The door opened with a jingle of some hidden bell and George looked around the room. He was standing in the doorway of a small, dull room with only chairs lining the walls, a small table holding a pitcher and glasses of water, and another door on the far end, labelled 'Dr. Marvin.'
George looked at his watch. It was Two O'clock. Right on time. The man took a close, quick look at the doctor's door (just to see if the room was occupied of course) and took a seat among the four chairs.
Less than a minute later, the door opened again and this time a young woman walked in. She took a second to look around the room as George had and quickly took off her soaking rain coat, throwing it down on the table with a splat.
"It's a hell of a storm out there, isn't it?" She asked, desperately trying to straighten her long blond hair from the rainy tangles that had formed.
George nodded. "Yeah, it just seemed to come out of nowhere. Stupid weathermen can't tell a storm from their asses."
The woman smiled at this and sat down opposite him. The two were silent for a moment, George not able to keep himself from eyeing the young woman over at least twice in that moment, before again the door opened to allow a girl of perhaps no more than eighteen into the room. She nervously looked around the room, just as the other two had done, before sitting down next to the woman with a wet plop. George and the woman glanced at this girl before returning to whatever they had been doing previously- the woman fiddling with her watch and George absently stroking what was left of his brown hair, occasionally forcing a glance at the girl.
Again, none spoke for some time, each intent on ignoring the others.
It was the girl who spoke first.
"How long have you been waiting?"
The other two occupants of the room looked up at her and checked their watches.
"Ten minutes," said George as the woman said, "About ten minutes." They looked at each other quickly.
"When was your appointment?" The woman asked George suspiciously.
He looked her straight in the eye when he answered. "Two o'clock."
The woman's eyes widened. "That's when my appointment was! They've double booked us!"
"Triple," interjected the soft voice of the girl. "They've triple booked. My appointment was also at two."
"Maybe there's a reason why the doctor did that?" suggested George helpfully.
"What the hell is he playing at?" fumed the woman more to herself than the others. "I'm paying good money to come here."
The girl nodded and again the three were silent.
"I don't hear anything going on in there," said the woman after a few more minutes. "Are you sure he's in?"
George shrugged. "I guess he's with a patient. As soon as he's done, I'm sure he'll tell us."
The woman and the girl nodded.
"Umm…" started the girl, getting the attention of the others, "Have either of you ever… done this before?"
"What, seen a shrink?" asked the woman, her voice hinting of laughter, "Honey, I see one every other week."
"Is it your first time also?" asked George to the girl. She nodded.
The woman looked at them both. "Both of you are virgins, huh?"
The girl looked down at her lap and George snorted, saying, "There's nothing to be proud of, being messed up in the head."
"Of course not," said the woman, "but there's no shame in it either, as long as you get help. And that is why you are here, right? To get help."
"Of course," muttered George.
"Then just relax and wait until it's your turn to have someone really listen to you for the first time in your life."
The conversation seemed dead after this comment as the word sank in with the others, and again the room was dampened with silence.
"I'm Mary by the way," said the woman, extending her hand to George and then the girl. They took it.
"I'm George," he said as he introduced himself back, shaking their hands.
"Sarah," said the girl quietly. More handshakes. As soon as that was finished, the woman, Mary, again took control of the conversation.
"So why are you two here, anyway? You both look normal."
George pointed to the closed door. "That is for the doctor, not you."
"I'm just trying to get to know my cell mates, that's all. No need to get upset. Besides, for all we know he's never going to see us."
Neither George nor Sarah offered their problems, so Mary took it upon herself to start the ball rolling.
"I work in a big company down the street," she started, enjoying the now curious looks from her companions. "Like I said, I go to a shrink about every other week. Company policy. They say-"
"Wait," interrupted George. "You just said you paid to be here. If it's company policy, then they pay for it, don't they?"
Mary scowled at him and waved her hand dismissively. "Anyway, they say it's to make sure that the employees maintain a healthy mind, but I think it's so that they can catch any weak-willed people with guilt if they try to scam the company. But I never really wanted to go to the sessions until a few weeks ago when I noticed that I might have a problem. You see, I've managed to work my way up to a senior position in the company, and for a woman, that's saying something. Not many women are senior executive of filing." George snorted and covered his face with one hand, motioning his other for her to go on.
She sighed deeply. "Of course my success seems to be saying exactly what I don't want to hear. I hear whispers about how I slept my way to the top, bribing bosses with sex in order to put me in a better position. Well, that's not entirely true. I have never slept with a boss out of need to get a better salary or parking space; I did it to get them out from over me- controlling me. Of everything in this world, I just hate being controlled! I used sex to blackmail them mostly. I found someone who knew something, and I went after them, getting that information any way I could. By blackmailing these suits, I could rake in much more money than I could if I had just their jobs- and if they decided to resign instead of face me, then that only makes one less person on top of me. I was set for life by what those poor bastards did for me."
