Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and mature content.
In "Candy," Donna Haley moves into her aunt's house to get away from the misery and chaos brought on from her alcoholic mother's marriage. She begins attending a support group for unhappy teenagers and meets 'Groupie,' an enthralling young girl who is raising her little sister in a trailer park with neglectful and drug-addicted parents.
The girls bond over their desperate desire to flee from the harshness of reality, but soon Donna realizes that Groupie's methods of coping go beyond harmless escapism and could lead to dangerous consequences. Despite facing difficulties with her own family turmoil and her aunt's disapproval of their friendship, Donna is desperate to guide her best friend towards a safer path in fear of losing the only person who's ever truly cared about her. However, navigating Groupie's erratic and fragile demeanor proves to be a daunting task.
From the innocent days of childhood to the mature years of adulthood, each of us holds onto our own version of "candy." It could be as simple as a memory or as physical as a cigarette. But no matter our age or circumstances, we all have a thing or two that brings us comfort in times of hardship. Something that allows us to step away from the bitter and complicated realities of real life.
Furthermore, I've always observed two distinct types of adultified children. First, there are those like our Groupie, whose mental and emotional well-being suffer as a consequence. They constantly seek validation and comfort they missed out on during childhood, and are easily swayed by external influences due to low self-esteem. Then there are those like Donna, who become wise beyond their years out of necessity. They naturally assume caretaker roles for others, whether it be their younger siblings, friends, or even their own parents. Amongst other things, the consequences of childhood adultification leave these children vulnerable to unhealthy relationship dynamics as teens and adults.
Let's start at the very beginning. I'll be as quick as possible.
It all began when my mother chose to uproot us from our cozy three-bedroom home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where we had lived for seven years. She decided to move us into her husband's cramped one-bedroom apartment in Jersey City, which he had bought without her knowledge. He was always bouncing between living with us and disappearing altogether.
We begged Mom to reconsider the move, fearing it would turn out as poorly as her quick marriage to a man twenty-five years older than her. But our pleas never swayed her—she always believed she knew best, ignoring our input unless she asked for it.
My sister, Nadia, firmly refused to be involved in the move. She didn't help us pack, and Mom didn't insist. I, on the other hand, never had a choice. Mom knew I wasn't one to assert myself, so she made the decision for me.
Ray stood by, holding a fifty-milliliter bottle of Jim Beam, like an unwelcome spectator, as Mom and I packed away our past seven years (and more) into large cardboard boxes. He knew he had won. How could he claim to be "the man of the house" while living in a woman's apartment?
He was a tall man with a rugged handsomeness, falling somewhere between ordinary and striking. His voice, raspy from years of smoking, hinted at his chronic habit. Ray had a tumultuous past, having battled crack addiction and living with bipolar disorder. Despite these struggles, he presented himself with a quiet confidence, often observing from the sidelines with a cigarette in hand.
I never believed Mom when she talked about wanting to leave Elizabeth, even before she married Ray. It reminded me of fifth grade all over again, when she'd been drinking for a week straight and started talking about moving us to West Virginia to live with her mother. I had to sneak onto her computer and delete all the posts she'd made trying to sell our things on Facebook.
Ever since I began middle school, I found myself spending most of my spare moments holed up in my murky bedroom listening to metal music and obsessively immersed myself in provocative films that I knew I shouldn't have been watching. Then, after Mom married Ray, my already solitary world grew even quieter. I told myself I preferred it that way.
When summer break arrived, Nadia swiftly packed her bags and left to stay with her dad in Newark. From early June to late August of 2010, it was just Mom, Ray, and me. Soon enough, it became clear that Mom regretted not heeding the advice of those who warned against her decision. But by then, it was too late. Ray had already secured a job as a truck driver, while she worked as a server. We needed his money.
I despised my new school. The atmosphere at Jefferson Middle School was unlike anything I'd experienced in Elizabeth. The students seemed colder, nastier, and harsher, even at such a young age. Growing up, I'd often heard "jokes" about city dwellers being as tough as New Yorkers. Sadly, I quickly learned that those "jokes" weren't jokes at all.
Being autistic, Tori Kennedy was the only true friend I'd ever had. However, in fifth grade, her parents split, and she moved away. After that, I gradually began to understand that I was not well-liked. Nobody wanted to play or partner with me. I sat alone at lunch because I was deemed "too annoying." My voice, mannerisms, and even my laugh were all considered irritating. Everyone, including my teachers, made sure I knew it.
