Madison hadn’t been impressed, but it was only her second session with Dr. Gibbons. The man obviously thought he was an intelligent man. His credentials were directly behind his chair making them impossible to ignore. She had lost count of the number of times her eyes had settled on them.
Madison didn’t trust doctors, but knew she needed the medications to feel better. The side effects of not taking her anti-depressants included severe stomach cramping and long lasting head aches. She tried to never miss a dose, but it happened occasionally.
Madison knew colleges based on the NCAA bracket. Every year around March she would join the school’s bracket. Twenty bucks got her a chance to win prizes. The profits went to a local charity. Looking at the diplomas she knew Yale and Stanford but couldn’t tell you where in the United States they were.
Dr. Gibbons sat in his leather chair, his leg crossed over the other. For the past three minutes neither Dr. Gibbons or Madison had said a single word. It was the same game many of her doctors played the first couple of visits. The doctor would stay silent until their client began talking. It was a trick to make someone feel uncomfortable enough to fill the silence.
Madison needed her pills or her mood swings would be out of whack within a week. She didn’t like herself off the meds. She thought she was to angry and sad without them. She worried she would end up with Charlie at Jefferson if she wasn’t careful. She decided a long time ago that participating with therapy was more beneficial than trying to weasel out of it.
Dr. Gibbons asked Madison a question. It was one of those questions that when asked, would open the flood gates to feelings she was trying to suppress. Madison knew that if she talked about her father she was most likely going to start crying. Discussing her mother on the other hand made her angry. Dr. Gibbons had already pointed out that Madison used humor to hide her emotions, but Madison used a joke to deflect and they both had a good laugh.
“Okay, so in a nut shell most of my problems can be blamed on my parents. It always comes back to them. My mother’s narcissistic personality and passion for vodka should hint at her personal problems. She pays no attention to me and seems to like her phone more than her own daughter. My dad on the other hand is just always absent. I have abandonment issues I’m working on, because of him.”
“All that in a nutshell?” Dr. Gibson inquired.
“I would rather talk about my issues with my mother. She’s the real reason I’m so messed up. Do you think a seven year old should be on a diet? My mom thought so. How about going on a plane alone to Las Vegas? That’s where she thought I went. Didn’t bother to even drive me to the airport. So instead I jumped on a Greyhound and came here to see Charlie.”
“The problems with your mother seem to be central,” he flipped back his notes and read, “but your father is also responsible for your inability to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. Tell me more about your dad. What do you remember from your childhood?”
“He was barely there for my child hood. When he was home he would be in his office. I wasn’t allowed to bother him there. I remember, one time, my dad missed my birthday party because he was on a conference call to Beijing.”
“I haven’t seen him in three years. I guess that’s what Charlie and I have in common. We were both children abandoned by their fathers.” The doctor scribbled in his notebook. “What did you just write about me,” Madison said with a slight bite. She tilted her head to read his notes. She wasn’t shy about it either. “Possible abandonment issues!” she cried. “You haven’t been listening. Of course I have abandonment issues,” she snapped. “You think you’re the first shrink I’ve been too?”
“Are you afraid that Charlie is going to leave you now that he found his grandmother? Is that why you really came to Dumont? To make sure he comes back?”
“Why is it a problem that I followed Charlie here? I’m concerned about him,” she said in a hushed tone. “I’m worried he’s going to get worse.”
Dr. Gibbons sat back in his chair. “I thought he was better since he arrived,” he tried to clarify. “Charlie told you that himself.” Dr. Gibbons shifted, causing the leather under him to crack, “Do you feel that Charlie is going to find happiness here with his grandmother? So much happiness that he leaves you alone with your mother?”
He was pushing. “Yes,” she grunted, “I think he’s going to leave me, just like my dad, and just like Charlie’s dad left him. It’s what fathers do. They don’t stick around,” She was crying. “They don’t take care of their kids. Can we please talk about anything else?”
“Would you like to discuss your relationship with Charlie instead?”
“Whatever,” Madison carelessly replied as she took a tissue. She knew if she said anything else the tears would start again. She didn’t like crying in front of anyone, but she decided that Dr.Gibbons deserved some cooperation.
“When I was little, Charlie always looked out for me even though he had his own problems. Charlie suffered from the migraines since before I can remember. He would suffer through the pain. Nothing would help. Sometimes he would faint, or he would be out of it for hours. The headaches caused him so much pain. I remember feeling relieved when he would pass out. At least he wouldn’t be in pain anymore.”
“You said Charlie has visions?”
“He sees things during the episodes, nothing he can really explain, but I always could tell when he was hallucinating. He goes into a slight trance while he stares at nothing. He told me once they look like moving shadows.”
“When you were younger were the two of you close?” The doctor asked and she nodded. “What did it feel like when Charlie went away to Jefferson?”
