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Authors: Margaret Lesh

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Normalish (17 page)

BOOK: Normalish
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December 31 –
New Year’s Eve


A package came in a little brown box. I know what it is
, but I can’t look at it. Once I saw the hand-lettered address in Bobby’s writing, I had to put it down. His name above the address of the place he doesn’t live anymore is too hard to think about. I know what’s inside, but I’m not ready to hear his voice. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, but not now.

Mom is worried. This time not about Becca. She’s worried about me. Becca’s worried about me. Jill’s worried about me.

It’s funny how things change. Now it’s
turn to cause everyone grief. And I just don’t care. I really don’t.

January 1 -
Head Shrinking


After watching me in my deep funk for four days, lying on my bed
, staring up at the ceiling, Mom came into the room and sat next to me.

“Stacy, I’m really worried about you.” She sat there on the edge of my bed, and her voice was soft and gentle. She stroked my hair, petting it. “I’ve made an appointment for you to see somebody tomorrow.”

“See who?”

“A counselor. Just to talk. I want you to see a professional. I really think it’ll help you to just talk to somebody. Okay?”

“Okay, whatever, Mom. Whatever you say.”

I didn’t want to argue with her. I just didn’t care about anything. I just felt this ache inside, and it felt like I was losing myself—my spark.

I’m sure I’ll get it back some day, but just not now.

January 2 –
The Opposite Of Joy


I picked out Mom’s white silk blouse and Jill’s black skirt
when I got ready to meet Joy, my therapist. (Which sounds
strange to say, and kind of a funny name for a therapist.)

For some reason, I wanted to seem put-together. For some reason, I wanted to look serious. Maybe because I knew we’d be talking about serious things, and I didn’t want her to think I was just some kid.

The first session was okay. She didn’t show me blobs of ink on paper and have me tell her whether they were a cow or a rocket ship. (Which is too bad. I’ve always wanted to do that.) She also didn’t have me lie down on a couch and then look down at me over the top of her glasses and say, “So, tell me about your mother.” No, she didn’t do that, thank God. She had me start off by telling her about my life.

I didn’t say a lot. I wasn’t feeling particularly talkative. But I did tell her about how since Bobby died, all I feel and all I see is gray. It’s January, so it’s gray out anyway, but still, that’s all I see. The whole world is gray. I haven’t felt like laughing or crying or anything. It’s just this numb feeling that I have. And I told her about my dad dying and about Becca going nuts. About the snake Anthony. About Summer abandoning me. Everything.

The good thing about meeting Joy: she assured me that, first off, I’m not losing my grip on reality, and I’m not on the verge of a schizoid episode like Becca. No, it’s more of your generic, over-the-counter depression. It’s just that I’ve taken the ordinary depression that we all get and kicked it up a notch, put it in overdrive. It’s full-on and hardcore. And that’s what happens when you find yourself experiencing a whole series of really terrible, crappy, sucky things, one after another. I mean, it’s perfectly understandable. At least this is what Joy told me.

Joy’s tall. She has short red hair and glasses and this very intense gaze. She can look right into my eyes, and I start spilling everything like a total goober. I can’t help it, I really can’t. It’s almost like she hypnotizes me. And I guess that’s what you want in a therapist, someone you can really spill your guts to, let it all hang out there. But she seems to care about what I have to say and doesn’t judge me. For instance, I could tell her, “You know, I killed a few people and buried their bodies in the backyard,” and she’d just look at me and say, “But how do
feel about that?”

I told her about feeling like I have no control over anything. These major things have been happening in my life, and there’s nothing I can do about it, so it makes me feel like: “
Why bother? What’s the difference? Crappy stuff is just going to keep happening anyway, so what difference does it make if I care or get happy or excited about things?
” I just feel flat and numb. I feel like that line on those hospital machines when someone dies and it just goes “beeeeeeeeeeeeep.”

Joy looked at me with those intense, green eyes of hers and gave a little speech about control.

“Stacy, it’s true, there are
things in life over which we have absolutely no control. We can’t control the weather; we can’t control freak things that happen every day. You had no control over whether your father lived or died. That’s true. And you had no control over Becca’s mental illness or what happened to Bobby.”

I sat there, nodding.

“Okay? So what we need to focus on are the things you do have control over, like the choices you make in life. Everything in life is about choices and that little voice in the back of your head that tells you what the
choice is, the little alarm bells that go off when you’re in a bad situation. Everything in life is about the choices you make.”

She was right. I kept nodding and listening to her steady, calm voice.

“Listen,” she said, “people disappoint. Teachers disappoint, family disappoints, friends. Even spouses. Maybe especially spouses. You have to depend on yourself. Your happiness comes from within, Stacy, and you have to make the choice to be happy. You can’t count on other people for that.”

“Dude, that sucks!”

She laughed. I laughed. I meant it to be funny. I mean, everything we were talking about was so heavy, I couldn’t help myself.

