"Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them."
Eyes downcast, the rocking figure in the corner quieted upon feeling another presence.
The padded door swung open with a soft thud, washing the white room with more blinding light. The woman standing just beyond the doorway turned back to quietly whisper to the tall, balky man beside her. With a stiff nod, the man exited, closing the door behind himself.
Alone with the new presence, the shaking body uncurled enough to stretch an aching leg but kept her eyes on the pillowed floor.
The woman stood against the door, leaning back into the softness as she read over her notes. Thoughts confirmed, she looked across to the hunched figure in the corner, who by now had started to mutter softly under her breath.
The woman, dressed in a white coat, cleared her throat in hopes that the small sound would dispel any threat the figure might be sensing. The muttering stopped and with a satisfied smile, the white clad woman stepped further away from the door, cautious of her movements.
"Hello," she spoke as she drew closer, "I'm..."
"Shhh," the figure loudly interrupted any further words. "Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them." The crouched body resumed rocking and pressed her head into the padded wall in hopes of meshing with the scratchy fabric. "Mocking me." The voice continued, lessening in intensity as the chant lowered to a whisper.
Startled by interruption, the woman stopped a few inches from the door and looked back through the thick glass cut into the door. Seeing the tall man who had accompanied her, a brief feeling of relief washed over her. After all, it was her first real assignment and although she had gone against her mentor's advice, she chose this specific patient for her first analysis. It wouldn't look good on her report if she were attacked on her first day on the job. Not only would it not help the patient, but it would be a damper on her own position and show her failure to communicate with her subject.
"There are no Angels here." The words left her mouth before she knew it. She paused when the shaking head stopped and turned in her direction.
"Devils?" The figure asked, refusing to meet the eyes that were now fixed on her.
"No. No Devils." The woman said, deciding to stay within the patients chain of thought.
"Mocking me." The words were nearly screamed. "Mocking me." The angered voice echoed against the thick walls. Rebounding back into a dreamy state of mind, the figure once again turned away from the woman.
Giving a frustrated sigh, the woman ran fingers through her hair, snagging when she reached the French bun.
"Everything okay in here, ma'am?" When had the door opened? The orderly stood in the doorway, hand on his plastic baton.
"Yes... yes, it's fine. I'm fine." The last words were more to convince herself. Questioning eyes glanced back into the corner, where the figure disappeared back into herself. "Anything else?" She looked over her shoulder, curious to know why the man hadn't left yet and why he was staring at her patient.
"Oh, huh," his eyes quickly darted from the hunched woman. "You have a visitor."
"Who?" None of her colleagues knew she was here. What if...
"He wouldn't give me his name, ma'am." Looking guilty, the orderly shifted from foot to foot, eager to be out of the presence of both women.
Sighing once more, the woman cast a final glance to the patient and followed the nervous man down the hall.
At once, she recognized the gentleman sitting cross-legged at the large desk and prepared to look as less hostile as possible.
"What in God's name do you think you are doing?" Setting aside his formalities, the older man's eyes narrowed as he regarded his protege. He held up his hand before she could answer. "This is not your own playground and you are not to experiment. These patients have real problems and are in desperate need of real treatment. You are an amateur to the field, and I will not have you overstepping my authority. I specifically told you to stay away from Pines View, and yet here you are. Parading as if you were Freud."
"No." Gathering his briefcase, he stood, looming disapprovingly over the shorter doctor. "That young girl is fragile, she does not need you playing mind games with her."
"Isn't that what we are supposed to do?" She retorted, unable to control her rising temper.
Choosing to ignore her outburst, he moved toward the door. "Get your things. We're leaving."
"Giles, I think I can help her." The pleading tone of her voice made the older man pause at the open door. "Just give me a chance. Please." Her mentor's back remained toward her, but she was glad that he stopped, possibly to consider her plea.
"Doctor Rosenberg, this is not a game," Rupert Giles' tone softened. "You are not ready. Now put on your coat, it's chilly outside." He silently admonished the fatherly tone he took. Willow Rosenberg was his best student, and in some way, like a daughter to him.
Disgruntled, Willow snatched her coat from the rack and stormed through the door. Unaware to Giles, the young doctor had already slipped a copy of the patient's file between a stack of papers in her shoulder bag.
Saddened eyes watched her go. If there was anything Rupert Giles was sure about, it was that Willow Rosenberg never gave in easily. He would have to make it clear to both the hospital and his student that she would not be allowed back into Pines View. Softly, he stepped into the hall and closed the door behind himself.
Willow impatiently argued with the young woman who stood behind a glass window. It was protocol to turn in ones identification card when visiting the hospital, and the young officer was clearly nervous as she tried to find the doctor's form.
Giles unfastened his temporary badge and stepped to the window opposite Willow's. It didn't help Dr. Rosenberg's mood that he received his card before she did.
