OT: The Healing Process

on May 13, 2013 in Other Tales

Years of training and experience as a mental healer and a lifetime as a telepath had taught Teddi Lundegard that there was more to people than mere appearances, but the fact that she didn’t judge books by their covers alone didn’t mean that she ignored the covers. One of the first things she noticed about her patient, returning for the first time after the summer break, was that her clothes… denim coveralls and a short-sleeved white t-shirt… seemed more comfortable on her than anything she’d worn before. While they had a loose fit, they were also obviously her own. This might have been a little thing with anyone else, but it spoke volumes about her.

“So, how was your summer?” Teddi said. It was one of her standard openers for the beginning of the year, when someone showed up obviously wanting to talk but not in a mood to start it themselves. As the semester wore on it would become “how are your classes?” and then “how were your exams?” and then “how was your holiday break?” when the next semester began.

“It was… good,” her patient said. She hadn’t sat down, choosing instead to pace the room as she spoke. It was her habit. “I visited Marlot, like we talked about. She never got tired of telling people I was her identical cousin from the Mother Isles, but that’s okay, because I was sick enough of it for the both of us by the time I left. So was everyone else, I think. I sort of admire her for not needing anyone else’s approval, but sometimes I kind of wish that other people’s disapproval would register a little bit with her.”

“You’re still friends, though?”

“I don’t know what I am to her. Her project? But we’re roommates, and we get along okay. I thought it would be harder, not going home… and I did get a little sad around midsummer, but all in all, it was more… more like a relief, than anything. I’m not sure what exactly I was relieved about, but I really felt like I’d given up a burden. Though…”

“Though what?”

“Though when I say it like that, it sounds like I’m shirking my responsibilities and happy about it,” she said. “Which isn’t something I’m happy about. But the thing is, nobody ever asked me if I wanted them. Nobody ever asked me anything. I was just a part in their system, and I was happy to be that, but I wanted to be more. And apparently that’s not possible, I either have to be exactly what everyone else expects me to be or I get kicked out.”

“The last that you’d told me, nobody was kicking you out,” Teddi said. “Did something happen, Barley?”

“No… well, yeah, kind of,” Barley said. “No one thing actually happened, it just… it was weird. Going back. Not just living in my field. Everybody was nice enough, but there was… distance. And I don’t know if it was always there and I just never noticed it before because I wasn’t used to humans in the valley interacting with me except as a nymph, or if it’s something that only happened because I’ve… changed.”

“I’m not judging your decisions,” Teddi said. “Only pointing out that they were yours to make. We both know you have a problem with owning your choices. And you don’t have to apologize to me… you’re the one who is hurt when you do that.”

“You’re right,” Barley said. “I think that’s part of why I… for lack of a better word… like Marlot. She does have a way of keeping me honest with myself. And… there is a lot to admire about her. In a lot of ways, she’s living the life that I thought I wanted for myself when I left the valley. I mean, she’s not actually very politically involved, but she lives the politics I tried to have. I think if I could go back in time to the start of last year and give myself some advice, it would be to get the hell out of Harlowe and hang out with the kids in Burlew instead from the beginning. It would have saved a lot of heartache, and not just for me.”

“So you no longer think that what you did helped Mackenzie, anymore?”

“I’ve stopped thinking it matters,” Barley said. “You always thought I was making excuses… I wasn’t. Well, I was, but that wasn’t one of them. It was a mitigating factor I clung to in case my excuses didn’t work, as I always suspected they wouldn’t. And you know? It still might be true. It might be true that my… attempted rape… screwed up Puddy’s, which could have gone much farther or turned out even worse… but there are a hundred ways I could have stopped the whole thing on purpose. I knew it was wrong, and I didn’t think I could stop it… or I convinced myself that I couldn’t… or whatever. Like you said, I struggle with owning my choices, and I don’t think it’s possible to sort out what was going through my head without tripping over a dozen rationalizations, because that’s what I was doing. But the point is, I did make my choice. I made a lot of choices, starting with my choice of friends. If I’d done better on that score, the other, later choices wouldn’t even have been an issue. And no, I’m not saying my actions are the fault of the people I was hanging out with, I’m saying I shouldn’t have been hanging out with them.”

“You sound like you’ve been giving this a lot of thought,” Teddi said.

“Not on purpose,” Barley said. “I mean, I’m not sitting around trying to figure out where it all went wrong or what I would do differently if I could, because I can’t do it differently. But I have been thinking about… who I hang out with. Who I want to hang out with. It started with looking people up to see how they’re doing… about half because I actually miss them, and half because I feel like if I’m getting a second chance, then why shouldn’t anyone else?”

