"Miss Cutler? Willow- is it okay if I call you Willow?"1

I stared down at the thin blanket of the hospital bed, not wanting to meet the intense gaze of Dr. Averill, the psychiatrist that had been sent to speak with me by either the hospital staff or my parents. I didn't want to speak with her… I couldn't speak with her. I just couldn't. I couldn't even look at her.2

To talk to this woman, this probing stranger, this adult, about Damian and Calder, Lily and Liza… I could not do it. If I could not speak then, before it all occurred- before everything in my existence imploded- I could not now, after all I had seen… after what I had done. After I had betrayed them all in so many ways…3

And I had betrayed them. I had betrayed them all, but especially Liza. I had betrayed them by my actions and my non-actions, by not saving them all. I had betrayed them by surviving… but mostly, the most bitter betrayal of all, I had betrayed them because I had never wanted to die.4

"Willow," Dr. Averill was saying, still looking at me with all the intensity of those trained in medical or psychological fields of study. "I would like to help you, Willow. You have suffered a terrible shock- a terrible loss. But I cannot know how to help you unless you tell me exactly what has happened."5

But I did not know… I honestly was no longer sure. I had never been sure in the first place. How could I be when everything now seemed so surreal, so blurred and fuzzy in my mind? How could I know what had happened when I was still reeling, still trying to deny everything that had occurred, still trying to find some explanation that would explain it all away, bring everything back to the way it had once been?6

As vague and unreal as everything else seemed to me, there were some flashes in my mind, some vivid images I could not control, that kept interrupting, interfering with the unreality of the rest. Images of Liza… Liza smiling, Liza touching my arm, whispering in my ear. Liza dancing with Calder, Liza with her arms protectively around Lily, Liza smirking at Damian… and Liza, in that last, terrible moment, the desperate pain in her eyes as she held the gun to her head…7

I shivered, horrible chills running up and down my arms, my spine, as I saw her, as I relived her. Something hot and desperately painful rose up behind my eyes, a pounding pressure that I could give no release.8

Dr. Averill was still watching me as I blinked hard, trying to banish all visions, all thoughts, from my mind. Her voice softened, and she leaned closer to me, her words gentle but still ineffective.9

"Willow. I know this can't be easy for you. I know you must want to forget, to deny what has happened. I know you want me to leave, to let you be alone. But that is not something I can do. You need to talk to me, Willow. We need to know what has happened to you and Damian- to the others. We need to know so we can do all we can to help you. If you want to be able to go home- if you want to avoid possible criminal charges or a stay in a psychiatric center- then we need to have you working to get better, working with us. We want to help you, but you must want to be helped."10

Couldn't she see, I thought dully, still staring mutely at the blanket on my lap, I didn't want to be. I never had… none of us had. And now none of us could be, least of all me. I did not deserve it, and I did not want it.11

I closed my eyes, trying harder to block out Dr. Averill. Her voice, her presence, her existence.12

But even with my eyes shut I could not slow down my thoughts… I could not banish my visions of Liza. I wondered dimly if I was now doomed, forever to carry her and all the others with me in my mind and my sight forever, until I finally agreed to or was sentenced to join them.13

Dr. Averill continued to speak, but I tuned her out, trying to hear nothing, surround myself in a sightless, soundless ball of nonexistence. All I wanted was to sink back into the same unconsciousness I had held so easily only a few hours ago… a state of being that was close to the death I had once rejected, but now would nearly welcome, should it decide to present itself to me.14