He listened intently. Her eyes looked beautiful even when they were red-rimmed and sad. His gaze drifted to her neck. It lingered there for many minutes.
“I don’t want to be with him anymore” He heard her say between hiccups.
He broke out of his reverie. He refocused but found it hard to do.
Reluctantly he said,
“I’m sorry Lexi! My next client has been waiting for forty-five minutes. Let’s meet tomorrow again”.
“But I don’t have an appointment for tomorrow”. She said morosely.
“Well…..” He hesitated and then ventured, “Why don’t we meet somewhere else? I can pick you up after work?”
Her eyes widened for a second but then she smiled. She trusted this man with her life.
Their first date. He couldn’t sleep the whole night.
Lexi kept looking at the ring on her finger. Her divorce had finalized a week ago and she was so happy. Brandon was everything she had ever hoped for in a partner. She was afraid to announce her engagement. It had been hard enough to hide dating him. She was happy but knew people would judge them.
She finally decided to call her mother.
“Hi, honey”, Her mom’s voice warmed her heart.
“Hi, Mom!” She said breathlessly.
“I was going to come up to your place but the dogs got sick. How’re you holding up?”
“I’m fine now, Mom! If you ask me this divorce took longer than I had hoped”.
“I know, dear. Aren’t you glad it’s behind you?”
“So glad, Mom. Mom? Can I share some news with you?”
When the call finally ended, Lexi sat there in tears. She had never expected her mother to be so disapproving. Her mother knew Brandon. Why did she think it was a bad idea?
She called her best friend, Leah, next.
“Leah! I’m engaged”.
“Oh wow! Were you dating?”
“You sure kept that quiet”.
“I know. I didn’t know how to introduce him in the midst of all that”.
“I understand. Can I ask who he is?”
“Brandon…..Brandon…..” Leah trailed off trying to jog her memory about who Brandon was. Then Lexi heard her whisper,
“Brandon? Dr. Turochy? Your therapist?”
“Don’t judge us, Leah! He’s a great guy”.
“Don’t judge you? Of course I don’t judge you. I judge him. How could he get involved with you when he was your therapist? That’s illegal and downright unethical”.
Lexi cut Leah short,
“I just spoke with my mom, Leah! She said a lot of the stuff that I know you’re warming up to say. I can’t talk to two naysayers in a day. Bye!”
Two weeks later Brandon and Leah honeymooned in Barbados.
She watched him sleep. He had a strange way of keeping her in a trance. She had never felt like this before. No one, not even her own parents or the love of her life who was sadly now her ex husband, had understood her like he did. How did they cross paths like this? The stars have ways that we can only conjecture.
She remembered Neal and her fighting over small things and then big ones. Him moving out one night. Coming back the next day. How they were so shaken over him moving out. Neal suggesting therapy. Their sessions with Dr. Brandon Turochy. Slowly they moved to individual sessions. Neal quit therapy when they started communicating better. Life was great with her husband so much more emotionally available and her therapist who was available when Neal wasn’t. Then Dr. Turochy became her friend and slowly she started calling him Brandon. Slowly they got close. Slowly she drifted away from her marriage. Slowly cheating became okay because she loved him. Slowly lying became necessary.
Lexi got a high from cheating that she hadn’t experienced in a long time. The hiding, the secrecy, the anticipation, the heady abandon. Sex with Neal had always been great. But with Brandon it was dangerous. The fear of being caught added to the thrill of risking it all.
Neal suspected. She let him. He confronted. She didn’t lie. They separated for three months and divorce was finalized in the fourth month. Within a month she was married to Brandon.
She sighed happily. Wasn’t she lucky to be married to a man who knew her better than anyone?
As with all love stories, when the honeymoon is over, the honeymoon is over.
She could feel him pulling away but was afraid to ask. She didn’t want to turn from his new bride to a nagging wife. She didn’t want to turn him off. She steered clear when he indicated that he had a client to speak with. She dared not ask. There was a quality about Brandon that didn’t let her get too close. It was attractive and eerie. It was sexy and dark.
Soon she started to feel lonely. Her loneliness became her friend. Brandon gave a lot of time at the clinic these days and it was hard for her to entertain herself all day long. She asked him if she could volunteer in some capacity at the clinic and he flatly refused. She insisted. He didn’t speak with her for two weeks. It killed Lexi. She vowed to never upset him again.
His affection started wearing out. Sex became obligatory. They didn’t go to bed together anymore. Their marriage started to look old and wrinkly.
It was their wedding anniversary. Lexi wanted to mark this one. It was their first and she had made big plans of going to Hawaii but looking at how busy Brandon was she had contended herself with a romantic dinner and a movie.
Brandon didn’t come home until 11 at night. She fell asleep on the couch waiting for him. He woke up the next morning, got dressed, left her on the couch and went to work.
