“Cindy, don’t do this to me.” I groaned. My therapist of four years told me she was going to move to New York. She already told this to me two weeks ago but it just finally sunk into me when she told me today that she won’t be seeing me anymore next weekend.
“I’m sorry, Drey. I have to. I can’t pass up this opportunity. My boyfriend and I have been planning for a long time to move to New York. Don’t worry, I found a good therapist for you.” She said as she put her things in the box. Her bookshelves were now empty, her table was empty, this room was empty now. She wasn’t supposed to see any patients today as she was packing her things but I was here not as a patient but a good friend. She’d been my therapist for three years and I didn’t know how I’d do without her around anymore.
“But I only want you.” I pouted.
“I’m sure you’ll like your new therapist. He’s warm, friendly, and kind of funny. I’ve spoken to him and liked him instantly and you know I don’t like a lot of people.” She let out a wide smile.
“Wait- what? HE?!” Surprised, I got up from the armchair I was sitting on. A guy therapist?
Cindy nibbled on her lower lip. “Drey, we’ve been going over this for years now. You need to get over your fear of men.”
“I’m not scared of men. I’m just… just not comfortable around them.” I said, hugging myself and rubbing my arms. “I don’t think I can see a guy therapist.”
“But you need to.” She rested her hand on my shoulder and rubbed it, trying to give me comfort. “Think of this as one of our cognitive behavioral therapy. This might be a way for you to get over your fear or you being uncomfortable around men. You can’t live like this. You’re not just my patient, you’re my friend. You’re one of the nicest, sweetest people I’ve known and you didn’t deserve what happened to you. I want you to take your life back.”
“Thanks, Cindy.” I said, getting kind of teary-eyed.
“Will you try, Drey? Please?” She gave me a soft look.
I smiled and nodded my head.
“Thank you.” She said. “If things doesn’t work out with you and your new therapist you could switch to a new one. But right now I want you to try.
“We said our goodbye and hugged each other and wished each other good luck. She said if I needed anything I could always call her, not as a patient though but as a friend. I helped her pack her things and carry it to her car. She told me I could visit her when I go to New York. We hugged each other again.
“I hope when we see each other again, you already have a boyfriend.” She said when we pulled away.
I laughed. I’d surely miss her. Meetings with her were so easy. It wasn’t a clinical patient-therapist interaction. With her, I felt like I was just talking with my girlfriend. She had been the only close friend I had since I moved to California.
“Hey, none of your business.” A deep, manly voice made my head snap up. I looked at the pair of dark eyes in front of me, they were so hypnotizingly black. I was sitting in front of the bookshelves, putting the books on the bottom shelf.
“What do you want?” I averted my attention back to the books.
“I think this is yours.” He handed me my can of pepper spray, the one I dropped when I thought he was following me and I tried to spray it on him.
“It’s rude to sneak on people like that! Don’t do that again!” My hand reached up to snatch the can from his hand but our hands touched. It was so warm and for some stupid reason, my cheeks heated up. I quickly pulled away from the hold and lowered my head, avoiding his eyes.
“I wasn’t sneaking on you.” Even though I wasn’t looking at him, I could hear the eye rolling in his voice. “Why would I do that? Mukha ba kong stalker?
“Stalker, no. But he looked dangerous, like sin personified. I shrugged. All men are dangerous to me. They’re never truly harmless. The only men I could trust were men in my family.
“I am working here. Pwede bang huwag mo akong kausapin, nagugulo ako.”
“Do you need help?”
“No, I’ve been doing this for years. I can handle this myself just fine.” I shrugged, trying to keep my voice as cold and uninterested as I could. “If you don’t have anything else to say, you can go down. I have alot of things I need to get done.”
“I think we got on the wrong foot so let me reintroducing myself to you.” He sat down on the floor next to me. ” You already know my name, I’m Callum. I live just a few blocks away from here. I’m originally from Maryland. Baltimore, to be precise but I decided to move to San Francisco because why not? I work out four times a week. I hate doing squats and I love jogging in the morning. I like my sandwich without crust and my drinks with little ice. I tried In-N-out a couple of days ago, we don’t have that in east coast, pretty good I must say. I liked it. I’ve been exploring the town and trying go get to know my new neighbors, trying to make new friends.”
“Good luck.” I said, sounding frosty and uninterested as possible. I tried to focus my attention on the box of books in front of me as he spoke.
“Damn! You are one tough cookie to crack.” He shook his head.
I quietly picked up the box and stood up. I turned away from him. He seemed like a likeable guy. He looked intimidating at first but then he opened his mouth. It actually surprised me how chatty he was. Wala kasi sa itsura niya.
“None of your business!” He called but I ignored him. Sumunod siya sa akin and he easily caught up with me. “Ba’t ba ang sungit mo?”
“Will you leave me alone? I’m working here.” I sighed, picking up my pace.
“Tayo na nga lang ang magkababayan dito, sinusungitan mo pa ako. Whatever happened to your bayanihan spirit?”
I stopped in front of the children’s book shelves and started arranging the books. “I don’t have that. Sorry. I just want to be left alone, thank you very much.”
“You’re really playing that uptight spinster librarian stereotype really good.” He nodded his head, looking at me intently. It made me extremely uncomfortable. “I wonder if there’s a sexy librarian underneath-”
“Get out.” Mariin na sabi ko. I dropped the box to the floor and it made a loud thud. I planted my hands on his chest and pushed him. “Get out of here now!”
