Stand Alone

Stand Alone by P.D. Workman Read Free Book Online

Book: Stand Alone by P.D. Workman Read Free Book Online
Authors: P.D. Workman
  I don’t know,” he mused. “It’s something else. What do you feel like when you go into one of these houses?”
    “I don’t know. I just feel    …   safe,” Justine struggled for a word that suited her better, but couldn’t find one. “I dunno.”
    “Safe how?”
    Justine raised her brows high and shrugged.
    “Just safe. At home. Belonging.”
    “Where else do you feel like you belong?” Dr. Morton questioned, tapping his mechanical pencil on his front teeth for a moment, then scribbling something on his pad. “Tell me about that feeling.”
    “I don’t belong anywhere,” Justine said, shaking her head adamantly. “I don’t belong with Em. I don’t belong at school. I don’t have any friends. I don’t have anything. But I like    …   I like being in my own house.”
    “Except it isn’t your own house. It isn’t even a house that is comfortable. It’s an empty house.”
    “So? That’s where I feel best,” Justine said. “I can imagine everything else.”
    Morton closed his eyes and tipped back his chair.
    “What do you imagine? Is it always the same? Is it the same room, the same furnishings? Or does it depend on the house?”
    Justine hesitated. After a minute, Morton opened his eyes and looked at her.
    “Come on, Justine. Close your eyes and describe it to me. Help me to see what it looks and feels like to you.”
    Justine stared out the window at the pigeons. Where did they go to sleep? Did they sleep up there on the roof, or did they have nests in a tree or a cathedral somewhere? Did they all flock together or was it just by chance that they were all in the same place? Were they friends and family, or strangers just playing a pick-up game of ‘bump the bird off the ledge?’
    “I dunno,” Justine said finally, not closing her eyes, but visualizing it in the air before her. It was hazy, unformed. Imagining it was never the same as being there, actually being in the room with her vision. “It’s    …   dark    …   the furniture is big, old. The carpet    …   has those big loops in it. Dark brown. Kind of reminds me of a giant dog that lets you lie on it for a pillow. Sometimes there’s noise    …   people talking in the distance    …   just regular noises of other people going about their lives.”
    “Pictures on the walls?” Morton questioned. “Any other people?”
    Monica was there, Justine thought. Some of the time, but not always. Katie was always there. They kept her company. She was never alone. But there were no adults to harm her or tell her what to do. Just the others. Her sisters. Her real self. The person that she was meant to be. But she hadn’t talked to Dr. Morton about Monica and Katie for a long time. He thought that they were gone.
    “Nobody else,” she lied. “Just me. Pictures    …   I don’t know if there are any pictures. They’re too high to see.”
    “Hmm,” Morton nodded slowly. “Interesting. And what would you like to do there? How would you entertain yourself or keep yourself busy? Are there toys, books, television?”
    “There’s a TV,” Justine agreed, “but it’s pretty boring. Usually, I just sleep.”
    Now she closed her eyes, still picturing it. Imagining how peaceful it was, being by herself. Just her, by herself, falling asleep by the droning television, her cheek impressed in the aging brown shag carpet.

    Em looked up as Dr. Morton came out of his inner office, shutting the door quietly behind him.
    “Is everything okay?” she questioned in immediate concern. Usually, he didn’t leave Justine by herself, and didn’t need to talk to Em privately. That usually meant something serious.
    “It’s fine,” Dr. Morton assured her, smiling. “Please don’t get anxious. I think we’ve made some progress today.”
    “Really? That’s great.”
    “She fell asleep,” he said, nodding toward the closed door.
    “Asleep? Why? Well, I guess she was up half the night,

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