Tessa leaned back into the plush fabric of the sofa and propped her boots up on the coffee table. Dr. Young’s mouth twitched a little. She was a fastidious little woman in appearance, so Tessa could only imagine how it irked her. But she lived to irk Dr. Young.
“I haven’t seen you for almost a month. What moved you to make your appointment this time?”
“Nothing in particular. Just thought I’d stop in and make sure my brother’s money isn’t being wasted.”
“You could always tell him you no longer need these appointments. I’d be happy to validate that view. If you aren’t a partner in this process there’s no point in our continuing.”
“I’m sorry I missed my last two appointments,” Tessa said. “Are you happy now?”
“It’s not a question of making me happy, Tess. It’s a question of whether or not you’re willing to be here. And if you’re not, I don’t think …”
“I wonder if for once you could express a genuine emotion,” Tessa said. “Just say you were disappointed I didn’t come. If you could do that for me, maybe I’d be more likely to be honest about my emotions as well, Dr. Young.”
The doctor smiled. “Fair enough. I was disappointed you didn’t come in for your last two appointments. I thought we were making some progress talking about your parents, and your brother. I’d hoped we could continue.”
“We can continue,” Tessa said affably.
She looked about the doctor’s office at the carefully neutral décor. Things were selected to look like personal objects but were actually impersonal. The art, the rug—all homey, but probably not at all like Dr. Young’s home. She’d been coming here for over a year, but felt like she knew nothing of this woman, her fifty-something year old shrink.
Trey had insisted on it, thinking that she needed someone as her safe harbor because she was moving to a new city and starting a new life. He was worried she would start messing around with drugs again because she was so far away from him. Her brother worried too much. And the irony was, the biggest stressor in Tessa’s life wasn’t her life, it was the fact that her brother worried about her life.
Trey, who had taken care of her, Tessa now felt like she had to take care of. At least emotionally. His problem was that he loved too much, too hard.
He loved her that way, and he loved his wife, Shayla that way too. Like he would lose it if anything happened to either of them. Whenever she put herself in dangerous situations—and she had done that far too many times to count—Tessa never wondered about her own safety, she wondered instead about how her brother would cope if she were seriously hurt or killed.
“So shall we pick up where ..?”
“I can’t believe you used the word ‘shall’,” Tessa said. “Like in casual conversation. Who does that?”
Dr. Young smiled. “You’re being passive-aggressive. Why?”
Tessa rolled her eyes. “I was just wondering something out loud. How is that aggressive?”
“I think you want to deflect. Not talk about your parents and your brother, so you tried to put the focus back on me.”
“Okay fine. Let’s talk about Trey and my parents again.” Tessa sighed her defeat.
“Or, if it makes you more comfortable, we can talk about why you felt like coming back here today. What’s going on with you, Tess?”
What the hell? The woman was being paid. May as well use her for something useful for a change.
“Lisa, the woman I’m sleeping with asked me to brunch with her and her parents.”
“Ah.” Dr. Young sat forward. “So the relationship is getting serious.”
“No,” Tessa said quickly. “Or at least she’s pretending it isn’t. She’s pretending it’s about Tyson her brother—long story—but I think that’s just a ploy to get me to meet her parents. Which is weird since she’s not even out to them.”
“So maybe she thinks this is a way to connect two important parts of her life, even if the two parts have to remain largely separate in other ways.”
“Exactly!” Tessa let her feet fall to the carpet and sat forward. “A ruse. She’s introducing her girlfriend without saying I’m her girlfriend.”
“Her girlfriend? Hell to the no! That’s my point. All we’re doing is hooking up and now I’m wondering whether she thinks this is some love affair or something. And I am so not down for that.”
“And you’ve told her this?”
“Many times, yeah. But women are complicated. They say one thing, mean another.”
“You’re a woman. Do you say one thing and mean another?”
Tessa looked at her doctor. “No … sometimes maybe, but …”
“So Lisa may justifiably think you’re saying you don’t want a relationship but don’t actually mean it.”
Tessa leaned back. “Oh my god, Dr. Young. I think you just earned your fee!”
The doctor smiled. “It’s just a theory.”
“No! I think you might be right. There is no way I should go to this brunch. What if she thinks I’m on some hard-to-get shit?”
“Is that something else women do?” Dr. Young asked.
“Ye-ah,” Tessa said.
“You have very fixed stereotypes about female behavior, Tess. Have you ever wondered why?”
“No, because they’re not stereotypes. They’re opinions formed from personal experience.”
“And in your personal experience, are all women alike?”
“Of course not.”
“Then those views are stereotypes. Do you see why?”
Tessa spread her arms across the back of the sofa. “Sometimes it’s exhausting talking to you, y’know that?”
“Because of that – how so? The incessant questions.”
“Would you prefer I provide answers?”
“Yes, I really, really would.”
Dr. Young smiled yet again. “Only you have those, I’m afraid.”
Tessa shrugged. “Well then I’m going to tell my brother he’s wasting his money,” she said, concealing her smile.