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THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 15—Change Is Necessary
It’s Sunday morning and Maxie and I are tying up some loose ends on the final planning stages of some things for the bridal shower in a few weeks and I can tell that her mind is somewhere else.
“So I figure that we would just put the elephants out here on the patio. What do you think?” I say to her to see just how much she’s paying attention.
“It’s my shower, Steele, not a circus. I’m admittedly distracted, but not that distracted,” she says flatly without raising her head. “Point taken, but we need to talk.” I put my pen down and look at her questioning.
“What’s going on?” I ask her.
“I’m resigning as your therapist.” Okay, what brought this on?
“Why?” I ask. I had been thinking about talking to her about this since New Year’s Day and the conversation with Christian… Christian! What did he say to her?
“Are you doing this because of Christian? Did you two talk? What did he say? Why are you doing this now, Maxine?” I know that my questions are flying faster than she can answer them, but I can’t help it. I want some answers and I want them now. I don’t understand what this is all about.
“Yes, we did talk. He did say some things to me that made me think. He was completely correct in what he said, Ana. I’m too close. The lines are so blurred between us that I became very vicious and possessive in trying to protect you and in fact, I almost lost you. No one could say anything to me—I couldn’t see straight. What’s more is that I can’t effectively counsel you anymore because I love you too much. I know what you need to hear and I know what needs to be said, but that objectivity that we as professionals need to have with our patients is simply not there between you and me. You say what you say to me because I’m comfortable to you and I can give you advice… as a friend, but not as a doctor anymore. There’s so much that we skate around because we are friends and you can’t tell me those things.”
What did Christian tell her? Has he told her about our personal life? About his past? About what happened on New Year’s Day? What did he say? I know that he was going to talk to her about their relationship, but he had no right to say anything about my therapy without my permission.
“Why all of a sudden, Maxine?” I ask her again. I don’t want to ask her if Christian is making her do this as a condition of forgiveness, but I just don’t know what to think right now. This came out of nowhere, and Christian spoke to her just three days ago. What brought this on… really? “What did he say to you? What exactly did he say to you?”
“Christian and I have both decided that the content of that conversation should stay between us.” My eyes nearly jump out of my head, roll around on the floor and pop back in. Am I to understand that she and my boyfriend have talked about me and neither of them feels like I should know about it? As if she was reading my mind, she replies, “I know what you are thinking. The conversation that led to our disagreement happened when you were stunned. You were not privy to that conversation and for that reason, you didn’t need to be privy to this one. I know you may think differently because it was about you, but if you think about this logically and not emotionally, you will see that I’m right.”
“I don’t give a fuck about logic right now, Maxine. You and my boyfriend had a conversation about me and now not only will you not tell me what it involved, but you are also telling me that I have to find a new therapist—that I have to relive all of the horrible shit that I went through all back over again with another doctor because of some secret confab that you had with Christian!” I know that I am being a bit of a hypocrite because I was already considering my options and the next course of action for me. However, I am livid that she and Christian felt like they needed to make this decision for me! Maxine’s face changes and she looks a bit shocked.
“What exactly do you think the conversation involved?” Maxine says, folding her arms. She is frowning heavily and I know that we are both standing firm on what we are saying and feeling right now but hell, I need answers.
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you. If you don’t give me anything, then you leave my imagination to fill in the blanks. Don’t you see that?” I try to reason with her, my voice passionate. She shakes her head.
“How have you two even dealt with each other? I don’t get it.” She is shaking her head, her expression completely bemused. “One minute, he’s this silent, immovable force that affects everything around him and the next minute, he’s a double-decker 18-wheeler rolling over everything in his path! Then there’s you…” she drops her head, shaking it ferociously as if to rid herself of some stray thought. What about me? She scratches her scalp with both hands, sending her hair into a frenzy.
“He didn’t say anything to me about not being your doctor anymore, because that’s how you’re making it sound—which is really making me believe that this is the right decision, because this conversation happened already. I can hear it in your tone.” Bullseye! Dammit! I can’t deny it because even though it wasn’t in great detail and no conclusions were reached, she’s right—this conversation did happen. “He did say some things that made me consider my behavior and our relationship… and he was right. I’m too close. I can’t be an affective doctor and a good friend to you at the same time. I have to give one of them up and I’m not willing to lose my friend because I love you too much, so I’m stepping down as your doctor.
“Maxine the ‘friend’ could have had the same feelings and suspicions that I had the day that you checked out and would not have shown up four days later with a court order. Maxine the ‘doctor’ knows that you couldn’t stay in that state indefinitely and no one in this apartment on that day was qualified to make that decision for you. Those two ladies got their heads together and said ‘fuck what everyone else thinks,’ and instead of trying to talk to Christian and Ray and explain to them what ‘we’ were feeling and why it would be best for you to possibly go to the hospital, we took matters into our own hands and went the fuck off the deep end!” Now she’s starting to sound like me and the Bitch. It’s a tad bit frightening.
“You really have to see why this is the best decision for all of us,” she continues. “I’m secretly very happy that you have advanced directives now, because I never want to be in that position where I would have to make that kind of decision for you ever again.” She drops her head and wipes away a single tear. I want to reach out and hug her, but I’m not sure she wants that right now. “Christian loves you very much. I’ve always known it, but it’s loud and clear now. He will move mountains for you, I’m certain of it, and I almost alienated him completely. I know that if I had, I would have lost you… lost us. I’m just not conducive for your growth and healing at this point, not as your doctor anyway. Can you understand that?” Her voice is cracking and I know this is hard for her.
“Yes,” I say softly, letting her off the hook. There’s no use in making her squirm anymore. I had been playing New Year’s Day over and over again in my head and the words that Christian said when I was afraid that he was breaking up with me:
Whenever something happens that you don’t like, you don’t even talk to me. You just shut down…
I know that I have had to deal with these new emotions—and I’ve been doing a damn good job—but Ana, maybe you need to consider seeing another shrink, because you’re not dealing with yours…
What I can’t tolerate is you holding back and shutting down when it’s most important…
You leave me out in the cold whenever it suits you…
There’s not a selfish bone in your body. That’s a cop-out and you know it, Doctor, but there’s a reason why you do this and you need to figure out what it is…
That shrinking thing—you’re running away. I don’t know what triggers that, but you’re running away…You’re a grown woman and you’re still curling up into a ball when the world gets too scary…
He even compared me to a damn roly-poly… Fucker!
