Chapter Three: The Phone Call
Lilly forced herself out of bed on Thursday morning, not of her own volition though. When she woke up with the sun rise, she clearly recalled the conversation her mother had with some doctor in her bedroom. She began to panic from her recollection. If she did not get out of bed today, she would be sent to a psych ward for treatment. Lily did not want to be held hostage at a psychiatric hospital and forced to talk about her feelings to a stranger. She did not want or need to talk to anyone; she just wished to be left alone. Sadly, Lily knew the only way that would happen was to force herself to act normal again for appearances sake. She could not outwardly mirror what she was feeling on the inside.
Understanding what she needed to do, Lily forced herself out of bed. Lilly slowly walked to the bathroom and set into her morning routine before her dad died. It did not go as smoothly as it used to. Brushing her hair this morning required more effort. Not brushing, or washing, it for the past ten days plus laying on it most of the time produced a lot of knots and tangles. Her right wrist spent a lot of effort on restoring her amber red hair to a less unruly state with a thick square brush before Lily jumped into the shower. The water flowing from the shower head helped ease the state of her hair and allowed Lily to smooth it out to a workable condition before giving it the TLC it needed.
Lily stepped out of the bathroom with a clean face, fresh breath, and damp, tangle-free hair. Outwardly Lily resembled her old self again, but deep down she knew that person was dead. Lily had to let that be her own secret though because she believed if her mom found out she would be handed over to the psycho ward in a second. Her improved appearance was only half the battle. She was mentally preparing to act like she was okay. To do that, she would have to shut off the part of her brain constantly thinking about her father. Not permanently, she reassured herself. She just needed to not think about him in order to put on a convincing act. If her mind slipped back to thinking about her father, a flip would switch and her depressed mode would be back with a vengeance.
She believed she could do it. She was ready. Lily walked down stairs to the kitchen.
When Lily entered the kitchen, two sets of eyes were on her. Petunia's expression was dark. It was actually just her usual expression towards Lily. Her nose crinkled at the sight of Lily. Her thin, dry lips made an unpleasant stern frown and her eyes ferociously glared in Lily's direction. Lilly's mother's eyes held no contempt like Petunia's. Instead, her eyes revealed a state of confusion. Her lips puckered like a fish. One could easily tell she was chewing on her inner right cheek. Her hazel eyes uncomfortably went to a great length to avoid making eye contact with Lily.
Lily fought the urge to ignore them both and return upstairs with her breakfast. She forced herself to release the words good morning from her lips. When she finally did, she let out a sigh of relief. Petunia's response was nothing unusual. She stood up from the breakfast table and left to the living room without saying a word to Lily. Lily's mother motioned for Lily to take a seat at the table with her hand. Mrs. Evans rose from the table to prepare a bowl of Cheerios for Lily. When she finished, she placed the bowl in front of Lily and rejoined her at the table. Mrs. Evans carefully watch Lily as she ate.
After an awkward silence of five minutes had passed, Lily's mother at last started a conversation. "Lily, I don't know if you remember, but Doctor Reed did a check up on you on Monday and he said-"
Lily knew where this conversation was going, so she deiced to save her mother the trouble and let her know she was okay. "Mom, I am up though now, aren't I? I am better. I just needed to rest after the shock and all. You do not need to worry any more. I am back to being Lily." Lily faked the best smile she could to convince her mom of the blasphemy she was spewing.
"I still think you should go for a visit for a few days, just to be sure," Lily's mother protested. Lily fought the urge to instantly fight with her mother on this, she we just need to be patient and reason with her. Lily was keenly aware from experience if she picked a fight with her mom over this, she would not win. She never did. According to her mother, "Mom's right 99.99% of a time".
"I could do that, but that would be a waste of time on their end and money for us. Look at me, mom. I am fine. Why are you worrying over just me? What about Petunia?" Lily was attempting to shift the focus from her to Petunia. Even if Petunia was coping fine, Lilly knew her beloved sister definitely had more problems to be worked out than she did.
"Lily, she was not a living corpse for days in a row! That is it, you are going and that is final! Pack your bags, we are leaving to drop you off in an hour." Lily ran away from the kitchen before she burst into tears. She wept in her room as she started to begin the process of packing her things. She was defeated. There was no point in fighting it, she knew what her mom said was final.
Almost an hour passed by and Lily packed only essentials in the backpack her father bought before she was sent a letter from Hogwarts. Before she zipped her bag up, she did a last scan of her room to make sure had not left behind something she would need. As her eyes swept through the room, they lasered in on something lying under her dresser. As Lily approached the object, she recognized it almost immediately. It was the card Dumbledore gave her at her father's funeral. She read the line "Hope to Cope" and she had a eureka moment. Lily had found a way out of being shipped off to the psycho ward.
