“Close your eyes and think of the world – your world. Now, tell me, what do you see?“
What are you supposed to see? she wondered. What is there to see, anyway?
Flowers – in a vase, waiting to wither away. A city full of people – a place full of strangers. A house of four outer-walls and a confusing labyrinth within. Gray streets, gray buildings, gray skies – even the rain was gray here.
All colour was reserved for the world of memories, where this dull reality could not reach.
“Nothing.“ Drina declared, finally, as if to deny the whole of existence.
Honestly, how many times did this guy intend to ask?
Even without opening her eyes Drina could hear her therapist sigh in exasperation. “You’re going to have to try harder than that. Seriously, put some effort in it, will you? I have to tell your parents something...“
Drina wanted to shrug her shoulders – but since she was lying on the yellow plush couch, legs swung over the edge and moody boots hitting its side repeatedly like a drum – she settled for rolling her eyes and further sullying his furniture. “If you told them I was bat-shit crazy they’d probably still believe you.“
The man across the table merely raised a dark eyebrow. His expression was calm, serene and annoyingly stagnant. He sat on the neon green carpet, cross-legged, in the only spot that wasn’t covered in various documents, child’s drawings and children’s toys. In that mess he looked a bit like a child himself. His name was Doctor Sibin Radoman and he cocked his head to the side, as if actually contemplating her statement.
“Well, yes,“ he said – almost thoughtful, almost mocking “except that you’re not crazy, Madame Witch.“
He really did sound like a child.
A lonely, extremely socially-awkward child.
Drina snorted “Look who’s talking.“
Now, this warranted an actual reaction – yet still, the smile didn’t slip from the doctor’s face. Drina might have called it patient, even compliant, but she didn't like to think of other people as caring.
know, I can schedule five
appointments instead of two, every week for the rest of forever.“ It was
positively eerie, but like Doctor Radoman had learned to not pay attention to
muddied boots and stained yellow plush, so had Drina learned to ignore his
“You wouldn’t dare!“ she shouted “You’re not even a real therapist!“
Alright, that statement wasn’t completely true. Sibin did have a degree, after all, but even he admitted that being a psychotherapist was, to him, a secondary profession. Drina recognized he loved it, though it was sometimes hard to tell. Why else would he spend all day with young would-be Magicians?
Despite this, the nonchalant relationship they shared did not allow for any "deep, emotional" talk between them. He was primarily here to be her teacher, not her therapist - she'd told him as much.
“Yup!“ he agreed easily, the smile widened on the doll’s face “But your parents don’t know that.“
Drina huffed, but accepted that he was merely trying to get a rise out of her. Like he always was, like he always would be. “And they never will.“
She hated it when he did that.
However, even though this situation was repetitive, it was something familiar – Drina guessed she should be thankful for that.
Doctor Radoman smiled again, and said “Precisely, Madame Witch.“
“Why do you keep calling me that?“ she snapped at him. It doesn’t matter that this was exactly what he wanted, that she was playing along with his little gimmick – she just wanted him to stop being so, so right about everything. “It’s rather irritating.“
“You let things get to you far too easily.“ Radoman told her “And I call you Madame Witch, because, in essence, that’s what you are.“
Drina’s frown deepened “I don’t remember earning that title yet.“
“Yet, being the key word.“ Even when he was dishing out compliments, Drina still wanted to slap him silly. “You can say it’s my way of expressing my support for your chosen path.“
“I still think you’re crazy.“ she sighed, part in defeat, part in I-can’t-believe-this-guy-actually-exists.
“Well, either we’re both crazy or the rest of the world has gone bonkers and we’re the only “normal“ people left. Personally, I prefer the former.“ the Doctor’s expression never changed, and Drina wondered if he’d ever been truly happy. She liked to think he was – happy, now, while he helped the misunderstood magic-wielders of the world.
Still, his face revealed nothing. Always placid and seemingly patient. Drina sighed, looking away from the King of Lost Causes.
To her, such a luke-warm expression was rather boring. She’d probably die inside if she had to act calm and content for more than the five minutes, even having to spend chatting with another living life-form was difficult. If she actually had to listen to someone's inane prattle all day, she'd probably want to strangle something. She was not jealous of him. Life would be too boring if the world was all rainbows and butterflies and wooden smiles, like he tried to make it.
