C onversation swirls around her. She wonders how it is that no one else seems to be bothered by the too-bright lights, and music that’s so loud that she feels the beat vibrate inside her. There are people everywhere, swarming around her, talking, always talking, smiling and laughing.

She’s going to suffocate; she can feel it creeping up on her. She senses the panic, the need to escape, only there’s nowhere to go. There is no way she can just up and leave. It’ll be a statement, cause drama, and drama is the last thing she needs right now.

So she allows her mind to do what it does at times like these. She lets go. She stares at an undefined point in the distance and slowly feels herself floating away from the sounds, the lights, and the choking mass of humanity.

Alas, it is not meant to be. Sury takes the seat next to her. Good old Sury, with her ever-present smile and chatter. No doubt she has enough friends and admirers to keep her busy tonight. Sury isn’t sitting beside her for the company. Sury feels bad that poor Rina is sitting all by herself. She will ask Rina how she is doing, how the kids are, tell her she looks amaaaazing, and then waltz away, having done her good deed for the day. How thoughtful.

Later, in the darkness of her bedroom, she thinks about her therapist’s words from two days before. Inner child work, she called it. She needs to get in touch with her inner child. Rina pictures her for a moment, the little girl she once was, big brown eyes, straight dark hair always perfectly tied back, always clean and pretty — and so sad. She tries to talk to the little girl, but in her mind all she sees is a locked door. She can’t get in. Her own inner child is locking her out. How insane is that, that even her own subconscious doesn’t deem her worthy of conversation?

Morning comes too soon. Lunches need to be packed. Faces need wiping. Clothes need to meet the approval of finicky toddler tastes, and it’s her turn to do car pool. All of this hits her even before she opens her eyes. The softness of her comforter beckons, but she knows from past experience that the mad rush isn’t worth those extra few moments.

As soon as she’s out of bed, the kids accost her with requests. She can barely process them through the cobwebs of sleep still clogging her mind. Silence, she needs silence, for five seconds. And coffee, of course, though she won’t get to drink it calmly, or even all in one shot. But without the coffee, the cobwebs will stay, and she will scream at the kids. She absolutely will not risk screaming at the kids. It doesn’t matter how much she wants to be anywhere but here right now. Her kids will not, cannot, know that. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 575)