Date Published: 04.11.2017
Mara Goodwin is a professional keeper of secrets, or that is what she intends to be. As a counseling psychology student at Northwestern, Mara’s ambition is unrivaled. She has the grades, the compassion, and the dedication, everything she needs to gain entry into the clinical psychology program.
However, after a traumatic experience leaves Mara in a state of mental distress, she finds herself keeping more secrets than she intended, most of them her own. Finding herself in trouble with the law, her dreams of being a therapist are jeopardized and as a consequence, Mara is ultimately forced into group therapy. While in therapy, Mara holds on to her secrets with a death grip, but when life comes full circle, her past is revealed and with it the potential to destroy her future career, her friendships, and ultimately herself.
Mara is a fighter, even if she doesn’t know it yet, but with each attempt to salvage what she can of her broken life, she is met with a consistent punch to the gut. After being pushed to the edge by meddling roommates, a persistent ex-boyfriend, and a potential new boyfriend, Mara comes to the precipice of her destruction. Yet with her destruction also comes her rebirth, and revelations of love, pain, and growth.
I lay in the closet naked, buried in a heap of dirty T-shirts and sweatpants that smelled like a combination of sour milk and sweat. If they could only talk, I thought. But if they could, I knew that my ears would be filled with expletive-filled rants for not having washed them a week ago.
I rolled over and my back smacked the floor, shooting pain up the back of my neck and into my head. My skin was hot but the coolness of the wooden floor surged through my body like an electrical current. I stretched my legs out, reveling in how good it felt to straighten them. I let them rest outside of the closet door, one tingling from being coiled like a scrunchie and the other freezing, attacked by the cold air gusting from the ceiling vent. Rosalina was home. Her inconsiderate tendencies had me beyond pissed and the day hadn’t even started. Always setting the thermostat to frigid, not caring if the rest of us suffered from hypothermia.
Sleep fogged my eyes and the smell of morning breath funk on my upper lip made my nose curl. What the hell was I doing in the closet? A thought I should have had earlier. I sat up fast, head spinning as the fringes of a dress swayed before me. I remembered that dress. It took me forever to get into but Frankie had needed no time to get it off. I didn’t know why, but the thought made me cringe and feel weak in the knees at the same time. It was on the left side of the closet, the untouched side. The side where my cute clothes went to die and collect dust after my sweat suits conquered the rest of the space.
It had happened again, and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Before, I was only losing moments. Seconds of time. Small pieces of conversation here and there, but now I was missing the last several hours. I assumed that I had lost most to sleep but there were at least three or four that weren’t accounted for. I feared standing, certain that it would make my headache worse, so I crawled, skin brushing against the clothes that lay in my path. I felt like a worm dying in the sun as I crept out into the light and into the heart of my room. I got to my feet and a couple pairs of dirty underwear fell from my back to the floor. I looked around my room, rubbing my eyes in disbelief.
Sweat pants, shirts, bras, and all other manner of dirty clothing were scattered across the room. My bed was covered in research articles and books, as was my desk, which sat in the corner near the window. Several pairs of Chuck Taylors were askew against the wall, and the sun shining in made the dust particles dancing about more evident. I was not a slob by nature, but my room was now a disaster, a landfill. Everything that once had a place had none. This was not how I left my room yesterday.
The house was quiet, but I knew that my peace wouldn’t last long. I jumped at the sound of my phone ringing, chiming from an undisclosed location in my mess of a room. I kicked up clothes and moved books and papers from bed to floor with one smooth brush of an arm, but the damn thing stopped before I could find it. I still wasn’t completely awake, and the thought of having to search everything made my head hurt even more. I stormed around the room, tossing everything to an area of less clutter, until I caught a glimpse of myself in the floor mirror next to my desk and realized that I was still naked.
Why am I naked?
I reached down to the floor and rummaged through a pile of clothes, looking for a long T-shirt to put on. Maybe Frankie had been there, or maybe it was someone else. My heart stopped. Could it have been someone else? I crouched down to the floor.
“Hello…” I called out, still hearing the sleep in my voice. I pulled a dirty clothes pile up to my naked body. There was no response, so in relief I let the bundle fall back to the floor, keeping only a semi-clean tee, and resumed my search.
I held the T-shirt in my hand and viewed my naked form in the mirror, still not seeing the beauty that people tended to babble on about. I never thought that I was beautiful, but I didn’t think I was ugly either. The sunlight blessed my body, and I admired the brownness of my skin and the slenderness of my face, but I still found myself wishing I looked like my mother. The Jamaican goddess whose curves could rival any racetrack. Unfortunately I took after my scrawny father, whose leanness left me small-chested and ass-less.