All appreciation of his practice was carefully hidden.
Drina let her eyes wander over the small room. The clustered old bookcase, the desk that was barely visible under a pile of who-knows-what that stood there like the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the last year and a half, the pant leg that hung out of one of the drawers, the orange walls, the neon green carpet, the yellow couch, the purple ceiling – and the little, glowing people running around trying to bring order to this lazy bum’s house.
The Doctor, as far as Drina was concerned, was lazy, irresponsible, infuriating and, above all else, the only person willing to teach her the dying art of magic.
How such a boring man knew how to handle such an art was beyond her. The fact the man was a Warlock was probably his only redeeming feature.
Then again, the House Spirits were distracting enough so that the Doctor could be all but forgotten about. They ran around the room, rummaging through papers and pens and crayons and spell-books like little house-wives while talking in strange, quietly lilting syllables. She wondered what they talked about.
She wondered if they were complaining about not getting paid.
She hid her thoughts behind hallow eyes and a harsh laugh “Oh, sorry, Madame Warlock, but should we do some actual spell-work here?“
Doctor Radoman sighed and let his forehead meet the surface of the low-table with a thud. “So difficult.“ he mumbled, face pressed to the glass. Theatrical, as if he wanted to make her laugh. Then he straightened up, miraculously avoiding knocking anything over, and declared cheerfully “Anyway, times almost up so let’s pretend this meeting had a point and that you’re all rainbows and butterflies now.“
Drina sighed too, rolling off the yellow couch and landing on all fours, so she and her therapist were at eye-level.
“The book, Chief.“ she reminded him.
His smile twitched. Drina smirked. Gotcha.
“Oh, right,“ he rubbed his chin nervously “I was supposed to bring you a new spell-book for this week.“
“Yes,“ Drina confirmed “like you we’re supposed to do that last week, and the week before that, and the–“
“Well, I thought you weren’t ready!“ he cut her off with a careless wave.
Drina shook her head, smirking all the way. “You forgot, didn’t you?“
whole face twisted into a grimace, the corners of his lips twitching, but he
didn’t quite manage his usual smile. “Maybe.“ his answer was drawn out and
sounded as convincing as though spoken by a five-year-old with his hand in a
cookie-jar. "What? Do you honestly think your the only client I have to worry about? You don't even talk about yourself at all! The best I can do is try to entertain you, since you seem so reluctant to reach out yourself."
Drina let out a noise that was somewhere between a growl and an exasperated sigh “I swear, you’re the one who needs to talk to a psychiatrist.“
“You know full well that they’d lock me in the nut house if I did.“ was the counter-offense.
“Why doesn’t that sound the least bit sarcastic?“
The Doctor decided to ignore his patient this time and pranced over to the bookcase lining the left side of the room. He drew the sliding door open to reveal stacks upon stacks of colourful covers, scrutinizes his collection before pulling out Pride and Prejudice.
“Here’s your book.“ he declared, cheerfully.
Drina took it and peeked under the extra cover to see the real title, smiled “Thanks.“
Radoman huffed at this, throwing his face back so his crooked nose reached towards the heavens “Now, give me back the one from before. There are others waiting on it for over three weeks.“
Drina’s smile twitched “And whose fault is that?“
“Yours, of course.“ he said, without missing a beat – and the smile that stretched over his face now broke out on its own, without meaning or pretense.
Drina shook her head “The mad house, definitely the mad house.“
His face went red “Hey, that hurts my feelings!“
He shook his head, laughing more to himself than with her – but Drina didn’t mind. It was nice to have someone to laugh with, rather than someone who laughed at you.
“Fine, fine.“ the Doctor relented “But try to be nicer to people, half of your problems would disappear if you just stopped being rude.“
Drina considered this for a brief second and decided it wasn’t really worth thinking about. Still, this man had spent a lot of time and a lot of effort trying to help her, she could at least pretend it was worth it “If people aren’t nice to me, why should I be nice to them?“
This seemed to throw him off a bit. “Because... you’re better than them?“ he asked finally, too awkward to actually mask the fact he didn’t believe it himself.
Drina smiled. “I know I am.“.
