2009-11-09: Retail Therapy



Date: November 9, 2009


Having trouble dealing with glaring reality, a young socialite visits a therapist.

"Retail Therapy"

Hope Hearth Distress Centre

It's a crisp sunny November morning, and Sydney has already seen three patients. The last one had been particularly difficult, and she needed a ten minute break so she'd taken it, sitting in her office alone, breathing deeply to calm herself. Moistening her lips she reaches into her desk and extracts a small mirror to check her makeup. Her mascara hasn't run this time which causes her to smirk a bit before standing to her feet, smoothing her grey pencil skirt, and padding to the door, her heels making that authoritative clapping noise with every step.

Stepping into the waiting room, she glances about, "Hallis Van Cortlandt?"

Wincing as her name is called, Hallis gets up slowly. She is dressed in dark glasses, her hair is tied up in a scarf and she's wearing a trench coat. Suspicious? Not if you knew what it took to get here incognito. One decoy? $20, a cab to this part of town? $40, No photos in next week's tabloid? Priceless. She doesn't look at any of the other patients in the waiting room as she hurries toward the therapist. Maybe they'll ignore the name and assume it's someone using a fake one… after all, that's what she should have done.

"Yes, can we hurry this up?" The young woman says, giving a last nervous look to the gawkers (I mean patients) in the waiting room. "I don't need anyone recognizing me here…"

An eyebrow is raised at Hallis' disguise and apparent suspicion, but motions for the young woman to enter the office. She closes the door after Hallis enters and says, "Please, have a seat." Sydney's lips twitch slightly into a very small smile. Yes, she's amused, but she manages to keep this particular feeling to herself.

The office is lined with bookshelves filled with books, contains a desk with a chair behind it, a rather uncomfortable purple couch, and an office chair that faces said couch. Sydney reaches for a pad of paper and a pen that rest on the desk before taking a seat in the chair - both feet planted firmly on the floor, "So… why are you here?" She offers the other woman a warm smile.

Once safely inside the office, Hallis removes her dark glasses, coat, and scarf from her head. These items are tossed carelessly into a heal in one of the chairs. The other chair is looked at with a rather dismal expression. It's clear the the woman doesn't really want to be here, to the astute it might even be garnered that she's only here to save herself a trip to rehab like so many of her friends.

She sits lightly in the chair not hosting her things and crosses her left leg over the right at the knee. Her foot bounces nervously as she clears her throat and shifts her eyes around the room, looking for somewhere to begin. Her gaze falls to one of the magazines on a side table, a recent copy of People with her own picture on it, likely left by one of the other patients. Pointing to that picture, Hallis furrows her brow and purses her lips into a straight line. "My shoes got burned up… in a robbery." It's a feeble attempt at a beginning, but it's the most comfortable one she knows right now.

Well. Sydney's heard a lot of other people's problems in this office, but this is the first time she's ever been consulted about the loss of …. shoes. She furrows her eyebrows to hide her own bemusement and keep it from escaping into the spaces of the room, instead choosing to clear her throat, and ask in a very-therapist like fashion, "How does that make you feel?"

Hallis lets off a deep sigh and shakes her head, "Well they were brand new Prada shoes… The firemen kept saving these people instead of listening to me or letting me go back inside to rescue them. I could see them." She looks up at the other woman, obviously in distress, and shrugs. "That's not the part that really bugs me though… it's the man that burned them."

Taking a very large breath, the young socialite glances around the room and furrows her brow. "You won't laugh if I tell you, will you? I mean… I don't know if poor people therapists have the same standards as the Doctors I used to see but…"

There's a moment when Sydney takes a calming breath before she offers Tallis a reassuring smile, "I won't laugh." And then she adds with that same reassuring smile, "The pain the incident caused you is your own. Even if others wouldn't feel it, it's real to you. The only thing a person can really trust are their own emotions. How you feel is how you feel. It's my job to help you to move beyond that."

