I’d lost him, and I couldn’t get him back. He wasgone…gone forever. I’d never hear his voice again, never be able to look at him, and never be able to look into his eyes. When Mum had confirmed who had drawn the short straw and come out with the far worse outcome of the accident, my world had stopped. I’d found myself in a far worse state than I had been when Ben had walked out on me earlier that year, when he’d found out the truth about James. Nobody had died then…
I’d shut myself off from everyone, not letting them in; pretty much exactly as I had done last time. I knew how much this must have been affecting everyone around me and I hated being like this, especially when I knew that those around me loved me and only wanted what was best for me. But I just couldn’t bring myself to look at that all the time and selfishly thought of nothing but my own guilt and loss. I’d locked the door to my hospital room at one point, which had caused a lot of commotion amongst the staff that worked there; some had thought I was attempting to commit suicide! On the contrary, all I wanted was to be alone in my own solitude and mourning, if only others had seen it that way.
Before I’d even been allowed to leave the hospital, Mum had enrolled me to see a therapist. When she’d told me I didn’t fight back and say that I was fine and didn’t need one, which was the case for most people, and accepted it. I did need a therapist. I needed someone that I didn’t know and wouldn’t judge me to talk to.
I saw Dr. Allison Merrysmith twice a week, of which a lot of my time was spent in silence or in tears, regrettably. In the back of my mind I knew that every minute that passed cost Mum money that she probably didn’t have. I wanted and knew that I should say something but just… couldn’t. I was stuck in front of a brick wall that was far too large and wide to climb over or walk around.
On one particularly day, I sat opposite Allison on an attractive yet rather uncomfortable black leather sofa, curled up with my knees tucked under my chin, hugging my legs loosely. I’d taken my shoes off and felt them slowly growing cold. It was the first week in December and autumn had turned into a blistery cold winter; the chill of the icy air was gradually creeping into the clinical-like study. The walls were white and furnishing and decorations ranged from an assortment of black, grey and beige tones. The artwork on the walls were abstract with very little colour or significance. Also, she’d placed certificates and qualifications promptly on the wall behind her glass top desk, proving her education at one of the top British Universities and the knowledge she’d acquired. Not one was out of place or order on the wall; all perfectly straight and evenly space a part in plain black, cold metal frames.
Allison sat primly in the matching black, leather armchair before me in a pinstripe grey pencil skirt and blazer, white shirt and sensible black heels. Her bleach blonde hair was cut to her chin with a fringe that just reached the top of her eyebrows – too short, in my opinion – and her black, designer glasses sat near towards the tip of her nose. Her lips were painted a pale red, as were her slightly rouged cheeks. With the exception of a small amount of mascara and eyeliner, she wore very little makeup, though she didn’t need it as she was naturally quite beautiful despite the harsh look of her.
It was forty-five minutes into our session and not a lot had been written on the notepad that sat on her lap. I felt sorry for her, really, having to sit around watching me in my state. But then again, so long as she got paid I very much doubt she minded what progress may have taken place each hour that passed.
“What are you thinking about, Casey?” she asked sweetly, with a slight smile curling at the corners of her lips. I looked up at her and sighed. What had I been thinking about? Most of my thoughts had been blank and obsolete. I opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out, “it’s okay, take as much time as you need. I’m not here to pressure you into anything.”
“I know,” I croaked. It had been such a long time since I’d spoken properly that my voice had somehow escaped me. I cleared my throat and continued, “I-I don’t know what I’m thinking about. It’s all just… just a blur.”
“Why is it all a blur?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because I can’t come to terms with what’s happened? I don’t know…”
“You don’t need to get angry with yourself, this is all perfectly normal.” Allison said, leaning forward slightly and taking the notepad into her hands, black biro at the ready.
“Normal,” I scoffed, “is it normal to feel like you’re responsible for someone’s death? The last time I checked it wasn’t normal. I just feel like it could all have been prevented. What if I’d just done what I was told and phoned for an ambulance, rather than insisting that we drive our self? What if I’d initially reacted different? What if… what if it was all different?” I could feel tears rolling down each of my cheeks and took into account the fact that my knees were shaking. Allison reached over towards her desk and retrieved a box of tissues, offering me one with a weak smile. I took one and wiped away the escaped tears.
“It’s okay to cry. It’s just your way of coping and recovering. It’s not a common situation that you’ve been put in and, of course, it’s going to take its toll on you in its own way; like it would any other person.”Allison said, perching herself on the edge of the armchair with her head tilted to one side as she examined me. It wasn’t a lecture, but I knew that she was saying what she was supposed to say – what she’d been taught to say – and that she was merely going through procedure.
“I missed the funeral, you know,” I began, trying to keep back the tears, “I couldn’t face it. I didn’t want to have to stand in a crowd of people who were all mourning and crying over his death and saying such nice things about his him and what he’d achieved in life. I just couldn’t face all the pity that would be put on me… all those sympathetic looks from everything he knew and loved; his family in particular… I couldn’t face them. Mum went. She said that she should go, with her being close to his parents and such. But I… I just couldn’t. Besides, I hate wearing black.