“So… what do we do, now?” I ask.
“We find you another doctor,” she says without lifting her head. “No one from CCFW, though. I don’t think they would see you anyway with your history with the center… and you don’t have to go over all of those painful memories again. I’m not going to pull a ‘Flynn’ and hold your records hostage. You may have to elaborate—we both know the drill—but my records are pretty thorough.” She wipes her eyes again.
“Okay,” I say softly. She stands and grabs her purse and coat.
“I think I’m going to call it a day, Ana,” she says, never raising her eyes to mine. “I’ll see what I can do about helping you find a new therapist next week. Are we done with everything for the shower?”
“Um… yeah, the big stuff. I can handle the rest,” I reply. She nods.
“I’ll see you later, Steele,” and she makes a quick getaway across the great room and out the door.
What do I do now? I’m afraid that I’ve really hurt my friend and now, I have no one to talk to until I find another therapist. I could talk to Christian, but not about this. I have a feeling he’s the very reason these events were set in motion. I didn’t even get a chance to make the decision on my own, to get used to the idea. It was made for me, and while I’m not angry with Christian, I’m not very happy right now. I pick up my iPhone and request my contact.
“What is it?”
“I have a problem and I don’t want to do the wrong thing,” I say to Chuck.
“Okay, I’m listening,” he says.
“I really need some time to myself right now, outside of the apartment, but the last time I went off alone to think I ended up handcuffed to a bed on an island for four days. Is there some kind of compromise that can suffice?”
So I find myself in the marketplace, wandering around with no particular purpose. Chuck is in close enough proximity to protect me, but exercising the covert surveillance that he did when he was first assigned to me.
Maxie was really hurt when she left the apartment, I know. My feelings are torn about this morning’s conversation. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to “fire” Maxie. I had planned on talking to her and seeing if there was something that we could do about the situation—maybe change our plan of action or introduce another doctor part-time or gradually. I’m not sure that I actually wanted to quit her cold-turkey, so to speak. Also, she was crying, so this was difficult for her, too. So what do I do? I don’t even know where to start looking for a new therapist and I hate that she was obviously in so much pain.
I watch the fishmongers hurl the halibut and salmon through the market for a while as my thoughts wander to the many events that brought me to this place. I have no idea how so many different events can occur to lead you to one place. I catch an unmistakable familiar glimpse off in the distance.
It couldn’t be… not here!
I wander in the direction of my revelation, past the fishmongers, flower peddlers, and fresh fruit, certain that Chuck is somewhere in close proximity and to my amazement, I was right! What the hell is she doing here?
“Well, well, well, fancy meeting you here,” I say, and she turns around quickly to face me.
“Ugh! To what do I owe this displeasure?” she asks, snarling. She’s wearing far too much makeup and her skin is not as tight as I am accustomed to seeing it. Your nip-tuck is showing, Mrs. Lincoln.
“Oh, I’m certain that you already know, Elena!” I spit. I have kept my distance from this woman, but her last attack was quite personal and intended to cause a rift between me and my man. A smug smile comes over her face.
“Did my man Christian finally come to his senses and dump your ass?” she jeers. I want to laugh at her, but I refrain, holding my angry face.
“I don’t know what your man Christian is doing, but certainly you must be speaking of another ‘Christian,’ because I and my man Christian are doing fine.” I fold my arms.
“Hmm, is that so?” she says, still smiling like the cat who caught the canary. “You know, there’s a little piece of paper somewhere that says that there should be 500 feet between us… or has your little brain forgotten that? I thought you were supposed to stay away from me.”
“No, actually, it’s you that are supposed to stay away from us, but you couldn’t do that on New Year’s Eve, could you?” I snap. She shrugs.
“What can I say? When my man tells me to come, I come,” she purrs. The double entendre doesn’t escape me, but she doesn’t know that I’m on to her yet. She thinks she has won this round, which she kind of did, but I won’t let her bask in that victory.
“Well, you must have stood your man up, because you spent New Year’s Eve accosting my man,” I hiss.
“I didn’t come to Christian. Christian came to me,” she says, mocking innocence. Does she know that she just contradicted her last statement? Is she really that mentally unglued? I frown at her, disappointed at her obvious confusion. One minute, you come to him and the next minute you didn’t come to him. Come on, Lincoln, you’re not even trying here!
“I can’t even begin to explain how ridiculous it was that you were hiding out in the men’s restroom hoping that Christian would come in there. I mean it’s pretty pathetic that the only hope and prayer that you had of seeing him—or for an ambush, I should say—is when he came to take a piss.”
“It worked, though, didn’t it?” she says with a full smile. “We had a wonderful, passionate, tender reunion in the restroom and he only left to see where you were. He was so hoping that you wouldn’t catch on, but when I peeked out and saw you… well, I just decided to leave because he had already given me what I wanted.” Oh, good Lord, she is beyond delusional. I think she makes this stuff up in her head and she honestly believes it. It must be the only way that she can sleep at night.
“What exactly is it that you wanted, to get rejected? Or arrested? You call getting slapped in the face ‘tender?’ Oh, wait, you like the rough stuff, don’t you? That is your idea of passion, isn’t it? With your screwed-up, twisted way of thinking—you know, molesting children and chasing men who obviously don’t want you—I completely understand why you could have misconstrued that.” Her face falls and now she knows that the cat is out of the bag. That’s right, Pedo-Bitch, it didn’t work! I didn’t run away screaming upon seeing you scarlet marking all over my man, although the thought of it still sickens me. The realization of the truth slowly flows over her face like a mask.
We talked, and you still didn’t win.