That was when I started masking, which both complicated and simplified things for me. At my new school in Jersey City, people treated me like a delicate, enigmatic artifact under study for a history project. They asked condescending questions and constantly bothered me when I just wanted to be left alone.
As if things couldn't get any worse, I no longer had my own bedroom. The only bedroom belonged to Mom and Ray. Every night, I would lie on the thin mattress Nadia and I shared in the corner of the living room, surrounded by piles of Ray's clothes and other belongings he took with him on the road.
Their fights became more frequent, and I could no longer ignore them as I once did. My grades started to plummet, and neither of them was understanding about it. School was already challenging, but now that I hated my life, nothing seemed to matter. Everything felt temporary and meaningless.
In October of that same year, Ray inherited his grandfather's seventy-year-old, three-bedroom house in Newark, and we moved there.
The house, once painted white, was now a dull gray, with paint peeling in several places. The windows were old and cracked, and the roof appeared as though it might collapse at any moment. Its exterior matched the dreariness, with overgrown grass and cracked windows. Our first few weeks in the new house were spent cleaning and organizing, trying to bring some life into the eerie space. Mom even joked that it was "perfectly suited" for Halloween.
Empty soda bottles and paper plates spilled out of the trash can, while laundry patiently waited to be folded in its designated room. Unopened mail blanketed the coffee table. Ray, like the rest of us, was disgruntled by the state of the house. The tangible evidence of his grandfather's existence left behind after his passing made the house feel hauntingly incomplete, like a story cut short, despite his old age.
On our fourth week in Newark, Nadia and I started at our new schools. Mine was ninety percent black, while hers was forty-six. I can still feel that sharp twinge in my chest as I walked into my first-period classroom, every eye turning to me questionably, as if I had interrupted some exclusive gathering.
It was my second time being "the new girl" in less than eight months, and it only took three days for me to reclaim my title as "the weird one." Always zoned out. Always there but never truly present, like some sort of phantom.
Every day at lunch, I sat alone with a book and my CD player, which contained a disc I had burned with my favorite songs. Among them were Black Dog by Led Zeppelin, Happy Nation by Ace of Base, She's Dangerous by Tom Tom Club, Candidate by Joy Division, Walking Zero by Sneaker Pimps, and Adrian by Jewel. Six of twenty.
For those thirty minutes, no one else existed. Not Ray, not my mother, and not anyone else. Oddly enough, I was okay with that. It made things easier. I wasn't naive; I knew people only befriended me because they felt sorry that I was such a loner, and that wasn't what I wanted. I preferred having no friends to having pity friends.
During our year in that house, Ray kicked us out three times, each instance due to issues related to money or alcohol.
The first time it happened, it was over my mother's tax return check. Ray insisted that she use it to repair the two decrepit cars in our garage. Mom, however, had different ideas; she wanted to use the money to buy a new couch and some basic furnishings for our bedrooms. Ray wasn't willing to compromise.
After leaving the hotel where we had stayed for a week, we moved to a local domestic violence shelter. Mom was depressed, but I was relieved to be away from Ray. Unfortunately, our stay was short-lived; we were asked to leave two weeks later after Mom violated the shelter's "no drinking" policy.
The next morning, Ray grinned with smug satisfaction as he loaded our meager belongings into the trunk. It felt more like a kidnapping than a rescue mission, with two captives reluctantly returning to the very house they had just escaped. Nadia and I sat contemplative in the backseat, both of us leaning our heads on the cold, smudged windows. The sound of Mom's laughter mingling with Ray's felt like rubbing salt on an already raw wound.
On the bright side, the two of us were exempt from all schoolwork, and things were back to normal for a while.
Shortly after that, Nadia decided to live with her father permanently. I didn't blame her; in fact, I considered her lucky. She was absent from my life for four long years, and Ray didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, he forbade any idea of her ever returning home due to her supposed "behavioral issues."
In May, he kicked us for the second time. Luckily, my mom's friend—a kind white woman with three kids—offered her garage as a temporary shelter for us. Despite the summer heat that seemed to seep through the concrete walls, it was the cleanest and most comfortable part of the house. The faint scent of gasoline and old tools lingered in the air, but it was a small price to pay for a roof over our heads.
Ray showed up at her doorstep the following weekend to pick us up. I couldn't believe it. My mother had been secretly talking to him all along, fully aware of how I felt about it.
