A Necessary Struggle— Episode Twenty-Three

The Things My Friends Don’t Know 

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“The living room looks great,” Sylvan complimented as she shut the bamboo blinds on the French doors to her study. “I would have told you earlier but things have been hectic around here. CJ broke his arm. Our eldest is failing English Lit.”

“He should probably go to the writing center,” Lela suggested sitting in the bay window staring at the pecan tree in the backyard. “Tell him to ask for Safiya.”

Sylvan slipped out of the nude pumps she wore for her last patient, the CEO that thrived for all things to stay professional. The cool stained walnut floors soothe the red soles of her feet as she made her way to her desk. “Are you coming to the couch or staying at the window?” Sylvan asked slipping a new tape in her tape recorder. She knew it was old school to still be using her Olympus J300 hand-held recorder with its microcassettes but she loved the retro-ness of it.

“I’ll stay here,” Lela mumbled pulling the white ruffled pillow onto her lap. “Is that fine.” She glanced over at Sylvan getting situated in the sky blue tufted chair.

“Wherever you want to sit is fine with me. You know that.” Sylvan held up the recorder. “I’m going to start now.” She made the disclaimer before pressing the red record button. “Where do you want to start?” She placed the recorder on the unstained oak desk. “Where we left off?”

Lela swung her legs off the bench nibbling on her bottom lip. “Isn’t this conflicting?”

“What do you mean?” Sylvan stopped flipping through the notebook she usually jotted in during sessions.

“Last month…you meet with my friend, Alyssa. Alyssa Sasaki.”

Sylvan tapped her manicured unpolished nails on the desks, “I don’t speak about my patients, you know that. Anything a patient tells me or anything a patient is going through is between me and that patient…understood.” She warmly smiled at a steely-faced Lela.

Lela inhaled deeply as she faintly nodded to herself. She didn’t need it getting out that she was seeing a psychiatrist. That she had been seeing a psychiatrist since she was a freshman; that her mom and Sylvan were old college friends; an old college friend her mom had to call when her symptoms were full blown and out of her control.

Lela exhaled, “Well, keeping things Alyssa oriented.” She began swing her black yoga pant covered legs. “I told her about Trey and me.”

“You did.” Sylvan’s voice perked up with genuine excitement as Lela nodded. “How did it go?”

Lela scrunched her face. “Not good.”

“But how do you feel not that you told her.”

“Like a weight is lifted.” Lela erected her back in the tie-dye tank top.

Sylvan pushed up the sleeves of her gray cardigan, “How do you feel now that you and Trevor don’t have to hide out anymore?”

“I don’t know.” Lela stopped kicking and stared at her purple Converse high tops. “I feel like…” She took a deep breath. “It’s not going to work out.”

Sylvan scooted to the end of her chair moving closer to Lela. She wanted to put her arm around the young woman, tell her everything was going to work out. Being the mother of two boys, Lela was the closest thing she had to a daughter. She had been helping Lela the tender age of twelve. “Why do you think that?” Sylvan questioned.

Lela’s kicking started back up again, “He thinks I’m this average girl.” She shrugged. “I mean… I even seem average: twenty-something barista attending college, with tuition problems and rooming with friends. Doesn’t that sound common?” She turned to Sylvan waiting for an answer. She chuckled know she wasn’t going to get one. Sylvan didn’t answer questions once the tape was rolling. Now, once the doctor clicked stop anything was fair game; movies, relationships, clothes. They cared on like aunt and niece. It was a relationship that she never told her friends about; a relationship she would never tell them about, especially not now. Not after Safiya was having Sylvan’s husband’s baby. The man Lela called Uncle Carter.

“It sounds common,” Lela answered her own question.

Sylvan sat back in her chair, “You mean you haven’t told him about your illness yet?”

Lela stared at the French doors playing the images of her and Trevor painting the living room, making out on the plastic-covered floor, “Not yet.”

“Then when?” Sylvan’s head perched up giving Lela the same motherly glare she bestowed on Smith and CJ when they did something she didn’t agree with.

Lela could feel Sylvan’s disapproving gaze so she kept her eyes ahead. “I’m supposed to just tell him.” She hopped off the bench. “Just tell him.” She threw her arms frustratingly in the air. “Tell him I have OCD.” She looked at Sylvan with eyes that rivaled a puppy in the window of a pet store.

“You two are getting serious,” Sylvan spoke with a leveled voice unfazed by any emotions she was currently feeling. “You told me he said he loved you. Don’t you think you should stop lying to him?”

“What?” Lela weakly threw her arms up once more. “What do you want me to tell him?” She began pacing over the wheat fabric rug. “That I take meds every night. That I spent three months in a mental hospital or that I tried to kill myself when I was twelve and seventeen.”

Sylvan combed her hands through her lustrous chocolate locks trying hard to keep her motherly feelings out of this session. “Why don’t you start by telling him the truth about your parents.”

Lela stopped pacing gripping her waist; “If I tell him the truth about my parents then he’ll know the truth about me.”

“Well, he did say he loved you.” Sylvan jumped as the front door slammed. She ran the nickel wall clock. It was 3:08. “See if he’s a man of his word.”

Lela fell back on the couch, “I don’t know.”

“MOM!” A voice called from afar.

The timer shrilly cried, Sylvan silenced it then stopped the recorder. She held her hand out the Lela, “Cook dinner with me and we’ll figure it out.” She smiled warmly.

Lela groaned them grabbed Sylvan’s hand.

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