It was the middle of Spring, and William sat in the backseat of his parents’ Buick Rendezvous gazing out over the lush green meadows and fields of colorful flowers as they passed by.
The sky was baby blue with a few hints of white from the wisps of clouds that hovered gracefully above. The sun shined brightly through the tinted glass of the SUV causing William to shade his eyes. It was a perfect day to begin their weekend getaway.
They were only ten minutes from their cabin in the woods, and William shook with anticipation. He loved spending time at the cabin, especially when they went on hikes through the dense forest that surrounded it. Being in nature always made him feel at peace.
As they rounded a sharp bend, William heard his mother scream. When he turned his head to look out through the windshield, he could see a logging truck overturning in front of them. William’s father quickly turned the steering wheel to the right, trying to swerve out of the way.
The next thing that William remembered, was the impact of a forty-foot log crashing against the drivers’ side of the vehicle, and the Rendezvous rolling sideways several times end-over-end before coming to a stop.
William’s ears were ringing, and he felt something warm and wet dripping down his forehead. His eyes began to sting, so he wiped them with the backs of his hands. Looking down, he saw blood.
Panicked, he called out to his mother and father, but heard no reply. The vehicle laid upon its side, and William could see his mother’s lifeless body dangling over his father. He tried desperately to wake them, but they remained silent.
A noise startled William as the vehicle’s door swung open from above him and a pair of arms reached down inside. William saw only a silhouette with the backdrop of the sun above. He felt himself being pulled through the door and kicked his feet in protest, demanding to be let go, but the person was too strong.
The man carried William quickly across the field. As they ran, William looked toward the ground at the purple and pink flowers that covered the ground. He remembered picking some like that for his mother on Mother’s Day last year.
Without warning, there was a terrible explosion. As he looked up, William witnessed the Rendezvous burst into flames, engulfing the unmoving bodies of his parents still trapped inside. He screamed out in terror as the stranger who held him, tried to comfort him.
Nearly twenty minutes had passed before emergency crews had arrived. By then, the SUV had been completely burned down to the chassis, and the smell of burning flesh and smoke filled the air.
Paramedics treated William while firefighters tried to put out the remainder of the fire. A female police officer sat with William and asked him some questions about what had happened.
Through tearful eyes, he gave the officer his recollection of the accident. The police officer told him that the driver of the truck saved him, but William could only think of his parents and didn’t respond.
In the days and weeks to follow, William had his lacerations stitched up, underwent psychological evaluations, and spent a lot of time alone in a hospital bed until they could locate the next of kin.
Upon release to his aunt and uncle, it was recommended that he continue with his psychological assessments regularly. They began to walk out the door of the hospital, and William felt a tightness in his chest and ran back inside.
He had trouble breathing when a doctor came by checked him over then spoke to his aunt and uncle privately. William sat with a nurse and tried to overhear what was being said, but they were too far away.
His uncle left for a few minutes before returning. They attempted to leave once more, and his uncle offered William sunglasses to wear when they walked outside so it wouldn’t seem so bright. That seemed to help a little.
The car was parked at the curb, and as his aunt opened the back door, William began to panic once again. He refused to leave. The doctor offered to give him a sedative to help calm his nerves for the drive home.
When they arrived back at the house, his uncle carried him inside while his aunt walked ahead to unlock the door. He was laid upon the couch in the living room and the television was turned on for him to watch.
Still in a stupor from the sedative, William had a hard time comprehending what it was he was watching or where he was. He began to call out for his mom. When his aunt came to his side, William wrapped his arms tightly around her neck and began to cry.
After a few days of being stuck inside, William’s uncle asked if he would be interested in tossing the ball around in the backyard, but William refused. He was becoming recluse and refused to leave the house.
The day of his next psychologist appointment arrived, and they were unable to convince William to leave the house. It had been three months since the accident, and his uncle decided to look into alternatives.
With the new school season fast approaching, they needed to find a way to help William so he could continue his education, and his life. His uncle was successful in locating a child psychologist that was willing to make house calls.
Dr. Olivia Quentin had been practicing for nearly twenty years and was happy to speak with William. They met for the first time in July. When she arrived, Dr. Quentin insisted that they bring William in to meet her after she was sitting. She found it to be less intimidating for children to be at the same height.
Dr. Quentin was in her mid-forties, tall and slender, and wore dark-rimmed glasses. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail with hints of grey poking through on the sides. She wore a cream-colored mulberry silk blouse and a long flowy brown skirt with a gathered waistline.
William was led into the living room to meet her and she remained seated, but held out her hand to welcome him.
“Please, have a seat across from me, William,” she suggested.
After introductions, Dr. Quentin asked if she could have some time alone with William, so his aunt and uncle went out to the back deck and waited.
They began to speak about the day of the accident and how William felt before, during, and after it happened. At first, William was apprehensive to respond to Dr. Quentin’s questions, but after a brief time, he began to warm up to her. She had a smile that made him feel comfortable and safe.
After one hour, she thanked William for visiting with her and asked if it would be okay if she dropped by again sometime to talk, and he agreed. William returned to his bedroom, and she called his uncle and aunt back inside.
She told them that William had developed Agoraphobia, and explained that it was a fear, or anxiety of being outdoors in which he stood a higher risk of being involved in another situation like the accident where he could lose a loved one.
