Her smile was pure bemusement. "Hmm. I suppose it's natural to associate guilt with religion. But no. Evil is its own entity. Religion holds no patent on it. Perhaps they each define immorality in their own terms; but, once again, you do not have to be religious to be moral. All you have to do is live within your own personal ethical guidelines."
"And you have exceeded your ethical guidelines."
She smiled. "Yes."
"You've done something wrong."
That made her frown. "Well ... you can do something wrong without meaning to."
"You've done something wrong that was premeditated."
She brightened. "Yes. Exactly."
"What, exactly, did you do?"
She sat back in her chair. "Oh, I don't think I should tell you that." She took in my shocked look and added: "That is, I don't think that I should be the one to explain it to you. It would be a biased representation. I don't want you to judge the ... um ... impropriety... just based on my point of view. You should make that determination based on what actually happened. I will arrange for the person who was wronged to tell you the events, and you can piece together how it all came about."
I took a breath. "Why don't you just try to right whatever wrong it is?"
"I can't." She hesitated. "Well, I guess I could, but I don't want to."
"And so, you are willing to live with the results of your crime, but you are seeking absolution."
She shook her head violently. "No! Certainly not! It's not forgiveness that I'm looking for."
She nodded. "Yes."
I puzzled over this for awhile. "And just what punishment would you deem appropriate?"
"I don't know. I'll leave that up to you."
"What if I decide that the only just penalty should be death?"
She never hesitated. "Then I will comply with that." She studied me. "Could you carry out such a punishment yourself?"
From her reaction, I suspect that my eyes were as cold as I tried to make them. "No, but my demons could."
She nodded. "Very well then. I will have the wronged individual contact you within the week with a written statement."
She rose, and, as if on cue, there was a knock on the door. Before I could answer, Loretta opened it, though she was forced aside as Simone pushed past her and rushed to Daphne, grabbing both of the woman's hands in her own.
"Oh, Daphne! The apartments are HUGE! They're twice what we have now! They're WONDERFUL! You have to come look! And there's an exercise room! And a laundry! And, oh, by the way, this is Lauren. Isn't she great!? And I'll introduce you to Rory. He says the leases should be ready to sign in a couple weeks!"
"We weren't quite finished in here!" I barked to the room, which was suddenly filled with women.
Daphne turned to me and extended her hand, which I shook automatically. "Yes," she said softly, "we were. I will make another appointment with Loretta. When I return, I will follow whatever orders you have for me, and allow you to do whatever you wish. I will put myself completely in your hands, doctor. Thank you. Thank you so very much."
And the chattering herd of females left me alone with my frantic, swirling thoughts.
CASE FILES - PERSONAL NOTES - PATIENT 217 - DAY 6
It had been Loretta's idea, the new intercom. I guess it wasn't an "intercom" at all ... it was just one of those newfangled communications gizmos. I mean, it was that period in history when people could stay "connected" with other people all around the world better than they could stay in touch with those in their own households, so this thing filled that particular marketing void. It connected through our wifi system, and it ACTED like an intercom system, only with video. My nurse argued that being able to see her facial features while she spoke to me would mean more to me ... would help her to communicate her feelings to me more efficiently. The way she described it, it made sense.
But there was more to it than that. Like when I saw her face on the device, and I wondered if, while she was announcing a new patient, she was actually thinking about the previous night, and our little foray into the depths of anal sex (if you'll pardon the pun) ... or if she could tell that that's what I was thinking about as I answered her. In the past week, she had somehow acquired the raw need for more and more outlandish sexual acts ... like the thing she had thought up three nights ago with that length of soft nylon rope; and how, after following her directions, I had had her so hogtied and helpless, it had been superbly easy for me to keep both of our orgasms at bay until I guided us, dominantly but inexorably, to our mutual, shattering conclusion.
So, now I could see that her radiant smile, which burst onto the tiny screen of the thing, was the result of someone else. "Doctor, Simone Roderick is here to see you! You remember Simone! She's the one who ..."
"Yes, Loretta. Of course, I remember Miss Roderick. Please send her in."
I had been grading papers, and I leaned back and stretched the kinks out of my arms and back. So. That answered that. The mysterious, guilty, green-eyed witch had just lost one of her adjectives: she was mysterious no longer. I could think of a few other monikers, though. Grandiosity, psychotic guilt complex, paranoia, persistent depressive disorder, perhaps even bi-polar; though I'd have to have her in treatment for awhile before I could really diagnose any of those properly. However, the perceived REASON for her guilt was obviously here, walking meekly up to me now, as Loretta hovered almost protectively behind her.
I held out my hand to her, and the girl blanched, shrinking from the physical contact for a moment, though she and Loretta had been touching when they entered. Hmm. She was afraid of men. I didn't change my posture, but I tried to smile a little; and eventually, she was forced to reach out her own right hand and take mine in greeting. Her hand conveyed her perceived weakness and lower status, but I relinquished it after only a moment, and she gratefully backed away from me.
I motioned toward the chair in front of my desk. "Please, Miss Roderick, sit down. I'd like to talk to you."
The thought seemed to horrify her. "I ... I just came to deliver ..." She held out a stapled document, perhaps two dozen pages. It had been done on a computer and printed out.
"Sit!" I barked firmly, loudly, authoritatively.
