Dazzle me. “I can’t imagine.”
“I think that you feel guilty about your best friend’s death. About your boyfriend’s death.”
“Ex!” I screamed. Shit.
Dr. Kells didn’t flinch. Her voice was calm. “Did something happen with you and Jude, Mara?”
I was breathing hard but I hadn’t realized it. I closed my eyes. Control yourself.
“Please tell me the truth,” she said softly.
“What does it matter?” A tear rolled down my cheek. Damn it.
“It’s going to be so much harder to help you otherwise. And I really do want to help you.”
I was silent.
“You know,” Dr. Kells said, leaning back in her seat. “Some teens have been in this program for years; they started here and then moved to our residential center, and they’ve been there ever since. But I don’t think you need that. I think this is just a way station for you. To help you get back to where you’re supposed to be. You’ve been derailed by everything that’s happened in the past six months—and that’s understandable. You survived a catastrophic accident.”
Not an accident.
“Your best friend died.”
I killed her.
To try and forget what I did.
“Your teacher died.”
Because I wanted her to.
“Your father was shot.”
Because I forced someone’s hand.
“That’s more trauma than most people are faced with in a lifetime, and you’ve experienced it within six months. And I think it will help you to talk about it with me. I know you’ve seen other therapists before—”
Ones I liked better.
“But you’re here now, and I think that even though you don’t want to be here, you might find that it isn’t a waste of your time.”
The tears were flowing steadily now. “What do you want me to say?”
“What happened with Jude?”
My throat felt raw, and my nose itched from crying. “He—kissed me. When I didn’t want him to.”
“That night. The night he—”
Died, I almost said. But he didn’t die. He was still alive.
“Did he do anything else?”
“He tried to.” And so I told Dr. Kells about that night, and what Jude tried to do.
“Did he rape you?” she asked.
I shook my head fiercely. “No.”
“How far did it go?”
My face flooded with heat. “He pushed me against the wall but . . .”
But I stopped him. “The building collapsed before anything else happened.”
Dr. Kells cocked her head to one side. “And he died, and you lived.”
I said nothing.
She leaned forward just slightly. “Does Jude ever tell you to do things you don’t want to do, Mara?”
I wanted to shake her. She thought he was some imaginary devil sitting on my shoulder, whispering evil thoughts in my ear.
“Do you think Jude is alive?” she asked again.
I wanted to take her by the collar of her perfectly pressed silk blouse and scream, “He is alive!” in her face. It took a mammoth force of will just to say the word, “No.”
Dr. Kells sighed. “Mara, when you lie, I have to adjust your course of treatment for that. I don’t want to have to treat you like you’re a pathological liar. I want to be able to trust you.”
She wouldn’t trust me if I told her the truth, but at the moment, I wasn’t convincingly lying. “I don’t think he’s alive,” I said, steadily. “I know he isn’t. But sometimes . . .”
“Sometimes . . .”
“Sometimes it scares me, you know?” I hedged. “The idea that he might be? Like a monster hiding in my closet, or under the bed.” There. Maybe that would give her what she wanted without making me sound like too much of a lunatic.
She nodded her head. “I understand completely. I think your fear makes sense, and it’s something I’d like to work on during your time here.”
I exhaled with relief. “Me too,” I lied again.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, that Jude didn’t die in the asylum.”
I didn’t mean I wanted to work on it today. “Okay . . .”
“Let’s say he’s in Florida.”
“Okay . . .”
“What do you think he’d be doing here? What’s your fear?”
I was in dangerous territory, but I didn’t know how to evade the question. “That he’s—that he would be stalking me.” Which he was.
“Why would he want to come all the way to Florida just to stalk you?”
The mutilated cat. The words on my mirror, written in blood. The pictures. My pulse spiked when I thought of them. “To make me afraid,” I said.
“Why would he want that?”
Because I tried to kill him. Because I killed his sister.
Those were the answers that came to mind, but of course I couldn’t voice them. I shook my head instead and asked, “Why would he assault me in the first place?”
“Those questions are different, Mara. Rapists—”
“He didn’t rape me.”
Dr. Kells stared at me a beat too long.
“He didn’t. I—” I stopped him before he had the chance. “He didn’t,” was all I said. “What were you saying?”
“I was saying that rape is about power, not sex,” she began. “It’s about using force or the threat of it to take control over another person.”
“So maybe, if he were alive, which he isn’t, he’d stalk me to show that he can control me. That he can make me afraid.” That fit.
Dr. Kells looked at me intently. “You’ve told me a lot of things, today, Mara. And I’m going to be thinking about them for a while. But if you’re interested, I can tell you what I’m thinking right now.”
I was about as excited for her insight as I would be for an enema. “Sure.”
“When you were at the police station,” she said, “you told the detective that you killed Claire and Rachel.”
Here it comes.
“That makes me think that you feel very guilty, very responsible for the death of your best friend. For moving your family to Florida. For everything that has happened to your family since. I think that you’ve experienced two traumas—the sexual assault by Jude, and then the collapse—and I think that, in some way, it makes you feel more powerful to imagine that you stopped Jude from doing what you thought he was going to try to do. And that for every negative event or coincidence that has happened since, imagining that you triggered them, that you made them happen makes you feel like you possess a degree of control that you don’t have. But subconsciously, you believe that you don’t have control; and that’s manifesting in your fear that Jude is actually alive.”