"She's a more serious child," says Ms. McKinney, relaxing her lungs. "She's not a happy child. Now, she's not a bad child -- she just has low self-esteem."
Talk about the year of living dangerously. Brandy getting shot twice was just so weird, Ms. McKinney says.
How could Brandy not be traumatized walking around with a bullet in her leg?
She's got to get back on track, Ms. McKinney says. Brandy spent the summer and part of this school year hanging out with her friends. "Her brains are all scrambled."
What is on this girl's mind?
"Trouble," her great aunt says.
` "BRANDY? COME ON!"
The word these professionals use is counseling, not psychology. Call it psychology and young students think you're calling them crazy.
Dr. Mark Weist directs the University of Maryland's School Mental Health Program, which offers counseling for students in 14 Baltimore city public schools, including Brandy's.
Inner-city kids usually don't have access to mental health services because of lack of money, transportation and knowledge about the profession. So, Dr. Weist and the other counselors are in the schools. They see about 100 kids a year.
He hasn't met Brandy at Southwestern High, but her situation sounds familiar -- except for the part about being shot twice in five weeks.
He counsels many young victims of street violence -- kids who did nothing except stand on some street corner and get mistaken for a drug hit. Naturally, these kids aren't bubbling over with cheer and tranquillity.
"Depression and anxiety are very common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder," Dr. Weist says.
(Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually associated with war veterans.)
Generally, these kids have nightmares, worry about the safety of their family, and "scan their environment for possible threats." The children can feel listless and hopeless and sometimes they drop out of fun or productive activities.
What's the point of trying to improve yourself?
"A lot of kids we work with don't expect to live to young adulthood," says Dr. Weist. "They expect to be harmed."
Stating the obvious cannot be under-stated: It's necessary for the violent incidents to stop so the children can recover from the initial trauma, he says.
It can be said these adaptable kids acquire survival skills beyond their years. But they also can get stuck in a harsh and hopeless time warp.
"What you have to do is get them moving forward again," Dr. Weist says.
Brandy will be moving soon; everybody at Lexington Terrace is leaving.
The city won a $22 million grant to demolish the Lexington Terrace projects come March. The new development will include more than 300 townhouses. But Barbara "Bobbi" McKinney plans to move to an apartment in the 1800 block of Baltimore Street. She plans to take Brandy and other family members with her. "I want my family together."
Before leaving the housing project, Ms. McKinney will stage her last Haunted House on Saturday on the 10th floor "tot lot" of Lexington Terrace.
A funeral home has donated a casket, and Ms. McKinney is gathering black and orange crepe paper to string in the vacant cement playground.
:. She wants to recruit Brandy to be a witch.
"BRANDY! COME ON UP, A REPORTER WANTS TO TALK WITH YOU!"
Brandy finally walks up the stairs to the 10th-floor balcony. She turns 15 next month. She is tall, 5-foot-8.
"Yeah, I can play basketball. I got a jump shot."
Now, just passing along that people are worried about you. "I know."
"A lot has been going on," she says, almost whispering, almost explaining herself. The conversation is brief.
Brandy says her right leg only hurts when it rains.
She is back in school, after missing the first month. "I'm going to finish school. I always wanted to go to the University of Maryland at Baltimore."
She says she had fun this year hanging out with friends at the bus stop and at parties. "I don't hang around street corners anymore," Brandy says. "I get scared a lot of time walking. I'm scared a lot."
She looks and seems older than 14. "Everybody tells me that."
She is known in her neighborhood as the girl who got shot twice.
A World War II veteran sent her a note and $20 last year. He said he had been shot in combat and knows how she feels. A woman sent her a pocketbook.
She doesn't want to leave Lexington Terrace.
"I'm going to miss my friends. We've been together for a long time."
Family and teachers are worried about her. But maybe she's fine -- it's hard to say.
Maybe Brandy really is troubled.
* October 1995: The bullet remains in her upper leg, and the long-term prognosis is unclear.