I tugged the bottom of my dress down, more out of discomfort than necessity, and took a deep breath. No matter how many times I lay on a couch like this, it never seemed to get easier. And while it gave me insight into my own patients, it was difficult to push past that discomfort and get to what I knew the other woman in the room wanted to hear.
“Every dream has to have a meaning for you,” I grumbled. Even as I said it, I knew I was deflecting. I wasn’t here to fight. I hadn’t spent years searching for a place to work through my shit for me to turn around and leave when we were finally getting somewhere. Of course, that was exactly why I wanted to leave. It was too much progress, too fast. It meant that either I would need a lot more work, or I would be good to go back to the source of my problems.
“Dita. You’re wasting your own time.” It took me a moment to recognize the human name I’d chosen, but the curt reminder was what I’d been expecting. She wasn’t trying to be rude or aggressive. She’d just learned how to deal with me after a few years of trying to fix what had taken me thousands of years to realize was broken.
Another deep breath, and I settled on the sofa, my bare feet crossing and pressing against the other end of the couch as I readied to tell her the dream that had me waking in a cold sweat. Sleeping and dreaming seemed to be helping me work through things. Or I was kidding myself, but I hadn’t searched out the most obscure little town to try, just to start shoving doubt into the cracks in my sanity.
“Fine. It begins as the last did. I am struggling to stay afloat in the dark swirling waters. The water begins to freeze, and my heart is the source of the chill, causing it to harden around me, trapping me. A hand comes for my face, and I fear it means to hurt me. But at the last moment, the stiff fingers loosen and caress my cheek. The touch comforts me, and an unseen source of heat begins to melt the ice, starting with my chest. It is not until I am free that I can turn over, the water gone, and I see the source.” I stopped, frowning as I thought back to the dream.
Perhaps it’d taken her a moment to realize I had stopped as well because we were silent for a full minute or two before she prompted me again. “Go on. Where did the source of the heat come from? What’s the source of that freedom?”
I didn’t like the way she said that. It was tempting to turn my head and glare at her, but I really would rather get this over with. “I see it, but I cannot understand it. That hand that had saved me reaches for me, guides me closer to the warmth, and then I can see it. It is coming from—” I closed my mouth tightly and sat up, chewing at my lower lip, my hands twisting in my lap. No, I couldn’t say it because the last thing I wanted was to spend another six hours in tears of regret. “That is all I remember.”
Maybe it was the look on my face, but she let the matter drop. “Alright. Let’s backtrack then. Let’s go back to the beginning. Why’d you come here? You mentioned patients of yours. Tell me about them.”
That was another topic I’d been trying to avoid, but it seemed she was going for the jugular today. Why did she have to make this so difficult for me? But I knew it was up to me in the end. If I wanted to, I could end this and walk out. I could talk about a video I watched the night before. I could sit in silence and read a book if I really wanted. So, whether or not we talked about this was on me.
I took a deep breath and settled back into the sofa. “I ruined my marriage. I felt as though I was going to hurt everyone I was involved with even more if I stayed, which is funny because it took so many years to realize that. To see the toxicity of that triangle was my presence in it.”
Years, right. The truth wasn’t something the mortal before me would understand, so I was better off just being as vague as possible about certain things.
“There was a couple that I was assisting with their issues. The wife had been ill, terribly so, and so they sought out help when she was feeling enough like herself to put their sex life back together. Of all the couples and individuals that I worked with, there was something about them that affected me as no one else ever had.” But it wasn’t in the way one might think. “He was the most patient and attentive individual I had ever seen. It was more than that. Each time they came in, he worried more for her ability to enjoy herself than anything that might be done for him. Over time, sex was the last thing we would talk about, and I knew I should turn our talks back to what they had come for, but there was just…” I didn’t know how to finish that thought. “How do you explain color to the blind? How do you tell a fish how it is to walk? If you were not there, if you did not experience the love they had for one another, then I could never explain it to you. It was an energy that filled the room. It was something that comforted and devoured you. And many times, I fell to tears after they left because I could no longer remember if I had ever felt that love for myself.” If I had, it’d been centuries ago, and I was more callous and cruel for having closed myself off to it. “She passed, and I referred him to a grief counselor and told him he could return if he needed my assistance going forward. And then I left. That love leaving the world drove me to find out why I could not have that love for myself. I want to fix what I was, what I never want to be again, a monstress that worsens my own dark dreams.”
