Archer was working in his office again this morning, so Reagan decided it was a good time to call Evan. She worried all night about what was going on. What could her mother possibly have to do with Evan needing to seek counseling?
When she finally did fall asleep, the nightmares came right away. Archer held her, like he always did, while she calmed down. She still needed that grounding, someone to help pull her out of her nightmare. But, now that he said he loved her, it suddenly felt all wrong. She was leading him on. It wasn’t fair to him. Once her heart rate was back to normal, she turned away and feigned sleep.
She went into the guest bedroom for privacy and pulled out her phone. She chewed her bottom lip as she stared at it for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only a couple minutes. Finally, she touched Evan’s name in her favorites and listened to it ring while her heart pounded in her chest. This was Evan. Why was she so nervous? Because her mother caused him pain and she was worried, but more than that, because she cheated on him.
“Reagan?” he said it as a question, as if he wasn’t sure it was her.
Reagan felt like she had a mouthful of sand. “Hi Evan. How are you?” she finally managed to get out. Upon hearing Evan’s voice, she realized, in that instant, that she had run away from him and straight into Archers arms. She ran not only from him, but from everyone. Her father was right.
“I’m doing okay,” he said. “What about you? Ryan said you’re going to see a therapist.”
“Yes. I am. You can tell Ryan I have an appointment this afternoon. I’m really nervous. He said you were seeing someone too.”
“I am, and honestly, I was nervous too. It’s hard, but Reagan, it helps just to tell someone what happened. It’s a huge relief to let someone else share the burden and begin to take your life back.” He huffed out a nervous laugh, “I’m getting there, but it’s a process, so I know how difficult this will be for you. I’m glad you are going to do it though.”
Her heart was breaking listening to him trying to hold it together. She missed him more than she realized. “Evan, Ryan said mother was the reason you’re seeking counseling. Is that true?” She prayed that it wasn’t, but knew it was.
After a couple of beats he finally replied. “Partially, yes. I’ll tell you what happened, if you really want to know, but maybe you’d feel better if Ryan was there too, because this isn’t a conversation I want to have over the phone.”
“My God Evan. You’re scaring me.”
“What you went through was much worse. I’m doing better. Really. I’m dealing. And what will help is knowing you are okay too. That we all survived her insanity. That she didn’t win.”
“This all has to do with why you met me at the coffee shop that day, doesn’t it?” surmised Reagan.
“Yes. That’s why I was there … I never would’ve gone had I known … I’m sorry Reagan … maybe …”
He’s sorry? “Evan, never say that. It wasn’t your fault. It’s me, I’m the one that should apologize to you for not listening. I didn’t listen to anyone.”
“When can I see you? Because the sooner we have this conversation the sooner we can move on with our lives … either apart or together.”
Reagan sucked in her breath. Apart? But what did she think. He was just going to run back to her after she had moved in with Archer? She ran from him. Of course he thought she didn’t want him. But, even if he didn’t want her again, she had to see him and let him know she was sorry. And put distance between her and Archer. But how? “I’m coming home in two weeks,” she finally replied, “but now, that seems like an eternity.”
“Can you get away sooner?”
“How about tomorrow?” she asked hesitantly.
“But what about having Ryan there?”
“No. I don’t need a chaperone.”
“If you’re sure. Ryan’s been a good friend through everything and he’s helped me a lot. Your whole family is amazing Reagan.”
And I’ve treated them all like dirt, she thought. “Everyone except …. ”
“She doesn’t count. Even Ami helped me. She convinced me to get back to work. Actually, it was good to go back. To do normal things. Every little bit helps. Also, we’ve had a couple of nibbles on your house. Are you sure you still want to sell it?”
She hadn’t thought about her house since she left. “Maybe I did rush into that too fast. I don’t know. You think I should wait?”
“That’s up to you. Your decision.”
“Okay. Take it off the market.” As soon as she said it, she felt more grounded. She didn’t realize it, but she had felt in limbo before, with no where to go, except to Archer. Now she had a place of her own again. It was actually a huge relief.
