Remy steered Timber through the office building’s revolving door and into the waiting elevator, thinking to himself, ‘she looks a little better,’ and immediately chided himself for wishful thinking, certainly two hours in the doctor’s office couldn’t render any immediate results.
“You holding up ok?” Remy asked.
“My feet are cold.” Timber complained.
“We’ll get you some socks tonight.” Remy promised. “So how’d it go with Dr. Avila?” He asked as the doors closed.
“Pretty good for a first date I think,” Timber answered, “He didn’t ask me out again, but I think he’ll call.”
That response heartened Remy. She was feeling a little better, he was sure of it.
“What took so long?”
“He gave me an IV.”
“You know what kind?” Remy inquired.
“Saline, Dextrose with a Zofran, Demerol puussshh.”
“You just made that up, didn’t you?” Remy suppressed a smile.
“I like to say ‘puussshh’. She told him. “I also like to say ‘stat’ but we didn’t do anything ‘stat.’”
Remy was heartened. Thank you Dr. Miguel Avila.
“So you remember what we talked about?” Remy turned serious.
“Answer all the questions truthfully and don’t be a bitch.” Timber answered.
“I think I said behave yourself.” Remy corrected.
Timber thought about that. “Yeah, the bitch warning was Scott.”
“Well it applies here too.” Remy reminded her.”
The elevator door slid open and Remy hurried Timber down the hall to the door that read “Samuel Chen M.D. Bereavement Therapist.” There was no receptionist or check in counter, but there was a camera looking over the waiting room that Timber found distressing; like they were being watched and evaluated before the actual session.
“Kiss me.” She whispered to Remy.
“What?” Timber enjoyed the look of complete confusion on his face. “Kiss me.” She said again, pointing to the camera, “He’ll think we’re doing it and it will throw him off the scent.”
“Why would you want to create a false impression Timber, he’s not the enemy, he’s going to help us. And besides, I’m sure he’s not watching, it’s probably a security camera.”
“Then where is he? 3:05 Remy. He’s checking us out. Seeing how we interact.”
“We’re not here for marriage counseling,” Remy reminded her.
Timber stood and walked to the corner of the room making a face at the security camera, turned her back on it, the Demerol freeing her inhibitions enough for her to consider mooning it when the door opened and Dr. Chen bade them come into his office.
Remy and Chen shook hands, Remy thanking the doctor for seeing them on such short notice.
“Happy to do it.” Chen replied.
“And you must be Timberlain Lilley.” He smiled at Timber. “I knew your husband a little. He was a good guy, always helped me out, whenever I asked. I am so sorry for your loss.”
Timber nodded but made no reply.
“Would you like to come in?”Chen smiled a friendly welcome.
“And for the loss of my daughter.” Timber prompted.
“Excuse me?” Dr. Chen asked.
“Everyone always says they are so sorry about my husband. But no one ever says they are sorry about my baby girl.”
“Of course.” Chen answered. “That must be a terrible loss for you. Of course I’m very sorry you lost your daughter.”
I didn’t actually lose her, Timber said, “I know right where she is. Someone in a truck killed her. And just so you know for your pain assessment spreadsheet, dead baby, beats dead husband, so if you are a Star Trek Pain Sucking Alien as I suspect, and you are only going to acknowledge one of them, you should say sorry for your baby. It hurts more.”
Then turning to Remy she told him, “I warned you. All the classic signs.”
Timber sat down in one of the two chairs in front of Chen’s meticulously tidy desk looking at the desktop and not the doctor.
Chen ignored her outburst. “So, What do you like to be called? Timberlain? Timber? Timmie?”
“Not Timmie.” Timber answered.
“Ok.” Chen answered. “Is Timmie what Jordan called you?”
“Is this going to be one of those things where you poke at me to see if you can get me to cry?” Timber asked him.
“Why would you ask that? Dr. Chen replied. “Have I said anything that made you want to cry?”
“Because it’s obvious that Remy has told you I don’t like people to use their names, and you thought you’d try it out to see how I’d react.” Timber came right at him.
“Timber, I never said…” Remy spoke up, but the doctor held up his hand to keep him from continuing.
“By their names I assume you mean your husband and daughter?”
“Do you know her name?” Timber asked.
“No, no I don’t.” Chen admitted. “What was your daughter’s name?”
