Talk of the devil, and Prisca appeared before my eyes! It had been only minutes since she called, but I had been too distracted—no, disconcerted was more to the point—to notice the passage of time. My butt was still firmly planted in my seat at LuckPot, and she was walking in like the Jezebel who owned the joint.
Her progress toward me took less than a minute from the door, but it lasted an eternity in my mind. Nearly every head in LuckPot turned to look, some curious, others resigned. The men admired and their women envied. I watched with a touch of pride, which quickly became annoyance when she stopped at my table.
“How did you find me here?” I roared under my breath.
Are you stalking me? would have been more to the point, but that supposed we had a relationship beyond that of a counsellor and patient.
“I haven’t been following you, doctor,” she countered, dropping into the seat opposite mine in a show of exhaustion. “I was just walking by and then I spotted your car. I’m sorry to crash your dinner. I’ll leave if you want me to.”
I noticed she wasn’t out of breath for someone who’d presumably run for her life, as she made it sound. Quite the opposite, she was unflustered.
“Stay,” I said, sealing my fate. It was too late.
Relaxing further, Prisca ordered bottled water and some drink I didn’t bother putting a name to, except that it was a mix of malt and milk. She swallowed several gulps from a glass the waiter brought along with the bottled water. “You are probably wondering how I got here,” she said carefully. “I have been strolling the streets, hoping to clear my head.”
I hadn’t touched my food, and couldn’t touch the thing yet, waiting for the response I knew would come.
“After I called you, I had to make up some story.”
“You explained and he didn’t get it?”
“Evidently, I spoiled the most important day of his life, or so he said. He had it all mapped out, how I would receive him at the door, how I would react to the proposal, what would be the cue for the kiss that would lead us straight to bed, celebration style.” She was only repeating what were obviously Israel’s words, but she groaned suddenly, “He had the entire romantic sequence beautifully planned and I ruined it.”
“You didn’t ruin it. You made a decision and stood your ground.”
“And for what? He’s right for me.”
“Let’s just say the timing is wrong. Without full control of your desires, what’s to stop you from saying yes to him and ending up in bed with someone else in a matter of days or weeks from now?” My question was cruel, and I knew it. Prisca knew it too and, though she didn’t say it, she cringed slightly.
“It is difficult, I know, but like I said, if even one of you loves the other, then it will be all right. He will eventually come to understand why you did what you did.”
“I can’t believe it!” she suddenly murmured.
“That I actually said no to Israel, of all men, and had the guts to walk out on him while he was all hot and hard and ready and … proposing! Whoever does that? He was right there, cracking a boner and counting all the ways he could shove it in me…and I just walked out!”
“Keep your voice down,” I cautioned. Her words alerted me. I’d never heard a girl describe the sex act as shove it in me to any audience. LuckPot’s patrons would certainly be shocked to discover the topic of discussion at my table.
She lowered her voice but kept on. “You know, no man’s ever going to forgive that.” She hung her head thoughtfully for a second. “You know what, doctor, I feel happy for it. I could never have managed it otherwise.”
“That’s some progress.”
“But I’m just thinking how I was able to manage it that moment and whereas now I’m feeling all funny inside,” she said, sipping thoughtfully.
“It’s the feeling of success,” I managed to say.
“I don’t think so. I’ve had quite a few successes, but never this way. It isn’t the same. It’s something else.” Her gaze met mine, connected and held. The connection was so intimate, she might as well have reached across the table and held my hand. “Doctor, have you ever been in love?”
“It is my prerogative to ask the questions.” I didn’t like the direction the innocent chat was taking.
“I’m just curious to know how people realise they are in love and have to fight for it. Is it even worth it?”
“It’s said that nothing good comes easy. If you feel it and you are sure in your bones that it is a good thing, you’ll fight for it.”
“And make a fool of myself? No thanks.”
“You are just being sceptic. One day, you’ll come around.”
She took a moment to let my words weigh heavily in the silence between us, then said, “Have you come around?”
I had no idea what she meant.
“All anybody has to do is spend twenty minutes with Jemima and they’ll find out the man in her life. I have spent weeks with you, and never once have you mentioned her. You are always studious and worried about me and talking to me about my own problems. You never say anything about yourself.”
Okay, stop right there! That topic is strictly none of your business and totally off limits! That’s what I should have said. Instead, it was: “You are not the counsellor.”
“Anyone looking at you would think you were a bookworm growing up with no sense of fun whatsoever,” she went on, “but I know you are not. You have this quiet concentration about you that makes women want you.”
Her own concentration rested on my face, leaving me to fight not to appear disconcerted. No woman had ever flattered me in this manner. Jemima routinely coaxed my vanity, when I admitted having one, but never in this brazenly sexual manner that speared right to my core, which was already heating up.