“You know,” she says, maliciously, “you’re just keeping my bed warm for me. When he gets tired of you—and he will get tired of you—I’ll be right here waiting. Then, he’ll be in his rightful place… with me!”
“You are so delusional. I’m tired of even pondering how delusional you are. The saddest thing about the delusional is that they have no idea that they are delusional… and that’s what makes it so sad. There’s no hope for you. There’s nothing for you at the end of this journey but complete, pure, and bitter heartbreak. As a human being, that makes me feel a little sorry for you, but that’s neither here nor there,” I say waving off the subject. “Honestly, I just wanted to thank you. I still had one fatal flaw that could have very well cost me my relationship with the man that I love. He’s so sweet, kind, and considerate that he couldn’t tell me before.” She looks at me like I am talking about an alien, and to her, I am. She has never met sweet, kind and considerate Christian. He reserved that for me!
“However,” I continue, “your little stunt was the catalyst to the conversation that we needed to have to save our relationship. So while you thought you were throwing a monkey wrench into the cogs and sprockets that keep us going, your manipulative ways actually strengthened the love that my man and I have for each other. We talked… and it was painful, but necessary. After that, we made love until the sun came up. We made love so many times that we didn’t even have breakfast until sometime after 2pm. So I just wanted to say thank you. I appreciate the fact that your meddling has brought us closer together once again and you have no idea how important that is to me, so thank you very much.” I smile at her, imitating sincerity.
“How did it feel to look at his face and see my lipstick all over him?” she hisses, and now she’s pulling out her trump cards.
“Oh, he washed that off and I replaced it with mine,” I said without missing a beat. I won’t let her know that her lipstick on my man caused me to react the way that she had hoped. I left enough holes in that explanation for her to try to figure out what happened between the kiss and the end result—that being a night full of passionate lovemaking. “Each time you think you’re winning, it backfires on you. You’re losing everything—your money, your friends, your reputation, pretty soon your freedom—you should be doing something to make some kind of amends right now, and you’re still running around doing the same dumb, manipulative shit. You’re stuck in this fantasy that Christian is going to come back to you, and it’s never going to happen, because every night I curl up in bed and rest comfortably in the arms of your fantasy.” Her face falls again. This time I see the slightest tinge of hopelessness in her eyes. I shake my head.
“I love him, Elena,” I say to her. “I’m not going anywhere, no matter what you do. Give it up. Just give it up.” I stand there for a moment and wait for her quip to come back at me, but it doesn’t. I turn around and Chuck is standing right behind me.
“Does the boss have to know about this encounter?” he asks me. I smile at him… silly little man.
“You know as well as I do that he’s going to find out. Who do you think should tell him?” I look over my shoulder and Elena is still standing there, a bit stunned and from the looks of her, a lot broken. I pull out my iPhone and start talking as I walk back to the car with Chuck.
“Hey Baby, what are you doing…?”
Fuck! I knew I shouldn’t have come to the office today. If I had just stayed home with Ana… fuck! Davenport and Butterfly are on their way back to Escala from the Marketplace. I should fire his ass! One of his jobs is to keep that Bitch away from Butterfly! Shit, but who am I kidding? After New Year’s Eve, I knew this was going to happen. I’m just glad Davenport was there to prevent any serious melee in the public market.
She had a fight with Maxine? The last I heard, they were planning the wedding. What the hell happened? She almost sounded like she wanted to cry by the end of the call. That’s what the fuck I get for coming into work on a damn Sunday. I pack up the reports, projections, and contracts that I was reading and turn off my computer. Jason rises when I enter the outer office and, without a word, follows me to the elevator.
“Has something happened, Sir?” he asks during the drive. I have only said that word—Escala—since we left the office, so he has no idea why I’m brooding.
“Right now, I’m trying to decide if I am releasing two members of my staff,” I grumble.
“Do I want to ask which two?”
“Probably not, but I’ll tell you anyway—Davenport for letting that blonde bitch near my girlfriend, and you for not knowing before I did,” I hiss. Jason literally stops the car in the middle of the street. Angry drivers honk their horns and slam on their brakes, making hasty detours as Jason turns around to face me.
“Excuse me?” he says, bemused.
“Butterfly just had a showdown with that pedophile bitch in the Marketplace. That fucking Keystone cop that is guarding her should have been on the phone the moment they started talking, and Lincoln should be in cuffs right now.”
“Well, why isn’t she?” he asks, not affected by my rising anger.
“Apparently, Butterfly initiated contact.” Jason looks at me for a moment later, then turns around and continues the drive home. “You don’t seem as surprised and appalled by this.” Jason looks at me in the rear view mirror.
“Have you met that woman?” he asks coolly. “If she had something that she needed to say to that blonde bimbo, an act of God wouldn’t have stopped her. So you can fire me, and you can fire Chuck, but I’m going to tell you right now. This was all in Her Highness’s court. That’s why she called you… didn’t she?” he says with certainty. Smug asshole. “I started calling her that as a joke, but ask any of the staff… it fits! Nobody crosses the Queen. When it comes down to something that she wants to get done, you move the hell out of the way or get rolled over. We’ll cross you before we cross her.” What the hell?
“Jason, what the hell does that mean? Do I really need to hire new staff?” He shakes his head.
“When Chuck was present, has Ana ever been hurt?” he asks as we pull into Escala.
“No… but she’s been in a couple of sticky situations,” I admit.
“If you want to have to train somebody else to read her moods and know when to intervene and when not to intervene, then go ahead and fire Chuck, but know that he hasn’t let you down. He takes his orders from her, yes, but he knows how—and when—to handle her. So you should probably just let him do it. Let’s face it. After the stunt that sick bitch pulled on New Year’s Day, you had to know that Her Highness was going to have some words with her. If you didn’t, you don’t know her as well as you think you do.” I ponder his words during the elevator ride. I’m still fucking pissed. Let Ana have her words and then put that woman in cuffs! Get her the fuck out of our lives! How did this bitch ever get out on bail? Surely something she has done has been a bail violation. Hell, I made a police report against her!
“I thought we had a tail on Elena,” is all I can say when we reach the foyer.
