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“I’m so sorry I’m late!”
Dr. Woodrow rushes into the office, tossing her briefcase to the side. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her flustered before. It’s nice to know she’s as human as I am.
“Not a problem. I just got here myself.” Fifteen minutes ago, but there’s no need to make her feel worse. Whatever was bothering her was enough. “Everything all right?”
“Oh!” She waves a hand in the air as though she’s fanning away all the bad vibes. “Yes, yes. My flight was a bit delayed, then my car service . . . and, we’re not here for me.”
“Please, doc. It makes me feel a little better that your life isn’t perfect.”
Dr. Woodrow let out a bark of laughter. “Perfect! Child, I wish. I made an impromptu visit to my niece in L.A. for the first time in a while. I had forgotten how terrible traveling can be when you don’t have a private jet.”
The good doctor winked at me to soften her slight jab. “All you have to do is ask, Willamena.” I’ve never used her first name before. But if I’m going to offer her my plane, I figure it’s more appropriate. “You tell Lainey and Adam I’m all cured and I’ll buy you a plane of your own.”
“You don’t have a disease, Eve.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Hmm. How is Rebecca, by the way?” Mmhmm, I’m stalling. Seems to be my M.O. these days.
Dr. Woodrow hands me a cup of tea — when the hell did she make this — and parks herself in her usual seat. She sets her own tea on the small table next to her and lays that damn notebook on her lap.
“She’s fine. Actually, she’s more than fine. She’s happy.”
I smile genuinely. After everything Rebecca has been through, I’m glad she can now be happy. I’ll have to send Cass a nice gift basket. Or, maybe I’ll just buy a Cass Giles original painting. The woman is amazingly talented. And, I’m trying my best not to be jealous that she does it so effortlessly.
“Where were you just then?”
I almost roll my eyes. Sometimes I wish I could see the look on my face when my mind starts to wander. Is it really that obvious, or is Dr. Woodrow just that good at what she does?
“I was just thinking about how happy I am for Rebecca and Cass. They’re truly great for each other.”
Dr. Woodrow opens her notebook and poises her pen. “And which part of that bothers you more? That they are happy, seemingly without problems? Or that Cass is doing what you want to do the most?”
The urge to get up and walk out is nearly too great to ignore. I hate that she asked the damn question. I hate even more that I’m not sure which bothers me more. Which, of course, makes me a terrible person.
“It’s normal to feel a bit of jealousy when your life seems to be in shambles,” she suggests gently when I don’t answer.
“Get out of my head, doc.”
Dr. Woodrow chuckles. “I’m a head shrink. It’s in the rule book that I get in there.”
“I don’t like it.” And now I sound like a petulant child. “Sorry. Truth is, I don’t know how to answer your questions.”
She writes something in her notebook. I think momentarily that I’ve finally become immune to that little action. Then that thought disappears when I’m actively wondering what was written.
“Give it a try.”
I clear my throat, take a sip of my tea, and clear my throat again. “Fine. I’m happy for Rebecca. She deserves someone good like Cass. I’m happy for Cass. She deserves for the world to know about her talent. And I wonder what the hell I ever did that was so wrong . . . no.” I shake my head. I’ve been thinking of this for weeks. I’m not pleased with my conclusion, but life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
“I’m incredibly lucky,” I say quickly. “I’m loved by a great man. I have a beautiful, smart daughter. I’m rich, successful, and respected. What the fuck do I have to complain about?”
“Your mother was killed by your father who also tried to kill you. You were sold to the highest bidder when you were a mere child. You fell in love with someone you feel you can’t be with.” Dr. Woodrow flips back through her notebook with deliberate movements. “Did I miss anything?”
“That is the past.”
“Things that happen in the past tend to linger, Eve. What happened to you is bound to stay with you forever. It affects you. You may be a powerful woman in the business world, but you’re not immune to human emotions.”
“Obviously,” I mutter.
“Have you talked to Lainey lately?”
There’s that familiar flip of the stomach. That extra little beat of the heart. Damn it.
“Every day. She’s my partner.” Unfortunately, not in the way I’d like her to be.
“I think you know what I mean, Eve.”
I sigh. “Doc, we don’t spend every moment talking about how we can’t be together.” Just some moments. “In fact, I try to avoid it for her sake.”
Dr. Woodrow clicks her tongue and writes something down. “I’ll address that in a later session. First, have you talked to Adam?”
“Every day. He’s my husband.”
“You’re being particularly stubborn today, Eve. If this is how you want to conduct the session, it’s a waste of time for both of us. I came here straight from the airport after a very long flight. If you’d rather not be here, let’s call it a night and go our separate ways.”
