Elizabeth was born an only child in the suburbs, into what seemed like a normal family, at least to her. Both parents were very attentive in their own ways, both loved to read to her and teach her about the world. She had a nearly unending curiosity, and began showing signs of having an above average intellect when she began speaking months early.
As far back as she could remember, there was a game. The point of the game was when certain things started to happen, the game was starting. Banging of doors, slamming of objects, snapping responses, heavy sighing, voices raising, etc. When that happened, it was time to go to the special room. The special room was a living room furnished into a library, with a bathroom attached. Her grandparents had built it, a beautiful room with large windows, a reading nook, and a patio. The shelves were filled with all kinds of books, children’s books to her grandfather’s medical books. Her parents had even made a little area just for her, filling a container near the window with snacks and drinks, which she was careful to clean up when she ate anything from it. All she knew, was when the game started, she had to go to the room, climb on a chair, and use a sort of puzzle on the door her mother taught her.
Then she had to wait, she could read, watch out the window, do just about anything she wanted inside the room, but not call outside, leave, or open the door until her mother gave a special code word. It could take hours, sometimes even overnight. Her part of the game she didn’t mind, it was her parents part of the game she hated. Raised voices, screaming, arguing, apparently it was part of the game, she had to learn to ignore it.
So she started doing the one thing to distract herself she enjoyed, reading. At first it was only looking at pictures, then she adapted at rapid speed to sounding out and reading words. Her reading became more intensive until she would spend all hours buried in books and reading intensely.
Soon she had read through all of the children’s books and moved into more advanced things. She realized quickly how much she loved her grandfather’s medical books, they were fascinating to her; containing so many complicated pictures and large words with so many meanings. Be it her intellect, or her surroundings, Elizabeth hyper focused. She could spend hours and hours reading, repeating the different things over and over in her mind until she could say them by sight.
It was around the age of four that she realized something was wrong with the game. The loud yelling and shouting had meaning, and it was not good meaning. She began to dread the game, and would bury herself into books to escape the shouting and horrible things being said. None was ever directed at her though, and whenever the game was not going on, both of her parents were nice to each other.
The yelling began to frighten her, she hated it, but it was how the game worked and the rules didn’t change, for stupid adult reasons. Every time the game started, she would wait and pray it would end soon, naming things off in books to block out the raised voices plaguing her ears.
She started pre-school and was lost, she had no idea how to deal with the other children. She had never had friends or playdates. The screaming, shrieking and hitting terrified her. The other children ignored her or pushed her away, they didn’t want to learn what she wanted to share with them. She already knew what the adults were trying to teach her. She had no idea how to make friends, and that was all she wanted. She felt isolated and alone watching the others talk and play, no one wanted to interact with her.
One day she felt so overwhelmed she snuck away. Hiding in the hanging coats in the coat room, she cried and cried. She quieted upon hearing the door open and close, small footsteps followed. A few moments of silence followed, and the coats were tugged back, revealing her hiding spot.
A young girl with dark eyes and dark hair was watching her with a concerned look. “You going to get in twouble.” The other girl said, studying her. “Not supposed ta be in here.” She nodded in response “I know, I just…”
The other girl frowned. “Why you crying? Did Tyler pull your haiwr?” She shook her head no, the other girl got an irritated expression. “You sure? I think Tyler pulled your haiwr. He pulls my pigtails all the time and makes me cry.”
“That’s not nice.”
“Nope. Stupid boy. My bwother stop him if he tries it in the big kid’s room though. Teach him not to pull haiwr. So why you crying?”
Sniffling, she watched the dark haired girl. “I just want to make friends. But I don’t know how to, everyone hates me.”
The girl got a puzzled look and shrugs. “I’ll be your fwiend.” Smiling she crawled into the little area with jackets and hugged her. “See? Fwiends make things better. Want share cookies? Cookies make things better.” She pulled snack bag of chocolate chip cookies out of her jacket pocket and sat down, opening it. They ate the cookies and snuck back into the classroom, the girl even used the excuse that they had gone to the bathroom, so she wouldn’t get in trouble.
She learned the girls name was Maggie. Maggie would become her lifelong best friend, the two nearly inseparable.
Elizabeth was devastated when she found out that the adults wanted to move her to a different grade, meaning Maggie couldn’t go with her. They pinky promised to see each other, Maggie’s mother and her mother seemed to get along very well. She was allowed to go to Maggie’s house after school so they could play. She met Maggie’s parents, her brother who was a few years older than them, and their dog. She rarely saw the brother though, as he was always interested in doing different things.
Adults took her to a room she didn’t like and asked her a bunch of questions. They made her fill out papers and solve puzzles, all while making funny faces. They decided after talking to her parents, that they wanted to put her in first grade and see how she did.
It was interesting for the first two weeks. She had the same problems making friends and ended up melting down several times from being overwhelmed. She had read the whole textbook in a week and was waiting on the other kids to catch up. She wasn’t trying to get in trouble, but she was really bored.
She liked her teacher though, he was called Mr. Kendrick. When she had cried and not known why, he had taken her outside of the classroom and spoken to her in a soothing voice. He had said that sometimes we just feel so many things at once, and that we cry because it’s all our bodies can do to respond, and that was okay. Mr. Kendrick kept an eye on her and tried to give her work to keep her busy, but she always finished it quickly and ran out of things to do.
She tried to stay after for extra help, wanting to spend more time with Mr. Kendrick and away from her home. He was a smart man and he picked up on something being amiss quickly. Some people came to speak with her asking her questions about home, they did not like the sound game her parents played.
