He knew Mom and Dad only sent him to see a psychologist because they didn't want to bother talking to him themselves. Not about what happened to Samantha, not about their recent divorce. Mom would look troubled when he'd mention Samantha; she'd always change the subject. Then he'd feel bad because he'd upset her. He knew his mother was sad most of the time, or at least appeared that way. She seemed to view sadness as a weakness, something to be ashamed of, something to hide. He didn't know why she bothered. He'd never judge her for it, and Dad wasn't around anymore. His father had moved, recently. He had to go visit him on weekends, but he wished he didn't have to. His mother would criticize him for not wanting to visit his dad ("He's your father, Fox. He loves you. He wants to see you. Of course you're not staying here."), even though he knew she hated him. Going to see his father didn't really count as "visiting," though, not really. It was more that the two of them just happened to occupy the same house for a few days. Dad spent most of his time in his study. "I have a lot of work to get done," he'd say, not really looking at his son. He just wants to avoid me, Fox thought. Dad wouldn't talk about Samantha, either. It was as if his parents were pretending she didn't and never did exist.
Maybe that's why he avoids me, Fox thought, because I remind him of her. And he doesn't want to think about her anymore.
This was the kind of insight that he assumed Dr. Morrison would want him to share with her. He kept his mouth shut instead.
Dr. Morrison was not a bad psychologist, as psychologists went -- but he realized he wasn't really an expert on that subject, outside of what cartoons had taught him. He'd almost expected her to have a thick German accent and to be slightly eccentric, but she was just a plain old boring American. She was nice and likeable enough, except for the fact that she always wanted him to talk about how he felt. He didn't like talking about his feelings.
"How do you feel about your parents' divorce?" she asked, breaking him out of his thoughts.
He looked up briefly from the loose thread he'd been picking at on his chair.
"Bad," he said, flatly.
She looked at him with concern. "Do you think it's your fault?"
He rolled his eyes. "No."
"Fox, you can't keep giving me these one-word answers," she said, "I can't help you if you're not willing to communicate with me."
He went back to picking away at the thread, silently thinking. Finally, he looked up at her and said, "It feels like my family's falling apart."
"Yes," Dr. Morrison said, nodding, as if she'd already known this.
"I want my parents to be together so that when Samantha gets back --"
Dr. Morrison cleared her throat and sat up taller. "Fox --"
He regretted the words the instant they'd left his mouth. He dropped his eyes and withdrew again.
"You know that, in all likelihood, your sister's not going to come back."
He tried to block out her words, to still the anger that was rising within him.
"You don't know that," he mumbled.
"You have to learn to move on from this. You can't keep clutching onto a fantasy about your family becoming perfect again, because it won't."
He said nothing, his face composed in an expressionless mask, his body still.
Something snapped inside him. He stood up. The words tumbled out of him without much thought. "How dare you say my sister isn't coming back. Everyone wants to forget about her. They've all given up on her, but I haven't, and I won't. I'm going to do whatever it takes to find her and bring her back."
She stared at him in surprise, as if she'd never imagined that he, usually so soft-spoken and seemingly passive, was capable of raising his voice.
He realized he was shaking. He looked up at the clock. There were still thirty minutes left of the session, but he couldn't stand being there any longer. He turned and walked away without another thought, slamming the door on his way out. He heard Dr. Morrison calling to him from behind the door, but he ignored her.
Mom was sitting in the waiting room, half-interested in a gardening magazine. She looked up at him, startled.
"Let's go home, Mom."
"Your session's not over, Fox."
"Yes it is," he said, impatiently.
"I'm talking to your doctor," she said, setting the magazine down. She stood up.
"No, Mom," he said, standing in front of her. "Let's just go home."
She ignored him, moving out of his way.
Teena knocked, tentatively, on Dr. Morrison's door. The young woman answered, smiling at her. She led Teena in, and the two of them sat across from each other, legs crossed, hands folded. Teena noticed that Dr. Morrison wore glasses that were entirely too old for her. She wasn't sure if the other woman were unconcerned with style or if she simply wanted to look older and be taken more seriously as a professional.
"Dr. Morrison --"
"Please, call me Sophia."
"Yes, of course. Sophia." Teena's posture stiffened. "My son left your session thirty minutes early, looking quite upset."
"I think I touched a nerve." Dr. Morrison -- Sophia -- looked subtly sheepish. She adjusted the watch on her wrist and said, "I told him it wasn't likely that his sister was coming back." Teena flinched, but tried not to allow her unease to be seen. "I know that you and your husband --"
"Ex-husband," Teena corrected.
