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I stand up straight, pushing away from my Lexus. “Hello, Doc. I’m sorry for ambushing you like this.” I have been waiting for the doctor in the parking lot of her office building for the past thirty minutes. It’s not the most orthodox way of getting a session in, but . . .
“It’s all right.” Dr. Woodrow points behind her. “Would you like to go inside?”
“No.” My voice is a little firmer than I intend. “Sorry, I’ve been feeling a bit closed in lately. Would you mind talking to me out here?” I lift my face to the star-filled sky. It’s a chilly night, but not unbearably so.
Dr. Woodrow checks her watch, and not for the first time I wonder if I’ve made a good decision coming here. It’s late and I’m sure the good doc has more important things to do than to stay here and talk to me.
“Of course. There’s a bench right around the corner. We can sit there if you want?” She leads the way and sits, waiting patiently for me to do the same.
“I’m sorry . . .” I begin again, but she stops me.
“Eve, whatever it is that’s on your mind must be important for you to be here at all. I’m available anytime for you, you know that.”
She stays quiet after that and I suppose she’s waiting for me to get to the reason I’m here. Fleetingly, I wonder what she’s going to do without her trusty notebook. How will I know if what I’m saying is bothersome to her?
“I’m going crazy.” The doc raises her eyebrow at my word and I smile apologetically. “Poor choice of words even if I do feel exactly that way.”
“Why do you feel you’re going crazy?” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a damned notebook.
“Do you always walk around with one of those things?”
“I find they come in handy. You know, just in case a patient is waiting for me in the parking lot and refuses to come inside.” She smiles warmly.
I know she’s kidding me, but being called a patient makes me cringe. Intellectually, I know there’s nothing wrong with needing help. Unfortunately, I’m not being very intellectual at the moment. My heart is winning over everything else. Which brings me to why I’m here.
“I need to talk about my last session,” I blurt out unceremoniously.
“I’m surprised it took you this long.”
I think one of the reasons I like Dr. Woodrow so much is because she’s unconventional. I can pretend that we’re old friends sitting out here having a normal conversation.
“Yeah, well, I had homework to do.”
“The being alone and thinking,” Woodrow nods. “I had a feeling that would be difficult for you.”
“For years, I thought I didn’t have a heart, Dr. Woodrow. Those men who hurt me stole that from me. Then, I meet Adam and I start to feel something. I didn’t allow myself to give in because no matter how nice he was to me, I just never felt I could completely be myself with him. He has this image of me, as most people do, and I strive to be that person for him.”
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Then, I meet Lainey. God, it was so easy with her. She never expected anything of me. And, maybe that’s because she knew how it felt, being a wife and mother who everyone expected things from. I don’t know. I just know there wasn’t a moment when I felt I couldn’t be me. Oh, I wanted to resist getting close to her. I couldn’t. I knew that what I was feeling was more than just friendship. Seeing the way she looked at me, I knew she could feel it, too. It suddenly became a need to be close to her.”
“Do you think Lainey being a woman has anything to do with the way you feel?”
“You mean because it was men who hurt me?”
“That was one of the things I thought about. With my heart, I might add. I have been pulling at every little thread trying to figure out why I’m hurting Adam.”
“And?” Dr. Woodrow prompts when I pause.
“No, I honestly don’t think that’s it. I don’t see Adam as someone who can hurt me. Not like they did.”
“May I ask you a few questions?”
“Isn’t that your job?” I smirk, and she smiles back.
“Part of it. Is Lainey the only woman you’ve been attracted to?”
Woodrow writes something in her notebook and I resist rolling my eyes like a sullen teenager.
“Do you love Adam?”
“Are you in love with Adam?”
My answer isn’t as quick this time and she writes again.
“Should I take your non-answer as an answer?” she asks kindly.
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “I thought I was. I thought that by letting Lainey go — in that way — I was doing the right thing. For both of us. What if I was wrong?”
“Well, I can’t say you were wrong in your decision that you made then.”
“What can you say?”
“I can say that when I asked you a few sessions back if you were in love with Lainey, you said yes,” she answers matter-of-factly.
“So, I should divorce my husband, leave my daughter, and whisk Lainey away from her family? What are you writing?” I ask as she scribbles something in her notebook.
“What about this notebook bothers you so much?”
“Every time I say something wrong, you write.”
“What makes you think what you said is wrong?”