Again she sighed, this time much more deeply than the first. She began to absently curl and uncurl a loose strand of hair.
"And then I guess I pushed the wrong buttons on one of them a few weeks ago. This old guy just stopped responding to my threats so I investigated. It turned out that, instead of paying the bribe or even quitting, he had decided to throw himself out of a tenth storey window."
George could see a single tear roll down Mary's face form the rapidly forming well of her eyes as she continued in a slightly shaky manner.
"He decided to kill himself, leaving behind two kids and a wife, instead of just paying a little bribe. A bribe by me. It was because of me that the man died and I feel awful about it. So awful that I decided to talk with someone about how to deal with the terrible guilt of it all and maybe to get out from under it."
"Why should you get out of feeling guilty?" asked George, "It was because of you that he killed himself. If you hadn't of been blackmailing him, he would be at home with his family now, not lying in a casket."
Mary looked wretchedly at the man, her eyes starting to turn red with forced back tears. "Don't I get to relieve my conscience and live happily?"
George looked her square in the eye as he said, "Not with what you've done. You should be in jail, not here."
"And I suppose that you've never done anything to anybody that makes you feel guilty?" snapped back the woman.
"Never!" George exclaimed proudly.
"Then why are you here?" asked Sarah, speaking up for the first time between them.
George looked at the girl angrily then down at his feet. Mary used this moment to wipe her eyes and stab the man with the words, "You hypocrite. You're just like me."
He suddenly looked up at her and held her eyes. "I am nothing like you! I'm not some sadistic bitch, I have a genuine problem!"
"Who's a sadistic bitch?!"
"What is it?" asked Sarah softly, trying to avoid an argument.
George took a few seconds to calm down before explaining himself to the women.
"I have a problem," he started. "For the past few years, since my wife left me, I have been having some uncontrollable… urges. Now, it's not that I want these urges, mind you, it's just that I feel them, no matter how much I try to fight them. I despise myself for feeling them, yet I feel them constantly and up until a few days ago, I had them under control."
He sniffed and hesitated. "I really don't know why I'm telling you this. I should be talking to the shrink, not two strangers."
Mary spread her hands slightly. "We're listening, that's why. Go on."
He looked to both Mary and Sarah, as if to sense whether they were trustworthy, then continued.
"Since my wife left me, about three years ago, I have been having urges toward other women. While that may be excusable, I've noticed that as the months have gone on, I've been looking at more and more women; not just the ones I'm attracted to. And… occasionally- more and more lately- to young girls. This is why I finally decided to get help. Because two weeks ago, my brother and his family came to town on vacation. He came with his wife and- and their daughter, who is five.
"For a while I was able to keep my wits about me, but then, my brother decided to go out on the town with his wife, leaving me alone in the house with my niece. I was told to put her to bed. Throughout the evening, I was able to stay more or less calm, until it came time to give her a bath. Then I lost it."
George's palms became clammy and he began to sweat heavily, shuddering as he recalled that disturbing night. His breaths came in short gasps.
"I- I felt up my own niece! My brother's daughter! I touched her in such ways, I still feel dirty for doing it! She's too young to know what happened, but I know, and I'll remember it forever!"
With this, George put his head in his hands and cried his eyes dry. Mary and Sarah exchanged glances, Sarah's fingers clutching the arms of the chair in death-grips and Mary wringing her hands, as if just being looked at by the man was enough to get his perverse secret on her.
Again, the waiting room entered into silence, with the only sounds the buzzing of the lights and the sniffing of George. Neither woman knew quite what to say to a man who just admitted to being a paedophile. It was only when George had stopped crying that Mary spoke up.
"Disgusting," she said.
Suddenly George was upon her, hands around her neck. "How dare you say such a thing!" he screamed. "After I confess all of it to you, at your request, and admit that I have a problem, the only thing you can say is disgusting?!"
Mary lashed out with her feet and hands at her attacker while Sarah tried to pull George away from the woman. The scuffle went on for several seconds before one of Mary's feet connected with George's groin and he collapsed to the floor in a pitiful heap of pain. They all took a few minutes to regain their breath and compose themselves.
George retook his seat and looked glumly at Mary. "I'm sorry," he said quietly as he attempted to fix his terrible comb-over.
Mary nodded curtly and brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. "I should think so, pervert."
