The Sun Shines Brighter in the West

Chandler Baker was raped two years ago and she kept it a secret until her mother witnessed one of her panic attacks. Her mother made her seek help, but she stopped showing up. Now, she's seeing a new therapist, Dr. Settler, who helps her through her journey of recovering and helps her trust men again.

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4. Boys & Bowling

“Yes, a strike!” I screeched, jumping up and down. It was my first one of the day, which is actually pretty pathetic considering we were on our third game. I stepped down from the lane, happy with my work, and sat down until it was my turn to go again. It was one of the days I called my “day off” because I didn’t have therapy, it was my mother’s busiest day at work so she would just come home and go straight to sleep, and I got to spend the day with my best friend and a few acquaintances.

All of us, my best friend Jess, her coworker Katie, and an old friend from high school Alexus, met up every Thursday simply to bowl and have fun. We started doing it a year ago when we decided that we all didn’t have lives. Not to mention, we were growing estranged from the rest of the world and needed something grounded in our lives. It was really great for me because it always put a smile on my face and, in my darker times, it was the only time during the week that I would smile.

I sat down next to Jess and sighed in a playful manner. “You wish you had that kind of skill,” I boasted.

“Yeah, it takes a special skill alright to go through two games before finally getting a strike!” she laughed.

I laughed with her and we sat there for a moment in silence. It was nice. That’s something I really liked about Jess. She didn’t find quietness awkward. She wasn’t always a quiet person, but she knew when a pause in conversation was needed. She knew when people just needed a rest.

Jess heaved a sigh and looked straight at me with a furrowed brow. “We need men in our lives, Chan,” she said purposefully. All I could do was laugh. “No, I’m serious,” she started, moving her gaze toward a couple off to the right. “I need to go on a date. And so do you! A double date. How does that sound?”

“Like middle school.”

“Chandler, come on. Isn’t there anyone you could ask out?” she pleaded. I shook my head and took a sip of water. “Yeah, right! What about that guy you’re always talking about? What’s his name…Tom! You said he was young and attractive. What about him?”

“Jess,” I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. That’s my freaking therapist. That would be totally inappropriate.”

“But if it wasn’t inappropriate, you would totally go for it?” she raised her eyebrows and kept her stare locked on my face expectantly.

“God, no. Would you stop?” I elbowed her in the arm. “He’s my therapist and that’s it. He has a few attractive features, yes, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s a totally professional relationship.”

“How is therapy going anyway?” she queried.

I sighed. This again. Wasn’t therapy supposed to be confidential between doctor and patient? Then why does everyone feel the need to butt in and ask how it’s going? Obviously it’s not going too badly considering I still keep spending all that money on him. And do I still seem so mentally distraught that people still have to ask how it’s going? Do I really seem like I haven’t changed at all through past four months of therapy?

I wanted to scream, but I knew it wouldn’t be fair to Jess. She was just a concerned best friend. “He said I’m making progress,” I told her. “And I really feel like I am. He’s so easy to talk to and – “

“He’s easy to talk to?” she interrupted excitedly. “He definitely sounds like boyfriend material! Wouldn’t it be perfect to have a therapist and boyfriend all in one? Isn’t that how it should be?”

I rolled my eyes, getting incredibly impatient. “No, Jess. Maybe other people would like that sort of situation, but not me. I don’t want my future boyfriend to know about my past. I don’t even want to know about my past.”

Finally bowling was over and everyone started packing up, preventing Jess from going any further with persuading me to pursue my therapist. After I got all my stuff together, I hugged Jess goodbye and quickly headed for my car before she could strike up another conversation about Dr. Settler.

Once I got home, I was too exhausted to bother doing anything productive, so instead I just dropped all of my things in the living room by the staircase and trotted up to my room. I immediately got myself comfortable in my bed and lay there until I fell asleep.

Bad idea.

I had the same nightmare I had been having for two years again. It always started with Harley caressing face. If it had been anyone else it would be an incredibly sweet gesture, but it sent chills up my spine even as I slept. Then the dream continued with him pressing all his weight on me and whispering dirty things into my ear. Then I would always wake up, sweating right before he started to get any further than laying on top of me naked. I always woke up crying. Even though I dreamt to the worst part, it was still always so difficult to relive the same awful experience over and over again. It was overwhelming and frustrating to not even be able to escape the memory in my dreams.

I sat up in bed and wiped away my tears. I held my chest as I felt a panic attack coming along and let out loud sobs. I quit bothering to wipe my tears as they started pouring down my face more frequently and reached for the phone.

No. I stopped myself. I wouldn’t call Dr. Settler. He needed to know I was making progress.

I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom. I took one of my anxiety pills and leaned against the sink as I waited for my breathing to return back to normal. After splashing my face with cold water, I headed back to bed. I lay there for hours trying to catch some sleep.

But it was no use. The nightmare had already interrupted my night. 

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