“That’s good. I thought it might have been a knee jerk reaction. I’m glad you changed your mind. You should give yourself time to heal before you make life changing decisions.”
Like moving in with Archer. He was nice and didn’t say it out loud. But she knew what he meant. “Where do you want to meet tomorrow?” she asked.
“Newcrest is a 30 minute drive. Do you want to come to C&M? We can use a conference room and maybe you can see Ami and your grandparents, unless you’d prefer not to. I do know she’d love to see how you’re doing. Oh. Wait. You’re car is here.”
“I can call Suber. That way I can get my car and drive back. I’ll call tomorrow and let you know what time. Probably in the morning.”
She could hear him take a deep breath before he spoke. “Reagan, I won’t lie, I’ve missed you, and we’ve all been worried sick about you.”
He missed her. That gave her a small ray of hope. “All?” she asked.
“All. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye Reagan.”
When Reagan hung up the phone she was emotionally drained. She cried softly for Evan and for all that he had lost. It had been difficult to hear his voice. He was so obviously in pain, trying to pretend he was okay. But he was doing something about it. She decided right then, she had to put distance between herself and Archer. She needed to try to make things right.
She thought about her house. She put it on the market because Archer told her to. Up to now, she had just blindly done everything he said. He said it like it was what she should do, so in order to please him, she did it without a second thought. But she’d been a hot mess of anxiety, clinging to Archer for dear life. Waking up with insane nightmares.
She even thought for a minute she was falling in love with him. But she knew she wasn’t. Not after talking to Evan. What was it she felt for Archer then? Just some weird romanticized idolization of him left over from their teen years? He took control and she let him. It was easy. She took the easy way out.
Reagan was still thinking of her phone call with Evan as she waited for the therapist. She felt like she had taken a huge step today – so maybe she didn’t need to see her after all. She was almost ready to get up and walk out when she heard her name called by the receptionist. She could probably still leave but couldn’t put two words together to form a sentence.
The receptionist led Reagan into Dr. Brown’s office. It wasn’t clinical at all. It reminded her of the counselor’s office she met with after her mother went to jail, without the toy box. A shiver rolled through her at the memory.
A minute later the door opened and a middle aged woman with a kind face walked in. She sat in the chair across from her and they exchanged pleasantries. The doctor asked a few background questions before getting down to the reason for Reagan’s visit.
“So do you want to tell me what’s going on with you?” asked Dr. Brown.
“I keep having nightmares. And I want them to go away.”
“You had a traumatic experience. Are you able to talk about that?”
Reagan shook her head.
She wrote something down. “Then can you tell me about your nightmares instead?”
So she did. Even the part about Evan being the one lying in a pool of blood dying instead of her dad. Somehow, talking about it as a nightmare and not real made it easier to deal with. It was a relief to tell someone. Evan had been right. It helped, if only a little. She hadn’t told anyone, not even Archer, until today.
After Reagan finished, Dr. Brown asked, “So tell me about Evan and Archer. Who are they to you?”
“Evan and I were dating and we were getting serious. Then, the day it happened – he told me some stuff that changed things between us. I know now it wasn’t exactly true, and that he was coerced into telling me. We talked on the phone today, for the first time since then. I’m meeting him in the morning. She was the reason he said what he did. We’re going to discuss what happened.”
“That’s good. How did you feel when you spoke to him?”
“Nervous, guilty, heartbroken, but relieved. I almost didn’t come today because I felt like talking to him helped me start to move forward again. I felt like I’ve been in limbo.”
Dr. Brown jotted a note and looked up. “But you did come. Do you still feel you don’t need to be here? And be honest Reagan. You won’t hurt my feelings.” She smiled warmly.
Reagan swallowed hard before answering. She wanted so badly to say she didn’t need to be here, but that would be a lie. “No. I need to do this,” she finally said.
“And what about Archer? He’s a friend?”
