Chapter 32: Trenton, North Carolina - November 22, 2017
Getman’s Park looked the same as the last time I was in it. I was amazed that I remembered the way to the clearing as well as I made way into the opening. Grass had over grown everything, filling in what used to be our firepit. The logs were still there, slightly rotted more than before. It looked as though it had gone untouched, preserved and waiting for Cory and me to return. I thought for a moment if maybe he had been here since I left. I shoved the thought out of my mind as I sat on my log. The last thing I wanted to do was to think about anyone who was just sitting at that dinner table, witnessing my melt down. Sighing, I buried my face in my hands and did my best to clear my mind. It was getting harder and harder to do these days it seemed.
“Hey.” A voice said behind me, causing me to leap off the log. Cory stood on the trail, taking slow steps towards me.
“I will never understand how you manage to sneak up on me like that all the damn time. Do you not make a sound or something?” I snapped, sitting back down. I heard the leaves crunched under his boots as he walked over to the log next to me. Bending at the knee, he sat next to me.
“Something you want to talk about?” He asked. I scoffed, running a hand through my hair.
“Not really. I just want the world to leave me alone for once. It seems like the moment I came down here, the rest of my life that wasn’t in shambles hit the fucking fan.”
“Abz, is this because of the other night?” He questioned softly, looking at his boots. “Because I didn’t mean to throw you into a fit. I just wanted to be honest with you.”
“No. You’re fine, Cory. I’m glad you were honest with me. I just feel like my mind is constantly spinning now because of everything, not just you.” Sighing, I glanced over at him. “I don’t know how to describe it really but I’m going to guess it was what my mother was feeling before she died.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Cause all I can think about it is the perfect way to get to her.” Silence fell over the both of us as the severity of my statement.
“I think you need to talk to someone, Abby. You’re going through so much stuff. I don’t know how to help you and you’re starting to scare me.” I nodded, feeling tears well in my eyes. “You Dad and Sarah are worried too. I think you put some much effort in forgetting what happened that you didn’t give yourself the chance to grieve. It’s something you need to do if you want to move pass this.”
“I’m scared, Cory. I’ve never felt like this before. It’s like I can’t even picture tomorrow because I don’t know if I’m going to make it that far.” I whispered as a tear slid down my cheek. Reaching over, he wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me in tight against his side.
“We’re going to get you help. You’re going to get through this. We’re going to get through this.”
Cory convinced me to go back to the house. We walked, him chasing after me on foot after I had taken off. Aunt Judith was gone by the time we got back, the food mostly untouched. She had apparently tried to let my father have it because of what I had said but Grams chewed her a good one. I wish I had seen if but I knew if I had stayed any longer, there would be blood on Dad’s carpet. Everyone sat down to eat again after I returned and it was a nice dinner. We talked, joked and reminisced about the past. Sarah enjoyed hearing about our childhood growing up here and laughed at the different stories everyone told. It felt like nothing had happened and that I hadn’t caused a big scene just hours before hand.
That all changed after Grams and Cindy decided to sit out back to have their pie and coffee. Sarah, Cory and Dad made me sit in the living room to have a small intervention. Each gave me their spiel of being worried about me and that I should seek professional help. I agreed to go see Dr. Maser the next morning, hoping that by talking to him would keep him off my back. Cory was quiet during all of this, keeping what I had said to him to himself. He did volunteer to go to the appointment with me after Dad called Dr. Maser’s personal cell phone to see if he would be meeting with me when his office is closed. I wanted to crawl into a hole to hide from the situation.
The trip to Dr. Maser’s office the next morning was quiet as Cory and I rode in his jeep. Neither one of us spoke, a heavy silence filling the vehicle that made me want to scream. I wanted to say something but I wasn’t even sure what that would be. I wished there was some magical words I could say to make him believe I wasn’t suicidal but I knew they would fall on to the deaf ears of the person who knew me better than I knew myself. So, when he pulled up to the curb outside of the grey brick building I knew I had no way out of this. I unbuckled my seat belt and gazed out the window at the door.
“Do you want me to come in with you?” Cory asked. I shook my head, turning to face him.
“No. I have to do this on my own. Will you wait for me though? I can give you some money to get something to eat while you do.” He waved me off.
“It’s fine. I’ll sit here as long as it takes.” Giving me a small smile, he squeezed my shoulder in a reassuring way. Nodding, I grabbed the door handle and popped it open. Climbing out, I shut the door behind me and headed towards the red wooden door at the front of the building. DR. MASER was written on the glass in the door, his medical degrees listened under his name. Grabbing the handle, I pulled the heavy door towards me and slid through the crack.
