The Consequence is Hanging There Who: Nathaniel & Juliet What: The most recent psychiatric appointment has a startling revelation. Or maybe just soap-operaish. Where: Newport Psychiatric Center When: 3:00 pm, Last Wednesday
Juliet perched on the edge of her seat; it wasn’t that she couldn’t find a posture to be comfortable in, but more that her body simply seemed to desire an orbit within a closer circumference to her psychiatrist. That, combined with the concentration it required to keep her iron-board straight back, kept her in her seat, attempting to pay attention to the questions he was positing for her consideration.
The answers (as they had been in the previous three appointments she’d made and kept, though none had revisited the pool, which she was incredibly grateful of) were spoken in clear, concise sentences that offered little more information than what was asked. All in all, much like the themes of the previous sessions, everything was...awkward.
It wasn’t Nathaniel’s fault. Dr. Dewhurst. Nathaniel. Nate. Her mind spun through the variations, each coming with a separate connotation, none of which she was entirely certain of. She often found her eyes tracing the curve of his jaw, or the line of his cheekbone, before she jarred herself back into reality. Now was one such time, where she’d missed a question he’d asked.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Um,” Nathaniel mumbled as he flipped through his paperwork. “Have you had any of the night terrors that involve your drowning since we had the session in the pool?”
His blue eyes looked up and connected with Juliet’s. He suppressed smiling at her and forced his eyes down again. They were sitting close. Instead of keeping a coffee table between them, they sat side by side on the chairs that faced the couch. Things had been... awkward, at best, since their time in the pool. They had only seen one another in passing while at the apartment complex and ever spent any real time at Nathaniel’s office. Still, Nathaniel was finding it hard not to think of Juliet. He found it hard not to want to reach out and touch her hand while they sat so near one another.
What Nathaniel wanted, more than taking notes about night terrors, was to ask her if she would go on a date. She was ten years his junior but she seemed both mature and young for her age. She held herself well but there was certainly a cautious innocence to her. But it was nothing so great that Nathaniel didn’t feel he couldn’t enjoy and accept.
It felt like he was repeating questions, as though they’d receive different answers; though that was the case throughout all of her sessions with her various psychiatrists over the years, Juliet could feel that there was something behind his words, something he might have been afraid to voice. She couldn’t fathom what it might be, though the air around him was positively electric - an attractive force in itself.
“Yes,” she answered, crisply, letting her hands smooth down her skirt for the umpteenth time as a way to distract herself. The dreams had continued - but they hadn’t worsened. In all, they remained steadfast, the one constant in her life that was unmoving and unchanging. Finally she let her eyes raise to his face, though the look she gave him was curious rather than accusing. “Not every night; they haven’t increased from the normal amount I have them.” Part of her wanted to ask if he could hear her at night, if she’d woken him at all, disturbed his sleep. Though they were supposed to be discussing her issues, Juliet didn’t want to cause any undue stress toward him.
Nathaniel frowned and scratched down some additional notes. He paused, thinking over his options, and let out a sigh. “Juliet, I believe you may be better meeting with Dr. Steff. He is quite skilled at working with night terrors and I do believe he’ll be able to help you more than I can. I want you to be cured and I feel that there is a certain level of conflict of interest between us that will get in the way. It’s not fair to you; you should be receiving the best care possible.”
He looked at Juliet, unsure if jumping head-on into this was a good idea or not; however he had already done so and now he had to deal with the consequences.
Conflict of interest? Juliet’s eyes went wide, startled by her psychiatrist’s sudden revelation. Hands on her lap balled into fists, nails digging into the fabric of her skirt.
“Why? I don’t understand, you...you were so eager to help me, and now you’re giving up?!” Voice nearly shrill, Juliet attempted to calm herself and rein in her growing panic. It honestly felt as though she were being shut out, rejected, and in a far more personal manner than one would assume between doctor and patient. If there was anything she could do to change his mind, Juliet knew she wouldn’t even pause to consider such a possibility.
