Untitled. Kinda edited. Subject to change.
“Well you’re looking better. Are you sleeping?”
Dr. Cohen placed a mug underneath the spout of a Keurig coffeemaker and waited for the hot, aromatic Colombian blend to dispense. When the machine finished, she carefully walked it across the room and handed it to Yvette, seated on a cream colored microfiber couch. Yvette took the mug and sipped a bit off the top, then placed it on a coaster on the glass coffee table in front of her.
Yvette saw Paula infrequently,which was about as much as she could handle. Sometimes monthly, sometimes more often, especially around the times of year when she would have expected to be with Jason, celebrating one thing or another. His birthday. Or hers. Holidays. Valentine’s Day. The anniversary of the day they met. The day he proposed.
The day he died.
Paula was Yvette’s secret weapon, in every sense of the word. Only Malik knew that Yvette saw her. Not even her parents knew that she’d been in therapy for nearly two years. Yvette had no idea if she was making progress. If the goal was to never need therapy again, she was nowhere near cured.
“Kind of. I had a case that kept me out late and when I did get to sleep…” Yvette sighed, reaching for the mug again, taking a sip of steaming brew.
“Do you still dream about him?” At her nod, Paula sat back and crossed one leg over the other. Her black pencil skirt rode up, revealing toned, caramel thighs. Also ex-Army, Paula still kept up her exercise regimen– five miles at dawn, strength training and kickboxing on alternate evenings and bike rides on the weekends. She could jump into uniform and return to duty tomorrow if they asked her to.
“Is it the same dream?” She asked quietly.
“No,” said Yvette, shaking her head. “It’s a different dream, but it’s still about him. Last night, we were, for some reason, working together. We were clearing a building. It seemed to be empty, but then I heard…. something. Footsteps. I remember turning to say something to Jason and he was gone. His gun, his uniform, his boots, his cap… everything was on the ground in front of me and I could hear the footsteps coming closer…”
Yvette inhaled a deep breath and sipped more coffee. “I made myself wake up. The footsteps turned out to be Yancey stomping down the stairs from his room. I swear, for someone so skinny he walks like he’s carrying a twenty pound backpack with ten pound boots on.”
Paula laughed at that. Yvette laughed too. “So, what do you think this latest dream means? What feelings does it bring about for you?”
Yvette shrugged a non-answer. She knew exactly what the dream meant, what her subconscious was trying to tell her. Admitting it… accepting it… wasn’t something she was ready to do. It would involve letting Jason go a little bit more and she’d already done so much letting go.
“Come on… we don’t do ‘I don’t know’ here.” Paula smiled from the chair directly across from her. “I’m not going to force you to do anything you’re not ready to do, but I do want you to talk to me.”
Yvette pushed up from the couch and walked around to the window behind it. The view was the brick wall of the building next door, but the rays of sun beaming through the glass warmed her. She rubbed her arms, leaning against the window.
“Well… I could look at it two ways. In one way, I feel abandoned. I feel like he went off to war and he left me here and I have to do this… this… everything without him…” Yvette swallowed hard, before the tears she felt coming could swell and spill down her cheeks.
“What’s the second theory?”
“That… that uh… that he’s gone. And that I need to figure out how to face life and everything else without him. Cause he’s not here to have my back or help me through it.”
“Have you had any of the other kind of dreams? The ones you were having when you first came to me?”
That had been almost two years ago. The dreams were so vivid, they made her feel crazy. She was never sure if she was awake or asleep, if they were real or a figment of her imagination. If Jason was really there and really talking to her– but then she’d wake up and in the split second between sleep and awake, she would remember… It was like losing him all over again.
Yvette shook her head ‘no’ in answer to Paula’s question. “He doesn’t visit me anymore. I guess I shouldn’t say that. He was never visiting me. I was just crazy.”
“We don’t use the word crazy here, Vette. You know that. Come over here. Sit down. I need to see the whites of your eyes when we’re talking.”
Yvette pushed off of the window and slowly ambled back toward the couch, plopping down in the middle of it, in a slouch. “Can we talk about non-Jason topics for a minute? I’m feeling overwhelmed.”
