"Lily, your father and I need to have a talk with you," my mother announced, hovering anxiously in the doorway that separated the living room from the dining room. Clearly, this was another talk that required a formal family meeting, held in the dining room with all members present.
I groaned. I had only been watching TV for fifteen minutes, which wasn't enough to even begin numbing my mind after the day I had just endured. Why couldn't everyone just leave me alone? Didn't they see I was going through a crisis?
However, that turned out to be exactly what my parents wanted to talk to me about (who was I kidding anyway; that's all they had been talking about for the past two days).
Caroline eyed me suspiciously as I took a seat across from her at the table. I couldn't exactly blame her. The family meetings had gone from being all about her to being all about me, which definitely wasn't something anyone could have predicted. She probably thought my parents were going to reveal that I was an alien or something.
"Now, this family has gone through a lot lately," my dad started. And the understatement award of the year goes to...my so-called father who is completely unrelated to me!
"And in a time like this, people tend to have a lot of complicated thoughts crowding their brains," he continued, glancing at each of us in turn before his gaze landed directly on me. Oh, crap, I thought to myself. Did Mr. Janson call my parents to tell them about my lack of participation in gym class today? I knew walking those laps was pushing it. Rebellion, even in the smallest, most subtle forms, such as ignoring a particularly enthusiastic gym teacher's attempts to get me involved, really wasn't my thing. I was much too panicky to be a bad-ass.
"Which is why your father and I have decided to enroll us all in family therapy," my mother finished.
If I had been drinking anything at the moment, I would have pulled a dramatic movie-like move and spat it out all over the table. I honestly wouldn't have been more surprised if my parents had told me that I was an alien. My family had never been a therapy kind of family. My grandparents were convinced that therapy was a brain-washing technique designed by the government, and my uncles had said several times that therapy was just a waste of money. They were all under the belief that alcohol was a much more effective way to deal with your problems. Yeah, my dad's side of the family was a little messed up.
As far as my mom's side went, therapy was a great way for disturbed people to get the help they need. I agreed with their logic, but I didn't understand why I had to be there, then.
"Therapy?" I cried in disbelief. "Why? I'm not crazy! I don't need therapy!"
"Therapy isn't for people who are crazy, and no one is implying you are," my mom reasoned with me. "We just think that everyone would benefit from organizing our thoughts and feelings on the subject of your adoption, which would be much easier to do with professional help."
"Wait! What's therapy?" Caroline asked, looking confused by my parents' calm behavior and my shocked response.
"It's when someone meets with a special kind of doctor to help them deal with stress and confusion in their life," my dad explained.
"A doctor? Do we have to get a needle?" she yelped, ready to bolt. Caroline hated needles.
"No, of course not. Sweetie, do you remember when you had to go talk to Mrs. Grielyn last year?"
I winced, preparing myself for one of my younger sister's outbursts. Last year she had 'acted out', as my parents so delicately called it, in class, refusing to do her work, talking back to the teacher, and insulting her classmates, so she'd started having regular meetings with Mrs. Grielyn. She had been completely fine with the meetings, but she was really touchy about the subject of her behavior last year. She was constantly worried that someone was going to punish her for it, so whenever someone brought it up, she would change the topic by throwing a tantrum.
"Yeah. That was fun," Caroline replied, to my relief and surprise.
"Well, therapy is just like that, only this time we will all be there together," my mom said. "It's in Calgary, too, so we get to go to the city every Thursday now. We'll make sure to fit in some extra time for a movie or a shopping trip." She sounded excited about the whole prospect, which made it even less appealing to me. I mean, it was great that she was finally finding closure or whatever, but really, couldn't she see that all of this was only complicating my life even further?
"I'm not going," I said firmly, surprising myself even as I spoke the words. It wasn't like me to be this assertive.
"Yes, you are," my dad replied.
"Dad, do you know what everyone in school will think when they find out that I'm going to therapy? They'll think I'm nuts!"
"No, they won't. Don't be silly. Did they think you were crazy when you told them about your adoption?" he asked.
"Um, no, because I didn't tell them. Why would I go around, announcing that? Besides, I think Ms. Henessey wants to keep it a secret, too. If it got around that she had a kid when she was fourteen, everyone would start calling her a slut."
"Lily!" my mom exclaimed, looking shocked.
"Now, see, this is the kind of stuff that we will be sorting out in therapy. What to tell people, how to tell them, and how to deal with issues like the one you just mentioned," my dad said.
"Yeah, but I can't keep this a secret! I mean, it's really easy to not mention that I'm adopted, but people are kind of going to notice if I'm not at school every Thursday," I pointed out.
