"Welcome, Miss Harter. Have a seat."
Still unsure of why I was here, I made my way across the room and sat down on the plush tan sofa that is the trademark of a psychiatrist's office. It wasn't the first time I had entered my parents' counselor's room, but I was surprised when he asked to see me and my parents separately. Surprised since I wasn't the patient.
Unfortunately, though, Mom was.
She had undergone a huge metamorphosis in the last few months, ever since her bookstore had been held up. No longer was she a mom who fussed over her little girl and husband - now she hardly seemed to care about us. It wasn't deliberate, that was certain, for there were instances when the old Mom came out. It was just as if her head had been messed up, as if her priorities had suddenly ceased to exist. The worst part of it had been that she didn't know it.
For a few seconds, neither of us spoke. Dr. Malwinch seemed to be studying me, and for a second, I wondered whether I was the one a block short. Then he smiled, genuinely, softly. His eyes twinkled from behind the glasses as he poured a glass of water and slid it towards me. Still, neither of us spoke.
"Thanks, but I am not thirsty," I said, attempting to break the ice.
"Oh," he replied with a casual wave of his hand, "It's not just for thirst - perhaps, when I am done with my diagnosis, you may want to throw it at me head. Whatever - just as long as you express your feelings."
"You keep the suspence up, Doc, and I won't wait till your report to dunk you," I grinned back at him.
He smiled back. "Fair enough."
Slowly, the smile faded; a grim and sober face replaced the chubby smile I had been greeted with. "Your fears, unfortunately, were correct," he began, and my heart sank. Although Dad and I had suspected it, it was still as devastating to have it confirmed. I lowered my eyelids so that he wouldn't see that my eyes were filling up.
"However," he added hastily, "It's not serious. It's curable, really, but the medicine might be a little bit unorthodox... I'll just save that for later. Firstly, though, I think you should know the problem your mother has."
I nodded my head silently, reaching into my handbag for the hanky before thinking better of it. Doc Mal waited until I had raised my eyes to his before continuing.
"You are aware of schizophrenia, I suppose?"
"Isn't it the disease where people feel paranoid or something?"
"Yes, although I wouldn't exactly go so far as to call it a disease. A disease is something physical, viral, bacterial, etc - oh dear, I fear I digress. Your general perception is correct though - paranoia.
"Now, while schizophrenia is getting increasingly 'popular' these days, there is a left side to it. R-She-Z, I call it. Reverse schizophrenia. It's extremely rare, and is often confused with depression. It's not serious, and the few cases that I've seen or read about have all been cured."
That raised my hopes a little bit.
"Your Mom has R-She-Z. I haven't gone beyond the first layer of counseling, but this I can tell you - her problem is not insecurity, but a lack thereof. Nothing seems to threaten her, and that, perhaps, is the main reason her dependence on you has decreased. A mother's motif is to feel wanted by her children, by her husband, and that's what makes her feel secure.
"That's why the incidence of depression among women in the higher age-groups is moon-high - once the kids gain a little independence, the mother is a little less needed. Not less loved, mind you, but expression of it is as important as the love itself.
"Your mother seems to have lost that need. Apparently, she's dissociated herself from being wanted... she is too sure of her place in the family now to feel wanted. There is nothing to threaten her life, her living.
"And that brings me to my question, Kelly. How much do you want to get your mother back? To what lengths are you willing to go to?"
"Whatever it takes."
He paused for effect. "To the extent of posing a threat?"
"I don't understand."
"What I mean is, can you be bold enough to threaten your Mom's position in your family? Her position as the dominant female, as the strong voice. And most importantly, as... your father's wife?"
It took me all of ten seconds to gather the full import of his words. To say that the last question shook me up would be an understatement - I felt numb below my neck. And yet, there was the start of a strange stirring somewhere in my body. It wasn't too much. Not yet, anyway.
"What the hell do you mean?" My voice rose.
"Exactly what I mean. Would you be willing to go so far as to have an affair with your own father to have your mother back? Is she worth it?" Then his voice softened. "Just think about it..."
