A psychologist is treating a severely abused young woman, and she raises some issues which cause him to question his own relationships - shounen ai -

She sat on the hard, precisely made bed in the stark room. It had been pained bright white many years ago, but time had dulled it, and so it was now mostly grays. She rocked back and forward, clutching her sides whimpering. Red bruises ran down the sides of her face, and under her thin eyebrows. She curled into herself.

"Josie. Josie, talk to me." She bent further over and cried louder. "Come on, now. I won't hurt you." I flipped open the file. " I know you've been hurt before. These records indicate you come from an extended history of sadomasochistic relationships. It's okay if you don't want to talk about it. If you just want to listen for a while, I can do some talking. Perhaps it will help prompt your memory of the night. Josie, I think you're still hurting, on the inside. I can help you. I think you're feeling fragmented, you were victimized, you became the support to fill the emptiness in your lovers disintegrating identity, but you can't let it stop you like this." I tried to make eye contact with her.

"In my experience," she spoke painfully, baring her neck, displaying the bruises "the handles of the waffle iron are the first thing to go. Dinner plates, mirrors, my books, they went next. It was when he - he took away my escapes. Smashed my CD collection, as he'd always threatened to do. Had the telephone disconnected. I sometimes wonder, if we'd been poorer, if I could have escaped. I cold have made it out there."

Her gaze wandered to the barred window. Behind the bars was really no place for her. She pulled her collar down to scratch at a large scar running across her chest, healing with time. The report said the stitches could come out sometime next week.

"He kept the mobiles, the cars, with him, or locked away in the garage, when he had to go out. And he started talking about moving to the country house, permanently. I think that's one of the reasons I freaked like I did. All I ever saw was him and he was trying to isolate me even further. Wasn't it enough already?"

She was crying again, and I passed her a tissue. She reached out from her spot cross-legged on the bed and took it between three fingers. Her pinkie didn't sit or bend with the others; it was curled around, and I think that symbolized most of it to me. She had been forced to be bent around the little finger. Snapped. She was never really going to heal; she would carry those scars with her for the rest of her life. Everyone would look and point, and stare at the rags of beauty, and say "there goes the black widow, she should have done time for that." I'm just glad she didn't.

It is better, I think, that she comes here. It is protected, I know that. Protected from the outside world. I know we are paid not to think like that. Not to think, there is not hope. But as the frayed husk of a woman, hollowed and dried out like an empty coconut shell you might find on the beach, washed up from some long island vacation, sat used, abused and broken, hunched in front of me, I knew I'd been preaching a lie. I always used to hate those people, in movies, who did that. I wished that they'd have their own medicine bought back on them.

I suppose it took this one poor, frazzled remains of a human being to get me to realize that I was in a potentially abusive relationship. I didn't have scars - not that he'd given me, anyway. I may have had access to society, but it was deteriorating. I had quit my job to be with him, twice already. He'd asked me to move with him. I suppose I agreed, because I had the fatalistic idea, that whatever happened was meant to happen.

She wiped her eyes with the tissue. "What about your life, doctor?" Had I been expressing my thoughts on my face? If I had, then I think my quick frown confirmed her thoughts that I had.

"Aren't you supposed to be using examples of a happy and stable domestic environment to appeal to what was lacking in mine?"

I refuse to be psyched out by a patient.

"I think it's time for your medication."

"Yeah, sure. You're such a bloody hypocrite. So drug me up then. Whatever makes you happy, you bastard."

"Jodie . . ." I swallowed. I can act. I always could. "My partner is not some weird personality type whose ego-identity is diffuse and shifting. We are perfectly happy. Perfectly."

"Not weird, just a little queer. I know what they say. And I know . . . other things, too." She looked up at me. I strode to the door, and buzzed to be let out.

