He dodged the third vase that had been launched into the air, moving to hide behind the door as it smashed into the wall beside it. Giving it a second, he leaned hesitantly around the door.
“Lily! Lilllyyy, common. You have to- oop!” He slunk back behind it just as the fourth and final vase in the room shattered to jagged bits against the wooden frame. Good. She was out of ammo. Groaning, Sam took in a long deep breath and closed his eyes. The reaction was expected. He could deal with this. They just had to take it one step at a time. Grey eyes opening back up, he looked to the side as he leaned his head against the door. “Lily? You good now?”
Good? Good?! She was most definitely not ‘good’. Scrambling back onto the bed in the middle of the room, she teetered sideways as she stripped off one heel, holding it poised as her final weapon. Chest heaving, her long black hair splayed over her shoulders and over the top of the grey evening dress, her frazzled state a stark contrast to its elegant folds as she took a defensive position.
A disappointed curve twisted Sam’s lips when he received no reply, knowing from the sounds of the room beyond that she was once again using the bed as a strategic high ground at which to attack from. Running one hand tensely through his short black hair, he gave her one more moment before he fixed the collar of his white dress shirt and stepped out from behind his shield.
-Two weeks prior-
Red jowls flapped in their flurried cadence as Talyor Hartaway, a sparely bearded pudgy fellow and Lily’s 2 o’clock appointment, paced around the room in his usual flustered manner, fervently explaining the prejudice cast upon him by his mother. His words had turned into a garble of accusations and undue bias that had become a white noise as Lily kept her eyes locked on him, head gently tilting in a knowing nod; a puppetry show that she’d perfected over time. In truth, Lilly White didn’t care what Mr. Hartaway had to say, nor was she listening in the least.
Was it her job to care? It was supposed to be, but what good was there in listening to someone who didn’t want to be fixed and, upon aiding in any way, would storm out only to return again the next week, explaining the same thing he did before. No, Lily had given up on him long ago. Given up on him, the nooner before him, Mr. Headington, and given up on her other two Monday moaners, Mrs. Janell and Mr. Rathwod, as well (a term that Jane, her secretary, had lovingly given them).
Once Hartaway went into his normal ending tirade, facing the windows while he ‘spoke’ to the world, Lily’s icy gaze turned towards the various certifications and degrees on the wall. Sure, they looked great adorning it, but the tiny pieces of paper could do little for a therapist who’d lost all hope that there was any chance of doing real good for her patients. Years ago, when her cliental had still been people scraping together money to pay her fees, the story had been different. They had struggles and real issues and, most of all, they all wanted help. To change. To become better people.
Now, however, as her eyes disdainfully returned to Hartaway, she was vividly reminded that, as the amount she was paid went up, the amount she cared about the work had gone down. The cliental had changed, her reputation raking in people who could afford to page the high wages of the Windy city, and who were all too willing to give it to her at weekly intervals. Sure, there were a few people who need help and came to her, but the vast majority that visited her each week were people with too much time on their hands and too few social skills to figure out what to do with it.
Lily let her eyes wander to the clock, straightening her position in her chair as she realized it was already 3:45, fifteen minutes over Hartaway’s normal time.
“Yes,” she broke in, not hesitating in the least to make a comment though she hadn’t been listening, “well, I believe you’re getting things on the right road, Mr. Hartaway. From what you’ve expressed to me this afternoon, I can say you’re making some pretty good progress. I suggest that, for next week, you look back over your reflections and really think about what you’re feeling. Write them down, and then bring them in so we can go over them together.”
For the eleventh time.
Sputtering to a stop, Hartaway went to verify the time on the clock before giving a hurried nod. “Yes. Yes. You’re right. Self reflection should undoubtedly answer my questions.”
He was quite the expert, wasn’t he?
Fumbling with his jacket, he straightened it out as he headed towards the door, shooting Lily a smile and a mock salute.
“Same time next week and you can bet I’ll be thinking on those things, and I’ll have a novel for you no doubt!”
