Nicole Acquah: Fragments from the notes of a Child Psychologist

Sienna yelled her brothers’ name twice during orgasm. The first could perhaps have been forgiven; Benedict was by nature a very forgiving man. The second however, dented his sensibility. The name rolled off her tongue and lodged a dagger in his back, like the red lacquered nails she had slid across his spine as her moans grew more fervent.

Lincoln. Lincoln!

As you will soon discover, it made perfect sense for Sienna to yell her brothers’ name. Benedict knew, as he lay close-lipped beside her, that he was being stubborn but somehow this spurred him on even more.  I posit to you a scenario: you are mid-argument, furious and self-righteous, when suddenly you realise your argument is not as valid as you originally thought.  In fact, there’s a large chance you’re completely in the wrong – but the fear of admitting defeat keeps you arguing. Sound familiar? It was this exact mental process that kept Benedict silent. Besides, he’d reverted back to his childlike self and all he really wanted was a good nap and a sandwich.

Benedict? What are you thinking?

So he told her: stilton and salmon would really hit the spot.

She knew then that he was doing his “Thing – “Thing” by which he ignored his feelings and focused on anything to distract himself. The numerous letters about, by, and to Freud that she had recently become fascinated by, told her that this was a method called Repression. So instead of trying to make him open up, she swung her legs out of the bed and set about pandering to what can only be called the male trifecta: Sandwiches, beer and blowjobs.

Benedict wondered, even as those legs made their way from his side, whether he was taking this too far. He made a mental note to hold that thought and then a physical note in the small book he kept in the pocket of his jeans which were strewn across the floor: Sienna’s reaction is always to please the man, never herself. She resolves conflict calmly – never injecting her own emotions into the situation.

The aroma of melted cheese met his nostrils and in that moment, an important meeting occurred. Common meet Sense. Location? Benedict’s brain. Time? Now. For the love of all things – now!

He bolted from the bed, down the stairs and into the kitchen. Sienna, unaware of his presence, was monitoring the sandwich toaster. She stood there naked, bruised yet beautiful. Benedict wished she could understand just how beautiful. He wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face into her neck. She flinched, but quickly relaxed in his familiar hold. Her hands, resting upon his arms, pressed lightly into the warmth of his flesh and posed the ever-present question: Forgive me?

“Don’t ask me to forgive you. Never ask me to forgive you. There’s nothing to forgive.”

So they ate stilton and commenced upon the second and third acts of the male trifecta.

Why don’t we give our lovers some privacy?

*

Before we continue, let me take the time to note that I take no pleasure in telling this story. I do not recount this tale with any particular joy. But there is no other option except to slowly go mad.

You see, I am sworn by law never to utter the intricacies of their relationship to a living soul. I did try recounting it to a dead soul instead. I sat beside my mother’s grave but guilt soon overtook me. She was not a woman whose interest would be piqued by incestuous affairs. And immediately it was as if I could hear her voice from beyond the grave, reprimanding my indelicacy.

So instead, I have taken to writing down this topic. There are no rules regarding addressing this to an imaginary soul. In all my years as a lawyer, never have I been entrusted with a story that has so troubled my morality.

*

Libido [Luh-Bee-Doh]

  1. In Freudian psychology, the energy associated with the psychic desires that come from the id.
  2. Sexual instinct or sexual drive.

*

Losing a child is never easy.  As Arthur and Cassie Chambers were about to discover – neither is finding one.

Arthur and Cassie had envisioned a joyous reunion but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Three years and twenty six days after she’d disappeared, Sienna Chambers stood in her old hallway again but Instead of hugs and kisses, Sienna backed away when her parents approached her. She did not speak to them for a full three weeks. She visited her brother’s room often and in secret, until one day her parents discovered her curled up on his floor, a razor in her hands, weeping. They carried her from his room and prized the offending object from her hands. The next day, Sienna found they had boarded up his door.

That same day, her parents contacted a VIP – Very Important Psychiatrist – by the name of Benedict de Vere PhD, renowned for his success in the psychiatric field. Initially, he refused to see them. Benedict lived far away and besides, Sienna was now eighteen and he specialised in child psychology. But curiosity got the better of him when he realised Sienna was the girl that had made front page news every day for the past week.

