Andrea heard Lucas swallow and drum his fingers. She clutched one of his hands as they moved along the corridor. He was certainly unusually calm for what they were about to do. That was her opinion anyway; she didn’t expect that he conform to whatever she supposed, but Lucas – in this state, at least – was quite an easy man to predict.
His chest rose and fell more than usual; Lucas was practising his breathing exercises in great concentration. Perhaps as rehearsal for what was to come from Dr. Morrison. Andrea navigated the semi-familiar route of Swinford Clinic, up the argyle steps and through the repetitive swaths of white. They appeared darker now that she was giving no help and only seeking it. Andrea scanned the faces of every blanket-coated individual who swept past to hunt for Dr. Morrison. Lucas did no such thing. He must have known exactly where to begin a search.
“Room 2M, here,” he announced, stopping at one of the final doors in the lengthy corridor. Andrea nodded in response. He had pushed open the door and she followed through into the blue consulting room.
“Good morning, Lucas, and it’s good to see you.”
The suave Dr. Morrison gestured in one full movement, eyes lingering to the left of Lucas, onto Andrea. The whole circular sweep fell with his hands.
"This is my partner Andrea," announced Lucas as he shook hands with Dr. Morrison.
The doctor bobbed his head twice as if he understood her presence here. "Good morning, Andrea Ford."
"Oh," she said, eyeing him. "Dr. Morrison." The man who had not offered her a job. That was why the name had run so true with her. "Yes, good morning."
An expression passed across his own face, showing that he, too, had remembered the first situation in which they had met and parted. Nevertheless, he cleared his throat and turned to Lucas.
"Please, sit down. And you, Andrea."
She noticed that, although the latter was addressed to her, Morrison did not look her way for one second longer. So, Andrea sat, but she was no more convinced with his hospitality than she had been the first day she had stepped into Swinford Clinic.
Lucas shifted about in his seat, and it appeared that Dr. Morrison was the only one who chose not to fidget. He was the seasoned doctor after all.
“There’s one thing I’ll say first, Lucas, Andrea, that Psychologists know better than most about life and how things may plan out. We have all been through the worst at times. We get a lot of different cases, but the integral effect of illness on life is still there.”
“All right,” replied Lucas. He foot tapped a rhythm until Andrea nudged it. She started, guilty.
Dr. Morrison was speaking again, striding his way through words of progress and change, a spiel which was hardly new to Andrea. She looked sideways to Lucas, whose eyes were watching the floor and hands were cupped to conceal his irritation at what might have been turning into a lecture. At least he was trying.
Lucas did well to not to be cynical in point. In his eyes was that stream of anger against the profession – of that, Andrea knew well. Lucas’ polite nature, she hoped, would keep him from an outburst like they had come to at home.
“It is vital that we get you to reach into the depths of your subconscious, or, as I suspect, your conscious memories,” said Dr. Morrison.
Lucas twitched, but he said nothing.
“I want you to go back,” continued the doctor, “go back to when you were a boy. Does that bring you discomfort already, Lucas?”
Andrea peered at her partner. His eyes were unfocused.
“Why would it?” he said.
Andrea rubbed away the ache in her shoulder. “Lucas, it’s vital you do as Dr. Morrison asks, otherwise –”
“We’ll get nowhere, yeah,” he responded. He rubbed his hands together. “I don’t know what I think about that. It…makes me shudder, but I get on, do what I can.”
“Exactly. You make no further thought of the pains that lurk in childhood…. So you try to.”
“What do you mean?” Andrea asked Dr. Morrison.
The doctor cleared his throat. “Lucas – would you say you had a pleasant childhood?”
The light in the room was crystal. Andrea was sure that she had seen Lucas tremble at the words, but he brushed down his jeans as if nothing was troubling him.
“It was all right. My mother was a quiet woman, but devout and good in her promises. My sister was…a sister. She was prickly, prudent, protesting, but she stuck up for me, verbally, when I found I was no good at sports.”
“And your father?”
Lucas stared at him blankly.
“Your father, sir? How did he treat you all?”
Lucas breathed in through his nose, the hissing sound alone ringing out in the silence of the consulting office. “Not…well.”
