“How was your week?”
Greg sat with Snowball on his lap, thinking about that question. It always took him a little by surprise, even though it was always the first question that Dr. Freemarket asked him.
As always, Dr. Freemarket—he was allowed to call her Dianne if he wanted, but Greg felt funny doing that—waited for him to answer, but not in a way that made it seem like she wanted to hurry up. She was very nice like that.
Of course, she was a therapist, so someone had probably taught her how to be nice in school once.
Greg took a breath, hand on Snowball’s shell. “It was good, I think.”
Dr. Freemarket nodded. “Would you like to talk about why it was good?”
“I did…well on a test in school,” Greg said. “I only got a B-, but that’s because I forgot some of the answers. I knew them, though. I just forgot them.” And that was okay, he reminded himself. It was okay to forget things, it didn’t mean anything was wrong with him.
“That’s a very good mark,” Dr. Freemarket told him with a smile. She was a very tall lady with long black hair that she wore in a beehive. “So school is going okay overall?”
“Yes.” Greg thought that was true. “I went to gym twice this week. I had to leave halfway through on Wednesday. But on Tuesday I stayed the whole class.”
“Did something happen on Wednesday?” Dr. Freemarket asked, legs crossed.
“Um…” Greg tried to remember. He’d gotten overwhelmed and left the class to hide in the bathroom for a half hour. “We were playing soccer. I think someone shouted at me.”
“Were they angry?”
“No.” Greg shook his head. “They were just shouting because it was soccer. I…I’m not very good at soccer. I think I might have thought he was mad at me when it happened. But I thought about it after and realized it was probably just because he was far away and it was loud.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Dr. Freemarket said with a nod of her head. “I’m glad that you were able to think about it afterwards and realize what happened. That’s good.”
“But…” Greg held Snowball a little tighter. Dr. Freemarket had suggested he bring something to hold when she’d noticed him picking up the things in her office and playing with them while he talked. At first he’d worried that it would be silly to bring a stuffed turtle to his therapy sessions. But she’d told him if it made him feel better, he should do it. “I should be able to know when it’s happening, not a whole afternoon later.”
“And that’s something we can try to work on, if you like,” said Dr. Freemarket. “But I’m just very happy, because two months ago you wouldn’t have been able to recognize that your classmate wasn’t angry without someone else to tell you.”
Greg thought about that for a minute, trying to remember what he’d been like two months ago. All he really remembered was that he’d been very scared. Which he still was. He wasn’t sure he’d changed that much. “Okay.”
“Do you think you could tell me what you were thinking while you were in the bathroom?” Dr. Freemarket asked him.
“I…guess I was thinking that I…was scared,” Greg said, after a minute. “Of soccer. There were a lot of people running around really fast and it was hard to keep track of everyone and I couldn’t…I was afraid.”
“What did you do in gym class on Tuesday?”
Greg blinked, trying now to remember back a whole other day. “Running laps.”
“May I make a suggestion?”
“Okay.” She never just told him to do things. She always asked him first.
“You should speak with your gym teacher. Find out what you’re going to be doing on each day. Instead of trying to go whenever you feel up to it, try to go on the days when you think there’s an activity that won’t trigger you like the soccer did.”
Oh. Greg hadn’t thought that the soccer had triggered him. He just thought he’d gotten scared. Oh. Okay. “Am I allowed to do that?”
“Greg, you are allowed to do anything you need to that helps you be safer, so long as you aren’t hurting someone else to do it.”
Right. He knew that, he remembered that. Greg still wasn’t sure he believed it. “Okay.”
Dr. Freemarket watched him for a second. Greg wondered what she was watching. He wasn’t doing anything, just sitting on the sofa, holding Snowball. “How are things at home?”
“They’re good.” Greg took a breath. “We’ve been watching some movies. Murder on the Orient Express.”
“Did you figure out the mystery?”
Greg nodded. “Owen’s cousin came over for supper with his boyfriend one night. I stayed and talked to them for a little while.” He swallowed. “Gavin is teaching me how to play cards. And…I haven’t had as many nightmares. Sleeping in Owen and Gavin’s bed sometimes is helping, I think.”
“It sounds like everything is going well.”
“So may I ask what’s bothering you, then?” Dr. Freemarket said.
“Uh…nothing?” Greg held Snowball tighter, rocking back a little in his seat. “Everything is good.”
“Good.” Dr. Freemarket nodded at that. “How’s Darby doing?”
Greg squeezed Snowball’s leg. “He’s good. He’s with one of his friends right now.” He was with Giacomo. They were doing a fundraiser for their school.
“I’m asking just because you haven’t mentioned him yet,” Dr. Freemarket said. “Normally you bring him up several times.”
