“15 YEARS AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, YOUR FIRST CRUSH REAPPEARS.
THEY’RE IN PRISON AND YOU’RE THEIR DOCTOR.
BE HONEST. THERE’S NO TELLING WHAT YOU WOULD DO…”
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Captives, I’m excited to be sharing an extract from the book with you today.
Convicted of murder, destined for life in prison, Miranda is desperate for an escape. She signs up for sessions with the prison psychologist, Frank Lundquist, so that she can access the drugs to end it all. But unknown to her, Frank remembers her from high school, where, forgettable and unseen, he had a crush on Miranda Greene. Now, captivated again, his feelings deepen to obsession. What led the daughter of a former Congressman to commit such a terrible crime? And how can he make her remember him?
As Miranda contemplates a dark future and a darker past, she soon realises that Frank might offer another way to the freedom she longs for. But at what cost?
I had opened her file folder. My eyes skated over the words without seeing them. I asked a bit about her recent stint in segregation, launched into the usual personality diagnostics. I spooled out a few sequences by rote, she responded, and I began to regain my focus then. I listened and I didn’t say anything about Lincoln High or her naked breast or the yanked decal or the fact that I was that guy from the last row of her trigonometry class. I didn’t say that I’d been in the stands every race she ran, that one season she ran track, and that I knew she’d won only once, that very day, that sunny November day. I didn’t say that I knew her father had been a one-term congressman, and I didn’t say that I’d adored her from afar through every long and confounding day of my high school career. She clearly did not remember me. Did this bother me? In a very slight, subsumed way, maybe. Not with any conscious awareness. In any case, I didn’t speak up.
We finished the diagnostic segment, and then she told me she had trouble sleeping. The noise, the shouting on her unit at night. She folded and unfolded her hands in her lap and asked hesitantly if there might be some pill that could help her. “I just need to fade out for a few hours,” she said.
I couldn’t help noticing that the tomato-colored polish on her nails was chipped. If there was one thing all my clients had, it was impeccable and usually jaw-droppingly intricate manicures—rainbows and coconut palms and boyfriends’ names, glittered stripes and stars and hearts. Those women didn’t pick at or chew their nails. They flashed them. But her nails were short. Ravaged.
I found myself scrawling on a blue slip, recommending Zoloft. Rising from my chair, I walked around the desk and held it out to her. She stood, a head shorter than me. Her downcast eyes, her long lashes. A scatter of faint freckles. I dragged my gaze away, pulled my shoulders back, summoning every inch of my height. “Just show this to Dr. Polkinghorne’s aide two doors down.”
She read it and thanked me softly. We both stood there for a minute. I debated about whether to say what I knew I should say. “Um, you know what?” I started. Then I said something else instead. “I’d like to add you to my list of standing appointments. I think we can pursue some solutions for you.”
She bent her lips into this tiny, melancholy smile. “Wonderful,” she said, then turned to leave. Her ponytail swayed gently to and fro as she walked away and out the
door. Letting her leave then, without revealing what I knew, was an ethical violation, the first in a string of them that I’ve committed since that moment. The American Psychological Association guidelines on preexisting relationships are very clear. They should be acknowledged, and if such a relationship might in any way impair objectivity, therapy must not go forward. It’s all pretty straightforward in the guidelines.
That must have been when I stopped following guidelines. Up to that point, I was more or less your average, law-abiding, guideline-following man.
She changed all that, though she didn’t mean to at all, this person in the state-issued yellows, with the backyard- flower face. She who I remembered so clearly as a girl. She who you wouldn’t forget.
I can’t refer to her here by name. Let’s call her M, and move on.
*My thanks to Titan Books for providing me with the above extract and inviting me to participate in the blog tour*
Debra Jo Immergut worked for many years as a magazine editor and journalist. She was a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, and was a winner of the National Magazine Award. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and has been awarded a MacDowell and a Michener Fellowship. Her stories have also appeared in American Short Fiction and the Antietam Review.
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