18 whistling in the dark

There’s only one thing that I know how to do well
And I’ve often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that’s be you
Be what you’re like
Be like yourself

Excerpt from “Whistling In the Dark” by TMBG

EPOV (several days later)

He was laughing.

I sat very still and observed him.

He was leaning over, his eyes shut tightly. If I wasn’t certain he was in excellent health, I would have worried that he was suffering from angina. It looked as though his eyes were watering. I wouldn’t say he was crying, though, because his vocalizations were more in line with mirth. It was very odd.

His pen had fallen out of his hand and my file had fallen to the floor.

Finally, he wiped the moisture from his eyes, and ran a hand through his hair, smoothing the silver-gray and blond strands out of his face and said, “I’m sorry, Edward. It’s very bad form to laugh at a patient. It was just so unexpected.”

He noticed the mess he had left on the floor and picked up the file, which fortunately had all but the most recent page firmly attached by two prongs at the top.

I remembered how efficiently Dr. Cullen was able to look back at past notes in previous sessions.

“It wasn’t funny. It was life-changing!” I insisted.

“Yes, I’m sure it was that, too!

“So, did she wear the gloves, as well?” he asked.

“Yes, of course. I told you, she has a latex fetish.”

“Well, all of this sounds wonderful, Edward. I’m so proud of you! I’m glad I don’t have a patient after you, because,” he checked his watch, “I think it’s going to take more than fifty-five minutes just to catch up, and I want to help you get back on track.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“I can imagine you have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this relationship with Bella.”

“Yes, when I’m near her, it’s not as bad, but when she’s not around, it becomes unmanageable, and sometimes I don’t want to be around her, because it’s worse right after she’s gone, and I don’t know what to do, because I want to be around her, not just because of the symptoms, but because I enjoy her company, and not just the orgasms, although those are very nice, too, but I don’t know how to deal with this.”

“Sounds like she upset your apple cart,” Dr. Cullen said.

I thought about that. I had learned the expression from Emmett. It took a while for me to formulate a definition that would encompass the entirety of the analogy, but after some discussion I finally came to the understanding that it meant someone or something had caused uncomfortable changes to one’s own plans or sense of self.

“She has ‘upset my apple cart’,” I acknowledged. “And I am presuming the apples represent my OCD behaviors.”

“Naturally,” he said.

I decided to apply the analogy in a free-thinking exercise that Dr. Cullen had suggested once. I closed my eyes, trying to imagine an upset apple cart.

I began, “And when she does this, er, upsets my cart, I have to pick up the apples and put them back, and some of them are bruised and all of them are dirty, because the ground has lots of bacteria. I’m not sure if they are even worth putting back on the cart. And some I leave on the ground for weeks, but still, I pick them up after she upsets the cart again. And obviously the apples aren’t nearly as nutritional as they were when they initially fell to the ground, but I clean them carefully and put them back on the cart, anyway. And sometimes I just want to empty cart and find some other fruit…or no fruit at all, and sometimes I want her to go away, because I need the apples…uh, for their nutritional value?”

I stopped talking and shrugged. It seemed like a useless exercise. I glanced up at Dr. Cullen to gauge his response.

“That was amazing, Edward,” he said, leaning forward with his chin in one hand. My file was setting on a side table. He never put my file aside; he was always ready, pen in hand. This was different, but I couldn’t figure out why.

I wasn’t sure what he meant by “amazing,” either, but I gathered it was positive, so tried to continue using the analogy…to challenge myself. “So, how can I leave the fruit lying on the ground, when I need it?”

“Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about, isn’t it?

“Let’s look at some of your propositions, Edward. First, you said some of them are bruised after they fall off the cart. So, you acknowledge that some of your behaviors are not as satisfying as they once were. Why do you think that is?”

“Well, logically, I understand it is possible to live without them. That I’ll be OK—for a while, anyway. So, when I am compelled to do them again…it’s, well…I feel as though I’ve failed in some way.”

