Chapter no 28

Never Lie

I watch Luke expertly chopping vegetables on my kitchen counter. I might be hopeless in the kitchen, but he’s an excellent cook. We still get takeout plenty, but he likes to cook for me on the nights he’s here. Which is becoming more and more frequent.

Luke and I have been dating for four months. It’s a record for me. After a month of dating, my anxiety abated to the point where I finally consented to let him spend the night. And now he’s here three or four nights a week.

There are ground rules of course. He has to stay on his side of the bed—no cuddling in the middle of the night. And if I’m not feeling in the mood to have company, he has to leave without argument. The first month, that happened as often as not. But I haven’t asked him to leave in weeks.

The truth is, I’m growing to enjoy sharing a bed with him. On the nights he’s at his own apartment, I look at the empty spot on what has now become his side of the bed (the left), and I feel an ache in my chest.

“It smells delicious,” I comment.

Luke picks up a long-handled spoon and stirs the sauce that has been simmering on the stove for the last twenty minutes. He’s sexy when he’s cooking, maybe because he’s so skilled at it. “It’s a new recipe. You’re going to love it.”

“I’m sure I will. I love everything you make.” And I love you.

The thought pops into my head against my will. Those three words keep cropping up and taunting me. I can’t say that to him. First of all, he hasn’t said it to me. And even if he did, I still don’t think I could say it. I’m not even sure it’s true.

I’ve never told a man that I loved him before. It seems odd, I’m sure, given my age. Men have told me they loved me before, and I have not said it back—men, compared with women, are statistically much faster to express sentiments of love, despite stereotypes to the contrary. I have counseled patients on this before, and I always advise them you should never say “I love you” to another person unless that is what you’re feeling.

I have never told a man that I loved him because I have never felt that I loved any of my prior significant others.

If I spoke to a therapist about it, I’m sure they would have a lot to say about the lack of intimacy in my life. I was never close with my parents. My father was a mail carrier, and my mother worked as a receptionist. Neither of them attended college, much less obtained multiple advanced degrees. They never quite knew what to make of me.

When I was younger, I was convinced I had been switched with another child at birth. Or perhaps adopted, based on the fact that my mother was told in her twenties that she would never bear children, and I was conceived as a miracle baby. I dreamed about someday being reunited with my biological parents, who would finally understand me.

But of course, this was all a childish fantasy. Instead, my mother developed ovarian cancer when I was in college. My father, who never understood the purpose of college to begin with, pressured me to drop out to help him care for her during a brutal course of chemotherapy. I refused, and she died almost exactly one year after her diagnosis. Six months after losing the love of his life, my father died of a heart attack.

Luke has also experienced loss. Even though he doesn’t like to talk about it, I have weaseled some details out of him about his late wife. They were college sweethearts. There was a car accident. She died instantly.

When he told me the story about the car accident, he spoke in a monotone, as if blocking off his emotions. I asked him if he ever saw a therapist after the accident, and he told me yes, but then he wouldn’t talk about it anymore.

In some ways though, it’s a relief he won’t talk about his former marriage. Because if he were to open up about it to me, he might expect me to do the same about the loss of my parents. And I do not have any desire to do so. I’d rather not admit to him that my parents never cared for me, and the feeling was mutual.

“Can you babysit the stove for a few minutes?” Luke asks me.

I bristle. In a few minutes, I could easily destroy this meal. “Why?”

“I want to grab a change of clothes from my car. I’m not going to want to run out there later.”


“You know…” He gives me a pointed look. “I don’t have

to live like a nomad all the time.”

I take a step back, my heart pounding. Does he want to move in with me? He’s been here so frequently lately, but I can’t contemplate such a thing. Even though I haven’t asked him to leave in a long time, the option is there. We have our own space. If he moved in, he would be here all the time. Yes, it’s a big house, but it suddenly feels very small.

“Relax, Adrienne,” he says quickly. “I don’t want to move in. I’m just saying, maybe you could clear out a drawer for me or something. You know?”

“Oh.” My breathing slows. “Yes. I could do that. I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay.” He puts down the spoon in his hand and pulls me closer to him so he can kiss me. One of those lingering kisses that makes my whole body tingle. He still gets to me, even after four months. “I know you’re crazy. It’s one of the things I love about you.”

He’s doing it too. Flirting with the word “love.” I love your sauce. I love that you’re crazy. He’s going to say it to me—I can see it all over his face. It’s just a matter of time.

While he’s kissing me, a chime comes from the front door. The doorbell. At eight-thirty in the evening.

“Who the hell is that?” Luke asks.

I grab my phone from where I left it on the kitchen counter. I bring up the camera app to see who’s at the front door. My stomach sinks. It’s EJ.

The doorbell rings again.

Luke turns to answer the door, but I grab his arm. “Don’t answer it.”

He frowns. “Who is it?”

“A patient. Just ignore it. He’ll go away.”

Luke’s forehead creases. “Why is one of your patients ringing the doorbell at eight o’clock in the evening?”

“It’s fine.” I swallow. “He has some boundary issues. It’s better to ignore him.”

The doorbell rings again, and Luke’s face darkens. “It’s not fine. I’ll go tell him that this is not appropriate, and he should leave you alone.”

“No. No.” Before Luke can leave the kitchen, I grab his arm, my phone still gripped in my other hand. My fingernails dig into his skin. “Trust me on this. Just ignore him and he’ll go away. I promise.”

I don’t let go of his arm until he relaxes. He lets out a sigh. “Fine. You’re the shrink. You know what’s best.”

The doorbell doesn’t ring again but I’m not kidding myself that EJ has gone away. I look down at the screen of my phone while Luke tends to our dinner. After a few seconds, the message appears on the screen:

I know you’re home.

I glance up at Luke, then type my response: I’m busy. Busy with your boyfriend?

Of course, EJ would know about Luke. I could never keep any relationship of mine a secret from him. Usually though, when he shows up late at night, he picks nights when Luke isn’t here. He’s becoming bolder.

I need an appointment with you, Dr. Hale.

I’m busy now. I can see you tomorrow afternoon. No. Tomorrow morning.

I bite down on my lower lip. He always does this. He pushes the boundaries to see what he can make me do. Will he go public with that video just because I refuse to see him in the morning instead of the afternoon? I assume not. But I don’t know for sure. And he’s so impulsive, he might do it in a moment of rage. So I must play the game.

I am at his whim. I promised him weekly appointments, but it’s become two or three times a week. They are not productive appointments. Often, he makes me listen to him describe his sexual exploits in disgusting detail. Worst of all, there’s always the suggestion that I might want to join in. But he hasn’t forced the issue.


Fine, I type. Tomorrow morning at 10. Please be prompt.

I always am.

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