I remember one afternoon, I was working tediously behind the desk in the waiting room for Dr. Haven, mostly busy work I created just to distract myself from the forlorn or manic faces of the patients as they bobbed their knees impatiently. My hand slid across a sheet of paper as I scribbled down different dates into the appointment book from the small notes I wrote on business cards and handed to patients as they made their appointments. My eyes focused on the task, and I started as I finally noticed a man before me. I turned my gaze up to him and gave him a shallow smile. “How can I help you, sir?”
He slammed his hand on the counter and growled, “I’ve been waiting thirty minutes for my appointment.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the clock and turned back to him. “It’ll be just a few more minutes, I’m sure.”
“I’ve waited long enough.”
“I’ve waited long enough,” Jude growled.
I drug my battered body across the church basement floor, stifling my screams by biting into the collar of my shirt. My fingers brushed against the phone, and then I heard Jude thunder forward toward me.
My lips parted in exasperation as the man’s features were reminiscent of the man that attempted to murder me. His long, narrow nose sat between two ember eyes under ginger hair, freckled and mottled. I whispered, “I’m sorry, sir. It’ll be just a moment.”
“Better be,” he snarled.
“Better not be reaching for that phone, Devin. You didn’t do what you were supposed to.”
I glanced over my shoulder in time to scream before he slammed his foot into my hand, pinning it to the concrete floor. I wailed immediately, and then his hand wrapped around the crown of my head. He pulled me off the floor. My shoulder began to separate.
“Stop, please. Please stop it,” I cried.
He leaned forward, our noses touching, and hissed, “No, you know your punishments.”
My breath caught in my throat as he grasped it tautly in his mighty clutch. His fingers wrapped indicatively around my flesh easily, castrating my veins and arteries. My vision blurred for a moment, and then he threw my face into the side of the mahogany desk.
A shrill scream interrupted my memories—very much welcomed. I glanced over the desk at a young mother with bags under her eyes, bouncing her child delicately. The little boy’s face was vibrant red as his mouth opened in an “o” to unleash his disheartening shriek. The hairs on my arms rose as I sat back down on my chair. I turned back to the computer as the child yelped, “Mommy!”
“Mom, you have to believe me!”
Her cool eyes bored into me angrily. Her dark brows caved in over her luminescent orbs as she pinned her arms down to her sides. She hissed, “You seduced him, didn’t you?”
I cuffed my hands over my mouth. I was fifteen when she found out I was having sex with other people besides Heath. She didn’t know what Dad was doing to me. She didn’t know the full front of it all—she only saw one façade. I murmured, “Mom, no, I didn’t. I didn’t want to. He made me do it.” I couldn’t even admit that my father was the one forcing me into all of this. He was slowly killing me.
Why couldn’t he just end it all?
Mom spat, “You slut, how old was he?”
Tears began to collect in the corners of my eyes. I hadn’t researched him enough to know who he was or what he was. My dad introduced him as a family friend, and then that weekend, I found out he was a client. I screamed when he raped me, and then he gagged me with his fist. I left teeth marks embedded in his knuckles. She heard me scream from the church basement. “I don’t know.”
She combed through her hair with her fingers. She shook her head as she admitted, “What are people going to think of us, Devin? Do you realize how bad this looks on us?”
I cried, “Mom, please just call the police.”
She hissed, “No, I know you seduced him.”
I was yet told she knew about Jude and me.
One day, she burst, exploded. She was chopping up carrots by the sink with a butcher knife when I came in the kitchen, still donning my work clothes. It was nearly midnight, and she was cooking. I immediately knew something was bothering her, and, against better judgment, I asked, “Mom, what’s the matter?”
“Like you care,” she whimpered.
I dipped my chin and admitted, “I do.”
She whipped around with the butcher knife pointed at the tip of my nose. She wailed, “It’s your fault the love of my life is in jail. It’s your fault he’s imprisoned falsely. I knew it from the moment I saw you lurk out of that church on a Saturday afternoon. I knew it was you, you bitch.”
I took a step back. “Mom, you don’t know the whole story.”
She hissed, “Oh, I know everything.”
I froze; my eyes widened wildly, incredulous.
“I know how you fucked him. I know how you were trying to break up my marriage.”
