It was the fourth session that Sarah had with Mr. And Mrs. Harvey. They had married for over thirty-five years, and their two daughters had grown up and left home for a long time. But now, instead of enjoying their life and freedom, Jim and Karen were fighting all the time. They both were tired of their miserable life, and each was blaming the other. They ultimately concluded there was only one option left for them, and it was to get a divorce. But their daughters were strongly opposed to their separation. Their older daughter made an appointment with Sarah Stefanovic, a well-known psychologist and marriage counselor, to mend her parent’s marriage.
Jim explained, ‘Karen is confrontational, and like a rabid dog, she bites for no reason. It was last night, at the dinner, she had a lengthy argument with me for just dropping a grain of rice on my shirt.’
‘He always drops his food on his shirt, on the floor, everywhere, like a child. You should see his shirts. They are all stained.’ Karen commented while looking at Sarah. Then turn her face toward her husband and added, ‘If you don’t eat like a child and don’t drop food on your shirt, I won’t say anything.’
‘I didn’t want to drop any food on my shirt. It just happened. For your information, earth has gravity, and it’s the gravity that pulled the loose grain down on my shirt.’ Jim growled.
‘Why the gravity is always against you and not me, mister smart ass.’ She quickly answered.
It was time for Sarah to intervene and contain the situation. ‘Karen, please. It’s Jim’s time to tell his side of the story. On your time, you can express your opinion.’ You were saying, Jim.’
‘Thank you. Yes, she complaints all the time. Doesn’t matter what I do. She always tries to annoy me. If I watch my favorite TV program, she wants to watch TV too. If I don’t turn the TV on, she won’t remember we have a TV set in the home. In fact, she doesn’t like watching TV. It is all to irritate me. If I read a book, she will raise the TV or radio volume or make other noises. If I take a nap, she remembers to vacuum the room. And the worst is when we go out together. She will do something or say something in front of others to make me feel bad and embarrassed. I even don’t expect my archenemy to treat me like this. I am tired of her behavior, and I want to end this misery. I am Sixty-five years old, and I need a calm place to live the rest of my life in peace. I had already fought my wars, and it’s the time to do what I dreamed in my entire life to do. I don’t want to fight with anyone, Karen, or anybody else.’
‘Thank you, Jim.’ Sarah looked at Karen and said,’ Okay, Karen, what is your response.’
‘It’s all his fault. He does nothing in the home. It is as I am his slave. I don’t recall when it was the last time he cooked something, or washed dishes, or vacuumed the room. He is just sitting on the couch, watching TV, reading a book, or playing with his stupid radio. And guess what is he listening to? He listens to foreign radios, all with lots of static noises. For god’s sake, what is wrong with the local FM radio stations with crystal clear sound.’
Jim showed his protest by moving his head from side to side. ‘FM radios are just broadcasting pop music. I am following the news. I like to know what is going on around the globe. To get the bigger picture, I check different international stations.’
Sarah had listened to them, whinging, for the last three sessions. It had to stop. It was crunch time. She had to contain the situation; they should stop whining. So, she raised her hand and stopped them. ‘Okay, Jim. Now I want you to forget about your current problems, tell me some good things about your wife. I am not asking you to compliment her. Just tell me what good things you saw in your wife to stay married for over thirty-five years.’
‘Ahh, I don’t know what I should say?’ Jim said.
‘Just go back to when you first met Karen. Where did you meet her? How did it happen?’ Sarah asked.
‘Um…., I was about thirty when I met Karen.’ Jim said and looked at Karen, who had frowned at him. ‘She was working at a local news agency. I was working at an accounting office a block away from the news agency. I should add that I worked all my life as an accountant. Every day at lunch break, I would walk to the shop to get a newspaper to which my company had subscribed. It was my excuse to go there, just to see her.’
‘Sorry interrupting you, why at lunchtime and not at another time.’ Sarah asked.
‘Because at noon, the shop was always quiet, and usually Karen was the only person there. Most people had bought their papers in the morning. And lunch break was a time for workers to rest and have a bite.’
‘Karen, do you remember it? What was your impression of seeing him every day at the shop?’ Sarah asked.
Sarah caught her off her guards, ‘Um…, I didn’t notice him first. But as he came every day at noon to get the already old paper, I noticed him. He was a chatty guy. And each day, he was talking about a silly subject.’ Karen smiled by remembering that time.