Nathaniel cringed slightly. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea... “I’m not giving up, Juliet. Please, believe me that I want you healed of this issue just as much as you do. I want to help you so very much. But there is a distinct set of morals within psychiatry...” His voice trailed off and Nathaniel stared at Juliet for a moment before closing his mouth and pressing his lips into a thin line. Placing the papers on the coffee table, Nathaniel turned to Juliet fully and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Juliet, it is not morally advised that a doctor should date a patient,” Nathaniel said with as much confidence he could muster. Still, he was frightened Juliet would frighten and turn away. “I... I think you’re rather beautiful and sweet. You’ve gained my attention in more ways than one and I am sorry to do this to you. It’s very selfish of me to ruin our sessions due to my feelings. However, I feel that I am ruining them all on my own if I were not to be honest with you. How could I ask you to be honest about your thoughts and feelings when I can not do the same?
“I would like, very much, if I may take you on a date. Of course, if you were to say no we can leave this here and be done with it. I will schedule you appointments with Dr. Steff who is a very good doctor and you can continue your treatments elsewhere so as not to feel awkward with me. And... with our living arrangements... we haven’t seen one another very often so I am sure that could continue.” Nathaniel let out a breath and turned his head to glance out his office window. He had been much more nervous than he had realized but he was happy to have his feelings towards Juliet off his chest.
Her mouth flapped for a moment. Between schoolwork and dealing with her condition, she’d never had much time for social things like dating. But still, the panic in her breast gave way to excitement - the realization that she wasn’t being rejected settling on her with an intense happiness. The anxiety in his voice was clear, but she was eager to wipe it away, to tell him that what he had done was good and helpful in relieving the awkward atmosphere between them.
Suddenly her mouth was curving into a smile of its own initiative, and her hand was reaching out to cover his, unbidden. “I...I would love that.” Despite the small stutter, her words were otherwise spoken with confidence. Perhaps it was still too early to say, but the feeling of knowing him grew stronger at this point, mixed with the sensation that being this close was just...right.
Nathaniel was visibly surprised and sat a little straighter in his chair. “Really?” A brilliant smile appeared and he quickly leaned forward on his chair, reaching out and taking her hand lightly, not holding it too tight; just in case it made her nervous. “I’m so happy, Juliet. When would you like to go out? Is there a day you would prefer? Or something you would particularly enjoy doing?”
Something about his hand on hers felt...odd. Not in a bad way, but...as though something were missing. But Juliet waved away the feeling, trying to calm the new found butterflies in her stomach.
“Um, well, I think I’m free next Thursday evening, or perhaps on Saturday? I can...I can ask for someone to cover my shift at the library.” Nothing, it seemed, would wipe the smile from her face. The revelation that he was returning how she felt was gratifying, and she almost felt as though she might start bouncing in her seat.
“Do you...there’s a bowling alley not too far from the apartment building. I’ve always wanted to go there.”
Nathaniel laughed slightly and shook his head. “I have never been bowling. You know, it’s quite popular in England but my family always found it ‘beneath them’ to go to a bowl. But I’ve always been curious to try it. I would love doing that.” He slipped his fingers between hers, looking at her thin pale hand; it was so natural to touch her, so very normal, but he felt that he was missing something important in the feel of her skin. “Would you like to go out to dinner as well? Or would you rather eat at the bowling alley? I hear that they serve food.”
The tiniest of laughs emerged from her throat. “They do - hot dogs and nachos and things like that. If you don’t like that sort of food, we can go elsewhere. But it’s nice that they have it all in one place,” she added, her fingers lightly entwined with his. For a moment, her mind flashed onto the idea of his secretary walking in and catching them holding hands, discussing going out on a date. Nathaniel could get into serious trouble for this, Juliet realized, and the slight fear from such an idea flashed across her face.
“But first I think you should transfer me to Dr. Steff. Just so you don’t lose your job - I would hate to get you into trouble,” she continued, breaking the pleasant thoughts of a night out.
Nathaniel let out a sigh and pulled his hand away from Juliet’s. “You’re right, Juliet,” he replied as he gathered his papers and got to his feet. “Excuse me while I go doctorly for a moment. I’ll transfer our appointment for next week to you meeting with Dr. Steff instead and inform my secretary that you are no longer my patient.”
