“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” Lainey stood awkwardly at the door of Dr. Willamena Woodrow’s office.
Dr. Woodrow smiled pleasantly. “Of course, Lainey. Please, come in and have a seat.”
She gestured to one of the comfortable chairs in her office, and Lainey sat immediately. Her legs were shaking, her heart was racing, and she felt sick to her stomach. It made her wonder if this was how Eve felt when she was here.
“Would you like some tea?” the doc asked, interrupting Lainey’s thoughts. Dr. Woodrow’s voice was calming, yet it had no effect on Lainey’s frayed nerves.
“Yes, thank you.”
“I must say, I was surprised to hear from you,” she said as she poured steaming tea from a charming teapot into a delicate cup.
If the doctor’s everyday life was this peaceful, she’s either the luckiest woman in the world or just extremely good at categorizing what’s in her brain. Lately, that had been something that Lainey hadn’t been very successful at. That’s why she was here.
“I was surprised I called you,” Lainey admitted. “This is confidential, right? Even from Eve?”
“Of course, it is.”
Dr. Woodrow handed Lainey the tea with steady hands. Unfortunately, Lainey’s were not as steady and the tea sloshed slightly onto the saucer as she took it.
“I take doctor-patient confidentiality very seriously, Lainey. I would never disclose anything you say in a session. Just as I would never reveal anything Eve has said.”
Lainey nodded, sipping the hot tea cautiously. She had to confess, even if just to herself, that she would’ve done anything to know what Eve had said in these closed sessions. It was impossible to read someone as complicated as Eve Sumptor. Riley, Lainey, she reminded herself with a dash of self-disgust. Eve is married. Hell, she is married. They both had kids. There were so many reasons she should remember Eve’s married name.
“Lainey?” Lainey looked up, startled to see the doctor sitting in the chair in front of her with a notebook resting on her lap. “Would you like to tell me where you just were?”
“I guess we’re starting now.” Lainey offered a tremulous smile.
“We could sit here and drink tea if that’s what you prefer. It would be an expensive cup of tea.” Her smile was contagious and Lainey felt the laughter bubbling up. It was most likely hysterical laughter, but she doubted there was anything the good doctor hadn’t seen before.
“To answer your question,” Lainey began after she finished laughing. “I was thinking if what I’m feeling right now is how Eve feels when she’s here.”
“And how is that?”
The doctor smiled again and made a note in her notebook. Lainey remembered something Eve had told her once that made perfect sense now. She said that whenever Dr. Woodrow wrote in her notebook, Eve felt as though she had said something wrong. She was right.
“Remind me not to ask you or Eve for references,” Dr. Woodrow chuckled.
“Perhaps we should be the ones to do that for you,” Lainey countered with amusement. “It means you’re very good at getting to the core of things. I’m just not sure I’m ready for that.”
Dr. Woodrow nodded. “I’m sure you’re aware that I haven’t seen Eve for some time now. May I ask how she is before we get too far into this session?”
“She’s . . . complicated. Honestly, I don’t know, Dr. Woodrow. Maybe that’s why I’m here. We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately with the opening of her new gallery in L.A.” She paused, gathering her courage. “We even went to Paris together for work.”
“Alone, I’m assuming?”
“I sense there is more you need to say, Lainey.”
“I don’t know how fair it is for me to be here without Eve knowing. Or without her permission.”
“Does she make you feel you need her permission?”
“No! Of course, not.” Lainey sighed with frustration. “I feel as though Adam and I forced her into doing this, and I don’t know if she would appreciate me interfering.”
“Is that what you’re here for? To interfere with Eve’s therapy?”
“No.” Lainey carefully placed her tea on the table beside her and sat back. “I’m not explaining any of this right. I guess I feel as though I’m intruding on something that was supposed to be for Eve. I want her to paint again and hopefully relieve herself of the night terrors. Be happy. It was never supposed to be about me. Yet, here I am.”
“Oh, Lainey, surely you know that you are very much an important part of Eve’s life. That’s not revealing any secrets, simply stating the truth. I feel Eve would encourage you to be here if you feel it’s needed. Of course, you know Eve would probably want to fix everything for you.”
