Chloe silently stared out the window, as her father drove her home from school yet again that week.
I’m seventeen, I don’t need a chauffeur, she rolled her eyes at the thought.
After the forced questions about how her day had been, her dad had fallen quiet. Not that Chloe really minded. Truthfully, she didn’t have the energy to talk to her father, or anyone else from her family, really. All of the normal conversations, ignoring the elephant in the room, just made her feel worst.
Waiting for the pin to drop, she thought miserably.
And that was exactly right, because ever since she had gone to Dana’s party last weekend, it had felt like she was walking on egg shells. Shitty high school drama shaped egg shells.
Her best friend wouldn’t answer her calls, her boyfriend had publicly dumped her and her dad could hardly look her in the eye. Talk about being a social pariah.
I should never have even gone, Chloe mentally sighed. I mean what was I thinking?
And to make matters worst her father had definitely seen the video. That is If the hushed conversations over the phone and worried glances he sent her way when he thought she wasn’t looking were anything to go off of.
On cue, his eyes flickered to the rearview mirror, taking in her position in the back seat. Their eyes met and he quickly averted his gaze for what must have been the tenth time that drive.
Yup, she sighed, he’s definitely seen it.
I mean half the school has by now, she reasoned, It only had to be a matter of time before it got back to him.
Maybe if she just talked to him about it, explained that the whole thing was a mistake, then he would understand.
Yeah that could work, or…
Or maybe it would completely backfire on her.
If anything it might give her another reason to put off doing the essay she had been set by her sorry excuse of an English teacher. Two pages analysing Dorian Gray’s tragic flaw and it’s due tomorrow, she groaned. At least my maths homework is done.
She frowned, when she focused again and realised they were home. And that there was another familiar car in her driveway. “Is Auntie Sue here?” She asked her father.
“Yes,” Her Dad nodded as he parked and turned the car off. “We all need to talk.”
Her stomach dropped and worst case scenarios began to run through her head. “Look.” Chloe unclipped her seatbelt, crossing her arms defensively. “Whatever you thought you saw-”
“You’re not in trouble, Chloe,” Her father gave her a strained smile. “We’ll talk inside.”
She was still consumed by dread as she got out of the car, shouldering her backpack. Her father opened the door to their house and she hesitated before walking in behind him.
Her aunt was sitting at the table, talking to her older brother who was supposed to be at college. They stopped, when Chloe and her father came around the corner, into the kitchen. “Chlo.” her brother greeted tensely. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay,” She responded quietly, biting her lip as she took in the serious faces around her. “Hi, Auntie Sue.”
“Hello Chloe.” Her Aunt smiled. “Long time no see.”
“You could say that.” Chloe muttered, as she set her backpack down.
“Well,” Her Aunt leaned forward in her seat. “I guess you know why I’m here.”
Chloe shrugged. “I’d say just visiting, but given the fact that we haven’t seen you in over a year, that’s probably unrealistic.”
“Chloe.” Her dad said sternly. “That is no way to speak to your aunt.”
“No, it’s okay.” The other woman assured him. “I will admit, I haven’t been here for any of you and for that I’m truly sorry.” She paused. “But I’m here now, and I just want to make amends.” Another pause. “That's actually why I suggested the retreat.”
“Retreat?” Chloe looked at her aunt in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
Her brother looked up at her dad. “Do you want to tell her?”
He nodded. “If anyone does, it should be me. Chloe…” her father hesitated, as he gathered his thoughts. “We’re pulling you out of school,” he finally said.
Chloe blinked. “You’re…wait, what?!” She exclaimed. “You can’t…you…why?”
“You know why.” Her father sighed, running a hand down his face. “I already explained the situation to your principle and he agreed that it would be beneficial for you to have some time off.”
Her aunt leant forward in her seat. “Chloe, you have to understand. When your father called and told me what happened, I knew we had to do something.”
Chloe opened and closed her mouth before she finally managed to find her voice again, getting more frantic as she spoke. “But I have exams at the end of the year. You can’t just take me out! How l am I supposed to graduate?”
The adults all looked at each other, their faces remaining grave.
“You’ll graduate next year.” Her brother said firmly.
Chloe scoffed. “I am not resitting my senior year, whilst my friends go off to college.”
“I’m sorry, but It’s already decided.” Her father sighed. “We’re sending you to an all girls retreat this weekend.”
Chloe couldn’t make words as she stared at her father. Her stomach felt like it had taken a leap onto the floor.
“You’re really sending me away.” She finally got out.
Her Aunt frowned, “It’s not like that. We really believe this will help you.”
Chloe swallowed thickly, failing to keep her voice steady as she looked to her big brother. “Sam, they’re kidding right? Tell me they’re kidding.”
He shook his head. “The camp is designed to help young girls like you. Everyone is in the same position, so it’s not like you’ll-”
Sam stopped mid-sentence. “What?”
“How long will I be gone?” Chloe repeated, louder than before.
Her father released a deep breath. “The rest of the year.”
“But…that’s four months away.” Her voice trailed off, eyes going wide.
“Chloe I know it seems like a long time, but I promise it'll be worth it.” Her Aunt frowned sympathetically. “We were all so worried after we saw that awful video.”
