“Hello,” he answered as he stepped into the office. One look around and he felt a sharp, throbbing pain in his temple. Everything was different from last week. “I see you redecorated.”
“I had it done over the weekend. What do you think?”
As focused as he was on his surroundings, Cedric barely registered Dr. Black’s question and the soft click of the door closing behind him.
He took a deep breath and tried not to let the new, bulky, earth-toned furniture, and the trinkets someone had placed on every surface without any regard for order and exactness get to him. “It’s fine,” he mumbled. “Functional and soothing.”
“You think so?”
Not really. But he bit on his lip and didn’t say anything.
He eyed the couch that was placed too far back from the coffee table, the bookcases that weren’t aligned in proportion to the floor plan, and the desk that was too close to the wall.
He fisted his hands and gulped.
“I like the chaise lounge sofa.” That much was true. The sofa seemed comfortable and inviting. It had lots of throw pillows he could either hide behind or play with, and it was blue. Cedric loved all shades of blue.
The crystal landmarks collection Dr. Black had on the coffee table caught Cedric’s attention. The White House, the Empire State Building, the Cristo Redentor, the World Trade Center, Big Ben, the Taj Mahal, the Arc de Triomphe, the Great Pyramids and Sphinx… all extremely pretty, and all out of position.
Cedric leaned forward and moved the Tower of Pisa. And then he moved the Clock Tower of Kremlin and the Windmills of Holland. They needed to be arranged just right, or he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else. “Why did you decide to change things around in here?”
“I’d been looking at the same decor for two years,” Dr. Black said.
The Eiffel Tower was too close to the Statue of Liberty. Cedric lined them up three inches from the edge of the table, which was how they had to be.
He glanced around the office and decided to fix the furniture as soon as he was done with the crystal landmarks. The books had to be next, then the papers on top of the desk.
“Got a little tired of it.”
“I got tired of looking at the old decorations.”
“I liked the black leather couch.” He went to move the St. Louis Arch, but Dr. Black stopped him by placing his hand on Cedric’s arm. “A little contrived, but it did the job,” he finished saying.
“How are you doing as far as controlling your urges?”
“Not too bad.” Still, his fingers wouldn’t stop itching, and his mind demanded he fix the mess around him. “Not too good,” he mumbled, pushing the St. Louis Arch.
“Have a seat, Cedric.”
It was a herculean effort, but he managed to step back from the table. “Thanks.”
“How are you doing today?” Dr. Black’s voice was as gentle as it was firm. Cedric knew from experience he wouldn’t let him move one more thing.
“I’m fine, thank you.” Cedric sat on the blue sofa and slid his itchy gloved hands over the velvety upholstery. As usual, he couldn’t feel anything. “And you?”
“I can’t complain, but we’re not here to talk about me.” Dr. Black smiled and sat across from him. “How was your week?”
Down to business it is.
They were there to talk some more about his issues, and whatever progress he’d managed to make…or not.
Cedric grabbed a throw pillow and lay down on the chaise lounge, more than familiar with the routine, but resistant to starting it.
“The week was fine,” he said, knowing he needed to give his doctor something. He hugged the pillow, crossed his legs at the ankles and tried to not think about the crystal landmarks on the coffee table. Or the books. Or the furniture. “Earlier today I signed the contract to teach another class.”
“That is fantastic!”
“Yes… The students drive me mental sometimes, but I can handle it,” he said with a smile. Unlike the other psychologists he’d seen before, Dr. Black didn’t shy away from showing his pleasure at his patients’ achievements. It encouraged Cedric to share more. “I’ve also been getting my own tea every day from this place near the office.” He felt his smile grow bigger. Going to a coffee shop and ordering a beverage was not a big deal for most people, but a bloody huge accomplishment for a germaphobe who couldn’t stand being around many people. “I even sit there every day while I drink it.”
“I’m very happy to hear that.”
Dr. Black didn’t say another word. That wasn’t unusual. He always gave Cedric the opportunity to approach things on his own terms, but if he didn’t, the good doctor would force the subject.
“Have you talked to anyone at the coffee shop?”
Here we go. “No.” Cedric gripped the pillow and avoided looking at his doctor. “I’ve been thinking about getting another piercing,” he said after a few minutes.
He knew what that noncommittal sound meant. Dr. Black hadn’t forgotten the issues they’d discussed during their last session, and Cedric shouldn’t expect to be let off the hook. He knew better than to think he wouldn’t have to talk about certain things, but he could avoid them for a little longer.
“My nose… or maybe my nipple,” he continued. “I haven’t decided if I’d like a stud, a hoop or a little diamond. What do you think?”
“I think your other piercings are enough proof of the control you’ve gained over your mind and body in the past year, Cedric,” Dr. Black said softly. “You might consider pushing your limits by trying something else now.”
“Like dating?” he asked, and damn if he didn’t feel like vomiting. “I’ve told you. That didn’t work out the one time I tried it.”
