You Are My Home

This is not a good start to the day

GENRE: Romance/Angst, suitable for 15+ due to language and situations

Roberta is an addict who has a dark history involving abuse. When she meets Josh it sets into motion things that she is unprepared for, namely love. Unbeknownst to her Josh has awoken something within her that she didn’t think she was capable of but when her walls come tumbling down she makes some devastating decisions that affect them both. Will she be able to find her way back home to the love that Josh has offered her?

Chapter 1

I’m making dinner for us when he comes in. I try to cook early because he never eats at school. He immediately walks over to me and wraps his arms around my waist, kissing me softly along my neck. My breathing hitches at his gentle touch.

“How did things go today?” he whispers, his stubble tickling me and sending shivers across my skin.

“It went well. And you… how was your day?” I ask softly, trying to maintain my poker face.

“Um. It was interesting,” he says leaning back against the counter.

“Can you set the table? Dinner is almost ready?”

He doesn’t say anything for a minute, “Sure. Is everything alright?”

“Of course. I told you before, you worry too much.”

He watches me for a moment and then proceeds to set the table. I feel his eyes on me even though I’m not looking at him. I can feel his concern. He knows something isn’t right but I don’t think he comprehends just how wrong it really is. As we sit down to eat I try to wrap my head around what it is I’m doing, not a 100% sure I can actually follow through with my plan.

“I saw my dad today,” he says as I move the food around my plate.

I nod, not looking up at him, “For what?” I say to my food.

“I asked how I could get access to my trust,” he says softly. I’m sure he is waiting for my argument but it doesn’t come. I’m not going to fight with him. “He said he would see what he can do. I just thought it would be good to find out. You know, just in case.”

I sigh. “It’s not necessary. You don’t need to worry about taking care of me anymore.”

“They hired you back?”

“Baby, can we not talk about it right now,” I say as I put my fork down, suddenly not very hungry at all. “I don’t feel good. I think I am going to lie down,” I say as I get up from the table, setting my plate on the counter.

I walk into the bedroom, taking my jeans off as I lay on the bed. I need to gather my thoughts together. He walks in a few minutes later and pulls his shirt off then slips into the bed behind me. He doesn’t say anything; he just pulls me into his arms, breathing softly into my hair. I can feel tears in my eyes and I know I need to tread carefully here.

“Is everything alright?” he asks concerned.

“It will be,” I mumble to myself.

“Josh?” I swallow hard, “You know that I love you right?”

“Of course.” His voice is somewhat shaky, making me nervous.

“So you know there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I just wanted to make sure that no matter what happens you know that I have loved you from the day we met. No one has ever cared about me the way you have. No one has ever loved me the way you have. I was nothing without you and I will be nothing if we are ever to part,” I say fighting back the tears.

“Baby, what’s going on?” he says as he moves me so that I am lying on my back.

“Nothing… Just kiss me, please.” I reach for him, pulling him close to me, wanting desperately to feel his lips on mine. “I love you, so much.”

He is breathing hard now, “I love you too, baby. What happened today?”

“Josh, I…” I close my eyes, I can’t look at him. I take a few slow breaths in and then open my eyes again. He is staring at me with such fear and worry that I am momentarily startled by it.

“I will be able to explain better tomorrow okay. Tonight…” I hesitate, taking another breath, “Tonight, I just want to make love to you. I want to feel you close to me. I want to fall asleep in your arms and wake up with you wrapped around me.”

He watches as tears fall down my cheeks. “You’ll talk to me about it tomorrow?”

My heart sinks into my stomach and I nod, “You’ll understand tomorrow. Please, Josh. Kiss me,” I beg.

He brings his mouth to mine and I cry against him. I move my fingers all along his back, feeling his back loosen and shift under my touch. I gently bring my fingers around the waistband of his jeans, unbuttoning them slowly. He stops kissing me, taking the hem of my shirt and lifting it up and off. I wiggle out of my panties as he slips his jeans and boxers off, tossing them on the floor.

“I love you,” I whisper as I push him on his back, straddling him, “I will always love you.”

“I love you too.”

He closes his eyes and his mouth parts slightly as soft moans slip through his lips. I know that nothing will ever compare to making love to him. I know that I will never feel this way again, I will never know love again. This I am certain of. I gradually move my hands down his chest, memorizing every single inch of his glorious body, committing to my brain forever every beautiful sound that escapes his luscious mouth and every delicious sensation my body feels whenever we are connected in this way.

“Josh,” I whisper reverently.

He opens his eyes and they are sad, I am making him that way. I can’t do that anymore. He is perfect. Not just physically but emotionally and intellectually. I can’t be the one who brings this sadness out of him. He watches me, his breathing is erratic and I can feel his heart beating fast under my fingertips. He gets a determined look on his face as he sits up slowly, pulling me close to him, kissing me with such passion that I have second thoughts about what I am about to do. But for once in my life I need to do something that doesn’t benefit me. I need to do this for him. I love him with all my heart and soul, he is my world and for the first time in my messed up life I actually know what love feels like. And with that knowledge comes the stark realization that love sometimes requires sacrifice and that if you truly love someone you will make that sacrifice willingly. It’s time for me to ante up.

“I love you, Josh,” I say as our bodies move in a slow rhythm with one another, sensing that our time is short but wanting it to last a lifetime.

Chapter 2

“I think I am going to stay home today,” he says as we sit at the counter drinking coffee.

“You can’t Josh. You have classes. You have missed too much time already because of me. Besides I have things to do today.”

“And, we’ll talk when I get home?” he asks as he takes a deep breath.

I offer him a small smile. Not wanting to say too much.

“You’re not mad at me are you?” when I look at him quizzically he clarifies, “For going to see my dad yesterday.”

I sigh, “You did what you thought was right?”

“But you don’t think it was?” He has a panicked look on his face.

I motion for him to come to me. “I love you Josh.”

I kiss him again moving my hands into his hair so that I can deepen our kiss. I can’t seem to separate from him. When we finally break away from each other I hold him tightly to me, whispering I love you over and over again. He needs to know this. And I need to know that without a doubt my love for him is true. He looks at me and takes a deep breath before getting up and grabbing his backpack. He leans over to kiss me gently and once again I deepen the kiss. After several minutes he pulls away from me slightly.

“I’ll see you later,” he says against my lips.

“I love you.”

He smiles sweetly at me. “I love you too,” he says as he kisses me softly on the lips again and walks out the door.

The minute the doors close I am overcome with sadness and despair. I drop to the floor, sobbing uncontrollable tears. I never thought I could feel this amount of pain and sorrow. This is worse than all the times I was beaten, worse than when I realized my mom didn’t love me, worse than what I felt when my dad died, and ten times worse than what I felt after meeting his parents. Now I understand why people kill themselves. I get it now. I could do it. But I won’t because I deserve to live and feel this pain for the rest of my life. Killing myself would be the easy way out for me. I don’t deserve that. I deserve to suffer.

I close my eyes for a few minutes, numbing myself from the pain and then stand up, walking back to our bedroom, grabbing my bag out of the closet. I pack my clothes quickly, snatching my toiletry bag from the bathroom. I stare at the pictures on the wall for a long time and finally just grab the one of him from the shore placing it carefully in my bag. I shouldn’t bring it but I need something to tell me that he was real, that I didn’t just imagine him and the way he made me feel. I need to know that what I lost existed in the first place, a reminder that I was unworthy of him. I bring my bag into the living room and pick up my scrabble game, the picture of my dad and I and The Departed. I left instructions for Abigail for what to do with everything else. I checked her schedule yesterday so I know she won’t be in until late afternoon so I will be able to drop off her letter without any complications.

I stand at the door looking around. Everywhere is Josh and I. I can see him picking his two pictures, the way his brow furrowed when he contemplated his decision. I can see him holding me close on the couch, I can hear his laugh at the unusual words I came up with during our scrabble match and I can see him making love to me. We have made love everywhere in this apartment and I feel him everywhere. Tears start to fall down my cheeks and I quickly wipe them away. I take a deep breath and look around one last time. This is Josh, this is home.

“Goodbye baby,” I say softly as I turn around, locking the door behind me.

I have already been to the bank to clear out my account and have just come from the hospital. Of course the hospital was a little more complicated than I had initially anticipated after my incident with Miguel yesterday. Security actually escorted me out. But I was able to leave the envelope for Abigail. She is going to be really angry with me. I just hope she forgives me at some point. She is truly one of the best people I know.

I am sitting in front of Dr. Monclair’s office building. This is the part I was dreading the most. I take a deep breath, looking at the envelope on the seat next to me. This is it! I get out of my car and head upstairs. I checked her schedule yesterday and know she doesn’t have a client this hour as it’s her administrative time for charting. That is more than enough time. I enter her office and smile at her receptionist.

“I need a few minutes of Dr. Monclair’s time. Can you tell her Roberta Walker is here to see her?”

She smiles and calls her while I have a seat in one of her chairs. All those times I sat in these chairs, dreading seeing her and it turned out that she was one of the few people to actually know me and not look down afterwards. I am staring at the floor, my head between my legs, praying that I can do this without breaking down, when she walks in I know that prayer is futile.

“Roberta, what a pleasant surprise,” she says until she sees my expression and she shifts immediately into psychologist mode, “Come on back.”

The minute I step into her office I am flooded with so many memories. So few people in my life have ever gotten close to me but she did. I remember Josh saying she defended me when his dad was so angry. It was the first time anyone ever really stood up for me. I walk to the window immediately, trying to get my bearings as I look outside.

“What’s going on Roberta?” she says with concern. Geez, I am no longer Ms. Walker to her. I am Roberta. She doesn’t see me as a patient anymore. I feel tears coming down my cheeks but I don’t wipe them away. Why bother?

“I’m leaving,” I say to the window.

“What do you mean?” she queries, “You are leaving or you and Josh are leaving?”

I take a steady breath, wiping my tears as I turn around to face her trying desperately to hold on to the mask of indifference I have on my face right now.

“I’m leaving,” I say decisively.

“I see. How does Josh feel about that?” she says it calmly but I can hear the panic in her voice.

“He doesn’t know I’ve left.” Hold it together Walker. You are almost done.

“You’re not saying goodbye to him?” she says and I can see that her breathing has changed. She gets up and walks over to me quickly. “What happened?” she says, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“I’m what happened. This isn’t about him it’s about me being too messed up for him. I can already see that he is blinded by his love for me. So much so that he is putting my needs before his. He can’t have a future with me. I know you see it as well.”

She is just shaking her head; her eyes are moist and it looks like she’s about to cry, as she squeezes on my shoulder. I step back from her. I can’t have her touch me. It’s too personal. I won’t be able to do this if she does.

“Yes, you do. You said it yourself. Our relationship is unhealthy.” I need to be resolute here.

“I…I didn’t say that Roberta.” I see tears forming in her eyes, “Please, don’t do this.”