She laughed softly and Lainey joined in. She was absolutely correct. Eve was a fixer when it comes to someone she cares about.
“But, the reason I’m here is very personal. I should have talked to her first.” Lainey was now questioning her impulsive decision to make this call. Perhaps her very first call should have been to Eve. That would have been the decent thing to do.
“If you’re that concerned, we could call Eve and have her meet us here.”
Even that innocent suggestion had Lainey’s heart beating even faster than before. Whether it was the prospect of seeing Eve or her knowing what Lainey was here for, she wasn’t sure.
“I — I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”
“It’s okay. It was only a suggestion, Lainey,” Dr. Woodrow soothed.
“I know, but even if I think it’s a bad idea, I also think it might be the right thing to do.”
“Do you always do the right thing, Lainey?”
Lainey released a sharp laugh. “Obviously not. I cheated on my husband. With another woman. And, as much as I wish I could, I can’t stop thinking of her. Or wanting her.”
“Is that true? That you wish you could stop?” Dr. Woodrow asked carefully.
“Honestly? I’m not sure.” Lainey pressed a hand to her stomach, hoping she could keep the contents in place. “I should stop. My husband deserves better than a wife who has feelings for someone else.”
“For the sake of this session, let’s keep others out of the equation,” the doctor suggested.
“That’s impossible!” Lainey argued heatedly. “They are in the equation! If they weren’t, Eve and I would be happily together.” Astonished, she slapped a hand over her mouth. She hadn’t meant that. Had she?
“Is that what you want, Lainey?”
“I think we need to call Eve.” Came the quiet response.
I knock quietly, squeezing my hand into a fist hoping to stop the shaking. I was beyond shocked when I received the call from Dr. Woodrow to meet her at her office. Even more so when I found out Lainey was there.
I should have predicted this. After what happened between us in Paris, things have changed. For both of us. It’s harder now to ignore what we feel. Maybe we made things worse, but I can’t regret what happened. Unless it’s the reason Lainey is here. What if she’s here because she can’t handle what happened? Or if she can’t handle the guilt? Guilt that I should feel, too. Do I? The door opens to Dr. Woodrow’s pleasant face, and I’m sure I’m about to learn the answer to that question soon.
“Eve, thank you for joining us.”
She steps back and gestures for me to come in. My eyes immediately find Lainey’s and I see fear in those lovely green eyes. My heart drops.
“Lainey,” I murmur.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers.
“You never have to apologize to me. For anything.” Somehow, I resist taking her hand in mine. I glance over to see the good doctor watching us intently. “Okay, I’m here.”
“You seem a little defensive,” Dr. Woodrow observes.
“Sorry.” It’s a defense mechanism. I don’t know what I’m here for. What I’m up against. I don’t know if my heart is about to be shattered into a million pieces by the woman sitting next to me. And, I don’t know why, when I’m married, that it’s so important to me that I keep Lainey in my life in the intimate way we’ve become accustomed to.
I feel Lainey’s hand cover mine and I involuntarily shiver. She’s the only one that has this effect on me. Even the man I’m married to, as much as I love him, doesn’t cause me this much turmoil inside. I blow out a breath and try to relax.
“I asked Dr. Woodrow to call you, Eve. There are things we need to talk about, and I think it would be helpful to be here for some support. Or advice.”
“All right. Is this about Paris?” I ask warily.
Lainey’s eyes shift to Dr. Woodrow before returning to me. “Yes.”
“I’ve tried many times asking how you felt, Lainey.” I try desperately to keep my tone even. I’m not upset with her, just disappointed in the fact that she didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to me about this. Alone.
“If I may,” Dr. Woodrow interrupts softly. “In order for me to be able to fully understand and help, I would need to know what happened in Paris. Do either of you feel comfortable telling me?”
“We made love,” I tell her matter-of-factly, and wince when I hear a small gasp coming from beside me. “I apologize for my frankness, but I’ve learned that beating around the bush doesn’t work here with the nice doc.”
