“I don’t want to be afraid anymore,” I told her as the tears continued to threaten. “And I want to be able to trust Jett. He’s helped me so much, and I don’t think he has a single ulterior motive in giving me a hand up. But that’s hard for me to accept. Who does that? Who helps someone they don’t even know?”
“Ruby, some people do that. Good people. Plenty of them do exist. For what it’s worth, Mr. Lawson is worried about you. I talked to him at length when he contacted me to make an appointment for you. He grilled me about everything from my methods of counseling to my education.”
“He talked to you about me?” I asked with surprise.
“Just the basics of your situation, and I won’t be speaking to him again. Now that I’ve seen you as a patient, anything you tell me will always be confidential. But he wanted to make sure I was the right counselor for you.”
“See, I don’t understand that. Why does he care about me? I’m nobody to him.”
Dr. Romain held out a box of tissues. I took them, but didn’t remove any from the box. I wasn’t crying, and I didn’t plan on crying. But my voice was cracking with emotion.
“Some people do care, Ruby. You just haven’t experienced that side of humanity very much. But it does exist. Your parents sound like they were very good people, but they didn’t have anything to give. They were focused on you and the survival of your family. Does the fact that Jett cares scare you?”
“Yes. But I’m grateful that he does.”
“You deserve it, and you should have had somebody who cared that you were homeless long before now,” Dr. Romain said firmly. “We just need to get you to the point where you know that you’re worthy of taking a hand up.”
“Then you have a lot of work to do,” I mumbled.
“Are you afraid of Jett?” she probed.
I shook my head. “No. I’m not afraid of him. I’m just scared that I’ll disappoint him.”
“So you like him?” she asked. “Sometimes it’s hard to get close to a man after you’ve been abused by one.”
“He’d never abuse me,” I said emphatically. “I can’t say I completely understand what he’s doing, but I know he wants to help me. I just don’t understand why.”
“Then he’s probably the first person you could learn to trust,” Dr. Romain told me.
“I’m attracted to him,” I blurted out, telling my counselor the one thing that was really eating at me. “I know it’s weird because I hardly know him, but I’ve been drawn to him from the beginning. And I’ve actually never felt this way before.”
“Sexually attracted?” she asked to clarify.
I nodded. “Yes. But it’s more than just that. I feel like we understand each other even though we come from completely different worlds. He’s been hurt, both physically and emotionally. I guess that’s why I connect with him. We’ve both known pain, but in different ways.”
Dr. Romain sighed. “I have to caution you about getting involved with anybody on a sexual level. Until you can trust, I don’t think it’s a good idea. You need time to heal, Ruby. But you can deepen your friendship and learn to be okay with him helping you.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like he’d ever want me anyway? I find it highly unlikely. But feeling attracted to him isn’t comfortable for me.”
“Why wouldn’t he want you, Ruby?” she asked softly.
“Because I’m a nobody, and he’s a successful guy. Why would he want a homeless woman who never even finished high school?”
“You can get your GED very easily,” she argued gently. “And then continue on with college if that’s what you want. You’re very well spoken, and intelligent.”
“Too much time cooling off in the library,” I said flatly. “I spent many of my days in the library, and I read a lot. I always have, even as a kid.”
“That’s good,” she said. “I’m going to send you home with a workbook that has exercises for you to do between our sessions.”
“I’ll do them,” I said in a rush. I’d do almost anything to get over my anxiety and fears.