Instantly, she sat. She was perched on the forward edge of the cushioned seat, her back perfectly vertical, her knees together, her free hand on top of those knees and the hand clutching the papers on top of that. Her eyes regarded the floor in front of her in mute dismay. She wore a dress of dark material that might have been black or navy, but it was covered in bright, multi-colored flowers. Sitting, the hemline hit just above those bare knees. Her feet were in patent leather black shoes and white socks that made her look even more little-girlish, small and meek.
I sat as well. "Loretta, please leave us for awhile. I need to talk to her alone." I then returned my attention to the girl in the chair for many long seconds before I realized that the command to my nurse had been patently ignored. My assistant remained standing in the spot midway between the door and the seated girl, and her countenance took me a long time to read. Ah. I was being too harsh with Loretta's new comrade. I purposefully softened my tone. "Loretta, please. Your friend needs me. And I have to speak with her alone. Please."
She refused to look at me, but she nodded. Again ignoring my demand, she took the two steps to the girl and bent her knees, squatting until her eyes were level with her companion's. "It's alright," she said quietly, forcing the young woman to look at her. "I don't know why he's being so forceful, but it's okay. He's a fine, decent man. I love him. I love him more than life itself. He's good, and he's gentle. Please trust him. For me. Okay?"
Not waiting for the girl to change her wide-eyed countenance, Loretta rose; and, without casting a single glance my way, she marched out of the office and shut the door a little too firmly behind her. Simone finally let her questioning eyes turn to regard me. I found that the stern expression I had manufactured had slipped into one of awed concern toward my nurse. I pasted it back on now, but alas, I'd been caught; so, I let my lips drift into a sort of bemused smirk at my own ineptitude.
"You love her, too," the girl stated flatly.
That caught me a little off guard. "Well ... yes. Of course, I do."
"You're everything she just said you are." Again, it was a statement ... an idea that had popped into her head, verbalized.
"Uh ... She might be just a wee bit prejudiced."
She tilted her head a little to the left, thinking. "So, why were you being so stern with me?"
I shrugged. "I need to know something. I need to make certain it's the truth. I sensed that, due to your submissive personality type, firmness on my part would ensure that." What I didn't say was that I now hoped truthfulness might do the job instead. For once, I'd gotten it right.
She relaxed and slid her body back into the chair. "I always tell everybody the truth. Everybody. It's a trait I have that's often gotten me into ... unpleasant situations." That last had been said with some introspection, but she looked pleadingly into my eyes now. "Please. Please don't bully me. I realize that it's something that's easy to do. I've been bullied my whole life."
"Does Miss Ludwig bully you?"
Her eyes went wide, as if she'd just received an unexpected slap. "What? No! No, never!"
I let that pass. "What did you write?" I asked, pointing abstractly toward the document in her hand. When she hesitated, I followed up on the question. "You DID write it, didn't you?"
"Um ... I ..."
It's something I hadn't considered. "She didn't let you remember," I said, more to myself than to her.
"No! She did. I mean ... I DO remember. It's just that ..."
"Simone," I said as gently as I could, "I need you to think about that question. It's important to how I'm going to regard what I'm about to read. Please. Take your time and give me your true impression."
She took a deep breath and regarded a spot somewhere on the floor between us. "It's ... um ... hard to explain. I remember writing it, but I don't remember what I wrote. Does that make sense?" She didn't give me a chance to comment. Now that she'd begun verbalizing it, she couldn't stop. "Have you ever had a dream? A dream about the past? And you're doing something ... something you would do in that past period. But in your dream, you KNOW! I mean, even in a dream, you can't forget what's happened in your life, no matter if it happened after the period when dream takes place, right?" She paused for half a beat. "But ... in my dreams during the past week, I'm writing this ... and it's as if I'm writing just after one of those past periods in my life ... and I DON'T KNOW. Do you see what I mean? It's as if I was REALLY there ... without knowing what would happen after that! Does that make any sense at all?"
I couldn't help but smile warmly. "Yes, I see exactly what you're saying. You explained it very well." Weakly, she smiled back at me. "But," I continued softly, "you know why you feel that way ... why you think that way. You know why, don't you, Simone?"
Surprisingly, her soft smile didn't recede; it broadened. "Yes. Of course. She made me think that way."
"She hypnotized you."
"Well, yes. Of course. She hypnotizes me all the time."
Again, her smile didn't recede as mine slipped away. "Doesn't ... knowing that concern you?"
"No, of course not. It's just the way we are. It's just ... what we do. Are we going to be friends?"
I blinked. "What?"
"What Loretta said was true. You're ... nice. I like you. I want to be friends."
Wow. I took a deep breath, tried hard not to show any confusion, and I stood up and walked around to her chair, reaching out with my right hand. Still smiling, she handed me the document. That made me smirk a little, and I tucked the papers under my left arm and then extended my right hand again. She laughed and took it, letting me help her up. With a gentle touch to the small of her back, I guided her to the office door and opened it for her.
"Loretta," I said to my expectant assistant, "it's lunchtime. Why don't you take my new friend out for a bite to eat?"
The nurse was already to us, and she was touching Simone gently on the arm. Finally, she smiled at me. I'd been forgiven.
"Would you like to join us, doctor?" the younger girl asked.
"No. I have some reading to do. I'm going to stay here, thanks. Have a nice lunch. And please: my friends call me Randy."
She stuck out her right hand toward me, smiling, and I took it. "I'm pleased to meet you, friend Randy." And she shocked me by pulling me toward her with the hand, leaning up on tiptoes, and giving me a peck on the cheek.
Then she giggled, and they left.
TO BE CONTINUED