Picture this. A room with two cosy armchairs and a brown wooden table resting between them holding a small clock, tissues, and minuscule pieces of Celebrations chocolate. The temperature was not cold, and not hot, but that perfect warmth you get from adjusting both the window and radiator heating. In one of the armchairs sat a middle-aged man, bespectacled, foreign — German, perhaps — with a balding patch on his head and weight around his middle. A kind smile spread across his face, his head tilted, garnering the same curiosity as an inquisitive child. In the other chair sat a girl. Fourteen, black hair cane-rolled on top and pulled up into a tight bun. Black hands, black duffel coat, black shoes, black tights. All that shed a silver lining — or a blue one — were the sapphire-crystal earrings hanging from her ears.
The girl was me.
The foreign man peered at the clock. He and the girl had been sitting in the room for forty minutes, the slight utterance of monosyllabic dialogue passing between the two. The girl was staring at the floor, her face expressionless. With only twenty minutes left, the man took his cue to pick up the bowl holding the chocolate and offered one to her. She refused.
“I do like Celebrations,” said the man. “Always a succulent choice.” He was definitely German. “They really melt in the mouth. Maltesers are my personal favourite, though. They’re the most popular, aren’t they?”
I grunted in response. He sighed; not in exasperation, merely in concern. “I know this is only our second session, but it would be nice to hear a little bit from you.”
I uncrossed my legs. It was amazing how interesting your shoes became when you had nothing to say.
“I’m not trying to force you,” he said gently. “I know this has been difficult for you. You have had a lot to deal with recently, and in the past. But that is why I want you to know we are here for you. When somebody close to you dies, it’s the most horrible thing in the world. That’s why we want to help you get through this challenging time.”
I closed my eyes, raising my head to the ceiling.
“How are you feeling right now?” he asked.
“Anne, you are more than welcome to take your time, but remember, in here, you are safe. No one can hurt you. What we say is confidential, and you can say whatever you like.”
He was right. And yet, the clenching in my stomach wouldn’t stop. It was a reminder that no matter how awful things became, you were still left with the scars.
I spent the remaining twenty minutes in silence. So much had happened in my fourteen years of existence, I was unsure of how to form the words.
That week, I mulled over my previous two sessions and decided I was tired of being a prisoner of my past. I no longer saw the point of keeping myself closed off. Help had been offered to me, so surely now was the time to take it. I could keep the ghosts chained to me, or I could let them be released, freeing myself in the process.
When I returned to Henry — he said I could call him by his first name — that following Tuesday, I was ready to begin telling him everything.