Out of the Dark Wood Ch. 03byflatliner©
This story is the third of a multi-part series. Each story examines the experience from the viewpoint of a different character. Although not essential, I think you will enjoy them better if you read this one after reading the first and second stories in the series because there is a plot spoiler in this segment. And as always, comments are very welcome. Thanks for reading.
"My mom is totally fucked up. Totally. Fucked. Up!"
Dr. Marc Scarpelli was glad to hear it. Finally, after two sessions of stony silence, his patient was beginning to break down. "Why do you say that, Annie?"
"She put me in here for no good reason, for one."
"I was told you were found several miles from your home wandering naked down a dirt road in a dissociative state. Your mother thought it was caused by drug use." Would she confirm or deny?
"I don't take a lot of drugs." The girl looked at the floor as she said this. Evasive, he observed, but not a complete denial. The light beach robe she wore, monogrammed with overlapping Cs, was belted tightly. Her arms were crossed over her breasts. On her feet hung lime-green flip-flops. The rigid posture was to be expected.
"I know it's hard to be here against your will, Annie. I want to get you out as soon as possible, but I would like to understand what happened that got you to the treatment center." Dr Scarpelli had no reasonable expectation that he could earn her trust without patience. Most spoiled children of the wealthy were armored against it and he was her father's age, a likely vector of transference of the emotions of her childhood. Thus, he reasoned, it would be a very delicate dance he would lead to help her find her psychological injury. Not that he really relished the process. One rich brat is much like the last and he'd seen hundreds of them.
"I don't know why the fuck I'm here, I said. " She pouted and fell silent again.
As he waited, silent himself, providing an uncomfortable void for her to fill, his thoughts drifted to the notes in his lap that he was writing for the blurb the publisher had asked him to provide to his employer's latest book, "My Good Fortune: How Wealth Will Make Me a Better Person". What a crock of shit. Providing discreet psychological services to the rich and famous involved some bizarre marketing. But he couldn't disappoint. It was the charm and persuasiveness of his boss, Dr. Taylor Sandridge, that kept him in Mercedes and Ferragamo. Being on staff at Crosswinds Center had its perks, but he was beginning to suspect his actual skill as a psychotherapist was less clinically sound that he liked to think. He hadn't published in the 15 years since graduate school.
"According to your mother the pants you weren't wearing had a few Poppers, some Ludes and a couple of Yellow Jackets in a baggie in the pocket. She's concerned for you."
Annie sat up straight, knees tight together, looked him fiercely in the eye and said, "Fuck my mother!"
He'd seen her mother, of course. She was the wife of Virginia Senator Clarke and was a public figure herself, at least during political campaigns. She was a well-known society grande dame; a patronness of good causes and damned good looking. He would consider fucking her if it wasn't extremely unprofessional. As a trained therapist he could allow himself those thoughts without guilt; he knew he wouldn't act on them. Mother and daughter looked remarkably alike, he was surprised to learn when Annie was first shown into his office on Monday afternoon for her fist silent session. He'd observed her closely as she sat clenched on the couch opposite him, fuming at her confinement.
She flashed the same bright red hair and scattering of freckles that her mother had, and the same green eyes. Her figure was trim, her skin clear as he'd come to expect of the children of the wealthy. He'd read of her mother's success in the horse world and wondered if Annie's fitness was real or artificial; was she fit from actual work or from gym-rat workouts, from incipient anorexia or bulimia? Her fingernails, short and square-cut, suggested the former. Wearing the center's regulation robe prevented him assessing any character traits from her clothing. He found that a handicap. He looked closely at her for clues, nonetheless.
"And fuck you, too!" her outburst brought him back to the present and snapped his gaze from her toned calves to her green and angry eyes. He shouldn't let his mind wander like that. He was making the job harder for himself.
"Can you tell me about the drugs, Annie? The ones you don't take much of."
"I don't have to explain anything to you. My mother hired you to make sure I don't embarrass her or The Senator. I'll just wait until she decides she's spent too much on your fucking 'treatment' and lets me go back to school." She stared at the floor again, tears welling in her eyes, like a sullen child rather than the 18-year-old college girl that she was. This kind of regression was a good thing. It gave him some leverage.