I guffawed lamely and smiled.
“Even me,” she added.
My smile started to fade as I fought to work it into a soulless grin. It didn’t work.
“This is going to sound horrible,” she said, making peace before delivering her bombshell, “but I often wonder what it would feel like sleeping with you.”
“Remember how you’ve been fighting that urge to be with everything in pants?” I reminded her, hoping to shock her—and maybe myself too—back to reality. “Keeping that in view helps deal with those urges.”
“I found a new way of sublimating. When I’m near a guy and the urge is creeping up on me, I just stop thinking about the act and think about the person instead until I realise how disgusted I feel even considering jumping into bed with them.”
“So you make it more about the person than the act itself.” I was floundering and didn’t know it.
“Something like that,” she admitted. “And then I replace Israel or Daniel or whoever with another face. Yours.” She stated it like it was nothing, but the impact ran right through me.
“I’m your counsellor, Prisca. It’s wrong for you to see me as a sex object.” This was some sort of transference, I thought, nothing to cause alarm. Soon she’d transfer that fixation onto some new object and it’d never have happened. Wishful thinking?
“So why do I see you in my dreams at night?”
“Dreams. Nothing more?”
“Even when I’m awake, I see you.”
“The mind plays that trick on us sometimes,” I countered.
“I’m not talking about mind tricks, Doctor Mala,” she argued, appearing serious. “I’m talking about real, eyes-wide-open, flaming desire for my counsellor. I am talking about the fact that I want my counsellor so bad I can taste him in my mouth. I look at you and I just want to rip my clothes off and offer myself to you.”
By the garish lighting inside LuckPot, I saw her pupils, darkened to twin pools of blackness, her lids hanging heavy. The same heavy feeling settled somewhere in my middle and my heart pounded erratically in my chest.
She wasn’t kidding, even if I thought for a stupid moment that it was all a big joke.
“What’s happening,” I began, paused a moment to clear my throat, then went on when I thought I could handle it, “what’s happening is called transference. It happens in many cases in psychiatry. You’ve taken the people you’d normally be with and replaced them with me. Now you have to find a way to replace me with something else.”
“With what?” she asked. She appeared genuinely innocent. By contrast, lust rolled off her in waves and assaulted me. “Most times I’m consumed with thoughts of doing things to your body. Even right now, doctor.”
“It can’t be such a bad thing, can it?”
“It’s the intention that counts sometimes. You can’t do anything just because you want to.”
She leaned toward the table, giving me a clear view of her cleavage. “What if I want to?” she whispered. “What if I want to so bad, I’m already wet to my underwear?”
“Prisca Braithwaite!” I admonished. It did nothing but remind me of waking up many mornings with my hips still clenched and bucking against my pillow as one unfiltered image faded before reality.
I felt something beneath the table: it was her toes, shoes off, riding lazily but steadily up my lower leg.
“Are you playing footsy with me?” I said in disbelief.
“I feel the tension even in your legs. They are firm. Right now, I’m wondering what it’d feel like if you grabbed me and threw me over this table and drove into me so deep it’d feel like I’m about to break into two halves.”
“My goodness, what are you waiting for!” The shocked comment came from neither me nor Prisca. It was the man at the next table. Great, someone had overheard us. What we must have sounded like! The man was still recovering; his partner was shocked. “I haven’t had a woman give me that open come-on. If he’s not going to do what you want, lady, you can have my number.”
“Even boys at thirteen think they’ve become men once they reach puberty,” Prisca said sarcastically. “Why don’t you mind your own business and see if you can take on the bush meat at your table?”
The man’s face twisted in embarrassment. He made to say something, but the look I shot him shut him up. Evidently, he thought it was a male paddy thing to say, one guy to another. It was the wrong time for any male bonding. My taut body passed him the message in no uncertain terms. His partner also laid a hand on his arm to stop him.
Fresh from her victory, Prisca turned to me. “Sorry about that. I really am.”
“Now stop, Prisca,” I stormed. “You have any idea what you sound like saying all that? It’s ridiculous. I’m your counsellor. There are ethical issues to consider. On top of all that, I have a woman I care about.”
“Doctor Mala, I want you,” she said in a husky voice. “I’m already wet for you. If I got any wetter, I’d be stuck to my seat.”
“Shut up, Prisca Braithwaite,” I said, angry at myself, fearing losing control any moment.
“I will. Just stating what I think and feel, even if you are going to deny you want me,” she said, almost as if my bark had been for nothing. She pushed her seat back and rose swiftly. “I’m going to the ladies’. Give me thirty seconds, then come in.”