AN/ I've been sitting on this for a while. I didn't get a chance to edit it so it's over 5000 words long. I figured I could leave it like that since I've been gone so long.
I have no firsthand experience with psychiatrists or psychologists, so please be gentle with me.
When I woke up I realised I was in the hospital. I wasn't dead. Beaten and buried almost naked in the snow, but still I hadn't died. Instead I was wrapped up warmly and had lukewarm water bottles all around me. I hurt in every place imaginable- my torso was wrapped up and my face felt swollen. I lifted the blankets to take a peek and noticed they'd put a hospital gown on me but I was still dirty I could still feel those bastards all over my body.
Why couldn't they have let me die? Why couldn't they have left me in that alley?
I couldn't stop the tears from coming as I remembered what had happened, and how useless I'd felt as every blow had rained down on me. I'd felt worthless since the day my mother started selling me, but as I lay in that bed it hit me all at once. If my mother could leave me to die in the street, what hope did I have with anyone else? What would it take for me to finally leave this awful life? Had I been so bad in a previous life that this hell was my punishment? Was I to live through every disgusting thing that these men and women had done to me, feel every blow, all the pain, for the rest of my existence? I couldn't do it. I couldn't live anymore.
A nurse came in and saw that I was awake. She instantly came to my side.
"Oh, honey, don't cry. You're going to be fine. I'll go and get the doctor, okay?"
The little warmth in her voice made me cry harder as she quickly checked the machines I was hooked up to before leaving the room. Once she knew what I was that warmth would disappear, I was sure of it. It always did.
The doctor came in a little while later and told me an ambulance had brought me in half dead some hours ago. I had a broken rib, mild hypothermia and a myriad of bad but not life threatening cuts, bumps and bruises. And the blood work had revealed a shitload of drugs in my system. It was a mystery to them how I was even functioning. It was a mystery to me, too. I'd been actively trying to die for years but life seemed to be my curse. He asked for my name and I remained silent. He asked my age, again I remained silent. He said he understood I was in shock and still suffering from the effects of the cold and possibly withdrawal, but he would get me help. The drip stuck into me was supposed to help flush out my system and manage the terrible symptoms of withdrawal. Like fuck I was going to let that happen. Like fuck was I going to let them clear my head! He asked how long I'd been using, and a bunch of other questions. I didn't like his questions about the scars on my wrists, so I hid my hands under the bedding. Noone had ever asked about them before, so I felt exposed. My scars weren't a cry for help; they were the proof of my failure.
When he saw he wasn't getting anywhere he sighed and dropped his questions.
"We noticed signs of sexual assault. We had to stabilise you first, so now that you're awake we're going to do a rape kit and give you some precautionary medicine," he said.
This was probably when I should have told him I wasn't raped, but what was I supposed to say? 'Oh, it's okay. I had a choice between opening my legs and handing over my money; I chose to open my legs.' I probably should have, maybe my nightmare would have ended sooner. But I just wanted the doctor to go away. I didn't want any false hope.
"I have to get someone from Child Services in," he continued.
"I'm eighteen," I said.
"Yeah? Prove it," the doctor said. "Because I can't help you if you don't say anything."
I clamped up again. I wasn't going to say shit. Proving it would require showing one of my fake IDs, but all my shit was stolen earlier. Besides, why tell people anything at all when I wasn't going to stay here long? I just needed a little time to rest.
The Doctor sighed and said he was sending someone to talk to me about my traumatic experience in the alley where I'd been found, and also someone from Social Service. Then he finally left and two policemen came in. I said nothing to them either. I've never been arrested for soliciting, but I'm sure they knew what I did but didn't give a shit. I was just scum to them, and extra paperwork that they didn't need. Why would they help me now? They assured me they were looking for witnesses, and if I felt well enough to talk to call them back. I knew that was the end of that.
