Greta smiled her psychologist smile. Somehow it managed to be both warm and knowing, without any trace of condescension. For the millionth time, Julia wondered how she did it so well. If she’d taken a class at university or practiced in the mirror or rehearsed in groups with other shrinks, or what.
“Last week you said you wanted to tell Max about your fantasy.”
“Yes,” Julia agreed. “I did say that.”
“You planned to tell him after dinner on…” Greta checked her notepad. “Wednesday. Did you manage to talk to him?”
Julia had spent the whole week living in fear of this question. She shifted slightly on the white leather couch Greta provided for her clients, delaying her answer for as long as possible. Maybe she could just say yes? But then she’d have to make up lies about Max’s reactions and the things she’d said in response, and it was all too difficult.
“Julia?” Greta urged in her gentle voice. “Did you manage to talk to him?”
Her therapist’s sympathetic smile grew wider. “That’s completely understandable.”
Greta laughed. “Of course, you set the goal you’re not being held to account, by me or anyone else, but can you please…”
Julia knew what her therapist was going to say next. Six months of sessions had made her very familiar with the phrases Greta used when she wanted to coax her into self-reflection.
“…walk me through what you were thinking?”
Called it, Julia thought, with a tiny prickle of annoyance. When she first started therapy, she’d been expecting to cry her eyes out on a couch as a benevolent creature told her some variation of the phrase ‘there, there’ or ‘it’ll all be okay’ or ‘life is full of ups and downs.’ Instead, what she felt in Greta’s office was mostly irritation. Fixing her neuroses meant being accountable for her dumb behaviour and finding ways to be less dumb about it. Her old patterns weren’t enjoyable, but they were easy. Self-analysis, on the other hand, was hard freaking work. It required so much honesty and, even though it sounded stupid out loud, bravery.
“Julia,” Greta prodded in her lilting Irish accent. “What were you thinking about the night you intended to tell Max about your fantasy?”
Julia sighed and tucked a knee into her chest. She knew the sooner she owned up, the easier it would be. “I wanted to tell him. I made dinner and got a bottle of wine and put on lipstick. I thought doing the whole sexy girlfriend thing would make it easier. Then he came home and he’d had a really shitty day at work and he wanted to have normal sex. I mean normal-for-us sex. He tied me up.”
Greta nodded, as though Julia had confessed nothing more exciting than trying a new brand of yogurt. “Did you like it?”
Julia nodded. “We got to blow off some steam and then afterward we were all sleepy and you know, happy and cuddly. I didn’t want to ruin the night by bringing up my freakiness.”
Greta smiled a lot, but hours of weekly sessions had taught Julia to interpret them. This one was slightly chiding, as though she was a kid pulling faces at strangers in a café. “You know better than to call yourself a freak, Julia.”
“I know, it’s just…I can still remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with this fantasy. Part of me just wants to go back there and not deal with this anymore, not have it be so freaking important.”
Greta said nothing. They’d had many conversations about the fact that willing away sexually deviant fantasies was about as helpful as hitting yourself with a hammer. Julia was sure her silence was meant to remind her of that and goddammit, it worked. She felt another little stab of irritation, followed by, as it usually was these days, gratitude. Getting called on your shit enough did that to you. It made you appreciate that you were being steered toward the truth, even if it hurt. Julia raised both her hands. “Okay, I acknowledge that I want this kinky thing, but I still don’t know if I should tell Max.”
“How did you feel during the sex you had on Wednesday night?” Greta asked. “Were you picturing the fantasy? Playing it in your head while Max was pleasuring you?”
Julia stared at Greta’s pot plant, the leaves of which she’d memorized along with her therapist smiles. Explaining the intricacies of her sex life hadn’t been part of her therapy plan, but it was invariably linked to what she’d come to see Greta about in the first place. Besides, it wasn’t so hard to talk to Dr Greta O’Dwyer about sex. She gave off the vibe that she’d heard it all before, besides, the light bondage, spanking and filthy talk she and Max engaged in were hardly revolutionary in these post Fifty Shades of Grey times. Still, she could stand to have a single headshrinker session where she didn’t discuss fucking with an Oxford graduate old enough to be her mother. She inhaled deeply. “Yeah, I was picturing the fantasy while he did stuff to me. I couldn’t help it. It’s like the more I try to ignore it and focus on the moment, the more it fills up my brain.”
“And how does that make you feel?”
As always, Julia tried not to smile at that most famous of psychologist phrases. “Um, shitty I guess? Like, I’m a weirdo who can’t enjoy sex like a regular woman.”
Greta scribbled something on her ever present notepad, then smiled again, this time a gentle, don’t-be-so-hard-on-yourself-smile. “There’s no such thing as a ‘regular woman.’”
Julia rolled her eyes. “I know, but why are we even talking about this? I didn’t come here to talk about boning, I came here because I’m scared of…”
Locked Box Remastered and the New novella will be avaliable for purchace on Amazon, iBooks and other online retailers on April 15, 2018