“The only person who needed to give you a second chance is…”

“…is me, I know,” Barley said. “And, basically, that’s what I mean. Other people deserve my forgiveness, too, if I do. And, like, Belinda’s apparently got a great big gushy heart under all that muscle once she stopped caring about high school level bullshit… I don’t even remember her doing anything to me and I’m kind of surprised she recognized me, but the first day of school she saw me and apologized, said she was making amends. I didn’t know what else to say, so I thanked her and said it was okay and then… we hugged. I guess she could have been apologizing in advance for that, but maybe she doesn’t have a lot of practice. But, anyway, that got me curious about the rest of the old Harlowe gang… or gangs, really. So I started looking people up.”

“Reconnecting with them, or just looking up?” Teddi asked.

“Just looking, for now,” Barley said. “Like I said, I’m still thinking about who I’d actually want back in my life. And at first I thought a lot of people dropped out, because a lot of people seemed to have some of the same thoughts I did and scattered to other dorms. You know, most years, about a third to half of the new Harlowe students wash out. Flunk out or drop out… a lot of those finish their first semester or first year and then just never come back. Did you know that?”

“It’s something I’ve learned,” Teddi said. “Though the numbers have been trending downwards, and your class seems to have been particularly exceptional in that regard.”

“Yeah, we’re an exceptional bunch,” she said.

“What do you think changed?”

“Lots of things,” she said. “Some of it got better, some of it got worse. The main thing is that more people were paying attention. In my opinion as someone who spent part of one semester there, the reason the whole place has been such a grain silo is a combination of hostility and apathy. The people who openly hate on non-human students have free rein, and everybody else just ignored whatever was happening… everything that was done to us, everything that we did. You poke around in the heads of teenagers for a living. You know what’s going to happen when a bunch of eighteen year old girls get turned loose and told… and shown… that they’re completely on their own. No group’s going to be better than their worst members, and before you say I’m ducking responsibility, I’m not saying I was one of the better ones.”

“I’m glad you’re being mindful of that, but that actually wasn’t what I was going to say,” Teddi said.

“Don’t worry, I’m staying the holy hell away from Amaranth, and Mackenzie,” Barley said. “Which is easy enough since they’re still sticking together. And they’ve led a whole enclave of Harlowe ex-pats to Gilcrease Tower, so I’ve pretty much marked that area off-limits. And I’m staying away from Puddy… not so much because I’m afraid of what she’ll do or what I’ll do, but because I just literally cannot see any good coming out of that.”

“I suppose it would be hard to avoid them if you didn’t know where they were?”

“Yeah, as excuses go, it’s a good one, but I didn’t even need it… it’s a hot topic around Harlowe. I couldn’t have avoided learning it. As far as I can tell, Sara and Tara are just gone,” Barley said. “I heard they were enrolled, and even showed up, but they’ve just vanished. Not surprising. They seemed to think college was just an endless extension of their senior year of high school. Celia’s gone kind of hardcore super serious scholar… which is more surprising, but I guess after two semesters of failing grades it was either that or drop out. I mean, she’s still got the same abrasive, who-gives-a-fuck attitude, but she’s burying her lack of nose in her books instead of potion bottles. I haven’t seen Trina, but I noticed she’s writing for the Gazetteer… which I guess is kind of on the nose for a gossipy busybody, but she’s a triclops named Trina so what do you expect? Steff and Viktor seem to be on the outs, though I wasn’t trying to find that out, and she seems to be keeping that from her friends for some reason.”

“If I can make a personal observation?” Teddi said.

“That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?”

“You seem to be… more free with your judgments… than you were before,” Teddi said. “Weren’t you trying to be more forgiving?”

“Forgiveness doesn’t mean being blind to faults, and anyway, maybe that’s what a summer living with Marlot does,” Barley said. “Or maybe being honest with myself means being honest about everything. Amaranth is the one who thinks that loving everyone means you have to like everyone, and even she’s… never mind.”

“Barley, I’m not your parole officer,” Teddi said. “Or your mother. I agreed with you that it would be good for you to avoid her, but that was your idea and you won’t get in trouble with me or anyone else if you checked up on her, or checked in with her.”

“I haven’t,” Barley said. “It’s just… neither has she. Checked in with me. Which makes me feel like I’m the one person in the world she doesn’t like. Which bothers me more than I thought it would. I mean, she’s the one who always made such a big deal out of the whole sisterly love thing. She’s the one who always went around nipping at my heels like a damned puppy. She’s the one who followed me out here. I had lots of reasons for coming out here in the first place, but I’d been looking forward to getting away from her. I wasn’t supposed to miss her.”

“It’s hard to know what you’ll miss before it’s gone,” Teddi said. “But… just because you miss something doesn’t mean you’d be glad to have it back.”

“I know,” Barley said. “And I don’t think I’d be happy to go back to the way things were. I think what I want is something new, and I’m not sure it’s possible. I don’t know if either one of us has it in us, and I don’t know if she’d want to.”

“What do you want, Barley?”

“I want… I don’t know what I want, exactly. Just that it’s different than what I had before, and not likely to happen.”

“Well,” Teddi said. “That gives us a place to start…”

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25 Responses to “OT: The Healing Process”

  1. N. says:

    As far as satisfaction goes, this OT is definitely more appetizer than dessert. Wonder how long the wait will be to confirm what Barley wants.

