Page 6 - Provocation
P. 6

simply follow the medical guidelines. Breathe now, medicate now, rest now. No strenuous sport
today: here’s a note from my doctor.

Oh dear, another one?

Banished to pace around the oval each sweltering day, alone.

As the days and years passed, that level of control had stiffened the flow of her thoughts, made
her mind rigid somehow. Dependent on the routine. So when her teenage years hit and the panic
attacks started, she’d used the only power she had at hand—her singular focus, her capacity for
the steadfast application of a unique set of rules—to find a way out of the wilds of her misery.
She shed her Hitchcock silhouette. She stopped her period, cold. Yet so gradual was her
transformation, so subtle and cunning were her middle-child ways, that it was nearly three years
before anyone noticed. Noticed that the dark receding tide of her fate was killing her.

That was then. Now she lived a normal life, a happy life. She was a miracle.

But.

When she felt stressed, when she got frightened, she could feel the deep water lap at the edges
of her mind.

Three slow breaths, stay in the moment, no need to control it. She fingered the smooth plastic
button nestled under her shirt, the medical alert button her mother made her wear, the price she
paid for her freedom to live away from home. It was hard to feel grown up when, at twenty-one,
she was slight enough to shop in the girls’ section.

She just needed a safe place to sit, and be away from the world. Just for a little while. So she
picked up a discarded, flattened cardboard box and quietly stepped behind the wheelie bins,
hugging the wall. She slunk into the bay, big enough to park six cars, a tiny cove compared to the
cavernous dock. A few more steps and she was out of Lance’s view. Ten silent steps, then ten
more, and she was in the corner of the chamber, and not even security cameras could see her
there.

Bit by bit, visit by visit, with innocent questions and shrewd eyes, Maddi had pieced together a
complete mental map of the security vision for the entire dock. There were half a dozen blind
spots. She liked this one the best, not for where it was—a bare corner in an often-busy bay—but
for where it led.

She ducked through the gap at the bottom of the roller door forming the rear wall of the bay.
Probably the maintenance staff were meant to close this tight, after they hauled the storage
pallets from the gallery dock to this darkened chamber, but the rightside runner was claggy with
putrid rust at about knee height. They usually gave up wrestling the door closed at that point.

She gently frisbeed the cardboard onto the floor beneath the door then lay on it, sliding under
and up, fluid as a charmed snake. Rubbed her palms against her clothes, from clavicles down to
knees. Her shoulder blades slid down her back, just a fraction. She loved this dual-access space, a
   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11