Status: I will be posting a new story soon, so this one might be delayed a bit.

Rarae Aves

Things Getting Better (A Flashback Chapter)

A/N: Entire chapter is a flashback, therefore is in purple.

...“Don’t just sit there picking at it,” Jun-jie instructed, “Eat.” Both the father and daughter were sitting beside each other at the dining room table, eating their dinner. Well, Jun-jie had been eating the meal he made, but Amber was just pushing everything around on her plate with her eating utensils. His eyes remained glued upon as she propped her tiny elbow up on the table and rested her chin in her hand, stirring her mashed potatoes and gravy with a spoon. “Did you hear what I said?” he inquired. He didn’t receive an answer. “Amber,” he tried. Still nothing. The child just seemed entranced by the plate sitting in front of her, her gaze fixed upon it and it alone. She pushed some pieces of the steak that Jun-jie had cut for her into the lumpy pile of potatoes. “Amber. Hey, Amber.” She ignored him. “Yiyun,” he spoke louder, tapping her on the shoulder. She just looked over at him slowly, her face blank and without expression. “You should eat,” he told her, “I didn’t cook that for nothing.”

“Mmmmm…” grunted the little girl as a reaction.

“Come on now,” Jun-jie pressed, “You haven’t even touched anything on your plate. You’re usually such a good eater. In fact, over the past couple of days, you’ve barely eaten enough to fill up a bird.”

“Not hungry,” muttered Amber, looking away.

“You must be by now. Come on, it tastes fine…good, even. Just try some.” Amber just sat still. “Yiyun,” Jun-jie pushed, an authoritative tone in his voice, “You are a growing girl. You need to eat. It’s not good for you not to. Now, get your elbow off the table and start eating. I want to see the vast majority off all that food gone, you hear?”

Sighing, Amber took her elbow off the table, but she still didn’t eat. Jun-jie noticed this and took her fork and stabbed it into a cube of cut steak. He drove the fork towards her mouth. She was going to eat one way or another, even if he had to feed her himself. “I’m not a-” Amber was about to protest, but a piece of beef in her mouth made her stop mid-sentence. After chewing and swallowing, Amber continued with what she wanted to say, “I’m not a baby.” Because Amber often liked to pretend that she was more grown-up than she really was, that statement was something she said quite a lot. It could almost be considered to be her catchphrase.

“Then eat,” he ordered. Amber did as she was told, despite not being in the mood for food. It had been a few days since her mom had left. How many, she wasn’t too sure of. Every day just seemed like one big day run together ever since it had happened.

Why wouldn’t it seem that way? After all, every day was pretty much the same. Her dad would nudge her awake, and she’d return a grumpy groan in his direction, too miserable to wake and start a new day. He’d fix her a bowl of colorful cereal, of which she’d only consume a few spoonfuls. After breakfast, he’d help her wash up, brush her teeth, and comb her hair. Following that would be putting on what clothes he left out for her. Once she finished dressing, she’d go into the living room and sit in front of the television for an hour and watch her favorite learning-oriented cartoons. That one hour was probably the happiest hour of her morning; it was an escape from her problems. The dark clouds and creeping feeling of hurt and sadness would return when her dad would shut the television off, though.

Following that would be playtime, although Amber wasn’t all that playful anymore. If the weather was nice, her dad would take her outside in the backyard. He’d remain inside to tidy up the house (the house needed a good cleaning, considering Jing-Yi never really bothered with doing it), but he’d peep out the window quite often to check on Amber, to see if she was alright. She wasn’t; he could tell. She didn’t play like she used to. Instead of running around and spinning in circles until she was dizzy, now she sat in the grass with a frown on her face while quietly ‘playing’ with Poopsie. Activities like jump roping and bug catching had been replaced with wrathful, focused weed-pulling and hiding away in her little playhouse to weep. No longer did she play on her fancy swing set, the one she got for her fourth birthday. No, now all she would do was just sit at the edge of the set’s slide and draw squiggles in the nearby sand.

