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Gabriella (chapter 3)
It was in the last few seconds of calculus and I’ve been staring at the same problem for ten minutes. Count on Mr. Greene to jump right in without hesitation or introduction.
“Have you all solved the problem?” He demands. “Who wants to give the answer?”
Everyone’s heads seem to dart down in unison. Apparently today’s not my day to be invisible.
I stare down at my paper. We’re supposed to be differentiating x cubed plus five x squared minus two x plus one. He could’ve been speaking Greek all period for all I knew.
I take a deep breath. “I don’t know, Sir.”
He sighs and throws down the piece of chalk he’d been clutching onto his desk. “Well, the answer, class, is—”
The bell finally rings and everyone stampedes to the cafeteria for lunch. I slide my books off of my desk and am about to sneak out when Mr. Greene stops me.
“Gaby, can I speak with you for a minute?”
I groan inwardly and backtrack to his desk. “Yes?”
He settles down into his chair, getting to the point. “Miss Sparks if this class will be too much for you……..at this time, then I can switch you back to Trig.”
“I already took Trig last year, Mr. Greene.” I murmur, hating his pity.
“I know, but it’s no trouble for me to change your schedule. Not many people choose to take Calculus their senior year, so it’s no big deal.”
I bite my lip, trying not to get frustrated. “I want to stay in your class.”
He looks taken aback. Not many kids have the courage to refuse him. “Are you sure? I don’t normally make these exceptions but seeing your…..present state, I—”
This was it. “My father’s de—” I swallow. It’s no use pretending. “My father’s murder has done no damage to my intellect; therefore my present “state” is just fine.”
Mr. Greene looks at me steadily. “I will not give you this offer again.”
I take a deep breath. “I don’t want you to.” I give him a nod to be cordial, and then I swiftly turn on my heel and sweep out the door. The hallway is nearly empty. I dump my books in my locker and head to the cafeteria to meet Rachel and Craig.
I find them at a large table in the corner filled with most of the football team. I stomp over, knowing that they won’t pay any attention to me, and slide into a chair by Rachel. She looks over at me. “What’s wrong?” She asks; a tiny note of panic in her voice.
“Mr. Greene. Is. Insane.” I say through clenched teeth.
I can see her visibly relax. “What did he do?”
Before I can answer Troy Wentworth, a junior, leans across the table towards me. “You got Greene this year?” He asks.
I nod once.
“I had him last year for Geometry. He was killer. I swear the guy had it out for me.”
I couldn’t help but smile a little at that. At least I wasn’t the only one who Mr. Greene had a death wish for.
“You did fail every test, dude.” Craig throws in; then adds as an after thought, “Remember how your mom wrote a note to the principal begging to him to let you stay on the football team?”
Troy’s ears blaze a bright red. He clears his throat. “No, I don’t remember that at all.”
All of the boys break out into loud guffaws, as Craig punches Troy playfully in the arm.
Rachel turns toward me. “Come on, the line’s gone down. Let’s get lunch.”
I follow her to the front of the cafeteria and we get in line. I feel my stomach growling from hardly eating any breakfast this morning.
I’m about to grab a lunch tray when I see something flutter behind me out of my
peripheral vision. I glance back and stop cold. I find myself staring into a pair of light
blue eyes flecked with bits of green. The smell of cherries surrounds me. It’s a sweet
smell; a sickly sweet smell. The scent is familiar to me. I breathe it in again. I can
almost feel the blood drain from my face. I examine the face that accompanies the
sugary smell. I see a perfect straight nose, full, lush lips, and wavy dark hair. I’ve seen
this face before….
“Gaby?” I hear Rachel call from somewhere far away.
I can’t take my eyes off of this face. I’m frozen in utter astonishment and fright.
They said they’d find him. They said I’d be safe. They said I’d never see him again.
“Gaby? Are you okay?” I hear Rachel ask, only to me now. I can hear her voice
The boy in front of me glances sideways towards Rachel. “Is she okay?” He asks in a deep, smooth voice.
“I don’t know.” Rachel says, clearly flustered by my lack of response. “Gaby?” She
asks again. “Can you hear me?”
I can’t hear anything over the shrill ringing in my ears. The cafeteria is swirling
around me and the ground keeps heaving up and down.
I hardly feel Rachel’s hand on my back, attempting to usher me to the exit. “C’mon, Gaby.” She whispers. “Let’s get out of here. W-We can go off campus for lunch.” She sounds worried, but I just can’t bring myself to move. I feel myself shaking from head to
“Maybe she needs to go to the nurse.” The boy suggests in a flat monotone. “She
looks like she’s about to pass out.”
