March 20, 2017
By , Joppa, MD

"Harper Avery?"?
I turn my head to the left, looking for the source of my name. Moments later, I find a beautifully short woman who stands in a?gray suit looking around. She is not the same counselor as the last or the time before. She was someone new. Someone I do not trust.?Someone who I do not?feel comfortable sharing?my life’s details?with.?Maybe I would not have to.?I did not trust the other counselor yet, but at least I was getting somewhere with her.?It hadn’t been total silence our last visit a little over two weeks ago, but we still had a long way to go.?I?had seen?her twice, which was as much?routine as I had.?Now, I must restart.
Before I can realize I am glaring?at her with?my head somewhere else, she repeats herself, "Harper Avery?"?
“Yes?” I stand from the?red-checkered?chair in the waiting room, which feels more like a?silent?hospital?Operation Room?gallery. I walk?inside her room where?inspiring family quotes cover the room along with an array of flying butterflies?of all colors?on ruby red walls?and ceiling.?One?read,?“Family, like branches in a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.?– Unknown”.?I cannot agree less with?this. I was nothing like my stepfather or my mother.?I learned from my mistakes, I don't repeat the past.?I had been in this exact room multiple times before with the various counselors I have had over?the years since I had escaped, but never were there wall decorations or a color other than beige. No counselor dare change what was there.?
As I looked around at the butterflies?on the walls and ceiling, I suddenly remembered:?
I?twirled?with a?blue-and-black-striped?butterfly on my?right?arm, being as gentle as?to not?to?destroy its?marvelous wings and beauty.?For as long as I can remember,?I had always?been obsessed with butterflies, but one day I suddenly was not so.?Something?about them stills the nerves inside of?me?when they?can?flutter away at the least bit of discontent, as I wish I had been able to do.??
My step-father had not been so gentle with me?unlike?me?with my butterflies.?As the butterfly fluttered off into the wind, he came out, an angry?scowl?on his face, blood on his knuckles. He?had hit her again. That was it!?I could not deal with this anymore.?I was old enough, twelve years old, to recognize right versus wrong.?This, this was the latter. It was?horribly?wrong.?To protect me from him, my mom sent?my brother an I?outside. Now, only if I could protect her.?Only if I could help her.?
“Harper! Get in here!” He yelled, becoming angrier as time progressed.?I heard the hard door slam shut. It was now or never.??
I?began?running when?suddenly, "Where are you going?" Gordy, my step-brother?asked in his tiny voice.?
"I'll come back for you, I promise," then I ran, tired of?my step-father.?I ran until I could not see the house we called a home. I ran for my life. I ran for my mother. For?Gordy.?For?Sally, my dog. For everyone. I would get help for them all.?I would come back soon or so I thought.?
“Miss Avery?” I had not heard what she had been saying?as?I was too stuck on?the butterflies and?him.?
Slowly, I?come back to reality, looking at her, confused.?
"How are you today?"?
“Where is Dr. Mindy?”??
“She no longer works here.?I will?be working with you from?now on. How are you?”?
"I'm great,?Dr. Morgan, is it?" I lie. "I haven't slept all too much. I?have not?quit my job nor have I been?fired. I'm just great." I tap my foot, waiting for some snarky reply that was typical of Dr. Mindy.?Dr. Mindy loved to make light of the situation, which as deranged as it may seem, made everything okay for a split second at least. Dr. Morgan?did not need to know how long it was since I had slept decently, avoiding?all the?nightmares, which was all I got when I tried to sleep.?
"How are you actually doing Miss Avery?"?I sigh.?"What if I can help you?"?
"What makes you think I can be helped?"?
“Well, there is this new experimental technology which is used on those who present some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, specifically in their childhood and adolescence, like you. In those who have tried it, they have had a great response…” She trailed off.?
“Okay, I’m listening,”?I was suddenly interested in something. I had not been interested in something for quite a while.?
"It requires the surgical removal of a section in your brain which will then be replaced with an artificial piece of brain. It will allow you to think and remember differently, you will be able to change any memories, new or otherwise, into something positive and likeable. These memories will be stored on top of the other ones, the ones you have witnessed and fallen victim to. It will boost your self-esteem greatly and your?life will be as normal as normal can be. You will be able to sleep too."??
"I—" I stagger.
“Look, it is just a suggestion, a really good suggestion. You have time to make up your mind, but you should know the trial seats are filling up quickly.”
“I appreciate the offer,”
“But?” She continued for me.
“Maybe I deserve to live with those memories because I never came back for Gordy, like I had promised,” She sat on her couch with a concerned look on her face. Did she really care? Or did she just want me to feel better?
Up until that day when I ran away from my childhood house, I had never broken a promise to anyone. Now, it seems as if I am breaking promises all the time. I had promised Liz, my best friend, I would give her brother a chance, but upon first sight, I fled. I was scarred from a childhood of bruises and anger from men. After breaking that promise, I promised Liz I would try to find a man who treated me right. The truth is, I haven’t even tried. I promised her I’d get on a plane with her to Hawaii, but I never went. I couldn’t get myself to get on an airplane, somewhere I had always felt trapped, unable to move or breathe.
“No one deserves to live with those memories of your father hitting you and your mother. No one,” she said as if she had been through it herself. She had never experienced what I had. I would not wish that pain or the memories on anyone.
“You don’t know anything about me!” I stand abruptly from my position on her sofa.
“Your right, I don’t know much about you, but I do know what Dr. Mindy wrote in your folder, which said your step-father abused you,”
“He did,” I say reluctantly.
“The surgery will allow you to forget him and start over. You will be able to walk around New York City at night with your friends, get a boyfriend, become married, have kids, and grow old without the burden of the memories of your step-father,” she said.
I was interested, “Okay, I am in. I am done carrying this burden around with me everywhere I go.”
“You made a good choice Miss Avery.”
“I sure hope I did,” I mumble under my breath.
It is now two months after my procedure. After the initial few days of pain, life became easier. Liz was by my side everyday as I learned to live better. In fact, she stands here with me waiting in line at airport security, about to board an airplane to go to Hawaii. When we get there, I will learn to surf, something I always wanted to do. Or at least I think I did. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter I am happy. Liz convinced her brother to give me a second chance, whatever that was about, and he did. I have heard that not everyone gets a second chance, so I should consider myself lucky. I guess I am, I had a loving mother and brother and my best friend has stuck by me all my life. I am lucky.
I walk into the kitchen where Liz speaks in a hushed voice to Martin, her brother. “You have to admit, Liz, she hasn’t been the same since the surgery.”
“That’s because her life doesn’t circle around him anymore,” She finishes chopping the cucumber.
“While that is true, she doesn’t even know what her childhood was like.”
“We both knew that coming in,” Liz said, moving over to the cabinet where the plates and bowls are. She faces away from Martin, grabbing a bowl for the salad she just chopped up.
“Hey, you two,” I walk into the room, all eyes on me.
“How much did you—” Martin asks, worried.
“Hear? Enough to know that what I am feeling is real,” I was disappointed.
“What do you mean?” Martin walks over, hugging me as usual. This time, I hang onto him a bit longer than normal, taking in his scent. He doesn’t seem to mind.
I release my hold on him and look at him before saying, “I am not me, everyone gets quiet when I say something. Is it even the truth?”
“Uh,” Martin stands to face me, blank.
“Sometimes it is,” Liz steps in.
“Oh,” I was shocked.

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