Lily smiled warmly, motioning to the door. “And please leave it open this time, if you would, Mr. Hartway. I look forwards to next week.” Her calm, warm composure that existed by default never failed to leave her clients with a positive feeling, and Hartaway gave her a wider smile before he shuffled quickly out the door.
Puffing the breath into her cheeks, she slowly let it escape her lips as she rose to walk across the room to her desk. Plopping down behind the glass desktop, she stuffed Hartaway’s untouched file in the bottom drawer, fingers dancing across the name tabs as she ran further back into the alphabet, stopping once she reached the blue tab marked with the letter S.
A smile curled warmly across her lips as she reached for one of the files. Picking it up, she splayed it open on her desk as her eyes ran over the typed case notes. A shimmer returning to them, Lily White felt a small surge of rejuvenation enter her bones as she flipped through the pages; she was about to reach her favorite part of Monday’s. After a few moments of looking over last week’s notes, her eyes danced to the clock on her computer screen and, as one more single moment flipped over to 3:55, her gaze turned expectantly towards the doorway.
Impeccably on time, in strode the man whom Lily felt held the world in his eyes, one Mr. Samuel Oliver Guise. Sam was the iconic philanthropist playboy, the type that movies fought to portray and yet somehow cheapened. Unlike the silver screened depictions of his stereotype, Lily had been surprised to find a man who spent a great deal of time avoiding the spotlight all while completing actions that should have placed him within it. The last charity dinner he held had raised over three million in a single evening from a small crowd who had enjoyed the full moon on one of Hawaii’s most illustrious beaches. Of course he had played modest while regaling her with the story, but it wasn’t hard to tell just how extravagant of an venture it had been. However, despite the numerous things he had done, in the end his life had delivered him to her and, each week he spent on her couch had only further revealed two things: One, Samuel Oliver Guise felt there there was something missing from his life and, two, that he desperately wanted to fix the problem.
“Good Evening, Lily,” he chimed as he sauntered in, taking off his jacket to throw over one arm as he approached the suede couch. “How is my favorite shrink today? Seems like you might have have a tough one,” he smiled, grin always the same no matter how much he complained of feeling worn thin. Pointing behind him, he gestured towards the door. “The walrus seemed particularly red-faced today. Sure you don’t need a few moments? I’ve got a new game and a high score that’s just dying to be beat.”
Politely smiling, Lily shook her head with a small laugh. “I’m fine. And, no, that is quite alright. Some people just tend to get a little…heated more so than others when letting things out. It’s like the way peppers get the blood flowing. Ranting just lets the mind open up.”
Sam took his seat as Lily gestured to it, sinking into the couch and leaning back, a soft sigh escaping past his lips; a reminder to her that he truly enjoyed coming here. Each and every time the man sat down on the couch, it seemed as though his mind began to relax, shoulders releasing from their perfectly held poise. The bright look in his eyes retired to its quarters, replacing itself with the tired true gaze he held only for behind closed doors.
Knowing his routine, her eyes flickered to his pocket an instant before he reached for his cell phone, turning it off before shoving it into the inner pocket of his jacket. It was her cue to begin. She rose from her desk, moving over to the chair seated just three feet away from the couch to the left. Her hands folded gently in her lap as she leaned back, eyes running over him one last time before raising up to slowly meet his gaze.
“So, how was Venice?”
“Oh, you know, terrible. I mean, all the extravagant buildings, the culture, the fact there’s water everywhere,” Sam replied sarcastically, infectious grin spreading across his face. “Nah, it was lovely. When is Venice not lovely? Well, it has its days, I’m sure but even when I lived there it always has its charm”
“You lived in Venice? That’s a new one.”
Nodding his head, Guise replied, “Yeah. It was a while back. Right before I ended up moving back to Colorado.”
She chuckled. “I can’t imagine what it was like, going from scenery like that to-“
“To mountains and far less moisture? It set well with me at the time, believe me. Always been a fan of snow myself.”
