I sat down, waiting to head into counseling services. The results of the Chester investigation had just come out last week, which was causing me to have flashbacks of the night I had discovered his body in the garden.
Next to the chair in the waiting room was a small sandbox with shells and tiny shovels. Fiddling with the bottom of my oversized sweater, I kept peering over at it. No matter how hard I tried to focus on something else — what I was about to talk about, the work I had yet to do tonight or anything else — it demanded my attention. The delicate shells and tiny grains of sand looked so soft—smooth and waiting to be rearranged into a new formation.
Is this here for me play with? I prodded at the nearest shell, loosening it from the sand it was covered in, and using the curve of the shell to create a tiny sand pile. I felt disappointed that all the sand was dry, and that it couldn’t be molded and changed into something else. What if I pored my apple juice into the box? Or added a little spit into it? Then it would be moldable … When was the last time I played in the sand? Or made a sand castle?
I continued to play, rearranging the shells and putting intricate lines into the sand with the tip of the shovel. I feel like a five year old. As I moved one of the shells, the shovel hit another shell that was buried underneath it. I didn’t expect it to be there. My mind flashed back to when I was in SMUG and my shovel slammed into one of Chester’s bones. I shuddered and buried my face into my sweater.
“You can come in now, Serena,” said the counselor as she motioned to me.
I walked into Sherlie’s cozy office and kerplopped into the chair. After I started talking, I was surprised by how much I shared; how much was buried in my mind that I could not say when classmates asked how I was recovering.
“I can’t believe that he swallowed that balloon — and that the investigator found it! I want to know more behind the science of that … and can you believe the water treatment plant?! That they would do something like that to a student simply because they didn’t want their expansion plan to come out?”
“Serena, how would you — ” Sherlie tried to break in.
“ — and Chester was such a good reporter. It’s no wonder that he was able to leave with that information. What a way to deal with trying to shut down a school—messing up the water. And to think that we thought it was the produce from SMUG!”
“Uh, Serena, I think — ” she interrupted.
“Do you think that they would let me read Chester’s note? Or release it to the public? I want know what he said. Or maybe I don’t …”
“Considering your recent flashbacks and the anxiety attacks you’ve been experiencing, I don’t think that I’d recommend that. Moving forward, what would — ”
“Can I go? I’m hungry. And now that I’m not afraid of the food giving me food poisoning, I really do want to eat. I’m starving.”
“Serena?! Wait! Could you at least come back tomorrow?” she shouted out her door.
I pretended not to hear her and kept walking until I was outside. The wind blew through the crisp air and I took a deep breath. I glanced around, taking in the reds, yellows and orange colors of the fall leaves. Seems like a nice day to take a walk — though, maybe not through the garden.