Twenty: And Then it Was Christmas

It was stressful enough that Andrea had to ignore the times when Lucas was wild with his frantic energies, but it was worse now that they had to pretend that nothing had happened the previous night. She let Lucas ignore the situation for the while, making her excuses at the right moments just as he did when any related idea sprung in their conversation.

When Andrea trudged into work the next day, she still retained that feeling of uncomfortable despair.

"Hey!" rang out a sharp accent. Alexia bounded up.

“Hi, Alexia,” said Andrea. She made no attempt to perk up her attitude when it was a waste of time to pretend that everything was fine. Everything was not fine.

Alexia almost visibly winced. “How’s Lucas?”

“Playing the silent type,” replied Andrea. She held open the door for her friend as she walked through with a light step. Andrea wasn’t even in the mood to ask nicely. “Léa’s gone and that worries me, but I’m not going to interfere. I just….” She shook her head.

“Yeah. You’ll be pleased with what I have to say, though.”

“Oh?” Andrea raised an eyebrow.

Her companion stayed mute for the moment as another psychiatrist wandered past, clipboard in hand, but then gestured for Andrea to sit at her usual place in her usual cubical.

“Oh, God, it’s not bad news, is it?” Her mind began to roll off all the possibilities.

“Not exactly. I said you’ll be pleased.”

Andrea nodded. “You were quick to do what I asked. It’s only nine-thirty in the morning.”

“I rang Mark just before I left. As I expected, he was already at work, so it was no disturbance to him. I just presented the case to him truthfully and told him it was a pretty urgent situation. I’m looking at Lucas as a patient now.” Her eyes softened. “Besides, I don’t like seeing you upset, Andry.”

Andrea should have expected so much. Instead of being grateful, however, she looked down at her fingers and chewed on a broken nail. Revelations were frightening to think about.

“But is it bad, ‘Lex?” Andrea asked. She cast a glance at the case studies on her desk, fully intending to get to work on the today, but her mind was every where, focusing on Lucas as if she were drawn to him every minute of time. Andrea kept fiddling instead. When Alexia eventually spoke, having collected her own files and clipboards to peruse for a mere moment, Andrea found herself pen in hand, circling relevant names and dates of her patients.

“Dr. Morrison says that Lucas is,” Alexia cleared her throat, evidently putting on the airs of a quotation, “‘withholding childhood trauma involving both religion and family matters, leading to the need for excess control within his living.’”

Andrea pursed her lips. “He does have quite the religiosity.”

“I will hold you to that and quote it later in life.”

“Alexia, please! Just tell me what you can do.” Andrea squeezed her eyes closed, hoping to relieve herself of the flurry of thoughts that poured down onto her love. If he did something stupid because of his OCD, she wouldn’t forgive herself.

“Me? I’ve talked to Mark and I thought that would be enough. We can’t force Lucas to accept what has happened to him, just like any other anxiety sufferer. I don’t want to make allusions to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but PTSD sufferers get worse if they’re forced to think about why they feel so distressed.”

“Stop your apophasis!” cried Andrea, brushing a clipboard hard across Alexia’s arm.

“Ow! Okay. All I’m saying is that you’d be doing the best for Lucas by just talking to him and persuading him to take the sessions seriously.”

“I have tried.”

“Have you tried hard enough?”

Andrea sighed, throwing away the cardboard, and wringing her hands. “Okay, I’ll try again. As you said, I don’t want to force him; that wouldn’t be fair.”

Alexia peered at Andrea through her specs, unimpressed. She was probably considering the regurgitation that Andrea had been doing. She shrugged.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m not doing what I can. You’re a dear friend of mine, Andry, don’t forget that. I’m trying to stop you from going through what I did with Harry. You asked me to talk to Mark, so I have. It’s really up to Lucas to make the next move now.” She leant over Andrea and briefly clutched at her free hand.

Andrea fought back the appreciative tears that were brewing. She nodded, unable to voice her thoughts, for the shame of pouring out her utter woes in teardrops.

Alexia moved away and busied herself in more paperwork. She looked as if she had flicked a switch to turn off her Amygdalic instincts. Andrea flicked through her own work-planner. Neither of them was roistered on to deal with any patients, and neither had any ‘live’ cases, since Christine’s mother had finished her course. The upcoming holiday had left them at a loose end. A loose end and paperwork.

Alexia’s voice cut through any of the work-related thoughts Andrea had planned to have: “I’m going to photocopy a couple of things; do you want me to do any pages for you whilst I’m there?”

“No thanks,” said Andrea, watching her wander across to the open space in the room meant for coffee breaks.

