Dancing Softly by Nikki Rosen

dancing softly


About the Book

Sixteen-year-old Jamie DeSouza runs away from home to escape from years of sexual and emotional abuse. Living on the streets of Toronto, she survives the only way she knows how – by becoming tough, hard, angry…a fighter. When her freedom is taken away, Jamie finds herself locked in a psychiatric ward where she struggles to maintain hope.

Caught in the mental health system, Jamie is stripped of her dignity and even basic human rights. It’s in that dark place she learns to fight back in ways that ultimately free her. The people Jamie meets along the way teach her that dancing softly in life is far more powerful than the use of violence.


Book Excerpt

Four months after Jamie left Samuals Psychiatric Hospital she returned to the unit for a visit. As soon as she stepped off the elevator, Dan cornered her. “Can I challenge you to a game of ping-pong? Two wins out of three means the person totally rocks.”

Jamie chuckled. “You’re on and you better watch out. I’m still good enough to beat the socks off you.”

Dan grinned and hurried off to find the game paddles. Walking down the ward, she passed Brenda’s room and peeked inside. “Hey, Brenda, how’s it going?”

Brenda lay on the bed, her face to the wall. When she turned her head, Jamie gasped in horror. The skin around Brenda’s cheeks sagged and the flesh had shrunk to the bone. It made her once beautiful blue eyes bulge. Her hair had thinned and lost its luster.

“Brenda?” Fear pressed Jamie to speak in a whisper.

“Hi, Jamie.” Brenda’s words came out weak and a bit slurred.

Horrified, Jamie moved closer to her. “Haven’t you been eating?”

“I can’t, Jamie. Something won’t let me.”

“Please, you’ve got to eat. I can run downstairs and grab something for us. We can sit here chowing down together,” Jamie pleaded.

“I don’t want anything to eat, but that’s really sweet of you.”

“You’re scaring me, Brenda. Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Before she could answer, Brenda stuttered and coughed. She raised a hand to cover her mouth. Jamie caught her breath when she saw how thin and bony Brenda’s fingers and hands had become.

Jan poked her head in the door. “Jamie, can you come for a minute?”

As Jamie turned to go with Jan, Brenda gasped and choked. Jamie wanted to help her, but Jan pulled her out of the room. “What’s happened to her, Jan? She’s scaring me.”

“She’s dying, Jamie. She refuses all food. We’ve put her on a feeding tube, but that’s only sustaining her. She has lost the will to live.

“I don’t want her to die. Can’t you guys help her? Can’t you do something?” Jamie wanted to run far away from this place of hell, despair and pain.

“There isn’t anything we can do, Jamie. She won’t let us. It’s just a matter of time now before she passes.”

Tears gathered in Jamie’s eyes. She turned to go back inside the room.

Jan stopped her. “Don’t go back in, Jamie. I know it’s scaring you.”

“She’s my friend. We’re the same age. What if it was me? I don’t want her to die alone in here. I need to be with her, even for just awhile.”

“Okay, Jamie. I’m around if you need me.”

Jamie mumbled thanks and went back inside the room.

“What happened, Brenda? How did it get so bad like this?”

“I don’t know. There are too many rules here, just like at home. I feel like I can’t be perfect or good enough. I keep losing privileges and they always restrict me to my room for not eating what they want me to eat. My mother came a few times and kept yelling at me to cooperate with them. I can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to.” Brenda’s voice faltered.

“What can I do, Brenda? I’ll do anything. Just tell me what you want me to do.” Jamie started crying. She took Brenda’s frail hand and squeezed it. “Tell me what I can do. Please don’t die.”

“I’m not afraid to die, Jamie. I’m afraid to live. Don’t be sad. I want this. I think it’s hard for you to understand because you’re such a fighter. I’m not like that. I’m too much of a coward and I’m so tired.

There’s nothing left in me.”

Jamie’s head hurt from Brenda’s words and from her own tears. “Why is life so hard for us? Why does it have to be like this?”

Brenda’s eyes fluttered and closed.


At the sound of her name, Brenda half opened her eyes.

“Brenda, do you know God loves you? He really does. To Him, you’re perfect, absolutely perfect. You always have been.”

Brenda smiled. Her eyes slipped shut again. Jamie held her frail hand.

Her heart felt as if a heavy weight pressed down on it. She stayed there, unmoving, until Jan touched her shoulder and guided her from the room.

Out in the hallway, Jamie broke down and fell into Jan’s arms. “Life hurts too much. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair. I don’t want her to die.”

“I know, Jamie. You’re right. It’s not fair.”

Brenda hung on for another five days before she passed away. Her death lingered in Jamie’s mind for a long time. She wondered why the staff at Samuals couldn’t help Brenda and why they kept taking away her privileges, which only frustrated her even more. Jamie wanted to blame someone for Brenda’s death, and in her mind she believed the blame rested on the hospital. If they hadn’t made Brenda feel guilty and bad all the time, maybe she would have had a bit more fight to overcome the eating disorder.

About the Author

Nikki Rosen uses her writing to empower others to reach for their best. Her book, In the Eye of Deception won The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention for The Grace Irwin Award. She has won a number of short story contests and has been published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a writer, motivational speaker and mom to a couple of great kids. You can follow Nikki on Facebook.

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