22 Chapters
Medium 9781782202738

Two

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

On Tuesdays I begin seeing patients at seven, before Keith sets to work with his infernal drill. I am alone in the building until my first appointment. There are mornings I come in earlier, particularly if Frank is away and I am restless. I tell myself that this is an opportunity and I use the time to write. This day, though, I arrived at the office thirty minutes before my client, time enough for a cup of coffee and a quick piece of toast in the building's communal kitchen down the hall. I had to rub the crumbs from my fingers before going down to open the door. I am always a little anxious before meeting a new patient and all our arrangements for this session had been sorted out over the internet.

Dorothy was a blur on the other side of the bubbled glass, the angled pitch of an umbrella protecting her from the rain. I opened the door and she stared at me, eyes wide open in shock, not sure what to expect. As if wondering whether I might hit her or kiss her.

Instead, I offered her my hand, “Hello. I'm Lisa Harden.”

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Medium 9781782202738

Eleven

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

Frank and I walked around one another for the next few days. It wasn't that he was ignoring me, or that I was shutting him out, but rather that for the first time in our marriage we did not know how to speak to one another. We were both locked into our own turmoil, unsure how to find a way out. For the first time, too, I wondered if Frank regretted marrying me. It wasn't so much what he said, but rather what he didn't say, and the silence was like a boom call, resonating throughout the house whenever we were both at home, which was as little as possible. There were no more early cups of tea, instead I subsisted on coffee. I took to switching on BBC's Radio 4, to hear another voice in the kitchen, and we ducked into our individual studies for relief, emerging for breaks at alternate times. All weekend I listened for his footfall on the stairs or in the hallway, but it never stopped outside my door.

On the Monday, Frank went to Scotland for a few days to lecture and I was relieved. I did not have to lie beside him in bed, terrified that nightmare furies would give me away. I needn't have been afraid. Though I lay awake for hours, the little sleep I had was blessedly dreamless. Instead, the demon surfaced during the day, a hovering shadow that hurtled towards me at the squeak of a door opening or closing, or the sound of a car horn from the street below my office window. The bubble of translucent horror rose on the tail of a gust of wind as I walked by the pond at Clapham Common. I staggered towards one of the benches on the other side of the park to stop myself from fainting. This was exhaustion; no avoiding it now. By the time Frank came back from Glasgow I had a plan, in part helped by a phone call from my brother, Tom, in Canada. He'd joined the bandwagon, encouraging me to get away.

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Twelve

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I used the weekend to recover and Frank was solicitous. He had made his point, not pushing it further, particularly as I collapsed, spending most of the two days in bed with a headache. The lightest pressure, a stray hair, or a cool cloth was all the same, adding to the pain. Stomach cramps, too, as if going into labour. Frank was careful to see that I drank plenty of liquids and ate something light, crumpets or toast. He comforted me: “There's a summer ‘bug’ going around.” How else was he to make sense of this?

By the time Monday morning rolled around, the pressure had eased and, while still physically shaky, I was grateful to get back to work despite dreading the task ahead. Two weeks was very short notice to give clients of an impending break. Normally I gave them a few months’ warning. A psychotherapist's work life is planned out as far as is possible in advance, sometimes a full year ahead. The nature of the job is to provide a “container”, to give safety and predictability, consistency if you like. Within that consistency the unpredictability of life can be absorbed, such as illness or an unexpected death in the family. That's the theory anyway. I had certainly provided reliability, not having taken any time out in months, not since Easter, and before taking Dorothy on as a client.

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Six

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I remembered Dorothy's name just as I opened my office door the next morning, half an hour before she was meant to arrive. Through the thicket of dense memory, it finally emerged. Until then I had only the vision of her bare knees in mind, and her little hand pounding against her thigh. I read her notes—one page—taken aback that I had put down so little. I knew nothing about her, not her job or where she had grown up. Was she married? Of course not, I reminded myself, she had said she struggled with relationships, though that could mean anything from the soup of friendship to the nuts of marriage or a committed relationship.

I was tired this morning following a restless night and the haunting edge of a dream I couldn't quite grasp after waking with a start around three. Must have shouted out because Frank was sitting up in bed when I shot upright and looked around the room to see where I was.

“Whoah!” I gasped.

“You were dreaming. A nightmare by the looks of things.” Rubbing my shoulder, reassuring me.

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Medium 9781782202738

Fourteen

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

Returning home after seeing Dorothy, I was still unsettled, despite having seen five more clients that day, all of whom seemed to appreciate my presence, particularly Lucy, who was fierce in her newfound insight concerning perfection. I was on comfortable, familiar ground there, and could honestly say that we were working well together.

That evening Frank and I had a barbecue on the patio, where I was always careful to keep my voice down because of the neighbours, particularly when speaking about my work. I told him something about my difficult session with Dorothy, without mentioning her name or revealing any of the details: that I found her a difficult patient and was relieved that she might be leaving to live abroad. I didn't admit to my raging sense of loss at the prospect of her leaving for New York, or to my intense shame at my equally powerful feelings of dislike towards her. How could I begin to describe the complexity of my feelings for this new patient, the warring conflict of emotions she provoked? Why did I still refer to her as my “new patient”, though she had long passed that stage and I had taken on at least three people since first seeing her in March?

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