All I wanted to do was sleep until I was strong enough to get out of there. I didn't know where I would go since Mother had left me for dead, too. Maybe it was my chance to break free from her. But to do what? I'd already learned that I was no good out there without Mother's direction. As it was, it was taking forever to raise money to buy a gun because I couldn't find a moment when I wasn't too high to do a job on the side. I wouldn't survive handling the business side of it all the time. I'd be an easy target and what happened earlier would become a regular occurrence. I didn't want that to happen again.
In fact, I refused to allow that to happen to me again.
So I didn't have much of a choice. I had to grow some balls end this shit once and for all.
Randy switched his iPad off when he saw Katrina trudge back through the snow towards the car. He cleared his throat. And blinked. He'd done a lot of that lately. This book was fucking him up in hundreds of different ways that he hadn't even imagined.
He didn't read it in front of her; he wasn't going to disrespect her like that. In the two days since she'd given her permission to read Amazing Grace she'd only come out of her room a few times so he'd had plenty of time to read. He'd never read anything so heartbreaking and scary in his life. How the fuck was she still standing? How was she still here?
"Got it," she said as she did up her seatbelt. "Let's go before I change my mind."
He studied her face for a moment. She had bags under her eyes, and though the bruises on her face were completely gone, she looked terrible. He knew she was terrified of what was coming, but she looked determined. Brave. She sat stiffly, her shoulders tensed and her mouth a tight line. But her eyes had had a spark in them since the day they'd talked. A little spark, but a spark nonetheless.
Before he could think about it he leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"What was that for?" Katrina asked.
"No reason," he said with a little smile.
Katrina looked away and busied herself with the shopping bag on her lap, obviously uncomfortable. But her shoulders weren't so tense anymore.
He fired up his car and started driving. Most of the places in town that hadn't been damaged in the storm were open now, and the snow ploughs had done their jobs on the main roads. Traffic was moving slowly and carefully through the ice and sludge; thankfully there weren't as many cars out as usual. The doctors were doing them a favour by seeing them after hours so he didn't want to be late.
"How did you get appointments so quickly?"
"My name opens doors."
"Delusions of grandeur again," Katrina snorted.
"I'll make sure the therapist fixes that," he grinned.
Then the grin slowly left his face. Part of him was already regretting offering to go, too. Though his intention was to ask for advice about his situation with Katrina, he had this awful feeling that the conversation would somehow steer to his father.
"You know you're going to have to set a regular appointment with her, don't you?" he asked as he stopped at a light.
"That was kinda implied in our agreement. I mean, noone's going to fix this broken mess in one day," she answered, biting her bottom lip.
"Don't say it like that," he scolded gently. "You need a little help, but you're not broken."
"Yes I am. I always will be. It was stupid of me to try to pretend otherwise. I'll always be Grace. Everything will always push its way out. I mean, right now it's like I've forgotten everything, as if Katrina never existed."
"You're still the same girl I fell in love with. You just have to find a way to reconcile every part of yourself – everything Katrina is, and everything Grace is," he said gently.
When she didn't say anything he risked a glance and saw she was worrying her lip again. A car horn sounded behind him so he switched his attention back to the road and started driving again.
"Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that you can sleep over at my house when you have your appointments, so you're not doing any extra travelling."
He felt her gaze on him but didn't look at her. If she got weekly appointments it would mean she'd hardly ever go home. It would be like she moved in. He really hoped she got weekly appointments.
"I'll think about it," she said finally.
He nodded. Maybe the therapist would tell him it was a bad idea, but he didn't like the idea of being too far from her.
They drove in silence for a little while, and his thoughts returned to the book again. He was ready to murder someone, more than ready. He'd been simmering since he drove Katrina away from Ottawa, now his blood was boiling. But Jeff had completely ignored his calls and messages the past couple of days. He didn't want to think the idiot had gone and done something to Kat's abuser without him.
"Have you spoken to Jeff yet?"
"No," she sighed.
"Are you waiting to do it face to face tomorrow?"
They'd already told Hunter they would be rejoining the tour for Friday's house show.
"He's not going to walk away from you any more than I am," he said quietly.
