tagRomanceCybertherapy Ch. 04

Cybertherapy Ch. 04


Thanks to Lily for all her skills and patience.


"You bastard!" Cathy screamed at Ben from her chair by the bed, the moment he stepped through the bedroom door. "You lied to me. I thought you were a friend. How could you do that?"

Ben stepped back, her onslaught more aggressive, more venomous than any before, her furious stare intimidating. "Cathy, what's the matter?"

"Don't pretend you don't know. I suppose you went prying into my laptop when I was asleep, eh? I thought I could trust you."

Ben was bewildered. What had he done? She'd never been this angry even at her worst. "I don't understand--"

"I know, you stupid moron."

"Sorry, know what?"

"Don't play the innocent with me -- CareBear."

"CareB--" Ben's world suddenly crashed around him. "Oh God. -- You're KillerBitch? But I didn't... I'm sorry Cathy. I can explain."

"Oh, I bet you can. You slimy creep. You've had long enough to prepare your excuses. I bet you had a great time stringing me along."

"I didn't know," he pleaded. "Believe me, I had no idea it was you."

"Believe you? I can't believe a single word from your lying mouth."

"Really, I didn't know. I would never have taken advantage of--"

"You did take advantage." Her sharp retort cut him short. "You looked at my laptop. Found my entry on EroticTales and decided to use it to make a fool of me."

"No!" But Ben could see how it must look to Cathy. How on earth was he going to explain? "Alright I did see the website on your laptop but I didn't know you wrote stories. Honestly, I--"

"Honestly? How can I possibly trust anything you say? What you did was deceitful." Her anger showed little sign of abating although at least she wasn't shouting now.

"But I didn't know. I wouldn't have done anything to hurt you."

"What about last night? You have no idea how I feel, have you? It's like I was raped, assaulted. You fucking pervert." She spat the words at him.

"I'm so sorry Cathy. I wish I could make it right. I wish I'd known."

"Spare me your fake sympathy."

Ben swallowed hard. "Forgive me please."

"That's something that will never happen. Now get out of my house and never come back." Her voice, no longer angry, had become glacial. "I don't know if I can take legal action against you or your company but believe me, I shall find out."

"Please Cathy, let me tell you how it happened," Ben begged.

"Get out." The words were spoken slowly and deliberately, her icy tone making it clear she expected no argument. As he began to back away and close the door he heard her final words, "And make sure you leave the key."


By Saturday, Ben was in the depths of depression. He had no enthusiasm for meeting Dave and yet he'd lost the spirit to do anything decisive like cancelling their usual rendezvous in the pub.

Dave frowned when he saw his friend. "What the hell's happened to you?"

"You can't imagine. If you read it in a story you'd say it was too unbelievable." Ben could hear the lack of emotion in his own voice. It reflected the deadness he felt in his soul.

Dave shot him a knowing glance then sighed. "What's the bitch done now?"

"It's not what she did, it's what I did."

"Well, what did you do?"

Ben looked at Dave blankly. "Let's get a drink and I'll tell you."

Twenty minutes later, Dave was still staring at him. "I don't believe it."

"See, I told you."

His friend rolled his eyes. "Sorry, that was stupid. Of course I believe it. It's too outrageous not to be true." They sat without speaking, a silent island amid the usual noise of the crowd and music. Eventually Dave spoke again. "So will you get fired?"

"Oh, I've already handed in my notice. I don't think she's taking any action against the company, although I told them I'd pay any costs if she did." Ben sighed. "I tried to send her an email but she must have cancelled the account because my message bounced. Now I don't know what to do. I sent her a proper snail-mail letter, but I suspect she'll just throw it out. She was so angry the last time I saw her. If only she'd given me a chance to explain."

Dave gave him another knowing look. "You were beginning to like her weren't you?"

"Yes. The real Cathy, the girl that was somewhere between Cathy and KillerBitch, yes, I think I was." Ben looked sad. "I finally find a woman I like and then I blow it."

"But it was an accident."

"Yeah, but she'll never believe that."

They sat staring at their drinks.

Dave looked up suddenly. "What about her mother?"

"What about her?" Ben frowned.

"Well you said she liked you. Why not try talking to her?"

Ben considered for a moment, the idea seeming less preposterous the more he thought about it. "Yeah, I suppose so. It has to be worth trying. I still have the card she gave me."