Timber looked at him for a good five seconds. “Sarah.” She finally answered. “Her name was Sarah Rene, after Remy. He was her godfather.”
“That’s a beautiful name.” Chen told Timber.
“And it’s also a bunch of bullshit,” Remy cut in. “Her name was Meghan Graham Lilley.”
“Don’t say her name!” Timber lashed out at him.
“Why not Timmie? Like you said, she was my goddaughter. When she was born, they put her footprint right here on my arm,” Remy pointed at his bicep. I don’t want to forget her.”
“You see Remy. That’s not something I have to worry about,” Timber told him and stared at the manilla folder on the doctor’s desk willing herself not to cry.
“Timber,” Remy prodded her, “You were going to answer all the questions truthfully, remember?”
“I don’t want you to call me Timmie because that is what my friends call me, and we are not friends.” Timber said.
“Timber,” Remy warned, “Be civil.”
“No, no.” Chen told Remy, “that’s ok. We aren’t friends are we? How about I call you Timber? And if you don’t want to, we don’t have to use your husband and baby’s names for right now. Ok?”
“I’d say that was rather self-aggrandizing of you, making the assumption that sometime in the future you and your bereavement busting superpowers will persuade me it’s no longer painful to hear their names.”
“Do you believe there’s a chance that someday you’ll be able to hear their names and not feel hurt?” Chen asked.
Timber shrugged. “It’s not a goal I am actively pursuing at this time.”
“So you went to see Dr. Avila today?” Chen changed the subject. “What did you think of him?”
“He looks like Scotty.” Timber answered. “It was a little creepy.”
“Yes,” Chen offered a smile. “Identical twins, hard to tell apart.”
“Not so hard.” Timber answered. “Doctor Avila is the one who never asked to do a pelvic exam on me.”
Both Chen and Remy laughed at her joke.
“They told me you were funny.” Chen told her.
“Who are ‘they’?” Timber wanted to know.
“Well, Dylan Cooper for one, when he called to ask me to see you, and Dr. Avila for another. I was just talking to him on the phone. That’s why I was late today. I wanted to speak to him about you. Your situation is not something I run into very often.”
“Very often or never?” Timber was giving Chen no quarter.
“Well, I have certainly had patients who are so depressed they don’t want to get out of bed, but no, I have never come across another case as extreme as this.”
Timber looked at Remy to see how he reacted to this allusion to Dr. Avila’s diagnosis, worry etched on her face. If Remy decided to tell Dr. Chen about the cot, goodbye Timber, very quickly.
“I’m really very uncomfortable right now.” Timber told Chen.
“What makes you uncomfortable Timber?” Chen asked.
“My feet.” She answered. “My feet are cold because I don’t have any socks.”
“Timber, knock it off,” Remy knew the warning signs. When Timber got nervous she did schtick. “I told you we’ll buy you everything you need tonight.”
“It’s hard to concentrate on therapy when your feet are cold, Remy.” She told him. “That’s a well known fact.”
Timber turned to Chen to plead her case. “He could have lent me a pair of socks, but he’s not in charge of my feet. They divided me up and Remy got my head, and Coop got my stomach and Scott got all the good parts but I guess Pete didn’t want my feet.”
“Timber, Remy warned her. “We are here to talk about serious issues.”
“Sure, you’re sitting there with warm socks.”
Timber explained to Dr. Chen. “They bought me shoes that are too big and they let in snow, and now my feet are cold because I am not the women’s universal shoe size, and I really don’t think I can do my best therapy until I get some socks.”
Remy exploded off his chair. “Ok Timber. Your feet are cold? He reached down and pulled off her shoes without bothering to untie them putting her bare feet on the chair he had just vacated. Then he angrily kicked off his own loafers and yanked off his own socks. “Here Timberlain.” He groused as he pulled one of his socks onto her right foot. “Now you have socks,” he added as he pulled on the left one. He stood up to his full 6’3” and stared down at her like an angry parent. “Do your feet feel ready now?”
Timber stared up at Remy, silent for a few seconds while she worked on self-censoring a Demerol inspired comment about how his mood would improve if he only had a girlfriend who’d lay him, wiggled her toes and said instead “actually my feet are feeling rather grossed out at the prospect of wearing your stinky socks. And my hands are thinking you should put on my shoes for them so they don’t have to touch your previously owned hosiery. I eat with these hands and it’s almost time for my delicious high calorie reward snack.”
