I stayed at the house for the next few days, sucked on cubes of Jell-O, drank water constantly. I hated that I had to eat to stay alive. Wasn’t it such a stupid thing? Food. The idea of it. To have to ingest something to stay alive. Ridiculous.
The Grants all watched me though, like I might turn stark raving mad in front of them, throw off my clothes, run into the night. Like I was capable of slipping between their fingers.
I lay on my back at night in my dark room, stared up at the shadowy ceiling, wondered how to end this. Wondered how to be free. I lay there till I couldn’t stand the pain.
On Thursday Mrs. Grant took me to a big blue building off of Lathrop to see the therapist. I felt like a vole spotting a snowy owl, too far from home. We walked in together, filled out the forms, waited in chairs side by side. I flipped through a travel magazine, wished I was there. A woman stepped out of a door to the left of us, called my name. I blinked at Mrs. Grant blankly, couldn’t breathe, felt dizzy. Mrs. Grant touched the back of my hand. I pulled away.
“You’ll be fine. If it’s awful you can get up and leave, all right? You don’t have to wait for the hour to finish, but do give it a chance.”
I followed the woman out of the waiting room and down a hall. She was tall and slender and pretty with small perky features and long dark hair. She wore a maxi purple skirt, Birks, and a grey high-low sweater. She turned her head and smiled at me.
“I’m Samantha Cherry. I’ll be your counselor. You can call me Samantha or Sam, whichever you’d like.”
We kept walking down the hall, down some stairs, halfway down another hall, third door to the right. The room was supposed to be nice with a squashy loveseat, a few side tables, two easy chairs across a coffee table. Bookshelves lined the walls and her desk sat in a corner. Like a living room. Like they were trying to make the victim comfortable. Like we were all pretending that it was just home, a conversation with someone I trusted.
But I didn’t trust anyone, now did I?
Uncle Stephen? Mrs. Grant?
Adam. I wanted to trust Adam. I felt my forehead twist with a frown at that thought.
“Sit wherever you’d like, okay?”
Choices. I wondered what it would say about me, whichever place I chose. Finally I picked the far corner of the couch, against the wall. Just what, exactly, did that say about me? I scowled. She sat across from me in one of the chairs.
“I thought I’d tell you a little about myself first. Sound okay?”
“Sure.” I definitely was interested and I certainly wouldn’t be talking about me, anytime soon.
“I went to school at UAF, focusing mostly on youth psychology. I graduated six years ago and spent two years in Seattle, doing my residency at a special home for at-risk teens. It was really hard to see so many kids getting sucked into a system that didn’t seem to work so when I came back up I decided to go to school again, instead of counseling. I got a sociology degree, but I missed the counseling too much. I have this really huge desire to help people, you know? And sociology was just about studying them. Too clinical and removed for me, so I got back into counseling. Trying to make a difference.
“What I like to do in my spare time is hiking, reading anything and everything, cross-country skiing, and yarn bombing. I grew up in Homer, born in Anchorage. My parents were both psychologists. I’ve always wanted to be one. What about you? What do you like to do?”
I shrugged. “Fuck over psychologists.”
“An admirable hobby. Anything else?”
I eyed her, wondered what the importance of that would be, whether or not she was trying to get me comfortable so I’d divulge my horrors. I shrugged.
“Where were you born? Fairbanks?”
I shook my head. Why did it even matter?
“In Alaska at all?”
“I wasn’t born. I was hatched.”
“A scientific breakthrough if I ever heard of one.” She pulled on a strand of hair, smiled. “You know, Violet, it’s okay to need people. We all need. It’s part of being human. I’d like you to be able to trust me.”
I didn’t know what that meant. Trust? I had nothing to compare that word to. I leaned my head back, stared at the ceiling, tried to imagine myself into Santa Fe, walking the narrow sun-baked streets of downtown.
“You don’t want to be here, do you?”
“I’d like to hear your side of the story.”
“I’m sure the state told you everything.”
“They don’t know very much of it.”
“Why do you think the state is requiring you to see a counselor?”
I frowned. I’d no idea so I shrugged again, made a noise of boredom.
“Do you like the Grants?”
I looked at her, looked down at my hands fidgeting on my lap. They were white and thin, like strange sea creatures from the deepest oceans. Things unconnected to me, that had nothing to do with me whatsoever.
“Your paperwork said you’re into art. What kind?”
I shrugged. “The kind where everyone ends up dead.”
“You think about death a lot?”
“Only in my spare time.”
“Have you ever tried to kill yourself?” She set one of her feet on top of the other one, which was turned on it’s side. She wrapped her knitted hands around her knee.
