The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 13, Bethany

Neither of them noticed her sitting in the waiting room in plain sight when they’d left Dr. Reichmann’s office. She’d seen them both before and on multiple occasions or overheard their conversations while in with the Doctor as each of them tended to be a bit loud. She’d do anything in her power not to draw attention toward herself when either was about. People like that scared her, intimidated her.

Of course, most would say, the Doctor especially, that you needed to give a person a chance before making a statement as broad-sweeping as the one bouncing about in the confines of her crowded, cacophonous mind. Nevertheless, she knew in her heart that she’d given many chances and to many people, only to be used, hurt and abused over and over again. No, the best approach was to be as inconspicuous as possible, pray they left you alone.

“Can I get you anything? Water perhaps? I would offer you coffee but Miss Wilkinson isn’t in today and for the life of me I cannot get that damned coffee-maker to produce anything resembling coffee. Not coffee you’d like to drink, anyway.” Dr. Reichmann’s broad grin unfailingly put her at ease, like an Old Spice wearing uncle who was small and a little overweight and always had candy. She liked him.

“I could make it for you if you would like?” There you go trying to please everybody. Well, at least the Doctor is nice, never uses you.

He smiles. “No thank you dear. That is very sweet of you, but I will do without. Though you didn’t answer my question – water?”

“Thank you Dr. Reichmann, I’m fine.” She smiles back, but it feels more like a stupid-smile than a real one, a fake smile. She tries again, this time attempting eye contact as he was always instructing her. Lifting her head she catches his eye as he is waiting for her, his smile genuine, bigger. She returns it, this one is real.

“Now Bethany, you will have to forgive me as I do not have my notes from the last session. Debbie, I mean Miss Wilkinson, didn’t come in today. You never truly understand how much you rely on someone until they’re not there, do you?”

She knows she is frowning, can feel it on her face. In truth, she doesn’t like Miss Wilkinson that much. No-one does, she doesn’t think – not even the Doctor, not really. Bethany found the woman rather bossy, especially to Dr. Reichmann, and that upset her a little. He hadn’t even hired her – at least that’s what she’d overheard, the lone perk of being her invisible self. It was his wife, she had brought her on. She controlled him at home making his life a relentless misery and Debbie Wilkinson continued with the nagging, the ceaseless torture here at the office. The two of them were essentially the same – two bitchy peas in a pod, Bethany grinned. The Doctor probably thought it was him as he smiled back. I guess that’s why I find him easy to talk to. We’re basically in the same situation. She’d never thought of it before though it made perfect sense, made her feel less lonely. She tilted her head, held eye contact, wanting to make the Doctor feel he was helping, putting her at ease, a tiny token of appreciation, often the only payment he would receive. Dr. Reichmann smiled back. His smiles always comforted her.

“We were talking about Mr. Hobson, my father in law.” She dipped her head to conceal the shame she felt heating her cheeks, flushing her neck like beacons of blood upon fresh fallen snow.

“Right, right. And did you ask him to leave yet?”

She couldn’t see him, though could hear hope quivering in his voice. She didn’t want to answer, felt herself shrinking, getting smaller. She shook her head side to side.

“I see…. How about your husband? Did you speak to him, tell him your feelings, tell him what’s going on?” His voice strengthened gaining confidence, authority with each word.

“I tried.” She raised her head, though only slightly, tilting her eyes to peek at him from the shade of her hair. He smiled. She felt a bit better, not so alone. “I told him his dad needed to move out – that he was ruining our lives.” She held his gaze even as he leaned in, placed his elbows upon the table, steepled his fingers.

“I am tremendously proud of you Bethany. That was very good. Well? What did he say?”

Dropping her gaze, she began to cry, though even her crying was small, only the slightest shudder of her shoulders, no sound at all. She had practiced over the years, how to cry yet remain invisible, unobtrusive, preferably unnoticed. It took awhile before she gathered herself enough to speak. “He told me not to be silly and to stop crying. He told me what a great man his father was – is. And that he was proud to have him living with us so he could show him how grateful we were for all the support he’d given us over the years.”

There were no words from the Doctor this time, just silence, silence and patience while she cried. She recovered enough to continue, though it took a while. This time when she spoke it was barely audible, just a hint above a whisper. “He did it again.”

“I beg your pardon Bethany? Who did what?” She could see his puzzlement through her hair. It was hanging in front of her like a veil, hiding her, but she could still see him.

She spoke a little louder this time, though remained hidden. “He did it again. My father in law, he did it again. He… took me. He raped me. Dennis walked in.” She’d stopped crying, her tears run dry, her emotions lobotomized. She felt numb. Like she was someone else watching from the corner of the room, up near the ceiling. As this body, her body, explained to the Doctor how her father in law, the great and magnanimous Mr. Hobson, had found her in the laundry-room wearing only a sun-dress as it was so thick in there and the air conditioner was on the fritz and how he’d forced her over the washing machine – it had been running and shaking and squeaking and making all sorts of noise as it was old – lifted her dress onto her back, ripped her panties off and taken her from behind.

That her husband must have heard her screaming over the machines was obvious. As he’d come running to see what was going on and saw her folded over the rumbling, thumping, machine, held down with her face mashed against the hot metal and his father thrusting like a wild dog on a bitch in heat. He’d caught her frantic, pleading, eyes, held them, held contact for at least three or four seconds while his father continued pumping then releasing into her with a shudder and a repulsive grunt. After which, he’d turned his back and left her there, went back to watch TV, the game.

When, at last, she’d pulled herself off the cold tile floor where she’d been left shaking and crying with cum drying upon her bared legs and ass and made her way from the laundry room to where he sat watching, scratching, drinking and asked her husband why he hadn’t helped her, why he hadn’t called the police? He’d looked at her with contempt, disgust tattooed indelibly upon his face. “Call the cops? What the fuck would I do that for? You probably deserved it, were probably asking for it.” Then he’d turned back to the game, dismissing her entirely.

Walking from the room, beaten, she heard his voice command over the commentator, “Clean yourself up then bring me a beer.”

Bethany went on to explain to the Doctor how, that night at the dinner table as the three of them sat and ate like they always did, just one big happy family, how father and son talked like two old pals – guy things, family things, fun they’d had on the farm growing up, hunting, fishing, football, basketball, women – like nothing happened. Only it had, and every day since. And her husband knew about it and didn’t want anything to do with her anymore and had more or less given her to his father to do with and treat her as he pleased.

When she was done, Bethany looked up. He was staring, obviously in shock, evidently angry about it too.

“Doctor, I don’t know what to do about it. What do you think I should do?” She waited a long time for his answer. He sat, staring at her, angry, controlling his breathing, moving his lips, tightening muscles, fingers though nearly motionless, constrained. After a time, when she was just about ready to stand and leave, thinking he was not going to say anything, not answer her question, ignore her like everyone else, he spoke.

“This is not right my dear, not right at all. We need to fix this.” He stood nodding his head indicating to her to stay seated that they were not done yet, that the following client would have to wait, that he would be right back.

She sat. Waited. Listened.

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