"What is this? You spent the whole of our relationship telling me to stay away from him. You should be happy I've cut him out of my life," Katrina snapped.
Given that the man had confessed to being in love with her, yes, he was a little bit happy about that. But that was for an entirely selfish reason. Kat needed true friends. And however much he hated that they'd slept together, Jeff was a good friend.
"Besides," she continued, "he stopped calling me a couple of days ago. He's obviously realised I meant what I said."
He bit down on his jaw to stop himself from saying anything. Obviously something was very wrong – Jeff wouldn't have just given up trying to speak to Katrina.
They finally reached their turning at the edge of town. It was right off a very busy main road, but the cul-de-sac had a completely different feel, a different pace. Trees lined the whole street and the buildings weren't very high so they were hidden. Private. He liked it already. When the navigation took him to a gated property, he felt even better. Maybe it was the fact that it felt like he was driving into someone's home, or the thought that the gates would close behind his car and all his secrets would be secure behind them, but the dread he had felt earlier completely disappeared.
He drove up the short driveway that had been cleared of almost all the snow to a parking space in front of the three storey building. Everything else was still covered in snow, but there was hardly any damage so it was almost like the storm hadn't even passed over here. It could have been that was only because it was now completely dark and he was looking at everything in the lights that were placed all around the parking area. But these all had to be good signs. Right?
"You ready?" he asked as he looked at Katrina.
She was gripping her shopping bag tightly; so tight that he could see there was hardly any colour in her knuckles.
"Yeah," she said.
Then she let out a breath and opened the bag.
"I got you this," she said, taking a book out of it. "To replace the one I burnt."
He ran his hand over the cover of Amazing Grace.
"You didn't have to. But thank you," he said.
He put the book in the glove compartment then met her eyes.
"Remember what I said? Don't hold anything back, ok?"
"And you," she said.
He took a breath then got out of the car. It was time to go lay their shit bare.
Katrina sat on a very comfortable couch with a cup of coffee on the table in front of her. Dr. Olivia Carter sat on a couch across from her, a friendly smile on her face. Even her kind brown eyes were smiling, something she didn't think she'd ever achieve. Olivia Carter was African American, and her long natural hair was pinned up with a few curly strands framing her oval face. And she was dressed in smart casual clothes – a pair of stylish tan slacks and a cream sweater. Most of the therapists she'd seen before had been expensive ones, and that had shown in their expensive suits. She couldn't tell just by looking at this doctor how well off she was.
"It's been a long day. Do you mind if I put my feet up?" the doctor asked.
"No, not at all," she answered a little nervously.
Dr. Carter unzipped her calf length brown boots and kicked them off. Then she sighed, a little smile of pleasure on her lips as she tucked her feet underneath her and relaxed. Yes, she was definitely a lot different from the other therapists Kat had seen. And her office was a lot different, too. Sure, all the others had about the same decor, the drinks and all that but it had all seemed a bit forced somehow, like they had decorated that way because it was expected. But Dr. Carter's office felt homely and comfortable in a way she couldn't explain. Maybe it had something to do with the woman herself. None of her other doctors had ever sat there like they were just hanging out with a friend. Most had been a little stiff with an air of superiority, and even if they'd started out friendly, by the time she'd told them her story she could see the dollar signs swimming in front of their eyes. She had enough issues to keep them in work for the rest of their careers.
"Do you live here in St. Louis?" Dr. Carter asked.
"No. I've been staying with my… my friend in St. Charles," she answered.
"Were you there during the storm? I didn't expect it to get that bad," the doctor continued as she took a sip from her own cup of coffee.
She didn't want to say she'd hardly noticed. The storm raging inside her had eclipsed everything else.
"So I'm going to start off by telling you about myself so you get to know me, too," Dr. Carter said. "You can call me Olivia if you want. Or Liv, or Dr. Liv, Dr. Carter – whatever you're comfortable with. I've been a licensed psychiatrist for eighteen years, and I'm a member of the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Psychiatrists. I'm also a member of the American Psychological Association, so I wear whatever hat that my patients need."
