She tried to take deep breaths and think of what her happy place might look like if she had one, but she kept getting distracted by the clang of her ankle monitor against the leg of her chair.
She kept hearing Dr. Raid’s mousy voice, trying to be powerful, telling her you’ve got to visualize, Emma, visualize, and she always tried but she never got anywhere. It was good to think positive. That’s what Dr. Raid said. And Emma’s mom nodded like a bobble-head doll whenever Emma got home from court-mandated therapy and rambled off shit about happy places and really working on yourself and finding your place in the community at large. Really giving it your all, that’s how Dr. Raid always put it. Listen to classical music, she said. Deep breaths. Calm.
Her mom made her listen to Beethoven for at least two hours every day now. They sat at the kitchen table across from one another. Her mom staring at her with her head cocked and one earring dangling like her ear was dripping off. And Emma always tried to pretend it really worked. She closed her eyes and smiled a little, nodded, and watched her mom watch her with eyes so wide like they were trying to edge their way outside their sockets and roll somewhere far, far away where they didn’t have to see Emma’s face anymore.
Every now and then she tried to listen by herself. Beethoven. Mozart. Chopin. The big ones. But her leg bounced, no matter what. Fucking nervous habit. It would always start real slow. Just a little tick. And she tried to think of butterflies or rainbows or what Billy Wilson’s face looked like just before she’d pulled the gun on him. Serene. And really expectant, like he thought she might kiss him even though he had no idea who she was. And then she bounced faster like her veins couldn’t stay in place and they seized relentlessly against her bones, and she just didn’t have control anymore. Then she had to flick on her music. The kind Dr. Raid didn’t like. Emma guessed she was one of those fuckwits who thought violent music made violent people. Probably video games too. Real dumb shit like that. Emma’s brother, Bobby, played video games all the time, and he was off learning all the complications of sports medicine at a mediocre college in South Carolina, still too afraid of spiders to even get near enough to kill one. Her dad hadn’t played a video game in his life, and that never stopped him from driving off that bridge and into the lake.
She could breathe when they were screaming gibberish at her. Lashing with their throats until they were raw and bloody and she finally knew someone in the world was just as angry as she was. So she turned it up until she couldn’t hear her own breathing anymore. She let her body thrash through the air and smiled when her ankles rammed into the metal bed-frame. She let the throaty snarls eviscerate her thoughts until she felt only the guitar riffs and drum beats rampaging like machine guns searching for targets.
Emma kept wondering what her dad’s old handgun would have sounded like going off in Billy’s face if she’d had the guts to pull the trigger. But it had felt so cold and important and unwieldy in her small, unscarred hands.
She couldn’t remember thinking. There’d been too much wailing in her head for thought. But there was that weighty feeling pulling her chest down through her stomach, and she knew, she just knew if she tried to pull the trigger nothing would happen. There’d be no bullets or Billy would duck or she wouldn’t be strong enough or a teacher would body slam her into the lockers before she ever got the chance. So she panicked, pushed him up against the rusty row of lockers with her arm bent up against his throat, wagging the gun in his face like she’d seen on all those cop shows, pretending she was real big stuff when really all she wanted was someone to hold her and smooth her hair like her dad used to and tell her the screaming would stop soon.
Even after they hauled her away in handcuffs and Emma’s mom came down to the station and just stared at her like a painting she couldn’t attempt to understand. Even after they sentenced her to six months in Juvie. Even after she was released. Even after she had her first therapy session with Dr. Raid.
Even now as she danced, holed up in a room that no longer felt like hers, a thousand miles away from her mother, smoking on the back porch, trying to understand how it might feel to shoot Billy Wilson in the face.