An Education

Carte Blanche

Mellie drew an exasperated breath as she plowed through the questions on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Inventory. There were 101 questions on this test and they were slightly different from the ones she had answered over the years. Her eyes scanned the "Intimidation" section.


89. Do you ever use vengeance, threats and intimidation with associates to get your own way?

90. Have you ever exhibited vengeance, threats and intimidation towards your love partner?

"How is going, Mellie?" Cyrus asked, interrupting her thoughts. He was sitting in the chair beside her bed watching the television while she completed the questionnaire.

Mellie smiled at him. His constant support these last several months in Portland had been her mainstay. He had taken leave from work to be with her there, making her time at Bedford Pines manageable. Mellie knew that Cyrus was the only person who truly loved her in the way she deserved to be loved.

Unfortunately, that love did nothing to help her face her mental problems. She held no remorse for what she had tried to do to Fitz. There was only an intense hatred directed toward him and Olivia. While she held no animosity for Gerry and Karen, she was quite indifferent towards them.

Mellie was clear about her true feelings, but she didn't dare share them with anyone. During the months at Bedford Pines, the therapy had resulted in the opposite effect. Instead of helping her accept responsibility for her actions, manage her illness, become medication compliant, develop strategies for daily for functioning (these were among the lists of goals her case manager had set), she had become more skilled at lying and manipulating those around her. She convinced her case manager that she had been misdiagnosed. Mellie saw another patient reading An Unquiet Mindabout a doctor who suffered with Bipolar Disorder. Intrigued, she borrowed it to read. The portrayal of that disease seemed more dignified in her estimation so she read more about it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V). She purposely started exhibiting symptoms and slowly changed the case manager's mind. Now, at the direction of her case manager, Mellie was taking yet another inventory and other evaluations to rule out NPD. Jackie had advocated for Mellie with the psychiatrist.

"Splendidly, Cy, spendidly," Mellie answered before checking "never" for both of the questions in the "Intimidation" section.

"That's wonderful. I can't wait to get you back home. I am sure Karen and Gerry miss you and will be happy when you are back. The Spring Break visit went well, I think, right?"

"Yes, Jackie thinks I will be discharged in a week. Karen and Gerry need me, especially Karen, with Gerry heading off to college soon." Mellie continued to skim through the questions. "I don't think my parents will be supportive. They want me to stay here indefinitely."

"Their wishes don't matter because. You are an adult who is getting better. Based on what I have seen, you are ready to move back home. They cannot keep you here any longer. You have rights, hon." Cyrus leaned over and Mellie gave me a peck on the cheek.

He pushed aside any misgivings he had about Fitz. Cyrus's desire to have Mellie home took precedence over his feelings of uneasiness.

Olivia checked her watch. It was 6:30. Where is Abby?

She had convinced Abby to get to school a full hour early. She had a problem that she needed Abby to help her solve. At 6:40, Abby strolled into Olivia's classroom.

"Liv, this better be good. I'm here at the crack of dawn. Hubby was not happy to take care of the kids on his own this morning," Abby mumbled groggily. She took a seat at Olivia's table.

"Thanks Abby." Olivia grabbed her coffee, confirmed that the door was locked, and joined Abby at the table.

"What's the problem?" Abby asked, looking really concerned.

"Well, how can I put this? Fitz is…Fitz has…" Olivia hesitated. "I need a sex break, Fitz has taken this carte blanche agreement to the extreme."

Abby perked up. "What? A sex break? Why would you need a sex break? This needs more explanation."

"As you know, Fitz asked me to move in with him. I agreed only if we could be celibate until the wedding. He was against it at first, but then he added another condition.

Olivia remembered their negotiation well. It had been Tuesday afterschool and the day after Fitz's public proposal, the breaking of his hand, and Olivia's private proposal. They had stopped at Olivia's house to start moving some of her things over to his house. Since his injury was still very fresh, Olivia would not let him help pack or carry anything. She stationed him in a chair with the television remote while she filled two suitcases with some of her belongings. She glanced up from her packing, feeling his presence. He was standing at the bedroom door watching her.