Well, Willamena Woodrow is not playing games today. She must be as tired and irritable as I am.
“I apologize. And, while I never really wish to be here, I made a promise.”
“There’s one of your biggest mistakes.” Dr. Woodrow closes her notebook. “This will not work if you’re doing it for someone else. Whether that’s Lainey, Adam, Bella, it’s not enough. You have to do it for you, Eve. No one else. The others, they may feel the residual effects of your time here, but only if you allow you to be here for yourself.”
Damn it. “For me.”
“Right. What do you want for you, Eve? Let’s take everyone else’s feelings out of it. Take all of the consequences away. Say what you would do the moment you walk out of here when everything is right in your world. Don’t think, just say what’s in your heart.”
I close my eyes and let my heart show me the future I desire the most.
“I go home, and Lainey is waiting for me. The boys are still up, playing with Bella. Lainey looks up at me and smiles, welcoming me home with open arms and a light kiss. There’s an easel in the corner of the living room because I can’t bear the thought of being away from my family for too long. So, I paint right there while they play or while Lainey reads.”
“And how do you feel in this scenario?” Dr. Woodrow asks softly.
“Happy,” I whisper.
“Just happy.” I open my eyes. “Is that even possible?”
“For you to feel happiness?”
“Without guilt,” I amend.
Dr. Woodrow leans forward. “I believe that the one thing we forget as we get caught up in our lives is that we’re all adults. We may get hurt or hurt the people we care about, but we’re resilient. We move on. Unless you refuse to let yourself live, you move on.”
“You’re saying I’m blocking myself.”
“It’s a very real possibility, Eve. You’re stuck in limbo. Paralyzed by your love and desire to be with Lainey, and your obligation to Adam and Bella. You’re not moving forward. You’re not even in the moment, Eve, because you’re afraid that by living, you’ll be hindering someone else from living their life.”
“People survive heartbreak, Eve. I believe that with enough discussion, anything can be worked out.”
“Do you think I could survive the loss of my daughter, Dr. Woodrow?”
“You’re a good mother, Eve. Adam knows that. But he couldn’t keep her away from you just because you don’t want to be with him if that was your choice.”
“While some would see that as a moral indiscretion, it is not illegal. Nor does it play a role in determining who gets custody of a child. Unless you have some kind of prenup?” she asks.
She nods. “My best advice for you will always be to talk to Adam. People are more intuitive than you realize.”
“I’ve been thinking about it. Even if I don’t end up with Lainey, it’s not fair to Adam to keep stringing him along. I love him. I truly do. But it’s hard for me to be with him now.”
“Is sex off the table with Adam?”
I avert my eyes. As much as he has tried to be with me, I can’t. Of course, that makes me feel like shit. He’s a desirable man and very good at sex. But . . . “I haven’t been able to be with him since I was with Lainey in Paris.”
“I see. Is that because you’ve realized Lainey is the one you truly want to be with?”
“I . . .” I have no idea how to answer that. Is it the reason? Or is it something more?
“May I ask you something personal?” The doc asks into the silence.
I let out a very unladylike snort. “What in the hell have you been doing since the moment I first walked into your office?”
Dr. Woodrow smiles devilishly. Sometimes she makes me wonder what she’s like outside of the office. According to Dr. Woodrow’s niece Rebecca, she’s a hoot. I’ll take Rebecca’s word for it. Not that I don’t like the doc. It’s just hard to look at her and not think about all of the shit I’m going through.
“Has sex with Adam changed for you? Do you no longer enjoy it?”
“It’s not that I don’t enjoy it . . . him. How can I be with him, give him hope, when I honestly don’t know if I can stay?”
“What is it like at home between you and Adam?”
“Awkward at times. Comfortable at others. He’s incredibly sensitive and attentive. Then, things change and he’s distant and irritable. I can’t blame him because I’ve been distant. I make it a point to have Bella with us at all times.”
“And when it’s bedtime?”
“I stay awake until he falls asleep. Reading, doing nonsense stuff on the computer, researching artists. There’s always something I can do to keep myself busy. I know he knows what I’m doing, but he never says anything.”
“Is that a problem? Do you wish he would say something? That he would fight you? Or perhaps that he would leave you, so you don’t have to be the bad guy?”
“I’m already the bad guy, Dr. Woodrow. With that being said, maybe I do wish that. I’ve seen him agitated a few times, and each time has been because of me. When I broke up with him the first time, when I was shot, and when I was almost killed again. But when he found out about Lainey, he shut down. There was no yelling, no anger. I don’t know why that makes me feel worse.”
“He asked you to stay away from her,” Dr. Woodrow reminds me. She doesn’t need to remind me of that. I felt my heart tear in two that day.
