Authors: Belinda Frisch
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror
“Hey, sexy, where’re you going?” The man’s untied boots clapped the cement and he weaved as he walked, drunk on whatever was in his brown bag. “Hey, come ‘ere a minute.” He slurred closing the gap between them.
“It’s way too early for this, loser.”
“No such thing as too early. Come on, wait up. I just want to talk to you.”
She held the pepper spray out with her finger on the trigger. “One more step you sick drunk and I pull.”
He pressed her, backing her toward the alley.
Tires squealed and the smell of skidding rubber surrounded her as Adam’s massive black Chevy jumped the curb. The yellow smiley face dangling from the rearview mirror contrasted the skull-emblazoned hood except that it had an “x” where each of its eyes should be and red blood trailing from the corners of its half-moon smile. The grill cover gave the appearance of vampire teeth and the screaming death metal music was louder even than the obnoxious exhaust.
Adam got out, his face tight with anger. His furrowed brow pulled the skin around his fresh eyebrow piercing, making it bleed a little.
“Get in the truck.” He shouted over the deafening music and left the driver’s side door opened into honking traffic.
Harmony folded her arms across her chest. “Did you seriously follow me? Seriously?”
The drunk stepped in between her and Adam. “I don’t think she wants to go with you, man.”
Adam pulled his arm back and delivered a single, solid punch to the drunk’s jaw, knocking him unconscious.
“Of course I followed you. Now get in.” He opened Harmony’s door and shook the dripping blood from split knuckle, splattering an expired parking meter behind him.
Harmony stuck her chest out defiantly but could see he was in no mood.
“I’m not going to say it again.
Harmony stepped up on the diamond cut chrome running board and pulled herself up.
The drunk came to and headed down the alley. Harmony was relieved by his retreat.
No victim, no crime.
Adam squeezed the fish mouth wound closed to help it clot. “Damn it, Harmony.”
What did I do?
She wanted to ask, but instead said, “You all right?”
“I’m fine.” He unclenched his jaw and pointed to the glove compartment. “Hand me one of the napkins in there, would you?” She handed him the wrinkled stack of McDonald’s napkins and he wrapped a few of them around his hand, tucking it under the leg of his black skinny jeans for compression.
“Why did you follow me?”
“How about ‘thank you for saving me from the belligerent pervert’? I was making sure you made the appointment.”
“I was on the bus, wasn’t I?”
“That doesn’t mean you’ll make it to Reed’s. Not two minutes off it and I’m already rescuing you. Dressed like that, you’re asking for trouble.”
was the one asking for trouble. I totally had it handled.”
“Harmony, I’m trying to help.”
myself, thank you.”
“You’re going to help yourself right back into the system going to the shrink dressed like that. Here.” He reached behind her seat for the change of clothes he brought from his apartment. “Put these on.”
She took the jeans and tee shirt from the backpack and rolled her eyes. “See what I mean? You treat me like I’m helpless or stupid and then wonder why I don’t want you to drive me places.”
“This isn’t a negotiation and you’re not going to make me feel bad for being the one person with enough sense to know you need taken care of.”
He pulled into Parker Center—an old, brick school converted to office space that housed most of the county’s programs—and parked next to an overfull dumpster at the far end of the lot.
“You should be fine to change here. No one can see in.”
“Like I care.” She slipped on the pair of well-worn jeans with holes in the thighs and the long-sleeved, girly tee and hopped down, mortified. “I really hate you right now.”
“I know.” He kissed her and put her discarded clothes into her backpack.
Brea woke to the sound of her mother shouting from downstairs for her to answer the phone. She’d snoozed the alarm so many times that she was a half an hour late getting up for school. It was a long night of worrying about Harmony, about whether or not she was going to be sent back to foster care, and about what was going to happen to her if she did.
“Brea, come on. Pick up. Your father wants to talk to you.”
Her father, Kurt Miller, moved to Peach Springs, Arizona when she was two-years-old, under what some people called mysterious circumstances. He came back only once for his father’s funeral and spent the brief two day stint holed up at the Beech Tree—a rundown motel off route 32—hiding.
Her mother, Joan, still wore her wedding ring and slept in his sweatshirt.
“Brea, come on. I mean it.”
“Just a second, Mom.” She threw on a pair of jeans and the top two shirts on her dresser. “I got it.” She picked up the cordless off her desk and waited for him to say something.
“Brea, are you there?”
“Yeah, Dad. It’s me.”
“How have you been?”
“Fine.” He didn’t deserve conversation.
