Head Nurse Rathbone clicked the door shut in the eagles’ nest where Director Clyburn was looking down. He gave her a quick acknowledgement.

“So. Who’s the new little pastry down there?”

“Down boy. That’s the observer the president sent over.”

“Ah! Realllllly. Seems so young. She was well chosen, she’ll fit right in.”

“Yes. So far so good.”

“I trust everyone will do their part to make sure she feels… very welcome. Very welcome indeed.”

“Quite.”

***

 

You sleep like a log that night. The program has the most comfortable beds ever. The next morning you and Molly head to a tasty full breakfast and then to group counselling sessions. It’s like a damn resort here. But now comes the part where they shrink the heads of these poor restless natives, right? We’ll just see about this.

The session meets in an alcove on an upper floor of one of the dorms. The kids all pull plush lounge chairs in a circle and make themselves at home. A very bald, and very fit middle aged man ambles in and thanks a student before perching himself on a chair.  A leather necklace with a silver pendant, a symbol of some kind, hangs closely around his neck. You can see the tail end of a black tattoo on his bicep under his tight tshirt. Probably some cheesy cliche in Latin.

“Let’s get started. You all know me, I’m Mr. Fontaine, but we have one new person joining our group for a little while. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.”

You introduce yourself and explain that you are just an observer, and not to let you intrude too much.

“Nonsense,” says Fontaine, “While you are here, you are just as much a part of this family as everyone else, and that is what we are – family.”

This guy is instantly likeable. Packed with charisma and sincerity. You want to be a fan, but you have to keep your guard up. That doesn’t mean being an asshole though. You settle in and listen. The topic is Christmas in abusive or dysfunctional environments.

A gangly boy with shaggy hair and pimples is telling the group about what holidays were like with his parents. Sounds like they were divorced and generally unhappy people with Shane always in the middle. Or the outside.

Another girl tells of a father who was always working, even several Christmases, and a mother who drank too much and liked to break things.

Still another tells of how during one particularly nasty holiday scene between her divorced parents. Her father shouted angrily that she wasn’t even his anyway, but a product of an affair that he had agreed to keep quiet. In exchange for what, she didn’t know, but he spat at her mother that he had fulfilled his end of the bargain, and added that he would finally be off the hook for “that bastard’s” child support payments and he never wanted to see them ever again. Now she has no dad at all. What does she do with her feelings, positive and negative, about this man who raised her, sort of.

Damage. Severe damage and pain everywhere. But the group is calm, attentive and supportive of each other’s various wounds as they are brought out to air. It was therapeutic, that was apparent.