Lily rushed downstairs to find her mother waiting for her by the front door. Mrs. Evans glanced at Lily and took in her daughters disheveled appearance as she emerged in front of her without her packed bag. Mrs. Evans noted her daughter's frame had become drastically thinner, her eyes were listless, and her spirit seemed to have died along with Mrs. Evans' husband. Her daughter was a shell. A hollowed-out shell fighting for her right to remain a shell of a person. The tragedy upon the Evans family whittled Lily into a small fraction of the girl who was once called the brightest and most promising witch at Hogwarts. Mrs. Evans would fight to restore her daughter and prevent her from remaining a ghost. Even if Lily would hate her for it. Mrs. Evans was not sure how the ensuing conversation would end.
"Lily Marie, where is your packed bag? Did I not make myself clear when I gave you an hour?" Lily looked at her mother and spoke not with defiance, but assurance.
"Mom, please listen to me. Why don't we compromise? If you think I still need help, at least let me do it in my own way. Here, please read this." Lily drew in her breath as she handed over the precious, small card that carried all her hope. She observed her mother's quizzical face when reading the card. There is no way for Lily to tell whether the situation was in her favor not.
Lily's mother's expression remained neutral as she handed the card back over to Lily. Lily could not read her mother at all.
"I will allow this, but here are my conditions. You have to call at least three times a week. Each conversation at minimum must be an hour in length. And I want to be notified before you call and when you are finished with your conversation." Lily hit the jackpot. She convinced her mother to not send her to receive psychiatric treatment after all. Lily offered a weak smile to her mother. It was all she could muster for her state of elation at the decision. Lily hugged her mother quickly and whispered a thank you in her ear.
In the midst of Lily returning to her bedroom so she could unpack, her mother called after her and said, "Your first call takes place now." Lily did not turn to face her mother, but acknowledged she heard her by flashing a thumbs up.
When Lily entered her room, she flung herself back onto her safe haven- her bed. After taking a minute to compose herself, she reached over to the phone on her nightstand. When she picked up the handset, she recalled the phone was not plugged in. Lily had forgotten up until then she had unplugged her phone when her father died. She buried the sadness that was rising in her heart and locked it away with a key. She plugged the phone cord back into the phone jack and psyched herself to get the stupid conversation over and done with.
Who would even be on the other end of the line, she wondered? Regardless, it shouldn't matter. She wasn't spilling her feelings out to them. She just needed to run out the clock.
Lily brought the white calling card to her line of sight. Slowly, she dialed each number on the rotary. The phone rang twice and then she heard "Hello this is-". She immediately hung up when one big FAT problem flashed through her mind as the person on the other end of the line was about to introduce themselves. She needed an alias. She would be mortified if the person on the receiving end of her call was actually a Hogwarts student. She did not want to have her personal affairs to be known to anyone at school. They could know her Dad died, but never how she felt about it.
She re-dialed the hotline's number. She was prepared this time. She had a fake name set and was willing to increase her voice decibels by an octave or two for extra precaution.
"Hi this is Tyler from Hope to Cope, helping those who have lost ones they have loved. Please dial the number one on your phone now, if you wish to disguise your voice."
Lily was surprised that was an option but felt relieved she didn't have to force a fake voice for an hour. She shifted the rotary to the number one on her phone. "Thank you. May I ask what your name is?" The voice from the handset seemed gentle. She relaxed a touch and responded.
James was not asked to return to Hope to Cope on Tuesday or Wednesday. The problem with the high volume of girls calling for James at Hope to Cope needed to be resolved first. James's father was the one, of course, to come up with a solution to the problem. James could not get off so easily from his volunteering service to Hope to Cope. His father ensured James was staying put there by additionally providing a hefty donation on top of fixing the situation. To the knowledge of everyone outside of those who worked at Hope to Cope, James was terminated. However, James was actually still volunteering but working under a pseudo name.
James was disappointed to waste another day having to get up before noon. He had honestly believed for a small span of time that he was going to be let off the hook. But like on Monday, he once again started his day at eight in the morning to arrive at work before nine.
When he walked into the "healing room" at Hope to Cope, he was caught off guard. The "healing room" was not what he expected it to be. The room gave off no "healing" aura but looked like an ordinary office space. Six desks were spaced evenly apart on the shag dark green carpet. The color of the carpet was the only highlight worth noting of the room. Everything else was bland. Tope walls, flimsy black computer chairs, dull gray plastic desks, a white popcorn ceiling and red telephones.