“Good. Good. I’m glad to hear it. Listen, I’m making plans for summer vacation. I thought you’d like to spend some time out here. A couple of weeks or a month, maybe? We could go to the zoo…”
“I’m too old for the zoo.”
“Okay. We can catch up on old times.”
“We don’t have any old times.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Not fair? It’s been five years, Dad, and you haven’t visited once.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is unless you count funerals.”
“Listen, I don’t want to fight. I thought it would be good for you to get away. Your mom says you’ve been hanging around Harmony and I…we…need to talk about that.”
“I gotta go” she said, “before I miss my bus.”
Her parents rarely collaborated, except for when it came to Harmony. For as long as Brea could remember, long before Harmony’s legal troubles or the widespread small town chatter about Charity’s wealth of problems, Joan and Kurt Miller were a bastion of anti-Wolcott sentiment. They forbade Brea to see Harmony, but didn’t have the man power to enforce it. Brea stopped asking for an explanation after years of not getting any and couldn’t come up with anything on her own that would explain why her parents stonewalled a kid before she was old enough to enter kindergarten.
Harmony and Adam stood in the doorway of the overfull waiting room. He wrapped his arms around her and knitted his fingers together at her waist. There were pieces of napkin stuck in his now clotted wound and his hands were stained grease black from changing oil at the garage. No matter how often he washed them, they never came clean.
A white noise generator hissed under the chair next to them, masking the confidential psychiatrist-patient conversations, while a red-haired girl with Down’s syndrome pled with her elderly mother to go home.
“Pease,” she begged, leaving out the “l”. “Wanna l-e-a-v-e. Pretty pease,” the girl wailed.
Harmony tried not to stare.
I’m with you there, kid.
A nervous sweat dripped down her side, filling her nose with the smell of lavender deodorant.
“I should’ve cancelled,” she whispered and Adam shook his head.
“It’s going to be fine.”
Dr. Reed stood in his office doorway. His wrinkled khakis were an inch too short and the tails of his button-down shirt hung beneath the waistband of a food-stained sweater vest.
She walked toward him with her head down and an overwhelming nauseous feeling in her stomach.
“Good to see you again,” he said.
She didn’t answer, but took a seat on the lumpy, old couch that could have come from the Salvation Army.
Therapy wasn’t like in the movies. No high-end leather or panoramic views from the 46
floor of a high rise—at least not at the kind of places Social Services refers you to. The flattened, red-on-blue plaid cushion sucked her in and she tucked her leg underneath her for balance.
Dr. Reed sat behind a chipped, oak desk and looked up from Harmony’s file. “Is your mother planning on joining us today?”
His close-set eyes reminded her of a pig’s and were magnified by the coke bottle, black framed glasses perpetually slipping down his slight nose. His thinning salt and pepper hair was tied back in a low ponytail and his breath reeked of onions.
“No, sorry. She had a job interview she couldn’t miss. She asked me to tell you.”
“A job, huh? Good for her.” He scribbled down the excuse, but she could see he didn’t believe it. “Last time you were here we increased your Zoloft to 200 milligrams daily. Is that what you’re currently taking?”
“Yes,” she said. The second in under a minute.
“And how do you feel? Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others?”
She bit a piece of skin off of her chapped bottom lip. This wasn’t as black and white a question as he surely thought it was and she had to feel him out. “Can I ask you something?” She needed to know she wasn’t crazy.
She hesitated, unsure how to phrase it.
she should phrase it. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, do you believe the spirit of something dead can affect the living?”
“What do you believe?” His quick reply made it look like he answered without thinking.
It was now or never. Either she told him, or continued to wonder if she was completely batshit crazy. “I think so. I mean, I know it can. I used a Ouija board,” she admitted after a ponderous silence. “And something came through. A man. Tom. He…” The look on Reed’s face wasn’t disbelief or comedy, it was concern.
He wrote something down in her chart and pulled out one of those shitty diagnostic tests—a multiple choice with answers like “agree”, “somewhat agree”, “strongly agree”. It was a screening test for schizophrenia. One she remembered her mother taking.
“Are you seeing or hearing things, Harmony?” Reed put the test on a clipboard and handed it to her.
“I’m not schizo.” She put the clipboard back on his desk, refusing to fill it out.
“No one said anything about schizophrenia. That’s a generalized test and I would like you to fill it out, but it’s your choice. I’m more wondering about this Tom. Does he talk to you? Do you see him?”
She shrugged. “Sometimes. I mean, never mind.”