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“I just don’t understand why the doctor can’t prescribe something to help you.” Her friend was clearly irritated. “How long did he say it would take for this thing to ‘run its course’?” she inquired.

“I told you,” she responded, staring out the passenger window of the vehicle as she adjusted her sunglasses to hide her swollen, puffy eyes. “There is no medicine that he can prescribe. It just has to run its course and I’ll feel better when it does.”

“It’s a virus?” her friend pushed.

“Are you coming, Grandma?” she called up the stairs lightly.

“Yes, dear,” was the response. “I’ll be down in just a few moments. I’m moving a little slower than normal this morning,” the old woman giggled. “I’m not complaining, though. You just sit tight and be there in a flash.”

“All right, Gran,” her granddaughter laughed. “I know it’s all my fault . . . I kept you up too late.”

They never went to the party that New Year’s Eve.

Better late than never” he had toasted. As she gazed expectantly into his soft brown eyes, she found no answers to all of the questions running through her mind. Rather, she was met with the same bemused expression with which she was so familiar: The look that gave way to more questions, but seemed never to yield any answers. Perhaps tonight would be different, the start of a new chapter in their lives.

She fell into bed, completely exhausted, and immediately crashed into a deep, but uneasy sleep. She tossed and turned as images, voices, memories and fears jumbled together into a series of nonsensical but disturbing dreams. When she awoke several hours later, she felt as though she hadn’t slept at all.

3:45 a.m.

She knew what time it was before she opened her eyes and looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand beside her bed. On nights like this, she always awoke at precisely the same time.

“So how did you do?” Dr. Nolan asked cheerfully, but expectantly.

“Well, I didn’t write the letter.” She had decided while driving to the therapist’s office to be straightforward, direct, and honest about her progress.

“I see,” Dr. Nolan replied matter-of-factly. “Do you want to tell me why?”

“This is ridiculous,” she thought to herself as she stared at the blank piece of paper in front of her. “I should just compose this using the computer.” She thought about sitting down in front of the keyboard as she gazed at the stationery she had selected that morning.

“I could compose the letter using the computer and, after I perfect it, copy it to the page in longhand,” she said to herself. “Dr. Nolan would never know.” With that, she pulled out a pad of ordinary lined paper from her desk and picked up the pen to begin writing.

She stopped just before the ink began to flow onto the page.

She would know that she had not completed the exercise in the manner Dr. Nolan advised. And that would be a problem. As silly and pointless as she tried to tell herself the assignment was, she could never lie to Dr. Nolan about how she completed it. Deep within herself she acknowledged its inherent value and understood precisely why Dr. Nolan had insisted that part of the exercise be the experience of actually sitting down with pen and paper to write about her feelings.

As she continued staring at the notepad, she was transported back to a simpler time when her life lay before her and she willingly spent countless hours engaging in just such an exercise. Relished it, in fact, as so many young women do.


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