“You know as well as I do that I’m not good for him. He’s prepared to quit school and ride me off into some delusional sunset that you and I both know does not exist. I can’t be responsible for that. I can’t,” I say indignant, getting my strength back.

“There has to be another way. Let’s just talk this through,” she says desperately.

I shake my head and hand her the envelope. She looks at it with a confused expression on her face. “What’s this?”

“I wrote him a letter. I tried to explain why this is necessary but I need you to give it to him. I don’t want him to be alone when he reads it. I trust you. I know you will take care of him. You will be able to help him see that this is a good thing. That he can now be free of all my drama, all my craziness, and he can be with someone worthy of his love. You can help him,” I say determinedly but my voice does start to break by the end. I need to finish this before I can’t make it out of here.

She is just staring at the envelope, shaking her head. “Please don’t make me do this. I won’t.”

“I’m leaving whether you do it or not. The question is whether he will be alone when he finds out or whether he will have support around him. Please, I’m begging you, don’t let him be alone when he finds out I’m gone.”

“Please Roberta. You need to rethink this,” she pleads.

“No, I have thought this through. It’s the right thing to do. He won’t think so right now but it is,” I say softly, my willpower waning.

“I thought you loved him?” she barely whispers.

My calm mask shifts and I start crying, “You think this is easy?” I shout through my sobs. “This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. You think I don’t recognize that the only person who will ever love me is Josh. That I will never love again. Do you think I don’t know that my life is meaningless now? That there is no point to my existence!”

I close my eyes and slide down the glass window, crying anguished tears, my sobs echoing in the room. I know that my life is over; that there is nothing good in it. I thought she would understand. I can hear her talking near me but I can’t make out what she’s saying. It’s all white noise. I know what I need to do, one final thing. I take the bracelet off my wrist and hand it to her.

Now she starts crying. “Oh God! No, Roberta, No. Please… Oh God! No. Please don’t do this.”

She snatches my hand back and puts the bracelet inside it, gripping my hand tightly around it.

“I can’t bring that to him. It will kill him. Do you understand that, it will kill him!” She is talking quickly and crying uncontrollably. “Please you need to keep it. Please, Roberta. I can’t… I…”

I stare at her and nod, slipping the bracelet in my pocket. My heart and head are aching. I can feel the numbness creeping over me. I wipe my eyes and stand up, taking several deep breaths in and out.

“Thank you Dr. Monclair. I will never forget what you’ve done for me. That you never judged me even when you found out I was in love with your son.”

“Roberta… Please, stay, let’s talk about this.” She puts her head down, “You are going to destroy him.”

“I’m setting him free,” I say holding back tears.

I start walking to the door and stop with my hand on the knob, turning around. She is standing by the window. She is looking down but I can tell that her makeup is smeared on her face. She is gripping the letter in her hand over her heart and breathing hard.

“Can you tell Mr. Castera something for me?” I say as she looks up at me and nods, “Can you tell him that I loved Josh enough to leave?”

Now it’s her turn to slide down the window. I hear her sobbing as I walk out the door. I run to my car as quickly as I can, slamming the door, throwing my head against the back of my seat, trying desperately to get a hold of the pain I’m feeling inside. The flood of tears I tried so hard to hold back is now coming full force as I turn my car on. I shut my phone off and peel out of the parking lot faster than is safe. I don’t know where I am going but I don’t really care. My life, my heart, my soul is now behind me. I am nothing.

Chapter 3

I have been driving for more than 12 hours straight. I had jumped on Interstate 84 because it was the largest interstate and then shifted to the 90. I don’t know why. My car just turned at the sign that said Interstate 90. Then when I gassed up I bought a map because I couldn’t just drive aimlessly. At that point I realized I could take this highway straight through to Chicago. Chicago could work, I could get lost there. That is a big city, lots of hospitals and they would probably hire me on the spot. That’s one of the advantages of graduating from the University of Southern California, the alumni association is phenomenal.

I glance at my phone. It’s still off but I am aching to turn it on. I want to call him so bad. To make sure he is okay. I’m hoping that Dr. Monclair is still with him. I know he’s probably upset but I don’t know. I have a bad feeling, like he’s worse than I thought he would be. I glance at my fuel gauge and sigh. I need to stop at the next town. I pass a sign that says 10 miles to Billings, Montana. Where the hell is that? God! I am in the middle of nowhere. Well, I will get off there anyway. God I hope it isn’t one of those tiny little towns I keep passing.

When I pull up to Billings I am surprised. Damn! Billings is kind of big. Who would have known? I gas up at a local gas station. It’s after midnight. I glance at my phone again. Fuck it! I need to know. I turn it on quickly, ignoring the alerts telling me I have new text and voice messages. I dial his number quickly. I glance around and see a Native couple gassing up their truck. He is laughing at something she says to him and I can’t help but smile. He looks like Miquel but with long hair in a neat braid, except I don’t know, he is not giving off that asshole vibe that Miquel always gives off. Josh answers on the fourth ring.

“Baby, where are you?” he says panicked.

I don’t say anything. I can’t. I start breathing in and out quickly. My stomach immediately starts fluttering and my heart is aching, longing for him.

“Baby, I love you. Please come home. You can’t leave me.”

Oh God! I start crying instantly.

“Baby, please. Where are you? I need you. I can’t live without you.”

I shouldn’t have called. I’m making it worse. “I needed to know that you were okay. I needed to hear your voice. I’m sorry Josh,” I say gaining temporary control of my emotions.

“Then come home. We can work this out. Please, baby, don’t go.”

“I need to Josh. You don’t realize how bad I am for you.”

God! He still doesn’t get it. Now I hear him crying on the other end. I close my eyes, willing myself to keep control of my emotions. I work hard to control my breathing but the more I hear his distress the more I want to hold him, to take away his pain.

“Bobbie… I need you. I love you,” he says desperately, between his sobs.

“I love you too, Josh. Goodbye.” I hang up quickly.

I throw the phone at the gas pump, watching it shatter as I fall to the ground, crying hysterically. I can’t gain control of my breathing or the crazy fluctuations in my heart. The ground is cold and hard just like my heart. What was once beating with life and love is now cold and lifeless. I am a horrible person for what I’ve done.

Someone kneels down next to me, “Hey lady, you okay?” he says softly then shouts towards the truck, “Claire, get over here. There’s something wrong with this lady.”

She kneels down next to me, moving my hair out of my face. “Hey, you okay? Do you need a doctor or something?”

“I am a doctor,” I whimper. Not that they care.

“Man trouble?” she says knowingly and I can’t help but look at her.

She is really pretty with long dark hair and mocha colored skin. She is wearing one of those hooded sweatshirts that says “Crow Fair, the Teepee Capital of the World. Crow Agency, Montana.” What the hell does that mean? She smiles when she realizes I am blatantly looking at her hoodie.

“It’s in Crow every year. Best pow wow in the world! Where you from?”

“Nowhere,” I say sighing.

“Everyone is from somewhere? Where’s home?”

“San Francisco.” And silently I add the word Josh, he is my home.

“Is he in San Francisco?” She says motioning to my broken phone.

“Yes,” I say standing up. I need to get the hell out of here.

She picks up my shattered phone, handing it to me. “Be safe out there. The roads can get bad this time of year and well, you don’t have a phone now.”

“Thanks,” I say wiping my eyes.

I go to remove the nozzle and realize the guy has already done that and has just cleaned off my window. He didn’t need to do that. God, Bobbie. Just deal with the fact that there are people out there that don’t want anything from you, like Josh. The only thing he ever wanted was my love and to take care of me.

“Thank you,” I say to him as he puts his arm around his girlfriend or wife. I don’t know what she is to him.

“Your tires look good, so you should be okay. The temperature is supposed to drop so watch for black ice,” he rambles to me.

I furrow my brow. “Okay.”

“Sorry, you’re not from here. I didn’t want you to get in an accident or anything.”

“It’s okay. It’s just… No one has ever really talked to me at a gas station before.”

They both start laughing. “Yeah, I suppose that would be weird to a city girl. Well, be safe.”

“And, maybe consider turning back around. It sounds like home is the other direction,” she says as I get into my car.

I wish it were that easy. It’s too late now. I have made my bed, now I must lie in it. I look at my red puffy eyes and sigh. I really messed up this situation. I hear his distressed voice in my head again and glance at my smashed phone. It’s a good thing I broke it or I’m sure I would’ve called him right back. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths before starting my car and jumping back on the interstate.

Another 12 hours and I am rolling through South Dakota. There is seriously nothing off of this highway past Rapid City. Don’t get me wrong, going past the Badlands was phenomenal but after that there really was nothing to look at aside from the strange billboards. I suppose Sioux Falls was sort of big from what I could tell. It’s not that I’m in a hurry to get to Chicago or anything. I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere. I am just afraid to stop. I’m afraid of where my mind will go. I feel completely lost without Josh and want desperately to just turn around and do what that young girl said, and go home but I can’t. I wipe the tears streaking my face and pull over at the next rest area. Another 10-12 hours and then I will be in Chicago. I can do that.

By the time I pull into the Chicago area I am exhausted. My brain is non-functional and I know I need to get some sleep. I pull into a Days Inn outside of the metro area. Once I check in I just toss my bag on the second bed. I lay down but sleep won’t come. All I can see is Josh looking back at me with hurt in his eyes, I hear his anguished voice, and feel the emptiness in my heart. I get up quickly, pacing back and forth in my room, finally walking over to the window to look outside. I take a deep breath as I scan the neighboring area and spot the flashing neon sign, whispering for me to come over. I close my eyes and then open them quickly, grabbing my wallet and the room key and heading out the door.

As I walk in the man behind the counter smiles at me. I barely acknowledge him and head straight to the whiskey aisle. No hesitation this time. I grab a couple of bottle of Jack Daniels and pay for it quickly. I don’t plan on remembering anything tonight. I rip the bottle open the minute I step inside the room, the tears already streaming down my face. I place that do not disturb sign on my door and drink half the bottle in the blink of an eye.

I stumble to my bag and pull out his picture. Staring at his smiling face, the wind gently blowing his hair, the look on his face is beyond anything I could ever imagine. I run my fingers along his strong jaw, wishing he was here with me, wanting him here with me. I sigh as I take another long swallow. I set his picture on the nightstand and before I know it I’m out.

I love you so much,” he says softly.

His lips gently caress my neck, moving ever so slowly down my collar bone. His lips continue to move along my body barely grazing along my skin, my heart beating quickly underneath him, as he kisses my hip bone. My body arches to meet him, yearning for him to be inside me.

Why did you leave?” he asks harshly.

I open my eyes to look at him and realize that his beautiful face has been transformed. His piercing green eyes are now sunken in; his face is sallow and pale, his hair is dirty and unkempt, and he has a sad and desperate look on his face. He is lifeless, a shadow of the man I love. What have I done?

I jump up quickly, looking around. I turn to his picture, staring at him, wanting that to be the sight in my memory, not the one I just saw. I pick up the bottle of Jack and take a couple of quick gulps, trying to erase the image from my head but knowing I never will.