“I see. So it was a welcomed move. Well, did you head to any places that held fond memories? Maybe somewhere you liked to haunt back when you lived there?” Lily shifted forwards, leaning on the arm of her chair.
The man who had his heart open to everyone seemed to keep himself, both physically and emotionally, at a distance. His movements, even while subtle and calculated, couldn’t evade Lily’s trained gaze. As she shifted to the right to lean on the arm of the chair, he gently shift how he was sitting to maintain a perfect distance. Hiding it as though he intended to face her more, it was something she had figured out nearly a half a year back, noting that even while his emotions were loosened, he stuck to his guns on his rules for personal space.
“Yeah. I took your suggestion and tried to…reconnect with places I had been before. Think back to how I felt then and how I feel now.” He paused for a few moments, eyes gazing across the room as he tried to summon up the words he wanted to find. “I went back to a few places and, yeah, they were good reminders of different places in my life. Nothing like getting nostalgia for younger years, right?”
She smiled warmly but stayed silent, knowing that pensive look in his eyes. He had more to say.
Eyes resting on the coffee table in front of him, he continued “It was strange, but I remembered little things that I thought I’d forgotten. Things like how people’s steps sounded against that old ground. How the murmur of certain accents were more appealing to my ears. That smell in the air when a good strong breeze comes riding in. There was this one corner I used to always walk along and, even though it’s been built up after all these years, some of the same buildings are still there. If I raised my head up and gazed towards the sky, I got this feeling like I was back there again. Back in time to those earlier years. And I just stood there and the memories came flooding back to me. Faces, voices, images of late nights strolling the streets and days sitting at cafés.” Guise closed his eyes, summoning the sensations back to him that he’d bottled up just to bring back to Lily’s office.
Lily leaned back as she listened, allowing Guise to move forwards a little as he elaborately explained emotions that he felt attached to certain things, not knowing why he specifically felt that way about them. He told her of the summoned memories, and how some of them had made him feel distant rather than closer at odd intervals. He felt as though part of his time had been lost and could never be recaptured and yet he regained a small shard of hope, a youthful ideal as he called it, that lifted his spirits.
For a solid hour and a half, the two sat talking back and forth, Sam doing most of the talking though he was one of the rare few who actually stopped to ask questions. Not just “do you think I’m crazy” or “Am I a bad person for-“ questions, but ones that he’d obviously thought over during their time away. He reached out through deep interpretations of his own feelings, always sounding so jaded to the woman who was the same in age. He sat and poured out every ounce of though he could think to give her and Lily sat enthralled through it all, cataloging his comments in her memory in order to access for later reflection.
Sam was so forthcoming with his emotions and yet, in the same way he constantly regulated his need for personal space, there was a piece of him that he always held back. This too failed to escape Lily’s intuitive nature, and as he spoke she noted when he paused or lingered on a word too long. His eyes would search back and forth on the ground, as if trying to carefully choose another word than the one that had popped into his mind first. Occasionally, he’d stall mid sentence switching over to a similar idea, but obviously not the one he had been going to talk about. Making mental notes of each one, most of Lily’s physical notes on Sam were centered around this guarded mystery of the man who was reaching out and yet refused to touch an extended hand.
So infatuated with his dilemmas and personal introspection, it was Guise who finally leaned back and gazed towards the clock. “Woah. Bit over the clock today, doc,” he smiled sheepishly in an apologetically.
Lily’s eyes snapped to the hands on the wall, giving a soft nod of her head. “It’s quite alright. I’ve got another two hours free before my late nighter stops in. “
“You do those?” he asked. Realizing she had never mentioned it before, she gave a curt nod.
“I do. Many of my clients need to come in during their off hours and I stay a little later than most people work to see that they have someone to talk to. One downside of the job happens to be very little free time.”
“And thus why I decided to help people from afar. Doing good at a distance. It’s best for both parties involved that way,” he smirked as he moved to stand, grabbing his jacket. Sliding it back on, he took out his phone, turned it back on and returned it to his pant’s pocket. Lily rose to stand with him, giving him one of her warm smiles.
