Terry's Journey: Chapter 24

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Chapter Twenty-four
A Woman's Joy

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
~ Psalm 126:5 ~

Fly fishing wasn't high on Terry's list right now, not while every moment he hoped and expected for a phone call from Dr. Jacoby. Since Maddie had needed to lay down on the couch to lessen the pain of her stitches, it seemed sensible to let her rest while he went fishing. It hadn't been easy to leave, even with Izzy's promise to keep an eye on and take good care of Maddie.

So Terry had gone fishing. There wasn't much else he could do besides pray and wait for Dr. Jacoby's call.

And of course fish.

Wind gusted over the water, playing with Terry's line so much, he had to keep double-hauling the casts to make any progress. The fish weren't biting, but it didn't matter. John had gotten Terry out of the house and back on the shore, and doing a decent job of getting Terry to relax.

Which, Terry figured, had been the whole point of them coming out here in the first place.

"How do you like the fly?" Abby asked as she executed a sweet triple-haul that had Terry smiling. "I also made one for Dad, though we're probably going to have a long wait before he tries fly fishing again."

Further down the shore, John grinned as he reeled in a few inches of his line. "Thanks for the gift, but when I try to fly cast, I look like a maniac with stripped line piling at my feet."

"That's because it takes practice."

"I've had enough practice looking like a maniac," John laughed. "I'll stick with what I've got."

"You do all right," Terry smiled, working to time the rhythm of each cast. "The fish don't seem to be interested in us today, but I like the fly."

Just then, a male voice sounded behind them.

"Hey," Abby paused to greet the newcomer. "What are you doing out here?"

Coughing, Jake rubbed his hands together before shoving them into the pockets of his heavy coat. "I thought I'd watch."

"You should be inside." Abby gave her fly rod to John for safekeeping, then used her free hands to zip up Jake's coat and pull the collar up around the young man's neck. "You can watch us some other time. You should be resting."

"So should you." Jake planted a kiss on Abby's forehead, smiled, and looked to Terry. "Did I miss anything? Have you talked about her yet?"

"You mean Maddie?" Terry did a short retrieve before the backcast. "I guess now is as good a time as any." Trying to keep the mood from taking a nosedive off a cliff, Terry told them about Maddie's problem as simply as he could. He tried not to watch their faces as they registered the news, but a quick glance at AJ showed them sober and quiet.

Abby had her fly rod back, but she had stopped fishing.

"Is there anything we can do?" Jake asked.

"Just pray, and don't treat her weird."

"What made her cut?" Abby asked. "Was it because of me?"

"I doubt it." Terry flicked the line back onto the water. "I think she's done this three times since I've known her, and you only came home the day before yesterday. This isn't because of you."

"Then why is she doing it?"

"I don't know." Terry slowly reeled in his line. "Besides it being her way of coping, I don't know what specifically pushes her over the edge."

"Then how do you know it wasn't my fault, this time?"

"Abby," Terry stopped to look into the concerned face of his little fishing buddy. "A lot happened yesterday besides your apology to Maddie. Most of the tears she shed, were because of me-- not you."

"Why would Madison cry because of you?"

"Because Maddie is confused." Terry sucked in a deep breath as John came over to better listen. The fish had been forgotten, and Terry knew Abby was struggling with guilt. "It's not because of you. It's not. If I could point to anyone, it would be me."

"But I don't understand."

Finding it hard to put into words, Terry prayed for wisdom. "Maddie feels a lot for me-- how much or how deeply, I can't say, but it's there. When she found out yesterday that I had feelings for her, as well, it caused her pain."

"Why?"

A sigh slipped from Jake, and he nodded knowingly. "Because Madison loves our Uncle Terry, and she doesn't want him to get hurt."

"Why should he get hurt?" The words weren't out of Abby's mouth before she looked as though she finally understood. "Yesterday, Madison told me she couldn't marry Uncle Terry."

Though it didn't surprise Terry, it pained him to hear that, and his pain only seemed to confirm Maddie's concern. He was already getting hurt.

The cell phone in Terry's pocket sounded, and he quickly stepped away to answer the call. Thank the Lord, it was Dr. Jacoby.

"I had a talk with Dr. Bennett."

"And?"

"And she really does have a full caseload. However, she told me to direct you to her website, and asked you to download the intake form and the medical release files. You and Madison each fill out a set, then give Dr. Bennett a call to make an appointment. She may have to stay after her usual office hours to fit you in, but she will see you both."

"Thank you. Thank you." Terry blew out a sigh of relief and stared up at the heavens. "I can't thank you enough for this. It means a lot to us."

"You're very welcome, Terry. I hope Dr. Bennett works out for you and Madison." A long pause emphasized Dr. Jacoby's next words. "I'm not only thankful for Madison's sake, but also for yours. I believe therapy will do you good, and I mean that in the best possible way. I know the last several months have been hard on you, so try to take advantage of Dr. Bennett's help. For your sake, as well as Madison's, you must take care of yourself. It must be a priority."

"I understand." Terry looked out over the bay, the waves cresting in the wind and forming whitecaps. "You're a good friend, thank you."

After giving Terry the website URL for Dr. Bennett, and talking more about his high opinion of her, Dr. Jacoby hung up to try and resume what was left of his vacation. After getting so involved in their troubles, Terry guessed it wouldn't be easy.

Trying to calm himself, Terry slipped the phone back into his pocket. He needed to take one steady step at a time, but at least he and Maddie were heading in the right direction.

He looked back at the others.

"Important call?" John asked, and Terry nodded.

"We have a psychiatrist."

* * * *

The children were doing kid-safe watercolors at the kitchen table, and from the couch, Madison could hear them busily having fun. Izzy kept hovering between the kitchen and living room, keeping an eye on the munchkins, and keeping Madison company as the TV droned in the background. It made for a lightly noisy house, but Madison didn't mind. She tried to lose herself in just being there, letting the TV do its thing while Izzy commented on the program and the triplets and Ricky made a mess in the kitchen. Like water washing onto the beach, Madison let everything around her flow where it wanted.

"Mommy, Ricky says my grass shouldn't be purple."

"Then don't make it purple." Izzy flipped to another channel as Madison shut her eyes. "Do you need anything for the pain?"

"No, it's not as bad right now." Madison pulled the blanket around her shoulders, and when the front door opened, so did her eyes.

In he came, the one who kept surging through her thoughts no matter what she did.

"Hey there, princess." Terry stepped inside with his fishing stuff, and the others came in behind him. "How's everyone doing?" It was code for how she was doing, and Madison couldn't help her smile.

"She's tired, but doing just fine." Izzy stepped halfway into the kitchen to check on the kids. "John, maybe you could run to the store now?"

"Man," John snapped his fingers, "I knew I'd forgotten something."

"Mommy, Debbie spilled her glass."

"I'll take care of it," Jake said, and moved past Izzy to clean up the tipped over puddle in the kitchen.

"Uncle Terry, do you want me to put away your gear?" Abby smiled helpfully when Terry handed her his things, then turned to her father as he checked his pockets for a wallet and cell phone. "Sometime soon, we need to unload the moving trailer so we can get it back to the rental people."

"After I get back from the store," John nodded, "we'll take care of it, and just stack everything in your house to be unpacked for later. Terry, go do what you need to. I can handle things around here."

"Are you sure?"

John nodded. "I have it covered." John let Abby go put away his things, and while he talked to his wife about what she needed at the store, Terry crouched by the sofa and smiled at Madison.

The fresh scent of the outdoors clung to Terry like a tight hug.

"Dr. Jacoby called," Terry said in a private hush. He reached for Madison's hand, and gave it a light squeeze as he spoke. "Dr. Bennett agreed to see us. Would you come to the office in a few minutes? We have paperwork to fill out before we can make an appointment."

