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My legs were crossed in the waiting room. Due to the presence of my father, the tension in the room was tangible. He shouldn’t have been here. God knew I didn’t want him to be. But of course, it was all about the shoe. He had to appear to be the concerned parent, doing anything and everything to care for his daughter. Well, it that were really the case, why did DYFS show up? He was ready to deny it, but I already knew. Because he was abusive. And that put me here, in a waiting room, at nine o’clock at night, in a psychiatrist’s office in Montvale.
I already knew what he was going to say. That I had depression, and I needed to go to counseling. I didn’t need a professional to tell me that. But the school made me miss class today. My only absence ever in middle school. I was going to graduate in 2 and a-half months. That really added to the depression factor for me. I was missing a new math lesson, chapter 9-6, and a movie in social studies. All because I had to write, again, a depressing story that made my English teacher concerned. It was only one sentence, ‘She wonders if there is a reason to live.’ I just had to write that sentence. I just had to write that paragraph. I just had to write that story.
Yet, I can’t bring myself to truly regret writing. Writing probably saved my life. Before, I just sulked around, ready to pierce my chest with a knife. Now, my pain flows from my hand to the pencil to the paper. And even if it brought me here, and made me miss school, I still loved to write.
My father looked at me, so I quickly turned away. I settled for staring out the window behind me, watching cars drive by in the night.
“Okay, you can all come in.”
Dr. Faber was a short man, with graying hair and a round middle. I was closest to the door, so I walked in first. I sat on the couch in the middle of the room, with my parents on chairs on either side. Put in Dr. Faber seated opposite me, and we had a perfect rectangle.
“So, what brings you here?” he asked.
I didn’t want to speak. I couldn’t. Not in front of my father. Luckily, my mother opened her mouth to talk. She told him about my writing, and how a part of it was concerning to my teacher, so they made me come here. I was asked to relay the part, and I did so with ease. After all, I did write it.
“Okay,” Dr. Faber said once I finished speaking, “I was supposed to receive some information from the school…but…it seems that they didn’t send it. So we will just have to go from here.”
The school. The school that had told me that I couldn’t come back to class until I came here. They couldn’t have just faxed Dr. Faber the information over the weekend? They all told me how much they cared, but they certainly had a bad way of showing it.
Dr. Faber began to ask me questions.
“When was the last time that you felt truly happy, for an extended period of time? Let’s say, for eight weeks straight.”
Good question, I thought but didn’t say. I thought. This year, no, last year, no, the year before, oh, God, no.
“Fifth grade,” I answered, not sure if I was happy even then. But it was the best I could come up with. I would have gone into detail, but my father still being in the room kept my mouth shut. Dr. Faber noticed my reluctance to speak.
“I’m going to be asking you some more questions, and you may choose to answer them with or without your parents in the room. Please do not worry about hurting their feelings; we are only focusing on you right now.”
“Without,” I said quickly, looking away from my father, as I knew he would still be hurt and angry I was kicking him out. Not that I strived to make him happy. But I still didn’t want to see his face.
“Parents, please step out of the room until Annmarie and I finish talking.”
They stood up, and retreated out the door we all came in moments before. Dr. Faber made sure they closed the door behind them before he continued.
He asked me how I felt around other people my age. I said that I was comfortable if I knew them well and if we were in a small group. He asked me how I felt around my mother, and I told him how much I loved her and how much I trusted her. Then, he asked me about my father.
“He has an awful temper, and he yells all the time,” I told him, every word being the truth.
“How do you feel when he yells?” he asked.
“It scares me. I want to leave, but I don’t, for fear of getting him angrier.”
“Is he usually yelling at you?” he asked. I nodded.
“Yes,” I said quietly.
“Has he ever physically abused you?” he asked. I closed my eyes for a moment, not even wanting to go there.
“He hit me once when I was five years old.” It was a one-time thing, but it still sent chills down my spine whenever I thought about it.
“Where did he hit you?”
“On the forehead, with his shoe.”
“Was that the only time he ever did something like that to you?” I nodded.
He wrote something down on his notepad. When he finished, he looked back up at me. He changed the subject to how I felt currently, and why I felt like I wanted to die.
“Do you think that you would ever go through with any plan you may think of?” I shook my head.
“No. No, I think I would have the control to stop myself.” He nodded his head, and added something else to his notes.