I stand abruptly and start pacing. All of this shrink back and forth is frustrating me.
“I can’t do what I just said! That’s what makes it wrong! Cheating is wrong! Being in love with someone who belongs to someone else is wrong!” I stop and look at her pleadingly. I’m breathing heavily, and my entire body is shaking. “I’m not a bad person, Doc. I just fell in love with the right person at the wrong time.”
“I know you’re not a bad person, Eve. Nor is Lainey.” She stands and takes a step towards me. “The thing about love is it’s never predictable. Both you and Lainey have circumstances that may be factors in what has transpired between you two.”
“You still think this has to do with men hurting me.”
“No. What I mean is, from what I’ve learned from Lainey, Jack is her first, and only, before you. They met when she was young, and she’s been with him ever since.”
“So, she’s sowing her oats with me?”
My mom used to say my name like that when I was being a brat. I felt the same way then that I do now. Like a chastised little girl.
“She’s not ‘sowing her oats’. But, perhaps, when she met you she discovered there was someone else out there who could capture her heart. That doesn’t make her a bad person. It makes her human. As for you,” she continues. “You grew up so fast, and yet, in a way, you remained a child.”
I frown. “I don’t understand.”
“The things that happened to you, should never happen to anyone at any age. Having gone through it at such a youthful age, you were forced to grow up. But, you never went through the normal phases of a relationship. Adam was nice to you and you weren’t used to that. So, you held on to that. Now, I’m not saying that what you feel or felt for him isn’t real. It undoubtedly is. But, you weren’t able to explore your feelings more in-depth as a woman.”
“So, Lainey and I are exploring?”
Dr. Woodrow sighed. “You can be extremely hard-headed sometimes. You continually want to hear what makes you look bad. What I’m actually saying is that each of you found someone in each other that you’re completely comfortable being yourselves with. In doing that, you both found something you might have been missing in your lives.”
“Then why did we make the decision we made to stay apart?” That was the question that was constantly in my head. If I loved Lainey so much, why did I marry Adam? Why did I have Bella? Did I know deep down that Lainey would never leave Jack because of her sons? Did I want what she had, only since I couldn’t have it with her, I chose the next best thing? If that was true, what kind of person did that make me? And, how in the hell am I supposed right my wrong? The thought of hurting Adam, of breaking up my daughter’s home, kills me.
“I can only assume, Eve.”
“It’s what you both know. Lainey has been with Jack for close to twenty years. They have two sons. How daunting it must be to change your entire life after so long. And, you are as selfless as you are self-deprecating. You’re willing to give up what you truly want if you think it will make those you care about happy.”
“Are we talking about Lainey or Adam?”
I sit back down, not trusting my legs to keep me upright anymore. “Am I a lesbian?”
“I don’t think we need a label, Eve. Love is love.”
I chuckle. “Spoken like a true advocate.”
She smiles at me. “As you know, my niece Rebecca is a lesbian. That’s what she has always identified as. I have no problem with labels, Eve. I just don’t think we need one in your case. But if it helps you, I’d say either bisexual or pansexual.”
“Hmm. I guess I have more homework to do.”
“I can give you pamphlets.”
It’s the sparkle in her eyes that gives her away. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if you did have pamphlets,” I laugh. It hits me then that I’ve laughed more in the past thirty minutes than I had all weekend. “What am I going to do?”
She sighs and sits next to me. “What did your heart tell you?”
“That I’m in trouble.” I shake my head. “They deserve so much better,” I murmur.
“What about you? What do you deserve, Eve?”
“I don’t think you want me to answer that right now.” I stand again. “I’ve scratched and clawed my way out of hell, doc. I’ve been beaten, raped, shot. Yet, I’m still here. Against all odds, I’ve become a very successful woman. I have galleries all over the world, businesses that flourish, more money than I will probably ever need, and a beautiful family. The one thing that brings me to my knees is love. Fucking love. I’ve fought my demons and won. But how in the hell do I fight something I can’t see, change, or control?”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be fighting it.”
“Right,” I scoff. “Just keep on like we are. More of Paris. Marriages be damned.”
“Eve, I’m not advocating cheating. In fact, I would normally say cheaters are selfish and cruel.” Ouch. “But, your situation is different.”
“Why? Because we’re women?”
“No. Because you’re not purposefully trying to hurt others. In fact, you’re fighting so hard not to hurt others that you’re hurting yourselves.”