At this point, I am obliged to inform you that Benedict was a good man. True, he had done things he was not proud of: he’d peed in the public swimming pool at age ten. Many years later, a whiskey and wine fuelled night had led to him waking up partially naked in the middle of a roundabout. Perhaps the worst one – he had not spoken to his own brother for ten years. However, on the whole he was a man with good intentions and an aura that gravitated people toward him.

There is not time to introduce the trifles; how, at their first meeting, Benedict wore a sweater vest that reminded Sienna of Lincoln, or how Sienna’s perfume brought back memories of Benedict’s own childhood. Alas, nor is there time to delve fully into their first conversation, interesting though it was. Perhaps it will serve all of us better to hear from Benedict himself.

2.3.13

Client behaves younger than her years, which is only to be expected. Maintains eye contact; doesn’t seem threatened by opposite sex. Closed off body language but may just be accustomed to an enclosed environment. (Little to suggest she left the basement on several occasions) Responds well when directly addressed but needs encouragement to talk.

Fluent. Intuitive.

4.3.13

Client’s memories of abductor are rarely negative. Evident pining for brother – has identified him as ‘saviour’ type > Stockholm syndrome

5.3.14

Despite traumatic experiences, v little to suggest PTSD or similar. Flew into rage when brother’s integrity questioned. Interesting to note how…

10.3.14

She wishes to speak on brothers’ behalf during trial. Freudian CM most likely – Denial.

15.3.14

When asked why crying, responded with ‘I miss him’ – rest of session held in silence.

16.3.14

Sienna confesses to terrible nightmares. Suppressed memories. Prescribed Xanax.

Slowly the girl began to trust Benedict. Soon he was no longer just her psychiatrist, but also an older and intellectual friend. At the end of their meetings, she began hugging him goodbye. Once, she went further.

12.4.14

She kissed me goodbye. On the cheek. She kissed me…

It was this blurring of the professional lines that prompted him to ask the question:

“How did it feel?”

This in itself was not too much of a risk in terms of their relationship. If Sienna didn’t want to respond, he knew full well she would just tell him so. The one good thing that came out of her relationship with Lincoln – despite himself, he had to recognise that some good had come out of it – was that Sienna was guileless. She told the truth with the same unabashed sincerity that is usually abandoned by adulthood.

“With Lincoln?”

He nodded.

“Sleeping with Lincoln was…the most amazing time of my life,” she said, a hint of sadness in her voice. “He made me feel safe. He made me feel wanted. When I was with him, I never wanted it to end. Sometimes we wouldn’t even have sex. Sometimes he’d come home and we’d lie together and he’d tell me about his day. Don’t you think that’s sweet?”

“This isn’t about me,” he said evenly. “What about him made you feel so safe?”

“He told me he’d always be there for me and protect me.”

“And those were your favourite times? When you’d just lie and talk?”

“Yes. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the sex was fantastic.” She smiled. “I’m glad you asked me, Benedict. About what it was like. Everybody else just shies away from it.”

“Well I am your psychologist. It’s my job.”

“No…you genuinely wanted to know. I’m glad you had the guts to ask. Why don’t other people ask? Is sex really that taboo a subject?”

Benedict had laughed then.

“In England it is.”

11.5.14

Id – I need her.

Ego – She’s a client.

Superego – Control yourself.

 

Permit me to skip forward to appointment number sixteen; a meeting that was different from all those that had preceded. Sienna seemed happier and Benedict wondered if this was due to her parents’ absence; both had been made to attend an important business meeting.

They sat over cups of tea and after discussing Lincoln for a while, Sienna abruptly changed the subject.

“Why are you still here Benedict? Do you still think I’m crazy?”

“Nobody thinks you’re crazy. You went through a strenuous time and we want to make sure you’re alright.”

“I’m no different than all the other girls who meet a guy and fall in love. I know this is unconventional but why can’t you all just be happy for us?”

“Because he took you from your family and friends. He locked you in a basement and abused you!”

He waited for her to retaliate; scream, claw his eyes out, something. Instead, she shook her head.

“You’re so human Benedict. Have you read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray?”

“What?”

“Well have you?”

“Yes, but how – ?”

