It wasn’t too late to back out.
After the emotional upheaval Olivia Chandler experienced while handling the Averest case, re-entering counseling seemed like a sound idea. Olivia knew she had avoided her personal demons for far too long. Sorting through her issues with the past and laying them to rest was the only way she could move on to a future which was hers for the taking.
A future with Bruce.
However, now as the elevator neared the tenth floor of the Monarch Mental Health Center, Olivia wasn’t so sure.
What would she gain from talking about the period in her life where she suffered the most? Why had she promised Bruce she would do this? They could be happy together without her going through this.
The whisper-quiet, stainless steel doors parted and the conflicted attorney knew what she had to do.
Olivia stepped out of the lift and looked around for suite numbers. After a quick glance at the floor directory, she headed for suite 1055.
The familiar anxiety buzzing behind her ears reminded Olivia why she would not back out of counseling.
She was tired.
Even without the Rena Averest case… and Bruce Bellamy entering her life, Olivia Chandler always knew there would be a day of reckoning, and a battle for her soul and sanity.
Until a few short weeks ago, it was a battle Olivia expected to lose.
Olivia gave herself a last-minute pep talk as she entered suite 1055.
It’s time, Chandler. No more excuses. You promised Bellamy you would do this, but this is for you and no one else.
The center of the room held two black love-seats and a large, flat screen television. A tunnel slide sat in the corner on the right side of the room between a wall of books and a wall of cubbies filled with toys. Two round tables covered with puzzles sat in the opposite corner.
Waiting was sometimes a necessary annoyance, but Leo and Diane Payton had given considerable thought to their clients’ time when decorating this room. Olivia was impressed.
Walking up to the reception window, Olivia saw a middle-aged woman approach from the other side of the counter.
Olivia recognized the warm voice from her first phone call. “Yes. Marilyn?”
The women shared a laugh and shook hands.
“Good to meet you, at last, Ms. Chandler.”
“No, no! It’s Olivia… please.”
Okay, Olivia. I must commend you on completing your online questionnaire. I realize some of the questions can be exhausting, but I’ve never seen one as complete as yours in the seventeen years I’ve been here.”
Olivia averted her eyes while fiddling with her earring. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, Marilyn.”
“Trust me, it’s a good thing.”
Nodding once, Olivia watched as Marilyn reached for a file folder.
“I’ve printed everything out, Olivia. I just need your signature in a few places and we’re all set.”
Minutes later, consent papers signed, Olivia sat on the black leather love seat listening to the host of a cooking show rave about the flavor of beer can chicken.
Beads of sweat inched down Olivia’s back.
A hum buzzed behind her left ear and grew in intensity until it caused Olivia physical pain.
She crossed and uncrossed her legs at the ankle while tugging on the hem of her skirt.
The warm, metallic taste of bile tickled the back of Olivia’s throat and she glanced around the waiting room. Seeing a restroom sign perched high on a door in the corner of the children’s play area, Olivia judged the distance from her seat.
Annoyed with herself, she swallowed, determined to fight off the anxiety and nausea.
What is it with you, Chandler? Sitting here getting all worked up and trying to find reasons to run out the door when you need this! You need to rid yourself of this dark baggage. Leaving now will only keep you rooted in the same spot you’ve been in since — …
Startled and embarrassed, Olivia looked in the direction the voice came from.
A Rubenesque African American woman stood near the reception counter, a file in one hand and a knowing smirk on her face. She approached Olivia.
“Excuse me? Stop what?”
“Stop trying to talk yourself into leaving… or staying.”
Stunned she was so well read by a stranger, Olivia faltered.
“D-Does this happen to everyone on their first visit?”
Stopping in front of Olivia, the woman smiled and shook her head.
“It happens to anyone doing something they’re not sure they want to do.”
She extended her hand. “I’m Diane Payton.”
Olivia rose and shook Diane’s hand.
“Nice to meet you, Diane. Olivia Chandler. Does it ever happen to you?”
Gesturing for Olivia to follow her, Diane Payton responded.
“Of course! Every single time we take our children to an amusement park, or the zoo, or the skating rink.”
Olivia followed Diane down a long hallway.
“I ask myself, “Do you want to be trapped with your children and thousands of rude strangers all day?”
Two closed doors stood at the end of the hallway. Diane opened the door to the right and motioned for Olivia to enter first.
“What do you decide, Diane?”
The therapist entered and closed the door behind her.
“Oh, no way do I want to be in any of those situations! But at the end of the day in the van when I’m tired and sweaty and my feet hurt, I look over at my husband, happy and relaxed driving us home. I look in the back seats at our tribe already sleeping like the dead after having a great day,” she shrugged, “and I think I was crazy for not wanting to come, and look forward to making more memories with my family.”
Diane tilted her head toward conversational chairs across the room.
“C’mon, Olivia. Let’s talk.”
The buzzing in her ears had stopped and bile no longer tried to claw its way out of her stomach. But as Olivia Chandler crossed the room, her steps were slow and weighted, part of her mind still rebelling against being in Diane Payton’s office.
And it was that part of her mind Olivia pushed back against and took a seat.