copyright 2002, by Hannah
Ally sat in the waiting room of yet another therapist’s office nervously twisting a strand of hair. She was a bit uncertain about this one even though he had been highly recommended by a recent client.
“Trust me, Ally, he’s a brilliant psychiatrist,” Troy had said.
But did she need a psychiatrist? An MD? The last thing she wanted was another therapist who was over-anxious with the prescription pad!
Should she even be taking advice from a kleptomaniac cellist, for that matter?
“If he’s so brilliant, Troy,” she muttered under her breath, “then why were we in court last week?” Her lips curled into an unconscious pout.
“Possibly because Mr. Kingman doesn’t steal any better than he plays the cello.”
Ally let out a nervous yelp and looked up to see an elegant figure standing in the doorway to the inner office.
“You...” Ally stammered, “...you weren’t supposed to hear, um... that.” She giggled nervously and offered him a sheepish yet charming smile.
“I suspected as much.” A pause. “You must be Ms. McBeal?”
“Um... yes,” she answered, rising to her feet and smoothing her mini-skirt down over her thighs. “Ally is fine.” Another nervous twitter. “And you must be Dr. Lecter.”
He nodded and stepped back slightly, inclining his sleek head toward the door behind him.
“After you, Ally.”
She took a deep breath and walked through the door into a beautifully decorated office. Dr. Lecter followed, closing the door behind him. He indicated a chair and asked her to sit, taking his place opposite her.
“You’re one of Kingman’s referrals, aren’t you?” he inquired pleasantly.
“Um, yes,” she replied. “He’s a, um... client.”
Dr. Lecter raised an eyebrow.
“I’m his attorney,” she explained, nodding slightly for emphasis.
“Kingman sent a lawyer to me?”
“Is there something wrong with being a lawyer?” Ally asked in the clipped tone that always signaled her irritation.
“What brings you here, Ms. McBeal... job stress, perhaps?”
“No,” she muttered, twisting her hair again. “I ... um... my friends think I need help with my relationship to food.” She rolled her eyes and then looked at him as though it were all a ridiculous waste of her time. “Which is ridiculous... I mean, I’m perfectly fine with food. Food and I get along just great. Sometimes we aren’t on the best of terms, but then, I mean, everybody has days when they just aren’t hungry, you know? But... they just wouldn’t leave me alone, so... here I am.” She took a deep breath, and then produced a nervous laugh.
She could still hear Richard’s voice clearly in her head, “Larry’s right, Ally. You really should see someone about this food thing. You’re thinner than a heroin addict.” A pause and then he added quickly, “Bygones.”
“And so you’d like me to help you explore your... relationship to food.” A small smile played about the corners of the doctor’s mouth, and there was an unpleasant gleam in his eyes, Ally noted. Those eyes were the strangest color – almost burgundy.
“Well,” she began nervously, lacing her fingers together and looking down to her lap. “I understand your supposed to have a lot of experience with... um... eating issues,” She said the last two words through clenched teeth and rolled her eyes again.
“I do indeed. In fact, it’s one of my favorite subjects.”
“Good,” she muttered uncertainly. “Then I guess I came to the right place.” Her lips twitched in an approximation of a smile as she regarded the doctor warily. Suddenly she wasn’t very uncomfortable here.
“Mmm... Tell me, Ally, what are the current contents of your refrigerator?”
“Huh?” She cocked her head and squinted slightly, trying to process his question. “The what?”
He sighed his impatience and spoke slowly, as though addressing a simple child.
“Let’s suppose you had unexpected dinner guests. If you had no time to shop and had to make do with what you had in the fridge, what would you find there?”
“Oh, um...” she twisted her hands nervously and looked down at her lap.
“I don’t expect the answer is on that short skirt, Ally. This is a simple question. Make an effort at an answer.”
“Well, it is pretty easy, I guess.” She conceded this grudgingly, her head tilting far over to the left. “Um...” A hand went to the corner of her forehead, the heel of the palm resting there for a moment as her fingers threaded into her hair, then pushing back over and behind her ear. After finishing it’s journey, the hand finally fluttered beside her face before dropping back into her lap. This seemed necessary before she could proceed. “Let’s see...” her brow furrowed prettily in concentration. “There’s some bottled water, a few limes... I’m sure I have the ingredients for a decent salad... Oh!” She waved her hand excitedly out in front of her. “I have Pringles! See, junk food,” she announced proudly, nodding her head for emphasis.
The doctor raised an eyebrow and made a slight clicking noise with his tongue.
“Pringles? Ally, this won’t do.”
“What’s wrong with Pringles?” she demanded. “You have no idea what I went through to get those!” She rushed on before he could reply, stuttering in a flustered, yet charming way. As usual, her hands fluttered in front of her as she spoke. “And... and why all this interest in my refrigerator? My last therapist didn’t ask me questions like, ‘What’s in your refrigerator?’ She... she focused on more important issues like... well, like kicking that stupid dancing baby, and... and finding my theme song.” She trailed off, once again reaching up to twirl a strand of her hair.
“Theme song?” the doctor asked, obviously amused. “A real bottom feeder thought of that one.”
She shot him a look that he could have sworn was accompanied by a cheap sound-effects growl, and when she spoke it was in that clipped tone again.
“Dr. Lecter, I don’t think there’s any need to insult my last therapist.”
