When she puts it like that, you do feel guilty. I mean, I feel bad, and I didn’t even do anything, so I expect Frank feels worse. Although you never know, with Frank.
“Sorry,” he mutters at last, and we watch silently as Mum and Dad head back round the house to the drive. We hear the car doors bang and they’re off again.
“Ten days,” says Frank at last, closing his eyes.
“It could have been two months,” I say, trying to make him feel better, and immediately realizing this is a really lame and annoying thing to say. “I mean…sorry. That sucks.”
We go inside and I head towards the kitchen. I’m putting the kettle on for hot chocolate when I hear Frank at the door: “Listen, Audrey, you have to get used to Linus.”
“Oh.” I feel a weird little flip inside. It’s that name. Linus. It does that to me.
“He needs to come round here. He needs a space to practice.”
“But Mum won’t let you play.”
“Only for ten days.” He waves his hand impatiently. “Then we need to get some serious hours in. It’s the qualifiers coming up.”
“Right.” I spoon hot chocolate powder into my mug.
“So you can’t freak out when you see him. I mean, not ‘freak out,’ ” he amends at my expression. “Have an attack. Whatever. I know it’s really serious. I know it’s an illness, blah blah, I know all that.”
Frank was dragged along to a family therapy group thing a couple of times. Actually, he was really sweet at it. He said some nice things to me. And about me, and what happened, and—
“The point is, Linus needs to come here, without Mum getting on my case,” Frank is saying. “So you have to be able to look at him and not run away or whatever. OK?”
There’s a pause. I pour boiling water into my mug and watch the powder swirling round, turning from a dusty nothing into sublime hot chocolate in seconds. All it takes is one extra element to transform it. I think about that every time I make hot chocolate.
Which is not a good thing, by the way. I think too much. Waaaay too much. Everyone’s agreed on that.
“Try, at any rate,” Frank says. “Please?”
“OK.” I shrug, and take a sip of hot chocolate.
MY SERENE AND LOVING FAMILY—FILM TRANSCRIPT
INTERIOR. 5 ROSEWOOD CLOSE. DAY.
Mum, Dad and Frank are sitting round the breakfast table. Mum is reading the Mail. Dad is on his BlackBerry.
The camera zooms in on Frank. He looks thunderous and sulky.
So, Frank, what are you doing today after school?
Frank doesn’t reply.
Frank is silent.
She nudges Dad with her foot. Dad looks up, bewildered.
She nods meaningfully at Frank. Dad cottons on.
Frank, don’t be so rude. We live in a family here. We communicate. Answer your mother.
I don’t know what I’m doing after school. Not playing computer games, clearly.
Well, I want you to go through your shirts. I don’t know what happens to them. Chris, we can go through yours too.
Dad is working on his BlackBerry.
Dad is too absorbed to hear.
Dad? Family? Communicate? Family?
He waves a hand in front of Dad’s face and Dad finally looks up. He blinks at Frank.
No, you CANNOT go out tonight. You are grounded, young man.
He looks at the blank faces. Realizes he’s got it wrong.
I mean…stack the dishwasher.
(He tries again.)
I mean, put your laundry in the right basket.
Whatever your mother says.
It’s the next night that Frank appears at the door of the den and says, with no preamble, “I’m going to bring Linus in to say hello.”
“Right,” I say, trying to sound relaxed and casual. “OK.”
Relaxed and casual? What a joke. Already my whole body is tense. Already my breath is coming faster. Panic is rocketing round my body. I’m losing control. I hear Dr. Sarah’s voice, and try to recall her soothing presence.
Allow the feelings to be there.
Acknowledge your lizard brain.
Reassure your lizard brain.
My damn lizard brain.
The thing about brains, which you might not know, is they’re not just one ball of jelly. They’re all divided up into bits, and some bits are great and some are just a waste of space. In my humble opinion.
So the one I could really do without is the lizard brain. Or the “amygdala,” as it’s called in the books. Every time you freeze in fright, that’s your lizard brain taking over. It’s called the lizard brain because we all had one of these even when we were lizards, apparently. It’s, like, prehistoric. And it’s really hard to control. I mean, OK, all bits of your brain are hard to control, but the lizard brain is the worst. It basically tells your body what to do through chemicals and electrical signals. It doesn’t wait for evidence and it doesn’t think, it just has instincts. Your lizard brain is totally not rational or reasonable: all it wants to do is protect you. Fight, flight, freeze.