Bette fiddled with the band-aid on the palm of her left hand. She had been changing it often as she found the need to wash her hands frequently these days. She was hoping it would hasten the dissolving of the three stitches that sealed her wound.
“Does it still bother you?” Dan asked. He had noticed Bette’s obsessive picking at the edges of the tan strip.
Bette shrugged. “Not really…just itches is all.”
“So, you were saying?” Dan steered Bette back on task.
“I was saying that I feel like I’ve taken three huge steps backward in the last week. I don’t know what it is, Dan. I’ve been worried about everything, restless, short tempered…and Tina receives the brunt of it. It isn’t fair to her, not after I was the one to fuck up,” Bette said despondently.
“Well, from what you describe it was a pretty awful experience. Psychopaths leave a wake of destruction behind them, and I’m convinced from everything you have told me, this woman is a psychopath,” Dan said. He suspected there was more to the story, but Bette had skirted around most of the bizarre phenomenon that surrounded both hers and Tina’s encounters with Carmen’s aunt.
“So I’m having some sort of delayed reaction or what?” Bette asked dismayed and frustrated. “I don’t like feeling out of control like this…I can’t even leave for work now without going back at least once to make sure I’ve locked the front door. And my students, god, I want to strangle them! I mean, I’m always stressed at the end of the semester, but this time I can’t stop biting their heads off each time they ask me something. And James, well, I think he does his best just to avoid me when he sees me coming.”
Bette had been well aware of her bad behavior in the last week and a half, as well as her new obsessive-compulsive need to make sure everything was safe and secure. Tina, Kit, even James had tried to reassure her and tell her she was simply recovering from the shock, that she should give it time, but she wasn’t allowing herself to embrace that excuse. She was angry, more at herself than anyone. Unfortunately, all those who came in contact with her felt that self-anger lash out at them.
“It’s been really hard with Tina,” Bette continued. “I mean, she made it perfectly clear that she wouldn’t put up with any nonsense from me, but at the same time she’s been so supportive of me. I just have to put my hands up sometimes and go into my office and shut the door, or if I’m at her place, I go sit in the garden just so I don’t lose my temper with her,” Bette explained.
She had not shared with Dan how Tina had “punished” her for her insolence, but she had remembered it and had remembered how angry and hurt Tina had been. She didn’t want to face that Tina again, even if she was somewhat sexually seductive when she was that angry.
“Bette, I want you to think about what you just said there…about control. You feel like you’re losing control, just like before. Only this time you have so much more to lose: Tina and Andy. This need to check and recheck locked doors, your irritability, your short temper…it’s classic; you’ve fallen back into experiencing the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress that you did after the events with Jodi,” Dan said tenderly, and he handed her the box of tissues he kept on hand, as Bette had begun to weep silently.
“None of this had to happen, but it did because of me. I fucked it up and now…” Bette shook her head not wanting to cry anymore as that was all she seemed able to do in the last week.