Gloria stared at her daughter in amazement. "Ben was the man on the Internet?"

"Yes. That's what I'm trying to tell you."

"But he seemed so nice."

"I thought so." Cathy scowled. "But he really was a creepy pervert after all."

"Are you sure it couldn't have been a mistake?"

"Mum, he couldn't have found my account on the web site by accident. He had to have known, so he must have snooped in my laptop."

"I suppose so. Still... And erotic stories, really Cath, what were you thinking?" Gloria looked uncomfortable. "I never thought a daughter of mine could be involved in pornography."

"Mother!" Cathy pulled a face. "It's erotic stories, not smutty pictures."

"Well, what's the difference?"

"You've never even read anything like that, have you?"

"I should think not," her mother said with a slight shudder.

Cathy picked up the crutches by her chair, pulling herself to her feet with difficulty.

"Can I help you dear?"

"No, Mum. I have to learn to do things by myself." She made her way slowly to her laptop which lay on the table by the window. She worked on the machine for a few minutes, then pulled a memory stick from where it had been plugged in. "Here. Take this. Tell Daddy to print off the documents on it so you can read them."

"I'm not sure..."

"Trust me, Mother." Cathy spoke as though to a child then sighed and rubbed at her thighs.

"Have you spoken to the nurses about your legs?"

Cathy sighed . "Yes, but they don't know much. I've got an appointment with the orthopaedic outpatients' department at the hospital. Dr. Glenn came round this morning." Her GP was a regular visitor.

"Why the long face?" Gloria sounded concerned.

"Well, it's just typical, I suppose. The appointment's in six weeks time. When I asked about waiting times he said it could be six months before they could operate. And because I didn't let them operate just after the accident, it could need three operations to fix the ligaments properly." Cathy sighed again. "As for the facial reconstruction, I'll probably have to wait until after my legs are done."

"Oh Cath. I wish your Dad and I could do more. I think we could get some of the operations done privately but I know we haven't enough to do all of it." Gloria looked disconsolate. "Daddy says we should be able to sell some of his stocks to raise money."

Cathy stared at her mother. "I can't ask you to do that. Daddy had those savings for his retirement."

"Darling, if it will help you we'll happily spend the money. I only wish we had more. Daddy is going to see if your aunts and uncles can help."

"No! I don't want you in debt to anyone, even family." Cathy looked determined.

"Alright dear, don't get excited. We can talk about it some more later."

"I mean it, Mother. No borrowing. And I really don't want Daddy to sell his stocks either."

"Yes dear. Whatever you say." Gloria conceded.


Ben eyed the telephone suspiciously, as though he expected it to come alive and bite him. It had taken him two weeks to summon the courage to make the call. He finally picked up the handset and, glancing at the card, dialled the number. After five rings he heard a woman's voice.


"Hello, is that Gloria?" he asked quietly.

"Who is this?"

"It's Ben Fielding." He tried not to sound as nervous as he felt.


"Ben. I used to be Cathy's carer."

"You've got a nerve calling here." Ben flinched at the hard edge to Gloria's tone.

"Please, I need to talk to you -- to explain."

"I'm not sure you can explain what you did."

"I'm sorry. I never wanted to upset Cathy. But you have to know, I never spied on her."

There was a pause. "Well it's an awfully big coincidence you just happened to be writing to her on the Internet."

He hadn't expected her to believe him but he was determined to try to persuade her. She'd seemed a sympathetic person on the only occasion they'd met.

"I know. Look I admit I did see the web site on her laptop. I didn't go looking for it. I went to collect her tray one afternoon. She was asleep. The laptop was on. I couldn't help seeing the web site she was looking at." He knew he was gabbling but he was desperate to win Gloria over before she lost patience with him. "It never occurred to me she wasn't just reading the stories. I never thought she could be writing stories like that."

"Like what?"

Ben frowned. "She hasn't told you?"

"She told me she'd been writing stories on some pornography site. She even tried to get me to read some. I didn't, of course. I still can't believe she could get involved in something so disgusting."

"I think you're judging her a little harshly. I know the stories she was writing when I first got in touch with her were questionable, but the one she was writing when -- well, you know -- that story was very romantic and beautiful. You should read it."

