Rebecca and Bob Davis approached the receptionist’s desk with some trepidation. “Umm… hi,” began Rebecca. “We have an 11 o’clock with Dr. Appen-Hauser…?”
“Of course,” responded Sarah brightly. “She’s expecting you and should be along shortly. Go right on in.” She smiled directly at them. “Would you like some coffee or tea before you settle in? The Keurig is right behind you. Help yourselves!”
Bob shook his head briefly, the curt gesture revealing his nervous tension. Rebecca smiled as sincerely as she could, “Thanks, but we’re good, I think.”
The couple turned to enter the open door together, unconsciously leaning into one another for strength and courage. Sarah nodded slightly, recognizing the signs. Another marriage in trouble, full of doubt, expecting (even hoping?) to fail, so they can move on…
Rebecca realized she was too close to Bob the instant they crossed the threshold together. She pushed away from him and started wandering slowly around the room. Her eyes darted nervously about, as though trying to catch faeries in flight. Bob cleared his throat, stepping silently aside to study the wall, carefully keeping his back toward Rebecca.
For Rebecca, the bright sunshine streaming in the too-large windows, the warm goldenrod colored walls, the beige couch with matching chair, and gold-leafed accent pieces seemed too cheery and optimistic to be comfortable. The faint scent of lavender mocked her anxiety…
Bob noted the artwork on the wall in front of him. Nature scenes and abstract pieces, splashes of color without any real meaning. He felt instantly out of his depth…
A door slammed in the distance, claiming the couple’s attention. A moment later, a short, rotund woman bustled in, the gardener by all appearances. She was dressed in worn jeans, dirt smudged into the upper thighs as though she’d wiped her hands there at least a hundred times, and a worn purple sweatshirt that read “gardeners like it dirty”, with a floppy straw hat and a freshly potted lavender plant to complete her outfit. She smiled encouragingly at the couple before speaking.
“Ah, good, I see you’re ready to go. Why don’t you two get settled on the couch and I’ll be right with you. I just need to wash up a bit.” She chuckled at herself, set the plant on a small stand near the window, and headed back out again…
Rebecca and Bob watched her go, then looked at each other, wide-eyed and alarmed. “Is that her?,” Bob asked, almost angrily. “Is that the doctor you insisted we had to see to save our marriage?!”
Rebecca looked confused for a moment before straightening her shoulders defiantly. “I don’t know, but it seems likely she is. At least she seemed to be expecting us.”
“What have you gotten us into, Rebecca?! Did you do any research at all before making this appointment? I mean look around here; there’s no diplomas, no desk, no computer… absolutely nothing here to indicate a professional of any kind works here, much less a marriage counselor!”
“Oh relax, Robert! You’re always so hung up on appearances! Dr. Appen-Hauser comes highly recommended. And we’ve tried everything else, so if this doesn’t work, we’re done,” she snapped. “But then, that’s probably what you’re hoping for, isn’t it?”
***** ***** *****
“No, no, no, no, no!,” the writer snaps in frustration. Only the fact that she can’t wad the phone up like an offensive piece of paper prevents her from chucking it into the trash. “This isn’t working! It’s boring, trite, predictable… and slow! You’re almost halfway through and haven’t even gotten to the point yet!”
“Walk away… walk away,” a softer voice echoes in her mind. “Give it time. Inspiration may yet appear. But not if you’re constricted this way. Just walk away…”
“Gladly!,” replies the irritated author. “I have other things to do today!”
***** ***** *****
Dr. Anna Appen-Hauser returned, minus the straw hat and sweatshirt. She reached for Rebecca’s hand, revealing the traces of dirt still lingering under her blunt fingernails. “Welcome, welcome!,” she gushed. “I’m Anna. So good to meet you, Rebecca!” She smiled warmly.
Rebecca couldn’t help but return that smile.
Anna turned to face Bob, still standing off to one side…
“This is what you’re wearing to our session?!,” he exclaimed irritably. “A t-shirt and dirty jeans?!”
Anna glanced down briefly at her attire. Smiling still, she dropped her hands. “Well they were clean when I put them on this morning.” She chuckled softly. “One of the ‘problems’ with late morning appointments, I guess,” she added, emphasizing the word “problems” as though it held some secret significance. “I have to keep busy while I wait, after all.”
“Please sit down, Bob, so we can get started…”
“Why are you here, Bob?,” Anna asked directly, as soon as he was seated.
He hesitated but a moment before squaring his shoulders. “My wife insisted,” he explained.
She raised her eyebrows, surprise shining in clear blue eyes. Glancing briefly at Rebecca’s downcast head and cold, clasped hands, she tried again. “No, no, no. I mean why are you really here?”
Bob, uncertain now, also glanced Rebecca’s way. Finding no outward sign of support, he shifted his focus back to the counselor. “We’re here to try and save our marriage, I guess.” Blame and discouragement dripped from every word.
“Do you want to save your marriage?,” Anna asked sincerely.
“Of course!,” he snapped.
