Our last session, we discussed Scott Van Wright, and I tried (rather poorly) not to call the producer names like I was seven and spitting on a bully. But I think I may have used the words “fallible, conceited human bacteria” when Frederick asked me what I thought of him.
Thankfully psychiatrists have an ethical duty to keep secrets.
“Hello, Frederick,” I say, trying to keep my tone even. He’s the only person who has seen me at my worst. Broken. Unusable. But I like to keep those moments as infrequent as possible. “You can call the nearest pharmacy in Philadelphia. I’ll pick it up there.”
“I can, but I won’t.”
I let out a long breath as I scan the shelves. “This is not the time to be obdurate. I’m late as it is.”
“First, calm down,” he says, and I hear rustling on the other end. Papers shuffling around maybe. He likes to take notes.
“I am calm,” I say, layering on the complacency in my voice for further effect.
“You just used the word obdurate,” Frederick refutes. “Usually you just refer to me as a stubborn swine. Do you see the difference?”
“Don’t patronize me.”
“Then don’t patronize me,” he rebuts. Normal therapists shouldn’t be this argumentative, but I’m not a normal patient either. “You remember our conversation right before your freshman year at Penn?”
“We’ve had many conversations, Rick,” I say casually. My fingers skim over two different brands of nasal decongestants. I check the labels for the ingredients.
“The conversation about Adderall, Connor.”
I clench my teeth harder, my back molars aching. Before college, I told Frederick that if I ever came to him for Adderall to deny me the prescription. No matter what. I wanted to succeed in college on my own merits. Without stimulants or enhancers. I wanted to prove to myself that I was better than everyone else and that I didn’t need a goddamn pill to do it.
“Things have changed.”
“Yeah, they have,” he agrees. “You’re in your first year at grad school. You have a long-term relationship with a girl, and your mother is preparing to hand over Cobalt Inc. to you. And now you have to deal with a reality show. I fully admit, Connor, you’re able to juggle work and stress better than ninety-nine percent of people on this planet. But this might be humanly impossible, even for you.”
This isn’t the first time he’s told me that I’m taking on too much, but I don’t have a choice. I want everything. And if I work hard enough, I can have it all. That’s always been how my life runs; I refuse to believe this is any different.
I grab the decongestant with the highest milligram dosage of pseudoephedrine and then walk further down the aisle towards the caffeine supplements.
“I agree, it’s not humanly possible. At least not without losing some sleep. And going through my day, like a body without a brain, half-coherent and lazy-eyed, is not an option for me. I need stimulants.”
“What happened to never succumbing to frat boy tricks?”
“Guilting me? Really, Rick? Isn’t that a little low for you?”
“You’re the one that told me to use whatever means necessary to talk you out of it,” he says. “There was a time in your life where you’d rather jump off a bridge than take Adderall. I know things have changed, but just think about that for me, okay?”
I stare at the caffeine supplements, trying to unbury an alternate path. But I see none. To have it all, I must sacrifice something. That something begins with sleep.
“If you don’t prescribe me Adderall, then I’ll be purchasing pure ephedrine on the internet,” I threaten. Buying pills on the internet is dangerous. I can imagine all the other unknown, untested ingredients accidentally laced in them.
I’m smarter than Frederick, and he’s aware of this fact. A long time ago, he made me agree to be honest to a fault. To never manipulate him.
I won’t. Which is why this isn’t a bluff.
“What are you taking right now?” The tone in his voice has changed considerably. It’s tempered like his syllables are carefully placed. He’s concerned, and I don’t ask how he knows I’m grabbing medicine off a shelf.
He’s had twelve years inside my head.
“Decongestants and 5 Hour Energy.” I bring the items to the counter and the attendant rings me up at a sluggish pace. I have to show my ID for the decongestants, and she gives me a long, harsh stare. Yes, it’s a little suspicious buying these items together. But I’m twenty-f**king-four. Not a child.
“That’s a trick that teenagers use to get high, you do realize this?” Frederick says over the phone, still trying to convince me to stop.
I take the paper bag from the attendant and leave the store, the bells on the door clinking together on my way out.
“I’m driving,” I refute. “I can either take stimulants or cause an accident. Would you like a four-car pile-up on your conscience?”
“How long have you been awake?” he asks.
“Isn’t that the question you should have started with?” I uncap the pill bottle and toss a couple into my mouth and wash them down with a swig of the 5 Hour Energy.
“Start answering me straight or I’m hanging up on you,” he says sternly. I roll my eyes. Frederick has his limits, even with me. I lean back in the car seat, waiting for the pills to kick in to where my eyelids don’t feel like lead.
“So you broke two of your rules tonight.”
“I haven’t taken Adderall yet.”
“No, but you took something.”
I don’t say anything. I wait for Frederick’s obligatory advice that arrives about now.
“You have to give something up,” he tells me. “And it shouldn’t affect your health. So start looking at things in your life that aren’t necessary.”
What would that be? Cobalt Inc. is my birthright. And the only aspiration I ever had was to get an MBA from Wharton. Is my dream not necessary?
So that leaves Rose and the reality show. They’re intertwined. To have one, I must have the other. Rose’s necessity may be called into question. One doesn’t need a partner to live. To succeed. But Rose is not something I’m ever willing to let go. Necessary or not. She’s mine.
“My life is filled with essentials,” I tell Frederick.
There’s a long, strained silence that pulls over the phone. I wait it out.
When Frederick finally speaks, he sounds a little defeated but otherwise as calm as me. “I’ll order the Adderall, but the prescription won’t be filled until tomorrow. Can you text or call when you make it back to Philly?” He must be picturing that four-car pile-up.
