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THOUGHTS OF LIBBY

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Teri Winfield is an enigma. Bright and assertive, one would expect her to be a successful executive, perhaps working in the area of marketing or public relations.
So why is this intelligent 43-year-old woman working as a waitress for a trendy restaurant and lounge?
Why does she frequently discard all pretense of propriety and speak to others like a crude street urchin? And what is the meaning of her recurring and disturbing dream?
To answer these questions, one would need to know about Teri’s dark past, particularly the traumatic event that befell her and “Libby” 20 years earlier.
 

   

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-44-1

Format: Paperback
Number of pages:290
Genre: Fiction

© Cover Design—Zeus Publications 2014

Cover photo: shutterstock.com

 

Author: Robyn G. Wall
Publisher:
Zeus Publications

Date Published: 2014
Language: English

 

Author Bio 

 

Robyn G Wall is a retired clinical social worker and psychotherapist who lives with his wife, Barbra, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  His 43-year professional career was dedicated to the clinical treatment of individuals, couples, and families who struggled bravely with emotional and psychological problems.  It was a work that he found always challenging, ever rewarding, and often fascinating.  The fascination of his job came mostly via the complex and remarkable clients with whom he and his colleagues worked, and it was these clients who inspired him to pursue his long-held avocation of literary writing.  Even though his writings are fictional, they are stories that convey universal truths about life itself and illuminate both the fragility and resilience of the human psyche.  

His first novel, Tinker's Dam, Publish America, 2006, addressed the topic of human perfectionism and the inherent stress and pathological guilt that such a lifestyle often fosters.  This second novel, Thoughts of Libby, illustrates the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder and the severe psychological damage that can result from one's dysfunctional and abusive childhood.  The main characters in both novels, although damaged and flawed, are nonetheless remarkably creative in how they manage and adapt to their psychological problems.  These qualities make for fascinating stories and fun-filled reading adventures.

 

Dedication 

Thoughts of Libby is dedicated to two of my favorite authors: my wonderful and supportive wife, Barbra, and my bright and creative son, Austin.   

Dr Barbra Mann Wall is a renowned nurse/historian who is serving as an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (USA).  Her professional writings—three books so far and countless journal articles—are centered largely in nursing history, particularly the ground-breaking work of Catholic sister nurses who established and operated many hospital systems in America during the 19th and 20th centuries.   

Austin Wall graduated not long ago from the University of Baltimore (Maryland, USA) with a Masters of Fine Arts degree.  He is an avid reader and gifted writer of creative fiction with a bent toward thought-provoking science fiction.  He provided me valuable input and suggestions for this book, and I know his writing future will be boundless.  

Both of these persons have writing talents that would make me envious were it not for the fact that they are people whom I love dearly and cheer for endlessly.  For some reason, they also support and cheer for me.

READ A SAMPLE CHAPTER:

CHAPTER 1

 

Teri and Anne

      

 

Teri gasped in horror and curled into a fetal position the instant she heard the scream slice through her darkened bedroom. A moment later, though, when she realized the scream was actually hers, she rolled onto her back and took in several deep breaths. Calmer now, her thoughts suddenly turned to Sophie, and she lazily reached over to comfort her pet. But instead of finding Sophie’s soft fur, her hand dropped limply onto the bare mattress. Startled, she quickly sat up and scanned the shadows that lurked menacingly now throughout the room.

“Sophie…? Where are you, baby?” she spoke out plaintively.

Three seconds later, Teri heard a faint whimper, and she scampered out of bed and followed the sound to a rear section of the room where she found Sophie trembling in a corner. She quickly picked up the little dog and cradled her in her arms. “I’m sorry, baby. Mommy just had a bad dream, that’s all. But it’s okay now. Really… everything’s fine.”

Sophie looked tentatively into Teri’s eyes, then placed two little tongue kisses on her nose. Teri let out a sigh, kissed Sophie on the top of her head, and carried her back to bed.

 

The next morning, Teri sat slumped in the familiar brown leather chair, her eyes cast downward. “I had that dream again last night, Alan,” she said in a weak voice. “This time I woke up screaming, and my gown and linens were drenched in sweat. Poor Sophie… instead of licking my face to wake me up, I found her cowering in a rear corner of the bedroom, and when I went to pick her up, she was shaking like a leaf in a windstorm. I swear, Alan, I can’t take much more of this. It’s bad enough that I’m so screwed up myself, but now I’m screwing up my dog.”