Dr. Woodrow smirks. “This is true. Besides, I’ve been in this business for — well, more years than I care to disclose. There’s not much that can shock me.” She turns her kind gaze to Lainey. “If it helps, I pretty much discerned that for myself in the first few minutes you were here.”
“Is it written all over my face?” Lainey asks as she slouches back in her chair.
“No,” Dr. Woodrow chuckles. “But, again, I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
“What Eve said is true,” Lainey says softly. “We let our emotions get the best of us while we were in Paris.”
I turn to Lainey, hurt coursing deep in my soul. “Get the best of us? Is that how you feel, Lainey?”
Tears pool in Lainey’s eyes. “That’s not how I meant it. I wanted to be with you, Eve. I want to be with you. Every second of every minute of every day. Do you realize how that makes me feel when I’m with Jack?”
“Yes! I do! I feel the same way when I’m with Adam!” Frustrated, I run a hand through my hair.
We both stop staring at each other and turn to the doctor.
“What you’re both feeling is normal.” She holds up a hand, effectively cutting off the retort she knows is brewing inside me. “Yes, normal. I know you both feel guilty and a bit crazy — as much as I despise that word — but I assure you, it is natural. You fell in love with each other in a time when you both needed something more in your lives. That isn’t something that just goes away. You didn’t stop loving each other when you made your choices to be with Jack and Adam.”
“But, we did make those choices,” Lainey reiterates. “Doing what we did, no matter how much I wanted it — want it — is not fair to our husbands. Or children.”
“I would argue that ignoring how you feel for each other is not good for you. Or anyone else,” the doctor counters. I have to say, the doc is scoring major points with me right now.
“I don’t regret it.” My voice is quiet and for a moment I wonder if I actually spoke out loud.
“Oh, honey, I don’t regret it either.” Lainey’s fingers thread through mine and squeeze. “I don’t think the guilt I feel is equivalent to regret. Is it?” she asks Dr. Woodrow.
“No. I believe they are separate emotions.”
She sits back, with that damn notebook of hers, and watches. I suppose she’s willing to remain quiet and let us hash it out ourselves. Fine. I can do that. I turn back to Lainey.
“I know I should feel terrible for what I’m about to say, but that moment in Paris with you is something I want to relive over and over. Even though we haven’t repeated that moment since, when we’re in L.A. alone together, I feel free. I want to repeat that moment every chance we get, but I’m afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” Lainey whispers. I can see her shaking and a tear rolls down her cheek.
“That you’ll say no. That you’ll tell me you don’t want me anymore. That I’ll touch you one day and you’ll pull away from me.”
She’s crying now and my heart breaks.
“Don’t you know, Eve, that that would never happen? Don’t you realize that I hurt this much because I can’t let you go? We’re married to other people and, yet, my heart belongs to you. I don’t know how to handle that. There’s no scenario where someone doesn’t get hurt. Including our children.”
“Do you want me to walk away, Lainey?”
“Do you need me to walk away?” I ask sadly, and I’m devastated when she hesitates.
“I — I need you, Eve. And, I don’t know how to have you without destroying multiple lives.”
It’s true. There’s not a naïve bone in my body. I know everything will not be full of unicorns and rainbows if Lainey and I decide to be together. But the thought of not being with her is something I can’t fathom, either. Especially after Paris.
I hear Dr. Woodrow’s voice penetrate my thoughts and I give her my attention. All the while, I’m still holding Lainey’s hand and I refuse to give it up.
“Can you respond to Lainey’s fears?”
“She’s right. If we give in to our desires fully, we destroy the lives of our families. I love my husband.” I grasp Lainey’s hand tightly when she tries to pull away. “I love my daughter. And I know that Lainey loves Jack and her sons. It’s an impossible situation.”
“But?” Dr. Woodrow prompts.
“But,” I turn to Lainey and gaze into her eyes, “it doesn’t stop me from loving you. It doesn’t stop me from wanting you. It doesn’t stop me from wanting Paris all over again.”
“How do we do that, Eve? How do we justify what we’re doing?”
“You stop trying to justify it,” Dr. Woodrow answers. “Neither of you are going to have the ability to rationalize what you’re feeling. The only thing you can do is make decisions. And, you need to realize that it’s not just others who can be hurt.”
