Elinor lied staring up at the white tiled ceiling from an uncomfortable plastic bed as the school nurse remained quiet behind her desk. Every silent second that passed felt like a lifetime. Ms. Murray, the nurse, had contacted Elinor's mother and asked her to come to the school as soon as possible, so now there was nothing to do but wait.
About twenty minutes earlier, Elinor had been in her AP Literature class dissecting every word of The Crucible when she began to have a panic attack. She hyperventilated to the point of passing out. Her cheeks flushed bright red, and the skin on the back of her neck burned with embarrassment just thinking about the whole ordeal. Why was this happening all over again? I thought the panic attacks had finally stopped, she thought frustratingly. Elinor had seen many doctors over the years regarding her disorder, and they all wanted to uncover the underlying reasoning for why she would suddenly break out in a cold sweat and lose the ability to breathe, but Elinor could never give them a straight answer. "I don't know what sets me off," she told them. And she really didn't know. Sometimes it happened during a song, or sometimes it happened after waking up from a dream, or sometimes it happened in the middle of class while reading a book as people stared at her, whispering things she couldn't hear, but she knew it was about her!
The last panic attack she had, before this one of course, was over a year ago. Her parents had taken Elinor and her sister to an art exhibit, and while she was admiring a beautifully sculpted piece, the horrifying feeling spread through her like wildfire. She couldn't explain to anyone what it was about the sculpture that caused the panic attack, or if the sculpture had anything to do with it at all. For all she knew, she was just crazy!
A light rapping on the door broke Elinor from her cogitation. "Come in," announced Ms. Murray.
A secretary at the front desk poked her head in the door. "Rita, Mary Walker is here for her daughter."
"Thanks, Karen. Go ahead and send her back."
Karen returned moments later and ushered Elinor's mother through the door. Mary immediately glanced at her daughter and offered her an overly sympathetic expression which made Elinor sigh and turn to face the wall. "Oh, sweetie," she moaned. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Elinor muttered as she rolled her eyes and brought her knees to her chest. The plastic on the bed crunched as her mother sat in the void space her curled up legs allowed. She felt Mary begin to stroke her hair, and tears instantly swelled in her eyes. As upset as she was about what happened in class, it felt nice to have her mother with her now. "Mom," she choked, sitting upright and wrapping her arms tightly around her neck. "It was awful! Everyone stared at me. I tried to calm down, but I just couldn't."
"I know, baby, I know," she hushed her. "I've already made an appointment."
Elinor anxiously pulled away and stared at Mary with frightened eyes. "Mom, no. No more doctors. I don't want to -"
"Elinor," she interjected. "It's a different kind of therapy. We'll talk about it in the car. Don't worry. It won't be like the other times. I promise."
Elinor calmed down and nodded.
The bell for first lunch rang just as Elinor reached the car with Mary. Thank goodness, she thought gladly. She had hoped not to run into anyone before she left the school. Unfortunately, it was only Monday, so she still had four more days to endure awkward stares and potential rumors. She thought about asking her mother for the rest of the week off, but she doubted she would allow it.
As they drove away, Elinor began nervously twisting strands of her dark blonde ponytail around her index finger. After a few minutes of silence, she spoke up. "So..." she began, dragging out the word. "What's this new type of therapy you mentioned?"
Mary sighed heavily as though she already knew she would have to defend herself. "Hypnotism," she answered simply.
Elinor couldn't believe it. She must have heard incorrectly. "What?" she guffawed.
"You heard me, Elinor."
"Really? Hypnotism? That's your answer?" she scoffed.
"I don't know what the answer is, Elinor. So yes, I guess for now, it is. Okay?"
Elinor crossed her arms and slumped back against the passenger seat. "It's not going to work," she muttered.
"We're going to try it anyway. The appointment is for tomorrow. I'll pick you up right after school."
Elinor hated it when Mary used the word "we" when discussing this topic. We're going to get through this; we can't give up; we're going to try it anyway. The last time she checked, she and she alone was the one with the diagnosis, not her mother.
Soon they pulled into their driveway, and Elinor quickly climbed out of the car, hurried to her bedroom, and closed the door. She tossed her book bag onto her desk and threw herself backward onto her bed. Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, she closed her eyes and wondered how the rest of the week was going to pan out. "No," she said to herself after a moment. "I'm not even going to worry about it right now." She decided, instead, she wasn't going to think about anything except daytime TV.
Two talk shows and half of a romantic comedy later, her younger sister, Therese, barged into her room. "Do you knock?" snarled Elinor.
