I satisfy a man?”
“Why do you say that you can’t satisfy a man?”
what Frank always said. I was too scrawny. A lousy lover.
I couldn’t satisfy him. He called me a sexual freak. That's why I lost him."
not here to talk about Frank, though, are we?”
She hesitated. “No.”
“We’re here to talk
“So, what do you think?”
“Do you feel
that you’re sexually inadequate?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you enjoy sex?”
“Yes. I guess
“You guess? Do you or don’t you?”
She said nothing.
He placed his notepad on the small table beside the upholstered Victorian
chair. Heavy drapes were closed against the late afternoon sun that bombarded his tenth-floor
office, so the room was a muted dusky color, dim and soothing. The furniture sank into
thick maroon carpeting that softened all sounds.
Cabot had designed the layout
of the room himself. It made his patient seem isolated from the world and its problems.
Here, in this quiet place, they could speak freely. Cabot found it very effective.
twenty when you got married, correct?”
“Did you have sex before you got married?”
“No. I mean
yes. With Frank. Nobody else. Just Frank. I didn’t sleep around. I wasn’t per-per-permiscus.”
He smiled but did
not chuckle. In many ways she was naïve, too trusting, but he knew he could help her. She
sat on the far edge of the small sofa that was angled away from him so she could not see
An added precaution, though Cabot never let his emotions show. He
was good at his job.
“How about since Frank left?”
“What do you mean?” She rubbed
her knuckles across the bangs on her forehead.
had any sexual partners since Frank left?”
She didn’t answer.
“It has been five years,”
“You haven’t had sex in five years?”
She bowed her head.
How sad, he thought. He knew he could help her, but why had she
waited so long before coming to him for help? She had only been seeing him for two months.
a young attractive woman,” he said. “Enjoy life before
time passes by.”
“I— I can’t find— I don’t…”
She leaned forward and clasped her
hands between her knees. She was wearing loose beige slacks that rippled in the back as
she leaned forward.
“Are you afraid that you’re frigid? Is that why you’re
not dating anyone?”
She stared at the floor. “I’m not ready for a
“Five years is a long time.”
“Grab your youth while you can.”
“Not yet. I keep thinking of Frank.”
not coming back.”
“I know. But I also know that I can’t—“
“I know that I can’t find anyone like him.”
What a poor girl, he thought.
Obsessed with a brutal man who abandoned her. So obsessed that her sex life had dried up.
“Is that what you’re looking for? Someone like Frank?”
“I loved him.
I would do anything for him.”
“Why?” Silently he slipped from his chair and she didn’t
react. “Why would you do anything for Frank?”
“Because I loved him.”
What is it about Frank that you loved?”
“I— The way—“ She hunched her shoulders
to start curling into herself.
“Was he handsome?”
“A lot of men are handsome.” He slid onto the sofa
beside her. She was still turned away from him and didn’t seem to notice. “Is
that the only reason you loved him? Because he was handsome?”
Her head jerked up as she realized from his vice that he
was beside her. “Not just that.”
“Then what else?”
“I—“ She shivered, though
the room was warm. Cabot never overused the air conditioning.
“Was he kind
to you? Was he intelligent? Was he thoughtful?” He
waited a full minute, turning to see the pale red numbers of the digital clock across the
room. He gently rested his palm on her back at the nape of her neck, his fingertips barely
rustling her black hair. “Frank, was not a kind man, was he?”
She shook her head.
“He was crude, wasn’t he?” No response. “Cruel.
He was brutal. He abused you. He took you from your family. He criticized you constantly.
Badgered you. Belittled you. Beat you. There was no reason in the world for you to love
him, was there?”
“But you did.”
“I don’t know.”
He knew. In her
twisted mind she liked being Frank’s plaything because it gave her security. He saw
it often in the women he was able to help. They remained trapped in abusive relationships
because of the security. Or so they thought. They feared what was out in the real world,
because they never got a chance to be out in the real world.
Cabot knew this, but she had
to be the one to say it. She had to realize that she had tolerated Frank’s abuse,
even relished it, because it made her feel important and wanted. Now that Frank was gone,
she was unable to enter into another relationship because she couldn’t find what
she had with Frank. And she feared anything else.
With his fingertips he began
massaging her neck. Her muscles were tight like steel bands. Tense. “Until you find
out why you were in love with this brutal man, until you realize that, whatever your reasons,
they were the wrong ones, you won’t be able to move on. You won’t be able to
see other men.”
She sucked in a noisy breath, and her clasped hands inched
off her lap. “Help me,” she said.
He moved his hands to her shoulders and turned
her toward him. “Did you believe everything Frank told you?”
“Everything? Absolutely everything?”
“No.” She looked
down. “Not everything.”
“He said you were a lousy lover.”
“A freak. He called me
“That’s not true. You are a very beautiful woman, Theresa.”