She said it was a very common disorder and was treatable, though she wanted to avoid medicating him if at all possible. She believed she could break through his barriers naturally instead.
Dr. Quentin set up another appointment the following week and asked them to be patient with William in the meantime and not force him to leave the confines of his safety zone.
One week later, she arrived back for the second session. William was already in the living room waiting for her and had a plate of cookies and hot chocolate on the table between them to share. Dr. Quentin sat down, and when offered, took a bite of the chocolate chip cookie and exclaimed how delicious it was.
This set the mood for the session as she saw William’s shoulders slump in a more relaxed position. During the meeting, she did not bring up the accident at all, but instead, had William talk about his parents. She wanted to see if he was suppressing any emotions.
While speaking of his dad, William spoke in an excited voice, talking about how they would play ball, go fishing and canoeing, or how he was teaching him how to fix his bike, but when he spoke of his mom, he was more subdued. He explained how she would hold him tight at night when they read stories, or how she showed him how to plant flowers. A tear formed at the corner of his eye while he described her.
When the hour was through, William gave Dr. Quentin a hug and told her that he liked talking to her. She smiled and patted his scruffy head, assuring him that she would be back.
The next time she arrived, Dr. Quentin was dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a buttoned-up blue checkered shirt. She looked like a cowgirl. When William saw her, he immediately gave her a hug and started to lead her toward the living room, but she stopped him.
“William,” Dr. Quentin said, “I was wondering if today we could spend some time outside. Would that be okay with you?”
William nodded his head.
“You see, I bought all these flowers, but I don’t know how to plant them, so I was hoping you could show me. Will you do that for me, William?”
Excitedly, William agreed, slipped on his sandals and led the doctor to the garden around the back of the house. This was the first time he had left the house since they arrived form the hospital, and he did it without hesitation.
His aunt and uncle watched with amazement but kept their distance. William grabbed a small trowel and began digging a hole, then he carefully removed the flower from the container and set it into the hole. He filled the remainder of the hole with the soil that he had dug up and explained everything to Dr. Quentin each step of the way.
When they finished, William went back inside to get cleaned up while the doctor said goodbye from the door. Over the next several sessions, they would return to the garden and watch the progression of the flowers they had planted.
On the fifth week, they watched as the petals began to blossom before their eyes on a few of the flowers. Dr. Quentin explained to William that the flowers go through changes in their life and when they know the time is right, they open up and enjoy the sunshine and warmth of the world around them.
It was one week before school was to begin, and Dr. Quentin asked if William, along with his aunt and uncle, would like to go for a picnic. William was still nervous about going in a car, so the doctor tried something to keep his mind pre-occupied. She taught him the game of “I-Spy.”
“I spy with my little eye, something that is purple,” she said. William searched all over the yard and in the sky looking for something purple. When he spotted the Clematis that they planted, he pointed and yelled out, “the flowers!”
It was then his turn to play. After a few rounds, Dr. Quentin stated that they were running out of things to guess at the house, so they should try to find another spot to play. William hesitantly climbed into the backseat of Dr. Quentin’s Nissan Altima with his uncle, while his aunt sat up front with the doctor.
They drove ten minutes down the road and pulled off on a sideroad that led to a small clearing. Dr. Quentin parked the car and they all got out. She removed a picnic basket from the trunk along with a red and black checkered blanket that she handed to William to carry.
They walked a short distance through the trees until they came across a field filled with wildflowers and a creek that trickled slowly toward the east. Birds chirped in the trees above, singing a song of joy.
Dr. Quentin asked William to lay out the blanket on the grass next to the flowers and they all had a seat. Plucking a flower from the ground, Dr. Quentin handed it to William and asked him if he remembered their talk about how and why flowers open up, and then explained that people are like that too.
She said that sometimes, when bad things happen, some people want to hide away in the darkness so they can’t see those bad things happen again, but after a while, when they feel that the time is right, those same people will open up like a flower and let the light shine down upon them again.
William pondered her words before saying, “I’m like a flower, right Dr. Quentin? I was afraid to leave the house before and now I’m outside with all of you, right?”
“Very good, William. You are going to do very well when school starts next week. I truly hope you are going to let me know how that goes.”
William nodded his head, and a brilliant smile filled his face. He had escaped the darkness of his mind and accepted life again thanks to Dr. Quentin. Taking the flower that he was given, William laid it on a piece of plastic wrap that had been covering his sandwich, and he carefully wrapped up the flower.
“I am going to keep this flower to remind me of what you said if I start to get scared again,” William stated.
“That is a fantastic idea, William!” Dr. Quentin exclaimed.
The following week, William boarded the school bus and sat halfway down by the window. He stared out at his aunt and uncle as they waved joyfully while the bus pulled away. As they neared a curve in the road, William felt a slight bit of anxiety beginning, so he opened up his backpack and pulled out a journal that he had started writing in each day.
In between the pages, was the flower he had pressed between the cellophane. He laid his hand upon it, closed his eyes, and pictured his mom and dad as they walked hand-in-hand through the forest. It was a happy memory that kept the darkness at bay.
Before he realized, the bus had arrived at the school. He stepped off the bus, took a deep breath, and said, “I can do this,” then walked inside.