"Willow, I," Giles paused, regarding the woman with a mixture of sorrow and unrelenting professionalism.
"Don't, okay. You don't want me to come. I won't come. There, it's settled." She retrieved her card and hurried through the security door.
A pair of eyes watched them go through a thick sheet of glass.
Enduring the ache in her tiptoes, the patient's curious gaze continued watching until both people had completely disappeared.
"Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them." Her breath fogged up the glass. An orderly tapped his baton on the glass and the figure shrank back, scurrying quickly to the corner. Rocking steadily, the young woman continued her mantra. They were the only words anybody who has ever visited her heard. The muttering resumed as she drew back into herself.
Willow sped home, cursing under her breath. Amateur. Well how was she supposed to move up in her field if she was never given the opportunity. She shifted her automobile into another gear and passed several cars trying to turn. The sour pressure of tears built up and she resisted the urge to cry in frustration.
Parked and fuming, Dr. Rosenberg walked briskly up the path until she reached the appropriate door. Unlocking the door with her key, Willow swung the door open and slammed it shut once she'd entered.
Robin Hawthorne carefully regarded her roommate from her position on the dark velvet couch in the living room. The woman's red hair was neatly packed into a bun and at 5'4 and (she didn't want to guess her friend's weight for fear that Willow would read her mind and throttle her) slim, Willow Rosenberg was beautiful. However, at the moment, her usually dark green eyes were ablaze, signaling for Robin to proceed with caution.
"So I guess it didn't go well," she watched for flying objects.
"Did you tell him?" The accusation caught Robin off-guard. She had known Willow since childhood and seldom had she ever seen her so upset.
Robin's black hair swung wildly as she shook her head "no."
"Then how else would he have known? I sure as hell didn't mention it. And you were the only other person that knew I was going there."
"Well you are sort of predicable, maybe he already knew you would try it." Robin gave the best explanation that came to mind.
Willow frowned but couldn't argue the statement. "I just don't understand it. Why doesn't he want me there? I've had internships at three different hospitals in this city, and still I can't go to Pines View. I'm a grown woman and I'm listening to him like I'm asking permission to go to the local sock-hop."
"Why don't you go back to one of the other hospitals? My cousin, you remember Anya, right? Well, she works over at Riverside, and she told me that they get new patients every day. Although some of them are still on the wait-list, you'll be able to have your pick of fresh loonies." Not seeing any change in Willow's demeanor and seeing the evil squint she often got, Robin backpedaled. "Kidding. Only kidding."
"I don't want to go anywhere else. And besides, your cousin shouldn't be on the payroll, she should be on that waiting-list." Willow allowed herself a small smile.
"However true that may be, it is still a job, Willow. What's so special about this place anyway?"
"I... I know I can make a difference, that's all." Aware of how naive she sounded, the redhead finally took a seat across from her roommate. Dr. Rosenberg thought quietly, frowning ever so often before her face relaxed.
"You're going back, aren't you?" Even without her skills as a rookie Prosecutor, Robin was able to read the other woman's expression. Willow had the decency to look somewhat guilty. "See, predictable." Raising her once forgotten beer to her lips, she smiled before taking a sip. "How do you plan on getting past Giles?"
"Easy, I'll just wait it out for a few days. Give him time to think I've learned my lesson, and also give the hospital some time to forget that my name's on the restriction sheet, and then I make my move." Willow nodded in triumph.
"You sound as if you're going to rob the place." Robin finished her beverage with a couple of swallows. Watching her friend, her tone grew a little more serious. "Just be careful, okay? Don't do anything rash, and please... please, don't get in over your head. I know, I know," she stopped her roommate from speaking, "humor me, okay. If it gets so that you can't handle it, back out. No one will think less of you, especially me. You're allowed to be wrong, Willow. Remember that."
After a moment to consider the words, the redhead nodded.
"Now, go plan your heist and let me get back to my story." The dark-haired woman grabbed the remote.
"I can't believe you still record those silly shows," Willow shook her head when Robin merely grunted, already too engrossed in the never-ending plot of her favorite daytime show.
Once in her room, Willow opened the balcony window and breathed in the familiar scent of Seattle rain and trees before stepping away and closing the window. The redhead was pondering the idea of a shower, a quick dinner and sleep when she suddenly remembered the file in her bag.
Retrieving the worn folder, the doctor kicked her shoes off and comfortably settled onto her bed. A collection of different photos fell into her lap once she opened the file. Some were obviously taken years ago and others were more recent, but they all contained the same face. Unsmiling or smiling, the features hardly changed although the subject's age had.
Dr. Rosenberg spent the remainder of the night reading and taking notes before sleep overcame her. Her mind was filled with every incident and detail of the patient's life for the past eight years. She would do it. She would do it because she had something to prove, not only to Giles and her colleagues but to herself as well.
