Darrel was spending another day at the zoo just enjoying the animals when he noticed a woman sitting on a nearby bench going between playing with her hair and fiddling with her hands. Her expression alone was enough to see something was deeply wrong so he walked over “could I sit down?” he asked. Her eyes widened and then she looked away “I was just leaving”
“I wanted to talk to you”
“You look upset”
“You’re not, please talk to me.” She started to tremble and his heart went out to her “can’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
“I’m a freak is what’s wrong. Go away! Please, just dont touch me” she got up and ran off. Darrel deeply frowned and wanted to chase her but whatever her problem was wasn’t an every day one. He hadn’t touched her or made any attempt to touch her and yet she told him not to. In his profession as a psychiatrist that was a sign of physical or sexual abuse of some kind. Him chasing her down would do nothing but cause her more mental pain so he just got up and left the zoo, unable to enjoy it any longer. She stayed on his mind the rest of the day and until he was resting that night. When morning came he had to work or he might have actually gone to the zoo again to see if he could get a second chance to talk to her but for now his patients needed him.
His first appointment of the day was Lisa. She had been coming to him and pretty much wasting his time for five years now. She truly didn’t have any problem aside wanting attention. She’d make up issue after issue she was seeing him for when truly her issues laid in her childhood. Both of her parents had been workaholics and mostly ignored her and her siblings. Now in adulthood she sought attention in any way she could get it. He tried his best to get her to talk about her childhood to fix her attention seeking issues but she always refused. The toughest part of his job was getting people to talk about what was actually needed to talk about.
Some days it made him feel terrible as a psychiatrist but then he’d remind himself of all his successes and how every psychiatrist faced patients that refused to work through their real problems. When she was done the couple who had been in his waiting room came in for their eleventh round of couples therapy. They had been making great progress and he was proud of himself and them for fixing so many problems between them in only eleven visits. Soon he knew they wouldn’t even need his mediation anymore and be able to handle things on their own which excited him. Unlike a lot of men and women in his profession who did this for the money it made his heart soar when a patient no longer needed him and could move on with a happier life because he helped them.
The genuine joy he got out of it was matched nowhere else. After them he only had two more people to see. The next was simple but the last he dreaded. He was forced to come by court order. He had molested his four year old daughter and it sickened Darrel this pig was out of jail. Today John sickened him all the more as he remembered that woman from the zoo. He wondered if it could be childhood trauma as this mans daughter suffered. He hoped not. It was one thing to be molested by a stranger but you went into a whole other realm of trauma when molested by someone you trust, especially a parent.
As always John only made Darrels hatred worse with his false remorse. He wasn’t sorry one lick and had told the courts that but he was still free to walk among people as long as he never molested again. It was beyond frustrating that John would have to ruin another persons life to be sent back where he belonged. Darrel breathed easier when that man was out of his office. He packed up and went home, wishing he didn’t have to work again tomorrow. All he wanted was to go to the zoo and find that woman again.
Selena sat on her couch, legs tucked under her, a throw pillow hugged tightly in her arms. The zoo, even now it still terrified her beyond reason and even worse she had run away from a well meaning man who had showed her genuine concern. She had begged him not to touch her even though he had not made a single move to do so, had let her fear get the best of her because of what those people had done. She buried her face in the pillow and cried until her head hurt, hating her inability to get over this lingering terror. Her stomach growling forced her to get off the couch and she made herself a bowl of left over stir fry. She flopped back down on the couch and turned on the TV, letting it stay on the channel it was already on since she just wanted the noise. She knew she would have to go back again, it was something her psychiatrist had suggested she do in hopes she could let go of the past and move on.
She ate slowly, taking almost an hour to finish her food. Her mind drifted back to the man at the zoo, the warmth and compassion in his eyes and his bright green hair that stuck out like a beacon in the large groups of people moving throughout the zoo. He had even left her alone when she had fled and in the briefness she had allowed herself to glance back she had seen him sitting there just frowning. She wanted to apologize for her actions and thank him for his kindness, but she doubted she would ever see him again. A part of her was scared to talk to him while another urged her to seek him out and make sure she had not hurt his feelings in any way. She sighed and took her bowl to the kitchen, quickly washing it then going back to the couch where she curled up and stared at the TV.
She fell asleep there but thankfully her alarm in her bedroom still woke her despite being so far away from it. She dressed and readied for work then went out to her car. She enjoyed the day care center she worked at. She was friends with all the parents aside from the newest ones that had just started dropping off their children within the past few months but she knew they would become friends aswell. Today her best friend Linda was working which she really needed after making another attempt at the zoo.
“How was the big try yesterday?’ Linda asked. “horrible and I really hurt someone feelings”
“He was trying to be kind to me because I was afraid and all I did was yell at him and run. I feel so terrible”
“If he knew what you went through those months when you were a little girl I’m sure he wouldn’t blame you. Do you want me to try going with you again?”
