fortress that was Pleasant Valley Academy. The chill wind moaned softly through the stunted pines that formed a protective barrier shielding the institution from the view of the occasional passing motorist. The air was crisp and faintly tinged with the damp mustiness of the surrounding wetlands. Up on the fourth floor Ward D, however, none of this was apparent. The hot, stale air was suffused with the smell of disinfectant and human body odors. The bare light bulbs encased in metal cages cast a bright glare upon the peeling institutional green paint on walls and ceiling and the faded, cracked linoleum on the floor.
The ward was finally quiet after a typical day of wailing, yelling, screaming girls going about the business of survival in a world that had lost all color and meaning. Twenty eight inmates had been put to rest for the night, but creeping in the shadows of the alcove at the end of the ward was a solitary girl, so small and unobtrusive that she often went unnoticed by staff and fellow inmate alike. She waited, motionless as a cat poised to spring upon its prey.
Tonight being laundry night, a large cart heaped with dirty linens was being pushed along the hall toward the exit by a stocky black woman wearing a crisp white uniform.
A bit about myself. My name's Angel Santana, I'm fourteen, but I don't look it. I'm small for my age, barely a hundred pounds, underdeveloped and unattractive. That's why I really hate looking in mirrors. But most consider her pretty, in a dark sort of way. Dark skin like burnished copper, chestnut brown hair and dark brown eyes too big for her face, but none of us are perfect. Until two years ago, I lived with my mother in a trailer park. Her name's Julie and she's alone because my Dad abused her, though funny thing is, I don't remember that part. Anyway, she finally got up the nerve to leave himd, taking me with her, and she set up shop as a fortune teller. Much of the time, though, she just lay in her room with the curtains drawn, doing nothing. That's when she was depressed, which was much of the time, but other times she'd be almost bouncing off the walls. I never knew what to expect from one day to the next, which made life kind of interesting.
I can't remember when Selena first came. I think I must have been four or five. I remember going off to hide, up in a tree or something, where no one could see me. I just need to be alone most of the time, I always have. I get stressed out when I'm around people. Anyway, I would slowly turn myself inside out, at least that's what it seems like to me and I don't have any other way of expressing it. That's when she started coming to me. Later, she came more often, and now she's with me most of the time.
When you're a little girl and have an imaginary friend, people think it's cute. When you're nine or ten, they start looking at you funny, especially when you go around talking to someone no one else can see.