All right folks, here we are. The end is nigh, and oh what an end it is!
In the weeks following the car accident, Pierre is in a bad state (understandably) and he spends most of his time locked up in Jean’s room. Daphne has turned her bitch up to eleven, criticizing Ruby at every opportunity and Gisselle is using her knowledge of the voodoo curse to get Ruby to do her bidding and spill the details of her relationship with Beau. See Ruby? This is why we keep secrets. Speaking of Mr. Andreas,
Beau is forbidden to speak to Ruby, and Gisselle is extremely delighted about this. One day after a fight with Gisselle, Ruby is crying in her room when she is visited by Daphne. Turns out that the coming Saturday is Uncle Jean’s birthday, and as Pierre is in no state to go and visit him, Daphne wants Ruby to come with her, as it’s the least she can do, being such a terrible stepdaughter and all. Ruby is naturally very excited, as she’s wanted to visit him for some time. Daphne warns her not to tell Pierre, as it’ll just make him feel guilty. Ruby promises not to mention it, though she does tell her sister. Gisselle is surprised, but figures that if anyone could remember little things like their uncle’s birthday, it would be Daphne. Gisselle is glad that Daphne didn’t ask her to go, as she hates the institution and thinks it’s all pointless since Jean is so out of it.
On Saturday, Ruby gets extra dressed up and bounds down to breakfast, where she is disappointed to see that Pierre isn’t at the table. Daphne explains that Pierre has remembered that it’s Jean’s birthday and it’s put him into one of his states. Daphne and Ruby head to the institution, which is about twenty miles outside of the city. Along the way, Ruby tries to ask Daphne about Jean’s condition, but Daphne just tells her to ask the doctors, something that Ruby finds odd. The hospital is very pretty from the road, but as they get closer, Ruby can see the bars on the windows and feels a sense of foreboding.
Once they get inside, Daphne introduces herself and Ruby to the doctors and Ruby gets the feeling that everyone is staring at her. They go in to see Dr. Cheryl, the head of the hospital, who asks Ruby lots of questions and tells her that he hopes she’ll be comfortable there, and asks to take her on a tour, while Daphne stays in his office. Ruby thinks that this is all a little peculiar, but she agrees to go on the tour. On the tour, Dr. Cheryl keeps showing things like the art room to Ruby and waiting to hear her opinions of them. Ruby keeps asking about Jean, but is put off each time. Finally, the tour ends with Dr. Cheryl introducing her to a nurse, and Ruby finally realizes that Daphne has just had her committed. Snap! Officially, Dr. Cheryl says, Ruby is just in for an evaluation, but she’s not allowed to leave or call anyone—since she’s a minor, Daphne is legally allowed to do this, and Ruby needs to cooperate.
And what is Daphne’s reasoning behind this (at least the one she’s telling the doctors), you might ask? See, according to Daphne, Ruby has trouble controlling her impulses around the opposite sex, a nymphomaniac is the scientific term, Dr. Cheryl helpfully tells us.
Rather than pointing out that having sex one time with one’s boyfriend does not a nymphomaniac make, Ruby chooses to instead tell the doctor that Daphne isn’t her real mother, and that this is all a plot against her. Yes, that will help your situation, Ruby. She’s left in her room until her first appointment with Dr. Cheryl. She thinks grimly that maybe Nina should have gotten one of Daphne’s hair ribbons to put in the snake box instead of Gisselle’s. At the appointment, Dr. Cheryl makes her look at ink blots and shows her a form that Pierre ostensibly signed giving his permission to keep Ruby at the hospital. Ruby insists that it must be forged, but, not surprisingly, Dr. Cheryl doesn’t believe her and just sends her down to the art room for craft time.
In the art room, Ruby meets a young man named Lyle who strikes up a conversation with her about what her “problems” are. Ruby tells him that she’s apparently a nymphomaniac, and that she’s being held there against her will. Lyle takes it all in stride, and explains that he’s been in the institution since he was a child, and that his problem is “immobility”—he can’t make even simple decisions. When it’s craft time, he just sits and waits for it to be over, he can’t choose anything to do, when it’s lunchtime, he eats whatever he’s handed. He recognizes Ruby’s last name, as he knows Jean, and he promises to introduce Ruby at lunch. He also mentions that he can help Ruby to break out of the hospital. He’s always known a way, he just can’t ever decide to use it. The bell rings for lunch, and the patients head down.
At lunch, Lyle and Ruby sit with Jean, and Ruby decides that the best plan of action when dealing with a mentally damaged man who can’t handle change is to immediately tell him her entire life story, up to and including the fact that Daphne hates her and just had her committed. Shockingly, Jean doesn’t react well. He seemed to be okay at first, and even liked part of the story, but as soon as Ruby gets to the end and mentions her father, Jean freaks out, and has to be taken forcibly back to his room by the orderlies, all the while yelling the word “jib”.
Lyle tries to tell Ruby that Jean’s outburst wasn’t her fault, but let’s all just accept that it was and move on. After lunch, Ruby and Lyle go outside and Lyle explains how to get out of the hospital–an window in the laundry room that’s never locked. Ruby tries to get Lyle to come with her, but he can’t bring himself to do it, so he gives her some money and directions, boosts her out the window, and Ruby flees. We will never hear about Lyle ever again.