I sat there dumbly, trying to find out an alternative. Perhaps, if I hadn't been so unnerved, I might have come up with one - but as it was, the only thing that was echoing inside my head was the proposed affair with my Dad. Before I knew it, I was seriously considering the notion.
Not that Dad was not good-looking or anything - as far as I was concerned, he could beat most of the jocks who had been trying to get me. And somehow, I just knew he would be a wonderful and considerate lover; he was, and always had been, a loving and considerate man, never one to lose his anger.
I made a mental checklist.
Virile? I shocked myself the way I was evaluating him.
Dammit! Couldn't I come up with a single No?
Possible? No... aha... maybe...
I shook my head in failure. He was my father, true, and I realized at that moment that this relationship was the only thing that must have held me back from desiring him. Now, even the taboo was too thin. If Dad had been in front of me, and had proposed, I knew I couldn't - and wouldn't - say no. Incest was dirty no longer.
The Doc caught my nod with a sigh of satisfaction. "Ah! Few women, I am told, can resist such an opportunity."
"But will it work?" I ventured. For the sin I was about to commit, nothing short of Mom's recovery would suffice.
"Honey, in the one case where I suggested such a remedy, it worked. Don't get your hopes up, though - she will need your help as much as she needs mine. Do you want me to talk to your father about this, or should I?"
"I will - no, maybe... I think you should do it, Doc. Dad would kill me..."
"I doubt that," the psychiatrist returned casually, "I doubt any man could turn you down."
I smiled weakly at him. "What do I do?"
"Why don't you talk to my daughter?" he asked. "She's rather qualified in these matters, I must say, and it would be easier to talk to a person closer in age. Let me just page her."
Before I could ask him how his daughter was 'qualified in these matters,' Doc Malwinch had buzzed her on the intercom. From the previous visits, I knew that her office was right beside his, and it was just a matter of seconds before a beautiful woman, blonde, smiling and dressed in a business suit, walked through a door at the back of his office.
"Hello Dad!" she chirped brightly and walked over to him. The two embraced, then, much to my surprise, kissed each other on the lips like lovers. I could see the girl's eyes get wide when she spotted me, but her hands could do nothing but flail at the back of his head as their lips continued to stick.
When they pulled apart, finally, the girl nudged her father in the ribs and pointed to me, as if chiding him for being so indiscrete. Malwinch just shrugged his shoulders, then, slipping his arm around her waist rather intimately, escorted her to my side.
"I don't suppose you have met," the Doc began. "Megan, this is Kelly Harter. Kelly, my daughter and right hand, Megan."
I guess the shock was as evident on my face as the sheepishness on hers. She shook my hand warmly, then, following her father, sat on the edge of his chair. The Doc, it seemed as by habit, placed his arm around her waist, the palm resting in front of her crotch, before his daughter wisely shuffled so that the air of sexuality between them was not so obvious.
"What's the matter, Dad? If Kelly doesn't mind me asking."
I have to give the doctor credit - whatever the intimacy of his blood, he waited for the peremptory nod from me before telling his daughter about my mother. When he mentioned the possible course of action, her eyes seemed to light up. She looked at me, as if studying me in the same manner her father had when I had entered the room, and she seemed to like what she saw.
Then she turned to her father. "Why don't Kelly and I go into my room, Papa? You can go back to the rest of your patients, and I will fill you in later."
"That's a good idea, sweetie. In fact, why don't I fill you up while you fill me in?"
I swear the girl turned a positively dark shade of red at his flirtatious suggestion, and she cast an amused glance in my direction before kissing her father, this time only lightly, on his lips. "You dirty old goat," she giggled, "You are going to get us into trouble."
Still smiling, she gestured for me to follow her. We crossed the room, and she locked the door after I had entered a room similar to the one I had just exited. This one was more pleasantly decorated, more feminine, but it was obvious that the differences were purely cosmetic.
.... There is more of this story ...