“Failed. Failed to get better? Or failed to meet your expectations or what? What specifically do you think you’ve failed at?”

“I’m not sure. It’s a similar feeling to the one I have when I’ve set out to do a task, and I have been unable to complete it.”

“So, failed to meet your expectations. You expected not to have to do it again, and here you are, doing it again.”

“Yes.”

He always knew. How did he know? Dr. Cullen’s perceptiveness was incomprehensible to me. I stared at him.

He smiled at me, then looked up at the ceiling. He was thinking about what I’d just said, and formulating his response. His fingertips were touching each other in front of his face just like always. I knew what most of his gestures meant because he was consistent. He finally brought his gaze back to me.

“Have you ever eaten a bruised apple Edward?” Dr. Cullen asked.

I knew he was getting back to the analogy, but I had no idea what he was trying to communicate.

“Um…metaphorically? I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying.”

“No, have you actually eaten a bruised apple before?”

“No. But I’ve bitten into one before. Completely on accident.”

“And why weren’t you able to finish eating it?”

Why? Who would eat a bruised apple? Why was he asking this question? I had no clue, but I answered him anyway, unthinkingly questioning his intelligence. “It was disgusting. The flavor and texture made me want to vomit. I spit it out.”

“But, it wouldn’t have killed you to eat it. The bruising didn’t make it poisonous or otherwise unhealthy, did it?”

“No, I suppose not.”

I tried to connect it back to my OCD, but failed.

“I don’t understand, Dr. Cullen.”

“The behaviors themselves are neither better nor worse than they were before. What has changed is your perception. That’s it.”

“My perception? What does that have to do with a bruised apple?”

Dr. Cullen was shaking his head.

“Forget the apple, Edward. I took it too far. Listen, the only bad thing you perceived from your behaviors before Bella was the inconvenience to your ability to accomplish the things you needed to do in order to keep a job and not be a burden to your family. But after Bella, there are actually things you want to do. You have a specific goal; not a generic, ‘I’d like to have a relationship,’ but a specific, ‘I want to have a relationship with her.’

He was certainly correct about that. I wanted to be with Bella in every way I could imagine. I suppressed the urge to follow that line of thought, and focused on what Dr. Cullen was saying.

“You are here today because of her, because you want to find a way to be with her. Your OCD is keeping you from your goal.”

“I already told you that!” I said, exasperated. “What am I supposed to do about it?”

He ignored my question.

“Talk to me about a time your OCD symptoms became unmanageable. Tell me what happened on Saturday.”

I sighed and said, “She asked me to ride the subway. I thought I could, but when I got home…the more I considered it, the more upset I became. I started cleaning, then I started measuring. She came to the door, but I couldn’t let her in while I was doing those things. And once she got there, it was all I could do to keep from vomiting as I thought about what it would be like to ride the subway. I was…I was embarrassed. I’ve never been embarrassed before.”

“Why do you think you were embarrassed?” he asked, leaning forward, eyebrows up, head slightly cocked to the side.

“Well, she might…she might not understand, and…she might find me…unacceptable…”

“She might reject you, or tell you she never wants to see you again,” he said firmly.

“Yes.” It was a relief to discover that. I was afraid of her rejection…of course. She did almost reject me.

“But you told her what your limitations were up front, Edward. You told her you weren’t comfortable riding the subway. You need to do that when you’re ready, and not a moment before.

“The right thing to do would have been to tell her you weren’t ready, up front, and that you need her to respect your limitations. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop trying to change your behaviors, but you can’t just change when she wants you to. No one can do that, successfully.

“Was she upset when you told her you couldn’t go?”

“Yes. She said she was embarrassed that I told her while she was waiting on the street. Then, I let her into the building, but I wouldn’t let her inside the apartment, so we talked through the door. She didn’t like that either.”

“I would imagine not,” Dr. Cullen said.

His brow was furrowed and he crossed his arms over his chest. He kept them there.

