Fly Away Page 21


Marah glanced at Dr. Bloom, who sat perfectly still, her sharp nose hooked out over her thin lips. “But when you’re done, and your razor blade or knife is full of dried blood, I bet you feel worse. Ashamed, maybe, or afraid.”

Seventy-eight … seventy-nine.

“I can help you with those feelings, if you’ll talk to me about how you feel. It’s not uncommon, how you’re feeling.”

Marah rolled her eyes. That was one of those tarry lies adults told kids to make the world prettier.

“Well,” Dr. Bloom said later, closing her notebook. Marah wondered what she’d written in it. Probably, Whack job, loves plants. “That’s all the time we have for today.”

Marah shot to her feet and turned for the door. As she reached for the knob, Dr. Bloom said:

“I have a teen grief group meeting that might help you, Marah. Would you like to join us? It’s Wednesday night.”

“Whatever.” Marah opened the office door.

Tully lurched to her feet. “How was it?”

Marah didn’t know what to say. She glanced away from Tully and saw that there was someone else in the waiting room: a young man dressed in skin-tight, torn black jeans that disappeared into scuffed black boots with the laces falling slack. He was thin, almost femininely so, and wearing a black T-shirt that read BITE ME beneath a smoke-colored jacket. At his throat, a collection of pewter skulls hung like keys on a chain, and his shoulder-length hair was unnaturally black, tinged here and there in peacock streaks of magenta and green. When he looked up, Marah saw that his eyes were strange, almost golden, and heavy black guyliner accentuated the color. His skin was pale. Like maybe he was sick.

Dr. Bloom came up beside Marah. “Paxton, perhaps you’d tell Marah that our therapy group isn’t such a bad little gathering.”

The young man—Paxton—stood up and moved toward Marah with the kind of grace that seemed staged.

“Tully?” Dr. Bloom said. “May I speak to you for a moment?”

Marah was aware of the two older women moving away from her, whispering to each other.

Marah knew she should care what they were saying, but she couldn’t think of anything except the boy coming toward her.

“You’re afraid of me,” he said when he was close to her. She could smell spearmint gum on his breath. “Most people are.”

“You think I’m scared of a little black clothing?”

He lifted a pale hand and tucked his hair behind one ear. “Nice girls like you should stay in suburbia where it’s safe. The group isn’t for you.”

“You don’t know anything about me. But maybe you should stop playing in your mom’s makeup.”

His laugh surprised her. “Fire. I like that.”

“Hey, Marah,” Tully said. “It’s time to go.” She strode across the waiting room and took Marah by the arm and led her out of the office.

* * *

All the way home, Tully kept up a stream of conversation. She kept asking Marah if she wanted to go to Bainbridge Island to see her friends, and Marah wanted to say yes, but she didn’t belong there anymore. In the year and a half of her absence, the old friendships had degraded like moth wings; now they were tattered bits of white that couldn’t possibly fly again. She had nothing in common with those girls.

Tully led Marah into the bright, elegant condo and turned on the fireplace in the living room. Flames flowered up, zipped along a fake log. “So. How was it?”

Marah shrugged.

Tully sat down on the sofa. “Don’t shut me out, Marah. I want to help.”

God, she was tired of disappointing people. She wished there were a handbook for children of the deceased, like in Beetlejuice, so that she would know what to do and say so that people would leave her alone. “I know.”

She sat down on the stone hearth, facing Tully. The fire warmed her back, made her shiver. She hadn’t even realized that she was cold.

“I should have made your dad put you in counseling when Kate died. But we fell apart, your dad and me. I asked about you, though, and talked to you every week. You never said a thing. I never heard you cry. Your grandma said you were handling it.”

“Why should you have known?”

“I know about abandonment and grief. I know about shutting down. When my gran died, I barely let myself grieve. When my mom left me—every time—I told myself it didn’t hurt and went on.”

“And with Mom’s death?”

“It’s been harder. I’m not bouncing back well.”

“Yeah. Me, either.”

“Dr. Bloom thinks you should attend that teen grief therapy session Wednesday night.”

“Yeah. Like that will help.”

She saw how her answer wounded Tully. Marah sighed. She had too much of her own pain. She couldn’t bear Tully’s, too.

“Fine,” Marah said. “I’ll go.”

Tully got up and pulled Marah into a hug.

She drew back as quickly as she could, smiling shakily. If her godmother knew how alone and desperate she felt, it would break her heart, and God knew none of them could handle more heartbreak. She just needed to do what she’d done for months—get through this. She could handle a few therapy sessions if it would get everyone off her back. In September, she’d be a college freshman at the UW and she could live however she wanted and she wouldn’t be constantly hurting or disappointing people.

“Thanks,” she said tightly. “Now I’m going to lie down. I’m tired.”

“I’ll call your dad and tell him how it went. He’ll be here on Thursday to meet Dr. Bloom after your next appointment.”

