The La-Iin Series
“A Mental Examination for Ai-Reia”
“Where are we going?” Ai-Reia asked as she straightened out her jacket. Yesterday, her parents had told her that the whole family was going somewhere tomorrow. It seemed like everyone knew where except for her, and she was frustrated.
“You’ll see when we get there,” her father said.
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad…” Her mother said.
After getting shot down by her parents, she decided to ask her siblings.
“Mom and Dad told me not to tell you,” Reuf-Bu said.
“What he said,” Zih-Amo said.
Ai-Reia sighed. ‘Of course they’re keeping secrets from me. They still don’t trust me, do they?’ Even though her relationship with her family had improved since August, in the back of her head she still felt her family didn’t trust her after what she had done to Ca-Miela.
‘Maybe they’re just doing something I would look forward to and they don’t want me to know about it.’ As much as Ai-Reia wanted to believe that was the case, her true beliefs said otherwise, and as they head off she couldn’t help but feel betrayed.
She glanced at Ca-Miela, secured to her father’s chest, giggling as they flew off. The dark side she tried to suppress was again trying to convince her it was her fault things had ended up this way.
“Close your eyes, Ai-Reia,” Zih-Amo said.
“We’re almost there. And Mom asked.”
Ai-Reia shut them tight with a groan as her family landed. She could hear Ca-Miela squeaking as they walked inside the place. Air conditioning blasted her in the face.
“Brr, it’s cold!” Zih-Amo exclaimed.
“There’s no need for air conditioning when it’s so close to Winter…”
“Alright, Ai-Reia, Mom and Dad have to handle something first, so I’m gonna put you down soon.”
“You’re talking to me like I’m a baby,” she snapped.
“Well, you’re still really young. It’s weird to me that my seven-year-old sister is out of diapers and going to school already.”
“Do you have a problem with that!?” Ai-Reia hissed.
“No, actually it’s a good thing. Now that Ca-Miela’s part of the family, it’d be really annoying if there were two diaper-butts in the house. It’d always be stinky.”
Ai-Reia growled. “Can I open my eyes yet?”
“Lemme ask Reuf-Bu. Hey, can she open her eyes yet?”
“Mm…HEY, MOM, DAD, CAN AI-REIA OPEN HER EYES YET?”
“Yes, she can open her eyes,” her mother said.
“Finally!” Ai-Reia blinked open her eyes, but what she saw only confused her. The building looked like a hospital of sorts, and bright lights reflected off the white walls and made it difficult for her to see. She only saw a few people sitting down as she was, and most seemed jittery, as if they were nervous.
“Where are we?” Ai-Reia asked.
“Can’t you see?” Zih-Amo said.
“Yes, I can, but I have no idea what this place is!” She yelled. A few of the others waiting around her turned to see what the commotion was about.
“We’re worried about you, Ai-Reia…” Her mother said, walking up to her. “Worried about your brain.”
“It’s not easy to tell if someone has problems up there when you’re young, but your behavior in August was…well, it was concerning, so we wanted to talk to a professional about the chances of–”
With her parents’ words, Ai-Reia had figured out what the place around her was. And now she was furious.
“You think I’m crazy!”
“You’re still young. I know sometimes kids your age don’t like getting a new sibling.” Her gaze turned to Zih-Amo. “Your sister was a good example of this. I would’ve thought otherwise, but I guess you never really know.”
Zih-Amo opened her mouth, as if she wanted to say something as a rebuttal, but then shut it and began to look ashamed.
“I am not going here,” she said. “I know I’ve messed up before, but I am not crazy!”
“We’re not saying you are,” her father said. “We just want to make sure that you’re alright, and that you’ll keep being alright.”
“Remember, we Vampires live a long time….if there’s any possibility of your mind being weak, that could be aggravated by a long lifespan. We want to prepare for the worst, because we won’t always be around to help you…”
Ai-Reia wouldn’t let herself be convinced. “You think I’m crazy. You want me to be crazy, because then that gives you an excuse to still love me!”
“It’s paid for already, Ai-Reia,” he said. “We’re going.”
Ai-Reia struggled as Reuf-Bu picked her up. He held tight to her as they walked off. Ca-Miela started to cry, and her mother tried to soothe her.
Ai-Reia felt drained by the time she and her family arrived at the room they had been called to. A bespectacled man with traits of a Snowliv and Siren sat in the chair and glanced up at the family as they entered the room.
“Is it because of you the air conditioning’s on so high?” Zih-Amo asked. The man nodded.
“Hello. Vampiris family, correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct….sorry to bring all of us in here,” her mother said.
“Not a problem. Now, which one of you is Ai-Reia?”
“Her,” Reuf-Bu said. Her father pointed to her. “But she’s being, well…”
“That’s alright. I can understand a little of where she’s coming from. It must be terrifying for a child her age.” He cleared his throat. “My name is Bong Jil-Chee. While I can’t diagnose a child with most things, I’ll do my best to help her in any way I can.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bong,” her mother said.