    Current score: 2
  2. clodia says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m so proud of Barley! She’s come so far, and has such a better idea of what’s going on in her head. She still has growing up, but who doesn’t? Good for her!

    Current score: 2
  3. anonatwit says:

    “It’s hard to know what you’ll miss before it’s gone,” Teddi said. “But… just because you miss something doesn’t mean you’d be glad to have it back.”

    Unbelievable true.

    Current score: 1
  4. pedestrian says:

    Fascinating Alexandra, the OT’s and the Epistolaries have, in my opinion, displayed the mature skill of your recent writing. I really admire all that you have accomplished in fleshing out the TOMU characters.

    And, uhmm…if Barley continue to mature, perhaps you should consider changing her name to Kykeon? Of course you would have to engage her in a relationship with someone named Pennyroyal. A Feminist Arcane Medicines Alchemist, naturally.

    Then again, you may prefer to leave it a Mystery?

    Current score: 0
    • Gydd says:

      Kore blimey! That was awful 😛

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:


        perhaps i should change my user name to “Cretan Lyre”?

        Current score: 0
  5. Zathras IX says:

    Just because you miss
    Something doesn’t mean you’d be
    Glad to have it back

    Current score: 0
  6. Maahes0 says:

    Seeing Barley’s growth, and Mack’s growth, I’d have to believe they could possibly get along well enough to have a civil conversation by junior year.
    …..If either of them ever got the desire to start one with the other.

    Current score: 0
  7. zeel says:

    Nice to find out more about what happened to the other Harlowe girls.

    Current score: 0
  8. Cadnawes says:

    I am so happy to know all of this. Except for Sara and Tara. While I dislike them immensely, it’s hard to see myself doing any better in their position.

    I’ve been suspecting for a long time now that something was up with Steff and Viktor. There was that time she was kind of dodging him and, it’s kind of hard to explain but you know how you can know something with like a raindrop of information?

    Of course that could also be wishful thinking on my part, but something a lot of college students don’t get is when you’re with someone for the looong haul- you’re also with their family. And in this case, that’s a chilling thought.

    Current score: 0
    • Blargrarg says:

      chilling for which one? Victor gets….elves. elves are scary

      Current score: 0
      • Cadnawes says:

        I thought of that, but part of me really wants Viktor and Steff’s dad to be in the same room for half an hour. >:P

        Current score: 0
  9. Yumi says:

    This is exactly the kind of information I was hoping for!
    With so many characters, it’s too hard to follow everyone, but it’s nice to know how folks from last year are doing.

    Current score: 0
  10. Sapphite says:

    When I got through the first paragraph and realized it was about Barley, I got the biggest grin on my face. I had no idea I would care at all what happened to her.

    There was about two paragraphs in the middle/end that were “oh, exposition about other characters”, but the rest was a delicious flow of story.

    Current score: 0
  11. Mike says:

    I really liked this one. Hearing about everyone was great. I miss Celia, she was one of my favorite second string characters. And Barley talking about Marlowe reminded me how much I’ve missed More MU.

    Current score: 1
  12. pedestrian says:

    Recently on BBC News online there was an article about a pair of young women, twins born with their bodies combined. Here was an example of the natural intricacy of biological functions as randomized by genetic malfunctions.

    These young women seem to be dealing with their situation, with a lot more grace and common sense then Sara & Tara.

    Current score: 0
    • SilentSooYun says:

      Sara and Tara were not born that way, though. I suppose it would be different to suddenly lose any freedom or privacy you once had than to never have had any to begin with.

      Personally, I’m of the opinion that Embries may have made an executive decision.

      Current score: 0
      • Potatohead says:

        To have them leave school, or to have an entree with a side dish?

        Current score: 0
      • Nocker says:

        They’re a couple of random students who have no authority over anything or significant danger. Outside of that one detail they’re no different from the rest of the human masses and their attitude problem was basically the same as half your average freshman body.

        I sincerely hope they wind up somehow get untangled. Mainly because figuring out what happens from there would be rather interesting.

        Current score: 0
  13. Peter Granzeau says:

    You may not have notice that you left a ” mark off of your link to here in Live Journal. I had to cut and paste the address to find it.

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      I wondered what was going on with the link. I had to do the same thing.

      Current score: 0
  14. I always love the Teddi Lundegard stories. I can always feel how she balances kindness, truth, and holding her clients responsible.

    Current score: 0
  15. Seajewel says:

    Still want to hear about Feejee!

    Current score: 0
  16. Becky says:

    “It’s hard to know what you’ll miss before it’s gone,” Teddi said. “But… just because you miss something doesn’t mean you’d be glad to have it back.”

    This, right now, sums up my life. My husband moved out, and while I miss the (rather unequal) partnership, and there are days I miss being able to say “I’ve been married for almost 14 years,” I don’t want him back, and I don’t know that I ever will.

    Current score: 0