Confidential by Ellie Monago
CONSENT TO TREATMENT
I’m Michael Baylor, licensed clinical psychologist. Welcome to my practice.
The therapist/client relationship is a unique one. My approach is unique, too. You won’t find any cookie-cutter techniques here, and there are no easy answers. This is a revelatory process, and you may be surprised by what you learn. Please remember that it’s not like a medical procedure where your main job is to show up and the doctor does the rest. This is a collaboration, and in our sessions, you gain only by participating fully.
Therapy can be of enormous benefit, but it’s not without discomfort. Excavating old wounds often hurts; changing long-held beliefs and long-standing habits can hurt, too. But I will never abandon you. All I ask is for the chance to earn your trust.
In general, the privacy of all communications between a patient and a psychologist is protected by law, and I can release information about our work to others only with your written permission. But there are a few exceptions.
If I believe that you may do harm to yourself or to others, I am required to take protective actions . . .
“Happy anniversary, baby!” I said it breathily, like Marilyn Monroe to JFK, and I was wearing a negligee and holding a cheesecake. That’s Michael and me: the perfect intersection between sexy and ironic, between sleaze and cheese.
No, there’s nothing sleazy about us, despite what anyone might think if they knew how we met, all the jokes they could make about therapist-client privilege. My love for Michael was boundless; I had opened up to him in ways that I never thought possible before. I hadn’t even known to want them.
And now he was all mine. That’s what we were celebrating.
Hard to imagine that when I first met him, more than two and a half years ago, I hadn’t even been attracted to him. Now I was borderline obsessed.
But in a healthy way.
He would know, right
“I love you, Dr. Michael,” I whispered, lowering myself so that he could take in my cleavage, pillowed in red silk, as I placed the cheesecake with its two burning candles on the table in front of him.
He rewarded me with a grin. I called him Dr. Michael only on special occasions, and it always turned him on.
“Blow them out,” I urged, and he complied. Then I dredged my fingers through the cheesecake and put them in his mouth.
He licked them clean, slowly. “You think of everything.” He was looking at me in the way only he could, so full of love, lust, and admiration, like I was a marvel. A force of nature, he liked to say.
Then he pulled me down to the floor, and the cake after us, which made me giggle. We smeared it on each other’s bodies, like finger painting all grown up. No, it was like our wedding, but without any observers; there was no need for smashing confections into faces. Where did that tradition come from anyway? So much passive aggression. How could that bode well for any union?
But when Michael and I came together on my dining room floor, it was certainly portentous. After, we curled around each other, serpentine and spent. I put my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. It was even faster than my own. Good. A pulse can’t lie.
Not that I thought Michael lied to me, but we had been a secret for two years. Sometimes I just needed some sensory confirmation of his feelings. After what happened with Young, that was to be expected. Michael would say that himself.
He kissed the top of my head, and my stomach lurched just a little. I knew what that meant.
He gently extricated himself to pad across the floor, naked. He’d gotten in better shape these past two years, doing Pilates. I hadn’t known men did that, but it’d almost entirely eradicated the belly he had when we first met. He’d told me that he needed to get fit to keep up with me. I used to only like blonds, but Michael broke me of that. Now I was all about his thick brown-black hair and the tight whorls on his chest. Darkness seemed manly. And Young just seemed, well, young. He was part of my misspent youth.
If it hadn’t been for Michael, I might have just kept banging my head against that wall, thinking that because Young and I were married, we had to grow old together like my parents had. We’d met when we were twenty and said our vows a few years later in a Miami ballroom. How could anyone be held to decisions they made at that age? I was now ten years wiser, and Michael had ten years on top of that, so I knew I was doing the right thing.
But he was walking away from me, and I suddenly felt cold on the hardwood floor. I heard him start the shower, and I pulled the negligee back over my head. Time to scrape up the cheesecake. In the throes of passion, I didn’t mind a mess, but the rest of the time, I kept a spotless house. Well, apartment. A lovely apartment, from the early 1920s, with light oak floors, lots of sunlight, and built-in bookshelves, though it initially chafed that we had to sell the house in the divorce. My monthly rent for this one-bedroom in Rockridge was nothing short of ridiculous, but it was walking distance to scores of restaurants and boutiques, plus the BART station where I took the train to San Francisco for work. It was also fairly close to Michael’s office, not that I’d been there for the past two years. I’d been tempted, but I always managed to stop myself. That would have been too risky, and he would have been so angry. I hated seeing Michael angry.
Once my apartment was scrubbed, I yanked the negligee off and dropped it on the floor of the bathroom, parted the curtain, and stepped inside the claw-foot tub. I noted with disappointment that Michael was standing in the spray, already done with the soaping. I positioned myself near him, hoping he’d take the bait and lather me, but even though he was right there, he felt remote.
I’d never liked that he always showered right after, like he was getting rid of all evidence as quickly as possible
He pecked me on the cheek. “I’ll give you some privacy,” he said, beginning his exit.
For someone who reads people for a living, he could sometimes be a little dense. If I wanted privacy, wouldn’t I just have waited until he was done?
I put a hand on his arm, the lightest restraint. More beseeching, really, which wasn’t the most comfortable position for me. “Stay.” I smiled. “We need to make plans.”
“For the big reveal.” His face was disconcertingly blank. “What’s the best way to go public?”
The American Psychological Association says that former clients and their therapists must wait two years after the termination of therapy before they can become romantically involved. Today marked two years from when Young and I had our last session with Dr. Baylor, when we “processed” my decision to end the marriage.
In my mind, Michael and I had taken the moral path. Our first sexual contact had taken place after Young and I split up. I hadn’t cheated. It was a shame that the APA was so rigid, that it failed to recognize different circumstances. Sure, the rule existed to protect vulnerable clients, and I understood that. But I hadn’t been vulnerable; I’d been fully capable of making a clearheaded decision and protecting myself. Ironically, the APA and its well-meaning bureaucrats had been the only real threat to my mental health. It was rough, keeping a love this big underground.
“We can’t go public the second the time elapses,” he said. “It would look suspicious.”
“To whom? Who’s looking?”
“Young, maybe. He could report me.”
I scoffed. “Young lives in Pacific Heights. We haven’t spoken since we finalized the divorce. You know that.”“Don’t underestimate a man scorned. It’s hard to lose a woman like you.”
I felt a flush of pleasure that Michael thought so, though I highly doubted Young would agree. He was likely relieved when I ended it. He could tell his parents that we’d done counseling and, more important, that he’d done all he could but that I wasn’t willing to continue. I was sure he had told them that. Then he began to date immediately, according to the one friend we still had in common. I’d bet he never had any problems getting it up for all those girls from Tinder.
The flush of pleasure vacated my body instantly, and I felt a wave of self-consciousness. I shouldn’t have started this conversation with Michael in the shower. Far better would have been with full makeup on, with my lips accentuated and my nose deemphasized.
It wasn’t like I’d ever had trouble being noticed by men or being regarded as fuckable. Not until late-period Young. And Michael had just fucked me, vigorously.
But he didn’t want to be seen in public with me. That’s what he was saying. He wanted to keep me his dirty secret.
I’d waited two years! Two years!