“We did, but you ended it once she was arrested.”
“Should we put it back in place?”
“We can, but I think it would be a waste of manpower. What happened today was just a series of unfortunate events—or serendipitous, depending on how you look at it.” I frown at him as I walk into my study. What’s that supposed to mean? Reading my expression, he continues. “She’s on her last leg, clearly. The Elena Lincoln that I know—” he shudders, “—wouldn’t be caught dead in the Marketplace. Yet, there she was, squeezing a plum or something and up walks Ana. Am I wrong about this?” I glare at him.
“Did Davenport call you?” I ask him. He knows the story too well.
“Did I knock on your office door and notify you of a ‘situation?'” Smug asshole. “I’ll have words with Chuck for not calling me. Most likely, she told him that she wanted to tell you herself, but you said it yourself. She’s going through a lot right now, and she has survived more than most people I know—including some combat soldiers. Just let her be, Sir. She’ll work things out.”
“I’m still stuck on why you would cross me before you cross her. You are employed by me, Jason,” I say. Jason and Gail have remained quite professional even after the wedding in Anguilla and the change in our relationship, but this seems like I may need to rethink some things if I don’t have any authority over my head of security.
“Maybe ‘cross’ was the wrong word, Sir,” he admits. “With Her Highness, it’s a little easier to negotiate. She knows that she needs to follow certain protocol so that we can keep her safe, but she’s flexible in what she will and won’t do where as you don’t bend. You are straight and narrow, you don’t stray from the plan, and that’s it. Because she is so flexible, when her back does go straight and her heels are dug in, you just have to watch her—be ready for anything. She’s not really unpredictable, but when she’s going to do something, you have to work around her or else she will be a security nightmare. That’s what I mean when I say ‘we don’t cross her.’ With you, we know what we can and can’t do. You completely understand all risks and all protocols. Highness—she’s still learning. For the most part, she’s still that free Ana Butterfly spirit that goes where she wants to go and does what she wants to do, and you just fall in behind her. A good bodyguard knows how to do that. Don’t you remember the iPhone incident?”
Oh boy, do I! That whole week turned out to be a nightmare for us all. Butterfly had just bought that phone and launched it into the bushes because I didn’t call her—right before she stormed down the street in her stocking feet. She didn’t speak to me for days and I ended up in the hospital. That was when we first got together and I was brooding over something completely unfounded and blaming Butterfly for something that she didn’t do… much like she did on New Year’s Eve. My, how the tables have turned.
“Like I said, Sir, she’ll be fine. We follow her closely and make sure that she doesn’t find trouble and trouble doesn’t find her. Do you understand or am I talking in circles?” I, of all people, know that you have to let Ana be Ana or you’ll get steamrolled in the process. I just hate that she was in the same place as and talking to Elena Lincoln. I hear the door close and I know that she is home. I look up at Jason, who takes his cue to leave and wait for Butterfly to come into my study.
I come out of the study and around the stairs looking for her and she is nowhere in plain sight. A little more exploring and I find her somewhere that I never saw her before… in all the time that she has lived in this apartment and we have been together.
She’s at the wet bar.
I walk over to the bar and see her nursing a tumbler of clear liquid. Her spirits of choice are usually white liquors while mine are dark. She prefers red wines while I prefer whites and champagnes. She cries adrenaline tears while I sit quietly and brood. She shrinks and shuts down while I fly off the handle. Ain’t we a pair?
I go behind the bar and pour myself a double shot of bourbon. Her head is down and she is studying her glass. Absolut. Or Patron. She takes another sip of her drink and puts it back on the bar. I sit across from her.
“Hey,” I say softly.
“Hey,” she replies, emotionless, her eyes never rising from her drink.
“Bad day?” I ask.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She shrugs.
“There’s not much to say, really. Maxine quit as my therapist and I had it out in the Marketplace with the Pedophile.” She sips her drink again. Whoa! What? Maxine quit?
“Wait a minute! What happened with Maxine?” She sighs heavily.
“Apparently, she had some kind of ‘come to Jesus’ moment after your conversation and decided that she couldn’t help me anymore.” Her voice is very flat and matter-of-fact. There’s a powder keg under there.
“I swear I didn’t say anything like that to her, Butterfly. I didn’t even suggest it.” She takes another sip of her drink. Just little sips… can she even taste it?
“Okay.” That’s all she says.
“Okay,” she repeats, still flat, never raising her head.
“Ana, look at me.” She slowly raises her head until her eyes meet mine. I can’t read her. I can always read her, and I can’t read her now. “Are you mad at me?” I ask.
“I’m not allowed to be mad at you,” she answers. What the fuck does that mean? “You didn’t do anything wrong, did you?” Her voice is still flat. She’s not angry; she’s not sad; she’s… nothing. Just… nothing.
“No, not that I know of,” I reply. “I told Maxine how I felt about how she treated me and that was all.” She nods.
“So, I can’t be mad at you.” She sips her drink again.
“Do you even really want that?” I ask, unable to figure out why she is sipping her drink like it’s the last few drops of water on the Mojave desert.
“I want to do shots and it’s Sunday afternoon and I have patients tomorrow. If I just taste it, then I won’t do shots.” She sips again. Oh, shit.
“Why do you want to do shots?” I ask cautiously. Her eyes change only subtly.
“I don’t have a therapist anymore, Christian,” she says coolly, her voice fluctuating only slightly. “I’ve got a ton of emotional issues that I thought I was working through and a few more that were recently brought to my attention, and my therapist just quit. I think that might be cause for a little drink.” Her words seem to cut a bit, but her voice is still as flat as asphalt. Now I want to do shots. I take a swallow of the bourbon.
“Is there anything that I can do?” I ask. She shakes her head and her eyes drop to her tumbler again.
“No, but thanks anyway.” She sips her drink again. If I weren’t so concerned right now, that would irritate me. Drink the damn drink! Do the shots! Sitting there wetting your lips is just… annoying!
“So… what now?” I ask. She sighs.
