Chapter 22 | Determined
I’m impatiently tapping my foot against the floor just inside the large brown building.
“We can always come back another day, you don’t have to do this now if you aren’t ready.” Ethan says soothingly beside me.
I shake my head. It’s now or never.
“I’m okay. Just needed a minute. Are you going to wait here for me, because you don’t have to. You can go and I can find another ride home once my session is-“, but Ethan stops me from continuing.
“I will be here the entire time. I’ll be sitting right over there.” He motions his head toward the room full of chairs right beside us. “I’m not going anywhere.”
I smile up at him, though it doesn’t reach my eyes.
To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I don’t really know what to expect. Sure, in movies you see someone lying on a couch expressing all of their problems while some woman or man jots things down on a clipboard, but will this be the same thing?
I guess there’s only one way to find out.
“Well, I’m gonna go now.” I say slowly. “Thank you again for being here.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He smiles, and suddenly I’m not so scared anymore.
I return his smile, before turning and heading down the long hallway.
My appointment starts in one minute, so I know whoever is opposite of this door, is expecting me.
My dad set this appointment up for me, and the only thing I know is that I’m supposed to be here at exactly three o’clock sharp.
Lexi said she wanted to come for support as well, but she had to watch her little brother Jayce. I suppose tonight is date night for her parents. Liam has detention today, so he’s still at school. Let’s just say he’s a moron who shouldn’t skip class to make out with a girl in the janitor’s closet. Especially since he was caught after just five minutes of being in there.
Then again, you can’t fix stupid.
I take in a deep breath as I gently knock on the wooden door in front of me.
I read the name engraved on the door: L. Rhodes.
The door suddenly opens, and I’m surprised at what I see.
“Dallas! Please, come in.” The woman smiles sweetly to me.
I step inside of the room, and as she closes the door, I begin looking around.
There’s a beige leather couch near the back wall, with a plush leather chair just opposite. There’s a small desk near the other side of the room, papers neatly placed on the surface. Frames of certificates and awards are hung all around the room, as well as a few paintings that are rather beautiful. The windows are open, curtains drawn back to let in fresh sunlight. The walls are a cool shade of light green, giving the space an open and calm feel to it.
I already feel comfortable in here.
“Please, take a seat Dallas.” The woman smiles. “My name is Lorraine Rhodes, but you can just call me Lori.”
“Okay.” I nod simply. “Thanks.”
I take a seat on the couch, and I immediately sink into the soft leather. It’s comfortable, so I lean back and adjust my shirt.
“Your father tells me you are a senior in high school. Want to tell me about your year so far?” She smiles warmly.
Where is her clipboard? Why isn’t she jotting down notes? Why does she look no older than twenty, though from her many certificates, I’m sure she’s around my father’s age, if not a year or two older.
I only wish I look as good as she does when I’m her age.
Her long, dark hair is pulled back into a neat and tight bun. There’s a few strands of hair framing her small face, and she has a pair of glasses perched on her button nose. She’s wearing little makeup around her eyes, but a super dark, sleek red lipstick.
She looks so mature and sophisticated.
“Uh, yeah. Senior year. It’s alright so far.” I shrug. “Homework, exams, annoying teachers. The usual.”
Lori gives me another smile. “I’m sure. High school can be challenging at times and completely redundant the rest of the time.”
Wow, she agrees with me.
I only nod in reply.
Suddenly, she’s shaking her head. “I’m sorry, it’s just, you look so much like your mother.”
My eyes instantly widen. “W-what?” I stutter dumbly. “How do you know my mother?”
“Oh gosh, your father didn’t tell you? I used to be your mother’s therapist. Also, I am so terribly sorry to hear about her passing this past Thanksgiving. I’ve been meaning to reach out to your father to give him my regards.” She frowns immediately.
“I don’t understand… why did my mother need a therapist?” I ask more so to myself than to Lori. “How come she never told us?”
“Maybe she just needed a place all her own to express her feelings. Maybe she didn’t want to scare you or Liam. Typically, when you hear someone close to you is going to therapy, you tend to feel bad as though you aren’t doing what you can to help them so they need to get help from a stranger. It can be difficult news to hear. Besides, I only saw her for a year and then she stopped coming.” Lori explains calmly.
I take in her words and think them over. The wheels inside my head are on overdrive as I try my best to remain calm.
“I can see this is a bit of a shock to you. What are you feeling right now?” Lori asks quietly.
