With filled prescriptions in hand, I rushed into my office. I was at least five minutes late and being the overly anal-retentive that I am, I kicked my ass for deciding to wait in a long line for the pills when I could have went on my way home.
Breanna, my receptionist, sat at the desk, writing. Thankfully, she had toned down her emerald-colored hair to a respectable forest green. She was working for one of the top psychiatrists in Louisiana after all. Appearance mattered. Kinda.
Breanna raised her silver eyes to meet mine and smiled.
“Hey there, Dr. Christiansen,” she practically sang in all her pent-up teenage excitement. Funny, I hardly remembered ever being that happy and full of buzzing energy. Surely, at some point I had to be happy as a teen, but I couldn’t think of one.
“What’s up, Miss Breanna? Are the Andersons here yet?” I looked at my watch. “I’ve never been late.”
“I know. I tried to call you on your cell. Thought something was wrong.”
Pulling my cell from my briefcase, I realized the battery was dead. I showed the corpse to Breanna.
“That explains it,” she said.
“So what about the Andersons?”
Breanna’s sweet face morphed into one I knew all too well in high school: the cute girl with the gossip sneer. I shuddered and leaned in as she leaned over the desk.
“Only Mr. Anderson’s here today,” she whispered, nudging her head toward a hall behind her. “He just went to the bathroom.”
“How did he look?”
She closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip for a moment before responding, “I dunno. He looked sad, but he sounded relieved.”
I nodded. “Okay, well, send him in when he comes back.”
I rushed into my office and began my preparation. I found the Andersons’ file and my pad and pencil, and placed them beside my chair. I sat on the edge of my desk, my back facing the door and began breathing exercises. In between each breath, I whispered, “You’re a good psychiatrist. They don’t think you’re stupid. You’ll do fine.” Over and over, I said my mantra until I almost began to believe it.
The phone rang, and I immediately answered.
“What’s my daughter doing today?”
“Her mantra, number 2.”
My mother sighed. “Jay, you don’t need all these damn mantras. You’re great. You see those degrees on the wall?”
I looked over and saw my degrees. “Yes.”
“They show your greatness. You hear this woman on the phone?”
“Well, she’s your mother, and she only birthed greatness, so get over this mess and quickly.”
I shook my head and smiled. She didn’t get my…quirks. I was born into a family of women who thought their shit absolutely did not stink. They didn’t know how to handle me, a girl with more issues than Time. They didn’t know what it meant to not be sure of one’s self. They didn’t know how, after years of reassurances and great examples, I was still, me. Join the club.
“Ma, you can tell me how wonderful I am later, okay?” I said. “I have an appointment.”
“Okay, well, tomorrow, Danni and I are going to Pamper and get massages, manicures, and pedicures. You’re coming, too.”
“Thanks for the choice.” I rolled my shoulders. “As much as I could use a massage…”
I turned and found Charles Anderson standing in my doorway, a smile on his face. Instantly, I felt flushed and embarrassed. I coughed and said into the phone, “Ma, call me at home later with the details. My appointment’s here. Love you.”
I offered Charles a smile as I pulled my shirt down over my ample hips.
“Nice to see you, Charles,” I said, walking toward the chair and loveseat. “Come, have a seat.”
He sat directly in front of me on the loveseat and crossed his legs. Charles was, what some women might call, an Adonis. He was tall, he was dark, and he was handsome with his chiseled cheekbones and strong jaw. He always reminded me of Tyson Beckford, and the thing was he never seemed to notice how much Breanna smiled and batted her barely legal eyelashes at him whenever he came with his wife. He probably never noticed when any woman drooled over him. He casually rested his arm along the back of the loveseat.
“How are you, Dr. Christiansen?” he asked.
“Isn’t that what I should be asking you?” We laughed. “Did we go back to individual sessions with you and Sandra?” I looked at my file. “We still had some issues to discuss today.”
The soft smile fell from my Charles’ full lips. He rubbed a hand over smooth baldhead and sighed.
“Talking about those issues won’t help us, Dr. Christiansen,” he said.
“So, are you and Sandra calling it quits?”
Charles clasped his hands together. “She doesn’t want to do this anymore. She’s ready to move on with her life.”
“I’m so sorry, Charles. I know you really wanted this to work out.”
His brown eyes clouded over, but with a blink, they cleared.
“I don’t want to waste anymore of your time, Dr. Christiansen,” Charles said as he stood.
“Um,” I said, trying to pull my thoughts together. I wasn’t used to someone other than me orchestrating things in my office. “Okay, so would you like me to give you a reference? I know you had a lot of things you wanted to talk about.”
Charles shrugged and stuck his hands into the pockets of his black slacks. “None of those things seem important anymore,” he said, his baritone voice barely a whisper.
I went to my desk and pulled a referral list from a drawer. I circled the first two doctors.
“These are two of the best psychiatrists here,” I said, offering him the list. “If you need anything, please contact them.”
“Thank you, Dr. Christiansen.” He looked at the sheet, and then turned his full attention to me. I shifted my weight from foot to foot before stepping behind my chair and grasping the back of it.
“I know it’s your job to listen and be there for your clients,” Charles added, “but I can tell that you care beyond just the job. I thank you for that.”
I looked at the chair and said, “Not a problem. It’s what I do.”
Charles lifted his hand to me, and I stared at it. Charles was still smiling at me. Slowly, I reached out and took his large hand in my small one. His hand was warm, the feel soft. He squeezed my hand gently and almost like an afterthought, swiped the hollow between my thumb and index finger with his thumb.
Without looking too conspicuous, I released his hand and gave him a slight smile before checking out the baby blue of his shirt and how the color contrasted with the mahogany tones of his skin.
“You take care, Dr. Christiansen,” Charles said.
As soon as the door shut behind him, I fell into my chair. I propped the hand onto my desk and stared at it. It still felt warm, touched.
A huge part of me wanted to run to the bathroom and rinse it. I wasn’t a fan of being touched just out of the blue. I always wanted to know a person’s motive for the touch. Touching signaled wanting…of something, and if I didn’t know what that something was, I didn’t want to be handled.
An equally huge part of me though wanted to continue staring at my hand. The fleshy skin between thumb and index finger tingled. I could still feel his pinky pressed against the bottom of my palm.
The hand rose to my throat and caressed it as I held a breath deep in my chest. My stomach stirred. Before the breath could be released, before the hand could cause any more damage, I opened the bottom drawer of my desk and pulled out a bag of Hershey Kisses. I quickly unwrapped ten, lining them side-by-side on my desk. I picked up five and stuffed them into mouth and moaned. Before they were gone, I placed the others in my mouth.
The intercom buzzed, and I tried to swallow before answering.
“Yes,” I said, my voice thick.
“Do you mind if I leave early today?” Breanna asked.
“No. I’m done for today, too. I’ll see you Monday.”
I grabbed the bag of Kisses and poured them onto my desk. I unwrapped half the bag and stared at the little kisses. The hand, over and over again, placed Kisses on my lips, then through them, into my mouth. The hand fed me until all Kisses were gone.