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The sun set leaving the room dull and cold.  Gil shifted so that he could stand.  “I’m going to order some pizza.  I don’t think I can make it without more food.”  I stretched.  I was still tired but felt less drained than I had when we had sat down.

“Order extra, just in case,” I said.  Gil nodded and opened his laptop to find the pizza menu.  I listened to him order.  My sketchbook sat on the end table.  I opened it and took out the pencil from the coil.  I liked sketching Gil, he was so ordinary.  I liked the way he looked as he talked on the phone.  It was as if we had never been apart.  For a brief moment, I wondered if Kyle and I would have that.

A knock on the door interrupted my drawing.  I set the pad down and made my way to the door.  My movements were slow, like in a dream.  I was torn between praying it was Kyle and hoping by some miracle the pizza had already arrived.  I heard Gil hang up so I knew it wasn’t the pizza.

Lisa stood in the entryway.  Her eyes were red.  She had changed out of her costume but her clothes were not the coultre I was used to seeing on her.  Her jeans were stained and baggy.  The flannel shirt hung on her and was partially tucked in at her waist.  “Oh Aliana, please tell me I didn’t do it.  I had this horrible nightmare that I said.”  She broke down in sobs.  “Kyle is gone.  I tried calling him but he won’t answer.  I went into his apartment and he’s not there.”  She reached out to me and collapsed as I put my arms around her.  I bent my knees and brought us both to the floor to keep from falling.

“It’s too cold to hang out here.”  Gil moved past me to behind Lisa.  Sliding his arms under hers, he lifted her from the floor and helped me walk her into the living room.  He sat her on the couch and gave me the afghan.  I sat next to her and offered the blanket.  She took it, letting her head fall to my shoulder.  I couldn’t help but smile.  While this is a terrible situation, I loved that she would still want to be close to me.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I was drunk but I was so jealous.  Why won’t any guy look at me like that?”  Her tears started back up, I had barely noticed they had subsided until she began again.  “I’m a terrible person.  I’ve always been a terrible person.  That’s why they can’t love me.”  I held her in my arms to my chest.

“I love you,” I told her.  “You were drunk.  I get it.  I forgive you.”  I hugged her.

She shook her head.  “How, why?”  She reached her arms around me and held tight.  “I don’t deserve it.”

I kissed the top of her head.  “Of course, you deserve it.  Lisa you are a wonderful person.  I have really enjoyed getting to know you.  Don’t you know that we all are dysfunctional?”

Gil sat next to Lisa on the opposite side of the couch.  He wiggled his butt to get enough space to sit comfortably.  I offered him part of the blanket.

He turned the station on the television until he found a semi-decent movie just starting.  The three of us sat in silence until the pizza arrived.  We talked about the movie, the food, anything except what had happened the night before.  Anytime Lisa started to bring it up, I found something else to talk about.  There was no point in talking about it.  Everything was up to Kyle and he wasn’t there.  In fact, I wasn’t sure where he was.

Days passed and Kyle was still gone.  I survived teaching my class.  I focused on emotion.  It’s art therapy so why not use the time to sort out my own feelings.  We talked and painted, focusing on broken hearts.  When the time was up, the children left in silence.  I found I couldn’t talk for the rest of the night.  I listened as Gil talked about the event he was working on with Carmen, another high profile fundraiser.  This success of this one would ensure the Young Artist’s Fund’s survival for several years.

I painted.  I picked at the mural while canvas after canvas was filled with so many feelings I didn’t know where it had been buried inside of me.  Paintings of Albert, the shed, colors in violent reds and blacks, Kyle’s face, they stripped me bare and left me exposed, raw.  Nightmares of a different nature plagued my dreams.  These were moments of emptiness, loneliness so terrifying that it would take several minutes for me to return to sleep.

The week was nearly over when I made my weekly trek to the therapist’s office.  I had no energy for her but I went anyway.  She had to see the progress I had made.

“You look tired,” Dr. Gregory said as I sat on the couch in front of her.

“No, exhausted.  I believe my body has enough sleep but my soul, that’s another story.”

I tried to explain to her what had happened.  “I was hurt because I was feeling vulnerable.  I have no idea what is going on with him so I don’t know what to do.  All I can do is this.”  I motioned with my arms but it meant nothing.

“What is this?” she asked.

I shook my head.  “I’m moving forward, living, I guess.  I don’t know.  All I do know is that I am actually happy.  Sounds weird but I am.  Maybe happy is the wrong word.  I’m content.  I’m satisfied.  For the first time in my life, I’m not miserable.  I feel like my heart can finally heal.  I just wish I knew where he was and how to fix our relationship or not.”

She looked at me.  “What will happen if he doesn’t want to continue a relationship?  What if he was only pretending?”

I smiled.  “I’ve thought of that.  I guess that’s okay.  I don’t have to give him anymore energy.  I will be disappointed but I will survive.  Either way, I will survive.  There are no guarantees in this life.  It sounds morose but my eyes are open.  I’m not sad, just resolved.”

“Resolved to what?”  She was smiling as well.  I wanted to laugh.  No more tears, no more fear, just pure laughter, joy.  All the things I had denied myself.  Everything clicked into place.

“I’m resolved to be happy.  No more hiding, no more fear.  Just life and all that it brings.  I,” my voice caught, “want to live.  I want to feel.  The good, the bad.  I think it’s time, don’t you.”

She rose and hugged me.  I wasn’t sure how I ended up standing with my arms around her.  It just felt so natural.  No more thinking about everything.

“You do realize that this doesn’t mean you don’t need therapy anymore.  It’s not that easy.”

I laughed.  It had never crossed my mind that there would be a time I wouldn’t come see her once a week and that hadn’t changed.

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