Once again, we returned to that house, where the illusion of a happy family crumbled with the slightest provocation. They continued to argue over the same three things: money, alcohol, and Nadia. Every time voices escalated and harsh words flew, my hands would automatically start packing my belongings.
In the weeks after my fifteenth birthday, it happened for the last time. With nowhere else to go, Mom and I found ourselves at a dead end. Our friends and family had seen everything that had happened between my mother and Ray since the beginning of their marriage. Unsurprisingly, they were hesitant to intervene.
Mom and Ray had been arguing since five in the morning, and it took a physical turn when Ray tried to retrieve a liquor bottle from Mom's purse to prove she wasn't staying sober. Despite still being tipsy, she lunged at him, as if propelled by a spring, desperately trying to pry the nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal from his grasp. All I could do was scream for them to stop. The fact that he had licensed guns terrified me, and I didn't want the situation to escalate into a Dateline episode.
The neighbor, disturbed by the commotion, called the authorities, who arrived at our doorstep. Mom realized they were there for us, not some other domestic disturbance down the block, and begged Ray to "let it slide this one time." Miraculously, he agreed, despite having pressed charges against her before in retaliation for her doing the same against him. The officers insisted that they "keep their distance from each other for the night" before leaving.
An hour later, Ray's van came to a halt in front of St. Lucy's Emergency Shelter, and my heart sank. I had been dreading it, but I knew it was inevitable. Months earlier, Ray had taken me there to "teach me a lesson about responsibility and saving for the future." All I had with me was my faded navy blue school bag and my beloved stuffed bear, worn down to a faded brown with patches of missing fur, a lost eye, and threadbare seams. Inside the bag, there was a small change of clothes, a sparse assortment of feminine necessities, a toothbrush, my phone charger, my CD player, a small collection of CDs, and my writing supplies.
I knew it wouldn't be "just for the night." After three years, I knew exactly how things would unfold. Each morning would bring a new excuse: no gas money, too tired from work, feeling sick. Days would stretch into weeks, weeks into months, and my mother would keep waiting. If he did come for us, it would be on his terms, not out of necessity. It had been that way from the beginning. Everything was up to him. After all, he was "the man of the house," right?
Listening to my mother beg made me cringe with embarrassment. She smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap perfume, with a hint of sweat and fear underneath. It hadn't always been like this. I used to say that my mother had a certain elegance about her, even in her simplest actions.
"Natasha, you're embarrassing us," Ray said over my mother's hysterical (and honestly pathetic) sobbing. "Get out of the car."
I sat in the backseat of his 2004 Honda Pilot, my arms wrapped tightly around my journal as if it held the key to my survival. The red sweatshirt I wore clashed with my blue flare jeans, but I didn't care. All that mattered was getting away from him. He always tried to portray us as a unit, two people victimized and mistreated by my mother's alcoholism. But I knew the truth—he was the main perpetrator, not a victim like he wanted everyone to believe.
Yes, my mother was a drunken, pathetic mess. But Ray had no excuse. He was simply a monster.
When Mom offered to quit her new office job to become a housewife, as Ray had been pushing her to do since we moved in, I put in my other earbud and turned up the volume on my portable CD player.
I could no longer tolerate her weakness, her readiness to bend and break for a man who didn't deserve her love, especially after she spent years telling me to know my worth. I didn't want to hear any of it.
Realizing, sitting in the backseat, that my mother only cared about how things affected her was the hardest part. My feelings were just white noise to her as long as she and Ray were happy. Trying to discuss it with her felt like fueling an already raging fire.
She was always aware of my misery, but it was easier for her to ignore it.
Seeing the homeless, their weary faces and empty eyes haunting the entrance like ghosts, on top of everything else, only confirmed that this was no ordinary setback. This was rock bottom, and I knew it was time to leave, even if it meant hurting my mother.
Thank God I did. How else would I have met Groupie?
The car hummed with the soulful twang of steel guitars and country crooners as I sat in the passenger seat of my case manager's 2007 Toyota Camry. Two days before I met Her. I'd already blocked Ray's number on my phone; I knew he'd try to play Dad and worm his way back into my life, with or without my mother. But that wasn't going to happen, no way, no how.
Ray never understood why I went to therapy. He scoffed at the idea of paying someone to listen to my "silly little girl problems." In his mind, Lorelei was just doing her job, and I was wasting her time. I didn't really need therapy; I was just being an over-the-top, angsty teenager.
As the car meandered along the road, I let my aching head sink into the soft leather of the headrest and shut my eyes. I couldn't tell if it was the usual nausea from motion or the persistent unease in my gut, but my head was killing me.