Alan shifted in his desk chair and peered at Teri over the horn-rimmed glasses he had allowed to slip down to the end of his nose. “Teri, I think I need a little more help from you today.”

“You need my help? I thought I was the one who needed help.”

“Yes, but it’s hard for me to help you if you’re not playing your part.”

“Quit talking in riddles, Alan. What are you trying to say?”

“I think you know what I’m saying, Teri, but okay… you began the session by telling me you broke up with your boyfriend— someone you told me last week you were thinking about living with— but you wouldn’t talk with me about the details of the break-up. Now, halfway through the session, you finally get around to mentioning that you had your dream again. If you truly want my help, Teri, I’m afraid you’ll need to let me in a little more than that.”

Teri brushed back her hair and crossed her legs at her ankles. “It’s nothing personal, Alan; you know that. About Kevin… briefly, I caught him in a restaurant the other day laughing and carrying on with another woman. Did it hurt? Yes. Am I devastated? No. If I’ve learned anything about men it’s how to get over them. No offense, but I don’t need your help with that one.”

Teri sat up straighter in her chair and looked directly at Alan. “Now, about my old nightmare… well, I guess I’m just tired of talking about it. I thought I was finished with it. I mean, I hadn’t had that dream for a long while.”

Alan paused to jot a note into his notebook, then looked up and spoke again. “You’ve been thinking about Libby again, haven’t you, Teri?”

“Of course I’ve been thinking about Libby. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.”

“You know what I mean—the intrusive thoughts. The disturbing ones that often precede your nightmare.”

Teri offered no response. Instead, she looked down at her clasped hands and twirled her thumbs. Alan allowed silence to engulf the room for a full 20 seconds before he finally spoke again.

“Okay, Teri, I won’t push you now about Kevin, but you know how I feel about that dream. So will you talk with me about it?”

Teri let out a deep sigh and looked up at the ceiling. A moment later she turned her eyes back to Alan and said in a quiet voice that belied her harsh words, “Damn, Alan, you don’t give up, do you?”

“It’s important, Teri.”

“So what do you want to know?”

“Was anything different this time compared to your other dreams?”

 “No”

“Okay… then could you go over the details again?”

“Come on, Alan, we’ve been through this so many times now you could tell all the details to me.

“Maybe so,” he said, “but each time you tell me, there’re differences; often not so much in the dream itself, but how you talk about it. Sometimes you’re detached. Other times you’re emotional.”

Alan paused and waited for Teri to respond, but when she remained silent, he continued on. “Remember the last time you talked about your dream? It was about two months ago, and you were so choked up you had to stop twice for sips of water.”

 “Yeah, I remember,” Teri said. “That was around the same time I got that call about my mother’s death. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I do, Teri. I also remember you told me several times before that session how much you hated your mother—how she wasn’t worth spending your therapy time talking about. Then, after she died, you finally talked about her—even shared some of your good childhood memories of her. And in the next three sessions, you did a lot of grief and recovery work—some very good work.”

“Okay, okay, I get it. So what does this have to do with my dream anyway?”

“Fair question,” Alan said. “As I told you in that session after your mother died, I think there was a connection between her death and the return of your nightmare. Until that session, you hadn’t mentioned your dream in several weeks. And now—”

“Well, nobody else has died, Alan, so it’s pretty obvious you’re walking down a dead-end street with that idea.”

“Yes, that could be, but I don’t think so. Death isn’t the only form of traumatic loss, you know, and remember, you just told me about your break-up with Kevin.”

“So you’re saying Kevin’s responsible for my nightmare?” Teri said with a bitter laugh. “Come to think of it, though, there’s some truth in that… in a different way. But if you’re looking for traumatic losses, that pretty much describes my entire life. So where would you like me to start?”

Alan curled his lips into an awkward smile. “Okay, Teri, it’s clear you’re not in the mood today. The dream can wait.”

“I’m sorry, Alan,” she said, now in a softer voice. “It’s just a little too intense for me now. I don’t have the will or energy. Maybe next session.”

“Is there something else you want to talk about then? How’s your job situation?”

