A Car In The Woods: Chapter Six
Dr. Samantha Wander rarely lived up to her last name. She was content to live in the same area she grew up in, only venturing out of state during her college through doctorate years. Her psychologist Ph.D. in hand, she returned to her home town. It felt normal. Her one-year post-doc internship took her to an adjacent county; she barely stood the daily travel. Attaining superb evaluation results, Samantha submitted all the necessary paperwork, and all the years of hard work were validated. A place had been saved for her in her parent’s medical practice; her skills were needed.
Her best friend Vanessa was the polar opposite. She traveled every chance she could during their school years. Sometimes she was able to coax Samantha to join her; most times studies stood in the way. Vanessa went for the same degrees, same schools, and shared rooms with Sammy, her private nickname, throughout their educational escapades. Opposites in some ways, but exactly alike in their passion for the growing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs.
Vanessa went out to the west coast for her yearlong internship, promising Samantha she’d come back east after the year was over.
San Francisco captured her completely, the lifestyle, the music, the climate; it claimed her, body and soul. She’d been putting the bug in Samantha’s ear to please come to San Francisco. There was a spot open in the clinic that Vanessa worked at, but it wouldn’t remain open for long. Haight-Ashbury was the place where it was all happening. Already, at the tail end of June, it was happening on overdrive, and doctors of all stripes were needed.
Samantha promised Vanessa she would think about it. Really think about it this time. The phone call Vanessa had made laid it all out on the table. “I need your scrawny-ass-red-headed stubborn self here. With me. Now. Stat! Pronto! Rápido! I’ll even put flowers in your hair!”
“I love you too,” she said, and they talked for a little while longer.
Samantha wrote out her pros and cons list as she did with every major decision. Putting her pencil down and pushing the paper away across the desk, Samantha swiveled her chair to face the window in her office. The street was the same as it had always been. The patients rarely varied, rarely advanced on the goals they set together, sometimes falling deep into the holes they kept digging for themselves. The hilly terrain, the abundance of trees: all the same, only morphing with the seasons.
As she shook her head, Samantha’s legendary exasperated sigh passed through her lips. Vanessa called it Sammy’s Sigh of Grand Despair. She laughed at this, which drew other memories pouring in. Hugging herself, all she understood at the moment was that she was missing Vanessa, with a vengeance.
She told her parents about leaving that night, and the discourse went on long into the night. Coffee, verbal pros and cons, more coffee, further debates, detailed analysis, some crying, some accusations, coffee, defeats, mild acceptances, and finally bed. By 3:23 am, Samantha was planning how she would let her patients know. She wanted to call Vanessa, give her the news, but felt some sleep was imperative to be able to face the morning appointments.
The day progressed mainly how she thought it would. Most understood, all wished her luck, and too many fell in upon themselves. A few went into mild hysterics, but they were able to calm down with Samantha’s help. She assured them that a replacement would be found before she left. Her schedule confirmed that she would see the majority of her patients over the week; the few bi-monthlies she would call.
The one she absolutely dreaded fell on the second day. Her expectations for that session were not very positive, given the history of their encounters. Lisa Davis had, and still was living, a very painful life. Abused by family, physically, emotionally, and though her juvenile records were sealed, sexually as well. Alcohol, sex, and physically releasing her anger were her coping mechanisms. She always picked up the “wrong guy” at one bar or another. More times than not, her encounters left her with bruises and torn clothing. A few times it landed her in the hospital.
Her temper was quick to rise and harder to quell, and she exacted revenge when she could. Tall and wiry, Lisa was in and out of trouble. Her last outburst landed her three months in county, followed by six months in a psych ward. Things settled down inside of her during those nine months, enough so that she was released on the condition she met the court-mandated twice-a-week therapy demands. One more incident, one more going over the line, and it was upstate prison time. She knew it.
Knowing it and caring about it were two different things.
