“Because— Because!” I look at her almost angrily. Sometimes Dr. Sarah is deliberately obtuse.
“Linus won’t come over.” She gets up and writes it on the board:
Then she draws an arrow from it and writes Linus’s thoughts in a circle.
“Why should these thoughts”—she taps the board—“make you feel stupid?”
“Because…” I struggle with my own thought process. “Because I shouldn’t have asked him.”
“Why not?” she counters. “So he says no. All that means is, he didn’t feel like being interviewed, or he was busy, or he’s intending to say yes another time. Or any number of things. It doesn’t mean anything about you.”
“Of course it does!” I say before I can stop myself.
“Of course?” She instantly picks me up on it. “Of course?”
OK, I fell into that one. Of course is the kind of phrase that makes Dr. Sarah’s nose twitch like a shark scenting blood. That and I have to.
“Audrey, do you know what Linus is thinking?”
“No,” I say reluctantly.
“You don’t sound sure about that. Audrey, can you see into people’s heads?”
“Are you gifted with superpowers? Is this something I should know about you?”
“No.” I hold up my hands. “OK. I get it. I was mind-reading.”
“You were mind-reading.” She nods. “You have no idea what Linus is thinking. It could be good, it could be bad. Most likely, it’s nothing at all. He’s a boy. You’d better get used to that.” Her face crinkles in humour.
“Right.” I know she’s trying to make me smile, but I’m too confused. “So…I should ask him?”
“I think you should.” She picks up the whiteboard cloth and rubs out Linus won’t come over. In its place, she writes:
“OK?” she says, when I’ve had a chance to read it.
“Good. Then ask him. Let’s make that your homework. Asking Linus.”
The first step is catching Mum in a good mood, when she’s not going to freak out or overreact or anything. I wait till she’s just finished watching an episode of MasterChef, then casually sit on the arm of the sofa and say,
“Mum, I’d like a phone.”
“A phone?” She sits up, her eyes wide circles, her mouth open. “A phone?”
If I’m the Queen of Overreaction, Mum is the Empress.
“Um, yes. A phone. If that’s OK.”
“Who are you going to call?” she demands.
“I just…I don’t know. People.” I know I sound scratchy, but she makes me scratchy.
“People! Do you, like, need all their names?”
There’s silence, and I know what she’s thinking, because I’m thinking it too. My last phone wasn’t exactly a success. I mean, it was a nice phone. It was a Samsung. But it became like this portal. A kind of toxic portal to…all of it. It used to make me quiver with fright, just hearing the buzz of a text, let alone reading it. I don’t know what happened to it. Dad got rid of it.
But I mean, that was then.
That was them.
“Audrey…” Mum’s face is strained and I feel sorry I’ve ruined her nice evening of Master Chef and Grand Designs or whatever.
“It’ll be fine,” I reassure her.
“Do you want to call Natalie? Is that it?”
The name Natalie makes me shrink away a little. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to talk to Natalie. But nor do I want to give anything away to Mum.
“Maybe.” I shrug.
“Audrey, I don’t know…”
I know why Mum’s sensitive on this issue. I mean believe me, I’m sensitive too. (In fact, I’m oversensitive, which basically the whole world has told me.) But I’m not giving in. I feel resolved on this. I should get a phone.
“Audrey, be careful. I just…I just don’t want you to be…”
I can see a few grey hairs among Mum’s vivid brown highlights. Her skin looks kind of thin. I think all this has aged her. I’ve aged her.
“Dr. Sarah would tell me to get the phone,” I say, to make her feel better. “She always says I can text her, any time. She says I’ll know when I’m ready. Well, I’m ready.”
“OK.” Mum sighs. “We’ll get you a phone. I mean, it’s great that you want one, darling. It’s wonderful.” She puts a hand on mine as though she’s only just seeing the positive side. “This is progress!”