“Alright,” he said when he finished. “I think you are not in any immediate danger of hurting yourself. I’m going to let your parents come back in now. Before I do that, do you have any more questions, or something else you would like to say to me?”
I blurted out the question that I had been dying to know all night.
“Will I be able to go back to school tomorrow?” I asked, praying for an affirmative answer.
“Do you want to?” he asked. I nodded my head vigorously. “Well, I don’t see why not.”
I wanted to jump out of my seat and pump my fist in the air. I was going back to class tomorrow! But, I kept my happy emotions to myself, and sat motionless on the couch while he tore a blank sheet of paper from his notepad.
“Did the school request a note from me so that you can go back?” he asked. I nodded, remembering my guidance counselor telling me that I needed that. He wrote one, saying that I was not going to kill myself, and that I had his permission to return to school. He put the note in an envelope, and sealed it closed, signing the front. He held it out to me, and I took it excitedly. My one way ticket back to school.
While I was looking at my letter, Dr. Faber stood up and opened the door to where my parents were waiting. He waved them in, and closed the door again. When they were seated where they had been before, he began to speak.
“Well, it is obvious to me she has depression, and that needs to be fixed. There are two methods for this, and that is weekly therapy and medication. Now I recommend both of these things, as they work best together. Of course, you may not be comfortable with using drugs, so you can go with just the therapy, but I think both things would be better in this case.”
“I think we are going to start with just the therapy,” my mother said. Surprisingly, my father nodded in agreement.
“I really think both treatments would be more helpful, but you, as the parents, and Annmarie have the final decision on that.”
My parents nodded, but made no move to back down from their already made decision. They stood up, ready to leave. I followed them, after saying goodbye to Dr. Faber.
We walked out of the office and into the narrow hallway. The stairs were steep, so I made my way down slowly, my parents behind me.
“We had a therapist for the children when we were getting divorced,” my father said, “but after we went to him you wouldn’t allow them to go.”
Why was he bringing this up now? I asked myself. No one cares except for you!
Nor my mother or I responded to him, both hoping that if we kept quiet enough, he would just go away. Of course, it didn’t work.
We stepped outside, into the cool night air. I hoped we would just go in our separate directions, my father one way, my mother and I the other. Of course, that’s not what happened.
“Annmarie, are you coming back tomorrow?” my father asked me, giving me a look that said there was only one right answer. “Your grandmother misses you, and so does Pipi.”
Of course. Go for the dog. Blackmail me with the only thing that I truly care about I that house. Not that I wanted to let it faze me. I straightened my posture, making the most of what my high heeled boots had to give me.
“I want to stay with mom,” I said, trying to sound confident, but even so, my voice broke, and my eyes were brimming with tears. I felt better once I had choked the words out.
“That’s not your decision,” he replied. “There’s a contract, you can’t decide where you want to go.” He looked to my mother. “Say something. Tell her.”
“DYFS said she could choose where she wanted to go.”
“I don’t even know what’s happening with them. I haven’t heard back from them, but let me tell you this. They search for whatever they want, but you have to know that they aren’t going to find anything. You can think whatever you want, but deep down you know.”
He turned to me.
“So you’re coming back tomorrow, right?”
Why was he asking me that, when he already knows what I have to say? Then I realized. It’s all part of his mental disorder. He needs me to answer in the affirmative so that he can make himself believe that I want to go back. He is so sick.
I nodded, not because I wanted to, but because I knew it was the only way he would let me go now. I wondered if he remembered that I should have been going home with him now, as it was his weekend. I remembered he was reluctant to let me stay even then. He didn’t want to lose control.
By now I was crying heavily. My mother had to guide me to the car, as I could not see for myself. I tried to wipe my tears, and my hand had purple smudges on it. I was crying so hard my eye shadow was running. But I didn’t even have the strength to care.
I felt my way into the backseat, my mother closing the door behind me. She got in the driver’s seat, and I felt the car begin to move. My father had already taken off, and he wasn’t in sight. I was thankful for that.
I was tired by the time we returned home. I walked in slowly, making my way up the stairs to my room. I unzipped my boots and left them beside my bed, and changed into a tank top and sweats. I took off what was left of my make-up, and climbed into bed. Exhausted from the stress of talking to my father, and happy that I would be going back to school the following morning, I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.