"Babe, I'm almost finished. How's your hand? Did you call to make a therapy appointment today?"

"No, I was rarely in my office today. I was finishing up my last round of classroom observations, and I had to answer questions about my bionic looking hand in this brace." He smirked as he walked to her and removed the clothing from her hands. He pulled her close. "I am so happy you are finally moving in with me. You can't accuse me of pouting when you leave to go home anymore. Let's celebrate."

He bent to kiss her and pulled down the zipper on her slacks.

Olivia stopped him. "Fitz, we agreed last night…celibacy until the wedding."

He looked at her as if she were crazy. "I did not agree to that. Were you even serious? I heard you say it, but I thought it was a joke. I mean it has to be a joke, right?" He continued with the zipper.

She stepped out of his arms and zipped her slacks. "No, it was not a joke. I thought we agreed…well we were supposed to talk about it after…but morning came and school…but I know we can do it. It will be fun and a way to build anticipation for the wedding." Olivia resumed packing. Fitz looked very puzzled.

"I still don't understand, Livy. The last time we made love was last night…what…about 17 hours ago? That is enough anticipation for me. We haven't even decided on a date yet." He lay back on the bed.

"You should prop your hand up with one of my pillows," she said. When he didn't follow her directions, she did it for him. "What do you think about next year during Spring Break?"

"That's 12 months! You expect us to live under the same roof for 12 months without making love? It's impossible, Livy. Sex is an integral part of a relationship. I love you and I want you…all of you. And does this include kissing, touching…What's off limits?…What's up for grabs? Pun intended."

"I hadn't really thought about all that," she said, "But I guess we should keep it simple…we can kiss and hug and that's it."

"This is ridiculous…idiotic. There are other ways to build anticipation. We could…we don't need a year to plan our wedding."

When she didn't respond, he knew his argument wasn't working.

"Olivia, I'd rather you break my other hand, but please don't ask me to do this…to give up tasting you, touching you, being inside you, being connected for 12 months," Fitz was up from the bed now, whispering his pleas in her ear. She took a step back, beginning to lose her resolve in such close proximity to him. He took a step forward.

"Livy, you are moving in with me. How will it work? We will be sharing a room, a bed. If we don't, then GG will know something is up." He hugged her. "Please don't make us do this."

"Okay. We can move up the date. How about November? That will only be 6 months instead of 12."

Fitz laughed. "6 months, 12 months. It doesn't matter." He sat on the bed and laid back. He didn't say anything for a while. Olivia continued packing.

He sat up on the bed. "Come here, Livy."

She hesitated, but walked to him. He pulled her close so that she was standing between his knees. "If this is that important to you, I'll do it."

"Thank you, Fitz. It is important to me," she said letting him pull her onto his lap.

"But I have one other condition. I don't want us to start this celibacy pact until 7 days have gone by. During that time, I want to be able to make love to you as much as I want, whenever I want. Carte blanche," he said kissing her on the neck as he spoke. I want full…discretionary…power…a blank check.

Olivia giggled when he tickled her neck with his kisses. "Seven days?" she said.

"Seven days."

"Okay." She leaned in to kiss him. He stopped her.

"Remember what I said about carte blanche. I want you to agree that I can have you whenever and however I want. Do you agree?" Fitz asked looking at her intently.

"I agree, babe," she said pushing him back on the bed. "How is that different from now, though?

Olivia waited for Abby's reaction to her story.

"You gave him an all access pass on the Olivia train and you didn't think he'd…umm… ride on it as much as possible?" Abby asked.

"At first, it was fun and adventurous. Sex at my place after school, at his house at night, in the morning before school, in the car on the way home from the grocery store, in the garage, in the attic…But now I am…just…tired. I have started following GG around because he can't initiate then. She is like my buffer. I try to use Karen and Gerry like that, but he just offers them money to go run an errand…whatever he can make up to make them go away for enough time. We even developed a safe word that we would use when one of us had too much. We were just fooling around when we came up with it. It is "War of 1812." I used it days ago, but he said I couldn't because of impressment."

