I curl up on the couch. I don't reach for the blanket this time. I'm not really cold. But I still want to get one from the Pottery Barn. Well, maybe two. One in purple and one in green.
It's funny how this place, this room, feels so familiar. Almost like a part of my own home. I feel comfortable here. I feel like this space is safe. But I guess it's always been like that, hasn't it? Even when I thought that it wasn't.
"What are you thinking about?" Renata asks.
"I think we've gone over this before, Bella," she says evenly.
But I know – at least, I think I know – that she's smiling on the inside. Well, maybe.
"I was thinking about how this…I mean, your office…well, it feels safe. Comfortable."
"Has it always been that way?"
I chuckle softly. Of course she'd know my train of thought.
"I think so," I tell her. "I mean, I don't think I always thought that. But I think that I knew…you know, like somewhere inside me or whatever…that it was safe. That I was safe here."
I don't really offer her anything else, but she doesn't seem to mind. And if she's thinking about anything, it's not showing on her face. But I suppose that it's always been that way, too.
"How are you?"
"Care to define good?"
I laugh. I can't help it.
"Good is good. Good is…better."
"Better than what?"
"Better than yesterday."
"Was yesterday bad?" she asks.
"No," I tell her, smiling. I can't help it. "Yesterday was good, too. Today's just…better."
"Why is today better?"
I take a deep breath.
I know I need to share this with her. I mean, it's kind of huge. Like, really huge. Well, it was huge to me.
"I saw Tyler on Monday night," I say evenly.
I look for an expression change on her face. Shock maybe. Something. I don't really expect one. And like usual, she doesn't surprise me.
"Where did you see him?" Her voice is as even as her expression.
"I was at the market," I tell her. "Not my usual one. You know…the one by my apartment. I was actually just picking up a few things before going to Edward's. I was…you know…I was going to make him dinner or whatever."
I stop talking. I don't really know why. And Renata looks at me. I think she wants to ask me a question. Or maybe she doesn't. I don't know, but I decide to continue.
"It's funny," I tell her. "You know…the things you think about when you're in a situation like that. I remember looking in my basket and thinking that all I had inside it was a bottle of wine."
"Why do you think the wine stood out to you?" she asks evenly. No inflection at all.
I think about her question. I mean, I didn't really have to think about her question. I know the answer. I knew what I felt that night…and I know what I feel right now. But it's an entirely different thing to put it all into words, isn't it?
"I remember standing there thinking that Tyler was there. I was seeing him…sharing the same space with him after so long. I couldn't really process that. And then I looked down…at the wine. And I cringed."
Her expression is soft, but sill not quite readable. And I can't help but wonder what she's thinking.
"Why did you cringe, Bella?"
I take a deep breath, and then I just start talking.
"I cringed…well, I cringed at first because I looked down. Because seeing him there in front of me made me feel like I needed to look down. And here I was…you know, with this bottle of wine. And I was like…I don't know…afraid or something. You know? Like he was going to think I was buying this sad bottle of wine to drink by myself. And then I was ashamed…and it was like all those feelings came rushing back. And I remembered who I was when he left me. This broken, pathetic…this sad fucking woman. And you know what?"
She doesn't say anything, so I look up at her expectantly.
"I remembered that he didn't matter."
"Tyler doesn't matter," she says. It's not a question.
"Not anymore," I tell her evenly. Laughing once. "I mean he used to. Everything about him used to matter. Everything I was and wasn't, was all wrapped up in him…and what he did to me. How he hurt me. But that's not the case anymore. And I was standing there realizing that for the better part of this past year, Tyler hasn't been the first thing I think about when I get out of bed in the morning. He's not the last thing I think about before falling asleep. Fuck, the only time I really ever think about him anymore is when I'm in sessions with you. And that's only because you make me."
She laughs a little and I find that I'm laughing, too. It feels nice. It feels easy.
"So, then," she says. "What did you do when you remembered that he didn't matter?"
"Well," I tell her, scrunching up my nose. "I asked him if he would excuse me because I still had a couple of things I needed to pick up."
"And what was his reaction?"
And I grin at her now. I can't help it. Pride surges through me, and I know that what I'm about to tell her is monumental. And even better than that – even more – is the fact that I knew it was monumental the other night.
"I don't know. I didn't stay to find out."
She makes a note. She hasn't really done that in a while. My smile is even bigger.
"And why not?" she asks, still looking down at my file, but I can see the small smile on her face.
"Because…I didn't need to. It didn't matter. You know, what he thought. It didn't matter. It doesn't."
"And how does that make you feel?"
I think about her question. Because the obvious answer is, "Good." I loved Tyler, and hurt me so much that I thought the pain was irrevocable. But it turns out that it wasn't. The pain wasn't. I've mostly recovered. I'm not there yet, but I know I'm getting there.
"Yeah…that feels good."
"Just good?" she prompts.
"Good is good," I tell her. "Good isn't bad. Good isn't sad and depressed and angry. So, yeah…good."
She looks down at my file for a second and then back up to me.
"I thought yesterday was 'good,'" she says. "And today was 'better.'"
It's not a question, but I know she wants a response.
"Today is better," I tell her.
"I'm glad," she says. "Do you think you can tell me why?"
"I used to come here," I start, pulling my feet up under my legs. "I used to come here, and I always wondered when I was going to be normal again. Actually, I think I knew I would never really be normal again. I just wondered when I was finally going to say the right things. You know, to make you think I was normal."
She doesn't make a note. It's weird because I'm pretty sure that this feels like a moment that she should be taking note.
"And what do you think now?"
"I think normal is a relative word," I tell her. "An impossible actuality that I'll never be able to achieve. Because what the fuck is it, really?"
"I don't know if you remember this," she says softly, "but you used to say that word a lot during our sessions."
"Really?" I ask, surprise evident in my voice.
"Really," she nods. She placed the file on the table between us and she leans in a bit. "So, if 'normal' is impossible, what do you want now?"
I close my eyes. I breathe in deeply. It's easy…just like breathing should be. And I can appreciate it now because I can remember when breathing was hard. When everything was hard.
"I want to be happy."
My eyes are still closed, but I can feel the slight smile on my face, the slight lift of my cheeks, the way the roots of my hair tingle with a pleasure I couldn't have identified not so long ago.
"And are you?" she asks. "Are you happy, Bella?"
I feel a trickle of sweat drip down my chest and into my bra. It's so hot outside and it's not much cooler in here. I take a sip of the iced latte in front of me and close my eyes, wishing I'd gone home to change before coming.
Then I feel him behind me.
My whole body tingles.
And then I feel his mouth against my neck. It's even hotter now – humid and wet as his tongue strokes my skin. I have to force myself not to moan. Well, maybe I moan a little. He chuckles, kisses me softly on my lips, and then takes the seat in front of me.
"I'm sorry I'm late," he says. "Have you been waiting very long?"
"No," I tell him. "I haven't been here long at all. My session ran a little over."
"Ah," he says, reaching out across the table to take my hand. "And how is the lovely Renata today?"
"She's fine," I tell him, squeezing his hand gently.
"And what about you?" he asks, a little more intensity in his voice.
"Oh, I see how it is," I chide him. "Renata is lovely. Am I not lovely?"
"You are beautiful," he says, pulling my hand up and kissing my palm. "Gorgeous," he murmurs, pulling me closer, kissing the inside of my elbow. I feel my entire body flush. It feels so fucking good. "How are you, Bella?"
Our fingers link and I pull his hand back across to me, offering him the same kisses that he just offered me. And everything about this feels easy. Right. Exactly right.
"I'm really happy."
And I am.
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