"Yes, you and your ex-husband -- I know the two of you would like to keep some hope that your daughter will be one day found, but in many cases like this, especially when there's no ransom note --"
Teena tried to drown out the other woman's words. How could she so casually, and with such certainty, say things like this? She knew nothing of the situation. Bill had promised her Samantha would be brought back. She glanced briefly out the window, at the weak sunlight, filtered through the clouds. Perhaps she was wrong to hold onto that hope, though. She knew she couldn't trust Bill. She knew now that he had no morals.
"Though your son eventually needs to learn to accept and deal with these things, I wonder if I may have been a little too hasty. I don't think he was ready. Sometimes, confronting a patient with what he fears most can be helpful in getting him to face up to reality, but I don't think that approach was necessarily the right one to use with your son." She paused. "He's a very sensitive boy."
Teena bristled, instinctively. When she realized the woman was not saying this to criticize him, she relaxed a little.
"He has some very strong emotions. Of course, being a boy, he only really knows how to deal with those strong emotions by shutting down or becoming angry." She glanced momentarily down at her notepad, then up at Teena again. "How is his mood at home?"
"I don't know," Teena said, helplessly, "it's so hard to tell with him."
"You know -- I don't want to sound imposing, Teena, but --"
"Mrs. Mulder, please."
The other woman smiled thinly.
"Mrs. Mulder," she continued, "your son hasn't told me this directly, but what I've been able to gather is that he wishes you and his father would talk to him more, about Samantha. Perhaps talking about her might help him deal with his grief."
Teena's posture grew stiffer, her facial expression more wooden.
"Perhaps you and your ex-husband haven't really been able to fully deal with your grief. Maybe by talking about it with your son --"
Teena stood up, quickly. "I think we're done, here, Dr. Morrison."
"I don't think it's very professional to go by one's first name," Teena said, heading toward the door, "It's as though you imagine we might be friends."
"Mrs. Mulder," she heard Dr. Morrison say behind her, as she opened the door to leave, "it's not just your son who might benefit from therapy."
She shut the door, loudly. The nerve of that woman. Yes, the old-fashioned glasses were clearly a pretense toward professionalism, as she couldn't seem to evince any through her own manner and behaviour. She made her way to the waiting room, composing herself.
"Fox," she said. He was slouched in one of the chairs, frowning as he read a magazine.
He looked up. "Yeah?"
"It's time to go, sweetheart."
He made a face at "sweetheart," but set the magazine down and stood up. They exited through the front door, made their way down the steps to the sidewalk, side by side and as quiet as ghosts.
"Honey," she said, when they were in the car, "I think we're going to find you a different psychologist."
He grumbled inaudibly. Crossing his arms, he said, "I don't even know why you think I need a psychologist, anyway. I'm not crazy."
"People don't just see psychologists because they're 'crazy,' Fox. Sometimes it just helps to have someone to talk to about certain things."
She said nothing.
"How come we never talk about her?"
"Fox, please --"
"If we talked about her, I wouldn't need to see a shrink."
They were silent the rest of the way. She did not feel especially proud of herself.
She thought about how she hated Bill for what he'd done to their family. She hated herself for ever trusting him. Him, and Fox's real father. She turned to look at her son, who was looking out the window with a sour expression on his face. He had a bit of an attitude problem, she thought, and a bit of a temper -- but he was a good boy. She was amazed he'd turned out so well, despite who his father was. She wanted to take some of the credit for that, but wasn't sure if she deserved it. Sometimes she didn't feel like she was entirely a good person.
"Why don't we go get some food and eat it on the beach?" she asked. "Remember how much your sister used to love doing things like that?"
He tried to conceal the grin fighting to form on his lips.
The beach was lonely and quiet when they ate their dinner, two greasy, messy, falling-apart hamburgers that threatened to stain her cream-coloured skirt. Her son didn't seem nearly as concerned about staining his clothes (that's because I'm the one who does the laundry, she thought, ruefully). They sat on an old log on the beach, staring out at the water, at the thin fingers of sunlight breaking through the clouds.
They didn't talk about Samantha, but they seemed to feel her presence. Teena imagined her, sitting next to Fox, bouncing her feet impatiently, leaning over to steal french fries from her brother when he wasn't looking, bothering him with her endless chatter. Eventually, the two of them would start fighting, yelling and calling each other names. Bill would step in and mediate. In the end, the children would always patch things up. Before long they'd be running about on the sand. Then they'd jump into the water, Fox pretending to be a sea monster, Samantha alternating between mock screams of horror and unstoppable giggles.
Teena and her son were quiet, at first, just eating and taking in their surroundings. Eventually, though, he began to talk. He made no mention of Samantha, though she imagined that he would have liked to.
Instead, he talked about baseball. Though Teena was not remotely interested in that particular subject, it was just nice to hear his voice.