“The day I gave up hope was the day that I lost her. I gave up trying to be happy, she was the central piece of my universe, she vanished and I fell apart and went spinning out of control. It’s been four years and I’m still finding it hard to carry on.” The young girl stared at her feet as she spoke, attempting not to make eye contact with anything in the room apart from the laces of her converse. Wendy looked at the girl sat across from her and her heart went out to her, she had met so many people in her life that had been through difficult times but not so many the same age as the girl sat on the hard, plastic chair in front of her. Initially she had invited her to take a seat next to her on the leather sofa so that she could get to know her without the barrier of space between her, but the sixteen year old had decided that she would prefer to sit opposite. She could sympathise but she knew she had no idea what the girl was going through, but Wendy guessed the distance that was put between them was a result of the still pretty recent events that had engulfed and crumbled her world.
“I didn’t know where to turn. It’s hard to explain.” The girl stood up suddenly and the chair she was sat on fell to the ground, she turned startled at the clatter of plastic hitting the floor and pulled the sleeves of her jacket over her hands. “I don’t want to be here right now. Can I go?” Wendy stared at the girl, her father had only dropped her off ten minutes earlier. Not knowing what the girl would do if she left and went on her own Wendy thought of multiple options that could help buy some time and keep her safe and with people a little longer.
“How about I make us some tea?” Wendy offered, looking at the girls eyes she could see resistance giving way and be gradually replaced by acceptance of the suggestion as she nodded. “Come sit over here and I’ll put the kettle on.” The girl walked over to the sofa and sat on the edge. It occurred then that Wendy had never actually asked what her name was. The girl had been sat trying to explain her actions, it was as if she thought this was some sort of punishment rather than something to help her. “Where are my manners!? I didn’t ask what your name was.”
“It’s Harri.” She said. “Short for Angharad.”
“What a lovely name.” Wendy turned around and made her way back to the sofa with two cups of tea and joined Harri. “My granddaughter is called Angharad.” She smiled and handed her the mug. “Tell me a little bit about yourself then. What do you like to do in your spare time?”
“I don’t do much I guess. I tend to just read and play my instruments.” She replied, cradled her cup of tea.
“What instruments are they?” Wendy smiled, thinking that she had started to make some progress with the girl. But when she looked at Harri she could see the frustration welling up in her face.
“Look if you’re going to question me then you may as well ask me what the hell happened to make me do what I did mightn’t you.” Harri’s tone was harsh but it wasn’t at all surprising to Wendy. “If you really must know I play piano, guitar and the trumpet. But I don’t see why any of that is important.” The look of contempt on Harri’s face softened and Wendy could see tears welling up in her eyes.
She watched as Harri brought the mug up to her mouth and took a sip. It was done in a very delicate fashion as if she was scared that the force of movement would be enough to crack the mug that didn’t belong to her. As she lowered the mug she pulled at the sleeves of her hoodie and dropped her face so it was covered with her long, ash blonde hair. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologise. People have said worse.” Wendy smiled and put her hand on Harri’s shoulder. “Do you want to talk about it today? We don’t have to, you’ve already said a lot about it but we can leave it for next week.” Harri shook her head, Wendy expected her to think that there wasn’t going to be a next time.
“Can we leave it?” She said into her mug as she brought it up to her mouth and took the final sip. “I don’t think I can handle thinking about it again for a while.” Wendy nodded.
“I tell you what then. Let’s use this hour to get to know each other a little better.” Harri turned her head and gave Wendy a quizzical look. “You said you like books.” She nodded. “Well how about we go across to the library and continue our session there?” Harri had already grabbed her backpack from the floor next to the over turned chair. Wendy picked up her coat and slipped it on over her shoulders and walked to the door.
As they walked across the road towards the library doors Harri began to think that Wendy wasn’t as bad as she had initially concluded. She was there to help, well it was her job to help. As soon as the doctor had made the call to Willowsdale Harri shunned the idea. She admitted that she had been stupid and yes she agreed that she had depression but it felt like defeat going to a councillor. She stopped dead as they reached the doors and looked around her. She had been so absorbed in her own thoughts that she hadn’t noticed the beautiful day that was around her. It was a bright sunny day, there were birds flying overhead chasing each other around the trees next to the Library. On the way up the hill she saw a family. A mother, father and two children. Her insides twisted and she felt envy brewing inside her.
“Harri are you alright?” Wendy called to her from inside the doorway whilst holding the door open for her. Harri turned and nodded sharply and trudged through the door. Together they made their way up to the second floor of the building, hearing the sound of the legs of her black skinny jeans rubbing against each other with each step was a comfort, one of the constant never changing things in her life. After reaching their destination Wendy instructed Harri to go find a few books that she would like to read. Harri had no idea what Wendy intended to do when she returned but she went and did it anyway, dumping her bag next to the beanbag Wendy had flopped down in.