Remy, with his back to Dr. Chen gave Timber the scary “I am going to kill you later” look he usually saved for pitchers who had thrown a beanball at a teammate, bent down and roughly pulled on her shoes, again without untying them. “Ok? Are we good now?” He demanded.
“Actually now I have to use the bathroom.” Timber told him.
“Timber.” He growled.
“You jiggled me putting on the socks.”
“Hold it.” Remy ordered.
“Well that’s not going to work. If I can’t therapy with cold feet I’m certainly not going to be able to therapy with a full bladder. It is not my fault I have been pushed full of Saline Dextrose. And it’s not my fault you jiggled me. I try to keep down the liquids for just this very reason but Dr. Avila wants me to drink like a tea totalling sailor.”
“Timber,” Dr. Chen cut in. “Would you like to use my bathroom? It’s that door behind you.”
Timber looked over her shoulder at the door he indicated. “I don’t know, that’s awfully close. Do you have something a little further away?”
“I’m afraid not.” Chen told her.
“Well, I’ll give it a try.” Timber told him. “But I’m going to have to run the water, because Remy listens.”
“I don’t listen!” Remy objected.
Timber stood, urged them to “Talk amongst yourselves,” and headed for the bathroom.
The door closed and the light and fan came on and a moment later the water faucet began to run at full blast.
“I’m sorry.” Remy apologized. “She does this when she gets nervous.”
“Actually, I am glad to have this opportunity to talk to you, and with the fan and the water running I don’t think she can overhear.” Chen said. “You know Remy, I have done this before. Sometimes it’s just as important to see how a patient handles a question as to whether they answer it. So, try to chill. You don’t need to coach her. I have some experience at this.
“Now before Timber comes back, I want to tell you I have a diagnosis from Dr. Avila, and Timber was telling you the truth, she hasn’t been assaulted.”
Remy let out a sigh and looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t know whether to be relieved or scared shitless. Is she sick?”
“Not exactly.” Chen replied.
“Then what is it?” Remy asked a lump of dread beginning to form in his stomach.
“I want to see if I can get Timber to tell us.” Chen said. “But I need you not to react in a judgemental fashion.”
“Oh fuck, this sounds bad.” Remy worried.
“It’s unusual. But it’s something I think she has a very good chance of recovering from.”
Inside the bathroom, the toilet flushed and the sound of the water changed as Timber presumably washed her hands. After a half a minute, the water turned off, the fan went silent, the light went out under the door and the lock clicked open. Chen and Remy waited but Timber didn’t appear. After thirty seconds, Remy sighed, crossed to the door and knocked at it.
“Timber.” He said. “What are you doing in there?”
“I’m eating my donuts.” Came her voice.
Remy swung open the door and Timber looked up at him from the closed lid of the toilet. “If you don’t listen Remy, how did you know I was done?”
“Come on, out.” Remy directed her. “Go sit down. Behave yourself.”
“Oh! That’s right, you’re the behave yourself guy! And all this time I was trying so hard not to be bitchy.”
Remy crossed to the chairs in front of the desk and pointed at the seat Timber had been sitting in. Timber sat in the other one and asked, “Now where were we?” smiling at Dr. Chen complete with dimple.
Chen seized the moment. “Actually Timber, we were talking about what Dr. Avila had to say in this report I asked him to fax me.” Chen opened that suspicious folder on his desk and pulled out a piece of paper. “You know, Remy and Scott and Coop all think somebody assaulted you.”
Timber still showed dimple but the smile wasn’t friendly. “Oh wow, you have some game there don’t you Dr. Pain Sucky Alien?” She said with eyes on fire. “After I went to all that trouble to distract from this very topic and here you are right back en pointe like a prima ballerina.”
“You’re very good at distracting.” Chen told her. “I was entertained.”
“Yes, it’s an inherent talent I discovered as a wee lass in Greenwich, and have since honed to the point of an art form. My goal is to have “Dramatic Distraction” instituted by the Academy as an official Oscar category. I already have my acceptance speech ready, would you like to hear it?”
“No.” Snapped Remy, at the same time Dr. Chen said “Sure.”
Timber glanced at Remy’s angry face, knew she had gone too far, and took a more ladylike pose in her chair.
“It’s not my fault that Remy thinks someone hurt me” Timber answered Chen’s last question. “I have told him over and over there wasn’t anyone hitting me and he thinks I am lying.”