Inside, there was a long hallway that seemed to stretch forever. My footsteps made the floor creak loudly underneath me with each move I made down it. The walls were a soft brown color, matching the musty brown carpeting on the floor. It was the same from when I was a kid, nothing changing in the ten years it had been since I was here last. After my mother had committed suicide, Dad had made me come here to talk to the doctor about my feelings. I didn’t want to but like now, everyone thought it was a brilliant idea. I went for about six months before the good doctor said I had improved. I suppose I did. The feelings of waning to kill myself went away and I started to feel better about myself. I had always assumed it was because I was dating Mike then, not because of the therapy.
I came to the end of the hallway and stopped. There was a plain plywood door with the word OFFICE printed on a small plague hanging from it. Inside, I could hear some movement and a man humming. I could totally turn and run now before anyone even knew I was here. Dr. Maser would just have assumed I had changed my mind about needing this. Cory would know. He was outside, watching that door like a hawk. Sighing, I lifted my hand and knocked.
“Come in!” Dr. Maser’s voice called from behind the door. Grabbing the brass door knob, I turned it and opened the door. Slipping in, I found the older gentleman cleaning up his office. He was a taller and rounder man, grey wisps of hair on the top of his head. He was wearing a plaid grey dress shirt with a red sweater vest over it, dark jeans dressing his legs. Penny loafers adorned his feet, completing a look that I wasn’t used to seeing him in. He usually dressed in business suits when he meets his clients. Since it was his day off though, I assumed he wasn’t planning on meeting many other people today. “Abby! So nice to see you. Please sit.” He said, pointing at the small couch in one corner of his office. There was a matching chair across from it and on the other side of the room sat a desk and a computer chair, filing cabinets lining the walls behind it. Everything was a shade of light blue except for the walls. Those were wooden panels, similar to the ones we had installed into the back house.
“Hi, dr. Maser.” I said, crossing the room to sit on the couch. I sat on the middle cushion, making myself as small as possible. He grabbed a yellow steno pad and a pen before sitting in the matching chair.
“How have you been? You moved to New York City after graduation, correct?” He asked, adjusting the wire framed glasses on his face. I nodded.
“Yes. I opened my own real estate firm up there with my friend. We are doing well for ourselves.”
“I thought so. I’m pretty sure I read about it in the school newsletter a few months ago. So, what seems to be the issue? Your father explained to me that your husband passed away. I’m very sorry to hear this.” Oh. He apparently wanted to jump right into this.
“Thank you. Yes. Michael died in a car accident in September.” Maser jotted something down as I spoke. “I guess his death is still affecting me.”
“Well, naturally, dear. When your spouse is taken so suddenly, it creates this emotional void. Your Dad really didn’t go into much detail about what happened. Can you tell me in your own words?”
“Michael was driving under the influence of alcohol with his girlfriend in the car. He ran a stop sign or a red light or something and slammed into someone else. Mike and Tiffany, his girlfriend, both died on impact.” He gave me a surprised expression.
“He was having an affair?” I nodded. “Is this the same Michael you were with when our sessions ended?”
“Yes. I married him after we moved to New York.”
“Right. So, this affair. Did you have an idea about it? How long was it going on for?”
“I had no clue. I guess six months. That’s how far I could tell from looking at her social media pages.”
“You’ve looked her up?”
“Well, yeah. I wanted to know who she was.” He nodded.
“And? What did you find out?”
“She was pretty and young. The two of them spent a lot of time together during those six months. More than him and I ever did.” I casted my gaze down to my lap where my hands were gripping the hem of my blouse tightly.
“What was your relationship like with Mike leading up to his death?”
“Strained. I was in the middle of filing for divorce. I sent him papers that morning I found out about the accident. He hadn’t come home the night before. I figured he was just out doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. I was so mad at him that I had him served. I didn’t realize he was too busy being dead.”
“I see you still use dry humor to make light of any situation.” Dr. Maser said, giving me a slight smirk. “Did his death make you decide to move back down to Trenton?”
“I haven’t moved back here. I just thought it would be a good idea to be around my family right now.” He nodded, not saying anything as he watched me. “I really had nothing in New York to keep me there but my business.”
“So, you are planning on returning after your time here?” He asked.
“I’m not sure. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.” I said softly.
“Let me ask you this; how have things been with the people around you? You’ve been gone for seven years. Did you pick things up with your friends here quickly or are you still getting used to being here?”
“For the most part, I picked things right back up from when I left. All of my friends have welcomed me back with open arms.”
