Leaving my friends behind wasn't exactly what I wanted to do, but after my altercation with Arnie, I was ready to leave. Erik and Leah helped me load my things in the car and we were off just as the sun started to set. I took a deep breath when I slid into the Audi and marveled at the leather interior.
"Nice car," I said, repeating Leah's words.
Erik glanced at me and smirked. "Thank you. It gets me from point A to point B." He shifted into first gear and started backing out. "So, how were your few days off?"
"Really relaxing, actually." I sank down in my seat, curling my hair around my finger, and felt my cheeks flush. "Until I made a dumb mistake earlier."
"I wouldn't worry too much. Plenty of people your age make that mistake on a weekly basis."
"But they aren't crazy."
"Neither are you." His dark eyes moved to me as he shifted gears switching onto the highway. "But you're also not like other people your age."
I shrugged and looked at my hands. Maybe I was and I tried to hide it.
We were both quiet for a long time. It was at least an hour back to Scarborough but I had run out of things to talk about. It felt awkward being in his car and not the office talking to one another. He was busy, so why did he waste his time coming to pick me up?
I twiddled my thumbs. "I hope you weren't busy. Sorry if I bothered you."
"Not at all. To be honest, I was waiting for you to call me. Your medication is still new and what's happened to you is still fresh. You need rest—and sometimes, that means isolation."
"Try not to feel guilty, Hannah. Your friend understands the implications of your illness. You'll be back to normal functioning soon."
Erik was being far kinder than I deserved. I smiled at him but the guilt still weighed me down. Poor Arnie. I was being so selfish and unfair. Part of my flimsy support system was already gone thanks to me not considering the consequences of my actions.
I sighed and gazed out the window. "I wish I didn't have to take these pills. I mean, I get that they help, but they make me feel so… different."
"Altering dopamine levels does tend to have that effect. We could always supplement them with something else to help. Tell me how you feel 'different.'"
Therapy on the move? I shifted in my seat and tried to verbalize how weird I felt. I was bland, boring, tired. I let other people make choices for me. None of it was right.
"I still feel… anxious," I said. "But I also feel totally drained. I don't know." I crossed my arms over my chest. "I feel like I don't have control over anything anymore."
"Well the prior is from the Abilify, but the latter is likely a normal part of going through therapy. We can do whatever you'd like, Hannah."
I shrugged, curling my hair behind my ear. "I… guess I could try something else."
"Okay." Erik glanced at me and nodded towards the road. "I don't keep any medications in the office so we can stop at my home before I bring you back to yours."
"Are you sure? I don't want to impose…"
He waved me off. "You're anxious now so I'd like to see if this can help you tonight."
Ok, no big deal. It was just his house. He probably saw patients there sometimes—I knew tons of therapists did that to save on rental costs for an office. I smiled and thanked him again and sent off a text to Leah to let her know where I was going. She sent me back a bunch of goofy smiley emojis.
About fifteen minutes later we pulled down a long gravel driveway to a small cabin. The lights were on outside and upstairs. I unhooked my seatbelt and followed Erik out of the car up the stairs to the front door. I noticed bars on the windows and laughed as he unlocked the house.
"Keeping someone out?" I teased.
Erik smirked at me over his shoulder. "I do live in the middle of nowhere."
It was warm inside. An electric fireplace was running in the living room where there was a big couch and a few chairs. I stood awkwardly at the door until Erik gestured for me to follow him. I slipped off my shoes and walked across a carpet, past stairs, and into the kitchen. It smelled so good inside, like vanilla and cinnamon. I thought of Christmas and being a carefree kid again.
It was definitely rustic but that was common in Maine. Lots of wooden accents and fishing or hunting decorations. The counters looked like black granite and the appliances were all stainless steel. Pots and pans hung from a rack over the island. A sliding glass door led to the backyard that was shrouded in darkness, but I could make out an inground pool.
Erik dropped his keys on the counter and to my surprise, went to the fridge. He offered me a bottle of water and I noticed a multi-colored bracelet on his wrist that I hadn't seen before. It was brown and black and reddish. Kind of looked like hair. Maybe he had horses or something?
"I'm gonna be honest; you struck me as a more modern person," I said after taking a sip of water.
"White walls and furniture and glass décor?" Erik laughed to himself and nodded towards the living room. "Sometimes I see patients here so I like it to feel like a home. I'm usually not here—I travel too much so I bounce between my properties."
Made sense. Erik led me back out of the kitchen on a mini tour of the house. He had a formal dining room parallel to the living room and the stairs to the second floor were sandwiched between them. My pulse quickened as we ascended the stairs and I tried to keep my mind from wandering. He was a doctor. He had standards and morals and…
"There's two bedrooms," Erik said, interrupting my daydreaming. He paused in the middle of the hallway and turned to face me, dark eyes studying me, and another odd smile touched the corners of his lips. "You're welcome to one if you'd like to stay here for the night, Hannah."
Oh Jesus. My cheeks were on fire all over again and I was again grateful for the darkness. Could I get a pill that would make my mind stop wandering?
"Um—" I struggled to form a sentence. "Uh—I mean, um…"
He took a sip of his water and raised an eyebrow. He totally knew what he was doing to me, I was sure of it. "Before you ask, it's not an imposition. You're an interesting case, and I sometimes allow patients to stay here who are in that category."
His words crushed me a little. Interesting case, like I was a lab rat. I was pretty positive that he was sick of me questioning his kindness so I just nodded in agreement. Erik smiled at turned back around to show me the bathrooms and his own bedroom and I texted Leah in all caps that I was staying in his house.
