I took my thumb from out of my mouth so that my speech came out clear, not muffled. "So, what are you trying to say? That this is all down to me having daddy issues?" I scoffed, rolling my eyes.
"Brittany, honey." My psychologist, doctor Howard, crouched down so that she could talk to me at eye level. "We don't like to call it 'Daddy Issues' here," she corrected my sarcastic comment. "What you're suffering from is called abandonment disorder."
I know what you're thinking, but no, I'm not a child. I'm not excessively short either. I'm a twenty-three-year-old adult—most of the time. The reason that she felt the need to crouch was because I was sitting on a black leather chaise and she was wearing skyscraper heels. She could've removed them and lost six inches in height...but no. Not, miss perfect, here. Even though her ankles must've been screaming, judging from the wince on her face as she fought hard to maintain her balance. Still, she continued to suffer all in the name of fashion.
I glanced down at my comfortable Sketchers and smirked. Dr. Howard wobbled slightly as she fought to maintain the crouched position. Probably putting a whole load of strain on her calf muscles. I bet if I were to push her with my index finger, she would drop like a falling tree. It would be my word against hers.
Better not. That would be classed as common assault.
"Brittany?" Her grey eyes winced, questioningly. "How do you feel about that?"
Shit! What was the question?
"Your hair is so shiny," I complimented as I reached out and grasped some of her sleek black hair, letting it slide through my fingertips. "And it's super soft, too," I told her, instead of answering the question that I missed.
She pressed her glossy red lips together and exhaled through her nose as she stood. "You're avoiding my questions again," she mentioned, folding her arms across her chest. "Every time I mention your father, you zone out on me."
I scowled stubbornly, unwilling to cooperate. She stood then turned away from me, walking back to where she then sank into the chair, opposite. When she crossed her tanned legs, her beige dress suit rode a couple of inches higher, which gave me a glimpse of the mandala tattoo on her left thigh.
So, she had a wild side, huh? Nobody gets a thigh tattoo unless they want people to see it. I wonder if her panties had days of the week on them, or whether they were red lacy and crotchless. If she uncrosses her legs and switches sides like Sharon Stone, I guess I'll find out.
"What are you thinking about?" She asked, choosing to lean forward, resting her elbows on her thighs, instead.
I blushed with embarrassment. "I can't tell you that," I mumbled in response, giving her fleeting eye contact.
"You're not telling me much today. Why is that?" Her expression turned sympathetic again.
We had been going around in circles for weeks now. I thought therapy was supposed to help me deal with my problems, not make things ten times worse by making me relive every painstaking memory.
"I know what you're going to say, but I won't talk about him. I won't!" I cast my eyes down as I spoke, unable to look her in the eyes.
The eyes were a window to the soul and she had a way of seeing things, just by searching into mine. She told me so many things about myself. Things that I was too ashamed to admit out loud and that scared the hell out of me.
"Okay, let's try a different approach." Her voice was smooth and calming. It sent tiny shivers down my spine as if someone was running a finger down it, gently. "So, why don't you tell me something good about yourself, instead of focusing on the negative all the time."
Her words sliced through me like a jagged shard of glass. Something good about me? I pulled the sleeves of my hoodie over my hands as if cocooning myself in my own safety bubble.
"I already told you; I helped my friends escape from two jerks that were going to kill them." I tucked my legs up against me, balancing my heels on the edge of my seat and wrapped my arms around my shins. "They used to be my friends before...you know? Then I was mean to them for a while, and then we made up. End of story." I hated my shitty excuse of a life. Especially admitting it out loud. So I gave her the basic glossary of events in the hope that she would stop asking.
She nodded, bunching her brows with what I considered as her signature expression. That superficial mask of empathy and those perfectly sculpted, fucking eyebrows.
My mom used to say that when I made a face and the wind changes that it would stick like that. Imagine being stuck with a perfectly cocked eyebrow arched over your resting bitch face. Would you have to wait until the wind changed direction for it to unfreeze?
She tapped her index finger against her chin as she thought. "And how did that make you feel when you saved your friends?" She asked, in the same neutral tone.
"Good...I guess," I answered, scowling at having to answer such a basic-ass question. "How do you think it felt?"
