Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
The room was small, but cozy. It had the stereotypical leather couch against one wall, facing a single, padded chair with rose-covered upholstery, a small coffee table in between the two. On the table was the therapist’s – Stephanie, as she told Rhys to call her – MacBook, a legal pad, and a single pen. The room was lit with a tall floor lamp, casting the room in a soft, gentle glow. Stephanie took a seat in the rose-upholstered chair, gesturing for Rhys to take a seat on the couch. He did so, sitting cross-legged across from her.
“So,” Stephanie said.
“So,” Rhys replied, picking at his skin again. Stephanie crossed one leg over the other and rested the legal pad on her knee, writing something down. Rhys forced himself to stop, but it was only a moment or two before he compulsively started again.
“You’re here on account of your brother,” Stephanie said. It wasn’t a question, and yet it made Rhys shift in his seat, as all questions do. He crossed his legs beneath him, looking at the wall behind her.
“Yeah. It was his idea for me to go back to therapy.”
"You don't sound very happy about the idea," Stephanie noted, scribbling on her legal pad again. Rhys' gaze darted to the paper and away again. He stopped pretending to see her, leaning back and shoving his hands in his jacket pockets, staring out of the window on the wall as he thought about whether three stories was high enough.
"Therapy is pointless."
Stephanie looked at him for a moment, then flipped the previous page of her legal pad over, reading it over.
"Says in my notes that you were hospitalized last summer in the Our Lady of Peace psychiatric facility. What was that for?"
Rhys gave her a small smile. "I'm sure your notes tell you."
"You tried to kill yourself after you were sexually assaulted," Stephanie replied, looking up from her legal pad and arching an eyebrow at him. "The notes say a lot of things, Rhys, but I'm more concerned with your side of the story."
"The notes are pretty spot on."
"Was this suicide attempt before or after Jason was incarcerated?"
Rhys stiffened, his face immediately going passive as he straightened his back, crossing his arms over his chest. "Jason has nothing to do with it."
"It was just a question."
Rhys glared at her for a long moment. "Before."
Another note. "And how did you like Our Lady of Peace, Rhys? Did it help you?"
"I think if it had, I wouldn't be sitting here."
"Not necessarily," Stephanie countered, meeting his gaze evenly. "For a lot of people, therapy is a life-long process, especially when it comes to processing trauma."
“I don’t have ‘trauma’.”
“You don’t consider sexual assault to be traumatizing?” Stephanie arched an eyebrow at him. Rhys shrugged.
“Guess it depends on the person.”
The room dripped its way into silence after he spoke, a soft awkwardness ballooning in the air around them.
“And what kind of a person do you think you are, Rhys?” Stephanie leaned back in her chair and surveyed him over the rims of her glasses.
Rhys shifted in his seat. “A Kentucky summer sunrise.”
Stephanie only continued to passively stare at him, leaving the floor open for him to elaborate. Rhys shifted in his seat again, returning his gaze to the window, where soft sunlight dappled at the glass.
“A Kentucky summer sunrise,” he said again.
“And what kind of person is a Kentucky summer sunrise?”
He failed to answer, for a long time, seeming lost in thought as he stared at the floor. After about fifteen minutes, nearing the end of their intake session, his head lifted, and he looked her in the eye.
“That’s what I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure out.”
He felt wrong when he got home.
He found an odd, depressing sort of solace in cleaning, like he always did. So that’s what he proceeded to do: he gathered his dirty laundry, cleaned the trash of his bedroom floor, cleared his desk of the old crumpled papers; took the hoard of dirty dishes to the kitchen; stacked his books into piles, and when he was dissatisfied with that, put them away in the crates under his bed. He went to the kitchen again, where he scrubbed the stains off the table; cleaned out the fridge; did the dishes; he dusted the living room, cleaned his bong, took his laundry downstairs and started the wash. When he was done with it all, two hours’ worth, he sat at his desk chair and rewarded himself with a smoke session, feeling marginally better, but still wrong; like a car that always pulled slightly to the left, or moldy yogurt, or glasses that were dirty, smudged with fingerprints and slight hints of grease.
He exhaled smoke from the latest bong hit and checked the time. It was around seven, and yet there were many hours to go until his brother would be home; sometime in the very early morning, and after that, he would head straight to sleep, exhausted as he always was, and delaying the brothers meeting again even further; Rhys tried not to be bitter about it, steering his mind away from the haunting thought that he was always alone, and then steering it again from Jason, where it always tended to try and settle. Thinking of his brother reminded him of last year, and desperate to forget that, he took another harsh hit before putting a vinyl on.
But the best way to forget about anything, Rhys had found, was sex. He liked having it, liked the way it made him feel, almost as if he were wanted, even maybe loved; and if anything, it was so physical he could stop thinking for a while, focus purely on the sensations, lose himself in them until everything in his brain ceased to exist, and until all it became was a chase, a never-ending one at that, and ay, there’s the rub; he liked when things were so extreme he could feel them, the feeling of ecstasy, the feeling of mania, the feeling of good, the feeling of anything, the incessant, penetrating, constant want and need to feel something.
He picked up his phone, and texted Lip.