Playtime inside wasn’t all that nice, either. When it was too messy to go out, Amber could be found coloring sadly. What would she be coloring? Well, nothing other than ‘I’m sorry Mommy’ pictures and cards, of course. She made about five or so every day. It was just heartbreaking. When she wasn’t found coloring, she could be found…actually, she couldn’t be found at all, really, not without heavy searching. Due to lack of sleep, Amber would go and hide in the strangest of places and try to take naps behind her daddy’s back. Jun-jie had caught her sleeping in the empty bathtub, behind an opened door, beside the washing machine, and even under her bed. He caught her in other places, too.

During the middle of playtime came her mid-morning snack, a fruit and some milk. Amber refused to even touch it. The next meal was lunch when Jun-jie would make her a sandwich and give her some raisins, some tiny pieces of raw veggies, and a pudding cup. Lunch time always had the same ending result: less than a quarter of the sandwich gone, the pudding cup still completely full, all the veggies remaining, and all of the raisins gone. Afterwards, Jun-jie would try to get Amber to play a board game with him, a failed attempt every time. Amber always ate of her afternoon snack, because it was that time of day when she finally did get the littlest bit hungry. It was the only meal she consumed in full. When her dad would put her down for her nap, all she’d do was toss and turn in her bed restlessly, wishing her mother would return. It was about that time every day that Jun-jie would give up. He’d quit trying to get Amber to engage in some sort of activity and have fun, because he knew she wouldn’t. He understood how terrible she felt. He thought that maybe if she started to play, she’d feel better, but it never would happen. He’d start every day feeling hopeful, thinking the maybe that day would be the day that Amber would sort of ‘forget’ about her mother’s disappearance. She was only four; her memory couldn’t be all that great, right? Maybe it was possible for her to forget.

So, in giving up, he turned to the only thing that he saw give her joy during these gloomy days, the television. After her nap, he just sat her in front of it for the rest of the day because he didn’t know what else to do. Jun-jie hated the fact that he was keeping her in front of the set for so long and for relying on it to, in a sense, ‘raise his child,’ but he didn’t know what else could make her happy. In the evening, he’d serve dinner, which his daughter just picked at. Then, thirty minutes more of television followed.

Lastly, he gave Amber her bath and tucked her in, saying that tomorrow would be better, which was a lie. She couldn’t force herself to sleep, guilt gnawing at her the entire time. She’d get up in the middle of the night, run to her dad’s room and wake him, asking to sleep with him. She would lay beside him in his huge bed, but remained wide awake for hours. The warmth from her father’s arms wrapped around her small body and the soft sounds of his breathing during his sleep weren’t enough to relax her. She’d stay wide-eyed and worried until exhaustion finally took over, causing everything to fade to black. This resulted in her only having two hours of sleep. Then, her father would nudge her, and she’d give him that groan again, signaling the beginning of the cycle once more.

“Aw, geeze,” Jun-jie worried in his head as he watched his daughter forcing her food down, “This is really, really bad. I took the entire week off work to try to make her feel better, and she’s still just as upset as the day it all started. She doesn’t want to eat, has strange sleep patterns, and she refuses to play. What am I going to do with her? If I keep letting this go unchecked, it’s only going to get much worse. I can feel it. Aw, my poor baby.”

Amber made herself chew the huge mouthful she had, despite the fact that she felt kind of sick. Her stomach didn’t want to be fed, the acid churning and gurgling in protest every time something slid down her esophagus and dropped down into her gut. Jun-jie took notice of her disinterest towards eating. This is why he spoke up, “Honey, you can stop if you want. I’m not going to make you eat if you’re not hungry.”

The little girl swallowed the lump of food roughly, glad that she could be done. “I don’t feel good, daddy,” she announced.

“I figured that much,” he rejoined, kissing her on the forehead, “Just promise me that if you do get hungry, you’ll tell me. Hey, you want to play a game or something?”

“Nuh-uh,” the girl’s voice creaked, as she leaned in towards him. Jun-jie reached out and embraced her, letting her press her face into his chest. She moaned and lamented. He let her, too. He just sat there patiently, rubbing her back, letting her get all of the feelings out. They sat there just like that for a few hours.

“Come on, let’s put you in bed,” he decided, once it got dark. Once he put his little angel to bed, Jun-jie went online to do some research. He decided that the next morning, he would make a phone call and set up an appointment for his daughter. She desperately needed it, he felt.


