Heart

Ryn is morbidly pessimistic, blaming the world for his problems. He would probably see past the anger if he could still... well, see.

Asher sees the good in everyone, probably best since she blocks out what everyone says about her. Not by choice, but she does it.

The pair are forced to form a bond after becoming partners in group therapy as a desperate attempt to bring some light into their lives, starting with writing letters to each other. No one expected a third letter to arrive.

// Cover by ireumeun.chloe

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7. Six ∞ Fears


Asher stands with the intention of walking over and confronting the two boys, but her courage fails her. She tries to avoid their gaze as she walks out of the park gate. She fails that, too, and the redhead’s eyes flick in her direction.

           

“Did she just leave?” Ryn asks after hearing the gate swing shut.

           

Luke sits up, his hair dishevelled and forehead scraped. “Yeah, she looked upset. I guess you’ll have to see her another time.”

           

Ryn resists the urge to hit his friend and sinks further down into the bench. “Did you see what she looked like?”

           

“Like a young Alisha Boe.”

           

“I don’t know who that is.”

           

“Gwen from Teen Wolf.”

           

“I still don’t know who that is.”

 

***

 

They do see each other, though, at ten minutes to two in therapy a few days later. Jonathon is in the middle of introducing a game when Ryn arrives, fifteen minutes late with a smile on his face.

           

“After what happened last week, I think it would be good for us to talk about fear in today’s session,” Jonathon says, glancing between a smiling Ryn and Asher with cheeks burning red. “Fear is normal and natural at this stage in the program. People are experiencing all sorts of anxieties, worries, and fears about what might happen. An effective way of starting to deal with these fears is have them openly acknowledged. We’re going to lay them on the table without anyone laughing or making fun of us. Having your fears expressed and heard almost immediately cuts them in half.”

           

Jonathon then takes a pile of paper from the table beside his chair and hands each person in the group a sheet. “You’re all going to complete this sentence on your piece of paper. ‘In this group, I am most afraid that…’ or ‘In this group, I the worst thing that could happen to me would be…’ Fold it up and put it in the centre of the circle when you think you’re finished.”

           

Ryn smirks, wishing he could see the looks of sheer terror on the faces of everyone in the circle, a room full of people who are just afraid of being afraid. Asher wonders if writing down her fears and sharing them is any better than writing them in her journal. Jonathon hopes that he doesn’t get any angry parents phoning him by upsetting their child.

 

When the terrified teenagers have all put their fears on paper, Jonathon mixes them up and calls a random person forward, asking them to read out a fear.

           

“I’m afraid that no one will try to understand what I’m going through because of mental illnesses aren’t treated seriously.”

           

“The worst thing that could happen to me is that therapy won’t help and my parents will still get a divorce because of me.”

           

“I am most afraid that my friends will find out I’m in therapy and won’t want to talk to me anymore.”

           

The fears continue, a person breathing a visible sigh of relief when theirs is read out and no one laughs or mutters something under their breath. Jonathon tries to make helpful comments and starting discussions with the reader when he can, wondering why no one has given him a pay rise.

           

After a few minutes, there is one fear left in the circle and one person in the group who hasn’t stood up to read. Ryn steps into the circle. He’s spent the duration of the activity trying to match the fears to each person until he knows who the remaining one belongs to.

           

“Do you want me to read this one out for you, Ryn?” Jonathon asks.

           

“No, I know what it says,” Ryn replies. “It’s mine. I don’t want to be alone. That’s what I’m afraid of.”

 

Jonathon nods slowly, contemplating his next words. “That’s perfectly normal, Ryn. Having many friends, being social, connecting with people… They’re all things that are socially encouraged. We shouldn’t be ashamed of not fitting in to these expectations."

 

“I’m not ashamed,” Ryn replies, rushing the thoughts that circle through his brain. “I like doing things alone. I like playing the guitar alone. I like walking along the cliff path alone. I like going places alone. I like listening to music alone. But, sometimes, when I hear children playing together in the park, or couples walking past me, or people who used to be my friends talking at the back of the room, I realise that even though I like being alone, I don’t like being lonely.”

           

Jonathon doesn’t respond. It’s so quiet that Ryn can hear people breathing behind him and the clock ticking on the opposite wall.

 

“I think I’m more afraid of being lonely than alone.”

 

***

 

There are only fifteen minutes left of the group therapy session when Asher manages to recover from Ryn’s confession. Jonathon – also shocked from the confession – is introducing another activity, hoping to do something helpful for Ryn.

           

“This next activity is something that will be ongoing over the next few weeks. You’re all going to be in pairs, maybe for just one week, maybe for more. You’re going to handwrite a letter to someone who you want to improve your relationship with. The letters can be written at home and you exchange them here, or you can go somewhere where you’re both comfortable and write the letters in person. You can all go home early as soon as you’ve picked your pairs.”

 

Ryn sits there, unsure what to do. He can hear people fussing around him, going straight to people they’re familiar with, asking to pair up, but no one comes over to him.

 

Then he feels a hand rest on his arm, and he smells raspberry shampoo.

 

“Can I be your partner?” Asher asks. “I don’t think anyone here wants to get to know me."

 

The smile returns to Ryn’s face.

 

“Of course.”

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