I turned my head slightly to gaze out the car window. As a kid, I loved this part of car rides - seeing all the different houses and imagining the unique tales behind each one. Every home had its own story, just like every person inside did too. It was like taking a quick peek into someone else's world for a moment before moving on to the next snapshot.
"Are you planning on finding another writing club down here?" Lorelei asked. "I just want to say, it's so unfortunate that you finally managed to find one and then this happens. God, the chances." The faint scent of vanilla lingered on her skin, mingled with a hint of lavender from her perfume.
I attempted to infuse my voice with a sparkling effervescence, like champagne bubbles bursting against the roof of my mouth. But beneath the facade, I felt as dull and flat as a deflated balloon.
"Maybe. Now that Ray's gone."
The previous year, Ray was relentless in his nagging for me to "join a club" or find a hobby outside of the house. My biggest fear was exactly what ended up happening; I'd find something perfect for me and then we'd have to pack up and leave again. Mom told me I had "the perfect excuse" since I could just find another club wherever we ended up. I held my ground for as long as possible. And wouldn't you know it, right after I found a local writing club, we became homeless again.
"There might be something at my new school."
Living with autism in a world built for neurotypicals has been a constant struggle. Being surrounded by others who didn't understand during my adolescence made my existence feel like a huge inconvenience, always apologizing for being different and slowing everyone down. I've learned that I work best when left to my own devices, without the need to keep up with everyone else's pace.
"I'd check the local library. This is Jersey, you know. There's something for everyone." Lorelei's accent became more pronounced on the word 'know' and she flicked on her turn signal as we neared a red light. "And it doesn't have to be a writing club. You could always join a reading club, too. You love reading, right?" There is a faint scent of mint on Lorelei's breath as she speaks, the result of chewing gum.
"I write more than I read, though." I allowed a glimmer of hope to seep into my voice. "Ironically."
Lorelei looked over with her chestnut brown eyes and smiled at me encouragingly. "We'll find something, hon."
My hoodie strings were smooth between my cold fingers and soft to the touch, like worn cotton.
Leaving behind the chaos and toxicity of my mother and her seemingly never-ending marriage should have been a relief, but for some reason, it wasn't. I was still burdened by the same emotions that had haunted me before. I believed that simply leaving would miraculously fix everything. Yet, nothing had changed. Why?
The sleek, beige car cut through the wind as it raced down the highway, bringing back memories of my childhood. Cars whizzed by in a blur, leaving behind a faint trail of exhaust and the distant wail of sirens.
I could almost hear Aunt Tracy's voice chattering away as she drove us to visit my mom at her rundown apartment in Asbury Park. That was ages ago, when I was just a small child and my aunt still had legal custody over me. Despite the rough neighborhood, Mom always made our visits special with her warm hugs and homemade treats. On the first night, she did, at least. The rest of the weekend would be spent in an alcohol-induced stupor, while I kept Nadia fed with cold Chef Boyardee and occupied with the DVD box set of classic Disney films playing for hours.
The drive used to take exactly fifty minutes, and I'd stare out the window at the trees speeding by, letting my imagination run wild with all sorts of adventures. But those memories are a bit fuzzy now. And even though I really want to remember everything perfectly, I know I'm not the most trustworthy narrator.
Lorelei kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead. Conversation had been sparse during our drive, as she could always sense when I was feeling chatty or not and adjusted accordingly.
I opened my notebook and pulled my sparkly gel pin from its spiral binding. The gentle crinkle of the pages took the place of the protruding silence as I flipped through the notebook, a soft scratching sound accompanying my writing.
November 7th, 2011
I currently feel a little bit nauseous. My head hurts. I have anxiety, and I don't know why just yet. I want to ask you why I still feel this way. I thought this was supposed to make me feel better, but I still have anxiety. And I'm not saying I only left my mother to "feel better," but I thought that would be a part of it, no? It feels like there's just a whole new set of worries.
My therapist at the time, a warm and compassionate Hispanic woman with kind eyes, advised me to take note of every moment that caused me unease in my notebook. She had noticed that I had trouble remembering the details of certain things that I wanted to talk about, and journaling was her suggested solution. And it was working seamlessly, like a well-oiled machine. Every uneasy incident, small or large, was carefully documented and ready for discussion at my next session.
"I remember this highway."
The sun was obscured by a thick blanket of gray clouds, casting a subdued and somber tone over the day.