“Wake up, honey,” Jun-jie sang, poking Amber’s cheek. He was lying next to her in bed.

The young child stirred, not wanting to have to face the day ahead. “Nooo,” she moaned, “Too tired.”

“Well, you have to, baby,” he stated, “We’re going to the doctor today.”

“Why?” Amber questioned, confused. Then, she came to a conclusion, a frightening one. She sat straight up and gasped, “Are you sick, Daddy?” She placed her hand upon his forehead, checking for fever.

Jun-jie couldn’t help but chuckle at his daughter’s reaction. It was so cute how she became concerned for him and even tried to see if his forehead was hot. “No, baby,” he laughed, gently removing her hand and bringing it to his lips to kiss it. This earned him a small smile from his daughter. That smile made his heart flutter; he was glad that he managed to squeeze that out of her. “You,” he started, “You, little Yiyun, are the best thing that ever happened to me.” Amber grinned again, and Jun-jie reached up and tickled at the corners of her smile.

“Hehehehehe, stop it, Daddy,” she giggled, pushing his hands away, gently.

“You seem very happy today,” he mentioned, “Any particular reason why?”

“’Cause Daddy,” was all that came from her lips.

“Well, come on, sweetheart. We have to get ready to go,” he announced, sitting up.

“Why are we going to the doctor, Daddy?”

“I set up an appointment for you.”

“But, I’m not sick!” squealed Amber, “I’m not sick!”

“I know, honey, but I think you should go.”

“I’m not gonna have to take any yucky medicine, am I?”

“I hope not,” Jun-jie inaudibly whispered.


“You sure you’re not hungry?” Jun-jie inquired, looking down at the child he was holding hands with, “If you are, I can get you something to ea-”

“Don’t want,” Amber interrupted.

“Because I know you barely ate any breakfast.” Amber just shook her head in response.

“Daddy, what is this place?” Amber asked as they entered a large building.

“The doctor’s.”

“This doesn’t look like any doctor’s I seen,” Amber rejoined, gripping her father’s hand tighter. The doctor’s office she usually went to had brightly painted walls and pictures of cute cartoon characters in frames. The office she was currently in had yellowish-beige walls and a sterile white ceiling that was so shiny, that the lights glared off of it and made her eyes hurt when she looked up at it. Instead of having little plastic chairs and beanbag chairs for the patients to sit in, this place had old-looking olive green couches. Sitting on the couches were decorative pillows with ugly patterns on them. The patterns were so gross; the sight of them was giving Amber a tummy ache. Or, maybe that was just because she was nervous. This place was so big and intimidating looking. The floor was wooden and glossy, much unlike the carpeted floors they had at her usual doctor office.

“Yes, can I help you?” from behind the window at the front desk croaked a scary looking old woman with tortoise shell glasses and a sweater that looked as if it were made from the fur of cats. Her voice made Amber shiver and hide behind her father’s leg.

“Yes, I’m here for the ten o’ clock appointment,” Jun-jie spoke warmly, “for my daughter, Amber.”

“Is that her behind you?” the woman questioned.

“Huh? Oh, yes,” replied Jun-jie as he looked back at his frightened daughter.

“Well,” the woman wheezed, leaning forward to get a better look, “Isn’t she cute. How old are you?” Instead of actually responding, Amber just made a squeaking sound, wishing she was back at home.

“Don’t be scared,” Jun-jie cooed, “Everything’s going to be fine. Now, be a good girl and talk to the nice lady.”

Amber stepped out from behind her hiding place. The old woman looked really creepy. She had saggy, wrinkly skin, and she had gross spots on her face. Her lips were chapped, and she had white hairs sprouting out of her double chin. Amber knew she was supposed to be nice, though. “I-I-I’m f-four years old,” stuttered the child, holding up four fingers.

“Well, I can assure you, Mr. Liu,” the woman started, turning her attention back to Jun-jie, “Dr. Sunderland is the best child psychiatrist around. Your daughter will be fine in his care.”

“I hope so,” sighed Jun-jie, “You see, she’s been really upset ever since..,” he leaned up towards the window before whispering, “…her mother left, and I don’t know what on Earth to do abou-”

“Don’t worry, sir. The doctor has dealt with issues like this before. Just go sit in the waiting room, and he’ll be out shortly.”

“Come on,” he instructed Amber, taking her to go sit on one of the couches with the ugly pillows on it. Amber looked around at her surroundings. While she did that, Jun-jie just sat there, thankful that the doctor was free the day after he had called up there.

“Oh, sir,” the woman called, “I forgot, you have some forms to fill.”

Jun-jie rose to retrieve the forms, but a small hand reached out to stop him. He looked into Amber’s worried eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m coming right back,” he assured. While he was gone, the little girl noticed the plant in the corner of the room. It was almost as tall as her daddy, she figured. All of the paintings on the wall were boring; they were depictions of outdoor scenes. They were rustic and were done by a skillful hand. The only colors any of them consisted of were blue, green, brown, grey, and yellow. It was only the darker shades of the colors, too. They weren’t bright or eye-catching, so they didn’t hold her attention for long. The only other thing in the room was a small glass table with a statue of a golden elephant on it. Amber thought that was boring, too. Her doctor’s office had a big, fancy aquarium in it with fish of every color imaginable. She always enjoyed watching the fish swim about. Now, all she had to watch was a stupid elephant that stayed in the same spot the entire time. Amber shifted uncomfortably; the couch cushions were stiff. This place was nothing like the waiting room at her pediatrician’s, not at all.

“You’re going to be good for the doctor, right?” Jun-jie asked when he sat back down next to her.


“Good. Now, don’t be scared. He’s probably going to ask you a bunch of questions. Also, if there’s something on your mind that you feel the need to say, don’t be afraid to say it. The doctor needs to know how you’re feeling.”

Amber didn’t exactly understand what her father meant when he said that but, wanting to make him happy, she just complied and said, “Okay, Daddy.”

That’s when the doctor came out. He was a giant, standing even taller than Amber’s father did. His grey, straw-like hair stuck up all over the place messily. He had really big feet with colorful shoes that made him look like a clown…a deranged clown. His white doctor’s coat went down to his knees, and he wore baggy green plaid pants. He had on thick glasses that he constantly had to push up because they kept sliding down the bridge of his nose. His skin looked even more disgusting then the old woman’s; it looked…leathery. Amber’s eyes widened in horror. Surely, that couldn’t be the doctor she was going to see. He didn’t look nice.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Sunderland,” he introduced himself to Amber’s dad.

“Jun-jie Liu, nice to meet you, sir,” greeted Jun-jie as he shook the man’s hand.

“And, this,” continued the doctor as he knelt down to Amber’s level, “must be little Amber.”

“Say hi, Amber,” lightly spoke, trying to get his daughter to speak and get that stunned look off of her face. Amber let out another squeak and quickly held on to her daddy. “I-I’m so sorry, she usually isn’t like this around people,” Jun-jie tried to explain.

“It’s perfectly fine, I’m sure she’s just nervous because this is her first time here. This behavior is completely normal,” the doctor confirmed.

“Will she be okay?”

“With time and regular visits, yes.”

“Okay, Amber,” Jun-jie mumbled softly as he stroked her cheek, “You have to go see the doctor for a while, okay? I’ll be right out here waiting for you. Nothing bad is going to happen. You’re just going to talk with him, okay?”

“Um-hmm,” whimpered the child as she nodded.

“Come, little one; we’re going to my office,” Dr. Sunderland voiced, standing and putting out his hand for the child to take. Amber hesitated. “There is nothing to fear. Dr. Sunderland doesn’t hurt children, he is friendly with children,” the doctor added. Amber gently placed her hand into his and stood up, letting him lead the way. She looked back at her father, who was smiling and waving. She waved back, sadly.


“As you can see, there are a lot of toys here that you can play with,” spoke the doctor as he closed the door to his office. Amber just stood around, hands behind her back and staring at the floor as she kicked at the carpet with her right foot. “But, you don’t have to play if you don’t want to,” the doctor threw in, “We can do whatever you want to do.”

“I want to go home,” whined the child.

“Well, you can’t, not yet,” explained the doctor, “You will later, but for now, let’s just talk.”

“Don’t wanna.”

“Okay, that’s fine. Do you want some juice or something?” Amber hadn’t thought about it, but now that the subject of juice was brought up, she noticed that she was quite thirsty.

“A-apple juice?” she asked, nervously.

“Yes, I can get you apple juice. Just sit tight, and I’ll got get you some.” The doctor pointed at a beanbag chair, much like the ones at Amber’s pediatrician’s. She sat in it, like instructed.


“Was it good?” Sunderland asked once Amber finished off her juice.

“Yeah,” Amber orated in a soft voice, “Thank you.”

“You’ve very welcome.”

“My daddy told me that I’m s’posed to say ‘thank you’ when people gives me stuff.”

“Well, that’s very true. Your father’s right.” The doctor watched as the child yawned sleepily. “Are you tired?” he inquired. She nodded. “You father told me that you were having trouble sleeping at night and during your naptime. Is that true?”

“I guess,” muttered the girl as she tugged at the hem of her black and white striped tee-shirt.

“He says you sometimes do sleep in the middle of the day, though.”


“So, how are you feeling?”

“My tummy kinda hurts.”

“Oh, do you feel sick?”


“Do you need to go to the bathroom?”


“Are you afraid or nervous?” The child nodded.

“There is no need to be,” the doctor stated, calmly, “This is a safe place for you.”


“Yes, Amber,” the doctor smiled, “You are safe here.”

“Can I go home now?” she asked, wanting to go back to bed.

“No, not yet. First, let’s talk about you.”

“About me?” Amber wondered, her gaze shifting upwards.

“Yes. What’s your favorite color?”


“Do you have a favorite TV show?”

“Sesame Street, Barney, and Blue’s Clues.”

“Do you watch them every day?”

“I don’t watch all of them every day anymore,” Amber let him know, “Daddy only lets me watch a little TV in the morning. I watch it a lot before bedtime. I used to watch TV all day back when Mommy…” Amber stopped mid-sentence; it wasn’t something she wanted to think about.

Noticing the sad look that took shape upon the young girl’s features, Sunderland decided to steer the conversation in another direction. “Do you have any friends?”

“My bestest friend in the whole wide world is Poopsie.”


“My llama,” Amber beamed, “He’s my buddy. He is so cute. I got him when I was a baby. I don’t remember having him as a baby, but Daddy showed me picture one time of baby Amber and Poopsie.”

Sunderland smiled. The girl’s mood seemed to lighten as she spoke about Poopsie. “So, is Poopsie…a toy of yours?”

“Uh-huh,” she grinned as she nodded vigorously, “He’s really nice, and he likes to cuddle with me whenever I’m sad or scared.”

“Really, now?” laughed the doctor, going along with everything she was saying.


“How do you feel whenever Poopsie is with you?”

“He makes me feel better. He always listens to me and is never mean. He plays with me, and is always there when I need him.”

“When do you need him?” The doctor pressed, feeling like they were getting somewhere.

“When I’m sad, mad, or scared.”

Sunderland’s forehead wrinkled; that wasn’t quite the response he had wanted. He’d have to ask her another question in order to get the ball rolling. “Do you think you can give me examples?” Amber seemed confused. “I mean,” Sunderland began, “Can you tell me sometimes that you needed Poopsie and he helped you?”

“When it was cold out, I got really sick,” she told her story, “I coughed a lot and felt really bad. My nose was stuffy, and my head felt funny. It hurt a lot, and I sneezed a lot of green boogers out of my nose. My tummy was sick, too. I had to stay in bed and take yucky medicine that Mom got from my other doctor-man. She made me put the temperature thingy in my mouth, and she told me that it said I was really hot. Every time the grown-ups gave me soup, I threw up. I threw-up on Mommy by accident, and she yelled at me. I cried because I didn’t mean to do it, honest. Daddy told her not to be mean to me, and he took care of me until I got better. Poopsie slept with me every night when I was sick, and he snuggled with me every day. He didn’t even get mad when my boogers got on him.”

“So, Poopsie helps you when you’re sick, then?” She bobbed her head up and down. “How about when you were angry? When has he helped you when you were angry?”