“What else did you talk about through your door? Did you ever let her in?”

“No. She accused me of betraying her trust like her mother used to do. It made me very angry, because I knew for a fact I did nothing like that. To compare me to her mother was…well, her mother was a liar and cruel. I am neither of those things, and I thought she knew that. I certainly didn’t plan to tell her that way. I actually thought I could ride the subway with her. She said…”

I remembered what happened afterward with painful clarity. I repeated it back to Dr. Cullen:

She said, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

What?” I said.

Us,” she said.

I was surprised. “Us? You mean…you can’t be with me?”

I slid to the floor when I realized what she was saying. My eyes stung with moisture, and my head hurt.

Then, she said, “I don’t know, Edward. I don’t want to tell you that you have to be healthy. I know that’s not fair. And I sure as fuck am no good example, but…this is hard enough for me, without you saying you won’t even try.”

I never said I wouldn’t try.” I said.

I decided right then that I would not only try, but actually do better. If that’s what it took…I had to do better.

She said, “Don’t give up, Edward. If you can promise me not to give up…then I won’t, either.”

Dr. Cullen blew out a lot of air.

Then he said, “Edward, do you think Bella would mind coming with you to one of our sessions?”

“I’ll ask her. Why?”

“I don’t want to speak for her, but I am confident there are some issues she has herself, which are going to continue to be a problem in your relationship if you don’t get them out in the open.

“Has Bella ever been in therapy?”

“I don’t think so, but I’ll ask her,” I said.

“You don’t have to do that,” he said, shaking his head. “Just ask her if she’d like to come. I’d really like to meet her.”

He smiled at me again.

“Edward, this week, I want you to do a visualization exercise. I want you to imagine riding the subway. Do some research online, talk to Bella and your family about what it’s like. If anyone suggests you actually ride the subway, tell them that’s not a part of the assignment. I just want you to get enough information, so you can sit at home alone, and imagine what it’s like. Best case scenario. When your mind conjures OCD behaviors, I want you to write them down. Don’t try to avoid them, just deal with them, and go back to imagining. So, you go down the stairs, pay, get on, ride a few stops and then get off the train and go back up to street level. OK?”

“How many stops?” I asked.

“Three,” he said. “Or more if things go well. Imagine having a conversation with Bella, or…er…doing something else relaxing.”

When he said the last part, I noticed a smirk and a glint in his eye. Something else relaxing…Well, orgasms with Bella were certainly relaxing. Wait.

“Are you giving me permission to imagine sharing an orgasm with Bella?” I asked.

“Whatever you want. Orgasms, measuring, cleaning, whatever makes it manageable.”

“I think I can do that,” I said.

“I have complete confidence in you, Edward.”

~~§•§~~

I sent a chat message to Bella as soon as I got home. We had chatted soon after her laptop arrived on Monday. She even carried it with her to work.

She refused to Skype. She told me she had even put a sticker over the camera so she wouldn’t have to worry about accidentally “beaming” an image of herself over the Internet. I had tried to explain how it works, and she laughed and called me “Spock.” I got the reference and had a bit of a chuckle myself. I was always on my toes with her, being challenged by her words, trying to fully understand her speech.

It was always amusing when I finally “got” it.

EAMITNYC: Bella?

Bella-Me: Edward!

Bella-Me: How did it go with Dr. C?

EAMITNYC: Very well. He wants to meet you.

Bella-Me: Fuck, that’s not good.

EAMITNYC: No, it IS good. I want you to meet him, too. He’s very important to me, Bella.

Bella-Me: Well, of course I’ll go. I just worry he’ll think I’m crazy.

EAMITNYC: You aren’t crazy and Dr. Cullen is a smart man. He will know that. I hope. I certainly don’t follow his reasoning on everything, but statistically, he is way ahead.

EAMITNYC: Also, between the two of us, I am more certifiably insane. Although, I’m not actually insane.

Bella-Me: You are cute, even in messages.

