chapter nineteen: back
an excerpt
from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick

Though she usually lets Rudy do it, Amandine introduces herself to this nurse who will explain things—a bit strange, Amandine thinks, something a bit strange about this nurse Nae. She’s genteel, though the edge comes up quicker, nervous—this woman she is meeting, Nae Williams, the head of the rehabilitation program, seems familiar to her and irks her in the way someone who seems to see through you before you even have spoken with them can irk.

“So we’ve really enjoyed your daughter. She’s made great progress with us.”

“Let’s get down to business,” Rudy says. “What kind of program are you running here?”

“Well, it’s a holistic program, for our more high-functioning patients. We stress life-skills as well as body-mind awareness.”

“Yoga? Chanting?” Rudy says.

“Well, some of that.”

Cult, Rudy is thinking, definite cult. He nods grimly and frowns. Look at this woman, he thinks, the faraway look to her and that smile that keeps coming up. Brainwashed. Here in a hospital!

“Also, there’s a rather intense physical detoxification and massage element, it goes along with working in the vegetable garden out back and preparing meals—a hard work component has been crucial to our successes.”


Yoga? Amandine is thinking. Yoga? To Amandine, that word is synonymous with idol with adultery with pagan with Hell’s Angel.

The idolaters are going to burn up both her girls!

“I’m a bit concerned, I have to say, because Exene—Racinda, excuse me—still clearly needs a bit of time with us, but since she isn’t actually a minor as she has been telling us, the funding to keep her here isn’t going to remain available indefinitely.”

“Lady, this is verging on mind control, and we’re pulling her out as soon as you tell us where she is in here!” Rudy says.

Amandine nods determinedly.

“You know what, sir?”

Rudy feels a tinge bad—seeing a woman back away from him, seeing a nurse—even one he thinks is so misguided—shrink from him not in fear, exactly, but close enough, shames him adequately that he softens his features, becomes willing to negotiate.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry if I got overdramatic there.”

“Well, no problem. You know, though, that as she is legally an adult you have no say as to whether or not she stays or goes. She gets to choose herself whether she wants to stay as long as the funding lasts.”

Amandine waits until the last minute then grabs a tissue from the box on the desk to keep the snot from running down onto her lip. She dabs daintily at the tears first. Yoga? She thinks, and sees her baby with six arms, shaking her belly like “I Dream Of Jeannie,” skin blue like the cartoon-looking goddess at the Indian grocery across the street from the church. Blue skin charred black, peeling off bone in a pyre.


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