The doctors did not diagnose her as anorexic, but you had to admit she was pretty slight. And pale, even plain, if you wanted to be honest about it. Kind of timid–cautious, as she sat in the vestibule of the counseling center, waiting. Out of the corner of her eye she glanced at the others who were also waiting. Both males and females, the others looked relaxed, as though they were familiar with each other, with one exception.
The male sitting next to her appeared anxious. Like herself, he was avoiding eye contact and sat looking alternately at the wall they faced above the others, and at the carpet beneath their feet. Suddenly it occurred to her that the little drama being played out was somehow humorous. She and the stranger sitting next to her were both occasionally sneaking a surreptitious peek at each other. A half-grin was escaping from her unpainted lips at the awkwardness of the situation just as they found themselves peeking at the same time. Since she was caught in her half-grin when their eyes accidentally met he took it for a greeting, and responded in kind. “Hi, I’m Rob.” His deep blue eyes seemed kind–if eyes alone can be kind–but his smile was tentative.
“I’m Amber,” she replied in a small, constricted voice. “As in Forever Amber.”
Rob’s grin became less hesitant. “And I’m Rob, as in Robber.”
Amber gave a little laugh which sounded to her like a snort. Her right hand was caressing her own left hand as though to comfort it. “Well, I’m here for a group.” At that, some of the others perked up.
“I bet you’re the new group members Doc told us about,” one of the females said, pleased to place them. “Welcome! Doc will be here any minute.”
True to her word, he was, accompanied by what looked like a female doc. Amber and Rob had already met Ed Smith during separate individual counseling sessions, but they had not met Ed’s co-therapist Jackie Harsch. The members–eight in all–filed into the room behind the two therapists, and Amber dropped into the first of many colorful bean bag chairs that circled the room. She gave a small smile when Rob took the seat next to her. The other members–three males and two females not counting herself and Rob, plopped completed the circle. The two therapists sat on opposite sides of the group, and Jackie Harsch spoke first, maintaining direct eye contact as she addressed Rob and Amber in turn. “Hi. We’re on first names only here.”
Amber regarded her cautiously, even timidly; a little scared. There was nothing specific to be frightened of–just everything. Jackie was dressed casually and Amber thought she might be athletic. Curly short blonde hair and a tan–or was she…bi-racial? Amber, in an attempt to distance herself from the situation, searched her mind for a better word than bi-racial. Ethnic? She surfaced again to find Jackie’s eyes fixed on hers. Caught. Pinned to the present like a butterfly…moth, she silently amended.
“Each of us will introduce ourselves and share what we’re hoping to get from the group. I’ll go first. I’m Jackie, newly licensed as a psychologist and I’m here to get more experience in this business of psychotherapy, especially in group settings…Oh, and I teach at the university. And this is, of course, a confidential group.” She turned to the male on her right, who identified himself as Gordon. “I want to be more comfortable around people, especially women.” He flushed as he spoke and turned quickly to the female on his right.
“Hi! Welcome to the group. I’m Shirley, and don’t worry we’re harmless.”
[See earlier posts for Chapter One and Two]