The Image Of Her Youth

By Louise Sapphira

Little time remains in the afternoon before the Melbourne musical production at the historic Daisy House theatre. I start fidgeting with my fingernails, scraping the edges of my right thumb. Butterflies gradually creep into my stomach. Will I be disappointed tonight, falling into the regrettable trap of oversharing? But are more secrets helpful? Why am I questioning myself? They’re my friends.

It’s been ten years since I graduated from high school. I gather my thoughts and peer at the white Noosa bookshelf in my lounge room. A framed portrait of a young healthy dancer in her late teens sits on the top shelf. The confident teenager in the drawing is a complete contrast to my early twenties. After my teenage years, I felt deceived, filled with dread, and almost defeated. 

I remember that dreaded day with the therapist who interfered and intruded into my mind. How could I have been so naive to think the appointment was an outing, an experience I could have together with my mother? 

The butterflies in my stomach today are different to what I felt as a young adult sitting in the therapist’s waiting room. Today, there is a sense of excitement and relief while the afternoon sun shines through my wooden sash windows, glowing over the sprinkles of dust in the air. 

I stand up from my puffy, blue sofa, walk towards the portrait, and pick it up. I open the pink and blue frame and glimpse at the lines on the pale-yellow, crisp paper hidden behind the portrait. It’s been several months since I gazed over the words. A poem I wrote a few years ago. Perhaps a method to avoid the frustration and confusion therapy created. In my mind, I’ve written and re-read the words so many times that it’s pointless to count. 

Before I start to read the poem, I recall the words of the portrait’s painter, a friend that drifted away.

‘You’re so modest Amy,’ Sophia would say to me when I thought my poems were scribble. 

We were only teenagers, and now, almost ten years later, it’s time to rekindle our friendship.

She glides across the floor’s surface

Smooth as a glowing green caterpillar

Ballet slippers take intricate steps

Will she stand the test of time?

They reflect quietly

Solitude is often a saviour…

I stop myself before tears fall down my face. I never really want to comprehend the impact of being held back. Of not being allowed to be myself. Stalled before I even started. Put in a situation where I was encouraged to change my personality. To be more submissive when I should have been striving toward my goals at the age of eighteen. 


Suddenly, I’m back in the therapist’s waiting room, fidgeting with my unmanicured fingernails and unable to sit still. Not wanting to be there. Not really knowing why. Sitting on the brown leather couch amongst the other patients I look for an interesting magazine, but only succeed in making a mess. Everyone seems as if they should be elsewhere. 

This appointment was not with my regular treating practitioner. Still, I cautiously agreed when my mum made the appointment. I felt old enough to make my own decisions and be left to my own accord to create a life. However, all the effort by my mum to make the appointment felt like a promising sign. 

The familiar nerves began to build during the never-ending wait. Memories flooded my mind. The screech of the brakes, the crunch of metal hitting metal. The sounds of the car accident that led to this unfortunate appointment. I still can’t fathom how everyone involved escaped serious injury. 

‘Be open, Amy,’ Mum said with a stern nod as we waited together. ‘The therapist is here to help you. So is Garry. I know he’s not your real father, but we are here for you.’

My left arm twitched when Mum and I walked into the therapist’s room and sat down. Regardless of the soft, black-cushioned couches, we sat with our back’s aligned straight. We paused, waiting to see who would speak first. 

‘Why do these things always seem to happen to Amy?’ Mum pined as the conversation with the male therapist began.

Faster than I ever expected, I’m overwhelmed by the opinions about a diagnosis and treatment. Why can’t it be one thing at a time? It never stopped. Dread overcame me when I realised where this was heading. I’m being labelled as another out-of-control teenager who needs to shape up. To be shaken up.

I cried. Hopeless tears. Is there any point in trying to stop him?

A long way from a flying silky butterfly spreading its wings into the world. Instead, I felt like an insect about to be trodden on. 

‘I see this all the time,’ the therapist explained. ‘No need to be alarmed.’

I blinked and sat there in silence for a few seconds, needing to process his words. 

‘You’ll be all right.’ The therapist continued and sat up in his black armchair. 

I noticed the creases in his dark navy suit. 

Should I speak up? 

But I didn’t. I just sat there, sat there, and sat there. 

The therapist had only just met me for the first time. Despite this short meeting, despite him being a stranger, he had an answer for everything. 

‘It was just an accident.’ I finally respond.

‘It’s much more than that,’ he replied abruptly.

I felt like he implied that the car accident was deliberate.

I felt isolated, attacked, judged. My neck started to tense. My head became heavy. Is this meant to be part of the process? 

‘We were not drunk!’ I turned my head away from his tired eyes and stared out the window. ‘We just drove down the local streets to buy some food or maybe eat out.’

‘You’ve just got your driver’s licence, darl.’ Mum chose that moment to contribute. ‘And you’re already having accidents.’