With a sigh, Madison nodded. Unlike Terry, she couldn't work up any joy over the thought of going to some stranger with her problems.

She watched as Terry stood, and moved to the hallway with his coat slung over one arm. Maybe he would change his mind and call the whole thing off. Maybe he would forget, and they wouldn't have to go to any appointment. It wasn't likely though, not with the way he seemed to be pinning his hopes on getting her help.

A few minutes later, John had left for the store, Jake was resting in the recliner, and Abby was talking to Izzy in the kitchen while the children finished their works of art. What the women talked about didn't matter to Madison, just as long as the sound of their voices and the drone of the TV kept her distracted.

She wondered if it was too late to run away? Probably.

Knowing Terry had to be waiting for her by now, Madison climbed off the couch, and Jake gave her a brave smile as she headed for the hallway. Easy for Jake to smile, he wasn't the one about to be analyzed, or whatever it was shrinks did.

The office door stood open, an unspoken invitation to come inside. She did, but ever so slowly. Terry sat at his desk, retrieving something from the office printer, and when he saw her, he rolled out another chair as she shut the door.

"Terry?" She went to him, hoping he would listen to reason. "Is this going to be expensive? If it's going to cost you a lot of money, then why do it? Think about the price of gas for a minute. You'll have to pay for all that gas to get us to wherever this lady is, and it might add up. Maybe we should stop before you go broke."

He looked at her skeptically. "What do you know of the price of gas?" He placed another stack of paper in front of her as she eased into the chair. "I can afford the time and expense, whatever that might be, so stop trying to stall. I know all this paperwork looks daunting, but it's necessary."

"What if I don't want to see that lady?"

"You promised me," he reminded. "You said you'd fight this with everything you've got."

"That promise was for cutting-- not for this." Madison peered at the thick pile of sheets Terry had neatly stacked together. "Do I have to answer everything?"

"Please, Maddie."

She sighed as Terry handed her a pencil. A very big part of her wanted to leave, but the part near her heart made her want to stay. She was only doing this because God minded her cutting, and it would hurt Terry if she left. No other reasons than those, could have made her stay in that chair.

"I read the position statement on Dr. Bennett's website." Terry sounded hopeful. "Dr. Jacoby told me Carolyn Bennett was a professing Christian, and after what I just read, I think we're going to like her."

Numbly, Madison nodded. She stared at the stack in front of her, and the stack in front of Terry. Two different stacks for two different people. It didn't make any sense.

"Why do you have to fill out anything, if we're going in because of me?"

"It's because we're going into therapy, together." Terry glanced at her and smiled. "I meant it when I said you're not in this alone."

The words tugged her into action. Pencil in hand, she read the first line and immediately blanked. They wanted today's date. She couldn't remember, and looked over to Terry's form and borrowed his answer.

She copied the referring doctor's name-- Dr. Jacoby-- then printed her name as firmly as she could until the tip broke.

Terry handed her another pencil.

Social Security number, home address... Madison paused when they asked who to call in case of emergency. "Can I put in your number?" she asked, and Terry smiled as though it was an honor. She printed his cell phone number on the line, and worked her way to the next section.

Uh-oh.

"What are the problems you're coming in for, and what are your treatment goals?" She read the words out loud and got a pained look from Terry.

"What are you going to put down?" he asked.

Feeling trapped, Madison thought about escaping back to the living room. Maybe even back to the Old Mill Campground.

"Don't panic, Maddie."

"I'm not."

He gave her a look and she forced herself to calm down.

"We agree getting treatment for cutting comes first, right?"

She nodded, and wrote that in.

stop cutting


The graphite tip broke, and Terry pushed the pencil into a sharpener before handing it back.

"Getting help for your flashbacks, dealing with the night terrors, things that get in the way of a happy life. It's up to you, Maddie. What's your next priority?"

She thought it over, and put down her answer.

beckome normal


Although Terry winced, he didn't call her stupid for being so wishful.

"Then there's you and me." He bowed his head a little, as though he couldn't quite meet her eyes because of what she might say. Such as, "Get lost." "What's your goal for us?" he asked.

"I'm not marrying you."

He looked away, and went back to filling out his own form.

"I'm not having sex, Terry. Not again. Not ever."

"Put down what you want, Maddie. I won't pressure you into something you don't want."

"Then say I don't have to see this lady."

"I meant," he looked at Madison, "not where you and I are concerned. But you are going, if only to get help for yourself."

The empty line stared up at her, daring her to at least comment one way or the other about Terry. They had a relationship-- she didn't doubt that, but if she put down "get married," then that would mean sex. If she didn't, then maybe she would lose out on getting to be with Terry at all. Even kissing him.

Terry sighed. "Why don't you fill out the rest of the form, and come back to that later?" He spoke without looking up, and she leaned in to see what he had written.

Help Maddie stop cutting.
Have a loving, healthy relationship with Maddie.
Make Maddie happy.


Tears welled up in Madison's eyes and she pushed away from the desk. It wasn't fair.

Silently, Terry kept working on his intake form.

If she could be brutally honest with herself, if she could put down anything at all-- if she could tell her most farfetched wish and not have to be afraid of what anyone thought, she knew what she'd put on that third line. It went against everything she thought she wanted, but the words were there. Right under the surface of her heart, where her feelings beat inside her chest until it ached.

Terry wasn't playing fair.

Pulling the rolly chair back to the desk, Madison picked up the pencil. In slow, uneven strokes, she wrote from her heart.

stop cutting
beckome normal for Tery
marry Tery, have sex with Tery, have Tery's baby


Seeing it down in writing came as a terrible jolt, and Madison scooted the chair farther away from you-know-who. Feeling gutted, she moved on to the next question. What were her symptoms, their time of onset, and how long had she been experiencing each one?

Madison groaned.

"Maddie? Do you need help?"

"If I didn't need help, would we be here, filling out all these dumb questions?"

A smile parted Terry's lips. "Do you need help understanding what's being asked? Maybe I could make it go easier for you."

She wanted Terry's help, and yet she didn't. Especially after what she'd already put down. Rereading those hyper, crazy-bold words, she shook her head. She would fill out this form on her own, or die trying. And dying was a real possibility.

This was killing her.

Steadying her hand, she struggled with her words.

cutting/since I was 13 years old, nightmares/since the first time I was used (8 or 9 yrs old), hurting hip/I was dragged by my leg sometimes, and now it hurts almost all the time if I don't take my


"Terry, how do you spell acetaminophen?"

He started to spell it out loud, and she groaned.

"Hold on." Terry wrote it on a notepad, then pushed it to her.

She copied out the long word, then decided that was enough. If Dr. Bennett couldn't tell by now that she was crazy, and feeling an awful lot for Terry, then the lady was either dumb or not paying attention.

The next few pages were easy. Many of the questions Madison skipped, mainly because she had no idea what the answers were. Which was why they were easy. She had no idea if any of her immediate family members or relatives had ever had any addictions, etc. She had no idea.

They wanted to know about her mother, and Madison did her best to give what they wanted with what little she recalled. Momma was a dim memory to her, especially since Madison had worked so hard not to remember.

she liked to drink a lot, yelled a lot, and said i was her big mistake. sometimes i miss her.


Then came questions about her father. She didn't even consider him by that title, and no way would she talk about him. They wanted a name, and all she would write was one word--

dragon


"How's it coming?" Terry paused from his work and Madison realized he was almost on the last page.

After all the questions she'd been filling out, it made her curious. "Could I see what you wrote when you're done?" she asked.

"I don't know." Terry cocked an eyebrow at her. "Will you show me what you put down?"

"No."

"Then I'll keep this to myself." He went back to work, leaving her to wonder what he'd written.

"Terry?"

"Uh-huh?"

"Are we going in together? I mean, when we have to start talking, will we be together?"

"I don't know. I hope so."