“There’s one passage when Basil discovers the love of Dorian’s life has died, and he runs to comfort Dorian. Do you remember that? Well my favourite part has to be Dorian’s response. He calls Basil awfully unjust. Says something like, ‘Basil, you came down here to console me…You find me consoled, and you are furious! How like a sympathetic person!’ I love it because it’s so true about human nature. You came here expecting me to be messed up because of my brother. But even though I’m fine, you can’t accept it. It irritates me but it’s so bizarrely human that I love it too. What are you thinking?”

“That I’ve never heard somebody be so honest with me, Sienna. And I know that you’re in love with him but you need to understand it from everybody else’s perspective. What about your parents? Suddenly the girl they loved and raised disappears. Finally they discover she’s been tortured and raped by their own son. They were oblivious. How do you think that would make them feel?”

“It wasn’t rape.”

“You were fifteen – that’s under the age of consent. The law says that’s rape.”

“Then the law is stupid.”

“’The law is stupid’ isn’t going to be a helpful defence for Lincoln,” Benedict smiled. “Speaking of which, are you still resolved to speak on his behalf during the trial?”

“Yes.”

“I would advise against it.”

“The entire world advises against it. The newspapers are going to have a field day.”

“Field? They’ll have the whole ballpark. How do your parents feel about it?”

“They’re banking on you to stop me.”

“No pressure,” Benedict murmured, checking his watch.  “Well I believe that’s the end of our session.”

They rose together and Sienna planted a kiss on his cheek.

“Until next time.”

That should have been the end of the sixteenth appointment but as Benedict made his way to the front door, it was pouring heavily.

“You can’t go out in that. Stay until it lets up.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“You scour the inner workings of my mind at every appointment and you don’t want to intrude?”

“Touché.”

“Stay; you won’t be a bother. I’m going to make dinner anyway. Would you like some pasta?” Sienna called over her shoulder as she walked to the kitchen.

He followed her.

“I’m alright, thank you.”

“I’ll make you a bowl. You’re clearly hungry.”

He looked surprised. “Please, you’re not the only one who can read minds.”

“I should be able to, shouldn’t I? But you, Sienna, are unreadable.”

Sienna had been getting ingredients out of the cupboards but now she turned to face him, a look of mock indignation on her face.

“Hey, I’m an open book.”

“Well sure you are,” he nodded. “But it’s like the writing’s in Swahili.”

She laughed, moving towards the sink to fill a pot with water.

“You have no idea how weird it is, cooking for somebody other than Lincoln.”

“I’ll help you. Then technically you won’t be cooking for me, just with me. Sound alright?”

He took the pan from her and placed it on the hob. “You cooking for me – would he mind?”

“I think he’d hate it.”

The grin of a rebellious child was on her face. Most teenagers were out partying late, hooking up with guys, or trying drugs for the first time. For Sienna, being a rebel meant making a pesto pasta dish for another man.

The water came to a boil but as Sienna began to tip in the pasta, the bag split and the shells rained down on their feet. She feverishly started to pick them up.

“Sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to – ”

Benedict knelt to help her and Sienna recoiled, raising her hands to shield her upper body. She stayed that way for what felt longer than any lapse of time Benedict had ever experienced.

“Sienna?” he said eventually.

She lowered her hands and resumed collecting the shells.

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? You flinched when I got close.”

“What?”  She looked away.

“You flinched.”

It made sense– fear following a history of abuse was only to be expected. Why then, did Benedict feel almost personally affronted?

“Sienna, I would never hurt you.”

He went to place an arm on her shoulder but thought the better of it. Instead, he took the shells from her. He watched as the blood returned to her palms, which had paled where she’d balled her fist so tightly.

He stood up and threw the pasta shells in the bin. Sienna was now shivering, as if cold.

“Do you want me to leave?”

She shook her head and he knelt back down beside her.

Her voice was little more than a whisper:

“He didn’t like mistakes.”

A fizzing sound met their ears as the water boiled over. Benedict jumped up, lowering the heat and removing the pan lid. He knelt again. She still hadn’t moved but she was no longer shivering. In fact, her entire body was catatonically rigid.

Without thinking this time, Benedict reached out. Sienna flinched but didn’t pull away as he held her hands in his, circling her palm with his thumb. It was an instinctive action. Benedict had no idea why he was doing it or even what it was meant to achieve but slowly, Sienna’s jaw unclenched and her eyes fluttered closed.

