Chapter 10

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Maryam Karimi didn't strike me as an expert in managing anger. She was in her later fifties with streaks of grey along her temples, but I imagined it was a deliberate part of her well groomed look. In a dark blue skirt suit and heavy pearl necklace, she was foreboding yet softly spoken and gentle mannered. I couldn't imagine her getting angry about anything. Her voice was low and measured, her hands clasped on her lap. No fidgeting, no nerves at being presented with a new 'client.'

I was sweating like a pig.

An over heated, about to be served as bacon, pig.

My mind was every where. On the fact that I still felt drunk, that I had a dog at home and I didn't know what state the loft would be in when I returned, and then there was Maggie. I hadn't a clue whether she was still there, or whether she'd gone to work. And I'd forgotten my phone. I knew there'd be a million and one phone calls this morning. There was a new games launch and we had the exclusive. The developers had given us an interview and the rights to print a code for users to download more content via our website. It was the launch of the year and I was missing the hustle and bustle of the office.

To be here.

Court ordered, no less.

'How about we start with how you feel, Daniel. Is today a good day?'

I looked up at her, wondering how much she knew. Then I spotted the brown tabbed file on her oak wood desk and knew the courts would have filled her in. Maybe Caroline too. The thought of her talking about me as if I was a threat to her or the kids made bile burn in my throat. My eyes darted about the room and I felt the same crushing sensation as I had in the car with Aurora.

Maryam stood from behind the desk, her brow furrowed with concern.

And I knew right then, I was having another panic attack.

Crouching beside me, Maryam urged me to picture my breath coming up from my gut, to get my breathing under control. She asked me to picture somewhere safe. Somewhere calm.

I was surprised with what I thought about.

Not holding my girls when they were babies. Not standing on a beach, the waves lapping at my toes, not hiking through the mountains, the crisp white peaks spurring me on.

I pictured sitting on Aurora's sofa, Judge Judy on in the background while we ate apple pie.

Once she knew I'd calmed sufficiently, she wrote in her file and then taught me some breathing exercises I could use if and when I had another panic attack. Then she asked a barrage of questions about whether I smoked, drank heavily or used drugs. The time was over before I knew it, and I walked out of the modern glossy building, past doctors offices, straight to a pay phone. As if I was on auto pilot.

Some of my scrawling had smudged but I could still just about read it. She answered on the first ring.

'Hello?'

'Aurora. Hey. Can you meet me?'

................

She brought food. Of course she did, and I was hungry. I was also seriously late for work, but I was worried about having another attack. Lack of breakfast and a late night made me feel like I was sea sick, so when she met me on a tiny strip of grassy roadside, outside the offices of acupuncturists, shrinks and Maryam Karimi. She surprised me with a tartan blanket that she laid out on the grass, and then beckoned me to sit.

'You sounded anxious. I'm sorry it took so long to get here but I don't know this neighbourhood. Here.' She passed me a warm cardboard container. 'This will cure your hangover and satiate your hunger.'

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