Madison bit her lip and winced when she tasted blood. She hoped that didn't count as cutting. "Is she going to get us to talk about what we wrote?"

"I suppose." Terry looked uneasy at the thought. "I hadn't considered that, but it's a strong possibility."

Feeling trapped, Madison glanced over her treatment goals. "Could we print out these forms again, and do them over?"

Nodding, Terry opened up his laptop as though he'd had the same thought. He stopped, and looked at her. "Maybe I'm making a mistake." He studied the desk a moment before letting out a long sigh. "Going into therapy, there's probably something you should know about me."

"Then I don't want to know."

"I thought you just asked to see my intake form?"

"That was before you started looking so sad. If you tell me something sad, then I'll feel guilty about not telling you something sad, and then we'd both be miserable. Even more miserable than if I'd told you."

"Come again?"

"I don't want to trade secrets."

"Okay," Terry nodded, "that's fair. If I tell you this, we don't have to trade confidences. The thing is, this is important, and it's bound to come up in therapy. I think I'd rather you first heard it straight from me."

As long as it didn't mean she had to do anything in return, like spill her heart out at Terry's feet, then she was content to listen. And she was curious.

He leaned back in his chair, folded his arms and looked strangely remote, as though he were about to say something he disliked greatly and didn't want to feel the impact of his own words.

"When I was a boy, I was raped by my step-father."

Oh no. That's not at all what she'd thought he'd say.

"It started at an early age and since I was too scared to tell my mom, it went on for years. I kept holding onto my secret, but the more my step-dad would beat me, the more others started to notice. A teacher got concerned, and one day, social workers showed up at our house. I was eight at the time. Are you all right, Maddie? Do you want me to stop?"

Gulping, Madison shook her head, "no."

"When they showed up, I was scared and Dad gave me a look that said, 'Don't you dare.' So I didn't. But they kept asking me over and over, what had happened to me, how did I get those bruises? Mom lost it, grabbed a knife and held it to my throat. She said she'd rather kill me, than let someone else raise her son, because she was convinced they were only there to take me away from her. After the knife had been wrestled away, I told them what was going on with me and my dad, and they put me in a foster home." Terry paused, as if needing a moment to collect his thoughts. "It's funny, but looking back, I thought the shame was behind me."

"It wasn't?"

"No." Terry shook his head. "My first foster parents decided they couldn't deal with my emotional problems, and I was given to a second couple. My new foster dad knew I'd been molested before, knew I was at-risk, vulnerable, and already emotionally scarred. What did it matter if he added to it? it wouldn't be as if it was his fault for messing me up. I'd already come that way."

Madison covered her mouth. "He hurt you, too?"

Terry nodded. "He never had intercourse with me, but it was still sexual abuse and it went on for two years. I was so ashamed, I couldn't take it anymore and finally told John. The poor guy was only ten at the time-- the same age as me-- and was probably too young to understand what I was saying. I scared him badly even though I hadn't meant to, and he went straight to his dad, and his dad immediately called the police. Thank God."

"What happened then?"

"Well," Terry pushed out a sigh, "my foster dad pleaded guilty to what he'd done without dragging me through a second criminal trial. I had to be grateful for that. The first one with my step-father had been difficult, and it was a relief to know I wouldn't have to go through that again."

Sadness touched Terry's features. "A fresh round of counseling came next, and another foster home. I went through so many foster parents, I stopped trying to remember all their names. The men wanted to be called Dad, and the women, Mom. So that's what I did, right up until I was old enough to attend college with John." Terry glanced at Madison. "It's all right. This happened a long time ago, and I'm fine now."

Wet rolled down Madison's cheeks. It wasn't all right. Was this world losing its mind, or was she? She couldn't catch her breath, her eyes burned, and all she wanted to do was cry.

"Not you, too. Please God, not you, too."

Leaning forward in his chair, Terry reached across the desk to touch her hand. "Please don't cry-- not because of me."

After what he'd just told her, tears were not something she could help. Terry might as well have asked her to reverse gravity, and he would've gotten the same results.

He stood, came around the desk, gently tugged her out of her chair and wrapped his arms around her as the tears kept falling. He'd told her once that he'd had a rougher than average childhood, but until now, she'd had no idea of how rough it had been.

"I pray I did the right thing in telling you. Maddie, please stop."

"Not you-- no, please God-- why did it have to happen to you, too?" Madison felt sick, and she moved out of Terry's arms to lean against the desk. It hurt to think, and it hurt to feel Terry hugging her.

It hurt.

"Everything in life happens for a reason, Maddie." Terry didn't back away from her, but brushed the hair from her wet cheeks. "If I'd never been hurt, I never would have met John. When we were children, I first met John when he came to my rescue when the others at school were bullying me. Then later, John and his father saved me by going to the police. Without John, so much of my life would have turned out differently." Terry gentled a hand over hers.

"Without John, I never would have been a part of this family. And if I'd never been hurt, I probably wouldn't have volunteered for the crisis hotline, because I was trying to help others the way John had helped me. And if I hadn't been a part of that hotline, I wouldn't have searched the Old Mill Campground in the middle of a rainy night, looking for someone else who needed help. That pain made me who I am."

Strength drained from Madison. She needed to sit down and Terry helped her back to the chair. She didn't have the energy for tears, and yet they kept squeezing out and rolling down her cheeks. Terry, though, didn't leave and kept gently talking to her.

"This family's legacy of helping someone, started with John. Then John helped Izzy, who had some close calls of her own father raping her, when she was young. Then their daughter, Abby, helped Jake. I think I told you Jake was abused?"

Madison nodded, and swiped at her tears with the palms of her hands.

Rubbing his face and groaning, Terry sank back into his large desk chair. "Jake's story is so much worse than mine, but Abby married him, loved him fiercely, and I don't think Jake has ever been happier. I seriously doubt it. We carry scars, Maddie. This family may have started with Izumi and John, but their legacy began much earlier."

With a sniff, Madison dried her eyes on the shoulder of her sweater. "So now you're trying to rescue me?"

Terry smiled. "I prefer to think of us as rescuing each other."

She felt helpless to tell Terry that he'd gotten it all wrong. Instead of helping him, he kept getting pulled in deeper and deeper into her nightmare, and there he sat, insisting he was the one being saved.

"Sorry I told you?"

She shook her head.

"Then let's get this finished. I'd like to call Dr. Bennett as soon as we have this paperwork done."

A teeny tiny smile formed inside Madison, and slowly worked its way to her lips. Her poor Terry. She found it quietly amazing that this enviable, happy family had come from so much pain. From John befriending Terry at an early age, all the way down to Terry helping her, this family had deep roots. They protected each other, looked out for one another in a way that baffled Madison. The world chewed up its own, but these people did not. They refused to.

Several moments ticked by before Madison could read the page in front of her. Terry. Her sweet, sweet Terry was a survivor.

He gave her a new pencil, and this time, her smile came without even trying. His grin was immediate, a flash of white teeth that faded into a shy, lopsided smile. In that flickering, tender moment, Madison steeled herself to do whatever it took to stay with Terry. She couldn't give him sex, but she could do her best to take care of him, to make sure he didn't drown whenever past pain was remembered, to protect him the way the rest of this family protected each other.

Maybe Terry needed her. The startling thought gave her existence new meaning and fresh hope. Maybe God had a use for her, after all. The possibility of that thought took up so much of her attention, made her so nervously happy, she forgot to ask Terry to print out the form so she could start over.

* * * *

He chanced a look over the desk, saw her working that pencil hard into the paper. All in all, that had gone off pretty well. He'd finally told her about himself, and she hadn't rejected him. Not that Maddie would have been capable of such a thing, but it felt good knowing that she knew, and that she still liked him in spite of the abuse.

