Read Carol's Image Online

Authors: Maryann Jordan

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BOOK: Carol's Image
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Sitting in the police station at his desk, Tom looked at the witness report and read the statement from the man who dialed 911.

As I ran over to the man on the ground another bystander was kneeling with him. She seemed to be checking his head and pulse. She told me to call 911. She talked to the victim for a few minutes, trying to get him to stay awake. The ambulance came and we all stood back.

Tossing the report down on the desk he looked over at Jake. Their desks were facing each other, and he noticed Jake staring at him.

“Did you find somethin’?” Jake asked.

“Yeah, look,” Tom replied as he pushed the report over to Jake.

“So she’s real. Your girl is real.”

Tom sat for a moment in silence, pondering his options before piercing Jake with his gaze. “Now to find her.”

*

Tom spent the next two weeks tracking down every possible avenue, coming up empty.
I have an easier time tracking down criminals than I do finding this one woman.
Jake and Rob met him at the downtown diner one day for lunch.

“So what’s the news?” Rob asked, winking at their pretty waitress, giving her his famous smile.

“Jesus, would you stop pussy hunting long enough for us to have a conversation?” Tom complained.

“Fuck you, Tom. I remember when not too long ago you were only too happy to join me in pussy hunting. Ever since you’ve been looking for this girl, you’ve been no fun at all, man. Why don’t we just go out, you find yourself some blonde and pound away until you get her out of your system?”

“Jesus, Rob. Do you hear yourself? One day you’re gonna meet some nice girl and hate like hell that you have fucked your way through Fairfield,” Jake retorted.

“Tom, you don’t even hang around your fuck-buddies. You might bang them for a while before movin’ on, but hell, you don’t even take them out to dinner.”

Tom brought his friends back to the matter at hand. “Rob, I’m not looking for a fuck. This girl helped me. Hell, I don’t know how to explain it. All I know is that I’m not interested in any other woman. I felt somethin’ when she touched me.” Shaking his head, he looked up at Jake and Rob. “You guys can think I’ve lost my mind, but swear to god, that girl’s in here,” he said, rubbing his chest.

Rob stopped in mid-bite, staring at the man sitting across from him. Knowing him as well as anyone, he had never heard Tom speak of any woman like he was now. Cutting his eyes over to Jake, they shared a glance before Rob set his sandwich back down on his plate.

“Sorry, man. I honestly didn’t know it was like that,” Rob replied. “So, you can’t find her anywhere?”

Tom shook his head. “No one at the grocery story remembers her ever shopping there. But the manager remembers seeing her that day.”

Jake chuckled, looking over at Rob. “Yeah, you should have seen Tom when the manager remembered her. He was makin’ rude comments about noticin’ her sweet ass when Tom almost decked him.”

Jake and Rob laughed, but Tom just cursed. “That fucker’s got no right to talk about her that way. I’d have beaten the shit out of him if Jake hadn’t forced me outta the store.”

Rob, shaking his head at this friend, stated, “You’ve got it bad, don’t ya,? I mean, you’ve really obsessed over this girl.”

Knowing to anyone else his confession would sound foolish, he replied to his two best friends, “Yeah, I’m gonna find that girl. And when I do, she’s mine.”

Piercing him with his gaze, Jake retorted, “And what if she belongs to someone else. Or what if she isn’t interested?”

Staring at his barely touched lunch, Tom just shook his head before a slow smile crept across his handsome face. “Then I just work harder to make sure I’m the man she needs.”

Chapter 2

“C
arol, how nice to see you again. How have you been?” Ronda Clark asked, ushering her into the comfortable office. The two women sat in deep leather chairs, facing each other.

Carol smiled over at the counselor that she had come to rely on over the past year. In her early forties, Ronda was the most approachable counselor that Carol had worked with. She had first sought counseling services when she had been a sophomore in college, striking out on her own. Her former counselor retired, leaving Ronda in charge of her clients. Nervous at first, Carol quickly came to value Ronda as a counselor, although it sometimes bordered more on friendship.

“I’m good,” Carol replied, but continued knowing Ronda would want to know what brought her in today. “I found myself wanting to watch my eating again. Not badly,” she added quickly, “but I received an invitation from my parents last weekend, and it seemed to slam me back to standing in front of the mirror once again.” She sighed. “Just when I think that I will never do this again, something happens and all I see is someone unlovable, someone to be ignored.”

Nodding in understanding, Ronda replied, “You know Carol, bulimia is something that you will always deal with, but your recovery is going very well. Your self-image is so much healthier than when we first met.”

Looking into Ronda’s eyes, Carol sighed. “I know I’m a thousand times better. I almost never count calories anymore. When I exercise, it is only a modest amount. And I avoid scales like the plague! I haven’t tried to throw up in years.” Silent for a moment, she continued, “I handle stress in my job with little problems, but my parents…one letter from them and I feel like running off the lunch I ate earlier. Why is the hold still there?”

Ronda turned her gaze toward the beautiful woman sitting in front of her. Carol had the classic Hollywood looks that most women desperately want. Natural yellow blond hair, flowing over her shoulders. Porcelain complexion. Large, bright blue eyes. A petite, athletic figure that included soft, gentle curves. Dainty hands. Many women would be envious of all that beauty; most men would be admirers, wanting to claim her for their own. But Carol? Ronda knew when she looked in the mirror the image glaring back was not what everyone else saw.

“So tell me about this invitation?” she prodded.

Carol, leaning back in the comfortable chair, settled in.
How many hours over the past year have I spent in this chair? Talking. Listening. Learning.

“My parents hold a charity event every year. It’s a huge event, with hundreds of guests paying a lot of money for their dinner. It is really more about seeing who is there and being seen. My father makes sure that everyone knows his law firm is hosting the event. And you can be sure that the politicians are there to crawl up his butt,” she said with rancor.