In our small apartment in Elizabeth, I had taken to hanging a large throw blanket over the window, blocking out all traces of sunlight and creating the perpetual atmosphere of a gloomy day. My mother claimed it was contributing to my moodiness.
"We used to come this way when my aunt would drop me off to visit my mom. I used to get so excited, and talk the whole time about everything we were gonna do." As my words fell from my lips, a creeping realization twisted in my gut like a knife. The blissful memories of the past now seemed like an unattainable dream, fading into the darkness of reality. "I used to sit in the back and daydream..."
I heard the click of the turn signal.
A slight hint of awe tinged Lorelei's voice as she asked, "You mean when you were a kid? That's the cutest damn thing I've ever heard."
The difference in our tones was palpable, as if hers were coated in honey and mine in salt water. It wasn't just reminiscing for me. It was mourning. Things would never be the same again. He ruined everything.
"Yeah," I sighed longingly, leaning my head against the window. "When I was little." My notebook remained open in my lap.
My life was far from perfect before Ray came into it. My mother's battle with alcoholism had plagued our family since I can remember. In fact, she wasn't considered capable of caring for my sister and me until I was seven years old. Even still, if fifteen year old me had to choose between my life before and after Ray, I would have undoubtedly chosen life before.
My favorite aunt's warm smile lit up her face as she opened the door, her eyes crinkling at the corners. Her hair was styled in loose curls and framed her face perfectly. She was wearing a soft red sweater, the color complementing her hickory brown complexion.
Her gentle hands reached out to welcome us inside, and I noticed how her North Jersey accent had become more pronounced since the last time I saw her.
"Sweetheart!" She gushed like a child unwrapping the present they wanted the most on Christmas morning. "C'mere!"
Aunt Tracy's warm arms wrapped around me in a loving embrace, and I buried my face in her shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent of her perfume mixed with the comforting aroma of freshly baked cookies. Her presence alone was enough to ease some of the tension that had been bubbling inside me since the morning prior.
Her eyes widened and her smile stretched wide as she caught sight of the book and journal in my hand.
"You readin' again?" She gasped. "What is this?"
"It's White Oleander by Janet Fitch," I said matter-of-factly, letting her take it from my hands so she could take a look. "It's about this girl. Her mother gets arrested for murder so she ends up tossed around the foster care system. It made me realize how lucky I was. I mean, lucky as in lucky that Nads and I had you to take us in and we didn't end up in the system."
Aunt Tracy flicked through the pages and let out a curious "hm." before handing the book back to me.
"You always been a reader."
My bag remained slung around my shoulder.
Lorelei's perfectly manicured fingers traced the warm cream-colored walls of Aunt Tracy's living room, admiring the shade and envisioning it in her own home.
"This shade is gorgeous, Miss..."
"Hunter. But call me Tracy. And thank you. It was one of the most expensive things I ever did. I'm just glad I still like it. God knows I don't make the money I used to."
They made their way over to the plush, forest green couch, the color contrasting beautifully with the walls. Lorelei sat down on the matching armchair. Aunt Tracy's coffee table was scattered with opened mail and glass drinking cups. She'd never been the cleanest person in the world, but she always tried.
The hardwood floor felt cool and smooth under my bare feet as I wandered around the room, taking in the familiar sights. The walls were adorned with Aunt Tracy's collection of vibrant paintings, some new, some old. I paused in front of a particularly captivating piece that must've been a new one—a swirling mix of blues and purples that seemed to depict a stormy sea. The artist's name, Sarah Hartley, was signed at the bottom in elegant cursive.
I heard the two women prepare to dive into a conversation full of playful banter. Aunt Tracy could always get on with anyone. She said it was a blessing and a curse, in which case, I'd take that curse right off her hands.
Time seemed to stretch and fold in on itself, knotted by the mundane and the uninteresting; old memories of my childhood cat, the possibility of finally finding the perfect friend group at my new school, and how badly I wanted to listen to Kate Bush's Hounds of Love at that moment.
Aunt Tracy's sharp eyes carefully tracked my slow and inattentive back-and-forth pacing around the room.
"You're making me dizzy!" She tried to joke it off.
"Sorry." I attempted to mimic her, trying to hide the embarrassment that was bubbling up inside me.
I took it as a hint to sit still, so I sat next to her on the sofa. My body didn't agree. I started bouncing my leg, tapping my fingers on the table, and fidgeting with the knee of my skinny jeans.
