“You’re one to talk,” she said as she poured herself another stiff drink. “I only did it once. How many times have you?”
I stiffened. Not letting it seep into my voice, I told Agnes, “We’re not here about me. When you called you said you needed my help. Please put away that vodka and sit down. Talk to me, Agnes. What are you feeling?” Agnes gave me a vicious look and downed the rest of her drink. She slammed the glass onto the sideboard. Clutching the bottle close, she returned to the chair across from my desk.
“Sure, what am I feeling? Typical shrink talk,” she muttered. The light glittered off the jewels in her necklace, sparkling in the quiet. She shifted in the chair for a moment then burst out, “I just cheated on my husband, what do you think I’m feeling?”
“It’s a complicated issue. Perhaps you could tell me what first comes to mind,” I suggested. She was clearly unraveling. This was going better than I expected.
The first tear began a lonely trail down her cheek and she looked down. Within seconds, her shoulders began shaking and her sable coat slid from them to the floor. Sobs wrenched her voice to a rasp. “How could I do that? How could I lower myself?” She flashed a piercing stare at me. “You know how, right? You have all the answers!”
“You mentioned a few days ago you felt pushed to act. You said you were angry about your husband’s cheating. Do you still feel angry, Agnes?” My pen paused on the steno pad as I waited for her response.
She looked out the window into the darkness. Glass forgotten, she spun the cap off the bottle and took a swig of the vodka. “Angry? Angry doesn’t begin to describe it. Livid! Dirty!” She looked back at me and spat, “Betrayed!”
“Good, that’s very good, Agnes. Let it out,” I encouraged. I wrote “unreasonable, contradicting self, threatening therapist, husband and self.”
The sobs started up again. “I showered for an hour when I got home. How can you stand it?”
“We’re not here to talk about me. We’re here for you, Agnes. How did it feel to be naked and vulnerable with another man? Tell me what it was like to have a stranger’s hands on your body.” I stilled the smile which wanted to break out at her abruptly pale face and widened eyes.
“How could you… how could you even say those things? I don’t want to relive it. I want to forget! How do you endure it? How do you get past it, do you forgive or ignore it?” Her hands were shaking when she lifted the bottle to her lips this time.
“Forgive what? Forgive yourself for doing it with a stranger? Let me ask you something, Agnes. Did you take any money from this man for having sex with him?”
She dropped the bottle and jumped up. Leaning on my desk, she hovered over me. Her jewelry shivered, echoing her angry trembles. Vodka breath bathed my face. “You’re asking if I whored myself out? You’re reprehensible. Is that how you do it? Admit it, Dr. Grant, you’re nothing but a whore.” Now I smiled. She was so close to where I wanted her.
“We see in others what we hate in ourselves, Agnes. Calling me that only means you hate the fact you became a dirty whore. You see that now, don’t you?” My voice was silky smooth. I saw her jaw tighten, her hands turning to fists. I put the pen down and leaned forward. “Was he as good as your husband is with me, Agnes?”
She roared when she came over the desk at me. I had the letter opener in my hand, ready for her. Her hands found my throat and she squeezed, twisting them. It was worse than I expected. I faltered, barely tearing her blouse with a feeble stab. Fear edged my vision as I choked. Mustering strength, I jabbed at her with the letter opener, hardly registering the wash of warmth over my hand. Air returned slowly at first, then in a sudden rush and I gasped it in, falling back in my chair. As I blinked away the grey, Agnes slid off my desk with a wide trail of blood, landing on the sable next to her overturned bottle of vodka.
The end result was better than planned. Agnes’s handprints on my throat were an unexpected bonus. No one would suspect me. Not even her husband.
© 2011 JC Rosen
The first lines are a #storystarters written by @CliffordFryman, who is the originator and moderator of that hashtag on Twitter. Thanks for the inspiration, Clifford.