Julieann writes New Adult novels under the pseudonym - Amelia Grace
Purchase a signed copy of The Colour of Broken from Lilly Pilly Publishing
An excerpt from 'The Colour of Broken'
I SAT IN THE CHAIR OUTSIDE THE PSYCHOLOGIST’S OFFICE. I’m sure it had a permanent imprint of my butt on it. My mother’s hand was around my upper arm like a vice so I couldn’t run. She knew me well. Thank God. I didn’t want to be here, but I did. I needed to be here. Darkness had reached up to pull me under, yet again.
A woman in her thirties came out of the office. She had manicured nails, perfect hair, make-up, shoes that weren’t steel-capped safety work boots, and a matching handbag. But I couldn’t see what colour she was. Not when I felt like this.
I pulled a face. I wanted a matching handbag. No, I didn’t. I wanted the perfect hair and make-up. No, I didn’t. I wanted to be her instead of me. She didn’t look like she had any problems.
She turned her perfectly painted face towards me and smiled. One of those smiles that says, “I’ve got my shit together. I like me!” Maybe when I came out of my therapy session with Dr Jones today, I’ll come out looking a million bucks—like her. A new person. A new past. My baggage gone like it was permanently lost on a plane flight, or spewed out into space, never to return.
I swallowed. The bitter reality was, this is me. Fucked up. Because of two men. Two cowardly bastards. I hated them. I hated them with every fibre of my being. I hated what they had done to me, what they had done to Mia—what I had become.
I lowered my head and sobbed.
My mother shifted in her chair and handed me a tissue—my dear mother, who had the same blonde wavy hair and blue eyes like Gram and me. Except their hair fell to their shoulders, styled of course, while mine, dyed brown, fell to the middle of my back. Wild. I took the tissue from her and silently uttered a thousand apologies. Every parent deserved for their child to grow up happy—happy with a job, happy with friends, happy with themselves, happy with a partner, and babies. Not a self-loathing person like me. I should have d—
‘Yolande.’ Dr Jones’s voice was comforting, like a warm childhood blankie and a mug of hot chocolate by the fireplace.
My mother’s grip loosened on my arm and I stood, eyes focussed on the floor. I took slow steps into the office. The familiar office. I’d been here so often I was wondering when she’d ask me to pay rent.
Dr Jones put a light hand on my shoulder and led me to the couch. Usually she asked me whether I wanted to sit on the chair or lie on the couch. Today there was no such question. She knew me well. For a moment I wondered if psychologists ever saw a psychiatrist or psychologist themselves? Who did they go to when they had a problem?
While my body moulded to the curves of the furniture, Dr Jones went to make of pot of tea. I heard the chink of the china teacups and saucers and the boiling water. I closed my eyes and rested my hands on my stomach. I knew what questions were coming. And I knew how to answer them so she heard what she wanted to hear, which was not necessarily my truth.
But today, I had decided, I was going to answer her questions, for me—for my truth, in the hope that it would set me free. My stomach quivered. Courage. Step boldly. I had to do this for me.
At the sound of approaching footsteps I opened my eyes. Dr Jones placed two teacups and saucers on the table in front of me. I reached over and picked up a cup. The warmth of the brew touched my lips and I relaxed a little. Aah ... tea ... the magic key to the vault where my brain is kept, according to Frances Hardinge.
‘What brings you here today, Andi?’ Dr Jones asked, sitting beside me, so we weren’t facing each other.
‘The darkness within,’ I said, and sipped on some more tea. ‘And fear.’
‘Ah ... good old Darius Darkness. Your friend. What is he trying to tell you?’
‘I deserve everything that happened. I almost believed him. But Darius is such a liar. He’s relentless at times.’
‘Well done, Andi. So, I’m assuming fear has jumped onboard to weigh you down?’
‘Yes.’ I sipped on my tea. It warmed my throat and my stomach. I welcomed its warmth.
‘Gram wants me to go to a garden party with a stranger to protect her bicycle. She told me not to wear my steel-capped boots.’
‘How does that make you feel?’