“You know how I hate for you to see me like that. I’m hardly me when I’m in that zoo. Its frustrating that I’m normal now everywhere else but I cant go into the zoo without becoming some weirdo”
“I dont like when you use those words to describe yourself. There is nothing wrong with you because you can’t handle that place Selena” A two year old crying stopped the conversation in its tracks and they went to him “what happened?”
“Hit me” he said through his tears and pointed at a four year old girl. “hes a liar” she said as she crossed her arms “Megan, what did we tell you about hitting and lieing.” Linda took Megan to the time out corner while Selena comforted the little boy. It didn’t take him long to want down and play with the other children so Linda and Selena just sat, watching and talking. Until lunch time it was only the two of them there since a majority of the kids they watched at the daycare center didn’t come until later in the day. They had a lot of second and third shift parents drop their kids off because they were one of only two daycare centers that were open past six pm.
“Doctor Hyland?” He was staring out the window, his mind on her instead of on work. “Doctor Hyland.” He jumped and turned his attention back to his patient.
“Oh Jessica, I’m sorry.” He pulled his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Are you alright?” The seventeen year old girl asked. She was dealing with the ups and downs of being adopted and came in once a week to discuss any issues she was having.
“Yes, how rude of me to sit here spacing out. Please, start over.” He slipped his glasses back on his face and smiled.
“Come on doc, tell me what’s going on? I mean you listen to all my problems so let me hear yours.”
He chuckled. “That’s because it’s my job to listen to you Jessica.” She rolled her eyes, still very much a teenager.
“You’ll feel better if you get it off your chest, isn’t that what you tell me and besides I doubt the shrink has a shrink.”
He laughed. “Alright, alright. Maybe you should go to college to be a psychiatrist. Anyway, I went to the zoo the day before yesterday before work and there was this woman there. She looked troubled, scared even to be there. I tried talking to her and she screamed at me not to touch her and ran away. You and I both know what that means.” Jessica nodded. “Anyway, I’ve been worried about her since then and I can’t get her out of my head. The look on her face wad devastating, I mean it really wrenched at my heart.”
“Maybe she’ll go back to the zoo.”
“Maybe, but she seemed really terrified to be there. Perhaps I should keep going there and see if I run into her again.”
He smiled. “So, what is it you wanted to talk about?”
“Well as you know I’m going to be both turning eighteen and graduating this year, well my biological mother called and asked if she could come and I don’t know what to say. She’s only called a handful of times since my adoption and hasn’t really made any time for me, but now all of a sudden she wants to be in my life. Mom and dad said I should give her a chance and let her come, but I just don’t know.”
“What I want you to think about are the pros and cons of her going to your graduation. Sit down with a notebook and write them down, also think about how she has treated you in the handful of times she’s called. Was she cruel, was she distant or was she warm and friendly? If the pros far outweigh the cons I would consider letting her at least go to your graduation, but remember this is just my professional opinion, the final decision is up to you.”
“Ok, thank you”
“thank you aswell today.” Jessica smiled “I hope you find her.” Now that Jessica was done his day was free so Darrel packed his things, tidied the office then went home to change out of his suit and go to the zoo again. It was only four in the afternoon and during the summer the zoo closed at seven thirty so he had three hours and thirty minuets of chance to run into that woman again.
Five o clock came and Selena clocked out before saying bye to the children. Linda normally got off when she did but today she was working a double shift to cover for Thomas. Linda stopped Selena before she could leave “hey, remember, theres nothing wrong with you being afraid of that zoo. It was there that the worst three months of your life started. You’re strong for trying to get over your fear. Just keep trying and I’m always willing to go with you if you’ll let me” Selena hugged Linda tightly “Love you girl, have a good night”
“Love you” Selena sat in her car, debating going to the zoo or just giving herself a break until the weekend. She thought of her nieces and nephews, all wanting badly for her to enjoy the zoo with them. They never understood why she wouldn’t go and she couldn’t explain. Determined Selena decided to grab a burger from Burger King and then try again.
Darrel walked through the zoo, his eyes ever watchful as he looked for her face. It was still clear in his mind, her soft brown eyes were haunted, a look of fear had marred her beautiful face, a look he wanted to wipe away. He knew he could help her if he could just find her. He started back to where he had first talked to her, going the long way to give her more time to show up if she was going to. He stopped in his tracks when he saw her walk through the gate where they stamped your hand. She looked apprehensive, her body tense as she fought against her fight or flight response. She started slowly toward the polar bear exhibit and he followed her, staying just far enough behind that she wouldn’t immediately spot him if she turned around.
Selena was shaking like mad and her whole body was clenched with fear. Her hear slammed against her chest, beating out a loud, frightened rhythm in her ears. She took a deep breath, telling herself she could do this, that she had to do it or she would never get better. The bench she always sat on came into sight and her legs became weak. Her lip quivered and she felt tears of frustration burning in her eyes. She dropped down on the bench, burying her face in her hands. There were many times when she had broke down into full blown blubbering because of trying to force herself to get close to the spot she was abducted. She wished she could stop the panic that rose in her heart, that made her feel sick, but no matter how many times she told herself she could do it, she always seemed to fail.