Lorelei's eyes met mine, and I could sense her thoughts without a word being spoken. We had already broached the subject of me restarting my prescription for atomoxetine. I had taken it before, but my forgetfulness interfered with consistent usage.
Regrettably, my aunt still clung to the ignorance that seems to be deeply rooted in the minds of baby boomers. She refused to believe that I had autism, and was always unable to provide any explanation for her disbelief.
I had ADHD and nothing else. God forbid.
As my thoughts wandered, their voices faded into a distant murmur, as if obscured by a heavy mist. I lost sense of the ground beneath me and even my hands in my lap.
Then, an unknown amount of time later..
"Donna?" Aunt Tracy chuckled. "What's wrong with you? You about to fall asleep right here in front of us? Lorelei needs to ask you a few more things before she goes."
Lorelei remained seated in the same spot, her purse resting lightly on her lap and her car keys clutched tightly in her hand. A faint smile played on her lips, as if she anticipated my next words.
I blinked tiredly and sat my head up. "I'm so tired, sorry. I zoned out."
"That's quite alright," she went. "Let's talk about when we can see each other again."
Aunt Tracy set down a mug of bubbling hot cocoa on the table in front of me, steam rising and dancing in the air above it. The rich, brown liquid swirled around the edges of the mug, tempting me with its warmth and sweetness.
The relentless pitter-patter of rain against the window only grew stronger, accompanied by a haunting whistle of wind. The gray sky loomed overhead, which casted a dreary and cold pall over everything outside. It's the kind of weather that seeps into your bones and makes you yearn for warmth and comfort. And that's exactly what I found myself in - curled up in a thick wool throw blanket at my aunt's kitchen table in her cozy house, like a cocoon of protection. Less than twenty-four hours prior, I was shivering on a hard cot in a frigid shelter. Now, I felt like I'd hit the cosmic jackpot.
"I saw an ad for this 'unhappy teenagers' support group in the newspaper at the grocery store yesterday. I meant to call and see if you wanted to start going." Aunt Tracy's mid-size figure sunk into the chair, the dark wood creaking slightly under her weight. "I guess now that you're here, I should just sign you up."
The marshmallows danced and dissolved into the hot cocoa, creating a creamy, sweet concoction. "It's for teenagers?"
"Just teenagers. You know, the building it's in is actually where the Board of Education used to be? Dumb decision, in my humblest opinion. The new one is smaller and farther away."
Aunt Tracy's suggestion to join a support group for unhappy teenagers didn't offend me. After all, I was exactly that—an unhappy teenager.
Moreover, the idea of joining a support group seemed strangely appealing. I'd never been good at socializing; in every group, I was the outsider, someone others kept at arm's length. Even those I considered friends eventually drifted away. The only person who had ever truly stuck by my side was Tori Kennedy, but she moved to Chicago in fifth grade.
Aunt Tracy then shifted the conversation to enrolling me in school, a topic that had been on my mind for a while. Even before Ray came into the picture, I hadn't found much joy in school, especially after Tori moved away. It felt like a monotonous cycle I could never quite keep up with.
"You might see some of your friends from elementary school," she mentioned. "Like Tori? Remember her?"
How could I forget her?
"Tori's in Chicago," I mumbled gravely. "I didn't have any other friends in elementary school."
She took another sip from her hot cocoa. "Okay, then you'll make new friends. Jesus, Donna, don't be so negative."
That word again. Negative. Always negative, always complaining, always ruining everyone else's goddamn good time.
When we first relocated to Jersey City, there was tension between Mom and me. She avoided spending time with me because she claimed I was "too negative." I didn't mean to be negative. It's a common belief that you can only show anger or frustration to your parents for so long before it's seen as disrespect, or in their words, "having an attitude."
Aunt Tracy noticed my expression of annoyance and attempted to reword her statement.
"Donna," she sighed, placing her mug back down. "You're stronger than you think. Try to make some new friends this year. Try to get out more. Be on your computer less. I don't think all that...," a brief pause, "...dark music you listen to is making things any better for you."
I tried my hardest not to roll my eyes.
The old "just do this one thing and everything will magically change" advice. As if making friends and being more social was as simple as flipping a switch. My Aunt Tracy had good intentions, but she didn't truly understand. Just like everyone else.
"You don't get it," I said, sounding more unconcerned than I actually was. "People don't want to be my friend."
A/N: Lorelei is the case manager, not the therapist, and it won't me unbold Part One :,)