She is all I ever want to hallucinate about. Fate being haples, she is often the last thing that comes to mind. Typically the brain spews the things you don't want to see; the things you locked away deep inside those tricky fissures of grey matter. Like parasites these awful thoughts and fears crawl out of the nooks and cranies when you aren't expecting it.

Anyway, Emily is something else. I would willing enter an altered state of reality for her. That should tell you how much she means to me.

As I sit beside her bed, I do not wish to see her in a hallucination, or even a dream. I just want the chance to say I am sorry. I want the simple chance to remove the bandages from her body and say psyche! This is all fake. This was the dream, this was the hideous hallucination and now its time to fall out of the rabbit hole. And back into our peaceful, serene, reality. But it's too late, and now she is perfectly broken in ways I will never be able to fix. That truth is tangible.

"Matt," Ms. Quesnel says. "Stop balancing a pen on your nose and focus!" Reluctantly, I take my source of amusement, the pen, and return to my questionnaire. This survey is supposed to assess how much help I need to receive over the course of the summer, but every question is either repetitive or just plain absurd. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Not only is this survey so boring it almost doubles back on itself and becomes interesting (but not quite), my life has not changed in the least. This is a waste of my time, but my parents insist this class will help me cope. So I put the tip of my pencil to the paper and begin to doodle a ninja kitty.

"Emily!" Ms. Quesnel suddenly sounds very excited, so I decide it is worth a look. "So good to see you! Are you having a nice summer so far?"

A pretty blonde girl nods as she enters, but says nothing as she sits at a desk that is sandwiched between another girl in a wheelchair and a boy who has remained eerily quiet this entire time. Bending over to retrieve her pencil case from her bag, she sweeps her long hair to one side. I catch a hint of something floral and feminine. She is wearing a white skirt and a pink cowlneck shirt that elegantly outlines her thin waist and ample chest for me. It was definitely worth the look.

A stern look from Mrs. Quesnel returns my eyes to my paper. The question is asking me if my episodes cause daily disruptions, defined by difficulty to communicate with others or complete basic tasks. I circle the option 'A Little.' Maybe I am willing to admit that things are a bit different now, but not so much that I need to take summer classes about my perfectly normal issues. I begin to draw ninja kitty's nemesis, a dog who can shoot laser beams out of his eyes.

"I don't love you. Not at all." Clearly. But why is this happening now? I don't understand. I'm not stressed. "Marcus,"

I catch another whiff of flowers—roses or orchids-as the girl ties her hair in a loose chignon.

"Marcus, Marcus, Marcus," It's not a whisper, it's loud. This voice is made to be heard, since no one else in the room can. Skimming the rest of the questions, I circle answers, vaguely digesting them.

"Are you done, Matt?" Ms. Quesnel asks.

I answer yes, but Ms. Quesnel's eyes become narrow, as if she is suspicious. My palms begin to sweat. What did I do?

"Matt, are you all right?"

"Yeah, why do you ask?"

"I asked if you are done and you just told me yes, there are no birds in the sky, but you found your coffee."

I don't look at Ms. Quesnel. Instead, I look at what would have been the backs of my classmates if they had not swiveled around in their chairs to look at me. The girl, Emily, is staring at me through wisps of gold hair that escaped her chignon. Ashamed, I look at the palms of my hands, which at covered in fat, oozing drops of blood.

"There are no wounds on your hands." The nurse repeats for the umpteenth time Still, I can't shake it. My hands feel wet and sticky, but when I look, there is nothing. I know she is right, but there is just something inside of me that seems to disagree with her plain logic; with the plain logic my own eyes see as I stare at my naked white palm. The pieces that should fit together don't. My brain can't swallow this bite of reality. Shit. This is depressing.

I'm 18. I shouldn't be sitting in the nurse's office waiting for my mother to pick me up. How middle school. What must this look like to that girl? What was her name, Emily? God, she was beautiful. Could I even look her in the eye after this?

