Something Like That
"It's okay, Sunny," Chloe said, handing the sniffling girl a box of tissues.
"No, it isn't," spat the girl.
Chloe pulled off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose to push back the massive headache she felt sweeping forward. "I hope the medication is helping; you'd tell me if it wasn't, right?"
Sunny wiped her nose and nodded slowly but her eyes were on the window. Her blue-and-pink dreads swung around her head. Although she was very tan, Chloe could clearly see the red splotches of anger on her face.
"I'm afraid our time is up. I'll see you next week on Wednesday, okay? Hang in there."
The girl got to her feet, stuffed a couple of clean tissues into her pocket and headed for the door. The sad smile on her face left Chloe unsettled a tiny bit. "Alright. Bye." The smile didn't reach her eyes as she closed the door behind her softly.
Twenty-year-old Chloe Saunders sank into her chair, loosening the collar of her shirt. The room was stifling, hot despite the AC running full-blast. A knock at the door made her look up from her PC. A curl of strawberry blonde fell across her sweaty face but she shoved her red-streaked hair back, wondering if she should cut it all off.
"Chloe? It's me, Simon. I've got someone I'd like you to meet," came the soft, airy voice of a man she'd known since she was fifteen.
"Come in," she said, adjusting her pencil skirt a little bit.
The door creaked open slowly and Chloe's mind flew back to the days where she thought she'd be a director, making everything a screenplay. Protagonist hears a creepy door opening. She looks up confused from her work and, standing there, is dark, hulking figure…
"Good to see you, Simon. I've just finished a session with a patient," she explained as she wiped off her face.
Simon, tall, thin and attractive with spiky blonde hair, golden skin, and almond-shaped brown eyes, grinned at her, dressed in a grey tank top, shorts and a pair of sneakers that looked like they belonged in a teenage boy's closet. His dog tags from Iraq glinted in the light.
"Chloe, meet my brother, Derek."
Her eyes drifted behind him and just simply stared.
The guy was very tall, well over six foot, and broad, and obviously worked out a lot. His long, black hair was tousled and hung lank in his eyes, an exotic green that made her think of a predator's gaze. His skin was brown, sun-tanned; his skin set-off the white t-shirt and ripped jeans made Chloe sweat more; how could he stand the heat? She was sweltering in her loose blouse and pencil skirt just looking at him!
"Hello, Derek," Chloe said quietly, pushing back a curl. In all the years of knowing Tori and Simon, they never breathed a word of their older sibling to her.
Derek grunted something that she took as a greeting.
"He's…he's not adjusting well to civilian life. I thought maybe you could help. Considering your aunt was in the military."
Chloe nodded and waved them in; Simon skipped right on passed her but Derek stood there in the doorway after ducking into the room and stared down at her.
His face was carefully blank, like a mask, hiding his emotions but so was his gaze; his eyes searched hers for what stretched out into an eternity.
"A-hem, hate to break your dramatic, gazing-into-each-other's-eyes shindig but I need you over here, bro."
Like a St. Bernard, Derek lumbered to his brother, a look on his face that passed too fast for Chloe to figure it out, and then he sat, dwarfing his brother.
"He just got back from his—" A pause "—fifth deployment. Back for good. Discharged with a Purple Heart." Adoration shone in the half-Swedish boy's face as he patted Derek on the knee.
The dark-haired man made a grunting sound again but said nothing.
Chloe settled into her chair and crossed her legs; a heat prickled her chest when Derek's sharp eyes zeroed in on her skin, her legs to be exact. Trying to ignore it, she asked, "How long have you been in the army, Derek?"
When Simon went to answer, she held up her hand.
Derek didn't move, didn't make a sound as his eyes flickered up to hers and then back to her legs.
"Six years," he muttered. He had the loveliest voice, a rumbling kind that she really only read about in erotic romance novels. It was gravelly and deep, like distant thunder, sending shivers up her spine.
"Have you had any effects like PTSD?" She was biting her lip and his gaze honed in at that now; he didn't say anything for the longest time and then he slumped back, looking like a teenager who didn't want to be here. She could see him as a teenager, acne spotting his face, scowl on his face, blunt and broody and rude.
"He does! He wakes up during the night sometimes―" Simon said.
"Simon." Chloe rubbed her forehead; it came away sticky with sweat. She was sweltering and he wasn't helping.