Her head angled
even farther downward so that her eyebrows formed a shadowed ridge over her thin nose.
would find you attractive.” He took one of her hands.
“I find you attractive.”
She looked up.
He opened her palm and pressed it to his chest.
She tensed, almost
yanking her hand away, but she gazed at him, her pupils quivering.
“I think you
would make a wonderful lover.”
Her breath grew noisy.
He kissed her, slowly and with little pressure,
waiting for her to respond. Her lips quivered against his as he brought his hands up to
her face, sliding them across her cheeks. She pressed closer to him. He shifted on
the sofa, sliding down and to the side, pulling her on top of him. One hand pressed against
She grabbed it.
He slapped her with his other hand, a thundercrack
that brought a flare to her cheek. She froze.
“This is what you want,” he growled.
“To be controlled. To be told what to do.”
“It was what Frank did. And you stayed with him.”
“No. It doesn’t have
to be that way.”
He leaned up and kissed her, harder this time. He backed away
and started ripping open her blouse. “You don’t need Frank.”
He sat in his chair and watched
her get dressed. “Don’t ever think that
you’re inadequate, Theresa.”
She did not look at him as she put on her blouse. The top two
buttons had been ripped off. She studied the sofa for a few seconds before shrugging and
continuing to button the ones she still had.
“You are more than adequate. You are a beautiful, sensual
woman. Look at me.”
Reluctantly she turned.
She turned slightly away and tucked her blouse into her pants.
“You don’t ever have
to let a man dominate you. Ever.” He gestured
toward a side door. “Check yourself in the mirror before you leave.”
She shuffled into his private bathroom.
He checked his watch.
There was one more appointment for this afternoon, but he hoped Mr. Delderfield wouldn’t
show up as often happened. Cabot was filled with a heady pride and wanted to strut and
celebrate, perhaps an expensive dinner with lots of blood-red wine. Theresa was well on
her way to recovery. There would be a few more sessions, during which he would enjoy her
body a few more times— a fitting payment, he thought— before he could declare
her ready for the world. She was on her way, conquering her sexual frustrations, shaking
the abusive obsession, and becoming a vibrant woman again.
And he was the one who did it
It was times like these that made Cabot feel like one of the most
important people in the world. He had helped many. And he would help many more.
Smiling, he let
out a long, contented gasp, not unlike the shudder of sexual release that had snagged him
The bathroom door clattered open. “Thank you, Doctor.”
He waved the back of his hand
like royalty accepting plaudits.
“I see it all now,” she said. “Frank used me,
but I was afraid to be alone, so I let him control me.”
“Very good.” He sagged
back in the chair and looked away from her, studying
the last specks of sunlight that fought against the drapes.
“But I shouldn’t let any man use
“Now you understand.” Suddenly he was tired. His hard
work did not come without effort. “Don’t keep searching for another Frank.
Free yourself of him.”
“I’m not afraid of him any more. I’m not
afraid of any man. Or anything.”
He smiled and tilted
his head back on the chair. There should be Nobel prizes for therapists.
Colin Delderfield passed her in the doorway so Cabot had little
time to frolic in the thrill of victory. He labored through his sessions with
Delderfield, a boorish man who was convinced the entire world was against him. When
the hour was up, he ushered him out and locked up. He took a walk and stopped at Carlotta’s
on Second Street. He passed the outer bar where a flat screen TV entertained two disinterested
patrons who sipped from tall glasses. The back room was dimmer and busier. Cabot was shown
to his regular table where he ordered a bottle of Lambrusco, a garden salad, and an entrée
of filet mignon topped with mushroom sauce. He ate slowly, savoring every morsel. After
ordering dessert, he went to the rest room in the outer bar.
Something on the television caught
his attention as he was returning. A flash of a familiar face. He stopped and moved closer
to the screen. A newswoman was saying something about a murder on Sullivan Street.
“The body,” she said, “has been identified as that of Frank Hughes of the
Ringtown section. The woman taken into custody was identified as one of his
Though Cabot didn’t move, his head seemed to stretch toward
the screen, seeking more information. But the woman said no
more. They moved to a male anchor and another story. In a city of this size, a domestic
squabble ending in murder merited little more than a mention.
He took several deep breaths
and trudged back to his table where he stared at his cheesecake.
She was in custody, so he was safe. But that poor woman. If only
she had come to him sooner, he might have been able to save her.
Robert Petyo's crime stories
have appeared in small press magazines and on the web, most recently at Mystery
Weekly, Spinetingler, Flash Bang Mysteries, and in the
anthology, A Bit of a Twist. His most recent crime novel, The Poe
Manuscript, is available as an ebook from Amazon. In the deep dark past, he wrote
three science fiction novels under three different names.
In his other life, he is recently
retired from the U.S. Postal Service and enjoys playing with his adorable grandson. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.