Damaged Goods

Submitted into Contest #51 in response to: Write a story about someone who's haunted by their past.... view prompt



“Dastardly. I think that’s how I’d describe him.” Amelia leaned back in her chair.

“Dastardly,” he repeated, “That’s not a very common word. What exactly is your definition of it?”

“You mean the dictionary definition?”

“No.” He allowed a micro-smile to light on his lips. He looked away, hoping she hadn’t noticed. It would be most unprofessional to laugh at a client. “No, I want to know what that word means to you.”

Amelia rubbed her chin before answering. “If he had had a handlebar mustache,” she said, “I could picture him twirling the ends as he plotted a new way to ruin my life.”

“And how exactly has he ruined your life up to this point?”

“Look at me,” she said, “I’m a mess. I don’t eat; I don’t sleep, I’m divorced thanks to you, and I’m paying you a hundred dollars an hour so you can ask me these inane questions.” Amelia stood and paced the office.

“And how does that make you feel?”

“Oh, no, no you don’t. Don’t you dare use that freshman line on me. Not at these prices.” She plopped herself back into the armchair and pointed a finger at him. “Tell me how it makes you feel to be in this nightmare with me? Every day it’s the same bullshit. You’re nothing but a toilet bowl, Doc. Every client you have takes a dump on you, and you just sit there, taking it all in. All you do is ask questions you never offer any solutions. Well––there was that one time, Doc. Do you remember?”

“Indeed. You insisted I give you advice and I told you it wasn’t my job. My job was to help you solve your problems.”

“But you gave me advice, and it led to my divorce.” Amelia’s face flushed with anger.

“My dear girl. Let’s go back to that session––“

Amelia scooted out of her chair and dropped on her back to the floor, placed both hands over her ears, and shook her head violently. “I don’t want to do that. Nah, Nah, Nah!” she screamed. “You can’t make me go back to that session.”

Dr. Jansen waited for her childish antics to play themselves out. “We have no choice, Amelia. It was that session that changed both our lives. Don’t you see, if you don’t confront the truth, you will never get well.”

Despite cupping her ears, Amelia heard every word. “Going back won’t help me. You’re an arrogant, selfish bastard. Why don’t you just admit that my divorce was your fault? You’re just a big, fat liar.”

“Big, fat liar, Amelia. Really? You’re thirty-seven years old. Don’t you think it’s time you grew up?”

“You’re insufferable. I hate these sessions. You are the one who told me to confront my husband. You told me it would strengthen our relationship. Well, look what it did, Doc. It fucked up my life and yours.”

Jensen smiled. “I’m quite content with where I am.” He uncrossed his legs and then crossed them in the other direction. “You’re the one whose life is fucked up. Not me.”

“Excuse me? How dare you use that language with me. I can use any obscenity I want, I’m the patient, but you are not allowed. Am I making myself clear?”

Jensen ignored her question and jotted down a comment in his notebook. “Now let’s get back to that session where I allegedly told you to divorce your husband. We had been seeing each other for what–– two years before you finally insisted on a solution. And do you remember what I said?”

“You told me to confront him, and now look at me.”

“Amelia, stop lying to yourself. I never told you to confront your husband.”

Amelia jumped from her chair and ran over to a bookcase on the far wall. She grabbed one book, rifled through the pages, and threw it to the floor. She did the same with the next and the next until a dozen books were splayed open on the carpet. “Where in any of these books does it tell you to lie to your patient? Where?”

Dr. Jensen looked at her. His face betrayed no emotion. It was as if it had turned into a cold marble bust, unable to emote.

She sprung from her chair. “I want out. I want to get out of here. This session is over.”

“Amelia, you know that’s not possible. I run this show.” She ran to the office door and turned the doorknob. It was locked from the inside. Then she resorted to pounding on the door screaming for someone to let her out. Her fists would have splintered most doors, but this one held firm.

She walked back to the armchair and sat down. She cradled her face in her hands and cried, “Why won’t you help me?”

“I’m trying to help you,” Dr. Jensen said. “but you need to be willing to go back to that pivotal moment.”

“Okay. Fine, fine. Let’s go back and get this shitty session over with.”

