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This series is a collaboration between Eric Mochnacz & Jillian Conochan.

Moira set her travel mug beside her mouse and clicked on her laptop’s power button. Her large tote bag swung off her shoulder, nearly taking out the coffee she’d just placed down.

“Struth,” she muttered to herself. Was it going to be one of those weeks?

A notification informed her that she had a new prospective client. Mark Punch. Mark Punch? she repeated. Sounds almost made up, duttinit?

Moira sat down to organize the week ahead.

With 32 active clients and only one admin, it was critical for Moira to be fairly strict with her appointments. She would see her first client in a little over an hour and then be booked with little flexibility for the remainder of the day.

Her standing 11:00 on Tuesday, a professor, would be away for the summer. Tanzania or Madagascar; somewhere exotic and wild.

Hello Mark,
Thank you for your email. As it turns out, I have availability recurring for 13 weeks beginning tomorrow at 11 AM. If this is suitable to your schedule, please reply to Camila in CC to schedule your appointment.

Moira Banwell, L.C.P.C.

“I wish I hadn’t said that…” Mark Punch stuttered.

Moira took a pause to see if Mark would continue. Always give them a moment as there is always more to say. Even when there isn’t, there is.

Mark Punch (ever since Moira read his name, she referred to him fully in her mind—she couldn’t help it. It rolled off the tongue) remained silent, eventually looking at her with pleading eyes—betting her to say SOMETHING.

“Well, Mark, in this space, you can say whatever you want to me. No judgment. That much I promise you.

“So, you were saying that you were averse to therapy because you didn’t trust our profession. We are ‘emotional vampires’? Yet, YOU emailed ME and are sitting in that seat. So, you trust me even just a little bit, no?”

Mark Punch glared at her from the couch.

“Well, I’ve known some people who have gone to therapy, and after a few sessions, they go home, break up with their partners, move out, start a new life, and block all their old connections on social media. I’m not sure I necessarily want that to happen.”

Moira’s instincts were almost always right. She started to hear a small alarm bell ringing in the back of her mind.

“Well, it sounds like you are anticipating a negative experience. We can talk about that if you’d like. Let’s start easy—what brought you here today? And what would be a positive outcome?” She put extra emphasis on the word positive.

“Well, actually… I’d like to learn more about you. If that’s okay, Moira?”

The mental alarm bell started to ring a little louder. She didn’t like the hostile note Mark Punch put on her name. But she kept her composure.

“Mark, I’d prefer to learn about you. So, what brings you here today?”

“Well, Moira. I was in a wonderful relationship—and well, he’s gone now. Turns out he was fooling around with some twink throughout the later half of our relationship. Did I KNOW?… maybe! But—I opened my home to him, shared my space, shared me. But apparently he believed in share and share alike.”

Moira’s new patient let out a throaty cackle coated in anger. He tensed and turned into a new man.

His mouth tightened into a grimace. He started repeatedly tapping his left foot on the ground and circling his right foot which was tucked under him on the couch. He started to make a fist with his right hand and drummed his fingers furiously against his thigh.

“Mark… you seem… angry?”

Eyes closed, Mark took a deep breath. Moira watched attentively as his visage softened. There was something untrustworthy about this man.

“I’m not angry,” he said pointedly, taking great care to spit back the word Moira had selected, “I am—what’s therapy speak for ‘in a negative space’?”

“Use the words you like, Mark.”

He looked back at Moira resentfully; swallowed, tried again. “I am unhappy, and feeling unhappy makes me…” his voice trailed off.

A lack of control, Moira finished for him mentally. Mark Punch was a classic case.

His eyes met hers and he struggled to conceal a pained look that rippled across his face. What was with this guy?

Mark Punch’s hour ended without much progress, which was not atypical for a first session. But their interaction stuck with Moira all day, which was atypical for a seasoned professional such as herself. She replayed his vacillation between total self-possession and wild rant while watching Taskmaster on the elliptical. She mulled over his nonverbals while stirring a pot of soup. Something was strange with Mark Punch.

Come back soon to find out what happens. Or, go back and meet Moira from the beginning.

The Prompt Staff

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