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Authors: Gerard Brennan

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BOOK: The Point
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As always, Rachel’s counsellor was running behind schedule. Half an hour past her appointment time and still no sign of life. She flipped through the magazines for another 10 minutes then tossed them back onto the unruly stack of glossies. The receptionist watched her from behind a Perspex panel, eyebrow raised. Rachel tried to make contact.

“Excuse me, is Patrice going to be much longer? Only, if I knew she’d be another half hour I could pop out for a cup of tea and a scone.”

The receptionist frowned.

“I could bring you back a scone too,” Rachel said.

“Patrice is running a little late.”

“Well, yes. That’s pretty evident, since I should be on my way home by now. But I’m asking if it’s likely that she’ll be occupied long enough for me to skip over to The Corn Dolly.”

“It’s hard to tell,” the receptionist said. “And I wouldn’t want to interrupt her. Could be harmful for the, um...”



Rachel flashed a saccharine smile. “I’ll just wait here then, shall I?”

“Yes, please.”

The receptionist nodded and went back to her Marian Keyes novel;
Rachel’s Holiday
, of course.
Chance would be a fine thing,
Rachel thought.

For the next 10 minutes, Rachel sat bolt upright with her arms folded and fixed her gaze on the receptionist. Every time the snooty bitch looked up from her paperback, Rachel gave her the crazy eyes. It passed the time. Finally, Patrice bustled into the waiting room and called Rachel’s name. Rachel, the only ‘client’ in the waiting room looked from left to right and then at Patrice.

“Is Rachel O’Hare here?” Patrice asked the waiting masses again.

Rachel waved. “Yes, I’m over here.”

Patrice squinted over the rim of her rectangular specs and nodded. “Ah, yes. There you are. Follow me, please, Rachel.”

Patrice turned on her sturdy heel and stormed off in a matronly fashion. Very befitting of her physical attributes. Some call it a healthy build. Rachel thought of her as strapping. She could imagine her buxom form squeezed into a mead-stained, low-cut dress designed to keep the medieval patrons of the inn happy. But Patrice was not a serving wench in this life. She was a counsellor. But not just any counsellor: she was the worst counsellor Rachel had ever had the misfortune to meet.

Patrice stood by her desk until Rachel wriggled her bum into the comfy cushioned chair and crossed her ankles. Patrice nodded and settled into her own seat. She leant forward and planted her elbows onto her paper-strewn desk then tented her fingers. Rachel sighed.

“Sorry I kept you waiting, Rachel.” It was said as a matter of form with no real conviction.

“Maybe we should make my appointment an hour later next time. Might put you under less pressure.”

“Out of the question.”



“Right. Well, it’s just that you’ve been an hour late for my last three appointments. Stands to reason the same will happen again next time.”

“Not at all.”

Rachel drew her eyebrows together and pursed her lips. She knew it was an immature, petulant expression, but she couldn’t help it. Patrice tilted her head.

“So how have we been?”

been just peachy, thank you,” Rachel said.

“That sounds promising. Any self-harming?”

“What? No.”

“You seem surprised that I would ask you.”

“Because I’ve never self-harmed before. Why would I start now?”

Patrice eyed her suspiciously then flipped through her file. “Really? I’m sure I remember an incident involving a Stanley blade.”

“There was a Stanley blade incident, but I harmed someone else, not me.”

Patrice looked blankly into the space above Rachel’s head.

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Fourteen-year-old boy tried to mug me in Warrenpoint with a Stanley knife. I kicked him in the crotch, relieved him of the weapon and slashed his clothes. I broke his skin in a number of places. Nothing deep, but technically GBH and the kid’s barrister tried to claim unreasonable force.”

“You slashed a 14-year-old?”

“In fairness, he was armed and almost six feet tall. I didn’t ask him to produce ID. I just protected myself. Adrenaline sent me a wee bit loopy and I tried to teach him a lesson. He wasn’t
or anything.”

“Must have been quite traumatic for him, though.”

was the one getting mugged!”


Rachel took a deep breath. Her temper was slipping her grasp. Of all the places to lose it, a court appointed counselling session was not one of them.

“Have you tried to maim anybody since?”

An image of Sean flashed through her mind. She could almost smell the smouldering shirt. “Isn’t maimed a rather strong description? His
healed without scarring.”

“No physical scarring, anyway.”

“Are you taking the piss?”

“Please mind your language. We’re not on the streets now.”

The comfy, cushioned seat no longer felt comfortable to Rachel. She shifted from cheek to cheek then uncrossed and crossed her legs. Patrice watched her through piggish eyes.

“On the streets?”

Patrice shrugged. “Figure of speech.”

“Ahem.” Rachel checked her watch. “Let’s get on with this cra... this session. I want to get out of here as soon as possible. I’ve already lost my morning. Don’t want to kiss my afternoon goodbye as well.”