“Okay, great.” He doesn’t sound enthused.
After a few more words, we hang up. And I assess my level of consciousness. Steady hands. Clear vision. Full attention.
I’m finally awake.
* * *
By the time I climb the brick stairs of the townhouse, the promo has already aired. So I prepare myself for what I may find. The worst case scenario: Scott has seduced Rose somehow—his arm wrapped around her while she’s in a vulnerable state.
My adrenaline is already spiked from the decongestant cocktail. Add in this unnatural fear—and my hand shakes before I turn the knob.
As soon as I open the door, my fear disintegrates into self-assurance. Scott and Rose aren’t tangled on the couch together. She’s not crying in his arms.
The living room is in an uproar. A chair is flipped over. Pillows have been thrown and scattered all along the hardwood. Rose has her heels in her hands, and she swats them at Scott like they’re swords. But she’s being restrained by both Daisy and Lily, who grip her waist, tugging her back.
I hate questioning my resolve to overcome bad odds, and I’m glad to have it back one-hundred f**king percent.
I shut the door behind me, but no one hears my entrance. Lo is too busy spewing sharp insults that bleed my ears. Rose is violently cursing, layering on expletives like cocksucker, son of a bitch, womanizer, dick, bastard, dipshit. I hear castrate five or six times.
Scott has his hands defensively in the air, his back literally up against the wall furthest from the television. But he wears the biggest self-satisfied grin.
This is drama he created.
The cameras dance around the living room. Around Ryke who clenches and unclenches his fist, one hand protectively on his brother’s shoulder. Then around my girlfriend who has completely lost her shit.
Everyone is screaming over each other.
I calmly walk straight ahead, towards the chaos. Rose slips out of her sisters’ clutch, and she takes the opportunity to lunge at Scott, her heels barred. I slide into the space between them, and the sharp point of her heel digs into my chest.
My jaw muscles spasm, the only sign that it f**king hurt.
Her eyes widen in horror, and she drops her four-inch heels immediately, the shoes clattering to the floor. And then, just as quickly, her gaze becomes hot and ill-tempered. She points an accusatory finger at Scott. “He’s a—”
“Douchebag? A pig? A fucktwat?”
She places her hands on her hips, fuming. I rub her arm, and she begins to calm. But hate is still present in her eyes.
My gaze flits between each of my friends. Their bodies begin to relax when I look at them individually, the tension in their muscles slowly loosening. Lo actually shuts his mouth, and Ryke unknowingly releases his fist.
People believe I have some sort of magic hold over others. That I can cause crowds to part without asking. All I have to do is stand at the edge of a mass and they’ll slowly, effortlessly make a path for me. I can calm the most restless soul if I choose to, and it’s not because I’m gifted with some inane supernatural ability.
My power is in my confidence.
It’s that simple.
Their belief that it’s something more—that it’s something greater—is what makes the effect so strong. They need me to be their sturdy unbending fortress.
So here I am.
“Let me watch the commercial,” I say. And then we can decide whether Scott deserves a heel to the f**king face.
I pick up Rose’s shoes while Lily retrieves the remote. Rose reaches out for them, her nose scrunching at the hardwood that’s most likely clean. But to Rose—it’s not clean enough.
There’s such malice in her features. I envision her impaling him in the eye. As much as I hate Scott—I don’t want her to blind him. So I retract my arm, keeping the heels in a firm hand. “I changed my mind.”
She gapes. “Give those back, Richard!” She doesn’t want to walk barefoot around the townhouse. Fine. I lift her easily in my arms, cradling her body, and she inhales sharply. But instead of arguing with me, she holds onto my bicep. My eyes fall to her br**sts that rise with her heavy breath, and I internally smile.
I have the girl.
In my arms. Dizzy at my touch. I could have walked into something so much worse.
I carry her to the couch and set her down long-ways. She tucks her legs to the side, her dress rising to her thighs, despite her efforts to keep the hem to her knees. When I should be focused on the television, I ache to see all of her again. The curve of her waist, her erect pink n**ples, her bare ass and her mouth wide and full of my cock.
She meets my gaze for a second, and we don’t have to say a single word. She knows what’s on my mind. She can see the longing in my eyes, even if everyone else can’t. She glances at my belt, and my lips rise as I take a seat next to her.
I sit so close that I can practically hear her heart pounding out of her chest. I lean over to grab the remote from Lily, and as I do so, my mouth nears Rose’s ear. And I whisper, “I’m going to tie you up again.” I smile at Lily. “Thank you.”
Her sister goes back to Lo, who’s on a chair, and she lounges against his body.
Rose is stiff, but it’s not out of fear. Her thighs press tightly together, and I rest my arm across her lap, my hand on the bareness of her leg. As I switch on the television, she scoots closer and leans her head on my shoulder, trying to relax, but I know she’s imagining my belt, her wrists, our bed.
I want to make her so wet that she begs for me—that my name is the only one on her mind, the only thing she can possibly utter. I want to hear her scream in wild, crazed ecstasy. I want her to see how perfect we are for each other—mind, body, soul. No words this time. Just actions.
“You have to rewind,” Rose tells me. She tries to reach out for the remote, but I pull it away from her grasp.
She glares. “Vous devez toujours avoir le control.” You always have to be in control.
I try to contain a larger grin. “Vous aimez quand j’ai le control.” You love when I’m in control.
Her lips tighten, but she watches me carefully the way I do her. “C’est encore à prouver.” That has yet to be proven.