Dr. Morrison eyed the two of them as he crossed his legs over the other way. “Please, Lucas. Do you need me to say it for you?”
“No, no need.” His licked his lips. One of Lucas’ hands snaked out to meet a loose finger of her own. Andrea latched onto Lucas, and he squeezed her hand before closing his eyes and leaning back in his chair. Every moment led to another silence…painful. Finally, the man exhaled.
“Andrea…my father…beat us.”
At these words, Andrea froze. She wanted to take him by more than the hand. She wanted to hold him and tell him that the world would never come to such blows again. Yet, Andrea had decorum, and she wasn’t going to perform for Dr. Morrison. As much as she wanted to take Lucas into her arms and cradle him until his eyes no longer concentrated on the space of the wall, Andrea could do nothing.
Biting her tongue in anger – a surging temper, which came accompanied by her passionate love for him and fear that he might well have gone through an unimaginable darkness once – Andrea squeezed his hand in return, keeping the pressure on so that Lucas could realise everything she had wanted to say.
After a minute, he revived himself, rubbing his thumb along her little finger, clenching his jaw as he tried to unfold his pianist fingers from beyond her close. Andrea held on; she needed him, desperately, to know that she would keep anyone protected. He could use whatever skill of hers, would he only ask.
Dr. Morrison had no heart in person. He possessed none of the care Andrea would have used were Lucas her own patient. He wasn’t, though. She forgot that too frequently. Morrison uncrossed his legs and lowered his head a little so that his eyes were about equal with their own. He might have been an automated machine.
“Tell me what happened. Tell me how he made you feel. Tell me how you wanted to cope.”
Lucas was numb. He shook his hand in one small movement.
“Go on,” Andrea gently persuaded, pushing his left hand so softly that she could have been a light breeze alone. She released it to his pulse.
Lucas pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes pressed together. Without warning, he burst into tears.
“I...hadn’t thought. I didn’t want to remember how he treated Léa and me when we crossed the thousands of lines he made. My father was no evil man...but he did sin….”
“And you repressed it,” Dr. Morrison told him.
“I guess so.”
“You did. I tell you this, as cruel as it might sound, because accepting that you have a problem that stems from the things you have seen is the first step from moving away from this problem.”
“I know I have a problem!” cried Lucas. “My compulsions and obsessions are following on from his carefully-kept house. Even when my mother still lived, I became man of the house. I needed to keep it tidy, to keep it up to scratch as my father had done. I never questioned it. Never.”
He sighed, as if a great weight had just left his chest.
“And you use chastity as a safety net that you won’t turn into your father any further.”
“No!” he cried, looking between the two of them. “Andrea, I’d never do that. That’s not the reason.”
Why was he addressing her? Andrea burned. There it was again.
“Sometimes I wonder,” Dr. Morrison added.
“No…I’ll ponder that later.”
Andrea wished he wouldn’t ponder anything about Lucas at all.
Dr. Morrison folded his arms, ready to take up the infernal clipboard once more. “Now, what I want you to think about, Lucas, is the effect on your actions that those ideas your father conjured up have.” He scratched his nose and blinked slowly.
Lucas spoke in rapid meter as the doctor paused. "It's not that I don't make any effort not to stop myself; I know that what I'm doing is stupid –"
"I prefer the term 'unhelpful'," said Dr. Morrison.
"– but it's really difficult not to give in to the urges; I don't want to put all my mental effort into stopping something that makes me feel better."
Dr. Morrison nodded. "If you don't mind me saying so, Lucas, your childhood altered what we call your 'schema'. You appear to give a natural personality drawn to repetitive or addictive behaviour."
Andrea grabbed Lucas' hand again. "Don't say that!"
“No,” Lucas’ voice was barely audible. “He’s right.”
The nerve in his voice made Andrea’s next remark catch in her throat. She repressed the gasp that wanted to spill out and instead turned to Dr. Morrison. His eyes were blank, but he gave her a look that said as much as that he would be silent until Lucas decided to say anymore.
A good five minutes had passed before looked from his hands to their faces. Still, he said nothing. When his sea-toned eyes washed over Andrea’s, she blushed, but held his gaze, determined.
Eventually – in the slowest time, even – Lucas’ lips parted and he sighed.