‘Terrified. I spiralled into a panic attack. I almost vomited from the anxiety it brought on. I took off my apron, and threw it at her, then ran. I ran away from Gram! I felt so terrible. She’s not well you know, and I did this to her on top of what she’s going through.’
‘Why did you throw your apron at her?’
‘She told me not to live my life in the shadows anymore. She said I was running in fear ... all the time. She said everything I chose to do is based on fear. She said, “that’s enough of this nonsense, we have all put up with it for far too long!”.’
I started to sob. I had failed everybody. I was a burden to everybody. I stole happiness from everyone who knew me. I felt like I was the colour of black, absorbing everyone else’s colour.
‘What did you think of your grandmother’s words?’
I gained some sort of control of my crying. ‘She ... she spoke the truth ... and it hurts.’
‘I agree with your grandmother, Yolande. What you’re doing day to day is surviving, not living. You’re leading your life within tight, constricting walls you have self-imposed, squeezing your right to happiness from you. What happened to you and your friend is not your fault. Those men had choices. And they chose wrongly. It had nothing to do with you, or your friend, what you did, or didn’t do, what you could have, or should have done. There was nothing you could have done to change the outcome of the events. The attackers were under a drug-induced psychotic state. You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
I closed my eyes and put my trembling hand over my mouth. I dragged my hand away and ran my fingers over my scar. ‘I know ... I know all the facts and the results of the medical testing and psychiatric assessment of the bastards. The whole tragic event should never have happened. I want to go back in time and change the outcome. But I can’t.’
‘Have you visited Mia?’
‘It’s something you need to do. There’s a goal for you, Andi. I know you can do it. You have come such a long way since we first met, two and a half years ago.’
I sucked in a shuddering breath. ‘I know.’
‘Let’s go back to the incident with Gram. Which is worse? Going to a garden party with a stranger, or not wearing steel- capped boots?’
‘I think ... deep down ... it’s not wearing my steel-capped boots. They’re my safety net. I know they’ll inflict serious damage if I kick someone with them in self-defence, and give me time to run.’
‘I’m surprised. I thought going to the party with a stranger would rank higher than your steel-capped boots.’
I looked down at my faithful brown boots. I wore them with my jeans today and they didn’t look so out of place, unlike wearing them with a dress at Flowers for Fleur. I wondered how they would look with an Audrey Hepburn type of old-fashioned dress that Gram suggested I wear. I touched the scar on my chest again. I was hit with the realisation that a fancy, feminine, Audrey Hepburn dress would cover my scar entirely, and I wouldn’t have to worry about the scar accidentally revealing itself to innocent guests, who would then stare at me after the initial shock of seeing it, then communicate a look of pity to me. Gram always thought of everything.
‘At first, going to the garden party with a stranger was more terrifying, but when I thought about it, behind the stranger thing was that I had no one there to help look out for me, to be my extra eyes and ears in case of an attack. If I had my boots on, I’d feel safe. But when Gram added the no steel-capped boots, I felt cornered.’
‘And that triggered other negative emotions and memories?’
‘So ... we return to the garden party and the boots. Knowing you, you already have a plan. What is it?’
‘I have to wear a dress, with normal dress shoes. My fear is I have nothing to protect myself with. I think shoe throwing would be laughable.’
‘It would still give you some time. Don’t underestimate it. What else can you take that could be tucked into your bag?’
‘Pepper spray. Hairspray. Whistle. Laser pointer. Self-defense safety rod. Mobile phone stun gun.’
‘Have you considered telling your garden party partner your safety concerns?’
‘Never. He knows nothing about me. He is literally a stranger, albeit one who has talked to Gram for close to an hour, and she’s given him permission to borrow her bicycle for four hours as long as I go with him—something she has never done! And I still can’t believe she has sacrificed my mental health in the equation.’
‘Do you think he—’
‘Xander ... may feel the need to protect you if something unforeseeable happens at the garden party, considering you are going along as a guest?’
I closed my eyes. I had lost my trust in men. ‘I honestly can’t tell you. All I know is that I must be able to protect myself, no matter what, no matter who else is around, and never to rely on anyone else when it comes to my personal safety. I can’t ever trust a man again.’