While listening to the therapist, Hallis slouches in her chair, leaning back as far as she can to make herself comfortable. "This guy that I'm seeing, when I told him.. He believed me." Somehow, that's not really the sort of problem that people usually come to a therapist for. "But I don't know what's scarier, the fact that he believed me and told me that these things are real… or if he would have just laughed and called me crazy." Hallis has definitely been wrestling with this dilemma, right to the bottom of a few bottles. "The man that burned my shoes, and the store… and some guy at the ice cream cooler… the fire came from his hands. He didn't use anything but his hands…"

Sydney leans back in her chair, and chews the end of her pen, this is certainly not what she'd been expecting. Her eyes widen as she raises a hand to her forehead. Nodding a bit, she considers what to say next. But before anything comes out of her mouth, she can feel her control slipping. Tinges of her own anxiety slip into the spaces of the room before she finally responds, "You're sure of what you saw?" After the question is asked, Sydney swallows, "Did you tell that to the police?"

Hallis gives the other woman an incredulous stare. "He burned a pair of brand new Prada shoes. Prada. Not some cheap knock offs you get from … Sears or whatever. Some mall store. These were Prada." The celebutante is starting to get anxious at this point and rubs her hands together before shoving them between her knees. "I remember how my shoes died. How that guy…" and then she falls silent, pausing for just a moment. "How that guy died. He was burned alive and he just wanted to buy ice cream."

The young blonde then looks around the room again, "Do you have anything to drink in here? I really need something… or maybe some lithium or whatever you guys give to people? Ativan? Anything? I just need something right now."

There's a nod before Sydney finally tilts her head, "I believe you." She frowns at the notion of having something to drink in her office, "I have bottle water and that's it. You're welcome to some." She points to a mini-fridge in the corner. "After we're done talking we can try to get you some meds if necessary. I'm not an MD, but one of my colleagues is. Based on my assessment she can prescribe a variety of treatments including lithium if necessary."

Clearing her throat, Sydney attempts to get back on topic, "Getting back to the incident…" She swallows and then notes, "I can understand the grief around the shoes. Believe me, I adore shoes." They're the first thing she notices on anyone. "But I suspect you're here because of the incident itself… am I right?"

A small whimper is let off at the denial of self medication and Hallis throws her head forward. Her hair is loose and so it hides her face quite effectively. "Yes, I'm here because of the 'incident'." She almost spits back, the venom in her voice not reserved for the doctor, but for Flint the Fire-man. "If that incident hadn't happened I'd be happy and I'd have my shoes and everything would be rosy because I would never know that there are … " Another pause, she doesn't even know what to call these people, and so she falls back to insults, one in particular. "That there are freaks out there, freaks that kill people by shooting fire out of their hands."

Freaks. Yes, that's what she is, a freak. Biting on the end of her pen again, Sydney nods a bit before scribbling down some notes. There's a moment before the therapist asks gently in turn, "What do you think of these assumed freaks? Are you afraid?" Her lips twitch slightly, but she tries to attain control over her rogue emotions again.

Hallis is getting more and more agitated by the second, this is quite obvious by the way her legs bounce up and down, by the fiddling of her fingers, and by the waver in her voice. "Of course I'm scared," she replies, finally looking up at the other woman. The thick eyeliner around her eyes has begun to collect some of the tears threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. "I almost died, I could have died… I probably would have died if… I don't even know what happened. There was this other girl there. She yelled at me to call the police." And there is where the woman's mind seems to get a little hazy. As if the combustible man wasn't enough, there was more. "She just touched.. and.. I don't even know what to think anymore."

Sydney quickly reaches for the tissue box on her desk and holds it out to Hallis to take a tissue. She studies the woman several moments before swallowing hard to choke back the emotions Hallis is now emitting. With a sniff of her own, she manages to push them aside for the time being, and forcing her encouraging therapeutic self to the surface. Her tone is soothing, "I'm going to speak candidly now. You need to focus on the fact that you lived through this. It's scary. I know it's scary." All too well after the attempted robbery in Central Park. "You're okay. You weren't burnt."

Her eyes narrow at bit at the relevance of another woman at the scene, "Were you… attracted to her?"

Grabbing a few of the tissues, Hallis blows her nose quite noisily into them. A large sniffle later (you'd think she was raised in a shanty with her mannerisms right now) and she seems to relax. "I know, that's what George keeps telling me, I didn't die… but two other people did. And I could have." She gives the other woman a stern gaze, her jaw setting quite stubbornly. "I could have died in some gross little hole in the wall. My shoes DID die in a gross little hole in the wall."

