Title: She made me feel funny. Good.
Series: Wilson in Therapy
Series beginning: http://brenginee.livejournal.com/21037.html
Characters: Wilson and the women in his life
Summary: Before Wilson gave in to the therapeutic process, he wasn't so self-reflective.
Disclaimer: Wilson is not a character I created, but was created by David Shore and the writers of House, MD. The rest in this piece grew from my imagination.
Notes: Thanks to my beta, cocoajava.
Concrit, or any feedback, welcome.
He couldn't diagnose any problem. But his heart rate had increased, his pupils dilated, and his palms were sweating. The tingle extended from his nose to the base of his spine, like a guitar string pulled tight between those two points, vibrating a pitch, low and sonorous.
James held open the glass door to the Olive Garden and waved Carla through. "Want to get a table or just sit at the bar?"
"Oh, we can get a table if you want!" She giggled. She actually giggled at something he'd said. He hadn't realized it was a joke, but maybe it was. Maybe it was just the way he'd said it.
Her sweater rubbed against his suit coat as she passed, and she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear with a shy grin at him. The tingle.
They accepted menus at a little round table tucked in a corner. James ordered a red wine for himself, then glanced at Carla. "Do you want a drink?"
"I don't know. You know? I get nervous about it."
"Oh. Well then I won't either." Solicitous. Sincere. Available. His watch-words with any woman.
"It's okay, really. I know you're not... you know."
"It's no problem." He ordered water, then turned his attention back to his pretty companion when the waiter left. "You've decided not to drink?" he asked her.
"I don't think it matters with me,” he continued. “I actually tried, you know, when I started at McGill. I thought it was part of what I was supposed to do. And it was everywhere. I'd have a couple and then just didn't want any more. I started tending bar myself and learned how to drink really slow so my friends never saw me without a drink in my hands. Even when things got bad with Dad..."
The waiter returned with water and a basket of breadsticks.
"When was that?" she asked, cocking her head a little so that her hair fell straight down over one shoulder.
"Oh, Dad? Not one specific time. It was often. My friends would tell me I needed a drink, and so I'd say, 'sure,' but it didn't mean anything to me. I didn't care. It didn't help."
She stared across the room. "I wish that had happened to my Dad."
"That he hadn't wanted to drink?" James leaned his elbows on the table, cupping his hands together, thumbs pressed to his lips. "He may have been genetically predisposed."
"I'm sure that's it. I think his father drank." Eyes cast downward, she ran a hand along her hairline and behind her ear, revealing the fine, downy hairs along the skin between her ear and shoulder, all the way down to the neckline of her sweater. She laid her arm on the table beside her bread plate.
Knowing the risk, he took the invitation, hoping he wasn't laying too much on the line, and reached out to grasp her hand. He knew the fine distinction between comfort and romance. And he wanted to make sure he blurred his intentions across the two. What should he say now? It's not your fault? You couldn't do anything? You're getting the help you need now? You're making the right choices? Yes--that's a good one.
"You're making the right choices, Carla." He stroked his thumb across the back of her hand, drawing a fingernail down the guitar string.
She sighed contentedly. Sighed! There could be no more beautiful sound to come from a woman than a simple contented sigh.
"How did you escape, James? How did you avoid alcoholism?"
That one was easy. He didn't even have to lie. He reached down with his other hand and grasped hers in both of his, then leaned a little closer because the subject allowed him to enter a confidential space. "Probably because my Dad's drug wasn't alcohol. He didn't like depressants like most writers.” He glanced around the room, seeing the old farmhouse with his father’s libraries through his mind’s eye. “He wanted the extra energy. He did enough cocaine to build houses, but instead he built tomes to American literary history. He churned out a book every month. Novels, literary criticism, collections of essays, historical reviews. And he read at least a book every week. I'm not sure how he sat still for it all."
Her expression turned wistful as she gazed into his eyes. "He sounds impressive."
Time to make it happen. He allowed a frightening edge to creep into his voice, and staring into the candle flame, he gripped her hand with just enough force to distract her with a slight fear of his strength. "He was, to his students. He was their guru. They used to come out to the house and sit around the living room, talking about books and reading whatever he'd been working on. But I hated him. I couldn't wait to get out of there and to make my own name, out of his shadow." He made a small show of letting go of her hand, took a deep breath, and softened his expression. "Ironic, isn't it?"
She smiled. "What is?"
He looked around the monochromatic room with its gleaming glassware, trim waiters, and white, starched tablecloths. "That they could have made us."
When his eyes returned to hers, he could see it. She was hooked.
The door opened softly when he got home, but his entrances never came quietly.
"Oh Jimmy, I'm so glad you're finally back. Do you want dinner?" Lisa's makeup perfectly complemented her pressed suit, as usual, and gorgeous blonde hair flowed in gentle waves down the back of her silk blouse.
"No, I'm fine. I... grabbed a bite at the hospital." He set his briefcase under the entryway table and loosened his tie.
"Okay, because I started this amazing new diet today?" She flounced out of the room and into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator door. "It's terrific. What you do is you cut all the carbs from your diet. I mean all of them. And you eat nothing but meat and vegetables for two full weeks."
He sighed and sat on the sofa, allowing his head to fall back. "The Atkins diet."
"Yes! Jeneane is on it and she told me all about what you do and showed me the book. It seems really simple, and I’d hate to buy a book just to get the same information again. I know you wouldn’t mind if I bought the book, but I just don’t see the point. And it's all about portion control, so she gave me all the weight measurements for the meat servings and the vegetable servings, and I remembered I have this kitchen scale that my mother gave me when we got married because she thought she was diabetic and then figured out she wasn't."
