Fly Away Page 20


Marah stared up into her godmother’s warm brown gaze. “Yes,” she said softly.

“I don’t understand,” Dad said, looking from Tully to Marah.

“She did it on purpose,” Tully said.

Marah could see how confused her father was. It made no sense to him that cutting herself helped. “How could I not know that you were hurting yourself?”

“I know someone who can help her,” Tully said.

“Here in L.A.?” Dad asked, turning to look up at Tully.

“In Seattle. Remember Dr. Harriet Bloom? From my show? I bet I could get Marah in to see her on Monday.”

“Seattle,” Marah said. It was a lifeline being thrown to her. How often had she dreamed of going back to see her friends? But now that the opportunity was here, she found that she didn’t care. It was more proof that she was sick. Disturbed. Depressed.

Dad shook his head. “I don’t know…”

“She did it down here, Johnny, in Los Angeles,” Tully said. “Today of all days. I may not be Freud, but I can tell you this is a cry for help. Let me help her.”

“You?” he said sharply.

“You’re still angry with me? What the hell for? No, don’t answer that. I don’t care. I am not going to back down this time, Johnny Ryan. I’m not giving you space or cutting you slack. If I didn’t fight you right now, Katie would kick my ass. I promised her I would take care of Marah. You obviously haven’t done a great job.”

“Tully.” The warning in his voice was unmistakable.

“Let me take her home and get her in to see Harriet on Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. Then we can decide what comes next.”

Dad looked at Marah. “Do you want to see Dr. Bloom in Seattle?”

The truth was, Marah didn’t care about Dr. Bloom. She didn’t want anything except to be left alone. And to leave Los Angeles. “Yeah,” she said tiredly.

Dad turned to Tully. “I’ll come up as soon as I can.”

Tully nodded.

Dad didn’t look convinced. He stood up and faced Tully. “I can trust you to take care of her for a few days?”

“I’ll be like a mama hen sitting on precious eggs.”

“I will want a full report.”

Tully nodded. “You’ll have one.”

Ten

Marah didn’t go to her high school graduation after all, and it was a relief. Instead, she boarded a plane with Tully and flew back to Seattle. True to her word, Tully got Marah a two o’clock appointment with Dr. Harriet Bloom on the following Monday.

Today.

Marah didn’t want to get out of bed. She hadn’t slept well last night and now she was exhausted. Still, she did what was expected of her. She took a shower and washed her hair and even bothered to dry it. Although it took a lot of effort, she picked her clothes from her suitcase instead of from the pile she’d left on the floor last night.

When she put on her 7 for All Mankind jeans—once one of her favorite possessions, in that other life—she was horrified at how much weight she’d lost. The jeans hung on her, exposed the sharp knobs of her hip bones. She chose a heavy Abercrombie sweatshirt to give her slight frame a little bulk—and to hide the scars on her upper arms.

Zipping the hoodie up to her throat, she started to leave the bedroom. She meant to just walk out, slam the door shut behind her, and get started.

But as she passed her open suitcase, her gaze landed on the pocket sewn into the side, where her pocketknife was hidden. For a second, the world seemed to blur and slow down. She heard her heartbeat thudding and felt the blood flowing through her veins. She imagined it: bright red, beautiful. The thought of hurting herself for a second, just once so that this terrible pressure in her chest would ease, was so tempting she actually took a step forward, reached out.

“Marah!”

She yanked her hand back and glanced quickly around.

She was alone.

“Marah!”

It was Tully. She’d yelled twice. That meant she could be on her way down the hall.

Marah fisted her hands, felt the pinch of fingernails in the fleshy middle of her palms. “Coming,” she said, although her voice was dry and small, barely audible even to her.

She left the bedroom and shut the door with a little click.

In no time, Tully was beside her, holding her by the arm, guiding Marah out of the condominium, as if she were blind.

As they walked uptown, Tully talked.

Marah tried to listen, but her heart was beating so fast it deafened her to anything else. Her hands were sweating. She didn’t want to sit down with some stranger and talk about cutting herself.

“Here we are,” Tully said at last, and Marah came out of the gray fog and found herself standing in front of a tall glass building. When had they passed the park where the homeless people gathered beneath the totem pole? She didn’t remember. That scared her.

She followed Tully into the elevator and up to the doctor’s office, where a serious young woman with a lot of freckles offered them seats in the waiting room.

Marah perched uncomfortably on an overstuffed blue chair by an aquarium.

“I guess fish are supposed to be calming,” Tully said. She sat down beside Marah and took hold of her hand. “Marah?”

“What?”

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“Look at me.”

She didn’t want to, but one thing she knew: it was a waste of time to ignore Tully. Slowly she turned. “Uh-huh?”

“There’s nothing wrong with how you feel,” she said gently. “Sometimes missing her hurts more than I can stand, too.”

