Chapter 1, Something New

" Welcome, everyone, to the first day of our sessions. We'll be working together, although I know some of you are more than hesitant to meet others," Dr. Jones was referring to his son with this last statement and his son looked up at him, " but hopefully we can work through that and move on to something more fun. Is everyone accountable for?"

Dr. Jones was a middle-aged man who always wore the same, thin-rimmed glasses and the same bleach-white doctor's coat everyday. His main concern was always for his son, Aaron, and all of the other committed teens of Van Spoke's Institute for Troubled Adolescents. The clever mentals in the under-aged asylum called the institute "Vista" and referred to the doctors and nurses and supervisors as "the help." Dr. Jones would always laugh gently when he heard the kids calling him this, and he would run his hand through his obviously dyed hair.

Aaron was always quiet. Ever since he was diagnosed with several mental "problems," among them manic depression and Anthropophobia, Dr. Jones was completely engrossed in finding ways to completely cure his son and others like him. Aaron was afraid of meeting people, and if he was forced to meet the people in the room with him, he would merely say his name and find a corner or a window to stick close to. He turned 17 in September, and he was glad that spring had come. He wanted more than anything to just be outside instead of being trapped inside with other people.

Aaron sat on the plastic chair, his arms crossed, his bleached bangs falling in his face. His jeans, like most teenaged boys, were a size too big and he wore a blue-checkered shirt unbuttoned over a plain white undershirt. His shoes were old, tattered gray shoes with torn up laces and soles. Like everyone else in the Vista, his shoes reflected how his mind was.

" Alright then, not all at once everybody. Today what we're going to begin working through is…" The opening of the door interrupted Dr. Jones.

A girl poked her head through the opening she had created and took a look at the large room she would be spending an hour of every day in. It was an open room, with high vaulted ceilings and large windows on the opposite side of the room. There was a small group of kids, no more than five, sitting in a circle of chairs facing in the doctor's direction. The room was painted white and was very modestly furnished, with a mahogany desk behind the doctor, a chalkboard behind that, and on the far side of the room facing the desk was a line of three bookcases and two white cushioned chairs facing out the window. The room was large enough to be home to two large bay windows that faced out to the large courtyard and duck pond.

" Sorry, I'm looking for Dr. Jones' familial help group, am I in the right place?" she asked, pushing her dark sunglasses on top of her head.

" You are, can I have your name, please?" Dr. Jones replied.

" I'm Melody Reight. I'm sorry I'm late, a fight someone started across campus kept me. Blocked hall and all."

" Don't worry about it, please, have a seat."

Melody took her first step into the room and just about everyone turned and looked at her. She was wearing pink and yellow sandals, blue capris pants, a striped tank top and a pink button-up t-shirt. She had layered, shoulder-length red hair with blonde highlights. Her blue eyes darted from person to person, taking note of who they were as they said their names. The one person who did not look up at her as she came in was the blond haired boy sitting in the morning sunlight. He said his name was Aaron, but he never made eye contact with anyone. Melody sat down in the chair to the doctor's right, while Aaron sat two seats to the left of him.

" So, now that we know one another's names, why don't we mingle for a bit, get to know one another better. I'll pair you off and when I say 'switch' then we'll switch partners. How about Aaron and Melody, and…" Dr. Jones began pairing people off.

Aaron got up and headed for the nearest window. He rested his elbows on the windowsill and looked out almost fondly at the duck pond. Melody made her way slowly over to him. As she approached him, she noticed that he tensed up. She mimicked his position and stared out just to the left of him. He said nothing to her, no greeting or anything, and she could not think of anything that would break the silence.

" I really like ducks." She finally said.

Aaron looked over at her with an awkward glance and then quickly looked back out the window.

" Yeah, I do, I always have. When I was little, I wanted to have them as pets, but my mom wouldn't let me. She said that they were mean. I never believed her." She continued.

Aaron chuckled a little at this, and looked over at her again with a smile.

" I'm Melody. I know you already know my name, but here's a formal introduction." She held out her hand.

Aaron shivered and his hand was shaking as he took hers.

" Aaron. Sorry, I'm anthropophobic, I…" Aaron started.

" You're afraid of meeting people, I understand. I would be too."

" Once I meet someone, I'm fine, but crowds, and more than…anyone, they just…"

" Say no more, I completely know how you feel. I was like that for a while myself. But that was my brother's fault, he had so many…friends that could've just been different, but…"

" But what?'

Melody looked down at the windowsill and took a breath.

" But they weren't. This isn't exactly the perfect time to talk about it, I'm still not comfortable talking about my family." She answered.

" Oh. I have to, Dr. Jones is my dad." Aaron said with a laugh.

Melody did not respond, but looked at him and smiled. She then looked out the window again, this time with a look of long lost sadness newly recovered. Aaron watched her, wondering what he could do, when his father told him that it was time to switch partners. He was then paired up with a friend of his and he watched Melody walk over to the next person.

" So, what do you think about her? I think she's hot." Hector, his new partner, said.

" Now we just have to worry about the voices in your head liking her." Aaron replied shortly.

" Well, yeah. But you haven't told me what you think about her.'

" She's something new alright."

" What'd you find out about her?"

" She likes ducks."