It had been five years since Elaine Simmons had been admitted into Bellevue Memorial psychiatric hospital. She sat there now in the living area as other non-violent patients were allowed to walk around freely. Elaine hadn’t made much progress in her rehabilitation here at the hospital. She was court ordered to be admitted here, after the incident at the ‘Smiles for Awhile’ daycare center drove her clinical insane.
Six years ago, Elaine was a functioning academic professional and business owner. The “Smiles for a while” daycare center that she owned was quite well-known and successful throughout all of Sussex county. Parents from all different towns felt comfortable in dropping off their children at a place that was safe, affordable and convenient. Elaine herself was a parent of a twenty-seven year old daughter, Lisa, who also worked at the center. The interior rooms of the center were decorated in bright, joyous colors of yellows and pastel blues. When you walked into the front foyer, (after being cleared by the staff via close-circuit cameras) a large painting of a flourishing green tree welcomed you. The Words, “It’s time to smile! Won’t you stay with us for a while?” were written on the tree’s bark. For 11 years, Elaine took in infants from six months old up to children aged six into a place of pure joy and imagination. Former students (now Teenagers) would often come back to visit, reminiscing about the very special time they had there. Elaine and her daycare center had made a genuinely positive impact on the lives of many people for years to come.
Then, the babies disappeared.
It was a typical busy Thursday in April when it happened. The nursery room that watched the babies had five infants being cared for that day by long time employee, Mrs. Rosemarie Jameson. She was a registered Nurse with a master’s degree in child psychology. Elaine had hired Rosemarie as her first employee when she initially opened the school simply based on her work experience and bubbly personality. For years, Rosemarie received nothing but praise and respect from parents for the level of care that she had joyfully given all their children under the age of eight months.
One spring morning, Rosemarie left the room to go get more diapers from the adjoining supply room. In multiple accounts and sworn testimonies from Rosemarie before she committed suicide, she had stated that she literally left the room for less than ten minutes. When she returned back with an arm full of diapers, all five cribs were now empty and all the infants had vanished.
It didn’t take long for Elaine Simmons’s world to completely unravel after the news became public. Every possible explanation had been researched, from the criminal to the spiritual. Mountains of forensic evidence were collected. There had been hours of interrogating anyone associated with the daycare center or the infants themselves. It had become a nationwide internet phenomenon that baffled everyone.
The parents of the missing infants were never the same. After many of them destroyed Elaine financially through legal means, some also acted upon their unanswered pleas for justice. Elaine’s house and car had been vandalized multiple times. She was an outcast in all the towns that had kids in her daycare center, which was now closed by the state. Lisa, her daughter went missing and had been rumored to be living somewhere else under an assumed name.
The babies were never found.
Today, Elaine sits staring out past the barred window into the hospital’s open yard. A stream of drool drips down out of her mouth and into her lap. Her memories are now deluded by various types of psychotropic drugs. Occasionally, she recalls a place…a place where…. “You could smile for just awhile”.
Inspired by The Haunted Wordsmith’s Genre-writing prompt #115