“I just- I’m confused. I never would have thought my mom would need therapy. She was always so happy and so calm with everything. Even up to the time she got sick-”, I immediately cut myself off, tears threatening to form against my eyes, “She just always seemed happy.” I shrug finally.
“Anyone can put on a façade Dallas. Your mother must have been determined not to show you or Liam just how much she needed therapy.” Lori says.
“What was wrong? Were she and dad having problems with their marriage? Was she having a difficult time raising Liam and I? What did we do wrong?” I mumble to myself, silently hoping that maybe my mom was hearing me and could somehow make me feel better.
“No, dear, I’m sorry. Don’t go second guessing everything. Your parents’ marriage was fine, and she loved you and your brother wholeheartedly. Sometimes people just need an outsider’s eye when it comes to their life. There doesn’t need to necessarily be a problem, for people to seek listening ears.” Lori tries to smile, slowly starting to calm me down again.
“I guess I’m just surprised that there’s still things I’m learning about my mom, even now that she’s gone.” I say sadly.
I look up and into the kind eyes of Lori. Her sad smile tells me she understands. I can’t believe I’m sitting here, having such a deep conversation with a person I literally just met ten minutes ago.
I suppose that’s her job, to listen and to make people feel comfortable. She does it really well.
“Thank you for telling me.” I finally say.
“Of course.” Lori nods. “Anything else you want to talk about before your hour is up?”
“I don’t know where to start. A lot has happened.” I grimace.
Lori nods. “Like what?”
“I’m sorry, aren’t you supposed to have a clipboard or something?” I give a shaky laugh.
Lori’s smile widens. “I’m not your typical therapist.”
So it would seem.
“Three months ago I was raped.” I blurt out unexpectedly.
Lori’s eyes widen a fraction, the smile slowly leaving her face.
“How have you been coping with it?” She asks.
“I guess I really haven’t. I keep having nightmares. Well, they’re off and on, but for a while they were getting better. Now though, they seem to be back. I don’t know why.” I frown.
“Did you know your attacker?” Lori asks.
“Sadly I knew him very well. His name is Jeremy, and he’s my boyfriend’s older brother.” I admit shamefully.
Lori gives me an alarmed look at the news.
“Well, he wasn’t my boyfriend at the time, just my friend. You see, Ethan is my brother’s best friend, and Lexi is my best friend. We’ve all pretty much grown up together. Jeremy is Ethan’s older brother. He was a big part of our childhood as well, before he eventually left for college. Well, he came back and he was completely different. I don’t know what happened to him, but he wasn’t the same Jeremy I remembered from my childhood.”
I’m rambling by this point, but Lori’s attention never falters. She’s listening to every single word that I am saying, and it honestly makes me feel immensely better.
I go on to explain everything that happened, from the first encounter I had with him that day my tire went flat, up until the second time he attacked me. It’s been months since everything first started, but it still feels like it only happened yesterday.
Lori listens to every word, nodding when needed and giving me small smiles of empathy along the way. At some point, I start crying, and she graciously hands me a box of tissues from beside her chair.
I didn’t know I needed to say everything that I said. I didn’t know that I needed to voice my opinions and feelings on the matter, until now. Lori made it so easy to talk to her, like I’ve known her my entire life.
She almost reminded me a bit of my mother, who always showed interest in anything Liam or I wanted to talk about or do.
I really miss my mom.
Suddenly, Lori’s coo-coo clock went off, as a little bird came bursting through a small wooden door. I glanced at the clock that hung on the wall behind Lori, as her smile faltered.
“Times up for today Dallas. You did amazing. It’s an honor to be here for you, and I’m glad that you’ve taken the initiative to meet with me today. It shows you really care about your life and about putting the past behind you, however tough or impossible that may seem. Will I see you again next week?”
I look at Lori, and watch her smiling face, before something inside tells me to nod my head. I will be here next week, and probably the week after that. I’ll probably come see Lori every week until it eventually hurts less. Until everything that’s happened to me eventually hurts less. Until I can go to bed at night, not afraid of waking up in a panic.
“Great! Have a wonderful evening, Dallas. Your mom would be so proud of you.”
At that last part, I felt myself getting up to hug Lori. As I pulled her in, I swear I smelled the same perfume that my mother used to wear. Or maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me.
“Thank you, Lori.” I say, before pulling away and leaving her office.
