“I fucked my step-dad.”
The words lingered in the room, held in place by the stare Doctor Bosworth was giving Chloe as if she’d never seen another person before. Chloe said the words easier than she thought possible.
“I fucked my step-dad,” Chloe repeated in disbelief as her hands combed through her milk chocolate locks.
“Wow,” Doctor Bosworth said. “I can’t say I expected that.”
“And, to be clear, I’m not saying I fucked him over. When I woke up this morning we were naked together.”
“Have you told anyone else about this?”
“Are you kidding me?” Chloe folded her arms against her chest. She was the first to break eye contact sinking further into the couch. With a sigh she said, “No, I haven’t. You said to call in an emergency.”
“I’m glad you did. It takes a lot of courage knowing when to seek help, even if talking about something that can’t otherwise be talked about.”
Silence took the room beside the muted tapping and clacking on the other side of the door. Since the last time Chloe had seen Doctor Bosworth, the woman had changed little in appearance. Her hair had lightened from the silver strands strewn through her mane, and the smile lines around her mouth were a little more prominent. Otherwise, Doctor Bosworth looked as she had years ago, right down to the way she sat with her ankles crossed leaning to one side. It reminded Chloe of The Princess Diaries.
“I don’t know how to talk about this.” Chloe said.
“I don’t know many that would.” Doctor Bosworth finished taking notes. “This happened today, correct? That’s what you said?”
“Oh, yes.” Doctor Bosworth nodded. “Sorry, that’s right. What is your step-father’s name?”
“Thank you.” Doctor Bosworth was busy scribbling notes on the clipboard sitting in her lap. No doubt the tapping of her pen against the plastic would be near constant. “Did Nathaniel come to any of the sessions before? Back when you and your mother came in?”
Chloe shook her head.
In the two painful decades Chloe had been alive, her mother had always been difficult to live with. Three years ago they tried going to counseling to resolve the issues, but it hadn’t worked. Her mother, Anita, was an unwilling participant refusing to cooperate. Chloe kept Doctor Bosworth’s number hoping that someday her mother would want to save their relationship; this wasn’t how Chloe imagined her next session going.
“Have you talked to Nathaniel about it?”
“No; I left before he woke up.”
Chloe looked incredulous. “What am I supposed to say to him? I don’t remember what happened; I was drunk out of my gourd. But I know it meant nothing. For God’s sake, he’s married to my mother! It can’t mean anything!”
“Let’s back up a second. You were drunk?” Doctor Bosworth looked concerned. “You’re not twenty-one yet, right? Did he bring the alcohol?”
“No,” Chloe shook her head fervently, “he didn’t bring the alcohol, and no, I’m not twenty-one yet. November 14. It was stupid. So, so, so stupid!”
“Did you use a fake ID?”
Chloe opened her mouth to say something, but closed it. She tried to say something, but nothing came.
“Chloe,” Doctor Bosworth said, “I’m not passing judgment on you. All I’m trying to do is understand what happened. And I can’t do that—I can’t help you—if you won’t talk to me.”
Chloe looked up, eyebrows knitted together tight. She said, “I know it’s not, you know, legal, but…my ex had some booze and offered to bring it over so we could catch up. I know I shouldn’t have, but with everything my mother has put me through over the last few months, and with how lonely I’ve been…I cracked. I remember talking and drinking with my ex…and that’s really it. I don’t know at what point he left and Nathaniel came over, but we were both naked in my bed this morning.”
“Mm.” Doctor Bosworth took down more notes, the pen chatting away until she looked up again. “So what happened over the last few months that convinced you it was okay to get drunk with your ex…?” Her voice trailed off with a question, unsure how to finish.
“Fiance. He was my ex-fiance.” Chloe said. Her eyes fell to the denim jeans she wore, picking at the hole forming in her thigh. “It’s a long story.” As the memory of each day trickled in tears welled up in her hazelnut eyes. Her lashes worked to fight them back, but it was no use; they fell anyway.
“We have plenty of time, Chloe. Let’s start at the beginning—wherever you think that is—and just work our way to the present. Take your time. I have plenty of tissues.”
Pushing her fingers against the corners of her eyes, Chloe nodded.
“Everything started back when I was getting ready for my second term of college. Originally, I delayed school because I didn’t know what I wanted to study. It gave me a chance to save up since I intended on paying for classes myself, but that didn’t happen. Mom decided at the last minute she’d pay for everything, except room and board. That was fine with me. But then, leading up to my first term, she kept making me change my schedule; I only took two classes that term because she wasn’t happy with my choices. So, I was on edge picking classes for my second term starting in January. It was hardly after Christmas.”