“That’s great.” Standing, he walked over to his desk and grabbed a manila colored folder. Sitting back down, he flipped it open. “I went through your file last night after your father called me. It’s something I like to do when I haven’t see a patient in a while. I was trying to remember the people in your life that you said were important. Here, it lists your father, your grandmother and Michael. There’s another name too. Cory? Is that your brother?”
“No. He’s my best friend…I think.”
“You think?” He questioned, raising an eyebrow towards me as he closed the folder.
“It’s complicated. When we were kids, we had feelings for each other. A lot of stuff happened right before I left and things got a little difficult because of it. When I came back though, we seemed to pick up right where we left off before we split our ways. The other night though, he kissed me and told me that he still thinks of me that way.”
“Do you feel the same way?”
“I do. I love Cory but I can’t just be with him.”
“Because it’s not right. My husband just died. And he hated Cory. I feel like I would be doing him wrong by jumping into someone else’s bed when his grave is still fresh.”
“You think that if you try to be with Cory, Mike would be upset with you.” He stated. I nodded.
“I cheated on Mike before I went to the city with Cory. I never told him either. I felt guilty about it our entire marriage but I never told him because I was afraid of what he would do. I don’t want to come across as a whore by getting with Cory so soon.”
“Do you think you were in love with Michael?” I looked at him confused.
“Of course. He was my husband. I loved him a great deal.”
“That’s not what I asked. I asked if you were in love with him. Loving someone is different than being in love with someone. There’s no doubt you cared for Mike. You were married and lived together. You grew accustomed to having him around. If you were in love with him though, I believe we would be having a different conversation.”
“Are you saying that I’m only thinking about being with Cory so soon because I didn’t love my husband?” I asked, tears stinging my eyes.
“No. No. No. You can tell that you were in love with him at one time. And you are grieving for him just as any wife should. It’s not uncommon for these feelings to spring up during times of loss. You’re back home surrounded by people you haven’t seen n quite some time. I do think that you left some feelings here when you left and by returning, your mind wanted to find a way to feel those things again. Have you been having any type of suicidal thoughts by any chance?”
“I’ve thought of it. Not the act of doing it. Just how it would be much easier for it all to end. I don’t think I could follow through with it though. I just want everyone to stop looking at me like I’m broken and for everything to stop feeling like it’s spiraling out of control.” Dr. Maser sat forward, pulling a tissue from the box that was perched on the end table next to him. He held it out to me and I took it, dabbing at the corner of my eyes.
“Have you found yourself comparing your emotions to your mother?” I nodded, not daring to speak. Sobs were threatening to erupt from my chest. “Abby, did you give yourself a chance for closure before you came down here?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, did you speak to anyone who knew Mike and about the affair? To see if they knew what kind of relationship they had and how he was feeling at the time of his death?” I shook my head.
“I talked to his younger sister after I left. She knew about it and said it was all my fault he was cheating. That I was a horrible wife and person.”
“I believe that talking to his family would be too biased in this situation. What about Tiffany’s family? Have you ever thought of meeting them to see what they knew about Mike and how things were going near the end?”
“No. I’ve been trying my best to ignore the situation. Not dive head first into it.”
“I think it would be the best thing for you to do. If I were you, I would take a weekend and head back to the city. Do some Christmas shopping and then look up Tiffany’s family. They may be able to answer some of the questions that are preventing you from getting the closure you need. Once you find that closure, you’ll be able to grieve and move on in a healthy manner.”
An hour later, I walked out of Dr. Maser’s office and found Cory leaning against his jeep. He looked up at the sound of the door, stepping towards me with a hopeful look on his face. “How’d it go?”
“Okay. He thinks I should head back to the city for a weekend. Try looking up Mike’s girlfriend’s family to see if they can answer my questions. It’s supposed to give me closure I guess.”
“Are you going to do it?” He asked. I bit my lip, shoving my hands into the back pockets of my jeans.
“I think so. If it’s the only way for me to feel whole again, I have to try. I’m going to ask Sarah if she minds me staying at her place for the weekend. I know she had plans on staying here a bit long to spend time with Marie but I need someone there with me while I do this.”
“I’ll go.” Cory said, causing me to look at him surprised. “You shouldn’t have to do this alone. Let Sarah stay here. I’ll go to the city with you. I’ve always wanted to go.”
“Cory, are you sure about this?” I asked.
“Yes. I would just go crazy down here waiting for you to come back anyway.” Reaching over, he grabbed my shoulders. “I’m not letting you go through this alone anymore.”