The last question is what causes a jerk in the woman, and then her eyebrows knit together. "No.. NO!! She's poor! And she had bad hair!" Sputtering, Hallis tries to wrap her head around actually being attracted to the girl beyond… beyond something that was eluding her at the moment. "No I wasn't attracted to her, but when she touched me, I felt good. Like I just had the best sex ever. I asked that guy for a light!"

"Yes, your shoes died, but you didn't. You're still here. You were close to death, but managed to come through," Sydney reassures as she places the tissue box back on her desk. "And it's okay to be scared. We're supposed to be scared when scary things happen to us. It's normal. Now, that doesn't mean you should live in that fear, but it's good you were afraid. If you felt nothing right now, I would have a lot more to be worried about." She offers Hallis a warm smile.

The other girl, still perplexes Sydney, "Well, it could be a number of things you feel towards her. Sometimes trauma victims develop unusual bonds. It could be that." She offers a weak shrug. "And just to be clear, you asked the fire guy for a light?"

Hallis nods slowly, "I was going to light a cigarette, and I asked him for a light." The furrowed brows knit together into an even tighter line and an extremely puzzled expression crosses the blonde's features. "Everything just happened so fast. I asked him for a light and then this chick with the bad hair jumped him. She's not that much bigger than me, I don't think. And she grabbed him and he just.." The socialite makes an exploding sound effect while trying to emphasize it with hand action, "Right to the floor. Out cold."

"Was this chick - er - lady with the bad hair hurt at all? Or did she come out alright?" Sydney asks while once again chewing the end of her pen. "So… to clarify… she grabbed him before he lit the entire store on fire? Or after? Was he caught?" Yes, Sydney's a bit confused as to how this bad hair chick fits in the story.

Taking a rather deep breath, Hallis rolls her eyes to the ceiling and lets it out in a long sigh. "Okay, that woman with the bad hair was in the store with me, and shrieking at me that I was stalking her or something. Seriously, I'd only ever seen her once before in my life… Then these two guys walked into the store." Add insult to injury, the socialite is speaking in some twisted version of Hilton slash Valley girl. "The one guy killed the old guy behind the counter, right? And then the fire guy, he was all 'Let's light this place up!' and then he actually did light that one guy by the cooler on fire. And I was all 'ohmygawd this has to be a joke!' right? Then the chick with the bad hair was all 'Get down!' and she grabbed me and I swear to god I had like this huge joygasm, right there."

"Oh-kay," Sydney nods slightly as Hallis finishes telling her story. "So when the other gal touched you, you had a … 'joygasm' despite the situation?" She hmms, scribbles something down on the sheet of paper, and returns her pen to her lips. "Tell me, have you seen this girl since? Or have you ever experienced something like that before?"

Hallis nods quickly, becoming quite engrossed in her own tale. The surge of happiness might be felt as she realizes that the therapist actually believes what she is saying too. And actually is indulging her in regaling the tale. "It was almost the best feeling I've ever had in my entire life except when I was on that heroine. Only this time there was no crash, or anything. But when she touched that guy with the fire, he went out. You know?" When faced with the question of seeing the other girl again, Hallis frowns and shakes her head. "No, I mean, I no… I sort of took credit for saving everyone, because I called the police, you know? But she disappeared! She didn't even stick around for the press."

And the surge of happiness is felt, and reflected on the face of the therapist with a slight smile, "That's a very scary tale, Hallis." She offers the same smile, "You said you'd met the chick - woman - with the bad hair before. Where had you seen her before? It might help you to be able to talk to her about it…"

And therein lies the problem. A small groan is given off as Hallis collapses back against the chair again dramatically. "She's this freakjob that got into my friend Chelsea's face when we were trying to have coffee. You know Chelsea? Chelsea Allen? Well she's one of my best friends, you probably heard of her. Her family's been around forever. Everyone who is anyone knows them." Name dropping, that's something that Hallis does very well. "Anyway, Chels was just sipping her non-fat soy latte, and we were talking. And Miss Bad Hair Day just got into Chelsea's face. For just looking at her!"

"Hmmm," Sydney manages while scribbling something else down on her pad. "That doesn't sound promising, does it?" With a frown she studies Hallis a moment, "I think it might help you to seek her out. Maybe you could get some clarity on this situation. Now this is just a suggestion. The truth is hearing someone else's ideas on it might help you understand why you had this… joygasm of sorts. It's a strange thing to have in a crisis, and if it's the first time it's ever happened it's probably not medical in nature." She nods a bit at this, "As far as your personal loss in this crisis. I think it might be good for you to get a replacement pair. Not the same ones, but ones equally pretty and valuable to you. It might help with your coping."