“What can we do?”
I almost laugh at the thought that Lainey is desperate enough to ask the therapist step-by-step instructions on how to navigate through this dilemma. It’s not a laughing matter, but it’s either that or go a little (more) insane.
“That’s something I can’t tell you,” Dr. Woodrow answers apologetically Lainey and then looks at me. “Do you object to me revealing something you’ve said in here?”
I shake my head. There’s really nothing that I want or need to keep from Lainey. It should be telling that I wouldn’t have agreed had it been Adam in here with me.
Dr. Woodrow flips back a couple of pages in her notebook. “In our last session, we delved a little deeper into your creative block.” I hold my breath knowing exactly where she was going with this. I should have objected. It’s only going to make Lainey feel worse. “You explained to me that the possibility of losing Lainey is what caused this block.”
Another small gasp beside me had me lowering my head. “It’s not her fault.”
“Of course, it isn’t. I’m merely repeating what was said. I also recall telling you that you needed to discuss your feelings with Lainey.” She smiles softly. “I must say, you took it a little further than I imagined and I’m not sure how much talking was actually done, but it’s a good start.”
I smile back, I can’t help it. Just thinking of being with Lainey makes me happy. If I could stop loving her life would be easier. Hell, if I could stop loving Adam life would be easier.
“Do you need me to walk away, Eve?”
Lainey’s voice is small and insecure. Very close to how she used to sound when we first met. I get down on my knees in front of her and speak from the heart. It’s all I really know how to do with Lainey. The moment she walked into my life, I changed. She exposed the deepest part of me, and that’s the part only she can claim. Maybe that’s why I can’t give her up. Maybe that’s why, despite how much I love my husband, Lainey will always be a part of me.
“I didn’t want to do this, Lainey,” I begin, gesturing around me. “Therapy scares the hell out of me. I knew I was going to have to open every little box I have carefully closed in here,” I tap my head. “I already know I’m fucked up, I don’t need to spend $150 an hour to hear someone else tell me that.” I hold up my hand to stop the protests from both of the women in the room with me. “You can’t go through what I’ve gone through and not be a little fucked up. But the sanest part of me knows that if you walked away from me I would never be the same.”
I shrug self-consciously. Something else I’d never been accustomed to before Lainey.
“Maybe it’s unfair of me to say these things to you,” I continue. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that the reason I can’t paint is that I’m using so much energy trying to bury my feelings for you. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that I feel less and less guilt and more resentment towards Adam. That alone should make me feel terrible as none of this is his fault. It’s mine. I pursued you even though you were married. I let you go even though I knew I still loved you. I got married and had a child even though I knew I couldn’t get you out of my head or heart. I wanted it all. I was selfish. Perhaps not being able to paint is my punishment. Yet, I still can’t let you go. Forgive me, but I can’t.”
Lainey slides off the chair into my arms and hugs me fiercely, sobbing. After a moment, she pulls back and stares at me intently.
“You’re blaming yourself,” she says finally. “But it wasn’t only you. You didn’t do anything to me that I didn’t allow. Or want. You weren’t the only one who let go despite the love I still felt. And you’re not the only one who feels resentment that we aren’t together.” She touches my cheek gently. “God, Eve, you must know that the only thing holding me back is the children. I hate what I’m doing to Jack. I love him very much. But if it were only between you and him, I would choose you.”
Exhausted, I plop back on the floor, still holding Lainey close, and look at the doctor. Of course, she’s watching everything with the eagle eye of a therapist, scribbling in that God-forsaken notebook. One day, I will rip that thing out of her hands and set it on fire. After I read it, naturally.
“There’s your talk, doc. It doesn’t fix anything, does it?”
“On the contrary, I believe both of you feel a sense of relief now that it’s out in the open.”
Well, hot damn, the woman is right. A pressure — slight as it may be — has lifted. At least for me. I can’t speak for the woman huddled in my arms.
“But, Eve is right,” Lainey sniffles. “It doesn’t fix anything. All we’ve done is expose our feelings to each other. Where does that leave us? Where does it leave our families?”