Abby looked confused so Olivia explained further.

"The War of 1812 was between the United States and Britain after the Revolutionary War. Remember British troops burned down the White House, but not before Dolly Madison saved a lot of the relics. The British Navy used the practice of impressment where they would force any American men they found to work in the British Navy. So when I used the safe word he countered with impressment. I know it sounds weird and kinky, but…"

"No…that part just sounds nerdy. How do you come up with these things, Liv? What day is it in your agreement?"

"This is day 6. I know…I know…I only have one more day, but I'm sure he is planning a marathon tomorrow. After this weekend, I can't take any more. I know it sounds crazy, but I have reached the point of diminishing marginal returns, Abby."

"Okay that sounds familiar. Economics right? But you're going to have to help me. I hated economics in college, remember?"

"It is basically the concept that as the amount…how can I explain this…okay think of being hungry and ordering a pizza. That first piece is heavenly and you gobble it up. The second and third slices are almost just as good. By time you get to the 4th and 5th slices, the pleasure you get from eating it is not as great as the first slice so you push the pizza away. There is a marginal diminishment of pleasure or return with each slice. Imagine if you kept eating the pizza. You probably wouldn't want any for a long while. The first couple of days of endless sex with Fitz were like the first slices of pizza. Now I can't even count what box we are on. I am done. I don't want any more pizza, Abby. I want my body back. I've had enough orgasms to last until November, but Fitz…he is a maniac. What should I do?"

"Olivia, what a bad problem to have! You fiancé is giving it to you too much. I feel so sorry for you. I get your example with the pizza, but haven't you heard the saying that pizza and sex are alike because whenever it's bad its still good?"

"Some man created that saying, obviously. The sex is not bad, but quite good. I just need a breather. My lady parts need a rest."

"Just tell him, Liv. But why would you want to be celibate until the wedding?"

"No, I won't tell him because then our celibacy deal is off. I swear he should have been a politician or a lawyer. I thought being celibate would be kind of…I don't know…fun? It would give us something to look forward to. And… you remember two months ago when I was late? I don't want to have a scare like that again."

"But you weren't pregnant. It was a fluke. Your birth control didn't fail you. You are just worried for no reason. That is why I love you, my dear. You worry enough for everyone. Okay, Liv. I have a suggestion, but I know you aren't going to go for it."

Olivia took a long swig of her coffee. "Abby, I'll do just about anything for a night of sexless rest. What should I do?"

Abby looked at her for a long time before speaking. "Paul had trouble sleeping a couple of months back so his doctor prescribed Ambien. He doesn't take it anymore. He started exercising as a way to distress from work. Now he sleeps like a log. Stop by my house on your way home from school. I'll give you one of Paul's pills. Give one to Fitz tonight. Trust me. He will sleep soundly and not touch you. He may be groggy in the morning. Just make sure you drive to school."

"So you are telling me to drug him? That's a little extreme…but I'll do it."

"Just make sure you give it to him early so he can have a full night's sleep, 8 to 9 hours. "

"Thanks, Abby."

"Why are you all dressed up?" Abby asked.

Olivia wore a white sheath dress.

"I have a dinner meeting with my agent to sign another contract for three more books over the next 5 years. It's a dream come true, but I have been so preoccupied that I haven't been able to bask in the glow of finally publishing my work."

"Smooth talking Jake Ballard? Doesn't he have a crush on you? Has he ever met Fitz?"

"No, he doesn't have a crush on me. He is just very good at his job. All he sees when he looks at me are dollar signs for a hefty commission. Fitz has never met him. It's getting late, Abby. I'll go over to your room while you get set up for your kiddos." Olivia followed Abby to her classroom down the hall. They passed Harrison as he walked to his classroom.

"What's going on? Abby is here before me? What's the deal?" Harrison said flipping on the light to Abby's room and following them in. Olivia gave Abby a warning look not to tell Harrison, though she knew Abby wouldn't betray her confidence.