"What? Go find her? What if she's the one that did that to me! What if…" Panic sets in and Hallis begins to tremble and take deep gulping breaths, at this moment in time, she can't get enough air. She shakes her head, firm no. "No, I'm not going to look for her. What if she does the same thing to me? I don't even know… I mean it felt good, but that's like raping someone. You know?" Suddenly, Hallis seems so very small as she sits in the chair, huddled against herself in fear, not only from the flame throwing man, but the coma inducing woman.

"If you're not ready, don't do it," Sydney coaxes. "But I think it may help you to clear some things up for yourself. That said, if you're not ready, do not do it." She offers Hallis a comforting smile. And then there's another question, "So… you think she did that to you, then? Like it wasn't something mental?"

Hallis nods, then shakes her head, then nods again, then shakes her head while shrugging. "I— yes? No? I don't know… I know that I wasn't even scared, this guy just roasted the camera and told us all to get down. Then she grabbed me by the hand and 'whoah', you know?" She glances to the floor, focusing on a small spot in the carpet, likely some sort of coffee stain. Her eyes glaze over as her eyebrows come together to form an expression of complete confusion. "I don't know what happened. Maybe it's all in my head. But George believed me…" Then she seems to return to reality and focuses her frowning gaze into Sydney's eyes. "You believe me, right?"

There's a moment as Sydney studies Hallis before offering her a reassuring, "I believe you. There is no doubt in my mind that this fire was lit from the man's hands and you had this joygasm. The longer I work this job, the more I learn that nothing is impossible." She nods a little before adding, "Now I wouldn't go around telling people if I was you. They will label you crazy or deranged or even drugged up. Just be aware of that. I don't even recommend telling the story to the police if you're pressed. The last thing you need is the press having a field day saying you've lost your mind." She offers a comforting smile, "But I do believe you. And I'm sure that something weird transpired."

It is that small and ever so simple phrase 'I believe you' that causes a well of pent up happiness combined with a twinge of fear coming out in the form of a long, shuddering sigh. Certainly if faced with that question herself, Hallis would have written the witness off as deranged, insane, even a freak. Hope. The last gift from Pandora's Box, it's what's left inside of the socialite after it is over. She sags in her chair, uncertain of what to do next. Certainly she's been given direction but is it what she wants? Retail therapy, the suggestion of new shoes, that thought brings the smile to her face. "Thanks, I'm not going to tell anyone, I told George… but…I don't think that counts because he believed me, right?"

"No, George doesn't count if he believes you. Just make sure you protect yourself through this, okay?" Sydney offers that same reassuring smile before glancing at her watch. "Our time is just about up. So… I want you to do a couple of things for yourself. The first is to go buy a new pair of shoes. They must be beautiful and comparable to the ones lost. Okay? The second thing… I want you to journal. Take some time, write down your thoughts about all of this, and clarify for yourself what happened. It'll help you deal with the fear and move on." There's a pause. "And if you're inclined, come see me again in a week or so and we can see how you're feeling about all of this… okay?"

This is her cue, time to get out. Nodding, Hallis gives the woman a tentative smile, "Yeah, but let's book it under a different name, okay? I really don't want anyone to know that I'm here. Especially since I get followed almost everywhere." It's not paranoia that causes her to say this, especially since her new romance has caused a flare up in magazine covers for the young woman recently. "I'll try to do that journal thing, do I have to write in it every day? I mean… What do I write?"

"Write every couple of days at least. Think about what happened, how you feel, what you have learned. These are all important reflections," Sydney states as she stands to her feet to follow Hallis out of her office. "And it doesn't have to be all about the incident either. It can just be life in general. The attention you're getting now only increases the stress of this crisis." There's a pause and a nod, "How about we schedule under Hallie Valentine? Then I'll know who you are, and no one else in my waiting room will?"

And Sydney receives a grateful smile, "Alright, same time next week then." The disguise is replaced and the slight socialite drifts through the crowd of people in chairs and makes her way out the door. A few of the 'lower class' might have lifted their head to watch her pass by, but not many of them. Everyone has their own problems and to them, Hallis just looks like another one… just with good shoes.

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