Authors: Jennah Scott
Tags: #Young Adult
I sat in one of the chairs and cupped my face in my hands. Stacey squatted in front of me, balancing herself with her hands on my thighs. “Honestly, I don’t know. The only thing I know right now is I can’t go home. If I do, I’m not sure I won’t end up in the hospital.”
Stacey’s face went blank. “Your dad?” she whispered.
“No, my stepfather. My dad is dead.” My voice was harsh and angry, but no one, especially Dave, would ever replace my father.
Dr. Greenberg walked into the reception area ending our conversation. “Luke,” she said with a short nod then addressed Stacey, “I need you to clear my calendar for the day. When Mr. Sullivan and I are done I will need to speak with you as well.” Dr. Greenberg turned on her toes and returned to her office. I didn’t need a verbal command to know I was to follow. The fact that she’d requested her appointments be cancelled served as warning enough. Dr. G stood in the doorway waiting for me to come in. As I crossed into her office, a whoosh of air passed behind me when the door swung closed.
“Tell me what happened yesterday.” She held up a hand to stop me. “Don’t say you don’t know. I already know you forget whatever happens in the heat of the moment. I want to know everything up to it.”
I retold the same story I’d told Officer Belmont the day before. Dr. Greenberg listened with an intensity I’d not seen before, her notes erratic and short. Once finished I clasped my hands and rested them in my lap. For what seemed like hours Dr. Greenberg stayed silent. She began tapping her pencil on the desk. At first the rhythm was soothing, that didn’t last long and the tap, tap, tap grated on my nerves. Unable to handle the quiet any longer I stood and started pacing the office. Back and forth I walked, ran my hands through my hair, and clutched my stomach. Stress and hunger pains threatened to send me to the floor, but I persisted and paced longer.
A faint rap on the door brought me to a standstill. “Get that.” Dr. Greenberg instructed.
I pulled it open to see Stacey with a plastic bag of take out, Chinese of course. I wasn’t sure when she’d put in the order, or how she knew what I’d like. Nonetheless, the food was there and I didn’t wait to eat. Dr. Greenberg smiled for the first time that day watching me.
After I finished my meal and Stacey cleared everything out, Dr. Greenberg got down to business. “Here’s the deal,” she said. “We know IED makes you act out in ways you normally wouldn’t. To help you cope, I need to know what your triggers are. Not just what brings on the rage, but how you feel right before you blank.”
My forehead creased in confusion. “How I feel? What do you mean, how I feel? I feel like a normal person.”
Dr. Greenberg shook her head and let out a sigh. Her shoulders slumped forward. She was a model professional, her posture always perfect, she never seemed quite real to me. Guilt weighed down on me, I was at fault for her stress—or frustration—whatever it was.
“Luke, I need you to think. Think about how you felt, not what happened.”
I scooted to the edge of the couch, my elbows on my knees, chin in my hands and closed my eyes. I concentrated on the moment just before my memory faded. Nothing, not a damn thing. “I can’t think of anything out of the ordinary.”
“That’s fine. I wasn’t expecting you to remember anything. Here’s what I want you to do over the next few days. Pay close attention to your emotions and the way your body reacts. Do your muscles tense when you start to get angry? Does your heart beat faster? Do you feel any tingling?”
I tilted my chin down, but remained quiet. Dr. Greenberg stood from her chair and walked around to the phone sitting on the other end of her desk. She picked up the receiver and dialed a four-digit number. “Stacey, yes, please come back to my office.”
“So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” I asked and advanced to the door. If she’d asked Stacey to come in then it was time to go.
“Yes, you still have your appointment tomorrow. Luke, where are you going now?”
My head dropped, she’d asked the one question I had no answer to. “I don’t know, Doc. It’s on my list of things to figure out. You have any suggestions?”
“Not off the top of my head, but please don’t hesitate to come back here if you need anything. Ever. You understand?”
“Yes, ma’am. I understand.” I left her office with no clue what to do next.
“Hey Luke, can you wait a minute?” Stacey asked when I made the turn to the front door.