Days passed both slowly and quickly, and Willow Rosenberg found herself standing outside the gates to the Pines View Psychiatric Hospital. Slipping on her white medical coat and checking her appearance in the window's reflection, the doctor confidently entered the building.
With graceful steps, she arrived at the security checkpoint, looking as if she not only belonged but could get any one of the officers fired with a quick word. Only after she had received her badge and was out of the officers' earshot, did she let her facade drop. The orderly beside her didn't show any signs that he noticed the change, and continued leading her down the corridor.
"Right this way, Doctor." He gestured toward the door at the very end of the hall. "She's been behaving well today. No sudden outburst, just sits in her corner. I think she's getting better." The orderly realized that he was giving a doctor his unprofessional opinion and awkwardly unlocked the door.
Willow disregarded the man's blunder and stepped within the room. "I'll call when I'm finished." Her tone wasn't strict, but dismissing. As a Doctor's should be, or so she had been taught. Unlike last week when she had heard the quiet voice whispering in the corner, the room was silent other than the soft rustle of shifting cotton against the padded wall.
"Hello, Ms. Maclay. I'm Dr. Rosenberg." The redhead rushed out, deciding to proceed differently, and not wanting to be interrupted again. Absentmindedly, she wished that she had used the woman's first name to make the visit more personal, but shook off the inner reproach. Moving away from the door, more specifically the glass window, Willow hesitated. She didn't want to move closer and startle the young woman who had clearly sunk deeper into the wall, but she did not want to leave herself open to be viewed as the inexperienced doctor she was.
"How are you today?" She probed for a response. Any response that would tell Willow she wasn't wasting her time. A quick glance over her notes told the doctor how Tara Maclay had been every day for the past eight years, but Willow wanted to hear her patient speak. Even a simple "screw you" (which she received more than enough of as an intern) would be better than silence. But the silence reminded Willow of her reason for being there.
Stepping to her right, to the corner opposite the unresponsive figure, Dr. Rosenberg crouched down until she, too, was sitting on the padded floor. Legs folded over each other in a casual position, the redhead looked over to the young woman.
"Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them." The soft muttering began and Tara squeezed deeper into the padding.
"Tell me about the Angels, Tara." Willow chose a topic that she thought would interest the blonde-haired form curved into the corner.
Tara stopped rocking and half faced the doctor, but her eyes remained unseen as the curtain of blonde hair covered the front of her face.
"Are the Angels here, Tara? Can you hear them?" Leaning a little closer, Willow gently inquired. She watched as Tara's mouth opened, her lip quivering, but saying nothing. "Can you see them, Tara?"
"Devils!" The blonde growled, making Willow jump.
Controlling her rapid heartbeat, Willow gripped her clipboard in frustration. Patience. You're allowed to be wrong, Willow. Her friend's voice echoed in her mind. What if she had been wrong and Giles had been right all along? She leaned her head back, eyes cast toward the bright lights of the ceiling.
Taking a steady breath, the doctor seemed to temporarily banish her inner turmoil. After twenty-minutes of unanswered questions and repeated outbursts, the redheaded doctor ended the session. Hopelessly, she gathered what little belongings she'd brought and called for the orderly.
Willow's boots clacked against the hard, shiny floor of the hallway. What was she doing wrong? Dazed, she studied the white tile. Maybe she had only been fooling herself to believe she could make a difference. Fresh out of grad-school and bordering on her twenty-ninth birthday, she expected to have achieved more. Sure there was always less fortunate people, but Willow Rosenberg had never failed at anything. Overachiever for years, she looked forward to a challenge. So why was this assignment wearing so much on her self-esteem?
Past the security checkpoint and outside the doors before she let go of her daydream, Willow lowered herself on the curb. With her arms thrown over her knees, the doctor sat and watched people walk by. The outpatients and well-behaved patients were easily recognizable, clad in their usual white and accompanied by a nurse or orderly.
Doctors, nurses, and security officers stood near the front door smoking cigarettes and chatting about their lives or lack there of.
A male patient swayed by and dropped the miniature foam football he was holding. The toy rolled, hitting Willow's foot before stopping in front of her dark boot. Distraught, the older man began to wail, squeezing his empty fingers together like a child asking for a bottle.
Hurriedly, Willow grabbed the football and handed it back to the man, immediately silencing his cries. She gave him a friendly smile as he cradled the toy in his arms. "There ya go. All better."
"Too loud. Too loud." He pressed a finger to his lips and shushed her. The nurse beside him began ushering him down the sidewalk, but the man had yet to remove his finger.
Willow frowned and watched them go. Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them. The now familiar words rang in her mind. Carefully pondering the phrase, an idea came to mind. She glanced at her watch, confirming that visitor hours would be over soon. Grabbing her belongings and sprinting toward her car, the redhead's brain went into overdrive.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow, she would start over.