“It sucks as usual, especially that asshole boss of mine. But I don’t feel like talking about him either. I don’t want to let him get me all worked up again.”

Teri sighed again and shook her head. “Actually, Alan, I don’t feel like talking about much of anything today, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out. So maybe we can end the session early. I just need to chill out for a while.”

“That’s fine. This is your time, not mine; you can use it as you choose. So how are you planning to chill out?”

“Don’t worry; I’m staying off the booze. I guess I’ll just go home and play a while with Sophie. I think she might need some reassurance that her mommy hasn’t morphed into some raging monster.”

 “She loves you, Teri. She could never think that about you.”

“Yeah, I know you’re right. Too bad people can’t be more like dogs. Anyhow, thanks, Alan. Sorry I was a little bitchy today. I’ll see you again next Thursday.”

“Have a good chill out, Teri.”

Teri arched her eyebrows and formed a tentative smile. “After this session, you’re probably thinking I really need one.”

“Hey, better your—”

“I know, I know—better my therapist than my friends or co-workers.”

Alan smiled and nodded. He then stood to escort Teri from the office and patted her shoulder as she walked through the doorway.

Minutes later, Teri walked alone down three flights of stairs to exit the building, her thoughts still fixed on her therapy session.

“Damn, Alan,” she mumbled to herself, “why can’t you just listen and care about me? Why all the poking and prying? You act like… like… Shit, you’re acting like a therapist.”

Teri pushed open the glass door and stepped onto the Walnut Street sidewalk. She stood still for a moment, closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and whispered a single word, “Philadelphia!” Teri knew that many of her friends judged the city harshly, but she herself accepted all that Philadelphia had to offer: historic tourist sites, beautiful urban parks, sports teams and their fickle fans, cheese steaks full of artery-clogging cholesterol, homeless persons on sidewalks, angry horn-blowing drivers…

“Yeah, my kind of city,” she said with a wry smile.

As she walked the three blocks to her Pine Street apartment, she was oblivious to everyone else on the crowded sidewalks—everyone, that is, except the dog-walkers with whom she exchanged silent smiles and thought each time of Sophie. Those exchanges, together with the sunny spring day, added a lilt to her steps. She noted the yellow splendor of the daffodils that had opened themselves to passers-by and the early buds of the blooming peach trees that lined the narrow passageways between buildings. When she neared her apartment, she caught a whiff of jasmine in the air and stopped a moment to capture its full fragrance. I have to admit, it’s a beautiful day, she thought, and the best part’s still waiting for me behind this green door.

A moment later, Teri opened the door to her apartment with keen anticipation, and she was not to be disappointed. Sophie was stationed there in the doorway, and at the first glimpse of her human mother, she wagged her tail and whimpered excitedly.

“Well, there you are, you little angel,” Teri greeted her with a big grin. Immediately, Sophie bounded back inside to find her favorite squeeze toy. Her quest ended successfully when she slid the last four feet on the bare wooden floor, clamped the rubber mouse in her teeth, and delivered it proudly to her master.

“Sophie baby, how many times do I have to tell you, you’re a Bichon, not a Siamese?”

Sophie simply stared up at Teri and continued to wag her tail, the toy mouse still clinched in her teeth.

“Oh never mind,” Teri said, and bent down and accepted Sophie’s gift. She then smiled and extended her arms to Sophie.

“Now, come here to your mommy.” Sophie dutifully complied and sprang up on her hind legs. Teri gathered her into her arms and allowed Sophie to apply several excited tongue kisses to her nose and cheeks.

“To hell with Kevin! That’s what I say, right, girl? Who needs a man, anyhow, when we’ve got each other? Come on, it’s a beautiful day; let’s walk to the park.”

Teri walked over to the kitchen counter to pick up Sophie’s leash when she heard the rhythmic sounds of footsteps over her left shoulder. She swung around to find her housemate, still in her yellow pajamas, descending the stairs. “Aren’t you working today, Sandy?” she asked her.

Sandy stifled a wide yawn and took three more steps to reach the ground floor.

“No,” she finally answered, “I called in sick. Actually, I was just exhausted. Danny and I were out partying ‘til after 2:00.”

Teri rolled her eyes and made no effort to disguise the condescension in her voice.

“Well, I thought Danny was the young and foolish one, but it looks like you fit that description, too. Did you give any thought at all about starting your work day with a hangover?”