"I don't read porn, young man."

"It isn't porn. Please Gloria. Just read it and see. I think you might be surprised."

"I'm sure Cathy wouldn't have kept any copies of it. And I wouldn't want to worry her by trying to find out."

"I have a copy," Ben offered, hoping she'd want to see it.

"No. I don't think I want to read it."

"It's a good piece of writing," he cajoled. "It has great characters and a good story."

"And you really think I should read it?" She sounded bemused. "What good would that do?"

"I believe she put a lot of her soul and personality into the story. It might help you to understand the way she's thinking."

"All right then, young man. You've earned yourself another chance to talk to me. I'll meet you somewhere with my husband after I've read it."

Ben felt his eyes narrowing. "So you have got a copy?"

"Yes. I'm sorry Ben. I lied. But I didn't want to read that sort of thing. I'm still not sure I do, but I'll try."

"Thank you." Ben felt rather as though a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "But could I ask one more favour?"

"And what might that be?"

"Could you stop calling me 'young man'? I'm forty two years old."


They met the following week in the cafeteria at the supermarket. Ben bought coffees for the three of them. Gloria's husband -- Roger -- shook his hand and smiled weakly. "I'll let Gloria do the talking for now, Ben. I still don't really feel comfortable with all this at the moment."

Ben nodded his acknowledgement. He turned to Gloria. "Have you read the story?"

She smiled at him. "Yes. It's a bit racier than I'd normally read, but, you're right, it's not really pornographic. And yes, it is romantic."

"Well, she wrote that because I asked her to. You really don't want to read the stuff she was writing before. That truly was unpleasant."

Gloria glanced at her husband and after some unspoken message passed between them continued, "Well, if you didn't know who she was, why did you ask her to write it?"

"I thought she was some other hurt person I might be able to help. I never even considered the possibility it might be Cathy."

"Yes, but why make her write?"

Ben sipped at his coffee. "Because I couldn't think of any other way of starting a dialogue. I figured if I could get her to write something from her heart I'd learn more about her."

"And what did you learn?" She looked at him intently.

"Under that aggressive exterior is a very loving woman." Ben smiled rather ruefully. "I've been thinking about it a lot. She wasn't just badly hurt on the outside was she? I think she may have suffered even more emotionally."

Gloria nodded slowly. "How much do you know about what happened?"

"Only that her husband and son were killed and she was badly injured in a car crash. And that she blames herself."

Gloria sighed. Reaching forward to pick up her coffee, she took several sips, clearly giving herself time to make a carefully considered response. "Well," she said at last, replacing the cup, "there are those that might say she should blame herself I'm afraid."

Ben regarded her with amazement. "Why, for heaven's sake?"

"First you should understand she loved Sean as much as any woman could love a man. And as for their son, darling little Jack..." Gloria sounded rather choked. "Cath's whole life was devoted to making them both as happy as she could."

"I came across a few photos while I was clearing up once," Ben confessed. "You could see just by looking how much she loved her family."

Cathy's mother nodded again before finishing her coffee and replacing the cup. "They'd been to a party at Sean's parents' house. Both of them had been drinking but Cathy was sure she would be OK to drive the short distance home. It was only a few miles round the lanes, away from the main roads. How much the drink was to blame, I don't think anyone really knows, but Cathy's certain it was because she was over the limit the accident happened.

"Anyhow, there was a junction where the lane crossed a dual carriageway. Cathy made a mistake and a lorry hit their car. Sean and Jack were killed instantly, she was in a coma for four weeks."

Ben was silent for a moment. "Then why did she write about going before the courts and being sentenced?"

"Well as a drink-driving offence, they prosecuted as a matter of routine. Of course she pleaded guilty, but the Judge said she'd already been punished sufficiently by the loss of her husband and son, quite apart from the severity of her injuries. So she got a suspended sentence and a driving ban."

"And she still wanted to punish herself?" he said, finally beginning to understand.

"Yes. And she wanted everyone to hate her as much as she hated herself. All the time the nurses and home helps kept getting upset and refusing to visit her she could tell herself it was because they knew what she'd done."

Ben found himself beginning to smile. "I see. And when I wouldn't follow her script she didn't know what to do -- and so she hated me."

Gloria returned his smile. "Well I'm no psychologist but that's what I think."

