Hi there. :) Sorry it's taken this a while to get to you again – 5 A-levels take up a lot of time. :P But it's here now! Hope you enjoy it and thank you all for your reviews so far. They mean a lot to me. Oh and just to say – we've had a little time jump with this chapter – we're now about a week on from the end of the last update, just to clear that up before you're all like 'whoa hold up, you said Scarlett only meets with her therapist once a week!' :P

Eleantris. :)

Disclaimer – I don't own Ashes to Ashes.

Chapter 22

Nothing had changed about the room. The walls were still a sickeningly boring off-white colour, the carpet still a bluish-grey, and the brightness of the paintings on the walls still seemed to make a mockery of their surroundings. And yet, as Scarlett sat down across from Dr Wright, she felt that something had changed – that she felt lighter somehow. Brighter, if that was possible.

Picking up on her more relaxed posture and the seemingly more at ease look in Scarlett's eyes, Dr Wright looked up from his notes and offered her a small, easy-going smile.

"So, how are you doing?" he asked.

Scarlett just shrugged, but the action wasn't as dramatic or vicious as he remembered it being during their session the week before. "Alright, I guess."

"And is that 'alright – I don't really want to tell you' or 'alright – I actually am alright'?"

For a second, Scarlett looked up at the psychologist, mildly surprised, before she remembered he was being paid to read her like a book; of course he'd picked up on her pause, the slight inflection of confusion in her voice. She considered for a moment, and then replied:

"Bit of both, I suppose… I mean, there's nothing wrong, or nothing new anyway, but I'm still not sure if… Well, I'm just not sure…"

She had trailed off, teeth taking up their usual habit of biting her lower lip as Dr Wright jotted down a few words in short-hand and looked back up at her again.

"What are you not sure about, Scarlett?"

"I don't know…everything."

Even as she heard the words leave her mouth, Scarlett hated them. But she was conflicted. Part of her wanted to leave, like she had wanted to last time, to refuse to talk, because the whole process of counselling just made her feel so pathetic, but at the same time, she wanted some kind of resolution. Ever since she had come to live with her Dad and, she now suspected, for a while before that too, Scarlett's head and heart and hormones had been at war, and she just wanted it to stop. She wanted to know for definite what she thought and felt, and if Dr Wright could help her find and declare that peace then…surely it was worth feeling pathetic as she wore her heart on her sleeve for an hour every Saturday?

She looked up as Dr Wright asked: "Everything?"

Slowly, her teeth released her lower lip, though she immediately looked like she wanted to bite it again. "I dunno, just…"

Insides squirming, Scarlett trailed off again. She swallowed, glancing briefly up at a painting on the opposite wall, behind and to the left of the doctor's head. It depicted a field bursting insanely with flowers, bathed in the sort of sunshine that can only exist in artists' imaginations. She found it easier to talk when she stared at it, instead of Dr Wright.

"Um…it's like…I dunno… It feels so stupid to say I'm not sure about everything, but it's true. I feel like I should miss the people I hung roun' with, but I don't, or just Manchester in general, but there's nothing there. An' then I get t' wondering if that makes me that fucked up, like do I even care about anything anymore? Because I want t' care about stuff but everything I thought mattered to me doesn't seem to anymore, an' I don't really know what to make of that…"

"Scarlett," Dr Wright said softly, finally coaxing her into making eye contact with him. "Please don't think that any of this means there's something wrong with you. Maybe you simply don't care about those things anymore, or maybe that's just the way you feel at the moment, but I'm afraid only you can answer that. And you will be able to. You won't feel this confused forever. That's what I'm here to help you with."

There was a silent pause before Scarlett nodded, her gaze dropping.

"I just feel…still kind of lost…but not like I did before. Something's different, an' I'm even more unsure about what that is."

Eyebrows drawn together slightly, Dr Wright leaned back, his pen resting motionlessly in his hand as he studied Scarlett more closely. "Okay," he said slowly, with a vague nod. "Well how about you just try to explain what it is that feels different, or what's changed? Don't worry about sounding silly or getting it wrong or not being able to define it properly. That doesn't matter, but just try and start somewhere."

Scarlett paused, biting her lip again before she nodded. "Um, okay, well… I guess it started last weekend, like… I just, erm… I over'eard something my Dad said to Alex, and it just sort of shook me and made me sort of see things like I hadn't seen 'em before… I thought I really hated my Dad fer what he did to me – fer abandoning me and acting like 'e didn't care about me or Mam. And I was already starting to think that maybe he really 'as been guilty about it fer as long as I've been upset about it, but yeah, this just kind of made me think that maybe everything was gonna be okay eventually and maybe I could somehow reach a point where I could forgive him, but I don't know an'… Yeah. I don't know."

She looked down, tugging at the dry skin around the nail on her left thumb. Then she glanced up, swallowing nervously. "I just… I've never even thought that before, yer know? That I might be able to forgive 'im. I just sort of always knew I couldn't, not ever, and now maybe… I dunno."

"So…you're still angry at your Dad? And you're still hurting over what he did. I can see that. But now you think that…there may be a way to eventually move on from the place you're in now?"

Again, Scarlett paused, considering, and then nodded. Her sad eyes remained focused on her hands. "It's like…before, when I used to look at 'im or think about 'im, I just felt this dull emptiness inside, like there was just nothing there, yer know? And that nothingness hurt. But now, when I look at 'im, there's still that emptiness, but it's not as…deep, as before?" She shook her head to herself. "I don't think tha' even makes sense, but…yeah. I feel this sort of swirl of emotions that I didn't have before – like it used to be black and white and now it's all a mixture."

