Mari walked into Dr. Autumn's office exactly a month after what happened to her. The young woman smiled up at her, already seated as Mari came in. She told her to just shut the door behind her, never allowing the smile to fade. Mari, awkwardly obliged.
"Take a seat, dear." Again, awkwardly.
"So, hello." The woman held out her hand to Mari. Mari studied it for a moment before taking it with hers. "My name is Rachel Autumn. Doctor, technically, but please feel free to call me by my first name." When her sentence was finished, she dropped her hand and took into it a pen.
"Can you tell me your name, love?" Rachel Autumn smiled. Mari noted her smile was almost too white. She looked like she was fresh out of college and nervous, as if Mari were her very first patient. A trauma one, nonetheless. And, a child, to add to it all! How lucky was she? Still, she seemed friendly enough. She was being paid to help her, too. Any doubts that Mari had in the young blonde were pushed away.
"Yeah, uhm, I'm Mari Collingwood." Mari mumbled cooperatively. At first, Rachel seemed surprised to actually hear Mari, the rape victim, speak. But as quickly as it appeared, her appalled face vanished.
"Alright, Mari, now on a scale from one to ten, how willing do you think you feel to share with me what you're in here for?" Rachel was already scratching away at her notepad. The sound set Mari's teeth on edge. She didn't know what bothered her more: the fact that she didn't know what was being written or that she did know what was being written.
Mari cleared her throat. "Uhm, well, I guess I'd say about a four." Rachel Autumn scribbled faster so she could speak without much silence in between responses. It made no difference to Mari. Either way, she felt more uncomfortable than she could even express. She popped her knuckles.
"Well, that's a pretty low number. But, I totally understand." Mari jerked unintentionally. Throughout her whole ordeal of doctors, psychiatrists, family, and everything, the words "I understand" kept coming up. Bullshit. They didn't understand anything. They didn't understand what it was to see your friend dying, murdered. They didn't understand what it was to have your body totally invaded. And they definitely didn't understand what it was to be mocked by those words meant to add a sense of comfort.
"So," Rachel began again once she was done writing, "I just need to ask a few questions. They're just yes or no." She cleared her throat. "So, are you on any medication right now?"
Scribble. "Are you willing to cooperate during sessions such as these?"
Scribble. "Alright, and are you here because a doctor recommended a psychiatric treatment?"
Scribble. Rachel then sighed. "Okay, Mari, let's talk about you." Rachel Autumn flashed that blinding smile.
There wasn't much to discuss. Mari knew who she was, but she wasn't that Mari anymore. She was too confused right now. Too haunted by everything to figure anything out. She used to be sporty, quietly popular Mari, who had just graduated and was ready to take on the world. She used to be a swimmer. She used to have plans for the future. But now, all she knew was that she was wearing gray tennis shoes today. She knew her mind had taken a break from nightmares at night, and now she was having sickly-sweet dreams about what happened.
Rachel broke through her thoughts. "So, how old are you, dear?" Mari looked at the floor.
"Any college plans?" Rachel continued to smile that encouraging grin of hers. Mari almost felt guilty for being angry at Dr. Autumn for doing her job and trying to be gentle about it. It couldn't have been easy. Mari tried not to sound too heart-broken as she replied to the tough question.
"Uh, well," she swallowed dryly, "I'm kind of, taking a year off..." She felt almost ashamed to say it. To Mari, it actually sounded cowardly. After everything she'd survived, shouldn't she be able to go to a big scary college? But the thought of being gone from home for nine months, living with a stranger... Mari inwardly cringed. When she told her parents that, they were more than on board with that idea. But then, they had been with a lot. Mari could have told them that she wanted to keep forty-two cats in her room and paint the floor with chocolate, and they would have ecstatically agreed to it.
More scribbling. Then, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" Asked the Doctor with near-invisible teeth. Actually, as of yesterday, Mari did technically have a brother. Justin turned eighteen in three days, meaning Mari's parents legally adopted him just in time. Mari didn't think that she'd tell Rachel that, though. That'd be going a little farther past 4 on the "information I'm willing to give about that day" scale. It'd be hard to explain without going into full detail about what happened June 22nd.
"No." Mari settled for a little white lie. Oh, eventually, when she was at number 10, she'd tell Dr. Autumn. Besides, maybe if Mari seemed exponentially boring, Rachel would have less interest in seeing her. It was a long shot, seeing as her story would make front page news.
Rachel sighed. "Activities you enjoy?" Immediately, Mari thought of what she would have said June 21st and before that. Swimming. But now, the thought of swimming made her want to vomit more than conjuring up the memory of a disgusting grown man moving insider of her.
More recently, though, Mari had fallen in love with walking. At night, later at night, Mari would just walk around for about an hour. She normally left at ten. Walking alone at night didn't frighten her. After all, she'd been abducted in broad daylight. At least she could hide in the dark.
"I walk a lot." She told Rachel, a little more sincerely than she had for the past few questions. As if feeling a new kindling in her work, Rachel wrote more fiercely. Mari almost felt accomplishment in seeing her do this. Not everything had to be about that one damn day, right?
"Why walking?" Rachel looked at Mari curiously. Suddenly, Mari felt scrutinized by her eyes. She stared down at her shoes as she replied.
"Oh, well, I just like to think." Her cheeks reddened.
"You do?" Dr. Autumn sounded nearly shocked.
"What do you tend to think about on these walks?" She got herself into a position ready for writing whatever Mari said.
"I don't know. Sometimes I think about dreams I had or will have." As it came out of her mouth, Mari regretted it immensely.
"Dreams? What dreams?" Rachel Autumn sounded too eager for Mari to deal with.
As if it was meant to save her, Mari heard a small beeping timer go off on Dr. Autumn's watch.
Rachel stood up. Mari followed. Rachel held her hand out again. Mari took it again. "Now, Mari, I'll see you next week, same time, okay? Oh, and if you have an emergency worth discussing," Rachel released Mari's hand, fumbled around her desk for two seconds, and then handed Mari a card, "call me."