Hopefully, by now, she was in love, or very close to it. He felt happy enough to be on the receiving end of love, but since he'd never been here before, he had nothing to compare it to. He'd seen loving relationships with John and Izzy, and Abby and Jake, but that had been mere observation, not actually taking part in what was going on. Kind of like watching someone else eat ice cream-- you knew it had to be good, but you weren't the one doing the eating so all you could do was guess.

In all his life, this was the closest Terry had ever come to eating the ice cream.

By the time Terry had moved on to the medical release (so his psychiatrist would have access to his medical records), Maddie was still working away on the intake form. When she had at last finished, Terry added it to his pile without looking the pages over to see what she had said. If Maddie had wanted him to know, she would have told him. He helped her to understand the medical release, then showed her where to sign.

Through the closed door, Terry could hear the children loudly playing at something in the hallway. He hoped they weren't waiting for him to come out. He helped Maddie back to the living room couch, smiled at the kiddies, then went into the office and closed the door.

Their paperwork ready, Terry called Dr. Bennett's appointment number.

A receptionist answered.

"Yes, I was told to expect your call," the man said, the recognizable sound of a keyboard tapping away in the background. "Dr. Bennett doesn't have any openings for new patients at present, but I have instructions to schedule you for six o'clock this evening-- that is, if it's convenient for you and Ms. Crawford. If you've finished them, please fax us your intake forms and releases now, so your medical records will be here and in front of Dr. Bennett before you come in."

"Yes, tonight is just fine. And thank you."

"This first visit will be for an evaluation of you and Ms. Crawford, and if more time is needed, it will be completed in later appointments. I should warn these typically take about two hours, per person, so you might be here until late tonight. If this isn't a good time, let me know and we'll work something out."

"No, we'll come." Terry answered a few questions about payment, then hung up with instructions to fax the filled out forms to the office without delay.

Whew. An appointment for six o'clock in the evening. Clearly after office hours, and late enough for Terry to feel the influence of Dr. Jacoby's handiwork. Terry faxed the paperwork as quickly as he could, then went to go tell Maddie the good news.

He found her on the couch with Abby, the first absently watching TV, while the latter read from a fly fishing magazine. Instead of a happy face, however, he was met with an open-mouthed stare.

"You faxed my form?" Maddie looked lost and more than a bit frightened. "I was going to ask you to print it out again."

"I'm sorry, but it's too late now." Terry rubbed the back of his neck and wondered if he could call to get the paperwork changed. "Dr. Bennett is bending over backwards to fit us in, and I hate to cause trouble. If it's important, let her know tonight, when we go in for the first appointment. Maybe you can take care of it then."

"You're starting tonight?" Abby smiled and put down her magazine. "That's nice of your therapist."

"Yes, it is." Terry looked toward the armchair where John sat with his laptop. "Are you back from the store, already?"

"What do you mean, already?" John smiled. "I've been back for the past few hours."

The time was slipping away from him, Terry realized, and he went back to the office to get his coat and jeep keys. "Hey, Maddie?" He moved into the living room at a quick clip, sidestepping the munchkins as they played on the floor. "I'm going back to my apartment to lock things up. Do you want me to get anything from your place? Like maybe clothes?"

The quietly stunned look on Maddie's face gave him concern, but she nodded and he pulled out his iPhone to make a list. She wanted her spiral notebook (of course), her pajamas, clothes, all the things in her dresser (which weren't that many), and her purse and brush.

"Are you all right?" Terry asked, and again, Maddie nodded. "Make sure you're taking the painkillers? Stitches giving you any trouble?"

She shook her head.

"Abby, look after her while I'm gone, would you? The acetaminophen is by the couch. Izzy?" Terry moved into the kitchen. "Maddie and I are going to need an early dinner."

"Then I'll have something ready by the time you get back."

"Thanks."

"Don't worry, Uncle Terry," Abby smiled as he strode through the living room on his way out, "we'll take care of Madison like she's our aunt."

Terry grinned, and was out the door.

* * * *

Though tears had made her feel better, Emily McCall wasn't used to giving way so totally to grief. She had thought hiding out in her room so she wouldn't upset her father when she cried, had been the responsible thing to do, but he had heard her through the wall. When she'd gone to answer him, she'd found him more angry than she cared to admit. She had nothing to be angry about, and had tried to tell him so.

Anger only got in the way, and in this case, was not a reasonable response to what had taken place. Terry loved someone else. He hadn't committed a crime, and she wished Daddy would stop treating it that way.

Of course, arguing had made Daddy's blood pressure go up, and this evening, the "I told you so," he'd slung before she went to the kitchen to start dinner, had hurt. He just couldn't stop talking about it, not even after all she'd said to defend Terry that day. Yes, she and Daddy had been concerned about Terry's relationship to Madison, and yes, her father had voiced his opinion on that matter on more than one occasion. But in the semi-privacy of the kitchen, Emily had to admit that Madison probably needed Terry more than she did. It didn't make the disappointment hurt any less, but it did help.

Dinner cooked on the kitchen stove while Mitch came in to wash his hands before cleaning Daddy's bedsore.

"Is he any calmer?" Emily asked, and Mitch gave a weary laugh.

"He's still giving me a hard time about taking his meds. I guess you could say he's venting his frustration at someone else."

"I'm sorry for that," Emily sighed.

Mitch shook his head. "Better me, than you. I have a date tonight, but if you need someone to stay around and take care of him, I'll cancel."

"Thanks, but you go ahead. I can take care of Daddy."

With a nod, Mitch went back to work, leaving Emily to stare at the pasta boiling on the stove.

Was this what her life would look like, ten, twenty years from now? Would she be having the same conversations with the aides, trying to manage her father's illnesses, trying to keep her sanity while she held down a job with no hope of promotion? Besides the fact Emily guessed she wouldn't have trouble with men being interested in her anymore, life seemed to only hold more promise of loneliness and strain.

Not that Emily minded taking care of Daddy, but she found it difficult to move on with her life when his needs were so very pressing. She'd tried to marry, and it simply hadn't worked out. Men didn't want to get involved with a woman who acted as full-time nurse and loving daughter to an aging parent. She could take the hint. She wasn't meant to ever have a family of her own. This was it, so she'd better get used to it.

Oh, this pouting wasn't like her at all. Emily stirred the pan and asked God for the grace to live without regret. She did not-- would not, ever regret coming back to Three Mile Bay to take care of her parents. If this was the limit of God's will for her life, then so be it. She would not go on mourning the passing of a very dear and treasured dream.

She would never know love and she would never marry.

The doorbell rang, forcing Emily to leave dinner cooking away on the stove. The clock showed a quarter after five, and she knew Daddy would expect his meal soon. Why did it seem there were never enough hours in the day to get everything done? With a sigh, Emily opened the door and startled at what she found.

"Brian, what are you doing here?"

Brian gave a wry laugh. "I've been getting a lot of that, lately. How have you been holding up?"

"Holding up?" Emily felt worry creeping over her heart. "What are you talking about?"

"You and Terry." Brian shook his head when she was still puzzled. "Didn't your father tell you he called me last night?"

"He did? When?"

A shadow of concern crossed Brian's face. "Stan never told you? It was about three in the morning, and he was worried you couldn't stop crying."

"Daddy? Called you?" Confused, Emily moved aside to let Brian in. "I don't understand. I'm sorry he woke you so early, he shouldn't have done that."

"It's all right." As good-natured as ever, Brian shrugged and stepped into the living room. He wore a sports coat and slacks, and his hair looked so messy it made him look more boyish than usual. "I just got off work." Brian went to the couch, started to sit down but hesitated when she headed for the kitchen.

"I have dinner on the stove, but maybe we could visit while I get it ready?"

"Sure." Brian followed but remained in the kitchen doorway as she moved to the stove. "You probably don't know this, but I called last night to let your father know about my visit with Terry."

"You saw Terry? Last night? After Daddy called you?" Emily stared up at the ceiling and silently prayed for help. This was not happening. She fought for composure as she added seasoning to the pan. "What did you talk about? I hope not me."

