5 months later:
"How are the nightmares?"
"Better." I said, "Sometimes if I feel like I'll get them, I'll stay up and paint something."
"What have you been painting?"
"Well," I thought, "My most recent one was of the small covered bridge behind my parents house." I smirked a little, "My sister and I used to go there a lot as kids."
My therapist, Doctor Sands, flipped through her notepad, taking a few notes, she looked back up at me, "And how is your mother? I know you lost your father a few months back. How is she coping?"
"Actually she just came out of remission, the doctors were able to get the cancer out in enough time. She's been happy about that."
"And how are you dealing with the loss?"
I sighed, "I was broken up a little, but I had to be the strong one, for mom and my sister. I made my peace with it, it's mom I'm more worried about. She's lonely. Charlie and I make weekly visits with her until she moves in with us." I laughed, "He complains about it, but they adore each other."
"That's good," Sands nodded, "And I presume she also wants to be around when the baby comes."
I rubbed my belly and smiled, "Yeah, she and I both think it's a girl, but Charlie's convinced it'll be a boy. I don't care, personally."
"When are you due again?"
"June 21st. Give or take a few days."
"A child is a wonderful thing, it's the symbol of a new life."
"That's what we're trying to do." I shrugged.
"I'm very happy with the progress you've made, Cory." She said, fixing her glasses, "You're recovering quickly. Starting a family, moving into a new home. These are big changes."
"Oh yeah," I sucked the air through my teeth, "We're just happy to get out of our old homes."
"But you'll be staying in Ithaca?" Sands asked.
"Yup." I nodded, "Charlie grew up there, and we just have so many friends in town. I'd hate to say goodbye. And...I love my job. I miss it."
"You still haven't been cleared to go back to work, however." She said pointedly.
"That's why I'm here talking to you, Doctor."
"Indeed," She smirked, "Partly why I've been so hesitant to release you back into the field is I'm concerned you've perhaps recovered a little too quickly."
"Doctor Sands, it's been five months since the incident."
"My point exactly. I was worried when you said you and Charlie started a relationship so quickly afterwards. How has it been intimately?"
I felt a little embarrassed, but this woman knew almost everything about me, "We were hesitant at first. I used to get too into my head and I would cry, but we took it slow. We had been intimate before with other people, but when we finally did as a couple, it felt...incredible. And obviously, we haven't really kept our hands off of each other since then." I rubbed my belly again.
"Do you think you rely too much on the comfort that he's the only one who really knew what happened to you?"
I gave a loud sigh, slightly annoyed, "Doctor Sands, with all due respect, I think after all these years Charlie and I have become very close. It just felt natural. We've been friends for a long time, and I think even if we hadn't been through this, we might've still gotten together."
"Alright," Sands wrote a little more on her notepad, "Have you been practicing the breathing exercises I gave you when you feel a panic attack coming on?"
"Yes, ma'am." I nodded.
"How have they worked for you?" She asked.
"Sometimes I can bring myself back down," I cleared my throat, "Other times it's a little harder to concentrate, but I try my best."
"Good, I'm very glad. You seem to be working hard for your recovery."
"Is that also why I haven't been cleared for work?" I asked.
"No," Sands fixed her glasses again, "I'm actually quite impressed. Most victims aren't always ready to deal with real world situations."
"I'm very tenacious, Doctor Sands."
"I'm well aware, Doctor Blair." She smiled, "I'd like to talk more about your paintings. Your father was an artist, as well as a police officer. Do you feel that you can channel your grief through that?"
I shrugged, "Sometimes I think about what he'd say if he were still here. I'd like to think he was proud."
"Proud that you managed to recover quickly, that you're building a family, or that you shot and killed a man to end his torture of you and your fiance?"
"Ah…" I said, "Now you finally ask the hard questions. If I'm sorry I killed Felix Donnelley."
"Absolutely fucking not."
"Why is that?"