They visited her at home and met her parents, they talked about things and her father got angry. There was some yelling and she got scared, which seemed to make him sad. One lady suggested something called anger management therapy. The way she said it, Elizabeth thought, didn’t imply that it was a suggestion. Her father’s reaction surprised her, he didn’t yell or argue, and instead he broke down and cried. Then he agreed that he needed it. Her parents didn’t even argue afterwards, just seemed more in shock.
A few days later school had a meeting, several important looking people sat down and spoke with her parents and her around a table. Mr. Kendrick was there along with some teachers she occasionally saw in the hallways.
She was worried they were in trouble. It turns out they wanted to progress her even more. There was a school that she could do work on her own time, enabling her to not be so ahead. Her new teacher would work independently during the week with her at this school, but depending on her progress with the other school on the computer, she could go at her own pace. He was some kind of specialist. She met her new teach Mr. McMullen who was very nice. He asked special permission from the people there and from her parents to allow him and the other faculty to take her on pre-planned trips to museums and the zoo on some weekends.
This all seemed quite odd, but she was excited about it. She’d seen pictures of these places and wanted very much to see them.
She started classes at the American School of Correspondence while learning with Mr. McMullen.
The fighting got worse at home, she realized all that was said was mean things from her father to her mother. One day she refused to play the game and go to the room. It was terrifying, her father yelling and yelling at her mother and making her cry, calling her all kinds of horrible names.
The arguments only continued getting worse, her father would start yelling and she would find herself jumping in between them, trying to referee. Trying to calm her father, to leave her mother alone, yelling back at him to try to get him to put his attention on her. It never worked right though. That only ever ended it and made him angry, he wouldn’t yell at her. Only her mother. That wasn’t fair.
The weekend trips started, and they ended up being the best thing next to spending time with Maggie.
She started sketching as well, she liked how it calmed her, trying to mimic what she saw. Mr. McMullen was very good at drawing and would help teach her. She was fascinated by everything in the museums.
The zoo was just as amazing. She loved the animals and learning about them. The teacher who would take her also let Maggie come along, making it even better.
She would wear herself out, chasing the otters and the seals back and forth, giggling until she fell over breathless. Something about those places made her feel so free. The teachers were wonderful, always so patient with her and kind. It really helped her to cope with the anger at home.
Her mom did usual things with, bake, paint their nails, go outside for walks, and go to the movies.
Her father had much more eclectic tastes and was determined that she was going to share them if she enjoyed them or not.
He enjoyed the great outdoors and the wilderness. He knew all these things about it how to fish, how to make a house out of sticks, mud, branches and leaves. He knew what food you could eat and what was dangerous. Sometimes she would be frustrated and angry with him. She didn’t care about how to tie rope a whole bunch of ways, but he would insist she do it until she got it right.
He enjoyed going places, and watching people. He would point out small things she never noticed, making her learn them too. How people held themselves, what that meant. If someone was angry or restless, happy, upset. All kinds of things. He always said that the skills were all he could do to help her be okay in the real world. Whatever that meant.
He was also the one who began to teach her how to fire guns. She didn’t like the noise they made at first, but with coaxing and a lot of ice cream afterwards as a reward, she started to be okay with it. He made sure she understood the importance of safety with them. He taught her some archery too, which she enjoyed. She found her mind silencing and almost in a blissful state while shooting. The world melted away, her worries melted away, only what was happening was what mattered. It reminded her of her books.
School was difficult, she couldn’t stand people being mean to others, and would get in between people, even if they were bigger than her. This ended up with her going to the principal’s office several times, being beaten black and blue. She just couldn’t stand doing nothing. It reminded her too much of being home. It hurt too much watching someone have the fear she knew all too well.
Maggie’s parents decided to put them both in a martial arts class a few days a week. This helped build her confidence and ability to defend herself. She still got knocked on her ass all the time, but she wasn’t getting knocked down as much as before. Usually knocking the other person down too. Once that happened, they usually wouldn’t do it again. But there always seemed to be someone to take their place. She continued her classes and visits, taking in as much as she could. She couldn’t figure why people thought it was so strange, she just loved to read. Learning fascinated her. It was the only way she knew how to cope with the problems at home.
Maggie and her family, even the brother she almost never saw, became a large part of her world. Maggie’s parents were shocked when they started disagreeing and Elizabeth found herself hiding in the laundry room. Maggie talked to them alone for a few moments and they brought her back out to sit on the couch. Then they did the oddest thing, they spoke, they disagreed, but neither one raised their voice or slammed anything. They spoke calmly and like normal, going over their schedules and figuring out that Maggie’s dad could pick her up from their martial arts classes on Wednesday if her mom could on Friday. They explained that this was how people normally argued, and did a lot of it when she was around. They were never even mad afterward, they would hug and kiss and tease each other.
Her teachers had friends who would allow her to listen to their college lectures. She liked that a lot. After several years, she was told that via her classes with the American School of Correspondence, she was graduating high school. She was 11.
This left everyone perplexed at what she was supposed to do. The next step was college but you never did that until you were years older than she was. Yet somehow there she was, ready for it. She ended up getting a scholarship to Harvard Medical School. Which she couldn’t believe she was even accepted when getting her letter. Everything was happening so fast, and it all felt so strange. Plus, it was far away. She was in Virginia, it was states away. Her mother told her to not let something like distance allow her to not do it if it made her happy. She decided to give it a shot.