“Only to change his mind when I went crazy. And I’ve slept with her since then,” I remind her in return.
“I’m going to put a jar here on the table and each time a patient says they’re crazy, I’m going to make them add five dollars.” She raises an eyebrow at me. “Except you. You will have to put five hundred bucks in.”
It just so happens that I’m taking a sip of tea the moment she flings that at me. I somehow manage not to spit the liquid in her face. As tempting as it is. “How is that fair?”
“You can afford it. Five dollars is nothing to you. Maybe if I make a dent in your deep pockets you’ll get the hint,” she said defiantly.
“I get it. You don’t like the word crazy.”
“I don’t like that you think you’re crazy, Eve. Though I will admit that sometimes love does make us a little . . .”
“Ah, ah.” She waggles her finger at me. “I was going to say bonkers.”
I laugh out loud. “I take it that’s the medical terminology?”
“The extremely clinical term, yes.”
She says it with such a straight face that it makes me laugh harder. I honestly think this right here is the reason I keep coming back to therapy. It drains me. Leaves me completely raw. Yet, these moments of levity by the good doc heal bits and pieces of me. I feel a moment of normality in my chaotic life. Even my time with Lainey is strained these days because there’s so much tension there. We just try to ignore what kind of tension it is until we figure something out.
“So, I can say I’m bonkers without having to pay the fee?”
Dr. Woodrow taps her lips with a fingertip. “Hmm. Since it is the clinical term, I may allow it in the right circumstance.”
“Thanks,” I smile slightly before it fades. “I have to talk to him.”
“I’m working my way up to it. But I think I have to talk to Lainey first.”
“Working your way up to that one, too?” The doc asks gently.
“Yes. I see the way she looks at me. I know she wants me as much as I want her. But I’m also intelligent enough to know that she would never choose me over her kids. And I would never want her to.”
Dr. Woodrow nods. “Believe it or not, you’re making progress.” She chuckles. “When you roll your eyes, I’m reminded of how young you are. It’s not always apparent when someone meets you. Of course, you look young, but you have an old soul. I like the moments I get to see what’s underneath the sophistication.”
“Underneath the sophistication. My childish side?”
“I wouldn’t say childish. I’d say unguarded. There aren’t many of those moments with you. Have you ever had one with Adam?”
I shake my head. “That’s not who he wants. He fell in love with a confident, strong woman.”
“So, you’ve hidden your vulnerable side to him. And Lainey?”
“She sought out my vulnerability,” I confess. “She wasn’t fooled by the façade. I don’t think I ever had a choice than to be exposed with her.”
“My professional response to that is, the woman you portray to the world, Eve, is not a façade. You are that woman, through and through. However, you’re also the sweet, sensitive woman underneath.”
I resist rolling my eyes again for fear I’ll look even more childish. “It was much easier being the one without a heart.”
“You’ve always had, and always will have, a heart, Eve. I’ve heard quite a bit about your generosity through my niece.” She sighs. “I know I’ve told you that I can’t make the decision for you and that remains true. I will say, though, I think deep down you know you’ve made your decision.”
“If I take everyone out of the equation, being completely selfish, then yes. I’ve made my decision. Now, I just have to find the strength to do something about it.”
“You have it in you.”
“Yeah, well. As you pointed out, I also have a scared little weakling in me, too.”
“That’s not exactly what I said, Eve.”
“Close.” I hold my hand up when she gets that look on her face. The one that tells me she’s not happy with me. “I apologize. I’m getting tired and cranky.”
Dr. Woodrow laughs softly. “Perhaps you should go have a nap.”
I embrace my inner child and stick my tongue out at her. “I would argue with you just out of spite, but I could absolutely use a nap. Lainey and I will be leaving for L.A. in the morning.”
“Will you use this opportunity to talk to her?”
I shrug. “I promise I will try. Is that good enough?”
“It’s all anyone can ask.”
“Is that my homework?” I ask cheekily. Okay, so stress, lack of sleep, and pure, unadulterated lust for someone I can’t fully have are taking their toll on me. I am adult enough to admit that.
“Your homework is to accept your decision and forgive yourself.”
I scoff. “You could have asked me to take over the world. That would have been easier to accomplish. But, again, I’ll try.”
“It’s all anyone can ask,” Dr. Woodrow repeats.
“Right. Just so you know, that’s never been my experience in life. Trying was not good enough.” I stand abruptly. I cannot get sucked into another conversation about my shortcomings. “I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks.”
Dr. Woodrow stands as well. “You know how to contact me if need be.”
“I do. Thank you, Doc. Goodnight.”
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.”
“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.