Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2014 - Page 22

My little body wriggled away from the sweater, and the big hand wrapped around my arm and pulled the little body back, too hard. That hand would leave a bruise, which would later make the teacher’s aide be sent away. I looked once more into my little face and went back in, home.

Most of my clients aren’t in situations as dramatic as Annabelle’s. Most of them simply lack the courage to engage in an important argument. They don’t know how to debate or are too afraid to say what needs to be said to someone. Sometimes things get physical, but I’ve noticed a shift in client preferences over the last couple of years. I’ve learned to be gentler.

I was studying my latest case when the bell rang. A woman’s boyfriend wouldn’t propose, and she didn’t know how to bring it up. She was afraid he wanted to leave her, and if so, she’d rather leave him first.

It was a soap opera for sure, but it would probably end up with a straightforward break-up. No violence.

The bell startled me out of the planning. I put away the file and locked the drawer before going to the door. Annabelle’s brother’s voice came through the intercom, and I grinned. I paused by the mirror before hitting the buzzer and gave my face a quick check. There were hollows under my eyes, and the crease in my forehead was more pronounced than I remembered. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair.

“Daniel, what are you doing here?” I was waiting for him outside my door when he finally got to the top of the final flight of stairs, panting.

“Deirdre, it’s good to see you. Can I come in?”

“God, of course, I’m sorry. Come in, come in. I’ll get you, um, water? A beer?”

He came across the landing and looked around my dark, cluttered apartment. I became conscious of how it looked, of the dirty clothes piled on the couch. I scooped them up and tossed the mound just beyond the bedroom door. My desk, too, was cluttered and covered in papers and photos of strangers.

“No, really, I’m fine. I should have called first.”

I lifted a cereal bowl from the coffee table and gave a tug on a mug I’d left out for God knows how long. A ring of sticky brown remained behind on the glass top. He used to think I made money by selling drugs.

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