She walked into my office backwards. I was already reaching for my script pad when she turned around and revealed a wobbling stack of books in her arms. As professionally as I could, I leapt out of my chair and took half of the stack from her. I was rewarded by a faint, grateful smile as she tottered to my desk and placed her half of the book on the corner of the polished wood. She pulled her bag off her shoulder and, after disentangling her flame-orange hair from the strap, sank down into the padded chair opposite mine. I placed the rest of her books on my desk, sat in my chair, and rested my lips against steepled fingers.
“I told you to bring five of the last books you read. This is definitely not five books.”
“I know, I know,” she replied, tucking her rebellious fringe behind her ear. I’d been seeing her long enough to recognise one of her nervous tics when I saw one.
“I didn’t think that would help you much though. See these ones?”
She started dismantling the leaning tower of books and reorganising them into three smaller piles.
“These three and those three,” she pointed at each multicoloured stack, “are series. I figured they counted as one book as they’re just continuations of the same stories.”
“Right,” I said, before reassembling the stacks into a monument of paper, ink, and cardboard.
A sheaf of paper fluttered to the ground. I bent to pick it up and noticed that it had been painstakingly stapled down the left-hand margin. The first page was a smudged print of what I assumed was the cover; a close up of a golden cat’s eye on a masculine face under swirls and spikes of black hair. I added the pages to the pile and started my excavation, flicking through the covers. Three of them featured the same girl in different ball gowns as she stood in front of different European backdrops. Another three featured images of different people taken by a second-rate photographer. The faces hadn’t made it into the pictures. The covers had a feel of otherworldly urbanity to them. Of the two standalone novels, one of the covers looked like a shrunk-down movie poster and the other was a simple design. A silver background with eleven authors’ names emblazoned on the deep blue silhouette of-
“Is that the TARDIS?” I asked, flipping the book to show my client.
Her nose was buried in yet another book, this one she must have pulled from her handbag.
“Yes it is! I knew there was a reason I chose you to be my shrink.”
“Psychologist, Bec, not shrink.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
I put the books aside and clasped my hands together.
“So, the reason I asked you to bring these books in was to try and understand you better. Since I’ve never seen you without a book, I thought figuring out patterns in the books you read would be a good place to start. First things first,” I pulled the books into the three piles. The same three piles Bec had at the beginning of the session.
“The fact that you consider the series as a single entity tells me that you don’t like leaving things unfinished.” I glanced at the book Bec was shoving into the depths of her bag, now that I had started talking. “And judging from that cover, you’re still working on this series,” I tapped the pile of the faceless covers.
“All of these books are fantasy or science fiction, yes?”
She nodded again.
“A lot of people read this genre as a way to escape reality, or the banality of life. They seek a more interesting life through the stories on the pages. I think this may be the case, here. Do you feel dissatisfied with your life?”
“I wouldn’t say dissatisfied,” Bec said, looking at me with faraway eyes, “just bored.”
I jotted down bored with life on the notepad in front of me before continuing.
“What is especially interesting are the similarities between the protagonists. The majority of these books are focussed on a young woman who is responsible for the wellbeing of her fellow characters. Even the women who aren’t necessarily the main characters are independent of their male companions. I feel that you, like so many women, shy away from damsel-in-distress characters. Not only this,” I added a little more loudly, as Bec had opened her mouth to say something, “but there is also a pattern of the female protagonist being different, or special in some way. This speaks to the idea that you yourself want to feel special or important. Not in a bad or selfish way,” I added.
Bec’s outraged expression caused my next words to surge out of my mouth, leaving me slightly tongue-tied. “But in more of an elevating-self-esteem kind of way. As though you don’t feel important in your day-to-day life.”
Bec’s expression changed from outrage to embarrassed acknowledgement so quickly that I almost missed it as I scribbled down my notes. Putting the words to paper, I felt as though all Bec needed, really, was a hug. But that definitely wouldn’t have been professional.
“Finally, there’s also a pattern of deep, life-changing love in these books. Love that alters and changes the characters and makes them better people. I feel as though you crave a love like this; a love that will change your life.”
I left out that this also told me that there was a void she was trying to fill. That she had recently lost someone. Whether due to break-up or some other circumstances, I didn’t know. I reorganised her books back into the one stack, trying to make it as stable as possible.
“Remind me to start covering my books in coloured contact instead of clear,” Bec muttered, just loudly enough for me to hear her.
I hiccoughed a laugh.
“I think that is enough to be getting on with, for now. So shall we dive in?”
Bec straightened her back and raised her chin in a ‘bring it on’ type gesture. I made a mental note to note that down.
“In your opinion, will Jace and Clary be the second wedding in City of Heavenly Fire?”
Two shocked heartbeats of silence later and Bec was off, talking a mile a minute, her eyes blazing with the sort of happiness only a truly fantastic story can provide.
The wonderful bloggers at Daily Prompt gave me this gem a few days ago. Now that Fatal Fortnight has reached its end, I finally had the time to write this post. I thought the concept was intriguing. Especially since I am studying psychology AND have a Creative Writing degree under my belt. I tried to approach this as a writer instead of a blogger. I wonder if you guys can identify the books in my mountain of a recently read pile. And so you can see just how much of a problem I really have: