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Authors: Julia Mayer

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BOOK: Eyes in the Mirror
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On the fourth day, my psychiatrist asked why I think I cut myself. I was getting frustrated with this question and answered the same way I had for the first three days. “I stopped cutting myself.” I hadn't cut myself since I was Dee.

“I know this is hard, but I also know that's not true. Those are some pretty new scars,” she said, pointing at my arms. “It might help if you picked up another hobby, something else you can do with your hands maybe.”

“What sort of hobby? So far, I haven't found a hobby I actually enjoy that's legal.”

“What do you like to do? What do you do for fun?”

It was a good question. What did I do for fun? What had I done before Dee and I started spending all our spare time together? “I…design doll clothes?”

“Do you?” she asked, smiling in a way that looked slightly more genuine for a moment.

“Well, I used to. I haven't in a long time. Not since my mom died really. But I think I was okay at it when I was little. My mom and I used to make clothes for my dolls and stuff.”

She smiled. “Have you considered picking it up again?”

I could try. I hadn't even thought of designing in years. But I used to do it all the time when I was little. “I'll try.” True answers were the easiest answers to give.

By the last day, I had found a couple of girls I could talk to. They were other first-timers and each had her own problems. But it did kind of help to hear that other people were going through something similar. That I didn't have to be alone in this. I did more listening than talking, but I guess hearing the other girls talk was a reminder that I wasn't the only one with problems.

Everybody was dealing with something—pain, divorce, eating disorders…I wasn't the only one here for a reason. Or no reason. Sometimes people just hurt. I didn't feel like I needed this help. I was already taking care of myself, so I didn't need all of these doctors and nurses. I told Sasha that my dad was making me go to a support group when I got home.

“That's good,” she said. “You should go. It helps.”

“But I don't need it,” I argued with her. “I'm cured. I'm done. It's just going to be a reminder that I was sick.”

“You don't just get ‘cured.' It's more complicated than that. Just deciding that everything will be fine doesn't necessarily make everything fine.” The doctor had said the same thing, but I hadn't really believed her. Hearing Sasha say it helped convince me.

“I think I can handle it. I have some support. I have the support of—” but I stopped myself short. All this time, somewhere in the back of my mind I had thought I would have Jamie and Dee when I got home. Jamie wasn't in my world. I didn't have his support. He didn't even know me. And I didn't think that Dee and I would be speaking when I got back. I wasn't over her sending me here. And as much as my dad would try, he always had trouble supporting me when I needed it most. Despite the fact that I stopped mid-sentence, Sasha knew where I was going.

“I've been through this, and I'm never going to get out of it. I've been here for too long.” She moved to my bed and put her hand on my knee. “But you have a good chance. Don't leave your recovery to one other person, especially a boyfriend. It's as unfair to him as it is to you. You don't want to trap him.”

“I don't have a boyfriend,” I snapped. More honest words, but I immediately felt bad. She had been more helpful than anyone else while I was here. I couldn't tell her what was really going on, obviously, but I didn't mean to go so hot and cold on her all week the way I had. She moved back to her bed, and I was so unsure what to say that I couldn't even look at her. I turned around and went back to packing. I heard the door close and knew she had already left the room.

***

When they drove us to the airport to leave, the nurses all hugged us good-bye, as though their smiles were anything more than plaster, and offered to talk to us if we ever needed them. Sasha hugged me right before I got on a plane to go home. She whispered, “Seriously, you don't have to do this alone. Get the help. You need it more than you think.”

I nodded. She knew. She knew much better than I did.

A part of me knew that being there had helped. That I had gotten better. But another—bigger—part of me felt that rehab was something I would never be able to overcome. I would always know I'd been institutionalized. I was haunted by the experiences of the people around me, by the papered walls and the feeling that those helping me already saw me as less than them. They already saw me as crazy, as a forever patient who would be in and out my whole life, the way Sasha was. I didn't want that to happen to me.

When I saw my father, the anger and the frustration rekindled. And all the good the trip had done me floated away into the night. All I could think was that he was picking up his daughter from her trip to an
institution
.

“Welcome home,” he said, moving to hug me. I stepped back.

“If you ever make me do something like that again, I will never come back. I'm not just your crazy daughter that you can ship off when I get too complicated. You deal with me, or I don't deal with you. You're my dad. You don't just get to pick and choose what in my life to be a part of.”

We didn't talk on the ride home.

chapter 10

Smack in the Face

Dee

We were more than halfway down the block, and still Jamie hadn't said anything. I desperately needed to know what happened with Samara, and eventually I got tired of waiting.