“Hey, excuse me miss?” Her head came up at the familiar voice and she whipped her head around, surprised to see the man from before. “Do you remember me?”
She looked so sad again, each tears seeming to crack his heart. Selena wiped her face “Yeah, I’m so sorry for treating you like that yesterday. You were being nice and I acted like a lunatic…I..I just have trouble here”
“It’s ok, I was sad but not upset with you. Do you think I could sit with you today? I’ll sit in front of the bench as far away as you like if I need to or just keep standing and move back as far as I need to. You have complete control over what I’m doing” Selenas heart hammered, both in fear and because of the kindness in his eyes. Most people would have held it against her, made her explain but he just wanted to talk. “You can sit with me” Darrel sat down, giving as much space between them as the bench allowed.
“do you want to talk about why you’re so upset? Are you always this scared when you meet new people?” Selena smirked “You wouldn’t recognize me when I’m not here. I make friends easily and am carefree. It’s just this zoo. Somthing happened here when I was a little girl and I come here trying to get over it. Well, I guess I should say the horrible thing started here and now I just cant be in this particular zoo”
Selena looked away, a look of fear, anger and shame on her face. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed. I’m sure you have every right to be afraid and It’s brave yo go to a place you fear. What made you decide to?”
“Promise you wont think I’m crazy?”
“After said event I freaked out and my parents started making me see a psychiatrist. I saw him twice a week until I became, well, I guess normal again. I probably go once a month now to talk about the zoo. He’s happy to see me whenever I call and need to vent to someone that isn’t Linda. She’s my best friend by the way. She’s always there for me but I don’t want to blubber to her too much and then she not want to be around me anymore.”
“I’m sure if she’s your best friend she doesn’t mind when you need her”
“I’m Selena by the way, Selena Jenks”
“I’m Darrel Hyland, it’s wonderful to meet you”
“It’s not, I’m such a basket case right now”
“You are a wonderful woman, I can tell”
“I’m hoping I can handle this place soon but it isn’t looking so good”
“Well for one, if it upsets you this much you shouldn’t be coming alone. You should bring someone to encourage you and help calm you when you’re scared. Coming her alone isn’t helping, it’s probably giving you nightmares”
“yeah, it does..how do you know that? You talk about this with me as if you fully understand it.” Darrel blushed, hoping she didn’t react badly to his profession. “I’m a psychiatrist” Selena just stared a few moments before saying “so thats why you didn’t have question. You can read me”
“Your body language is all”
“Do you often try to help people for free? Must be bad for business”
“Just the ones my heart goes out to”
“I dont have to be your charity case. Go, enjoy your time off work. You see crazies every day”
“You aren’t crazy Selena” Selena blushed now realizing “You know what happened to me don’t you?” He could tell by her voice and posture that made her upset, embarrassed even. “I wont lie to you though it was tempting when you caught on how I understand whats going on. I can tell it was some form of physical or sexual abuse because yesterday you asked me not to touch you when I didn’t even try”
“More like shouted at you”
“It was the only way you could ask in your panic. I could see how frightened you were. I can only truly know what happened if you tell me and theres no rush. Tell me when you’re comfortable. Truly what i see in you is a friend. I can read peoples personalities fairly easy and I can already tell I like who you are. Could we be friends? Maybe do somthing outside the zoo somtimes?”
“sure, I’d like that”
“Could you do me a favor?”
“what is it?”
“stop coming here alone, let me come with you. It’s ridiculous he didn’t tell you to bring anyone”
“ok, you can but for now can we talk about other things?”
“Of course” Darrel wanted to sit closer to her but decided to stay on the safe side and give her room. They stayed until closeing, just talking to one another. It actually surprised Selena when the zoo was closing, it had felt like at most fifteen minuets had passed. They exchanged numbers then walked out together. Darrel felt sad again when he saw how hard it was for her to walk through this zoo which only pissed him off further that her psychiatrist had her going alone. Outside he asked “so who do you go see?”
‘Robert Easter” that didn’t shock Darrel one bit. He was notorious among psychiatrists for almost fixing people. He’d help them work through almost everything but he would do his best to string along one final thing as long as he could. He felt unreasonably angry since he had already known this but for some reason with her it enraged him. “why?’ she asked when he didn’t answer “I was just asking. When can I see you again?”
“outside the zoo or here?”
“maybe outside so i can get to know you somewhere you’re comfortable”
“Want to come over to my house for Netflix and dinner? I’ll cook for you”
“Tomorrow when I get off work? I’ll be off at five but wait until seven so I can be ready and have the meal cooked”
“Sounds good, I’ll see you tomorrow then.” She gave him a small smile which made his heart skip a beat. They parted ways, both of them getting in their cars and pulling out of the parking lot. He honked at her once and waved bye to her, smiling when she waved back. He was excited about seeing her tomorrow, strangely so. He hoped he could help her through her fear and that she would be willing to open up a little more. He went straight home and pulled his work clothes off and a pair of shorts on. He decided he was too tired to cook anything big so he preheated the oven and once it beeped he grabbed a pot pie out of the freezer and stuck it inside. He set a timer then flopped down on his couch and switched on the TV.