I spend the next week in a drunken stupor. Aside from going across the street to pick up more bottles of Jack Daniels, I don’t leave my room. I haven’t eaten all week, I haven’t showered, I haven’t allowed maid service in, I haven’t lived. Screw Chicago! Screw my life! Screw everything! I don’t care anymore.

Chapter 4

Roberta… wake up baby.”

I am startled into consciousness but I don’t know where I am or how I got here. I can hear voices in my room which now smells like… a hospital? What the hell happened? As the voices become a little clearer I recognize one of them. How the hell did she get here?

“So what are my options?”

“Well Ma’am, We have already been granted the involuntary commitment order so she will be admitted to an inpatient facility. We don’t know what’s going on with her. She is stable medically, but emotionally, I am unsure.”

“Would they allow that out of state? I would prefer that she be in a facility near my home.”

“We can approach the judge and ask for an approval for an out of state transfer.”

“I’m not going to a hospital.” I can barely speak.

The woman turns to look at me as does my mom. They both walk closer to my bed, my mom picking up my hand and placing it in hers.

“Well, Ms. Walker I’m afraid that the court has already decided that for you. The question is where you will go. Your mother is requesting that you be transported to a facility in North Carolina.”

“It’s Dr. Walker.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s Dr. Walker. I am a surgeon and I know my rights. You have no grounds to commit me.”

“Attempted suicide, alcohol poisoning, and starving oneself are all independent grounds for hospitalization and since you have done all three we believe it is in your best interest that you be hospitalized.”

“What are you talking about? I wasn’t trying to kill myself.”

She pulls a sheet of paper from my chart. It is written on hotel stationary but I don’t remember writing anything. She starts reading the note.

I can’t do this anymore.

I need to just fucking die.

“I don’t remember writing that.”

“Bobbsey, honey, what’s going on? Why aren’t you in San Francisco?” my mom says sweetly.

“Don’t call me that!” God, how dare she use dad’s name for me. “Why are you even here?”

“You had an ‘in case of emergency’ card in your wallet with my name and number on it. You weren’t carrying any identifying information aside from your driver’s license and the phone number they had tied to that belongs to the broken phone in your bag.” She lets out an exaggerated sigh, “Roberta, what’s going on?”

“Nothing, just leave me alone. I don’t need any of you.” I say closing my eyes tightly. I can’t believe this is happening.

Chapter 5

“Ms. Walker, do you feel like talking today?”

I don’t say anything to her. I never do. I haven’t talked to one person since I have been here. My mom got approval to admit me in a facility in Raleigh. Why she wants me close is beyond me but I don’t care. I have been here for I think eight weeks now. They say I have selective mutism. Damn right I do. I am not talking to any of them. They have no real history on me because my mom knows absolutely nothing about my life and I won’t sign any releases so they can’t get documents from anyone. I do wish I could talk to Dr. Monclair though but I know that is not a possibility. So here we are again. They directed me to Anna’s office and I just sit there while this woman tries to learn about me. Yeah, well good luck with that. She is my assigned therapist. Poor girl. Well, at least she can do paperwork while I just sit here three times a week.

“You know Ms. Walker the sooner you start talking the sooner you will be released. How long you stay here is up to you.”

Ah, she’s trying a new approach. No more trying to be my friend or normalizing my behavior, telling me she understands that I have been through a lot of “trauma”. She even mentioned Marcus a few times so apparently Sally has talked to her. I see her shuffling around her desk and then she pulls out the picture of Josh.

“Who’s this Ms. Walker? Your mom says it was with your belongings but she didn’t know who it was. Is this your boyfriend?”

I feel tears in my eyes. It’s the first time I have seen him since I started drinking over two months ago. Not a day goes by that he isn’t on my mind. He’s all I see actually but now his beautiful face has been replaced with the lifeless one I saw in my dream so long ago. Seeing that picture with him laughing in the sun does me in. I bring my head between my knees, trying to catch my breath, and trying to stop the way my chest is heaving violently.

“I can see that he is important to you. Tell me about him.”

I start shaking my head fiercely. He’s mine. She can’t have him. She can’t bring him here. She doesn’t say anything for a long time, just letting me cry. She’s probably happy I am crying. I’m sure it beats the glare that is generally on my face.

“Okay…” she finally says decisively as she places his picture in my file.

The minute the picture is put away the emptiness invades me. I am no longer angry, I feel nothing again. I’m never going to get out of here but maybe that’s my penance for what I did to Josh. Maybe I am supposed to suffer in here. I briefly wonder how long they can actually keep me against my will.

The rest of the day was pointless. I go through my usual routine: lunch, group, free time, dinner, rec time, AA, free time and then I get to go in my room. According to my treatment plan I am required to attend individual counseling three times a week, group twice a week, AA every night and alcohol/drug classes twice a week and, of course, eat. All of which are a waste of time because I haven’t spoken to anyone since I have been here. They also seem to think I am trying to starve myself but I’m not. I just have no desire to eat and frankly the food here taste awful. I refused to eat when I first arrived which was a big mistake on my part because they made me walk around with a damn IV everywhere. Not doing that again. I’m sorry but maybe I just have higher standards for food than some of these nut cases in here. But, part of my “treatment plan” is that I need to eat half of whatever they put on my plate. I sigh looking at my food tray and what appears to be stroganoff. I immediately separate the half I am required to eat and spend the next 30 minutes picking at it before finally just forcing it down.

During my afternoon free time I take my usual spot, a chair near one of the windows. I stare out, watching the trees move gently in the breeze. Its way past New Year’s but they still have Christmas decorations up because they think it will make people happy. Whatever! What’s really annoying is that some of the patients have been singing Christmas carols since November. Seriously, you’re in a psych ward what do you have to be joyful about.

I think I hate rec time more than anything else because they force me to participate in some type of activity. These people don’t get it. I’m not crazy, I just don’t care. I lean against the wall refusing to participate. Nothing new there. I start scratching at my wrist where my bracelet should be. I started doing that once I got here. Usually I don’t even recognize when it’s happening, it’s a habit I think because I was always playing with the charms on my bracelet when I was nervous or upset. When my wrist starts to sting I look down and notice it is very red. I sigh. Great! Now they are going to chart that I’m still “self-harming” myself. I swear, they’re never going to let me leave.

I can take the days somewhat as it is a simple routine to follow and since I don’t participate I just go about aimlessly. The nights are difficult though because I am truly alone and my mind starts to wander. They check our rooms every two hours and if I’m not sleeping they give me more meds which end up fucking with my head. Of course they don’t know that because I refuse to talk to any of them. Damn it! I’m going to have to start talking pretty soon. Tonight I’m more restless than usual so they gave me an extra sleep aid. I think it is Lunesta but I can’t be certain since I haven’t asked anyone and these people don’t volunteer anything. I may be a doctor but I don’t know what all of these psych meds are that they keep shoveling down my throat. After some time I doze off, at least I think I do. I can’t tell anymore.

He leans in to me, kissing me softly on the lips, letting his tongue enter my mouth. He continues to kiss me passionately and when he draws a breath he looks at me. It is my ghost Josh, with the pale skin, sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. His long boney finger comes across my lips.

Baby, what are you doing?” His voice seems to echo in my room.

I’m sorry,” I say crying

I know,” he whispers back.

I love you,” I say through my tears.

He brings his lips into a small smile and then turns abruptly. He looks towards the door and then turns back to me. His smile is now gone and his face is twisted in anger.

You need to stop this. I need you,” he says vehemently and then he is gone.

JOSH!” I scream loudly.

I wake again, breathing hard. Half of the time I’m not sure if I’m actually dreaming about him or if I’m hallucinating again. I close my eyes, straining, trying desperately to remember every detail of that picture I took of him at the shore, that’s my Josh not the one that keeps visiting me every night in these quiet halls. I hear footsteps in the hallway getting louder as they approach my door.

“Roberta, are you okay?” the night staff asks me.

I nod and roll back over.

“Take this,” she says handing me some more meds. Great! Just what I needed.

I take them and open my mouth so she can see that I swallowed them. They make me show them now since they caught me cheeking them when I first got here. She exits my room and I hear muttering outside my door. Yes, apparently I said his name out loud. It’s the first words I have spoken in more than eight weeks. I suppose that’s fitting that the only name that is important to me would be the first word I would speak. Yes, go chart that ladies and make sure to let Anna know I said something. I close my eyes again, tossing and turning until the meds kick in.

Chapter 6

When I enter Anna’s office I lie down on the couch she has and close my eyes. I have felt loopy all morning thanks to the extra dose of Lunesta they made me take the last couple of nights. I know she has heard I spoke Josh’s name two nights ago but I haven’t said anything since then. I know I need to start talking to them and maybe that’s what Josh was trying to tell me a couple of nights ago. I open my eyes and look towards her when I hear shuffling. She brings his picture out again and the depth of his eyes pierces my heart and soul.

“Is this Josh?” she asks casually.

I start breathing in and out quickly, looking at his face. I motion for the picture, I need to touch it. She gets up and walks around her desk handing the picture to me and sitting in the chair beside me. I trace the outline of his face, moving my fingers across his lips, and grin as my fingers move across his wild hair, remembering how soft it was and how he used to moan every time I would tug on it. I set it against my chest and close my eyes again.

“Did something happen to him?” Anna queries.

I sigh, “I happened to him.”

“I see.” I know she is excited that I spoke to her but she seems to be trying to contain herself, I suppose she is trying to decide where to go with this information.

“Did you take that picture?” she asks.

I nod, “We were over at Sausalito. A couple hours after I took this picture I told him I loved him. I had never said that to anyone besides my father.” I can feel tears coming down my face.

“Did he feel the same way?”

“Yes,” I whisper, touching his face again.

“He looks very happy in that picture.” I nod, “Where is he, Roberta?”

“I don’t know. Home, I suppose.”

“Why did you say ‘you happened to him’ earlier?”

“Because I did… He was perfect, getting his master’s in English, happy, energetic. I interfered with that. I am so messed up that he was ready to give up everything for me. I couldn’t have that. So I left,” I say angrily.

“I see.”

“No you don’t see.” I feel my anger rising as I sit up to face her. “I should have never allowed him to love me. I should have been strong enough to leave before he cared so much that he would sacrifice everything for me.”

“So instead you sacrificed yourself for him? Didn’t he have a choice in this?”

I don’t say anything. I just lie back down and close my eyes again, trying to get a hold of my escalating heartbeat. God! Monclair said that to me before as well. That I took the decisions out of his hand or something like that.

“Is that why you tried to kill yourself?”

“I didn’t try to kill myself. I was just trying to forget. I just wanted the pain to go away,” I say exacerbated, still not looking at her.

“And did it?”

I turn to glare at her. What kind of question is that? She doesn’t look away though, she doesn’t seem afraid of my attitude.