That meant nothing to her. But it felt like she was interviewing the doctor, like she was the one who had to decide if Dr. Carter was good enough to fix her.
"I, along with my colleague who's with your friend now, Dr. Jackie Landry, started this centre eight years ago because we were dissatisfied with where we were."
"Why were you dissatisfied?"
"I worked mainly in private practices. When you work for someone else, you have to follow their rules. Sometimes that means doing so at the expense of the people you're supposed to be helping. I got sick of that, so I pursued my Masters in Psychology, left that god-forsaken place and here we are."
"Was it worth it?" she asked.
"I sleep better at night and I get to help people get back on their feet in every possible way that I can. I'm a lot happier, so my family is a lot happier. So yes, it was completely worth it," Olivia smiled.
Kat nodded and started idly playing with the book in her lap.
"Do you want to tell me a little bit about yourself now?" Olivia asked.
"I…I don't know where to start," she admitted.
"The beginning is always a good place," Olivier smiled warmly.
She remembered the book in her lap, and quickly handed it over. Olivier put her coffee down and read the back of the book. Her face was perfectly neutral so Kat couldn't tell what she was thinking.
"This is you?" Dr. Carter asked, setting the book on the coffee table.
"And you want me to read this book and just tell you what to do?"
She nodded again.
"I'm sorry, Katrina, but it doesn't work like that. If you want my help you're going to have to participate. You need to talk," Olivier said with a gentle smile.
She twisted her hands in her lap and looked away. She didn't like the idea of opening up to a stranger, even if Dr. Carter was friendly. Her stomach knotted up and she could feel the panic rising through her body.
"Okay, I confess. I've already read that book," Oliver said. "I know we have a lot of ground to cover, so we don't have to start from the beginning today. Why don't you start by telling me what's happened to make you come here? When I spoke to Mr. Orton he insisted that I see you as soon as possible. "
"Randy thinks... I've been acting kinda crazy lately, but he still thinks we have a future together."
"Acting kinda crazy? Can we talk about that?"
Even with that, she didn't know where to start. Too much had happened lately, and her mind was still too messed up to think about it clearly. Her throat closed up and she swallowed painfully as she tried to block it out. She didn't want to talk about George. She couldn't.
"I think I can help you, Katrina. I really do," Olivia said gently. "But you have to want my help; otherwise we're just wasting each others' time."
Olivia took her feet out from under her and sat properly on the chair, her hands clasped in her lap as she held her gaze.
"Do you want me to help you?" Olivia asked.
"Why don't you tell me how you and Randy met? We'll start there today," Olivia said, getting comfortable in her seat again.
"Okay," she said.
She didn't like the tremble she heard in her voice, but she took a breath and started talking.
Randy put his glass of water down and smiled awkwardly at the woman in front of him. She had been nice so far, and the small talk had been pleasant. But all the dread he'd felt earlier had returned for some reason. He couldn't understand why. Jackie Landry was a small woman with genuine warmth in her green eyes. Her blonde hair was tied in a loose ponytail at the back and she had little or no makeup on. And she'd had a smile on her face from the time she'd met them in the lobby downstairs.
There was nothing intimidating about her at all. But somehow she'd suddenly become the scariest person in the world.
"It must be hard, travelling all the time," Dr. Jackie Landry said, referring to the little information he'd told her about himself.
"Sometimes. But I'm used to it," he shrugged.
"Do you have family at home? Or people who miss you when you're gone?"
The question was asked in the same breezy manner she'd asked everything else. But, oh, what a loaded question.
"Yes. My family is all here in St. Louis," he replied.
"That's good," Dr. Landry said.
Then she took her time taking a sip of her herbal tea. Paranoia filled him. Had she picked up something from what he'd said about his family?
"So how can I help you today, Randy?"
"Um… I need help with my relationship with Katrina."
"Lovely young lady," Dr. Landry said, nodding her head. "She has the most fascinating eyes. I can see why you want to make that relationship work."
"Yes. It's because of her eyes," he deadpanned.
