Hell Bound

Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
aren’t shaking.

When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.

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34. Chapter Thirty Four

Bucky was sitting on the edge of my bed putting his clothes back on when I returned to the bedroom. I could see his bare back when I walked in, and he was covered in the marks I’d left on his skin the night before. I averted my eyes and went right to the closet. I needed something other than sweats to wear, and I couldn’t look at him.

“Is everything alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s fine. I’m just going to head out for a while. You guys make yourself at home,” I explained.

I pulled on some jeans and headed toward the door. But then I stopped when I reached it. Even though I couldn’t get the image of him shoving me under water out of my head, the memory of him the night before was fresher. He’d held me so close and so passionately. I’d fallen asleep with a smile on my face and wrapped in his arms. So I turned back around, shuffled to the bed at his side, pressed a kiss to his cheek, and then hurried out of there before he could ask any more questions.

Doctor Watson was already in her office by the time I got to the VA. She let me right in and made me a cup of coffee while I got comfortable on her couch. She brought the small cup over to me and then took a seat in the chair in front of me.

“I assume you had another nightmare,” she said as she assembled her notebooks. My fingers were still shaking as I took a sip of the scalding hot coffee. I just wasn’t sure if it was because the dream scared me or because I was nervous about talking to her.

“I get them a lot. But—this one was different. It rattled me.”

“More than the others?”

“I just—don’t know what to do, I guess.”

“What do you mean?”

I tapped my fingers against the side of the cup. I wanted to tell her everything. But if she knew I had a fugitive in my house she would probably have to tell someone. I needed to be careful with my words. No one outside of my small group of family and friends knew about my association with Bucky. Except for HYDRA. I didn’t want to tell her anything, but Sam knew her. Sam was friends with her. He trusted her, and I trusted him.

“I um…” I started. “Earlier this year, I met this guy.” She opened her notebook and nodded. “I’d actually prefer it if you didn’t write it down.”

“No one has access to my notes, Johanna.”

“I know, but I’d really like it if there wasn’t paper involved.” She nodded slowly and closed the notebook. Then she set it down on a table and gave me her full attention.

“Is this the man you didn’t want to tell me about?” she asked. I nodded.

“Yeah. He—things were complicated from the start. A real relationship was never an option so we agreed to not even try. But there was something between us and we finally decided to worry about it when we had to. So naturally everything fell apart.” She nodded, telling me to go on.

“He disappeared for a while,” I continued. “But then he came back, and I guess it got even more complicated than before. I already knew there were—feelings, I guess. I don’t think I was in love with him. I cared about him deeply. It could have been love, you know?”

“I understand. And what happened when he came back?”

“It made everything worse.”

“It made what worse?” I looked down into my small paper cup.

“The feelings, I guess.”

“Are you in love with him now, Johanna?”

“I don’t know. That’s the problem. I’ve never really been in love before. I have no experience with it to draw from. It hasn’t been very long. Every time I think I feel it, my brain reminds me that it requires more time before it can be defined. People can’t fall in love that quickly.”

“New romances tend to be very fun and exciting at first, but those feelings begin to fade after a few months. Sharing a trauma with another person can also bring you closer together. Which may explain why you felt so deeply so early on. Without calling it love. How long has it been since you met?” I shook my head.

“I don’t know. I haven’t calculated the exact time. It was earlier this year. After the—stuff happened.” I motioned toward the window, and she seemed to understand what I was referring to.

“Time can change how people feel about each other. The feelings fade after a while, especially if there’s no guarantee that you will see that person again. You can move on. But time can also exacerbate feelings. It’s possible that if they haven’t gone away and have only gotten worse, that maybe they’re genuine. No one can determine that but you.” I didn’t say anything as I looked into the swirling dark coffee. “What kind of conflict is it that’s preventing you from being together?” she asked.

“It’s just like I said—a relationship was never an option. And now I’m starting to think that he may have hurt me in the past. Before we even knew each other. It’s possible we were connected at some point, and I know he’s a different person now. I know he would never hurt me intentionally. But there’s a very large possibility that that something he did may have—caused me a great deal of pain. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to deal with that.”

“You said yourself that a relationship isn’t an option.”