“It just seems that if you want the pain to go away you might want to consider a new strategy. Because starving yourself, drinking to the point where you can’t remember anything and shutting down all communication with people doesn’t seem to be working for you.”

“It’s better than what I used to do?” I whisper

“And what was that Roberta?”

“I would just have sex with random guys, sometimes two or three in a night if I was having a particularly upsetting day,” I say nonchalantly.

“And did that help?”

I don’t say anything because she knows and I know that it didn’t. None of it helps. The only thing that ever helped was Josh. I just don’t know what I want anymore. But I do know that I am tired of being in here. And I also know that I miss Josh so much that it hurts. Something has to change.

“No, it didn’t help,” I finally say, defeated.

“Maybe that’s something we can work on,” she continues when I look at her, “Developing some more productive coping strategies.”

“I had a bracelet when I was hospitalized. Do you know what happened to it?” I ask softly.

“No I don’t. I could ask your mother if she has it.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome Roberta,” she says smiling. “So are you comfortable telling me about Josh? How did you two meet?”

I take a deep breath and start talking about my Josh, the beautiful and caring man that I fell in love with. I tell her about how we met in the Starbucks, how I tried to keep it sexual and how I never stood a chance. We talked about our first date, how the pier became a special place for us and some of the crazy things we did at the university. I stayed away from the nightmares and Marcus. I didn’t talk about why I left and she didn’t ask me. I’m glad because I don’t think I’m ready for those conversations just yet and I can’t help but think that Josh would be proud of me.

I leave Anna’s office feeling a little lighter. She told me I could have the picture of Josh if I continued to cooperate. Well, if all I need to do is talk I guess I can do that because I want to keep his picture. I go into the rec room and look around. I wish they would let us in our rooms during the day but that’s against the rules. Someone is in my spot near the window so that means I’m going to need to sit with the nut jobs in the main area.

I sit on the couch and look at the picture again. I wonder what he’s doing right now. Is he happy? Has he found someone else? I frown as that thought enters my mind. I know we weren’t together long but I would hope he hasn’t been with anyone yet. It’s only been a few months.

“Damn! He’s hot.” Sara says over my shoulder. I put the picture down.

“Ah… come on. You don’t like to share,” she says as she grabs the picture from my lap.

“Give it back,” I say fiercely as I jump over the back of the couch.

“Oh she talks now huh?” she sneers at me.

I swear this place is like prison sometimes with the little cliques, the bullies, the losers all jockeying for position at the top of the food chain. Well screw her. She isn’t taking that picture. I’m not scared of her.

“Give it back or I will hurt you,” I say calmly.

She grins and makes a move to rip it and I can’t control myself. I attack. I don’t see anything but her. Who the hell does she think she is? Next thing I know I am being pulled off of her and her face is a bloody mess. I see Anna’s shoes and then she bends down picking up the picture.

“She took it. She was going to rip it,” I stutter out incoherently.

“Roberta. I will just hold on to it for now.”

“NO! I need it,” I say crying uncontrollably.

“Do you want us to give her something?”

She nods and the next thing I feel is a pinch as the shot goes in my arm. I wake in my room and it’s dark. I go to move and realize they have me strapped down. Great! They think I am going to hurt myself. How am I ever going to get out of here? I sigh and feel tears coming out of my eyes, dripping onto the mattress.

I feel his hand over my wrists as he lies down next to me, wrapping his arms around me. I feel tears on my neck and know that he is crying as well.

I love you Josh.” I whisper into the night.

Chapter 7

The weekend was horrible. There is less structure on the weekends so I have more down time. They only strapped me down for the one night and allowed me to be in general population Saturday and Sunday. I was a mess most of the time though. I was constantly scratching at my wrist to the point where it was basically raw. They wrapped it on Sunday which pissed me off because it wasn’t that bad. It’s Monday now and I am anxious and nervous. Although I wasn’t mute over the weekend I know that Anna knows about my wrist. I don’t want her to use that as a reason to take away the picture. I need to get that picture back.

“I think we should talk about what happened in the rec room on Friday,” Anna starts off immediately.

I sigh. “There’s nothing really to say. Sara is a bully to everyone. Normally she ignores me. But there was no way I was going to let her rip that picture.”

She nods. “I can understand that.” She watches me for a few moments, “I hear you had a rough weekend. Would you like to talk about it?”

“Not really but I know you want me too.”

“Roberta. You are here until you complete the program. I want to help you. But I can’t do that if you don’t care enough to actually do the work.”

I don’t say anything. I just sit there nervously tapping my foot up and down rapidly.

“Would you like to see the picture again?” she offers.

I nod and she hands it to me. I can’t stop the smile that envelops my face and I am instantly calmer. I don’t know if she will let me have it back. I mean it’s probably safer here but I want it. I want to look at him this way. Happy, not the sad and hollow face I see all the time.

“Your mom said there was a charm bracelet with your things from the hospital. She said she will bring it this weekend for family day.”

I frown. I got out of family day last time because I wasn’t talking but great, now Sally gets to come and talk about how much she loves me which I know isn’t true and how she hopes I will “get” better.

“You don’t want your mom to come?” Anna asks in response to my visible disdain at the mention of Sally.

“Not sure what the point would be?”

“You have nothing to say to her?” she asks quizzically.

“Nothing good.”

“Well, sometimes that is necessary as well.”

I sigh, “Can we talk about something else?”

“What would you like to talk about?” I shrug.

“How about you tell me what landed you in this fine establishment,” she says smiling; trying to act like the question she just asked me isn’t completely loaded.

“My goal was to get to Chicago and try to start over. But when I got there I couldn’t stop seeing Josh. I just got drunk, trying to forget how much it hurts knowing that I hurt him. I wasn’t trying to kill myself. How can you kill what doesn’t exist?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I have no life without Josh. I’m already dead inside so I can’t kill something that is already dead.”

She watches me for a moment and I look down at his picture again. I really am nothing without him. What was I thinking?

“What do you think would happen if you went back?” Anna asks breaking me away from my thoughts.

“I can’t go back.” I don’t bother looking up.

“But what if you could?” she continues.

“Yeah, in a perfect world, right?” I say, closing my eyes.

“Does it have to be perfect?”

“He deserves that.” It’s the very least he deserves.

“The world isn’t perfect and people aren’t perfect either. Not even Josh.” Now she has my attention.

“You don’t even know him, how dare you say that,” I state angrily.

“Roberta, no one is perfect. If he was sitting in this room I am sure he would say the same thing. If he loved you and you loved him than that was perfect. Love itself is what is perfect not the individuals involved.”

I don’t say anything right away. I never really thought of it that way.

“Why don’t you think about that Roberta and we can talk about it next time.”

“Yeah, alright.” I say getting up, “So will you let me keep the picture?”

“We’ll see how things go.” I frown. Yeah that’s a big fat NO!

I head out of the room and thank God my spot is not occupied today. I look outside dreading this weekend. I really don’t want to deal with Sally. I glance down and notice I am scratching at my wrist again. I need to stop doing that. I go through the rest of the week a ball of nerves. I try my best to keep it together because I don’t want them to think I need more meds or worse yet that I want to hurt myself. When I go to bed Friday night I am such a mess and toss and turn all night.

“Roberta.”

I open my eyes and he is lying next to me on the bed. My ghost Josh. Why does he look like that? I reach my hand to his hair but it is brittle and comes out in my hand. He sighs, closing his sad eyes and taking long slow breaths.

Do you still love me?” he asks

“Of course, I will always love you.”

He may not be my Josh but maybe I don’t get to have my Josh back. Maybe this ghost of my Josh is all I get and if it is I will take him willingly. He pulls me into his arms, holding me tightly as his cold lips touch my forehead.

They’re coming,” he says and I turn to the door.

The door opens and I close my eyes quickly, letting out a soft breath and rolling over. When she closes the door I turn to Josh but he is gone. I feel the tears coming and cry silently, trying not to draw attention to myself. When they wake me again my eyes are puffy and red and the staff knows immediately that I didn’t sleep last night. I go through the motions dreading what is about to happen. I don’t want to do this. I have no idea what to expect. I have no idea what Sally is going to do. They usher those of us that are participating in family day to the main hall. I see her immediately. She smiles and walks over to me giving me a big hug.

“I was so glad to find out you’ve been talking Roberta. That is such wonderful news.”

“Yeah, okay.”

What am I supposed to say? It’s not like I’m some eighteen year old pissed at mommy. I’m a grown woman. We go through the day which isn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it’s the next part that I think will be the hardest. When we enter the room I am so damn tense. All the patients seem to be. I wonder if there is a way to get out of this.

From what Anna told me they put a chair in front of each of us and one at a time each of our family members is supposed to say something about how our drinking affects them and we aren’t allowed to say anything until they are completely done. I don’t know what exactly Sally is going to say. But some of these people have had it a hell of a lot worse than I have which is really saying something. I’m so nervous and when they move the chair in front of me my stomach immediately starts twisting and turning and I have to fight off the sudden urge to vomit. My mom moves to the chair and takes a deep breath before finally talking.

“Roberta I know I was a horrible mother to you,” she says with tears in her eyes.

What the … I stare at her confused.

“I know that I didn’t protect you. I should have been able to prevent what happened with Marcus. I wasn’t strong enough.” She starts crying. “I know that what he did to you changed you. I saw that but I didn’t do anything about it. I have no excuse for my lack of action.”

I can feel tears in my eyes, trying to come out but I fight them back. What the hell is she doing? Is this some show for everyone or does she really believe this?

“We have never been close. That’s also my fault. I have always looked for happiness in all the wrong places. Men who treated me nice, like your father, I pushed away. I never felt that I deserved more than the Marcus’s of the world. I thought I deserved to be treated like that.” She starts sobbing, her chest moving up and down quickly. I have never actually seen my mother cry and I am not exactly sure what I am supposed to do. She takes a few steadying breaths.

“After what happened in Reno I know you started drinking but I refused to accept it. I thought maybe you would grow out of it but I see that you never did.” She takes another breath and then reaches into her pocket pulling out my bracelet.

“If the man who gave this to you loves you and you love him, if he treats you with respect and dignity you need to know Roberta that you deserve THAT! Please don’t make the same mistakes I have made in my life. Your father was the best man I ever met but I destroyed that.” She places the bracelet in my hand. “I know I have never told you this but you are worthy of love Roberta. I couldn’t tell you that when you were younger because I was pretty messed up myself and every time I looked at you I saw your father and remembered what I lost. I couldn’t bear it. That’s no excuse but that’s the truth.”

I gasp and start crying immediately. I tighten my fist around mine and Josh’s bracelet, pulling it to my heart and then wrap my arms around my stomach. I can’t see or hear anything else. I am shaking my head and screaming as the magnitude of what I have lost shoots through me. Realizing that I let go of the only person who would ever love me, as messed up as I am he still loved me. He didn’t want to change me, or control me or hurt me. He only wanted to love me, forever, but I lost that. The pain envelops me and my whole body starts convulsing. I feel like I have fallen into an abyss of despair and pain. Every bone in my body, every thought, every feeling belongs to Josh. I fall to the ground unable to control this pain and anguish and feel myself drift away somewhere dark and uninviting. The last thought that enters my mind is, “I need to get out of here. I need to get home. I need Josh. I can’t survive without him.”