“I’m so sorry.” she mumbled.

“You don’t have to apologise.”

To his surprise, it was these words that had the most palliative effect of them all. Sienna finally released her breath, her chest inflating out and then caving inwards, in a successive series of painful gasps. Benedict continued to circle his thumb across her palm. Unexpectedly, she buried her head into his shoulder, her breath warm against his neck. He felt her breathing stabilise, felt her heartbeat slow against his.

“I’m s–I mean…thank you,”

One arm held her close. With his spare hand, he stroked her head.

“Mum used to do that,” she said. “I used to lie on her lap and she’d stroke my hair and sing me to sleep.”

It was the first time she’d mentioned a time before her abduction.

“Well I’m not going to sing, I can tell you that now.”

She collapsed into something that was half-laughter, half-sob. “So does it help? Stroking your hair? Does it bring comfort because of your childhood?”

“Are you asking as a friend or as a psychiatrist?”

“Always as a friend,” he murmured into her hair.

“Yes – yes it helps.”

They sat in silence for a while, somewhat entwined on the cold kitchen floor, before Benedict pulled away.

“I don’t know about you but I’m starving.”

Together, they set about making the remainder of the rebellious pesto pasta dish.

And a splendid pesto pasta dish it was. As they watched TV and ate, Benedict found himself sneaking glances at the young woman beside him. She was leaning against him and he stroked her hair, humming softly.

Pesto pasta night was the first time they slept together.

28.5.14

During, it was wonderful.

After, she just kept repeating, ‘He’s going to kill me.’

 

Benedict apologised so many times he lost count. ‘I can’t be your psychologist anymore. I’ll leave,’ he said.  But she wouldn’t let him.

Nobody has to know.’ And she said it so many times he found himself believing her. If it had been anybody else, he would have left. But he’d grown fond of Sienna. More importantly, who would look after her when he was gone? He couldn’t trust just any psychologist.

Benedict had told many lies in his lifetime. The most memorable was minor but somehow managed to get dredged from the recesses of his family’s memory at every drunken Christmas gathering– ‘No mum, I did not eat the chocolate cake.’ (Complete with full-bellied toddler and crumb-covered mouth.) In later years was the frequent, ‘My printer broke, but I promise I’ve done the homework.’ Much later, when older and living alone, most lies were done over the internet: (Of-course-I’ll-read-the-terms-and-conditions. Who doesn’t?) But Benedict had never told so big a lie as he proceeded to tell Sienna that afternoon:

“I’ll stay, but this can’t happen again.”

To be fair to our lovers, they kept their hands off each other for the next few appointments. Trouble occurred on the twenty-third appointment when Sienna confessed something that had troubled her recently.

“I love you,” she told Benedict, staring down at her hands. “I love you and I’ve thought about it and I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to love you. I hate this. I hate myself.”

“I love you too, but you understand why we can’t be together. Don’t you?”

From a logical standpoint, they both understood. But the libidinal standpoint was more convincing.

4.6.14

I’ve fallen for her.

As Lincoln’s trial loomed, Sienna became increasingly anxious.

“You still want him released?” Benedict would ask. Sienna knew what he meant: Despite us? You still want him?

One evening Sienna’s parents returned home to find Lincoln’s bedroom door smashed down. Sienna sat on his bed, staring blankly into space, once again with a razor in her hand. They rang Benedict who jumped on the first train there. When he arrived two hours later, Sienna was sat in the same spot.

He nodded at Arthur and Cassie.

“Thank you for ringing me. I’ll take it from here.”

Once her parents left the room, Benedict sat down beside her.

“What’s going through your mind, Si?”

“Everything at once,” she replied instantly. “It’s like my head is screaming and it won’t stop.”

“What’s it saying?”

“That I’m awful… and that I should be spending every waking minute trying to fight for Lincoln’s freedom.”

“And why should you?”

“I owe my life to him. There were so many times he could’ve hurt me or starved me, but didn’t.”

“Neither of those should have even crossed his mind.”

“It wasn’t all the time though – just as a punishment.”

“And you felt like you deserved the punishments?”

“Yes. Although recently – oh, I don’t know. Please leave me alone.”