“You’re doing wonderfully, Sam. Honest. You’re already making progress and it’s only been about eight months. Had I anyone to brag to, I’d tell them you were my most promising client,” Lily said as she turned around and walked a few steps back, moving out of Sam’s way. “Now, I know I spent most of the time listening tonight but next week I’d like to spend some time going back over a few points that you’ve made. I think there’s quite a few things to work on,” she smiled as she raised her chin, her eyes holding an approving pride for the man’s progress. She really had hope for him.
Sam nodded his head. “Alright, well I’ll be looking forwards to it then and, Lily,” he paused eyes going to her hand for a moment before back up at her. “Thank you. I honestly can say I feel a great deal better since I’ve been talking to you.” He’d said that after every time and, surprisingly, Lily felt it was genuine compliment. As Guise turned, he parted his lips a little bit, seeming to always have more he wanted to say. Though she normally let him slide, wanting Sam to come around without feeling pressured, she decided to give it another shot tonight.
“And I always feel as though I’ve helped you made some progress, despite things that you hold back,” she answered quickly as she paced back to her desk, back facing to him as she reached to mess with the papers that were sitting atop it. “I understand that there are things that just take time to surface, and talking about the issues that make up the walls surrounding it will eventually help it come out, however, I just want you to realize that I am always here if you decide you need to talk before then.”
Guise watched her with a look of constrained pain, eyes screaming that he had more to say but, as always, he blinked it away with long lashes and choked it back with a charming grin. “Thank you, Lily. I appreciate it. I’ll be sure to call if anything comes up,” he replied, and her lips mouthed the exact words as she faced away from him, settling into a sad smile when finished. She listened as his footsteps headed towards the door and she turned back around, taking a seat at her desk.
Pausing abruptly, Sam stood in the doorway, head tilted to the side before he sighed, eyes dropping to the floor. Spinning on his heels, he turned to look back at Lily who was now rummaging through the files on her desk, having expected the man to leave as planned. His eyes lingered over her for a moment and, as she leaned forward to rest an elbow on her desk, soothing her forehead with one hand, he smiled.
“Lily,” he called softly, though the woman startled anyways, quite accustomed to their normal routine. When she finally lifted her head to look to him, he just let his eyes scan the room and the window as he asked, “Anyway you can pencil me in for tomorrow night? There’s somethings that I’d really like to get off my chest. Maybe rant a little myself. Free up my mind a bit.”
Her mind stalled for a moment, the opportunity she had been waiting for all this time coming as quite a surprise. However, she quickly stammered out a “S-sure. I mean, of course. I’veee-“she instantly turned to her computer, flipping up her schedule. “I’m open any time after seven.”
Smiling , Guise nodded softly. “Alright. Dinner it is then. I’ll bring the food, you just bring that mind of yours.” He paced back a few steps with a hesitant worry surfacing within his light gaze. Finally he gave one last nod before spinning around and heading quickly out the door.
Lily’s eyes lingered there for several moments more, heart swelling at the fact that he’d finally cracked. She’d known that, eventually, he’d want to get everything out there. It had all just been a matter of time and Lily had patiently awaited it, nudging him towards it with gentle suggestions and understanding smiles. Rising from her desk, she took in a deep breath as the exhaustion that came every Monday settled in over her body though her mind refused to come down off its emotional high; she was finally going to get the bottom of the mystery that was Mr. Samuel Oliver Guise.
Well, there’s chapter one all finished up. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the introduction of these two characters. Truth be told, Lily was a late edition as I swapped out the original therapist for her, feeling as though Guise and here had a bit more chemistry than my first choice. Mind you, this is a work in progress and I am finishing each chapter week by week, so you’re seeing this as I’m writing it. Even though I have the story structure down, I still am a bit apprehensive about posting these rough drafts! Well, as always, I would love to hear your comments (even though this was a bit brief) and here’s to hoping you have an awesome rest of the week! Also, as before, you can expect to see Ch. 2 coming your way next Weds!