He got to his feet and paused, looking down at Juliet for a moment with an openly happy smile. Gone was the grin of a man who had to keep it professional. Now he was capable of being more relaxed and natural by Juliet, which only made the feeling between them seem even more natural than before. She returned the smile, saddened for the moment that he had to move away - but this was all procedure, and soon enough she’d have him back again.
Finally allowing herself to relax back in the chair, she leaned against its back and felt a huge sense of relief as her body fell into a slouch.
“It’s really rather a good thing, then, that we live so close - if you wanted, we could always just make dinner at home before going out,” she mused aloud, going back to the previous topic.
“You know, I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook,” Nathaniel replied with a broader grin. “You can be my guinea pig, if you don’t mind. It all would be much more enjoyable than having dinner alone every night.” He stepped around Juliet’s chair and pressed a gentle hand on her shoulder, leaning down slightly to breathe into her ear; a shiver worked its way down her spine. “I’ll be right back, let me talk to my secretary for a moment.”
He pulled away and slipped out the door, closing it behind him as he went, and mused that moving so close to Juliet may have been a little presumptuous of him, but it somehow felt like something he had done before.
Juliet realized that she was squeezing her legs together, and relaxed her body. His offer to cook meals for her was certainly leaping ahead, as was the touch - but all her mind was registering was an affirmative toward both. She was excited towards all of it, before her thoughts presented another issue: she would probably have to keep this relationship (even though there barely was one) from her parents. Undoubtedly her mother would find issue with the fact that she was dating a man ten years her senior, who used to be her psychiatrist. Her father would probably dislike both those facts as well, along with the idea that she was dating so far away from their watchful eyes. But she was an adult; there was no reason why she couldn’t entertain the attention of a man, much less one older than she.
In her mind she began to plan the date, thinking to call ahead and make a reservation at the bowling alley, if they did such things.
Nathaniel returned quickly and with success. His secretary happily switched over the appointment and asked no questions when he said that Juliet would not be considered a guest to his office, not a patient.
“So, Thursday evening? We can go to the bowling alley and eat all of your American food and you can teach me how to bowl,” Nathaniel said as he took his seat. “Does that sound all right, Juliet? Maybe in the future we could go and see a musical, if you would be interested... but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sorry.”
Juliet turned to watch Nate reenter his office, her eyes following his motion across the room until he was back in front of her, then seated once more. A smile moved over her face.
“It’s not my American food, but I think you’ll like it.” She smoothed out her skirt absentmindedly, scooting to the edge of her seat. The butterflies kicked up again in her stomach as she glanced down to her garment and then back at Nathaniel. “Already trying to sneak in a second date? Is that how they do things across the pond?”
Nathaniel wrinkled his nose, the closest thing he came to showing any sense of embarrassment. “I apologize, Juliet. I’m just... rather excited. It has been quite some time since I’ve gone on a date, to be honest. I’ve wanted to explore this area, I haven’t really had the chance to since I moved, the idea of being able to see some sights of this area with your company makes me happy.”
Her smile widened into a grin. “I’m just teasing, Nate. I think it will be so much fun,” she agreed, very excited at the prospect of a first date, and however many more were to follow. The attraction between them was so strong that surely there would be more; he was such a gentleman, and they were getting along so well. “I haven’t had much time to look around, either, and having someone to share it with will make it that much more exciting.
“And I think a musical, or maybe a play, would be fun, too. But let’s just stick with the one date, make sure this doesn’t blow up in our faces,” she replied, giving a light smirk along with her words to imply her continued teasing attitude.
“A very wise decision, Juliet,” Nathaniel replied with a slow nod. Shortly after, his smile broadened. “Nate. I like that. My mother always insisted on calling me Nathaniel. Well, Juliet, since you are no longer my patient. Would you like a cup of tea and some of the teacakes I have hidden in here? I don’t offer them to anyone but friends.”
She gave a nod, and a small laugh. “Yes, that sounds nice. I always wondered where most of my doctors kept their stashes, but it’s nice to know that yours isn’t a bottle of vodka.”