Leonora De Havilland looked at her appointment diary. At 10:00 this morning she was due to assess Cindy. That was all the name she had. And that she wanted reduced fee work. Preferably free work since she was on a very limited budget. That was the sum total of the information she had given Leonora’s secretary. As a counsellor who was very much in demand Leonora could afford to offer some low-cost work. That and the fact that she charged a hundred pounds a session to her Harley Street patients. She could afford to be generous – sometimes!
Her phone rang “Your ten 0′ clock patient has arrived” said her secretary. Leonora got up, collected her patient and invited her to come in and sit down. “Hello. I’m Leonora.” A pause. A longer pause. The pause carried on.
Mmmm thought Leonora. A therapy virgin. Doesn’t know the rules. Free association and all that. Better say something or we’ll be all day.
“What brings you to therapy, Cindy? How do you think I can help you? ”
Cindy sat there looking down at the floor. Leonora waited. The girl was clean and tidy albeit wearing an old dress and shoes. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail and she wore no make up. Her hands, which she was busy wringing, were obviously used to hard work.
” Mum died when I was small. It was just me and dad for ages. That was nice. Then he met this woman. June. They got married last year. We moved in with them. She’s got two daughters from a previous marriage. They hate me. So does their mum. They bully me all the time. I can’t stand it much longer. I’d be better off dead…” She left the sentence unfinished.
Poor kid, thought Leonora. I know that feeling. (Fortunately she had worked through her “issues” in her own extensive therapy. God, five times a week for twenty years. How did she find the time, money or energy?)
“Can you tell me a bit more, Cindy?” (When in doubt, ask an open question.)
“There’s not much more to tell. Dad always takes June’s side in everything. I used to try to tell him stuff, but then I gave up. He would tell me that I was being selfish. That he was lonely too. That June had had a hard life. That I should be grateful to her for looking after me as well as Mary and Clare.” She stopped again.
(Leonora sighed inwardly. This was going to be a long 50 minutes. And for free. She would have to review her pro bono work. Charity was all well and good but she did expect her patients to do their share of the work.)
“It sounds as though you don’t like June very much. You feel she’s stolen your father from you… you might be very angry him for doing that…” Leonora sat back in her comfortable chair, steepled her hands and waited. She looked the clock on the wall. Only 10 minutes. It felt like an hour.
“I couldn’t hate dad. He’s all I’ve got. And he’s entitled to a bit of happiness. It’s June and Mary and Clare I really hate. They make me do all the chores. ‘Cindy have you finished the washing up? Cindy why haven’t you laid the fire? Cindy come here. There’s dust on top of this picture. No dinner for you, my girl. I haven’t got time for you and your slovenly ways. And I’ve got my sister coming to stay and she’s in your room. So you’re sleeping downstairs for the week.’ And I go out of my way to be kind to them. Mother would have been, so I try to be the same. But it’s so hard at a times…”
“Mmm” pondered Leonora. “Oedipal material? Wants daddy all to herself with mummy dead. Gets what she wants and feels guilty. Thinks she’s responsible for mum. But delighted to have daddy back again. Then loses him again and is left with murderous rage. Could work.” But after a moment or two’s reflection she decided against this interpretation. Too complicated for this girl. She’d save that idea for her Harley Street patients. They lapped it up. The more arcane and obscure she made their problems sound, the more they came back. Instead she settled for a neutral but empathetic response.
” You must feel very lonely at times.”
“Oh yes.I go to mother’s grave every day and cry. I tell her all about father and June and Mary and Clare. I’m sure she hears me. I mean, that’s what mothers do, isn’t it? Listen to their children.”
“Shit” thought Leonora. “Where did that come from?” For a brief moment she was back in her childhood home with a new step dad who liked her far too much. Then her own two daughters whom she never saw. So much lost. That’s why she’d come into this work, her therapist had pointed out .To try and make herself better by helping other people. Possibly.
“Well, yes. That’s one of the things a parent tries to do.” She looked at the clock. 10:50. Five minutes left.
“I think there’s a lot to talk about, Cindy. Much more than we have time for in this session. Do you want to come back?”
Damn. Where had that come from. She’d had no intention of taking on this girl.
“Yes please. If that’s alright. And thank you.”
“Good. I’ll see you this time next week. Goodbye.