Again, George flung himself at the woman and only her quick reaction of thrusting a knee into the air stopped him in his tracks. She glared at him. "Down, boy." He reluctantly sat.
"Bitch," he said, spitting at her.
"Pervert," she spat back.
Both George and Mary stopped their arguing to look, astonished at the outburst, at a shaking Sarah, her legs pulled up onto the chair, head buried in her knees.
"Just… please, stop fighting," the girl pleaded under her breath. The others quickly apologised, neither wanting to be the cause of this girl's tears.
"Why are you here?" asked George eventually.
Sarah looked up, her eyes red. "I'm here because of people like you two."
Ignoring the suddenly hateful glares from her companions, the girl continued. "My dad was a drunk and my mom a useless addict. Almost every night, my dad would come home from work late and totally drunk. And he would always be violent. To my mom especially, but also toward me and my older brother. As I grew older, my dad began to beat more on me and my brother." At this, the girl almost laughed. "I guess my mom had begun to bore him- she didn't fight back as much as she used to. I remember, every morning that I would walk into the kitchen with a black eye or some other bruise from the night before, she would always say to me 'You must have made God angry.' I never understood how I could have done something to God that was so terrible that I was to be beaten every night by my own dad.'
She sniffed back some tears and wrung her hands fitfully. "And then, around my tenth birthday, it got worse. My dad was losing his mind then, I was sure, but he became more and more violent, especially to me. It was on my birthday that he came into my room after work and locked the door behind him. He said that he was going to give me my present, but I knew that he was just going to beat me again. And I was right. He took off his belt and whipped me with it. He was more brutal than he had ever been before; I still have the marks from that belt on my back. But he didn't stop at beating me. He- he- forced me onto the bed and he… raped me."
At this, both George and Mary gasped slightly and could only stare in horror at the girl as she told her story even through freely falling tears and constant sobs, her hands clenched in hateful fists, the knuckles white from the pressure.
"I know that my mom and brother heard me screaming with the pain but they did nothing! They knew what was going on and they let that horrible man do it to me! They just ignored me!"
The girl was shivering as she almost screamed the last words and there were drops of blood on the carpeted floor below where her nails had cut the skin of her fists. The waiting room was silent but for the sobs of the girl for a few seconds until Mary pulled out a tissue from her purse and began to help Sarah clean herself up; George was rigid with shock, his face almost as white as Sarah's.
When she had recovered enough to speak again, the girl continued. "The day he left was one of the happiest days I can remember. I don't know what happened to him, but he just disappeared and somehow, I– I knew that he had left for good. But he still won't let me live a normal life!" Tears were again falling, but she fought to remain calm enough to speak. "Every time I come near another man, I get afraid that he will turn out just like my dad, and for the past couple of years they have. I have gone from lousy bastard to lousy bastard, like some sort of whore!"
George noticed that the girl was shaking again, but this time it was different to when she had been sobbing- this was shaking out of hate. Her bared teeth and fierce eyes removed any doubt.
"We would go out, they would get drunk, we'd go home, and I'd get fucked- whether I wanted it or not. And if I resisted, of course I would be beaten until I stopped! Do you see this?" She pointed to a small scar along her temple. "Jeff did this about two years ago with a bottle that he smashed across my head." She suddenly grew quiet and meek, almost shrinking into the chair- trying to become invisible. "They were all like that. Every one of them. For- three- years."
The room fell silent. The three occupants where all eying each other nervously, trying to judge just what the others were thinking. Finally, George spoke up.
"So… you're here to get help with bad boyfriends?"
Sarah smiled nervously. "Sort of. I have a boyfriend. He's…not at all like my past boyfriends. He's nice. Kind. Caring, you know? What a real boyfriend should be like. We've gone out for a couple of months now and not once has he tried to get me drunk or fuck me, or even kiss me without making sure that I want him to. He takes me out, we have fun together- it's perfect." Her then almost dreamy look suddenly turned worrisome and fearful. "But we haven't made love, or really kissed, or gone anywhere because I'm afraid to. I'm afraid that, I don't know, it might just be too perfect and that once I let him have me that he'll turn into just another violent bastard. I want to keep it perfect, but I know that if I don't let him get anywhere he'll just leave me and I don't want that to happen."
She went quiet again, this time chewing on her fingernails nervously. When, after a few tense minutes, no one had spoken, she smiled briefly. "Pretty messed up, huh?"
They all shared a nervous laugh and the unspoken weight of tension was suddenly broken. They relaxed.
"You shouldn't worry so much, hon," said Mary, reaching over to move a strand of hair out of Sarah's eyes. "The reason you've been preyed upon by so many worthless dogs," she threw a glance to George, who just barely restrained himself, "is that you never learned to take sex into your own hands."
