Her name was Naomi. She was recently married and had moved from Washington down to Cain. I knew all this because her husband was the one who spoke to her for me. After Aspen’s command—fucking hot command—I did my research.
Naomi Ferrer was new to the area and setting up her private practice. She had the acumen, because I saw her degrees online, and I’d guessed she’d have the most open calendar for what I wanted.
I’d called and made my request. She’d turned me down flat.
Then I found out her husband was one of the professors at Cain, and he was a soccer enthusiast. That’s when I approached my coaches. I’d been hesitant, because shit like this wasn’t usually discussed on the soccer field, but my coaches had supported me. My head coach said they’d rather have a guy getting his head cleared than a hothead who could be a danger on the field. That made sense. One of them spoke to Dr. Ferrer’s husband, and he got her to change her mind. She was even amenable to my soccer schedule, which came in handy because we’d had three matches before classes started next week.
“I’m impressed with you, Blaise,” she told me.
I nodded. “It’s a good thing you didn’t know me a few months ago.”
“You’ve made progress. I was initially worried about the emotional duress I’d be putting you under daily, and the ethics of that, but you handled it. And you did it well, and again, I’m impressed. For an incoming freshman, you’re setting up a phenomenal foundation to build upon. But…”
There was always a but, I was finding.
“You still have not confronted your mother about why she wasn’t honest with you all those years. That’s a problem.”
We’d been through everything else.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy—EMDR. That’d been enjoyable (insert heavy, heavy sarcasm). But the post-traumatic stress crap I dealt with was better. Someone could touch my arm when I was in the middle of a flashback—and I’d had a few more over the month—and I could check myself.
I now recognized the state when I was in it, and I was also hopeful that eventually, the flashbacks would stop happening. For now, though, I could navigate my way out of them using the tools Dr. Ferrer had taught me.
That was all I wanted. It meant I wasn’t such a danger, but my head was still messed up. Sometimes I felt like the more therapy I got, the more crap we dug up, and the worse I got. That had lasted until this week when, surprisingly, some of that shit had started to lessen.
Dr. Ferrer said I could slow down my therapy, but she wanted to see me for another six months. Turns out, a childhood of abuse and trauma really fucks someone up.
“I have a guess as to why you haven’t confronted your mom, but I want you to tell me your thoughts. Because you do have them, right? You have some idea, don’t you?”
God, I missed Aspen.
Right now. I wanted her here. In my arms.
I wanted to hear her voice.
“What?” I hadn’t meant to wander off. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine, but I would like you to answer my question.”
I didn’t want to answer, and not because I didn’t know. I’d thought about this; I just didn’t like saying it out loud. That made me feel…more raw, if that was possible.
I was getting tired of this daily shit.
Every day I felt exposed, vulnerable, emotionally stripped, and then every night I had to regroup from practice and from counseling. Aspen wanted me to do the work, so I was, but it was hard. The hardest thing I’d gone through… No. That wasn’t true.
Surviving him had been the hardest thing.
That’s when I knew I had to answer.
“Because if I confront her, I will hate her.”
Naomi shifted in her seat, her mouth tightening. She didn’t seem to have expected that answer.
“That door is shut right now, but I know it’s there,” I continued. “I’ve been angry at everyone except her. Been wanting to tear into everyone, hurt them, except her, and part of that is because she was all I had growing up. I had no one else—and yeah, I didn’t fully have her either, but she’s my mom. He broke her too. She didn’t know the extent of what he was putting me through. I hid it. He hid it. She hid from herself, drinking. Then this shit that he wasn’t my real dad came out, and I was relieved. I was thankful. But…”
I rubbed my hands over my face. “I try to sit and think about the ‘what if.’ What if she’d told me? What if she’d told Stephen? I don’t know who wins going down that path, so I don’t. Nothing can be changed. I survived. I used to think I was like him, that I was the lowest piece of shit on this earth, but I’m not. This—doing this shit, keeping focused with soccer, having Aspen in my life—I’m not him. I won’t be him. And I don’t know, a part of me is grateful I attacked Stephen, because I have that clarity now. I didn’t have that before. I couldn’t have that before, so maybe I should yell at my mom. I don’t know. Is that the right thing? Lash out at someone who was hurting right alongside you? Lose the one person I had during all that hell?”
I shrugged, no longer seeing my therapist. I didn’t feel the chair I was in. I wasn’t aware of the room around me. I had no concept of time or day or anything. I just saw my mom after one of the last times he’d ripped into her.
“She was crying so hard. The words he said to her, no one should ever hear those words. But he said them. And she took it, and I realized she’d been taking it for years. Fucking years. And she was still standing too. So I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I have enough bad shit inside of me. I don’t want to let myself think further about the ‘why’ of her putting me in that situation. If she knew what we’d end up in, I don’t think she would’ve done it. That’s obvious. She would’ve told Stephen she was pregnant, but she didn’t. She told him, and he loved her, or that’s what he said, and I have to think it hurt her something fierce to go with him, to decide to keep quiet about everything. We’ve never talked about it, but I know it eats at her. And I know she’ll tell me. She’ll have to, and I know she’s sorry, and I know she’ll apologize for lying to everyone, but… I don’t know. I’m still healing. She’s still healing, and we’re not there yet. We will be one day. I have to believe that. But I’m tired. Of all of it. I’m tired of being a dick. I’m tired of lashing out at people. I’m tired of hurting people, but I also know I’m still me. I’m still an asshole. I know I will say shit to hurt people, and I hate that now. I don’t know. Who am I to judge her, you know? Who am I?”
Naomi leaned forward. “Her son.”
“She said she’s in counseling.”
She nodded, leaning back. “She is. I asked you earlier if I could reach out to her therapist. You both signed waivers so we could talk, and your mother has made progress as well. Great progress. I’m aware that your biological father was in counseling too, as was your half-sister.”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“It’s an intense situation.”
I laughed, the sound hollow.
“I heard everything you said, but I don’t understand why you won’t ask your mother. I want to push you to do it, but I’m trying to respect you and meet you where you are, so help me. Help me understand.”
It was goddamn simple.
“Because if I do, I open that door to all the other demons in there, and I’m not ready. I’m not ready to hate my mom, and I know that’s what will happen. If I hate her, he wins. That piece of shit won’t ever win and get between my mom and me. I won’t let him. I won’t lose her.”
She drew in a breath, as if seeing me in a different light. She nodded. “Okay. I got it now.” Another slow bob of her head. “So when you’re ready, you’ll ask her. And Blaise, you won’t lose her. Ever.”
My throat swelled up. It was an irrational thought. I could recognize that, insight was a bitch, but it was there. I’d treated my mom like crap the last few months, but that would’ve been different.
I slumped further into my chair. “Or when she’s ready, she’ll tell me.”
“And until then—”
“He can’t win,” I told her again. “He doesn’t win.”
Because that made one of us.
I didn’t get it. I didn’t know if I’d ever get it.
I was excited, but sad and also nervous, all at the same time.
It was move-in weekend. That meant I’d found my dorm, and my room. I’d met my roommate and my floormates. I’d met my resident advisor. And even though I already knew the campus and had done a tour last fall, I got my schedule and walked through all the buildings. My parents were with me. Nate came too. But shortly after we arrived, he disappeared. He said he knew a few people who had remained local, so off he went.