After I had scrutinized myself enough, I finally put on the shirt and kept searching for my phone. Moments later I found it blinking in the trash can. I dusted it off and examined it, hoping that none of the gunk from the trash had attached itself. I had three missed calls from Frankie, two from my mother, and an array of text messages I had no intention of responding to. But Frankie I couldn’t ignore, so I called him.
“Where the hell are you?”
I could hear the fright in his voice but it was overpowered by condescension. “I’ve been trying to reach you all morning. Why didn’t you call when you got home?”
My heart raced. “Jesus, Frankie, you don’t have to interrogate me. What is it? What’s wrong?” I reached down to collect the pile of books I had swept from bed to floor. My hand sweat lingered on the book covers as I tried to organize them on the shelf. I was shaking, waiting for him to tell me something horrible. To tell me I had hurt someone, or even worse, to tell me that we had sex.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.
“I don’t know!” I took a book in my hand and threw it across the room. “That’s why I’m calling you!”
“Well, you don’t have to be a—”
“Be what, Frankie? A bitch? I don’t remember coming home last night.”
“Yea, shit.” I sat on the edge of my bed, feeling research papers crumpling under the weight of my body. The sound was excruciating to my ears but so was the sound of Frankie’s paternal voice so early in the morning.
“The last thing I remember is your apartment. I called you hoping you could shed some light, but you’re obviously no help.”
He took a deep breath. “Yea, Mara. That’s me. Mr. No Fucking Help.”
His sarcasm wasn’t helping.
“Don’t be a smartass, Frankie,” I said. “Now do you have anything important to tell me? Otherwise you’re wasting my time.”
“You said you had to go home and work on your thesis so you could get to bed early to get to that meet—”
“Son of a bitch.” I took my thumb and index finger, rubbed my eyes, then squeezed the bridge of my nose to relieve the pressure that had been building up in my head. “I almost forgot about the meeting. What time is it?”
“You did forget, and it’s 8:15.”
I hated him for calling me out.
“I got to go… and don’t call me back. I’ll call you if I want to be bothered, so find someone else to harass today.”
He laughed. “Whatever, Mara. Besides, probation officers don’t like to be kept waiting. I shouldn’t even be associating with people like you anyway.”
“What do you mean people like me?” I asked.
“You know… delinquents. Menaces to society.”
“That’s not funny. Not even a little bit,” I said. I wanted to cry, but I wouldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to open that can of worms. Not today.
“Come on. I’m only messing with you. Good luck, and let me know how it goes,” he said.
“Yea, whatever.” I hung up the phone.
I darted to my closet to find something suitable to wear. I had sweat pants hanging there, but I knew those weren’t going to work, not for a meeting so important, but I couldn’t be without them, so I pulled some out. I fingered through the clothes on the forbidden side and pulled out the longest, plainest skirt and blouse I could find along with a pair of dress flats and threw them on top of my bed. I grabbed a tote bag from the closet shelf and threw in a gray sweat suit, a shirt, and some Chucks and dashed to the bathroom. I tried to let myself in but the door was locked. I didn’t have time for this. I balled up my fist and banged on the door so hard it made my hand sting.
“Who’s in there?” I asked. I listened for movement. “I have to be on campus in thirty minutes!”
There was no response.
I banged again.
“I need in!”
The lock jiggled, and the door cracked open. Kate stood there wrapped in a towel, her face engulfed by her wet blonde hair. She was pretty, if having keen facial features was the current beauty standard, but her personality was just as sharp as her face.
“You can have the bathroom when I am done,” she said, her face stoic as she peered at me from behind the door.
I stared at her and wondered what it would feel like to plunge my fist into her face. She was trying to be a smartass. She closed the door and locked it, as if I planned on barging in on her. I could see her in there now, wasting time, sitting on the toilet wrapped in her towel reading a Cosmo, Glamour, or whatever magazines women like her had an affinity for. It was May, I’d moved into the house in February, and I could count on one hand the number times we’ve spoken to each other. I walked away and was only a few steps gone when I heard her yell through the door.
“Next time get up earlier!”
I dug my nails into the palm of my hand so hard I thought I would draw blood. I stared at the door waiting for her to say something else, wanting her to say something else. It wouldn’t take much for me take it down and do it, punch her square in the nose, but I opted against it. I didn’t need to create another problem for myself. I’d hired her father as my attorney out of an act of desperation and I needed him on my side, so punching and drowning his daughter in the toilet didn’t seem like the right decision to make at the moment.
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