"That's true, Annie," he said gently, leaning forward, "you don't have to explain anything to me. And your mom could make the decision to send you back to school irrespective of your progress here."
She looked at him from the corner of her eye while he waited, a practiced, benign smile on his lips. Now was the time to be the understanding, compassionate father. "Let the transference begin!" he thought.
"What does your father think of all of this?" he asked, a look of concern on his face.
She sniffled, "He probably doesn't even know where I am..."
"That's a sad thought. I suppose he's always very busy in Washington, isn't he?"
"My god-damned mother probably hasn't even told him, yet." She wiped her nose on the bathrobe sleeve. Marc pulled a tissue from the always-present box and held it out to her. Evening sun gave the room an orange glow, which he couldn't help but notice nicely complemented her pale complexion, especially the freckles. He was a sucker for freckles.
Holding the tissue to her nose she said, "Mom just wants to clean this mess up quietly before bothering him with it. She's very protective of his career."
"How do you feel about that?"
She snorted, ""How do you feel about that?" What is this, therapy 101? She's right. It's nothing anyway, so I'm just as glad he doesn't know."
"I think I would feel sad. If I were a father I'd want to know if my daughter were in trouble."
At this she burst into tears again, huddled in the corner of the couch. Marc stood, set down his notepad and moved to sit beside her. She stiffened as he put one strong, fatherly arm around her and said, "Annie, I know you're hurting. I know you don't trust me and you are angry at the world right now. I can also see that there is more to this situation than your mother suspects. Think of it this way: she's paying the Center for damage control. Fair enough. But I'm here to help you. I don't care who is paying whom for what. I'm your doctor. What you say to me is confidential. Why don't you get everything you can out of this on your mother's dime?"
Slowly, her sobs quieted. But she kept her face in her hands. He hoped she was considering his offer. As he waited the first notes of Boccherini's Minuetto Con Grazia began playing, marking the end of the session. He gently disengaged with Annie and returned to his chair.
"Annie, what is said between us is protected by the shield of Doctor-patient confidentiality. I won't be saying anything to your mother or father unless you OK it. It's my work to help you feel better and that is only between me and you."
The girl slowly rose from the couch and without looking at him walked from the room. She closed the door with a click behind her and he was left to wonder if she'd take him up on it. A staff nurse would be waiting outside to make sure she got safely back to her room.
She was his last client of the day. He scribbled some quick notes and locked his pad in the desk drawer, visited the adjoining bathroom to pee then and also left the consultation room. One reason he'd languished professionally here at Crosswinds was the sweet location, another perk of working for the wealthy. The center was hidden on one of the most private enclaves of the families of power and privilege on the East Coast. Figure Eight Island, off the coast of North Carolina, was accessible only by a private drawbridge and even though multi-million dollar beach houses lined its exquisitely manicured dunes cheek-by-jowl the place was almost always nearly empty. Dr. Sandridge had set up shop in a large stucco and weathered wood structure that any normal person would consider a mansion and very discreetly treated his clientele right in their own back yard.
So Doctor Marc Scarpelli lived like a playboy earning a very comfortable living by the sand and the waves while just sitting on his ass listening to the complaints of an endless string of whining plutocrats and their progeny. Money didn't buy sanity; it actually allowed the rich to keep it at bay longer. And Freud was right. The treatment didn't work if the client didn't pay for it. These folks were paying plenty so they really thought they were getting world-class treatment. They were rich, not smart.
Passing through the staff wing he poked his head in the office of the old, gay research assistant for an update on Annie's background. Crosswinds kept ahead of its clients by having world-class dossiers on them made up as quickly as possible after intake. For some, they had documentation even before they were admitted – it was a valuable overhead investment. Many celebrities were so prominently in the news that it wasn't too hard to predict that they would show up at Crosswinds as their personal lives so publicly disintegrated.
Coleman, the researcher, was a professional fanboy (aging but fabulous!) and so his interest in all things in the celebrity sphere made him very good at his job. He clearly loved it as he gathered as much public and private information on the clientele as possible. Marc asked with confidence for the file on The Senators' family.
