Jo thought, "This is it. This is the breakthrough," even as she mentally acknowledged the panic in Tracy's eyes. Jo had seen this look before in other clients, and she knew she'd better act and act quickly.
"Tracy, wait. Let's talk about this," and then, too late as Tracy rushed out of the room, leaving a trail of loose Marlboro cigarettes in her wake, "We'll get through this, together," Jo spoke softly, to an empty room.
Jo sighed and opened her dayplanner, feeling that she had let Tracy down in some way. Tracy wasn't scheduled again until the following Tuesday, and Jo couldn't know whether she would return or not. Jo rose from her leather desk chair and stooped to pick up the scattered cigarettes. She hoped that Tracy wouldn't mention them when she returned, if she returned. Ethically Jo couldn't return cigarettes to a thirteen year old, but that certainly wouldn't win her any points with Tracy. Jo sat against the bookshelf stacked full with counseling resources and eyed the small stack of cigarettes in her hand. Hesitantly, she put one between her fingers, and brought it up to her lips and slowly inhaled. The soft sucking intake of air soothed. She hadn't smoked since grad school, and Jo still missed the ritual. She exhaled pretend smoke gently and closed her eyes. She hoped that Tracy would be alright on her own. Did she go back to school? Or was she off running the streets somewhere? It was going to be long, suspenseful wait until next Tuesday. Opening her eyes and looking down at the cigarettes, she blushed, and stood quickly. "Ugh, what am I doing?" she thought. She lifted some papers from the trash and stuffed the cigarettes underneath, where they wouldn't be seen by nosy eyes.
Jo made a few notes in Tracy's chart before going out to greet her next client, mostly to make sure the flushing in her cheeks had subsided. Looking over her notes from the past few weeks, she recalled a conversation she'd had with Tracy a couple of weeks ago, when Tracy had opened the solid oak doors to her soul for just a few seconds.
"I don't know why MY mom has to be so screwed up. I mean seriously, who runs off with a band and leaves her only daughter behind? A folk band? That's so....sixties or something," Tracy said, pausing to bite a fingernail. She had inked designs over every knuckle and up her wrists in black. In some odd way, Jo found the designs elegant yet primal.
"Tracy, when is the last time you saw your Mom?" Jo asked.
Tracy didn't answer for a moment. When she finally responded, Jo could hear the fatigue and sadness in her voice,"Last summer. The band was playing at Orangutan's and I thought - well - I don't know what I thought. I was stupid. I don't know why I thought that I'd turn 13 and things might be different."
Jo reassured, "I'm sure you weren't stupid. We've talked about how you can't control other people's actions. Only your own."
Tracy continued, "Oh, I was stupid alright. Tom still doesn't know I went. He might've tried to stop me if he'd known. And of course it was awful. Right away she comes up and for a second acts all friendly, giving me hugs and stuff. But then seconds later she's all freaking out and on my case, calling me whore and...I....I don't think I want to talk about this anymore."
Jo gently said, "We don't have to talk about this if you don't feel safe"
Tracy sighed. She shifted her bony frame in the brown chair and then in a small voice said, "Sometimes I wish I could just be a kid. I wish I didn't have to grow up so fast. I feel like a forty year old in a thirteen year old's body. I hate it. I hate it I hate it I hate it."
Jo groaned inwardly at the memory as the light ding of the timer alerted her that she had ten minutes to her next appointment. Tracy was such a fragile kid with absolutely no support system. She lived with her grandfather, Tom, and he was failing in health and had no clue what to do with the hormonal adolescent in his home. Jo knew she needed to staff the case with her partner and mentor, Andy, during lunch, but for now her next case was calling and she couldn't afford any further distraction.
Jo quickly pulled the file for Grizzly Brunk. What kind of name was Grizzly Brunk anyway? He was a new client, but Jo couldn't help picturing Mr. Edwards from Little House on the Prairie. Jo smiled to herself. Surely not, as Grizzly was only fifteen years old. Jo no longer accepted adult clients, preferring to specialize in adolescents. She felt that this was the area where she could make the most difference, where she could offer help before it was too late.
Scanning through the file, Jo noted that Grizzly was a referral from the courts for grand theft auto, and that he'd had a psychological assessment by Riverton Psychiatric prior to his court disposition. Most notable on the assessment were his IQ (which was 68, falling just under 70 - the cutoff for mental retardation) and his diagnosis of conduct disorder. In Jo's opinion, the conduct disorder diagnosis was a catchall for teens that acted out in any way, but she'd form her own assessment after meeting with Grizzly and his mother. Tracy flashed across Jo's mind briefly, calling her, but Jo forced herself to professionally push the thought aside and rose to go greet her new client.