My fist pounded against my chest as I wailed, “Then why didn’t you tell the police?! Why didn’t you help me?!”
“Because it was all your fault.”
I awoke from the imagined reality. Sweat collected on my brow with each figment I created, each memory I recollected.
I hastily blinked and turned in the desk chair. I glanced at the computer screen. I had been absent from reality for nearly an hour. I hesitated to look at Dr. Haven because I felt like he would know. He would know I abandoned my medication in hopes of being normal, and I was reluctant to resign to the fact that unnatural chemicals were actually helping me.
He shook his head and explained, “You’ve been nonresponsive for nearly thirty minutes. Are you alright?”
I glanced at the clock again. I was off the clock for thirty minutes. I finally stood up, grabbed my coat, and ventured through the entry without answering his question. I wasn’t sure if I was alright or not.
I marched through the parking lot, heading towards the house when I heard Dr. Haven call me from across the lot. “Devin! Devin!”
I whipped around; my hands shoved in my pockets, defensive. I furrowed my brow and laced a strand of wild hair behind my ear. My piercings scratched against the soft flesh of my fingertip.
He huffed as he came to a crawling halt as he came about a yard from me. He placed his hands on his hips as he sucked in air.I missed the feeling from exhaustion instead of panic. He puffed, “What’s wrong with you?”
I shrugged and tore my gaze to the side. Jennifer had been waiting for nearly half an hour and seemed annoyed from the way I saw her pecking at her phone from afar.
“You’re not focused. You’ve skipped out on three of your sessions. You’ve made false records of attending the sessions so Jennifer doesn’t kick you out. What’s going on?”
I shrugged again.
“Indifference is not like you. Is this about your father?”
I shook my head.
“I know he’s been in a coma for the past three weeks. You’ve not mentioned it once.”
“It wasn’t worth noting,” I finally answered.
Taken aback, he struggled to form a coherent response, mostly a bunch of grunts and growls before he came up with an idea. “Why do you feel so guilt-ridden about it?”
I froze. My eyes swam across the whites to stare at my doctor.
“I’m not oblivious to your behavior. My patients have mentioned your change in behavior, too. I know you’re suffering, but I don’t know why. You said you wanted him dead for so long. I know this is callous, but are you not elated?”
I choked back a scream before I confessed, “I think I killed him.”
Dr. Haven shook his head and confided, “You had nothing to do with it.”
“But I did. When I went to visit Jude in prison, one of the prisoners told me he’d ‘fix it.’ Maybe he knew about what happened, and maybe he killed him. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I feel like I murdered my own father.”
“Do you know the history of that murderer?”
I shook my head.
“I read up on him. He killed a man, and that put him in jail. He killed the man with his bare hands, just beat the snot out of him. The man died in the hospital a day after being beaten, and that put the man in prison. You want to know his motive behind the murder?”
I just stared at him.
He leaned forward and whispered, “The man he killed molested his daughter for a complete decade, and she finally admitted to it all in her suicide note. She overdosed on sleeping pills because she couldn’t deal with the shame.”
“I don’t want to hear this.”
“I gave him a call, and he said he—”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“—wanted to make sure you didn’t do the same thing—”
“I said I don’t want to fucking hear it.”
“—as his daughter.”
“Because that’s what people do. They protect others. Just like you protected your sister for your whole life.”
“I didn’t protect her. It was all for my own gain.”
“But you never confessed his wrongdoings. You only created a scenario to protect your sister from him until she was legally able to separate from him. You did nearly everything you’ve done for her.”
“I’m not a good person.”
“Tell me, what kind of person protects her own father from harsh punishments despite being severely beaten and brutally raped on numerous occasions? What kind of person does that? Even though it was poorly focused, it’s a quality of a good, protective person, Devin. You’re a good person despite all of those voices in your head telling you otherwise.”
I shook my head. I murmured, “You don’t know me. You never knew me.”
I turned and walked to Jennifer’s car. We drove home in silence after she asked what took so long, and I just lied and said, “A partial seizure.” She then was quiet the remainder of the ride, but I think she overheard our conversation. And I think she knew why I couldn’t face the enigma that I was even remotely a good person.
Because what good person explodes?