With a sigh weighted by the day, I remember the night everything changed. Too much booze, so many girls. We were in the foothills. We'd put gasoline on the fire so it's flames would lick the sky. I was so smashed that night.

I bury my face in my hands, massaging the scalp underneath my thick hair. Disappearing under a rock is probably my best bet right about now.

The clip of wedge heels on the linoleum floor makes me look up. I am expecting to see my mother, stylish as usual, but instead it is Emily, the girl from earlier. On her face is a smile as golden as her hair. She waves to me as she passes before walking up to the nurse.

"Emily! How are you?"

Instead of answering, Emily touches her chin and then pulls the hand away quickly, as if she has been burned. My mind begins to race. This is some new kind of hallucination? She then lets her fingers curl and touches the knuckles together, then twists her left hand forward so the knuckles of her right hand are pressed against the palm of her left and finishes by pointing to the nurse.

"Good, I am good, Emily. What can I help you with?"

As Emily continues with a flurry of precise hand signals, I begin to understand. This girl is the same program as I am because she is probably a mute, a very beautiful mute at that. And then I am confused, because this makes no sense. The program I have entered is meant to help the mentally handicapped. If this girl cannot speak, she should be with a group that works with students who are physically handicapped, unless the inability to speak is all in her head. Then why learn sign language? Why not work on extracting her voice? I imagine it to be just as lovely as she is.

Someone taps my shoulder, pulling me out of my private thoughts, which is probably not the best place for me to be anyway. I look and oh God, it's her. I swallow but the spit feels like a stone. Emily smiles when I startle and I don't know what to do. I don't know how to sign to her. Never in my history have I frozen up talking to a girl. It has always been easy for me. Sweet words are my specialty, but will she even understand the words I say? Her speech impediment intimidates me. How do we communicate across this chasm?

In my weakness, she is brave. Emily sets a folder in my lap and opens it. The fingernail that points to the header on the paper is painted the same pink as her shirt and is slightly chipped. I see that this is our syllabus and first homework assignment.

"Th-Thanks," I say before I realize this might be a fatal flaw. What if I talk to her and because she can't speak she won't understand me? But Emily's smile continues, flawless, as she waves to the nurse and I before leaving.

It is only after she is gone that I realize I am an idiot. Ms. Quesnel and the nurse both talked to Emily and she understood. Stupidity might be catching.

My mother pokes her head into the room as I am sinking pitifully into my plastic chair. "Matt, are you alright?" Her arm spreads across my shoulders like a wing. I notice absently that she too is wearing wedge heels.

"Did you get your homework? Before you—" I cut her off because I know what she is going to say, before I got sick.

"Yes, Mom, I did." Ignoring it makes it better.

I always thought there would be a cocktail of pills, just like in the movies. When I was in the hospital, they put so many things into my IV I expected to be assigned a long list of medications. Instead, I get an antipsychotic. That is singular. How boring. I suppose the one thing I learned from Hollywood is that they constantly lie. Too bad, these two little white pills are the only things that help me keep a healthy perspective on reality. By the way, I mean that in the most literal way possible.

This therapy class is supposed to help me get a better grasp on what they call my disability, but whatever. If I had a break down during the assessment then how do they expect me to survive an entire summer of these ridiculous classes? Maybe they will be a trigger rather than a coping mechanism.

"Marcus. Worthless is all you are. Marcus."

This summer will be hell. How long until the pills kick in?

"Matt!" The door of my room flies open, causing the knob to punch the wall so hard I see the flicker of tiny paint chips. I am pummeled by a small figure clad in butterfly attire, not excluding the clips that hold fast bouncy curls the color of milk chocolate.

"Melody! I told you not to come in without asking." I say as I extract her from my side. Her unannounced entrances are a point of irritation for me.

"But Mom says dinner is ready. She told me to tell you."

I stare at her. She stares back. "But you couldn't have knocked?" I ask.

She shrugs in response. This concept apparently holds no water with a six year old.