“I find a new therapist.” Her voice has only a hint of ire, but still, the calm in her is eerie. Now, I meet yet another “Ana.” I’ve not met this one before, except maybe when she was dead set to kill Elena in the kitchen. She was cold and calculating, vengeful and determined. This Ana sees stoic and impassive like she is trying to control her thoughts and actions.
“I need you to talk to me, Baby,” I say wrapping my hands around hers which are wrapped around her glass.
“What do you want me to say?” she asks, her eyes rising to mine again.
“I want to know what you’re feeling. I’m worried about you right now,” I confess. She sighs.
“It’s too much to tell you,” she says, softly.
“Try,” I encourage her as her eyes drop to her glass again.
“Confused. Angry. Worried. Sad. Betrayed. Lost. Anxious. Everything… and nothing.” I think I spy a tear about to fall out of her eye, but it is dry before it even falls.
“Okay. That’s a lot. Why confused?”
“Because I have to find a new therapist.”
“Because I have to find a new therapist.” Oh, for fuck’s sake, are we really playing this game? As if sensing my immediate frustration, she says, “I’m confused because I have no idea what happened to make Maxie think that she can’t help me anymore and now I have to find a new therapist. I’m angry because I didn’t even get a chance to discuss this with her. She just quit and now I have to find a new therapist. I’m worried because I have to relive all of the things that I have already confided in Maxine because I have to find a new therapist. I’m sad because she didn’t want to quit any more than I really wanted her to quit, but I still have to find a new therapist. I feel betrayed because this decision was made without my input or consent. I have no idea what was actually said to trigger this since you say that you never said anything to encourage it and she’s mum about a conversation that she had with my boyfriend. Nonetheless, when the conversation is over, I have to find a new therapist. I feel lost and anxious pretty much for the same reasons that I feel betrayed and worried. I feel everything and nothing because when it all comes together, I can’t make sense of it, but I’m not allowed to be pissed because who do you blame when no one takes responsibility for it—when the one person who was helping you for years says that she can no longer help you because she loves you too much? How can you possibly be angry with someone for that?”
She has said this whole speech and her voice has fluctuated very little if any at all. I know for certain that she feels very passionate about this, but she’s not letting any of it out. She pushes her drink away and tucks her hair behind her ear before clasping her hands together in front of her on the bar. Her head is down, but she is making a visible effort to get her back straight and I can see her bouncing or shaking on the bar stool. Even though I can’t see it, I imagine that it’s because she is bouncing her knee.
“It’s hard, Butterfly, but it’s not impossible. I had to do with Dr. Baker,” I say, trying to comfort her a bit. The statement doesn’t even help me feel better because the transition to Dr. Baker was very difficult for me at first—especially since I didn’t really trust anyone outside of Flynn and my family in the first place. She looks up at me again.
“There’s a difference, Christian. You got a chance to talk to Flynn. You asked him questions and you made that decision after you weighed everything. In my case, you made a suggestion and I had a moment to mull it over before I got torpedoed by Maxine.” Her head goes down. “I’m the patient here and I got dropped without even being part of the decision.” I feel like she partially blames me for this even though I said nothing to suggest to Maxine that she should drop Butterfly as a patient. I can’t say that I’m unhappy about it, but I still didn’t suggest it.
“Do you want to talk to Dr. Baker?” I ask. She shakes her head.
“That’s your shrink, that’s not mine. I talk to her about all things Christian, but I don’t talk to her about all things.” Her behavior is still scaring the shit out of me.
“What happened with Elena today?” Maybe this topic will open her up a little more, even if it’s not in a good way. She is clasping her hands and feverishly rubbing them with her thumbs.
“I saw her in the Marketplace and I just wanted to tell her to stop what she was trying to do. I’ve always told her how sick and twisted she was—which I reiterated—but I‘ve never simply told her that no matter what she does, I’m not going anywhere. For some reason, I think it sunk in today.” Still no emotion from her. Shit.
“Well, that’s good to know,” I say, reaching for her hands and stilling her thumbs. Her hands are actually red where she was rubbing them. I bring them up to my lips and kiss them gently. I bring my hand up to her face and gently stroke her cheek. “What can I do?” She sighs, but doesn’t look up at me.
“Nothing,” she says impassively. “I just have to work this out.”
“I don’t want you to go through this alone.” Please don’t shut me out again, Butterfly.
“I’m not,” she replies. “I know that you’re there for me. I just have to sit down and figure out my next move because I truly don’t know what it is right now. Maxie has always been there and now, she’s not…” Her voice cracks only slightly at the end of that statement and that is the first and only emotion I have heard from her voice the whole conversation. I quickly move around the bar, lift her off the bar stool and crush her in my arms. I don’t know what else to do.
“Don’t. Please,” she says softly. “I’m trying not to shut down or shrink, but I’m tired of crying and I’m not sure that I can hold it together.”
“Then don’t,” I say into her neck, still holding her firmly in my arms. Her body goes limp and even though I don’t hear the sounds, I feel her tears falling on my shoulder.
“I can’t fall apart, Christian. I have to figure out what to do.” That’s my strong Butterfly. Her voice is still steady, even though I feel her crying.
“And you will, but not right now… not at this moment,” I say holding her up with one arm and rubbing her back with the other hand. She’s so light even though I know her body is zero percent body fat, which means that she is actually heavier than most women her size since muscle weighs more than fat—so much the oxymoron, much like how fragile and yet strong she is right at this moment. She inhales a shuddering breath, but still refuses to release the anguish that I know she’s feeling.
“I’ll be here for you,” I whisper to her, spreading my hand protectively against her back and pressing her to me, “for whatever you need, I’ll be here.”
“I know,” she says in that controlled voice. “I… need to get a drink of water.” I don’t want to let her go, but I think she needs some space. It’s a big thing that she admitted to not wanting to shut down or shrink and I won’t push her any further than that. I kiss her hair and then her soft, tear-stained cheek before placing her gently on the floor. Before letting her go, I wipe her tears away with my free hand and force her to make eye-contact with me with those big, sad blue eyes. I kiss her slowly and gently on the lips three times and touch my forehead to hers.