Samantha thought she was prepared for a Lisa Davis outburst; they had been making progress, she felt, and her overall emotional roller coaster seemed to be leveling out. Samantha was wrong. Lisa was edgy when she arrived. Her father was putting demands on her, this time about money. Samantha did some heavy lifting in this session, with Lisa putting up roadblocks along the way.
Their session was almost at an end. Samantha had no choice but to tell Lisa the news so she wouldn’t hear it elsewhere. It did not go well. No matter how she presented the facts of her leaving, Lisa took it deeply personal. Deeply. Things escalated in a hurry. The hurt on her face, blaming herself, flipping it around against Samantha, her issues of abuse, abandonment, disrespect, getting used. Back and forth, back and forth. Every negative emotion overwhelmed Lisa. It finally built into a bursting, all-consuming rage.
Lisa leaped up off the couch. Tears were pouring down, her face turning a hellish red. All of her muscles were constricting and clenching, her hands drawn into vein-popping fists. Samantha bolted out of her chair, trying to make her way to the office door. The thrown framed diploma went flying past her, shattering against the door. Lisa jumped back at that and cringed as the coffee table, with the box of tissues, followed the smashed frame. The door was blocked off. Samantha backed away slowly, moving behind her desk. She screamed. Lisa, lurching towards her, howled.
When the staff finally were able to make their way in, they stopped, gaping at the destruction. Everything in the office was in disarray. Books, bookcases, wall hangings, furniture, and other odds and ends were strewn around the room. Lisa had her back to them. Her hands were wrapped around Samantha’s neck, pushing her back against the room’s window.
Samantha was clawing at the strangling hands, scoring rows of broken skins, rivulets of blood mixing together across Lisa’s hands and forearms. She was losing and knew it, her throat squeezed, the intense pain, the lack of incoming air. Through her protruding eyes, she saw her father run up, followed by other staff. It took a blow to the back of Lisa’s head and a kick to the inside of her knees to get her to drop her hands. Down on the other knee, Lisa started to lunge at the guy to her right.
She didn’t get that far. Samantha’s father had picked up the now broken brass desk lamp, swung it with angry force, and again connected with Lisa’s cranium. She was down. The only sounds in the room were the gulping for air from Samantha. Everyone else was doing what they could to calm their ramped up hearts. Someone had already called the Sheriff’s office.
Her breathing became easier but painful. Samantha’s father led her out of the room, her mother joining them as they made it to the hallway. The Sheriff and his men arrived just Samantha and her parents made it to their car. He walked over to them and got the gist of what happened. The Sheriff had other questions. Samantha’s mother put a stop to that. She needed the hospital, they could talk later, and the family got in the car and drove off.
It wasn’t until Samantha was being discharged that they found out that Lisa regained consciousness just before the Sheriff entered the office. She hauled off and punched him between the eyes. Really, really hard. Next, she kicked the closest deputy between his legs, tackling and tossing the other deputy out of her way. By the time all were fit enough, Lisa was gone. All law enforcement in the surrounding counties and the State Police were put on alert.
The Sheriff placed one of his men at the Wander house. Instead of feeling secure, Samantha was overwhelmed. She closed the door of her room, picked the phone up, and sat on the floor, back leaning against her bed. She called Vanessa, and the two of them cried through the telling of the events, ending with smiles they both could feel from the other over the phone line when Samantha told Vanessa her decision. The call lasted a while; plans were made. Vanessa was supportive and encouraging. She regaled Samantha with all the things she would experience when she arrived at the Haight. The Love In happenings. Live music everywhere. A peaceful stampede of hippies taking over the streets. Acceptance from the young; intolerance from the Hawks. “It is so alive,” she said. “We can be. Alive. We can do what we are meant to do, meant to be. You and me.” Samantha listened to it all, interjecting enough so Vanessa knew she was already with her in spirit.
A shiver ran through her, her mind taking her elsewhere. This all sounded wonderful to Samantha. Yet, it was drowned out by one consuming thought:
Lisa was still out there.
A not so pretty picture was painted that day. Painted and then torn to shreds.
It would not be the only thing ripped apart, in the end.
Lisa was still out there.
There was a car in the woods.