She opened a file to add to the combination of the other two on the table, but, in a flash of her mind, decided against doing work. As odd as it was, Andrea had the urge to promote her paintings. She logged on to her computer and onto the website, thinking hard about the next move. Andrea blushed to think that she had commercially sold one of her hobbies – now there was the extra onus upon her heart to sell the second promoted one and paint the third idea she had posted about.

She had even received a couple of suggestions for landscapes. Andrea scanned the one she had received the day before last. It was a shame to tell these people she knew nothing about that she would not be able to fulfil their request. Maybe when the OCD issues settled a bit more.

“What do you think you’ll do for Christmas?” Alexia called from the other side of the room.

Andrea lifted her head sharply away from the monitor. “Is it time enough to think about Christmas?”

Alexia smiled, showing her teeth. “I am at this time, but that’s because Darren is introducing me to his parents.”

“Wow, that’s quick.”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m taking advantage of the feeling it brings to me.” She ducked her head down to study the work zooming through the copying-machine, but not before Andrea had seen the sheen of red that spread all the way across Alexia’s cheeks.

“Oh, yes?”

“Maybe next year, I’ll suggest to return the favour, though it might be a bit hard ‘cause my parents are all the way in the US.” She extended her head from out of the pages, and, unsurprisingly, the sheen had vanished.

Andrea allowed herself a smile at the attitude Alexia now had to relationships. When they had first met, Alexia had still been getting over Harry and her outlook could not have been more androphobic.

Andrea crept over to Alexia and stood with her as the final copies popped out of the machine. Its rhythm was cold and mechanic, but comforting, too. Christmas…. It was too early to discuss Christmas.

Still, that’s exactly what she did when Alexia had stolen away her papers and was moving to put more in.

“I have no parents to go to,” mentioned Andrea. “I don’t know about Lucas’, because the siblings have never mentioned their parents. To be honest, Lucas and I haven’t talked about it at all. I was just presuming that we’d keep the whole affair low key.”

“Don’t presume!” called Alexia. She watched her new page go in the copy machine and buzz out of the other end before she spoke again. “Use this time to bring two threads together. Now that you know what’s wrong, you could always threaten him with no Christmas until he tells you.”

In spite of herself, Andrea laughed. “That’s ridiculous! I don’t want to give him more cause for regret. Besides, I’ve already got Lucas a pair of cufflinks for Christmas; I can hardly take them back.”

“Coffee?” came Alexia’s voice. She was standing in the other corner of the open area, pouring herself a cup. “And what do you think he’s got you?”

“Yes, please. And I don’t know. I don’t want to speculate.” Yet that’s exactly what she did now that Alexia had brought the issue up.

The woman sashayed over, two cups in her manicured hands.

“So don’t deny him Christmas,” she said; “just start with the topic – to kill two birds with one stone, if you will – and then bring up the fact that it clashes with one of his sessions, that he should be going to them, blah, blah, blah.”

Andrea frowned. “That still sounds too vicious. I won’t refuse him low key, but if he wants to do more than exchange gifts and maybe go out for a meal, I have little problem with that.” She took a dainty sip of her drink and pulled a face. Alexia had put too much sugar in.

“Hey, it was your idea, not mine.”

Andrea rolled her eyes. “I’ll just think about it. By the way, you never told me that you take coffee with sugar.”

“You never asked.”

With little more to do at the office, Alexia soon made her excuses and parted the place; she was probably plotting to spend more time with Darren. Andrea chose to stay, alternating her time between the files that she was meant to be updating and analysing and the online art-shop where she was selling her works. She took lunch in, as she would have regardless, and had so lost track of time that, by four pm, she was well engrossed in her two works and jumped when there was a knock on the side of her cubicle.

“I’m off now, Andrea,” Darren told her. “Don’t work yourself too hard. I think we’ve covered every patient that we haven’t lost to the Swinford clinic. It’s almost Christmas and people are, undoubtedly, getting lazier.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.” Andrea smiled and glanced at her watch. It was sad about the Swinford clinic stealing Lansdale citizens, but the scope of their work covered more mental health problems. It was to be expected.

She mulled these things over whilst she gathered up the last of her possessions and logged off. When she looked up, Darren had gone from his spot.

“Sir?” called Andrea. He turned. “Maybe you should set up your own clinic. That would solve some of the health service problems we experience.”

He gently smiled. “If only I could. See you, Andrea.”

Her head ducked and dived as he walked. In two minutes, Andrea was also by the entrance of the clinic, storming her way out to her car. Everything balanced as unsettled.

The End

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