Her mother was constructed by others,
and such edifices are notoriously fragile.
~ Margaret Atwood
The shock of the sudden death of her mother forced Hailey to phone her therapist, but she was so distraught, she wasn’t making much sense.
“Slow down, Hailey, I can barely follow your thoughts.”
“I can’t go home, Trish. Can I see you? I know it’s the weekend and all…”
“It is. By this time, I’m usually half way to the schoolhouse, but had to finish some reports.” She paused as if weighing the consequences. “Well, I suppose another hour won’t matter. Just ring and let yourself in.”
Hailey flipped her cell closed and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Trish Duncan had been her therapist and lifeline for the past few years and the prospect of facing the McAdam clan by herself was just too daunting—even if it meant interrupting Trish’s weekend sojourn to Sparrow Lake.
She knew all about the schoolhouse she renovated into a quaint cottage—not that she had ever been there herself—but she had seen pictures and envied the cozy retreat.
It was dark by the time she parked her SUV next to Trish’s in the small parking lot. Trish operated out of a huge three-story that had been turned into corporate offices. Her space was the entire first floor.
Hailey rang then crossed the foyer passing through the French doors into what had originally been the living room, but was now a book-lined office.
Trish was busily working her way through a file, while two mugs of steaming coffee sat waiting on her desk.
“Coffee, milk only,” she smiled as she waved Hailey toward the huge leather armchair.
“Thanks, Trish—you’re a dear.”
“Famous for it,” she laughed, switching off her reading lamp and swiveling her chair to face hers.
Hailey alternated between seeing Trish as friend and therapist—the line was drawn, of course, but at times it was quite wavy.
“I’m really sorry to hear about your mom.”
“Thanks. I still haven’t quite assimilated all the details, but I’ll be fine. It’s dealing with all the other stuff that’ll be the challenge.”
Trish nodded, taking a sip from her mug.
“ I ran into Aunt Alicia the last time I visited and I think I actually handled myself quite well—at least, I didn’t come apart the way I usually do.”
“Did,” said Trish firmly. “The way you usually did. That’s all in the past. Remember?”
“Aye, aye, Capitan.” Hailey’s lame jest died on her lips and she shook her head aghast at her own weakness.
“What are you thinking just now?” Trish was eyeing her critically.
“I’m thinking I’m not going to make it through this.”
“That’s the old Hailey talking. I was planning to tell you at our next session I thought it was time for you to graduate. You’ve come a long way over the last six months.”
“In some respects, I guess.”
“You’re still not having the night terrors, are you?”
“No. They’ve subsided, at least, for the time being. It’s just that I…”
She stopped and stared off to some point in infinity.
Trish tried to bring her back. “You just what?”
She looked at Trish as if waking up from some deep trance. “I always find it hard to deal with my aunts, and now that Mother’s gone, it’ll just be me and them.”
“You’re not a little girl any more, Hailey. You can do this.”
“Of course, you can.”
Hailey stared at Trish as if seeking some certainty.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I know you and what you’ve come through. Just think back to last year—you were a mess—constantly on antidepressants and popping Clonazepam like breath mints.”
The mention of the incident unnerved her. Hailey stared at the floor, seemingly studying the intricate pattern of the expensive Persian rug. Her thoughts were racing.
A picture of a terrified young woman immediately came to mind, not unlike Munch’s painting of The Scream, complete with dock and blood-red sky.
Trish’s voice brought her back. “You were in agony then—heart palpitations, night terrors, suicidal thoughts. Need I go on?”
She shivered. No, she didn’t want to relive that hell. She could still smell the musty, briny stink of the lake. She must have paced back in forth in those frigid waters for hours, contemplating walking out until her feet no longer touched bottom.
A passing couple rescued her and phoned the paramedics. Stupid. Why didn’t she just down her bottle of pills?
Trish must have been reading her face. “Tough to think about, isn’t it?”
She nodded, using the back of her hand to wipe away a tear.
“Here,” said Trish, handing her a Kleenex. “That’s what I mean. You’ve come a long way from where you used to be. Your mom’s death isn’t some insurmountable barrier—more like a bend in the road, if you ask me”
“Tell me, what is it about your aunts that’s so intimidating?”
Hailey shrugged and took her time answering, watching the lights of passing cars in the black windows. Finally, she sighed, “I guess it’s the way they all see me—as if there’s some shared knowledge among them—and then, of course, I see their stares.”
“What do their stares seem to say to you?”
“Oh, I don’t know—something like, there goes Hailey— such a pathetic girl. Damaged goods.”
“And why would they think that?”
“Because I’m my mother’s daughter.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“They were always going on about Mother behind her back—‘Beatrice this and Beatrice that’—Batty Betty, they called her.”
“So what is this—guilt by association?”
“Something like that.”
“You know you’re not your mother. You’ve spent a whole life trying not to be her and it’s got to end.”
“When I end.”
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.