Year of the Butterfly

Life goes on.. even when you lose someone you love, even when you don't know what to think, how to feel, how to act and what to say. Everything will be okay, is what people like to say, but it won't and you know it. All you can do is bury your grief and hide, and hope on the surface at least life will appear to be normal. Is there any hope?
This is a story of a young girl battling with the loss of her father. Accompany her on a journey of self-discovery and misadventure as she negotiates her way through bereavement and processes the unanswered questions. Along the way, there are dreams, visions and schemes, at least one golden urn and a kidnapping. Her story is about a metamorphosis from pain into renewal and growth. Her destination is a place of hope with a promise of healing.

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10. A tomato a day keeps the doctor away

Oh gee, Dr Lee! Do you live in a tree? Because you look like a monkey, and I see you eating a flea! 'Child Psychologist' is what the sign outside her office says. Funny way to spell a word. Mommy’s in there talking to Dr Lee about how I wet my bed, I just know it. It’s so embarrassing. It’s bad enough that we have to come here (I’d die if anyone at school found out), and now that too.. It was an accident! Why did Mommy have to make such a big deal about it? Lisa does it all the time and nobody makes a fuss then. I warned Lisa that if she dared tell anyone, she’d never set eyes on my phone for as long as she lives. The last thing I need is for a story to go around school that I see a head shrink and for people like Kenny to hear about it. I bet he's got lots of names for crazy people. Besides, Dr Lee asks dumb questions and I don't feel like talking to her every Wednesday after school. That’s when I’m supposed to have hockey practice at school. Instead I have to come here to play her silly games that aren't fun at all and she bores me with question after question - always asking the same thing in different ways. She probably thinks I’m too stupid to notice. Grown-ups like saying that they get wiser as they get older, then why can’t they understand that if a person doesn't want to talk about something, then they don't want to talk? Instead they go on and on about the same thing, and then call me moody when I don't give them the answer they want. If I knew what they wanted me to say, I’d just say it to get it over and done with. But I don't. And I really just want to be left alone. Oh, here we go. The door's opening.

"Hi there! How are you today?" "Fine thank you, Dr Lee. How are you?" "I’m well too, thanks. Come on in, won't you dear." Mommy's not budging, so that means I’m going to get it from both of them now. "Take a seat, please." This woman is so cheerful and happy all the time, it gets on my nerves. What can she possibly know about feeling miserable? Mommy told my sisters and me that we were going to need help dealing with Daddy's death. That was about 2 weeks after Daddy died. Lisa loves it but I think it's a waste of time. She usually asks us boring questions about school and what we think about when we go to sleep and when we pray and so on. I tell her more or less the truth but I don't tell her what I tell Teddy and I definitely don't tell her about my dreams, the voice and the light, my guardian angel, and the mullet gang in the yellow car. I had to bribe Lisa some more to make sure she doesn't tell Dr Lee about our detective work and about the posters. That way, she can't say that there's anything wrong with me. I’ve got to make sure she thinks I’m perfectly normal so that I can stop coming here. They’re both just sitting there looking at me right now, like they're waiting for me to say something. "Well? Dr Lee asked you a question. What do you say to that?" Uh, that I didn't hear it? "Pardon me, Dr Lee? I don't understand your question." Mommy starts to say something, but Dr Lee lifts up her hand and stops her. "It’s all right. I’m quite used to this. I suspect her mind's wandering a little. Am I right, dear?" I wish she'd stop calling me that. I feel like Bambi being hunted in the forest by 2 hunters with big guns. "I’m sorry, Dr Lee. I don't understand what you're saying now either." This woman just doesn't get annoyed, no matter how hard I try to push her buttons. "Never mind, dear. I asked you about last night. What happened? Your Mommy said that you had a small accident in bed and then you went to sleep beside her. Now when something like that happens to a girl your age, it usually means that she had a bad dream or something scared her. Do you remember if either of these two things happened to you?" I can feel my face burning up and the red spreading from my one ear to the other. Instead of answering, I look at my hands instead. I need to cut my fingernails. One of them is chipped. "It’s okay, dear. Take your time. There's no rush."