Madison decided she was okay talking to Dr. Gibbons about Charlie. Something about the balding psychiatrist made her feel at ease. She saw him as a guide, someone to help her through life’s maze while she was in Dumont.
“Charlie and I wrote to each other a lot when he was at Jefferson. But sometimes weeks went by before I got a reply. Sometimes he just dropped contact altogether. It was inconsistent.” She paused, thinking of Charlie. “The nice thing was he always knew what to say to make me feel better. Even if he was having a shitty week or even month. I visited as much as I could, but always felt like I could have done more.” She grabbed a tissue to dry her eyes, and suddenly laughed without warrant.
“What’s so funny?,” Dr. Gibbons asked with confused interest.
“The weird thing is,” she continued. “I’ve always felt that he wasn’t seeing shadows, but...”
“Sorry, our time is up,” Dr. Gibbons said cutting Madison off. His interruption was a matter of fact and not a personal statement on his interest. The end of the session was the end of the session.
She thought about Charlie. About his headaches. How could they stop all of a sudden? She was happy for her brother, and was glad the migraines had stopped, but how was it possible? How could he magically get better? But was he getting better? Madison left Dr. Gibbons eerily optimistic Charlie was cured, but knowing full well the hallucinations haven’t stopped. She needed him to be cured of them for good, so he could come home to New York. Or at least be able to fake it around their mother.
Would the headaches return if he left Dumont? Would Charlie be able to have a normal life outside of the small town? Madison wondered if he would ever be able to come home?
Madison was hungry, but didn’t want to go back to the Sunnyledge for lunch. She strolled away from her shrink’s office, towards Rosie’s for a bite to eat.
Madison called Sara to see if she wanted to join her. Sara answered the phone with, “I was just about to call you. Let me see if I can get a ride, hold on.” She yelled, “Billy!” away from the phone.
“What,” Billy said in the background.
“I’m out of gas and I need a ride to meet Madison!” She screamed. Madison pulled the phone away from her ear for the rest of the conversation. Billy didn’t want to take her, but she yelled and complained until he agreed.
“See you in ten, Maddie,” Sara said before hanging up.
Madison was happy. She was happy she found a friend in Dumont who didn’t know her family drama already. People judged her enough for her emotional problems, and more to the point for her family’s baggage. Charlie was an urban legend among her class mates, but not in the cool gothic kind of way. They taunted and teased her. They could be mean and sometimes cruel.
Diana wasn’t working, so Madison decided to grab a booth in the corner of the diner with another waitress. The server was an older woman with glasses. She tried to make small talk, but Madison wasn’t in the mood. After the emotional roller coaster ride with Dr. Gibbons, she was mentally drained.
Madison really liked Charlie’s grandmother. She was such a kind woman and reminded her of Charlie in certain ways. They had many of the same characteristics, including similar long slender noses and sunken eyes.
Madison ordered a cup of coffee to help perk herself up. When it arrived she added two packs of sugar, and a half cup of cream. Madison liked the idea of coffee more than the actual taste of it.
Sara strolled into the diner and immediately started to complain about Billy. She slid into the booth across from Madison. She was going on about her boyfriend and the things that pissed her off the most about him. Madison thought Sara complained because she wanted attention, but it didn’t really bother her why Sara did it. She was happy to have a friend.
Madison wanted to talk about other people, because other people’s problems were better than her own. They were someone else’s problems she could focus on. It took the attention off her, and that’s what mattered. She couldn’t talk about herself outside of therapy, yet sometimes couldn’t shut up at the same time.
Sometimes she wished she was invisible. She wished she could go along with her life without anyone ever noticing her again.
Madison ordered scrambled eggs and dry wheat toast, while Sara went with a short stack of pancakes.
“What do you think of Stan?” Sara asked once all of the food was set down.
Madison wasn’t sure when Sara had stopped bitching about Billy and started on pimping Stan to her.
“He’s cute, I guess,” Madison smiled. She wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear but talking about boys was better than talking about her family’s warped drama.
“He wants to know, if he should ask you out.” Sara smiled. “What do you think I should tell him?” Sara was getting excited about hooking Madison up with her friend. Or was she excited for being a match maker? More likely, she didn’t want to be the only girl around the boys all of the time.
Madison didn’t know what to say. Most boys were scared to come near her. Sometimes due to her brother’s reputation, but sometimes because of the way she dressed. It had not bothered her much. The more Madison thought about it the more she was sure she didn’t like Stan like that. She always knew she was late when it came to boys, but she didn’t know if boys were where her heart actually led. Sometimes she felt more comfortable around girls.
