By: Leddy Harper
For Marlo… who pushes me when I need it.

Looking at me, no one would guess what I have lived through. No one would know the demons that dance around inside my head. But I know them. I see them and they taunt me. I’ve been with them for a long time. They remind me of things I haven’t heard since I was young. They won’t let me forget. When my eyes are closed, I’m shown things I haven’t seen since I was eleven. The demons live in the darkest parts of my brain and at times, when I’m weak and afraid, they criticize me until I’m convinced that I’m just like her. I’m no different from her and will have the same fate that she did. Sometimes, they mock and tease me so badly that I will do almost anything to escape them, even if that means seeking help.

I have sought help countless times and they’ve all told me the same thing. I’m a survivor. That’s what the shrinks wanted me to believe, but I know it’s crap. They’d tell me I’m strong and making progress because I had figured out what they wanted to hear and recited the stories obediently. Stories that I had concocted in my demented mind while my demons sat idly by and watched.

I’d sit in front of the doctors and tell them stories of my friends and things we’ve done. I’d tell them all about my boyfriend and the love we shared. My stories would burst with exciting detail and I never forgot the little things like describing what my friends and boyfriend looked like. Describing their features was one of my absolute favorite parts. That was when they’d become real to me. They’d become more than a figment of my imagination because the shrinks didn’t know that the stories I told were all lies. The friends I had spoken so fondly of and the boyfriend I loved so dearly were all made up. The things I did and the emotions I felt couldn’t have been further from the truth. They were not my stories and they never would be my emotions. Regardless, I still pretended that they were because the truth hurt too much and I didn’t want to be tortured any longer.

I could never tell anyone how I really live and what I really do day-to-day. They’d give me the same looks I received when I was eleven. Pity. Worry. Concern. Disgust. I didn’t want their empathy or compassion. It just made me feel shame and like I had let everyone down. I learned long ago that it’s safer to keep to myself and never let anyone in. Never. If anyone really knew what went on inside of me, inside of my head, they would never understand. Not that it mattered anyway, no one ever noticed me. I was like a ghost, a figment of their imagination. I didn’t exist. I was nothing but a warm body with a dark and empty soul. I was lost. Left and never to be found again.

But did I really want to live that way forever? At what point would the demons inside me finally win? How did I feel about that? Sometimes, I felt like giving up and just succumbing to the darkness that has been my existence since day one. But then I would see glimpses of normalcy in the stories that I read, and I’d find myself yearning for a normal existence. Did I want to fight? To live and love like normal people? To feel real intimacy? I was told I was a survivor more than once… I’m sure I could be one again. I just had to try.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t do it alone.

I needed help.

I had already read her file several times, but that didn’t stop me from taking another look at it as I waited for the clock to hit six. In the twelve years I had worked as a sexual surrogate, I couldn’t remember a file quite like the one of Ivy Jaymes.

Aside from the personal information she had provided after contacting me, I also had the file from her psychologist. It was mandatory to have that in order to avoid triggers and to understand where the client was coming from. That’s the part I found most intriguing about Ivy’s file. The two sources were complete opposites. It was clear she had a different depiction of herself than her therapist. It’s not strange to view yourself differently than someone who sees you once or twice a month, but the vast differences in her two files were enough to pique my interest.

The minute hand on the clock hit twelve, indicating it was exactly six o’clock. I took in a breath as I walked to the door to greet my newest client. I often dreaded the very first appointment. It was no more than a meet and greet. A pointless interaction between someone who suffered with sexual difficulties for whatever reason and myself. It served no real purpose to me, but again, it was mandatory. Although sexual surrogates were considered therapists, we had to follow a different set of rules.

I opened the door, not knowing what to expect. Her file said she was thirty years old and single. Aside from a brief background history of foster care and an even briefer history of relationships, I had nothing to go by. I typically tried not to set expectations prior to meeting someone, but for some reason, the words in Ivy’s files had me imagining all sorts of things. I had found myself re-reading them, trying to decipher what the words meant, none of which came close to the woman that stood as I opened the door to my office.

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