I got up and went to school the next morning, pretending as if I wasn’t one step away from full-blown schizophrenia. Dad had still been home. Over a cup of coffee, he told me that he was picking me up after fifth period.
Not even ten hours later and they’d already found me an appointment with a real shrink.
Scott didn’t say anything when I climbed into the car, but he stopped halfway between our house and Carson’s. “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you before, but…”
“It’s okay.” My voice was flat as I stared out the window. I was still so numb inside, cold and lifeless. “I should be the one apologizing. It’s not your fault your sister’s a lunatic.”
“You’re not a lunatic.” He grabbed my hand and squeezed. “It’s going to be okay.”
I nodded but didn’t respond. Honestly, it wasn’t going to be okay.
Scott let go, and we made the short trip to Carson’s house. My heart hurt just thinking about how Carson would look at me if he really knew the truth. They talked about a game that had been on last night while I stared out the window, trying to keep my eyes dry.
Suddenly, Carson propped his chin on the seat above my shoulder. Capturing a piece of my hair between his fingers, he tugged gently. “You’re awful quiet this morning.”
Scott glanced at me. There was a silent message in his stare, but I had no idea what it meant. I forced at faint smile. “I’m fine. Just sleepy.”
Carson accepted that and moved on, but his eyes lingered on my face when we parted ways.
I spent the better part of the morning destroying what was left of my fingernails on my right hand. A giant clock hung over my head. Ticking down the minutes until I either lost my mind completely, was arrested for the murder of my best friend, or was eventually silenced by the individual who was really responsible for the murder before I could learn his or her true identity.
Needless to say, I wasn’t kidding myself with any happy endings.
Had I been trying to warn myself when I wrote those notes? I flipped back and forth between being guilty and innocent. In each scenario, I was still bonkers.
Making matters worse, Detective Ramirez and another deputy returned to school, questioning kids once more. Veronica and Candy both were singled out in English class. In bio, Carson confirmed he’d been questioned in the previous period.
“It’s definitely a murder investigation.” His head was bent low, so only I could hear what he was saying. “The questions they were asking were obvious. Like if I knew anyone who wanted to do her harm. They even asked about you—if you had any enemies.”
Knowing that someone was asking those sorts of questions made me feel overexposed, as if I’d been slit open and laid bare for all to see.
“They talked to me last night,” I admitted, clenching my pen.
“I got that feeling. They asked about the trip we made to Cassie’s house and the cliff.”
“Sorry.” Unable to look at him, I focused on my textbook. “I didn’t want to get you involved.”
“It’s okay.” Under the table, his hand found my empty one. Threading his fingers through mine, he squeezed. “I’m not upset that you told them that we went there. It’s not like we were doing anything wrong.”
Aware of his hand around mine and the pleasant tingle that shot up my arm, I wondered if he’d still hold my hand if he knew the truth. Or would he call me Insanity Sam like everyone else? My eyes burned.
As the teacher started the lecture, Carson shifted his hand, tracing his thumb over my palm in a silent alphabet. As if I weren’t distracted enough. I jumped a few times, scraping the legs of my chair on the floor, especially when his fingers reached the center of my hand. Carson would chuckle softly, and the two kids in front of our table kept turning around, glancing at us.
By the end of class, my cheeks were rosy and my nerves were stretched tight for several reasons—one of them being the fact that Carson was still holding my hand.
Out in the hallway, he pulled me against the wall and lowered his head so that we were eye level. “I want to see you after practice.”
My heart did a little happy dance, but I shook my head. “I don’t know…if we should.”
His lips curved up on one side. “I’m asking to hang out. That’s all, Sam.”
I flushed. “I know, but…”
“But what?” His lopsided grin spread. “Or do you want to play the field now that you’re single? Keep your options open?”
Rolling my eyes, I laughed. “That’s not it.”
“Good.” He stepped forward. Our shoes touched. People were watching, and I couldn’t care less when my eyes locked with his. “I’d be sort of disappointed. So, meet me at eight. The tree house clandestine enough for you?”
I knew I should tell him no. “Okay.”
My therapist was an old man who smelled of pipe tobacco and wore thick, square glasses that I think were supposed to be hipster. He had a head full of silvery hair and a beard I couldn’t stop staring at. Awards and certificates lined the walls. Photos of him hunting, holding a deer by its antlers, and deep-sea fishing off a yacht were mixed among them.
He asked very few questions, all designed to get me to talk about how I felt, what I worried about, and more important, what I’d felt before I “remembered” things or “found a note” left to me.
He’d write in his little notebook, and I seriously doubted they were notes from the way his pen moved. I think he was doodling.
The session lasted exactly thirty-three minutes.
I left his office and climbed into my father’s car, clutching slips of paper to my chest. My dad didn’t speed off, throwing distance between the car and the shrink’s office, as I knew Mom would have. He watched me closely instead. “What did Dr. O’Connell have to say?”
“I don’t have schizophrenia. Good news.”
He arched a brow.
I sighed, handing him my prescription for Buspar. “He said I have severe anxiety disorder plus post-traumatic stress or something. The pills should take effect in about two weeks. This one”—I waved another prescription around—“is called Ativan. I’m supposed to use it in case I have a panic attack or whatever, which he thinks is what is happening when I…see the shadow guy.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve nicknamed the guy I see but isn’t really there.” I paused, recalling what the therapist said about him. “He thinks the shadow guy could be stress-induced hallucinations or memories of that night, that I’m shielding myself from seeing his face.”