One day that summer, I came home from selling dandelions with Jethro and found a man I didn't know sitting in my living room with Mama and Father. He had suspiciously kind eyes and that was all I noticed about him because I was perfectly content to ignore him. I laid my straw hat calmly on the table by the front door and began walking upstairs, harboring the secret hope that if I walked on tiptoe, I would be invisible to them.
Father cleared his throat and I knew then my hopes were dashed. Defeated, I turned around and walked back down to face them, careful to keep my eyes fixed on the wall behind their heads.
"Anabelle, this is Dr. Puloski. He's here to speak with us -- with all of us. As a family."
"Where's Jane, then?" I asked, trying to sound confident and wincing when my voice came out in a high-pitched squeak.
My father cleared his throat again, a sure sign he was nervous. This was bad. My pulse ratcheted up another notch and I chewed on a hangnail, waiting to be released. The silence loomed before us like a maw, threatening to last forever until Dr. Puloski stood up and held out a hand awkwardly, like you would to beckon a small child.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Anabelle."
I hesitated a moment longer than I should have, just because I could. His hand was strangely devoid of temperature and clammy to the touch. I immediately withdrew my hand and stepped further back, closer to the safety of the stairs.
He remained standing, those overly sympathetic eyes raking my face.
"Sometimes, it's important to speak about your feelings, Anabelle. Even if you feel like you can't talk to anyone. It's better to let it out than keep it inside, where it can only fester."
I hated that word, fester. It made me think of an open boil, of worms and crawly things. My distaste must have showed on my face, because the doctor sighed and shook his head.
"It hurts more when you don't talk about it, you see. And it doesn't hurt just us -- it hurts those we love, those who love us, too. I believe your brother Anthony would want you to be happy, he wouldn't want to see you sad like this..."
I didn't stay to hear the rest of what he said. The moment he mentioned my brother's name, the name that could pass nobody's lips but my own, I ran upstairs as fast as my feet could carry me.