The red dots on her phone never went away. Gretchen hadn’t taken a call or acknowledged a voicemail or text in almost two weeks. She just couldn’t bear it – couldn’t fathom spending the day, or even an hour away from the girl. It was a life better than Gretchen ever imagined. Until one night, when the girl started crying.
“Honey, what is it?” The girl shook her head. “Tell me. Please. I bet if we talk about it you’ll feel better.”
The little girl sniffed into her pillow, burrowing herself deeper into the big bed. “I’m afraid you won’t be here.”
“What?” Gretchen asked, her heart sinking. “Baby, no. I’ll always be here.”
“I’m alone sometimes. And I get scared. I don’t like to be alone.”
Gretchen wrapped the girl in her arms. “You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone. I promise you. I will always take care of you.” The girl trembled and Gretchen felt the tears on her own skin. They cried together. Sometime in the night, they both fell asleep. Together. In the morning, they both went to see Rachel.
“I’m glad to see you. You missed appointments. I was concerned.” Rachel sat in the chair, notebook in her lap.
“I should have come earlier,” Gretchen said. “As soon as she came. I should have brought her in. Should have made you take to her. You didn’t believe me and I should have fought harder. This has to be so scary for her. I wasn’t a good enough mom.”
“It’s a great initiative you’ve taken. Really embracing this concept of caring for your inner child. You should be very proud of yourself.”
“This isn’t about me. It’s about her.”
“Yes. This of it this way, that by protecting and empowering the child of your inner self-“
“No. Stop your therapy shit. Her. Right there. I brought her in today. You have to work with her. She’s afraid. I want you to help her.”
“I’m not sure I understand.” Rachel leaned in to Gretchen. “Explain it to me.”
“What am I not explaining? Her. I know she’s struggling and I want you to help her.”
Gretchen turned to the little girl. “This is my friend, Rachel. I talk to her sometimes. And she helps me. I wanted her to meet you. Maybe you’d like to talk to her.”
The little girl shook her head. “You. I only like talking to you.”
“Gretchen,” Rachel said, “what’s going on?”
“I want you to talk to her. She doesn’t like me to leave, so I have to stay in the room. But maybe we could all talk-“
“Are you requesting some role play, or some dissociated-“
“I’m requesting that you acknowledge, that you look at and talk to this little girl. Right here. Right now.”
“Gretchen,” Rachel said, “we are the only ones in this room.”
“What is wrong with you? This beautiful little girl, who is scared and needs help and you’re acting like she’s not even there.”
“There is no little girl, Gretchen. There’s only you and me.”
Gretchen kneeled on the floor so she could be as close to the girl as possible.
“I don’t like it here anymore. I want to go home.” The little girl looked up to Gretchen with tears in her eyes.
“We’re going home,” Gretchen said. She stood and took the girl by the hand.
“Wait. Please,” Rachel said. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening. Can you give me a minute? I’ll help. I just want to get something. Something for her. I’ll be right back. I promise. I’ll help.”
Rachel left the room. Gretchen squeezed the girl’s hand.