The quiet was all around her, almost smothering her until she felt like she couldn't breathe. She cleared her throat and gazed around the room for something to talk about. A picture, a book, anything. The woman opposite her stared at her, not even flinching. She had her legs crossed with her hands clasped and on her lap. Her eyes scanned Lilly from head to toe, giving the impression of trying to see into her soul. The feeling was so uncomfortable that if Lilly didn't talk, she was sure that the woman would read her thoughts. She let out a baited breath, just like last time. This was her second week in counciling. At first, she thought that maybe just sitting in the quiet would convince the woman that she was fine. That not every nightmare ate into her sleep and caused her to wake up in the very early hours, panicking. That not every loud noise, be it a bang or a thump or something so utterly ridiculous, mad her heart jump into her throat. But it seemed like this woman's plan was for Lilly to be eaten away from the inside by her own conscience. Lilly gazed down at her watch and stared at it. Scotty would probably be on some big lead and Vera would probably be convincing him that it was well after lunch time. She half-huffed at the situation. She wanted to be involved with a good case. But Stillman had made her take these stupid sessions. She had only really taken part because of what he had said to her.
It shouldn't have been you Lilly...
Those words really were the knife in the gut. He blamed himself for something that had been her choice. Something that she had done on a spur-of-the-moment. And everyone seemed to be taking the rap. Scotty. Stillman. The team. And it was her fault.
The realisation struck her hard. She didn't think it would've been so painful to admit but it was. And now her eyes were welling up. She closed them in a furious attempt to hide her weakness from the woman. Too late. She had seen them and was using it as an opening to start her questions.
"What are you crying for Lilly?" was the first one. The woman wasn't over sympathetic. Infact she just seemed genuinely curious.
"It's nothing," she replied idiotically.
"Well it obviously is. You don't seem like the type of person to just fall apart."
Lilly couldn't argue with that statement. She never was one for falling apart. She had to be strong. No-one ever seemed to understand that. When she was younger and naive, she believed that she didn't have to be the rock for her family. But once everything got out of control with her mom, she leaned on Lilly. Lilly had no choice but to sit there and listen to her drunken ramblings until very late at night. She had no choice but to protect her sister from the loud and lairy men that appeared at the house, night after night. Just like she had no choice but to stay strong now. If she fell apart now then she would be vunerable. Everyone would be able to see the real her. The one that she had never properly allowed to grow up. The one that still enjoyed splashing in the puddles and kicking leaves around and chasing dogs in the park. No, she would be strong, even if it were only for herself.
"Lilly?" She snapped out of her trance and glanced up at the woman who had called her name out.
"Can you just sign this please?" She handed over the same slip as before and the woman took it just like last time. She signed it and handed it back. Lilly stuck the paper in her notepad and closed it tightly. She stood up and straightened out an invisible wrinkle in her suit before dashing away the last of the tears. The woman stared up at her.
"You're making some real progress, Lilly. I'll see you again next week."
Lilly nodded and walked to the front door. She took one last second to wipe her wet cheeks and walked back out into the office. The team stared at her like they usually did. Lilly didn't know what they were expecting her to do. Maybe to cry, maybe to be angry, maybe to be happy. But Lilly was none of these things. Inside, she was scared. But just like usual, she smiled and pretended everything was ok.
Those walls around her weren't coming down today.