I turned towards her. “Sure, it’s not like I’ve got anywhere to go.”
“Great. I’ve got a break in five minutes. I want to talk to you.”
Rather than sit down just to get up again I stood in front of her desk and relaxed against the cold granite. Stacey came back after talking to Dr. Greenberg, locked her computer, pulled the earpiece from around her ear, and did something to the phones. Then she grabbed her purse and walked around the front to my side.
“Come on. Dr. Greenberg gives me a couple of fifteen-minute breaks a day. I haven’t taken one yet, so I’ll combine them and take thirty. I already told her I was leaving.” She slid her arm through mine and tugged me outside.
“Where are you going now?”
Not Stacey too. She was the last person I wanted to tell about my lack of a place to stay. “I’ll crash with a friend, until I can make nice with Dave.”
She lifted her eyes and shook her head. “I tell ya what, why don’t you crash at my place. I’ve got an extra room and your company would be nice.”
My jaw dropped. This would put her in a dangerous territory and risk her job. I had no idea why she’d be willing to take that chance for me. I mean, I didn’t want to pass up a chance like this, but hell, if something happened I’d never forgive myself.
“Stace, that’s nice and all, but I don’t want you risking your job for me.”
Stacey forced out a puff of air and placed her hands on her hips. “Luke Sullivan, I know you don’t have anywhere to go. I’ve spent enough time with you to know that. I also know that even though you refuse to talk about Dave, there’s something going on at home. You won’t be making nice with him any time soon. Now don’t argue with me.” She slapped a key in the palm of my hand. “Take my key and go to my apartment. I am risking my job because I worry about you. That’s my decision not yours. Now deal with it. Go to my place and shower. You reek. I’ll be there around five-thirty or so and we can talk more then.”
That wasn’t the first time I’d seen Stacey take control over a situation, but it was the first time it’d turned me on. Her cheeks were red with anger and her foot tapped the concrete in a rapid beat. I almost laughed, but kept it back knowing she’d be even more pissed off if I did. Not able to resist her I nodded and took directions to her apartment.
Stacey glanced over her shoulder, back at me. “Oh and Luke, you’re right, this could mean my job. Please don’t tell Dr. Greenberg.”
I drove home, and for once luck worked in my favor. No one was there. An hour later I went back to the office. It didn’t feel right to go to Stacey’s by myself, I felt like an intruder. So I figured I’d wait and follow her to the apartment. I ran my finger across the screen of my phone and sent her a text, “I’m here…waiting for u.”
She came back with a quick response, “No, go to my place.”
“Not happening, I’ll be out front. See you in a while.” I texted back and tossed my phone into the passenger seat. While I waited for her I tilted my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes. The knock on the window startled me awake. I punched the down button and Stacey stuck her head through the window.
She pointed ahead of us. “At the stoplight up the road take a left, follow that about a mile, take a right at the next light and you’ll see my complex on the left. I’ll be in front of you, but just in case we get separated, I’m building five apartment one ten.”
“That’s fine. I’ll wait here for you.”
When Stacey pulled around in her lime green VW bug I put my car in gear and stayed as close as I could. Her apartment wasn’t far, and I knew the area pretty well. Stacey called me on the way over to tell me where to park, she had two designated spots and I pulled in next to her when we arrived.
Her apartment was small with two bedrooms. The front room had a second hand couch and one of those round chairs you got for dorm rooms and barely enough room to walk around them. The TV was a flat-screen and hung on the front wall. On either side Stacey had shelves of DVDs. Off to the left side of the living room was her kitchen. It was big enough for someone to turn around. I knew if the two of us tried to do anything together we’d spend more time bumping into each other than getting shit done. Then again, that wasn’t a bad idea either. The chance to touch her, even if on accident, made me hard as a rock.
She told me the spare room was furnished since her brother crashed there on occasion. Everything had a sweet smell that wrinkled my nose. Stacey laughed when I asked what the hell it was.
“It’s the air freshener I use. I like it, so you’re going to have to deal with it.”
She directed me to my new, temporary room. The hall was narrow and the carpet was a nasty tan shag. “Stacey, when was this place built, the nineteen sixties?”
