Publication date: April 11th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Mara Goodwin is a professional keeper of secrets, or that is what she intends to be. As a counseling psychology student at Northwestern, Mara’s ambition is unrivaled. She has the grades, the compassion, and the dedication, everything she needs to gain entry into the clinical psychology program.
However, after a traumatic experience leaves Mara in a state of mental distress, she finds herself keeping more secrets than she intended, most of them her own. Finding herself in trouble with the law, her dreams of being a therapist are jeopardized and as a consequence, Mara is ultimately forced into group therapy. While in therapy, Mara holds on to her secrets with a death grip, but when life comes full circle, her past is revealed and with it the potential to destroy her future career, her friendships, and ultimately herself.
Mara is a fighter, even if she doesn’t know it yet, but with each attempt to salvage what she can of her broken life, she is met with a consistent punch to the gut. After being pushed to the edge by meddling roommates, a persistent ex-boyfriend, and a potential new boyfriend, Mara comes to the precipice of her destruction. Yet with her destruction also comes her rebirth, and revelations of love, pain, and growth.
“Have a seat, Mara,” she said. She directed me to an empty chair across from her desk.
The chair next to it was occupied by a firm-looking man with a serious demeanor. Dr. Bradley moved with grace across the room to her desk. She was a small woman, and when standing, I towered over her a good six inches. She had to be in her late forties, but she looked younger. She had a gentle appearance to her face, and her blonde hair cascaded softly onto her shoulders. She dressed like I used to. In heels, nice fitted skirts, and blouses varying in color from pastels to rich reds and blues. She was nothing like the other professors, who seemed to be permanently glued to their khaki pants.
I took my seat, and the man in the chair leaned back and assessed me as if he was taking inventory. I want to punch his gut for looking so hard. He wore some gray dress pants, tennis shoes, and a powder-blue polo with a badge dangling from his neck that had a number and read Probation Officer. In his lap was a manila envelope that read MARA J. GOODWIN.
“Shall we get started, then?” Dr. Bradley spoke as she adjusted herself in her seat. “Mara, this is Officer Chad Lowe.”
I reached out to shake his hand and the roughness of it made me cringe inside. They were calloused, and pieces of dry skin were flaking away.
Dr. Bradley started to speak again so I glided back into my chair, subtly rubbing the hand he had shook on my skirts to remove any skin remnants.
“He is the probation officer that the courts have assigned you. We were meeting before you arrived to discuss whether or not you will be graduating with us and continuing your education here after the events that transpired in April.”
I tilted my head down in shame like a five-year-old being told to go to the corner.
Dr. Bradley continued. “Because I am familiar with you and the circumstances regarding the medical and legal troubles that you have had this semester, I have taken it upon myself to work with you and Officer Lowe to determine whether or not you, me, and the courts can work towards a solution that allows you to finish the counseling psychology program with us and move forward as you had planned.”
I was overcome with joy. The most I had had in a very long time. They were going let me finish my degree, even after what I had done. I was certain that the decision was made out of pity and not mercy, but I didn’t care. My body became giddy with excitement.
“However, Mara, I do believe the first question that needs to be answered is whether or not you want to finish this program.”
I leaned forward in my chair. “Yes,” I said without hesitation. “I’ve worked for this my entire life. I’m not a quitter. I want to finish, I do.”
“All right,” Dr. Bradley said as she sat up in her chair with delight. “That settles that, but there are a few things that we need to discuss before we proceed. First, Mara, you need to understand that you are the exception and not the rule. We do not condone violence in any form, and most students would have been removed immediately. Physical assault on a classmate, or anyone, for that matter, is not and never will be tolerated in this program or academic institution. However, the circumstances regarding your attack on Erin and Jason played an important role in our decision and the decision of the courts.”
I nodded my head in agreement.
“In order for you finish this program and secure your future position in the clinical psychology program you will need to agree to a few terms and conditions.”
“Absolutely. Anything,” I said.
“Officer Lowe will explain in more detail next week when you meet at his office because we are short on time today, but you will need to abide by the rules of your probation as it is set by the courts. Also, you will need to make up the clinical hours that you missed this past semester this summer and fall in order to graduate on time to be eligible to start classes second semester. Officer Lowe, is there anything else you would like to add?”
I looked over at him, sitting in the chair, fingering the pen in his hand.
“Ms. Goodwin, as Dr. Bradley has stated, I am your assigned probation officer. She has spoken highly of you and has informed me that you are tenacious, gritty, and dedicated to your studies. I trust that you will do what is necessary for you to remain a student here.” He opened the manila folder. “According to her and other character witnesses, you are a model student and your records show that you have had no previous encounters with the law, no priors and such.” He closed the envelope. “So I am hoping that you will continue being a model student and citizen. Make the right choices and things will be easy.”
“You will be required to meet with me once every two weeks to discuss your academic progress,” Dr. Bradley said.
“And according to the judge,” said Officer Lowe, “you will also be required to complete three hundred hours of community service, but the judge was lenient and arranged for your clinical hours to count towards this. You’re a lucky girl, Ms. Goodwin, very lucky.” And as the word lucky left his mouth, my smile turned to a frown. Lucky is not what I would describe the unfortunate event that got me in this mess in the first place. Dr. Bradley knew what he said struck a nerve.
“Lucky, huh?” I said as I stared at him. I could feel the hardness in my face.
“Thank you so much, Officer Lowe,” Dr. Bradley said hastily as she reached out to shake his hand. “I know Mara will be on top of things.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I said, still hearing the tension in my voice as he stood to leave.
“Thank the judge,” Lowe said. “I’ll see you in my office next week.” He walked toward the door and grabbed the door knob but paused before he opened it. “And Ms. Goodwin, there is one more thing.”
I turned in the chair so I could see him.
“You must also attend a weekly support group.”
The sweats were back. This time with a vengeance.
“Yes, Mara, I almost forgot,” Dr. Bradley said. “Dr. Moore has started a therapy group for some of the clients she’s been working with, she believes that having you there would be a nice addition.”
Group therapy? I was going to kill Dr. Moore.
“I will be in contact with Dr. Moore to make sure that you are meeting the conditions of your probation. Good luck.” He walked out and shut the door behind him.
I was glad he was gone. I needed to speak to Dr. Bradley alone.
“Dr. Bradley, I like Dr. Moore and I am glad you recommended her to me, but I don’t think I can—”
“Mara, she wouldn’t want you there if you couldn’t handle it. It’s all a part of getting you better, and now it’s part of the deal so…” She threw her hands up in defeat.
I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t say anything. That was the deal. Not doing it wasn’t worth putting my education on the line. Finishing this master’s and ultimately my Ph.D. had been my dream for the past seven years. Besides, I had accumulated too much student loan debt, so I needed that Ph.D. salary coming out. I stood up and made my way to the door and Dr. Bradley followed.
“Thanks again,” I said, dazed as the storm cloud seized my mind again.
She patted me on my back. “You need to heal.”
I knew she was just trying to help, but I didn’t want to hear that soppy crap. I had to go to group and share with strangers. Just more mess inserted in my life against my will. My own knowledge and seeing Dr. Moore once a week was fine. I didn’t need a third intervention. I could take care of myself. Just me in my own little corner, minding my mind, minding my own business. I didn’t need anybody.
I have loved writing ever since I was a young child in school and after years of procrastination I finally decided to go for it and write my first novel. When I'm not writing or reading I love spending time with my puppy, listening to music, and binge watching shows on Netflix.
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