James eyed the closest telephone to him peculiarly. He had never used one before and only knew what page seven in the training manual had told him about them. He was thankful he had only one sole function to perform when using them. James assumed answering the phone must be a million times easier than using the rotary dial function. The rotary did not even work on any of the phones according to the training manual. It was an aesthetic to keep consistent with how they looked in a muggle's home. James wondered whose bright idea that was. He assumed it was some muggle lover.
The phone worked by a magically enforced communication system. His special station, which just caught his eye, had a particular phone designated for his use. On the handset for the phone was a white sticker that starkly contrasting the solid, bright red color of the phone. Its purpose was to shame- no highlight that the phone had a spell cast on it for voice scrambling. Apparently, no volunteer had needed this before James. James learned this fun fact yesterday when having another discussion about the expectations for James's service at Hope to Cope.
James trudged to his special phone passing the other fellow trainees from Monday, Pudge and "That guy". James wasn't stupid. He knew they were pissed at him. Rightly so, but still he wanted to make an effort to be on civil terms with the blokes. He was going to have to spend the next three weeks working with them until school started. A good start, he thought to himself, would be to learn their names. Given the chilly glares he felt upon his body when walking past them, he could wait to chum it up with them when their anger simmered.
Before he could sit in the chair in front of his desk, Isabelle entered the room. When she was standing in front of James, she quickly whispered about the arrangements made so he could continue to volunteer his services. James just nodded his head as he was told for the twentieth time he was sure "what" was going to happen. For the past two days, James's father drilled the rules and restrictions into James's head. James well understood by now that this was his last chance before his father would resort to a real punishment. The most important rule of all for James to keep working there was to keep his identity secret with a fake name and changing his voice.
When Isabelle's directions to James were over, she gave him a quick nod of the head before shuffling to her office. He finally plopped himself into his chair and leaned back. Time was about to pass very slowly for James Potter.
At 10:03 am, the first call came in. Pudge greedily called dibs and picked up his phone. After answering, the shield of silence engulfed his three by three space to give his conversation privacy. What a cheap spell, James thought to himself. The shield wasn't even invisible. He watched it go up. It wasn't a solid color, mostly see through. But there was a faint shimmer to it that informed your eyes something was there. It was as if looking through a bubble a child blows giddily from their bubble wand.
James observed Pudge rather intently, especially his facial expressions. He was trying to figure out how the boy felt after someone just poured his or her heart to him. While lost in deep thought, he heard ringing. James knew "That guy" was still left available, so James ignored the call. He turned around to watch "That guy" pick up the phone. Just as soon as the shield of silence shot up, it faded away. "That guy" sadly hung up the phone. James gave him a quizzical glance. In response, "That guy" informed him the caller hung up.
Five minutes later, the ringing sounded again in the "healing room". James did not look forward to making conversation with someone he did knot know. He also knew he would be the worst person to comfort someone dealing with the tragedy of losing a loved one. But somewhere deep down, he felt obligated to at least make an effort to try. After all, he had been fortunate to still have his family and friends who he loved very much. The best outlook would be that the conversation would kill some time and help 3 o'clock come faster.
James's shaky hand picked up his phone. He rolled his eyes at the sight of the stupid white sticker. He brought the handset to match up with his mouth and ear; just how the training manual directed him to. He opened with the trademark line, "Hi this is Tyler from Hope to Cope, helping those who have lost ones they have loved. Please dial the number one on your phone now if you wish to disguise your voice."
The system was setup so that he, or anyone, had no clue if the caller dialed one or not. Hold a three second pause after your greeting and then respond with thank you, he recalled from the training.
"Thank you. May I ask what your name is?" It was time and James was not ready. Could he ever be truly prepared to perform this role, he asked himself. He could only offer sympathy and not empathy.
"Amy," her voice echoed in the phone. Hearing how she said her name struck a chord in James's heart. The two syllables were spoken with a brokenness James could not recognize.
Author's Note: Woah, this was a long chapter for myself. I almost wanted to break it up into two chapters. I apologize if there are typos. I wanted to push it out before my vacation since I am on a short timeline for doing this story. I will edit it a bit later if it needs cleaning up, which I am sure it will. Hopefully the typos are small. I have at least re-read it twice before posting after writing/revising. I truly struggle editing chapters this long. There is a reason I went into a STEM career… *_* - Lalaland972