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Chapter 3

It’s been nearly six weeks since my birthday, and Rainbow House was preparing itself for Christmas.

My weekly sessions with my parents were starting to get easier thanks to Dr Greene’s brutal approach. He spent all of our daily sessions making me talk about Dylan. After the first week I could actually say his name without having a panic attack. By the end of the second week I could string together a whole sentence about him without dissolving into tears straight away. He encouraged my parents to start talking about Dylan when they came in too. My mom almost spoke about him as if he was away at college. My dad haltingly expressed his grief, his face talking more than he actually did.

Dr Greene was right, my emotional role models were pretty shit. It was one of the reasons I so quickly agreed when he suggested I stay at the home rather than going back to their house for Christmas day. I didn’t think I would be able to withstand the call of getting loaded if I was stuck in that house with them trying to be happy for a stupid holiday. My dad didn’t look surprised, but it caused tears with my mom.

Dr Greene had me making crappy paper decorations while he put together the plastic tree. He was actually pretty cool, for a therapist. He was probably mid forties. You could tell he used to have a decent body but it had gone middle aged soft. His short dark hair was peppered with white hairs, and his cheeks were always covered in a dark shadow of stubble. I’d spent hours staring into his dark brown eyes telling him everything about my best friend. My big brother. My Dylan. He’d taken me to his grave for the first time since the funeral, and had held me tight as I crumbled begging for the ground to swallow me up too so I could see Dylan again. He’d encouraged me to speak to Tommy on the phone, taking over when a panic attack left me unable to continue.

So when he suggested I start going to the group therapy sessions I trusted his advice. The first one had been yesterday.

“I just don’t get it though, how can they be so confident in spilling their guts to a room of complete strangers?” I stick together another hoop of paper on my paper chain, and grimace at the glue on my tongue.

“Well...” Dr Greene sits back on his heels and looks at the lopsided tree. “Firstly they aren’t all strangers, some of them have been attending group for a while and actually socialize with the other patients rather than exclusively talking to the staff.” He shoots me a meaningful glance. I had so far refused to talk to anyone I didn’t have to, which meant I usually only spoke to Dr Greene, Katie and Calvin, the usual two nurses that worked here. I stick my tongue out at him. “And secondly some people find it more useful to talk to someone who completely understands what they are going through. I have dealt with death so I can understand some of your feelings, but not of a close relative or at a young age so I can empathize with you but it’s not the same as having experienced it myself. I have been drunk, but never taken drugs. And although I can read all there is about addiction and withdrawl, it’s not the same as being able to talk to someone who knows exactly what it feels like. I think you are ready to talk to someone who may trigger feelings in you that I will never be able to, and that will only help to make you stronger, make you heal better.” He stands and walks over to me, resting a hand on my shoulder. “So give it more of a chance, hey kiddo.”

“Fine!” I huff, shrugging his hand off me. He chuckles and returns to assembling the tree. “How come we can’t have a real tree anyway?”

“Budget restraints. And it’s not as easy to burn down a plastic tree as a real one.” He smiles wryly.

***

“Is that Nine Inch Nails?” I glare at the interruption to my enjoyment of my favorite album of the last few years, The Downward Spiral. How right you were, Trent Reznor.

“Yeah.” I retort at the the boy leaning against my doorframe.

“Okaaay....” He rolls his eyes. “It’s time for group.”

“They’re making us do fucking therapy on Christmas day?!” I groan and throw myself back on the hard mattress. My hair flops over my face. I really need to get it cut, but the thought of looking like I used to makes me feel sick to my stomach. I still keep it pushed back under Dylan’s beanie every day.

“Yeah. It sucks but it’s mandatory for all the residents that are here today.” I roll my head so I can look at the boy properly.

He has messy waist length brown hair, heavy eyebrows and full lips. At first glance he’s not really that handsome, but the longer I study his face the more he appeals to me, with a sharp jaw line and a nose which is slightly too large for his face. He’s wearing black leather pants which are tucked into unlaced army boots, and a long sleeved Corrosion of Conformity t-shirt. He quirks an eyebrow as he notices me looking him up and down.

“You got any Italian in you?” He asks. I shake my head, frowning slightly, what a weird question. “Would you like some?” He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, a smile playing on his lips.

“Oh my god!” I burst out laughing. “Was that some kinda pick up line?! And does it ever work?” He laughs along with me, shaking his head.

“Nope. "He says, popping the p. "And I’m not even Italian.” This makes me laugh louder, until I snort. “Nice. Very lady like.” I throw my pillow at him, but he catches it easily. “I’m Bryan, by the way.” He walks into my room and puts the pillow back on my bed. I sit up and shake his outstretched hand.

“Rosa-Lee.”

“Cool.”

Maybe this group therapy won’t be so bad after all.

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