“Look, Jamie, about what happened—”

“That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Are you…” He paused, taking my hand as we continued walking. “Are you okay?” He stopped and took my other hand, curling our fingers together, turning me toward him. “I know I wanted this. You did too, right?” I smiled at the way he looked at me, and he leaned in and kissed me softly, and I felt my knees shake and my mind go blank for a moment.

What had happened with Samara? And why did I get the feeling he thought it was
me
we were talking about? Samara must have told him that I liked him, but what else had happened? This felt natural, which was amazing. It was even more than I expected. But something about it was too easy, too simple.

“I'm happy too.” I let go of his hand and we kept walking. “But I'm a little bit…confused,” I said.

“After we…you know. I thought it was pretty clear what was happening. I didn't think you would've if we weren't together. I thought it was amazing. We're working, aren't we? I mean, doesn't it feel right?”

He put his arm around me as we walked, and it was true. It did feel right. It felt…perfect. But this perfection wasn't achieved with me. It was achieved with Samara. This whole thing had gone so wrong. But at that moment, it did feel so right. Then a terrifying thought occurred to me. Maybe Jamie thought I was Samara. Had he said my name? I tried to replay our conversation in my head. I was pretty sure he had said my name. He had; I was sure he had. So he had to know it was me.

“Jamie, what—” But he cut me off.

“I feel like I got cheated out of holding you after. I didn't want to just leave you that way. I didn't mean to just run out. When your mom came home, I got scared. But I didn't want you to think…I didn't want you to think I don't want to be with you.”

“Holding me, holding me after…”

“After, you know…” He seemed embarrassed for a moment. I was trying desperately to fit the pieces together, to figure out what he was trying to tell me. He didn't seem to know that Samara and I had switched back. I wondered if he knew we had switched places at all. After what? My head was in such a fog that I was so confused about what he was talking about. “I feel like you're not here with me,” he said.

“Sorry, I'm just…like I said. I'm just confused.”

“You're not…rethinking this, are you? You don't regret it?”

“I don't regret…” It hit me smack in the face. My mom said he had slipped out the window when she came home. Samara had a look in her eye I had never seen before. He kept avoiding saying what “it” was. Jamie was apologizing for not holding me “after.” We had had sex. Or Jamie thought we had. He and Samara had. What the hell had Samara done? Why, why had she done this?

“Oh, my God, did we…? I have to…I have to go. I'm sorry. I—” I searched for an excuse. “I promised my mom I'd come home as quickly as possible.” I turned to walk home.

“Wait, but Dee—”

“Sorry,” I said, pulling my arm away from him.

“What's the matter? Are we okay?”

“Yeah, we're…we're fine, Jamie.” He pulled me toward him and kissed me again. It didn't feel right anymore. I wanted to get him off me. This was making my stomach churn. When he let me go, I turned and walked home as quickly as I could. That kiss wasn't mine. It was Samara's.

When I walked in, my mom was sitting at the table, quickly flipping the pages of a magazine. She looked up at me when I walked in. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I…I think so. Thanks. I just needed to talk to him.”

“Well,” she said, “now that that's sorted out. My turn. What's going on? What happened to that girl who told me everything? The one who didn't keep secrets from her mom?”

“She…she went on a little vacation. I'm so sorry, Mom. It's me now, though. I'm back. I'm so sorry about everything. I won't lie to you.”

My mom never got mad at me. I couldn't believe that Samara had been able to alienate her. I didn't think my expectations of Samara had been that high: just don't actively destroy my relationships with the people who care about me. She had to have done this all on purpose. I would never have believed she could do it if the evidence wasn't sitting right in front of me.

“When I came home, it was Jamie slipping out your window, wasn't it? That was the noise I heard? The shuffling around in your room?”

“It…” I couldn't lie to her; I just promised her I wouldn't. “It was. I'm sorry, Mom. I should have talked to you about this before. I shouldn't have. But Mom, I like him. I really like him. And, he likes me too. I think…I think he loves me, Mom.”

She sighed. “It's okay, sweetheart. It's okay. You're growing up. I knew it would happen sometime.” She smiled for the first time. “As long as you're careful, as long as you're safe. You're right, though, you should have talked to me about it. Do you really think you were ready? Are the two of you even together?”

“Yeah, we are. But I don't know.” I finally sat down at the table with her. “I don't know how this happened. I didn't plan it. Not like this.” Everything I was saying was true—this was
certainly
not in my plans. My mom would never know how true that was, but it felt good to be able to talk to her. I had missed her so much while I was away.

“It's okay, sweetheart. It's…it's time for your first love. I just wish…I wish you looked happier right now.”