"Right here, Dr. Scarpelli," smiled Coleman primly, slipping the folder over his desk. He spent his days ferreting in a windowless room where, pale and mole-like, he burrowed happily into other people's lives even while the surf and sun sparkled outside. Scarpelli knew he didn't have a partner and so understood that other people's lives substituted for his own quite well. His life was a fantasy of glamour and acclaim, wealth and comfort lived out in a box.
Even his taste in wall art revealed the escapist nature of his existence. A Thomas Kinkade painting of a mill by a pond in a wood hung behind him.
"Coleman, I'm all for gay marriage, but there really ought to be a law against Thomas Kinkade," he teased. Waving the file he asked, "Any problems with this one?"
"I think you'll find the mother's history particularly interesting..." suggested Coleman, carefully modulating his avid interest and his nominal professional detachment. It was clear he loved digging up dirt.
Marc left with a nod to the researcher and, putting the folder in his briefcase, stepped out into the late evening dimness. The sun had just set and the arc of the sky blazed with orange, violet and red tinged clouds. In the shadows the heat of the day had just begun to seep out of thick air now stirred by the offshore breeze.
He hopped in his C-class convertible and rolled over the bridge, down the marsh-lined causeway and past the security booth for a nightcap. On the drive into Wilmington on 17, passing the squalid tourist areas with their litter of gas stations, miniature golf courses, motels, tattoo parlors, pawn shops and surfboard-decorated restaurants shouting out in neon, he thought again about Annie.
Normally he would put his work out of this mind when leaving Crosswinds but something about the damaged girl tugged at him. Perhaps his compassion was roused by the thought that she could be his own daughter. Or maybe, knowing the loathsome conservative views of her Senator father, he had more sympathy. At any rate her image and that of her intriguing mother made equations in his head as he pulled up to the Rusty Nail and went into its dark embrace for a beer and some decent live jazz. In a backwater like this he had to get his cultural needs met where he could and he'd become a regular. He was guilty of trading a few stories of his clients for a free drink or two or some female company. He considered it a minor compensation for the stresses of his job – a healthy adjustment.
Contrary to his usual habit of getting quietly drunk he read the Clarke file over a couple of beers. What he learned gave him ideas. Some of them were highly unprofessional.
The next morning brought another blue-skied and breezy day to Crosswinds. Most clients at the center, so exclusive that it only accommodated six at one time, spent the morning in educational sessions one-on-one with staff selected to address their specific needs. For Annie it was drug-awareness talks with a recovering addict-turned-therapist followed by exercise and several hours of lying on the sand, her minder nearby. The food was every bit as exclusive as she was accustomed to; French-trained chefs prepared all three meals. This was not a boot camp, but meant to be a familiar and safe haven. On the surface it was just like a vacation except for her enforced residence at the Center and the interminable sessions with Dr. Scarpelli.
She dreaded her meetings with him. She missed the depressants, too. You'd think lying on the beach surrounded by vacation homes would allow her to forget about the world, but for her the real world was creeping steadily and menacingly back in. She couldn't remember what had happened the prior weekend before she'd found herself wrapped in a blanket in the back of a Virginia State Police sedan speeding south on I-95.
She recalled riding Gantry up the trail behind her mother in the morning sun, dreading what would likely be a day of forced intimacy. She knew her mom had a heart-to-heart talk planned before she went back to Hollins and she hated the idea. The Ludes were meant to make it bearable.
There was a big blank between that scene and the backseat of the cruiser on Sunday night. It scared her. If she let her mind drift toward that missing time she caught flashes of a young black man with no shirt on who looked, bizarrely, like President Obama. That couldn't be real, could it? OK, she voted for, even secretly campaigned for, Obama so probably she'd had some kind of drug trip or something.
Her fear of knowing and terror of not knowing kept her stuck. She just wanted to go home or someplace safer. But as the week slipped by in infuriatingly boring drug education lectures, phony group confession sessions and aimless waiting she realized that no place was safer. She couldn't face her mom without knowing what happened. She was about to crawl out of her skin.
