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Chapter Thirty One

"I was so scared Ally. Shit, you might be annoying, but..." Joe trailed off. His hair was sticking out at odd angles and his eyes were red.

"Joe, Al didn't do it on purpose," dad said.

Joe looked like he was about to argue, but something made him stop. He sank down in the chair beside me and poked at my hand before squeezing it quickly.

"Yeah, I didn't do it on purpose," I repeated. "That's why I'm in the cuckoo ward."

"Honey, it's not the cuckoo ward," mom corrected.

I didn't answer.

Two loud male voices drifted in from my half-opened door. A second later, Shelby poked her head in.

"Hey you. Great way to get mom and dad here."

I knew it was her attempt to keep things light, but it made my heart squeeze uncomfortably. Had it really taken their daughter going nuts to get them here?

Shel crossed the room and ran right to dad. He hugged her tightly. "Hey Shelster."

"For your information, darling daughter of mine, I was already back home," mom said as Shel turned around to give her a hug. "I guess I wasn't cut out to spend months at a spa."

Joe poked my hand again. "So did they tell you why you went crazy?" he asked.


The name was yelled in unison. Joe threw up his hands, a 'here we go again - big surprise' look on his face.

Before anyone could harp on my brother further, the voices I heard outside the door walked in, attached to Mason and Marquis. I could tell Mason was working; his hands were shoved deep into the pockets of his white doctor's coat.

"You're in good hands, Al," he announced. "Marq is kicking all of the med students' asses, including mine."

Marquis laughed. "No, I just have, as you would say, no life."

Mason grinned and shook his head. I felt like burying my face under the pillow.

As the day went on, more and more little snippets about the night before came back. Like how Adam had somehow morphed into Mason. Shel would kill me if she ever found out what I had been thinking.

Not that it would ever happen. Mason's eyes were already devouring Shelby as if he hadn't seen her for weeks.

"Could I have a moment alone with Alexis?" Marquis asked.

"Are you going to put her in a straight jacket?" Joe asked.


"God damnit, can't a guy ask a fucking question without everyone being a cuntwaffle?"

The silence that filled the room was awesome - even I had to admit it. Dad was the first to speak.

"You. Me. Out. Now." he commanded. Joe stood up, gave me another poke on the hand, and followed dad out. Mom, Shelby, and Mason stopped by my bed and gave me a quick hug. I watched them leave with trepidation.

The first time Marquis and I had talked, Dr. Oppenheim had been observing. Now it was just Marquis and it was a little intimidating. His hair was styled in long cornrows, held back in a single ponytail. His dark brown eyes radiated calmness.

"You have quite a family," he said as he pulled up a chair.

I didn't know how to answer that. Instead, I decided to ask a question that had been bothering me for hours. "Where are you from?"

His bright white smile lit up his light coffee skin. "Paris."


He laughed. "That's the one."

"What are you doing here?"

"Luck of the draw," he said easily.

"Will you go back to Paris when you're finished?" I asked. For some reason, I had a mental image of the Eiffel Tower I just couldn't shake.

"Perhaps," he said. "My big dream is to one day work for UNICEF."


"I want to work with mothers and children."

"So what are you doing on the psych ward?" I asked. I lowered my gaze.

"It's part of a well-rounded education," he explained. "Please, look at me."

It wasn't so much of a command as it was a gentle request. I looked up and sighed.

"You suffer from general anxiety. It's not every day I get to make a diagnosis of caring too much," he added.

"That's bad?" I asked.

"Well, not for the people you care about, but for your health, yes."

"How can you make me stop caring?"

He laughed. "I won't do that. We're going to put you on buspirone, a gentle medication. It doesn't take away your ability to care, but it will help your thoughts slow down. It will take about two weeks to start working as it should, but the reason I like it so much is that it doesn't impair coordination or memory."

"Or so the label says," I mumbled.

My body rippled in surprise as he reached out his large hand and squeezed right above my elbow. "No, it comes from actual experience." His voice was like silk. French silk. "I wasn't lying when I told you that you reminded me of myself."

"You take it?"

"I do. I would have never made it this far if I hadn't. I graduated school at sixteen and kept pushing myself. My first year at University I had a mental breakdown. That's when they put me on buspirone."

I smiled. "Should my psych ward doctor be telling me he had a mental breakdown?" I asked.

He laughed again. "Let's keep it between the two of us. Besides, if it helps, Dr. Oppenheim still had to write out the orders. I'm not licensed yet."

Our eyes locked and I swear that's when it hit me. I didn't know at the time what exactly I felt, but it warmed me from my head to my toes.

"Have I started the medication already?" I murmured. Marquis shook his head.

"Tonight. I'll also be giving your parents a contact at the hospital. Medication can do a great deal, but talking to a professional that can help you become more aware of how to better compartmentalize will be what you'll need for the long run."

"So I won't be on the medicine for life?"

He shook his head. "No. I'd say a year, max. By that time, you might be just as wild as your brother."

The look on my face must have been one of horror. His eyes sparkled.

"Just kidding. I think you'll find your own happy medium."

"You think so?"

His hand fell from my arm as he stood up, but his eyes didn't leave mine.

"I have no doubt."