“Yes . . .”
“I caught her staring at my lighter.”
I blinked. “You gave a child, in a psych ward, a lighter.”
His eyes crinkled at the corners. “She seemed trustworthy.”
“You’re sick,” I said, but smiled.
“Nobody’s perfect.” Noah smiled back.
NOAH’S PLAN WORKED. THE GIRL WAS CAUGHT setting fire to my drawing, actually, but not before the alarm went off. They managed to override a full-scale evacuation and in the midst of the chaos, Noah slipped out. Just before my mother arrived. And she wasn’t happy.
“I can’t believe someone on staff would bring a lighter in here.” Her voice was acid.
“I know,” I said, sounding worried. “And I was working really hard on that picture.” I shuddered for effect.
My mother rubbed her forehead. “Dr. West thought you should stay here for another week, to get your medications stabilized. She also thought you’d be a good candidate for an inpatient program, it’s called Horizons—”
My stomach dropped.
“It’s off of No Name Key, and I’ve seen the pictures—it’s really beautiful and has an excellent reputation, even though they’ve only been operating for about a year. Dr. Kells, the woman who runs it, said she met you and that you’d fit in really well—but I just . . .” She sucked in her lower lip, then sighed. “I want you home.”
I could have cried, I was so relieved. Instead I said, “I want to come home, Mom.”
She hugged me. “Your father’s been discharged and he’s waiting downstairs—he can’t wait to see you.”
My heart leapt. I couldn’t wait to see him.
“Should we get your stuff?”
I nodded, my eyes appropriately misty. I didn’t have much with me, so I mostly milled around while my mother filled out a bunch of paperwork. One of the psychiatrists—Dr. Kells—clicked toward me in expensive-looking heels. She was dressed like my mother—silk blouse, pencil skirt, perfectly applied makeup and perfectly coiffed hair.
Her wide red lips pulled back to reveal a flawless smile. “I hear you’re going home,” she said.
“Looks that way,” I said back, careful not to sound too smug.
“Good luck to you, Mara.”
But then she didn’t leave. She just stood there, watching me.
“Ready?” Mom called out.
Just in time. I left Dr. Kells with a wave and met my mother by the elevator. As the doors closed, it took everything I had not to cheer.
“What do you think of her?” Mom asked me, once we were alone.
I wondered where she was going with this. “She’s all right.”
“There’s an outpatient program that Dr. West recommended—it’s actually run by her as part of Horizons. They do a lot of group therapy work—teens only—and art and music therapies, that type of thing.”
“Okay . . .”
“I think it would be good for you.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. Outpatient was better than inpatient, certainly—and I had to act like I wanted that brand of help. But dropping out of school was a big deal. I needed a minute to think.
Luckily, I got it. Because the elevator doors opened and there was my father standing in the lobby, looking healthy and invincible. I knew better than anyone that he wasn’t.
“Dad,” I said, with a smile so wide it hurt my cheeks. “You look good.” He really did; the pale skin we shared had some color to it, and he didn’t seem tired or haggard or thin, despite what he’d been through. In fact, standing there in khakis and a white polo shirt, he looked like he was heading out to play golf.
He flexed one of his arms and pointed at his biceps. “Man of steel.”
My mother shot him a withering look, and then the three of us walked out into the sub-Saharan humidity and into the car.
I was happy. So happy that I almost forgot what landed me in the hospital in the first place. What landed my father in the hospital in the first place.
“So what do you think?” my mother asked me.
“About the Horizons Outpatient Program?”
Had she been talking? Had I not noticed?
Either way, I was out of time. “I think—I think it sounds okay,” I finally said.
My mother let out a breath I hadn’t noticed she’d been holding. “Then we’ll make sure you start ASAP. We’re so happy you’re coming home, but there are going to be adjustments. . . .”
There’s always another shoe.
“I don’t want you home alone. And I don’t want you driving, either.”
I bit my tongue.
“You can leave the house as long as Daniel’s with you. And if you come back without him, he’ll have to answer for it.”
Which wasn’t fair to him. Which they knew.
“Someone will take you to and from the program every day—”
“How many days a week is it?”
“Five,” my mother said.
At least it wasn’t seven. “Who’s going to take me?” I asked, peering at her. “Don’t you have work?”
“I’ll take you, sweetheart,” my dad said.
“Don’t you have work?”
“I’m taking some time off,” he said lightly, and ruffled my hair.
When we pulled up onto our street, I was surprised to find myself annoyed. It was the picture of suburban perfection; each lawn meticulously edged, each hedge carefully trimmed. There wasn’t a single flower out of place, or even a stray branch on the ground, and our house was just the same. Maybe that was what bothered me. My family had been through hell and I was the one who put them there, but from the outside looking in, you’d never know.
When my mother opened the front door, my little brother rushed into the foyer wearing a suit, pocket square and all.
He smiled with his whole face, threw his arms wide open and seemed like he was just about to launch himself at me, but then stopped. He teetered on his toes. “Are you staying?” he asked cautiously.
I looked to my mother for an answer.
“For now,” she said.
“Yes!” He wrapped both arms around me, but when I tried to do the same he jumped away. “Watch the suit,” he said, glaring.
Oh, boy. “Have you taken over the operation of some Fortune 500 company while I was gone?”