Losers Can’t Be Choosers
Chapter 22 — All’s Well?
A few days later...
Angela sat in a hospital bedroom, legs crossed, as she watched her mother gobble the third bowl of blue gelatin in a row. Warm sunlight filtered through the windows kissing the bed sheets. The once depressing building was now alit with promises of renewed hope, a sense of closure filling the air.
“You know, I usually hate hospital food, but this one is quite delicious,” Clarissa said, pure happiness plastered all over her rosy cheeks.
“I can see that,” the therapist noted.
“There’s some special ingredient in here, but I’m not sure what it is. I wonder if I can get the recipe.”
“Doubtful, but there’s no harm in asking. I’m glad you’re feeling better, mom.”
“You’re not the only one but I still can’t believe everything I’ve missed.”
“It was a horrible day. How’s the shoulder?”
“It still hurts from time to time but nothing I can’t handle. At my age, this nasty scar will never go away.”
“Again, I’m sorry.” Angela sighed.
“Will you stop blaming yourself once and for all?”
“Easier said than done. My confidence levels sure went downhill after this whole fiasco. Gail, Jonah... I feel like I created one monster after another.”
“Gail was already a monster waiting in the shadows for her chance to strike and I’m sure your brother will bounce back soon.”
“I sure hope so. He really hasn’t been himself since the last time she put him under.”
“Is that why he didn’t come to see me today?”
“Yeah, things are still a bit messy inside his head. On the bright side, he deleted his entire porn collection, yesterday.”
“Well, that’s definitely a start but there’s always the chance of relapse.”
“I know. I intend to be there to help him get through it if he’ll let me that is.”
“What do you mean?”
“You should have seen the look on his face when I told him what I did to him when he came to me for help and why I did it. I had to be cruel to change his behavior but now I realize I was too cruel.”
Clarissa laid down the empty bowl and leaned to kiss her daughter’s forehead. “You did it out of love, Angie.”
“Did I? I keep telling myself that but, sometimes, I’m not so sure. A part of me truly enjoyed seeing him broken down like that. It’s amazing (and scary!) how a bit of power can twist a person’s intentions before you know it. This is not how I envisioned things when I first hypnotized him. If I hadn’t done that...”
“If this, if that... I understand how conflicted you must be feeling but what’s the point of dwelling on things that could have happened differently when it’s impossible to go back and change the past? If anything, I hope you learned a thing or two going forward that will help you grow stronger as a person.”
“Oh, I did! I learned a lot. Unfortunately, I also learned things I didn’t want to and I know I can never go back to what I was after what transpired.”
“What do you mean, dear?”
“I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from my therapy activities.”
“Oh? For how long?”
“Undecided but until I feel better with myself, It’s best for me to stay clear from trying to help others lest I exacerbate their demons instead of quelling them.”
“That sounds reasonable enough,” Clarissa nodded. “What are you planning on doing in the meantime?”
“Well, Nick has some overdue vacations coming up so...”
“Nick, huh? First the father, now the son. You sure know how to pick them.”
“I didn’t pick anything. It just happened. He really is a sweet guy though.”
“Yeah, yeah... you’ve said that too many times already. When do I get to meet him for real? Because that whole scene in the ambulance doesn’t count, okay?”
“He promised to drop by the house later today if you’re up for it. I think he wants your blessing or something.”
“I think so but you need to ask him yourself when the time comes.”
“Looking forward to it.”
“Great. Are you ready to get out of here?”
“Doctor didn’t sign the papers yet so I’m afraid not. I’m hoping it still happens today though.”
“You told me everything that happened after I went into surgery but you forgot one very important detail.”
“I know I did.”
“Well, then what are you waiting for, girl? I need to know what came next! What did you do to Gail after you entranced her inside the abandoned warehouse?”
“I left her there for a few minutes as I calmed Jonah down. Then, Nick and I took her to the basement of my house. She’s been locked there ever since.”
“Get out of here!”
“No joke. It’s what really happened. Reframing her mind for real will also be a lenghty process but it will happen eventually. I’ve already managed to suppress most of her memories from recent events and when I’m done, I expect her sadistic tendencies to disappear for good.”
“That seems like the opposite of quitting therapy to me.”
“Oh, this isn’t therapy. This is forced brainwashing pure and simple. I don’t intend to keep her as my slave or anything like that but she won’t be able to pull a stunt like this ever again. It’s for her own...”
“... good?” Clarissa completed. “Isn’t that how she justified her actions as well?”
“Are you against it now? Weren’t you the one that suggested I used that syringe on her when you beat the crap out of her?”
“I stand by what I said then. I just find it curious you see things my way now.”
“I should have never doubted you.”
“Don’t doubt yourself either ever again. I’ll always have your back, dear.”
“Thank you, mom,” the two women hugged one another in-between genuine smiles.
“You know, I wouldn’t mind giving her another lesson or two myself...” Clarissa whispered.