"I understand what you mean, Scarlett, don't worry. You're making perfect sense." Dr Wright smiled reassuringly and took down a few more notes. When he was done, he looked back up, his gaze level.

"Now, don't feel you have to tell me, because I completely understand if you'd rather keep it private. Everything you say in these sessions should be said because you want to. But might I ask what it was you overhead to make you feel like this?"

"Oh, um…yeah…err…" Scarlett glanced up, found that she still couldn't really make eye-contact, looked down again, back up once more, and finally settled her gaze on the picture of the field with the flowers and the sunshine. She didn't know why she found it so hard to look at Dr Wright properly. Perhaps it was because if she could see him, there was no arguing with the fact that he was there. Another human being, listening to her innermost thoughts. It made her feel pathetic again. Self-conscious, almost.

"Err… it was night-time and Dad was talking to Alex in the kitchen… They were talking about me, and at first I couldn't really hear them because Alex was talking and her voice was really quiet, but she sounded kind of…sad, I think, so I moved further down the stairs to 'ear, and then I heard Dad say… He, err…" She paused and her gaze flickered to the man sat across from her as she swallowed.

Dr Wright gave her another small, reassuring smile, the gesture softening the professional mask on his face. "Don't worry, Scarlett. Take your time."

Scarlett nodded, and took a deep breath. "He… He said 'e wouldn't give up on me again. But… I dunno, he said it differently to that; it was more…powerful, like…like 'e really really meant it." And then, a very small smile, so tiny that it would have gone unnoticed if Dr Wright hadn't been watching her carefully, gently touched her lips. Her gaze moved to meet his just briefly.

"He said he wouldn't give up on me again. Not ever."

"And…" Dr Wright paused, allowing time for the words to sink in for both of them. "And you felt, perhaps for the first time, that you believed him?"

There was a long silent pause. Scarlett looked back at the painting again, and then down at her knees. She was chewing her lip, the thoughts shifting around painfully in her head before she finally nodded, very subtly.

"Yeah," she said quietly, and her voice was missing its usual brittle quality. "I think so." Then she looked up, and there was a small hint of something akin to desperate hope in her eyes. "And that's good, isn't it? It's progress, I mean. From before. I'm not that fucked up, am I?"

Dr Wright just shook his head, smiling at her. "It is progress, Scarlett. Definitely. And no. You're not 'fucked up', as you put it, at all."

"I feel it… a lot of the time."

"You won't. Not forever. Again, that's what I'm here to help with."

Smiling that very nearly not-there smile once more, Scarlett nodded.

"There are more things that make me feel so mixed up about everything," she said after a little while, glancing up. "We're meant to be going t' look at schools on Monday…the place I used to go to in Manchester 'as even sent my records down, all ready t' be transferred… An' at first, the other week, when Dad mentioned it t' me, and when Alex asked what my favourite subject was… I think she was just trying t' make conversation, but… It made me angry. I didn't want t' go to school 'ere, because that meant I was staying, with Dad, and… I just. Yer know. I didn't want to and just the thought of starting again made me feel sick and like I wanted t' break something…"

"And now?"

"And now…" She sighed, almost thoughtful in the way she expelled the tired breath from her lungs. "Now I guess I don't mind. Like… I am dreading it, because I don't really like school much anyway though I know it's important an' all that now. And I don't want t' be the new girl and 'ave people asking me questions all the time for my first few weeks and the teachers hating me because they'll 'ave seen my records and know I used to skive off a lot and cause trouble… But…I guess at the same time I'm sort of looking forward to it a little bit, because it's part of this whole starting over again thing, isn't it? Maybe if I try an' do it right this time, like keep my 'ead down and not stir up trouble just fer the sake of it, just so Mam would pay me some attention… It might be alright? I dunno."

Dr Wright had been scribbling in his notepad the entire time she had been talking, so she waited for a while, just listening to the familiar sound of pen on paper, until he looked up. As soon as he did she glanced down again, nervous. The words had all just spilled from her mouth in a torrent, and even now she wasn't quite sure what she had said. But when the doctor spoke, his voice was gentle as always.

"Scarlett, don't look so worried. I know you feel really torn up and still angry at the moment, confused about things, and just being confused is making you more confused. It's hard when you go from having a very black and white view of the world to having a more open, grey one. But just the fact that you're starting to allow yourself the possibility of making an effort to start things over again is absolutely incredible. I've known teenagers much more unpleasant and much more stubborn over the wrong things than you. You want to change, even if you don't know it yet. And you're right. That is excellent progress."

Scarlett paused, and then said in an offhand voice, though the grudging acceptance and humour was poorly disguised beneath it: "Well… I 'ope so. Dad an' Alex haven't said anything, but I know the rates you charge are bleedin' extortionate. Don't want t' be doing this fer years."

Dr Wright just smiled, shaking his head as he jotted down a few more notes. At the bottom of his review of the session, it just said, in proper language and not in short hand this time:

With time, she is going be absolutely fine.

I'm sorry this chapter hasn't involved any Gene or Alex, but I just felt it was important to really show how Scarlett is getting on, and how her attitude to everything is sort of evolving. I hope it's all okay, and please let me know if you think anything needs changing/improving as always. Thank you for reading.

Eleantris. :)