Knocking on his sister’s bedroom door twice, Dakota sighed and waited. He knocked once more, listening for her soft voice. And when Dallas said nothing, he announced himself. “Dallas, it’s Kota, I’m coming in.”
He got no response. Cautiously, he opened the door and peeked his head in. Though they were used to one another barging in on the other, there’d been recent events that led to him fearing what he might find by just walking in. Every step he took was small.
When he didn’t see his younger sister in her bed, he checked her bathroom, and then her closet when he didn’t find her there. “Dallas, where are you?” Fear began to sink in, his heart began to beat a little faster than usual and then, he heard a low groan. It came from the opposite side of her bed, towards her window. Walking around the foot of her bed, he found his sister lying on the floor with a thin sheet pulled over her body and face.
He took one deep sigh of relief and slowly sat next to his sister. Pulling the sheet away from her face, he gave her a gentle and understanding smile. “Kota, please don’t do that. Don’t smile like you know what’s wrong, and don’t say that it will be okay. It’s never okay.”
Wiping away the tears that fell down her face, he cleared his throat. Since their guardians had a tendency of walking by and eavesdropping, he spoke as lowly as possible. “Tell me what’s going on in your world today so that I can understand.”
“You don’t want to hear about it. You’ll say just like everyone else says, it’s teenage angst. It’s a phase, it’ll pass.”
“I wouldn’t say that Dallas. And of course I want to hear about it, I want to help. That’s what your big brother is here for. Don’t you remember; everything you go through, I go through it too.” Dallas looked up at her older brother and sighed.
Unlike most siblings, especially teenagers close in age, their shared a bond that made them nearly inseparable. Everywhere Dallas went, you could find Dakota, and vice versa. They loved one another deeply, shared their struggles and held on to one another tightly whenever they felt they had no one else.
He brought his knees to his chest, choosing his words carefully. “Have you been having those thoughts again?”
“No. I’m just, I’m so sad all of the time. In emotional and physical pain.”
“I don’t know. I’m exhausted, my body hurts, I don’t want to do anything. I’m always crying.” She sighed, sitting up. “I just want to be okay and happy for once, like you, and I can’t. What do I do?”
“Finding happiness, to me, is all about finding something that you enjoy. Something that makes you smile.”
“I tried that. And I tried faking it until I make it. Nothing’s worse than a fake smile.”
“True, but if that’s what gets you through the day, that’s what you do. That’s what I did, and it helped. Every day, whether it was a good one or a bad one, I just smiled. I learned to accept compliments when they were given, I ignored mean and dumb things that were said to me. Once I found something that I liked, something that put real smiles on my face, I made sure I did it every day. Soon enough, it wasn’t hard to smile for real; for no reason, or just because something simple or silly was on my mind. Laugh like a lunatic if you have to, but Dallas-”
“I know, I can’t walk through life as if I’ve got nothing going for me. Oh wait, I can because I’ve got nothing.”
Dakota sighed. “The world and how you perceive it, what you take away from the things that happen to you, it’s whatever you choose to make it. If you wake up knowing that you’re going to have a bad day, then that’s what it’s going to be. But, whether you feel it throughout the day or not, if you wake up and say that today will be okay, it will be. Say it with me.”
“Today will be okay for me.”
Dallas sighed, but did as her brother asked. They both counted to three before speaking together. “Today will be okay for me.”
“That’s right Dallas. Say that to yourself over and over and I promise, it will be okay.”
Dakota stood up, straightening out his shirt. “Now please, get up and get ready for school. We don’t want the Boyds to think the worst and go overboard, again.”
“I don’t wanna go to school, Dakota. If I just lay right here on the floor and stay silent, they won’t even know I’m here. They don’t notice me unless I’m actually making some type of noise anyway.”
He looked down at his sister. “They notice you, Dallas. But please, come to school. Being around people can help brighten your mood.”
“I hate people.”
“Okay, being around your best friends can brighten your mood. I know you’re ready to at least try out for one of the sports teams this year.”
Dallas stood up, stretching. “Yeah, so that I can embarrass myself in front of the whole school again. That’s going to be so fun.”
This was one instant where her dry sarcasm didn’t make him laugh, but Dakota truly understood why his sister was always sad. The only thing he didn’t know was if it should be blamed on her PTSD or on her major depressive disorder. She hated to use either as an excuse, hated to admit that she’d even been diagnosed with any type of disorder, but he knew. “Dally…”
She looked at him, wondering why he’d suddenly called her by one of her childhood nicknames, something she hated. “What?”