As I make my way out into the main lobby of the large building, I spot Ethan actually sleeping against one of the chairs in the waiting area. I smirk as I walk up to him.
I kick him in the shin, and he jumps up.
“Ow! What the hell!” He shouts before finally resting his eyes on me. “Shit, I’m sorry babe, how did it go?” He smiles up to me, after rubbing the spot on his leg where I kicked him.
“It went good.” I nod. “I’m surprised.”
“That’s great! I’m proud of you.” He smiles, standing up to pull me into his chest.
“I didn’t think it would be that easy to talk to a complete stranger, but Lori she’s amazing.” I say into his chest.
“I’m so glad. I know how hard everything has been for you. If someone can help you when the rest of us can’t, I’ll sit here for hours if I have to.”
“You’re amazing.” I glance up at him, small tears in my eyes. “I hope you know that.”
“Trust me, I know.” He grins teasingly. “But I wouldn’t be shit without you Dal.”
Butterflies swarm my stomach at his declaration. We walk outside and back to my jeep.
My phone rings, Liam’s laughing face taking up the screen on my phone.
“Hey my little delinquent.” I tease as I answer the call.
“Whatever. Are you able to pick me up from school? I don’t feel like walking home.” He whines.
“Hm, what do I get in return?” I challenge.
“A loving brother, who worships you?”
“That’s nice, but not exactly what I was looking for.” I smirk as Ethan and I climb into the jeep, and I buckle my seat belt.
“Will you just pick me up?” Liam sighs. “It’s hot outside and I’m sweating.”
“Oh you poor baby. Sure, we’re on our way.” I laugh.
“Great! Tell Ethan that I scored with the red head.”
I roll my eyes at that. “Here, your other girlfriend wants to talk to you.” I pass the phone to Ethan, as I begin to pull out of the parking lot.
Ethan gives me a blank look, before taking the phone.
They gossip to each other the entire time it takes us to get back to school. Once we enter the parking lot, Ethan hangs up the phone, and Liam jumps into the back seat.
“Did she really say that?” Ethan laughs toward Liam.
“You bet your sweet ass she did! That chick is mine.” Liam proudly states as I resist the urge to vomit all over the steering wheel.
“Okay, I’m here, you can stop with this now.” I deadpan as I pull back out of the school parking lot.
The pair laugh, and continue to give each other knowing glances in the rear view mirror. I roll my eyes but can’t help the smile on my face.
I drop the boys off at home, and then head over to Lexi’s house. I promised her I would come over after my appointment to tell her how it went. Plus, she desperately wanted the company since she’s stuck at home alone with Jayce.
As I pull in to her driveway, I lock the jeep up before casually walking inside her house. As her best friend, I never need to knock.
“Jayce! Deja de gritar y limpia tu habitación!” Lexi shouts toward the stairs, but immediately turns at the sound of me entering the house.
“Oh, Dallas!” She smiles. “How did it go?”
At the mention of my name, Jayce comes rushing down the stairs, before jumping at my legs.
“Dallas!” He beams up at me.
I pat his curly hair. “Hey squirt!”
“Want to come play?” He asks eager for an answer.
“I believe Lexi just told you to do something.” I say, even though I have no idea what it is that Lexi said.
“I did, I told you to clean your room.” Lexi instructs once again. “Go, now.”
Jayce frowns, so I bend down toward him. “If you clean your room, I’ll draw with you.”
His face lights up at my proposition, before he turns and darts back up the stairs in a flash.
“I swear that kid is in love with you or something. He does whatever you say and never listens to me!” Lexi pouts while crossing her arms over her chest.
“I guess I have a way with children.” I shrug playfully.
“Well come on, tell me how it went.” Lexi motions for me to follow her into the living room. We plop down on the couch as she turns the TV on. She turns the volume down, leaving the TV on for background noise.
As we sit and talk, I tell her how it went. I tell her how much I like Lori, and how much she reminds me of mom. Lexi smiles at that, reassuring me that my mom would be proud of me for taking a step forward.
I realize that I need to go visit her.
“Hey, want to come with me later?” I ask.
“Sure, where to?”
Lexi nods knowingly, as she pulls me in for a hug.
For the first time in a while, I feel as though I’m going to be okay. I feel as though my once powerless mindset is becoming stronger and stronger.
I don’t feel so powerless anymore. I feel strong.
I feel determined.