She had failed me as a mother but preferred to believe I’d failed her as a son.
And so it went.
When I faced my desk again, I picked up the phone and called my brother.
“What do you want?” he answered.
I could picture the scowl on his face. A face very unlike mine. Of my mother’s three children, only Christopher resembled his father more than he did our mom.
His acrimony had the predictable effect of making me want to bait him. “The pleasure of hearing your voice. What else?”
“Cut the shit, Gideon. Did you call to gloat? Your fondest wish has finally come true.”
Leaning back in my chair, I looked up at the ceiling. “I’d tell you I’m very sorry your parents are divorcing, but you wouldn’t believe me, so I won’t bother. Instead, I’ll say that I’m here for you, if you need me.”
“Go to hell.” He hung up.
I pulled the receiver away from my ear and held it aloft a moment. Contrary to Christopher’s belief, I hadn’t always disliked him. There had been a time when I welcomed him in my life. For a short time, I’d had a comrade. A brother. The animosity I felt now, he’d earned. But no matter, I would take care of him and see that he didn’t stumble too badly, whether he liked it or not.
Returning the handset to its cradle, I got back to work. After all, I couldn’t have anything pressing over the weekend. I planned to be completely incommunicado while with my wife.
I studied Dr. Petersen, who sat completely at ease across from me. He wore dark, loose jeans with a tucked-in white shirt, as comfortable as I’d ever seen him. I wondered if that was a deliberate decision in an effort to seem as innocuous as possible. He knew my history with therapists now, understood why I would always find them threatening to some degree.
“How did your weekend in Westport go?” he asked.
“Did she call you?” In the past, when Eva wanted to make sure I discussed something in therapy, she would bring it up to Dr. Petersen in advance. I grumbled about it and often didn’t appreciate it, but her motivation was her love for me and I couldn’t bitch about that.
“No.” He smiled, and it was gentle, almost fond. “I saw the photographs of you and Eva.”
That surprised me. “I wouldn’t have taken you for the type to follow the tabloids.”
“My wife does. She showed me the pictures because she found them very romantic. I have to agree with her. You both looked very happy.”
“How do you get along with Eva’s family?”
I settled back, draping my arm over the armrest. “I’ve known Richard Stanton for many years and Monica for the last few.”
“Casual and business acquaintances are very different from in-laws.”
His perceptiveness rankled. Still, I was honest. “It was … awkward. Unnecessarily so, but I dealt with it.”
Dr. Petersen’s smile widened. “How did you deal with it?”
“I focused on Eva.”
“So you maintained distance from the others?”
“No more than usual.”
He scribbled notes into his tablet. “Anything else happen since I saw you on Thursday?”
My mouth twisted wryly. “She bought me a dog. A puppy.”
He looked up at me. “Congratulations.”
I shrugged. “Eva’s tickled by the whole thing.”
“Is it her dog, then?”
“No. She got all the gear and dropped him in my lap.”
“That’s quite a commitment.”
“He’ll be fine. Animals are good at self-sufficiency.” Because he waited with expectant patience, I moved on. “My stepfather filed for divorce.”
Dr. Petersen’s head tilted a little as he studied me. “We’ve gone from in-laws, to a new dog, to the dissolution of your parents’ marriage in the space of a few minutes. That’s a tremendous amount of change for someone who strives for structure.”
That was stating the obvious, so I didn’t add anything.
“You seem remarkably composed, Gideon. Because things are going well with Eva?”
“Exceptionally well.” I knew the contrast to last week’s therapy session was striking. I’d been wild with panic over the separation from Eva, terrified and frantic that I might lose her. I could recall the feelings with anguished clarity, but I had difficulty accepting how quickly I had … unraveled. I didn’t recognize that desperate man, couldn’t reconcile him with what I knew about myself.
He nodded slowly. “Of the three things you mentioned, how would you rank them from most important to least important?”