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“Are you ready for school next week, Gaby?” Dr. Newman asks, getting on with our questioning routine.
“Mmm-hmm.” I answer in a hard tone.
My therapist jots something down in that dumb white binder he always has with him.
“It’s your senior year. Excited?”
I amazingly restrain from rolling my eyes. “Yep.”
“How’s your asthma been lately?”
“When was your last big attack?”
“I don’t remember.”
Dr. Newman glances up at me. “C’mon, Gaby.”
I inhale, puffing my cheeks up with air, and then exhale with a loud whoosh. “Last night.”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I have this little thing called asthma? Do you think that could possibly have anything to do with why I had an asthma attack?”
He sighs and snaps the binder shut in one fluid movement. “Okay, I can see we aren’t getting anywhere today.”
I scoff. “You think?”
He grimaces. “I know you aren’t thrilled with these sessions, but it really is a great opportunity to let your feelings out and share.”
I raise one eyebrow. “We’re not hippies, Sir.”
He lets out a small smile. “No, Gaby, we’re not. But do you see my point?”
“Nope.” I pop my gum rudely, challenging him to kick me out.
He takes off his rimless glasses and leans forward, endless patience in his eyes. “Look, Gaby, I want to help you. I really do. I won’t give up on you, I promise you that, but, if you won’t cooperate and talk to me, then I can’t do much else.”
I remain immobile with my lips pressed into a hard line.
“Well, if you won’t do this for yourself then do it for your mother. She just wants to help you.”
“Help me? No offense, but I don’t even know you Dr. Newman. How can you expect me to just pour my feeling out to some shrink I met a month ago?”
“I understand completely, but think about what your mother’s going through. You’re not the only one who's lost somebody here.”
“That’s not fair. She sends me off to you for an hour every day just so she can get away from me. She doesn’t care about “helping” me.”
“Gaby, you know that’s not true.”
“Yes it is.” I retaliate. “You don’t have to live with her and watch her move around like a zombie. She doesn’t want me around because she thinks I want to talk about it, whereas she’d rather pretend like it never happened. That’s why she sent me off to you.”
Before Dr. Newman can reply I feel myself proceeding with my tirade. The words just come pouring out. “And then when she’s not being all catatonic, she hovers over me constantly. It’s no wonder I have asthma with the way she’s always this close to me.” I hold my hand up, my index and thumb only mere millimeters apart. “She always makes a big deal about everything. I get up to go to the kitchen and she just has to know why.
I get up to go to the bathroom and she insists on waiting by the door like that crazy murderer is going to crawl through the window with his hand gun. And if he did she wouldn’t even know what he’d look like. She wasn’t the one who saw him shoot my dad. She didn’t have to be there and watch her father fall over like a ragdoll as if he’d never even been a living, breathing human being. She didn’t have to stomach that sick smile the guy had on his face before he made his escape. She didn’t have to sit there in a puddle of blood and wait with her father’s body until the ambulance arrived. No, he was all cleaned up by the time she came into the picture.” I let out an exhausted breath and force myself to say the last few words that have haunted me since the day my father was murdered.
“She doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life with that man’s face forever imprinted in her mind. She doesn’t have to live with the guilt of not even trying to stop that killer as he escaped. She didn’t just let him leave without putting up a fight.”
“Gaby, you’re seventeen.” Dr. Newman says gently. “That man is an extremely dangerous criminal. I don’t think your father would have wanted you anywhere near him.”
I know he’s right, but that doesn’t take away the guilt. I sigh and lean back into the tan, plush sofa. I don’t know what else to say.
Dr. Newman seems to sense that I’m done. He puts his glasses back on and runs a hand through his curly blond hair.
I have to admit, if I really had to pick my own shrink I would have picked Dr. Newman. He’s relatively young, late twenties to early thirties at the absolute youngest, and handsome. It could be worse, I guess. I could’ve gotten stuck with some stuffy, cranky old guy.
“Well, are you ready to call it a day, Gaby?” He asks, although I’m sure he already knows my answer. I’m not exactly fighting to hide it.
I stand up and sling my purse over my shoulder. Dr. Newman escorts me out to the waiting room where my mother is sitting in a far corner flipping through an issue of Woman’s World.
When she sees us she stands up. “How’d it go?” She asks enthusiastically as if I haven’t been seeing Dr. Newman every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the past month.
“Fine.” I say at the same time as Dr. Newman says, “Great.” I glare at him and he smiles back at me with all the innocence of a five-year old. “You’ve got a great girl here Ms. Sparks.”
Mom puts a protective arm around my shoulders. “I know I do.”
“So, I’ll see you Wednesday, Gaby?” Dr. Newman verifies.
“Four o’ clock.”
“Looking forward to it.” He says. He shakes hands with my mother and then lets her lead me to the elevators.
We ride down to the 1st floor in silence. Mom is the perfect mother around people. She’s always put together, not a hair out of place, not a smudge on her face. But, when it’s just us…..that’s a totally different story.
Once we’re in the car I turn on the radio and turn up the volume. Mom immediately turns it back off. I shoot her a look.
“I have a headache.” She states; taking a long pull from her thermos filled with black coffee.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t guzzle that junk day in and day out you wouldn’t get so many migraines.” I mumble.
She pretends as if the hasn’t heard me.
I sigh and turn my head to look out the window, watching the trees and houses pass in a blur.
Once we are in our own driveway again I tear from the car and go into the house. My mom follows close behind, closing the door and locking it securely. She kicks off her shoes and goes to curl up in her recliner, still clutching the coffee-filled thermos tightly.
“There’s a frozen pizza in the freezer when you get hungry, sweetheart.” She says as she turns on the T.V.
I feel my anger melting away. I go to her and sit on the arm of her recliner. “Mom, I was thinking that maybe we could make dinner together tonight. We could have barbecued chicken and baked potatoes.” I swallow and go in for the kill. “You know, Dad’s favorite.”
She doesn’t turn away from the television screen, but I feel her body go rigid all over. Her hesitation is almost palpable.
“I-I don’t think we have any of the ingredients.” She states.
“I can run over to the store—”
“It’s only, like, ten minutes away.”
“I don’t want you going out there alone.”
“Mom, it’s the grocery store. There’ll be lots of other people there.”
“I don’t care.” She says, her tone suggesting that she wasn’t going to argue anymore. She’s back in the “protective mode” again in an instant. I don’t know how she’s going to handle it when I go back to school for six hours a day, five days a week.
I feel my anger rising again. I wish she would just come out of her little isolated world already and be my mom again, be my friend again.
I sigh loudly and push up from the chair and thunder up the steps into my bedroom. I slam the door shut and lock it. I throw myself onto my bed face down and desperately chomp down on my bottom lip to keep my tears of frustration in. I beat my pillow with my fist a couple of times, but am not successful. I flip over on to my back and stare up at my ceiling until my vision is marred with relentless tears. This time I let them come, let them wash my face.
My life is a mess and it will never be normal again.