Chapter 8

I am enveloped in hopelessness and despair. My world crumbles before me as pain and anguish sweeps through every essence of my being. I clench tightly to our bracelet, trying desperately to hold on to a single shred of what we had, what we lost. I become vaguely aware that I am screaming and crying but all I can see are the flood of memories of my life with Josh. The next thing I feel are several strong arms and then a pinch and I know that they have given me something. I don’t feel anything after that and when I become conscious again I am acutely aware of the constraints holding my wrists and ankles in place. I don’t know how long I have been like this but they have an IV in my arm so it must have been more than a few days. I hear very little movement outside so it’s probably nighttime. I look around as best as I can and see him move from the corner. I watch as he walks towards me, my ghost Josh. I have missed him so much; whatever they gave me was strong. I have not dreamed and I can’t remember anything. I know that this Josh is just a figment of my imagination; that he isn’t real, but it’s all that I have so I will take him without question. He looks like he always does which makes me sad. I hate that he has lost his vibrancy, that he’s so lifeless.

“You shouldn’t look like this baby.” I whisper to him.

He walks over to my bed slowly and sits down. He starts running his fingers tenderly along my constraints. He then traces the part of my wrist that is red from where I am always scratching it. He swallows hard and then looks up at me with his sad and desperate eyes.

Neither should you,” he says.

“I’m sorry, baby,” I say as tears start falling down my cheeks.

He leans over to me and wipes my tears away before he kisses me softly on my lips. I hear him sigh as he looks towards the door and then he is gone again. I hear the nurse gasp and I turn my head allowing the tears to fall, knowing I have neither the means nor the will to stop them. She quickly walks over to me. Her name is Sammie and she has always been nice to me. She is one of the few staff people that don’t treat the patients like the nut jobs they really are. She sits down next to me on the bed and gently wipes my eyes.

“I know this is hard for you. Being in here is not easy for anyone but I swear to you if you start talking again things will get better. I promise. Talking won’t take away what happened to you but you might learn better ways to deal with it.” She smiles at me and then checks my IV before walking out.

I know she is right. I need to get my act together. I need Josh and they won’t let me out of here until I can demonstrate my competence. I take a deep breath and resolve to do whatever they say I need to do. It’s the only way I can get home.

I hear Anna outside my door talking to Sammie about my progress last night. She sounds generally concerned about me and happy to hear that I am conscious again. When she walks in she pulls up the chair and sits down next to me.

“How are you feeling today, Roberta?” she asks warmly.

“Stupid. How long have I been like this?” I inquire.

“A week. We strapped you down because you became catatonic and you started hurting yourself when you would start moving. Can I take the straps off Roberta? Are you going to hurt yourself?” she asks calmly.

“I was catatonic?” I close my eyes, sighing. “Please, can you take the straps off? I won’t hurt myself.”

She starts unstrapping first my ankles and then my wrists, gently rubbing where the binds were. I take a few steadying breaths as she sits back in her chair. Catatonic. God! That’s pretty bad. So they didn’t do anything to me, I did something to me.

“Do you remember what happened?”

“I remember being at family day and my mom talking and then she handed me my bracelet. It was a gift from Josh and I don’t know. I was overcome with… sadness, grief, anguish, pain. I don’t know how to describe what it felt like. I just know I don’t want to feel that way again.”

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out my bracelet. She looks at it and takes a deep breath. “Let’s talk about this bracelet Roberta.”

I can feel my heart start racing and I know I need to calm myself down but it is so difficult. I reach my hand to her, motioning for it. She reluctantly hands it to me. I know she is taking a huge chance with me. Most people wouldn’t do it. I hold the bracelet tightly and then fiddle with the charms a bit before laying it out flat on the bed between her and me, just like Josh did when he gave it to me.

“This is his heart that he gave to me.” I lift the heart in the center.

“This represents me.” I lift the caduceus.

“And this represents him.” I say as I lift the book.

“We met at a Starbucks.” I say grinning as I touch the coffee cup. She smiles at me because I already told her how I had picked him up.

“Our first date was on the waterfront in San Francisco. I already told you how he took me to this fabulous restaurant. It was the first date I had ever been on.” She looks at me stunned. “Yeah, I know, but it was. So after dinner we walked along the pier.” I smile widely remembering the pier. “Chocolate covered strawberries are his favorite and we ate some on our date. So this represents our first date,” I say as I play with the strawberry and then touch the disco ball.

“This represents our second date which was at a club called Trinity. God! We had so much fun that night. I met his sister that night and we hung out with his friends and Abigail. Abigail was my best friend in San Francisco, I guess you would say.” I frown slightly.

“Sounds like you miss her as well?”

“Yeah, I do. I am sure she is upset with me for leaving. I never really had friends growing up. She was my first one. I trust her completely which is a big thing for me. I miss talking to her. She really understood me.” I feel tears come down face and wipe them away. “His friends and sister were all so accepting of me. I consider them all my friends now. I know that I have disappointed them as well.” I sigh and then touch the rose.

“Josh was the first man that I ever cooked for. I invited him over for dinner and he brought me roses. We talked a lot that night. I told him about some of my history and he told me a lot about his. His previous girlfriend had committed suicide and he felt responsible for it. He is very caring and compassionate and it ate him up inside that he couldn’t help her. The next day we talked more, played scrabble and watched a movie. It was such a spectacular day. You know, to just hang out with each other. Like a real couple would.” I touch the totem pole next.

“The weekend we spent at Sausalito was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. He planned everything that weekend. He told me he loved me the first night but I was too scared to admit my feelings for him so I didn’t say it back. The next day we looked around town and I bought him this book he wanted. He was so excited over something so minor.” I smile remembering the look on his face when I said I was going to buy it.

“After the bookstore we went to the shore and we came across these totem poles near the top of the steps that lead to the beach. The picture you have in your office was taken at that beach.” I pause again, reflecting on how perfect that weekend was. “Well anyway, I really liked the totem poles. This old man told us some really cool stories about their history so we decided to get a totem pole to represent the weekend.” I let out a soft breathe as I touch the last charm, the moon and star.

“My dad died when I was eight and I told Josh the story about how my dad and I used to stare at the stars together and how I used to talk to the moon and pretend it was my dad.” I pause and wipe more tears from my eyes before continuing. “When we got the totem pole he picked this one out so that I could always have my dad with me no matter where I went.”

“That’s very beautiful Roberta. That was a very thoughtful gift.”

I look at the charms, lightly running my fingers along them. “Can I put it on?”

She frowns slightly. “Just while we visit and then you need to give it back to me okay? You can’t have jewelry on the ward.”

I nod and put it on, feeling calmer immediately. I start grinning as I play with the charms, listening to the noises they make as they touch one another. Next to Josh’s sweet and melodious voice, these charms make the most heavenly sound.

“Is that where you normally wear it?” she asks.

“Yes, always. Why?”

“I suppose that’s why you scratch at your wrist so much,” she comments.

I sigh and nod because I figured that out a long time ago. She stays with me a while, way longer than an hour session. I spend the time talking about Josh and the things we did. The whole time I am playing with the bracelet and laughing. My God I haven’t laughed in a long time. When she finally says she should check on some of her other patients I reluctantly take off the bracelet and hand it back to her.

“When I see you again you can wear the bracelet, as long as you continue to talk to me okay? Does that sound like a plan?” she asks with a smile.

“Yeah, that sounds like something I can live with,” I say sarcastically and then offer her a small smile.

She stares at me for a minute and then smirks before exiting my room. I like her. Not as much as I liked Dr. Monclair, but I like her. And I know that she cares about me and wants me to get better.

Chapter 9

The next few weeks are significantly better. Anna and I are making progress so to speak. All I talk about is Josh but she doesn’t seem to mind. True to her word she allows me to wear my bracelet during our sessions and lets me hold his picture. I just finished telling her about the Halloween party and we are both laughing at my antics with Sarah and the luck I have with ex’s. She finally stops laughing and looks at me seriously.

“I think we need to start addressing what happened with Marcus,” she says watching the sharp intake of breathe I take. “I know that talking about what happened with him is difficult but if we never address it you will never move forward from it.”

“I know,” I say looking down and running my fingers along my charms.

“I know what your mother has said but I would really like to hear it from you.”

“My nightmares generally hover around one particular event with him although he was a very cruel person.” I am still looking down. I take a deep breath and look up at her. “My breakdown was related to Marcus.”

“Will you tell me about it?” she says gently and calmly, just like Dr. Monclair. Geez that must be something they teach in therapy school.

I nod as I glance down at my bracelet and then turn to look at Josh’s picture. If I love him as much as I say I do then I need to do this. I can’t be all messed up when I go back. That’s what led me here in the first place. I open my mouth and then close it again. Why is this so damn hard?

“I understand this is difficult. I promise the first time is the hardest and then it will get easier.”

I nod again. But this time when my mouth opens I can’t stop the words that escape. I start talking about my insomnia, how I started hallucinating and seeing Marcus everywhere, how I started taking the Trazedone and increasing my dosage to which she shakes her head at me. Yeah I know, stupid move on my part. I tell her about the surgery and how I had separated from my body when I attacked the girl’s father and how I started drinking. I talked about the hospital and going home, Michael’s visit and then finally deciding I needed to leave. All the while she is nodding at me and encouraging me to talk.

“It sounds like Marcus has had an influence on a lot of your decisions. Are you still having nightmares about him?”

I run my fingers along Josh’s face. “No, mostly I just see Josh but he doesn’t look like he does here.”

The minute the words come out of my mouth I regret them. I just admitted to a shrink that I am hallucinating. That wasn’t very smart.

“What does he look like?” she asks, bringing me out of my worrisome thoughts.

“You’re not going to recommend that I start taking some anti-psychotics are you?” I ask nervously.

“No, I don’t think so but I need you to be honest with me.”

I sigh, “He looks like a ghost. That’s what I call him, my Ghost Josh. He is really skinny; with sad sunken in eyes, he is a shadow of the man I love. He is always sad when he talks to me.”

“When do you usually see him?”

“At night mostly and I don’t know, when I am upset he comes to me. Is that normal?”

“It actually is.”

I look at his picture again, tracing his perfect lips. “I want him to look like this though.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen, Roberta.”

I look up at her quickly, “WHY?” I can hear the anger in my voice.

“Because he’s you Roberta. You see him that way because that’s how you are. Have you seen yourself recently?”

Do I really look like that? I suppose I do. But really, I haven’t looked at myself in a long time. I barely brush my hair out let alone groom myself. I am sure I have lost weight as well. I stare at her blankly. She looks down at the picture I am holding.

“If you want him to look like that then you need to take care of yourself. Does that make sense Roberta?”

