“Damaged Youth” by J. Burnickas

Original fiction written in CW 205:  Introduction to Creative Writing with Dr. Carlos Dews — Spring Semester 2010


“Damaged Youth”

My name is Olivia.  At fourteen years old I was taken out of school and tutored at home until halfway through my fifteenth year.  Then, not long before Christmas my father had sent me to a private boarding facility outside of town.  I felt things normal children just didn’t seem to understand.  And I chose to express those feelings though the words I left in my journal. I never shared much of myself outside of that leather binding. I had better luck with books than I did with people.

My favorite stories were the Shakespearean tragedies.  On my better days I felt like Cleopatra. On my not so good days I would say I was more or less Ophelia. Acting as such drove other children and eventually other adults away.  Even in my new residence I found myself alone more often than not.  I had a roommate but we didn’t particularly get along.  She talked too much or maybe I cared too little.

I grew so accustomed to being alone that the only time I saw people was when it was required of me.  Every now and then I took comfort in a decently sized conversation with Dr. Woodhouse.  Dr. Woodhouse worked in the residence.  Our conversations always remained shallow; I never liked to share much personal information.  One day when I was in a rather upbeat mood Dr. Woodhouse decided to push her luck.

She tried to get me to open up; she thought it would be good for me and encourage me to make friends.  She questioned me about my home life, about my past, and about what happened last November.  She asked me why I thought I was taken out of school, why I wanted my mother gone, and why I thought my father never visited. I became frustrated with all the questioning and eventually shut down when I decided I heard the word “why” too many times.  I hated that word.  I felt it was unfair to continually be asked “Why?”  Not everything needed a reason; some things just needed to happen.

After that day I stayed in my room.  I fell asleep on Thursday and didn’t wake up again until Sunday morning.  At least I did not remember Friday or Saturday but when I showered on Sunday I found bruises all over my body.  I counted twenty four in total but I had no idea where they came from.  There were four on each arm, two on each side of my torso and six on each leg.  The only way I made sense of the bruises was I must have tossed and turned a lot in my sleep.  I knew when I got upset about something it caused me to thrash in my sleep.  It was my unconscious way of releasing aggression.

In my spare time I would write, typically letters to my father begging him to bring me back home.  He never responded.  I would complain about the pills I was told to take every morning and how I much preferred the vitamins at home, these made me feel different, not myself.  I would tell him about how I wished for my birthday he would send me some of my things from home. I especially missed my journal. I even told him about my new found hatred for my once companion Dr. Woodhouse.  Nothing sparked a response from him.

Six months into my stay it was late May and nearing my birthday.  Although I preferred being detached from people, I had always been taught that no one should be alone on their birthday.  So I set out to make a new friend.

His name was Charlie.  He was another staff member, a handyman of sorts.  Charlie was tall and young, just a few years older than me, with a triangular torso and a ‘Tic Tac’ head.  He was that kind of boy.  My father would call him a Republican, I called him my friend.  We both had lost a mother.  I felt by befriending the staff, I could develop some stability in my life.  The staff won’t leave me. I didn’t want to lose him, unlike Dr. Woodhouse.  I told him everything. All my secrets and hidden desires poured out of me on our third and last afternoon together.  Charlie never worked weekends, on the Monday following our last afternoon together Charlie didn’t show up to work.  I think I scared him away.  Maybe my Juliet came off a bit too Desdemona.

That Tuesday, I was switched to a new building.  This time I received my own room; no sharing with another girl.  At first I was confused but as time wore on I realized Charlie must have said something that it so I couldn’t see him anymore. That was when the anger began to grow inside of me.  I was done making friends.  I was done trying to be social.  I just didn’t understand how to keep friends.  I didn’t tell Dr. Woodhouse enough and apparently I told Charlie too much.  Making friends is easy, keeping them is not.

Come my birthday I received a package from my father, a box of delicately wrapped chocolate turtles.  I was elated to know he still cared and that no matter how busy his job kept him he still had time to acknowledge his only daughter.  Although I was a bit confused because he hadn’t bought me turtles since I was twelve; they were my favorite until I develop a nut allergy and spent the better part of a month recovering from an intense reaction.  I wrote him one last letter thanking him and questioning his gift because he knew better.

Finally, a letter came from my father.  It was very brief and read:

“Olivia, I can never forgive you for what you did to her. I had the maid toss out your belongings. I want no memory of you. I sent you the chocolates as the last gift from me to you, the last contact from me to you. Do with them what you will.”

I came to realize I was to him as Cordelia was to King Lear.

After reading his note, I needed to think.  I asked to spend the afternoon outside.  My request was declined on account of weather.  I became infuriated; I knew I was being lied to.  The weather was flawless.  I could see from my window that the sun was out and shining and there was not a cloud to be found.  I threw a fit.  I was done with people avoiding me, done with being isolated, done with being here.  I yelled at the top of my lungs everything I had kept inside.  I didn’t stop until I had exhausted myself and cried myself to sleep.

When I awoke I was dressed in a brand new jacket.  It was pretty fashion forward but not very functional.  I assumed it was a birthday present from Dr. Woodhouse as she had tried many times to reconnect with me.  I would have none of that.  I ended the night struggling with a short bit of writing that left me breathless and exhausted.


The next day the Nurse went to check in on Olivia.  Only to find her limp body sprawled on the floor next to the ripped box of birthday chocolate wrappings and just a few feet away a note pinned with a ballpoint pen to the padded walls that read:

“My mother never loved me.  So I disposed of her.  Now no one loves me.  So I’ll dispose of myself.

Lady Macbeth”

— written by Jillian Burnickas



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