“Can you give me the razor?” he asked gently. “As your psychiatrist, I can’t leave you here like this, especially if you have suicidal intent.”

“What about as a friend?” she muttered.

“Even more so as a friend. Please?”

She placed the razor in his hand. Benedict allowed himself to breathe again, exhaling the fear and inhaling courage. “There’s something I need to tell you. Maybe now isn’t the best time, but I’ve got to be honest–“

“–What is it?”

“I love you Sienna, but I’m killing you by being with you.”

“Benedict –”

“– No. Hear me out. We can’t do this anymore. You’re not ready for another relationship. Especially not one under these circumstances. Your guilt about disloyalty to Lincoln is only because I have half your affection, and I can’t continue to rip you apart. It’s against what I believe to be right as a doctor, and it’s certainly against how I believe any human being should be treated, especially you.”

She didn’t argue but an insurmountable sadness passed between them. Benedict wished she would argue. This was far worse.

“My parents – ”

“I’ll tell them that the funds aren’t enough to pay for your appointments or that I’ve been made to take another case. I’ll think of something, don’t worry.”

She nodded.

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

“You broke up with me and you’re no longer my psychiatrist – I think you’ve forgone the right to ask me that question,” Sienna said, not too harshly. “And don’t worry – about how I’ll cope when you’re gone. I don’t have ‘suicidal intent’ okay?”

“Okay,” he sighed. “It’s just…I’ve worked with so many cases like this…the end of their next relationship can quite literally kill them.”

“I’ve never acted the least bit like your other cases. You said it yourself once.”

He smiled.

“Perhaps it’s a good job I’m leaving– I would never have been able to figure you out.”

They rose together and embraced.

“Goodbye Benedict.”

He leaned in and kissed her for the last time. His kiss was deep and sincere, his tongue caressing hers with an uncommon tenderness.

When they pulled apart, he smiled back.

“We’ve done the right thing Sienna. Goodbye.”

He turned for the door and stopped short. Sienna’s parents stared back at him in revulsion and fury.

Oh, you can only imagine what happened next!

No amount of begging on Sienna’s behalf would stop them. Her parents immediately pressed charges. Soon, two of the most interesting the cases the UK had seen in over a decade were held side by side: Lincoln Chambers and Benedict de Vere. It took the city by both incestuous and Hippocratic-Oath-breaking storm.

For a month after the verdicts, the girl whom the newspapers named STOCKHOLM SIENNA spoke to nobody. She ate infrequently and slept even less, choosing instead to sit in her room alone.

I did my best to defend him. Benedict received twenty years of imprisonment and Lincoln, a life sentence. Despite her parents’ pleas, she could not distance herself from either one. Most of the times she visited her brother, he seemed beaten and dejected. Other times, he hurled abuse at her.

If Benedict was dejected, he didn’t let her see it. Sienna never knew whether this was a mask to protect her; whether he still considered it his duty to preserve her mental health above all else.

“Are you visiting him?” Benedict asked once.

“No,” she lied.

“You are. Can you at least be careful?”

Dear reader, I will not patronise you by explaining the nature of pain. If you are anything short of a Pollyanna, you will have realised by now that pain is a part of life. But you will also know that pain diminishes. Life Goes On – I hope you will forgive me for appropriating the maxim – and so one morning Sienna found herself voluntarily going downstairs. There she poured herself some orange juice and gulped it down. When she turned, she saw her parents watching her warily.

“Morning,” she said.

That first word was the foundation on which Arthur and Cassie began to rebuild their relationship with their daughter.  Under careful watch and guidance, Sienna began to reconstruct her life. She saw a tutor to help her catch up on missed education. Old friends which she had been too upset to see began to visit the house again.

I posit to you a scenario:

You hear about it on the radio first.

He has been released after six years for ‘good behaviour.’

Less than twenty-four hours later, he knocks on your door.

Would you allow him to become part of your life again?

Hold that thought.

I am more interested to note that Sienna welcomed him in an instant.

glasses

nikki looking sexy
Nicole Acquah is a twenty year old Creative Writing & Drama student at Royal Holloway University. She is currently working on her second novel and feels very blessed to be published on STORGY.
She writes and directs for her own theatre company, whose blog can be found here: http://skyhightheatregroup.tumblr.com/
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