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Robert Petyo
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therapistheader.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2017

Therapist

 

By

 

Robert Petyo

 

“Why can’t I satisfy a man?”

“Why do you say that you can’t satisfy a man?”

“That’s 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."

“We’re not here to talk about Frank, though, are we?”

She hesitated. “No.”

“We’re here to talk about you.”

“Yes.”

“So, what do you think?”

“About what?”

“Do you feel that you’re sexually inadequate?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you enjoy sex?”

“Yes. I guess so.”

“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.

“You were twenty when you got married, correct?”

“Yes.”

“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 his face.

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.

“Have you had any sexual partners since Frank left?”

She didn’t answer.

“It has been five years,” he said.

“I know.”

“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.

“You’re 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 serious relationship.”

“Five years is a long time.”

“I’m not ready.”

“Grab your youth while you can.”

“Not yet. I keep thinking of Frank.”

“Frank’s not coming back.”

“I know. But I also know that I can’t—“

“Can’t what?”

“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.”

“But why? What is it about Frank that you loved?”

“I— The way—“ She hunched her shoulders to start curling into herself.

“Was he handsome?”

“Yes.”

“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?”

“No.” 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?”

She shrugged.

“But you did.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“Everything? Absolutely everything?”

“No.” She looked down. “Not everything.”

“He said you were a lousy lover.”

“A freak. He called me a freak.”

“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.

“Many men 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 her blouse.

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.

“No.”

“To be controlled. To be told what to do.”

“No.”

“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.

“You are.”

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 for her.

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 moments ago.

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 me.”

“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.

“Goodbye, Doctor.”

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 former girlfriends."

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.



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Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2017

traumaheader.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch © 2019

TRAUMA

 

Robert Petyo

 

 

“Where the hell are you?” Jake snapped when he got Tom’s answering machine. “It’s almost seven-thirty and nobody’s here for cards. Get your ass over here.”

Jake was in the empty back room of Donny’s Bar at their usual spot where they gathered every other Wednesday night for some drinks, some chatter, and a night of poker. They had been playing for years, and Jake always looked forward to the short-term escape from the real world of nine-to-fives, car payments, and difficult relationships. As did the others. So, where were they?

He looked down at the phone he had slapped onto the table and was surprised to see how large it was.

 Kim must have bought an upgrade for him. If it was up to him, he’d never get an upgrade. In fact, he had always preferred his old-fashioned flip phone. But Kim was always taking charge. It was one of the things he loved about her. And one of the things he hated about her. It simplified his life to have a girlfriend who worried about the insignificant stuff like what clothes to wear or what to have for dinner. But, staring at the gaudy screen, he thought maybe it was time to become a bit more of his own man and stop letting her run his life.

A young waitress approached. He didn’t recognize her, but he never paid much attention to the staff here, except for Donny, the portly bartender. Jake stayed focused on the cards. “I’m waiting for my friends,” he said. “But get me a beer. No. Better make it a Coke. Got a bit of a headache tonight.”

After she disappeared, he looked around the empty room and wondered if he should call Bart and Steve and bitch at them, too. He especially wouldn’t mind going after Steve, who had lately been eyeing up Kim.

A few minutes later the waitress brought his Coke. “Are you here every Wednesday?” he asked.

“Yeah. My regular shift.”

“Did anything weird happen here two weeks ago?”

“Buddy, I can’t remember what happened yesterday, let alone two weeks ago.”

“Back here. A fight or anything like that.”

“A fight? That I would remember. Nobody fights here at Donny’s. Everybody’s too busy sleeping.” She started to cackle as she turned toward the main bar.

He stroked his temple as he watched her leave. Something must have happened for them to be stiffing him like this. Sure, they sometimes argued when they played, but they always got over it. That’s what friends did.

After his first sip of his soda, he saw Tom appear at the entrance to the back room. “How are you feeling?” Tom asked as he approached.

“How do you think I’m feeling? I don’t like getting stood up here on game night.”

“No. I mean physically, how are you feeling?”

Huh? “I feel fine.”

“You haven’t had any accidents lately, have you?”

“Accident? Tom, what is your problem?”

“Well, the problem is that we haven’t played cards in three months. Not since Steve died.”

Jake’s mouth dropped open.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Am I okay? You’re the guy who’s talking like a whacko. What do you mean, Steve died?” He pushed his chair away from the table and stood.

“Steve is dead. You were there when he shot himself.”

“You’re nuts.” He started toward the bar.

Tom blocked him. “Are you all right? Have you been smacked in the head recently? Because it looks like you have some memory loss.”

“I’m fine. You’re the one who’s fucked up.” Jake shoved him away and ran through the main bar. A silent big screen TV lit the patrons who slumped on stools and didn’t notice any commotion behind them. Jake rushed outside where he sucked in some fresh chilled air.

“Where’s your car, Jake?” Tom had followed him.

“My car?” He looked up and down the narrow street. Daylight had faded and the streetlights were on. He crossed to the small parking lot across the street, but his car wasn’t there. Had he driven? “I guess I got a ride from Kim.”

“Kim?”

“Yeah. Does that bug you, too?”

“When did you and Kim get back together?”

“What?”

“You guys split up a month ago.”

“You’re full of shit. Let’s go to her place right now.” He spun and ran.

Kim lived about three blocks from Donny’s in an old Victorian house that had been converted into rentals. She would knock some sense into Tom.

“Jake. Wait a minute.” Tom’s voice was distant because he couldn’t keep up. When Jake whipped around the corner at Kim’s street, he jerked to a halt.

There were two police cars, lights pulsing, angled on the street in front of Kim’s house. Just beyond them was an ambulance, the back doors wide open. And across the street a car was smashed into a light pole. It looked like—

“That’s your car,” Tom puffed from behind him.

Jake raced toward the house where two EMTs were wheeling out a gurney. He could see a woman sitting on the gurney, her head wrapped in a white bandage. “Kim?”

A policeman cut in front of him, holding out a hand to stop him. “You know this woman?”

“Of course. She’s my girlfriend.”

“Are you Jake Millerton?”

“Yes.”

“That’s your car?”

Shaking, he glanced toward the wrecked vehicle. “I think so,” he whispered. But how did it get here?

The policeman gestured toward Kim. “She says you assaulted her.”

Jake slipped to his knees. They had argued. He remembered that now. About Steve.

He touched his throbbing temple.

“And she says we should reopen the investigation into Steve Walker’s suicide.”

Edit Text

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Art by Darren Blanch © 2019 Edit Picture

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
petyo@ptd.net.

His most recent crime stories have been published on the web at Flash Bang Mysteries, and in the anthologies EconoClash Review, Last Shot Fired, Passage of Time, COLP: Sky’s the Limit, and Suspense Unimagined.



Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.

Digital arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.

View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio, DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.

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