The look on her face stopped me. How long had she been giving me that unreadable look? I licked my lips and sat a little straighter, twisting a strand of aqua-tipped hair around my finger. “That expression is a bit disconcerting,” I mumbled out, shifting uncomfortably once more.
“I was thinking of how to respond because I feel like you’ve begun opening yourself to all the things you’d taken for granted once, but you still don’t know how to do it. So now I have to ask you, do you want to go back and try to mend what was broken? Or would you rather start a new life? You obviously know how to do that. You came here and caused quite a stir before stumbling into my office. And I think you could do it again.”
Neither option would be easy. And I knew that, in a way, the latter wasn’t really an option. “Making amends is the only option for me. I cannot see a life without returning to the life I left behind.”
I knew that I had to return. I had ignored the summons for long enough. Well, I had been there as requested, but I saw the monster that I had become. A cruel, loveless goddess that was burning everything I had with my actions. It took fragile mortals to remind me of the hope I once had. I hadn’t even realized it had left me. Too many things had happened for me to stay there, to keep pretending that I wasn’t becoming all that I loathed.
Part of my arrival in the ridiculously named little town was still missing from my memory. I had decided on a path of self-destruction as part of my healing, it seemed. But I had brought it all upon myself, as I always did. I could no longer remember what it was that had made me close my heart off, to make me an empty husk of what I once was.
The word hissed through my head and made my blood run cold. She didn’t notice. Good. That word, that accusation, showed that somewhere in my mind, there was the truth that I refused to see. Maybe I needed to, maybe I needed to give in to the dream, and I needed to search out that voice. It’d been a long time since I had faced some of the darkest parts of my past. It would probably be best to start with those after the summons. Not that going back any further would be any harder or easier. It was going to be miserable no matter what order I decided to go in.
“That’s it for today. Just think about what we talked about and see if that answer is your obligation or how you really feel.” It looked like she wanted to say more, but she just gave me that same friendly smile she always gave when our sessions began and ended. We stood, my feet slipping back into the heels with practiced ease before I let her usher me out of her office.
Outside, the world felt too bright, too warm. Was I still that cold inside? My hand went to the center of my chest as my other slipped a pair of sunglasses onto my face. New Mexico. While I wasn’t sure how I’d ended up there, in the ironic town of Truth or Consequences, I’d made more steps towards becoming a better me than I had anywhere else before. That thought made me want to gag, but I managed to resist as I headed for the car, grateful for the iced coffee waiting for me. Sometimes it wasn’t so difficult to find good help, it seemed.
“Where to?” While he was good help, he still hadn’t figured me out yet. Perhaps he never would. I didn’t plan to be there long enough for him or anyone else to anyways. Any other day I’d have fun seeing his reaction to giving him a random location, seeing how he tried to understand why I would want to go to such a place, especially if it was incredibly remote yet specific coordinates. Not today, though. Today, I knew what I had to do.
So, I told him the one place I’d never told him when he picked me up from her office. “Home.” Oh, that look on his face was worth the misery I was about to put myself through. Perhaps I could still have some fun as I had to do what needed to be done. I could feel the smile on my lips as I sipped the caffeine that I had apparently come to live on. “Before we melt, please,” I prompted him, realizing that he was still sitting with a look of confusion on his face.
My words seemed to pull him from whatever thought he’d been lost in. He quickly pulled out of the parking spot and drove us toward my home. Well, my temporary home in the desert. It was a home that fit my human life, with perhaps a bit more grandeur than necessary since most of my arrival and settling in there was a blur. It was why the random driver and assistant were still confused by me, as though I was a different person from the one that had hired them. In a way, I was.
I was losing time. First in the therapy session, then on the drive home. The obnoxious sound of me pulling air through the straw in the empty drink made me frown, and I set it aside quickly, avoiding the driver’s glance. We were home? Already? I blinked a few times before getting out, hurrying into the house that I hoped wouldn’t be my home for much longer. Losing time while being self-destructive was one thing, but now I was just…lost? I nearly kicked my heels across the room as I hurriedly removed them, not even bothering to walk up to my room.
I concentrated on my bedroom and popped out of existence. When I ran face first into the shower door instead of standing in the middle of my bedroom, I realized how long it had been since I tried to use my abilities. Had I ever gone that long without using them before? My cheeks burned with humiliation. I shouldn’t be having this much difficulty. I sighed and rubbed my face for a moment before walking to my bedroom and falling back onto the crimson duvet. It was too embarrassing to ask for help. I refused to let anyone know what had become of me. I would discover what had happened to my powers, and on my journey from Olympus City, on my own. I just had to figure out what I was looking for first.