Faye sat on the plump, soft beige cushions of the chair as she fiddled with the beads on her bracelet. She counted them rhythmically, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Over and over in her head without ever looking down at them, instead fixated on the dark blue framed poster that hung on the wall in an otherwise stark white, void room. The chairs opposite her were the same beige as the one she was sat on, as if mirrors of each other. Over in the corner was a neat white table with a very tidy pile of magazines resting on the top. Faye assumed no-one ever read them, she surely didn't. One, because the pile looked so neat she would hate to mess it up like she did most things. And two, because she doubted they would interest her. Their shiny covers with faces of celebrities she neither knew nor cared about didn't exactly pique her interest.
A familiar voice called out her name and she turned towards it, her fingers freezing mid count on the blue bead on her wrist. Dr Billows smiled at Faye reassuringly and Faye rose, quietly heading through the door the Doctor had appeared from.
The room she entered was different from the one she had just left, the walls a soft grey but with frames scattered across them, filled with certificates and pictures. A mahogany desk sat in the left corner with a black leather office chair that Faye imagined squeaked if you sat on it. Dr Billows never chose that particular chair to sit on during their sessions, always the solid pine that matched the colour of the table with the velvet embroidered cushion. Very Victorian like in its design and a little out of place in Faye's opinion, kind of like how she felt in life. So she doubted her opinion held much weight.
Faye took a seat on the couch that was a darker grey than the walls, not terribly comfy but not painful atleast. She crossed her legs and uncrossed them, her fingers finding her bracelet despite herself but the echo of calming numbers never made it to her tongue, fortunately.
"So Faye, how are we today?" Dr Billows asked and Faye crossed her legs again, an action that probably screamed her anxiety and discomfort ten-fold. Dr Billows eyes flickered to Faye's knees telling Faye she hadn't missed it. She had heard her loud and clear although no words had been exchanged.
"Ummm fine. I guess," she lied, pointlessly really seeing as Dr Billows clearly had a degree in psychology. Also given the fact she has known her since childhood, she knew most of her tells already.
"How about you start with how this week has been?" Dr Billows continued, gently pushing her to actually talk about things, not waste their sessions like Faye had a tendency to do. Faye started to fiddle with a stray thread on her blue blouse, pausing a moment before answering.
"Fine too," she continued her web of lies, as that week had been less than fine. Mandy, a student in her dorm had taken an instant dislike to her. With her blonde curls, fake, red smile and perfectly drawn on face, Mandy was the type of person Faye normally avoided. But that apparently didn't mean they avoided her. Faye had hoped that starting college, turning 18, would have signalled her life turning in a different direction, a happier one. One where no-one automatically switched seats as if mental illness were contagious. Faye now realised that that life wasn't anymore real than her hallucinations were.
"So college hasn't been as unsettling as we feared?" Dr Billows scribbled on her grey notebook that rested on her left arm as she spoke. Faye wished she could lean over and see what she was being written but that wasn't appropriate apparently. Faye gazed at her instead of answering, captivated by how her black hair fell in straight waves and shined like the models on the front of those magazines did. At the cream blouse and pink fitted skirt that seemed impervious to wrinkles despite her sitting alot. Her green eyes twinkled and instantly put her at ease every time theirs met and the woman didn't look a day over 25 despite logically having to be much older. Faye envied her, had done for many many years. She wished her own reflection mirrored Dr Billows instead of her own. She detested her unruly red hair and her oddly coloured wide eyes. They were a rainbow of colours, swirling around like water down a drain. Freckles speckled annoyingly across her nose and she had the reddest lips without the need to ever wear lipstick. As red as the reddest rose, or so she had been told.
"I don't know what I was worried about," Faye mumbled, still pulling at the never-ending thread that unravelled from the bottom of her blouse. She tried to block out the memories of the past week and force a smile to her lips, something that most likely resembled a grimace as she met her doctor's eyes.
"Faye. You know I can't help you work through new issues if you don't tell me about them. Are your hallucinations back? Are you still taking your meds?"
"No and yes," she replied curtly, annoyed that whenever she was having a bad week people automatically assumed it was due to her illness. She mustn't be taking her meds properly or something equally her fault. What Dr Billows didn't know, what no-one knew, was that the meds didn't even stop her hallucinations. It numbed everything else sure, but didn't actually stop Avery. He was very much still a permanent fixture in her life.
"Well that's good," Dr Billows continued, still scribbling away in her notebook. Faye stayed silent, not wanting to discuss new or old issues that day. She just wanted to go home to bed and pretend a new day wasn't coming.
