By: Leddy Harper

“I don’t like to be touched. Or looked at.”

I wasn’t exactly expecting that one, but it did make sense as to why she wouldn’t hold eye contact with me. “Well, I’m sure we can fix that. There are many things we could do to make it more comfortable for you. Is it touching and looking in general that makes you uncomfortable? Or is it strictly in the bedroom?”

Her head bowed and I heard her take in a deep breath.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” She stood up and began to head to the door.

I moved quickly in front of her, halting her exit. It wasn’t the first time a client felt the need to rush out of the office, but it was the first time that I felt panicky over it. “I understand if you want to leave, but could you please make that decision at the end of this meeting? Could you at least give me that? Hear me out and then make up your mind?”

“You can’t help me,” she practically whispered, leaving a trail of air against my neck.

“You don’t know that. You haven’t given me a chance.”

She bowed her head again, but this time, I reached beneath her chin. As soon as my finger touched her skin, she pulled away. I always approached my new patients slowly, with caution, giving them the time they needed to adjust. But slow wouldn’t help her. I could tell in an instant that everyone around her had always moved at a slow, cautious pace. It clearly hadn’t helped her at all. So instead of easing into my normal routine with her, I did the only thing I could think of to break through the thick layers of ice that surrounded her.

I grabbed her by the back of her neck with one hand and held on to her cheek with the other. “Ivy, look at me.”

Her eyes bounced around to things behind my head before she closed her eyelids all the way. I took a step closer to her, getting my face closer to hers. “Ivy,” I spoke in the softest voice I could find. I wasn’t one to talk softly with my deep baritone voice, but if I almost whispered, I found that I could come close to speaking softly.

“Open your eyes and look at me.”

“I can’t. You’ll see me.” There was something about her tone that concerned me. I questioned if it would be best to let go of her and allow her walk out, as she clearly wanted.

“That’s exactly what I want to do. Let me see you.” My words came out in short breaths and it surprised me. I had said words like those to countless women, encouraging their confidence, but not once did it illicit heavy breathing. Not once did it cause me to feel like the room was spinning around me.

Slowly, her eyes opened. It afforded me an up-close look at the mixture of grey and red I had only caught a glimpse of earlier. The up-close version was so much better. The grey was dark, almost stormy looking, and the red looked like blood. It would be easy to look at her and see a tormented soul, but I didn’t. I looked into her eyes and saw someone much like myself. Someone who battled their demons alone. It solidified my decision to help her.

“Why are you running?” I asked without moving an inch from her. Without untangling my hands from her neck or removing my touch from her face. I knew I needed to break away, not for her sanity, but for mine.

“You can’t help me.” Her voice was soft and shaken, but the words came across as powerful, strong.

“You haven’t let me try, Ivy. Let me try, please.”

“Why do you want to help me so much?”

“You came to me for a reason. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want help. I do this sort of thing for that reason. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to help. It’s a rather simple answer from what I see.” I should’ve moved my hands from her, but I found that I couldn’t. Just like I couldn’t move my eyes from hers—I was frozen in place. I wondered if she could see into me as much as I could her. I wondered if she could see my darkness and if it comforted her. Or did it scare her?

“How does this work?” Her voice was as breathy as mine.

I finally released my hold on her and took a step back. “Let’s sit back down and talk about it.”

I held my breath until Ivy moved back to her seat, but I didn’t take mine until she was seated. I didn’t want to chance her fleeing again. She wasn’t as jumpy as she was before, but she still looked like a scared child sitting in front of me.

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