"It's becoming a serious problem, Eleanor."
I looked straight at her where she stood, leaning against the bedroom door. It was indeed becoming a problem. Her constant nagging was a far bigger issue than any of my inherent peculiarities.
"There are worse things in the world, mother,” I huffed. Brad did always say I was oddly coquettish. I suppose Mother must have thought the same.
"Don't roll your eyes at me, young lady." Karen Drew was as fearsome as she was a fearless woman, with her hawk-like features and crisp office attire. I supposed I was the only thing that scared her.
"Sorry," I cracked a half smile and swung my legs off the bed. Dave would have had a ball of a time, if he were here. He always loved to antagonise Mother.
"Eleanor," she inhaled a deep breath and schooled her features into a well rehearsed neutrality.
"Look, mother," I took a step towards her. "I just don't know why you make it such a big deal!"
She stepped towards me threateningly, though the action had the opposite effect. I pitied the fierceness in her eyes. Perhaps, had I that sort of admonishing—or any form of care—as a child, my mother wouldn't find herself in this uncomfortable situation.
"It is a huge deal. This imagination of yours is ruining all spheres of your life! Your education, your friends and family—"
"Parents usually praise creativity in their children, you know," I mused, enjoying the attention from her. The feeling was refreshing, even if she looked as though she was seconds away from strangling me.
"You are fostering romantic relationships in your mind! That's unhealthy, if not outright sick! First Brad, then Dave, after him was Charlie and now you are telling me about Paul? You need to make real connections instead of jumping from boyfriend to boyfriend in your head!"
"Reality exists as a projection of one's own mind." I merely responded. This was all too fun. She was too uptight for her own good.
"You're demented, Eleanor!" I smiled at the insult, revelling in the change from her usual noncommittal impartiality to the far stronger emotion I was now being shown. Fear always did bring out the best and worst in everyone.
"Aren't we all a little crazy, mother?"
"You. Are. Creating. Fake. Boyfriends, Eleanor! They aren't real and yet you talk to them more than you talk to anyone else!" She paced frenziedly around the room, tugging at her perfect caramel hair. Charlie always told me that I would look better as a blended brunette like her, rather than a scraggly blonde. It was simply one of the many things I envied my mother for.
"I promise I'm not crazy, mother! All girls daydream about soulmates at one point or another." Perhaps I was indeed crazy. No sane person would partake in such a conversation.
Her tone was deathly quiet. "All girls also talk to real people at one point or another."
"Perhaps the people around them aren't judgemental and selectively caring only when it self benefits." I beamed sweetly as she paled.
"You are going to a therapist." I maintained the smile as she stalked out of the room, trembling. I know I didn't need therapy but Paul and I were working on being more open minded. It wouldn't hurt to try something new.
Fifteen minutes later, I found myself standing outside the huge building that was Alcove Medical. Its frigidly elaborate stature told me that many seekers had come to the shrine of Dr. Janna Jones, finding an escape from their problems in exchange for cold wads and die-hard habits.
Personally, I thought it funny. If you couldn't deal with your issues, how would someone else? I had no worries though, my only problems stemmed from both Karen Drew's presence and lack thereof.
I sat unceremoniously in the empty, spacious waiting room, as I awaited the receptionist, lost in a vehement argument with Paul over the core principles behind pineapple pizza.
I was mid-breakup with Paul when the seat opposite me was taken. Normally, I would have paid little mind—I considered myself a very faithful person—but the handsome hunk opposite me had caught hold of my attention.
He struck me as a mix of Brad and Charlie, with the rich blue eyes of the former and silky blonde hair of the latter. Needless to say, I quickly broke things off with Paul— he didn't mind, anyway; he simply vanished— and moved to sit next to the stranger.
"Hey," he said, glancing over at me, with a quirked brow.
"Hi," I modestly looked down at my lap. He put down the magazine in his hands and turned to face me.
"What's your name, gorgeous?" He shot me a dazzling smile.
"E-Elle." I had never stuttered with the others before. Perhaps mother was right. The real life before me had a charm that my imagination now seemed to severely lack.
"What a beautiful name," his eyes shone as he spoke, "I'm Eric,"
I simpered at him and in a moment of unprecedented bravery, rested my head against his shoulder. To my pleasant surprise, he made no move to shrug me off, instead rested a gentle palm on my knee. A foreign feeling coursed through me and I shuddered.
"What are you here for?" He asked.
I blushed. There was no way I would admit my eccentricities to him. It all seemed so foolish now, next to Eric. In the five minutes I had known him, I already concluded that Eric was the one for me. Scaring him away was my worst fear in the world.
"You tell me first," I avoided his eyes and shimmied away.
"Miss Eleanor Drew?" I would have cursed the receptionist for her horrible timing if Eric hadn't given me an indulgent smile.
"Go ahead, Elle. I’ll be here waiting for you."
"Elle! So great to see you, sweetheart. Your mother told me much about you!" Dr. Janna has chosen that very untimely moment to appear with an irritatingly full blown smile. "Please, come this way quickly, dear!"
I grumbled in response, shooting Eric a pretty smile before hurrying after my therapist.
"So your mother tells me that you have a boyfriend, correct?" She asked once we were seated, regarding me with a cautious, yet professional gaze. "Can you tell me what he's like?"
Unsure as to which one she was referring to, I pursed my lips. "It changes, depending on my mood. Regardless, they are always kind and there for me. I am never alone because they protect and love me. I am their whole world," I smiled wistfully, thinking of each of my companions.
It was a pity I was going to forsake them. No one could hum a tune like Brad, bake cookies like Dave, do calculus like Charlie or dance like Paul. They were great company but now, I had a real boy to love me. I had Eric.
"I see," Dr. Janna stared at me as though I confused her. "Elle, you have had four boyfriends till now, am I correct?"
"And they all live in your head?"
"No excuses or traffic issues that way," I shot her an amused grin and she returned it with a hesitant smile of her own.
"Elle, have you ever tried to talk to other people or—"
"Actually, I have," I chuckled. "I know that imagining boyfriends and relationships was pretty weird,"
Relief flushed over her face. "It's great that you can recognise your issue. Overcoming denial is—"
"The thing is,” I interrupted, standing up from the chair. She looked at me confusedly, "I don't mean to be rude but there's an extremely attractive boy in your waiting room who I'm pretty sure is interested in me so I really don't want to miss him. I don't think I'll need to be seeing you anymore."
Dr. Janna furrowed her eyebrows and eyed me weirdly.
"Elle, you're the only patient—"
I didn't bother to listen to the rest. True love awaited me in that waiting room and I was glad I overcame the phase by myself. No therapist was going to stand in the way of Eric and I. More importantly, I couldn't wait to show my mother than I found a real boy who loved me. I could already imagine the look on her face when she would realise that I no longer craved her presence in my life. The thought was electrifying.
Eric was right where I left him in the waiting room, together with my mother who had arrived as my ride home. His intense blue eyes bore into mine as he stood and I ran into his arms, laughing.
"I knew you would come back soon, my Princess. I know we’ve only just met but I can’t help the way I feel. I will never leave you and always love you, Elle. Come away with me."
I nodded emphatically before turning to my mother.
"I won't be coming home with you, mother. I'm with Eric now." I giggled, leaping into his arms and kissed him passionately.
I didn't care about the horrified look on Dr. Janna's face, the way the receptionist paled, scrambling towards the telephone or the bloodcurdling scream my mother let out before collapsing.
I had my Eric now. A real boy who loved me.