I pressed my knees together and bit my lip. “Nothing. He never found out.”
“Oh. Did you hide it from him?”
I shook my head. “We didn’t really talk for a few days. I have no idea why he didn’t contact me.”
I bit my tongue before saying any more. The way things had happened in my last few days at Arrowhart made me upset and confused. Dr. Schwartz didn’t say anything, so I changed the subject back to Marco. “I just don’t understand why he’s out to ruin my life,” I said. “How can you be normal when someone killed your mom, basically killed your dad, and then holds it over you like some kind of psychopath? And I’ll never know why he did it.”
Another minute was punctuated by the steady clock. My pulse raced faster and faster.
“How am I supposed to feel?” I cried, before sighing with frustration. Then I pushed my lips together and stayed quiet until she spoke.
“Do you think you would feel better about what happened to your parents if you knew why Marco killed your mother?”
“Yes,” I said instantly.
“Have you asked him?”
My stomach sank. Ask him? Like he was just going to tell me after showing no remorse even during sentencing?
The clock ticked. Dr. Schwartz was waiting for my answer.
“They asked him during the trial,” I tried. “Interrogated. Even during sentencing.”
More time passed. “So then I understand you have not asked him personally. It might be worth considering. I know it would be deeply painful, but if you get answers it could be worthwhile. He may respond differently to your personal request than he did in a legal setting.”
I took a few deep breaths. The prospect of writing Marco a letter back, even if it was just that question, was daunting. I really just wanted him and everything he did to me to go away.
“I’d like to return to Hunter,” she said after a few more ticks of the interminable clock had passed. “Are you angry because he wasn’t there to support you when you got the letter from Marco?”
Her voice was irritatingly steady, calm, and really getting on my nerves. “I thought this was about Marco,” I said through my teeth.
My therapist didn’t answer. I sat up to look at her and found she was staring at me neutrally.
Frustrated, I let myself fall back down and breathed out. “I don’t want to talk about Hunter right now,” I said, my voice beginning to shake. I tried changing the subject. “The most positive thing about the semester has been my drawing. That was basically the only thing I was good at.”
I poked my head up and looked at her. Nothing. I might as well have been talking to an empty room. The emotion that had been bound up in my body threatened to overflow. I let myself back down onto the couch harder than I’d meant to.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have gone back to Arrowhart,” I said. “What happened after I got the letter was scary.”
I chanced a glance at her and found the same attentive gaze.
“It was like I couldn’t quite wake up from a bad nightmare,” I said. “For a while, I kept hearing or seeing Marco and then realizing it was just in my head.”
There wasn’t much else to say. Once I’d read the letter from Marco I was basically useless for a few days. I hadn’t even been able to read the questions on my psychology test. I had to recover.
Dr. Schwartz frowned. “I was worried when you left about the possibility of post-traumatic stress symptoms like those you’ve described. Of course, I didn’t anticipate a trigger as direct as the one you received. It sounds like it took quite a toll on you.”
“Thank you for sharing that. However, you avoided my question. Are you angry with Hunter?”
“Why do you keep trying to make this about him?” I snapped, blinking away fresh tears. “I told you I don’t want to talk about that.”
She paused for a moment before answering my question. “Because you’re willing to talk about anything to avoid talking about Hunter, Lorrie. You’re avoiding something important.”
I bit my lip, waiting for her to say more, but nothing came. I took a few ragged breaths, trying to steady myself. Tears welled up big in my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks until a massive sob built up in my chest and crashed through my body.
Tears that had been building up since the moment I left Studsen poured out faster than I could wipe them. The whole situation was just too much. Every time I tried to process it, I was overwhelmed.
When I looked toward Dr. Schwartz, I saw she had extended the tissue box to me. I tried to use a tissue to clean myself up, but it was no use. So much for looking presentable.
As soon as I pulled the tissue box away, tears began to stream from my eyes anew. “I don’t know if I’m angry at Hunter or just confused,” I mumbled unsteadily. “The whole thing doesn’t make any sense.”
For the first time since the appointment started, I wondered how long I had left before we were done for the day.
“I mean, what was I supposed to do? After he left me crying in front of the health center, I waited at his apartment to talk to him for hours. I couldn’t have waited any longer.”
The clock ticked. Again and again.
“Do you feel guilty, Lorrie?”
Anxious chills squirmed through my body. I had been arguing with myself for a week, trying to find a way this wasn’t my fault. Even if I didn’t deserve all the blame, maybe I did feel guilty.
“I don’t know,” I said, my voice barely my own. “Maybe.”
After a short silence, I continued. “I shouldn’t have left him when he was hurt. That’s what I feel bad about. I should have stuck around and talked to him. Made sure he was okay.”
My stomach was queasy. Saying the words I’d been feeling in the back of my mind was both liberating and upsetting. Fresh tears came, and this time I didn’t even try to stop them. “But I didn’t know what to do,” I said again.
“It’s alright to be confused,” my therapist said. “But you shouldn’t be avoiding what happened either. Is that all you feel guilty about? The way you left, I mean.”
I licked my lips, thinking about how I wanted to phrase my answer to that question. “Well, and getting involved in the first place,” I tried. I thought of what Gary had said at the fight. Had our relationship always been unhealthy?
“Like I said before, I should have either backed off totally or started a relationship sooner. The way I handled it was kind of the worst of both worlds.”