––– # –––
Knowing I was about to be exposed, I watched in horror as the door knob turned. I almost didn’t hear the other voice my heart was beating so loudly. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Whoever’s working in there has a key.”
The knob stopped. The door was still closed. I held my breath. A person in here on legitimate business would respond to what was going on. I lowered my voice as much as I could. “Hey, thanks for the concern. I’ll be a while longer.” I prayed they didn’t hear the tremor in my voice or recognize it.
The first voice said, “Sorry to disturb you.”
“No problem.” I waited, counting the seconds. Finally I heard them moving off.
Relief swept over me, and I slumped against the wall. I sat there for the longest time, waiting for the shakes to subside. I wondered if I was really cut out for this. If I was going to do this, I couldn’t put it off. The game next Saturday was the last home game of the season, and the team wouldn’t be in the playoffs. This would be my last chance.
I kept thinking I needed a co-conspirator, someone to watch out for me. However, I was willing to take responsibility for my own actions, but I couldn’t be responsible for getting someone else in trouble. … Well, maybe Ingrid Hoffman, but that was another matter entirely.
Finally my shaking subsided enough that I was willing to get up. I was finished with this reconnaissance. I eased the door open a crack and looked out. When I didn’t see anybody I opened it far enough that I could look around. I didn’t hear anyone or see anyone. I slipped out and closed the door. Making sure one more time that no one could see me, I locked the door and pocketed the key.
Then I heard someone coming up one of the tunnels. I moved to the opposite stairs and headed down to that tunnel. I managed to reach it and duck inside before the other person came out. I suddenly grasped the disadvantage of being a red-head and trying to be sneaky.
All the way home I questioned my resolution to carry out this prank. I had expected it to be a rush, but all I had felt while almost being found out was fright. I wished desperately that I had someone I could talk to about it. If Brian were still alive … No, I wasn’t going to go there. It had to be me and me alone … or did it?
Mom was seeing a grief counselor, and it seemed to be working. They’d offered me counseling too, but I had wanted to hurt then. Now I didn’t. Maybe a counselor could tell me if pranks were my way of dealing with the hurt that was still there. I doubted they would condone the pranks, but maybe there was something else I should be doing.
––– # –––
I was able to see my counselor at her office on Thursday. Olivia, a strikingly pretty, short brunet, appeared to be young, somewhere in her twenties I guessed. She wore a frilly white blouse and a black skirt short enough to have distracted a man as she sat with her legs crossed. I had other things on my mind. She listened to me whine about Brian’s death. Then she asked me, “So what are you doing about it?”
I thought about her question for a moment. What was I doing about my grief? I didn’t know. Maybe simply hoping it would fade away with time. “As far as I know I haven’t done anything.”
She templed her fingers in front of her face, touching her lips with her finger tips. “The responses to loss differ for everyone because there is no such thing as a typical loss. Each individual grieves in their own way just as they live their own lives distinctly. We speak of five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but how we deal with each stage is intensely personal. Not everyone goes through them the same way nor do they necessarily go through all of them. There is no universal right way. From what you’ve said to me, I’d say you have worked your way through your version of denial and anger, but you seem to have skipped bargaining and gone directly to depression. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s just your unique way of dealing with grief.”
I hesitated. It was time to get to the point. I wasn’t sure I wanted to trust someone else with what I was preparing to do, but I was talking to her now to get this out of my system. Should I be plotting out these devious pranks? Would they do me any good in relieving my grief? I couldn’t put it off; I had to tell her what I had in mind. I spilled everything, including nearly being caught in the booth.
“And you want me to tell you if you’re doing the right thing?” She paused. “You realize I can’t do that. Let me ask you this, do you believe you’ll get some kind of satisfaction out of pulling of outrageous pranks and getting away with it?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Right now I resent the fact that Ashworth targeted me, and I want to get even.”
She frowned a little as if she were considering what I said. “As a general rule getting even is rarely effective. On the other hand, if you were doing it for fun, it might relieve some of your stress.”
“Okay, let’s say I’m doing it for fun. What about that?” I pressed for a commitment from her. Should I do it or not?
She peered at me for a few seconds before answering. “Look, I can’t solve your problem for you. The best I can do is tell you what I think. You have to decide what to do.”
“But you said it might relieve my stress.”
“So what would you do?” I expected another question.
She surprised me. Instead of answering with something about making my own decision, she answered my question. “I’d go for it – as long as nobody would get hurt.”
“But I want to hurt Ashworth. He hurt me.” I could feel my anger rising.
“So we’re back to that. Will you really gain anything from hurting Principal Ashworth?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll tell you what, go ahead with your prank and tell me next week how it felt.” She walked to the door to let me out. “I’ll see you next Thursday.”
I didn’t feel better as I walked out.