I don’t know why it’s called family therapy when I’m the only one who gets dumped here. Why did my parents have to find a new therapist after every divorce?
This was the third therapist, but only because I wasn’t born or was too young to talk during their first four divorces. My last therapist’s office was closer to Mom’s San Myshuno apartment, and the one before that was closer to Dad’s favorite houseboat. This new one was supposed to be a compromise, but I was alone anyway.
“Where should I sit?” I mumbled to my new therapist. Dr. Puck, PhD. When I got home later and Mom asked me if I liked my new therapist (not that she even cared), I’d pretend I forgot his name and call him something else. Mom would love that.
Dr. Puck looked up from his desk. All therapist offices looked the same, but at least this one didn’t try to be all kid-friendly, with colors and stuffed animals and whatever else they thought would make kids forget their families sucked. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked.
There were some chairs scattered around, but I decided to sit on some cushions that had fallen on the floor instead. He asked where I wanted to sit, so I could sit anywhere.
But he didn’t react like it was wrong, or even look surprised. “Are you comfortable there?”
“…No.” My princess dress was too tight and the cushions kept slipping when I tried to sit up straight. I plopped down on the couch instead.
He slipped into the seat across from me, not making a sound. “And what brings you here today, Galatea?” Good, he didn’t have to ask my name or introduce himself. I could read. His name was on the door, and I’d remember any name that rhymed with a curse word. Mom banned cursing in the apartment, but I could curse as much as I wanted at Dad’s and he’d just laugh and compliment my wordplay.
“My parents think I need therapy. Duh.”
“Do you think you need therapy?” It was kind of freaky, how he looked at me when he talked. The others didn’t really look at me, they just wrote stuff down in their books or their laptops, and never told me what they wrote. But Dr. Puck didn’t write anything down at all.
“I think they need therapy. Or brain transplants. Or both. Why else would they be stupid enough to keep remarrying and divorcing someone they hate over and over?”
He didn’t answer my question, not that I expected him to. “Would you like to tell me about your family?”
“Not really.” But when he didn’t ask me anything else, or force me to tell him, I added, “Mom’s an actress. A stage actress, because she thinks it makes her more important than a movie or TV actress. She’s really good at acting, though, because she’s really good at lying. She’s a fae, and fae are natural-born liars.”
I took a deep breath. “Dad’s a director and producer.” I used air quotes, like Mom did. “He used to care about his art, but now he just makes really freaky internet porn because he’s a hack and there are a lot of sick people in the world with too much money. But he’s a vampire, and all vampires are parasites.”
His face didn’t change, even when I said porn, which I wasn’t supposed to say in public, even though everyone knew what my dad did. Everyone knew what both of them did. It was all over the internet, along with those sites that let you make bets on the date of their next marriage or divorce. “Are those your own words, Galatea?” he asked.
“I said them, didn’t I?”
He didn’t argue with me. “How about your brothers? Rhys and Finn, I believe?” The other therapists had always had to look at their notes to keep everybody straight, but somehow Dr. Puck already knew. He probably just looked it up online before I came in. He was probably really looking for the Straud Sex Tapes–not that they were hard to find.
My eyes wandered to the wall. He had lots of awards or certificates or whatever a therapist was supposed to have.
Mom said he was the leading expert in supernatural kids and hybrids or something, when most therapists didn’t know we existed. The leading expert at asking a ton of questions, maybe. But I didn’t mind answering them that much. “Rhys lives with Mom so she can teach him how to be another fae liar, and Finn lives with Dad so he can teach him how to be another vampire manwhore.”
He nodded at me, like I hadn’t just said manwhore out loud, so I kept talking. “Rhys is an actor on some TV teen drama where everyone’s really pretty and rich and they all screw each other and fight and cry. He’s in love with himself, but that’s because fae are in love with their own reflections. Just because they have reflections.”
He still didn’t interrupt me. “And Finn,” I continued, “is a lazy wannabe hedonist who’s never serious about anything.” Truthfully, I didn’t mind Finn all that much, but Mom always acted disappointed if it seemed like I was closer to him instead of Rhys. Sometimes he’d sneak onto the balcony of Mom’s apartment as a bat when I was out there eating alone, and he’d sit with me for a while and tell me about the latest trouble Dad got into.
“They’re lucky,” I said, when Dr. Puck still didn’t say anything. “They’re old enough to choose where they live.”
Finally, he said something. “And who would you live with, if given a choice?”
“Neither of them,” I said immediately. “Dad bought me my own fairy princess penthouse once, but Mom yelled at him and made him take it away. It looked like a giant dollhouse stuck on top of a skyscraper.” I’d wanted to live by myself in that cotton candy pink (barf) penthouse just to get away from both of them, but Mom ruined everything.
I mimicked my mom’s icy tone, just like a real actress: “’She’s a child, Graham. You can’t buy a child a ten-million-simoleon penthouse.’” And then I imitated my dad’s carefree delivery: “’But that’s precisely what I did, my lovely venomous moth. And she is my little fairy princess.’”
“Is that why you’re wearing a princess dress today?” Dr. Puck asked.
“My dad dropped me off,” I admitted. Well, one of his servants had, anyway. “It’s too small, though. And I guess I kind of am a fairy princess. Or I might be. I’m fae”–I was pretty sure he already knew that, but I didn’t see a reason to hide it even if he didn’t–“and my uncle might become king of the fae, if he ever wakes up. Mom doesn’t like to talk about her brother, though. She gets all teary, and she hates messing up her perfect makeup.” She always looked perfect, even when she was pissed at me.
Sometimes I’d mention Uncle Darius on purpose, but lately she didn’t even react at all. About anything–she didn’t even yell when I used her credit card to buy a thousand mystery dragon eggs in some computer game I barely played, even though I read all those stories about parents breaking down when their kids blew thousands on in-app purchases without them knowing.
“Are you concerned about your uncle’s fate?”
“No,” I said with a shrug. “Why should I be? I’ve never met him. I don’t care about him–or anyone else. Or anything at all.”
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “If you could be anywhere, Galatea,” Dr. Puck asked, “and do anything you liked, where would you be and what would you do?”
No one had ever asked me what I wanted before. I had to think about it. “Fangs Island,” I said, trying to remember what it was like when I was little. It wasn’t the same now, when Dad brought me there on his houseboat during the summers and paid me to play with his vampire lady friend’s creepy human daughter, but I still liked it. And I had another secret reason I liked visiting, but I wasn’t going to tell my therapist this time. Or maybe ever. “We had a vacation home there.”
Well, it was an odd-numbered divorce, so the vacation home had probably gone to my mom this time. “Everything was nice and nobody fought, even when Finn got a sunburn and Dad forgot to fae-proof the metal jewelry he bought for Mom.” He’d always bought her a lot of jewelry while they were married, just in case it was one of their anniversaries. Had it really been that happy back then, or was I just a stupid little kid?
“And…I’d be an actress,” I added, deciding right then.
Dr. Puck always gave me plenty of time to choose my words, unlike the other therapists, who liked the sound of their own voices and acted like they knew everything and told me the (latest) divorce wasn’t my fault, which was stupid, because I know it’s always my parents’ fault. But they also lied and said my parents loved me. “You’d like to follow in your mother’s footsteps?” he finally asked.
“No,” I said firmly. “I’d like to know what it’s like–to be somebody, anybody else.”
When our session ended, it was the first time I was disappointed instead of relieved. I don’t want to go home, I thought. But that was fine, because I didn’t really have one anyway.