Excerpt from The Chains That Bind

“Are you still having nightmares?”


“Every night,” I sighed. I avoided looking the shrink. She had the kind of eyes that saw straight through words and pried out the ugly truth. I was definitely avoiding that.


“Have you been meditating every day?” she asked.


I squirmed. “I’m trying,” I said, frowning at the whine in my voice. “I just can’t seem to stay focused.”


Dr. Walters nodded, the ends of her hair waving a bit at the movement. I stared at the mahogany cloud, fascinated.


Dr. Yolanda Walters was a lovely woman, about 10 years my senior who radiated calm. I liked her. I liked her easy smile, the way her very white teeth gleamed against the dark tones of her lips and gums. I liked the way her hair


billowed out from her head in waves of reddish-brown that defied gravity and entranced me.


After three tries to find a psychologist I could work with, Dr. Walters’ progressive style and non-judgmental aura was just what I needed. She reminded me of Kaitlyn, the woman who was one of the few points of stability at the Center. She reminded me of Yamaya, too. After encountering the African goddess in a vision, she had come to represent the kind of strength and support I needed to get through this emotional fall-out.


“It’s common for people to have difficulty concentrating or staying on task,” the doctor said.


“I’m jumpy,” I blurted out. “In more ways than one.”


The doctor nodded and waited for me to continue.

“Like, I get so nervous with sudden sounds,” I explained. “Especially ones that sound like water splashing.” I shivered. “And crowds. I feel like a long-tailed cat in crowds, just waiting for someone to do something that hurts me.”

Dr. Walters made some notes, nodding.

“But I’m also constantly changing what I’m doing,” I said. “I’ll be filling orders, and I’ll jump up and start supper. Only it’s like two in the afternoon. So I’ll go clean the girls’ room. Then halfway through that, I’ll remember I need to pick up the mail.” I shook my head. “It takes me twice as long to get anything done.”

The woman across from me shot me a sympathetic look. “Nicola, I have to tell you, given what you’d been through, all of this is totally normal. Anxiety and loss of executive function are both extremely common reactions to the kind of trauma you’ve been through.”

I snorted. “I can’t afford to be normal if that means broken,” I muttered.

Dr. Walters nodded her understanding. “It’s frustrating, having to take the time to heal, having to deal with scars and,” her eyes flickered down to my feet then back up to my face, “things that are gone.”

I huffed out a wry laugh. “That’s an understatement.”

She leaned forward. “Nicola, I’ve seen a lot of people with these issues, and I have high hopes of you being able to overcome them. You are honest with yourself and incredibly self-aware.”

I grimaced.

“But,” she continued, “you need to let yourself feel what you feel. You need to dig out the fear and the anger and the pain, and let yourself feel them.”

I opened my mouth, then realized I had nothing to say to that. I completely agreed with her even if I didn’t want to do it.

“You don’t have to do it all at once, though,” Dr. Walters warned. “You have had a lot happen and trying to push it too fast could overwhelm you.”

I slumped in the overstuffed chair. “I’m overwhelmed every day of my life,” I said.

“With two kids and an at-home business,” she said, “I can imagine you are. Perhaps you should take some time off.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, Joseph - my friend from Indie - he’s been trying to get me to go on some hiking trip with him,” I said. “Do you think that would be wise, though? I thought I was supposed to be getting my life together, not traipsing off to go on long walks.”

Dr. Walters grinned. “Vacations are a part of life, Nicola. We need to rest and get out of our routines just as much as we need to have our routines to begin with.” She jotted a few more notes and closed the notebook. “As your doctor, I suggest you consider this trip. It might be just what you need to get past this plateau in your progress.”

I grimaced. “Okay, I guess. What’s the worst that could happen?”

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