“Tell me this, Ally... if you were so impressed with your last therapist, what are you doing here? Hmm? Aside from Mr. Kingman’s glowing referral, that is.”
“Well,” Ally stammered, still playing with her hair, “she... alright, she wasn’t very good.” A pause. A heavy sigh as she rolled her eyes. “I just don’t get the point of this refrigerator thing.”
“I see. And how did your last therapist attempt to address your issues with food? By discussing your shoe selection, perhaps?”
“Oh. Well, I didn’t really get into that with Tracey.”
“No? And what was the presenting issue with Dr. Tracey? Could it have been that you were unhappy in your role as an unattached and unfulfilled female?”
“I...” she began, “Hey! I never said I was unfulfilled. Sure, I was upset because Billy was with Georgia, and... maybe I thought that when you’ve been in love with someone ever since you sniffed them when you were seven that going off and marrying someone else is insensitive.” She looked up at him and nodded, reaching out a hand to point at him, finger waving frantically. “But I never said I was unfulfilled.”
“My apologies,” he smirked. His tone changed, hardened. “Perhaps I’m not the proper choice for you, Ms. McBeal.”
“What?” Her head tilted slightly, eyes widening in surprise.
“Do you know what you look like to me with your short skirts and your dancing babies? An overdrawn caricature. A bad approximation of a neurotic, single woman. All those tedious attempts at sniffing boys, all those Al Green songs... and just where have they gotten you? Hmm? Your life has all the depth and resonance of a stale situation comedy, with you scrambling to find a new love interest to boost your ratings.”
She looked at him blankly, stammering. For once, her hands were completely still in her lap.
“How... how did you...? I...” Her hands suddenly fluttered up out of her lap once again. “There is nothing wrong with Al Green!” she snapped angrily.
“Ah, well at least you’ve managed to strike at the pertinent issue here.” He paused, regarding her with a chilling indifference. “Ms. McBeal... Ally, this isn’t going anywhere. It’s a waste of my time.” He rose and went to open the door to his office. “Good afternoon.”
“I... that’s it?” She stood up, looking extremely confused and tugged at her skirt before moving to the door. She stopped in front of him, still not quite believing he was throwing her out. “But Troy said...”
“Ah, yes. It seems we both have Mr. Kingman to thank for this... tedium. Go back to your clients, Ms. McBeal.”
Just under a week later, Ally was sitting at her desk licking the lid of her morning cappuccino and listening to Troy Kingman’s answering machine message for the tenth time since her session with Dr. Lecter.
“Troy,” she began at the sound of the beep, “you might as well pick up. You can’t avoid me forever.” She waited a moment then rolled her eyes. “Just call me,” she hissed, then slammed the receiver down.
She turned her attention to the paperwork in front of her, but was interrupted before she could finish the first sentence. Elaine Vassal’s blond head peeked around the door.
“I’m not interrupting, am I?”
“Well, Elaine,” she snapped, “now that you mention it...”
“Snappish,” Elaine muttered. “I just came in to tell you that you have a delivery.” At this she held up a small picnic hamper.
“I’m not sure. There’s no note on the outside.” Her eyes brightened. “I could open it and see if...”
“No! Can I just have it, please?”
Elaine carried it over, setting it down in front of Ally on the desk and then stood watching her expectantly. Ally reached to unbuckle the leather straps holding the basket closed, but then stopped to look up at her assistant.
“Thank you, Elaine.” That clipped tone again.
Elaine rolled her eyes and turned to go out, shooting Ally an annoyed glance as she closed the door behind her.
“An apology, Troy?” Ally pushed her chair back and stood up. She muttered as she worked to open the hamper. “You owe me an apology! It’s bad enough that you sent me to that creep in the first place, but to hide out for the past week like a spineless coward...”
She lifted the lid of the hamper to find a small casserole dish wrapped snugly in a warmer and a half-bottle of an impressive red wine. The standard plastic cups and plates were missing. In their place was a single setting with a lovely china plate, a crystal wine goblet, and real silverware. Laid carefully in the top of the basket was a linen napkin and a mauve envelope with her name printed on the front in an elegant copperplate script.
Ok, not from Troy.
She reached for the envelope, opening it and withdrawing a single sheet of heavy stationary in the same shade.
Dear Ms. McBeal,
My behavior during our session last week left a good deal to be desired. Please, forgive my discourtesy and accept this token of my regret.
I’m told I have achieved some measure of culinary accomplishment. This is a simple cassoulet, but you may consider it my small effort toward shaping your ‘relationship to food'.
Hannibal Lecter, MD
PS Do offer Mr. Kingman my regards should you have occasion to run across him.
She fanned the note in front of her before letting it drop onto the desk beside the hamper, then peeked sheepishly over the edge and reached in to lift out the casserole dish. She set it down, glancing around the office before taking it out of the warmer and removing it’s cover.
It did smell good...
“I suppose everyone’s entitled to a bad day,” she reasoned, rolling her eyes in a gesture of acquiescence.
Ally reached for the silverware and noted that Dr. Lecter had been thoughtful enough to provide a corkscrew as well. Pausing to open the wine and pour a glass, she took a sip before picking up the fork and spearing a chunk of meat.
She waved the fork in front of her and spoke to her empty office.
“This still doesn’t let you off the hook, Troy...” she muttered, as she brought it to her mouth.
copyright 2002, by Hannah
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