Mommy pulls me close, but I still jump when the mean man bangs on the door. I’m scared it will break. “I know you’re in there!” he shouts, and Mommy holds me tighter.
“He’ll go soon,” she whispers. She’s scared like me, I know because her hand is shaking.
I get really, really scared when the door rattles and he shouts bad words—words Mommy said I must never repeat even though I hear grown-ups use them. “I’ll be back!” he yells, his voice so scary, it makes me shake.
against it, then she stands and looks through the peephole. She turns and smiles at me, but her eyes are sad. It’s quiet, but we stay behind the sofa for a long time before Mommy lets me go. She makes the sign to be quiet and crawls to the door. She puts her ear
“It’s okay, Adam,” Mommy picks me up and kisses my cheek. “I’ll have the money next week. We’ll be okay,” she tells me over and over.
“And were you?” Ariane's voice drags me back to the present.
“No. The guy returned with two others. One was the man responsible for Eleanor changing,” I say, picking at a worn spot on the knee of my jeans. I sense her watching me, but I don’t look up. I’m tired of talking about this shit.
“And that’s your earliest memory of your mother?” Ariane presses; her persistence is really pissing me off now.
“No; I have others, but they’re not clear.” Eleanor smiling at me, cuddling me, how happy we were before she changed—but I don’t share that.
“And how old were you at the time of that incident?”
“Around five, six maybe.”
“Adam, look at me,” Ariane says and waits silently for me to comply. I know she won’t give up. So I grudgingly do, hating that she’ll see how close I am to crying. Alan would call me a pussy. Maybe I am. I’m seventeen; I should be over all of this by now, shouldn’t I? I have a family, a real family now, but it doesn’t matter how happy they make me or how hard I try, my fucking memories keep pulling me back to that time.
“She loved you, Adam,” Ariane says as if it’s a fact; as if she knows. How the fuck can she? She wasn’t there. She didn’t feel what it was like to be ignored. She wasn't sent to bed hungry as her mother entertained men. She didn't see her mother’s eyes glaze over to the point where she completely lost sight of her child.
“Sure, she did. Are we done for the day?” I ask, trying to keep my sarcasm in check because if Ariane tells Mom I’m not playing ball, I’ll be stuck in this hell called therapy for longer. More than that, though, I know how much getting a bad report would hurt Mom, and I don’t want that because I’d do almost anything for my mother. Well, this mother, because, as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t do anything for the other.
In one of our early sessions, Ariane asked why I never refer to Eleanor as ‘Mom’ or ‘mother.' ‘Why do you always call her Eleanor or simply her in that dismissive tone?” I think her exact words were. I shrugged, not wanting to discuss my feelings. Ariane suggested, then, that I was emotionally distancing myself, that it was my way of denying my hurt and repressed anger. She said it was a way for me to deny that I loved Eleanor, that I love her, and that she’d loved me. After that, I refused to discuss her or anything relating to my time with her again.
Today, after a month of avoidance; four weeks of feeling angry and, yes, I admit, resentful at her questioning, Ariane’s probing got to me. The memories refused to be ignored, and without meaning to, I found myself talking.
Each session, leading up to this point, I’d felt like she’d deliberately been picking at old wounds just to see them bleed again, and my irritation had progressively increased. But her methods, which, by the way, I still think stinks, have worked just as she must have known they would. She’s a psychologist, like Mom, and if I’m to believe Mom, one of the best.
Mom once called Ariane the earth-mother type, and I suppose she’s right because beneath the flowing skirts, multiple rings, and dangly earrings she is motherly. But don’t be fooled, like I’d stupidly been at first, by her soft smile and conciliatory approach. She’s like a fucking terrier with a bone, gnawing away, relentless in her determination to make you talk about shit you’d rather forget.
Fight all you like; she just keeps coming back, sitting there, observing your every move, asking question after damned question. It doesn’t matter if you curse or walk out, the next time, she asks the same thing. She never quits.
Like Mom, Ariane has a caring nature that hides an unstoppable resolve. It’s something to do with the jobs they do, I suppose, or maybe people like them gravitate to work like theirs. Social workers and therapists must need those characteristics to deal with the shit people like me dish up to them every day.
“Yes, Adam, we’re done for today,” Ariane answers. “It was a good start—finally. We’ll revisit this conversation next week,” she adds with a note of warning. I nod, not willing to fight her right now. I just want to get the hell out of here.
Cait’s watching T.V. when I get home. “How was it?” she asks when I flop down on the sofa next to her.
“Fine,” I say, reaching for the remote, but she swats me away.
“Don’t lie; you’re upset,” she persists.
I’m okay,” I sigh, knowing just how useless any attempt to resist her probing would be. “Ariane just pissed me off as usual. She got me to talk about Eleanor.”
“How did you feel about that?” she asks, something I’d expect from Mom. I sometimes wonder if Cait’s insightfulness is due to the genes she inherited from Mom or if her impairment makes her more sensitive to things.
“Shitty. I hate talking about her, and I hated it even more that Ariane tried to convince me she loved me. That’s just bullshit. How the hell would she know?” I glance away, feeling myself get emotional all over again.
“Hey!” Cait grabs my chin, forcing me to look at her. “Then tell Ariane. She could help. ”
“She can’t. No one can make it better, Cait. Anyway, it’s all in the past. I don’t want to think about it, and I sure as shit don’t want to talk about it, especially to some stranger. Just drop the subject, okay?” Angry, I raise my voice.
