He doesn’t understand. He won’t understand. He’s not just opposed to the plan, he’s angry. Physically angry. He hits a tree, like it’s the tree’s fault.
“It’s fucking nuts,” he keeps saying, striding back and forth over the grass, glaring at the squirrels. “Bonkers.”
“Look, Linus…” I try to explain. “I have to do this.”
“Don’t give me that bollocks!” he yells. “I thought your therapist banned those words? I thought the only thing you ‘have to’ do in life is obey the laws of physics? Didn’t you learn anything? What about living in the present, not the past? What about that?”
I stare at him, silenced. He was listening more than I realized.
“You don’t ‘have to’ do this,” he continues, “you’re choosing to do it. What if you have a relapse? What then?”
“Then…” I wipe my damp face. “I won’t. I’ll be fine. I’m better, in case you hadn’t realized—”
“You’re still wearing fucking dark glasses!” he explodes. “You’re still practicing having three-line conversations with strangers! And now you want to face down some bitch bully girl? Why would you even give her the time of day? It’s selfish.”
“What?” I stare at him, reeling. “Selfish?”
“Yes, selfish! You know how many people have tried to help you? You know how many people are willing you to get better? And you pull a stunt like this, just because you ‘have to’? This is dangerous, if you ask me. And who’s going to pick up the pieces afterwards? Tell me that.”
He’s so righteously indignant, I feel a surge of fury. What does he know? What the fuck does he know about me?
“There won’t be any ‘pieces,’ ” I spit at him. “For God’s sake, seeing one girl in Starbucks isn’t dangerous. And anyway, it wasn’t what happened that made me ill. That’s a common mistake people make, actually. Stressful events don’t make you ill, actually. It’s the way your brain reacts to stressful events. So.”
“OK, so how’s your brain going to react to this stressful event?” he shoots back with equal ferocity. “Do a dance and sing ‘Happy’?”
“It’s going to react fine,” I say savagely. “I’m better. And if by any chance it doesn’t, don’t worry, I won’t expect you to pick up the pieces. In fact, you know, Linus, I’m sorry I’ve caused you so much trouble already. You’d better find someone else to hang out with. Someone who doesn’t possess any dark glasses. Maybe Tasha, I’ve heard she’s super-fun.”
I’m scrambling to my feet, trying to keep my poise, which isn’t easy when the landscape is looming at me and my head is singing loud protests.
“No. I’m going.”
Tears are coursing down my face, but that’s OK, because I’m keeping it twisted away from Linus.
“Well, I’m coming with you.”
“Leave me alone,” I say, wrenching my arm out of his grasp. “Leave me alone.” And finally, after managing to ignore it all day, I surrender to my lizard brain. And I run.
Here’s what I’m not supposed to do after a stressful event: Ruminate about it. Brood. Replay it over and over. Take responsibility for anyone else’s emotions.
Here’s what I’ve been doing ever since my fight with Linus: Ruminating about it. Brooding. Replaying it over and over. Taking responsibility for his fury (yet resenting it). Lurching between despair and indignation. Wanting to call him. Wanting to never call him again.
Why can’t he understand? I thought he’d admire me. I thought he’d talk about Closure and Courage and say, “You’re right, Audrey, this is something you have to do, however hard it is, and I’ll be right behind you.”
I’ve barely slept, the last two nights. It’s like my mind is a cauldron, cooking away, throwing up noxious bubbles and fumes and fermenting itself into something quite weird. I feel light-headed and surreal and hyper. But kind of focused too. I’m going to do this, and it’s going to be like a major turning point, and afterwards things will be different. I don’t know how exactly, but they will. It’s like, I’ll have got over the hurdle or run through the finishing tape or whatever. I’ll be free. Of something.
So in short, I’m a bit obsessed. But luckily Mum and Dad are too preoccupied with Frank to notice me right now. I’m way down under their radar. Basically, Mum found the Atari in Frank’s room last night and it all kicked off again and now we’re in Family Crisis Mode.