“That’s the worst part of the problem, I think. I still don’t want to let him go.”

“Even now that you think he may have hurt you in the past?” I nodded.

“I don’t think he would have wanted to—if he had a choice. It wasn’t something he did because he wanted to hurt people. It was something he was ordered to do. And as fucked up as this sounds, it just makes me more—sympathetic. It makes me want to protect him.” I took a deep breath. “The thing is that—I know he’s going to leave again. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again. Let alone when. I don’t want to pine for him for the rest of my life but…”

“You don’t want him to leave.” I shook my head.

“I don’t want him to go. But I know he has to. I want him to know that I care about him and that I don’t blame him for what he did. He could come back—if he wanted to.”

“Does he know that his actions may have hurt you in the past?” I shook my head again.

“I don’t think so.”

“Then speaking with him about it may help the both of you. If all else, you would be able to tell him how you feel about him. Even if a relationship isn’t an option at present. It might make the both of you feel less overwhelmed by what you’re feeling.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Can I be frank with you?”

“Please?”

“I haven’t known you for very long, and you rarely speak to me when you do manage to find the time to see me. But from what I have seen, you have a tendency to separate yourself from the people you care about. I don’t know if it’s your way or protecting yourself from being hurt, or to protect the people you love from getting too close to you. You moved away from your family, and you refuse to make lasting relationships with anyone outside of your immediate family.

“Now that you have someone you may actually want to keep around, your mind is finding excuses for why it won’t work.” I drained my coffee cup as she spoke. “Even if it’s true that you can’t be in a relationship with him at the moment, for whatever reason, I still think it would benefit you to be honest with him about how you feel. Honesty is something that you struggle with. Most of the time it’s with yourself. But in this case, you may need to be honest with another person, and that scares you. If you never see him again, and this is really the end for you—you’ll heal from that loss much more efficiently if nothing was left unsaid. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“And it may even help with your nightmares. Honestly, even when you are just honest with yourself, can work wonders. You’ve been trying not to think about all the things in your past that have hurt you, and so they surface in your sleep. Because they no longer have an outlet any other way. If you allow those thoughts to manifest, even if they’re painful, even if you have to cry and rage, they may begin to work toward a resolution. You’ll be able to separate yourself from the blame and guilt. Or at least it will help you work through that guilt more positively.” I nodded again. “And it might be especially beneficial if you stopped skipping meetings with me.” I laughed.

“When were we supposed to meet next?” She picked up a schedule off of her desk and flipped through the pages.

“Well, Johanna. That’s the problem. You said you’d make the appointments when it was convenient for you but at no set time. And then you don’t call.”

“Ugh. That sounds like me.”

“How about you come and see me on Tuesdays? Regularly. I’m almost booked solid on Tuesday, but I have an opening from eight am to nine-thirty. You’re off on Tuesday’s right?” She looked back up at me.

“Yeah, I don’t work Tuesdays. That would be perfect.”

“Great. Then I will get you penciled in.” She went to scribble it into her schedule, and I glanced at the clock. She said she had a meeting at nine, and it was almost nine.

“I’d better go so you can get ready for your meeting. I’m sorry for bothering you again,” I told her as I stood up and reached for my bag.

“No, no. Don’t apologize. Like I said, I try to keep my mornings open for emergencies. I’m glad we had this talk.” She stood up to walk me out, but when I reached the door, she put her hand on my shoulder. “Can I ask you one more question before you go?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“You called me because you had another nightmare. I assume it was related to what we discussed. What is it that has you so rattled?” I bit my lip and took a deep breath.

“I saw him this time.”

“Is that what makes you think he’s caused you pain in the past?”

“Yeah.” She nodded thoughtfully.

“Dreams are just dreams, Johanna. Don’t let them get to you. The ability to recall things exactly as they were is an uncommon skill. It’s possible that the things you see in your dreams are close to reality, but not every detail will be exact. Especially in your subconscious. When we are struggling to work through things, our dreams sometimes bring up bad memories and change what we see to fit the current situation. You can’t take your dreams as fact and allow them to control your life.” I didn’t really know what to say to that. So I just nodded and headed out.

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