Erik went into his bedroom and I waited at the threshold, afraid to even look inside. Therapists were different than regular doctors, since mental health was so complicated. It wasn't totally inappropriate for me to stay over, right? We weren't gonna watch movies and get hammered together or anything. I'd go to sleep and therapy would start in the morning. No big deal.
He came back with a green pill and shut the bedroom door behind him. I held it up in the dark hallway and squinted at it, trying to read the label. Hmm.
"It's BuSpar," Erik murmured. "Perfectly safe. Not a benzodiazepine or barbiturate."
Fair enough. I popped it in my mouth and finished my bottle of water to swallow it. Erik stood in front of me with his hands in his pockets and just smiled.
"It shouldn't take long to start working," he said. "Are you hungry?"
"I'm ok." I tore at the label on the water bottle and teetered back, uncomfortable standing so close to him. "Uh, I think I'll go to bed, if that's ok."
"Why don't we talk for a bit?"
The world suddenly shifted right. I staggered to keep upright but Erik didn't reach out to help me. Colorful spots bloomed across my vision and tears gathered in my eyes as I realized what was happening. Not again. Why did it always happen with him?!
I rubbed my eyes. "It's—it's starting again." My hands slid up the sides of my head and tangled in my hair and I squeezed my eyes shut. "What do I do?"
"Relax. The medication will help."
My ears started ringing and the colors burst into flowers around Erik's head. He kept smiling at me and we were moving backwards down the hallway. The anxiety was sucked away like a vacuum even as the world tilted and twisted inward. I stared into his black eyes, becoming lost in them, absorbed by darkness. I smiled as my limbs turned to jelly.
"I'm sleepy," I mumbled.
"I know you are, sweet girl. Why don't we talk about Arnold?"
I was slumped over in a chair but I was so relaxed that I didn't care. I blinked slowly and a smile spread across my face. Erik was sitting across from me in a chair, too, and he had the tablet in his hand. He looked so good—all sharp features and dark hair and tawny skin. He smiled back at me and raised his eyebrows, urging me to speak.
"Wow," I said, forming an 'o' with my mouth. "This stuff is nice." I ignored his question to look around the room, surprised that it was the living room I'd passed through earlier. Everything was so bright and pretty, and the armrest felt so silky and soft.
Erik laughed and clicked around on the tablet. "It is, isn't it? You can use it to abort panic attacks, and perhaps during our sessions." His dark eyes flickered up to me, suddenly cold. "Then I can root around deeper in that pretty little head of yours. Do you feel sick?"
I shook my head and reached up at the overhead recessed lighting, struck by a need to feel the bulbs in my hands. "No, definitely not. I'm so…" I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The world had stopped twisting and folding and confusing me. I was relieved.
"Good. So why don't you tell me about your friend?"
"It happened so fast," I slurred, no longer inhibited by fear of being judged. "We were just messing around and then we were in my bed and I thought it would be a good idea to stop trying to control everything." I blinked again and stars flickered in front of Erik's face.
"Mhm. And how did he respond?"
"He was mad when I left and said I wasn't being fair." I rolled my eyes and my entire head lolled back in the chair. "It's whatever, y'know?"
Erik shrugged. "His emotions are valid, but so are yours. In your state, you should be trying to avoid having sex with anyone. You can return to the pleasures of the flesh when you've been episode-free for at least a few weeks."
I burst out laughing and hurried to cover my mouth. Pleasures of the flesh. Jesus Christ.
"I guess I'll avoid banging anyone else 'til you give me the thumbs-up, doc." I gave him two sarcastic thumbs-up and promptly devolved into a fit of giggles.
"It wasn't satisfying, was it?"
This question drew a confused and amused reaction from me. I shook my head and leaned over in the chair, trying to curl up like a cat. Erik was staring at me.
"No," I yawned, "but I figured it wouldn't be."
"That's unfortunate. A healthy sex life is one of the keys to a healthy mind."
"But you just told me I'm not allowed to have sex." I shot him a smug smirk and tugged a cover on the back of the chair over myself. "Checkmate, shrink-a-dink."
Erik raised an eyebrow and tilted his head, smile growing wider. "Only until I can teach you what you deserve, Hannah. Are you falling asleep on me?"
His words didn't bother me in the least. I yawned again and nodded sleepily, ready for a nap right there in the chair. Arms scooped me up, blanket and all, and I dozed off a few times on our way up the stairs. God, he really did smell good. I tugged on his shirt to get closer to his chest and inhaled. Pine needles. Lemon. Cucumber. Cinnamon. Mmm.
"Are you smelling me?" he murmured, nudging open a door with his foot.
"Smelling wasn't on my list of banned activities." I blearily looked around—we were in the second bedroom and it disappointed me. "I have to sleep here all alone?"
Erik whistled as he lay me down in the bed. "And now you're propositioning me? It seems like I overshot your dosage a little bit."
I crawled under the covers, still in my clothes from the cabin, and snuggled into the sheets. "Don't flatter yourself. I'm just looking for a something to cuddle."
Nothing seemed inappropriate thanks to whatever medication I'd taken. My eyes were closed so I just heard him laugh under his breath. He didn't seem like he was much of a cuddler.
"I'll be down the hall if you need me, okay?" he said. "Help yourself to whatever's in the kitchen, though it might not be much." Fingers tentatively touched my head and stroked my hair. "Goodnight, Hannah. I have high hopes for you."
I passed out before the bedroom door shut.