One. Gotye: "And I was not well, but I could not help myself."
It's what, the fifth time this week she's made a to-do list? And for no likely purpose, at that, since she knows it will go unchecked and unheeded.
Woody stares at the scratchy bulleted sentences; they are wasting yet another page of the nice leather planner she had gotten for Christmas. She doesn't have to flip back in the planner to visualize the first four lists of the week, along with records of assignments and time management goals from over a month of having returned to school. Most of them have been neglected.
She swivels her leaky blue pen over the words in front of her, hiding them behind a blotted mass of ink. With that done, Woody drops the implement and instead focuses on cracking her spine back into place via full feline stretch. The hope is that it will rejuvenate her.
Forseeably, it does not.
The counseling center at Classics Prep has slowed from its usual bustling noisiness to a near-quiet drone of monitors and a twitchy clacking of keyboards. For some reason, this makes her realize just how cold she is. She is not improperly dressed—sweat pants, Uggs, and an Oxford under a sweater is probably the warmest ensemble she has in her closet that doesn't include some breed of parka. She can also hear the wheezing of the notorious "Climate Modulation System," so the problem cannot be the actual temperature of the room.
Maybe my body has finally stopped generating heat, she considers, pushing her chair back and rises from it. She clumps out into the hallway. It's so used to feeding off the efforts of other people for energy that it's forgotten how.
Woody paces her way to the nearest restroom and inches inside, hoping that no one else is there. Of course, that means that there is: a classmate of hers named Carly—or rather, Charlie. He is transgender and a member of the school's LGBT society . . . and, evidently, afraid to use the bathroom he prefers. Woody is not close to him, but she has always suspected from the expression on his face some mornings when he comes into school and the fact that he sometimes changes from delicate blouses into band T-shirts during homeroom that he is not entirely accepted by whoever he lives with.
"Hey," Woody says as she crosses to a stall. Charlie responds with a nod and a smile.
Shutting the metal door, Woody stands in silence, waiting for Charlie to finish washing his hands and leave. When she deems the coast clear, a sobbing groan is allowed to escape from her and she smashes her head against its reflection in the stainless steel.
Hurried footsteps sound outside and someone enters the bathroom. "Woody?" It is Charlie's voice, concerned.
Okay, thinks Woody, There is officially no other explanation. I am, subconsciously, a rampant attention-seeker. "What? Oh, yeah, sorry, the door didn't lock right. I just shut it again too hard. Sorry," she adds once more, and keeps herself concealed within the stall. She knows how weird she sounds, so she tries for a joke. "Thanks for intending to rescue me, though.
Her classmate laughs embarrassedly "Yeah, I thought you like, fell or something. Never mind, I guess."
"Wish me luck," Woody mutters inaudibly to herself as she listens to Charlie leaving again. This time, she counts down from ten-Mississippi before turning back to the smudged silver divider. She resumes her task as her self-loathing reaches a summit.
Half an hour of the smashing—and, additionally, burning her skin with hot water—later, she goes to the nurse's office and is granted early dismissal for the day. The complaint she gives is headache and dizziness, and the diagnoses is fever.
He steps into the lobby, crumpling the newspaper clipping into his pocket. Just as he'd thought, the only other person there besides the receptionist is a teenage girl. Like in her picture, she has a long face—literally, not figuratively—with a large nose and Middle Eastern features, darkish hair having a puzzling bushy-yet-wispy composition to it. It is tangled and stuck back under the ears with faded barrettes, and she is currently wearing far too much black eyeliner. He strolls to the seat across from her and plops down. The girl looks up to pay him polite acknowledgement with a cursory nod, and is clearly alarmed to see that he is already smiling at her.
"I'm the Doctor," he says, and she relaxes.
"Oh, hey. I'm Woodland Francis, if that's who you're looking for."
He puckers his chin and forehead in thought. "Do you have a nickname to go with that, or are you trying to save me the trouble of reversing your first and last name on a roster?"
She blinks rapidly, processing this, then laughs. An abrupt but sincere sound, he thinks.
"Woody, that's what I go by," she clarifies. He catches a companionable glimmer in her eyes, and inwardly fist-pumps. He hasn't alienated her yet.
(No pun intended.)
"So, Woody," he continues, "I told you I'm the Doctor, but I'm actually technically not your doctor."
A pause ensues, after which she prompts, "So are you filling in? Is Dr. Hana not here today?" He shakes his head, face still lit up in a smile. Woody's eyebrows begin to tilt. "Then . . . are you . . . the welcome wagon?"
He snorts. "No."
Her brows have reached maximum altitude, and a brusquely businesslike note enters her voice, as if her habitual response to being annoyed is to compensate for the other person's perceived immaturity. "Is there a purpose you intend to serve with this conversation?" There is also a slight undertone of mockery, but not one born out of vindictiveness, he thinks. She sounds to him like someone for whom social interaction does not tend to go well, and who is so weary of failing at it that she has become cynical.
"There is always a purpose in my conversations," he assures her, then ploughs on before she can voice what she is probably thinking about bigheadedness. "And in this particular conversation, it is to offer an alternative to the traditional sit-down therapy in which you're about to participate."
"Right." Alarm is returning to her face, but now it is accompanied by curiosity. "But what does this alternative therapy involve?"
He spreads his palms like a Broadway dancer. "Fun!" is his reply.
The Doctor had seen that exact look of utter bewilderment on a human face countless thousands of times, and it absolutely never, ever got old. "I don't mean to sound rude," she ventures after several seconds, "but think you should probably see a doctor yourself unless you can show me you're legit."
He rolls his eyes. Though she doesn't know it, she is asking, in the course of wanting the truth, to be shown a lie. Figures. In any case, there is no chance of him breaking out the psychic paper on Woody Francis.
"I'm very legit," he says, rocking to his feet. "Just not in the way you're looking for." He puts out his hand for her to shake. When she hesitates, staring at him, he withdraws it with an understanding smile. "See you, Woody!" he chimes, turning on his heels, and strides casually out of the lobby. His thumbs are in the pockets of his beige blazer, and he walks with a peculiar, almost bowlegged lope.
When Dr. Hana, a shrewdly cordial Japanese woman, comes up to her with a greeting, Woody is still staring dazedly at the lobby door. She has no idea what to make of what has just transpired. Getting up to follow the real doctor to her office, she decides to pass it off as the bizarre antics of someone who is either very bored or very lonely.
She is rather close to the truth.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor is already pulling levers and cranking gears. "A week from today," he affirms aloud.
Session number two.
(Note: More to come. If you read, thank you.)