That night, I almost told him. Early on in this Job, after I gave up that one in the occupational therapy, he'd told me one evening, "don't you ever, Ever speak of what goes on in that madhouse to me, ever again." Not that he pays much attention, anyway. I wouldn't break client confidentiality. I think he just was a little scared because I started talking about things he didn't really understand. I haven't done it since.

Oh, our communications breakdown isn't all that serious. We keep work and home separate, that's all. I know when he goes out to the site; he doesn't tell all his work mates that he's living with me. I know because the one time I went down there, he acted all like he had no idea who I was. I got quite upset after that, But it was really my fault. They would have beaten the shit out of him if they'd found out, I suppose.

Friday nights, he comes home late. Usually he goes out to the pub with his friends. My friends all have strict bedtimes, and aren't allowed alcohol incase it interferes with their medication, so I generally just watch the tele. There aren't any good movies on, and I'm not interested in sport. Never have been.

When He comes home at eleven thirty he's roaring drunk. He brings with him two of his mates, who he said could crash here rather than go home to their de facto wives. We live in a small, tiny house, one of those mobile homes that they can deliver on the back of a truck. I didn't want to live here, but he insisted it was only temporary while he was building the house, so I agreed. The walls are cardboard, and the windows plastic. Everything vibrates, as they stamp in at take their steel-toes boots off. He knows I don't like cleaning up after him tramping orange clay all through the carpets.

"Where's all the food gone, eh?" I feel like a fat bar wench surrounded by all these sodden builders. Kinda vulnerable, definitely poor.

"There's some pizza in the microwave, and I think there's still some Chinese in the fridge."

He lumbers into the tiny kitchen. I wonder, if we had been richer, if it would have been different. So we didn't have to work, we could live in a big house, a house where there are separate rooms for the guests. One has already passed out on our bed, and the other is settling into the couch next to me. I move to the armchair to give him room to stretch out.

He comes out of the kitchen, and goes into the bedroom, shoving the guy on the bed onto the floor, and climbing in, fully dressed. I'm in flannelette pajamas with trains on them. I wasn't expecting him to bring all his friends home with him. The doorbell rings, and I get up to answer it. It's close to midnight, but I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised.

The thin wooded door opens, and there are three women, all looking angry and powerful, out looking for a fight (or for their husbands), strong red make up like war-paint on their stern faces. They push past me and into the room, and attach themselves like a motor on the back of a boat. They nag, push and pull, and manage to lug their men home. That's one of the good things about Him. He always comes back. I lock the door, turn out the lights.

I go into our room, and get under the covers.

"Tony and Jake went home." I whisper to him. He grunts, and rolls around to hold onto me. He sighs and rubs his hands around my shoulders.

"I love you," he whispers close to my ear.

He falls asleep, doesn't pay much attention to my reply. I don't think he's ever really paid that much attention. I don't think he even knows the names of my parents.

I've never owned a waffle iron and I don't intend to get one. I lost all my literature I didn't need for work in a garage sale two years ago, and about six months past, the small house we'd been renting burnt down. Really, it was no one's fault. My CD's were in the car. The dinner plates, in our house, we throw out every night. He won't cook and I don't have time, so cardboard is always disposed of in the recyclables bin.

He has never, ever hit me. Not seriously. I'd leave him immediately if he did. Well, sure there was that rough and tumble, as a game, but that's all it was.

I lay awake all night next to his snoring silhouette, trying to weigh up all the arguments for and against. Hen morning came; I had dark circles under my eyes. He woke up at five to be at work again for six. He kissed me goodbye; it was mechanical and reflexive. I almost asked him, then. If you don't love me why do you come home each night? Why do you stay? But then I remembered. It was his house. I should be asking myself these questions.

But I'm scared of the answer.

Coz I know it already.

*Sadomasochism is the combination of sadism and masochism in one person. Sadism is the sexual condition characterized by the enjoyment of inflicting pain or suffering on others. Masochism is a condition which pleasure (esp sexual) is derived from one's own pain or humiliation, or the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome.