As she does in every session, Dr. Woodrow hands me a cup of hot tea.
“Thank you.” I sip gingerly, testing the temperature, and almost choke when the burn of brandy hits the back of my throat. My eyes pop open wide as I stare at Dr. Woodrow incredulously.
“You asked for it.” She chuckles softly at my mock scowl. “Are you relaxed?”
“You could have warned me,” I tease before taking another sip. Interesting mix of jasmine and brandy. Not something I would think of myself, but not necessarily displeasing.
“Ah, true, I could have. But what fun would that be?” she smirks.
Hmm. Seems as though Dr. Woodrow is in a feisty mood. Perhaps she is just trying to make today easier for me. It’s going to take much more than a splash of liquor in a calming cup of tea.
“Tell me how your week has been going.”
“Are you procrastinating for me, Dr. Woodrow?”
“Not procrastinating, Eve. However, there is no ethics law that says we cannot have a normal conversation.” Her smile is kind, and I can’t help but return the smile.
“Very well. My week has been busy, actually. I’m getting the gallery ready for a show for a local artist. I believe it will be successful. Which reminds me, I will have to miss next week.”
“The showing is next week during your session time?” Dr. Woodrow asked skeptically.
“No.” I grin at her disapproval. “I’m not avoiding my session, Dr. Woodrow. I just won’t be in the country. Lainey and I have to travel to Italy for a couple of days to procure a few items for the Los Angeles gallery and hopefully a new artist.”
“Italy? How exciting. Would you like to discuss how Adam feels about Lainey traveling with you?”
My eyebrow raises at her question. We have yet to get into the whole “Lainey relationship” portion of my life. It was only eluded to when we did the preliminary interview.
“You don’t think I can see the depth of your feelings for Lainey when you speak of her?” Dr. Woodrow asks gently.
I close my eyes briefly before locking gazes with her.
“Adam trusts me,” I say a bit too harshly. “We’ve discussed everything, and he knows Lainey and I are just friends. Now.”
“Eve, I did not mean to upset you or imply that . . . ”
“I know,” I interrupt. “I apologize for my attitude.” I lower my gaze. It’s not the doctor’s fault that I still feel guilty about Lainey. Guilty for our affair. Guilty that I still think of her in that way. I force myself to think about something else. Even going back to my past may be easier than dealing with the shame of my feelings.
“Eve . . . ”
“I’m here to talk about when I ran away to Paris and what happened to me, correct? That is where we are now?”
Dr. Woodrow sighs softly and nods. She picks up her notebook and rolls her pen between her fingers. Waiting.
“My father took my mother and me to Paris once when I was small. He had had a particularly good week gambling and was feeling generous, I suppose. Of course, he went there to gamble more, or do whatever else he did, but mother and I had fun. We stayed there for a few weeks in a small bar that had rooms for rent. Wasn’t the greatest place, in fact it was quite filthy, but I didn’t mind it. Momma was with me and that’s all that mattered to me. Tony spent most of the nights down in the bar or somewhere else, sometimes never coming back to the room. After Tony was arrested for my mother’s murder, I fled to the only place I remembered. Madame Bussiere’s.”
I know I’m talking fast, and I hope I’m making sense. I take another drink of my tea to stall, scrunching up my nose as it had become cold.
“Would you like more?”
I nod, handing the doctor my cup.
“No, thank you. I can do this sober.” I hope. Dr. Woodrow refills my cup, handing it back over to me, and settling back into her seat.
“Was this Madame Bussiere kind to you and your mother when you had visited before?”
I detect a small amount of distaste when the doctor mentioned Bussiere’s name. I smile to myself, knowing instinctively that she dislikes Bussiere merely for her part in what happened to me. I am fortunate to have found a therapist who actually cares. I mean, if I must go through therapy I might as well be comfortable, I think wryly.
“She was pleasant enough, I suppose. I didn’t give it much thought, though. I just didn’t feel I had any other options. I was young. Money would have eventually run out. I was hoping that Bussiere would agree to let me live there if I helped out around the place.”
And, oh man, did she. I just never imagined how she would make me help.
“When did things change for you?” Dr. Woodrow asked gently.
“When I was sixteen,” I murmured. I remember it as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. “I had once believed it was because my body had began to change, and the men in the bar began noticing. I only learned recently that Bussiere had betrayed me and told Tony where I was. He began paying off his debts with my body.” I pause, taking a sip of my tea, wishing I had accepted the offer of brandy.
“Would you like to stop?”
“No. I want to get past this part.”
“Alright then. Take your time, Eve.”
“We only have an hour session,” I joke lamely.
Dr. Woodrow smiled. “You’re my last session for the day. It’s okay if we go over.”
Again, I find myself lucky to have found such a caring shrink. Though, I’m quite certain she would disapprove of me calling her a shrink.
“When Bussiere came to me one night, she noticed one of my drawings. She thought it was good and demanded I paint for her. She figured she could make a lot of money off of my paintings. I thought I’d be able to get what I needed if I agreed, so I asked her for supplies and agreed to paint for her. Huge mistake.”
“You must know that whether you had asked her for supplies or not, she would have demanded the things she demanded from you,” Dr. Woodrow said into my silence.
“Logically I understand that, Doctor. But for years I believed that that was the thing that made Bussiere ask those things of me. It was a catch 22 for me. My art helped me survive, but the way I got the supplies was slowly killing me.” I take a deep breath, closing my eyes. “When Bussiere asked me to go up to the room with a man, I didn’t know what to expect. She told me it was to paint a portrait. I became hopeful that I had misunderstood what I had originally thought she wanted from me. That hope grew when the man really did just want a portrait painted. When he returned a few more times for portraits, I should’ve been more wary and less hopeful.”
“You were still a child, Eve.”
“But I had already seen evil, Dr. Woodrow. I shouldn’t have been that naïve. I should have prepared myself for what I knew in my heart was coming.”
“You hold so much guilt inside you.”
Oh if you only knew, I thought silently. The guilt never seems to go away.
“If I had just prepared myself for that night,” I said out loud.
“Then what, Eve?” Dr. Woodrow asked. “Do you think you would have felt different about it? You were a virgin and someone was taking advantage of you. Raping you. How could you have possibly prepared yourself for that.”
“I agreed to it,” I protest weakly.
“Did you feel you had any other choice? Did you want it?”
“No,” I whisper.
“It was rape, my dear Eve. You should hold no guilt for that. That woman, Tony and those men are the ones to blame. They are the ones that should hold guilt. Not you, Eve.”
Logic is so much harder than emotion.
Dr. Woodrow reached over and squeezed my hand briefly.
“Do you know how many there were?”
The question was asked hesitantly, as though she didn’t want to have to ask me. I almost wished she hadn’t. I shake my head.
“I lost count.” My voice sounded so small and childlike to me, and it shocks me. A chink in my armor. Damn it.
“It’s okay. Let’s stop here. We don’t have to talk about this anymore if you don’t want. Next time, we can begin with how you got away.”
“Okay.” I force my voice to be stronger. Stronger than I felt at the moment.
“May I ask you something?”
I nod, still not trusting my confidence.
“When you leave here, do you find comfort with Adam or Lainey?”
The question had me expelling a shocked gasp. Even though there was no hint of judgment, I wasn’t prepared for my defensive response.
“I’m in love with Adam. He is the one who comforts me,” I retort hotly.
“Eve, please.” Dr. Woodrow lifts her hands in a placating gesture. “I meant nothing by that. I wasn’t judging you. I’m merely trying to get to know all there is to know. It’s not uncommon to feel strongly about two people.”
“I love my husband,” I state again.
“I have no doubts about that. But you also love Lainey, correct?”
“Why are you doing this?” I whisper. It’s too much. I’ve been trying to bury my feelings for Lainey since Adam found out about us. I’ve promised Adam that nothing would ever happen between Lainey and me ever again. I won’t hurt him like that again. I can’t.
“Eve, the whole point of therapy is to be completely open and honest. Not only with me, but with yourself. If you don’t, how do you expect to let it all go?”
“I’m not ready for this. Please.”
“Okay. It’s alright. I’ll stop.” Dr. Woodrow closed her notebook and set it on the table next to her, laying her pen on top. “I’m sorry I upset you, or if you feel I’ve pressured you.”
I nod slightly, standing up.
I pause with my hand on the doorknob, and turn to face the doctor.
“I am sorry.”
I can see the distress in her eyes, and I wonder if she thinks she’s lost my trust.
“I know. And I understand why you asked. I’m just not ready to face those questions right now.” I offer her a slight smile. “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, doc. We’ll get through my past, and then we’ll tackle my feelings. I can only handle one at a time.”
“I promise, I’ll let you set the pace.” She smiled back, and stood to approach me. “Have a safe trip.” Dr. Woodrow squeezed my forearm gently.
“Thank you. Good night.”
I close the door gently behind me, and stand there for a moment with questions running through my head. Lainey is picking me up tonight on her way home from the gallery while Adam is home with Bella. Will I confide in Lainey? Normally I wouldn’t hesitate. But now . . . now I have to wonder if it’s because I’m looking for comfort from Lainey or just friendship.
“Why can’t it be both?” I whisper. It doesn’t mean I want anything more. Right?