“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.”