“Yes, well I think you can appreciate how he could make that mistake,” Chen said. “Can I see your back, Timber?”
Timber was still for a moment as she considered the request, stood up, lifted the back of her Yale sweatshirt for a five count and let it fall back down. Remy gave a grimace and Chen shot him a warning look.
“I understand Scott Avila was in the meeting with you and Dr. Avila after your exam today, is that correct?” Chen wanted to know.
“So he already has this information, and by now he’s probably informed Dylan Cooper too.”
A shrug from Timber “Yeah, I’m sure they are discussing it as we speak.”
“So, when you and Remy get home, Remy is going to know it also.” Chen pointed out.
“So would you like to tell Remy yourself, what that discoloration is on your back?”
Timber looked at Remy, met his inquiring gaze and looked back down at the floor.
“Do you know what it’s called Timber?” Chen asked.
“Did you know before you saw Dr. Avila today?”
“Because you saw another doctor before today?” Chen pressed.
“No. The Internet.” Timber said.
“Ah, you Googled your symptoms. And what is it called Timber?
“Lividity.” She answered, looking at the patch of floor between her too large shoes which fit a little better with Remy’s socks which were still warm from his feet.
“Lividity?” Remy asked. “What is… “ and before he could finish the question, the answer must have popped into his mind. “You mean like when the blood settles in a corpse?”
Though Chen had tried to warn him, Remy had a hard time keeping his reaction off his face. Timber looked up at him, saw disgust flash in his eyes, and started to cry.
“How did this happen?” Remy demanded of no one in particular.
“It happens from laying too long in the same position.” Chen told him.
Timber looked at Remy and she could see it in his eyes. He was thinking about that little box cave and her cot in the pool house where they had found her asleep on her back. She could smell the threat in the air.
“Did you do that Timber? Lay on your back for long periods of time?” Chen pressed.
Timber glanced at Remy again and saw no sympathy just shock.
“Can you at least tell us whether you laid that way of your own free will?”
Timber was irritated with Chen now and close to panicking. The man was like a dog with a bone, and any second Remy was going to tell him how he and Scott had found her. There weren’t many options left to her. Her only chance was to crack open that place where she kept her pain and let it fly, and there was danger there too because once she let it out she couldn’t always control it, and the emotions and memories that always flooded in made it hard to stay calm and think logically and especially keep from crying, and Chen was sitting there just waiting to catch her out.
“Timber,” Chen wouldn’t let up. “Did someone do this to you? Did someone drug you? Or tie you to the bed?”
Timber stood up, and faced Chen across his desk, and Remy did a double take on what he was seeing. It was as if Timber had grown taller. Her spine was rigid and her chin was held high, her arms planted on the edge of Chen’s desk so that she leaned toward him, her body language almost threatening, if a 90 pound woman could ever be perceived as such. And as Timber spoke, the volume soft but intense, Remy realized this was the Timber he rarely got to see. This was CEO at crunchtime Timber, and it was clear she felt in charge.
“I don’t think so, Dr. Chen,” Timber announced, closing up the manilla file on his desk and shoving it toward him as if she were closing a menu after rejecting the waiter’s recommendation for lunch. Her voice was steady and for a change, there was color in her cheeks and not a trace of a tear in her eyes.
“I promised my friend Remy that I would come here and talk to you today because you are supposed to be this big authority on bereavement and I am having a hard time working things out right now. But I just met you, and you want to know something about me that is a very personal thing. Now I understand why you are so eager to know, Dr. Chen: ‘Girl abducted, held for a year in a coffin underground fed through hose?’ It sure would make a great book wouldn’t it? On the other hand, ‘Woman lies like a statue in her bed for a year until she turns into a living corpse,’ well, American Journal of Psychiatry, here you come.
“Unfortunately for you, I am not going to tell you which of those things happened, because you haven’t earned the right to know. And as long as you are not sure enough to place your professional reputation on which of those things is the truth, my lawyer tells me that you aren’t a danger to me. And incidentally, if you guess wrong, and go public, I will sue you for sport.
“So Dr. Chen, if you are this noted bereavement specialist, why did you offer me condolences for the great Jordan Lilley and not for my baby? If her Uncle Coop was the one who called you about me, I know he would not have forgotten to mention her. So that means you knew I had a baby who died, and never bothered to find out her name so you could say, “I am so sorry about Meghan. And I am offended by that.