He sighed. "I just wanted to help her see that people cared."

"And you did. Ironic isn't it?" She turned to her husband. "I think you have to accept this was a misunderstanding Roger. It seems pretty clear to me Ben didn't mean to hurt Cathy -- just the opposite."

"So it seems." Roger turned to Ben. "I'm sorry Ben. I just found it very difficult to believe it was a coincidence. I mean what were the odds you would be writing to Cath without knowing who she was?"

Ben shook the hand Roger extended to him. "Don't worry, Roger. I'm not sure I would have believed it if it hadn't happened to me."

"Gloria said she thought you were responsible for returning our daughter to us and she's right." He looked at his wife. "I think it's time we had a little talk with Cath."

"Maybe dear, but you know how stubborn she is. I don't think she'll be prepared to forgive Ben just yet." Smiling wryly, Gloria turned to Ben. "I'll give you a ring next week to let you know how we got on."


As Gloria had predicted, Cathy was not in a forgiving mood.

"I don't know what he's said to you Mum, but I don't feel as charitable as you and I'm certainly not ready to believe he was as innocent as you seem to think."

"Dad and I have been talking to him, and I think maybe you're being too harsh," Gloria said calmly. "I wish you'd talk to him. At least give him a chance to explain himself."

"I hate to keep repeating myself, Mum but I don't want to see him or hear about him and I most definitely don't want to talk to him. Now please stop." Her voice became harsh as her irritation increased. "If you can't drop the subject I'll stop talking to you. Now -- enough!"

But when her mother sighed, Cathy found herself feeling guilty. "Would you like a coffee, Mum?" she asked, her voice softening.

"I can get it."

"No! I want to get my independence back, to be able to look after myself." She struggled to her feet, balancing awkwardly on her crutches. At least her kitchen was small enough to cross in only a couple of strides.

"Has Dr. Glen been able to find out any more about the waiting lists?" her mother enquired, watching as her daughter filled the kettle and turned it on.

Cathy pulled a face. "He said it could be as much as six months."

"Well, ask him about going private dear, even if it's only for your legs. Daddy and I can afford that at least. And it would make us much happier to use the money for that than saving it for retirement when we know we could have done something for you."

"I told you, I don't want to take your money." She put down the cafetiére and turned to her mother, a defiant look on her face.

"Even if it makes us happy?"

Cathy raised her eyes briefly to the ceiling. "That's emotional blackmail."

"No dear, it's the truth. Now please make us happy and let us help you."

"I'll think about it." She poured the coffee and handed the cups to her mother. "That damn Ben still gets to me, you know."

"How's that?"

"I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and realised what a hypocrite I'd been calling him chubby."


Ben was surprised at how close he had become to Gloria and Roger. He hadn't realised how much he missed his own parents. Their meetings had become a regular event and the lunch he was cooking would be the third he'd prepared for them. Furthermore, they seemed to enjoy his company as much as he did theirs.

As they sat at the dining table, Ben inevitably brought up the subject of Cathy.

"What's the news from the hospital about the surgery?"

Roger, as so often seemed to be the case, deferred to his wife. "Well, we think we can get her onto the private list now so she should get the first operation for her ligaments done within the next fortnight."

"That's great. What about the facial reconstruction surgery?"

"Well it's going to be a long haul. The surgeon thinks she'll need at least three operations and with the current waiting lists it'll probably take two or three years."

"I didn't think the wait was that long for private patients?" Ben was puzzled.

"It's not. But I'm afraid she has to have the operations on the NHS." Gloria looked a little sheepish.

"I don't suppose she has private health insurance."

"Unfortunately not. Roger and I paid for the leg operations but that was all we could afford. We would have borrowed the rest but Cathy wouldn't hear of it."

"But the operations could be done a lot faster privately?" Ben's heart began to beat more quickly.

"Oh yes, if only we had the money."

Ben smiled. "I think I can help there."


Cathy looked at herself in the bedroom mirror. Legs that looked pretty damn good for a thirty-five year old -- even if she did have to wear thick tights to hide the scars from the operations. Eighteen months of physiotherapy and exercise after the operations had been beneficial. Her figure looked pretty good again now as well. She had to use a lot of make up on her face, and the surgeon said she'd probably always have to, but she felt good about herself again.

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