“Beautiful day,” said Dr Pinkly.
“I’m so glad you decided not to keep us inside today,” answered Pauline.
“Sun shining, fresh air, what could be better?” he said.
“I could name a few things,” she answered.
“Please don’t think of this as part of your treatment. Relax and enjoy,” he said.
“What? How can I think of it any other way? It’s not as if we could be mates, is it?”
“My job is to make you feel better within yourself.”
“And my job is to make you work for your money,” she laughed.
They strolled on, bees were exploring the fresh growth on bushes, buds fighting to burst their colour. A boy clad as Thomas the Tank Engine rattled his bike’s trainer wheels on the walkway. His mother pretended she couldn’t catch him. Their love showed in shared laughter. Both psychiatrist and patient smiled at the sideshow.
“Would you like a coffee?” asked Dr Pinkly, pointing to a kiosk.
“Please, no sugar, I’m sweet enough,” the smiles continued.
Pauline sat and waited, deep in thought, trying to remember why she was there.
“Thanks, doc,” she said. The smile had gone.
Pinkly sat, crossing his legs, Pauline noticed how he attempted to keep his creases straight. She considered how ‘normal’ was that?
“Are there any memories tapping at your brain trying to break free, something you feel you should know?” he said, trying to keep the mood light.
“I even tried a local hypnotist, he advertises on Facebook. Still nothing,” she said.
“I did not recommend hypnotherapy,” he grimaced.
“Yes, I know, but I want to prove to you, I’m trying my hardest to remember.”
“Your memory will come back without needing to force things,” said Dr Pinkly.
“Did you know the police pestered me again?” she asked.
“They did not tell me, but I’m not surprised.”
“Really? What more do they want from me?” said Pauline.
She lobbed her paper mug into the bin. Looking at Pinkly’s hardly tasted, she asked, “Not up to your standard? Not as good as Miss Sexy Legs makes at your office?”
He grinned and finished his drink. They walked towards the lake.
“The police have a task to complete, they have a missing man. A man with a history of violence against women, where has he disappeared to? That man attacked you and your mother. The police need to discover what happened.”
Pauline hid a smile, covering her mouth with a tissue.
“Why is that funny?” she thought.
“Your father attacked you. Do you have any feelings for him?”
“I feel nothing. He was not around when I was a kid. He showed up on my eighteenth birthday, turning up from nowhere, expecting Mum and me to welcome him back,” said Pauline.
“Tell me about your party?”
“It was a typical teenager’s bash. Mum laid on sandwiches, a bowl of punch and a gigantic cake. My Dad turned up at nine, in one of his vintage motors. He hadn’t remembered my special day, he was only there to pick up one of his tools. Do you know why they bought that house?”
The doctor shook his head.
“Because it boasted an inspection pit in the garage. Letting my Dad repair his dream cars. Anyway, it was clear he couldn’t join the party or even go to the garage. Some lads blocked his way, so he left. Mum went out at ten to meet her mate. He set upon her in an alley before she got to her friend’s place. She lost her handbag, but we all suspected my Dad. The police arrested him and released without charge,” she said.
“You thought it was your father?”
“I’ve told you many times, yes! Why is that so difficult to believe?”
“Why did the police release him?”
“They had no firm proof that he attacked Mum. He crept up from behind, so she saw nothing.”
The tense feeling left them as they laughed at a father knee-deep in the lake attempted to recover his son’s toy yacht. He fell in; the boat drowned.
Fighting off the smile, the doctor asked, “How do you feel about your Dad now?”
It was as if he had slapped her. Now her face froze, anger petering on the explosion, a volcano fighting to spread lava on anyone near enough to get barbecued. Shaking the dread clear, then as if a switch flicked, she smiled once more, “He’s my father, of course, I love him.”
“Why do I not believe you?”
“You can believe what you like,” she said, shaking her head.
“I am on your side, I aim to help. But you need to remember. What happened then and what happened to your Mum recently.”
He stared into her eyes, nothing.
“Are you planning on returning to work?” he asked.
“I will. But first I must get my head straight. A month ago my Dad disappears, okay, I can live with that, but Mum? Where the hell is she?”
Changing the subject, “How are you managing for money?”
“I live in Mum’s house, so no rent to pay, I’ve got savings and I use Mum’s credit cards,” she sniggered. “I will start earning soon enough, so no worries.”
They started back to Dr Pinkly’s office. A ‘bleep’ sounded from his jacket pocket.“That is ‘Miss Sexy Legs’, it must be important, she knows not to disturb me when I’m with you.”
He read the message. His sun-pinked complexion now a frosted grey.
“We must go back, the police want you.”
“Have they been in the garage?”
“I don’t know, why?” he asked.
“Maybe they have lifted the cover on the pit?” she said.
“Why?” he asked, stopping and gripping her shoulders.
Gazing into his caring eyes, “They will find Mum and Dad,” she said.
“What are you saying?”
Memories struck like a team of baseball players swinging for home runs. Each connecting, her head bounced from hitter to hitter. Her knees buckled. He led her back to the bench.”Please tell me, go on. Is it coming back?”
“I heard my Mum’s raised voice in the garage, I went to see who she was talking with. It was my Dad. He had crept into the garage to get his tools. My Mum was begging for his forgiveness. I couldn’t believe it.”
Pauline’s hands clasped her head to stop the uncontrollable shakes.
“I hit him with a wrench,” she whispered. All shaking stopped.
“She swore at me! Can you believe that? She had never done that before. She was protecting him, defending him. Christ, all the abuse and pain he had caused,” she said.
The psychiatrist knelt in front of her, “We must see the police, I can tell them what you’ve been through, explain your mental state.”
“Let me finish first.”
She studied him as if they had reversed roles.
“I hit her too. She joined him on the floor like a marital bed,” she snorted. “I rolled them both into the pit.”
Now the doctor held his head in his hands. Bikes with trainer wheels, soaking fathers, and sunken boats were forgotten.
“I poured in petrol and torched them. When the flames died, I replaced the cover. And forgot what I had done.”
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.