“Doesn’t make it right.”
“No, it doesn’t. And, that’s something the two of you will have to come to terms with. My point is, you’re so focused on that aspect of it that you’re ignoring everything else. I won’t deny that this is a severely complicated situation. But it is my job as your therapist to get you to think about yourself and what makes you happy.”
“I’m in this mess because I only thought about myself.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” I confess softly. “Why couldn’t I leave her alone?”
“Vilifying yourself won’t help. And you can’t keep taking away Lainey’s accountability for her actions. I realize many may see you as irresistible, but you didn’t force her to be with you. She chose that.” She reaches out and takes my hand. A move that surprises me more than a little. “You’re scared, and I get that. You’re not used to putting yourself out there. I think you’re feeling extra pressure now because I’ve tasked both you and Lainey to think about what your hearts want. As much as you know she loves you, you can’t be sure her heart will choose you.”
My eyes flutter shut as I feel my stomach drop. “Guess I should stop referring to you as a quack,” I joke. Suddenly uncomfortable, I pull my hand back. “And if that’s what happens?”
“Fear is never an effective way to live life, Eve.”
I shake my head. “Such a psychiatrist response.”
“As much as I would like to help you, I can’t make your decisions for you.” She holds her hand up before I can speak. “There are no negotiations on that, Eve. But I can be here for you — for both of you — no matter what those decisions are.”
If my mother were still alive, I think she would be like Dr. Willamena Woodrow. Caring, yet firm. Always there when needed. The thought saddens me even more and I realize how tired I am. An exhaustion that no amount of sleep will help. Tired of always fighting to be happy. Sometimes I wonder just how far my strength will stretch.
“I need to go. You can bill me for this,” I say suddenly. I see a flash of disappointment in the doctor’s eyes and I soften my tone. “Thank you for talking to me out here. I apologize for disrupting your night.”
“No need to apologize. The good thing about bubble baths and wine is they’re always there no matter what time I need them.”
I give her a genuine smile. “That sounds like heaven right about now.”
“It does, doesn’t it? Should I give it to you as homework?”
“Don’t ruin it!” I chuckle. “I think I need to spend some time with my daughter. She brings light to my world in a time when I need it most.”
“I think that sounds perfect.” She takes her keys out of her purse. “I want you to remember that I’m available anytime.”
“I will, thank you.”
“Eve? One more thing. I know you probably can’t imagine this right now, but perhaps it would be a good thing for you to talk to Adam about this.”
My eyebrows shoot upwards. “Are you crazy?”
“Wouldn’t that be something?” she laughs. “But I’m pretty sure there’s a clause somewhere in some legal mumbo jumbo that says therapists can’t be crazy.”
“Perhaps you’ve found a loophole,” I counter jokingly.
“Perhaps,” she shrugs with a smirk. “But, in this case, I believe it might help you.”
“Because he’ll divorce me and take my daughter away which leaves me completely available to ruin Lainey’s life?”
The doc shakes her head. “You’re not a villain, Eve. I will keep telling you that until you get it through your head.”
“You may want to save your voice by recording it,” I suggest. “Listen, I’m capable of many things, Doc, but talking to Adam about this isn’t one of those things.”
“You must be aware that your feelings are changing for him. I can only imagine he’s aware of it as well. No matter what decisions you make, he needs to know how you feel.”
“I’m not ready for that.”
She nods. “All right. Keep it in mind?”
“If I can find the room for it up there, I will do just that.” No promises, I add silently. “I get it, okay? I’m not being fair to him and that kills me. But, I’m in no hurry to devastate him even more than I already have.”
“Like I said earlier, Eve, it is my job to help you think of yourself in these situations. With that said, I’m not here to pressure you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with.”
I laugh. “That’s all you’ve done by making me talk, Doc.” I hold up my hands before she can respond. “Work in progress, Dr. Woodrow.”
“As long as you remember to progress, Eve.”
“Such a shrink.”
“That’s what it says on my doorplate,” she winks. “Go home and hug that beautiful daughter of yours.” She looks as though she has something more to ask, but apparently changes her mind. Perhaps she can sense I’ve had all I can handle for the night. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful for the reprieve. “I expect you back here regularly.”
“I’m doing my best. Goodnight, Doctor. Enjoy your night of relaxation.”