A few days after breaking things off with Lawrence, Lizette finally felt good enough to crawl out of bed and interact with her friends again. She decided not to tell any of them about her breakup because she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, especially when Prudence was the friend who really needed support.
As she splashed her face and put on some comfortable clothes, she had a sudden inspiration. Anxious to get their feedback, she FaceTimed Ellowyne and Rufus, who were available to talk.
“Hi, Lizette!” Rufus called out.
“Hi! You’ve gotten a little fuzzy. Beard, long hair…” Lizette responded.
“Yeah, I’m growing it out. I want to sport a man bun while they’re still in style.”
Ellowyne joined the conversation. “But there’s no way he’s growing a lumberjack beard. Fuzziness has its limits!” She took a sip of her tea and asked, “So Liz, what’s on your mind?”
Lizette inhaled sharply. She felt a little twinge that seemed to warn her not to proceed, but she ignored it. “Well, we’ve both had experiences with Dr. Bantam. Ellowyne, what do you think about getting Pru to go see her? Be honest.”
Rufus and Ellowyne were gobsmacked. Rufus scowled and folded his arms across his chest. Ellowyne stared at her laptop screen, slack-jawed. Neither of them could say anything.
“Uh, what do you think?” Lizette questioned. “Should we tell Prudence to speak with Dr. Bantam?”
Rufus squirmed and bit his lip.
Ellowyne queried, “Do you feel your sessions with Dr. Bantam were helpful?”
Rufus started to crack his knuckles.
Lizette answered, “Well, I felt a whole lot better after seeing her. I mean, I was new in town and didn’t know anybody.”
Rufus took a couple of gulps of his tea. He looked as if he wanted to say something. But Ellowyne blurted out, “How long did you see her?”
“Oh, I’m still seeing her. We’re doing virtual sessions since we shouldn’t meet in person,” Lizette replied.
Rufus could be quiet no longer. “Liz, look. Ellowyne’s been seeing Bantam since middle school. She had her going up to three times a week. Chronic ennui. Yeah, right. Who can be in an existential crisis for eight or nine years? Bantam never explored any other reasons for Ellowyne’s alleged ennui. I mean, she lost her mother when she was young! Maybe she was still mourning. Maybe Ellowyne was having issues from being a teenager, which is normal. Or maybe she was clinically depressed. Or had anxiety. But Bantam didn’t help her at all!”
“He’s right,” Ellowyne admitted. “I meticulously kept my therapy journal but, looking back, I really didn’t make much progress. I pretty much felt the same year after year. Always sad. Always doubting myself. Always feeling bored and fatigued. Since I stopped seeing Dr. Bantam, I feel happier.”
Liz was incredulous. “You aren’t seeing her anymore?”
“No, she isn’t,” Rufus exclaimed. “Bantam saw Ellowyne as a cash cow.”
Ellowyne frowned and nodded her head. “She called me not long ago, wondering why I didn’t want to continue therapy remotely. She asked about Rufus and suggested he might want to see her as well.”
“It’s been really tough since my parents died, and I could probably use some grief counseling. But I question Bantam’s motive for getting me to see her. Seeing how Ellowyne has been and how she is now, Bantam didn’t help,” Rufus responded.
“I know that I’m in a period of massive change with our relationship, COVID, and Rufus’ parents passing away. But it hasn’t been because of Dr. Bantam,” Ellowyne pointed out.
Rufus agreed. “All of the change that Ellowyne has made has come from her own spirit, her own heart, her own strength. I wonder if she didn’t make those changes, would Bantam have helped in the least? How much more therapy would she think Ellowyne needs?”
“I don’t know if you’ve seen this, Liz,” Ellowyne remarked. “But you know that cup of ‘tea’ she always drinks at therapy sessions? It’s Long Island iced tea. She’s usually sloshed by the end of the day.”
Lizette was taken aback by Ellowyne’s revelation. Dr. Bantam never drank tea at their sessions. Instead, she sipped what looked like water. Was it vodka? No, it couldn’t be. Dr. Bantam was too much a professional to drink at work. Ellowyne must be skirting the truth.
“Well,” Liz murmured. “I think Dr. Bantam helped me.”
“Are you kidding, Liz?” Rufus asked. “The reason you got used to San Francisco was because you wanted to. Sometimes you’re still a little shy, but that’s charming and not anything you need therapy for. You made friends here. Good friends. People who love you like family. You’ve also been successful. You graduated magna cum laude and got into one of the best veterinary schools in the country. But it was all you, not that quack Bantam.”
Lizette was getting irritated. “Well, I don’t agree with anything you’ve said, Rufus. Dr. Bantam helped me get out of my shell. I wouldn’t have you all for friends if I had never gotten therapy from her. I might not have even gone to college. Who knows? Dr. Bantam is NOT a quack! In fact, I was thinking of telling Prudence to see her.”
Ellowyne and Rufus were gobsmacked. Rufus said, “Prudence could probably use some professional help, but not with that incompetent, manipulative drunk.”
“I don’t care what you say!” Lizette retorted. “I got help from Dr. Bantam and I’m going to suggest to Prudence that she makes an appointment ASAP. Don’t bother messaging me. I don’t want to talk to either of you right now!”
Then Lizette slammed down the lid to her laptop, leaving Ellowyne and Rufus dismayed and confused.
Ellowyne asked, “Do you think we were too rough on her? I’ve never seen Liz so angry.”
Rufus was chagrined. “I’m sorry to have been so blunt. I think I hurt Lizette’s feelings. But she wanted to get our feedback, and I don’t think Bantam is right for anyone.”
Ellowyne nodded her head. “We both probably should apologize to Liz. We have such strong feelings about Dr. Bantam, and she probably had no idea. I mean, if she feels better from having therapy with Dr. Bantam, maybe Prudence should see her, too. It’s also possible that Dr. Bantam, while unhelpful to me, is effective with Lizette and might be with Prudence.”
“I don’t know, Ellie,” Rufus responded. “You could be right. But I don’t trust Bantam. Therapy might be just what Prudence needs to get out of her funk. With someone competent who doesn’t drink on the job.”
“She might also need meds,” Ellowyne replied. “But Dr. Bantam is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, and can’t prescribe any drugs.”
“Maybe Pru needs a thorough physical examination,” Rufus asserted. “There could be something else going on with her in addition to COVID stress.”
“You’re right,” Ellowyne said. “Have you been reading any of the online articles that discuss the mental health crisis due to the pandemic?”
“I have. You know, maybe Penn would have an idea for someone that Prudence can see, although he’s so busy I hate to ask him to do anything,” Rufus quipped.
Ellowyne knitted her brows. “I’m afraid it’s going to take a while for Lizette to talk to us again. She was so distressed while we were talking about Dr. Bantam.”
And it did.
To be continued…