I step off of the bus, glancing over my shoulder as all twenty of my characters, both male and female, between the ages of 20 and 45 begin to make their way towards the front to get off. "Single file line people!" I shout. "No pushing or shoving! I know how some of you are!" I start counting in my head as each one of them steps off, making sure they are all here. Andrew, Michael, Emma, James, Lucy, Courtney, Zack, Max, Ryan, Jason, Tina, Steve, Danielle, Robert, Nora, Annabel, Allison, Amy, Catherine, and finally Victor. Yep, they're all here. It doesn't surprise me that almost all of them have singled Victor and James out, standing away from the two men, glaring at them as if they were public enemy number one, which they were, but that's beside the point. That's why I'm here. That's why they're all here. I wave them to follow me towards the building. "All right, come on! Single file!" I glance over my shoulder to make sure they're all following. Yep, so far so good.
When we step into the therapist's lobby, all of us are instructed to sign in by the man at the desk, who has clearly never seen so many characters in one place at one time. It takes several minutes for all of them to do so, but I wait patiently. The Hispanic man at the desk calls up to Dr. Abigail Hart's office, informing her that I'm here with my characters. She tells the man to send me up to the second floor with my first character, and that the others can wait in conference room C, which is down the hall past the elevators, until she is ready for them. My large brown eyes roam around the group of characters, the front lobby barely big enough for all of them. I bite down on my bottom lip, contemplating who to choose first. I get a few points towards Victor, a few pleading eyes, and some glares, and as much as I really wish I didn't have to, I decide to listen to my instincts, and the rest of my characters, and start with the person who needs therapy the most.
"Victor," I say.
Suddenly, the rest of my characters break out into a round of applause, a couple cheering at my selection, and expressing enthusiastic "thank you god!"s. Well, everyone except Lucy and James, his two allies. No surprise. I roll my eyes as Victor pushes his way forward, shooting a deadly glare at the group and tuggging at the collar of his red dress shirt, beneath his black Gucci suit. "Jealous? If not, you should be," he sneered. Glancing down at me, he offers me his arm. "Shall we, my dear?"
Sighing deeply, I tuck my hand under his elbow, exchanging a scowl with Andrew before following Victor towards the elevators. Just when I think Victor is going to cooperate with me and get through this therapy session, the minute we step onto the elevator, he shoves me off his arm, my back connecting hard with the wall behind me, my head knocking against it, enough to make me see stars.
"How dare you!" He snapped, turning and taking a couple steps towards me, towering over me like a giant at his 6'2" height. "I don't know why you brought me here, sweetheart, but you listen to me and you listen good." I wince painfully, my heart pounding like a drum as he takes my chin tightly in one of his very large hands, "you're not going to get shit out of me, except maybe a back hand to the face, or more bruises on that pretty little neck of yours. Who the fuck do you think you are, huh! Bringing me to a goddamn therapist!"
"It's...for your own good," I say in a meek voice. "For all of you." I look up at him with pleading eyes. "Please Victor, just please do this for me. I want to help you. The therapist wants to help you. I just want us to work out our differences. Can we please just do that? Just this once? Please?"
The elevator chimes as it reaches the second floor and I nearly breathe a sigh of relief, but don't dare to take my eyes off of him, fearing that he might continue smacking me around. After all, that's what he was known for. That's what I made him to do. The elevator doors roll open and after a few long seconds, Victor lets go of my jaw, grabs my arm and nearly throws me out of the elevator into the hall. "Let's go!"
I quickly reach out to grab a hold of the wall, if only to prevent myself from losing my balance and falling flat on my face, tears forming behind my eyes as I look down at the floor, suddenly regretting this whole decision. The broad hallway is lined with chairs, two sitting outside of each office door, more than likely for the patients. There is also a lobby with a few more rows of chairs, back-to-back and a couple coffee tables with magazines, that sits adjacent to the bank of elevators, where a dark-haired receptionist is sitting behind a desk, tapping away at the computer in front of her. The middle-aged Caucasian woman abruptly looks up, clearly hearing the commotion Victor and I have already caused. Great. A scene. Just what I need.
"What the hell are you doing?" Victor asks me, brushing his suit jacket aside and planting his hands firmly on his hips.
"Trying to collect myself," I say, my voice shaking surprisingly with emotion. Refusing to look him in the eyes, knowing it will only make things worse, I work up the courage to push myself away from the wall, take a deep calming breath, and push down my tears before continuing forward into the lobby. I slowly approach the woman at the desk. "Hi, I'm Amy West. I'm here for my appointment with Dr. Hart. I..." I pause, pushing down the huge lump in my throat, "brought my first character up, just like she asked me to."
The woman's bright green eyes shift from me to Victor then back to me. I can feel his presence looming over me as he nears closer. He's coming closer. He's almost at my heels now. Oh god, now he's breathing down my neck. The woman nods her head, gesturing to the chairs in the seating area. "Please, have a seat. She will call you in soon."
I nod gingerly, turning slightly and placing my hand against Victor's robust chest, refusing to make eye contact with him as I push my way around him. There were three other people waiting in the lobby, but before I have a chance to get a good look at them, let alone make it to my seat, I notice Victor's arm snake out towards me out of the corner of my eye. He grabs my wrist, yanking me towards him faster than I can blink an eye. I shiver as I look up into his seething steely green eyes.
"Don't ever do that again, do you understand me?" He sneered, his dangerous voice chilling me to the bone.
I gently nod my head, pushing down the huge lump in my throat, my heart pounding like an indian drum. "Sorry. I'm...sorry."
"You better be."
I breathe a sigh of relief as he lets go of my wrist. Slowly turning my back to him, I walk over and gingerly take a seat across from the three other people in the room. Victor lowers himself into the chair to my left, crossing his right leg over his left and crossing his arms firmly over his chest, looking off in the opposite direction. I stare at the people across from me, wondering if they are here for the same reason as me.