I shake my head. She stands up and walks over to her desk. She starts rummaging through her drawers and then walks back over to me, handing me a mirror. I look at her with what I am sure is fear. I don’t even remember the last time I looked at myself. She nods at me and I bring the mirror up and gasp.

“He is a mirror of you.”

I don’t even recognize the woman I see. My hair is brushed at least but my skin is sallow, my eyes are sunken in and lifeless, my cheeks are hallowed and it is clear that I have lost a significant amount of weight. I watch tears fall down my cheeks and realize that she is right. What did I do to myself?

“What do you see Roberta?”

I shake my head and bring my legs up on her couch, trying as hard as I can to crawl into myself. I just cry and cry, trying to wrap my head around how things progressed to this point. Where exactly did my life go wrong? She doesn’t say anything, she just lets me cry. When I finally have no more tears she starts talking again.

“Roberta. You need to let me help you,” she says as she softly touches my shoulder.

“How?” I ask meekly.

She takes a soft breath and moves the hair out of my face. “It’s not going to be easy, Roberta. In fact it’s going to be really hard. We will talk about all those things that you don’t want to talk about starting with Marcus and your mother. We will develop other ways to deal with your pain but you will feel bad for a long time before you start feeling better. But, in time you will start to feel better.”

“You know, you aren’t selling this therapy thing very well because feeling like shit doesn’t sound too good to me,” I say looking up to her, wiping my eyes.

The biggest grin comes across her face and she chuckles lightly. “Well, I thought you would appreciate me being straightforward with you. If you’d like I could give you the touchy feely, sugar coated response.”

I laugh involuntarily and shake my head, “No. I would rather you tell it to me straight.”

“That’s what I thought,” she says with a smile.

I look at the clock and realize my hour was up a while ago. I take a deep breath and take the bracelet off, handing it to her. I look at my Josh again and whisper I love you to him before handing it back to her.

“Thanks Anna. I’ll see you in a few days,” I say as I walk out of her door.

Chapter 10

The next several months were difficult but good. I did what Anna said at all times. She was right though. It was very hard. When I started talking about Marcus he started entering my dreams again. And once Marcus came back Josh stopped visiting me. I haven’t seen him in over four weeks. Anna thinks that is a good thing but I’m not so sure about that. I miss him immensely. I understand that it was an unhealthy reflection but still.

I have gained some of my weight back but I am probably still too thin but that is just going to have to wait until I get out of here because there is no way I am eating more of this crappy food than I have to. I look better though, my color is back and I am trying hard to work on all my issues. Anna is really good with me. She lets me reminisce about Josh and then she reams me with something about Marcus or my mom and how I let them sabotage my relationship with Josh. She is quick and knows how to explain things to me in a way that makes sense. Much the same way Dr. Monclair did.

I am scheduled for discharge next week which should make me happy but instead I am a mess. I have been gone for close to six months now and I have been exceedingly more nervous and anxious the closer it gets to discharge. I want desperately to go back to Josh but I am filled with such fear that it is almost crippling.

“What are you thinking about Roberta?” Anna asks sensing my chaotic inner dialogue.

I sigh, “I’m nervous about what’s going to happen when I get out of here. What if I go back and Josh has had enough of my drama? What if he did what I said, what if he found someone else, what if…”

“Roberta… STOP!” she says forcefully.

I take a few steadying breaths. We have gone over this many times already but I just keep thinking about what I told him, how I just told him to forget about me. What if he actually did? Could I live with that? I mean, I would have to but… I hear Anna talking again.

“Now, there is always that possibility. We have talked about this right?” I nod at her. “There is no guarantee that he will want you back. In fact the odds that you will be able to just go home and pick up where you two left off are pretty minimal. In all likelihood you won’t be able to do that.”

I stare at her, anger bubbling under the surface. “Aren’t you supposed to make me feel all damn warm and fuzzy inside?”

She lets out the loudest laugh. “Roberta. I thought you appreciated me being straight forward with you.” I continue to stare at her and she shakes her head slightly. “But aside from that, did you see how you just took what I said and automatically jumped to a negative conclusion? Now what are you supposed to do when you do that?”

I sigh again. “I am supposed to close my eyes and touch my bracelet and count to five and then rephrase what I heard into something more positive.”

“So why don’t you practice that.”

I close my eyes and fiddle with my charms while counting to five slowly. I then think about what she said. She said we wouldn’t be able to just pick up where we left off. Well, I guess that’s true because I am a different person now. Well, sort of. I hope the bad parts are different. And I would imagine that he is a little different as well. So whatever happens with us will be new and with any luck better than it was. Hopefully, I will be able to take care of him versus him needing to take care of me.

“If we still love each other then we won’t be able to pick up exactly where we left off because we have both changed, I am healthier now than I was when I left; so it would naturally be different which doesn’t necessarily mean it would be bad.”

“That’s very good Roberta. Now, what is the plan?”

“I am going to stay at my mom’s for a few days and then drive back to San Francisco. Either way I need to know. If we can’t be together then I will leave and find work somewhere else. If we can have a relationship once again then I will go grovel to Dr. Sorenson and ask for a second chance.”

I frown at the prospect of having to beg for my job back especially from someone like Dr. Sorenson but I need to work. The other hospital in town never has any openings but I will check just in case.

“Do you think he still loves me?” I ask as I look at her.

“I don’t know Roberta. I don’t know him like you do. It is possible that he has moved on like you told him to do.”

I can feel tears forming in my eyes already just thinking about the prospect of having to live my life without him. Of him telling me I hurt him too much and that his heart couldn’t take it. That he found someone else. That he still cares about me but doesn’t love me anymore. I close my eyes and start playing with my charms again, trying to rephrase my thoughts, trying to find some kind of positive.

“I want to believe that he still loves me and that he isn’t with anyone but I also know I have hurt him immensely. I remember what his voice sounded like when I called him on the road.” I stop talking as tears start to fall.

“I guess you will just have to see how things pan out Roberta. You can’t predict his behavior but you also can’t focus on just the negative possibilities. There are positive possibilities as well. Can you think of what those might be?”

“I guess he could just say I don’t care, I love you and I want you back.” I let out a sigh and frown.

“You don’t like that possibility?” she asks curiously.

“It’s not that, it’s just that… He has a tendency to just forgive all my mistakes without question. He never tells me I’m wrong or that I messed up. It makes it hard for me to know where the line is. He just gives up too much for me.” I look down again, running my fingers along my charms.

“Well, then some kind of balance between the two extremes is what you should shoot for. It sounds like you both need to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with one another.”

I nod as we continue to work through my plans. How I plan on handling Sally. I don’t hate her anymore but I don’t like her either. I am only going to stay with her for a few days and then I want to head out. It’s definitely going to take me several days to get to San Francisco since I am on a regular sleep schedule again. They don’t have me on any sleep meds anymore which is great. I am getting between 7-8 hours of sleep a night which has really helped stabilize my moods and I am only on one psychotropic med right now, 40 mg of Celexa.

The next week goes by quickly and pretty soon I am saying goodbye to Anna and driving in my mom’s car to her and Monte’s house. My mom has been very talkative, trying to convince me to stay but I just can’t. I need to go home and home is where ever Josh is. We all have dinner together but I am feeling very restless.

“Mom, I am going for a walk. I’ll be back in a few,” I say to her and Monte as I head towards the door.

“But it’s night time?” She says with concern.

I sigh, “I know. I won’t be long.”

“Alright. Be careful,” she says with a worried look on her face.

I walk along the street until I hit one of the local parks. I take a seat on one of the tables and gaze up at the night sky. It is so clear tonight. You can see so many stars and the moon is full and beautiful.

“Dad… I’m so scared. What if he says no, what if he doesn’t forgive me? I don’t know if I could take it. I wish you were here. You would know what to do.”

I can feel the tears falling down my cheeks but I don’t wipe them away. Anna said the tears are good, that they let the feelings out and that I should always cry when I feel like it. She said I always seem to make poor decisions and get in trouble when I try to stuff my feelings inside.

“I know I need to be strong Dad but I don’t think I am. I feel so lost.”

I start crying some more and then bring my hand over my eyes. The charms start making tingling noises and when I look at them the charms have shifted slightly on my wrist and the one facing me is the moon and star. I can’t help but smile.

“Thank you Daddy,” I say through my tears as I kiss his charm.

I stay there for about an hour, feeling the warmth and serenity I used to feel whenever my dad was around. I know he is here with me and it fills me with such purpose. By the time I return to my mom’s house and lie down I feel my father’s strength and determination in me. I can do this.

Chapter 11

“Are you sure you can’t stay Roberta?” My mom tries once more to convince me to stay a little longer.

“Yes, I’m sure. I need to get home. I need him.”

“Well, if it doesn’t work out you can always come back here,” she says softly.

“Thanks mom.”

I hug her before gathering the rest of my things and getting into my car. I mapped it out and it is going to take me about four days to get back to San Francisco. I promised Anna and myself that I wouldn’t drive more than 12 hours a day and that I would stop by 10:00 each night. That seems reasonable which is exactly what I do. But the closer I get to home the more nervous I become as panic starts to set in. I go through some of my breathing exercises and do my best to remember not to turn everything into a catastrophe before it actually is a catastrophe.

When I pass Reno I have to turn into a rest area because I feel so nauseous. I sit there for a good hour trying to get it together. I go through the many exercises Anna taught me and after a little bit I am able to get back on the road. When I pull into San Francisco I can’t help myself, I drive by his house. I sigh when I only see the Truck out front. He isn’t home. Well I am not supposed to see him first anyway but I am still disappointed.

When I pull up to the building my nerves are shot again but I need to do this. I take a deep breath and walk in, knowing exactly where I am going. I see her the minute I step inside her waiting area. She looks up at me and brings her hand to her mouth.

“Roberta,” she rasps out.

“Can we talk for a moment?”

“Of course. Come on back.”

I follow Dr. Monclair back to her office and sit on the couch. I look longingly at the window I spent so much time at but I don’t get up. I need to do this here. I look at her and she is staring at me. I am not sure what she is thinking but she walks over and sits down in the chair near the couch.

“You look good Roberta.”

I smile. “Thank you.” I look down for a moment trying to remember everything I wanted to say.

“Does he know you are here?”

I shake my head as I look at her. “No I came here first. I needed to talk to you.”

“Oh?” she says confused and a tad nervous.

“I wanted to apologize for what I did to you. I should have never put you in that position. It wasn’t fair to him and it certainly wasn’t fair to you, especially after all that you did for me. I hope you understand that I was really in a bad place when I left.”

“I do Roberta,” she says serenely.

I pause for a moment and then whisper out softly, “How is he?”

She frowns which makes me nervous again. “He is better Roberta.”

I nod and look down. Her saying he is better has me a bit worried. I mean better because he is with someone or better because he was so messed up before? Either of which I know is my fault. I close my eyes and touch my bracelet, counting to five slowly. I hear Anna’s voice say to me “stop turning everything into a catastrophe” and that makes me settle my internal ramblings a bit.