“Darling, what is happening here?” Mrs. Keri power walked towards us.
“You are banned from here forever, you pervert!” My voice trembled. I slapped him across his face. “Bastos ka! Wala kang modo!”
“Hey.” He caught my wrists. “What the hell?”
“Get out of here or I’m going to call the cops on you.” Mrs. Keri threatened.
“But I didn’t do anything. I swear, I didn’t do anything.” He said with a confused look on his face.
“He’s harrassing me!” I exclaimed, pulling my wrists from his hold.
“What are you talking about? I’m just trying to be friends with you.” Nalukot ang mukha niya.
“Out. Out. Out.” Mrs. Keri pointed at the library’s door. “Do you want to wait until the police gets here, mister?
“He sighed and shook his head. With shoulders slumped and a downcast look, he walked out of the library.
“Are you okay, darling?” Mrs. Keri asked, sounding worried. “What did he do to you?”
I shook my head and lowered it. “He harrassed me. I asked him to leave me alone but he won’t. And then he said… things.”
“Oh, dear.” She put her hand over her chest. “You poor fragile thing. I didn’t know someone that handsome could be a creep.”
Mrs. Keri and I went back to doing our work. Anything could easily trigger me and make me fly off the handle. I feel uncomfortable when guys look at me, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand. I didn’t want any guys to look at me as sexy. I didn’t want to attract any. I just… I was messed up. I was messed up in the inside and I didn’t know if I’d ever be normal again. All those years of therapy is just a weak glue to hold me together. I felt like a broken doll that was barely put back together, ready to fall apart any second all over again.
I stretched out my arms after putting the last book on the shelf. The only thing I look forward to tonight was the new episode of my favorite tv show. I put on my coat and grabbed my bag. I turned off the lights on my way out and locked the library.
“Hey.” I jolted when I heard a voice from behind me.
I turned to see him again. “I swear, if you keep doing that I will have you arrested. You are practically sexually harrassing me. Do you want to be a sex offender?”
“I just want to apologize.” His eyes lowered and massaged the back of his head. “What I said earlier was out of line. I’m sorry.”
“Stay. Away. From. Me.” I slowly said, each word heavy.
“I will.” He raised both his hands in front of him as if surrendering. “You won’t see me here again. I’m really, really sorry.
“I didn’t say anything. I just turned my back on him and walked away. I drove back to my house, took a quick shower and watched my favorite tv show. Then I decided to videocall Mama and Dad.
“Hi, anak! Kumusta ka naman diyan?” Ma’s face popped on my laptop screen. It was morning in the Philippines and Ma looked like she just woke up. She and Dad were still in bed. “It’s only been two weeks since our last visit and your Dad and I already miss you so much.”
“I miss you too.” I sighed. “How’s everyone?”
“Okay naman kami dito. What time is it there?” She asked.
“It’s nine in the evening.” I answered.
“It’s six in the morning here. Alam mo naman itong Daddy mo, mahirap gisingin.”
She pointed the camera at Dad, he was lying in his tummy right next to Ma, sleeping like a baby.
“Tell him I called when he wakes up.” I smiled. I remember when I was a kid, I used to crawl in their bed in the morning and wake them up. My Dad was a heavy sleeper and I literally had to jump on him to wake him up. I didn’t stop doing that until I was eighteen.
“Cindy’s moving to New York.” I pouted.
“Sinabi mo na sa akin yan noong pumunta kami. It’s okay, I’ll find you a new therapist.” Mom said.
“She recommended a new one. Susubukan ko muna yun.” I told her.
Nagkuwentuhan kami ni Mama hanggang sa magising si Dad. I told them about Old Joe, a regular library user since I could remember, losing his dentures at the library and me having to find it under one of the tables. Lorna returning a book that was two years overdue. But I never told them about Callum, I knew Dad would freak out. If you think my reaction was over the top, his would be over the top of Mt. Everest. He’d probably have his bodyguards shipped to me right away. I didn’t want to worry them. Callum was harmless, probably. Pero sa susunod na lumapit ulit siya sa akin irereport ko na siya sa police.
I just wanted to live a peaceful, quiet life. Ayaw ko na ulit mangyari ang nangyari noon sa akin. I desperately wanted to regain a sense of normalcy in my life again.
I took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. Today, I would meet my new therapist. He’s a guy. A man. I didn’t know much about him except his name, Dr. Francois. Siya na ang pumalit sa office ni Cindy kaya hindi na din ako mahihirapan hanapin siya.
I pushed the lever down and the door opened. It was evident that this wasn’t Cindy’s office anymore. The office lost its soft and welcoming touch and was replaced by musculine feel. Dark area rug. Leather and wood chair.
The man behind the doctor’s desk had his head bent down, he seemed to be so absorbed in the book he was reading.
He lifted his head up. “Hi.
“I blinked, doubting what my eyes was seeing right now.
He wore that stupid charming smile on his face. “You must be…” He opened the drawer behind his desk and took out a file and opened it. “Audrey Cordova?”
I swallowed. “Is… is this a joke?”
“No, unfortunately, it’s not. I am very pleased to see you again.” He said in low laughter before standing up. He walked over to me and held his hand out to me for a handshake.
“I am Dr. Callum Francois.”