Dammit! How am I going to get out of this? If only Mommy wasn't here; I could spin one of my usual stories to Dr Lee and get away with it. I didn't mind those first few visits to Dr Lee's office. She gave Lisa and me a box each and told us that we should think of different things to put inside it that remind us of Daddy. That was okay. The other thing we did was to tell stories about Daddy and say what we miss most about him, and she wrote them into a notebook. Lisa did most of the talking. Dr Lee called those boxes ‘memory boxes’ and the notebook a ‘memory book’. She said we could take them home with us eventually. But the day she gave us dolls to play with and told us to pretend the dolls had to go to a funeral, well, that's where I drew the line. I don't play with dolls. Sometimes when Lisa whines hard enough, Mommy makes me play with her and her dolls. It’s a bit silly, but sometimes Lisa comes up with the best stories and she says the funniest things; so that makes up for it. But what's so funny about pretending to go to a funeral? I knew immediately what Dr Lee was up to and Lisa fell for it because she likes playing with dolls. I just sat and watched with my arms folded, looking crossly at the stupid puppet show. Dr Lee couldn't stop telling Lisa what a good job she did and then she asked me to say if I liked the show or not. I remember mumbling something but she didn't get upset with me for not playing along. The time she wanted us to draw a picture of Daddy was also dumb. By the time Lisa had finished her drawing, I had to laugh because she made Daddy look like a big monkey with long arms and giant nostrils. I thought Dr Lee might not like my laughing at her picture like that, but she just asked me how Lisa should have drawn Daddy. I didn't see the point of doing that, so I filled my page writing my name and other doodles. She still looked at it and asked to keep our drawings. Whatever. The only time I almost enjoyed our visits with Dr Lee was when she asked Lisa and me to write down on pieces of paper some questions that we had and then we had to put them into a closed box. Every week we’re supposed to choose a question from the box and talk about it. Dr Lee left us alone to do that and we had a lot of fun with it! Well, I did. Lisa wanted to ask things like what happens when someone dies, when we will see them again and how long she's going to miss Daddy for. I wrote them down but I also added some of my own: Where do dolls go when they die? Is a zombie dead or alive? Are worms vegetarian or do they eat meat? I think Dr Lee hasn't seen any of my special questions yet, because she hasn't said anything about them. "Maybe it would be better if I left you two alone, Dr Lee." "Would you prefer it if we carried on by ourselves, dear?" I’m nodding because it looks like the only way out for me. "I’ll be waiting outside. Do your best, honey. Dr Lee is only trying to help you." What do I need help with? "I just had too much water to drink before I went to bed last night, Mommy." "She’s probably right about that. Now, we'll only be about another 20 minutes or so." And so Mommy leaves us alone.

Dr Lee gets up and takes out a big sheet of cardboard from a cupboard, some crayons and a container. Oh no, not more drawing! "Come with me to the play room dear. We’re going to have some fun now." I really hate this place. The chairs are all too small for me and the walls are full of cartoon pictures and balloons. Dr Lee is pinning the cardboard against the wall and she's drawing a line down the middle. On the left, she writes ‘This makes me angry’ and on the right, she writes ‘This makes me scared’. What? This is a game? She’s not saying a word, but now she's looking at me with her finger on her lips and then she writes this on the left side: ‘People who don't take care of their pets’. On the right side she writes: ‘Snakes and spiders’. Now she's walking over to me carrying the container. She opens it and takes out-- "Is that a tomato, Dr Lee?" She says nothing - just nods and smiles at me. The next thing I know, she's throwing the tomato at the cardboard. I’m a bit shocked to tell you the truth, especially since she's grinning at me like a naughty child! Now, she's dipping her hand back inside the container and pulls out a small dart. She throws it at the word 'snakes' but misses. She takes out another dart, throws it and hits 'spiders'. She’s laughing out loud now, still saying nothing, but she’s obviously having fun. Weird! Now she's handing me the crayons and she's pointing at the cardboard. Okay, I’ll play... Mm, what makes me angry? I know: ‘People asking stupid questions’. I also draw Kenny’s face. ‘Fractions’. On the right side I write: ‘Men with mullets’. ‘Vampires’. ‘Fire’. ‘Worms’. I walk back to Dr Lee and she's sitting on one of the small plastic chairs now, looking like a blonde lady giant.  She hands me the container. There’s all kinds of cool stuff in here! First I’ll use this water balloon. Splat! I just smashed ‘Fractions’. "Yay! Strike one!" Mm, so Dr Lee’s into baseball... Next I’ll have the dart for Kenny’s face. Got him! "Hey, you're really good at this!" Splat, smash, smack, bang! I’m actually having fun with this. The tomatoes are the best because they make the most mess. I’ve managed to hit everything I’ve written on the cardboard and it feels good! What’s really nice is that Dr Lee hasn't asked me a single question this whole time since Mommy left. "Right, now how did that feel, dear?" "That was fun! But we've made a big mess, Dr Lee. I’ll help you clean up." She's pointing me back towards her desk. "That won't be necessary. That’s what this room is for - to make a mess. It’s where we can be free to show how we feel. And that can sometimes be very messy, don't you agree?" "Yes, Dr Lee." I look back over my shoulder at the cardboard and she says, "You can do that at home too if you like. Show your sister how to do it, but remember not to mess up your mom's carpets at home. Okay, dear. I think that's all for today." "No questions?" "No questions dear. I do want to tell you one thing though. I don't know what happened last night, if you wet the bed because you had too much water to drink before bed or if something scared you, it doesn't really matter. What I need you to know is that there's nothing funny or bad or wrong or strange about wetting the bed. It can happen to anyone and you have nothing to feel embarrassed about. But if something is scaring you, then you know what you can do to smash that thing, so that it can't hurt you anymore. Right? You just do what you and I did now and have some fun while you do it! How does that sound?" "It sounds okay. And... Thanks, Dr Lee." She gets up and as we leave her office, I feel excited to go home and teach Lisa about this game. "See you next week, dear. Goodbye!" "See you, Dr Lee."

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