"You don't have to worry about Terry." Brian sounded confident. "Terry's a stand-up guy, he'd never say anything you'd have to be worried about. When I asked Terry what had happened to make you cry yesterday, he swore me to secrecy before he'd say a word about it."

Though Emily was grateful for the gesture, and while she didn't want her private life bandied about town, swearing people to secrecy was a bit much. It made her present situation sound fanciful, like a plot to some ridiculous, overblown romance novel. Except this was real, and it was happening to her.

"I didn't come here to talk about Terry, though."

"You didn't?"

Brian shook his head. "I came to talk about today, or more to the point, this evening." The smile in Brian's voice made her smile, too. Despite being embarrassed to no end that Daddy had dragged Brian into her heartache, she couldn't help responding to that handsome face with the familiar kindness. "I thought maybe you'd like to go see a movie." He let out a breath. "With me."

Her ladle almost clattered onto the stove. "Pardon?"

"That is," Brian pressed on, "if you have someone on tap to watch your dad. I don't want to take you from him, if there's no one else around."

"Brian, that's very dear of you, but I don't need cheering up. My tears are over and life has gone on."

"I know." Brian studied the kitchen linoleum. "I just didn't want it to go on without me."

The frank tone had her staring at Brian in amazement. It wasn't like him to be so... so bold.

"I meant," he looked a bit flustered, "I didn't ask you out, to be kind. I'm asking you out because I like you. I always have."

Oh, she had to be dreaming. She'd dated before, had a relationship that hadn't worked out in New York City, but Brian Donovan had always been different. She'd tried not to talk about him to anyone, to not even think about him in her quiet moments alone. Daydreams weren't easy to control, though, and it hadn't been easy.

And now he was admitting that he liked her, and always had.

Not knowing what to say, Emily stood there in her everyday dress and blouse, a stained apron tied about her waist. Her hair probably frizzed from standing over a steaming pan, and of course, today would be one of the days she hadn't bothered to put on makeup. How could Brian look at her with such passion in his eyes, when she had to be an absolute wreck?

Thank God, Terry had turned her down.

"I hope I'm not rushing things--" Brian swallowed. "I prayed about it all through my lunch break, and even though Dave is home and probably eating out of the cupboards by now, I had to come and ask you..."

"Ask me to go with you to a movie?"

"Yeah. Well, not just that." Brian worked a hand behind his neck. "I learned my lesson, and I'm not going to wait when everything else says go ahead."

Emily didn't reply. How could she, until he asked? And she became suddenly aware he was about to do just that-- ask.

"I was wondering... maybe... that is, if you weren't in love with someone else, that, well... maybe," Brian swallowed again and Emily braced herself to keep from toppling over in a dead faint, "that maybe, you might consider... that you might like the thought of us getting, well, of us getting married."

"But what happened with you and Madison? I thought you were smitten?"

"Smitten, maybe, but not in love-- not the way I am with you." Brian had meant it, she could see it in his eyes. "I hope I'm not messing this up. Please God, don't let me mess this up. When Margaret was here, I didn't have to think about what we felt for each other. I loved her and she loved me. It wasn't a question, it was a fact, and I lived with that fact until the day she went to be with the Lord. I still do. The point is... man." Brian blew out a sigh. "Things are so much simpler when you know where you stand with a woman. All this guesswork is brutal."

Stunned, Emily tried to fight off the urge to faint long enough to get her brain working.

"Emily? About that proposal?"

"I'm thinking."

"Okay." Brian nodded, backed away a bit while his hands dangled at his sides.

She had to think. She had to. Where was her concentration when she needed it most? What had Terry told her to do? Hold out for love? Well, here it was, standing in her kitchen, waiting for an answer. How could this be happening? Only yesterday, she had been working up the courage to propose to Terry, and now she was the one being proposed to. And by Brian.

God sure had a way of surprising people with what they least expected.

"Are you still thinking?" Brian asked nervously.

"Just a little longer, please." Emily went to the sink to wash her hands. She didn't know why, only that it gave her something to do while she thought. Did she love Brian Donovan? Her heart screamed "Yes!" but how could she know for sure?

She looked back at him-- the messed hair, the lost look on his face, and knew. She knew.

Taking a deep breath, she dried her hands on a dishcloth and nodded. "Yes, I'll marry you."

His mouth opened, but it took a full five seconds before anything came out. "Do you think you might ever love me?"

"I already do."

Brian swallowed hard. "You're sure? You're absolutely sure?"

Feeling the heat of tears, Emily went to Brian and he caught her up in a tight embrace. Oh, it felt wonderful. She had to be dreaming, for this was a hundred times better than what she'd ever hoped for with Terry. Brian loved her, and her future snapped into focus in one long, wonderful dream.

"I love you," Brian whispered in a husky voice. "I should've asked you a long time ago, when we were still dating. I wasn't sure of my feelings then, but I am now."

A gasping breath filled Emily, made her bury her face against Brian's neck. "This can't possibly be true, and yet it is. I didn't think-- Daddy and I didn't think you were serious about our relationship, so I--"

"Enough." Brian pressed a kiss onto her hair. "I don't want to look at the past, only the future. A future with you, me, Dave, your father, and of course, Macho."

"Of course, Macho." She laughed and hugged Brian. "We can't forget Macho. Oh, I'm so grateful Terry turned me down."

They stood in the kitchen until Mitch found them, and Emily had the joy of telling their good news to the young man. Then they went to tell Daddy, and though he seemed strangely belligerent, Emily chalked it up to his not having gotten over Terry yet. Brian was undaunted, and no matter what Daddy said to him about his worries of marrying too soon, or his concerns that Dave might not want another mother, Brian could not, and would not be moved.

They were going to be married soon, and nothing could shake Brian from that certainty.

New admiration dawned in Emily's heart. She had found an anchor in Brian, and she prayed their future together would be blessed by God's love. In truth, God was already answering that prayer.

Oh, what sweet joy! Emily was a blessed woman.

* * * *

Worry stabbed at Madison's heart, followed by a quick prayer for more faith. If she'd known there wouldn't be any time to redo her work, she wouldn't have been so terribly honest about her treatment goals. From what she could remember, Terry's name had been mentioned no less than four times, and her every thought centered on him never finding out.

Please, God, don't let Terry find out.

While Terry ate a fast dinner in the kitchen, Izzy helped Madison to get ready in the bathroom. Her stomach looked good, considering what it had been through, and Izzy made sure when Madison put on a fresh change of clothes, she didn't pull out any of the stitches. The clean shirt and jeans felt good against her skin, and even the pain on her belly couldn't lessen that relief.

Izzy took the pajamas, and the other things that needed to be put into the wash, but promised to have the pajamas ready for bedtime.

The dinner Madison had eaten while Terry went to go get her things, wasn't sitting well in her stomach. She didn't feel queasy, just frightened. Which showed why she needed more faith. The lines she'd written, the fact she was going to see a psychiatrist with Terry, and for Terry, all made her want to dig a hole and play ostrich.

At least until it was over.

"I know you took acetaminophen a few minutes ago, but maybe you should have a few pills in your pocket, just in case." Izzy opened the bottle, tapped out two pills and slipped them into the pocket of Madison's jeans. "If you get tired, tell someone. Don't let Terry run you ragged."

"He wants me to go."

"I know he does, but you've already had a big day. If you need to, tell Dr. Bennett that you're tired and want to go home. And tell Terry. He wouldn't want to exhaust you to the point you become sick."

Numbly, Madison nodded.

"Just try to relax," Izzy said, as she brushed Madison's hair, "and remember God is taking care of you. He put you with Terry, so don't give up. Do you want one of my sweaters? All right, go ahead and wear Terry's if it makes you feel better." Izzy smiled and tenderly squeezed Madison's arm. "We're praying for you both."