"―And he's got this terrified look on his face, his skin ashy like he's seen a ghost. He watched some of―" he prattled on.
"Simon." An edge crept into her voice as she grew annoyed at the other blonde.
"―His men die out there. Do you think it's a guilty―" he was saying, completely oblivious.
"Simon!" Derek and Chloe nearly shouted in unison and Simon froze, mouth open mid-sentence.
"I'll be back in a moment," said the young woman and, as she rose and turned to the door, she swore she felt Derek's eyes on her butt.
Once the door was closed behind her, Chloe made her way down to the water fountain and, as she was taking a deep sip, heard, "Simon's here, isn't he?"
She turned to find Tori, the office secretary, standing there; she was Simon and Derek's younger sister.
Tori's black, short hair was pulled back with a hair-band and she wore a loose fitting button down and loose skirt, looking cute and professional.
"Yes. I didn't know about Derek," Chloe replied as she splashed a bit of water onto her face. Thank God she never bothered with makeup. When Chloe got back to her office, she could hear bickering and paused.
Simon and Tori were arguing.
Derek didn't say a thing.
Clearing her throat, the therapist pushed open the door and watched the siblings. "Simon, Tori, could I speak with Derek for a bit? Alone."
They gave her similar wide-eyed looks.
Simon slinked out but Tori lingered. She waggled her eyebrows and Chloe's face felt hotter than an oven. "He's not that bad. Try not to feel discouraged if he won't answer. He's just a bit cranky." Tori closed the door and her heels click-click-clicked away.
Derek sat there, a look disinterest on his face, but his eyes followed her closely. "So, Derek," Chloe started with a smile, leaning back in her seat and crossing her legs, "tell me about yourself." There was no reply, at all; he just stared at her. "My name is Chloe," she offered.
He rewarded her with a scowl.
"I'm twenty years old. I went AR Gurney School of the Arts. Have you ever been there? It's a private school, though," Chloe said, picking at the lint on her skirt. She kicked off her shoes and wiggled her toes.
"Does this bother you?" she asked quietly when she realized he'd been staring at her feet.
"You have such small feet," he said after another minute, "they look like fairy feet."
She smiled. "I was referred to as a midget in high school, being only 4'8. Still am."
His eyes met hers. "I'm 6'4."
She pulled her damp hair away from her neck and sighed as the AC washed away the heat on her neck.
"But you could be considered a porcelain doll," Derek murmured, fingers drumming on his thigh. She laughed and he looked startled by the sound.
"My mother always said I looked like a doll," she said quietly.
"Said? Past tense?" he commented slowly, green eyes boring into her.
"She died in a car accident when I was 12," she explained, brushing away her damp collar.
"That necklace?" he said, tilting his head.
"My mother gave it to me. I used to have these awful nightmares as a kid, ghosts and bogeymen." She shifted.
Derek reached into his shirt and pulled something out. On a chain, amongst so many dog tags was a black stone with the initials DZS.
He nodded. "My middle name." He shrugged absently so Chloe dropped the subject.
"How old are you?" she asked suddenly. She bit her lip when he went still, elbows on his knees.
"Twenty-one," he responded flatly.
"So you can drink?" she asked softly.
His eyes snapped up to hers, confused but guarded. "Yes. But I don't." His tone left no room for argument and she wasn't about to start one.
"How come you joined the military?" She clicked her pen.
His gaze hardened and his mouth thinned; he didn't answer. "Okay. Do you like books?"
His tense shoulders sloped. After a few minutes, he nodded slowly. "Classics, mathematics," he said as she crossed her legs.
She felt oddly relaxed in his consistent presence.
"Like Pride and Prejudice? I like more recent, contemporary pieces like Sarah Dessen and James Patterson," she offered flippantly.
He shrugged. "The classics are good. And classic as in Bram Stoker's Dracula, not John Greene or James Patterson's shit," he stated.
Books were safe, Chloe decided and started jabbering, which he returned but in short, simple sentences. They talked for half an hour before there was a rap on the door.
"We gotta jet," Simon called.
Chloe rose and Derek stood, too; he was so tall, his head brushed the ceiling.
His lips twitched. "I'll set up another session," he said, staring at her.
Her cheeks warmed under his sharp eyes as she nodded in response and gave him her business card.
He tucked it into his pocket and flashed her distrustful look, clear as day. It said I still don't trust you. He turned tail and walked out.