Hey Sparklebutts! (Wow I just did a ChelseaD. Let me just back away. . . I'm not worthy of this fame ) I have a piece I wrote a long time ago, and I'm thinking about turning it in to my writing class for a project. Can you guys tell me if it's school-worthy? He was everything to her. Her life, her breath, her everything. He lingered in her every thought. He wasn't hers, however. He belonged to the beautiful Terri. I turn this depressing thought over and over in my mind. What to say? "And how does this make you feel?" I say after a pause. "Lost, alone." "What else?" Gently. "Oh fine! I feel jealous! Horribly, awfully jealous." "And how is that jealously affecting your life?" My client, August blows her nose. She has a stack of Kleenex's next to her seat. Oh well, I have a lifetime supply of them. (Thanks Dad. Never been too great at Christmas presents.) "I'm always angry at everybody, always depressed." I put a cool hand on her arm, ignoring the fact that she had wiped her nose many times with it. "Deep inside, is that making you feel good?" She wails inside an expensive throw pillow. "No! It makes me feel awful. And even Benjamin isn't worth that." "Right," I say softly. "Even Benjamin isn't worth that. No matter how he makes you feel. Even if he never likes you, you have to remember that these things happen. Life happens." She nods. "Now, keep your head at and smile. Maybe, if you read in between the lines, you will see that he likes you, as a friend." The session is coming to a close. I watch August carefully. Her body language says she's trying to be happy. Well, it's a start, anyway. I look at my watch. "Well, August, the session is up." I say softly. "Is your mom here to pick you up?" She stands up, pushing her glasses further up her nose. "Thank you, Jaci." A pause. "How much do I owe you?" I motion to the front door. "My secretary, Josh, will tell you." She leaves. A sigh of relief. Oh , ya, I forgot to introduce myself. My name's Jaci DeMaggio. I'm a teenage school psychiatrist. I do therapy for troubled kids at Juniper High School. It's sort of an internship program. I love working with people; most of the time. It's my way of apologizing to the school of what I did last year. Oh quit rolling your eyes. I'm not that dramatic. And no, I won't tell you now you're interested. Get over it. Standing up, I gather my schedule and notepad into my arms. I take a last look at the room, making sure everything is in order. August's mountain of Kleenex's still loom over the coffee table. I contemplate on whether I should tell Josh to do it. Laziness overrules humanity. "Josh!" A blond head appears. "Yeah?" He runs his fingers through his already rakish hair. "Can you clean up around here? I have a HUGE amount of homework." An eyebrow raises. He tosses a look at his overstuffed backpack. "Sure." I smile. "Did you schedule August for next Tuesday?" Josh gives me an incredulous look. "Um, what is a secretary's job, again?" I give him a playful punch. "Thank you," I start walking out the door. "Good night!" " 'Night." I look behind my shoulder. Someone is following me. Quickening my pace, I turn the corner and onto my road. My heart is pounding so hard, it feels like a heavy metal band in my chest. I stop. The footsteps recede. I break out into a full-on sprint. My house is only a few blocks down, if only I can get there. I pause under the harsh light of a street lamp. "What do want?" I scream into the howling wind. "You know what we want, Jaci Anne DiMaggio. Don't think we forgot about last year, girl." I clutch my bag closer, the owl amulet digging into my skin. "I-I thought y-you left." "We will never leave. . ." screeches an insane voice. "This is your final warning, Jaci DiMaggio. Give us what we want, and we will disappear." I scream and resume running, running right into the arms of my dad. "They're after me, Dad!" I wail, digging my head into his shirt. "They're after me!" He looks up from stroking my hair. "There's no one there, dear." He pushes me back. "Hallucinations again?" "N-no! They've come! I'm not safe here! I-I have to run, go away." I pant, trying to catch my breath. The adrenaline has subsided. Breathless fear returns. "Let's just go talk about this inside." Dad says exasperatedly. He doesn’t understand. He has never understood. Mom even thinks I'm crazy. She sets a cup of hot chocolate next to me. "Oh, honey. We need to get you some professional help." I glare at her over the rim of my cup. "Why, Mother? Am I just another of your "projects"?" Dad gives me a warning look. "Well, of course not, sweetie! Why would you think that?" I get up, shaking off the blanket that was hugging my shoulders. "You just want a perfect family, don't you Mom?" I don't let her answer. "Like Mrs. Johnson, right, Mom? But instead you have me and Jimmie, and you hate it! So what, I might be crazy, so what Jimmie is ADHD? You hate it!" I run upstairs, bypassing a crying Jimmie. He always cries when people are angry. I know these thing aren't true about Mom. But at this point, I don't care. My life is in a hectic whirlwind, and instead of her comforting me, she asks if I need "professional help". Oh please. Knock. Knock. "What do you want?" I scream from under a tear-stained pillow. A sob escapes from outside. Jimmie. "Come in." He runs in and collapses in bed with me. "D-daddy's mad, Mommy's crying, and you're," He shudders. "Being mean." I almost laugh. His lip looks huge curled under like that. I ruffle his hair. "I'm sorry, little man. We're just," How do I explain this? "We're just in a fight. It'll be okay in the morning." He smiles. "Ya! And on," He counts days on his fingers. "In four days it'll be Christmas! And Santy Claus will come!" "That's right, buddy! Four days!" "I love you, Sissy." "I love you too, little man." He gives me a sloppy kiss on the cheek. " 'Night." I smile at him. A wake up to a burning sensation around me. What is that? I crack open an eyelid. An amber glow is cast about my room. A screaming alarm echoes throughout my mind, waking up every one of my senses. My mind gives me commands. Fire. Run. Get out. Pause for nothing. Window. Jump out of it. The ground isn't far. One story house. Jump. Now. The ground finds my feet and I hit it running. Must tell neighbors. Will know what to do. Firefighters. Save Jimmie. Save Mom. Save Dad. I throw myself at Mrs. Johnson's door countless times. It opens. "Fire." The rest of the night is in a haze. A red, flicking flames haze. Faces flit in my field of vision. Mrs. Johnson in curlers. An ash-covered firefighter. A frantic Josh holding me, hugging me. Principal Meyers shaking his head. But no Jimmie. No Mom, no Dad. "They're gone." I refuse to believe it. Refuse to listen to the fire chief. But they're gone, just the same. They've killed my family. They will pay.