“Are you going to see him?” She seems really worried. Not that I blame her. I would be if I were her. I look up at her again.

“Yes. If you think that’s okay. If he is with someone or something I don’t want to make things worse for him. I just…” I don’t know what I want to say. I look down again, touching my bracelet, trying to steady my crazy thoughts.

“I won’t say anything to him Roberta, just in case you change your mind. I think that would be extremely difficult for him to know you were here and that he didn’t see you.” I frown at her.

“Sophia…” God that’s kind of weird to call her that but she doesn’t seem to mind. “I know that me showing up here is completely unexpected and it is probably going to be difficult for both of us. I have already gone through all the negative possibilities imaginable but I am choosing to focus on the positive ones. I owe him that.”

I take a breath as I watch her close her eyes.

“I really need to see him. I know that I have hurt him and I don’t want to do that again. So if you think seeing me will hurt him then I won’t do it and I will ask that maybe you help me figure out a way to do this in a good way. I just… I just miss him and I need him terribly. I can’t do this without him. I was so wrong and the way I left was not right. I know that now. I should have listened to you. You were begging me to stay and I didn’t, instead I put you in an impossible situation that no mother should be put in. I was such a mess for so long. I just…”

I am crying as I am talking and finally just stop, trying to catch my breath and steady my breathing. She opens her eyes and they are wet with tears. She smiles at me and reaches over gently touching my leg.

“He needs you too Roberta.” She takes a breath. “Maybe we could do something tomorrow. I will be off and then I can be around just in case either of you needs me. But I don’t foresee that being the case.”

“That sounds reasonable,” I say a little disappointed that I can’t see him tonight.

“Where are you staying?” she asks as she grabs a Kleenex, wiping under her eyes.

“I booked a room at the Waterfront Inn,” I say as I grab some Kleenex as well.

“I see,” she says with a smile. She knows the significance of that place for Josh and me.

I smile and then stand up. “I better go. I know you have patients waiting.”

She gets up as well and pulls me into a hug, “I am so glad you came back Roberta.”

“Me too,” I whisper against her, trying to fight back tears.

I have really missed talking to her. Granted I really wanted to go see Josh tonight but I need to not act impulsively here. I told myself I would do whatever she said and if she thinks I should wait until tomorrow then I will wait until tomorrow. I leave her office feeling so optimistic about seeing him. She said he needs me too and that thought alone fills me with such overwhelming happiness and excitement. I can barely contain myself.

I jump in my car and head towards the Waterfront Inn to check in. I feel so damn drained. Emotionally I have been all over the place and that has left me feeling exhausted. I know that Anna says I am not supposed to take naps but just a quick one shouldn’t hurt me or trigger my insomnia. I will just set my alarm so I don’t sleep too long. I lie on the bed and fall into a restful sleep.

Chapter 12

When I awake from my nap I quickly shower and change into a nice dress. It is one of those dresses with the flowing skirts that fall just above my ankles and I pair it with a nice pair of pumps. As I walk into the restaurant I am flooded with so many memories. God he was so handsome that night. Well every night really, but seeing him in that suit for the first time took my breath away.

Dance with me Roberta.”

“Madame.”

I turn to the maรฎtre d and smile. I describe where Josh and I sat on our date and ask if I can sit there. He smiles and shows me to the table. I have decided that I am going to follow the path we took on our first date. If I can’t see him tonight I figure this is the best way to be connected to him.

“You deserve to be treated as the most beautiful woman in the world because that is what you are. I am only sorry that no one has ever showed you that before.”

The maรฎtre d takes me to the table and I order an iced tea and look out over the water. I glance back at the table and can see him across from me, holding my hands in his as he gently strokes my knuckles. He is looking up at me from under those extremely long lashes of his and my heart skips a beat as I close my eyes, flooded with memories.

I want to give you everything and be everything for you. That is the minimum I am prepared to offer because that’s how special you are.”

After dinner I go into the Starbucks and grab a cup of coffee, unfortunately they don’t have any strawberries. Man, that’s too bad. I smile though as I remember the look on his face and the small laugh that escaped his sexy mouth as strawberry juice and chocolate dripped from his lips. I continue down memory lane by stopping at the fountain. I close my eyes remembering his arms around me.

“I think we should make a wish,” he whispers against my ear.

Oh god, just feeling his mouth so close to me sends shivers over my entire body and has it begging for his touch.

“Hmm?” is all I am able to say.

“We should make a wish,” he says again while kissing me lightly on the neck, just below my ear. “Should we make a joint wish?”

“Do you have something in mind?” I ask as I tilt my head to the side allowing him better access to my neck.

“How about, to possibilities,” he whispers and my body hums.

“Yes, to possibilities,” I say.

I dig into my purse, grabbing a coin and tossing it in, whispering the word possibilities as it hits the water. I still believe in our possibilities baby. God! I hope you do too. I continue walking along until I come to the ‘Your Imagination’ store. I stop in front, bringing my hand over my heart. I am flooded with so many images that I can’t even think straight. He was always so adorable in that store, playing like he was a little kid with all the goofy toys and gag gifts.

I take a few steadying breaths before I continue to walk along the pier until I reach our spot. I walk to the bench, running my hand on the top of it remembering making love to him, how perfect he was and how utterly screwed up I was back then. I close my eyes, lost in the memory.

I eventually open my eyes and walk over to the railing looking out at the water and sighing deeply. I miss him so much. I can feel tears starting to form in my eyes. There is a light breeze that is blowing my skirt and my hair around but it isn’t too cool. The breeze feels so good and inviting. My senses are overwhelmed. I look down and close my eyes, listening to the sound of the water hitting below, feeling Josh everywhere around me. I hear a loud gasp and turn just as Josh whispers out.

“Roberta?”

My heart stops just seeing his beautiful face. He looks different but the same. What is he doing here? I bring my hand over my heart as tears start to fall from my eyes. All my fear, all my anxiety, all my worry evaporates at the sight of him. The only thing I feel is love and complete adoration to the only man I will ever want or need.

“Josh,” I say breathless.

He starts walking over to me slowly. He seems hesitant which sort of scares me. Maybe he isn’t happy that I’m back. I instinctually reach my hand out to him and a small smile comes across his face as he takes it. He immediately pulls me to him and holds me tightly against his chest. I can hear his heart beating quickly as he breathes into my hair.

“You’re real,” he whispers.

“I am now,” I reply quietly.

We hold each other, not saying anything, just crying softly against one another. I step away from him slightly, looking at his troubled face. His eyes are still wet and his face is fraught with concern. I just need to touch him. I bring my hand to his cheek and he closes his eyes, opening his mouth slightly. I run my fingertips along his jaw, letting my fingers trace across his chin and then I gently stroke his lips with my thumb. I move my fingers under his eyes and wipe away the tears that he is shedding. My heart is beating so fast. I know we need to talk but right now I just want to feel him near me, to feel his lips on mine. My body is already responding to him, the dormant sexual desire within me awakened by his presence.

He opens his eyes and then brings his hand to my face. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply as he traces the contours of my face and when his lips touch mine I cry out for him, torn between my escalating desire and the regret I feel for the pain I have caused. He pulls me close and kisses me with an intensity I have never experienced before. Every lonely night, every dream of him, every day I hurt because I missed him so much is wiped away with that single kiss. He still loves me and the thought overwhelms me as I find myself falling to the ground, lightheaded and breathless.

He catches me and pulls me onto his lap while he leans against the railing of the pier, his hand starts moving up and down my back as I cry into his shirt. This isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want him to feel like he still needs to take care of me. I’m better now. But I can’t seem to articulate any words. It’s like my body has taken over and is in need of his closeness and nothing else. He brings his hand into my hair and then kisses the top of my head. I don’t know how long we sit like this but eventually my breathing starts to regulate and my heart rate normalizes.

“We really need to talk,” I whisper against his chest.

He lets out a soft sigh, “I know,” he says as he kisses the top of my hair again.

“I booked a room at the Waterfront Inn. We could go there.”

I feel him smile against my hair. “Okay, but let me drive us there.”

I nod and take a deep breath as I reluctantly move away from him. I stand up, brushing my skirt down and reach my hand towards him. He gives me my favorite smile as he takes my hand in his and my heart races excitedly. We walk to his car in silence as he holds my hand tightly. On our way to the hotel I find myself just looking out the window lost in thought and when the car stops I am actually startled by the door opening. Josh is around to my side quicker than I thought possible, taking my hand in his as he hands his keys to the valet.

When we get to the room, I find myself stumbling with the key. My nerves are completely shot in anticipation of the conversation we need to have. I feel his hand come over mine and take the key from me, opening the door easily. I take a deep breath and walk to one of the chairs, removing my bag that is laying on it. I motion for him to sit down as I take the other chair. I am already aching to be near him again. God! How am I ever going to do this?

I close my eyes and begin fiddling with my bracelet, trying to get my words together when all I want to do is make love to him. When I open my eyes he is watching me intently and my breathing picks up again. I stand up and walk towards the glass patio door, looking out at the water, trying to get my bearings. I know I am procrastinating but I am at a loss. I didn’t anticipate feeling so lost and confused in his presence. All my carefully conceived ideas about how I was going to do this seem so wrong right now. I place my forehead against the door, closing my eyes, trying to decide my next course of action.

Before I can decide anything I feel his arms wrap around my waist and his body flush against mine. He is kissing down my neck and moving his hand slowly over my breast. My breath hitches and my heart begins to race as I turn around to face him. I place my arms around his neck and immediately move my hands into his soft hair. I tug on it lightly and he moans against my neck as he begins sucking my flesh into his mouth.

“Touch me Roberta,” he breathes heavily against me, “Please… Touch me.” he pleads.

I feel tears against my neck and I know I can’t deny him. We can talk later, right now he needs me. I need him just as much. I move one of my hands from his hair and bring it to his jeans. He moans against my skin and starts kissing up and down my neck until he finally finds my lips again. He captures them in his, moving his tongue inside my mouth, not holding anything back as his tongue twists and turns around mine.

“I love you baby,” I whisper.

He lets out a quick breath before capturing my mouth with his again and kissing me fiercely. He touches my forehead with his and then kisses me tenderly on the lips.

“I love you so much. Don’t ever leave me again,” he says determinedly.

I start shaking my head, “I’ll never leave again.”

“I barely survived being without you.” He looks at me with tears in his eyes, “I know I couldn’t survive if I had to do it again.”

The tears I was trying so hard to contain find their voice, I am trembling underneath him, and with a shaky breath I reply firmly, “My life was meaningless without you. You are everything to me.” I begin whimpering as my tears overtake me. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

He nods and starts kissing me again. Our lovemaking is intense, it’s been so long, and there is such a need within us, a need that is consuming us both. He says my name over and over again until his body stills. He rolls on his back bringing me along with him and I wrap my arms around his chest, never wanting to let him go, and thinking what an idiot I was for leaving him in the first place. We lay like this for a long time, him playing with my hair and me running my fingers up and down his chest. I know we need to start talking. Sex was never an issue for us. It’s what we know. It’s what we were always good at. But I can’t hold anything back from him. He needs to know what happened and why. He deserves that and then he can decide if he still wants to be with me or not.