Selena had to admit she was nervous about being alone with Darrel. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her, he had been nothing but considerate of her feelings, but it still scared her a little. She kept telling herself that he was a professional and he would understand. He worked with many people with a myriad of issues and wouldn’t look down on her for crying or being frightened. She had been doing so well with the exception of the zoo so she hoped everything went smoothly during dinner tomorrow. She went ahead and planned to make lemon herb roasted chicken which would take about an hour so she could start it an hour after work and it would be hot by the time he arrived. She pulled out her phone and sent him a message asking, “Do you like chicken?” He sent one back saying, “I love it.” She smiled and pulled the chicken out of the freezer and stuck it in the fridge to start it thawing.
The next day Darrel only had two people to see which wasn’t nearly enough. He would have way too much free time until seven. His first appointment was new. She had a fear of water that didn’t originate anywhere that anybody knew of. He welcomed her into his office and began. Thomas was in this morning for Linda since she stayed for him last night “morning Thomas” Selena said with a smile. “Morning Selena, how are you?”
“Good, nervous about my friend coming over tonight”
“Who and for what and why wasn’t I invited.” He frowned and faked a small sniffle. Selena laughed “A friend I made at the zoo. We’re going to have dinner and watch Netflix”
“cool, am i not invited because he’s handsome?” Selena blushed “No, I mean, he’s handsome but thats not why we’ll be alone” Thomas laughed “I’m kidding, it would be great if you had a boyfriend. In the years we’ve worked together you haven’t had one. Have you ever had one?”
“Really?” He asked shocked since he didn’t know what happened to her when she was younger. “No, never wanted one”
“Maybe he’ll change that but who am I to talk. I havent had a girlfriend in atleast a year.” They stopped talking and went to play with the children they had this morning. Thomas playing in the castle with a few of the children while Selena helped some of the other children with finger paints. After Darrels second appointment he decided to take care of paperwork he had been neglecting. As much as he loved his job he hated the paperwork involved and normally put it off as long as he could. To his dismay it was only four when he caught up.
As he walked out his secretary jumped up and scared him “Maria, I thought you’d be home since I finished seeing people hours ago”
“Tomorrows appointment canceled so you’re free. I just didn’t want you to come in tomorrow thinking you had anybody to see”
“Thanks, you could have just come in and told me though.”
“I hate to disturb you”
“Please, disturb me. You should be home.”
“I’ll see you the day after tomorrow then Darrel”
“see you” Darrel felt bad for his secretary. He had long since deduced her father treated her more like a burden than anything else. It’s why she was always worried about bothering people and was so submissive to the men she dated. In all relationships she was seeking out approval and it wasn’t healthy nor would it lead to a happy future.
Selena grew more and more nervous as the last hour of work slowly crept by. It was almost as if time itself was teasing her, wanting her in a jittery state of mind. She read to a group of children while one little two year old girl sat on her lap, her eyes drooping sleepily after a long day of playing. When her shift was over she told the children by, bid Thomas goodnight and very nearly ran out of the building and to her car. She managed to keep herself from speeding and was no more relieved when she finally made it home. She made sure her car was locked before hurrying inside, immediately going to the fridge and checking on the chicken. It still felt like it might be a little frozen so she filled the kitchen sink with warm water and sat it in there. She then hurried to her room, not wanting to wear what she had worked in, and stripped down to her panties and bra.
She looked through her clothes, wanting to look nice, but not too dressy. She settled on a pair of blue jeans and a salmon colored t-shirt with filigrees swirling up the front. She pulled them on then let her hair down and brushed it out. She tended to keep it up because some of the kids like to yank on her hair when they were in her lap. When she was finished getting ready she picked up around her apartment then checked on the chicken. She was happy to see it was defrosted so started the oven preheating while she cut the chicken out of its bag and started preparing it. The oven beeped and she slid the chicken inside then set a timer. Now all she had to do was wait which had her going between sitting, standing, and pacing nervously around her living room.
The chicken was very nearly done when she heard a knock at her door. She answered with a nervous smile “hey”
“Hey, you look gorgeous” he said with a sincerity that tinted her cheeks. “Thank you, you look handsome yourself” He smiled, feeling abnormally happy to hear those words from her. She let Darrel in and guided him to the kitchen “was there anything you wanted to watch tonight? How late can you stay?”
“as late as i want. I’m off tomorrow. Do you work?”
