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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7. Uncle Dan

 

The next morning, much to my surprise, I woke up before my alarm clock was due to sound off. I shot out of bed in a pretty good mood and felt inspired to just do everything productive in the world. I couldn’t quite explain what I was feeling, but I just had this surge of energy pumping through my veins from the moment my eyelids fluttered open. I still had a few hours until my appointment with Dr. Settler, so I decided I’d get some cleaning done in my filthy room once I was done with my shower.

            In the shower, I was in complete and utter peace. It was my favorite place to be in the world. I didn’t have to answer anyone’s nosy questions. The water was loud enough that if the phone rang, I could just ignore it. I could just be alone for twenty solid minutes to have time to either gather my thoughts without interruption or not even think at all if I really wanted to. I closed my eyes and sighed happily as the warm water hit me above my head, sending warm kisses down my body as the scorching water rushed over my bare skin.

            The water started to cool down to a temperature I didn’t like so I finished my shower and got out. As I was drying off, my phone started buzzing. It was a text message from Jess. I picked up the phone in my damp hand and looked at the words. Why’d you leave so early last night? the message read. I started typing up a reply until my mom walked in with an expression of concern and sadness.

“Mom?” I said, worried.

“Your Uncle Dan,” she began, tears welling up in her eyes. “He’s in the hospital. Heart attack.” She closed her eyes and sat down on the bed. I sat down next her and put my arm around her. As I sat there trying to quietly comfort my hurt mother, memories of my dad’s heart attack ran through my mind.

I was there when it happened. I felt so useless. I couldn’t form words or even muster up a yelp. I couldn’t dial 911. All I could do was sit there and stare at my dad while his body betrayed him. I sat in my chair completely frozen in shock as everyone around me scrambled around the room. I sat there and watched him be taken away in an ambulance.

“Chandler,” my mom had screamed at me square in the face. That’s when I snapped out of it enough to jump in the car so we could meet my dad at the hospital. Time passed slowly even though we hitting 80 on the way there. I wasn’t able to form a complete thought until we got into the waiting room. That’s when I lost it. I cried for an hour until the doctor came out with the news. I cried for several more hours after the doctor revealed that my dad had not made it.

I looked up at my mom. “Is he okay?”

“I need to go to the hospital to check on him,” she sniffed. “They won’t tell me anything over the phone.”

I offered to join her and cancel my appointment with Dr. Settler, but she refused. I would have protested, but I knew that if she really needed me there then she would have let me go. And she was the only reason I offered to go anyway. I hardly knew Uncle Dan. He was a workaholic, so I had only seen him a total of maybe six times in my lifetime. He was so obsessed with his work that he even destroyed his own family.

The hospital was three hours away, so my mom left immediately. I finished getting dressed and prepared myself a hearty breakfast before going to Dr. Settler’s office.

Once I was sitting in his office, I offered him the information about my sick uncle. “How do you feel about that?” he asked. I chuckled in response.

            “What?”

            “Nothing. That’s just a typical therapist question,” I smiled.

            “But an honest one,” he said, looking at me over his glasses.

            “I hardly know him, so I don’t really feel much except sympathy for my mom. She’s really bent out of shape about it,” I shrugged.

            “Your dad died from a heart attack, correct?” I nodded. “So, you must have associated your uncle’s with your father’s somehow? Maybe it brought back old feelings that you never properly got over?”

            “Look, I haven’t always been broken,” I snapped. “I’ve been a strong person all my life. Just because I had a life changing experience doesn’t mean I was always incapable of coping on my own.”

            “A lot of people require therapy for grieving, Chandler. It’s nothing to be ashamed about.”

            “Well, I didn’t hire you to talk about my dad,” I grumbled, crossing my arms.

            He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. “Okay,” he sighed. “Have you tried finding a guy lately?”

            “My friend Jess took me to a bar of all places. The only single guy there was a complete creep,” I rolled my eyes.

            “You didn’t talk to anyone else?”

            Then I remembered bumping into Charlie. He was so weird, but he seemed so harmless. I wished that it would have been him that I met in the bar so I wouldn’t have to report back to Dr. Settler that I hadn’t made any progress. I sighed, “I ran into a boy named Charlie as I was walking home, but I sort of blew him off.”

            “Why’d you do that?”

            “I was distraught, I guess. I wasn’t really all there. I just needed to get home to my medication. My anxiety was high. He asked for my number and I gave it to him, but he hasn’t called or anything.”

            “Don’t let that stop you from looking for other guys,” he said.

***

            My mom arrived home late at night with her face puffy and her hair a mess, and I just knew that things went wrong at the hospital. She came in and kicked off her shoes before plopping down in the chair adjacent to me.

            “I got to speak to him for a while before he drew his last breath,” she finally said after several minutes of silence. “They asked me to leave the room so they could do their nurse shit and then the next thing I knew a doctor comes into the waiting room to tell me my only brother is dead. Just like that,” she sobbed into her hands.

            I wanted to cry too; I felt like it was appropriate. But I just physically couldn’t. It was difficult for me to cry over people and things I wasn’t incredibly attached to. I tried to comfort my mom the best I could, but I don’t think it was helping all that much. I think she just needed time.

            Once she was able to get herself together she looked over to me and said, “He told me he left you money since you’re his only niece.”

            “Money? Why?” I gasped in complete shock.

            She shrugged. “He’s always felt guilty about neglecting his family. And just too ashamed to do anything about it.”

            Before I could day dream about what I would do with my own small fortune, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out to see a text from Jess asking if I was mad at her. I realized I had forgot to text her back when she texted in the morning.

            Uncle Dan died, I texted back.

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