Cal shifts forward a little, his eyes on me.
"Me too. How are we going to do that? I prefer your hair down by the way."
Just like that, I'm a mess. I felt my cheeks reddening deeply and was grateful it wasn't overly bright in his room.
"Excellent to hear Cal. So, tell me about your life?"
He laughs properly then, his emerald eyes twinkling as he shakes his head.
"What a shit question. Here's an idea. I'll ask you a question, you have to be entirely honest with me, don't forget, this is strictly confidential. Neither of us can tell anyone anything. Also, I thought interpersonal therapy was used to treat moderate to severe depression, but I will let you lead. So, ready? Or do you want to go first?"
I looked down at my hands. He was right, it was totally confidential. Also, how did he know what interpersonal therapy was about when he just said he didn't know what it was? He was so confusing. I look him in the eyes as I decide to just be honest.
"Why are you so rude to people?"
He shakes his head as he stares at me in disbelief.
"That's your question? Why am I rude to people?"
I stare back at him indignantly.
"It's a simple question."
He whistled slowly, before answering me. .
"Ok precious. I don't have much tolerance for people. I don't like anyone, it's better that way. But I am curious as to who you think I have been rude to?"
"But you like Krystal?" I shot back, ignoring his question.
"No Gretchen, you don't get to ask two questions. It's my turn," he tuts as I fold my arms. I begin to realise how absolutely horrific this situation was becoming.
"Fine, ask away," I say airily, lifting my chin up defiantly.
"Are you happy with Luke?"
Just like that. He was brutally direct, but why? Did he just want to make me uncomfortable? I open my mouth to answer, as he watches me carefully.
"What has that got to do with anything?!"
"It's a perfectly valid question. It's your relationship. Are. You. Happy?" He repeats slowly, his voice softer now, his eyes searching my face intently.
I nod confidently.
"Yes. Well, I was..."
What? Was? Where did that come from? Why did I say that? I closed my eyes, hoping he hadn't noticed that last part.
"Are you going to elaborate? This is confidential."
No such luck. Argh. I felt myself wanting to talk to him, against all my brain screaming signals in every different direction not to.
"It's personal though Cal. I don't even know you," I found myself saying, fiddling with my nails.
"You wouldn't know a therapist. This is what this is for isn't it? Why don't you ask me a question, then we can go back to that," he responds quietly. I felt relieved he had given me a get out of jail free card and I thought carefully about my question.
"Have you ever been arrested?"
I was not thinking straight. Why would a therapist ask that? Its not truth or fucking dare Gretchen!!
"Yup. My turn."
My heart leapt into my mouth, he had been arrested? He didn't offer any elaboration and I didn't dare ask. His hair fell in front of his eyes and he moved it away, placing both hands on his knees. I was intrigued, but I had to wait my turn; that was the deal.
That was all he said, before he leaned back, almost triumphantly.
He wasn't letting this go. I play with my fingernails, considering what to say. Part of me wants to be honest with him, but that would be revealing way too much. Besides, I wasn't even sure how I felt. This was his cousin, how could I trust him to be confidential?
"He is very sweet. We have been together for a little over a year. He treats me well..." my voice trails off as he continues to stare at me with that intense gaze. He gives nothing else away as he waits patiently.
"I'm just not sure I want to be with him forever, does that make sense? If you don't want to be with someone forever what's the point in bothering?"
"Is that your question to me?"
He raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah it is."
I was eager for the attention to move away from me and my relationship; that, up until now, I had thought was actually swell.
"I think that we have relationships with different people to learn things. Learn how to behave, how to fuck, how to break up, how to be."
When he said fuck I felt a feeling deep inside me that was totally unfamiliar, yet delightful. What he said made complete sense. I bit my lip and looked at him as he continued.
"You said he makes you happy, and that he is sweet. Is that what you want? Like, what really turns you on? Do you even know?"
He didn't change his expression at all. I swallowed, feeling ashamed I couldn't even answer him. What did I want? Him? Could I just say that?
"I don't know what I want, you are right."
He raised his eyebrows again quizzically.
"As for what turns me on?" I clear my throat, my stomach twisting with desire as I imagine it.
"I want to kiss someone in the rain. I want someone to push me against a wall, kiss me hard and pull my hair to the point of pain. I want to want someone so much they are all I think about."
I cannot meet his eyes, despite them burning into me. My breathing is heavy, my chest rising and falling rapidly. He doesn't speak, he just continued to stare at me. This time I couldn't read his expression at all. I decide to ask him a question to change the course of the conversation.
"My turn. Do you like being single?" I ask lightly.
Where had this bravery come from?
He cleared his throat.
"It's not about being single or being in a relationship. It would just be. I imagine I would have to feel things I had never felt before, in order to be in a relationship of any kind. That would show me that it was different, not just a fuck, or a crush. I have never felt like that before," he gazes at me sharply. " Are you really making notes? It's confidential!"
I looked up guiltily.
"No, I was making key notes. Like, needing a new emotion to experience something new."
His next question stopped me in my tracks.
"Are you in love with him, Gretchen?"
His voice seems different now, and I swallow, replying quickly.
"Of course I love him Cal. He is my boyfriend."
"That's not what I asked," he argues. "I asked if you were IN love with him. Totally different."
He looked at me triumphantly as our eyes went to war.
His emerald green ones won, of course, as I broke eye contact with him.
"I think I may not be," I admit quietly.
I blinked and realised I had tears in my eyes, what the fuck was going on?
"I have to go. It's getting late," I mumble, standing up as he stood with me, his hands tilting my face up to his as he looked at me with an expression of concern.
"Are you ok? Come here."
He wraps his arms around me and I allow myself to breathe him in, feeling dizzy from my rapid heartbeat, crazy emotions and that divine smell of his. I felt totally safe and secure, and so far away from the world. I pulled myself away from him and he grinned at me.
"I think I may be a shit therapist. They aren't meant to hug their clients are they? Come on Raven. I'll walk you home."
I don't have the strength to argue, plus I want as much time with him as possible. We walked silently, side by side, as I stole the odd glance at him. He seemed to be deep in thought, catching my eye every now and then as I look away instantly. When we reach my drive I turn to him, grasping at any false confidence I had left.
"Thanks. We will need to meet up again soon and try and pick some points out about whether it works-"
He puts his finger on my lips, and I tremble beneath his touch.
"Sssh. Stop thinking. Go and get some rest, I will see you at school."
He turns and walks away, lighting yet another cigarette. I head to my bedroom and log onto my social media accounts on my laptop. There were photos of Sienna & Ethan at the Rink, looking totally loved up. I clicked onto my profile to see the photo of me and Luke after one of his games looking incredibly loved up too. What the hell has happened to us? I climb into bed, hearing the ping that alerts me to a text.
It was from Cal!
Confidential, I won't tell anyone. Night beautiful.