Tina came back by later that afternoon. I was doing better, despite using up half the box of paper towels. Breakfast had gone down okay. I was hoping to get the catheter out again, but hadn’t asked about it due to my parents’ cloying presence in the room.
“You look better,” Tina said. “These your parents?”
“Yes. Mom, Dad, this is Tina. She runs the art therapy program here. I met her at school.” That was enough background. No need to bring up the suicide part.
“It’s so nice to meet some of Corabelle’s friends,” Mom said, her eyes resting on the striped stockings. “What do you do in your art therapy?”
“I just started today. We’re drawing.” Tina sat in Gavin’s empty chair. “I’m actually here on official business.” She rummaged through a satchel and pulled out a clipboard. “Do your parents maybe want to grab a cup of coffee downstairs?”
My stomach quavered a little. “That’s a good idea. I’ll see you guys in a bit, okay?”
Mom rolled up her knitting and stuck it in a bag. “Come on, Arthur. Nice to meet you.” She led Dad out of the room. He looked back like I was about to be taken away or something. Poor Dad.
“I didn’t expect for you to be one of my first referrals,” Tina said. “But given our shared history, the social worker — shoot, I forgot her name, the one with the vintage glasses—”
“Sabrina,” I said.
She snapped her fingers. “Yes, Sabrina. I’ve learned too many names today. She thought I might get more out of you than she did.”
“I didn’t want to be sent to psych.”
“I don’t think they’d do that. The ward rarely has an empty bed, from what I gather.”
“But they might keep me here.”
“Maybe. Here’s the thing. Your case is open for possible mental health issues. And you and I both know they are there. They asked me to just chat with you, only because we are friends, but I can decide what to tell them. I’m not a therapist and they know that. All I’m supposed to do is say whether or not to enroll you in my therapy once you are up and about.”
I felt wary. I liked Tina, but now she was here officially. And she already knew more than I would have liked. I had assumed I would be out by the time she started.
I fingered the white sheet on my lap. “I told Gavin about the marijuana. And the professor.”
“So what did he do?”
“He had a secret of his own.” My chest tightened, and I had to grip the rails to breathe, sucking in air.
Tina leaned forward and squeezed my arm. “Maybe we should do this another time. I can put a note in that you aren’t medically well enough.”
I shook my head. “I’ll be okay. It’s just like the upset goes straight to my lungs right now.”
She nodded. “I hope I get the hang of how the therapy part affects the physical. I feel so unqualified for this job.”
I breathed in and out slowly until I had a handle on my airflow. “You’ll be fine. It’s just the art stuff, right?”
“Sorta. I still have to, you know, talk to the patients. I’m afraid they will tell me things I can’t handle.”
“Probably some of them will be lying.”
“What did Gavin say?”
“He had a vasectomy.”
“What? He’s like — twenty!”
“He found a place in Mexico that would do it.”
“Holy shit.” She clapped her hand over her mouth. “Probably not an officially sanctioned response.”
I managed a small laugh. “Probably not.”
“Well, hell. That’s got to be tough. You think he can get it reversed? You still want kids, right?”
“Maybe. We’ll have to see. We’re both in school. We can’t exactly do anything about it right now.”
Tina tugged on one of her pigtails. “So, how did you go from confessions to swim time?”
My breath was fine now, but I placed my hand on my chest anyway to give me a second to decide on my answer. “I overreacted.”
“What was your goal? To get him to save you?”
I thought back. “I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t think I thought about it. I just went.”
Tina sat back in the chair. “Well, the real therapists might not buy that, but I do. When I cut my wrists, it had nothing to do with dying.” She pushed at the sleeve of her sweater, revealing the scars, white and pale pink but still visible. “I felt like I should be marked. Damaged. Scarred. So I did it.”
“Did you ever get therapy?”
“Are you kidding? Once my parents decided to step in, I spent half my life in shrink-quack offices.” She clapped her hand over her mouth again. “Probably not an officially sanctioned description of mental health professionals either.”
Tina made me laugh. She would be a good fit for Jenny. The two of them were so quirky and colorful. Between Tina’s stockings and Jenny’s hair, they could command the attention of any room.
“Will you be happy here?” I asked. “Do you have a place to stay?”
“I’m at some extended-stay hotel for the moment. It’s hard to find an apartment for such a short time. I might be able to find a sublet.”
“You should stay at my place.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that.”
“No, I’m serious. I’m going to be here for who knows how long, and then I may just stay with Gavin. He’ll want to watch me every minute.”