“Oh.” Greg hadn’t realized he’d done that. “I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize. You’re free to talk about whatever you want, and to not talk about whatever you don’t want. Did something happen? An argument, maybe?”
“No,” Greg said, shaking his head. His hand shook with him. “No, we didn’t have an argument. We’re going to play a computer game after we get home.”
“That’s good,” said Dr. Freemarket. “I’m glad things are going well.” She didn’t say anything else. and she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t press him. She was letting him decide if he wanted to say something else. He didn’t have to. Sometimes he didn’t. If he didn’t, she’d change the subject for him, like she had a few weeks ago when he hadn’t wanted to talk about Denver.
Crap. “I want to have sex with him,” Greg said, looking at the low table instead of Dr. Freemarket.
“Ah. That’s a very big step for you, isn’t it?” She didn’t sound scandalized or upset.
Greg nodded, so embarrassed. “I know, I know I’m not ready for that. I get scared just thinking about it. I can’t even take off my shirt when he’s in the room.”
“You don’t have to feel bad about that. Sometimes we want things we’re not ready for.” Dr. Freemarket paused for a second, then when Greg didn’t say anything, said, “Is he pressuring you at all?”
“No,” Greg said immediately, shaking his head hard. “No. He wouldn’t do that. He wants to…with me. I know he does, he told me. But he told me he didn’t want to until I was ready. He’s not pressuring me or anything. He wouldn’t do that.” Darby liked sex a lot, but he would never force someone to do it with him.
“Good, I’m glad. Have you talked to him about it?”
“Yes. A little. Sort of.”
“Well, a few weeks ago when he told me he wanted to. And…the other day…”
Dr. Freemarket gave him a second. “What happened the other day?”
“We were in the bathroom. Uh. Darby wanted to do this challenge he saw on the internet where he was trying to balance a shampoo bottle on his…” Greg couldn’t finish the sentence. He had a feeling he didn’t have to. “He asked me to take the pictures for him. He…he borrowed a pair of my underwear.” Greg nearly whispered that last part, because he was picturing it again as he said it.
“You don’t have to tell me any details you’re uncomfortable sharing,” Dr. Freemarket assured him, in a nonjudgmental voice that Greg appreciated even if he knew she’d probably learned that in school too. “If there’s something you’d rather keep to yourself.”
No, Greg wanted to say it. He tried to power through. “I took the pictures on my phone and sent them to him.” His heart was hammering. “I kept them after. I didn’t tell him. I should tell him, shouldn’t I? I’ve been looking at them a lot.”
“It would be a good idea to tell him. I imagine he already knows.”
Greg did too, but what if he didn’t? “Okay. I’ll try to tell him. I. Um. Also did it myself later. The challenge. I didn’t tell him that either.” He’d also borrowed a pair of Darby’s underwear to do it in. Which he also hadn’t told Darby. He was such a pervert.
Greg blinked, drawn out of his head for a second. “It…it is? It’s not weird or creepy or…”
“It sounds to me like you’re exploring your sexuality in a way that you’re mostly comfortable with. Considering how you feel about people touching you, photographs might be a good start for you,” Dr. Freemarket suggested.
Oh. That kind of made sense. Greg didn’t really like the pictures he’d taken, but he’d kept them anyway. “Do you think I should send one to Darby?”
“That’s your decision. It’s your body, and you get to decide whether or not you show it to someone. Just be sure before you do anything that it’s what you really want.”
“How do I know if it’s what I really want?”
“That’s up to you to decide.”
There was so much that was Greg’s to decide. It was almost overwhelming. “I’m…I’m worried I’ll make the wrong decision.”
“That’s normal. None of us knows what the right answer is, Greg.” Dr. Freemarket smiled. “Everyone is trying to find it, just like you. We’re all constantly trying to figure that out.”
“Okay.” Greg didn’t know if that made him feel better. It made him feel something, but he didn’t know if it was better. A different kind of scared, maybe, but Greg didn’t think he could find the right answer. Not on his own. Snowball was a reassuring presence on his lap, reminding him of Darby. And Owen, and Gavin. Owen had once told him that if he ever needed anything, he only had to ask.
Asking for help was the best way to get help. Greg had used to be too afraid to say anything, nevermind to ask for help. He’d been too afraid to realize that he did need help.
Greg needed help. “You’ll help me try, right?”
And Dr. Freemarket nodded at him. “Of course. Why don’t we try and figure out a way you might talk to Darby about the pictures?”
Greg nodded. “Okay.” Maybe he was getting better, just a little.
Getting better was a lot of work. It was hard. And he knew he’d never be all the way better, not really. But he was trying. He was working on it.