8:15 AM; CHESTERWICK, GARCÍA & BURNHAM PSYCHIATRY OFFICES, DOCTOR GABRIEL GARCÍA’S OFFICE
“Well, Mrs. Mason, take a seat,” Gabriel said softly, closing the door to his office. Alice sat down on the couch, crossing her legs. He crossed the room, holding out a hand. “Doctor García,” he said.
Alice shook his hand briefly. “Alice Mason,” she said quietly.
He nodded, lowering himself into his chair. “It’s good to see you here, Mrs. Mason,” he said, grabbing his clipboard and pencil from the table. Alice watched him for a moment, taking in the gray sweater he wore over a plain white button-up. She caught sight of the wedding band on his left hand. She wrapped her arms around herself, cautiously leaning back against the back of the couch.
“So, Mrs. Mason, let’s pretend that I know absolutely nothing about you,” Gabriel said, lifting his dark eyes to her face. “Tell me… who you are. Not why you’re here. Who is Alice Mason?”
Alice’s brown eyes fell to her lap. She dropped her hand to her lap, twisting her wedding band around her finger. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know who you are?” Gabriel questioned. She shook her head. “Not any more, I presume?”
“Well, then, who did you used to be?”
“I don’t know. A lot of things. Most recently, a housewife,” she said.
“Now I’m a housewife that can’t take care of her own children, that can’t bring herself to care about her own children.”
“How many children do you have, Mrs. Mason?”
“Three that live with my husband and me, two that lives with a friend, and… and three that are dead.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Mason,” Gabriel said softly.
“Thank you,” Alice whispered.
“Would you like to tell me why two of your children are living with a friend?”
“I went into premature labor with two children that I didn’t want to have, and I could’ve died,” she said. “I’ve never seen them, and I can barely look at the children that I’ve been raising for over four years. The friend is watching over them on the… off chance that I can ever tolerate being around children again,” she said.
Gabriel nodded, tapping his pencil against his thigh. “Mrs. Mason, why are you here today?”
Alice chuckled. “Hell if I know.”
“You’re not here for you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you here for your husband?” he asked.
“Something like that,” she said.
“Why does your husband think you need to be here today?” he questioned.
“I don’t know.”
Gabriel cleared his throat. “I’ve been told a lot about you, Mrs. Mason.” Her gaze lifted to his face. “I’ve been told that you aren’t the kind of person to simply dole out personal information. You have a hard time trusting people, and it keeps you from talking, from sharing. You feel this strong desire and urge to solve all of your own problems all by yourself, and that’s something that has served you relatively well in the past. But I’m aware that even your husband has to coax information out of you. Correct?”
Alice lifted her shoulders, looking back down at her lap.
“Mrs. Mason, I need you to trust me. Everything you say in this room is confidential. You husband, your parents, your friends, your family… no one finds out what you say in here. It’s only between you and me,” he said softly. “So, why does your husband think you need to be here today?”
She cleared her throat, interlocking her fingers. “He wants me to heal,” she said. “Heal from a… time of grief.”
“But you don’t believe that.”
“Because you can’t heal something that’s entirely broken. I’d have to be glued and sewed together again before anyone could even try to fix me,” Alice said.
“And your husband doesn’t think you’re broken?” Gabriel asked after a moment of silence.
“No, of course not. He thinks I just need to heal, that… that we’ll work past it all.”
“And you don’t think it’ll work quite like that.”
“No, not at all,” Alice said, shaking her head. “We can sit here and talk for all two hours that he wants me to talk for, but nothing’s going to come of it,” she said.
“The brain’s a powerful organ, Mrs. Mason. And when it’s sick, you can’t function the way you used to. You find yourself unable to get out of bed. You can’t shower or eat. It’s too much energy to talk to people. It takes too much effort to get dressed and walk out of the bedroom.” Gabriel cleared his throat. “Did you know that positive thinking alone can improve both the body’s physical and mental health?”
“I’ve been made aware. You’re insinuating I have the strength to force myself to see some sort of positivity in all of this.” Her gaze shifted to his face again. “You’d be incorrect.”
Gabriel smiled faintly. “Of course, Mrs. Mason. My apologies.” He passed a hand through his dark hair, clearing his throat. “Tell me, Mrs. Mason, who do you feel like? You said you’re no longer the housewife you were. So who are you now?”
“I don’t know,” Alice said. She offered a shrug. “I suppose…” She let out a heavy sigh. “I’m finally the beaten down woman my first husband wanted me to be.”
“In what ways?”
“I’m finally at a point where I can’t have a job, so I can’t be better than him. I can’t leave the house, so I can’t meet people that he doesn’t want me to meet. There’s a lot of reasons I’m like the weak person he wanted me to be,” Alice said.
“And you hate that person.”
“Of course I hate that person. She’s… she’s a disgrace to my name. Before, I wouldn’t even let the triple homicide of my children stop me from getting something I wanted. I finished college. I became a cop. I worked my ass off to get into homicide and become a detective. I worked even harder later on to become a lawyer. And now… and now I’m this. It’s shameful.”
“What stops you from being that person again?” Gabriel asked.
Alice scoffed. “I don’t know.”
“What stops you from being that person again?” Gabriel repeated.
“I don’t know.”
“What stops you, Mrs. Mason?”
“I do,” Alice said, slapping a hand against her chest. “I… I do.”
“I’m not who I used to be.”
“I’ve had children, I’ve settled down, gotten married again.” She shrugged. “I’m old.”
“Age stops you from being who you used to be?” Gabriel asked.
“Having children stops you from being who you used to be?”
“They… did for a while. I couldn’t leave them with a stranger during the day while my husband and I both held jobs. It wasn’t right.”
“What makes it wrong?”
“I left my children with a stranger during the day with my first husband, and they’re all dead,” Alice said, her tone cold.
“You’re afraid leaving your children with a stranger again will result in a repeat?”
“It may be unlikely in a statistical point of view, but that doesn’t make it impossible. I won’t lose my family again,” she said.
Gabriel tilted his head to the side. “And you said it seemed as though you didn’t care about your children any more.”
“You care about them very much, Mrs. Mason. You gave up your job for them,” he said.
“I suppose you’re right. In a way, I mean. Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard or anything.”
He hid a smile behind his hand. “I assure you I won’t be taking any credit. This is all you, Mrs. Mason. I’m only here to make sure that, for the first time in a long time, you’re actually listening to your feelings instead of shoving them down.”
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