Amber looked downwards, biting her lip. She felt a little bit ashamed to tell her next story. It was a time when she hadn’t been such a good girl. “Maybe that’s why Mommy’s mad at me,” she concluded mentally. “I…uh...uh…g-got mad and y-yelled at Mommy, stuttered Amber.

“Tell me all about it. What made you so angry?”

“W-we were at the library,” Amber softly spoke, also pronouncing ‘library’ as ‘lidairy’, “Mommy took me to get books, like she always does. She used to read them to me at night.”

“Does your dad read to you?” Sunderland investigated.


“Do you want him to?”

“I guess. It’d be nice,” mumbled Amber, sweetly.

“Continue with your story, dear. You said you were at the library for books.”

“Yeah, Mommy took me to get books. Katie came and told me about her birthday party at the pizza place, and she asked me to come, and…”

“Who is Katie?” quizzed the doctor, jotting down notes.

“She’s the girl from the lidairy. She always talks to me and is really nice. Her mommy is nice, too.”

“So, her mom takes her to the library just like your mom takes you?”

“Um…I…guess so,” Amber reacted, unsure if that was right or not.

“Then what happened? What made you angry?”

“When Mommy told me I couldn’t go. I was the only kid at the lidairy that couldn’t,” Amber pouted as she recalled the experience, “I kept begging her to let me go, but she wouldn’t. I think it made Katie feel bad, too. When we left and got in the car, I got really mad. I kept asking to go, but she told me no and not to ask again. So…I screamed and kicked at the seat. It wasn’t fair. Mommy didn’t want to take me because she wanted to go home and sleep, she said so herself. None of the other mom’s slept like she did; they went to the party with all the kids. It’s wasn’t fair.” Sunderland couldn’t help but notice how the little girl had balled her hand up into fist. Her eyebrows were furrowed, too. “Mommy never let me play with other kids. I wanted to go to the party. I was so mad. Then, Mommy yelled at me, so I yelled, too. I was tired of her always yelling at me, so I wanted to yell louder than she did. She pulled over, and went back to my seat, and took me and smacked my butt hard. I cried until we got home. She smacked my butt again in my bedroom. It hurt really badly, and it only made me madder. I was so mad at her. I cried and cried.”

“Has your father ever…erm, smacked your butt as punishment?”

“Yes, but not like Mommy.”

“How so?”

“Mommy does it too hard. She hurts me. Dad told her not to do it so hard.”

“So, uh, how did Poopsie help you?”

“I hugged him and cried, and he got wet with my crying. He didn’t care, though. He made me feel better. I stopped feeling mad.”

“Are you mad now?” Sunderland asked, noticing Amber’s red face and hardened features. She nodded. “Because you mom didn’t let you go to the party and punished you?” She shook her head. “Then, why?”

“Because I was bad that day. If I hadn’t have been bad, Mommy wouldn’t have gotten mad and left.”

“Amber…you have to understand that this isn’t your fault. What she did had nothing to do with your behavior. You weren’t bad. You didn’t drive her away.” Amber’s tense form softened, but she still had guilt spread across her features. “Do you want some more juice?” She nodded.


“So, when was a time you were scared and Poopsie helped you?” Sunderland dove right in and continued their session once he got back and handed Amber some more juice.

“On Halloween.”

“Tell me about that.”

“I was dressed as a ducky, and Daddy gave me a pumpkin pail for my candy. Mommy was at some lady’s house, so it was just me and Daddy. He went with me trick-or-treating. He told me that I had been trick-or-treating before, but I don’t remember. I was three. It was so dark out, and there were monsters everywhere. Daddy said they were just the kids of the neighborhood wearing costumes. I was in a costume, too, but mine wasn’t scary. I was just a duck. Everyone was a monster. I was afraid. I cried and cried, wanting to go back in the house. Daddy tried to tell me not to be, but I couldn’t stop crying. Daddy took me back to the house, and he got Poopsie and told me to carry him with me. As soon as I held him, I felt brave. I wanted to go trick-or-treating all of a sudden. With Poopsie with me, I could do anything. Daddy and I went outside again, and I didn’t get scared anymore. None of the monsters could hurt me, and none of the loud of grown-ups giving me candy scared me, either. Nothing scared me, at all. It was all because of Poopsie.”

