It was around the corner. Just a little farther. Elaine’s heart thumped aggressively against her chest, and a tremor pulsated throughout her body. Too far. She had gone too far, and her apartment, her comfort zone, was out of reach.
All she wanted was to mail one little letter. She should be able to do that. Where was her strength? The mailbox was within view, but her feet wouldn’t move. Her throat closed and she couldn’t breathe.
Inside. She needed to be inside. At least in her apartment she wouldn’t be afraid.
“Elaine, wait up,” Richard, the mail man, said. “How are you?”
She eyed the doorway and sighed. “I’m fine. I have a letter for you.”
His dark, green eyes screamed out at her as he took the envelope. “It’s good to see you out of the house.” He handed her the mail, but lingered before releasing his grip. “Would you like me to start leaving your mail in the mailbox?”
“No, I still would like it brought to me, if you don’t mind.” She appreciated that he never asked her why she needed the mail delivered to her doorstep. The few people in her life at least kept their curiosity to themselves.
“Tomorrow then.” Richard tipped his hat and smiled before trotting to his van in long swift strides. If she would let herself think about it, his firm muscles would have made her mouth water, but men were far from her agenda of things to do with the rest of her life.
Inside, she plopped on her old, saggy couch and curled into a ball. She was worthless. Incapable. She couldn’t even walk down the driveway to the mailbox. Tears poured down her cheeks blurring the bare walls around her. Would she ever find the courage to overcome her fears, or was she really the good-for-nothing she believed she was?
She lay there battling self-pity. How long before her wounds would heal? How long would her ex-husband’s abuse eat at her?
Hours later, a knock at the door pulled her up from the dark pit within.
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“Elaine,” Rose screeched rushing over to smother Elaine with a hug. “You look… good.”
“You don’t have to lie, Rose.” Elaine glared at her younger sister. “What are you doing here anyway?”
“Now, that’s no way to talk to me. I’ve got some good news.” Rose dumped the contents of her duffel bag on the battered kitchen table. “I’m getting married!”
The elaborate smile Rose beamed across the room did little to break through Elaine’s mood, but she tried her best to look happy for her sister. “Congratulations.”
“You know what the best part is?” Rose held up a picture of a lavender dress. “You’re going to be my Maid of Honor.”
“How am I going to do that if I can’t even leave the apartment? You know I don’t go beyond that door.”
“Come on, sis. You can do it for me. I won’t be happy without you there at my side.” She handed Elaine a business card. ”I hired a therapist to help you prepare for the next few months. That’s his card if you need to call him. It’s time to put everything behind you, especially the horrible way that man treated you.”
An image of Tom’s face flashed in her mind and she crippled to the ground, covering her head with her arms. Just as quick as the picture entered her mind, it disappeared. Realizing there was no danger, she slowly stood, pushing away the hand her sister held out.
“I can’t do this. It’s too much for me. I’m sorry Rose, but can you leave?”
Rose’s concern turned to a pout. “But I wasn’t done. I wanted to go over my plans with you, and I have something else to tell you.”
“Not now. I just need to be left alone.”
“Well, I guess I can come back tomorrow. I love you.” She hugged Elaine and left.
Before Elaine could drag herself to her room for a nap, the phone rang. “Hello,” she answered.
“Hello, is this Elaine Ferguson?” a male voice asked.
“Yes. Who’s speaking?”
“This is Jordan Hartsfield with Hartsfield Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center. I was calling to confirm our first meeting in an hour.”
“What?” Elaine’s mouth dropped open. “What do you mean in an hour?”
“Your sister, Rose, made an appointment for today at three. Would you like to confirm this, or do we need to reschedule?”
Now Rose had gone too far. This was uncalled for. “I told her I didn’t want to see a therapist. I’m surprised she scheduled without my permission. So, no, I don’t want to confirm or reschedule. Sorry about the inconvenience.”
“Ma’am, if you don’t mind, all I’m asking is for one ten-minute session. No obligation. You don’t have to say one word to me. Your sister is concerned, and I’m sure if you at least see me it’ll calm her nerves.”
He had a point, and ten minutes wasn’t that long. What could this guy say or do in that short period that would cause pain? Besides, maybe Rose would get off her back about things for a while.
Elaine took a deep breath. “Okay, ten minutes. That’s it.”
“Alright, I’ll see you soon.”
After hanging up the phone, Elaine sank into the couch. Why couldn’t everyone just leave her alone? She was perfectly content to stay indoors by herself. Maybe she’d lock the door and never let anyone in again, but she couldn’t completely turn her back on the world. So, she was stuck with talking to the damn therapist.
When the doorbell rang, she took her time to answer. In front of her stood a man with short, gray hair. His aura radiated with a pleasing nature. It was so strong, she almost felt giddy. Without realizing it, a smile spread across her face.
As she beckoned him inside, she said, “Come in and have a seat.”
Reaching out, he took her hand. “I’m glad to finally meet you. Your sister told me a lot of good things about you.”
“Really? That’s good.” She wondered what non-good things her sister had said. “Okay, let’s get down to business.”
He waited for her to sit down, then opened a notepad. “So, if you don’t mind, tell me how you got to where you are today.”