Ronda was silent, letting the comfortable pause give Carol the time to organize her thoughts.

Carol’s gaze went to the window, overlooking a small garden with trees and flowers. She loved that view. It always seemed so peaceful. Taking another deep breath, she continued. “The first time I was allowed to make an appearance, I was sixteen. My dress was perfect, my hair and nails done, and my parents made sure to parade me around to everyone, announcing that I was the top of my class, sure to take over the law firm one day. There was such a cute young man there with his dad and he asked me to dance several times. He told me I was beautiful and I was thrilled to be seen with him.”

“What happened?” Ronda asked.

“Oh, the typical. I overheard him tell one of his friends that my dad paid him to be my escort for the evening so that it looked like I had a date. My father did not want to take a chance on me being a wallflower – that would never fit the image he wanted to present of his rising star daughter.”

Silence followed. “Yeah,” Carol ruefully said. “I went into the bathroom and gagged myself until I threw up the very expensive dinner.” Suddenly, Carol burst into laughter. “Oh, Ronda, looking back it seems so dumb!

“I went back every year for the next three years, until I was twenty. I continued to try to fit my parent’s image of a very successful daughter; Valedictorian of my high school and making dean’s list the first year in college. I managed to get through those meals without gagging myself, but I confess to running for miles the next day. I always hated trying to live up to their image!”

“So what happened the next year?”

“Oh, Ronda. That’s when everything changed!” Carol smiled at the memory. “I got horribly sick from food poisoning and ended up in the ER one night. I loved it. Oh, not being sick…but the ER. The nurses had such purpose. Jobs they loved. Jobs they were good at. The knowledge that when they went to work, they were changing lives, not just trying to get rich. That was when I saw myself.”

Ronda looked at the sparkle that had returned to Carol’s eyes. Smiling, she encouraged her to continue.

“When I was discharged, I went into the bathroom to get dressed and I looked into the mirror. I could see it. I could see myself in nursing scrubs, with my hair pulled back, and a stethoscope around my neck. Ronda, I could actually see it. Me, a nurse. For the first time, I was hopeful when I looked in the mirror.”

“And that was what caused the career change…and the parental freeze began?”

“Freeze? More like glacial iceberg!” Carol announced. “But yeah, you’re right. I finally grew bold enough to change my major and managed to keep it a secret for two years. I worked a part-time job in the hospital as a nurse’s aide, making money of my own. I saved it all so that I could afford a place to live when my parents finally found out.”

“And when the blow up happened?”

“That’s when I started seeing a counselor!” Carol retorted. “You know it wasn’t easy, but the counselor at the university helped me finally see that my self-image was as warped as my parents. And for the past six years, I have been a work in progress!”

Ronda added, “A very successful work in progress, I must say! So, tell me about the invitation.”

“There’s not much to tell. I opened the invitation yesterday to the annual charity event – an event that I haven’t been to in seven years. I barely speak with my parents after they made it very clear that I was a complete disappointment to them when they found out I was a nursing major instead of a pre-law major. My father’s words… ‘Carol, you are not living up to the image of our daughter. You are a complete disappointment.’ Yep, I remember those words.”

Looking back up at Ronda, she shrugged her delicate shoulders. “But why now? I have no idea why they are inviting me? I just know that I instantly felt like throwing up my lunch.”

“But you didn’t. You came here instead. You are continuing to choose healthy over an unhealthy, distorted image.”

The acknowledgement flowed over her, settling in her dark corners. “You’re right. I just have to keep telling myself when I look in the mirror, that I am worthy.”

“You mentioned last time that you thought you were ready for a relationship. So, have you met anyone special since we last spoke?”

“No,” Carol admitted, but then found herself blushing and looking down at her clasped hands. “I have to admit that I met someone in passing that caught my attention, but nothing would ever come of it.”

“Why do you say that?” Ronda wondered.

“We just met for a few minutes in rather unusual circumstances, so we haven’t really officially met yet. But there was something about him that captured my attention. Well, besides the fact that he is gorgeous,” she laughed.

“But when we touched, it was…I don’t know…different.” Her eyes sought Ronda’s, searching for signs of disbelief, but the warm gaze looking back just held interest, not judgment. “I’ve never felt a spark before. But…then he was gone, and I’m sure I won’t see him again.”
But I can dream, can’t I? And I’ve dreamed about him for a couple of weeks.
Sighing, she looked back at Ronda.

The two women continued to talk for a few more minutes until her time was finished. Giving Ronda a heartfelt hug, she left the counseling office as she had done so many times before…a little stronger, a little more sure.

Chapter 3

T
he emergency room at Fairfield Hospital was finally having a lull after a busy evening. The graveyard shift was almost over, and the nurses gathered around the desk completing charts. The lights were harsh in the sterile environment and Carol found herself squinting to focus on the words she was writing. Tired of her long blonde hair hanging in her face as she leaned down, she pushed it behind her ears.

“Here, need this?” Sofia asked, handing her a protein power bar.

Carol took the much needed nutrition, forcing herself to not look at the calories listed on the side.

Sofia noticed. “Still hard, isn’t it sweetie?”

Carol looking at her friend’s understanding face and agreed. “Yeah, but then it always will be. The desire to count calories going in and burning up…god, it still pulls at me sometimes. But as my counselor says, one day at a time.”

Sofia patted Carol’s shoulder as she walked by. Carol unwrapped the bar and chewed appreciatively. The ER had been so busy for most of her shift she had missed her mid-shift snack. Having eaten the bar without checking the calories, she balled the wrapper up and made a shot into the trashcan.

“Score!” came a shout from behind her. Turning around, she almost ran into Jon.

BOOK: Carol's Image
2.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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