Patrice scribbled something into her pad. “You don’t seem to be taking this very seriously.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“Are you, though? As far as I can see, you’re only here because you have to be. I mean, if I were in your shoes, I’d take advantage of the fact that I have somebody to bounce my problems off. This isn’t a punishment, after all. This is a means to rehabilitation.”

“Rehabilitation?” Rachel asked. “Yeah, that’s great. I can see where you’re coming from. Here’s the thing, though. I don’t really want to be rehabilitated of my natural instinct to stand up for myself. If I hadn’t acted aggressively towards my mugger, I could have ended up scarred for life or dead. Seems to me that the law wants me to lie down and take everything these scumbags throw at me. And when they do, they want to run to
and offer psychological evaluation? Well, fucking excuse me, but I’m not having that shite.” She raised her hand. “And don’t tell me to watch my fucking language.”

Patrice fumbled with her notepad. She avoided Rachel’s gaze.

“So where do we go from here, Patrice?”

“What do you mean?”

“You want to rehabilitate me. I don’t want to be rehabilitated. Any chance we can just agree to disagree?”


“I mean, we’re really not going to get anywhere, are we? Seems to me we’re both wasting our time.”

“I hear what you’re saying, but...”

“Do you, though? I’m not convinced. You had me tagged as a self-harmer earlier. I don’t think you have a clue about who I am. How could I ever trust you to help me come to terms with my inner demons when you don’t even know what they are?”

Patrice sagged in her seat. It looked as if she’d shrunk a little bit. “I see a lot of clients... I can’t be expected to...”

“Every time I come here the waiting room is empty. I’m told your last appointment is running over and you’ll soon be with me. Funny thing, though. I never see anybody leave your office before you come and fetch me. Is there a secret passage out of here for your celebrity clients or something? Because I’m beginning to suspect that you’re in here napping, or cruising internet chatrooms, or doing yoga, while I waste my time flipping through old magazines and staring at your bitch receptionist.”

“Rachel, I really must insist that you lower your voice and calm down.”

“Patrice, I really must insist that you tell me the truth. Do you keep me waiting just for the sake of it? Is it some sort of psychological tactic? Or are you just a lazy bitch?”

Rachel knew she had gone too far but she had spent her whole life having her head messed with by social workers and counsellors of varying degrees of competence. After the mugging she’d decided on a zero-tolerance approach to bullshit.

Patrice snatched a Kleenex from the box on her desk and dabbed at her teary, piggy eyes. She cleared her throat, took a deep breath and straightened in her chair. “I think we’ve done enough for the day.”

“That’s good, Patrice. I’ve things to be doing, you know?”


“When’s the next appointment, then?”

Patrice flipped through her leather bound diary. “I think you’ve progressed quite well. I’d suggest we leave the next appointment for about three months. By then, I expect we’ll be able to sign off on the court order and your
will be complete.”

“Aces.” Rachel stood up. “Any chance you could write me a prescription for some happy pills?”

“I’m not a doctor.”

Rachel raised an eyebrow.

“But I can write to your doctor and recommend a course.”

“That’d be grand, Patrice. Thanks.”

Rachel winked at the receptionist on her way past. Things were looking up.


And They’re Off!


Brian drove the Toyota Hiace and Paul drank cider from the bottle in the passenger seat. As a man of modest means, Brian had become accustomed to the smell of alcohol in enclosed spaces, but today it irritated him. The cheap booze smelled like farts and Paul’s farts smelt like diarrhoea. He opened the window as they bombed down the fast lane of the M1.

“You don’t seem very excited, wee bro,” Paul said. “Considering we chose Warrenpoint for you, like.”

“I’m just tired. I’ll be fine when I get there and have time for a wee drink.”

Paul tilted his bottle towards Brian, offering him a sup. Brian wrinkled his nose and shook his head. Paul shrugged.

Less than an hour later and they rolled into a housing estate a million miles away from the built up, redbrick jungles of Belfast. Brian followed the landlord’s directions and came to a halt outside a smart semi-detached house. Skateboard’s and bikes lay about the house next door’s garden. Another house boasted a colourful rockery with seven ceramic dwarfs scattered about it. There was a distinct lack of litter and graffiti.

“Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?” Brian said.

“What did I tell you, wee bro? We’ll be living like kings, now.” Paul twisted the cap back on to his three-quarter-empty bottle of cider. “Want to check out the local pub?”

Brian thought about all the boxes and bags in the back of the van. “Aye. Fuck it. Why not?”



The Local


“Here’s to me and my big dick. Fuck everything else. Suck the back of my balls. Amen.” Paul’s toast boomed across the pub chatter.

BOOK: The Point
5.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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