‘That’s just it, an accident!’ I raise my voice whilst my head extends from my tense shoulders. My fingers start to massage my forehead.

I glance around at the walls, focusing on the long brown desk. Why is this room so bland? Why would anyone want to spend time here?

‘You should listen to your mother, Amy. She cares for you.’

‘Whatever you say.’ I acknowledged the therapist. Yet, silently not agreeing with him. But, hey, I’m still young, and this is only a small part of my life.

Or is it?


Two years later, I dragged my feet to another early morning appointment before driving to university.

‘You’re doing well, Amy,’ the therapist commented like we are two friends catching up for a coffee.

Doing well at what? I anxiously shuffle my body whilst on the brown leather couch and consider what he just said. 


Two more years pass and I’m back in the therapist’s office. This time I placed myself on the same couch and smiled. Perhaps giving in to him worked. 

‘Things are going well Amy.’

With what? I hear his words, but they do not mean anything to me. Like nothing had changed, but things felt different. I never really understood what had to improve. Still, I continued to smile and accept this may be how it is supposed to stay. 


I shake my head and grip the edge of the blue sofa, digging my fingers into the soft fabric. I remind myself that the memory was the past. Years ago. 

I focus on today’s feelings. I have been looking forward to this afternoon for weeks. Today is about reuniting with high school friends and enjoying the passions of dance and music. I reminisce about the evening dance classes that brought us together and take another look at the poem.

The hair pulled back in an untidy ponytail

Kindness, beauty, and youth

But how do I maintain the thin waist and refined long legs?

Thinking back, but with uncertainty

Perhaps solitude is not the solution

Perhaps a drawing well kept in a blue and pink frame is the solution

Both the cold glass and beauty of the frame have lasted the test of time

However, her body has changed

Still, she has her hair tied back in a messy ponytail

But why has everything around her changed?

The struggle with relationships

Still, she remembers the talent and dedication

The love of dance…


Because most appointments involved only my therapist and me, I felt obliged to inform my mum and stepfather Garry of any progress. 

A couple of years ago, on an overcast Saturday morning in autumn at my childhood home, we sat in the sunroom’s pine chairs, sipping coffee. The little suburban wattlebirds tweeting in the background, and the sun trickling through the windows.

‘Apparently, I’m relapsing,’ I said, nursing my coffee with my fingernails scratching the pink, polka-dotted mug. ‘My therapist has found another problem.’

‘Another problem? Well, it’s good he’s on top of your care.’ 

‘I’m not going to stop driving, Mum.’ 

‘What if you have a car accident? You should trust the doctor. He knows you well,’ Mum added, standing up from the pine chair so quickly she nearly knocked it over.

‘That is right, Mum, an accident. I didn’t even drive that day. Sophia did.’

‘Darl, please!’ 

‘How does one accident lead to seeing a therapist for so many years?’

‘It’s your temperament and always wanting to have a good time. Things can go wrong, Amy when you put these two together,’ Garry added with haste.

Regardless of his comments, I felt relieved with the birds singing good morning in the background.

‘I don’t want to see the therapist anymore. Him checking in every couple of months. I’m old enough now to take care of myself. I’m in my twenties.’

‘If that’s what you’ve decided, then so be it.’ Mum adds with defiance.

‘I knew you wouldn’t love the idea, Mum. But this is my decision.’ I roll my eyes and purse my lips. Mum reaches down to rub my arm. 

‘Okay, honey. But you know how I feel. Let’s just play it by ear for a little while.’

‘Just listen to me this time, please.’ 

‘Do you want some more coffee?’

Rather than staying seated, I stood up and stepped away from the sunroom. My mind rushed through the conversation when I walk towards the door and whisper goodbye. 

My thoughts continued to overtake my mind when I arrived home. How can I find a way to end my relationship with the therapist? The relationship has resulted in some bad decisions. The therapy has pulled me to one place when I’ve yearned to go in another direction. Regardless, I’ve held on tight. I’ve focused on solutions. One bright idea I had involved conforming to the therapist’s push for me to have a boyfriend.


‘Guess what? I have a boyfriend,’ I said to my therapist, hoping to please him during one of our appointments. ‘Joel is his name. We graduated in the same year.’ 

‘Oh, okay,’ he replied, not looking at me and scribbling on a notepad. ‘Now, let’s discuss the emotion you are feeling. Often this has been overwhelming for you. I just want to be practical.’

No luck. Yet, I continued seeing Joel.


‘What do you want to do tonight, Amy?’ Joel asked one evening, whilst we sat on our run-down living room couch.

‘Can’t we stay in and watch a movie.’ 

‘You can go out with the girls and see a movie.’

‘Let’s go down to Daylesford on the weekend,’ I added reluctantly trying to find a solution to keep him happy. 

‘Okay, that would be good.’


The Saturday morning was a fresh autumn day, with warmth in the air but a slight breeze in the background. Perfect weather for a drive to Daylesford. 

