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  • SL Eastwood

Short - Temptress, Part I

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

The pleather armchair squeaked under Irwin’s buttocks as he waited for Dr Hartley to finish writing. Her pen moved so quickly across the page he could barely keep up with it. With a flick she clacked it against her clipboard before looking up and smiling at him.

Dr Hartley always looked so relaxed, slouched back into her chair, legs causally crossed at the knee. Irwin barely allowed himself to touch his seat, always hovering just at the edge; never wanting to get too much of himself onto things that other people might engage with.

‘Everything Ok, Irwin?’ said the doctor with a tilt of her head.

The pleather squeaked as Irwin readjusted into a more centralised position. She observed his hands, the pads of his fingers pressed so hard together they were white up to the knuckle.

‘Irwin?’ she repeated, angling her head to meet his gaze, ‘Are you excited to be going home today?’

Irwin looked up but remained silent. His calm eyes regarded her, ‘...did you tell them I was ready?’

‘You are ready.’

Irwin shifted uncomfortably, blinking quickly, unable to look at her, ‘Why did you tell them I was ready to leave?’

The doctor placed her clipboard onto a table and rested her hands across her lap as she quietly considered his question. ‘I’ve assessed that you are no-longer in crisis, Irwin’, was her frank reply, ‘I’m satisfied that you are no longer a danger to yourself’.

Irwin scoffed and shook his head, ‘What about everyone else?’

There was a pause.

‘You can’t stay here forever’, said the doctor, ‘You can’t stop living your life because you’re worried you might do something bad. You have never acted upon your urges…’ Irwin could feel his concentration slipping, the perpetual ticking of the clock filled his ears drowning out the doctor’s voice, ‘…there is no reason to think that you will act upon them once you are released...’

The ticking only grew louder, so loud it made his eardrums throb.


Irwin shut his eyes; his whole body became tight as he tried to fight the sound.


                        Why won’t it stop?

Fists clenched.


                                                                       That bloody clock!


When Irwin opened his eyes, the doctor was staring at him with an arched brow.

Irwin’s eyes darted up to the clock face, which stared at him unassumingly from the desk.

‘You have a real darkness inside of you. One that I don’t think you will ever be rid of’, she uncrossed her legs and leant forward, ‘But you need to believe that you are in control’.

‘What if I hurt someone?’

‘You can’t think like that–’.

‘–But what if I do?’ Irwin felt frustrated, his nails digging into his palms, ‘What if I can’t control myself and I hurt someone?’

‘I’m confident that you can control yourself. It’s a calculated risk, Irwin.’

‘Calculated risk?’ an incredulous laugh escaped him, ‘What if it was your daughter?’ although the doctor’s face was placid, Irwin noticed her muscles twitch, ‘what if I couldn’t control myself and it was your daughter? Then would things be different?’

Dr Hartley knew he was being deliberately provoking, ever since Irwin had arrived at Riverview he had used provocation as a defence mechanism.

A brief silence made Irwin’s face droop, ‘I’m sorry’, he said, looking towards the ground shamefully. ‘That was a terrible thing to say’, he began to curl into himself so that his head hung down close to his knees, ‘I’m a monster, I shouldn’t be released’, he whispered.

Irwin could feel a burn rising up his throat as his body shuddered into horrid, sad sobs. His curly brown hair flopping with every twitch of his spine.

‘There is something inside of you that makes you have bad thoughts’, said the doctor, ‘but you have a choice whether or not to act’.

A loud sob popped from Irwin’s mouth and he began swiping at his nose angrily as if trying to stuff his tears back inside of him.

‘Do you think it is all right to act on your urges?’ Dr Hartley said gently.

Irwin bolted upright; his shoulders waving from side to side with the force with which he was shaking his head.

‘Do you want get better’, he was shaking his head, ‘Irwin?’

‘Yes!’ Irwin cried wrapping long arms around himself as numb catharsis seeped through his body.

‘You are in control.’

‘I am in control’, he was rocking back and forth, taken with the spirit of her words.

‘You are thirty-one years old and you are capable of living in the real world’, said the doctor, ‘No one can make you do anything you don’t want to, even the darkness inside of you. It will be a struggle but you will learn to live with it. Being a good, well-adjusted member of society is a choice’, she enthusiastically lifted her fist into the air. ‘You have bad thoughts, Irwin, but you are not bad. Not if you don’t want to be’.

There was a click and the clock began to chime.

‘And that’s the end of our session’, she said with a reassuring smile.

Irwin froze staring at the doctor, his eyes wide with panic.

‘Even though you’re leaving, you are not on your own’, she said whilst flicking through the pages of a diary, ‘You’re on my books for the foreseeable future and you have my out of hours number–’ there was a knock at the door and a young man entered the room. His teal uniform bore the Riverview Medical insignia across his right breast pocket, ‘Plus that of the Riverview staff’, Dr Hartley added, gesturing to the nurse with a smile.

‘Your taxi is here, Mr Pigeon’, said the nurse gently as he approached. Wiping snot from around his nose, Irwin slowly rose from his seat. He searched the doctor’s face for encouragement.

‘You packed pretty light’, laughed the nurse, bending and stretching his arm, testing the weight of Irwin’s suitcase. Irwin dawdled at the door staring into the office at Dr Hartley, his face expectant as though any-minute someone would turn-around and tell him his eviction was just a cruel joke.

The walk to the front entrance was a blur and before he knew it, Irwin was being coerced into a taxi. He watched with hands pressed against the window as the nurse lifted his suitcase into the boot. Two sharp thumps signaled the driver and the taxi jerked forward as it rolled down the driveway and away from Riverview.

Irwin dragged his feet up onto the seat tucking his thin legs against his chest in an attempt to comfort. The driver remained silent as they pulled onto the motorway, making Irwin anxious. He focused his attention upon a pine-scented air-freshener, which jiggled against the windscreen.

Irwin wondered if the driver knew why he’d been at the Medical Centre, he caught the man’s eye in the rear-view mirror and quickly diverted his gaze to the floor. Dr Hartley promised that no-one but she knew why he’d tried to hurt himself, but Irwin was convinced people could read his mind. That they could see the dark and dirty thoughts that sprouted in his brain like mushrooms.

Any minute this taxi will pull over and the driver is going to beat me to death –thought Irwin– and holy to fuck do I deserve it.

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