He mentally kicked himself straight away. Now wasn't the time to be a jackass. But for some reason the doctor threw her head back and laughed. Really hard. He felt the need to carefully study the certificates lining the wall, just to make sure she was as qualified as she'd said she was.
"I'm sorry," she said after a minute as she composed herself. "We don't usually get much to laugh about here."
He really didn't know what to make of this woman anymore.
"So tell me about your relationship. From the beginning."
And the doctor proceeded to sit back and relax like she was waiting to listen to a romance story.
"Um…It's not quite a relationship yet. She was my…um." Stop stuttering! "I was seeing her behind Maria's - my ex-girlfriend's - back. And when I proposed to Maria, Katrina left me. I've been trying to get her back ever since."
He felt like a dick for saying that out loud. Women didn't like cheating bastards. Dr. Landry would obviously have something to say about that.
"So right now you and Katrina are…?"
"I left her. Katrina's always been the one I wanted."
"So you want my help to get Katrina back? You know I'm not a dating service, right?"
"Um…Yes, I know that."
"Just checking. So what exactly do you need my help with?"
"She's been through a lot of shi_stuff," he started. "She was abused, and she has plenty of reasons not to trust men. And I didn't treat her right when she was with me so she doesn't trust me, either. But I love her and I want to see her through this. My problem is I don't have a clue how."
"Well, I don't know the details of what she has to work through, but we can talk about the things you're struggling to deal with," Dr. Landry said. "What's your biggest concern right now?"
"I guess the fact that I'm in love with her when I've never been in love before. I'm terrified I'll say or do something wrong and she'll walk away from me," he admitted.
"You've never been in love before?"
He looked away from the all-seeing green gaze to study his shoes.
"I might have been, when I was eighteen. I was going to marry her and everything. But my father told me she wasn't good enough for me and I walked away. Just like that. I didn't even look back, so I guess I didn't love her like I thought I did, because I can't even imagine walking away from Katrina."
"Your father told you she wasn't good enough?"
His eyes shot up to the green gaze again then looked away quickly when he noticed the bubbly woman from before seemed to have disappeared. This woman was all serious, and she looked like a dog who'd found a bone.
"I was eighteen. What did I know about love, right?" he said, attempting a chuckle.
"Let's talk about your father," Dr. Landry said.
"I don't understand how that will help me with Katrina."
"Well, you've told me you're afraid of your feelings for Katrina_"
"I'm not afraid," he cut in.
"Oh, that's right. You're not afraid, you're terrified."
He studied the woman in front of him and cursed the fact that he couldn't walk out. His feelings for Katrina or his fear of the sheer magnitude of them had nothing to do with his dad.
"Randy, I'm very good at what I do. But if you want me to help you, you're going to have to help me understand where you're coming from. You're walking on eggshells around Katrina because you don't know how to deal with your feelings. You just said your father told you someone wasn't good enough for you but you accepted that without question as if it was the norm. Plus you lied about having people at home who love and miss you when you're gone. Or at least, you weren't very truthful about that."
He frowned in question at the doctor. In less than five minutes she'd figured him out.
"I'm a Ninja psychiatrist. And also a Jedi," Dr. Landry said, nodding her head.
He chuckled a little bit and sat back in his seat.
"This is a safe space, Randy. I'm here to listen, to help you get to the answers you need," Dr. Landry said seriously.
"What if I don't like the answers?"
"Then I'll help you deal with that, too."
He held the green gaze for a moment then nodded his head. If this session got too painful then he simply wouldn't come back.
"My father doesn't love me. He never has."
It hurt, saying that out loud.
"How do you know that?"
"I just know. And, because I'm an idiot, I kept hanging onto him anyway, hoping he'd change his mind."
"It's not unreasonable to want the man who gave you life to show his love for you," Dr. Jackie said.
"I guess not. But I should have given up long before now. He was like that from the day I was born."
"Do you know why he was like that?"
