Rose Marie Wells leaned forward, her gaze unwavering as she focused and waited patiently for Jerry's response. Hearing none, she decided that firmness was a necessary tactic at this point.
"I can't help you if you don't open up to me. Completely." His once downcast eyes were slowly making their way to every nook and cranny of the room, nervously avoiding hers. "What do you mean when you said your father stole you?"
Leaning back she waited again, knowing that this time he would respond to her. His Adam's apple stopped bobbing and he cleared his throat definitively, ready to make a statement.
"When I was a child, he stole me from my parents." His eyes met hers now. "He told me this when he was too drunk for his conscience to bother him. He beat me into calling him father then he pretended that everything was normal. That I was normal."
"How did that make you feel, Jerry?" she asked as she quickly and carefully penned her own observations and feelings.
"Like a piece of shit. How many times I told myself that he wasn't my real father. He couldn't be. Read dads don't hurt their own kids. But when he told me . . . I found that it was better to believe it that to know it.
Dr. Rodney Banks shut off the tape recorder.
"This one's going to take a lot of work, Rose, but you seem to be able to handle him."
"His life was literally beaten out of him and for him to recover those memories and get a sense of who he is, he has to root up painful lost memories. He's going to fight them. And me."
Tapping the edge of his stack of papers against the conference table, he got up.
"But you've handled worse, Rose. Remember Ellis Ramsey?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Rose said nodding. The most horrifying case of incest she had ever heard.
"Not many psychotherapists are able to separate their emotions and probe deeper. I think that is what is going to make you an excellent psychotherapist: your ability to detach."
"Thank you, Dr. Banks." Rose said, getting up herself.
"Now goodnight," he said opening the door for her. "Go home and I'll see you in the morning."
Giving him a polite smile, she gathered her briefcase and left.
Opening the door to her apartment, she was greeted by the delicious aroma of broccoli and chicken in cheddar sauce, her favorite. Hearing the door, Lorenzo leaned over the counter dividing the kitchen from the living room.
"Good." He winked at her. "Dinner will be ready soon."
"Smells good," she said, now aware of the groans that emanated from her stomach.
She went to the counter and checked her mail. After the second bill, she noticed a letter from McKinley and Brooks. She remembered that-- those names. These were her parents' lawyers. What did they want? She stared at the letter as if trying to read through the envelope without even opening it. Her mother had not made one move to contact her in five years. Not that she would have even gotten so much as a zip code, but her father knew where she was. But why did he have to go through them?
Lorenzo came out of the kitchen, bubbling dish of chicken in his insulated hands he placed it on the center mat.
Seeing the serious look on her face, he commented offhandedly, "Not bad news, I hope."
"No," she responded and placed the letter at the bottom of the pile.
Dinner was almost over. He watched her as she finished eating. Not saying a word just observing, absorbing. The kind of look he must give his patients, she surmised. The look of deliberate delay. She knew him well enough to know that what he was about to say was serious and meaningful to him.
Elbows on the table, fingers twined to support his chin, he leaned closer. "Live with me, Rose," he said simply without pleading or pretense. She gave no immediate reaction, not even so much as a blink. Heavily he hung his head. Recoiling, he pushed back his chair back cleared the table.
"I'll think about it," she said evenly. Normally she would have said 'No' with the perfect reasons and justifications. It wasn't that easy anymore. For the last five months, she found it all too easy to use the word 'love' in reference to him. As much as she tried to separate their lives, she craved his presence more than her isolation.
Hearing a loud clank from the dishes in the sink, she moistened her lips and cleared her throat. He returned to get the rest of the plates.
"What's it like to be you? " He squatted beside her, leveling his eyes with hers. "So detached and distant. Running scared, I bet."
"What do you mean by that?" she asked in her doctoral tone.
"When we are together, you are like two different people. One part of you wants to let go and be passionate, but then the other steps in and you become this prim and proper school marm."
"Don't hold back on your analysis, Dr. Valenza," she added dryly.
"Fine, cara, I won't. When you first told me about it, you seemed so analytical. Like it was something that happened to one of your patients and not you. She hurt you many times as a child and she's been doing it ever since." He stopped, waiting for her to say something, defend herself. Nothing. "What are you so afraid that I will see?"
Sidestepping his last question, she diplomatically responded, "I've come to terms with her treatment of me when I was a child. I find no reason to dwell on the past. It's counterproductive."
He shook his head, muttering something in Italian and got up carrying the rest of the plates to the sink. She took a sip of her wine and after a while he emerged, his lips pursed and set decisively. He knelt beside her. She felt his breath on her cheek as she caressed the stem of her glass.
"I think, if anything, that you are afraid of me." She turned to him. As she was about to respond, he placed his index finger gently on her lips to silence her. "You fight so hard. Afraid to just be. Not realizing that the harder you fight, the deeper you sink."
Gently she removed his finger from her lips.
"And like the knight in shining armor, you want to save me, is that it?"
He stood up, softly pressing his lips against hers. She was still for moments after he disappeared into the kitchen.
In the past she had always walked away untouched. No forgiveness or need to be forgiven because they both knew the rules. He was different from the rest. Refusing to be pushed away so easily. So curious about her that wouldn't stand for a peripheral relationship. Slow, tender, not easily shaken and more serious about this than the others, he was the first one she had told about her past. In her mind, a benign and compact explanation would immediately render him speechless and the subject of her past, her mother, her feelings, would die. But they didn't. If anything, he became more aggressive in his pursuit and she was startled by how she welcomed that. She respected his courage and even admired his persistence, but she was not sure if she was strong enough to handle him. She couldn't hold him at bay easily. He had gotten close and because he was a man of his word, he would get closer. That frightened her.
Detecting the even rhythm of his breath, she donned her nightshirt and turned to look at him. His thick, ruby lips dominated his profile. His brows and lashes were dark and long, the perfect shelter for those piercing gray eyes. They were honest and hypnotizing. There were times when she should have ended things. Like tonight. So why didn't she? That was the question she couldn't answer as she stared at him. That wasn't the only thing that kept her awake though.. All that talk of 'running scared' and sinking had left her restless. With every snap of leather on skin she promised herself that she would never be that weak again. The first chance she got, she left without so much as a backwards glance. She had finished college and graduate school in record time. And now with a year-and-a-half to go, she would finish her internship and become licensed. Her once fragmented life was now on solid ground. So why was her mother trying to contact her now through lawyers?
She gently got out of bed and went into the kitchen. She sat on the stool in front of the counter. The saturnine glow of the dimmed kitchen light was enough as she carefully opened the letter. Dear Blah, With regret blah blah inform you blah blah blah of the death of your mother Marie Rose Wells, blah blah blah, on such and such a date.
Rose swallowed. She had always pictured it so differently: The role of Old Age would play its part and her mother would slowly weaken and wither away into a vacant stare. Instead it had boiled down to a formal request for her presence at the "funereal gathering." She neatly folded it, placed it back in the envelope, and left it on the counter. Quietly, she crept back into bed and put her arms around Lorenzo. As if by instinct, his arms encircled her snugly. Closing her eyes, her thoughts swam as she fought the dizzying vertigo.
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