Dragon Fall
Page 7

 Katie MacAlister

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“You’re lucky if you can hear anything over the constant sound of the gulls. Never mind, you don’t have to tell me that you love it here. I know that you do. You take after Dad that way.” She paused and glanced at the family picture that sat on her dresser before turning back to the suitcase. “You promise to call me if you have another… incident?”
“I’m not going to have an incident,” I said, standing up straight and giving her another brilliant smile. I tried to remind myself to tone down that smile just a bit, since Bee was much more perceptive than Dr. Barlind had been. Bee always was able to tell when I was bluffing her, and the last thing I wanted right now was for her to cancel her trip in order to babysit me.
“Of course you aren’t. Still, I don’t understand why Dr. Barlind insists that you confront your inner demons by returning to that weird fair that started everything. Oh.” She cast a perceptive glance at me, which made me swear under my breath. “That is what you were talking about not being a good idea, wasn’t it? Well, I agree. It’s just bound to lead to all sorts of grief for you.”
I rubbed my arms again and turned my back to the beach. Unlike my metropolitan-loving brother and sister, I could happily spend hours wandering up and down our little stretch of the coast. “I don’t know about grief… It’s not like just seeing GothFaire again is going to make me snap, and I see Dr. Barlind’s point about confronting my personal bogeys. She’s very big on cathartic experiences and thinks that until you directly confront what is giving you issues, you can never really be cured. To be honest, though, I don’t have any desire to see GothFaire again. What if the people remember me as the woman who wigged out? I would die of embarrassment.”
Bee lifted her shoulders in a half-shrug. “What if they do? They don’t mean anything to us.” She paused in the act of gathering up toiletries. “Would you like me to cancel my trip and stay here with you for the next month? Maybe it’s too much asking you to stay on your own right after your release—”
“No,” I interrupted firmly. “I’m fine, I really am. Dr. Barlind wouldn’t have let me go unless I was, right?”
“Mmm,” she said doubtfully. She placed the items in her bag and zipped it up, turning to face me. “Aoife, you’re a smart girl. If you don’t think you need to go to that fair, then don’t go. Why stir up all those unpleasant memories? With all due respect to your precious Dr. Barlind, you’re out of danger now, and that’s all that matters.”
“I never was in danger,” I started to argue, then stopped myself. I took a deep breath, remembering Dr. Barlind’s favorite saying: think twice before you speak once. If I made too much of a fuss, Bee would cancel her trip, and I very much wanted time to myself where I could sort out the shattered remains of my life. I didn’t want to go back to the GothFaire, didn’t want to see the face of the blond man who had lied, and certainly didn’t want to see the same field where I’d seen… but, no, it was better not to think of that.
“Aoife?” Bee prompted.
“You’re right,” I said, deciding that it was worth a little white lie if I could get her off on her trip. The thought of two lovely months of solitude was damn near priceless in my eyes. “I’m sure it would be better for my mental peace to avoid GothFaire.”
She smiled, clearly relieved, and patted my cheek in that annoying way older sisters have. “Good girl. Ack! Look at the time! I’ll be late for my flight if I don’t leave now.” She set down her luggage to give me a hug and a kiss on both cheeks. “Call me if you need me. Or Rowan. You know we both love you.”
“Love you, too,” I said, walking with her to her car. “Take care of yourself. Don’t get yourself kidnapped, because you favor Mom’s side of the family more than Dad’s.”
“Ha. As if. Smooches!”
She drove off with a wave, and I reentered the house, leaning against the door and sighing at the blissful silence. Really, there wasn’t a more ideal place than the house that my father built when he moved us to Sweden.
“I miss you,” I told the last family portrait we had taken, about seven years ago. My mother’s face beamed out of it, her red hair and freckles making her look like a stereotypical Irish girl, whereas my father’s gentle brown eyes and dark chocolate skin radiated quiet warmth and love. Tears pricked painfully behind my eyeballs, but I blinked them away. “Dr. Barlind says that while it’s fine to regret loss, there is no sense in holding on to grief and that one way to let go is to state your feelings. So that’s what I’m going to do. I feel sad. I miss you both. And I’m angry that you went to Senegal even though you knew it was risky. I’m furious at the men who killed you and even more furious at the politics that caused the situation. But most of all, I love you, and I wish you were here so I had someone to talk to.”
The picture didn’t answer me—of course it didn’t! That would be crazy, and I was as sane as they came. I laughed out loud at that thought and pushed down the nagging little voice in my head that pointed out that no matter what I told Dr. Barlind, no matter how many times I repeated that I had been mistaken and confused and not quite with it mentally speaking two years ago, no matter how often I told everyone that I had learned much during my stay at the Arvidsjaur Center and had come out a better person for it, the truth remained buried deep in my psyche.
“I’m not listening to you,” I told that voice. One of the side effects of the therapy was that I now spoke aloud to myself. Dr. Barlind said it was a perfectly normal habit and that to stifle it would be to cease communication with the emotional self, and that was the cause of half the world’s problems. “I’m quite normal and not at all weird, and I will not think about things that are impossible, so there’s no sense in trying to stir up trouble.”
The voice didn’t like that, but if I had learned anything during the last two years, it was not to let the voice in my head push me around. Accordingly, I padded barefoot into my room and considered the small suitcase that sat on the chair. In it were the things that I’d brought with me from the Arvidsjaur Center but that I hadn’t yet unpacked. There the suitcase sat, almost taunting me, implying that although I could ignore the little voice in my head, I couldn’t pretend reality didn’t exist.