I double-clicked it, downed the wine, and said a prayer.
I didn’t know what I was in for.
I just knew I wasn’t ready for this.
The first time I stepped into a juvenile treatment clinic was at age fourteen.
Earlier that week, I beat myself up so bad, I was still pissing blood and spitting teeth. My face was so swollen, it took three of my peers to recognize who I was when they found me on the library floor.
My mother accompanied me into the Swiss clinic. Reluctantly. I was covered in a coat, hat, and sunglasses to hide my battered figure, like a D-list celebrity zipping through an airport, trying to remain unidentified. Mother remained silent most of the plane journey from England to Zurich, save for a brief conversation, whispered after the stewardesses were out of earshot.
“Your father can’t know.”
That was the first thing she said.
Not how you are doing.
How’d it happen.
Your father can’t know.
I stayed quiet. There was, after all, nothing to say. She was right. Athair couldn’t know. And at any rate, there was no way to explain what had happened. One second I was sitting in front of my textbooks in the library, studying my ass off to finish first in class as always, the familiar weird pressure—an intangible tension I couldn’t explain—skulking up my spine like a spider, and the other, I was on the floor, beaten to a pulp, not sure who did it.
Now I knew who that person was.
It was me.
I beat myself up to a point of unconsciousness.
“Cillian Frances, did you hear me?” Mother linked her fingers together over her lap, face rigid, posture perfect.
“Loud and clear.” I looked out the window at the passing clouds.
“Good.” She frowned at an invisible spot on the cockpit door. “He will blame it on me, somehow. He always does, you know? I can never catch a break with this man.”
My mother wasn’t a bad person. But she was weak. Convenient. Now more than ever, having given birth to my sibling, Hunter, less than three years ago.
The new baby had put a strain on my parents’ marriage. When I came for a visit during the summer, they’d barely spoken a word to each other. When my mother asked if I wanted to hold my brother, my initial reaction had been hell no, but then she gave me that sheepish, poor-me look, and added, “Your father never holds him.”
So I’d held him. Looked down at the tiny, old-looking bald person who stared back at me with big blue eyes that looked nothing like mine and told him, “Buckle up, little bro. You were definitely born into one heck of a family.”
“Anyway,” Mother chimed again on the plane, rearranging her pearl necklace, “I hope this has nothing to do with Andrew Arrowsmith. You won’t be seeing much of him anymore outside of Evon.”
“I haven’t heard or seen him since Athair fired his dad,” I admitted in a vain attempt to try to get some info.
“His father wouldn’t have been fired if he wasn’t a crook,” Mother huffed.
“I don’t care about his father.”
“We’ll see if he finishes his studies at Evon,” she continued, ignoring my words. I’d often wondered why I bothered answering her at all. “Your father is suing him for everything he stole.”
“They used to go golfing together. Take annual vacations. Visit casinos in Europe. Go fishing,” I said, leaving out the escorts, strip clubs, and underground joints they’d promised to take Andrew and me to when we were older.
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be naïve, Cillian. People will do anything to get close to us Fitzpatricks. We can’t have real friendships.”
Mother dropped me off at the clinic as soon as we landed, signed the paperwork, and told me she’d come to pick me up in a few hours.
“I would stay,” she sighed, “but you know how jittery I get in clinics. They’re not my scene. Besides, I have some shopping to do. You understand, don’t you, Kill?” She pinched my cheeks. I stepped away, turned around, and left without a word.
A nurse led me to a white small room with a desk and a chair. She locked the door behind me. I sat down, looking up at a security camera that was trained on me. I was obviously being watched.
They kept me like this for twenty minutes or so before a male voice sounded behind a two-way mirror.
“Hi there, Cillian.”
I wasn’t afraid. I was extremely adaptable. Came with the territory of growing up in the hands of au pairs and attending private schools away from home from age six.
“How’re you feeling?”
“Been better. Been worse.” I crossed my legs, making myself comfortable.
“That’s interesting,” the doctor said. It wasn’t, really, but I appreciated his sympathy, whether it was genuine or not. It was more than I’d received from my own mother, oftentimes.
“Do you know why you’re here?” the pleasant voice asked.
“I’m guessing it’s because I have a thing called the Tourette’s syndrome.” I slouched back in the chair, taking in all the whiteness. The calmness of it pleased me. A long silence stretched from the other side of the window. “How long have you known?”
“About a week.”
I heard pages flipping on a clipboard from the other side. I smiled grimly. Normally, it was the patient who was in the dark.
“How can it be? It says here your tic attack took place two days ago,” another voice said. A middle-aged female was my guess. Both doctors had accents. One was probably Italian, and the other Swiss from the French border.
“Yes,” I said slowly, giving them time to fill in their charts. “But I’ve been feeling the tension of the attack in the days before building up, so I did some research.”
“So you knew you were going to get it?” the woman Swiss doctor asked incredulously. “The attack.”
I nodded curtly. She gasped. She actually gasped.
“Poor thing,” she said. Very un-doctor-like.
“Never been accused of being that before,” I muttered, checking my watch for the time.
“Where are your parents?” the female doctor asked, her voice growing closer. Were they going to open the door between our rooms? I hoped not. Eye contact wasn’t my favorite.