“I love you,” I whisper, my eyes closed.
“I love you, too,” she says softly. I kiss her on the forehead and reluctantly release her. I watch her look down at the floor at the stiletto that slipped off, apparently while I held her suspended in my arms. She reaches down for the black leather shoe and examines it in her hand for several seconds—the moment of truth. After a while, she lifts her bare foot and slides into the stiletto. I breathe a sigh of relief as I watch her walk into the kitchen. That’s something…
“I know that I shouldn’t be talking about her like this, but I’m not really sure what to do right now,” I say into my blackberry several minutes later while sitting in my study. Butterfly has retired to her office upstairs and I am at a complete loss as to what I should do about her current condition.
“Well, I’m glad that you called me instead of reacting badly over this,” Dr. Baker says into the phone. “You’re just going to have to let her work through this, and you have to be patient with her. You unloaded on her on New Years Day. Though it was justified and obviously a conversation that needed to happen, that’s playing in the back of her head right now. You suggest that she needs a new therapist and after your conversation with her therapist, she quits. You can see why she can believe that A led to B.”
“Yes, but I really didn’t say anything to Maxine to suggest that she stop being Ana’s therapist.”
“Are you certain about that?” I replay the conversation over in my head.
“I’m certain. I didn’t say anything to her to even imply that she shouldn’t be Ana’s therapist. Nothing. I’m positive of that.”
“Did Ana say anything to you to suggest that you did say something to that effect?”
“She kept saying that I talked to Maxine and then she quit, but in the next breath, she says that she’s not angry with me because I didn’t do anything wrong,” I clarify.
“Yet, you still feel that she might be holding you responsible.”
“Yes, a bit,” I admit.
“Maxine couldn’t have gotten that same vibe from you—that maybe it was time for Ana to seek counsel elsewhere?” Dammit.
“I know that I clearly felt that way, but not my words or even my demeanor suggested that, Dr. Baker. I am certain of that. I am certain that my feelings and my words were very centralized on how I felt because of what she did to me. I make a point not to make vague statements or implications that I don’t intend to make. That’s fatal in my line of business, so I don’t even practice it in my personal life. In the rare instances that I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say, I make it clear that I am having a problem relaying my thoughts and feelings.” My mind wanders back to the disastrous misunderstanding between Jason and Gail and I in Anguilla as well as the awful incident that was Flynngate. I make it a point to be clear on all things after those fiascoes.
“If I throw a vague statement out there, there is a specific purpose for it. There were no vague statements in the conversation with Maxine. It was quite precise—brutal, but to the point. There were no—absolutely no—opportunities for misinterpretation.”
“Well, Christian, all I can say right now is that you have to be there for her and let her work this out. I will email you a list of therapists that may be willing to take her on if you like, but clear it with her before you even suggest it. You don’t want her to feel like you have been planning this all along or like you are taking this decision out of her hands. I’m sure she’s already feeling quite powerless right now, which is most likely the reason for her impulsive behavior. Just keep an eye on her and don’t be afraid to call her out on unhealthy behavior. You seem to be very good at spotting it.” Ain’t that the damn truth. “Of course, you can understand how traumatic it is to have to switch to a new therapist…”
“Oh, God, yes. I felt like I was suffocating. If she felt anything like I felt, there has to be something I can do. I think she feels like she can’t talk to me…” and quite frankly, I’m tired of calling Allen every time there’s something wrong with my girlfriend.
“You just have to be sure that she knows that she can. Don’t push it. Don’t force her. Just make sure that she knows that she can talk to you.” I sigh heavily.
“Thank you, Dr. Baker. I appreciate you talking this out with me.”
“Don’t thank me until you’ve seen my bill,” she responds and we both chuckle before ending the call. I force myself to go over some reports and emails to get ready for some meetings that I have tomorrow, but I can’t concentrate. Butterfly has been in her office for a couple of hours and it’s getting late. Neither of us has had dinner and my growling stomach is the alarm that we should stop working and eat something. I check my email and there is the message from Dr. Baker concerning possible therapists for Butterfly as well as Welch’s background check on Cholometes. They will both have to wait right now. I need to check on Butterfly.
I stand quietly outside her open office door a bit taken aback by the sight that greets me. She has dismantled her Glock and is meticulously cleaning its parts. The loaded magazine lay harmlessly in a box off to the side and two parts of the gun are sitting on a heavy hand towel out of the way. Her lovely desk top looks more like a work bench with cleaners, oils, heavy-duty paper towels, hard nylon brushes, cotton swabs, and something that looks like gauze. I lean on the door frame and watch her for a while, spraying cleaner, scrubbing the slide, wiping it clean with the towels and the cotton swabs—the process is quite detailed and she is concentrating very hard on every single crevice. I’m sure that she has to as it could possibly cause injury to her if she doesn’t.
I watch her for several minutes, mesmerized by how she expertly assembles and disassembles each tool needed to properly clean the firearm. It looks like a pretty simple process, really, if a bit intricate. I’m just amazed that my little Butterfly can do this, and obviously so well. She continues to clean and expertly reassemble the gun. As she pulls back the slide and pulls the trigger on the empty gun, I cautiously make my presence known by tapping lightly on the door. The moment she looks up at me, I can tell that she has been crying some more, but she manages to smile slightly.
“Hey,” I say walking into her office. “We need to eat something.” She sighs heavily.
“I’m not really hungry, Christian,” she protests, putting her Glock back in the lock box next to the magazine.
“I thought the Glock stayed in the car,” I point out.
“I had to clean it,” she says. “I’ll put it back in my glove box tomorrow.”
“Have you eaten at all today, Butterfly?” She nods.
“Maxine and I had chicken skewers and rice pilaf for lunch.” Okay, that makes me feel better.
“Would you try just a little something for dinner—maybe a light salad?” She looks up at me ready to protest. I don’t know what my expression said, but all I could think is that I didn’t want her to go to sleep hungry. She nods dutifully and locks her guns away in the safe before following me to the kitchen.