“I'm just conflicted, I guess.”

My mom got up and walked over to me. She leaned down and put her arms around me. “I'm here if you need me.”

I felt the tears start, and as much as I tried to contain them, they kept coming. I wished I could tell my mom what I was really crying about. I wished I could tell her that I had a new best friend who was hurting—and who was hurting me. That I thought I could help her. That I had trusted her. But I had just made things worse. And so had she. That we had both screwed up so badly.

I spent most of the weekend curled up in bed, trying to figure out what had happened. How had Samara and I gotten ourselves here? How had she and Jamie gotten themselves there? I couldn't tell left from right anymore. I couldn't tell what I wanted.

***

When I got back to school on Monday, I began checking the mirror constantly for Samara. I figured if nothing else, she'd get angry and come to yell at me. But she didn't. When I hadn't heard from or seen her by Friday, I was getting really concerned. I started keeping a small mirror on my desk in every class. My friend Kelly kept shooting me strange looks about it.

“What's that about?” she finally asked on Day Two.

I had been waiting for this question. And I was prepared for it. “I watched this totally creepy movie the other day where this guy strangles his ex-girlfriend by sneaking up behind her. This way, I can be sure that won't happen.”

She started laughing and I bit my lip. Would it work? I had practiced the excuse over and over (in the mirror, of course) as soon as Kelly started looking at me strangely. “Oh, come on,” I said, “haven't you ever been completely terrified after a movie?”

She wasn't laughing at me anymore, but instead looking at me skeptically. “Who do you think is going to kill you in school? What movie was this? Jeez.”

I smiled and shrugged a little, hoping that would answer her questions.

No matter how much time I spent staring in the mirror, though, Samara never appeared.

And the week had been a slow one. I barely knew what was going on with the people around me, and it was hard to tell who Samara had isolated and who she had made friends with. Clearly, Jamie's friends thought we were closer than I was used to, but I wasn't sure about anyone else.

Jamie walked me home on Tuesday, and as we started up my block, he put his arm around me and said, “I like us.”

“I like us too?” I said but my voice went up at the end of my sentence, something my mother constantly warned me about.

“But?”

“But what are we exactly? I mean, you said we were together, right? So what does that mean?”

“I…I kind of assumed that you were my girlfriend.”

I smiled. “So you're my boyfriend?”

Jamie kissed me. I took that to be a yes. And the kiss felt like mine. Like he was mine.

***

I caught up with Samara just as I was about to leave the mirror Sunday night.

“Samara! Finally! Where have you been?” She turned toward me slowly, and I could see the dark bags under her eyes. I could see that she had withdrawn over the week. She seemed limp.

She looked me up and down and then looked away. “I wasn't allowed to have a mirror at rehab.”

“Well, what was it like? How was it? How do you feel?”

“Oh, wonderful. I'm all cured,” she said sarcastically. “Thanks, Dee. You obviously know what's best for me. I can't believe I ever doubted you.”

“Samara, don't be like that.”

“You sent me away, Dee. What do you want from me? You expect me to thank you? Fuck you. You made this mess of my life and you left. And now I will forever be stamped as someone who was in a mental institution. And what about what you did with the kids at school? People I don't like are trying to coax conversation out of me.”

“Who? What are you talking about? Eva? She's perfectly nice. I don't know what your problem with her is,” I said. Samara was so dramatic about everything. Everyone was evil; everyone was out to get her.

“You don't know anything about my problems, Dee. You really want to know why I don't like Eva?”

“I really do,” I said, crossing my arms and taking a step back.

“She left me, Dee. My mom committed suicide. I needed friends. And she abandoned me. She decided it was
just too hard on her
. I heard her telling someone else in the bathroom. If she thought it was hard on her, what did she think was happening to me? What was I asking of her? Besides someone to listen when I talked. I thought I'd found that in you, but I guess we can both see that that isn't true.

“And who are
you
to decide who I should be friends with anyway? You're the one who tells me I deserve more? Well, believe me, Dee, these girls are not more. They're the kinds of friends who disappear when things get hard.”

I was so tired of Samara's blame-it-on-the-world attitude. She was blaming me for not being a friend? She'd had sex with the guy I liked. She'd had sex with her best friend's boyfriend. Who was she to define friendship?

“You know what, Samara? Maybe it was hard on her. Maybe you're not, like, the easiest person in the world to deal with. Ever think of that? What, you think your life is so hard and the rest of us have it so easy all the time? Fuck that. If someone wants to be your friend, why don't you just let them?”

She just shook her head at me and walked away.

BOOK: Eyes in the Mirror
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