“I don’t know, why do you ask?”
“I just wondered if they had any plans to replace the shag.”
“Doubt it. The rent is cheap though, so it doesn’t bother me much. You want something to drink?” She hollered from the kitchen.
I came back into the living room. “What do you have?”
She peered in to the fridge. “Hmm, let’s see. Coke, coke, oh and look there, more coke.”
I chuckled, “Well, I guess I’ll have coke then.”
Stacey handed me the drink and I caught her wrist when she turned to move away. “I promise I’ll find a way to pay you for letting me stay here. It shouldn’t be longer than a week, but I’ll help out as much as I can.”
“Luke, you don’t have to worry about anything. If it’s longer than a week then so be it. I’m looking for a roomie. If I have a non-rent paying one for a while I’m fine with that. It’ll be cool having someone here rather than being alone.”
I wrenched my fingers through my hair. “Fine.” For now.
She plopped onto the couch and her feet bounced up. I sat in some feathery hot pink chair and looked up to see Stacey grinning at me, trying to keep back a laugh.
I glanced around the room. “You know, your place looks more like a dorm room than an apartment.”
“Yeah I know, but I’m not here enough to give a damn. Between work and school, the only time I’m home is to sleep.” She flipped through the regularly night shows a couple of times then threw the remote to me. “You pick. I’m too tired.”
I ran through the channels, all five of them, multiple times before setting the remote on the coffee table and eyeing her DVD collection. “You ever heard of Netflix?”
“Ha ha, you’re a riot you know. Of course I’ve heard of Netflix. What you’re looking at is pre-Netflix and my favorites. I buy the ones I love.”
“You’ve got to have over a hundred movies here,” I said while squatted in front of one of the three shelves.
“Yep…cheaper than cable.”
“Do you even know what you own?” I pulled out one of the many still wrapped in plastic.
“Of course I do.”
“Fine, name ten movies.”
Stacey stretched on the couch, her head on the armrest and arm draped over the top. She closed her eyes then rattled off ten movies. Of course, they were all there, and I was pretty sure they were her top ten favorite movies.
I shook my head and chose a movie. Stacey pointed to the DVD remote, I settled in, and before I knew it I was asleep in the chair. A creaking sound woke me. I had the pleasure of looking into Stacey’s smooth blue eyes. I raised a hand to touch her cheek, but pulled back at the last moment.
“Come on sleepy head, I ordered pizza.”
“We just had pizza the other day.” My voice rasped from sleep and I cleared my throat.
“I know, and it was the best pizza ever. So I went and picked up some for dinner. Now, are you going to stay in that chair, or are you going to eat with me?” Stacey sat down in one of the folding chairs at the card table she used as a kitchen table.
I stood and lifted my arms over my head to stretch, keeping an eye on Stacey to see if she’d notice my shirt riding up. In general I wasn’t much of a tease and didn’t care what people thought when it came to how I looked. But I wanted her to notice me.
When her breath caught, making her choke on her pizza, I bit back a laugh.
Stacey took another bite, her eyes glued to me. I felt the burn from her stare on my chest. “I’d really like to get out of these clothes, mind if I take my shirt off before I eat?”
She coughed and shook her head. When the coughing didn’t stop she placed the slice of pizza on the plate in front of her and beat on her chest. This time I didn’t keep back my chuckle, but walked over to her and helped.
“Umm, no I don’t mind.” Stacey finally said, but she averted her gaze from me when I sat down and picked up a piece of my own.
I ate a few slices of pizza, noting how Stacey tried to inconspicuously watch me. I inched closer so my knee rested against hers, thankfully she didn’t move away. I slid my hand onto her thigh, just above her knee, and paused to see how she’d react. Stacey didn’t flinch or tense. Taking it as a good sign I moved my hand a little higher. This time she flinched and I pulled away.
“Luke,” Stacey breathed in deep.
I placed a finger against her lips. “Don’t. I won’t do anything you don’t want to.” I kissed two fingers and placed them on her cheek. “I’m going to go get a shower then head to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.” A cold shower.