“Josh,” I say as I look up at him.

“Hmmm.”

I move away from him slowly so that I can look at him. His smile leaves his face and his brow furrows immediately. He looks worried again. I guess I don’t blame him. I am not usually very forthcoming about things.

“I know that I hurt you when I left. I’m so sorry baby.” I pause closing my eyes for a moment.

“It’s okay. You’re here now,” he whispers and I sigh.

I look at him, frowning. “Josh… It’s not okay! What I did was so wrong and far from being okay.”

Now he is frowning, “You want me to be angry at you? I’m sorry I can’t. I know I pushed you away. I …”

“Josh, stop it,” I say cutting him off.

I take a deep breath and run my fingers along his furrowed brow. I trace over his lips again and smile at him.

“This isn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. This was about me. I was pretty messed up. All you wanted to do was love me and take care of me but that was really hard for me to accept. When I left you I was in bad shape. I was hallucinating about Marcus; I didn’t know how to deal with anything. When your dad came by to talk to me about you quitting school, I don’t know, it seemed like I was ruining your life. I really felt like with me gone that your life could go back to normal, that you wouldn’t be sad or worried. What could I offer you aside from great sex? I was messed up. I didn’t know how to love. I couldn’t give you what you deserved. I still don’t know if I can.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to show you how special you are. How much I need you,” he says closing his eyes.

“Josh, baby… why do you think you aren’t enough for me when clearly you are the kindest and most compassionate person I have ever met,” I say running my fingers down his face.

He sighs, “I love you so much and it’s more than sex Roberta. I loved you the day we met. But you’re wrong. I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough to make you happy.”

I stare at him. Is that really what he believes? I close my eyes and start fiddling with my bracelet again, trying to think of all the brilliant things I had mapped out to say to him, to explain what happened. But, I don’t know, him thinking he wasn’t enough for me wasn’t even a thought that entered my mind. How could he believe that?

“Josh. You are more than enough. It was me. I wasn’t enough. I was so unhealthy. What Marcus did to me, losing my dad, being rejected by my mom. All those things made me believe that I couldn’t trust people, that no one would ever love me, that I wasn’t good enough. When I met you, I had hope for the first time in my life but I didn’t trust it. I kept waiting for something bad to happen to prove that I wasn’t good enough to have happiness.” I cup his face lovingly, “You challenged everything I believed to be true and I couldn’t handle it. This wasn’t about you. You were perfect.” I frown, remembering what Anna said to me. “You were perfect for me. I wasn’t ready for it though.”

“And you are now?” he asks hopeful.

“I believe so…” I sit up completely and look at him. “You give me too much, you want to please me so bad that you don’t ever tell me no, you don’t show me where the line is. Anna told me that in our relationship it was like I was a little kid and you giving me everything I wanted was bad parenting on your part, I don’t know, like spoiling me or something like that.” I pause thinking that didn’t sound quite right, “Well, it sounded better when she said it.”

“Who’s Anna?” he inquires.

“She was my counselor.” I pause realizing I started from the end and not the beginning. “Like I said before, when I left you I was a mess. I drove 36 hours straight to Chicago where I proceeded to stay drunk for a week. Maid service found me unconscious in my hotel room and I was admitted into Cook County Hospital. I hadn’t eaten in a week, all I did was drink and apparently I wrote a note saying I wanted to die.”

He flinches and I know he is remembering his ex-girlfriend Caterina and my overdose before I left.

“Baby, I wasn’t trying to kill myself. Well, maybe not consciously. Anyway, they admitted me to a psychiatric hospital. After I called you I broke my phone so the only number they had was my mom’s. So she comes down and talks to the judge and they ended up transferring me to a facility in Raleigh, North Carolina. That’s where I have been the entire time I was gone. I was released a week ago.”

He has tears in his eyes as he sits up completely and then kisses me softly.

“I knew you were hurting. I could tell. About three months ago I had my dad do a search because I couldn’t shake the feeling that you were in pain and that you were really hurting. When he got the results my mom said she thought you were going to be okay but I didn’t trust them so I had Tony and Jason look at what the investigator found out and they said you were pretty messed up but that you were better.”

I am looking at him incredulously. He seriously had someone track me down? I’m not sure how I feel about that.

“I was pretty messed up the first three months I was in the hospital. I didn’t talk to anyone for two months. I was sedated and restrained a few times and at one point I guess I was catatonic but I don’t really remember that. It was horrible being in there but I figured after what I did to you I deserved it.”

He frowns at me, “What does that mean, to be catatonic?”

I sigh, “It just means that I was unresponsive to external stimuli. It was like being in a coma but still being conscious, the only thing they said I did was…” I pause.

“What? What did they say you did?” he asks, clearly concerned.

“I wouldn’t move for a long time and then I would just start scratching my wrist until it would bleed. And then I would just stop. I didn’t talk or make eye contact with anyone. They just started strapping me down because they weren’t sure what I was going to do and they were worried I was going to hurt myself.”

I am trying to make it sound like it wasn’t so bad but I can tell by the look on his face that I am not being successful on that front. He is watching me and I can see that he is trying to hold back tears as he takes my wrists and looks at them. He moves my bracelet and traces over the marks there. He is touching my wrists like my ghost Josh used to. That’s kind of strange. My wrist isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. In fact it is almost invisible now, since I have not been scratching it for several months.

“I had a really hard time being away from you,” I say softly.

“Me too baby.” He kisses my lips ever so gently, “What changed though? You said the first three months, what about the last three?”

“After I came out of my catatonic state I realized with no uncertainty that I needed to get back to you but I didn’t want to be all screwed up when I did, so I started doing the work. It helped that my mom gave Anna our bracelet and your picture. Anna let me wear the bracelet in our sessions and let me hold your picture. It helped me feel close to you, connected to us. Anna was real good. She reminded me of your mom. She helped me work through a lot of stuff. She weaned me off the meds they were giving me and now I just take Celexa to help stabilize my anxiety and depression.”

“How can I help?” he asks as he moves a strand of my hair behind my ear.

“Just don’t always tell me yes and don’t let me keep things from you. It’s when I hold things in that I start acting stupid. My head can be a really jacked up place to be sometimes. I don’t think that will ever go away but I am trying to control it. I know it sounds weird but I really do need boundaries. I have no idea about relationships and how to do them right. I don’t even know what is appropriate or not. You can’t be afraid to tell me no.”

He takes a deep breath, running his hand through his hair.

“That’s going to be hard to do. It’s, I don’t know, in my nature I guess, to want to please you, to make you happy. I have a really hard time denying you anything.”

I smile, “Well, I guess you saying no and me accepting that no are things we both need to work on.”

He grins and starts kissing me again. I have missed kissing him so badly. He has the softest and most perfect lips on a man and I can just get lost in them. I pull away from him slightly and remember what Dr. Monclair said to me earlier. I open my mouth to say something and then close it again, pausing for a moment and looking down.

“What is it?” he asks concerned.

“I saw your mom today.”

“You did?” he asks curiously.

“I wanted to apologize to her for putting her in the position I did. She begged me to stay and talk about things but I didn’t. I felt bad later, when I started healing I felt horrible about what I did, I should have never made her do that.” I sigh and shake my head slightly and then look at him, “When I asked her how you were she kind of frowned and said you were better. What did she mean by that?”

He closes his eyes and brings his hand to his hair, then rests it on his chest, taking slow steady breaths. That’s when I notice it. I grab his hand, turning it up and down, frowning. He tries to pull his hand away from me but I tug it back. I start counting the stitches and start examining each of his fingers, knuckles, and hand. I can feel where it was reset, he has calcium deposits in places there shouldn’t be any. When I look at him he is looking at me with sadness in his eyes and I know without a doubt he did this to himself.

“Josh what did you do? There are at least 30 stitches here and it feels like your hand had to be reset.” I say it calmly but my facial expression I am sure reveals the concern I have.

He closes his eyes again, pulling his hand away from me. “I hit that glass wall near the door.” He pauses and then opens his eyes, “Five times.”

There are tears in my eyes now. “When? When did you do this?” but I know by the look on his face the answer to that question.

I close my eyes feeling the tears streaming down my face. He hurt himself because of me. I grab my wrist again, counting to five as I hold my bracelet, taking long steady breaths in and out. I am trying to rephrase this situation but I can’t think of any positive thing that could come out of him breaking his hand because I left him.

“Roberta… Please don’t,” he says calmly, touching my cheek.

“You did that when I left didn’t you?” I whisper between my tears.

He sighs, “Yes I did. I had 38 stitches and broke my hand. I didn’t sever any nerves or anything so they said I was lucky. The first week it really hurt but after they took the stitches out and casted it, it wasn’t so bad. It was mostly just a nuisance.”

I fling myself onto him, wrapping myself around his torso. I kiss his chest as he moves his fingers into my hair.

“I’m so sorry baby. I never wanted you hurt.” Then I look up at him quickly, “What about school? Did you get your thesis in?”

He frowns at me and I’m not sure what that means but he lays my head back down against his neck and continues to play in my hair.

“I got everything in okay. I will be graduating next month with honors,” he says solemnly.

I move to look at him smiling widely and am confused by his expression, “You’re not happy about that?”

“It’s not that. It’s just that when you left it all seemed so insignificant. I am glad I finished and I am proud that I did well but not having you there with me, it wasn’t worth it. I would have rather had you.”

“I can understand that baby but it is still something to be proud of.”

I lay against him but this time I am on my back as I take his hand again. I run my fingers along his hand and then bring it to my mouth, kissing every place he hurt himself. The doctor who stitched him up didn’t do a great job but I am not going to say anything to him about that. Based on these injuries he really is lucky he didn’t sever any of his nerves. When I have finished kissing his knuckles I bring his hand to my face and kiss his palm.

“You are my home, Josh. I really want it to work with us. Is there a chance for that?”

He smiles and brings his lips to mine. “Wherever you are is where I want to be.”

I nod and kiss him. I know we have a lot more to talk about and work out but for now I just want to hold him. We have a strong foundation and can rebuild the house that has fallen. As much as I hated being away from him I recognize how important it was for it to happen the way it did. I might never have gotten the help I needed otherwise. I know the work will be hard but it’s worth it. He’s worth it and more importantly, I’m worth it.

The End

AUTHORS NOTE

This is a piece from a very LONG story I wrote. It was actually the first fictional story I had written in probably fifteen years. Because it was first it will always be special to me. While there is much, much more to Roberta and Josh’s story I will not be publishing it but I do hope you enjoyed this excerpt that allowed me to showcase the angsty side of myself.

This is not a good start to the day

Available to read on Wattpad HERE