“I knew you were going to say that.”
“I bought you a catsuit, mom. It’s waiting for you the moment you’re able to stand and bark some orders around.”
“I don’t need a catsuit to do that!”
“How about a whip?”
“And a flogger?”
“Well... Damn it! You’re making me all wet now.”
“Good,” Angela laughed and her mother followed suit. Playing the dominant role in full fetish attire would be Clarissa’s fondest memory until the end of her days.
While the two women frolicked around in good spirits, dreaming of sexy fantasies and letting sexy fantasies dream of them, Jonah walked somberly through the verdant fields of the nearest park, disgruntled beard growing on his face like a virus. Instead of looking forward, he kept his sad eyes on the ground, the feeling he had lost himself for good never too far away.
Birds chirped, dogs barked, people laughed, and he simply kept going, following an imaginary path through the phantoms of his mind. He was empty, depleted, missing both the life he never had and the ideas of mindless servitude imposed by others. It was better to have no choice under someone’s command no matter how unfair than to have no choice on his own. Angela would stop at nothing to piece him back together but how could she fix what she had help break in the first place?
He didn’t hate her. He could never do that. But he didn’t need her poking around his frail synapses at that moment either. Loneliness was his defence, solitude the closest thing to a soothing balm.
After walking in circles for almost an hour, he stopped under a birch, the shadow of the tree and his own indistinguishable from one another. A dry wind rustled the leaves above his head. The cold impressions of a lost future were here to stay.
About twenty feet across from him, stood a petite redhead, shoulder-length hair brushing a pair of delightfully feminine shoulders. She wore a long-sleeved black asymmetric blazer dress with a plunge neckline but anyone eager to see what hid at the end of it would only find an old camera hanging. The young woman twirled in place, eyeing the opportunity to capture a precious moment in time no one but her could see.
As if it were alive on its own and not just a pretty prop from a bygone era, the camera found him, the long and wide lens smiling in silence.
“Do you mind?” The woman asked.
“Huh?” Jonah blurted, unsure if he had just imagined the sound for he had not seen her lips move at all.
“Of me?” He tapped his chest, quizzically. “But why?”
“I have a soft spot for cute guys with brooding eyes.”
“Cute, huh? You’re probably mistaking me for someone else.”
“Awww... give me a smile, Mr. Shy Guy. I promise you’ll love it.”
His lips twitched as he tried to remember how to perform such a simple yet heartfelt gesture. A bit of gratitude makes the world go around but what reasons did he have to be grateful for? He felt no better than he did before. Happy days were just illusions that made no sense any more, yet worshipping the void was the same.
“I’m waiting...” she insisted, echoes of his deeply rooted submissive nature blooming within. Pretending for a moment everything was okay, he followed her lead.
“Wonderful!” He heard her say. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” his jaw relaxed. She had beautiful, engulfing eyes and her jovial smile looked all too familiar, almost as if...
“No!” He blinked, the unsuspecting thought seeking a way to explode into sound. “Am I in a trance again?”
“Uh-oh!” the lovely lady sighed. “You’re giving me that look:”
She twirled again, electric blue fingernails tapping the camera. “The look I get every time I’m recognized by a stranger on the street.”
“Reco...? So it is true... You are Princes...”
“Easy there...” she shooshed him. “No need for fancy titles when I’m off the clock and simply having some fun, is there? Oh, your fly is down.”
“Excuse me?” His hands scrambled, all flustered like the rest of his body.
She giggled like the bratty schoolgirl she often portrayed in clips. “Just messing with you.”
“And, of course, I fell for it...”
“Princess” Ashley stood under the shade of the tree next to him. “I have a feeling you do that often.”
“You don’t know the half of it. I’m Jonah by the way.”
“You can call me Ashley. Are you okay?”
“I will be... some day.”
“I have to say it’s quite a shock to see you in person though. I am... or was... a huge fan of your work. Thank you for your creativity.”
“For real? That’s sweet. Glad to see you’re not one of those weirdos.”
“The kind that forget that sex work is just like any other line of work but with more roleplay involved. Just because we create fantasies and make them come true, that doesn’t mean we are the fantasies themselves. You know what I mean, right?”
“I do but I’ve been guilty of confusing things myself every now and then. When obsessions of the mind become too intense, I...”
“Ah, so that’s what’s been keeping that breathtaking smile at bay. Don’t sweat it but don’t forget what’s real either, okay? It was nice talking to you and my camera loved it, too. Perhaps one day we’ll do it again.”
“Perhaps...” he whispered gently as he watched her fade away into the distance. Not a trance, not a dream, just an ordinary woman with a life of her own and plenty of wonderful stories to share. He would love to know them all but, more than that, he would love to know himself from inside out. Addiction still clouded his judgment but the sun would still shine. Losing once isn’t losing all. Losers can be choosers, and they can choose to win. He would do just that.