My daughter Meghan was three months and two days old. She never struck out any batters and she never won a Cy Young award, but she would coo back at me when I told her how smart she was. And when I sang to her, she would get excited and move her hands and feet like she was dancing. And the day that she died, she had her first cereal, rice, because babies have fewer allergies to rice than to oatmeal, and Jordie wanted to taste it because I made it with breast milk, but I wouldn’t let him, and he made a joke and called me a ‘heartless mother hen’ and said he’d forgive me if I let him lick the bowl. And when I put the little spoon in Meghan’s mouth for the first time it went “click,” and we discovered her first tooth was just peeking through on the bottom, which is very advanced for three months. Then Jordie took a picture and emailed it to his parents, and the tooth was so tiny, you couldn’t really see it in the photo, there was just a corner peeking through, but we sent it anyway, and they wrote back that they were putting champagne on ice to celebrate what a precocious granddaughter they had. And we were on that street with the truck that killed them because I wanted to stop at CVS to buy Meggie her first toothbrush, even though she really didn’t need it. And you just skipped over her life like you couldn’t wait to get to the salacious mystery of why Timber Lilley is half corpse.
So no, Dr, Chen, Bereavement Specialist or Pain Sucking Alien,or whoever you are, if Remy wants to know, or if Coop or Scott or Pete Puckett want to know, then we will sit down together and I will explain to them what happened to me, because they have earned the right to know by always being my friend. But not you. Not today. And if you want to speak to me again, then I expect you to apologize to me for remembering Jordie and not Meggie. And now, I have had enough therapy. Talk amongst yourselves.”
And with that Timber turned her back and strode out, intent on not breaking character until she had passed what may or may not be a security camera in the waiting room, so Dr. Chen couldn’t watch the playback later and say “Aha! I spy an escaped tear there in her left eye.” She kept her game face on until she was back in the hall where it was finally safe to let her tears fall for the bittersweet memories of Meghan dancing, and cooing, and her sweet little baby tooth that went click on the spoon.
Timber pushed the elevator button and it open right away. She climbed aboard, pushed the button for the first floor, watching for Remy in the hall with her fingers crossed, her mind screaming, ‘please Remy follow me out,’ until the door slid closed and she shrank into the corner where she could finally let go the tears she was holding back for Meghan Graham Lilley, desperate to get back to her cot in the pool house, where she could dream about her baby and Jordan again in peace.
Timber exited the building through the revolving door with no sign of Remy behind her bereft with the fear she’d lost him as an ally. Remy would tell Chen about how they had found her; Chen would file a complaint with the court; the police would come take her away and she would lose control of everything forever, or at least until everything was gone.
The revolving door spit her out and Timber stopped and looked back through the window into the lobby willing Remy to appear. A woman coming out of the revolving door collided with her and Timber fell on her newly bandaged bottom onto the slushy sidewalk. “Are you alright?” The woman asked, and Timber said yes, she wasn’t hurt, she was just crying because her baby had died, and the woman gave her a strange look and hurried away. Then a man was helping her up, but it wasn’t Remy. It was Pete.
“We had a feeling you might make a break for it.” He told her. And then she was safe, like Pete had always made her feel safe back when Jordie was angry, and he put his arms with the giant muscles around her and pulled her to the curb where they were out of the way of the revolving door people who gawked at them as they entered and exited, and a man with a Yankee cap asked Pete if he was Puck Puckett and Pete told him to ‘fuck off.’
Pete took out his cellphone and made a call while Timber cried disconsolately for her baby into his jacket. “I’ve got her,” he told whoever answered. “We’re at the South door.” Someone with a cellphone camera tried to snap a picture of them, but Pete swung around so that his back was to the man, and Timber was hidden from view.
“Remy said you were awesome.” Pete told her in her ear. “He said you really stuck up for your baby. Fuck that S.O.B. Timmie. You need me to kick his butt, you just let me know.”
A silver Explorer with smoke glass windows pulled up and Puck opened the passenger door so that Timber could see Coop behind the wheel on his own phone.
“Yep. I have them.” Coop said as Pete ushered her into the passenger seat.
“Are you taking me to the hospital?” Timber looked at Coop with terror in her eyes.
“No, sweetheart.” Coop answered. “We’re taking you home.”