“Have you taken your medicine?”
Dakota sighed, once again choosing his words carefully so that he wouldn’t offend his sister or start a fight. “Because, it helps you feel better. It puts you in a better state of mind.”
“I’m not psychotic or crazy, Dakota. That’s not what MDD is, at least not my case.”
“That’s not what I meant or what I was trying to say. You just have a lot of lows, and sometimes you can’t fully function to the best of your ability. I want you to make it through the day, I want you to be interested in what’s going on around you.” He cleared his throat, speaking lowly again. “It’s the better alternative, isn’t it? Or would you rather they put you through that therapy where they shock you again?”
“No, and I don’t want to be spoken to like a child by a therapist either.”
“Then take your medicine, please. Take it for me, so that we can have a great day together.”
Dakota smiled wide, pulling his sister into a quick hug before he began to make his way out of her room. “Now get ready for school, Dallas. Throw on some of that makeup stuff y’all girls wear, and perfume, and some type of dress or something with color. NO BLACK today.”
“I like black clothing.”
“So do I, but don’t wear all black. We don’t want you looking like the African-American Morticia Addams.”
As soon as her bedroom door closed, Dallas sighed and looked at herself in the mirror her vanity. She looked down at all of the different brands of makeup and brushes that her foster mother had gotten her. She looked over at the chair she had in the corner and saw the bags of new things she’d gotten; all types of urban styles, all types of colors. Things she felt uncomfortable with, but received because her foster mother thought her depression was a simple phase. “Wear makeup, wear happy colors, try these platforms, boots and heels. Only to enhance how ugly I am.”
After a long shower, washing and straightening her hair, and literally forcing herself to wear something with color; Dallas made her way downstairs and into the kitchen of her ‘family’ home. Dakota was sitting at the kitchen table, eating his usual bowl of cereal and laughing at the Sunday funnies. Their foster mother, Sheryl, was standing over the stove finishing up breakfast. And their foster father, Winston, was having his morning coffee.
As she pinned her hair up with a large butterfly clip, Dallas spoke; her voice barely carrying throughout the somewhat large kitchen.
When she hugged and thanked him, Dakota was the first one to look up. “Hey, now that’s what I’m talking about. You look great, Dallas!”
He nodded truthfully, happy that she actually listened. Even though she was still wearing black pants, he was very happy that she put on a light blue, dress shirt. She was wearing a choker he’d given her, he noticed that she painted her nails, and she was wearing red lipstick. “Yep, and we’re even kind of matching today. Well, we’re both wearing blue.” Noticing that neither of their foster parents had even averted their attention, Dakota quickly spoke loudly. “Sheryl, Winston, doesn’t my sister look great. Sheryl, you said that blue was one of her colors and you were right.”
Sheryl turned around, finally taking notice and smiled. This was the first time she’d ever seen the sixteen year old wear anything she’d brought and it genuinely made her happy. “Oh my gosh, you look so pretty, Dallas! This reminds me of those few months you spent on your school’s news show as an anchor. You used to wear your button down and silk tops, and business suits, and boots. Amazing. I love seeing this side of you. Such a pretty girl and always in black, I don’t understand it.”
“I told you Darling, it’s a fad these kids got going on. Goth, or whatever that mess is.”
Dakota shook his head, about to speak up when Dallas stopped him. Though she rarely spoke up for herself, she was tired of hearing her foster father and his opinions. “It’s not a fad Winston, and I’m not goth. For a person that’s quick to sign me up for mental evaluations and those lame shock therapy sessions, you sure hate to acknowledge that what I feel is a real thing and not a ‘phase’ or ‘fad’, as you love to call it.”
“No, you kids love to walk around and act miserable until you get what you want. All you have to do is say what you want, if it’s reasonable, you can have it. No need to act out and carry on as if it’s the end of the world or like you won’t live if you don’t get whatever it is that you want.”
“I don’t want anything from you, how about that!”
Dallas stormed out, leaving her foster parents with a look of confusion written all over their faces. Dakota could only sigh. He thought to reason with Winston, once again, but he knew it was no use. He set his paper down and went after his sister to make sure she was okay. Just as soon as he’d help lift his sister up a little, one or both of the Boyds would dampen and pull Dallas right back down.