Sure, she's being paid to listen, but is the concern on her face genuine? Or is this all just an act to get me to talk about him?
"That was a very brave thing you did, Brittany. An act of courage like that, tells me that you're stronger than you give yourself credit for," she remarked, seemingly impressed by my courageous act.
I responded with a sarcastic eye roll. She had no idea just how vulnerable I was feeling right now. How fast my heart was beating inside my chest. That my peanut butter and jelly sandwich was churning around in my stomach, threatening to make an appearance.
"I have an idea, hold on a second," she muttered, standing to her feet and walking across the room to the mahogany bookshelves.
She grasped hold of a plush teddy bear and brought it over to me, holding it out for me to take. "His name is Einstein, and he's the smartest bear in the world." Her lips curved into a fruity smile. She gave a slight shrug, probably because of my doubtful expression. "He's a darn good listener, and he's great at keeping secrets." She gave the bear a wiggle in front of me like she was dangling a carrot in front of a donkey.
I reached out, letting my shaky fingers emerge through the cuff of my hoodie, only to hesitate an inch away. "What if he has a recording device stashed inside his belly? You said he's smart. How can I trust him?" I replied with an air of distrust.
She twitched her lips as she thought. "Squeeze him all over and see for yourself. He's just stuffed full of love, nothing more, nothing less."
My fingertips grazed the soft fur, applying pressure as I grasped hold and checked him over myself.
Alright, so he seemed genuine. But he was still a he, and all the men in my life, so far, had let me down, dismally.
"I know you have trust issues with men," she commented, making me gasp with shock as she read my thoughts like some psychic witch. "But maybe Einstein can restore some of your faith in them. Then, over time, you can open up a little more about..."
Just as she was about to finish that sentence, something snapped inside of me. It was like the old me had come out from wherever she had been hiding all these months, coming to my defense like a protective big sister.
"Why Daddy left us? Why he walked through the door and forgot that I even existed? That's what you want to hear, isn't it?"
The venom in my voice startled her. I saw how she swallowed hard before choosing her next words.
"He didn't leave you, Brittany. We've been over this." She crouched down to my level again and I cuddled Einstein tightly to my chest. Her eyes winced as she continued, treading carefully with the details. "He was driving home from a football game. He'd been drinking and chose to get behind the wheel of his car. Your mom called to ask him how much longer he was going to be. He answered that call."
Blood rushed straight to my ears, pounding with pressure. My stomach tightened with anxiety, which made all my limbs stiffen like rusted iron. My jaw trembled, then locked tight. I knew what was coming next. Everything was so much easier before that night. What I wouldn't give to erase the past and start over. To be eight years old all over again and be Daddy's little princess. I would have begged him not to go. Or maybe I would have begged him to take me with him. One way or another, we would still be together.
"It was raining hard," I took over the story, needing to take back control because I didn't like where this was heading. "I remember because the road outside our front yard looked like a river. Mom called Daddy, then she hung up mad. She told our housekeeper, Mrs. Hale, to put me to bed. I heard Mom yelling down the phone to my grandma, saying how much Daddy loved managing the football team more than us. I cried myself to sleep that night. But when I woke up, my world fell apart. Dad never came home that night. He left us—he left me."
Silent tears seeped through my eyes and trickled either side of my nose. My skin itched where the moisture dampened the skin, my throat thickened and my nose became runny.
"That's not what happened, Brittany." Doctor Howard spoke gently, calling out my dishonesty. "It was raining hard, that was correct. But your dad was intoxicated and he was speeding. He answered his phone whilst driving and he took his eyes off the road."
"Stop lying!" I yelled. "You weren't there so you don't know anything!" I defended him passionately.
Doctor Howard maintained the same level of tolerance throughout. "It's all in the police files, along with the coroner's report," she explained, going over the same damn thing every time.
"My dad left me, he's not dead." My voice came out strangled and defeated.
"Your father is dead, Brittany. He was on his way home to you and your mom. His death was caused by drink driving, you know this," she finished, speaking in her calm concise voice.
I shook my head in anguish. "I can't!" I grimaced through tears. "I don't want to think about it anymore."