"Thank you." Madison wanted to hug Izzy, but before she could, Izzy took her back into the office where John sat at his desk.

"All ready to go?" John asked, and moved to his feet when Madison nodded "yes." "Then I'll let Terry know." He left the office, and Izzy and Madison followed but at a much slower pace.

One of the triplets stood in the hallway and watched as Izzy helped Madison to the living room.

"Wear your nice new coat, and you'll keep warm outside." Izzy spoke as they passed the girl. "Don't be afraid to wake me up when you get back. I know my bed will be on the living room floor, but I doubt I'll get a wink of sleep until you and Terry are home. Watch your step."

Meeting them at the end of the hall, Terry eased his way past the women, on his way to the office. "Thanks, Izzy. Just put her on the couch, and I'll be there in a moment."

Izzy shook her head. "I'll take her to the couch, but no one is putting anyone, anywhere. She's not an object."

The rebuff was met with a hearty chuckle from the office.

"Mommy?" The little girl tagged behind them. "Can I stay up, too?"

"No, Sweetie, it'll be bedtime before Uncle Terry and Madison come home. But after they leave, we'll have dinner and then some hot cocoa while your Daddy blows up the inflatable mattress. That should be something to watch."

"I heard that." A smiling John greeted them from the recliner. "I'll have you know there's a foot pump out in the garage, and if it's still working, you ladies will have to go without the entertainment."

"If that pump doesn't work," Izzy said with a nod, "then you'll need to run down to the home center before it closes." She helped Madison to sit down, then eyed the carpet beside the couch. "I think we'll put it here."

"What? The foot pump?" John laughed when Izzy gave him a look. "If that's where you want the mattress, then that's where it'll go. I just finished helping AJ unload their trailer and drive it back to the rental people, so I'm taking a dinner and hot cocoa break before I start on the mattress."

Standing by the recliner, Ricky played with a toy truck on the armrest.

"Are you sure you know the way to Dr. Bennett's office?" Abby asked as she followed Terry into the living room. "Do you want me to print out a map?"

"I know the way." Terry pulled out a cell phone, punched the screen then showed it to Abby.

"Okay, so you have a map. But what about something to eat? Maybe a snack? I could put some granola bars in Madison's purse."

"No, we won't need any snacks." Terry sighed as Abby went to the kitchen, then hurried back with a handful of fudgy granola bars in individual wrappers. "This will only be for a few hours, Abby."

"You might get hungry," Abby protested as Madison stuffed the granola bars into her purse. "What about water? I can get a bottle from the pantry."

"No water." Terry groaned as Abby dashed off, only to hand the bottle to Madison.

"Do you have acetaminophen in your purse?" Abby asked.

"I put some in her pocket," Izzy broke in while Terry shook his head and chuckled. "Go ahead and laugh, but you're taking Madison out late, and she's already tired. Take care of her."

"I will." Terry looked a bit insulted, but smiled when John laughed. "This is only in Watertown, not the far side of the moon."

"Girls like to fuss," John said, but gave way to a few questions of his own. "Do you have your paperwork with you? Just in case they needed something you forgot to fax?"

"Right here." Terry held up a manilla envelope. "Our appointment is for six, so we'd better get going."

Abby called Jake into the living room, and while the children played in the hall, they bowed their heads and John prayed. It was an odd thing, really. Not the prayer itself, but the way the family came together to pray. When one part of the family struggled, it touched all of them, and never was it more apparent than in the way they stood there with joined hands, asking for God's blessing. Even though she sat on the couch, Terry moved to reach Madison's hand.

"Lord, please be with Terry and Madison, and give Dr. Bennett wisdom in how best to help them. Protect them, Lord, and bless their efforts. In Jesus' name, amen."

"Amen," Jake said as Terry helped Madison to her feet. "Call if you need anything. We'll probably still be awake."

"They have everything on them-- food, water, and paperwork." Abby shook her head. "What more could they possibly need?"

Jake shrugged. "Moral support?"

"Call if you need moral support," Abby laughed as Izzy helped Madison into her new coat. "Try to have fun. I guess."

With a small laugh, Terry opened the door and waited for Madison to limp outside. "Don't wait up for us."

"Don't worry, we will."

Chuckling, Terry waved to Abby as he stepped outside and shut the door.

After having so many around them, it came as a pleasing shock to suddenly be alone with Terry again. Madison followed him to the garage, then waited as the jeep pulled out. Terry leaned across the seat, popped open the passenger door, then hurried out to close the garage.

"How are you feeling?" he asked. "Scared?"

She nodded, eased into the passenger seat and tucked the purse and bottle of water at her side before putting on the seat belt. It hurt her stomach, but she didn't feel the pain too badly. She was too busy trying to remember the battle cry, and opened her purse to dig out the page she'd copied from her spiral notebook. Terry had brought it from her apartment, and now it sat hidden under the living room couch.

Someone pushed back the living room curtain and waved as the jeep pulled away from the house, and she waved back.

"Who was it?" Terry asked.

"I think it was Abby."

"Figures." Terry pulled onto the road while Madison clutched her slip of paper. "Abby's concerned Dr. Bennett won't be the right one for us. Dr. Jacoby called Carolyn Bennett unconventional, and Abby is cautious about what that means. She trusts Dr. Jacoby, though, and is praying it'll turn out all right."

Without listening, Madison nodded and reread the words. Her feet were stepping out onto new ground, and all she had was God's promise and Terry's friendship. That, and the family praying for them at the house.

"Thanks for doing this, Maddie."

She nodded.

With a sigh, Terry drove and watched the road, and Madison kept working the words over and over in her heart. "When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." She felt overwhelmed, and at the same time curiously excited.

They arrived in Watertown ten minutes before six, and it took Terry some time to find the right street, then the correct building. Dr. Bennett's office sat at the end of the block, an impressive one-story, brick building that had a sign out front with the doctor's name in cursive green print. Two cars sat in front of a low hedge that ran to the left of the office, and Terry parked his jeep beside them.

He switched off the engine, sat with the keys in his hand and stared at the building. "Okay," he said finally, and pushed open his door. "Let's get this over with. Don't bring in the bottle or the envelope. If we need to, we can always get them from the jeep."

She climbed out, not waiting for Terry to open her door, and slipped the strap of her purse over a shoulder. The sidewalk felt hard under her feet, and the lateness of the day made the street look dead. Maybe because most people had gotten off work and were home by now.

Terry opened the entrance door and held it for Madison.

It felt warmer inside, and a man at a desk looked up from his computer when he saw them.

"Good evening."

"Hi," Terry went to the desk as though he were ordering hamburgers, and not psychotherapy. "I'm Terry Davis, and this is Madison Crawford. I believe we have an appointment for six o'clock?"

"Right this way," the man said, getting up and coming around the circular desk. They were led into a comfortable sized room with brown carpet, plush chairs and a matching couch, and a shiny, wooden desk loaded with picture frames and nicknacks. "Dr. Bennett will be with you shortly." The man shut the door as he left.

"Well, we made it in time." Terry helped Madison into a chair facing the desk, then took the seat next to hers. "It's something, isn't it?"

Aside from the frames with diploma-looking documents and photos of people she didn't know, it felt warmer than Madison had been expecting.

"Thank you for waiting," a middle-aged woman entered with a big smile, shut the office door, then came over and held out a hand to Madison. "I'm Dr. Carolyn Bennett, but I hope you'll call me Carol. You must be Ms. Crawford? And you're Mr. Davis. Well, I'm impressed. It's not every day I get a phone call from the renowned Hiram Jacoby, begging me to take on new patients. It's a rare compliment I don't take lightly. Please, make yourself comfortable." The woman went around to her desk, sank into the large cushioned chair and opened her laptop. "Have you both eaten dinner? Good. This will go more smoothly without any rumbling stomachs to get in the way."

