I loved how Dr. Jones required sweatpants and slippers during sessions. In his educated opinion, patients deserve to be comfortable while working through uncomfortable things. I was back in his office in Rivertown. Familiar yellowed wallpaper and partially wilted plants. A grape juice stain on the olive colored carpet. I still remember spilling that cup when I was nine. I didn’t need sweats to be comfortable. But I wore them anyway.
The only sound was me crunching on the salted pretzels Mrs. Jones packed Dr. Jones in his brown paper bag. I thought he liked me best.
Dr. Jones crossed his legs and scribbled his notepad. I never saw another man cross his legs like that; it always made me giggle inside. He peered at me through his large tortoise shell glasses. I didn’t feel like making eye contact today, so I stared at his feet. Dr. Jones didn’t mind. It was the end of December, and he was wearing socks and sandals again. I stiffed a laugh.
“How did you feel after texting honestly with Mr. Nash?”
I kicked my legs up on his chase lounge and sighed. I didn’t like reliving that night. That was the night that sent me into a tailspin. It didn’t help that winter was approaching, and Christmas was in a week. The most depressing time of year.
“I felt bad. Guilty. Embarrassed.”
“Mm,” Dr. Jones said scribbling on his pad. “Did any part of you feel relieved that you told him about self harm and how you expressed that you idolized him?”
“No,” I shook my head. “I wanted to take it back.”
“You should feel proud for being truthful. Maybe you said it the wrong way, but this was a break through day for you. Did you resent revealing the EDNOS to Miss Leah?”
I looked up at the ceiling. There was a brownish yellowed spot in the corner that looked like water damage. I focused on the spot. It sort of looked like a painting of a face with jagged teeth and beady eyes.
“No. I was nervous at first but we ended up bonding over it. She has her disorder, I have mine. We have been supporting each other ever since. She lost ten pounds in three weeks and I gained ten pounds. We joke and say she gave it me.”
Dr. Jones curled his thin lips into a smile. “I’m happy to hear it, you need support in school. And regular therapy sessions. This is a delicate part of your life, moving away, being in the gray space between girlhood and womanhood, and leaving all you’ve ever known. It’s a challenging time, especially for someone with your history. You need a support system.”
“I like Leah and the Theta girls. I don’t trust all of the sisters, though.”
“Everyone needs to earn your trust, Brie. That is a healthy defense mechanism. Yet, you can’t let everyone in right away. But you shouldn’t completely hide yourself, either.”
I laughed. “That was my main objective when I went to Baylor. I guess I can’t do anything right.”
“We’ve been over this,” Dr. Jones said, switching to him smooth but firm tone. “You can’t hide from the past. Or erase it.”
“I can’t tell him.”
“You wrote that essay for the Baylor U scholarship, and look how something dark and horrible turned into a beautiful opportunity.”
“I couldn’t have done that essay without you,” I admitted.
“The more you accept memories and feelings, the less power they will have over you.”
I rubbed my temples and shifted my eye’s to meet Dr. Jones’s. Those two dark brown eyes watched me grow up. Why couldn’t I just trust him and do what he said?
“Also, texting is not the best form of communication,” Dr. Jones said, setting his notepad aside. He made a tent with his fingers and switched his crossed legs.
“What was the outcome?”
I released a big breath. “Nash texted me the very next day and said he was sorry. I didn’t know, but he had retaken the SATs and he didn’t get the score he needed. He also had just gotten in an argument with his dad about the whole thing.”
“My, that is a bad day. Did you accept his apology?”
“Mmm, yes. But you are still resentful.”
Watch it. I growled internally.
“He hurt me.”
“Allow me to play devil’s advocate. He’s only human, entitled to occasionally say things he doesn’t mean…Correct?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t make it less painful.”
“His words spoken after a hellish day? Or hearing of his new love interest? Be honest with yourself.”
I sat up a bit straighter and felt a stabbing pain in my heart. Dr. Jones crinkled his forehead. He already knows, so why is he asking? I wondered. Sometimes I wondered if he was a therapist or a mind reader.
“He’s not supposed to be with her,” I said under my breath.
Dr. Jones cupped his hand behind his ear. “What’s that?”
“I love him!” I said, so loud, that I startled myself.
“Why are you hollering this to me and not him?” Dr. Jones didn’t blink.
“I won’t. Not ever. It would change everything when he tells me that there would never be anything romantic between us.” I folded my arms.
Dr. Jones shook his head ever so slightly.
“I used to have everything under control. It wasn’t this bad until Tabitha left!”
“Relationships only exist in a common world built by two people. Only two, Miss Merritt.”
Later that day, I locked myself in my room and turned off my ringer. I didn’t want to be social. Ever since I returned to Kansas for Winter break, I wanted to go back to school. Trina and Nash kept calling me and asking me to go out and I claimed cramps.
Pretty little lies.
I laid flat on my back and stared at the ceiling. The silence was so loud. Dad was out at Louie’s bar so I had no vehicle, even if I wanted to go out. Not that I would want to drive, it had been snowing for hours. I hated snow. Each flake was a sparkling crystal of death.
My brain screamed at me to watch television or play with my phone. Just to do something. Anything to drown out the screaming that was trapped inside a silent house. Dr. Jones’s words were on a broken record from hell in my mind. I needed to move, but I was frozen.
I heard a faint knock at my door. I wondered if my dad came home from the bar early to actually spend time with me.
Nash squeaked my door open. I could already smell his cologne.
“Hey stranger, Nash said waltzing in and collapsing down on my chair next to my tall antique bookcase. It was my mom’s.
“You are getting snow all over my carpet.” I glared at his slushy boots.
“Astute observation.” Million dollar smile.
“What do you want, Nash?” I pulled covers to my chin. “I’m kind of busy being a hermit, as you can see.”
“Get your ass out bed, dweeb. Everyone is home and asking about you.” Nash got up and ripped open my closet doors. He ruffled through clothes. “I never saw this?”
I looked at hardwood flooring. “Hand me downs. Theta discovered that I’m as poor as a homeless mutt in an alleyway.”
Nash chuckled. “Nice visual.”
Nash pulled out a faded pair of form fitting blue jeans and a white peasant top. He muttered to himself while making his selections. He sounded as clueless as a guy should, while navigating through a woman’s wardrobe. I sucked my lips in; dying to laugh. He picked a royal blue sweater to wear over the blouse and brown leather cowboy boots, worn out by someone else.
“Here you go.” Nash threw the clothes on the foot of my bed. “No excuse.”
“My bed is so warm and it’s cold out!”
“I’m glad you grasp the basic concepts of temperature. But come on. This is you…shit part of your year. I’ll drive you again, but, Merritt, I swear if I have to stay with you until morning again…”
“Morning?” My voice cracked.
“Yes, remember fall break? You got drunk so I carried you upstairs. After I had to help you change, um, your clothes. Then you asked me to stay with you until morning. So I did.”
I felt my face skip red and go right to purple. Nash raised his eyebrows. “Oh come on, I’m just giving you shit. I didn’t mind doing it, that’s what friends are for, right?”
“That’s above and beyond the call of duty,” I mustered.
Nash looked confused. “What? Not to me. Come on, Merritt. Everyone is there. Billy, Rex, Zack…that new girl, Jessica.”
I sprang up. “Fine. You win.”
I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to meet miss UK model, Jessica Fabian. My arch nemesis.