Cute? How could she discern my attractiveness at this moment through the internet? I scanned our chat. I could see nothing of note, although I was almost…well, excited and almost dizzy at the thought of chatting with her.

Giddy. I was giddy.

And I was happy.

EAMITNYC: Maybe you sense my happiness.

Bella makes me happy.

EAMITNYC: You make me happy, Bella.

Bella-Me: I do?

EAMITNYC: Absolutely. Just thinking of you (not necessarily naked) makes me very happy. Giddy, even.

Bella-Me: You make me happy, too, Edward. And I’m not just saying it because you said it.

Bella-Me: Alice told me I look happier today.

EAMITNYC: I don’t know if I trust her judgment, Bella.

Bella-Me: LOL. Well, maybe not always, but lately, she’s been pretty good.

EAMITNYC: I’m trying.

Bella-Me: I know. Me too.

EAMITNYC: You are?

Bella-Me: Yeah, I ordered something new at Reuben’s today…by myself.

EAMITNYC: But you still got the fruit cup, right?

Bella-Me: Of course. And a salad. I’m not about to neglect my health, Edward.

Bella-Me: ;)

EAMITNYC: Can you do that in person, when we meet again?

Bella-Me: Do what?

EAMITNYC: This: ;)…the “winky” thing. I like it. You are smiling and winking and it’s adorable. I like it a lot.

Bella-Me: OK.

EAMITNYC: I have an assignment this week.

Bella-Me: What is it?

EAMITNYC: I have to imagine I’m riding the subway.

I cringed. I didn’t want to do the assignment, but at least I would be in the comfort of my own home and not actually exposing myself to germs.

Then, I realized I could use the action-indicator Bella showed me on Tuesday.

EAMITNYC: *cringes*

Bella-Me: Nice job!

Bella-Me: *kisses Edward on the lips*

Bella-Me: Was that OK?

Fuck, it was more than OK. I could imagine her lips on mine.

And then I was hard.

EAMITNYC: Bella, can you come over tonight?

Bella-Me: No. I’m sorry. I wish I could, but I’m going to a private showing of Ben’s work…since I didn’t go on Saturday.

EAMITNYC: I understand.

I still felt bad that I had failed her. I felt worse about that than the fact that I failed myself. I felt…embarrassment.

EAMITNYC: I’m sorry I couldn’t go with you.

There was a long pause before her response.

Bella-Me: I forgave you, Edward. And it’s not all bad. I don’t have to talk to a bunch of strangers, so…I’m glad about that, at least.

Bella-Me: I have to go. Ang will be here in a few minutes.

Bella-Me: Good night, Edward.

I hated this part.

EAMITNYC: Good night, Bella.

EAMITNYC: *Kisses Isabella Swan deeply and pulls her in close*

Bella-Me: *Kisses Edward Masen back* *moans*

Fuck. She always knew what to type. I tugged on my hair. Should I keep going? I swallowed.

EAMITNYC: You make it very difficult to stop chatting, Bella.

Bella-Me: I know.

Bella-Me: I’m not sorry. Are you?

Of course I wasn’t sorry. Did she think I wanted her to apologize? Wait, was I supposed to apologize? Was that what she was asking?

I was confused, but I decided not to try and figure out what she meant this time. I just said what was on my mind.

EAMITNYC: I miss you, and I want to kiss you in person. But I can be patient. I’ll wait until Friday night. Are you free for a date, Ms. Swan?

Bella-Me: Yes. What time?

EAMITNYC: As early as possible.

Bella-Me: 6pm?

EAMITNYC: Yes. Meet me?

Bella-Me: Not at your apartment. Not after last time, Edward.

EAMITNYC: Why not?

I was confused. Why did last time make a difference? She had forgiven me.

EAMITNYC: I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.

Bella-Me: I have to go. I’ll think about it and message you tomorrow. OK?

EAMITNYC: OK.