Great.

Marah nodded and headed down the hall toward the guest bedroom, which looked like a suite in some elegant hotel.

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She couldn’t believe she’d agreed to go to a teen grief therapy meeting. What in the hell would she say to strangers? Would they make her talk about her mom?

Anxiety seeped through her, turning into a physical presence, like bugs crawling on her skin.

Skin.

She didn’t mean to go to the closet, didn’t want to, but this buzzing in her blood was making her crazy. It was like listening to some staticky overseas line where a dozen conversations tumbled over each other and, no matter how hard you listened, you couldn’t hear anything that made sense.

Her hands were shaking as she opened her suitcase and reached inside the interior pocket.

Opening it, she found the small Space Needle knife and several squares of bloodstained gauze.

She pushed her sleeve up, until her bicep was revealed, so thin it was just a knot of muscle, pale in the darkness, as soft and white as the inside of a pear. Dozens of scar lines crisscrossed her skin, like spiderwebs.

She touched the sharp tip of the blade to her skin and poked hard, then cut. Blood bubbled up. It was beautiful, rich, red. She watched her blood well and fall, like tears, into her waiting palm. Every bad emotion filled those drops of blood and fell away, left her body.

“I’m fine,” she whispered.

I am the only one who can hurt me. Only me.

* * *

Unable to sleep that night, as Marah lay in the bed that wasn’t hers, in a city that used to feel like home, listening to the nothingness that came from being perched in a jewel box high above the city, she replayed tonight’s conversation with her dad.

Fine, she’d said when he asked how the meeting with Dr. Bloom had gone. But even as she said it, she thought: How come no one asks me how I can be so fine all the time?

You can talk to me, he’d said.

Really? she’d snapped. Now you want to talk. But when she heard him sigh she wanted to take it back.

Marah, how the hell did we get here?

She’d hated the disappointment in his voice; it made her feel both guilty and ashamed.

I’m going to a teen grief support meeting Wednesday night. Doesn’t that sound fun?

I’ll be there on Thursday. I promise.

Sure.

I’m proud of you, Marah. It’s hard to face pain.

She’d fought for composure, felt the sting of tears. Memories had besieged her—times she’d fallen or been hurt and run to her daddy for a hug. His arms had been so strong and protective.

When had he held her last? She couldn’t remember. In the past year, she’d pulled back from the people who loved her, and grown fragile in their absence, but she didn’t know how to change. She was always afraid of bursting into tears and revealing her pain.

The next morning, she woke feeling sluggish and headachy. Needing coffee, she put on a robe that belonged to Tully and wandered out of her room.

She found Tully asleep on the sofa, one arm flung onto the coffee table. An empty wineglass lay on its side on the table, a pile of papers beside it. There was a small orange prescription pill container near it.

“Tully?”

Tully sat up slowly, looking a little pale. “Oh. Marah.” She rubbed her eyes and shook her head as if to clear it. “What time is it?” Her speech was slow.

“Almost ten.”

“Ten! Shit. Get dressed.”

Marah frowned. “Are we going somewhere?”

“I have a surprise planned for you.”

“I don’t want to be surprised.”

“Of course you do. Go. Take a shower.” Tully shooed her down the hall. “Meet me in twenty.”

Marah took a shower and put on a pair of baggy jeans and an oversized T-shirt. Without bothering to dry her hair, she pulled it back in a ponytail and went out into the kitchen.

Tully was already there, dressed in a blue suit that was at least a size too small. She was taking a pill and washing it down with coffee when Marah came up beside her.

Tully yelped when Marah touched her, as if surprised. Then she laughed. “Sorry. Didn’t hear you come up.”

“You’re acting weird,” Marah said.

“I’m excited. About my surprise.”

“I told you. No surprises.” Marah eyed her. “What are you taking?”

“The pill? It’s a vitamin. At my age, you can’t forget vitamins.” She studied Marah, frowned. “Is that what you’re wearing?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“No makeup, even?”

Marah rolled her eyes. “What am I doing, trying out for America’s Next Top Model?” The doorbell rang. Marah was instantly suspicious. “Who’s that?”

“Come on,” Tully said, smiling now, herding her toward the door. “Open it,” she said.

Marah opened the door cautiously.

Ashley, Lindsey, and Coral stood there, clustered together. When they saw Marah they screamed—really, it was this ear-piercing shriek—and surged toward her, pulling her into a group hug.

Marah felt as if she were experiencing it all from some great distance. She heard their voices but couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Before she knew it, she was being swept out of the condo on the tide of her three best friends’ enthusiasm. They were all talking to her at once as they climbed into Coral’s Honda and drove down to the ferry terminal, where a boat was waiting. They drove right on and parked.

“It’s so cool that you’re back,” Lindsey said, bouncing in the backseat, leaning forward.

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