"Apparently not," Therese answered sarcastically. She glided across the floor and plopped beside Elinor on her bed. "So news of your episode has already made its way to the lower classmen," she stated. The sisters attended the same high school where Therese was a freshman and Elinor was a junior.
Elinor replied in monotone, "Yippee."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Therese sounded as though she genuinely cared for her older sister, but Elinor didn't really feel like discussing it with anyone. "No, thanks. Besides, Mom's already set a date for me to talk about it with someone tomorrow after school."
"Yeah. No. I don't know. Are hypnotists doctors?"
"She's taking you to see a hypnotist?"
Elinor draped her arms over her eyes and nodded gravely.
"I wonder what she expects that will do for you."
"Well, I have some good news too," chimed Therese.
"Yeah? What's that?"
"There's a new guy at school in your grade. They asked me to show him around today. I think he has a couple of classes with you too."
Elinor removed her arms from her face and stared at her little sister blankly. "How is that good news? It's just someone else to hear that I'm a total freak."
"It's good news because he's really cute, and I told him about you."
"What did you tell him about me?" Elinor asked as she sat up.
"I just told him that you're my sister, and that you're really nice, and that I'm sure you'd be willing to hang out with him since he doesn't know anyone yet."
Elinor sighed. "Well, I'm sure after hearing about me from everyone else today, he'll think twice about that."
"Oh, come on, Elinor! It'll be fine. You know that in a day or two this will all blow over and someone else will be in the limelight instead of you."
Elinor didn't respond, but she hoped that Therese was right.
Dinner and the rest of the night moved too quickly, and before she knew it, Elinor was back at school. To make things worse, AP Literature was her second class. Her first hour was Gym, so everyone was too busy to really bother her; however, as the girls changed in the locker room, a junior named Callie approached her. "Is everything okay, Elinor? I heard about yesterday. Someone even said you had a mild heart attack."
Elinor chortled, "What? No. I mean, I did start to have trouble breathing, but that was it. I went home and rested the rest of the day, and I'm fine now." She decided that leaving the part out about her panic attacks was probably best.
"Oh, good! I'll be sure to let everyone know what really happened."
Good, Elinor thought. Everyone in school knew that Callie was one to spread word quickly - in more than one grade even - so this tidbit should make its way around fairly easily.
The bell rang, and Elinor didn't feel quite so discouraged anymore. Maybe Therese was right, and by the end of the day, no one would even care about her nervous breakdown. A few classmates in AP Literature asked Elinor how she was feeling, and she gave the same answer that she had given to Callie.
The rest of the day flew by, and soon it was time for Elinor's last class - History. Mr. Strode always had notes written on the board for them to take down right away, so she robotically took out her notebook and pencil and hurriedly started writing. The second bell hadn't even rang yet when someone tapped her on the back of her shoulder. She turned around to see a boy she didn't recognize standing over her. "Are you Elinor Walker?" he asked.
Suddenly finding herself dumbstruck, Elinor simply nodded her head.
"Your sister told me about you. I'm new. My name is Sebastian Smith, but everyone calls me Bastian." Bastian was tall with short brown hair and light brown eyes. Elinor could understand why Therese had described him as being cute; he certainly wasn't failing in the looks department.
"Nice to meet you," she finally managed to say as she held out her hand for him to shake.
"Maybe we could hang out sometime - see a movie or grab a bite or something," he suggested.
"Sure," she breathed.
"Great," Bastian smiled. "Well, I'm gonna go sit down." He gestured toward the right side of the classroom and took a seat near the front row.
For the remainder of the class, Elinor couldn't stop herself from gazing over at Bastian every few minutes. Something about him seemed so familiar, but she couldn't pinpoint what it was. Maybe he reminded her of someone else. Maybe it was something about his looks or his personality. She didn't know. She did know that when the final bell rang, she was somewhat disappointed knowing she couldn't stare at him anymore.
"So... we'll talk more tomorrow?" he asked. "What lunch do you have? Maybe we can sit together."
"Me too," he beamed.
"Great! Then, tomorrow, yeah. We'll eat lunch together."
"Okay! Well, bye."
Elinor walked to her locker, then headed outside to meet her mother. Her feet moved as though she were in a trance. As she got in the car, Mary noticed the ridiculous grin that Elinor couldn't seem to remove from her face. "You seem like you're in a good mood."
"So today wasn't as bad as you thought it would be?"
"Well, good! I'm glad to hear that. Are you ready for your appointment?"
Elinor smiled widely as she looked her mother in the eye and said, "Bring it on."