"Why am I not sorry I killed Felix Donnelley," I pretended to think, "Huh. I guess it's because he purposely made me crash my car into the woods, kidnapped me, attempted to rape me while he held me hostage to get Charlie trapped in the cabin with me, threatened to kill us if we didn't have sex for him, and then he almost beat Charlie to death, but not before raping me. If I'm remorseful about anything, it's that it didn't happen before all of those other women were raped and murdered, I would've saved them that pain."
I looked at Doctors Sands, "Did you know that the parents of the victims visited me in the hospital?"
"Yeah…" I sighed, "They were devastated over the loss of their daughters, but they were just so happy he won't ever torture, rape, and kill again." I felt a lump in my throat, "I still get cards from them. A few of the families moved away, but they send postcards. I don't regret anything, Doctor, because now, for the first time in a long time, they have closure."
"You don't have to be defensive with me, Cory." Sands said, "There is no right or wrong answer to that question."
"There would've been if I said I liked killing him, which I didn't. But the thought of that bastard lying 6-feet under while his potential victims are now alive and well; that certainly helps me sleep at night."
Doctors Sands nodded, "I agree with you." She looked again at her notepad, "Something you said in our last session struck me as odd. Do you mind if I read it to you?"
"Shoot." I shrugged.
"Do you recall when I asked about your hallucinations about Boromir?" She asked, I nodded, "What struck me as odd is that you heard him again when you were fully conscious. It's true that you had been incapacitated for some time, and your concussion made you remember things that weren't entirely correct; I suppose my question for you, is why do you think you heard him again that night in the cabin?"
"You really are pulling out all the big questions, Doctor," I sighed, "I think, because my mother used to read those books to me as a child I felt an attachment to the characters. Especially Boromir. Something about the man in the boat going down the river made me think of Boromir."
I shrugged, "Then I just, I mixed memories I had of Evans and Lucas with him. The sex was Evans. I felt so guilty for a long time about it, but obviously Lucas had gone off and married someone else. So I don't feel as bad anymore."
"So in your conscious, you used this character as a way to deal with that guilt?"
"I guess so, Doctor. As for the reason why I heard him again, I think it's because he was the only one who I thought made me feel completely and utterly safe."
"Do you think if you hadn't had those intimate relationships with Charlie prior to your incidents, you would have had different hallucinations?"
I nodded, "I do, I remember E...Charlie had to get his house fumigated or something, Lucas had just gone again to Europe for lectures and I felt lonely. So I said he could stay with me, prior to that he'd never been in my house before. It was an interesting week, I'll say that much." Then I thought, "I actually miss that."
"But here you are, pregnant with his child and engaged to be married." Sands said, "That must make you happy."
Doctor Sands looked at the clock, "It seems our final session is over."
"Final?" I asked.
"I think you're ready to start work again next week. However I do advise you to keep your limits, meaning keep clear of any major field-work until you've become acclimated again. Of course you can always see me if you have any more problems."
I shook her hand, "Thank you Doctor Sands, really."
She walked me out, "Any plans for the rest of the evening?" She asked.
"Well, tonight we're finally going to tell our friends I'm two and a half months pregnant. It'll also be the first time everyone is allowed to see Harker's show at Complexe Sky. Which I'm very excited for, he's an amazing dancer."
"Then I hope you enjoy your time, Cory." Doctor Sands smiled, "Please don't hesitate to call."
"I won't." I assured her.
For the first time in five months, I smiled coming out of my therapist's office.
Later that evening, Charlie and I met up with Jack, Ian, Milo and his girlfriend Gina, a rookie named Abe, my sister and her husband, and Charlie's brother George and his boyfriend Andre.
"I'm so glad you could make it," I hugged Andre, "I haven't talked to you in forever."
"Girl, I know," He sipped at his martini, "But you look even better than I remember, mama."
Beth came over and kissed my cheek, "No drinking tonight, remember?" She raised her brow, looking at my belly.
"They say in moderation." I laughed.
"Blair!" Milo, Jack, and Ian came over to crowd around and give me hugs.
"We've missed you so much," Milo said, "The new rookie has been driving us crazy, we knew we had to put him through the test ASAP." He laughed.
"Sorry boys not tonight." Charlie came up behind me, kissing my cheek, "The future missus and I are expecting." He rubbed my belly.