"Nothing, Harrison. I felt like coming in earlier. But I can tell you that Liv has a date with her agent and Fitz has never met him," Abby said, knowing Harrison wouldn't believe that she came to school early without a good reason.

"Smooth taking Jake Ballard? Isn't he happy hands Jake Ballard too?" Harrison said. They had both met Jake before when he visited Olivia at Ambrose earlier in the school year.

"Enough about Jake. Fitz isn't the jealous type. They won't meet each other tonight because Fitz has double daddy duty. Right after school, he is taking Karen to try for her learner's permit and then he and Gerry are having dinner with a Lacrosse recruiter from Duke."

"Sounds like a full night for both of you. I hope you get to do that thing we talked about before it gets too late," Abby said.

Olivia looked at the clock. 7:15. She had 30 minutes before the bell rang to run an idea by both of them.

"I think I found a way to raise the rest of the money we need for our technology upgrades."

"You are going to donate the advance you receive on your next three books aren't you? Liv, you've already done that once. I think you should keep your money," Abby said.

"No, we need about $10,000 more dollars. I was thinking of contacting Celeste. She has so many contacts in the entertainment industry that she could possibly get them to donate or at least host a fundraiser at the school. What do you guys think?"

"Celeste who?" Harrison asked.

"Not the Celeste, Fitz was once engaged to? The one you don't like?" Abby said plopping down in front of her computer.

"I am over that now. She did have an unhealthy attachment to him, but time has passed since then. They haven't spoken. I don't feel threatened by her anymore. She can help us raise these last funds, though, so I won't let the past get in the way of that."

"What makes you think she will be willing to help you? She is probably mad and embarrassed," Abby said.

"I'm not asking her to come to our wedding, Abby. I just want her to facilitate a connection between the school and a celebrity willing to help us raise some money."

"I don't know, Liv. This sounds a lot like that other idea you had that bit you in the butt, if you get my drift? Have you spoken with Fitz about this? He might not like it," Abby said with a worried look.

Olivia answered as the bell rang, "Not yet, but I plan to soon."

"Come in," Fitz said not looking up from his monitor.

"Hey, honey," Olivia said. She walked into his office and gave him a peck on the cheek. "I am leaving now. I have to get something from Abby's before my meeting tonight. Tell Karen I said to stay focused and not let the examiner trick her into looking off the road. I wish I could go with you and Gerry on the recruiting dinner, but I have to sign these contracts. I'll see you back at home tonight."

"Livy," Fitz said grabbing her hand before she could walk away from his desk. "Why don't you join us for dinner with Gerry's recruiter. It's not until six. How long should it take to sign contracts? I can text you the location and you can meet us there."

Olivia would have agreed, but she wanted to arrive home before him so she could think her plan through. She knew she couldn't give him a pill so she would have to dissolve it in something that wouldn't change the drug. This would require some googling.

"No, babe. I think I'll head home. I am so tired and you know why. Enjoy your dinner, okay?" She let him pull her close for a longer, more involved kiss.

"It's day six of our little agreement. Tomorrow's the last day. We can call this off if you drop your celibacy before the wedding idea," Fitz whispered in her ear. "I can't believe you've lasted this long. Since tomorrow is day 7 and unfortunately, a Tuesday, we will have to miss school. I just submitted your leave request. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve Ms. Pope."

Olivia looked him directly in the eye. "You are crazy! You're going to make us miss a day of school? That's quite extreme, Fitz."

"About as crazy and extreme as this foolish celibacy idea…"

"I have a few tricks under my sleeve as well," she said. She flung her hair and took a slow walk to his office door, moving her hips for his benefit in her form fitting sheath dress.

It was almost 6 and Olivia was ready to leave Jake Ballard at the restaurant for more reasons than being tired. She had assigned the contracts 45 minutes ago. They had finished their food and she was anxious to get home to plan how she was going to carry out her plan. Jake was annoying her with all the questions about her relationship with Fitz. It had started when he saw her engagement ring.