‘And when did you date for the very first time?’ Sarah asked.
‘After a while, maybe after three months coming to the shop, one day out of the blue, he invited me for lunch.’ Karen paused as if she was visualizing the events of that day. ‘He was apologetic as he couldn’t take me to a better restaurant as he had to back to work in half an hour.’
‘Jim, where did you take her.’ Sarah asked.
‘I took her to the Rose O’Grady café restaurant next door. Just three shops on the west side of her working place.’ Jim answered.
‘What did you order?’ This time Sarah asked Karen.
Karen promptly answered, ‘he asked the waitress what food she can give us almost immediately as he didn’t have time to wait, and should be at work soon.’
‘And what was it?’ Sarah asked.
‘I guess we get steak sandwiches.’ Karen replied.
‘No.’ Jim corrected her. ‘It was fish and chips, and it was a badly made one. I still remember that day. Fish was cold, and the potato chips were soggy as if the dish had rested on the kitchen’s shelf for at least half an hour before we ordered.’
‘I just remember. Jim is right. The waitress served the food in less than two minutes.’ Karen added.
‘I was regretful of inviting her there. It was a quick, impulsive decision that I made while I was talking to her. In fact, I didn’t have any plan to ask her out.’ Jim said.
‘Was it really bad? I mean the food, the fish and chips.’ Sarah asked Karen.
‘To be honest, I don’t remember. I was excited by his invitation. I was excited to be with him. For a while, I was waiting for that day to come. I wondered when he would ask me out. I pleased by his bravery to overcome his shyness and invited me out.’ Karen paused for a minute, then continued, ‘Even my manager Margaret, the shop owner, knew Jim. Every day by twelve, just a few minutes before his arrival, she would retire to the room we had at the back of the store, more like an office and storage room combined. By leaving the shop front at noon, Margaret gave me space to chat with Jim freely. She was a nice woman. I wish I knew where she is now. I like to give her a visit.’
‘And you never told me. I thought you work alone.’ Jim said with a surprised look on his face.
‘I thought you knew.’ Karen responded.
‘When was next you went out?’ Sarah asked.
‘The next Saturday. This time I did my research and found an Italian restaurant. But as I didn’t ask her about what she liked and what she didn’t, I was nervous.’ Jim answered.
‘Yes, we went to that Italian restaurant. Actually, I remember it well. I ordered Pennoni pasta, and it was really good. Later I found a few recipes, and with a few changes, I make my own Pennoni, better than that restaurant.’
‘Oh, that’s the reason you make good pasta.’ Jim said and looked at Sarah, ‘you should try Karen’s pasta, it is great. I am sure you won’t go to any Italian restaurant after tasting her dish.’
By Sarah’s subtle persuasion, they talked about their past good times for the rest of the session. Sarah looked at the retro-style clock with Greek numerals mounted on the wall of her office. It was almost the end of that day’s session. She still had an hour until her following appointment, but she needed the time to prepare herself for her next clients. ‘Sorry, your time’s up.’ Sarah said and then opened the side drawer of her classic and stylish mahogany desk and took a bunch of cards out. After a quick search, she pulled two cards out of the bunch and handed them to Jim. ‘Jim, this is for Santorini Italian restaurant downtown. With this card, you will receive a fifteen percent discount on your orders. Why, like old times, don’t you take Karen to this restaurant tonight?’
Jim willingly looked at Karen and silently asked her opinion. She just nodded. After thirty-five years of living together, they could efficiently communicate without exchanging a single word. And Karen’s response was positive.
‘So, I will see you next Monday at the same time; 2:00 PM. Is it OK?’
‘Sure.’ Jim Replied.
‘That’s perfect. Thank you.’ Karen said, and they both left her office.
It was two o’clock on Monday, and there was no sign of Jim and Karen. She looked at her clock. ‘They could be stuck in traffic.’ She initially thought. 2:00 became 2:15 and then 2:30, and they didn’t show up. Sarah smiled. She knew they wouldn’t show up for that session or any other future sessions. By taking them to the past and helping them remember when they had had a good time with each other, when they had enjoyed each other’s companion, she forced them to see the positive side of their relationship. She knew that dining at Santorini Italian restaurant brought all their good memories to life and triggered a lifestyle change. Mr. and Mrs. Harvey had changed their life by now. They didn’t need her help anymore.
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This was great!! I think that you made the characters very relatable and realistic. I got you in critique circle, and I am happy!!