N echi sat across from Suri, hands resting on the small therapy table. Dini sat next to her mother, hunched inside her hooded sweatshirt, staring at a spot on the wall to the right of Suri’s head.

“I was angry, I’ll admit,” Nechi was saying. “I mean, a psychiatrist, to treat a simple social issue! My husband—” She stopped, gave a slight grimace. “Well, you don’t want to know what my husband said….” She paused for a moment, as if to allow time for Suri’s imagination to conjure up the worst.

“But,” she continued, “we decided to give you another chance. Dini enjoys coming—” She glanced over at her daughter, who squirmed slightly. “And, well…” her voice softened, “at this point, you’re our only hope.”

Suri felt a tiny prick of pity at those words — but it barely registered in the surge of other emotions. She didn’t get insulted easily, but for a mother to sit across from her and say to her face that she considered her advice incompetent, but they’d deign to give her another chance!

She was tempted to show her the door, to tell her she didn’t need her favors, but she resisted. First, because Aviva’s voice screamed loudly in her head not to offend such an influential client. And second, because Dini’s face hovered miserably before her, and she knew, even if the parents refused to admit it, that this was a girl in serious pain.

So she pasted on a smile and said, “I’m glad you came back.”

Nechi was still planted firmly in her seat. Suri raised an eyebrow at her. “Uh, shall we get started?” she hinted.

“Oh, yes, of course.” Nechi looked flustered as she stood up and hesitantly stepped outside. Suri took a breath and conjured up another bright smile.

“So,” she said, turning to Dini. “How’ve you been?”

Dini finally shifted her eyes onto Suri’s face. “Awful,” she said. “You don’t know what it’s been like these last two weeks. All because of what you said.”

Suri swallowed. How much criticism could she take in one morning? “I’m sorry,” she murmured.

“They’ve been fighting something not normal,” Dini continued. “Mommy saying that maybe it can’t hurt to go see a doctor, and Tatty screaming that no daughter of his is gonna visit a shrink.”

Suri nodded, not really knowing what to say. She felt like she was at one of her senior social groups, having all the ladies’ life problems thrown at her, as if she were supposed to have the answers.

“I’m sorry I put you in such a difficult situation,” she said again. “It must be tough, knowing they’re fighting about you.”

Dini shrugged. “Oh, they’ve been fighting about me for a long time now. Ever since I started all my, you know, crazies.”

Suri blinked. All the weeks she’d been treating Dini, their conversations had been safe and polite, sticking to neutral topics and never, ever alluding to the elephant in the room — even when that elephant was sitting across from her with pink hair and a nose ring. And now, suddenly, Suri’s one misjudged recommendation seemed to have moved their relationship to a completely different place.