"What do you mean?" asked the girl. Mary was obviously glad she had asked.
She smiled. "You need to lay down the law with men. Make sure they know the way things will be. Don't let them think that sex is out of the question, but make sure that they don't expect it. Take charge of the relationship. If they behave they get a cookie, type thing- and believe me, they'll want the cookie. But this guy you're with now, he seems fine. If he's waited two months without doing anything, he probably won't end up being the violent type. He's more the type who would try and shame you into fucking them- you know, like sit you down and say that he hasn't been getting enough out of the relationship and that it's going nowhere and on and on. Don't fall for it- take the relationship by the dick and don't let go until it's where you want it to be."
She smiled broadly and nodded, ending her speech. The others sat in silence and stared at the woman, stunned by her words.
Sarah looked up from her hands, which were folded in her lap, and spoke timidly.
"So I should try to be more aggressive?"
Mary clapped and laughed aloud. "Exactly! You have to set boundaries for him," at this Mary again glanced over to George, "or he'll walk all over you, because you let him. Take charge! Be assertive and confident! Be proud to be a woman with a rich boyfriend!"
The girl smiled and nodded slightly. "Thanks, I think I'll try that."
George smiled and chipped in his two cents- "You'll do fine. If this guy is anything like you said he is, then you two will be very happy."
Again, Sarah smiled, and this time blushed as well. "Thank you."
Standing up and gathering her things, she turned to the others. "Thank you both. I- I think this was a good thing to come here. I already feel better and ready to fix my life! Thank you again!"
With that, she quickly opened the door and left the waiting room. After a moment, George spoke up.
"Do you think we should tell her that she should wait for the doctor?"
Mary waved her hand dismissively. "Nah, she'll do fine. I think it's good that we were here to help her while that damn shrink is still busy." She added a quick look to George and added, "Well, it's good that I was here anyway."
"Bitch," he growled.
They both paused until George changed the subject.
"Poor girl, though. I can't imagine a monster like her father."
Mary nodded. "Disgusting. That man should have been killed for what he put her through."
George nodded with a grin. "Some people need killing." Mary nodded, but with no humour.
"Kind of like you?"
George's face flashed fury, but he controlled himself. He sighed.
"I suppose you're right. If I can't get a hold of my actions, I'll end up just like that bastard. A year from now, it might be me raping some little girl." He coughed nervously. "I- I don't want that to happen. I don't want my niece- or any other girl to end up like her." He pointed to the door. "I've got to control myself."
Mary nodded. "I'm sure that once you find yourself a good woman, you'll get back to normal." She pointed at him sharply. "But remember that you can't expect a problem to go away just by substituting for it- you've got to face it and destroy it."
George grinned humourlessly. "Is that a personal quote?"
She smirked. "I wish it was. It's actually from the training manual for my office. It sometimes pays to skim through those things."
They both laughed and then George grew serious.
"And what about you, then? Are you going to go back to work tomorrow and return to forcing men to their deaths?"
Mary looked for a moment as if she were going to attack the man, but she restrained herself.
"I don't think I shall," she said, haughtily. "Just by looking at you I can tell that men are not nearly as iron-willed as they always make themselves out to be. I never knew just how… pathetic you guys can be when you're underbelly is exposed."
"So you're going to stop playing with the corporate ladder?"
Mary laughed loudly. "I don't think so, George. But I am going to be a little more careful from now on."
George laughed quickly. "It's odd how we all just began to tell our life stories to each other, isn't it? I mean, this doesn't happen usually, does it?"
Mary shook her head, smiling. "I've never seen anything happen like this. I mean, three total strangers, sharing their intimate secrets with each other? That never happens."
"Maybe it's the atmosphere of a doctor's office," George mused. "We all came here to get something off our chests, but we couldn't see the shrink, so…"
"So we took it out on each other? I don't think so." She paused. "I don't know. Maybe it's that we actually had someone to talk too for once. Someone who would listen to what we had to say, not because they were paid to do so, but because they wanted to."
Nod. "Maybe you're right."
Looking at his watch, George sighed and stood up.
"This guy's almost an hour late. I can't be waiting around here all day."
Mary also stood up, glaring at the closed door. "We do all have work to do and lives to live."
George opened the door and held it for Mary, who went through obligingly.
"Have you ever been to that coffee shop on the corner?" he asked suddenly.
She laughed. "I live off of their coffee. Why?"
"Would you like to join me for a cup?"
She paused in the hallway and carefully looked him over. She grunted slightly.
"I suppose it wouldn't hurt. Lead on."
George smiled and closed the door to the waiting room.