I feel Rachel’s hand around my waist, still trying to get me to move. She looks over at this boy. He shrugs and takes my forearm, ready to help. His grip is icy and frighteningly strong. I rip my arm away as quickly as possible and bolt out of the
cafeteria. I dash through the halls, not even sure of my destination.
I finally end up in the girls’ restroom, heaving over a toilet, with nothing coming up.
My empty stomach just contracts in painful spasms.
Once the waves of nausea pass I sink down, unsteadily, to the white-tiled floor.
“Gaby?” I hear Rachel enter the restroom, slightly out of breath. “Are you in here?”
I wait until I see her silver ballet slippers come to a halt in front of my stall, to unlock the door. She scrutinizes my face and crouches down, feeling my forehead, like my mother had this morning.
“What happened, Gaby?” She whispers.
I feel tears begin to stream down my face. “I saw him, Rachel.” I murmur, probably inaudibly.
“What?” She asks, as gently as she can.
“I. Saw. Him.” I moan, closing my eyes and resting my head against the wall.
“Who did you see, Gaby?” She asks slowly and clearly, speaking to me as if I was five years old.
“Damn it, Rachel!” I mutter. Why doesn’t she understand? I push up from the floor, wobbling slightly, and catch myself against the wall. “I saw him!” I practically scream. “I saw the man who murdered my father!”
I watch all of the blood drain from her face. “W-Where?” She stammers.
“Where?” I ask in disbelief. “Just now! In the cafeteria!”
“Who are you talking about?”
“He was standing right in front of me!”
“Tyler Gold?” She suddenly asks.
I shake my head. “Who the hell is Tyler Gold?”
“The guy who was standing behind you.”
“What are you talking about? How do you know who he is?”
“He’s in my French class. He just transferred from Marshall.”
“Rachel, I’m telling you. He killed my father.”
“Gaby,” she starts. “He’s eighteen years old and in high school. Let’s be rational here. Why would the man who—” I watch as she swallows. “Who…who….murdered your father come to school here, so close to where you live?”
I don’t understand why she isn’t listening. “Who cares why he’s here? He shot my dad three times! Three! They went straight through his chest and killed him!”
She’s silent for a couple minutes. I think I might have frightened her. I really haven’t been very clear about the details with anyone except the police.
“Are you sure?” She whispers after she composes herself.
“Yes, I’m sure! I was the only one who saw him; I think I know what he looks like.”
“But…..maybe Tyler just…..looks like him.”
I hate how she calls him “Tyler.” I hate how she gives that filthy murderer a name like he deserves it. I hate how she acts like she knows him and tries to defend him.
I’m about to retaliate, again, when a thought strikes me. It douses my anger in an instant. All of the fire that had been building up inside my chest just fizzles out. “You don’t believe me.” I murmur.
“Gaby, that’s not it, it’s just—”
“It’s just what?” I ask more calmly than I’ve felt all day.
She sighs. “It’s just a little far-fetched, that’s all. I know it’s hard for you, but, you can’t just go around accusing people of something so extreme without being sure; without having facts.”
“Facts.” I muse to myself. I lean back against the wall. “Maybe you’re right. I guess I can’t jump to conclusions.” I murmur; feeling greatly disheartened.
I hear her exhale, as if she’d been holding her breath.
“Good.” She mutters, probably thinking I won’t hear.
“Rachel?” I ask.
I bite my lip, thinking.
“Do you know what really scares me, though?”
“What?” She asks, begrudgingly.
“What if I’m right?”
* * *
“How was your first day of school?” Dr. Newman asks me not long after I walk into his office and sit down.
“Alright.” I murmur. The truth is Rachel took me to the nurse’s office before sixth period began. I hid there for the rest of the day, afraid to go out and chance seeing this “Tyler Gold,” again. I’ve decided I don’t care what anyone says. I know what I saw.
“How are all your classes?”
“That’s good.” Dr. Newman says, slightly pleased. “How are you getting along with your friends?”
“You’re interacting alright?”
“How are your teachers?”
Dr. Newman nods and then asks, “Are you feeling alright, Gaby?”
“Yes, why?” I lie.
“It’s just that you haven’t rolled your eyes, popped your gum, or given me a smart remark, yet, and it’s been at least ten minutes.” He teases.
I let out a short sound of amusement, admittedly, a little embarrassed.
“Seriously, though, did something happen today?” He asks; I can tell, a bit concerned.
Should I tell him? What if he just says the same thing as Rachel had? But, I need to know. I need to know if I’m going insane.
I slowly nod.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
I bite my lip and look down at my feet. “I don’t know.”
“Okay.” He pauses. “Have you talked to your mother?”
