"It's my birthday today." Donnie continues glaring at the chess pieces, as if he could reconfigure them with his mind alone. He can feel Ricky's steady gaze on him, penetrating into his skin almost. "Guess how old I am?" He asks; his voice somewhat cracking at the end. The thought that he, Donnie Darko has had another birthday locked away in this white-walled institution breaks his heart. It should have worked. He should have been able to save her. Gretchen. He's not supposed to be here.
"Nineteen?" Ricky asks. His quiet voice calmly shattering Donnie's never ending thought trails.
Donnie looks up suddenly, his glare momentarily erased by cautious suspicion. He tilts his head to the side and is again surprised at how the other boy holds his penetrating gaze. They've only known each other for a couple months now. All their conversations are had during or in between games of chess and checkers. He likes Ricky alright but he doesn't trust him, yet. "How'd you know that?" He asks carefully.
"Guessed." Ricky answers simply.
It's a staring contest and neither is used to losing.
Donnie finally blinks and a slow smile spreads its way across his lips. It transforms him entirely and Ricky finds himself smiling back, though he's sure that wasn't Donnie's intent.
Ricky has been watching this particular boy for a while. That's all there is too do in here anyway. Watch the people around you, read between the lines to see the real story behind what's presented. It's not like they won't tell you, give you an earful packed with more sorrow then you thought existed in the world, but that's not safe. Ricky likes a bit of distance between himself and those he watches. It can hurt to get too close. He misses his video camera and sometimes worries that he won't be able to remember everything.
After Lester Burnham's trial Ricky stopped talking. They'd used the video Jane and him had recorded in court as proof that he'd murdered Mr. Burnham. All his videos had been confiscated. They'd taken everything and then told him how lucky he was he was for being sent to the institution instead of jail. I'm so lucky. You're so lucky Ricky. All night long when he couldn't sleep because of screaming he didn't feel very lucky. I need better drugs. These ones aren't working. I can still feel too much. He'd been transferred after eight months to a 'more qualified facility.' The screaming stopped at night and he'd started talking again.
"How old are you?" Donnie finally breaks the silence after a long intense ten minutes spent wrapped up in the game. He's won again and the tension in his shoulders seems to temporarily sag as he resets the board.
"Guess." Ricky answers, though he doesn't really expect Donnie to try.
Ricky smiles like they're sharing a secret and shakes his head. "No. Twenty-two."
Donnie looks him over critically as if the three extra years could be found in the lines around his eyes and mouth.
"Happy Birthday." Ricky tells him with an amused glint to his eyes though it doesn't touch his lips.
Donnie nods. "Happy Birthday." He whispers to himself. His mother is supposed to come today and he's anxiously dreading the visit. It's been two and a half years since they locked him up and left him here. Frank is still dead. Gretchen is still dead and he's still crazy and rotting away in here.
"What?" Ricky's eyes are burning and Donnie just stares at him blankly. "Frank who?"
Donnie swallows hard and changes his mind in a second. He wants to trust someone and this boy has the same sort of eyes he used to see in the mirror. "I killed him but sometimes he comes to me in my dreams. He tells me things."
Ricky feels his skin chill at the other's words but it seems to fit now. The reason why he was drawn to this boy seems to be unfolding slowly. "I have dreams too. Frank is my father's name."