I wasn’t sure if I should answer that one, ever. Too much power, given freely to a virtual stranger. Truth was, I actually thought about death and killing myself a lot. I’d tried twice, but I’d been found by my mother each time. The first time I took all the pills in the cabinet, got my stomach pumped. Not something I would recommend. The second time I brought home a razor from the art studio, cut my wrists along the veins, like I was tracing. Mother came home freakishly early and I got pretty stitches. I pulled my long sleeves further down, over my thumbs. Did they have some sort of file on me? Did she already know? Just asking to have me confirm?
I thought sometimes that life was just biding time, waiting until no one could interfere, waiting until no one could save me. But then I would always think of my painting. I loved to paint. I couldn’t give it up, could I?
I didn’t want Samantha to know how deeply I struggled with the whole suicide thing so I started biting my nails, tried to look bored.
“So you haven’t ever tried to commit suicide?”
I hadn’t been trying. ‘Trying’ meant you just wanted to get attention. I had been killing myself and got found, so I said, “No. Do I look stupid?”
“Trying to kill oneself isn’t stupidity. It’s desperation. It’s the inability to see yourself out of a situation. It’s a way of making an out.”
I stared at her, shook to my core. I decided to be flip, sarcastic. “Fascinating. Why don’t you tell me why I’m here?”
She shrugged. “Because the court system felt you needed to learn some things. I don’t know. You tell me.”
I opened my mouth, then stopped. Narrowed my eyes. “You’re tricking me. You’re just trying to get me to talk, aren’t you?”
She smiled. “It can’t hurt you, can it? Talking?”
I shrugged. More than anything. More than blows and burns and cuts. Words were stronger than flesh, harder than stone.
“And it might do some real good to talk about it.”
“Which ‘it’ are we discussing, in particular?”
“Your mother hurting you.”
I crossed my legs, folded my arms. “Maybe it was an accident.”
I eyed her. She shrugged, frowned. “I’d like to hear what happened that day. Nobody knows but you and your mother, neither of which are talking. Please. I’d like to help you.”
“You think it’ll help me to tell you? I satisfy your curiosity and whatever you think is ailing me will go away?”
“I don’t know. But that’s why you’re here. To heal yourself.”
Something in what she said rang true to me. To heal myself. Was that even possible? Healing. I breathed deep, wanting it, tasted it like sun on my lips, across my tongue. Could I ever be healed? My frail, torn self shook.
“So will it set me free?”
“The truth, you mean?”
I ran a hand over my head, over the stubbly hair-growth. “The truth,” I said. “I don’t know what that is.”
“So tell me from your point of view what happened.”
“I don’t think so.”
Samantha sighed, frowned. “Not any of it? Wasn’t it your birthday? So you were cooking dinner?”
“And your mother hurt you for no reason.”
“Mother would never hurt me for no reason.”
“But she did hurt you.”
“I’m not exactly the greatest kid, you know. I tried her patience. She’s a hard woman. I can never figure what she wants.” I never could figure out what to do right.
“Violet, the violence she displayed against you was not deserved. That kind of violence can never be justified. Don’t try to protect her. Don’t lie for her.”
I crossed my arms tighter, felt nauseous and oh, so cold. “Is it time to go yet?”
She checked her watch, sat back. “A few more minutes. Do you remember anything else about that day?”
The birches had been naked on the hills, winter coming. Cranes were flying south in formation. Mother once told me that my birth was the signal of the land’s death, an eternal winter. She’d always been rather poetic.
“Fuck off.” God, I wanted out of there so bad.
She sighed. “This week I’d like you to start keeping a journal. Write in it every day. Doesn’t have to be a novel. One word if that’s all you have in you. I’d like you to write about what happened in the kitchen that day, what you were feeling. And whatever else you want to write about. Bring it next week and we can talk about it. I won’t read it if you don’t want me to. You can just tell me what you want, or have me read a couple of things. Sound okay?”
I shrugged. Like I had a choice.
Sounded a little interesting, maybe.
We walked out together, silently, her leading the way. In the lobby Mrs. Grant looked up and smiled at me, stood. Samantha walked over, shook her hand.
“Is this time good every week, Mrs. Grant?”
“It’s fine. Violet? What do you think?”
I wanted desperately to get out of there. I shrugged. Whatever. A prison sentence, that’s all this was.
“Okay, then. Next week.”
In the car she raised an eyebrow at me. “So? Was it awful?”
“Yes.” With conviction.
“But you’ll come back?”
“I have no choice.” I’ve never been my own. I’d never be free.
She frowned, looked startled. “Free? What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing.” Stupid mouth. “Let’s just go. I want to lie down.”