“Eve,” Dr. Woodrow set her leather-bound writing pad aside, and slipped off her glasses. “If you expect these sessions to work, you have to be honest with me. With yourself.”

“What would you like me to say, Doctor?”

I don’t fidget. For many years, I have trained myself to remain calm and strong. In my line of work, it’s extremely helpful. After everything I’ve been through, it’s extremely essential. Yet, here with Dr. Woodrow, my therapist (Christ, having a therapist is hard enough for me to believe), I can’t stop twisting my wedding ring around my finger.

“It isn’t my job to tell you what to say, Eve. It’s my job to listen to what you need to let go.”

She sat back in her chair, her elbows on the arms of the chair and steepled her fingers. A show of confidence. That’s something I know. She’s also waiting, patiently, for me to open up to her. It took me years to open up to someone. So far, I’ve only trusted two people with my sordid past. And, I’ve slept with both of them. Sitting here in front of someone who wants me to divulge every secret, without any other pretense, somehow makes me feel more exposed.

“You asked me to help you forgive your mother,” Dr. Woodrow said over my silence. “Are you sure that’s what you feel?”

“Obviously you’re not,” I answered dryly. She said nothing, just kept waiting. Damn. She’s good. “I don’t know what I feel to be honest with you. I wanted her to be honest with me, but she wasn’t.”

“She’s your mother, Eve. You’re a mother now. What would you do with Bella in this situation.”

“Adam would never hurt me,” I seethed.

“I know that,” she said softly at my outburst. I should really control that in front of a therapist. “I’m not saying Adam would hurt you. I merely want you to think about how you would have reacted if the tables were turned.”

Sigh. Of course, I would have done the same thing mama did. She thought she was protecting me, and she did the best she could in her situation. Blaming her is blaming the victim, and I know better than most not to do that. The truth is, I’m not blaming her. I’m not even mad at her. It is not my mother that I need to forgive.

“Eve? Many emotions just crossed over your face. Do you want to tell me what you were just thinking?”

“It’s a bit overwhelming for me that you can read me so well after a short amount of time.”

“It’s my . . . you know, that’s not true. I was going to go with the line of it being my job. And, while it is, and I’m damn good at my job, it’s more than that with you.” Her eyes flickered with amusement when she obviously sensed my uneasiness. “You remind me of my niece. I feel particularly protective of you. It may be unprofessional to some, but I think it will give me a better insight to you.”

“You barely know me.” My voice was a mere whisper. I haven’t had a mother figure since I was fourteen. I don’t know how to react to the feeling I had when Dr. Woodrow said I remind her of her niece.

“I believe you of all people know that feelings can occur quite instantly and without warning.”

I nod, still feeling slightly off balance by the admission. I felt the same thing with both Adam and Lainey. It was – still is – intense, scary and immensely satisfying. I felt another brick fall out of my wall of protection. When the hell did I start trusting people I hardly know?

“Now, are you ready to tell me what the emotions were all about?”

“I realized it wasn’t my mother that I need to forgive,” I answered honestly. I hesitate to elaborate when I see her questioning look. I can’t help it. It has been a defense mechanism for me for so long, it’s second nature to me. “I should have been able to help her.”

“Eve – ”

“I know,” I interject quickly. “I was a kid, what could I have done? But, there had to have been something. Something that would have kept her alive. Kept her with me.”

To my utter horror, I felt tears flood my eyes.

“Do you think that’s why you would do anything to keep those you love safe? Even go as far as stepping in front of a gun – twice?” Her tone was even, though I still heard a hint of disapproval.

“My life means nothing without the people I love,” I stated simply.

“Can you not see they feel the same about you?”

“That’s not what I think about. I wasn’t able to save my mother. I’ll be damned if I don’t save those closest to me when it’s because of me they were in danger in the first place.”

She shook her head slightly, picking up her writing pad again and jotting down notes. When she looked at me again, she smiled kindly.

“Before we get deeper into that, we need to spend more time on this guilt you feel towards your mother, Eve. If you can’t forgive yourself for something that isn’t your fault in the first place, I’m afraid you won’t be able to get rid of this block you have.”

The threat of not being able to paint or create art again caused me to shudder. Art is an important outlet for me. Without it, I’m frightened by what it will do to me. I used art to get me through the most devastating times in my life. I need it. Hell, I need it as much as I need Adam and Bella. As much as I need Lainey.

Without art, I’m not me. If Adam or Lainey can’t see Eve, how long will I be able to keep them? How will I be able to raise my daughter with confidence and potential?

“How? How do I forgive fourteen year old me for not being able to save my mother?”

“We go back. You’ll have to relive it all in order to give yourself a different outcome.”

“It will never be different, Doctor,” I tell her grimly. “She will still be dead. I will still have been brutalized. Innocent people will still be killed or threatened because of me. Reliving it just means going through that pain all over.”

“It is not the outcome outside I am talking about, Eve. It is what happened inside. Starting with the first time you knew something was wrong in your household.”

As much as I want to walk away, to never relive this through words since I relive it in my dreams enough, I agree. I don’t have any other choice.