“You’re going to be just fine,” she said, gazing deep into my eyes with her intense laser beams.

The two of us talked about everything—my life plans (which really just consist of me getting through my first year of high school), and my social life (what little there is of one), and I told her how I’ve pretty much blown off my friends, and how I’ve been sleepwalking through life for the past few days.

“Stacy, you need to have some fun. Go out with your friends. Have a sleepover. Just do something to remind yourself that life is good. Remember that you’re fifteen years old. And I’ll see you next week. Okay?”

Yeah, I have to remember that life is good, because if I don’t, then I might as well check myself into Brookside and sit in a corner crocheting those heinous afghan blankets and scarves that’ll end up in the back of someone’s closet.

When the session was over, I found Mom in the waiting room reading a magazine. She looked over at me with a smile. A hopeful smile, like she was hoping I’d be all right, like I was before. I gave her a little smile back and tried not to notice how she looked like she hadn’t slept for a week. She had dark circles under her eyes, and I know it was because she was thinking that her youngest was on the verge of raiding the medicine cabinets at home (which don’t have anything in them since she already cleaned them out when Becca started going sideways).

“Wanna stop and get a pizza on the way home?” she asked.

I didn’t want to disappoint her again, so I made an effort.

“Sure, Mom. Sounds great.” And I put my arm around her for a second, and we got a pepperoni for her and Jill and me, and a small veggie for Becca and Roman.

January 3 -
Frozen Yogurt
On A Cold Day


When Rose called and asked if I wanted to go to the mall
with her and Bethany, I thought about what Joy told me about getting out with my friends and remembering that life is still good, so instead of telling her no, which was my first impulse, I did the opposite: I said yes.

I didn’t tell them about Bobby, because that just felt weird. But it also felt weird not telling them. It’s this secret I have from everyone, except for my family and Joy and Roman and Sylvia. Okay, so a few people knew, but none of my friends, and it felt like I was holding back. And I guess I was.

Even though it was freezing outside, I sat with Bethany and Rose in the mall, eating frozen yogurt, trying not to seem all sad and depressed, even though there was no New York cheesecake flavor. Rose, sitting there in her great new black trench coat, was giving me this look.

“Stacy? I just asked you, what kind of boots should I get, short or long?”

“Um, short? Long ones are tight on the calf sometimes.” I said, distracted.

“What is
with you?” she asked. “You’ve been staring at your frozen yogurt for five minutes.”

“I really wanted cheesecake.”

The two of them were animated, chatty, planning how to spend what was left of their Christmas/Hanukkah cash while I was in a funk over yogurt.

She looked at me very seriously and asked, “You’re not still upset over Anthony, are you?”

“Ugh, why did you mention
name? I actually wasn’t thinking about him at all, but thanks for reminding me.”

Bethany shot Rose a dirty look.

It was funny, these two thinking I was still hung up on Anthony when he was, like, a lifetime ago.
less important to me than my cup of frozen yogurt.

“It’s just I really wanted cheesecake, and this strawberry tastes like blueberry.”

Rose stared at me like I was a three year old, speaking slowly, “So…why…don’t you…change it?”

“Nah, I don’t want to make a big thing out of it.”

She grabbed my cup, and I watched as she took care of me, talking to the guy behind the counter, “My friend’s strawberry tastes like blueberry.”

He didn’t seem to care and shoved another cup over to her. “Go ahead and get another flavor.”

Rose brought me back a cup of coconut that tasted like pineapple. Either the machines were on drugs or my taste buds had all gone wrong.

“How is it?” she asked, looking all expectant.

“Perfect,” I lied. She was happy. She’d fixed me now.

“So how’s Becca?” Bethany asked, I think really trying to change the subject from the former horrible one. She looked at me with her wide, hopeful eyes, and she looked so pretty with her new hair. She’d gone copper from brown, but it wasn’t fake-looking, it was just right. Very professional. And she had it cut in a short bob-style with bangs. It suited her face, which is kind of round.

“Oh, she’s great. Everything’s good at home. She’s still Becca, but just not so much. Don’t worry about me, you guys. We should talk about important things, like, for instance, what’s going on with Darrell?”

Bethany rolled her eyes, and Rose was gone, looking starry-eyed. It was sweet.

“I seriously think I’m in love. He called me last night
asked if I want to go to his next meet!”

“Wow. Then it
be serious. Next he’ll be taking you home to meet his parents.”

She gave me a dirty look.

“I’m just kidding, Rose. You know me. Now, let’s go get some boots. Shall we?”

We finished our frozen yogurts. I ate the rest of my pineapple-which-was-supposed-to-be-coconut-but-was-really-not-too-bad and went back into the mall to look for boots. Or rather Rose looked for boots; Bethany looked for a new softball glove; I looked for a way to let go of the ache I’ve been feeling inside for so long.

BOOK: Normalish
3.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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