“Ai-Reia?” Jil-Chee called out. “Please don’t be so scared. There’s no guarantee that anything’s wrong with you. Your family only wants to make sure of that. I need to talk with you so we can know that for sure. You’re only a child, so I can’t really say anything about whether you have any problems or not.”
Ai-Reia clung tighter to Reuf-Bu.
“Well, since she’s being non-compliant…mind telling me some things that brought on this suspicion?”
“It was an incident that happened a while back…” Her mother sighed. “That, and her behavior afterwards. Back in…” Her mother trailed off and stared down at her feet.
Her father cleared his throat. “It’s alright. I can tell him about it. Ai-Reia tied up Ca-Miela here with a jump rope and locked her in her closet, with the intention of leaving her in there. We don’t know how long she was planning. She’s never told us if it was just for the rest of her birthday or….something longer than that. Afterwards she acted like we had betrayed her and she was constantly upset with us. She acted out a little, never anything as bad as that incident but she snapped at us often. And I think she still blames Ca-Miela for how we treated her. She hasn’t looked at her quite the same way since.”
“She used to love Ca-Miela,” her mother sighed. “When we told her she was going to be a big sister, she was all excited…she was so looking forward to her being born. And she was born while she was away on a class trip, and it took her a while to come to terms with that…she loved her up until that point. I don’t know how she feels about her now…”
“I see….well, normally I’d chalk that up to just being jealous of her younger sister. Happens all the time, really, but that jump rope incident worries me a bit. Though it could just be the product of simple thought processing. If she ties her up, it’s guaranteed she can’t go and get help or escape, the jump rope works as efficient rope, and if she hides her nobody will hear her. It might sound messed up, but it doesn’t have to be a mental issue, not for a child, anyway…I’d recommend keeping an eye on her in case she tries to do something like that again, though.”
“Can I mention something I’ve noticed?” Reuf-Bu said. “Ai-Reia developed her bat powers a few months ago. And every time she transforms into a bat, she gets a little…unstable. I know that’s only because little kids can’t handle power as well, but do you think that could aggravate a potential mental condition?”
“Normally I’d say yes, but most people get a handle on their powers before they’re old enough to be officially diagnosed with a mental condition. If she developed that power this early, I don’t think it’ll a problem, whether she has an issue or not.”
“See, Ai-Reia? You’re probably not crazy after all,” Zih-Amo said.
“Doesn’t change the fact that she’s scared Mr. Bong will say otherwise,” Reuf-Bu said.
“I’m not!” Ai-Reia snapped.
“Ah, are you ready to talk now, Ai-Reia?” Jil-Chee asked.
Ai-Reia still felt uncertain, but all her family had said dredged up all those negative feelings she had been having around that time–all the feelings she had had about them and all the perceptions she had. And now worry permeated that. What if they decided her reluctance to talk to Jil-Chee was a sign that she had worse plans, worse thoughts? What if they started to believe it wasn’t a mental issue, but an anger one? To her, that didn’t sound much better.
She let go of Reuf-Bu and sat across from Jil-Chee.
“Ai-Reia, can you tell me what was going through your mind when you tied up your baby sister?”
“I…” She was reluctant to answer.
‘Well, I don’t have to tell him the truth. He knows I’m nervous already, so he might not think this is because I’m lying. And maybe my family would forgive me if they thought it wasn’t so bad…’
Ai-Reia was ready to leave this place. If lying would get her out of here sooner, she was willing to do it.
“…it was jealousy because it was my birthday and they kept focusing on her instead. I might have over-reacted a little, but that was because she wouldn’t be quiet when I went to see her.”
“I see. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”
“I’m only seven years old. It’s been very stressful being a child prodigy. So many things are expected of you because you have the upper hand against others your age, especially with my being a Pureblood Vampire. I may learn quickly, but even I can’t figure something without any time to learn about it. Now that Ca-Miela’s here, she’s going to need a lot of attention for many years, and I wonder if I’ll ever figure out all I need to know. …I know it might sound strange to hear that from me, but it’s what I think.”
Jil-Chee noticed Ai-Reia’s family start to look uncertain.
“I see,” he said. “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Ai-Reia. I was coming to a similar conclusion myself. It’s a little embarrassing that a seven-year-old beat me to it, heh heh.” He focused on the Vampiris family. “I think you all will be happy to know that your fears are likely unfounded. Ai-Reia explained it best.”
Her mother, father, and Reuf-Bu gave sighs of relief. Zih-Amo smiled.
Ai-Reia got up from her seat and went to leave the room. She was ready to go.
‘That was fairly effortless,’ she thought. ‘And it wasn’t a complete lie. I was jealous. They don’t need to know the other reason.’
“Come back to me if she acts strange like that in the future,” Jil-Chee whispered to her mother on the way out.
“Alright, we will…”