Bella-Me: *kiss and hug*

***Bella-Me logged off at 6:55 p.m.***

I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes, visions of Bella clothed, naked and always wanting were swirling in my brain. I felt my cock stir in my pants, and lowered my hand, idly enjoying the sensation. I had already masturbated twice today, and was trying to not do it so much. Rashes could turn in to serious conditions if they persisted.

I opened my eyes and looked over to my free-weights. I had increased my reps on all of my weightlifting exercises recently. I decided right then that I might need to run more on the treadmill, too.

I had asked Emmett what I could do to reduce the frequency of my erections, and he told me to think about baseball stats. That didn’t work because I could think about those and Bella naked at the same time.

I asked him for something else to do. He suggested I do something that required complete concentration, or I could think about something that made me sick.

I didn’t want to actually get sick, so I started lifting weights when my penis was inconveniently hard.

With all the extra workouts, I knew I was going to have to increase my food consumption soon, as well.

After exercising, showering and eating dinner with Emmett and Rosalie, I returned home.

I wrote in my Bella journal, detailing the dream I had about her last night.

In this dream, I was lying supine on my bed, and she was above me. My hands were on her hips and we were moving together.

We were naked, of course; having sex…fucking.

I lay in bed afterwords, imagining Bella straddling my hips. After I masturbated, I wiped the ejaculation away with tissues and rolled over. I didn’t shower again.

~~§•§~~

I was finishing up the changes to a current client’s system, adding administrative controls to the payroll module so the CFO could make sure no paycheck was processed without her authorization, when I received an email alert.

It was from Alice Brandon.

Edward:

I did some research on the company you work for. By all accounts, you do great work.

Brandon & Brown would like to update our systems, and we’d like you to be in the lead on this. I have already spoken with your boss, James. He said you are very good at proposals, but have no experience with doing them in-person. However, we must have an in-person presentation to our board a week from Friday.

Please respond and advise if you are amenable.

Thanks,

Alice Brandon

Senior Partner

Brandon & Brown, LLC

I decided to call Alice rather than respond via email, because she didn’t seem to like my writing style very much.

Alice Brandon’s office,” a nasally, chirpy voice greeted me.

“Edward Mason to speak with Ms. Brandon.”

Hold, please.”

The worst part of holding was the music. It was never music I cared to listen to. Only, this time, there was no music. Brandon & Brown had no hold music. I was glad.

“—care if he filed bankruptcy! He has five children to keep up and one of them is an up-and-coming skate-boarder! He needs to get another j—Oh, he’s on? Shit. Hi, this is Alice!”

“Er, this is Edward. Masen.”

This time, I pulled the phone away from my ear.

Edward! Yes, so you got my email? Good. Here’s what we need. We want to integrate all of our departments into one system. I know we’re late in the game for this, and it’s going to cost a lot, but my mother wasn’t as with the times as I am. I’ve been struggling just to keep this ship afloat, and now that we’re headed in a more solvent direction, I think this is the next thing we need to tackle. We don’t need to discuss rates or cost or anything. I’ll work on that with your boss. What I want to talk about is implementation. Your proposal needs to include a time line and a cost/benefit analysis. And let’s think long-term, here, Edward. I’d like to be able to show the board that we’ll be able to reduce our personnel significantly over time, and with the current health care shit going on, HR is going to be our biggest profit suck. Oh, and after the proposal, I think it would be good for you to shadow some people, to observe our work-flow. Might help if you point out some specific dead weight, post changeover, you know what I mean? So, are you on board?”

The reduction of personnel angle was what I hated most about my job. It was one of the ways we sold the idea, but I always tried to encourage companies to keep personnel with the idea that as they were able to handle more business volume, it would be good to have employees who understood the company to help it grow.

It would be difficult to persuade Alice of this today, so I didn’t bring it up.

“I am ready to accept your terms, however, if I am going to be in your office, I would like some assurance that people will not touch me. If you can ask your employees keep their hands to themselves, I think we can work together.”

She sighed. “Are you going to wear those creepy gloves?”

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