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by M.W. Whitaker about a year ago in Short Story · updated about a month ago
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or Getting Back to Who You Are

Photo by Jim Witkowski on Unsplash

Lucy took a shower. Her mind was seething. As she dried her long dark hair, she wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror. She stared at her reflection. Her brown eyes looked back at her. She could see only vestiges of who she once was. She turned away from the mirror. That nutjob therapist asked her a question that seemed simple, but she didn’t know the answer. The therapist had asked who she was.

She remembered being small, two men in highway patrol uniforms coming to her grandma’s house and telling them that her parents were gone, killed in a car wreck. Grandma took her in. Grandma ran a bakery. And every year on her birthday, there was always a freshly baked slice of chocolate cake, with rich frosting, that was hers and hers alone. She remembered laughing with Grandma when they had flour fights in the kitchen, and always having a smudge of flour on her cheek that Grandma would wipe off to send her off to school.

When Lucy was a teenager, she worked in the bakery to help Grandma out. Lucy won a full ride to Stanford and began pursuing her MFA in Fine Arts. She finished her semester, and during the summer break, Grandma died in her sleep. She had left the bakery as well as the house to Lucy. She kept working at the bakery, not really knowing why. She only vaguely remembered the following few months. Lucy’s relationship with Bruce was a blur. They dated, he proposed, she felt happy. He turned cold, then he told her he had met someone else. As she watched Bruce drive off, she even caught a glimpse of her. Long blond hair, blood red dress, and a pair of Cartier sunglasses that were more expensive than practical. Now she wandered through an empty house.

Lucy wondered how he had met her and wondered how much Bruce and her replacement had in common. Was she adventurous like he was? Rock climbing? Zip lining? Sailing? Working out at the gym? Yoga? In what venue did they exchange glances that became something more? At what point did she go from being someone he knew to being her replacement. That floored her. Her replacement. She had been replaced in so many ways. Replaced in his bed, which he had taken with him. She couldn’t even cry. She was numb.

Only a few things were left. She sat in the ancient armchair which she had also inherited from her grandma. How many times had Bruce rolled his eyes and asked her to get rid of it? She never would though.

She had a bit of money put by, but sooner or later, she’d have to start making plans. She didn’t know how many calls there were from friends, or text messages. She finally put a terse message up on social media telling everyone that she was ok when she wasn’t and that she just needed some time. She spent so many nights sleeping in the armchair, a thin blanket on her.

After a few weeks, she answered a private message from her friend Marjorie, and they met for coffee.

“I can’t believe you signed the papers,” Marjorie shook her head as she sipped her latte.

“I want closure,” Lucy shrugged, trying to smile.

“I get that, but there is something to be said for misery especially his. If you dragged out the divorce, he might even end up miserable and that high maintenance ice queen would leave him.”

“If this were some rom-com,” Lucy said, “I’d fight for him, he’d come to his senses and try to get me back, but there would be a handy hunk standing by who I’d end up with instead.”

Marjorie peered at her over her tortoise shell glasses.

“Is there one?”

“One what?” Lucy asked.

“A handy hunk?”

For the first time in a long while, Lucy laughed. It sounded strange to her.

“No. I wish, but no.”

“Well, here’s to handy hunks.” Marjorie raised her coffee mug.

They clinked coffee mugs, solemnly then both started laughing.

“Maybe we should start a service,” Lucy chuckled, “Handy Hunks. Kind of like all those skeevy breastaurants where the servers all run around in skimpy outfits so that a bunch of guys going through a mid-life can ogle them.”

“Ogling can be fun,” Marjorie said, musing, “Especially with a nice piece of man candy around. Some chiseled hunk who does household repairs in a pair of gym shorts or tight jeans and nothing else. After you recover from your recent surgery that’s something you might consider.”

“What are you talking about? What surgery?” Lucy replied, perplexed.

“You know. The one where that extra asshole got detached from your life.”

Lucy spit her coffee out, laughing, as did Marjorie. The other patrons gave them a glance, which set both of them off laughing even more. When they calmed down, Lucy put her hand on Marjorie’s arm.

“Hey. Thanks for all of this. It really helped.”

“Anytime, sweetie, Marjorie smiled, “Anytime.”

A few weeks later, the divorce was final. Bruce had been somewhat generous in the divorce settlement, though as the CEO of a tech startup, he could have probably given a lot more. She tried to weave her life into a new pattern but found it beyond her. One minute she was almost back to her old self. The next, she was full of sorrow, rage, and self-doubt.

Lucy started seeing therapists. But none of them seemed to help. Everyone explained that therapy was a process. But Lucy wanted answers. She went through about three or four of them, when her friend Darius and his partner Greg told her to try a small practice run by an older woman in the Haight of all places.

As she stepped out of her Lyft ride, Lucy looked at the aqua and pink building more than a little dubiously. Some tourists were snapping pictures around, and there were even a few hippie cosplayers around and surprisingly even some old actual hippies.