Ruby gets a bus back to New Orleans, and when she gets home Daphne is waiting for her, having been called by Dr. Cheryl. Ruby accuses Daphne of being jealous of her, of the love that Pierre has for her, and had for her mother, and Daphne tries to play it off. Ruby tells Daphne that she’s going to tell Pierre everything and Daphne laughs, as Pierre is still upstairs in Jean’s room crying. Daphne’s been running the business and all of the other aspects of their lives for a long time, so she’s really not too threatened by Ruby’s words. Ruby runs upstairs where, sure enough, Pierre is still sitting alone in his brother’s room. Ruby tells Pierre what happened, and that she saw Jean, and she tells him about Jean repeating the word “jib”. This clearly affects Pierre, and he finally breaks down and confesses to Ruby: on the day of Jean’s accident, Pierre sent the jib flying, hitting his brother in the head. He didn’t mean for Jean to get as hurt as he did, he only wanted to take him down a few notches, but it wasn’t an accident and it’s been eating him up inside every since. This family has some issues with sibling rivalry, god damn.
Ruby comforts her father, but tells him that he’s got to stop wallowing in his guilt and letting Daphne run everything, since she’s awful and all. She says that the lies have got to stop, and she’s going right then to tell Gisselle the truth about their mother, but that Pierre got to back her up. Pierre agrees, and goes down to speak with Daphne. Ruby goes into Gisselle’s room, where her twin is mightily annoyed that Ruby hasn’t come to do her bidding for hours. Ruby tells her about the institution, which naturally Gisselle doesn’t believe, but Ruby assures her that it’s all true, and then tells her about Gabrielle and the baby selling, and everything. Gisselle is dubious, to say the least, and screams for Pierre. Ruby goes down to get him, and finds him with Daphne, who freaks out when she hears that Ruby’s told Gisselle the truth. Pierre tells his wife that he wanted Ruby to tell her sister the truth, that the lies are out of hand, and it’s time that they all started out fresh. He goes upstairs to Gisselle, leaving Ruby and Daphne staring at each other. Daphne tells Ruby that she hasn’t destroyed her, and Ruby protests that was never her intention. She just wants a family, and maybe, someday, she’ll be able to call Daphne “Mother” and mean it. She leaves Daphne alone with her thoughts.
In the epilogue, Ruby waxes poetic about the BAYOU. Gisselle refuses to hear anything about their CAJUN background at first, though she eventually starts asking more questions. She still makes Ruby swear never to tell a soul. One afternoon when Ruby and Gisselle are in the latter’s room talking, Edgar comes to the door to tell Ruby that she has a visitor—a Mr. Paul Tate. Ruby explains who he is to Gisselle, who immediately demands that Ruby bring him up to see her. Ruby goes down to get Paul, who explains that after he got Ruby’s letter (on which she had deliberately not put a return address), he took a bottle of bourbon over to Grandpere Jack’s and got Pierre’s name out of him. Ruby and Paul share a giggle about how he abused an old man’s addiction, and Paul asks if things have gotten better for Ruby since her last letter. He’s disappointed to hear that they have, as he’d hoped he could convince Ruby to come back with him to the BAYOU. Ruby points out that her family is in New Orleans too, and this gives Paul the opening he was looking for to ask where Gisselle is. Ruby tells him about the car accident, and they go upstairs to see her. On the way up, Paul tells Ruby that Jack has gotten worse since she’s been gone, having torn up the shack and surrounding land still looking for Grandmere Catherine’s non-existent money, and that for a time Catherine’s old friends had suspected him of killing Ruby, since she disappeared so suddenly. Ruby realizes that she might want to write some more letters and assure people that she’s alive.
So Paul and Gisselle finally meet and since “Nothing brought the tint back into Gisselle’s cheeks and the glint back into her eyes as much as a handsome young man”, Gisselle flirts inappropriately with Paul, to Ruby’s bemusement and Paul’s amusement (and secret glee). Gisselle even suggests that she and Ruby should visit Paul in the SWAMPS someday. Paul likes that idea, and tells them about his boats and his horses, and when Gisselle isn’t sure that she could sit on a horse, Paul says that he’d sit with her, and now I’m moving on because these two are just too much for me. Paul leaves, declining an invitation to dinner. Ruby goes out to sit on the patio after he leaves, where she is joined by Pierre. She tells him about Paul’s visit, and is surprised to learn that he knows all about Paul. Pierre explains that Gabrielle didn’t keep secrets like that. Pierre tells Ruby that he wants her and Gisselle to attend a private boarding school in Baton Rouge the next year, as it will help to cool the family situation. Ruby isn’t too happy about the idea of leaving Beau, who she is finally finding time to see again, but she agrees for her father’s sake. Pierre thanks her, and goes inside to tell Gisselle. Ruby sits alone and thinks about the BAYOU and about Paul, and thinks about the future.
And thus endeth Ruby, dear readers! Up next is the dramatically titled Pearl in the Mist, with more boarding school drama, allusions to lesbianism, racial tensions, teenage pregnancy, guys named Buck, and creepy blind piano players than you can shake any number of sticks at! Could you be any more excited?! Look for the Cover Post in the next couple of days, and until then, remember that Swamp Thing and I love you.