“And this works best with your current schedule?”
His eyes ballooned as he exhaled. “Yeah. I’m flexible. I’m gonna make time!”
I didn’t hide my grin at his enthusiasm as I tapped into the calendar app of my iPad.
“That’s cool. I’ll run a few of your dates against hers and arrange for joint sessions, too,” I mumbled into my lap, tapping away.
“Is…she as flexible as I am?”
I lifted from my device. The muscles in Trent’s face were relaxed, but his eyes told me all I needed to know; it would be an easy fix for these two.
“Yeah.” I laughed. “Very flex—”
My words were halted by the ruckus of my office door being swung open. In stepped a tall bearded man dressed in a three-piece wool suit.
Trent jumped to his feet, startled just as I was.
“She’s gone,” he spoke through gritted teeth.
I sat back in my chair, taken by his nerve. But I can’t say I was surprised by his abruptness. He’d come early to today’s session.
“I know,” was my simple reply.
“You said, we’d work. You guaranteed—”
“I’m with a client, Ezra. You can’t just come into my office, throwing your issues on the wrong plate.” I gestured to Trent.
“Oh, nah.” Trent’s eyes bounced between the two of us. “It’s gravy. Love, we’ll be in touch.” He tossed me a quick wave. “Ezra, see you Thursday, man.”
Ezra’s eyes fell, hopefully in embarrassment. Trent was his parishioner!
His hand extended, and Trent accepted it in a shake. When the door closed, I cocked my head to the side.
“Nice job, Pastor.”
“Oh, I gave you that client,” Ezra quickly returned.
“No. You referred a client that pushed back several for me to take on right away. And this is how you conduct yourself in front of the two of us. Where’s the respect?”
“I am going through a dark affair in my life. He would understand if he knew. She left me!”
I lifted and drop my shoulders, glancing away. “You’re in the valley. It’s a part of the marriage journey. Get used to it. Just don’t set up shop there.”
“What’s the use of having you if this could be possible?” His brows met at that jab. Then his open hands flew in the air. “Look. I understood full well at the beginning of this venture, you didn’t hold the formal qualifications of a therapist, but I’d also researched you, and spoke extensively with your relatives.”
I rolled my eyes. “First of all, have a seat while you’re speaking to me.”
His neck retracted just slightly, and one brow peaked. “Pardon me?”
“You heard what I said. Ezra, I respect you…actually like you a lot, but the moment you come into my place, throwing around your imposing weight, that could all come to an end. I’m overseer here. I’m boss here. I’m leader in this place. You are a client, needing my services. Do you get where this is going?”
“I could have gone to someone else, Love. Someone who would have at least worked it so she would not have left,” he threatened.
I sat up in my seat. “I have countless peers on the shelves next to me. Not one would care to take on your story. None could have gotten this far with you, and none have my talent to manage you.”
“That’s mighty arrogant of you.” He scoffed, coolly. “I wholly disagree.”
“Ezra, don’t fool yourself. My specialty is broken people, bringing them to a place where they can experience healthy, long-lasting romantic love. You’re kidding yourself if you think many of my contemporaries would be prepared to take you on. Many of them do the cutesy couples with minor flaws that makes for a plot, and have them live happily ever after. I take on the impossibly companionable, and work on their internal individual issues many would deem irrevocable.”
He leaned down toward me, still standing, and I could smell his fragranced beard. “You clearly didn’t do a good job with Alexis.”
I cocked my head to the side again. “Who said Alexis was the broken one of the two?”
We locked eyes. Ezra slowly stood straight, and I didn’t miss when his lips parted in sheer astonishment. That’s when I found myself in Lex’s shoes: eye warring with a warrior. The beast. Ezra was, without effort, intimidating. His presence alone had a heavy weight, an air of power and fearless leadership. And while I believed he possessed a high level of knowledge, wisdom had not always been present for him.
“So, I’m broken?” his rasp held a tone of humility.
If I was not mistaken, Ezra had momentarily put down his weapons. If he could only remove the armor, too. I was not in the business of attacking people, no matter how weak their seemingly tough veneers.
“You need lots of work, but the one thing you have working for you is I ‘get’ you. You’re not an overnight success. When I agreed to this, I knew it wouldn’t be a short bubblegum love story. I don’t do those. I believe in you, but you have to kill some things in yourself to make this thing work.”
“Things like what? What do you ‘get’?”
My eyes skirted around the room. I stood to get a box that was used to ship a pair of shoes I’d recently ordered. I brought it over to the coffee table.
“This box encompasses your life. It represents the barriers between you and the world—the world being everything that doesn’t affect the core of you. Inside this box are all the things that matter to you…the only things you cherish in life.”
I gave a nod to confirm he was following me.
“Okay…” His response told of his stubbornness, but I knew he was following.
“Inside the box,” I pointed, “is Ezra and God.” I gave a brief pause for digesting.
“Outside of the box?” I was surprised he asked.
“…is Lex and everything and everybody else. I’m out there, too.”
Slowly, Ezra straightened his spine, backed up, and collapsed on the sofa across from me, on the other side of the table.
“Do you get where this is going? Ezra, your wife is in the same category as your cleaner’s guy, mechanic, your dentist, and me, a virtual stranger to you. Nothing or no one else is inside this box, not even your parents. Marriage doesn’t work this way. She needs to be in here with you. She’s your partner, not a tool sent for your one-sided pleasure.”
“One-sided? I am no savage,” he murmured.
“I don’t believe you are.”
“Your readers do.” His fingers yanked through his thick beard in a combing manner. His eyes were in the corner of the room.
“My real ones, the ones that trust me to be the author and don’t try to co-write my stories know I wouldn’t have taken you on if you were not good at the core and redeemable.” He finally looked at me. “I can work with you.”
“I just don’t like the way I’m being perceived.”
Another client reading my reviews while under my care.
I shook my head, dismissing his anxiety. “Ezra, we’re privileged to even be privy to your personal life. Your marriage is sacred: the details that get you to your custom-made happily ever after are a personal matter.”
He scoffed. “And that’s it. It doesn’t matter that I’m being dragged through the mud like some caveman?”
“I’m there with you as the author. I’d say your story resonates. The few who have callous things to say are those who choose to pry, is how I see it. My stripes haven’t changed. This will be our tenth book, and I’m writing the same length, in the same fashion. It’s safe to say I’m established. If they don’t like what I present, they can stop reading. Bottom line.”
Ezra sat up, exhaled his frustration, and rubbed his palms into his face.
“Ezra, you have to trust me. I master journeys of this nature. Go through the darkness of process. It’s going to hurt, but if you want it, let go of those things keeping you from giving her what she needs. Once you achieve that, you’ll see brighter days. I promise.”
“Okay.” He sighed again, flashing his palms that gestured his compliance.
“And please stop reading my reviews. It’ll impede your journey. I promise you, I don’t lose a night of sleep over them. Either I’m for you, or I’m not. If I’m not, get off my boat. The same can be said for your marriage. Either you want to meet Lex half way, or you don’t. If you don’t, release her so she can find someone who will account for her wellbeing. Just like my readers, the choice is yours, sir.”
Ezra’s head swung up, his nose scrunched in disgust. I tossed my head back and cracked up.
“See! That doesn’t even have the same appeal as when she says it.” I tried calming myself.
“Let me assure you, no one has the same appeal as that woman, Love.”
“Good. Great start!” I glanced at the clock. “We’re still twenty minutes or so ahead of your appointment, but let’s get started.”
“It is well,” he agreed, sitting back on the couch.~
Bonded with Ezra coming April 15th