Radoman’s office was on the third floor of a building so old it didn’t have a lift. The building, being from the era of high-ceilings and long windows was lit by the sunlight alone. Drina traced the peeling paint on the walls as though she was petting a cat.
On her way
down, Drina passed a short girl with chubby cheeks. Drina smiled at the younger
Teodora flinched as the elder’s fingers ruffle her hair. Just another child that hadn’t received enough hugs.
“I gave Radoman a book a few minutes ago, I suppose you’ll be its next owner?“
The fifteen-year-old went red, stutters out an unintelligible murmur that was so quiet it was barely heard. Drina frowned “Speak up, kid, I want to hear what you have to say.“ her voice was not gentle, nor were the fingers still tangled in the other’s hair – but Drina picked her words in a way that seems both careless and caring in the same sentence.
The kid’s blush deepened. “I-I’d like that.“ she said.
That was as good an answer as Drina could expect to get, but Drina wasn’t satisfied – she never was. “Hm, would you like to fight me, one day? Just to prove to me that you actually read the books I leave for you.“
The kid looked up then, for the first time since the conversation had started – all wide-eyed and peculiarly desperate, as if she couldn’t bear the thought of the two of them fighting, but couldn’t bear disappointing the elder even more. “O-Of co-ure!“
Again with the stutter. Drina wondered at its cause – was the kid always like this or was Drina herself the one who made her uneasy? Drina decided it was in her nature to make people uneasy, thought, that despite everything, she might have been putting too much faith in others.
Drina ruffled the kid’s hair one last time – like a sister would have – and said “Run along pipsqueak, we’ll see each other in a few days, got it?“
“Yeah!“ The kid smiled, climbed the steps two at a time. Maybe she was excited, maybe she just wanted to get away from the older girl as fast as she could.
Drina decided Teodora was a good kid and left it at that.
“Hello, sweetheart, how was your session?“
Drina’s father, Ozren, asked when his daughter got into the car. It was almost one o’clock, and he’d figured he might as well use his lunch break pick his daughter up and drive her to school. She had the afternoon shift this week, after all.
Drina nodded. It was a usual question after a usual session. “It went quite well.“
At least nothing blew up this time.
...but she couldn’t really say that, now could she?
“Yes, this time I didn’t scream my head off.“
Sure it was.
“I know it doesn’t seem like much, but these things take time.“
Because that was what Radoman always said, isn’t it?
Here we go again.
“Well, Mr Serdar, I’m a Human being too,“-and all Humans were greedy in their own right-“and I do try to the best of my abilities to become better.“
Don’t you realize I’ll never be what you want me to be?
“Yes. I suppose you do.“
An awkward pause.
“So, sweetheart, are you excited about the family gathering?“ the words were like an electrical shock, causing shivers to crawl over Drina’s skin. Father didn’t seem to notice. Father kept his eyes on the road ahead and didn’t take his mind off the next step, the final destination. “We haven’t seen neither you’re Aunts Vera nor Radmila for a while, and your Uncle Marko has been asking for you.“
“I look forward to seeing them again.“ Drina grinds out, feeling as though she can’t breathe. Even though they’re not the one’s I want to see.
Change the topic, change the topic, change the topic – now.
“Dad, what do you imagine when you think of the world?“ Drina blurted out, abruptly, as the hated question, the hated implications, the hated pretense become too much for her to bear.
Mr. Serdar was so surprised he almost charged right past a red light. Almost, but he came to a screeching halt before his small car could collide with anther.
His breathing had grown a bit heavier, like he’d just woken up from a nightmare and the urge to get away still hadn’t left him.
Her Father took a big, shuddering breath, then, and forces a sentence through thin lips twisted into a hesitant smile.
“Uh, I imagine you and your mother,“–and your brother–”on our“–last–”trip to Athens. I don’t know why Athens, but I guess that’s as good a memory as any.“–because it’s happy, isn’t it? We were all happy.
It felt like just the four of us made up the entire world. Just us. Just the four of us.
The world isn’t a place, Drina mused as the car lurched forward, nor was it something that time could define. It wasn’t the people you met every day on the street or the places they went to either.
My world was once made up of four people. My mother, my father, my brother, me. The Drina of the past and the Drina of the here and now were very different, though, because Now, I feel as though I’m all alone – as though my world is empty.