“You confessed to me that your husband had been seeing another woman. You told me you caught him putting medications in your wine. You told me you wanted to confront him about all of this, but you were afraid he might leave you.” Amelia squirmed in her chair. “I asked, what it was about his leaving that worried you, and you told me you didn’t think any other man would ever love you. Do you remember this?” Amelia nodded without looking at the therapist. “I then asked what you thought you should do? Do you remember what you told me?”

Amelia stood from the chair and walked back to the door. She pounded with both fists and whispered, “Please let me out. Please. My hour is up. It’s time for me to go home.” But no one on the other side responded. She walked back to the chair. She had gotten used to prolonged moments of silence. This one lasted a full minute. “I told you I had to end my nightmare,” she finally said, “I told you it was time to take back my life. I told you it was time for me to act.”

“And what did I tell you?”

“You told me for every action, there was a reaction, and if I was going to say anything to my husband, I had to be prepared to live with the consequences. Good or bad.”

“And what did you say?”

“I told you I couldn’t live with his lies and his cheating any longer.”

“That’s right. And when you confronted him, it was you who demanded a divorce. It was you who stood strong and told him you were ending this charade of a marriage.”

“Yes, I remember. I remember being so happy when I found the strength to address him. I was so happy until he walked out on me.”

“Do you remember what happened next?” Dr. Jensen asked.

Amelia spoke in a calm, controlled voice. “I remember getting angry. I felt abandoned, and I remember blaming you for the divorce.”

“And what did you do next?”

“I stormed into your office, and I shot you.”

“You killed me.” The therapist corrected her. “You took away my life and my family and my dreams. And that is why I will haunt your dreams for the rest of your life.” Jensen reached for a pocket watch. He clicked it open and then shut it. “Well, it looks as if our time really is up. That will be all for now, Amelia. You can go. The door is unlocked, but remember, we have a standing appointment every night for the rest of your pathetic life.”


Amelia shot up from her lumpy cot. Three cinder block walls looked back at her. The naked toilet glistened in the moonlight. The cell bars cast their shadows on the concrete floor. It was three o’clock in the morning. Five hours until the prison’s morning roll call. Amelia didn’t know if she could make it that long without closing her eyes. The thought of sleep sickened her and she retched into the stainless-steel bowl.

July 23, 2020 23:51

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Wally Schmidt
17:06 Feb 25, 2023

OMG I love this story. The structure works so well. I was expecting a twist at the end, but not that one and not a double-twist. This is really masterful. I wish I had read it before I wrote The Cancer Patient which also deals with a therapist and her client. The 'dastardly' opening drew me in and I stayed for the ride. Why have you not posted any more stories since this one Rudy? Please write again.


Rudy Uribe
18:20 Feb 25, 2023

Thank you, Wally. I’m starting to get back into the swing of things.


Wally Schmidt
19:26 Feb 25, 2023

: }


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Tommy Goround
20:30 Sep 12, 2022



Show 0 replies
Maya Reynolds
16:36 Aug 03, 2020

Oh my! Surprising twist at the end. Still, a great story that I enjoyed reading. I look forward to checking out more of your stories. Good job!


Show 0 replies
Chris Morris
21:48 Aug 01, 2020

Really chilling, I didn't really see that twist coming. Very well written and had me thinking for a while afterwards. Well done.


Show 0 replies
Sue M
04:14 Jul 25, 2020

OMG Rudy! And I thought your LAST story was the best one I had ever read, here or otherwise! As soon as I realized this one involved a therapy session, I was immediately hooked (as you would assume would happen if read by a retired psychologist). So, in addition to a great writer, you're a therapist as well! The session was perfect, until Dr. Jensen said he ran the show, Amelia tried to leave and the door was locked from the inside. Not a response other therapists might offer, and they certainly wouldn't lock their office door. Way to dan...


Rudy Uribe
18:45 Jul 26, 2020

Thanks, Sue. You did not miss a clue. I was looking for a way to have him ignore her rant.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Susan Epstein
18:51 Jul 24, 2020

Enjoyed it!


Show 0 replies
Verna Avarell
12:22 Jul 24, 2020

Awesome! I love the little details too! 👏🏻👏🏻


Show 0 replies
09:25 Sep 21, 2020

Beautifully constructed. Simply amazing. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/59/submissions/34852/ give a read to mine. also I would love to interact with you and discuss writing as a profession provided we could share contact details.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.