‘That’s a valid reaction considering your history.’
There was a short conversation silence. I could hear Dr Jones madly scribbling notes into her file titled, “Yolande Lawrence-Harrison”. I’m sure one of my therapy sessions will be on male trust and learning to trust again.
‘Andi, I want you to visualise this ... you’ve got your Audrey Hepburn style dress on, cleverly and safely covering up your chest scar. Your other scar is hidden, as you have perfected. On your feet are comfortable court shoes. I have chosen that style because you can run in them, or flick them off to throw, or to run faster from a possible threat.’ Dr Jones sat opposite me and handed me a sketch pad. ‘I’d like you to draw a picture of yourself in your dress and shoes. Use any of the drawing implements that you feel will reflect how you feel about the situation.’
I took a calming breath and started to draw. Just a simple stick figure drawing of a girl in a dress with dress shoes. I used colour. I added a stick figure of Xander, in blue.
Dr Jones leaned forward towards my artwork. ‘What have you drawn on your face, Andi?’
‘It’s my mask. I wear it every day, without fail.’
‘Are you wearing it now?’
‘No. I feel safe to remove it here.’
‘Thanks. Would you now draw your handbag with all your safety tools inside it please? Visualisation is an important and powerful mind preparation tool.’
I drew a smallish bag, with only makeup inside it.
Dr Jones looked at me and frowned. ‘Where’s your taser, laser light, mobile phone, pepper spray and self-defence rod?’
‘On me. In my pockets. If I lose my handbag in an attack, I still have protection implements.’
I picked up the black pen and gripped it in my hand. Hard. I let out a low scream between my gritted teeth and scribbled over the red mask on my drawing. Tears dripped from my eyes and landed on my drawing, making the ink run.
Dr Jones did not speak. She did not react. After a while, she asked, ‘What are you thinking, Andi?’
I sobbed. ‘I don’t want to keep wearing the mask ... I don’t want to keep pretending everything is okay. I don’t want to be this person that I am after what happened. I want the carefree, happy, energetic, kind and loving me back. Everyone says it will get better with time. But it doesn’t. Why couldn’t it have been me, instead of her? It should have been me!’
There was a long silence. And I hated it. We had been over this road a million times before, and I wondered if Dr Jones was getting tired of it.
‘Have you told her how you feel?’
‘Because then I would feel ungrateful for being almost okay, when she’s not.’
‘You need to tell her, Andi.’
‘Sometime in the future.’ I wasn’t ready yet. Was I being unkind? ‘And don’t ask me the magic wand question. There is no magic wand, so the question is pointless.’
‘You’re right. It is indeed a pointless question. So is wishing. If you want a wish to materialize, you have to act upon it and make it happen.’
‘So, do you wish to go to the garden party with Xander in an Audrey Hepburn style dress with court shoes that you can either throw or fling off to run faster, and carry make-up in your bag while your self-defense tools are on your body and pockets to use in case your bag goes missing due to whatever reason?’
‘No. I do not wish to go. So it won’t be happening. Gram can accompany her beloved bicycle if she does not trust the very nice Xander to return it in one piece.’ I sighed and looked down at my hands. ‘I’m sorry for wasting your time today, Dr Jones. Patients like me must be very frustrating.’
‘On the contrary, Andi. Challenging is a word I might use. But I love challenges. My goal is to help you overcome your obstacles by giving you a mental toolbox full of effective strategies, so you will be able to live a life full of rich and rewarding experiences with happiness thrown in as the icing on the cake. I have total confidence that you will get there.’
‘Some days are harder than others.’
‘Are the hard days becoming less?’
I thought for a bit. I didn’t like to look back into the past three years, but this question required it. ‘Yes. I think they are.’ I spoke in truth.
‘You do realise you’re looking a whole lot better now than when you came through that door an hour ago.’
Was she speaking the truth, or was she using psychological mumbo-jumbo on me? Words of persuasion. Whatever it was, her words did make me feel a little happier, and more like I could cope again. Maybe I wouldn’t have to put that mask back on when I walked out her door today ...