“And… I know that it’s okay to cry, but I can’t help feeling like I’m responsible… if I’d done things differently it wouldn’t have gotten to this stage at all. If everything had remained how it had been at the beginning of summer… I just, I just want things to be how they were.”
“What was life like at the beginning of summer? How did you feel?”
“I felt… alive; like nothing could break me or my world. Everything was perfect. I had a family that supported me, a son that adored me, and a guy that would do anything for me. I was happy. Everything was running smoothly, no strings attached, and I felt that my life was complete.
“I thought Ben was ‘the one’… that we’d grow old together, sitting on a porch swing in a suburban house in America, perhaps; he always said he’d love to live out there when he was older. I thought that one day he’d get down on one knee, completely out of the blue, tell me he loved me with all his heart and ask me to marry him. If he’d asked me then… I probably would have said yes. But everything changed.”
“What changed?” Allison asked. She’s finally lifted her pen and had begun scribbling away at her notepad every second I opened my mouth and spilled my inner-most feelings to her. I smirked.
“Marc happened,” I answered, lowering my legs from their previous position to crossed-legged on the sofa, “we’d never had a brilliant relationship from when we first met to that point, but something happened and all of a sudden I saw him in a completely different light. He was sweet, gentle and harmless… well, not exactly harmless. He was the main reason that Ben and I broke up. If he hadn’t have been snooping, trying to find a valid reason for me to leave him, Ben and I might still be together today. Perhaps nothing would have changed and I’d be happy still.
“Looking back, Marc is the reason everything spiralled down to the conclusion that I lie in today and if he’d remained out of the picture none of it would have happened. If he’d let his feeling dwindle and allowed me to stay happy with Ben… I don’t know. Perhaps something worse would have happened if he’d left us alone. Who knows?”
“I hope you don’t mind me asking, Casey,” Allison began, “but… did you love him? Marc, that is.”
“I think so,” I answered quietly, “I felt something for him but I’m not completely sure. I told myself I loved him at the time but… things have changed. I don’t know how I felt for him then anymore. Maybe I’d just been telling myself that I’d fallen for him so to make easier to get over Ben. After all, he’d hurt me quite badly. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive him…”
“Well, can’t you try? Have you tried talking to him?” I fell silent and dropped my head.
“I would, if I could.” I murmured.
“I’m sorry,” Allison added, apologetically, “that was highly unprofessional of me, an insensitive.”
“No, it’s not your fault. I-I’m just not… strong enough. When I was told who had died, I just… couldn’t bring myself to see the one that had lived. I didn’t know how I felt or how I’d be able to cope with it all. I just… I just wanted some time to be able to think and reflect on everything that’s happened.”
“Have you heard any more news about him?”
“I’ve been told that he’s recovering well, but is still in quite a lot of pain. His parents are constantly in contact with my Mum, as they know that it’s affected me just as much as it has them. I know that they only want to help but, it’s not. Every time I here that he’s getting better, that he should be out of hospital by Christmas… that he wants to see me… talk to me… it just brings back all the negativity that… oh, I don’t know. I guess I’m just a coward.”
“You’re not a coward, Casey. You’re taking your own time and pace and no one can rush you. It’s all up to you,” Allison smiled sincerely at me. I smiled back, glancing up at the clock on the wall behind her. I must have talk more in the last ten minutes than I had done in all the hour long sessions I’d attended. The notepad on Allison’s knee was filled from top to bottom and back to front with notes and progress made today. It must have been the first things she’d ever written in it, “You’ve really made some good progress today, Casey. I’m amazed at how you were able to tell me all of this after so long. I’m really pleased with what’s been said today and feel that you soon won’t have to see me anymore.”
“You think so?” I asked.
“I guarantee it. I feel that you’re really on the mend and that you’re now a much stronger person than the girl that walked into this study seven weeks ago. I feel that now you may be able to face the harsh reality of what’s happened to you this past year and be able to put it aside without letting it affect you to such a high degree. I also feel that perhaps you might be able to find the courage to talk to your friend in hospital.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Well, whenever you do find the strength to do so, I’m sure you’ll cope well.”
“Thank you. I really mean it, thank you, for everything.” I really meant it. I was sincerely greatful for all that Allison had done for me. Although I’d wasted precious hours in silence, when today I’d found it such a relief to share my emotions with her, I was thankful that she’d been patient and not rushed me into anything. She truly was professional, yet easygoing and easy to talk to at the same time. I was glad Mum had made me come twice a week for the past seven weeks. I knew that it had worked. All I had to do now was find the courage and the strength to talk to him; when this would be would be hard to predict, but I knew that it should be soon as I’d wasted so long to tell him… that I loved him.