“Regrettably, if you want to stay late I can text Susan to see if she can work in the morning. She only works two days a week for extra money and is normally willing to take shifts”
“Please, I’d really like to stay late with you” Butterflys brushed Selenas stomach and she walked into the living room to grab her phone. The alarm went off as soon as she had it so she rushed back in the kitchen to take their dinner out. Darrel didn’t say so but it smelled absolutely amazing and he couldn’t wait to have some. He hoped her cooking was as good as his nose told him it was. Once ti was served she texted her friend quickly then sat down with Darrel. She was a few bites in when she received a text back ‘sure sweetheart, have fun”
Selena turned off her phone so it wouldn’t interrupt them any more this evening “she’s taking my shift” Selena couldn’t realize how relieved he was he could stay late with her and he wouldn’t say so, not yet. He had real feeling for her and he wasnt sure if she could handle him moving too quickly with them. “so what do you do?”
“I work at a daycare. It’s that twenty four hour one on May Street”
“Do you enjoy working there?”
She nodded with a big smile. “I love it actually. How about you, do you like being a psychiatrist?”
“Yes I do. Helping people is what makes me happy, no matter what ails them.” She took a bite of food, feeling nervous again. Even though he had guessed what had happened her, actually voicing it to him scared her. “You don’t have to tell me what happened to you if you’re not ready.” He said, seeing the internal struggle she was having.
“Wouldn’t it be better if I did, so you understand my apprehension in going to the zoo?”
“Any information you are willing to divulge would help, but you shouldn’t feel forced to share it. I can help you without knowing everything.” He was trying to reassure her. “Oh and I promise not to touch you unless I have your permission, in fact you can touch me if you want too. If you need a hug or a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold when you’re scared all you have to do is grab me.”
“You’re giving me control.”
“It’s what you need. You’ve taken control of every other part of your life so I’m going to give you the tools to get control of the last little bit.”
“I don’t know if I want to talk about it yet”
“Don’t until you want to. Don’t feel like I’m only hanging around you because of how I found you. I do want to help but I also really like you. Granted, that makes me want to help you more but i wont rush you. I want to get to know you, everything, not just the bad. if you want to talk about dinner we’ll talk about dinner, if you want to talk about whatever we watch together this evening then that’s what we’ll do”
Selena smiled, feeling a load of pressure taken off her shoulders. He could tell and went back to eating. As they enjoyed dinner they talked about their days, more so hers than his. He couldn’t really talk about his patients and she seemed happy talking about the daycare center. When they were full Darrel asked ‘should I help you clean up?”
“Oh no, I’ll just leave this all by the sink and clean up tomorrow since I don’t have work anyway. Maybe after you leave if I’m restless” He helped her put the dishes by the sink “do you want more tea?” She asked as she opened the fridge to grab a pepsi. “Do you have any other soda aside from Pepsi?”
“Cherry coke and Dr Pepper”
“Cherry coke then please”
“You don’t like Pepsi?”
“It’s just bland to me” Selena handed him a cherry coke before they walked into her living room. “so, I’ll sit down first and you can sit however close to me you feel comfortable, sound good?’ Darrel asked. “ok” Selena answered. Darrel sat right up against the end of the couch to ensure she had all the space she needed. He normally liked the middle but her becoming comfortable with him was much more important. Darrel was happy when she didn’t sit very far away atall. She was at most a cushions length away from him. “I’m glad you’re that comfortable.”
“I told you, I’m better outside the zoo. Not half as crazy”
“Selena, please. Don’t talk about yourself that way.” Selena smiled “Linda gets on me about that too. You sound just like her”
“She’s a good friend then”
“She is, she knows everything about me. Is willing to talk about anything in the world and is always there to comfort me. I could call her at three am and say I needed a friend and she’d come running for me”
“Then she’s a real friends. Friends are always willing to be there for one another no matter what if they can be”
“what would you like to watch?”
“Tonight is about your choices. Pick somthing you’d enjoy”
“I want you to like it too. Atleast give me what type of thing you’re in the mood for”
“Hm, I’m always in for somthing funny, I can be picky when it comes to scary movies and you can do no wrong with an action movie” Selena began flipping through her Q of things she intended to watch to see if any seemed like somthing Darrel would like. “How about the Avengers? Don’t let your jaw drop but I haven’t seen it. Linda and Thomas have been telling me to though and I do love super hero movies”
“Why haven’t you seen it then?”
“I watch TV but not a lot of it.”
“What do you mostly do with your time then?’
“Well, I have my full time job, my friends, I love putting together puzzles. Some I put special glue on the back of and give them away, others I do a few times then donate to the thrift shop on Bontway Drive”
“Bontway, isn’t that the thrift shop that helps battered women?”
“Yeah, I like knowing my donations help women who need to get away from painful situations” Selena seemed to draw within herself and get sad. He knew she was thinking about what she went through and he really wanted to talk about it so he could help her. “Selena, don’t withdraw from it please. Talking to me will really help if you’re willing”
“I just want to watch the movie” Her voice the mirror of the pain she endured. “Tonight’s about what you want. Lets watch it”
Selena glanced at him out of the corner of her eye every once in awhile to see if he was watching her. His eyes were forward, his demeanor completely relaxed as he enjoyed the movie. She looked back at the TV, trying to get into the movie since she had never seen it. “You okay?” He asked.