“Really, what does this have to do with my nightmares?”
“You don’t want to talk about him?” observed Dr. Brown with a slight frown, “Why?”
“He … he’s been helping me.”
“And … ” she prompted.
“Why do you think he’s complicated?”
“Because … he said he loves me,”
She scribbled another note before looking Reagan in the eye. “Reagan. Do you feel like you are in danger? Did he threaten you?”
“No. No, he would never. He takes care of me.”
“Reagan. You keep saying he takes care of you. Explain what that means to you. How does he take care of you.”
“He helps me not think about anything. He cooks for me and stays with me. He helped me have a place to go when I couldn’t go home. He’s there when I wake up screaming.”
“You said he told you he loved you. Why do you think he told you that?”
Reagan started to cry and the words came pouring out in one jumbled up sentence. “Because I had sex with him and we used to date a long time ago and he probably thinks I want to get back with him.”
Dr. Brown pushed the tissue box to her. “Do you?” she asked gently, not judging, just wanting to know.
“No … but I don’t want to hurt him either. I’ve already hurt too many people.”
“Okay, then, lets get back to your dreams. You see Evan in a pool of blood, yet he wasn’t part of what happened. And Archer is the one hurting him. How do you feel when you see them in your nightmare?”
“I’m terrified. Just like I am every time.”
“Terrified of what Reagan?” she asked softly.
“That Evan’s dead and Archer killed him. What else?”
“Okay – that’s probably enough for today,” said Dr. Brown. “Reagan, your dreams are a form of PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You usually hear of servicemen returning from the battle field having it. Your trauma has caused it. Plus, now you have two men pulling you in opposite directions adding even more stress. Until you resolve your feelings and let go of your guilt, you’ll probably continue to have these dreams and you may continue to have them for some time even afterwards.”
She paused and jotted another note before continuing. “I want you to think about all of the reasons you feel like Evan is appearing in your dreams since he wasn’t there, but not right now. Consider it ‘homework’ if you will. Dream analysis is never perfect. But, often we manifest in our dreams things that are too painful to face while awake.
“Also, do you have a relative you could live with? Instead of Archer? Living with him right now isn’t healthy. Plus, it isn’t a stretch to see that your confused feelings about both men is why your dreams have morphed from actual reenactments to a version with both men playing a role.”
“I have my own home I can go back to,” offered Reagan.
“You might not do well alone yet. Not until we work through some of this. A relative you could stay with for maybe a month would be better.”
“I can ask my grandparents.”
“That sounds great. I’d also like to see you again at the end of the week. We can discuss what actions you’ve taken to make these changes. And your homework. I think, if you are able to come to terms with your part in this, and why Evan is significant in your dreams, your dreams may lessen and eventually go away.”
“So I’m not crazy? You’re not going to give me antidepressants?” asked Reagan, a little surprised. “My mother was on them for a long time.”
Dr. Brown’s smile was kind. “No. I don’t see depression necessarily. Just a lot of self doubt and guilt. Maybe low self esteem. While all of that can definitely lead to clinical depression, I think we can get past that without medication, as long as you are serious about this. To that end we’ll need to discuss your mother, what happened and your feelings about her.”
“Okay,” she said, still unsure if she could.
“We’ll take it slow. Sometimes it helps to write down what you’re feeling. Not to share with others, but just for yourself. When you’re feeling upset or troubled. Write down what’s bothering you and then try to write why. Even if you throw the paper away afterwards, it can help. Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to share it with me unless you just want to. You will be the only one seeing it. So try to be honest with yourself. I know that sounds silly, but a lot of us aren’t. Then burn the paper if it makes you feel better.”
Reagan really liked Dr. Brown. She was so sweet. She smiled, probably for the first time since she walked in the office. “Thank you. I have to admit, my head is spinning.”
She returned Reagan’s smile. “I gave you a lot today. Just tell Maya to make an appointment for Friday. You’ll get through it. You’ve got a good support system with your grandparents and other family members. That helps more than you know.”