“You were eighteen years old at the time,” Dr. Black reminded him. “And you weren’t in therapy.”
“I know that,” Cedric growled, “but what if I haven’t changed? What if not freaking out constantly in front of people is as good as it gets? What if I approach a bloke and get invested, only to have him walk out on me the first time we go to bed together?” He put the pillow between his legs and nearly squeezed the stuffing out of it. “What if I don’t want to go to bed with him? What if, no matter what he does, I feel totally disgusted by him?”
“Have you felt disgusted lately?”
Cedric thought about the last two guys he’d been with and shook his head slowly. “They did everything I requested. They were totally clean.”
“Then what’s the matter?”
Normally he didn’t have a problem talking to Dr. Black, as it was in his best interest. He wanted to get better. He wanted to be in control of his mind and body, and he was willing to do anything in order to stop being a bloody wanker.
But this was different.
He suspected relationships in general were difficult, and often feared a love life would most likely be impossible, which was something he hated. He dreamt often of a loving partner and anniversaries. He wanted a knight in shining armor and happily ever after, but his symptoms got in the way constantly. Dr. Black thought that, as long as Cedric maintained an open communication with the other person and involved him in his treatment, it was doable. But Cedric had yet to meet a man he wanted to talk to about it, and even if he had, he hadn’t reached the point where he felt comfortable disclosing his condition to anyone.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was also a new development that had him scared out of his mind, not to mention ready to commit murder.
“I don’t think I’m ready to date.” He sat up and threw the pillow to the side. “I need to concentrate on getting better.” While I figure out what the hell’s wrong with my dick. “No need to put pressure on myself.”
“Do you feel satisfied with the sexual encounters you’ve had?”
Cedric blanched. “Do you mean physically, or emotionally?” Good Lord. Was his doctor psychic?
Cedric glanced at Dr. Black and moved the St. Louis Arch closer to the Sydney Opera House. If he was going to talk about this, he needed to keep his hands occupied.
“I haven’t been all that interested in sex in the past few weeks,” he mumbled. “But I’ve forced myself to do it anyway, because if I don’t, it’ll get to the point where I’ll avoid it completely.” He got up from the chaise lounge and walked to the only window in the office. The view of Central Park with its green lawns and flowers in full bloom was magnificent. “I feel like a circus freak when I’m with a bloke,” he admitted, “and the last time I couldn’t even finish. Got it up and tried to… you know… but lost my erection two minutes into it.” Cedric rested his forehead on the window and scratched the back of his head. “Bloody hell, this is embarrassing.”
“Have you lost your erection before?”
Dr. Black was very professional, but seriously. They were talking about Cedric’s schlong and his inability to perform. That was never an easy subject for a man.
“Just this one time.”
“You see what?” Cedric rolled his eyes. “This is unacceptable. I might not want to have sex all the time, but I want to know I’m functional.”
“No need to fret.”
Cedric turned sideways and glared at his doctor. “Easy to say when you weren’t the one watching your flaccid dick slip out of some chap’s ass.”
Dr. Black didn’t react to his crass statement. He just put his reading glasses on then shuffled through his medical records.
Cedric put his hands on the window frame and bumped his head against it. “Is this going to happen again? Am I going to be impotent before my next birthday?” The more questions he asked, the more agitated he became. “I can’t take that. I’d rather slit my wrists than add another brand of abnormal to my persona.”
“I see Dr. Hoffman started you on a new SSRI medication.”
Cedric turned around to look at his doctor and crossed his arms over his chest. “He did.”
“I assume he discussed the possible side effects with you.”
“Of course.” Cedric frowned as he remembered the long list. Constipation, dizziness, nausea, trouble sleeping, unusual weight gain or loss, change in sexual performance or desire, and so on. “Do you think it could be a side effect?”
Dr. Black nodded. “Let’s monitor it.” He made a note on his file and glanced at Cedric. “Don’t forget to mention this on your next visit with him.”
Cedric sighed in relief. Knowing the terribly mortifying episode could’ve been caused by his medication was easier to digest.
“Does your incapability to perform have anything to do with your decision to not go out on dates?”
“Incapability to—it was once,” Cedric sputtered. “Don’t question my masculinity again.” He moved to the desk, grabbed a stack of papers and organized them the right way. “Christ.”
“I’m not questioning your masculinity,” he heard Dr. Black say. “I’m asking about your reasons for not going out on a normal date.”
“Why do we need to talk about this again?”
“It’s the next natural step after everything else you’ve accomplished.”
Cedric realigned the phone and the laptop on the desk, and frowned at the cup of coffee. He needed to get rid of it. “You’ve got to get this place cleaned.”
“Come sit down, Cedric.”
“I hate you,” he mumbled on his way back to the chaise lounge. “I just want you to know that.”
“Thanks for sharing,” Dr. Black said with a toothy grin. “Now let’s talk about what you’d like to be able to do the next time you find yourself interested in a man.”