‘Before we finish our session, Yolande, can I ask who the blue stick figure is in your picture?’
‘Why is he blue?’
‘I see people in ... colours ...’
‘Like an aura?’
‘No. I see their character as a colour. The colour is usually above and behind their head.’
‘How do you work out their character?’
‘Intuition, behaviour, tone of voice, dress choice ...’
‘Can their colour change?’
‘Absolutely, with incidents ...’
‘I’m glad you feel safe enough to disclose this ability to me. How long have you possessed this way of seeing people?’
‘Since I was seven.’
‘What colour are you?’
I took a deep breath and twisted my fingers together. My stomach tightened. I cleared my throat. ‘The colour of broken ...’
Dr Jones was silent.
I stopped breathing when anxiety rose inside me like a wall of lava, about to incinerate me. It was freaking me out that she now knew this about me, and that she had not reacted to the description of my colour.
‘And what colour would that be?’ she finally asked.
I breathed out through my lips, slowly, steadily, counting to five in my head. ‘Gray with an “a”.’
‘There’s a difference?’
‘Oh, yes. Grey with an “e” is very different to gray with an “a”.’
‘Grey with an “e” is like the rain clouds. It’s melancholy, but an enjoyable melancholy that builds up until it releases, and then it’s like petrichor, the smell of the rain after warm, dry weather. Satisfying. Grey with an “e” is also when deep thought, philosophy and ponderings happen. Everyone should experience grey with an “e”, it helps to discover parts of you that you never knew existed, and it can vanish without leaving a bitter aftertaste.’
‘Tell me about gray with an “a”.’
I looked down at my knotted hands. ‘Gray with an “a” is ... never enjoyable—it’s a very dark gray. It’s self-judgement, doom and gloom, forever hanging around and within. It wants to drag you into the dark abyss of the colour black, that absorbs all colours ... the colour of self-condemnation, the colour of depression, the colour of death of the physical body.’
‘But not the spiritual body?’
‘No.’ I didn’t want to add any more to this conversation. It was painful to talk about.
‘So, me being a supposedly normal person, could I see your gray with an “a”?’
‘No. Because I mask it. And my gray with an “a” is not a plain gray with an “a”. It’s a crackled dark gray, with other colours that seep out ... sometimes.’
‘What colours would they be?’
‘Drips of red for anger ... specks of black—’ for self-hate, ‘—for my secret, blushes of pink for my love for Mia and my family, and explosions of turquoise that screams at me to love myself ...’
‘That’s very insightful, Yolande. It’s highly intuitive. I’m curious ... when you look at me, what colour am I?’
I hesitated before I spoke. I never told anyone the colour I had appointed to them for fear of them running from me. But Dr Jones, she was different, she would understand ... ‘You are ... magenta,’ I finally said. ‘It’s the colour of a person who helps to construct harmony and balance in life, hope and aspiration for a better world—mentally and emotionally,’ I said, and held my breath, waiting for her reaction.
She raised her eyebrows at me. ‘That’s an amazing gift to have in your mind toolbox, Yolande. Does it ever lie to you?’
I closed my eyes. The two men on that terrible day of the scars were blue—trustworthy—until a truckload of alcohol changed them to negative red—aggressive and domineering, and then the drugs made them a violent and brutal dark red. Shades of red. Every colour had shades and positive and negative attributes.
I pressed my lips together before I answered her question. ‘Alcohol and drugs change the essence of a person’s colour. But then I have to wonder whether their sober colour is their true colour at all, and the inhibition that a little alcohol gives, reveals their real colour.’
‘Do you think I should be serving up glasses of wine, rather than cups of tea?’ Dr Jones smiled at me.
‘Clearly. If anything, it would make great research!’ I grinned, wondering whether Dr Jones would have a glass of red on the table for me next time I was here.
‘Thank you for everything you have shared with me today, Yolande. For Sunday, use the mind tools I have given you. I’m confident that the afternoon will go well. And try to allow yourself to enjoy the event.’
‘Thanks, Dr Jones.’
We both stood and walked to her door. She opened it for me, and I left, without one of those smiles that said, “I’ve got my shit together!”