15 - My scars run deeper than your scars.

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Now.

"How have you been, Sadie? How's Madden?" asked Karen a fortnight later as we sat down to our next session. Her frizzy white hair was standing up at odd angles from her head, having just stepped outside into the wind to get her phone out of her car in the parking lot. It made me think that if Madden was here, there would be no way he wouldn't be laughing at her right now. He had no filter like that.

"Yeah, I've been alright and he's beautiful, as always. He actually wanted me to say hello to you, and to thank you for helping me get better," I said, recalling our conversation this morning when I dropped him off at school. I honestly wasn't really feeling any different compared to when I first started seeing her, but he was apparently noticing a difference. 'It's not a big difference, Sade. It's just a baby one. I can't describe it though, so please don't ask me to. But I will tell you when I understand it better myself.'

I explained that conversation to Karen when she enquired more into what he had said, and she replied once she was able to stop giggling. "My, he really is something, isn't he?"

"He is. I'm not looking forward to adolescence with his smarts and quick wit. I assume it will be my ultimate demise."

Karen laughed freely, more like a person than a counsellor. It was nice to see because she was usually very professional and reserved in most of her interactions with me. "While I want to disagree with you, believing that you've been through enough in life to be able to withstand anything else life throws at you, he does seem to possess a lot of qualities that might make his adolescence challenging for you. But don't worry too much, Sadie. If he's anything like you — which I'm beginning to imagine he is — you really have nothing to worry about. Trust me."

Get a grip, Sadie. You haven't even made it through the usual pleasantries. You can't cry yet. There's still fifty-seven minutes to go. 

I thanked Karen for her praise and approval of my parenting of Madden and his striking similarities to myself, trying to glaze over the topic as soon as I could to keep the tears from flowing. She knew what I was doing when I asked her about how her work has been since I saw her, but she went along with it and returned my question to me after she answered herself.

"Work's been as stressful as always. You know how it is. Quite a few kids who aren't going so well at the moment. A lot of self-harming actually, which has been a little harder to manage recently considering everything I've started talking about in here with you. Similar wounds being reopened from my own past, I guess . . ." I said.

"Your own wounds, or that of others?" she asked carefully.

"Both, I guess. And the general distress of seeing others so deeply unhappy."

"Tell me a little more about that."


Then.

Things with Ruben were good following that eventful week. We both had a small amount of time off over the Christmas and New Year's period while our bosses were both away holidaying with their families. It meant we were able to spend a few full days together, which was nice. We went down to the beach a couple of those days, once with the kids and once with Tanner and Morgan before they headed off to go camping up near the New South Wales border with Tanner's family. We escaped the heat with the kids by going to the movies, watching some awful animated film Hadley wanted to see and Ruben couldn't say no to when she batted her eyelashes at him skillfully, but it was just nice to be out of the house.

My stepfather hated the heat, and so was usually more agitated than usual during those especially hot weeks over Christmas and New Year's. With the extra heat came extra beer, so he was even more a raging dickhead than usual. In those moments, he would demand to know why I wasn't working, highlighting that I hadn't worked in a week and that I needed to contribute to the house instead of just lazing around. He never remembered the next day that I explained that my work was closed over the holiday period, and so we had the very same conversation the next day, and the day after that, and on further until I finally went back to work and he had enough evidence in front of him to shut the hell up.

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