Butterfly is lying in my arms after a silent dinner, if you can call it that. She made a green salad with no meat and only oil and vinegar for dressing and barely touched it. Now she is asleep in my arms—and shrinking—and I am at a total loss as to what I can do for her? Is it my fault that Maxine quit on her? If it is, I really didn’t mean to make her quit. Hell, I’m not a shrink. What the fuck do I know? Maybe just a change of treatment might have been a better plan. Now, she has quit and Butterfly is floundering with her feelings. I certainly didn’t intend for her therapy to be interrupted cold-turkey with no plan in place for continuing care. She needs it now more than ever, so that certainly wasn’t my intention. How do I approach her about helping her find a new shrink? She keeps telling me there’s nothing that I can do, so she certainly doesn’t believe that I can help her find a shrink.
I’m lying awake, not only because of my concerns for Butterfly, but also because I made the mistake of reading Cholometes’ background check right before I came to bed. Yes, he was Marines Special Forces, currently 37 years old, born on November 23. He was born in Albany, NY but raised in Tacoma. When he returned from active duty, he went to work for the government as a defense analyst, but he now works in IT for a manufacturing company here in Washington. He has no family to speak of as his mother died of cancer four years ago, his father died when he was a teenager and he has no brothers or sisters. He earns a modestly impressive income and lives within his means. He hasn’t had any long-term relationships and he has no children. He’s a loner—no attachments and able to move around freely.
He’s very sure of himself to be so unremarkable. I can’t help remembering that’s the same thing I thought about Butterfly when I read her background check only to discover that I was completely off the mark about how remarkable she really is. Something must be missing because he’s too damn confident. I know from being around Jason and most of my security team that this is an innate trait in many former members of the military, particularly the Marines, but there’s more to it with this guy. When it comes to people, my instincts are hardly ever wrong, and I’m not letting my guard down.
Just before I came to join Butterfly in bed, I get a text from an unknown number that simply reads “Still leaving breadcrumbs.” This guy is trying to scare me, but all he’s really doing is pissing me off. Bad idea, Colostomy.
I’m broken from my thoughts by whimpering. Butterfly? Why is she whimpering? What’s wrong.
“No…” she murmurs, her voice full of pain. Is she dreaming?
“Butterfly?” I try to gently rouse her from her sleep.
“No… please…” she says, shaking in her sleep, and now I notice that she’s sweating.
“Butterfly, wake up, Baby.” Before I can wake her, she lets out a soul-shaking scream that scares the shit out me and causes me to grab her and shake her from her sleep.
“Anastasia! Wake up!” I declare before I even know that I’m yelling at her. Her eyes bolt open, wide and frightened. She’s breathing heavily and clutching my arms, her hair sticking to her sweat-drenched face. I think it takes her a full minute to realize that her experience was just a dream during which time she just stares at me with tears and terror in her eyes. After that eternal minute, she falls limp on my chest and begins to wail. What the fuck was she dreaming? I pull her up onto my lap and allow her to shrink into me while she cries herself back into an exhausted and fitful sleep. I stay awake for the rest of the night, intent on keeping the Boogie Man away.
Christian looked a wreck when I awoke on Monday morning. I vaguely remember having a dream about Harris standing over me laughing. He wasn’t touching me, but something was choking me and I couldn’t breathe. I knew he was doing it and I couldn’t stop him because I couldn’t reach him. I just kept choking and suffocating.
So when I try to call Christian and I can’t reach him, I call Jason, who tells me that Christian canceled all of his meetings today and closed himself in his office asking not to be disturbed. I really want to know what he was doing in there all day, but I won’t pressure him to tell me. I’ve got problems of my own. I have to find a new therapist. Without a reference of any kind, I might as well throw a dart at a map and just investigate wherever it lands. I decide to go onto the site where I am listed—Network Therapy—and see what suggestions they may have. I scroll through the pages and take some notes in between appointments on some of the possible candidates there. Some doctors refuse to take on other doctors as patients and that’s going to make it harder for me to find a therapist, I know, but I should at least try—especially since Harris is back.
I am so tired when I get back to Escala. I actually left my Audi at the office and asked Chuck to arrange to have someone go and get it as I was too damn tired to drive. Christian’s not home when I get there, so I just decide to rest my eyes on the sofa for a while.
It’s nearly 9pm when Christian wakes me by stroking my hair off my face. He looks like hell. What’s going on? I try to get him to tell me what happened and he just tells me that he had a long day. We both decide to take a bath before dinner, but both end up falling asleep in the bath. We were so tired that we just went straight to bed. This is the first time—besides the week that we didn’t speak after the Elliot misunderstanding—that I have known Christian to go to bed without eating dinner.
We muddle through the week in some sort of haze—Christian constantly checking on me while I’m plagued by nightmares of that asshole slapping me, choking me, chasing me in fucking cars while hideously and fiendishly laughing at me the whole time. I continue to plan Maxie and Phil’s wedding, but I haven’t heard from her all week, not even to help me find a new therapist like she promised. By Friday, I am so fucking fried that I don’t even get out of bed to go to work. My only appointment canceled two days earlier and I just asked Marilyn to run some errands for me. She was only too happy to get out of the office.
At about 10:00, I put on some jogging pants and a T-shirt and go up to my office to research some more therapists. Christian reluctantly gave me a list of therapists that Dr. Baker had given him and I scanned the list. I know he had to speak to her about the situation and I expected him to do as much. He’s certain that I blame him for Maxine quitting, and he’s partially right. I don’t know what he said to her, but something in their conversation caused her to feel like she couldn’t help me anymore. I’m pissed because I had no say in the situation, no control over my own damn destiny and treatment and I don’t even know how she came to the conclusion. I don’t know for sure that I would have fired her. I wanted to talk to her—explore some options, come to a decision together as to what would be the best course of action. Instead, I feel like she left me floundering without any assistance… because she loves me. Ironically, my phone rings at that moment. I look at the caller ID and it’s Maxie.
I let it ring.