“Please, Teri, not now; I’m not up to being mothered today.” Sandy paused and rubbed her eyes with her fingertips, then looked up and added in a stronger voice, “But speaking of foolish behavior, what happened between you and Kevin? He’s already left two messages this morning pleading with you to talk to him.”

Teri gazed aimlessly across the room. “Kevin who?”

“Oh, I get it—the old ‘who needs men, anyway?’ routine,” Sandy said. “God, Teri, you’re so predictable. And when it comes to Kevin, you’re so wrong. That man worships you. I just wish I could find someone like him.”

Teri cocked her head and said in a playful yet slightly bitter voice, “Well, rumor has it he’s free now, so maybe you should give him a call. In the meantime, Sophie and I will be at Rittenhouse Square.” Teri then departed with a wink and a smile. “See you later, girl.”

On the four-block jaunt to the park, Teri stopped at a sidewalk vending stand to purchase some lunch—a Philly steak sandwich loaded with onions and peppers and dripping with grease, plus a bag of Fritos and a Coke.

The vendor—a short, balding, middle-aged man—handed the food to Teri and took her money, then said with a wry smile, “Hey, lady, how do you keep your sexy figure eating like this?”

Teri refused to return the vendor’s smile. “Hey, mister, how do you make a living being such a jerk and hitting on your customers?”

The vendor grinned at Teri’s perky comeback, and when she stormed off, he ogled her lithe, curvaceous figure and shouted out, “Nice buns, lady… niiice.”

Teri did not look back at him. Instead, she wiggled her hips in an exaggerated manner, shot him a finger over her shoulder, and casually walked on.

“Men are such crude and childish beings, aren’t they, Sophie?” she said to her canine daughter. “Sometimes they’re fun to play with, but only if you can walk away from them whenever you want to. Just remember that, sweetie. I don’t ever want you bringing home some Westie and asking me if you can keep him… okay?”

Sophie walked four feet in front of Teri and pulled on her leash. After Teri admonished her, she glanced back and made eye contact with her human mother. Teri grinned and said, “That’s right, baby; no doggie boyfriends—just you and me.”

When Teri arrived at the park with Sophie, she found that all the benches were occupied, so she sat down beside an elderly woman who was reading a paperback novel. Rather than sit on the far end of the bench, Teri positioned herself only a few inches away from the woman. She then casually took a tissue from her purse and proceeded to blow her nose loudly. Immediately, the woman put her book down and glared at Teri. A moment later, she mumbled something under her breath and left in a huff.

After the woman departed, Teri winked at Sophie who sat on the ground in front of her. However, when she noticed Sophie’s focused stare and head-cocked expression, Teri shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know why, honey. I guess some people just don’t enjoy good company.” Teri then picked up Sophie and placed her on the bench beside her.

During Teri’s mealtime, Sophie sat still and watched every bite her mother took. The little dog was patient for the most part, but she could not seem to contain herself for more than 30 seconds at a time. After that, she would let out a slight but pitiful whimper. Fortunately for Sophie, this behavior had its rewards, and with each little whimper, Teri dutifully pinched a few strands of beef between her fingers and fed it to her.

Later, with lunch finished, Teri stretched out horizontally on the bench, and Sophie jumped on top of her and settled down comfortably on Teri’s abdomen. Teri lay quietly on the bench and gently scratched Sophie’s head and neck. After a few minutes, she closed her eyes and basked in the sunlight that danced and flickered through the tree branches. For the first time in several days, she felt totally relaxed and unencumbered—no worries about Kevin; no thoughts of her nightmare. Cognitive thoughts exited Teri’s mind and sensory feelings took over—feelings of crisp spring air entering her lungs, of gentle breezes caressing her skin.

Sophie, on the other hand, had a considerably different mental focus. Her attentions were drawn almost exclusively to the interesting characters passing her bench—young children with their parents, babies in strollers, dogs, bike riders, and a veritable kaleidoscope of both strange and conventional adults. Whenever anyone passed by, Sophie would lift her ears expectantly and wag her tail. These behaviors prompted most persons to look her way and smile, and others to walk up and speak a few words to her.