"You shouldn't have to keep therapy a secret, anyway," my dad said.
"Yes, it's nothing to be ashamed of," my mom added.
"I'm not going," I repeated.
"Lily Marie Anderson, you will be attending family therapy with us on Thursday and that's final," my dad declared.
Okay, as opposed to the whole idea as I was, I knew that when the full name was used, resistance was futile. However, I had found a loophole. My dad had ordered me to attend family therapy with them. I was perfectly fine with that. I would miss school, sit in a car for two hours while we drove to the city, and even enter the therapist's office without any complaint or struggle. But there was absolutely no way that I was actually going to participate. Even I drew the line somewhere.
"Therapy?" Ellie said, sounding disgusted.
Well, at least I wasn't the only one that was opposed to the idea.
It was Tuesday afternoon, the day after my parents had dropped the therapy bombshell, and my friends and I were sprawled out in the hallway against our lockers. Since it was lunchtime and the hallway was deserted except for a few foreign exchange students, I had decided that it was safe to have this discussion in a public place. If anyone happened to overhear, I could always make up some story about my grandfather being sick or something, and my family needing therapy to cope with the issue, anyway. Yeah, I was aware that that was tempting the fates, but it was a thousand times easier to lie about that than to tell some nosy teenager about my adoption.
"Yeah. Not a fan of the prospect of psychology, either?" I replied.
"Not in the least," Ellie confirmed. "Psychology is a waste of time and energy in my opinion. The human mind is amazingly complex; there's no way anyone could ever understand it. Psychologists, or therapists, merely estimate how others feel about certain situations based on their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and the teachings and theories of their predecessors. Your parents are probably paying a fortune for a stranger to do the exact same thing we all do on a daily basis free of charge."
I smiled despite myself. Ellie, in her own confusing mumbo-jumbo way, had just called herself and my other friends my personal psychologists. It was nice to know that I had my own team of 'therapists' ready to help me out whenever I needed them.
"Have you ever been to therapy before, Ellie?" Anna asked, looking a little defensive -- which was barely noticeable in an agreeable person like her.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. I hated it. I had to sit in an ugly, uncomfortable chair in a small, stuffy office with a strange woman who seemed to feel she had the right to assume how I was feeling about...well, about things. She barely let me get a word in edgewise, and when she did, she made it extremely obvious that she expected me to respond in a certain way."
We all just stared at her. Ellie didn't seem like the type who would have ever required therapy in her life. She was strong and determined and intelligent and stable and just...well, Ellie. Eddy and I glanced at each other, and it was clear that we were both thinking the same thing: what could Ellie possibly have needed to go to therapy for?
"I just don't find it beneficial to be forced to discuss what you think and how you feel to someone you barely even know. I mean, if Lily wants to talk about her thoughts or emotions, then she will talk about them, but the rest of the time, her parents shouldn't be invading her privacy," Ellie continued, obviously realizing that she had attracted more attention to herself than she intended and trying to get the conversation back on track.
"I second that," Grace agreed. It didn't surprise me that Grace was opposed to therapy. She was stubborn and self-reliant, and didn't like being forced to do anything she didn't want to do. Talking about her feelings was definitely near the top of the list of things she didn't want to do. Grace would rather punch the stuffing out of a pillow than discuss her anger with anyone.
"I don't know," Eddy said, turning to me. "It sounds to me that your parents are just worried about you and your sister. I mean, this is a huge change in your life and they just want to make sure that you are able to handle it in a healthy way."
"I agree," Anna spoke up. "Different people deal with stress and change in different ways. Therapists can help you to discover positive ways to cope with difficult times."
I didn't know Anna very well. We had been friends by association since she moved here in second grade, but we had never really had a serious heart-to-heart chat. She was great at giving advice, but she'd never asked for any from me, and I was pretty sure the same went for the rest of the group. The only one who really knew her was Grace, and I had a feeling that there was a lot about Anna that the rest of us still had to discover.
I was suddenly glad that I hadn't launched into my 'only-crazy-people-need-therapy' rant, because, for all I knew, Anna could have attended therapy before in her life. It certainly sounded as though she was speaking from experience.
"Who knows? Maybe you'll even learn something about yourself," Chloe added.
Something about that statement made me curious -- curious enough to reconsider my promise to myself to refrain from participating in therapy on Thursday. It was a little juvenile, anyway.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I found this chapter extrememly...ehh. It's not the best thing I've ever written, but I felt it was needed in the storyline and everything. Suggestions for improvement, anyone?
Anyway, you all know what to do. Hit the review button and tell me what you think!