“Sure. How is the agency going? Are you still working with Malik a lot?”
Yvette shot up at the mention of Malik. “I don’t want to talk about him, either. That punk. Sniffing around his dead friend’s fiance, like that’s perfectly acceptable behavior.”
“Because… because Jason just die–” She shook her head, trying to clear it. Jason didn’t just die. He’d been gone for almost three years now. “I just think it’s wrong. Next subject.”
“Okay.” Paula chuckled. “How is the family?”
“Everybody’s good, you know? Family is good. Yancey’s spoiled ass is still on my last damn nerve. How my very ambitious parents ended up with a kid like him…” Yvette huffed a breath of frustration. “And it’s like they love it. They don’t even see how they’re not helping him be a responsible adult.”
“What do you think is behind that? Their babying of him.”
It was Yvette’s turn to chuckle. “They were trying not to make another me, I guess. Someone who felt like she needed to go out in the world and risk her life for Uncle Sam. Every time I had to travel to some war torn country for a case, Mama needed a phone call every day. Every. day. to reassure her that I had not died.”
“That’s a tough load to carry. But you managed.”
“Yeah. But they’re not trying to repeat that with Yancey. He’ll still be living there when he’s forty. Maybe he’ll marry a girl and they’ll both live in his pig-sty of a room.” Or maybe they would kick Yvette out and let their golden boy have the apartment. The thought made her seethe.
“Work. Well. The agency is going okay. I’m not hurting for cases. I’m not a millionaire, either. Between Nia and I we stay busy but…” Yvette leaned forward, arms on her elbows, and pushed out a puff of air, expanding her cheeks. “I’m bored, Doc. I’m just… bored.”
“Bored? How could investigating cheating spouses ever be boring?”
“It’s really not that exciting. Hours and hours of sitting. Listening to audio books. Eating sugar and sucking down coffee trying to stay awake, waiting for some man to come out of some place. I feel like if you have to go to the lengths of spending the kind of money that I charge to prove your spouse is cheating… man, save the time and money and file a quickie divorce.”
“Worked for me,” Paula quipped, with a shrug. She brushed a lock of hair from a side swept bang out of her eyes. “But sometimes people want to be proven wrong. And they’ll do whatever they need to do, pay whatever they need to pay to tell themselves their hunches were incorrect. That it wasn’t lipstick on his collar. That the perfume you smell isn’t a brand you wear. That he seems sexually satisfied, and you know that feeling didn’t come from you.”
“I guess. I mean… that’s why I’m in business. Maybe I’ll expand to some different kinds of cases.”
“We’re not going the bail bondsman route again. Your mother will kill you herself.”
That made Yvette laugh. Paula laughed with her, then glanced at her watch. “A few minutes left,” she gently urged. “Anything you want to chat about?”
Yvette cringed, unable to meet Paula’s gaze. She clasped her hands and squeezed them together until her knuckles turned red. “I might have… had a… small argument with Malik today. He said something about waiting a year to push up on me and… I just… it made me feel… I don’t know. I know you hate that phrase, but I just… don’t know.”
“You feel like it’s cheating on Jason. And maybe you’re confused because if the situation were different, you might accept Malik’s advances.”
“Maybe. I’m… I’m just not ready.”
“I understand. And I’m sure Malik does, too. He calls me from time to time, to check on you.”
Yvette’s eyes widened and she sat up, ramrod straight. “He what? And what do you tell him?”
“I can’t tell him anything. Doctor-patient confidentiality. He knows that. I think he just wants to reassure himself that you’re in good hands. And you are.”
Paula grinned, then pushed herself up from the chair and opened her arms. Yvette fell into them, wrapping her arms around the woman who’d been as much of a friend as a therapist. After a few comforting moments, both women pulled back. Paula gripped Yvette by the forearm.“See you again, sooner than later, I hope?”
“Yeah. I’ll try. The talking helps. And I’ve got to start putting more of these these Veteran benefits to work.”