"Wow! Is that what I think it is?"

"Yes, I'm engaged. It's beautiful isn't it?" She let him take her hand to peer at the ring.

"What is that? Three, four carats?"

"You know, I'm not sure," Olivia said pulling her hand back.

"I thought you said you weren't dating? Who is the lucky guy?"

"It happened pretty fast…less than a year."

"Well, I guess I missed my chance. When will I get to meet the lucky guy?"

Olivia didn't answer him. His questions all started to run together. She was getting sleepier by the minute.

Her heart jumped when she felt two familiar hands slide down her bare arms and very familiar lips kiss her cheek.

"Well isn't this a small world, Livy? I didn't expect to see you here. Is this your agent, Mr. Ballard?" Fitz said extending his hand to Jake. Jake stood up and they shook hands.

"Yes, Fitz. Meet my agent, Jake Ballard. Jake, meet my fiancé, Fitz Grant." Olivia stood to make the introductions.

"Nice to meet you, Fitz. What is that short for?" Jake asked.

"Fitzgerald. It's nice to meet you, Jake." Fitz's face held a false smile because he had observed Jake and Olivia across the room. Jake kept touching her. "This is my son, Gerry, and his recruiter, Bob O'Shay. Bob this is Olivia, my fiancé, and her literary agent, Jake."

Everyone said their niceties, and then Fitz made a suggestion.

"Why don't we consolidate tables? Olivia and Jake you all can sit with us. If you've already eaten, have a drink or dessert."

"Great idea," said Jake.

"I'm sure Jake has to go," Olivia said at the same time.

"Then it's settled if it is okay with Bob and Gerry," Fitz, said grabbing Olivia's hand.

Gerry handled himself very well when the recruiter asked questions. Fitz and Olivia had coached him on how to make a good impression. They asked questions about the academic program as well as the athletic program. Jake didn't say much, but he got the silent message from Fitz, loud and clear. Olivia was off limits.

Two hours later they were all back at home. Karen and GG were already celebrating Karen's accomplishment. She had passed the test. She was doing little dances around the living room holding up her temporary license. GG had made virgin mimosas for everyone. That gave Olivia an idea. When no one was looking she slipped the mortar and pestle into her purse.

She whispered in Fitz's ear, "Let's get ours to drink upstairs."

He and Olivia congratulated both Karen and Gerry, grabbed their drinks, and headed upstairs.

Olivia had finished her mimosa by the time they reached the room. She took Fitz's and said, "Honey, could you go downstairs and get me another one?"

"You can have this one. I'm just thirsty for you," he said.

"No. No. No, honey. Get me another one from downstairs and we can toast when you come back okay?" Olivia said forcefully.

Fitz complied and left the room.

When the coast was clear, she quickly ground one Ambien and emptied it into his drink. She threw the others away, resolving never to do this again. She felt like one of those women on Snapped. "I'm sorry, Fitz."

Fitz reentered the room with Rolfo following behind him. He had begun sleeping on the floor at the foot of their bed. To him it was bedtime. Olivia, now in the bathroom, heard Fitz come in.

"Babe, drink your mimosa and join me in the shower. Leave mine by the bed."

"Okay," he said, but unbeknownst to Olivia he guzzled down the one he had in his hand, leaving the one Olivia had spiked. He picked that one up and put it by the bed.

Olivia felt good when he entered the shower knowing that they would only make love one time if he didn't fall asleep before then.

Later when they were both sated, he carried her to the bed and pulled her into his arm. "I know you are tired. Get some rest."

Even later that night, Olivia was awakened by light kisses on her inner thigh. She looked down and saw the outline of Fitz's head under the bedclothes.

"Fitz, aren't you tired, honey?" She looked to her right and the green lit digital numbers read 2:00. She looked to the right and saw the full glass of mimosa illuminated by the moonlight. Instantly she realized that he had probably drank the glass that had been meant for her instead of the one with the Ambien. Her plan was shot. It was too late.

She exhaled in defeat and lay back on the bed.

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