I shake my head. I would have sent her into a coma if I’d come home and said, “Mom, you know that guy who murdered Dad? Yeah, I saw him in school today. He goes there now.” Yes, that would’ve gone over quite well.
“I’m scared.” I whisper.
“Did someone say something to you, Gaby?” He asks, gently.
“Did someone hurt you?”
I shake my head, feeling my throat begin to constrict with sudden tears. “Not me.” I manage.
I nod, squeezing my eyes shut.
“Can you say who?”
I silently curse myself as tears begin to spill from my eyes. I quickly swipe my hand across my face, probably smearing my makeup.
Dr. Newman reaches back to his desk and hands me a box of tissues. “Thanks.” I mutter, grabbing a handful and wiping the salt water away. I blow my nose and breathe in deeply.
“Okay?” Dr. Newman asks.
I nod. “Yeah.”
“Do you want to finish?”
Instead of answering directly I start a new direction. “Dr. Newman, what I tell you in here…….you can’t tell anyone else, can you?”
He shakes his head. “Whatever you tell me is strictly between the two of us.”
This makes me feel a little better. I try to begin again. “I saw someone today and....” I hesitate, not sure how to phrase this. I wring my hands in my lap, thinking. What can he possibly say to this? Why did I even start telling him anything? There’s no way he’s going to believe me. But what if I’m right? What if that murderer is hanging out in my school, waiting to make his next move? I can’t just let that slide by, can I? I can’t let anyone go through what I did this summer.
“I think I saw the man who murdered my father.”
Dr. Newman is silent. He rubs his thumb against his chin anxiously. “At your school?” He finally asks.
I nod. “In the cafeteria.”
“A teacher or a student?”
“Okay, what makes you sure?”
I chew the inside of my cheek, stalling. “He looks like him—same eyes, same hair.” Then I add in a softer tone. “He smells like him.”
“Smells like him?” Dr. Newman asks.
I nod. “Like alcohol.”
“Gaby......I know you’re not oblivious to that fact that criminals aren’t the only ones who drink. So, isn’t it probable that a high school kid could’ve slipped something?”
I bit my lip. “Yeah, I guess.”
“I don’t want to tell you you’re wrong, Gaby. You saw him, not me, but be careful. Please. Think about this. Do you think you might have just.....put similar characteristics together and only saw one person?” I reasons, gently.
“I don’t know. I just.....” I clench my teeth and dig my nails into the suede material of the sofa, as I feel tears prick my eyes again.
Dr. Newman waits patiently for me to gather my bearings. I can feel my fingernails splintering from my vise-like grip on the arm rest. I feel my chest tightening, warning me of an oncoming attack. I ignore it and try to plow on: “Before I came to my first appointment with you.......I saw my mom on the Internet.......” My voice is high and breathless from trying to suppress the attack and chase the tears away. “All the sites she was flipping through........they were medical sites......they were about “coping” with stress and depression.......and they had all these lists of medications and.......all of them were for teens......she thinks there’s something wrong with me.......” I breathe in once, sharply. The tears are streaming down my face and dripping from my chin into my lap. “I’m—I’m terrified that she’s right.......and then I saw this kid today.......and I don’t know if I’m going crazy.....I’m so confused.....” I break of coughing, and crying, and just a complete and total mess. I reach down and fumble with the zipper on my book bag, trying to pull my inhaler from the front pocket. Once I’ve taken two puffs I start to feel better. I grab another bunch of tissues and attempt to rub the tears away.
Once the sobs begin to dissolve into quiet sniffles, Dr. Newman says softly, “Look at me, Gaby.”
I look up reluctantly. I hate crying in front of people.
He takes my hands in his, gently, but firmly. “This is a very difficult time for you. It’s natural and perfectly acceptable for you to feel confused and a little frightened.”
“I hate it.” I whisper through my teeth.
“I know you do; but as far as things go, you’re handling this better then a lot of adults would. You went to school today and faced your friends and teachers. Yes, you got a little scared along the way, but, you’re not perfect. No one is. Your mother might have been looking those things up on the Internet because she was scared as well, scared for you and for herself. But, don’t let those things influence you. It’s all right to find out information, but don’t let it scare you. Let it help you. You probably are stressed, but, stress isn’t a deadly disease. Neither is depression, even if it is more intense. People overcome those obstacles. You have to believe that you can, too. I believe in you. I’m more than sure that your mother does. The only one we’re waiting on is you. It might take some time, but you can do it, Gaby.”
He gives my hand a pat before pulling back.
I shake my head, at a loss for words. Ever since my dad was murdered, way back in the beginning of June, I’ve never felt so whole. For the first time since I’ve been seeing Dr. Newman, I see the benefits of talking to a shr— a therapist.