"He was a wrestler, too. He was never home, and now that I'm in the business I realise the shit he used to do then. Drugs, women… I guess my mother got fed up with that and she cheated on him, too. I was born a month premature, so my father got suspicious. Shit hit the fan and from that day I was just the bastard child. Even when they did paternity tests and it turned out he was actually my father."
He took a second to look out the window into the night and compose himself. Though John knew what his father was like, noone but his family really knew what it had been like to grow up with that man constantly chipping at him.
"I guess I was just a reminder that the woman he loved cheated on him. No matter what I did, what I said… I could never make that right. I did everything he asked, just the way he asked, but somehow it was still wrong. And what made it worse was that he was so good with my brother and sister, and all my cousins…even the neighbourhood kids. Everyone would come up to me and say my dad was so cool, that they wished he was their dad…And I used to lie awake at night wishing he could love me like that, wishing he could smile at me like that. I'd do everything he asked just so I could hear him say how proud he was of me. He's never said it. I really doubt he's ever going to say that now."
"Did he ignore you and your needs completely? Was he passive aggressive?"
"And the other times?"
"Did he physically hurt you, Randy?"
"I didn't understand why my mother stayed; why she didn't take me away…I'm ashamed to admit I didn't understand until I read Katrina's book recently. I used to think it was because in the beginning we only saw him a handful of times a year; maybe she thought he would be different the next time he came home. But I realise now she was abused, too. The man has a way with words that just cuts deep; he didn't need to raise his hand or his voice to my mother a single time to make her feel the way I felt. And even with all the horrible things he said and did to me, all his sick mind games, all I wanted to do was please him, hoping that he'd change, that he'd stop. And once you fall in that trap you think there's no way out. Katrina did it, by believing everything her abusers told her, letting them bend her mind so she thought there was no way out. Mum did it, by letting my dad chip at her confidence, making her question everything she said and did so in the end she believed my father was always right and she was always wrong. And I did it by letting him control me that much that nothing else mattered to me more than pleasing him."
He blinked away some tears and picked his water up. Talking about this was a lot worse than he imagined.
"He picked my friends, my girlfriends, my clothes, my job…He's influenced every decision I've ever made. And if I disobeyed he cut me off from the rest of the family. Katrina told me once that my siblings could have talked to me anyway, but she doesn't know what it was like. They might not have been beaten or shouted at or deprived of anything, but just by witnessing some of the things he did to me they were abused, too. They were told not to contact me and they listened. Because bad things happened to me and if they didn't listen."
Dr. Landry was listening quietly. As he put his glass of water down he noticed a tape recorder on the table next to the centre piece, explaining why she wasn't taking any notes.
"I was willing to marry the woman he told me was the right woman for me, just to please him, and it has cost me the only woman I've ever loved. I'll never forgive him for that. I'll never forgive him for the fact that I'm sitting here now, questioning if I'm good enough for Katrina, if I'm…enough."
"Never is a long time," Dr. Landry said.
"You want me to forgive him?" he spat out.
"I want you to do what's best for you. We'll talk about your childhood in more detail but from what you've already told me, your father is everything that I detest, everything I've worked so hard my whole life to get rid of. But you should look at it this way: all that anger, all that pain you feel towards him? It's controlling you. So he's still controlling you, he's still influencing all your decisions," Dr. Landry said. "I can't tell you whether to forgive him or not, that will be your choice, but you do need to come to terms with your past before you can truly let it go. I don't think I have to tell you that if you don't let go of that anger, it will bleed into your future."
His future with Katrina. No, he didn't want anything messing that up, especially since there were a lot of other things that could mess it up anyway.
"So, what do I do?"
Dr. Landry gave him a small smile and sat back. She didn't seem so crazy now. But he'd wait to hear what she had to say before he decided if he'd see her again.
So all that talking again. Yes, I know. I think it's time we got to the good stuff.
Randy's finally started really telling his side of the story. Jeff hasn't been in touch for 2 days. Randy and Katrina are due back to work the next day. Is she ready? Or maybe the better question is, is everybody ready for the shit that's about to go down?