"It wasn't your fault," she applied pressure to those same words that she used, time, and time again.
"How can I live with myself? How can I ever look her in the eyes and tell her that it was my dad who did it?" I sobbed my words out loud. "I made her life a misery for years, all because of the guilt I felt. I thought if I could just hate her, then maybe the pain would go away. But I can't hate her. That's why I stopped Chris before he hurt her. I needed to save her because maybe that would make up for the fact that my dad killed her dad!"
There, I'd finally said it. But saying it out loud only made matters worse. Now I had to accept it. The butt ugly truth. That was why it was so much easier to regress back to being eight years old and hide there for however long it takes. I had nowhere better to go. Nothing of importance to do.
Maybe if I stayed this way forever, I would be better off. Grown-ups are all assholes anyway.
"I think we're done for this week," she concluded, getting to her feet again and walking over to her desk. She picked up a red leather diary, licked her index finger, then began skimming through the pages.
She glanced over and flicked her eyes to the bear. "I have a job for you, Einstein," she spoke to him directly. "I need you to accompany Brittany on vacation this summer."
Her words confused me.
"Vacation?" I narrowed my eyes. "My foster mom never mentioned anything to me about a vacation."
My anxiety levels hit its peak, to the point where black spots danced in my vision. A vacation meant venturing out in public again. I wasn't ready for this.
"I suggested it to her and she thinks it's a wonderful idea. You're going to spend the holidays at Forest Lake with your friends," she revealed, sending a jolt of shock through my heart.
"But..." I recoiled, horror-stricken.
I could feel all the air being sucked from the room as I struggled to breathe.
"Your friend Helen runs a guest house, doesn't she? And from what I've heard, she could use a hand with the twins. Your mutual friend Emma is due to give birth around mid-July. So this will be the perfect opportunity for you to lay some ghosts to rest."
"OK, Einstein, have you got any ideas on how you're going to get us the fuck out of this one?" I blurted out in hysteria.
Dr. Howard sighed. "Oh come on, Brittany, don't be like that. This could be the breakthrough that you've been looking for. A good friend of mine is going to be looking after you during your stay. I've already passed on his details to your foster father."
The electronic timer that was sitting on top of her desk began beeping. An indication that my time was now up. This had been one long-ass hour and I was as keen as ever to scamper away, clutching tight hold of my docile companion and snatching a lollipop from the glass bowl by the door. Dr. Howard bid me goodbye, to which I responded with a grunt.
"A fat lot of good you were, Einstein," I grumbled with resentment.
I made my way along the rabbit warren of beige corridors, following the arrows labeled 'exit'. My foster mom usually waited in the reception hall to greet me with a juice box and a bag full of jelly beans. I had been looking forward to that treat all morning.
After fighting to remove the wrapper from the lollipop, I ramed it in my mouth tasting a blast of strawberry on my tongue. I discarded the wrapper, flinging it over my shoulder and then collided with something solid as I rounded the corner.
"Oof!" I rubbed my forehead, momentarily winded.
The brawny obstruction stood firmly on the same spot. My eyes raked up and along his intimidating frame: from his Italian leather shoes, up and along his dark grey suit-trousers, then to his matching suit-jacket that hugged his body like it was molded around his muscles. It only accentuated his large chest and huge biceps. Beneath it, he wore a crisp white button-down shirt and matching dark-grey waistcoat, which I imagined covered a torso packed with deliciously ripped abs. A silky silver tie finished off the look with sophisticated style. By the time I got to check out his GQ model face that looked as if Adonis himself had fallen from the heavens and landed at my feet, I saw that he was scowling down at me, furiously.
He was a redhead and they were renowned for having a fiery temper.
"Pick that up!" He commanded in a harsh, authoritative voice.
I blinked twice, gawking right back at him. "Huh?"
His jaw pulsed with tension. "I said..." He lowered his tone so that it was deep and commanding. It raised the hairs along my skin, flooding me with fear. I didn't usually do as I was told and could be rather difficult at times, but the way he was glaring down at me as if hinting a silent warning, I felt compelled to obey.
I turned around and crouched down to retrieve the discarded wrapper.