Several minutes passed and Teri was nearly asleep when Sophie suddenly stood up on her abdomen and wagged her tail. Startled, Teri opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of a striking young woman with short ash-blonde hair walking toward them with her own Bichon Frisé puppy in tow. Still a little sleepy, Teri struggled some to sit up on the bench and reposition Sophie in her lap. Once that feat was completed, she watched the approaching visitors with curiosity and amusement.

Twenty feet from Teri and Sophie’s bench, the young woman paused from her leisurely stroll and picked up her puppy. She then spoke intently to the puppy and pointed her finger in the direction of Sophie. An instant later, the little Bichon wriggled and yelped with so much excitement that the woman nearly dropped her, and she was forced to place the puppy back on the ground.

Teri laughed out loud at this scene—a reaction clearly noted by the young woman who joined in with an embarrassed laugh of her own. A moment later, the woman walked up to Teri with a smile and introduced herself.

“Hi, I’m Anne… Anne Jennings, and this is Carly. Sorry about all the commotion. Carly doesn’t act this hyper around all dogs, but she tends to go a little nuts when she sees another Bichon.”

Teri smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Sophie’s the same way with other Bichons, only with her it’s any small white dog—Westie, Maltese, it doesn’t seem to matter much. She’d probably even run up and greet a white rocking horse if she ever saw one.”

Anne smiled at that thought, and a moment later, both she and Teri laughed when they saw Sophie jump excitedly off the bench to greet her canine visitor. As soon as Carly saw Sophie jump down, she turned onto her back and kicked her feet wildly in the air. At first, Sophie seemed perplexed by Carly’s behavior and unsure how to engage her. Eventually, though, she figured out a plan of action—bark at Carly repeatedly and playfully lunge at her exposed tummy.

Teri watched this doggie drama for several seconds before she finally remembered that she had not yet introduced herself. Slightly embarrassed, she turned to Anne and said, “I’m Teri, by the way… Teri Winfield, and that’s Sophie playing with Carly. I don’t remember seeing you and Carly in the park before. Are you new to this area?”

“Yeah, sort of new,” Anne said. “My husband and I moved here about two months ago from Trenton. We have a condo over on Locust Street. Actually, I think I’ve seen you and Sophie here in the Square a couple of other times, but this is only the second time I’ve been here with Carly. We’ve only had her three weeks.”

“Your first Bichon?”

“Yeah,” Anne said with a grin. “I was in the pet store a few weeks ago just killing time and visiting the puppies. I never intended to take one home until I saw this little white fluff ball with big brown eyes staring at me mournfully and begging me to let her out. Against my better judgment, I asked the attendant to open the cage, and as soon as I took her, she started licking my ear and wagging her tail like crazy. I just melted. It was love at first sight.”

“Bichons are great dogs, Anne,” Teri said with a smile. “She’ll just get more and more lovable the longer you have her.”

Anne chuckled. “I’m not sure I want her to get a whole lot more lovable. My husband’s already starting to think I’d choose Carly over him.”

Teri paused a moment, bit her lower lip, and then said with an awkward smile, “Sorry… can’t help you there.”

The two women continued to talk a while longer. Teri learned that Anne was a nurse who worked the night shift at Jefferson Hospital’s trauma unit, and her husband of two years was a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Mostly, though, they talked about Sophie and Carly and shared tales of their cute and endearing behaviors.

After Anne and her puppy said their goodbyes and walked safely out of hearing distance, Teri turned to address Sophie.

“Yeah, Sophie, she’s a cute little puppy all right, but comparing her to you is like comparing a Ford to a Ferrari.” Sophie cocked her head and stared into her mother’s eyes. “That’s right, sweetie,” Teri said, “I’m not lyin’… Ford to a Ferrari. No contest.”

Later, on the walk back to her apartment, Teri thought about Anne and Carly and smiled openly. When she focused on the professional positions Anne and her husband held, however, sadness and regret displaced her pleasant thoughts. I could’ve been like them, she thought to herself, and probably would’ve been, too, if I hadn’t been so stupid. But that was nothing compared to losing Libby, the only one—

“No… no, forget about it,” she said aloud, “you’re not going there today.” Teri forced a smile to appear on her face and then turned her attentions to Sophie. “Come on, girl, let’s jog a little.” An instant later, Teri broke into an off-key version of “Happy Talk”, and she and Sophie began their frenetic jog through the masses of amused pedestrians.

 

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