Sometimes I really hate being right. “You…you’ve seen it?”
“Yes,” Her father sighed. “I knew you were having a rough time, but this…god Chloe. I don’t know what to say to you.”
Her Aunt frowned. “Why didn’t you tell us what happened?”
“Because I knew how you’d react!” Chloe protested adamantly. “I mean come on! You’re actually sending me away!?”
“To help you!” Her Aunt retorted. “What we saw on that video was painful to watch, Chloe! I don’t understand why you’re pretending to be okay. Why can’t you admit you have a problem?”
“Because I don’t!” Chloe objected, raising her voice again. “You guys are clearly the ones with the problem, not me! I'm fine.”
“Enough!” Her Aunt snapped shrilly. “That sort of attitude will not be tolerated in this household. We clearly shouldn’t have waited this long before getting you the help you need.”
“I don’t need your help!” She protested, sounding exasperated. “What part of ‘I’m fine’ don’t you understand?!”
“Chloe, you’re in denial.” Her brother said forcefully.
“No buts,” Her father held up his hand. “The decision is final.”
“But this is bullshit.” Chloe seethed, raising her voice. “This is all bullshit!”
“Chloe, calm down,” her father said sternly. He used the tone he reserved for when her and her little sister had done something wrong. Chloe drew back, not wanting to upset him further. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“Everything is okay! There’s nothing wrong with me, I…” Her words failed her. “I’m fine.”
“Sweetie, you’re sick. The people at the retreat will help you get better.”
“Besides, It’s already done.” Her Aunt cut in. “We’ve paid for it and arranged the travel arrangements.” She held up a pamphlet, “Take a look at this, it has everything you need to know.”
Chloe noticed the raised paper, saw her aunt’s fingers grasping it tightly, but her mind was racing too fast to fully comprehend what she was reading. “No,” She said louder than intended. “You can’t send me there.”
“It’s too late.” Her father crossed his arms. “Now, take a deep breath and collect yourself. This is not becoming of a Beale.”
Chloe did what he said, and took a deep breath, but it didn’t help. “You can’t, you can’t-” she gulped. “No. No, you’re kidding. I’ve never even left Portland.”
“Sweetie, you’re leaving this Saturday,” her father assured her. “We’ll help you pack your stuff, but after that you’re taking a flight to Marfa, where a bus will take you straight to the-”
“Wait, WHAT?!” Chloe gasped. “Marfa? That’s…that’s in Texas! No, no way, I won’t go, I won’t-”
“Chloe!” Her brother barked as he stood.
She clamped her mouth shut, taking a step backwards. It was never a good thing when her brother raised his voice.
“That’s enough,” He said. “I know this is hard on you, but believe it or not, we’re trying to help you. Do you think mum wanted this for you?”
“Samuel,” Their dad warned.
“No,” He said steadily. “Let me speak.” This time their father stayed quiet. “Mum loved you so much. Do you really think she would want you to carry on like this?”
“Like what?!” Chloe exclaimed suddenly. “I’m-”
“You’re not fine, Chlo! You’re really fucking not! That is why we are sending you to the retreat and there will be no further arguments.” He fixed her with a hard stare. “Am I clear?”
Chloe turned her gaze away from him, pointedly glaring at the floor. Which meant that she didn’t see it coming. All she heard was the scraping of a chair, quickly followed by the feeling of hands grasping her collar.
Her head snapped upwards, meeting her brother’s intense glare. His usually bright blue eyes were several shades darker.
“Do I make myself clear?!” He yelled as he shook her roughly.
“I…” The words got stuck in her throat.
“ANSWER ME!” His voice easily cut through the silence that had fallen across the room. “I SAID DO I-”
“Yes!” Chloe cried, cowering from his grasp. “I’m sorry, I’ll go! I’ll go to the camp!”
Only then did her father intervene. “Samuel! You’ve made your point.” He said harshly, pushing his son off of his daughter before stepping between them. “Chloe doesn’t need this right now. Take a walk.”
Sam fumed quietly before gritting out, “Fine,” and stalking out of the kitchen to leave the house. Chloe flinched as the door slammed closed behind him.
Once Sam was out of the house, her father turned to face her, his eyebrows knotting together, “Sweetie, are you okay?”
Chloe didn’t respond. Just stared unblinkingly ahead. Without even realising it, her hand had reached up to the pendant around her neck and was now clasping it tightly.
“Very well then.” Her father sighed. “You need to start packing your things and preparing for your move. Do you understand?”
This time she nodded meekly.
“Everything will be fine sweetheart.” Her father smiled at her. “The people there are very nice and I’m sure you’ll make some great friends.”
Her aunt finally got up from where she had been sitting silently and gently placed a hand on her nieces shoulder. “Why don’t we go upstairs to your room. I’ll help you pack.”
Nodding mutely she turned to leave, but before she could, her dad spoke up again. “Chloe?” She turned back around, looking at his outstretched hand with a questioning glance, “Your phone.”
“You’ll get it back as soon as you’re better.”
Right. As soon as I’m better.
She was about to argue further, but thought better of it. Sighing, she handed over her last form of communication to the outside world.