When she had awoken in the cruiser she had heard her mother in the front seat talking to the trooper driving but couldn't make out what was said. It was clear she was in trouble and mother was furious.
Her mother looked relieved but no less angry when she said she couldn't remember the last 36 hours but then she'd dragged her to this laughably phony drug treatment place and left her here. Mother gave her a smothering hug and a kiss on the forehead before tearing off with the trooper to do damage control back home. Annie understood she was in deep shit and to keep her mouth shut at the risk of destroying her mother's life. Bad publicity was the boogey man and public shame was the death he would inflict on the family. Her mother's fears had become her own.
Her mother's last words to her on leaving were, "Do not say anything to anyone about what happened Saturday night, no matter what." The fierce intensity in her eyes was the scariest thing she'd ever seen.
Dr Scarpelli's argument began to make sense to her as she curled in the pain of her uncertainty. She was half afraid but half eager to open up to him in today's session. Annie needed to know just what she was in trouble for.
"My mom is overbearing and demanding and never wrong and manipulative as hell. I wish I had some sisters and brothers for her to dissipate it all on but I'm her only one, so... I thought going to college would get me out of her orbit, but hell no!" Five minutes into the session she'd looked into his kind eyes and it had all begun spilling out. This is what he'd been waiting for.
First came the resentment and anger of an over-protected child, then the tears and fears and vulnerability. He sat across from her letting her drain the wound, gently encouraging her to begin to process years of what was essentially stunted growth. Her mother had made a bonsai of her. Annie was twisted by the force of her mother's personality. Not an unusual story, really. She used the drugs to hide herself, to give herself a sanctuary, was his assessment.
He thought it was a shame that he would not be able to help her all the way through her awakening. Such was the nature of treatment at Crosswinds. They applied very expensive bandaids here.
Still, he felt great compassion for the girl. She was relaxed now and slumped on the couch, still talking, although more subdued.
"So, you were riding your horses up the mountain behind your farm?" he probed.
The girl went quiet. She stared into the middle-distance as if seeing the scene. "We were hot and we were riding to the pools. She was going to grill me about everything. She thinks I'm unhappy when I don't talk to her. She doesn't understand why our conversations are so pointless. I spend all my time evading her until she wears me down. I lie to satisfy her. I told her I was a lesbian and she loved it!"
"I know it's hard to love someone and loathe them at the same time. Its normal, Annie," He'd walked many an adolescent through this minefield.
She continued, "We were skinny-dipping and talking about my "love life". It's none of her fucking business, the fucking whore. She fucks the stablemen, you know?" Now they were getting somewhere. He could list the complexes. Although his own lizard brain was engaged imagining the mother in flagrante dilecto with a sweaty farmworker he let those thoughts run on a separate track. He wasn't one to repress, though he was trained not to express. At least not with a patient.
"You skinny-dip with your mom?" he couldn't help but ask. It was clinically important information.
"What, you think that's sick? She's the sick one, not me." As Annie relaxed she slumped further down in the cushions, her arms lying limply at her sides. The Crosswinds beach robe slipped aside, revealing the light yellow bikini she'd been issued at intake. She filled its cups nicely...
"I think you're right, Annie, no mother should force their daughter to be naked with them. Frankly, I see the situation you are in and I'm so sorry you've had to live this way. May I explain how this looks from a therapeutic perspective?" Marc was trading trust for trust. If he let her in on his thinking she would be more likely to let him in to hers. He wanted to find out just how into the drugs she was. It was his only hope of affecting a change in her because he would tailor his treatment recommendation to her degree of addiction. He sensed he was beginning to actually care about this one.
Still staring she murmured, "Ok, whatever." Her knees had begun to part. Marc's eyes were drawn to the mound at her crotch. The yellow cotton hugged her woman parts tightly, showing a slight seam where she was naturally parted. His own pants got a little tight.
Marc cleared his throat, "Annie, in my field we study the family as a dynamic entity. That is, no person in the family behaves in isolation. What you do is affected by what each other person does. When dysfunction occurs it is not unusual for one family member to become what we call the 'identified patient', but really the entire family needs help. Do you see what I mean?"