Clutching her purse on her lap, Madison tried to keep from bolting out of the room. Terry reached across the short span between their chairs, and Madison took his hand.

"Have you read the position statement on my website?"

"I have," Terry nodded, "and we're professing Christians, ourselves."

The woman smiled, and Madison noticed a dimple in each cheek. While not heavy, Carol had a comfortable look about her, professional, but also very approachable. She didn't intimidate with her presence, and Madison liked that.

"I take it you two are a couple? Not married yet?"

"Not yet," Terry smiled.

"Are you having sex?"

"Not unless we marry first."

The question made Madison squirm. She wished she could leave, or at least speak up about the paperwork.

Adjusting her glasses, Carol used her laptop and studied its screen. "I may ask some very personal questions, things you wouldn't tell anyone. Maybe not even your mother, but I hope you'll be as honest with me as you can. It's safe to talk here, so just relax and make yourself at home." Carol must have noticed Terry looking at one of the photos on her desk, for Carol smiled and made an introduction. "That handsome man is the love of my life, Brent. We met in grade school, and I haven't been able to get rid of him since. Our eldest is in the police academy, and he studies so hard he worries his mama. And this is our youngest, she's just gotten her learner's permit and is driving her papa nuts. If she keeps it up, Brent will be joining us for psychiatric help." Carol's voice had an easy swing to it, a quiet rhythm that relaxed Madison.

"And now for the evaluation." Carol smiled. "Who wants to go first?"

"I will," Terry volunteered. He took off his coat, hung it on the back of his chair as though he were getting ready for a long visit.

"Do you mind if Ms. Crawford stays, or would you be more comfortable if she waited in another room?"

"She can stay."

"This may take a few hours, but there's a couch over there," Carol said, gesturing to the sofa on Terry's left. "If you want, you can lay down, maybe kick off your shoes and take a nap. Are you cold? We can turn up the heat."

"I'm fine, thanks. You can just call me Madison."

"Thank you, I will." Carol immediately went to work with Terry, and Madison didn't want to interrupt to ask about her intake form.

Stupid, stupid. Why hadn't she spoken up when she had the chance? Now they were busy.

As Carol asked Terry yes or no questions-- very boring ones, the type that made your eyes glaze over and wonder what that had to do with anything-- Madison tried to look very interested. The way she thought she should look. Carol entered each answer into her laptop, and probably made notes along the way, and before long, Madison was doing her best to not look bored out of her mind. After all, Terry had let her stay and she wanted to make the most of it by listening in.

Stifling a yawn, Madison looked over to the large, plush couch. It looked so comfortable, so inviting, she got up and moved to the soft cushions. Her eyes felt heavy and her stomach hurt, and after taking off her coat to use as a pillow, she tugged off her shoes and lay down.

How many hours passed, she didn't know, but she drifted in and out of sleep, sometimes listening to Carol's voice and the sound of her typing, but more often focusing on Terry's calm, even tone. Oh, he was nice to listen to. When the questions turned to relationships, Madison's ears perked up.

"It started out with friendship. I just tried to concentrate on being a good friend to her, to keep my distance and simply try to help. I don't know how, or why it happened, but she latched onto my heart and wouldn't let go. She started liking me-- I mean really, really, liking me, and it came as a pleasant surprise when I realized I felt the same about her. I liked her. In a fairly serious way." Silence stretched into a sigh, and Terry went on. "I didn't want it to happen. Up until now, I've been trying to keep my distance, to not fall for her. I did my best to fight it off."

"You tried to keep your distance? Why?"

"Because I was responsible for her, and she had no one else but me. I didn't want to take advantage of that position of trust."

"I noticed you left out something," Carol said quietly. "Do you think you might be in love?"

Dread balled up inside Madison. She stiffened, waited for Terry to answer, and when he didn't, Madison looked over to where Terry sat in front of Carol's desk.

And found Terry gazing back at the couch.

"I haven't told her."

"But you think you know what you feel?"

Terry nodded.

Well, at least he hadn't said it. And hopefully, he didn't feel it, either.

Please, God.

"Madison, maybe you could come over now? I'd like to pick up your evaluation where Terry's left off, then we can go back and finish the rest. What do you say?"

Fearing what might happen if they did, Madison got to her feet, left her shoes, coat, and purse by the couch, and retook her chair.

"On your intake forms, I noticed a similarity in the treatment goals between yours and Terry's." Carol smiled, waited for an answer and Madison wondered if it was too late to have the paperwork changed. "Do you want Terry to wait in another room?"

"I-- I don't know." The answer surprised Madison. She was stunned those words had come from her own mouth.

"Okay, then let's back up, and you tell me if you want to stop. Sound fair?"

Madison nodded.

They began some basic yes or no questions, just like the way Carol started with Terry. It took over an hour and a half before the harder, longer questions came, which needed longer answers. Terry didn't leave for the couch, but remained where he was and listened as Carol kept up her gentle but firm barrage.

"This Dragon, he wasn't your biological father?"

"No, I was adopted."

"How old were you when you went to live with him?"

"I think I was eight."

"And when did he start hurting you?"

Feeling numb inside, Madison shrugged. "It started the first day I was in his house, and it didn't stop until he died."

"Did you have your own bed? Where did you sleep?"

"If the house where we were staying at had a basement, he'd put my bed there. I was chained to the bed so I couldn't leave the room. Sometimes, he used rope."

"How much of the time did this chain stay on?"

"I don't know. Most of the time, I guess. Sometimes, he'd take it off and I could go into the other parts of the house."

"Would he sleep in the same bed as yours, or did he have his own room?"

"He wasn't always home, but when he was, he usually slept with me in the basement. Sometimes, he slept in his own room, but not very often."

"What did he do for a living? What was his profession?"

"He only worked when he had to, when he ran out of money. His last job was as a security guard."

"How long have you been cutting?"

The question put a lump in Madison's throat, and she didn't know if she could speak. "Since I was thirteen."

"When you want to hurt yourself, what do you think triggers these feelings?"

"I don't know."

"Think back. What were you feeling right before the last time you cut yourself?"

"I can't."

"Do you want Terry to wait in the next room?"

"I can't."

"You can't what? Talk in front of Terry? or in front of me?" The gentle but firm tone from Carol made Madison think hard about how to answer. "Take your time. I'm not going anywhere." Carol leaned on the armrest of her chair, exhaled slowly and Madison realized Carol truly wasn't leaving.

"The last time," Madison tried hard to steady her voice, "I cut because I was thinking about Terry."

"What about him made you want to cut?"

Madison gave a shrug, but Carol wasn't put off and kept digging.

"What were you thinking about Terry, what were you feeling before you hurt yourself?"

"I don't know."

"Are you attracted to Terry? As a man, do you find him desirable?"

Even though she didn't want to, Madison nodded, "yes."

"And how does that make you feel?"

"It makes me feel dirty, like I want to punch someone."

"Or maybe hurt yourself?"

Again, Madison nodded.

"Were you having similar thoughts when you cut yourself the time before last?"

"Yes. But after I cut, I saw those movies in my head and I had to make it stop, so I did it again."

"Cutting stops the movies?"

"I guess so."

With a nod, Carol forged ahead. "I noticed a similarity between your treatment goals, and Terry's." Carol paused, as if to give Madison time to say she didn't want Terry in the room. When Madison kept silent, Carol read from her laptop. "In Terry's goals, he wrote, Help Maddie stop cutting. Have a loving, healthy relationship with Maddie. Make Maddie happy. How does it make you feel to hear that?"

"Sad."

"Why sad?"

"Because I can't give him what he wants."

"And what do you think he wants?"

"Me."

"Is that all?"

"I can't have sex."

"Has he ever asked you for sexual intimacy?"

"No. But he wants to get married."