“Huh, yeah I’m fine.”
“You keep looking at me, what’s on your mind?”
“How did you know I was looking at you?” He smiled.
“I can just barely see you turn your head the tiniest amount when you glance at me. So, what’s bothering you?”
“I envy you I guess, you’re so relaxed and untroubled.”
He turned to face her. “I have my own worries, same as everyone else, I have my stressful days, days where I’m annoyed, and days where I’d like to strangle people. With my training, I’ve learned to examine those emotions and get to the root of the problem. You know, why am I angry, why am I sad, how can help myself let go and move on? I look at it from all angles and come to a solution so my laid back attitude stems from my willingness to move on and not worry about what happened yesterday.”
“I wish I could do that.”
“You went through something far worse than a bad break up or arguing with a loved one. Whatever happened to you was obviously horrifying and that will take a lot longer to move on from. You have to tell yourself that you may never forget what happened to you, but you can forgive, take a deep breath, tell yourself you are in control, and slowly move on. You’ll get there, just be patient and give it time.”
Selena paused the movie but didn’t speak. It looked to Darrel as if she was trying to talk to him about what happened so he stayed his tongue and waited, willing to sit here for hours in silence if thats how long she needed to find the courage to tell him.”You know the exhibit thats near the bench I sit on?”
“The polar bears?”
“what about them?”
“When I was a young girl my parents took me on a trip to the zoo with my sister. There’s an icecream stand just a little bit further from the exhibit and Margaret wanted some but I didn’t want to leave the polar bears…..” she became silent, obviously already to the point of holding back tears. When she could talk again Selena continued “since I was fourteen at the time my parents told me I could stay there and they’d be right back with the icecream. I was happy with any independence so I was thrilled just to stand there and watch the pretty creatures while i waited for my strawberry icecream.”
She took a sharp inhale then a slow exhale. “The zoo wasn’t very busy that day because it was cold which is why we always went when it was cold. We’re crazy for even wanting ice cream when it’s cold but my family and I are pretty resistant to cold. In fact I prefer winter and autumn to spring and summer…..I…I never saw him coming..” Selena swallowed, tears now escaping as they always did when she told her story.
“I felt somthing sharp enter my spin and only moments later I was out. The staff at the zoo told my parents the man said he was my father and I passed out at the sight of blood. He lied to them and said one of their giraffes were bleeding then carried me away with two women following him that claimed to be my Aunts.” Selena reached for his hand and he took it. He had been wanting to hold her and was glad he atleast had her hand now.
“When I woke up I was tied in this horribly painful position. My back was arched with my hands arms together behind me and then under the bed. They had my knees bent with…my legs as far apart as they would go which was painful in itself.. I was alone at first, stuck there until the dark haired woman came in and shouted excitedly that i was awake…they….she…they took pictures with me. They actually enjoyed the fact I was crying and scared.” Darrels heart was pumping a slow rhythm as it sank in his chest. “They’d rape me….most of the time at the same time. They’d be all over me and I was always tied up in different positions so i couldn’t stop them” Selena broke down in heart shattering sobs. Darrel didn’t have to contain the want to hold her a moment longer because she moved closer, wrapped her arms around him and cried into his shoulder. Deep painful sobs that he would do anything to stop.
“It’s okay Selena, just get it all out.” He stroked her hair, a mix of sorrow and anger gripping his heart. “I’m so sorry, so, so sorry.” He said softly and she clung to him tighter.
“I kept telling myself if only I had gone with my parents and sister, I would have been safe.”
“Shh, it wasn’t your fault. If it had not been you it would have been another girl. It had nothing to do with you wanting to see the polar bears and everything to do with them looking for someone vulnerable. It wasn’t your fault, never think that, ever.” He leaned back and tipped her head up, giving her a warm smile as he wiped her tears away. “You are incredibly strong Selena and you can do anything you put your mind too. You will be able to see the polar bears again, I promise.”
“How do you know, maybe I’ll never go back, maybe I’ll always be terrified.”
“I’ll be with you every step of the way, I won’t leave your side. We’ll take baby steps.”
“But what if you get angry or frustrated?”
“I won’t I promise.” He pulled her back into him and she rested her head on his shoulder. She had never felt this safe before and allowed herself to relax completely into him. She wasn’t sure how long they sat like that, all she knew is that she was exhausted and her eyelids began to droop. She fell asleep with him holding her and when he heard her breathing soften he smiled and slowly lifted her off the couch. He carried her into her room and put her in bed then pulled off her shoes and covered her. “Sweet dreams Selena.”
He left her room, closing the door quietly and decided to stay there that night. He opened the hall closet, glad that’s where the blankets were. He would have hated to go back into her room and wake her. He grabbed a couple, folding one to use as a pillow and pulling off his shoes before laying on the couch and starting up The Avengers. He wanted to be there in case she had a nightmare after discussing the trauma she went through.
