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My eyes shifted around the room as I nodded.

A tight smile spread across her lips. “That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.”

I don’t think it would have been physically possible to roll my eyes any more dramatically than I did at that moment. “You’re such a romantic. Not everything is a romantic gesture, Jodi. Some things are just that—things. Gestures.”

Thankfully, before our conversation could go any further, the front door opened and Matthew came sprinting in.

“Hi, Miss Jodi! Mom, I had the best time!”

“Did you? I’m so glad.” I pulled him against my leg for a hug.

“You should’ve seen it. We all had to sit criss cross applesauce on the friendship rug and Viper could hardly do it!” He threw his head back and laughed wildly. It felt so good to see joy on his face from something other than Ninja Turtles for once.

“Hey, in my defense,” Viper bellowed playfully as he rounded the corner carrying Matthew’s booster seat, “that rug is really small. The worst part was I was the only one in the room who didn’t know what criss cross applesauce was. Matthew had to tell me.”

Matthew walked over and stood next to Viper. “Can you take me again next time, Viper?”

“If that’s okay with your mom, sure.”

They both looked over at me with big puppy-dog eyes. “Fine by me.” I shrugged.

Matthew threw his arms up and cheered as Viper held his fist out for Matthew to bump it. “It’s a date, my man.”

“COME IN, COME in!” Dr. Roberts said excitedly, waving me into her office Monday morning. “I’ve been dying to hear how your week went.”

I walked through the door, sat in my usual spot on the leather couch, and waited for her to take her seat across from me.

“So?” she said impatiently when I didn’t start talking right away.

“You’re the devil.” I glared at her.

“Oh, come on!” She sighed and threw her hands in the air dramatically. “It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“It was fine for the first few days, then it got tough.”

“What was the hardest part?”

The thirteen-year-old boy that lived deep inside of me started laughing at her word choice, and before I knew it, that laugh had traveled up my throat and out of my mouth.

Dr. Roberts frowned for a brief second, then shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Fine. What was the most difficult part?”

“Saturday night, for sure.”

“Tell me more,” she ordered as she stood up and walked over to the fridge to retrieve the two water bottles that typically kept us company during our meetings.

“Well, you made me go to the bar, remember?”

“I remember.”

“That’s like my place. That’s where I go to meet people.”

“People?”

“Women,” I corrected myself.

“And… did you meet any women on Saturday?”

“Nope. You told me I couldn’t.”

“That’s not true,” she defended, shaking her head at me. “I said you couldn’t have sex with any women, not that you couldn’t talk to any women. I think talking to them actually would have been good for you, given you a bit more of a test.”

“Portland was working. That fact alone was a test.”

She leaned forward and grabbed her water bottle. “Who’s Portland?”

“She’s a waitress at that bar we always go to. I’ve been trying to get into her pants forever.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why her?”

“Why anyone? She’s hot.”

“Here’s what I’m wondering, though…” She paused and chewed on her bottom lip as she twirled a piece of her dark hair in her fingers. “From the things you’ve told me, I’ve gathered that you don’t have a problem getting women to talk to you, or even go home with you at the end of the night. Is that a fair statement?”

I nodded once. “Sure.”

“So, why doesn’t it work with this woman? And if it doesn’t work, why don’t you give up and move on to someone else? Why keep chasing her?”

“Why… ask so many questions at once?” I joked.

Dr. Roberts clenched her jaw and inhaled loudly through her nose, clearly annoyed with me.

“I don’t know, probably because I hate losing. I’m not used to being turned down, so when she doesn’t fall for my lines, it pisses me off.”

“Do you hit on her every single time you’re there?”

“Pretty much, and when she finally comes to her senses and calls me, it’ll be the most glorious day of my life.”

“Okay, enough about Portland, for now. How was the rest of your weekend? Any other tests that I should know about?”

“Nope.” I shook my head, thinking back. “Other than that it was pretty uneventful. Wait! Something did happen; not a test but still exciting in other areas.”

“Fill me in.”

“I went to Michelle’s.”

“Really? Was it a last-minute thing like last time or was this a planned visit?”

“Both, actually. She was out with all of us on Saturday night and then I sent her my daily check-in text on Sunday. Instead of just saying she was fine like she normally does, we chatted a little. She told me she had a headache, so I offered to take Matthew to storytime at the library.”

“And?” She leaned forward in her chair, anxious to hear more.

“And… I took him to the library.”

“How did that go?”

Thinking back to the weekend and my morning with Matthew, I struggled to contain my smile. “It was pretty cool. We sat on this big rug that looked like the Earth and sang songs, and the librarian read a couple of books. It was Space Day. Next week is On The Farm.”

She jerked her head back in surprise. “You’re going again?”

“Yep,” I said confidently. “We got back to the house and he asked if I’d take him again next week. Michelle said yes so I’m all over it.”

She stared at me with her mouth hanging open, not saying a word.

“Stop looking at me like that.” I laughed. “I told you, it was fun.”

“Okay, okay. Enough about storytime or we aren’t going to get anything accomplished today.” She cleared her throat. “I’d like to try it one more time. Two weeks this time. Can you do that?”

“What? Why?” I snapped.

“Relax.” She held her hands up calmly. “It’s just something I want to try.”

I bolted up from the couch in frustration and started pacing her office. “I don’t get this. I don’t get what this is supposed to teach me. Why do you care if I fuck or who I fuck?”

“This is something that might help you, Viper. It’s not for my benefit.”

“Fine,” I groaned as I sat back down on the couch, shaking my head. “I’ll try, but I’m not making any promises. I won’t go looking for it, but should a situation present itself, I’m taking it.”

AFTER A MOSTLY shitty meeting with Dr. Roberts, I needed a break. I needed to go where I could be myself and I wouldn’t be judged for it.

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