I shrugged, "It's true."
Milo bent down to my belly, "I swear to God if you turn out like Evans there is no hope for the new generations."
"Congratulations, Cory." Ian gave me a hug.
"Let's have a toast, to baby Evans, and to Harker's performance tonight!" Jack raised his beer.
Everyone at the small round table raised their drinks.
"And now, without further ado," The announcer said over the crowd, "We give you, Dee Dee Bauchery!" There was a spotlight set to the stage.
From the velvety purple curtains, Dee Dee came forth, adorning a silky blonde wig and a sequin purple dress that just went under her padded hips.
"Bitch is fishy, I am living for this." Andre snapped his fingers.
"There's no way." Charlie looked at me, "No way."
I nodded, "That's our baby."
The music started up for Cher's 'If I could Turn Back Time', the whole room started screaming for Dee Dee. I clapped, I was just so proud of her. She started to lipsync.
"If I could turn back time. If I could find a way I'd take back those words that hurt you and you'd stay," Dee Dee kicked her leg into the air, getting whistles from the crowd, "I don't know why I did the things I did I don't know why I said the things I said. Pride's like a knife it can cut deep inside. Words are like weapons they wound sometimes. I didn't really mean to hurt you I didn't wanna see you go I know I made you cry, but baby."
Andre and I started to sing along to the song, the guys just moved along, smiling at Dee Dee.
"If I could turn back time, if I could find a way I'd take back those words that hurt you and you'd stay if I could reach the stars I'd give them all to you then you'd love me, love me like you used to do." Dee Dee split on the stages, receiving howls and whistles from the crows, even jack got into it.
She kept lipsyncing, dancing around the stage, looking absolutely fabulous. She even went out into the crowd during her big finale while singing 'Believe', kissing Ian's cheek, leaving a big black lipstick mark on him.
After her breath-taking performance, she came out into the crowd.
"Cory." Dee Dee instantly leapt and hugged me, "How did I do?"
"Oh, baby, you were fantastic I'm so proud of you." I kept grinning.
"Can I get you a drink?" She asked.
"I can't, darling."
"Oh that's right!" Dee Dee rubbed my tummy, "Someone has a bun in the oven." She giggled.
"You told her?" Evans asked me.
"Of course," I said, kissing his jaw, "She's my best girlfriend."
"You know I am." Dee Dee snapped her fingers.
The DJ started to play slower songs. The newest one was 'Don't Cry'. Ian went over to Dee Dee, scratching the back of his neck.
"Any chance I can get a dance with the star of tonight's show?" He asked, blushing.
Dee Dee almost seemed shocked, but was quick to say yes.
"I think we should join them," Charlie looked at me, "It's our song."
"And here I thought you didn't remember that kind of stuff." I laughed.
"You'll be surprised by the things I remember, Miss Blair." Then he thought, "Future Mrs. Evans."
He took my gently by the waist, pulling me to the dance floor.
"Does that remind you too much of your mother if you call me that?" I asked, giggling.
"See, why did you have to ruin it?" He said dramatically, smiling and kissing my nose, "Actually I think it fits you."
"Oh yes, it has a certain ring to it." He smirked, "And it makes me feel utterly and positively happy."
"I've loved you a long time, Cory. I don't think that'll change," He ran his fingers over my cheek, "Ever."
"Even when I'm senile and covered in cat hair?"
"I'll love you even more, because that means you let me keep my cats."
I laughed, "They're not that bad."
"I'll remember you said that."
"Oh yes, with your steel trap brain."
"You know it, baby." He kissed the corner of my mouth.
Charlie rubbed my tummy, kissing me over and over, telling me how much in love he was. I felt like I was floating on air, like nothing could be more perfect. I was completely and utterly happy, and I was so in love with a man who had been my best friend for so long.
Later that night, when everyone went home and was settling into bed. I sat and painted. There were long silver trees with golden leaves. I hummed to myself, paying special attention to the detail of the forest. I painted a small creek running through it, I felt as though its waters were cool and clean, healing.
When I was finished, I backed away from it, rubbing my belly.
I was happy.
And everything was okay.