Submitted Date 02/04/2019

Chapter Two


I spent the following days after my meeting with Anna feeling very unsure. Unsure if therapy was just going to be a huge waste of time. Unsure if I really did want to open up about my feelings to this woman who I don’t even know. Unsure how anything she does or says can possibly fill this gaping emptiness that consumes me each day.

As I sit at my desk, turning on the phones and preparing to begin my day, I try not to think about Anna, to think about the weekend that’s ahead of me instead. It’s Friday, meaning I only have to get through the next eight hours before I’m done with work for the week and can go hibernate in my room for the entire weekend. I went to the grocery store last night, stocking up on frozen pizza, cookie dough ice cream, and cheap red wine, the kind that comes in a one and a half liter bottle. I look forward to these types of weekends, when I have no plans, no need to leave my apartment. When I can just lay in bed, falling in and out of sleep, losing track of what time or day it is. They’re always short-lived though, because then Sunday night comes and it’s back to my loathsome job, my loathsome life.

I work as a receptionist at a pediatrician’s office and I hate every second of it. The only reason I took this job was because it’s only a few blocks from my apartment and because it was an entry level position. Now, I’ve been here for a total of four and a half years, although I’m not really sure where the time went. They don’t pay me nearly as much as they should after being here so long (only $15/hour which isn’t much in Chicago), and I hate being around whiney, snot-nosed children all day. It was never my plan to be working here for so long. I guess I just got comfortable. Plus, looking for jobs is so tedious.

“Good morning, Olivia,” Jolene, another receptionist who works here, greets me brightly as she strolls in with her daily cup of Starbucks in hand.

“Good morning,” I reply. Jolene walks through the little half door and comes back behind the counter, setting her coffee cup and oversized Coach tote on her desk next to her computer.

Jolene only works from eight to noon on weekdays because she has a daughter who goes to morning preschool that she has to pick up and take home at lunchtime. From noon to one, I’m here by myself because we rarely have any appointments during that time. Noon to one is my favorite hour of my day here, my sole hour of peace. Then Ava comes in for her afternoon shift, which is one to six, when the office closes. My scheduled hours are eight to four Monday through Friday, but if we’re busy, I end up staying until five because Ava gets overwhelmed really easily when she’s by herself. She’s this fifty-five-year-old Irish woman with cropped red hair and an annoying tendency to misfile charts.

As Jolene logs into her computer, I grab the remote and turn on the TV that hangs in the corner of the small waiting room. I flip through the Disney movies that are loaded to the television, deciding on Lilo and Stitch to start off the day. I’ve seen these movies so many times now that I can practically recite all the lines of each and every one of them.

The door opens and in walks the first patient of the day, Isaiah Bundy. I refrain from asking his mother if there is any relation to Ted when she walks up to the receptionist’s counter.

“Hi, my son, Isaiah, has an eight o’clock appointment with Dr. Carver,” she tells me. I get her checked in and put her son’s chart in the bin to my left for the nurse to grab. We don’t have too many appointments scheduled for today, and as I wait for the nurse to come take Isaiah back, I watch him slip a grubby finger into his right nostril and begin digging around. After a moment, he pulls his finger out and wipes whatever he found in there on the bottom of his chair while his mother types away on her iPhone beside him.

If this office has taught me anything, it’s that children are disgusting, hyper little beasts who get sick all of the time and listen to their parents none of the time. I never wanted kids before, but this job secured that decision pretty much immediately after I started it.

“Isaiah,” our nurse, Jackie, calls from beside me. He rises, along with his mom whose eyes are still glued to her phone, and they both follow Jackie down the hall and into one of the examination rooms.

“Any big plans for the weekend?” Jolene asks me. I hate when Jolene tries to make small talk with me. Her and I could not be any more different from each other. She’s this twenty-eight-year-old bubbly blonde from Texas with a daughter in preschool and lawyer for a husband who really doesn’t need this job at all. The only reason she works here is because she loves kids so much that she wants to be around them all day long (gag). I, on the other hand, am twenty-four with no kids and no husband and I need this job in order to just barely afford to live comfortably in my tiny studio apartment. All I want to do is sit here in peace until our next appointment gets here at 8:30, but she just has to make small talk with me.

“Not unless you consider eating an entire frozen pizza in bed by myself big plans,” I reply.

She laughs and I can see her shake her head out of the corner of my eyes. The receptionist desk is set up in a big L shape, so I sit at the part that faces out into the waiting room, while Jolene sits at the part that faces the wall. I’m in charge of checking patients in, and she’s in charge of answering the phones and pulling charts.

“You are too funny,” she says, tossing her long, blonde hair over her shoulder so it falls down her back. “My daughter and I are going to the American Girl Doll store this weekend for a little mommy-daughter time,” she continues even though I didn’t ask (and really don’t care) what her plans are for the weekend. “Kevin and I bought her that Luciana doll for her birthday and now she wants to go eat with her at that cute little café they have there and pick out some new clothes for her. They have so many new dolls out now! I remember when there were just a few of them to choose from. My very first doll was Kit, and I just loved that thing to death. I took her with me everywhere! Did you have an American Girl Doll growing up?”

By the time she finishes her American Girl Doll story, a dull headache has begun to set in the right side of my temple. “No,” I say. Sometimes, if I keep my answers really short, she takes the hint and stops talking to me.

“Really? That’s so sad to me. That doll was like my best friend when I was growing up. I’d brush her hair, put her in cute little outfits...”

Clearly this is not one of those times. I focus my attention on the TV screen and try to tune her out while Lilo looks through all the dogs at the shelter on screen.


We both jump at the loud shriek coming from the room down the hall.

“Isaiah, that’s enough!” I hear Isaiah’s mother shout. Jackie comes out of the room, and I already know what she’s about to ask me.

Rolling my eyes, I rise from my seat before she gets the chance to. “Can you watch the front?” I say to Jolene as I head back to help hold Isaiah down for his shot.

Jackie smiles a closed lip smile at me and murmurs, “Thanks,” as we both head into the room where Isaiah is writhing around on the exam table while his mother and Dr. Carver attempt to calm him down.

“Isaiah, please,” his mother begs him. “You need this shot so you don’t get sick. It’s just a quick pinch and then it’s over. Then you can pick out a sticker.”

“NO!” he shrieks once again, squirming around so that the paper beneath him crinkles.

“Come on,” Jackie says to me. She holds his right arm down, while I take his left. “Mom, I’m going to need you to hold his legs down for me.”

The mother grabs her son’s shins and gently presses them down onto the exam table. I keep one hand wrapped around his forearm and the other pressed down against his shoulder while Dr. Carver gets the shot ready. I wish he would hurry the hell up because at this point, Isaiah is pink-faced, crying and shouting and trying as hard as he can to jerk out of our grasp.

“Alright,” Dr. Carver says, bringing the needle over to his arm. “Just a quick pinch now. One, two, three.”

When the needle pricks his arm, Isaiah lets out a piercing scream that turns my dull headache into a pounding one. Dr. Carver sticks a little blue Band-Aid on him, and Isaiah stares at his arm, as if to make sure it’s still intact, with snot and tears running down his face.

“You did so good,” his mother coos, smiling at her son and patting him on the leg. Actually, you did terrible, I want to tell him. And you shouldn’t encourage this behavior with positive reinforcement, I want to tell his mom. But instead, I move away from this blubbering child and return, silently, back to my seat at the receptionist’s desk.


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