No one responded. Confused by the long silence, Bob stuttered on. “It’s just… you know… well, the thing is…”
“Do you love her?” Anna asked pointedly.
“Of course I do!,” he snapped again, without hesitation. “Why else would I be here?!”
“Do you love her?,” Anna tried again.
Bob stared at her, muscles rigid, face frozen in a contemptuous snarl.
“Do you love her?,” Anna tried for the third time. “Do you love Rebecca?” She gestured briefly at his wife, who was studying him closely now.
He looked long and hard at Rebecca. Gradually his muscles relaxed. Shifting his gaze to the floor in front of him, he answered softly, defeated. “Yes.”
Anna shifted her attention to Rebecca. “Do you love Bob?”
Rebecca looked at Bob. Sadness, disillusionment, distress oozed from her teary gaze. Her eyes narrowed. Turning back toward Anna, she answered carefully. “Yes, but…”
Anna held up a hand to silence her. “I’ve heard enough, thanks.”
***** ***** *****
“You’re over your word count,” a gentle voice intrudes, breaking the spell.
“I know, I know!,” snaps the author. “But they must tell the story in their own voices. I’m not going to take words out of their mouths!”
“Ok… just sayin’ is all.” Her shrug is almost audible.
***** ***** *****
The doctor squared her shoulders, slipped into her lecturing voice and went to work…
“Let me begin by telling you what I’m not. I am not a mediator to stand between you while you fight. I am not a negotiator to help you sort out your assets for the divorce. I am not your potential witness to be dragged into court for any custody contentions. And I am not your friend, offering silent support and comfort while you decide what to do…
“What I am is a communication specialist, here to help you reframe your ‘problems’ by altering the language you use… What you do with any new insight you gain is entirely up to you!”
Anna paused long enough to let her words sink in. Anger flashed briefly in Rebecca’s eyes, quickly covered by lashed lids. Bob’s glance darted about the room, as if looking for a way out. The doctor continued…
“The first word we need to eliminate from your vocabulary is ‘but,’ both spoken and implied. But always precedes an excuse, and whether or not that excuse is justified, it solidifies your personal perspective; you aren’t communicating with each other if you’re fortifying your own position…
“So go home. Work on that. Let that be a test of your true commitment. If you both make some progress at it…,” she looked pointedly at Bob, before allowing her eyes to linger on Rebecca. “Well… then you can call Sarah and set up a time for regular appointments.”
Anna rose and walked over to open the door, encouraging the couple to leave. She called out softly to her receptionist.
“Sarah, dear. Don’t charge them for this consultation…” As the stunned couple shuffled by, she added coyly, “after all, I didn’t dress appropriately for it, as it turns out.”
When Rebecca and Bob were gone, Sarah turned to Anna. “What was that about?”
“Expectations, of course,” the doctor replied, her smile never dimming.
“Do you think they’ll come back?,” Sarah asked curiously.
Dr. Appen-Hauser considered for a moment. “Hmm… only if Bob can convince his wife to want to save their marriage. Rebecca has already left it.”
Sarah couldn’t disguise her surprise. “Really?!… I would have thought it was the other way around!”
“Most people would,” Anna agreed. “And they would be wrong as well.” She chuckled softly.
Sarah leaned in to kiss Anna fully on the lips, eyes alight with secret mischief. “That must be why they call you Dr. AAHA!” Twining her arms around her wife’s, Sarah led Anna down the hall. “Lunch, my love?”
“Yes, please!,” Anna responded warmly. “I’m starving!”
***** ***** *****
“Umm… you’re over 1500 words,” a soft voice intones.
Irritated, the author snaps. “Don’t you think I know that? But really, why should our voices even count, since no one else can hear them?”
The visitor raises a finger to point out the obvious, then thinks better of it.
“Unless… Do you think they have some program or something that automatically cuts a story off at a 1000 words?” Worry creeps into the writer’s tone as she speaks… “Well, their loss if they do,” she answers herself, “because they won’t know how the story ends!”
“Ahhh, I knew this one was my kind of writer,” the visitor muses silently. “Just enough insecurity to question everything, and more than enough arrogance to express it defiantly!”
“Although…,” the writer continues thoughtfully, “that does give me an idea. What if we created a world where people could only communicate in short verbal bursts? We could call it The Twitterverse, and explore how such truncated speech patterns affect how they frame their reality!” She turns back toward her phone. “What do you think? 145 characters or so limit for each bit of dialogue?”
“Umm…,” the Muse begins, finger raised against the obvious again.
But the writer is no longer listening, as her fingers type furiously on her virtual keyboard. Dusting off her invisible hands in an unconscious gesture of completion, the Muse turns to go, in search of another artist in need of inspiration today. Her retreating laughter sounds suspiciously like the chimes hanging from the author’s shelves…
***** ***** *****
(April’s BlogBattle entry – and fail – at 1819 words. 😫 See the rules, and links to the non-fails here: https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/blogbattle-shift/ )