Letters to Gracie
MusicThere was blood. So much blood. Too much.
It didn’t make sense at first, or maybe it still doesn’t. She was on the floor, and her eyes were closed, and the blood was all around her. I screamed and someone came running in, but I don’t know who.
I was on my knees, holding her, when they came and took her away. I clung on, but they just help me back. And then she was gone, carried away by the flashing lights outside the window, and I was alone with the blood. So much blood. Too much.
I look up and Dr. Harmony is staring at me, unblinking. This is something Dr. Harmony is very good at, I’ve realized. She does a very good owl imitation. When she looks at me, I feel as though her eyes are burning through my own, reading my mind. I feel my cheeks heat up. Dr. Harmony either doesn’t notice or is so used to getting the reaction that she remains unfazed by it.
“I see,” she says, as she scribbles something onto her clipboard. This is another thing Dr. Harmony does well: speak without actually meaning anything. “I see,” is one of her favorite phrases.
At first I wondered what she writes on that clipboard of hers, but eventually I decided that I don’t particularly care.
“And have you been to see your sister since then?”
I shake my head. I told my parents I wasn’t ready, but the truth is that I don’t know what to say to her. I love Gracie, truly I do, but I feel so…betrayed, I suppose is the word. We are closer than a lot of sisters, and I can’t seem to rid myself of the hurt I feel that she never told me that she was feeling this way.
“Have you thought of what you would like to say to her?”
Again I shake my head, although this is not necessarily true. I have thought a lot about it, yet nothing I come up with seems to be right.
Dr. Harmony stares at me intently for a moment, and again I get the feeling that she is reading my thoughts. I try and keep my eyes on hers, but her stare is so unnatural that I find my eyes shooting back to my hands in my lap.
“Our session is just about over,” Dr. Harmony begins slowly, still watching me, “but I want to give you something.” She reaches into a drawer in her desk and pulls out a small, black composition book. I automatically wrinkle my eyebrows in confusion, despite the fact that I had been doing my best to give away as little to Dr. Harmony as possible.
“I would like you to write down things you might say to your sister until you see her,” Dr. Harmony tells me, and I find myself becoming irritated with her. Grace, I want to say, her name is Grace.
I take the notebook without a word and place it neatly in my lap, purposely taking as much time as possible straightening it and folding my hands carefully over it. Dr. Harmony looks me over once more, probably hoping to find some tidbit of emotion to latch onto, but I give her nothing.
“Well, that’s it for today then,” she says, smiling politely, and I stand up before the words are even out of her mouth. Her smile tightens lightly. “Have a wonderful day,” I hear as the door swings shut, and I am gone.
I am not a rude person by nature. In fact I am quite the opposite. Adults often make comments to my parents about how polite I am, what a treasure I am to have in class, etc. All the boring things adults say to one another. Dr. Harmony, however, is an exception.
Out in the waiting room my mother is waiting for me. She smiles as she stands, but her face drops when she sees my expression. “How did it go?” she asks hopefully, but I am sure she knows the answer.
“Fine,” I reply, and we both know this is a lie, but she doesn’t call me out on it, just as I do not call her out on the fact that she does not actually want to hear the full explanation. Mom has made it perfectly clear to everyone that she would rather pretend everything is just the way it was, when in fact, everything has changed.
In the car, I slip off my sandals and prop my feet up on the dashboard. Mom slides in a Beatles CD, and if I close my eyes then just for a second I can pretend that everything is just the way it was last year.
The good feeling doesn’t last long, though. Memories of last year lately have always seemed to turn into long inner monologues about how I should have seen the signs that something was not right with Gracie.
“Mom,” Gracie calls the moment she is through the doorway. This is a regular thing. Gracie has always been closest to our mother, sharing everything with her. I was sitting on the couch at the time, reading a book, Mom in the rocking chair.
Without waiting for our mother to answer, Gracie continues at top speed. “I’ve decided to join the art club this year! It’s going to be so great; every year they have a fundraiser where they-”
“Gracie,” Mom interrupts, smiling as though she is not about to break my sister’s heart. Only later would it occur to me that she doesn’t even realize the effect her words will have on her daughter. “As fun as that sounds, dear, that would interfere with soccer.”
I can tell by the look on Gracie’s face that she has anticipated this and already has her reply planned, but Mom keeps going. “You know that soccer is important for your college applications. Plus you enjoy it so much. I just know you’ll regret quitting if you do.”
There is a tense silence for a moment that Mom doesn’t seem to notice. Without a word Gracie turns and walks, slowly and deliberately, to her room. That is the last I hear about art club.
I am so lost in thought that I do not even realize we are home until John Lennon’s voice is cut off as my mother pulls the key from the ignition. She says nothing as she walks inside, as though she knows what I was thinking about and wants to be as far from it as possible.
I still have glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to my ceiling from the fourth grade, when I decided that I wanted to be an astronomer when I grew up. I no longer have any interest in astronomy, but I love the way the stars look at night, and over the years my collection of them has grown. On night when I can’t sleep, I stare up at them and search for pictures they make.
My clock tells me it is eleven o’clock, and though I am exhausted I can not seem to fall asleep. Just as I am about to drift off, I hear:
Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon...
I groan and roll over. I can never seem to get this song out of my head, although I can’t remember where I heard it. I looked it up once, out of curiosity. A man sings it, but I always hear a woman singing in my head.
...Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As out days disappear all too soon...
The voice is familiar, but not. I shake my head to clear it, unsuccessfully, and eventually give in, listening to the music in my mind until I drift off.
...So help me if you can I’ve got to get
Back to the house at Pooh Corner by one
You’d be surprised, there’s so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the day of Christopher Robin and Pooh...