"Okay, okay, I am coming." I find the remote that had relocated itself across the room during my sister's attack and turn off the television to follow her hyper self downstairs. Feet thumping on the old chestnut wood floorboards, she barrels down the hall, coming to an abrupt stop right before the sptairs.

"Matt! Matt!" She bounces up and down as she shouts my name.

"Melody!" My mother calls from downstairs. "Enough."

Not at all deflated, she offers me a wide smile, inviting me to indulge in some of her happiness. As I approach, she lifts her arms into the air and flutters her hands like wings. Right now she is cuter than a baby panda.

"Carry me downstairs?"

When she was one or two, I found it a pain whenever I had to help Melody with anything, especially carrying her up and down the wrought iron spiral staircase. It used to make me dizzy. Older, and I would like to think wiser, I realize that I would like to hold on to those times when she is small. Her youthful innocence is nice because it means our biggest argument are over who gets the last strawberry Poptart, not other things, such as someone borrowing the other's car keys and using said car to go on a spontaneous roadtrip.

Sweeping Melody up in my arms, I tote her downstairs and set her in the usual chair. My mother is pouring dressing on the salad and giving it a final toss. I sit across from Melody, at the head of the table is my mother's boyfriend, Liam.

"Hey," he says, addressing me. "Your mother told me about what happened today, are you feeling alright?"

Even though my back is facing my mother, I know she glances over her shoulder at us, the fire in her blue eyes alight with pleasure. The only person at this table who is oblivious to this stunt is Melody and this is simply because she is too young to smell bullshit. Liam really does care for me, but what I am going through is hard for him. When he began dating my mother, he never thought he would have to deal with a complication to this degree. Hence, my mother tries to intervene and often uses a spoon to feed sympathy into Liam's mouth.

Except the things she asks him to regurgitate are often as appealing and lifeless as anything that is, well, regurgitated.

"I am fine, Liam."

"If you ever need to talk, I am here." he offers.

"Thanks."

"Of course, if you want to schedule more sessions with your psychiatrist—"

"Liam," my mother's voice cuts into our conversation like a meat cleaver. "Will you please bring the lasagna to the table?"

This piece Liam obviously did not get from my mother. Like I said, he would rather I pop a pill and be normal again. Unfortunately, I am popping a pill and no equilibrium has been reached. How unfortunate for Liam.

Melody's sweet voice punctures the thick tension in the air. "Why does Matt have to see a sigh-a-trist?" What bleeds from the perforation is an infectious sorrow.

"Psychiatrist," I correct, and before I can say anything else my mother finishes.

"Sweetie, your brother is sick, remember? He has an illness called schizophrenia."

"Oh," Melody says before she begins mashing her lasagna with the back of her fork. She can't even pronounce that word, hence it obviously holds no meaning to her. Not that any of this is her fault, but a festering envy begins to well up inside of me. She has the privilege to not even care what this word means, while the rest of my life is bound by its definition.

Alone at last. The whisper of the summer breeze on my cool cotton sheets is the only noise I hear. My breathing is slow and rhythmic, an attempt to convince myself I am tired. Yet, what I really want to do is jump out of bed and pace around the room, contemplating today and my failures.

Emily, she is the being that is at the tips of my fingers. I'd love to hold her hand, feel how soft it is, smell her hair, indulge in it's floral scent. She is perfect, but what does she think of me? A freak who babbles. Maybe I will be lucky and she will think I have tourettes, a disorder in which you can't help but say certain things.

Is my life really so pathetic that I am wishing for mental illness?

The question of why Emily is even in my class rises again, breaking the thin surface of my fretful thinking. What could she possibly need to cope with, other than her inability to speak and being drop dead gorgeous? Seriously, I bet guys ask her out every day.

"Marcus. No, no, NO!"

I pull the pillow over my head. Distantly, I hear someone crying and I assume it is Melody and another bad dream. However, as the clock on my wall counts copious minutes, I begin to wonder if this unceasing sound belongs to me, and if it does, if it sits within the bounds of my sanity, or the endless space beyond.


A/N: Something sweet, something sad. A little pet project for me as summer slowly comes to an end.