“Well, as far as the two of you are concerned, it leaves you with validated feelings towards each other. I don’t see why that can’t help you in your decision-making.” Dr. Woodrow sets her notebook aside, and to my surprise, slides off her chair to sit next to us on the floor. “This is a delicate situation, and I cannot tell you what to do. Those decisions must come from you. From your heart.”
“No magic pills?” I ask flippantly, absently caressing Lainey’s arm.
Both Dr. Woodrow and Lainey chuckle. “No magic pills,” doc responds. “However, I do have some homework for you both.”
We groan at the prospect of having to do more after this draining session. Still, we dutifully nod our heads and listen.
“Spend the night alone. No husbands, no children, not each other. Just you. Think about what was revealed here. Let your heart speak to you, not your mind. I understand that both will need to be present when you’re ready to make decisions, but for this exercise, just listen to your heart. Can you do that?”
Lainey and I look at each other and then nod. It may be an easier task for Lainey. I’m not used to listening to my heart. But, for some reason, I know that the only way to get through this, and possibly paint again, is to do what is being asked of me. From the doc or Lainey.
“Good.” Dr. Woodrow stands, waiting for us to follow. “I think this is a good place to finish. You both must be weary. If you need me, I am always here.”
“Thank you,” Lainey says softly, receiving a smile from the doctor.
“Yes, thank you,” I echo. “For calling me and . . . everything.”
“My pleasure. Please, try and have a peaceful night. I expect you back for regular sessions. That goes for both of you if need be.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I salute. “Goodnight.”
With my hand at the small of Lainey’s back, I guide her out. I stop in the empty hallway before getting to the reception area and turn her towards me.
“Are you okay?”
She nods, but I see the truth in her eyes. I let it go for now.
“Will you be all right getting home?” It’s a silly question given that we live next door to each other. I’ll be following her anyway. The only problem will be she will go into her house and I will go into mine.
“Yes. I just wish . . .”
Her voice trails off, but she doesn’t need to say the words for me to know the wish. I would give anything to be able to grant it without destroying everything else around us. So, I give her what I can right now and take her in my arms, hugging her to me tightly.
“It’ll be okay. We’ll work things out,” I murmur close to her ear.
She backs up slightly and looks up at me through her long lashes. It’s a look that always kills me. Without much thought to the consequences — which seems to be par for the course these days with me — I caress her face and lean in.
The kiss was meant to be quick and reassuring. When our tongues met, it became a battle for dominance. Something that surprises me a bit. I had noticed during our time in Paris that Lainey had become more aggressive. Which, coincidentally, was extremely arousing. Just as it is now. Only, I had chalked it up as pent-up frustration from being apart for so long. Perhaps this new Lainey that is emerging is more than just pent-up frustration. God, how I would love to explore that right now.
I feel her hands move up my back to curl into my hair and a sigh against my lips before she pushes me back gently.
“I shouldn’t . . . this . . . I have to go,” she stutters, agitated.
“Wait!” I grasp her arm and pull her back to me. “You made that negative. I can’t let you leave with a kiss like that being negative in your mind.”
“Not negative, honey. Just more confusing.”
She must notice or sense the sadness in me, because she sighs again and moves in until her body is brushing against mine. With her hands on my face, she brings my head closer.
“Tell me again this will all work out,” she begs.
“It will all work out,” I answer decisively. How? Hell if I know, but I will promise her the world with her looking at me like this. When she kisses me again, it’s tender, yet full of heated desire.
“We should go,” she whispers against my lips. “Before I can’t let you go.”
I’m tempted to kiss her again and make her fulfill that need I know we both have. But I find some idiotic inner strength and nod.
“Goodnight, Lainey.” I watch her walk away, taking in the casual jeans and a white t-shirt. “I love you.” She turns back just then and smiles.
“I love you, too,” she mouths before motioning for me to follow her as she turns the corner.
Startled, I look over to see Dr. Woodrow leaning against the doorframe of her office.
“Is everything all right?”
“It will be,” I answer as I take off after Lainey. Somehow, someway, it will be. One day.