‘We can stop for coffee on the way. It’ll be lovely to see the town shops,’ I suggested once we were out of the city and driving along the highway.

Another car speeds past us making the car sway.

‘Crap, he’s in a rush.’

‘He’s going way too fast Joel…don’t let him come too close!’

The dated Camry swiped in front of us, and Joel had to veer off to the left of the gutter to avoid a collision. 

‘Shit, that was close. Are you alright?’ Joel glanced at me for a second before looking back at the road ahead.

‘Yes, what do we do now?’

Joel mumbled to himself and pulled over to the muddy side of the road. 

We stepped out of the car to check for any damage. To our relief, the car was fine. Even though we are both shocked, we were okay.

‘Did you manage to see his number plate?’

‘No, Joel! I just wanted you to get out of his way.’

‘Do we need to call the police?’

I didn’t reply.

I didn’t want to be in this situation again. What’s my mum going to say? She’ll say it is my fault. Everyone being all right should be the focus, but it won’t.

‘Do you want to keep going or head home?’ Joel asked, stepping back into the car.

‘Let’s keep going. We need the weekend away. It’ll be good for the both of us.’ 

‘I think we should head home. Your mum will be worried when she hears about the accident.’

I suspiciously agreed.

The remainder of the drive back to Melbourne became uncomfortable with the lack of conversation.


What’s stuck with me since the near miss Joel and I had that weekend is the therapist’s comments. It became another kick in the gut. 

‘This is not helpful Amy.’

‘How long is this going to go on for?’ I jump in before the therapist can say anything else.

‘Well, you’ve just had a recent break-up. So, let’s schedule another appointment.’

Why so much drama when Joel moved on quicker than a moth flying past one’s eyelids during an autumn walk on a windy day?

For the remainder of the appointment, the therapist rambled on and on about nothing meaningful. I only felt a sense of wishing to cry and run away from his comments. My plan had gone into disarray. 

Why can’t I push his ideas out of my thoughts? 


In this present moment, I feel a sense of a promising future building up inside me. At the time, the whole situation seemed hopeless. It’s now different in my late twenties. 

It took an enormous amount of courage to step away from the therapist who wanted all my ducks in a row before the overbearing and time-consuming relationship ended. The result is I now feel stronger, and more independent. Ultimately, I did find a solution. Silently disagreeing with the therapist taught me so much about myself.

I exhale and silently read the next section of the poem.

Again, she returns to the blue and pink frame with the cold glass

The image is still fresh in her mind

The young girl in the drawing, she believes, is a reflection

A reflection of herself as an adolescent

Becoming a young woman

Where is the artist now? They were once friends…

I tell myself to return my thoughts to the performance I’m seeing with high-school friends tonight. My belly and chest feel filled with warmth and comfort. 

When we see each other, where do I begin? 

I have one last peek at the poem.

She has memories of the kindness of the other girls

In the hospital as a teenager

Where are these people now?

Does the artist have regrets?

No, because she is healthy

Resilient with energy

Just like the effort required in dancing

Perhaps not as naïve

Wishing to continue to glow like the caterpillar

Then there is today with butterflies in her stomach…


I left home early in the afternoon to avoid the heavy traffic in the city. To allow myself to take calm breaths. 

When I arrive at Daisy House theatre, I eagerly sit in the foyer with my head held high. I’m wearing a navy-blue, floral knee-length dress and red high heels with an ankle strap that complements the art-deco cushion. I try to be patient, but the excitement has me clinging to the red and gold cushioned armchairs. 

Then I saw her. 

I stand up from the armchairs. We both walk toward each other. 

‘Hi, it’s great to see you, Sophia.’

We welcome each other with a comforting hug. But with a slight hesitation. Perhaps wondering how much has changed.

‘Hi, Amy,’ Sophia said. ‘Finally, we’re here. Jeez! It has been almost ten years.’

I have fond memories of high school. The bliss of laughter. Mischievous behaviour. The support we gave each other to pursue our passions. We grew up together, enjoying each other’s company, despite all our differences.

‘Are you okay?’ Sophia said.

‘Sure, Sophia. Just thinking back.’ I turn my head away and peer at the people entering the foyer.

‘It’s exciting we have this chance to see each other again.’ Sophia looks directly at me.

‘It has been too long. Congratulations on the two children…. Let’s have a glass of wine before the show. The others will arrive soon.’

‘Great idea. We have time. The show won’t be starting for a little while,’ Sophia adds in a relaxed tone, without any intent to influence my thoughts.

We slowly walk together to the bar next door and order a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

Sitting on the light brown stools amongst the busy crowds of theatregoers, we clink our glasses together. 

‘You look really well, Amy,’ Sophia adds to the electric atmosphere. 

‘Thanks, but not that much to share with the girls. A bit nervous though.’

‘Nice to know you haven’t changed. Still modest.’

I smile back at Sophia. I know now I made the correct choice leaving that manipulative therapist.

What a pleasant surprise. 



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