Faye spent the rest of their session giving one-word answers or none at all, the only real smile appearing on her face was when she finally snapped that stray thread on the bottom of her blouse. She could tell Dr Billows was getting annoyed when she started tapping her pen instead of writing, the period between each question getting shorter as her impatience grew.
When the soft timer beeped over on the mahogany desk Faye almost jumped from her seat, restless anxiety making her want to move. She didn't have anywhere she would rather be though. Faye was thankful that the college campus wasn't too far from her family home and therefore she could hide there for the weekend.
"Next week then Faye. And come prepared to actually engage this time," Dr Billows said curtly as Faye rushed to leave. Faye threw a sheepish smile over her shoulder at her before heading out and through the waiting room as if both would burst into flames at any moment.
The soft wind hitting her face brought the second real smile of the day. She stood outside her therapist's building for a minute, just drinking the sunshine in before reaching into her jean pocket and pulling out her phone. She called her mother to inform her that her session was over and to tell her she felt the need for a walk. She heard the worry seep into her mother's tone as their conversation progressed but she reassured her she was fine. That Faye just wanted the air. But in truth she just wanted quiet. And she knew just the place to find it.
She plugged her headfones in as she walked down the road towards her favourite spot in the entire world. Just 10 minutes walk from where she was, was the most beautiful woodland walk. It was a hidden gem in Faye's opinion, given that they lived in a busy town. Faye had discovered it accidentally after a particularly distressing session with Dr Billows. If one walked up the path and through a dense area of trees, then they would be rewarded with the most gorgeous clearing, filled with bluebells and a dainty little bench under an oak tree.
Faye drifted off somewhere as she walked, the music filling her mind so it wasn't busy doing other things, more negative things. The feel of the tickling grass around her ankles told her when she arrived and she stopped in amazement that her body had carried her there with no input from anywhere else.
Faye turned her music off as she sat, sliding her headfones so they rested around her neck. She wanted to hear the stillness of the forest. The way the wind made the leaves rustle, the way the crickets spoke to one another. The woodland around her seemed to fill her up with happiness, something that normality never did. She closed her eyes and let her unruly curls tumble down her back and over the back of the bench, allowing the forest's music to drown out her loud mind.
"I loved this spot when we were younger," an unwelcome voice interrupted, shattering the beautiful symphony. Faye tensed at the sound of it but pretended she could ignore it, screwing her eyes shut even harder.
"You always bet that you could climb that tree faster than me. But I won every single time," the voice continued and Faye groaned internally. In fact, he never won. He always let her win and he knew that. He just wanted a reaction out of her. But she refused to acknowledge him like she tried to do every day of her life.
"Your silence proves my point,"
"My silence proves nothing," she retorted, eyes still firmly shut. She could sense the smile on his face without actually having to see it, probably because he only existed in her own head.
"Ahhhh so she speaks today. Here I was thinking I would carry on looking like a crazy person talking to the air," Avery replied. Faye opened one eye slightly to see him sat cross-legged in the field of bluebells. His messy blonde hair fell across his forehead, letting his gorgeous blue eyes twinkle from beneath the stray strands. Faye always had the urge to stroke them out of the way so she could get a clear view of his face. He was breathtakingly beautiful so at the very least she hallucinated well.
"Instead you're talking to the crazy person," she replied, watching as his sea-blue eyes seemed to twist into a navy night sky. A sure sign she had annoyed him.
"I really wish you wouldn't call yourself that. You're not crazy Faye," Avery stated, sadness in his tone. Faye opened both eyes then, sitting more upright as she turned to glare at him.
"I'm sat in a clearing talking to a hallucination. What exactly would you call me?"
"I'm not a hallucination," he retorted angrily.
"That's exactly what a hallucination would say. You don't know you're a hallucination and I can't tell the difference so it's a moot point anyway," she huffed getting up to leave. He was up on his feet and in front of her in an instant.
"No, wait. I'm sorry. Let's not argue already," he apologised, hand on her arm that felt so real it always made her head spin. Days she doubted her diagnosis, doubted she was schizophrenic, she tried to remember what it felt like in these encounters. Avery felt so very real to her. She could feel his skin on hers, the warmth that seeped through from his touch. Faye could feel his breath on her neck when he whispered in her ear. And yet all of that was just in her head.
She moved around him, feeling as his arm dropped from hers, not even trying to make her stay. Faye pulled her headphones off from around her neck and put them back on, turning up the music from her phone to drown out any further attempts from Avery to talk. She tried to ignore the pull she felt to turn back to him, shoving it down as she forced her feet forward.