“Lastly, I want you to tell me about a time Poopsie was there for you when you felt sad,” Sunderland mentioned, still jotting down notes. Amber became silent. Her bottom lip trembled as a salty tear fell down her cheek. The doctor watched as it dripped down off of her chin and fell in Amber’s lap. “Amber…if there’s something you want to say, say it. Don’t keep it to yourself. This is why you’re here, to express your feelings.” She started gasping and rubbing her eyes. “If you want to cry, you can. You’re safe here.” And so, that’s what Amber did. She sobbed until she couldn’t anymore. She buried her face in her hands and shook violently. The entire time, Sunderland just patted her back, not saying anything until her moans began to soften and dissipate. “You’re upset because you’re thinking of an unhappy memory,” he reflected her feelings back to her. She nodded and whimpered, bottom lips still quivering. He handed her some tissues. “What is it that you’re thinking of? What is upsetting you?”

“The day that Mommy drove off in her car and left us,” she whispered. Sunderland still was able to catch it, though.

“Did Poopsie help you then?”


“What do you mean?”

“He still lets me cuddle with him, but I still feel sad. He’s supposed to make me happy, but he didn’t,” muttered the girl.

“Poopsie is just a toy, Amber. He doesn’t move, or talk, or anything. He can’t help you. But, I can help you.”

“You can?”

“Yes, dear. That’s my job. That’s why we’re here talking. I want to help you.”

“W-will you?” pleaded Amber, looking up at him with red, empty eyes full of hurt.

“Of course, child, of course,” he assured her, giving her a light pat on the shoulder.

“You know, it’s not uncommon for a child to have only one parent. Lots of children are just like you; they only have either their mom or dad. Some children have neither.”

“Really?” Amber was surprised to know that. She didn’t know that other kids only had one parent. She especially didn’t know that there were some unfortunate children that didn’t have any parents at all.

“Yes. You are very blessed to have a father whom cares about you so much. He really loves you and is happy to have you.” Hearing that made Amber smile slightly, reminding her of how her dad called her “the best thing that ever happened to him.” Seeing the child smile, Sunderland added, “Amber, do you know why parents take their children to doctors?”

“’Cause sick,” she simply mouthed.

“Because they want you to be healthy. They care for you and worry about you. That’s why your dad took you here. He wants you to feel well.” That’s when Amber got up, and went over to Dr. Sunderland. “Yes, child, what is it that you want?” He gasped in surprise when she embraced him. He was too professional to return it back, but Amber didn’t notice, nor did she care.

“You’re really nice,” grinned Amber, “I like you.”

“Well…I like you too, Amber. You’re a very nice little girl.”

“I’m cold.”

“Oh, I’ll turn down the a/c for you,” he announced as he stood to go mess with the thermostat on the wall.


The rest of the session ended up being quite lovely. Amber told the doctor all about her favorite storybooks, and what she liked to do outside, as well as many other things about herself. The doctor also taught Amber lots of fun games to play, too. Little did she know, they were actually coping exercises that he would later show her father to practice with her whenever she felt sad. Amber played with the toys in his office, and was actually starting to feel true happiness again. She was having too much fun to notice that the nervous pain in her stomach had disappeared.

“Well, time’s up, Amber,” announced the doctor, “Time for you to go home. Let’s go out front and see your daddy.”

“Yay! Daddy!” cheered Amber, standing up.

“Oh, but first, can you be a good girl, and put these toys back where you found them?”

“Uh-huh,” she squealed happily, going to pick up the toys.


“Daddy, daddy, daddy!” She called as she ran through the waiting room, causing quite a ruckus, “I had so much fun, Daddy!”

“Okay, well that’s nice, but you have to use you indoor voice,” Jun-jie informed her as he reached to pick her up.

Amber nodded, placed her index finger up to her lips and made a “Shh!” sound, showing she understood.

“Good girl,” he praised her, “That’s exactly right.”

“Oh, Daddy,” she sapped, hugging his neck, “I missed you so much. The doctor-man is so nice.”