"Right." Where did this headache come from? He hadn't felt it before. But it was starting to throb at the base of his skull.
"I didn't tell you that Mom called today. She said now she's lactose intolerant. She wanted to know if you know a doctor she should go to, but I told her she can go to a doctor right there in Elon. Why would she want to come all the way to Canada just to see one of your friends? Isn't that funny? But she said she started noticing that she would get sick every time she ate ice cream or had cereal for breakfast in the morning. I thought well maybe the milk had gone bad, right? But then I remember she said ice cream, so who knows. Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out that she had been lactose intolerant all this time?"
He took a deep breath and held it a second, then exhaled quickly. "Right." The noises of Lisa’s activity bounced from the kitchen into the living room, her voice lightly tripping over the distinctive sounds of the freezer and refrigerator doors opening and closing, ice falling into a glass, heavy items being moved and replaced.
"I got my roots done today,” she called out to him. “It took forever this time just to get in. I think I must have read three Cosmos while I was waiting. Hello, this is my lunch hour! But they finally got me in and so now I'm all set for Richelle's wedding this weekend. I still haven't decided what to wear. You think you ought to wear your tux even though you're not in the wedding?" He started to raise his head, but let it fall back when she continued her monologue. "I don't think you should, really. I mean I know you look just so hot in it that I want to do you right there in the middle of the wedding cake, but really I mean it's somebody else's wedding and it just isn't polite if we look that much better than them, right?"
She returned to the living room carrying a highball glass full of ice water. "Besides, we aren't going to stay for the whole reception. We really can't. I'm getting together with Carla that night so we can work on our song." She disappeared down the hall and into the den as she spoke.
"Carla?" He raised his head from the sofa and looked at her, his heart suddenly pounding. "You haven't mentioned Carla before."
She returned with a wispy silken scarf, which she draped over her shoulders, and turned to face the mirror over the entryway table. "Yes I did, honey, I met her at the community center last Saturday. She plays the guitar? Don't you remember? And we were talking about our favorite music, and she started playing and I started humming along and we started a song. You remember me telling you all that, don't you?"
"I don’t remember you saying Carla.”
"You can't tell me you don't remember. I must have talked about this little girl for half an hour!"
"Little girl?" He held his breath again.
"She's fifteen years old and just the prettiest little thing."
"Oh," he said, exhaling.
"Plays that instrument like she's possessed by a demon, too. I can't believe you don't remember me telling you all this. I swear, Jimmy Wilson. Sometimes it's like you don't listen to a word I say."
"I swear. Sometimes it's like he doesn't listen to a word I say."
Staring at her notepad, the counselor nodded and scratched under her gray-streaked bun with a long fingernail. "Do you think that happens, Mr. Wilson?"
"Oh, he's a doctor now, so you'd better call him doctor if you're going to talk to him like that."
James looked sideways at his wife and rolled his eyes as he leaned forward to balance his elbows on his knees. "I listen. She was telling me about a fifteen-year-old named Carla who plays the guitar. They met at the community center."
The counselor nodded again as she wrote and sucked at her front teeth. "So what do you think is happening here?"
He shook his head slowly, working his hands into fists and then stretching, then making fists again. "I don't know. She talks all the time. Sometimes, yes, my mind wanders." There was the anger, though he tried to hold it back. "I have a hard time concentrating, yes, it's true. Because I have to concentrate on her all the time. And that's a lot to have to concentrate on, what one person is saying when they're talking about nothing all the fucking time." He grasped the back of his neck and squeezed. "I'm sorry. But it can be taxing."
"Taxing?" Lisa burst into tears and daintily pulled a cotton handkerchief from her purse. "I can't believe he's saying this about his own wife. I work hard all day too, you know." Bitterness seeped through her words. "I work all day and I come home and I cook dinners that you never show up for. You're gone from dawn until almost midnight every day, and you say you have to work, but you don't know what it's like for me." Her words grew from tearful simpering into angrier sobs. "You want me to just shut up and not talk to you at all when I finally see you. I thought you were my husband. I thought we were going to have a life together. I thought you were going to be somebody in my life, not just stick me in a house and never talk to me again!" By the time she finished, she was shouting.
Never taking her eyes from her writing and without any change of tone, the counselor asked, "What would you like to see happen?"
"Who?" James and Lisa asked in unison.
The therapist pointed at James with her pencil eraser.
He sat back and looked at Lisa, then at the counselor, and back at his wife. "I don't know. But I do know that I don't feel anything with her now. Maybe... maybe she's just talked it all out of me. But I used to feel more alive when I was with her. Now I feel less alive with her than with anybody else."
"Is there somebody else?" The whimpering tone had returned to Lisa's voice.
James took his time answering. "Not like you're thinking."
"Did he ever admit to an affair?" Beth cradled the phone on her shoulder as she wrote.
"Not personally, not when he came to my office, no. But after, he must have told her. Because she told me, about a year later, that he admitted it."
Beth's brow knitted "She continued seeing you?"
"She had been my client all along. I had been seeing her for years, before she married the Wilson boy. They really were just a beautiful couple to look at. It’s too bad they didn’t enjoy each other. Well, she knew there was a problem and it upset her, but she didn't know how to have a conversation with him, so she told him I was a marriage counselor. But she didn't know how to have a conversation with anybody. Frankly, I couldn't blame him for wanting a break. I only tolerated her as long as I did because I had a son to put through college."
Beth grimaced. "Well, thank you for your time. This is helpful."
"I hope so. I would like if someone else could benefit from the work I did with them. It seemed hopeless at the time."
I'll bet it did, thought Beth, as she said good-bye and hung up the phone.
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