“What are you two shouting about?” Mom demands as she enters.
“Adam’s being pig-headed like always,” Cait says, and Mom raises her eyebrows at me.
“It’s nothing. Cait’s being a pushy busybody like always.” I glare at her, warning her not to say anything.
She waits until Mom's not looking before raising her middle finger. Yes, flipping someone the bird is the same in sign language, Cait and I discovered when we decided to learn ASL curse words. The deaf community, I also learned, uses profanity as much as the rest of us.
I retaliate by mouthing ‘bitch,' but Mom catches me. “Adam, please don’t use that word, especially when speaking to or about your sister!”
“You didn’t see what she said,” I grumble. Mom turns to Cait, who stares back angelically. “What?” she asks.
“I’m watching the pair of you,” Mom warns before leaving.
It’s been three weeks since Ariane got me to talk about Eleanor. I turned up for my next therapy session as evasive and uncooperative as ever, as if that incident hadn’t occurred, but she saw through me and, finally, running out of patience, called me out on it last week. “These sessions aren’t for my benefit, Adam, and you don’t have to work with me, but I’d be remiss in my duty if I failed to recommend that you continue with someone,” she said. And so, out of concern about my parents’ disappointment and faced with the potential of indefinite therapy, potentially with someone new, I opened up. I admitted that I'm still how mad about Eleanor’s choices, her death, and how much I hate Adam Winston, his money, and what it represents.
When Ariane failed to convince me that Eleanor had loved me and that Winston had tried, if belatedly, to make amends, she changed tack. She turned her attentions to helping me explore how I could come to terms with my feelings about Winston because, despite her insistence that I hadn’t dealt with my feelings about Eleanor, I insisted that he was the reason for what she to referred to as my ‘repressed anger’.
I, naturally, argued that there was nothing repressed about my feelings, that what I felt wasn’t merely anger. I loathed the man, I said. Ariane ignored my outburst and, instead of discussing either Eleanor or Winston, she explored ways I could use my feelings—whatever they may be, she clarified— as motivation to become the best man I could be. A man nothing like my biological father, she cunningly added.
“You say the only positive thing you gained from what you’ve learned about Adam Winston and your inheritance is that the law can serve those less privileged in society? Tell me why you think that?” Ariane presses, and then, as she always does, sits back, watches—and waits.
I huff out a frustrated breath. We’ve been over this several times; I wish she’d just tell me what she thinks because as sure as shit she has an opinion. But she won’t, and I know by now that it’s pointless avoiding the question.
“Adam Winston was not my father; he was a sperm donor,” I correct her. “And yes, that’s the only positive thing that’s happened since we first heard from his lawyer. Oh wait, that’s not true. I enjoyed seeing New York with my real dad, but, do you know what the most positive thing was? It was when I found out Adam Winston died.”
“Adam, I know you don’t actually gain pleasure from someone’s death,” she says, not as an admonishment, she’s stating a fact.
“Okay, maybe I wasn’t happy that he died, but I was fucking ecstatic that I didn’t have to meet the coward.” She doesn’t bat an eyelid at my language, which tells me she’s determined not to get sidetracked.
“Tell me again how you came to the realization about the law,” she asks, so I tell her how, weeks ago, we received a letter from Deborah, Winston’s widow, informing us of their intention to contest my inclusion in his will. I, of course, wanted Dad to write back to say they’re welcome to the money. But he told me he wouldn't relinquish a cent of what he insisted was my entitlement. He met with his lawyer, and together, they decided to respond by informing the Winstons that we welcomed their action. In turn, our reply stated, we’d counterclaim for my rightful share of Winston’s nearly billion and a half dollar fortune.
In the end, they didn’t contest the will. Instead, we received another letter from their solicitor demanding that we don't, in any way, seek to capitalize on the Winston name and that my relationship with the family not be publicly disclosed. Dad instructed his lawyer to inform them that their request had been unnecessary because we would never, under any circumstances, blemish the Thorne name by associating it with that of the Winstons. In turn, he demanded that they not reveal my connection to their family. We haven’t heard from them since.
“When we got that first letter, and Dad refused to return the money, I thought, because they’re rich and powerful, they’d ride all over us,” I admit. “But Dad and his lawyer took them on and won. I liked that. I like that the law is based on fact and that our lawyer beat the big guns from New York. A good lawyer, no matter where he’s from, can prove the difference in someone getting justice or not.”
Ariane contemplates me; her mouth curved into a small, almost smug smile.
“You think I’m spouting garbage,” I challenge.
“Not at all. I’m amazed and delighted if you must know. Adam, that’s the first time I’ve seen you excited about anything other than your family. Don’t you see the possibilities?”
“You express so much passion when talking about the way the law works or should work. You could turn that interest into helping others, just as your dad’s lawyer did. Channel your anger and frustration into something productive rather than engaging in destructive behavior. Let go of our anger, Adam, because you're only hurting yourself and the people you love. You’re a brilliant student. You could get into almost any law school in the country if you put your mind to it. Just think about it," she says before announcing that our time’s up.
I stand, almost unconsciously, and unlike every time before, I feel reluctant to leave. Equally surprising is that I’m not seething with resentment. Instead, my mind's spinning, thinking about the possibilities she's presented.
“You see it, don’t you?” Ariane’s eyes gleam with excitement as she stands.
“I do,” I say, giving her a smile; probably the first genuine one since our first meeting.