Should she pass up the opportunity? Stan was only three years older, but those years didn’t do much for his maturity. He was attractive when Madison thought about his looks, but she wasn’t really attracted to him in that way. Madison didn’t want to let her friend down so thought if she went along with the date it would make Sara happy. Madison wanted to make Sara happy.
“Tell him...” Madison thought again about it, but in the end she wanted to look somewhat cool. “Tell him to ask me.” She could always say no later on, but she really just wanted to stop talking about it. She didn’t like the attention. What happened if she said yes? Would she be able to say no later? What did she know about boys? They smelled bad and only thought about sex. Why would she want to be around them at all?
The two girls shared a piece of apple pie and vanilla ice cream, before Sara had Billy take Madison back to the Sunnyledge. On the way Billy lit a joint and took a couple of hits, before passing it to Sara. Sara took two hits and then passed it to Madison.
At thirteen, Madison had been offered pot, tried pot on multiple occations, and had smoked it a lot over a month last year. The faze ended before he really took off. She didn’t think getting stoned all the time was beneficial to her life. It really just made her paranoid and really hungry. She didn’t care to smoke it all the time, but once and a while she welcomed the buzz.
When they finally made it to the Sunnyledge, Madison was pretty stoned. She felt calm and happy, but looking over at the inn gave her a moment of pause. Her friends. They could have more fun together if they came in with her. There were a ton of things they could do at the Sunnyledge together.
Madison invited them in to hang out, but Billy said they needed to get home. Madison thought the excuse was made up, but for what ever reason she didn’t care. Maybe she was just paranoid from the pot, but she thought they could be scared from the ghost stories Sara told all the time.
Billy didn’t wait for Madison to get inside before he stepped on the gas and sped away. Madison started getting annoyed that they were all scared of some made up ghost stories about Charlie’s family. The thought of anyone being frightened of Charlie’s grandmother was hysterical.
Madison found Charlie hiding in the study. It was a place where guests could think, read and write, but since the invention of the internet, to mainly check their e-mail.
Charlie was talking to someone, but Madison didn’t see anyone else in the room. Yet, he was talking to someone. She could see his lips moving. Maybe he was on the phone she thought, but realized he didn’t have one near by.
“Hey, Charlie, whats up?”
Madison plopped down across from her brother into one of the cushy leather chairs. The instant she sat down a cold chill ran through her. The sudden drop in temperature was weird, but a second later everything was back to normal. It had happened so fast Madison already started to doubt she had been cold at all.
Charlie smelled the air and then laughed nervously. When ten seconds past and he didn’t offer any insight into why he was laughing, Madison began to get angry. She was in no mood to be made fun of.
“What’s so funny?” Madison demanded to know. She thought he was making fun of her again. “Why do you always have to be mean?”
“How am I being mean?” Charlie said in defense. “I just think it’s funny when you come in smelling like pot and never care who can smell it.”
“Don’t be a downer,” Madison said as she kicked her legs out. “It was just some pot.”
“Where were you?” He added.
“With Sara and Billy,” she answered. “Who were you talking too, before I sat down?”
“When was I talking to someone?” Charlie deflected, “I’m here by myself. No one else, just me,” He turned the conversation around so he wasn’t the center of attention anymore. “How was the psychiatrist appointment?”
“It was fine, I guess,” Madison said while kicking her legs. “We talked about mom a lot.”
“I can only imagine how well that went,” Charlie sang with sarcasm.
Madison wished their mother would just leave Charlie alone. Let him live a normal life outside the hospital without any interference. It was bad enough that Madison still had to deal with their mother.
“Let’s go do something,” Madison excitedly demanded. “Want to go on a hike? Maybe a bike ride?”
“When have you ever gone for a hike, much less a bike ride?” Charlie thought she was being funny, but she knew he was hiding something. “Can I get a rain check?” he asked.
“Sure,” Madison said feeling defeated. She wished Charlie would open up to her. She could tell he was dealing with something, but why wouldn’t he tell her? What was he afraid of?
When she walked out of the room she heard her brother say, “Are you going to say anything or are you just going to sit there?” His voice trailed off with frustration, as Madison walked away. She was more worried about Charlie. It seemed he was getting worse instead of better.
He was hallucinating again, but she didn’t have the heart to say anything about it. Just talking about it would make things worse. He would get defensive and lash out at her. No reason to get him angry. She didn’t think he was ever going to get better, and now there was a chance he was getting worse.
Madison took the phone and dialed her mom in New York. As she waited for her mother to take the call she had second thoughts about telling her anything. Would she just make Charlie go back to the hospital? She would take him away again. She couldn’t do that to him. She still felt guilty over the last time she let her mother know that Charlie was sick. It was right before their mother committed him. Madison felt primarily responsible for that.
Madison pressed end and put the phone away. She wasn’t going to do that to her brother again. He needed help. He was crying out for help and she was going to protect him.