Buttercup in Wonderland by Holly Alderman

The freshly painted green gate doors swing out. The slow drive up the windy hill. Eternity. Where the hell am I. Top. A middle-aged man is standing in front of what seems to be the office. Mom pops open the trunk so I can get my duffel bag. My lack of upper body strength doesn’t allow me to pick it up out of the trunk. He comes to the back of the car and takes it out for me. Morgan. He looks like a serial killer.

Mom and I walk into the office. She’s talking to me but I keep telling her to shut up. Pull your pants up fix your hair look awake be honest. Can’t handle it. She doesn’t stop talking. Ever. The woman produces her life like she produces her Lifetime and Disney Channel movies. A grey haired man with long gangly fingers is poking the keys on his keyboard. I’m a better typist than he is. He pokes.

Dressed in the stained grey Cottontail Ranch sweatshirt that was one size too small and cut off navy blue sweatpants from the University of Toronto, I sit in the small black leather chair. That chair. It would come to know the feeling of my three sizes too big ass very well. Everything else would become three sizes too big, too.

The grey haired man is staring at me with kind eyes. I don’t like when people stare at me. They should be careful when they stare. If they do it for too long, they’ll see all my imperfections and it will burn their eyes.

He introduces himself to Mom and me. Bruce. Alcoholic. Twenty years clean and sober. What the fuck does that mean? He has showered everyday for the last twenty dears and doesn’t drink? He starts asking me a bunch of questions. He calls it the intake process. I call it annoying.

“When is the last time you used?”

Mom is sitting with me. I think really hard about how I want to answer this. Do I tell the truth or lie? I have nothing left to hide. I think. I think I have nothing left to hide. I have to lie.

“Two days ago.”

I slouch in my seat expecting Mom to yell at me. He moves onto the next question. Bruce doesn’t want to lose eye contact with me. I can tell. I’m so caught up in my thoughts that I can’t keep a stare. My eyes wander around the office.

“How much did you use?”

“I smoked a bowl.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

I kicked Adderall on my own about two months before I checked in. My last run hadn’t been that long so I wasn’t expecting any withdrawals. I hate the withdrawals from Adderall. It took two weeks the first time I kicked in 2004. I can only remember glimpses from that time. Family vacation. Hawaii. Maui. The Westin. All I remember is sleeping. Getting up to eat. Yelling at Brooke. (That was my best and most honed skill). Complaining. Sneaking away for the occasional cigarette. The last detox was painless. Painless with irritability. Irritable. That was my middle name and everyone who had ever had more than a two-minute conversation with me knew that.

The questions keep coming. What drugs have you used in the last seven days. Year. Including prescription pills. I can’t keep up. My brain won’t function. Mom starts answering what she can for me. That’s normal for the two of us. Speaking for me. Normally my blood boils when she does this. I don’t care right now. It will go faster if she answers his questions.

“One of our techs is searching your belongings right now.”

The hamster is running in my head. They’re searching my shit! No one told me that was going to happen. I’m trustworthy. I swear. I asked to come here. Why would I bring something I’m not supposed to? When they hold my clothing up to them they’ll realize how large I am. The jig is up. I really hope I can smoke here. What if I can’t and the tattered pack of Marlboro 27s with three cigs left are lying on my bed and Mom sees them?

“The smoking area is on the back patio. All of the clients congregate there.”

He answers my question without my having to ask.

“The clients should just be getting back from Equine Therapy. They go every Thursday to a privately owned ranch in Topanga Canyon.”

I hate horses. Lie. I don’t hate. I’m terrified. If they make me do that, I will pretend I’m allergic. I always do that when it comes to horses. Pretend I’m allergic. They can’t contest that. If it doesn’t fly I’ll tell them I was bucked off a horse at summer camp when I was five and landed in a pile of horse shit. And that there was a bee in the horse shit and it stung me in my ass. Not my story but it’s true. I’ve told it more times than I can count.

A really short woman with stringy dirty blond hair walks into the office. I’m supposed to know who she is. She is the reason I am here. Her sister has been my family’s business manager for as long as I can remember.

She extends her hand. I’m not into physical contact. But I don’t like being rude.
“I’m Jorja. I’m your therapist.”

Author Bio
Holly A. Alderman is finishing her BA at Antioch University Los Angeles in Creative Writing, after many years of majoring in Spanish and film at various other universities throughout the country. Alderman is currently writing her first book, a collection of non-fiction short stories, tentatively titled Tenfifteen 20Buttercup in Wonderland is one of the stories from her book and Alderman’s first published piece.