Late into the night he heard a whimper. He had been hearing phantom sounds because he was worried but he was sure this one was real. He wasn’t up a full second when she started screaming. He ran into Selenas bedroom. She has thrown the blankets off of her and was still struggling against the monsters in her nightmares as she screamed “No! please” and different words that were too fearful and mumbled to even understand.
Darrel tried to get close enough to Selena to wake her but her flailing made things difficult. On one attempt she clawed his face, her sharp nails semi cutting the skin. “Selena! It’s a dream! Wake up Selena!” He pleaded until her eyes snapped open. She looked afraid of him for a few moments but when the haze of the nightmare faded she lunged into his arms and cried again. he stroked her hair and offered calming words until she pulled back, wipeing her face. “I need a drink”
“want me to get it?” She shook her head and feebly got up. She came back looking broken hearted and embarrassed ‘Selena, don’t be embarrassed. It’s amazing you don’t have worse problems” She set her drink down then sat at Darrels side “I used to be a lot worse. Way worse when I started seeing Dr Easter. I’m glad my parents started me seeing sombody”
“Just make sure you don’t tell him I’m helping you, he may get mad. He’s kind of territorial.”
“Why would it matter as long as I’m getting the help I need?”
He slowly reached over and took her hand. “Just trust me on this. Please don’t mention me unless it’s because you plan to make me your primary.”
She squeezed his hand. “Okay, I won’t.”
“Thank you, I just want you happy and healthy.” He brushed his thumb over her hand. “When would you like to go back to the zoo?”
She shrugged. “I guess when you think I’m ready.”
“You need to go when you’re ready. We can start at the bench and work our way from there, remember baby steps.”
“Well, maybe we could start in the morning since I don’t have to go into work.”
“If you really want too, remember there’s no rush.”
“I do, I want to be able to enjoy that zoo so badly”
“Then we’ll go. For now, I’ll stay in here with you until you are ready for me to leave”
“Thank you, where were you before? I remember falling asleep on the couch”
“I carried you in here then slept out there.”
“are you comfortable?”
“Will you stay until I’m sleeping again? I feel so secure in your arms”
“I’ll do my best to leave without waking you”
“you’re a really amazing man Darrel”
“and you’re an amazing woman. I hope those monsters are rotting in jail”
“Two are guaranteed to always be there but one of the girls convinced the jury she was a victim and was forced into raping me….i was there……she enjoyed it just as much as them but atleast the other two have no chance of parol.”
“Hopefully the system doesn’t disappoint me again”Darrel held Selena gently until she was asleep once more then slipped out of her bed. He went back in the living room to rest, hoping with all his heart she didn’t have another bad dream. Selena didn’t remember to shut off her alarm so it got the two of them up bright and early. Darrel had woken with a start but soon calmed when he realized it was just her alarm. Darrel knocked on Selenas bedroom door “yes?” she answered “are we eating here or should we go out?”
“I have cereal”
“Let me shower. You can go ahead and eat if you want. You’re welcome to anything in my kitchen” Darrel smiled ‘enjoy your shower. Don’t rush on my account” he walked away from the door and filled a glass with water. He was trying to get better about getting his eight cups of water a day. When she came out she smelled amazing and he was tempted to say so but still worried about coming on too fast. She needed help, not to be flirted with. His attraction was somthing they could deal with later.
They both made themselves a bowl of honey nut cheerios and sat down next to each other to eat. “So are we going to the zoo after breakfast?”
He looked at the clock hanging on her wall. “That’s completely up to you, we still have until nine.”
“I wish you’d just say hey, we’re going to the zoo at nine so be ready.”
“Now what kind of therapy would that be? We’ll go when you’re ready and besides, I need to run home and get a change of clothes so how about you think about while I’m gone.”
“Okay.” They finished breakfast and rinsed out his bowl before grabbing his keys.
“Alright, I’ll be back in about twenty minutes. If you need anything call me and I’ll get back here as quickly as possible.”
“Stay safe Darrel.”
“I’m always safe.” He winked at her and she blushed. He left before he did something to make her uncomfortable. She was the sweetest of all people and he would hate to be the reason for her fear.
At home Darrel almost grabbed an extra set of clothes to take over to Selenas incase he could spend the night with her again but tomorrow was Friday, his busiest day of the week. He was almost always booked solid on Fridays and there was no way they all would cancel. He took solace in the fact the weekend was coming. He only saw people on weekends if a patient called him with a crisis and was in serious need of him. Darrel looked over what he was wearing then sprayed juts a little cologne on himself before changing into his good sneakers. With that he was ready to go.
By the time he got back it was near enough to nine the zoo would be open when they got there “did you make a decision?” He asked as he stepped into her apartment. “we should go”
“I have to work tomorrow and can’t stay. Are you sure?”
“Yeah” he stepped right back out with her “are we riding together?”
