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                                               A Friend in Need
                                                                               M.W. Leeming
Mummy’s an alcoholic. That’s what Emma says. And I think she’s right.
        She also knows that Mummy’s friend Graham isn’t very nice, just like I know. People think he’s nice, but he isn’t. Graham is a dentist, and he pulls people’s teeth out. But that’s not why he isn’t nice. It’s because he says horrible things.
        Daddy calls Graham a B-word. And I know that Daddy still cries. We hear him sometimes, late at night when we can’t sleep. It makes me sad when he cries but Emma says I shouldn’t worry. He’s crying because of the Bad Thing that Mummy did and it means that he loves me.
        I’m not really sure when Mummy met Graham but I think they had been to a fair, so she went to live with him. I used to like the fair, but I don’t think I want to go there anymore if it means I have to live with Mummy and Graham. It made Daddy sad for a while, but not as sad as the Bad Thing. That makes him the most saddest of all.
        The phone rang last night, and it was Mummy. We heard
Daddy shouting at her. Emma was listening in the doorway and
she said that when Daddy started shouting at Mummy he called
her the name that rhymes with Witch. She also said that Daddy
told Mummy we’d see her in Court, and not to bring Graham
because if she brought Graham he would be the one to give
Graham some dental work. Emma says it meant punching him.
And I didn’t like to hear that. Not because I like Graham, but
because I don’t want Daddy to get in trouble with the police
and go to jail.
        Emma says the Court is where Mummies and Daddies have
to go and talk to a Judge and tell them about Bad Things like
what happened to me. The Judge tells the Mummies and Daddies
where the children, like me, have to live. Emma wants us to stay
with Daddy. I do, too, but I’m too scared to talk about it with anyone except Emma because everyone is always shouting and crying and I don’t want to make everyone shout and cry anymore.
        The last time Mummy and Daddy went to Court, the Judge told Mummy that she can’t see me for a while. Not until after I’ve been to see the Special Doctor. Mummy keeps asking to see me and take me to her house again, and Daddy says she lives in an effing dream-world if she thinks that’s going to happen. Emma says that it’s because of the Bad Thing and that speaking to the Special Doctor in a few days is very important.
        Daddy says the Special Doctor will be nice, and that she’ll ask me some questions and then she’ll talk to the Judge as well.
                                                                                                    * * *
        The Special Doctor is called Andrea. She’s special because she is a Sy-Ky-A-Trist. I don’t really know what that means, but she does seem nice like Daddy said. She’s sitting opposite me in a squishy-looking chair and there is a box of tissues on a little table in between us.
        “Okay, Amy,” she says. “Think back to the accident. I know it’s hard, but I would like you to tell me how you felt when you were in the car with your Mum.”
        That’s easy.
        “Scared,” I say.
        “Alright,” says Andrea. “Why scared?”
        “She was shouting at me about Daddy.”
        “Anything else?” she says. She’s writing everything down in a notebook.
        I nod my head. “I felt bad.”
        “What do you mean by ‘bad’?”
        I think of another way to say it. “Like I’d done something wrong.”
        “Okay,” she says. “What was it you felt you’d done wrong, Amy?”
        I can feel my eyes going all prickly now like they’re going to cry. I don’t
want to cry again, though.
        “Because I was talking about Daddy. She was shouting at me that she
didn’t want to hear about Daddy anymore because she was with Graham
now and Daddy was just a lot of bad words. She was really angry and her
breath smelled funny and she was looking at me instead of the road.”
        “And is that when the accident happened?”
        I nod yes.
        “How do you feel about that?” says Andrea.
        I look down and think about all the things I can’t do anymore and it
makes me sad and now there are tears coming out.
        “I miss my legs,” I say.
        Andrea nods her head. She looks at my wheelchair and pulls a tissue
from the box and gives it to me to wipe my eyes.
        “Tell me about Emma,” she says.
        “Emma is my friend.”
        “Does Emma help? Does she make you feel better when you’re sad
or confused?”
        “That’s right,” I say.
        I don’t talk about Emma normally. I don’t like people knowing about her. But Andrea is nice and I don’t think she’ll laugh at me like most people do.
        “Anything else?” Andrea says.
        “She says I should stick up for myself.”
        “Against who?”
        I shrug.
        “Against who, Amy?”
        “Graham,” I say. “He doesn’t like me and he calls me names and says that Emma isn’t real. Emma doesn’t like Graham.”
“Okay. So how do you feel about Graham?”
        I shrug.
                                                                                                    * * *
        Daddy is in the waiting room. I smile at him as Andrea pushes me forward and Daddy smiles back at me.
        “Alright, little one?”
        “I’m fine, Daddy. And I’m not little anymore. I’m seven.”
        “Very true,” he says, and grabs the wheelchair handles to push me over to the table where I can see some books.
        “I’ll be back in a minute,” he says, then goes over to Andrea. I flick through a book as Emma listens to what they’re saying. Andrea says she thinks there’s a bit of work to be done, but she is happy to help. Daddy is nodding and smiling and saying thank you. I reckon she’ll probably want to talk about Emma again. My best ever friend.
        And that’s okay. I’m okay with that now.
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