The Perfect Ruin - Shanora Williams


Ivy stared at the fish tank across from her, scratching at her cuticle, simmering with irritation. She’d studied all the fish in the bubbling water so many times she’d lost count, but there was a new one in the tank today.

The new fish was blood-orange with white spots. Its body was flat, its left fin ugly and stubby, just like the right fin as it rotated in the tank. The fish appeared lost—like it had no clue what the hell it was doing in the glass box. It had been snatched from the comfort of its own home. Trapped in a tank.

Ivy knew the feeling of being trapped—except she hadn’t been trapped in tanks. She’d been trapped in box-sized rooms or, worse, forced to share a box-sized room with another person around her age whom she’d never gotten along with. How it must have sucked to share a single tank with eight other fish, glugging the same water and fighting over pellets of food.

A door opened to the left and a woman with cornrows down to her shoulders, narrow, rectangular glasses on the bridge of her nose, and bright pink lipstick walked out. The woman was always dressed like a hippie. Loose blouses and pants, and god-awful sandals that Ivy used to call Bible sandals. The woman loved wearing colorful scarves around her neck, even when it was almost one hundred degrees outside. Today she was wearing a yellow and green one.

“Welcome, Ivy,” Dr. Harold said from the door, bringing her hands together joyously. Ivy stood up with her purse and sighed. It was the same old thing with her therapist, Dr. Marriott Harold. Big smiles and gratefulness.

Her name was Marriott to rhyme with Harriet, as Marriott had mentioned once. Marriott’s mother liked the name Harriet. . . so why didn’t she just name Marriot, Harriet? It never made sense to Ivy. It made her confused and she hated confusion.

Marriott was single and didn’t have much of a life outside of being a therapist. No family and not many friends. She had three cats—Whitney, Stevie, and Mikey. All three of them were named after her favorite musical artists, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. Ivy found her life boring and irrelevant.

Nonetheless, she met Dr. Harold every single Wednesday to perform a therapy session. Dr. Harold insisted Ivy call her Marriott, stating that “Dr. Harold” was too formal and that they were friends who could trust each other. Ivy often wondered if Marriott meant it—that she trusted her. No one ever trusted Ivy. She was a rebel, a liar, a thief, and a con artist. She could steal from babies and not feel any remorse.

“How are you today? I trust you have been resting.” Marriott watched as Ivy walked past her.

Ivy walked into Marriott’s office, placed her purse on the usual chair in the corner, and then flopped down on a cushioned brown chaise. It was her favorite spot to get through her fifty-five-minute sessions, but it was starting to get worn. Marriott would have to replace it soon.

The older Ivy became, the less often she’d have to come to this cuckoo’s nest. She could have been done sooner, but when she had turned twenty-one, Marriott had the choice of keeping Ivy in therapy or considering it safe for her to move on and start a new life. Marriott told the judge Ivy needed more time to cope. Ivy had despised the damn therapist ever since. So why did she continue her visits? Why not just stop showing up? A part of her had to like the sessions, right?

Apparently, the whole world thought Ivy was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and a host of other issues. She’d heard Marriott tell the judge that she was having some obsessive behavior with a boy and with certain events from her past, which was sparking other mental disorders within her.

Ivy considered it all bullshit. She was fine, just dealing with shit like the rest of the world. Was it not normal to have to deal with shit?

“How can I rest?” Ivy grumbled, staring up at the ceiling. “It’s close to the anniversary. I haven’t slept all week.”

“Yes, I remember the anniversary is coming up.” Marriott fidgeted by the door. Ivy side-eyed her. She was acting weird. Smiling, but not as wide and bold as usual. “Have you been taking your antidepressants?” Marriott asked, sinking down in her usual brown recliner across the room. Finally. She was sitting. Relaxing. Ivy’s body relaxed too.