A Mango-Shaped Space Read online

  She turns her face away and wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. I can see the tears are sliding down her cheeks. She sniffles and wipes again. I feel totally helpless. Finally she faces me again.

  “I can’t believe you hid this from me for all these years,” she says with an unfamiliar hardness in her voice. “I’ve shared everything with you. Everything! Why didn’t you tell me?”

  Shocked by her reaction, my words flow out strangely. “But nobody knows … I kept it from everybody. I got used to keeping it to myself. Please don’t take it personally.” I’m practically begging her now.

  She stands up. “How can I not? I thought you were my best friend.”

  “I am,” I say, jumping up from the log. “And you’re mine. We’re Partners in Crime!” My eyes fill with tears. This hasn’t gone at all as I expected. My head is reeling.

  “Maybe you don’t know what a best friend is.” She steps away from me.

  My jaw falls open. “Maybe you don’t. I thought if anyone would understand it would be you.”

  “Well, I don’t understand,” she says angrily. “I don’t understand why you didn’t tell me in third grade. Or fourth grade. Or seventh. It’s always been you and me against the world. I’ll bet there are lots of things you don’t bother to tell me.”

  “There aren’t,” I insist. Jenna and I had never fought before. Ever. I can feel my hands start to shake.

  “I have to go home,” Jenna says suddenly. She hurries along the path back to our houses. I run to the edge of the woods and wait for her to look back, but she doesn’t. I’m so shocked, I don’t know what to feel. As I walk home I decide on anger. By the next morning, I change my mind and choose disappointment. And after school on Monday, after Jenna had ignored me all day, I decide on very, very hurt.

  Chapter Five

  The fight with Jenna is still playing over in my head as my mother leads me into the therapist’s office. This waiting room is completely different from Dr. Randolph’s. No crying babies, no scratching sisters. The doctor’s schedule is supposedly full, but the room is completely empty, silent as a tomb. The oversized chairs are white; the walls, covered with occasional landscape paintings, are white; and the plush carpet is the whitest of all. I’m insanely glad I didn’t bring a cup of grape juice with me.

  On the wall above the magazine rack is a row of light switches with different names under them. My mother scans them until she finds the one marked “Finn.” She then flicks the switch to the On position.

  “What’s that for?” I ask in a whisper. I’m afraid to make any noise in this quiet, white place.

  “Dr. Finn told me to do that when we arrived,” she says. “A light turns on in her office so she knows to come get us.”

  I sit in one of the chairs and sink down deep. My feet don’t even reach the floor. This office doesn’t feel like a place for crazy people. At least not a place for crazy people with grape juice. I have the uneasy feeling we’re being watched. If there had been a moose head on the wall, I swear the eyes would have been moving. My hands get that numb feeling.

  “Mom,” I whisper from the depths of my chair, “do you think they have a hidden video camera focused on us? You know, to see what we’re like before we go in there?”

  “No, I don’t,” she replies. “I wish you’d just relax. Dr. Finn only wants to talk to you.”

  “At least someone wants to talk to me,” I mutter.

  “What do you mean?” my mother asks, shifting around in her own plush chair. “Who’s not talking to you?”

  I sigh and say, “Jenna. She hasn’t spoken to me since Saturday. I told her about what’s going on, and I don’t know, she just freaked out because I hadn’t told her before. She didn’t say a word to me in school today.”

  “You know how sensitive Jenna is,” my mother says. “But she’ll come around, you’ll see.”

  I don’t know what I’d do if she didn’t. There isn’t anyone else I would want for a best friend. I twist the friendship bracelet back and forth on my wrist. Molly and Kimberly and Sara are fine for school friends, but we’ve never spent much time together outside of school. We all live too far from each other. I wish Mango were here with me, his dirty paws leaving little tracks on the white carpet. I haven’t seen much of him this week. I think he’s been hanging out at the Roths’ house lately, sniffing around their new cat, Twinkles. I don’t know which is more embarrassing: Mango having a crush on the cat, or the fact that the cat’s name is Twinkles.

  A few minutes later the door opens, and a tall woman who looks like she’s in her late thirties enters. She walks over to me and holds out her hand.

  “You must be Mia,” she says. Her voice is sweet and makes me think of whipped cream, which reminds me that I was too upset to eat lunch today and could use some food.

  I nod.

  “I’m Ms. Finn,” she says, bending over to shake my hand. “Let’s go into my office and get to know each other.”

  “Isn’t it Dr. Finn?” my mother asks.

  Ms. Finn smiles and says, “I’m a psychotherapist, not a psychologist. Many people make that mistake. I assure you the level of care is the same.”

  I’m still stuck in the deep chair and have to use both hands to push myself out. My mother starts to follow us out the door, but Ms. Finn stops her.

  “This is usually best without the mothers,” she says. My mother has no choice but to stay behind. I pause at the doorway and look back pleadingly, but my mother waves me on.

  Feeling alone and unsure, I follow Ms. Finn into a small office that is very similar to the waiting room. Only this room has framed diplomas on the walls and a bowl of jelly beans on a big mahogany desk. A box of tissues is conveniently placed next to the plush couch where Ms. Finn instructs me to “sit, relax, make yourself at home.” The tissues are a bad sign. Either she expects me to cry or to sneeze a lot. At least I don’t sink in quite as deep this time when I sit down. My toes just reach the rug. I can only gaze longingly at the jelly beans, which are about a foot too far away to reach. My stomach growls.

  “Now, Mia,” Ms. Finn begins in a firm voice. All traces of the whipped cream have disappeared. “Dr. Randolph has filled me in on your situation. Maybe together, you and I can figure out what is causing you to see these colors.”

  I nod cautiously.

  She continues. “I’m a very straightforward person. Another therapist might be the ‘silent type,’ but I call it like I see it, all right?”


  “Do you see the colors when you’re mad at your parents?”

  “I don’t usually get mad at my parents,” I tell her honestly, my eyes drifting back to the bowl of jelly beans. “That’s my older sister’s job.”

  “Remember, Mia, anything you say in here is confidential.”

  I nod. Unfortunately, my only secret is already out.

  “I need to ask if you’ve ever taken drugs,” Ms. Finn says, looking me straight in the eye, daring me to lie. “Anything that might have caused these colors as a side effect.”

  Taken aback, I tell her no, I’ve never taken drugs. I don’t even like to take medicine when I’m sick.

  She jots something down on her notepad.

  “Now, Mia, what is your place in the birth order of your family?”

  “I have one older sister and a younger brother. But they don’t see things like I do.”

  She taps her pen rapidly on her desk and asks, “Are you familiar with middle child syndrome?”

  I shake my head. I don’t like the sound of anything that ends with the word syndrome.

  “Let me see if I can explain,” she says, her voice suddenly soothing again. “Middle children are in an unfortunate position. They get neither the privileges reserved for the first born nor the special attention specific to the baby of the family. Do you follow me?”

  “I understand what you’re saying,” I tell her, trying not to sound defensive. “But I don’t think it’s like that in my family. My parents