Chapter 21:

Psychoanalysis and Chill

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

I have to be boring Sabrina to tears. There’s gotta be something I can come up with to talk about that isn’t school.

"It works for everything. For example," Sabrina says, her eyes lighting up unexpectedly. "how would you go about doing the essay for our assigned reading in English next week?"

English is pretty straightforward, even if it's not really the type of subject that can be broken down like car parts. "Well, I just read the text, pick out what I think the theme is based on the essay prompt, and start writing." Not that the writing is easy, but it is pretty simple.

"The obvious approach, I suppose." Sabrina leans her chin on one hand. "I prefer to start from the essay prompt, identify what the teacher seems to be angling for as I'm skimming the work itself, and have a workable draft of the essay complete by the time I reach the end. Then, it's just a matter of taking a few minutes to clean it up."

Obviously, Sabrina's strategy isn't cheating, but something about it sounds a little bit… cynical, I guess? For lack of a better word. "Are you even enjoying what you're reading at all? I mean, you're not even really taking it in like that, are you?"

"I get enough to construct an essay that will earn an A. Besides," Sabrina says. "Nothing assigned in a high school English class is anything all that ground-breaking. Catch on to the patterns, and you can get the gist of the author's point without having to waste time reading it in full." Her eyes narrow slightly. "You don't approve."

Whatever look I have on my face, I make sure to wipe it off. "It's not that. It's just…"

Sabrina doesn't seem defensive, at least. "It's not just school classes that this approach works with, though it's convenient. Want a demonstration? I've been doing some pattern-matching on you since you got here."

Do I want to know? Even though I might regret it, yes. I absolutely do. "Hit me."

"You have a strong work ethic, and you're very driven by achievement and recognition," Sabrina says. "A more laid-back person wouldn't insist on perfect school attendance and keeping up with homework immediately after befriending a ghost."

"You got me there, I guess." Is it my fault I want to get into a good college? My dad works for the railroad, and my mom works retail. I want to be able to choose what I do with my life, and Sophie can't help much with that.

"You were a big fish in a small pond back in your hometown, from your grades," Sabrina goes on. "Your old school won't help you reach whatever ultimate goal you've set for yourself, so you transferred here. You're agreeable toward most of our classmates and meek toward the teachers. You also don't have much of a personal style. Even your casual clothes are all neutral colors." She points at my open closet door. "Most people are law-abiding and conformist to a point, but you go out of your way to be so, even though you’re not hiding anything that I can discern. Inoffensive, but boring."

Ouch. I can't complain when I agreed to get the private eye psych profile done in the first place, but still. Ouch. "Hey, I'm not boring! Really wild stuff has been happening to me since the semester started." How can Sabrina think I'm boring, knowing what she knows now?

She tuts at me. "Exactly my point, Clark. Sophie happened to you. You didn't actually make anything exciting happen. You were just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time." She frowns, and I'm definitely detecting a note of envy in her voice. "I'll bet you're just waiting for everything to calm down again, the way you prefer things to be."

"No way," I say, moved to defend myself. "One of the main reasons I transferred here was wanting my life to be more interesting. Have you tried living in a town of 9000 people?"

Sabrina is unmoved. "Tourist," she pronounces, like she's handing down a guilty verdict.

"I'm not a tourist! I'm not boring!"

"Oh? You invited me over to do homework together. Not the most intriguing hook to spend time with a girl you like."

"Gck!" I choke on my soda, feeling my face turn red. Sabrina barely quirks the corner of her mouth. "I was just trying to keep things casual."

Sabrina arches a brow. "And when that failed, instead of offering any real reason why I should spend my precious free time on you, you dangled Sophie in front of me like a carrot on a stick. I do hope she wakes up soon, by the way."

As soon as Sophie wakes up, I might as well be invisible as far as Sabrina is concerned. I'm not in a hurry for that to happen when this is the most we've ever talked together. "What's wrong with that? I thought you'd like to chat with Sophie, that's all."

"There's nothing wrong with that," Sabrina says, taking another sip of soda. "And I would very much like to talk with her. But there's nothing about yourself that I find very compelling. At first, of course," she goes on, not content to let the knife go untwisted, "I thought you might be a breath of fresh air. But now that I know you better, you're as boring as everyone else is. I don't mean it as an insult, Clark, just the facts of the matter."

I have to be honest, it's hard not to take that as an insult. "Sophie would disagree with you." As aggravating as she can be sometimes, Sophie really does make me feel seen in a way that none of my other friends ever have. I can't be that dull.

"Maybe she sees a different side of you," Sabrina concedes, not willing to go against her new favorite ghost's opinions. "But it doesn't change the fact that you choose not to share your true self with the rest of us. And the bland, inoffensive persona you do show is one I find extremely grating."

“I’m just being myself,” I say, on the edge of claiming to have a headache and asking Sabrina to leave.

Sabrina shakes her head. “Everyone chooses their outward persona. If this were really your true self, and you really are a bowl of plain white rice in your innermost soul, that would almost be remarkable.”

I’ve been called names before, but never before have I been called a bowl of plain rice. “In that case, what are you choosing to show?” I can’t think of anything about Sabrina being an affectation. She’s so against the grain compared to most other people I’ve met.

“That I do everything my parents and teachers expect of me. I don’t get in trouble, I have everything under control, and they don’t need to worry about me.”

I blink a couple times. “That’s not really a personality, is it?” There’s way more to Sabrina than that! Not that I can put that into words off the top of my head. But she’s for sure more than “the good kid.”

She shrugs. “Of course it’s not. It’s a strategy to let me move through the world easier than I could otherwise. The teachers make allowances for me that other students aren’t trusted with. My parents stay out of my hair. It’s the most freedom I can carve out for myself until I can be truly independent from them.”

What a way to think about life. “What is it they’re keeping you from doing, exactly?”

“Your parents are allowing you to live in a different town while you attend school here.” Sabrina gestures at the entirety of my little apartment. “I don’t think you can relate to the sort of smothering I was subject to. It’s perhaps your one interesting trait.”

It’s then that Sophie finally wakes up.

She floats up out of my body, stretching her translucent arms. “Oh, are we back home already? Clark?”

“Sophie!” Sabrina lights up like the sun and immediately barrages Sophie with conversation. I excuse myself to the other room. Sophie can fend for herself this time.

Grating. I’m grating? How can that be? I put so much work into not annoying anyone. The real me? What does that even mean? I keep chewing over what Sabrina told me long after she goes home.