Lexi woke up with a pounding headache. She wanted to get up but couldn’t. She knew she had had a whole bottle of wine while waiting for him. She felt terrible. She decided to call him. It went to voicemail.
On a whim she went to the store. The fact that her husband of barely a year had ignored her on their first anniversary was hard to swallow. And yet it was a fact. Lost in her thoughts she ran into someone. It was Neal.
Tears came flooding. Neal was her person since forever. When she was in the thick of it she hadn’t really analyzed and evaluated her marriage like she had the past few months. She sometimes wondered what was wrong with her marriage with Neal that led to this. They were very happy together. He had started a new business and had gotten busy. Was it enough reason to leave him?
“You didn’t leave him because he wasn’t attentive. You went to counseling for that. You left him because you fell in love with another man”.
Her conscience didn’t let her rest.
Neal’s face broke in a smile.
“Hey”, he said softly.
She blinked her tears back. But he could tell she wasn’t happy.
“What happened, Lex?” The concern in his voice tipped her over.
“What’s going on? Why is your hair like this? Did you have breakfast? Why….. have you been drinking?”
She hiccuped harder.
Next thing she knew he was holding her arm and steering her out of the store.
She silently got in his car.
He turned to her.
“What’s going on?”
“Brandon doesn’t love me”.
“I married Brandon”.
“You didn’t know?”
“I went to Australia after our divorce and haven’t been in touch with anyone. You know how I always wanted to be a part of some rescue program for endangered animals. I got my break. I came back two days ago. You married Brandon? Dr. Turochy?”
“But why? I thought you had an affair with him. I didn’t know you wanted to marry him”.
Lexi thought about it. She had never wanted to marry Brandon. She had objected initially on account of a looming divorce and she needed some time to settle. But he had insisted on being together. He had promised marriage. He had never dated her to be fair. He had always been some version of a future husband. And then had become her husband. He hadn’t given her a chance to be by herself and take stock of her situation.
“Well, I’m married to him now”. She said, rather huffily.
“Of course! I’m a fool to think he’d encourage you to divorce me without having something in it for himself. He was your therapist. He groomed you to do his bidding. I’m past it really. Our marriage was great but our divorce was bitter. I’m sad because you aren’t happy. But I’d rather not be with you because I can’t trust you anymore”.
She felt slapped and humiliated. He couldn’t trust her because she had cheated on him.
Her heart ached to bury herself in his arms.
She finally got up and left. They kissed on the cheek like cousins. His touch lingered there for hours.
Brandon didn’t come home until after midnight. She was fast asleep when he came home.
She started noticing a pattern with him. He was secretive. He was charming. He was almost calculating when it came to guessing what she was hiding from him. He could read her mind. He was the best psychologist in the country and had many medals and trophies to prove it. Not for nothing he had executed her divorce and convinced her to marry him. She started getting nauseated by him. He continued to distance himself from her. She wanted love but didn’t want it from Brandon. He smelled of deception and lies. Soon Lexi was seeing a therapist for her second marriage. Her divorce lawyer had recommended it.
Divorce from Brandon was quick and painless. He had not objected to anything. She had asked for it and he had awarded it. They had a prenuptial agreement so there was no rabble rousing. He told her that he wouldn’t be able to live in the same state as hers. He told her it was too much and a slaughter of his emotions. She was moved to see him so emotional after so long but decided he couldn’t be available always. And she needed a partner. He couldn’t be that partner. They had sex one last time. Surprisingly it was better than what they had ever had. Lexi was breathless for hours after. After their divorce they had many make out sessions and steamy moments short of sex except that one time. Most were in his office. She was conflicted. The day after their divorce was finalized he had sex with her again. Lexi was blown by how passionate he was. She intended to go back the next day and see if they could reconcile and may be date for a while before considering marriage again. She found out he had moved and had left no forwarding address. His voicemail was full.
Dejected, she took twenty pills of an antidepressant before she called 911, terrified at what she had done. She spent the better part of the next five years shuttling between psychiatric and medical facilities. When her mom passed, she attempted suicide again. This time she was successful.
He watched her cry. She hiccuped softly and felt his arm caressing her shoulder.
“Sorry Stacy!” He said with an injection of true remorse in his voice. “My next client has been waiting for an hour. Can we meet tomorrow?”
“Okay. But I don’t have an appointment tomorrow”.
She’s so sweet, he stared at her in wonderment, marveling at her perfect body and her full mouth.
“I can pick you up tomorrow for dinner. We can talk for as long as we like”.
As she smiled warmly at the therapist who knew her better than anyone ever had, Brandon’s eyes monetarily lingered at the hollow in her neck. She was perfect. She would make an excellent wife.