Another slow nod, and Carol read from her laptop again. "For your treatment goals, you gave, Stop cutting, become normal for Terry, marry Terry, have sex with Terry, have Terry's baby."

Someone gasped, and Madison turned to find Terry concentrating fiercely on his fingernails.

"Madison, do you think you could ever feel comfortable being with Terry?"

"No."

"You think it might cause you to cut again?"

Madison nodded.

"But you like Terry, don't you?" It wasn't much of a question, for it was obvious, even to Madison.

Trying not to cry, Madison bowed her head and nodded.

After some moments, Carol addressed Terry. "How do you feel about her goals?"

Not able to look up, Madison listened and waited.

"Wow." Terry puffed out a breath, waited a beat before answering. "To be honest, I'm relieved. It's good to know I'm not the only one having these feelings. I want to hug her, and yet I want to cry at the same time."

"Why cry?"

"Because I know it's not easy for Maddie to admit to any of those feelings, let alone act on them. And because she didn't mention love."

Though Madison wanted to shoot back, "Neither did you," she held her tongue and watched as Carol typed in a final something before closing her laptop.

"I think that's all for now. I'd like to order some blood tests to complete the evaluation, review your medical histories a second time, but I don't think it will change my recommendation. I'd like to see you both in my office, twice a week for therapy. For now, we won't have separate sessions where you'll see me alone, but I'll make sure from time to time that you're comfortable with having the other in the room. If at any time you'd rather not talk in the other's presence, I'll ask that person to step outside until it's agreed that he or she can come back in. How does that sound?"

Madison nodded, "yes."

"Does this mean you have a diagnosis?" Terry asked.

"I'm hesitant to tell give any clinical names, because I don't want to scare you." Carol gave a calm smile. "It won't change our course of treatment, and you won't have to walk around with labels weighing you down. You came to me for help with Madison's cutting, and for a healthy relationship together, and since your treatment goals are in agreement, that's what we'll work on. If you want me to give my diagnosis, I will, but I recommend against it."

Terry smiled. "Dr. Jacoby said you were unconventional."

"Maybe I am," Carol said with a small laugh, "but I'm not the only one who likes to keep things simple. Let's take this one step at a time, and make sure we're all on the same page. Madison, is this all right? Good for you. I think I'm going to enjoy working with you both." Carol got up, tucked her laptop into a leather bag. "It's getting late, so I'll call you tomorrow to see if we can't work out a weekly schedule, one that meets your needs as well as my own. Even though these evening hours are usually the easiest to fill, I've promised my family to try to be home before then. If I need to, though, they'll understand. They always do-- God bless them."

"We really appreciate you meeting us so late today, and with so little advance notice." Terry helped Madison into her coat, then knelt to put on Madison's shoes so she wouldn't have to hurt her stitches by bending over. "Dr. Jacoby was right, you are a nice person."

At this, Carol laughed, and her dimples showed in both cheeks. "I think he's pretty nice, too, but maybe you should keep that under your hat. I don't want the love of my life getting the wrong idea." Carol went to the office door, opened it and waved the receptionist inside. "Thank you, Tom, for staying in late." She looked to Madison and Terry. "Tom wanted to make sure I'd be okay with patients I didn't know after office hours. See, Tom, I told you there was nothing to be concerned about. These nice people wouldn't hurt me, so you can go home the next time I have to stay late." She turned back to them. "Tom will call you, and we'll work out a schedule."

"Thank you," Terry said, and shook Carol's hand, then Tom's.

"I'll see you both soon," Carol nodded as Terry retrieved Madison's purse from the couch. "Tom will give you the number for my answering service, but if you promise to use it sparingly, I've been known to give out my cell number."

Tom shook his head as they moved into the reception area. "She gives out her cell number much too often, if you ask me."

"Well, no one asked you, so give them both numbers." Carol went back into her office, got her laptop bag, and coat, and came back out as Tom was giving Terry a business card with one of the numbers written in by hand.

"Good night, and God bless you both," Carol said as they were leaving.

"Same to you," Terry smiled, and held the door open for Madison.

As they stepped outside, a blast of wind robbed Madison of her breath. She ducked her head, and stuck to Terry's side as they made their way down the sidewalk to the jeep. Night had come while they weren't looking, and the moon shone so brightly it made shadows on the pavement. A street lamp flickered as Terry unlocked the passenger door.

"What time is it?" she asked as she eased into the seat so her tummy wouldn't hurt.

"It's ten after ten." Terry shut her door, rounded the hood as Carol and Tom came out of the building and went to their cars.

Carol waved, and Madison gave a small wave back. It felt odd to know that this stranger, this woman she'd only just met, now knew so much about her.

"It's going to freeze tonight," Terry said, getting into the jeep as vapor spilled from his mouth. "Moments like this, I'm grateful you're not still at the campground. You never would've survived this, Maddie."

"I know, but you came for me." She put on her seat belt, opened her purse and offered him a granola bar.

He huffed out a laugh, took it and thanked God for their evening.

They ate their granola bars in the light of the streetlamp, just a few moments together, alone in the quiet of the night. The careworn expression on Terry's face didn't change, and she knew his thoughts were busy with what she'd told Carol.

"Terry?"

He sighed, and wadded up the granola wrapper. "What?"

"Do you think I'm crazy?"

A smile hinted around his mouth. "No more than I am."

"But what if I have something terrible, and Carol never tells me?"

"If it was something really terrible," Terry started the engine, "I mean beyond terrible-- horrific--"

"Yes?"

"I think she'd still probably not tell you." He laughed softly. "Of course, she'd tell you if you asked."

"Are you going to ask her about yourself?"

"Naw." Terry pulled onto the street. "I don't see the point."

"You can afford to say that," Madison stuffed their wrappers into her purse, "because what you have probably isn't anywhere near as bad as what I've got."

"Maybe." He smiled and tossed her a glance. "I'm kidding, Maddie. You're fine. So you have a few problems, but you aren't insane. You've got all your marbles."

"But what if there's still a few missing?"

"Well," Terry merged onto the highway, "then you'll just have to borrow a few from someone else."

"Who?"

"There's always me." He slanted her a look that made her heart beat faster. "Between the two of us, I think we'll manage. And before you ask, 'What if we can't?' let's just assume that we can, and give it a rest. At least for tonight. "

"I'm sorry, Terry."

"You've got nothing to be sorry about." He pushed out a sigh, reached for her hand and she latched on to it hard. "I'm so grateful you're here, and not in some basement, still being hurt. Just thinking about that-- it makes me so mad I can't breathe. How dare he do that to you? How dare he?"

"Please, Terry. Let's give it a rest for tonight, like you said."

He nodded, let go of Madison to switch on the car radio, then returned his hand to her. She closed her eyes, caressed the knuckles, the hair on the back of Terry's hand, and felt the strength he let her soak in through that simple, tender contact. The man on the radio talked about local news, the state of the economy, and all she could think about was how very blessed she was to be here with Terry.

They passed the rest of the drive in silence, and when the jeep slowed, she opened her eyes to see home up ahead. Soft light glowed in the living room window like a warm hug from a dearly beloved friend. She breathed in a sigh, let it out and let herself relax to the point of feeling sleepy.

"We're home, Maddie."

She nodded, closed her eyes and knew she had to be dreaming. It felt good to be alive. Maybe if she prayed hard enough, long enough, this feeling would go on forever. But if it didn't, which she was almost sure it wouldn't, she thanked God for having been alive at the same time and moment as Terry, to share this night and the moonlit drive with him.

Bliss, wonderful, comforting bliss. Holding hands with Terry as their fingers caressed, quietly joyful of being alive on such a beautiful, star-filled night.

This moment, and everything it held, filled Madison with so much joy she didn't know such a thing was humanly possible.

Thank You, Lord. Thank You for Terry.


"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope."
~ Psalm 16:9 ~

end of chapter