"Good girl, now go put it in the trash can," he ordered, sounding just as assertive.
"Jeez, okay," I responded, flaring my eyes wide.
The distinguished stranger cleared his throat, piercing me with a thunderous scowl. "I beg your pardon, young lady?" He spoke through gritted teeth.
Fuck! What was his problem?
"Who're you? The garbage police? Take a chill pill," I muttered with sass. "Stick it up your butt and it'll work faster."
Just as I came back from putting the wrapper in the trash can, over the opposite side of the corridor, I felt a firm grip tighten around my wrist.
He clutched onto the stick of the lollipop that protruded from my mouth and yanked it free.
"Bad girls don't deserve treats," he waved it in front of my face before tossing it into the trash.
My mouth hung open in outrage. "My lollipop!" I yelled in protest.
I saw his eyes dart from mine down to Einstein and back again, so I hugged him tight to my chest.
"Don't even think about it, mister. Touch Einstein and I'll scream. My foster mom is waiting for me in the reception hall. She will call my foster dad and he's a lawyer and then you'll be in big trouble!" I delivered a threat, to which, I saw a glint of amusement flicker in his eyes.
"Your foster mom is in the reception hall, huh?" He narrowed his eyes.
I gasped as he jerked me forward, pulling me down the hall and out towards the main entrance. Dread flooded through me for some reason. This guy was insane! And he was...he was...wait! He was dragging me over to my foster mom. Shit!
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" I panicked. "Are you going to tell my mom? Please don't! I want my jelly beans!" I begged, hoping that it would work.
Just as we got to the seating area, he stopped and turned. "You don't want me to tell on you, huh?" He eyed me carefully.
I shook my head vigorously.
He observed my panic-stricken face, deciding what to do. "What's your name?" He asked, eyeing me with appraisal.
I recoiled, wincing my eyes. "I'm not supposed to tell you that because you're a stranger."
For some unknown reason, that seemed to please him. "That's right, you shouldn't," he agreed, seeming impressed.
My foster mom hurried over to us with a look of concern etched across her face. "Is everything alright?" She asked, noticing the handsome stranger release my wrist.
I nodded, gingerly, afraid that he was going to rat me out for my bratty behavior.
"Everything's fine," he replied, casting me a fleeting smile that made my girl parts all tingly inside. "I believe this pretty little princess belongs to you," he complimented in a more benevolent tone.
So he could be nice.
"I hope that you haven't been misbehaving again, Brittany?" She chastised, eyeing me with a gentle but analyzing expression.
Mr. Adonis dragged in a satisfied breath. "Brittany." My name seemed to roll off his tongue as smooth as velvet. "Well, I better be going. I'm here as a favor to a friend of mine and I'm already running late. He made an advancement to leave. "It's a long drive back to Forest Lake," he mentioned the state where my friends had moved to.
"Forest Lake?" I reiterated, making him pause and cast a glance over his shoulder.
"Yes. A town called Hawcroft, actually. Why? Do you know it?" He asked as if he doubted that very much.
It was my foster mom who answered on my behalf. "Actually, my daughter lives in Bear Creek. And a friend of ours runs a guest house in Hawcroft."
I saw how his brows raised with surprise upon hearing that news.
"We're holidaying there this summer," she revealed. "Brittany has been through a lot and a change of scenery will do her good."
Something that resembled a challenge began to swirl like a storm in his eyes. Dark and ravenous. I would be lying if I denied the chemistry between us. There was definitely something brewing there. The rush that I felt when I made him mad had a strange effect on my downtown.
"You never know, maybe we will run into you there?" Mom suggested politely.
His eyes homed in on me as he replied, "Oh, I don't doubt that."
The smallest smile flickered across his lips but then it was gone in a flash. My heart squeezed as I watched him storm down the corridor and out of plain sight. His absence left me feeling empty and bereft, which didn't make any sense to me at all.
A gentle bush of fingertips brought me out of my reverie. "Brittany, honey. Let's go home and I'll tell you all about our trip."
"OK, Mom," I replied sweetly. "Did you remember my jelly beans?"
Did you enjoy my ongoing story so far? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, K. L. LordWrite a Review