The books she wanted were on the floor above, but she made her way around the second floor first, picking out books at random, reading the back covers and sometimes even the first few pages. She was surprised to find she had managed to collect three she would be interested in before she’d had a chance to go up to the next floor. Convinced that she would need more for whatever this exercise included she placed the books next to Wendy and ran up the next flight of stairs quickly pulling out the four books she was desperate to read and ran back down to where Wendy was waiting for her. Whatever she had thought about this whole counselling idea had seemed to go out the window as soon as Wendy had mentioned the library. Harri considered the library a safe place, maybe it was the books or the amount of words stored inside one building, making it easier to find the courage to try and keep going.
When she returned to the beanbags she noticed that Wendy had picked up the copy of The Picture of Dorian Grey that Harri had placed next to her five minutes earlier. After sitting in the beanbag next to her councillor Harri dragged her bag over from where Wendy was sat.
“It’s an interesting choice.” Said Wendy putting the book back on the pile. “What made you choose it? And don’t say it was the cover, because as lovely as it is we shouldn’t judge books by them.” She winked and Harri laughed weakly.
“I don’t know, it just sounded interesting.” Wendy nodded and looked at the rest of the books in the pile along with the books that Harri held in her lap. These included a copies of To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Hunger Games, The Great Gatsby, Northanger Abbey and The Catcher in the Rye. When Harri looked at her face she could tell she was trying to figure something out.
“It’s an interesting selection you’ve picked up. I can tell that you like your books.” Smiling she took the books from Harri’s lap and started to create a pattern out of them. “Quickly go find a book that you’ve read that you think symbolises you.”
After a few minutes Harri returned with a copy of Alice in Wonderland and placed it on the floor among the rest of the books. She watched as Wendy continued to arrange the books around their final companion, eventually she sat back in her beanbag.
“Harri do you see what is significant about the books you chose?” Harri shook her head. “Well if you look at it this way, they are saying a lot about where you feel you are at the moment.” This statement intrigued her slightly and Harri found herself wanting to know more.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve found throughout my life I’ve never picked up a book just because it sounded interesting. I have read them because I feel as if there might be a connection between me and the text.” Harri nodded along as she listened to what Wendy had to say. “Well what these books tell me is that you’re lost, trying to find where you are and possibly yourself, you could feel at war with yourself and feel as if you need to show one thing even when you’re feeling another.” After every word she said she pointed at a book. Harri was surprised at how much Wendy got out of the selection of books, it was something that she would never have thought about. How much else was visible from the things that she was doing?
“I suppose that is pretty much how I’m feeling right now.” She paused, picking one of the books and stared across the room and noticed a mother and child reading a book together. “I miss it.” Her stomach twisted. “I don’t even remember what it’s like anymore.” It was as if Wendy could sense the tears that were about to erupt from Harri’s eyes and she put her hand on her shoulder to console her.
“Talk to me about it sweetheart.” Harri was now leafing through the book watching tear marks hit the pages.
“I can’t.” Harri shook her head. “I don’t want to. Not yet.” Wendy nodded her head, she understood that it took a while to open up to a stranger, but she was glad about the progress they had made in the last half hour. Harri sniffed. “Can I just check these books out and go home please.” She shrugged Wendy’s hand off her shoulder and stood up quickly. Throwing her backpack on and grabbing the books and running down the stairs before Wendy could say a word.
Why can’t I keep it together? Why!? Her head was shouting at her as she made her way down the stairs, through the book check out and out the door. Harri raced down the high street trying to get out of the sight of anyone that might notice her crying. I can’t deal with this, I don’t know how to deal with this. Everything inside her was screaming. She knew she had been rude to Wendy but at the time she didn’t care, she just wanted to get out.
“Harri?” She heard someone shouting her name from behind her but kept walking. “Harri!?” The person shouted again. She didn’t stop, the tears were streaming down her face she couldn’t face anyone she knew at that moment. She could sense whoever it was walking behind her as she reached the bottom of her street. Instead of facing the follower she made sure she that she raced up her street and got into her house as fast as she could.
“Harri? Is that you?” She heard a females voice coming from the kitchen as soon as she slammed the door shut behind her. “Sweetie is everything ok? Your dads gone out to get some food for before we leave. How was the councillor?” Harri wondered why Grace was throwing all these questions at her.
“It was fine.” Harri shouted and ran up the stairs to her room.