Peer Review by Christy Wisdom (United States)

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By: RedWriter

    Ryder stared at the woman with the clipboard blankly, forcing himself to conceal emotion for the remaining thirty minutes he had in the room. It was washed in white, with a blue stool near the back corner and a bookshelf with brown-clad spines near his chair. It was nothing like the waiting room with all of the beautiful pictures and colors. A few moments of silence passed between the two of them. "Do you know why you're here, Ryder?"
    The woman had blonde hair and ballast blue eyes that seemed to search every inch of him to find something wrong. He hated that. Why did there always have to be something wrong with him? Two people and the third seemed to be the worst. Ryder stiffened his jaw. "No."
    "Your parents thought this might be a good outlet for you. You know why, I think."
    Ryder stared at her, wondering if she expected him to answer.
    "Ryder," she said in a softer tone of voice. "You are in a safe place. I am here for you, to hear anything you want to tell me."
    "I don't even know your name," he argued. "And just because you say you'll hear me doesn't mean you'll listen."
    She gave an awkward laugh that seemed to echo off the walls, an empty noise. "I'm sorry, my name is Tina. And I do listen, Ryder. So tell me, dear, why do you think you are here?"
    "Because my parents drove me here."
    "How does it make you feel, that your parents think you need this?"
    He snorted. "It makes me feel like they should teach you to do more than ask stupid questions."
    "Ryder." Her eyes were hard again, like crystalline gemstones. "Your bickering with me can't ignore the fact you've been experiencing some troubles. Do you refuse to talk to me?"
    He didn't answer, and it was answer enough. She glanced at the clipboard in her hands. "Do you want to talk about the divorce?" she snapped, and then forced herself into a calmer voice and relaxed her shoulders from where they'd tensed. 
    "No." That he was sure of.
    "The school, then? Your friends?"
    "What about them? Have my parents decided I don't have any of those, either?" he snarled at her. "I don't want to talk to you."
    "Well, you've got to talk to someone, Anthony."
    "I hate that name. My name is Ryder."
    "No," she corrected, and he swore he saw some sick, sadistic pleasure in her eyes as she found something to pick at in him, something to bother him with. "That is your first middle name. Your name is Anthony Ryder Wesley Addabam. And until you decide to talk to me, I will call you by your full name."
    "Why are things so good when they're full? Why can't people just take halves and be happy they can share?" Ryder spat, and stood up from the low bean-bag-like chair. She paused a moment, seeming to think on that. Slower, she said. "Is that something you wish people did? Your parents, maybe - just focus on one subject, take it one day at a time?"
    It sounded nice, but then he remembered who he was talking to. "Just leave me alone. I don't want to be in here."
    "Are you claustrophobic?" she asked, looking at the small room's walls. He grunted and looked at the door, the bronze knob sticking out from the white outline like a light bulb. She followed his gaze and her eyes widened as she struggled off the stool. "Anthony-"
    He was there in a split second, wrenching open the door and entering the small, crampt space of the wooden-floored hallway with pictures of happy, good-looking families. Another woman with a kindly figure and black hair smiled at him, but she, too, looked like she was in a picture. He paused - she was so familiar, even her scent, pomegranate, so old to him as if it was his ancient roots to recognize her. he reached out to touch her labcoat that all of the employees wore-
    And, his hand touched nothing. She was not real.
    The woman, Tina, came behind him and enveloped him in her arms. "Where did you think you were going?" she demanded. "Anthony, please come back-"
    "My name is not Anthony!" he shouted, and tore away again in a burst of strength. This time, he did not stop as he eyed the red EXIT sign over a gray push-door.


Message to Readers

My own words - "Here is a mess, a monster of myself"

Peer Review

This was really just an amazing piece. What drew me in was the first part with Ryder refusing to talk to the psychologist (or counsellor?) I have read stories that include the same sort of thing, and I have often enjoyed them, so I thought that I might read this story and ended up really liking it. Also, kudos for the lack of swearing!

I would love to know why one woman wasn't real but Tina was. The main character feels like a living person because he has real life problems like divorce, friends, etc. Also because of his sullenness and anger, he seems more real.

I would really like to have some background on whether or not this is reality, or just a dream, or where he is. I think that could be expanded on. But overall I think this excerpt had almost nothing wrong with it.

I don't have much of a sense of where it takes place, but that's okay because it seems like Ryder is in a compound, or maybe a psychologist's office?

This was really great! Super engrossing, it surprised me in a good way. I also applaud your almost lack of grammar mistakes (that I noticed, anyways) and that you only had one spelling mistake (I pointed it out). I totally want to read more of this now.

Reviewer Comments

Great work! I think this is competition-worthy! Best of luck.