There are two doctors that are both on my list and Dr. Baker’s list, one of which isn’t taking new patients. The other is a guy named Lordis Avery. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone named Lordis in my life. He has 10 years of experience and I really liked his bio. He specializes in treating issues of depression, life transitions, grief and loss, self-esteem, powerlessness, and mental turmoil… and he takes other doctors as patients. Thank the Lord! Now, let’s just hope that he’s not a pompous, chauvinistic, self-absorbed asshole.
“Dr. Avery’s office, how may I help you?”
“Hi, I would like to make an appointment to see Dr. Avery. I’m a potential new patient and I am a doctor as well,” I tell the professional-sounding receptionist.
“Very well. What is your name?”
“Um, this needs to be an anonymous appointment. I will be happy to provide identification when I get there, but my privacy is paramount. I understand if you can’t accommodate me…”
“Actually, Ma’am, our office is accustomed to handling such requests. Would you like to put an alias on file so that I can reserve an appointment for you? I’m afraid the doctor doesn’t have anything available until the 21st.” That long? I guess I could wait… maybe… if I don’t lose my mind by then.
“Well… okay, I guess I’ll take that,” I say reluctantly.
“Are you sure, Ma’am?” she says. She’s been well-trained. She knows that I need someone now.
“Yes, I’ll wait,” I say, trying to infuse more conviction into my voice. She pauses for a moment.
“Okay. What name would you like for your appointment time?” I take no time at all in thinking of an alias.
“Butterfly Wilson.” After a moment, she says,
“January 21st, 3:00pm?” I look at my calender and see that some afternoon appointments will have to be rescheduled, but I don’t care. I can’t afford to put this off.
“Yes, thank you.” I give her my phone number and my “Butterfly” email address and end the call. I’m sitting here with my hand on my forehead. The 21st—that’s 10 days away. Will I be completely bananas by then? Christian and I haven’t had sex all week and I’m having Harris nightmares. I lament over Maxie’s lack of communication with me and as soon as she calls, I don’t answer. I’m not eating well. I’m eating, but not well. I have Marilyn running the wedding errands that I should be doing as maid of honor and I think I’ve cleaned my gun about eight times in the last week! That all of a sudden gives me the urge to go to the shooting range. I change into a black T-shirt, jeans, and boots and, with Chuck in tow, drive to the Bellevue Gun Club.
One day, the big men will learn not to underestimate me. The staff is mostly new today and none of the regular guys that know me are working. So big burly Dan is quite surprised when he not only discovers that I am a platinum member, but also Chuck tells him, “First of all, she’s not my ‘little girlfriend;’ and second, I’m not the one here to shoot—she is.” Dan scoffs a bit which only means that this flabby fuck is who I will be picturing on my target, along with Harris and David and Lincoln. So when they finally get me set up with ammo, targets, goggles and headphones in one of the shooting stalls in bay 2, I rip the eyes and hearts out of several targets at 25 yards in quick succession, momentarily causing a silence to fall over the shooting range.
I have emptied two magazines and I am waiting for Chuck to finish loading the third for me, but it appears that he was watching the show instead of loading. I quickly load another magazine and pop it into My Boo while the carrier moves my target to the end of the range again. Harris and David take a head and mouthful of lead with the Pedo-Bitch gets it right in her silicon boobs and Flabby Dan takes a few in the nuts.
“Fuck, Ana, who pissed you off?” Chuck says as he hands me the magazine he has just filled. I look at him and shake my head, turning back to the new target and letting the bullets fly once more.
Chuck and I spend the rest of the afternoon at the gun range, me, dispelling the “little lady” syndrome that followed me into the bay—with all of the Neanderthals—and Chuck showing off his shooting skills by putting his initials in three of the 25-yard targets. Fucker. I feel the need to clean my gun again, but I know that this is some kind of obsessive compulsive reaction to the shit that’s going on in my life right now, so I put the unloaded gun in its case as required before leaving the shooting stall. Several of the other patrons stares at me as I leave. Yeah, yeah, yeah, quit staring and shoot your damn guns.
I have just finished washing the gunshot residue off of my hands when my phone rings. I dry my hands and look at my phone. It’s a Washington number and not unknown, so I risk answering it.
“Is this Butterfly Wilson?” The voice catches me off guard. It’s smooth as silk—not as silky as Christian’s, but silky.
“Who is this?” I ask.
“This is Dr. Lordis Avery,” Silky Voice responds.
“Dr. Avery. Yes, this is she.” Why is he calling? Our appointment isn’t for another week and a half.
“My assistant seems to think that I should call you. She sounds a bit concerned about your phone call.”
“Oh?” I thought I had covered that need pretty well. Apparently, I didn’t.
“I have a bit of time now. Would you like to come in—or maybe I could meet you somewhere if you prefer?” Okay, I know why I would like to move this along quickly, but why is he so eager to do it? Except for my answering the phone formally, he doesn’t really know who I am.
“You must really trust your assistant,” I say.
“Implicitly,” he responds. “She has never steered me wrong. Are you available, Ms. Wilson?”
“Yes, I am, but I’m in Bellevue right now, I we should probably meet somewhere as it could be rather late when I get back to Seattle.”
“That’s okay. If you GPS my office, it’s just over the bridge. How long would that trip take you?” he asks.
“About twenty minutes?” I say.
“Okay, that’s fine. I’ll wait for you.” He seems pretty eager to meet me. There’s absolutely no reason to think he has an ulterior motive. He doesn’t even know who I really am.
“Um, okay then. I’m on my way now. My bodyguard will be with me as well. I hope that’s okay.” There is momentary silence.
“I will let Amber know to expect two of you, then,” he says finally. I’m sure that he doesn’t know what to think right now.
“Thank you, Dr. Avery. I’ll see you in twenty minutes, then,” I say before ending the call. I step out to see Chuck waiting for me and looking into the parking lot. “We are going to have a detour before we go back to Escala. I have a last minute appointment.”
“You may want to reschedule,” he says, pointing out to the parking lot. I look outside and parked next to my S7 is the ever ominous black Audi SUV.
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