No one ever said stuff like this anymore. Oh, they’d talked about Mom all the time eighteen months ago, but apparently there was an expiration date on grief. It was like an exterior door closing; once it shut and you were in the dark, you were supposed to forget how much you missed the light. “What do you do when it, you know, hurts to remember?”

“If I told you, your mom would come down from heaven and kick my ass. I’m supposed to be the responsible adult here.”

“Fine,” Marah said. “Don’t fricking tell me how you handle it. No one ever does.” She glanced sideways to see if the receptionist was eavesdropping, but the woman wasn’t paying attention to them.

Tully didn’t respond for a minute, which seemed to go on too long. Finally, she nodded and said, “I started having panic attacks after her death, so I take Xanax. And I can’t sleep for shit anymore. And sometimes I drink too much. What do you do?”

“I cut myself,” Marah said quietly. It felt surprisingly good to admit.

“We are quite a pair,” Tully said with a wan smile.

Behind them, a door opened and a slim woman emerged from the office. She was beautiful, in a gritted-teeth, angry kind of way that Marah recognized as pain. The woman wore a heavy plaid scarf wrapped around her upper body and held it closed with a gloved hand, as if she were heading out into a snowstorm instead of a Seattle day in June.

“See you next week, Jude,” said the receptionist.

The woman nodded and put on sunglasses. She didn’t glance at either Marah or Tully as she left the office.

“You must be Marah Ryan.”

Marah hadn’t even noticed the other woman who’d come into the waiting room.

“I’m Dr. Harriet Bloom,” the woman said, extending a hand.

Marah stood up reluctantly. Now she really wanted to bolt. “Hi.”

Tully got to her feet. “Hi, Harriet. Thanks for agreeing to help us on such short notice. I know you had to change your schedule. You’ll need some background information, of course. I’ll come in for—”

“No,” the doctor said.

Tully looked nonplussed. “But—”

“I’ll take good care of her, Tully, but this is between Marah and me. She’s in good hands. I promise.”

Marah didn’t think so. In fact, she thought she was in weird hands, bony hands with age-spotted skin. The opposite of good hands. Still, she played her good-girl role and followed the doctor into her sleek, grown-up office.

A wall of windows looked out over the Pike Place Market and the sparkling blue Sound. A polished wooden desk cut the room in half; behind it was a big black leather chair. Two comfortable-looking chairs sat facing the desk and a black sofa was pushed against the back wall. Above it was a soothing picture of a beach in the summer. Hawaii, maybe. Or Florida. There were palm trees anyway.

“I suppose you want me to lie down,” Marah said, hugging herself. She was cold in here, too. Maybe that was why the other lady was so layered up. The weird thing was that there was a gas fireplace in the wall, and bright orange and blue flames sent heat splashing toward her. She could feel it and she couldn’t.

Dr. Bloom sat down behind her desk and uncapped a pen. “You may sit wherever you like.”

Marah flopped into a chair and stared at the plant in the corner, counting its leaves. One … two … three … She really didn’t want to be here. Four … five …

She heard a clock ticking through the minutes, and the even in and out of the doctor’s breathing, and the rough hiss of her black nylons as she crossed and uncrossed her legs.

“Do you think there’s something you’d like to talk about?” the doctor asked after at least ten minutes had passed.

Marah shrugged. “Not really.” Fifty-two … fifty-three … fifty-four. The room was getting hot now. That little fireplace was a real dynamo. She felt sweat crawling across her forehead. A drop slid down the side of her face. She tapped her foot nervously on the floor.

Sixty-six … sixty-seven.

“How do you know Tully?”

“She’s a friend of—”

“Your mother’s?”

The way she said it was all wrong, clinical, the way you’d ask about a car or a vacuum, but still Marah felt her stomach tightening. She did not want to talk about her mom with a stranger. She shrugged and kept counting.

“She’s gone, right?”

Marah paused. “She’s in my dad’s closet, actually.”

“Excuse me?”

Marah smiled. Score one for the home team. “We rented a casket for the funeral—which was way weird, if you ask me. Anyway, we cremated her and put her in this rosewood box. When Tully wanted to scatter her ashes, Dad wasn’t ready, and when Dad was ready, Tully wasn’t. So Mom’s in the closet behind my dad’s sweaters.”

“What about when you were ready?”

Marah blinked. “What do you mean?”

“When would you like to scatter your mother’s ashes?”

“No one’s asked me that.”

“Why do you think that is?”

Marah shrugged and looked away again. She didn’t like where this was going.

“Why do you think you’re here, Marah?” the doctor said.

“You know why.”

“I know what you did to yourself. The cutting.”

Marah looked at the plant again. The leaves were really waxy-looking. Seventy-five … seventy-six … seventy-seven.

“I know it makes you feel better when you do it.”

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