“we can take my car if you want”
“Your car it is” Upon getting out of the car and beginning to walk side by side Selena laced her fingers with Darrels. He smiled at her “I wouldn’t let anybody hurt you Selena, not ever” They words alone made her blush but there was somthing about the way he said it that made her heart feel light flutters. She walked up nervously and showed them her pass while Darrel had to pay for another ticket since he didn’t have one. As they walked away from the booth Selena said “I didn’t know you were having to pay to come here. Do you often pay to help people?”
“You’re a first but you aren’t a patient to me. I like you and want to help you. Alot of people I would have tried to talk to once but if they refused I would have went on but you stuck in my mind. I can see how good of a person you are and I just want to be around you. I’ll be around long after you’re over this fear if you’ll let me be” She barely noticed them approaching the exhibit due to how sweetly he was speaking. She paused when reality jerked her back, they were at the bench. “are we going to sit first and then consider going to the exhibit or do you want to try now?”
He felt the small amount she was trembling and wanted to tell her to sit but she had to make that decision. “lets try….I’ve sat on that bench way too much”
“Ok, remember, you can hug me or hold me in any way if you need me for comfort. I’ll hold you if you ask so just let me know what I can do”
“ok” Selenas fear was making her feet heavier as they got closer. When the bears were in sight she wrapped her arms around Darrel and put her head in his chest “shhh, do you need to go away from here” she didn’t answer and he didn’t push. Eventually she let go, tears dampening her eyes “no, come on” she took his hand again as they walked into the exhibit and up to the glass wall to look over. Her trembles became bad and she asked meekly “will..will you hold me?” He moved so he was behind her then slowly took Selena in his arms. She fit so perfectly against him which would be somthing he enjoyed if she wasn’t so scared.
It did however make him smile that she almost instantly dropped to about half the tension she was feeling before he held her. He wasn’t vain, he knew most of it probably was because her spine wasn’t a clear shot for anybody but it still made him feel good because he had noticed the small signs she was starting to like him the way he liked her.
“You okay?” He asked softly.
“I don’t know, I have so much going on in my head right now.”
He rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I feel scared, angry at those people for stealing what was left of my childhood. I can still hear them laughing as I slipped away.”
“At the same time I feel a sense of accomplishment, relief. That’s probably because you’re here, you make me feel so safe and like I can do anything.”
“That’s because you can do anything. You are so incredibly brave and beautiful, nothing can stop you.” Her lip started to quiver and she turned in his arms, gripping tightly to his shirt as she cried. “I’m sorry, please don’t cry.”
She didn’t say anything so he added “I thought it would give you comfort to rub your arms. I should have thought” Selena wiped her eyes. ‘No, I enjoy your touch. You touch me as if I’m magical and delicate. I like that. It’s just, when you tell me I can do anything I really feel like it. I wish I could have met you sooner”
“Me too” If he had been a less educated man he might have kissed her in that moment. Fear still gripped him that he would scare Selena and his heart just couldn’t take that. It specially couldnt if it resulted in her not wanting to be around him any longer. “want to grab a drink or should we stand here longer?”
“cryings made me thirsty” They walked to the nearest stand that sold drinks, bought two then continued to walk hand in hand. Selena was still understandably nervous but this was the first time since she was taken that she could actually walk atall through the zoo. He gave her more strength than anyone and she had only just met him five days ago. They went to the zoo and just hung around eachothers houses frequently over the next weeks. It was now two months later and she wasn’t afraid atall. They were having a celebration of her freedom from the terror she suffered. All her friends and family came by, her mother taking special interest in Darrel since she had heard so much about him over the phone and new her daughter had feelings for him.
When the party was over Darrel stayed to help clean up “So many came”
“You have a lot of people who love you Selena” Darrel blushed at his words and cleared his throat. She was fine now, happy and unafraid. He could finally tell her that he had been falling in love with her over their days together. “Selena?”
“will you stop cleaning so we can talk?”
“Ok” they went over to her couch and sat down. “yeah?” He took her hands in his, nervous although he had been able to see her reciprocated feelings in little things she’d do. “I love you. I sarted out adoring who you are but since I’ve started to spend time with you I’ve fallen madly in love. I love the way your hair falls, the way you smile and laugh so easily among friends, even the way you destroy me when we play monopoly” he ended with a small laugh that made her give a breath of laughter and a smile. “I love you too. So much”
“You’ll be my girlfriend then?” Selena cupped his cheek and slowly moved in for a kiss. When she pulled back she whispered “of course” Darrel pulled her into a hug and kissed the side of her head. “I’ve been waiting so long to ask”
“I’m glad you finally did. Screw my place being dirty. Lets cuddle and watch Netflix.”
“sounds good to me.” They cuddled on the couch and turned on the TV. They spent the rest of the evening snuggled together, perfectly happy that their hearts belong to one another. Selena was excited to go to work tomorrow and tell Linda that she was now with Darrel. So much had changed for the better recently and she knew this was just the beginning.
~ The End ~