She almost flagged the Lyft driver, asking him to take her back home. But he drove off too quick. She pushed the button on the old brass call box next to number 9 “Dr. Star Moonwind.”

What the hell am I doing? Lucy thought to herself. Whoever this lady was, she was obviously out there. Star Moonwind? Seriously? Ten to one her place reeked of patchouli and incense, and she’d tell her to pay attention to her archetypes or some other unhelpful information.

“Yes?” A rich female voice said.

“I’m Lucy Kroger, sorry Lucy Field. I have an appointment.”

“Come on up. Number nine.”

The buzzer sounded and Lucy grabbed the door before it latched. She trudged up the stairs to number nine and knocked. The door opened to a slight smell of Nag Champa, though thankfully no patchouli. An older woman regarded her. Her gray kinked hair was pulled into a ponytail with a tie-dye scrunchie, and she was dressed in a deep teal sundress. China blue eyes behind thick glasses regarded her. There were macrame rugs on the floor and a few beaded curtains and tapestries.

“Come on in. I’m Dr. Moonwind,” she said smiling, “I know, my folks loved the Sixties.”

She escorted Lucy into the apartment/office. Lucy half expected that they’d be sitting on a couple of bean bag chairs. To her surprise however, there was a comfortable overstuffed chair, and a matching love seat.

“I’m afraid my days of sitting on the floor are largely behind me. Please sit down.”

On the wall were framed photographs, and rather conspicuously, a Psychology Degree.

“I’ll start if you don’t mind,” The doctor said looking at her directly.

Lucy blinked.

“Ok then,” she replied.

“I’m Doctor Star Moonwind. I’m a professional psychologist. I have also studied meditation both here and at an ashram in India. I was born in the Summer of Love, which I still think is pretty damn cool. I don’t drink much, smoke anything, including pot, and I don’t do drugs. I love sailboats, the ocean, and living in San Francisco. Now, as for you. Who are you?”

“I’m sorry, I thought I mentioned that already. Lucy Field.”

“’Lucy Kroger sorry I mean Field’ if I heard correctly. That’s quite a mouthful. And it’s all very well and good, but that’s just your name. Who are you?”

Lucy was vexed.

What is up with this lady anyway? She thought.

“I guess this was a mistake,” she said starting to rise to her feet.

“Mistake? Of course it was. I can’t help someone if they don’t know who they are, or if they are unwilling to find out,” Star said, writing some notes down.

“Look, Dr. Moonwind, I am here because I just went through a divorce and I don’t know how to process any of it.”

“Mmm hmm,” the doctor replied, writing down some more notes, “I read your questionnaire that you filled out on my website.”

There was silence in the room. Lucy stared at Dr. Moonwind feeling more than a little irritated.

The doctor looked up.

“Are you still here? I’m deeply sorry, but I think our time is up. There’s no charge for today. but I do have more constructive uses of my time.”

She got up and started guiding Lucy to the door.

“Goodbye now. Oh, if you’re ready to answer my question, my number’s on the card. Lucy found herself out in the hallway, the door closed and she could hear the sound of the locks clicking. The whole visit lasted no more than a minute.

What the hell, Lucy thought.

Lucy angrily hailed a ride back home. In the back of the car, she fumed. She was beyond furious. That’s all she seemed to feel now: differing degrees of anger. She tried to go to sleep. She found herself pacing the floor instead.

The next day, she found herself back in the Haight. She pushed the buzzer.

“Who is it?” The doctor’s voice sounded tinny.

“It’s me. Lucy Field.”

“Oh, what now?” the Doctor said, “I pretty much told you I couldn’t really help you. Sorry.”

“The thing is,” Lucy said, haltingly, “I don’t know who I am.”

“Finally. An honest answer. Come on up.”

Lucy went up the stairs. Over the next few months, and with a lot of coaxing, she was able to talk about it all.

“I don’t like giving up who I am, or losing someone I love. And I am tired of being angry.”

Star nodded once but said nothing.

“I don’t like my time wasted. Bruce wasted it, I thought you did that first time, which is why I was so angry. I think I understand your method now.”

“What else are you feeling?” Star asked softly.

“I’m scared,” Lucy admitted, “I still think there’s more I need to find out. I hope I can continue to consult with you.”

Star stood up and embraced her lightly.

“Always.”

Lucy bought some pans and bowls, and then stopped at the grocery store. She caught herself smiling at the handsome clerk behind the counter, and he smiled back. When she got home, she started to make some batter. Later, she took a bite of the chocolate cake that she had just made. she caught her reflection in the mirror. There was a smudge of flour on her cheek, and a smile that made her think of a gap-toothed little girl who had come to live with her grandma. She was coming back. There were plans in place of emptiness. She knew who she was. And most of all she knew the most powerful thing of all. She knew that she was home.

I hope you enjoyed my story. Tips, pledges, and subscriptions are most welcome.

Short Story

About the author

M.W. Whitaker

I'm from Mesa, AZ. I have been writing stories since I was a child. Tips and subscriptions are always welcome, both on here and at my Kofi Page:

https://ko-fi.com/mwwhitaker

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