Saturday, February 7, 2009

Twice as Strong by Kally Jo Surbeck

This was the seventh session, but it didn’t seem any more important than the first. There had been no progress, and now, just as during the first meeting ten weeks ago, Francis Lynn Clemment still had not responded to the counselor beyond simple hellos and goodbyes. She refused to answer questions, to disclose anything. To her, this was a waste of time and money.

Her husband, however, sat next to her on the overstuffed tan leather couch, his big hands folded uncomfortably in his lap, staring earnestly at the young psychiatrist.

This fool idea was his. Every Tuesday and Friday they came to the small, three-story office building. They rode the elevator in silence, both in opposite corners, like fighters waiting for the bell. They walked through the institutional gray halls without touching, then came into this expensively decorated office, all at his prompting. If given the choice, Frankie would have let him go it alone. Maybe it would help him. Maybe he did need to “talk it out.”

She didn’t.

She could just as easily have stayed home, but somehow her beguiling husband had managed to convince everyone this was best., from her general practitioner to her mother. What was wrong with her that she would not try to salvage their marriage? Did she want their marriage to end? Frankie scratched her forehead. The only suitable response to that question was cooperation. So, here they sat, each as distant and alone as before the first session.

No. Frankie modified her thoughts. She was alone. Her husband, Tanner, sat spilling every last sordid detail of their married life to the pretty doctor woman., iFrankie watched his perfect lips move in a steady stream of description. She recognized her name. Frankie. He’d called her that since they first met, never caring for Francis. He’d said it didn’t suit her. That Frankie sounded more fun, youthful, adventurous. That’s how he saw her. He frowned at something. She didn’t know if it was inner conflict, or if the doctor had responded to his tale of woe.

At one time, she loved to watch his facial expressions. To guess what he was thinking by the light in his eyes. Yet, somehow, the light had seemed to fade. The spark of desire still smoldered in their depths, but his happiness, his zest, his hope seemed gone.

For a brief instant, she wanted to reach out to him and smooth the pained lines of his face. She yearned to make the deepening frown scoring the edge of his mouth disappear; but as quickly as the compulsion came, it left her again.

In the years they’d known and loved each other, she’d felt his lips in the dark, memorized the weathered planes of his handsome face. Intimately, she knew the mole behind his left ear right at the hairline, the scar in his right brow. Those little details, seared in her memory, had once been a source of so much joy. Now, they stood out to her as distractions.

Perhaps the accident had taken more from her than anyone knew. It had stolen her youth and that adventurous wife he knew. It had robbed her of music, the beat of her soul. Had it taken her heart as well?