“Well, I’m glad.”

“Yes, she did very well today,” Dr. Sunderland smiled, walking up to them.

“So, did you make a breakthrough, Doctor?” Jun-jie wondered, concerned.

“Well, I wouldn’t say so quite yet,” rejoined Doctor Sunderland, “She can’t be cured in a day. However, with regular visits, she should be perfectly fine.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“I do want to tell you, if she feels the need to cry, let her. Humans need to be able to properly express their emotions, this includes crying. Most parents will discourage by either ignoring it, or getting angry with the child. This will cause her to register sadness as a ‘bad’ emotion. If she feels that she gets negative consequences for ‘bad’ emotions, but praise for ‘good’ ones, she will just end up keeping things like sadness and anger a secret from you. She’ll keep it bottled up, which is unhealthy and can lead to violent behavior in the future. And, even though she does need to be taught that there are times when loud crying is unacceptable, such as in public, she should still be given private time at home to be heard. Does that make sense?” the doctor explained.

Jun-jie blinked. The doctor had just laid down some pretty philosophical stuff that he himself had never thought about. But, it indeed, did make sense. “Yes, I understand.”

“Good, now I want to show you a few techniques I want you to practice with her. So, if you don’t mind, could you step into my office?”


“Okay, well, thanks again,” Jun-jie thanked him, “You have no idea how glad I am that you were able to see her today.”

“It’s no problem. With regular visits, everything will be fine,” Sunderland told him, holding the door open for him to enter into the lobby.

“Well, thanks so much.”

“You’re welcome,” smiled the doctor before looking to Amber, “And, I’ll see you next week, okay?”

“’Kay,” smiled Amber, still holding onto her father’s neck.

Jun-jie made his way to the center of the lobby, and Sunderland went over to talk to another patient in the lobby. “So, honey,” Jun-jie started, “We’ve got an errand to run, and then after that, it’ll be lunchtime. Are you going to want anything?”

Amber thought about it. Not that it was being mentioned, she did notice that her stomach did feel quite hollow. “Yeah, I’m kinda hungry.”

“Well, all right, I’ll pick you up something soon, okay? You want a kid’s meal?”

Amber gasped and her eyes widened. Oh boy! A kid’s meal meant she was going to get a little toy in the bag! “Yeah, I want a cheesebooger!”

Jun-jie chuckled at how she pronounced ‘cheeseburger.’ “Okay, I just have to get some things straightened out with the lady at the window, and then we can go.”

“See you next week, Amber,” the scary old woman said, waving to the child. Only, she didn’t seem so scary anymore.

“Yes, goodbye,” the doctor called, waving, as well.

“BYEEEE!” Amber squealed excitedly, waving her hand furiously.

“Yiyun, not so loud,” her father gently scolded.

“Oops,” giggled the girl, putting her tiny fingers up to her lips, “Sorry.”

All of the adults in the waiting room thought it was cute, though, and giggled as they left.

Ever since that day, things had gotten much better. For an entire year, Amber saw Dr. Sunderland once every week, each visit more successful than the last. Amber became happier, and she started to play and giggle again. If fact, she was happy pretty much all the time for that year. She was always smiling, and the bond between her and her father became stronger than ever. Her appetite returned back to normal, of which Jun-jie was very glad. She started enjoying food again, maybe even more so than she ever had. That could’ve been in part due to the fact that Jun-jie actually made them delicious home cooked meals and introduced her to a lot of new foods.

Despite the fact that he was very busy, Jun-jie always made time for his little angel. He enrolled Amber into a preschool that she went to during the day. She made a lot of friends and learned many new things there. She seemed to enjoy learning, and Jun-jie couldn’t be more proud. Everything was perfect, well, almost. Jun-jie was still lonely as far as being in a romantic relationship went, but he tried his best to ignore it. Once Amber turned five, she stopped seeing Dr. Sunderland, since she seemed to be fine. Amber was happy, and Jun-jie was glad, but it was now time for him to be happy, too. So, exactly one year after the incident, he made an online dating profile…the same one that led him to Delia.
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Sorry my chapters are so long. Thanks for reading.