“Is my eight o'clock here yet?” Lucy asked as she stood at the threshold to her office. She swiped a bit of the bright blonde hair that had escaped back into her bun and adjusted her suit jacket so that it sat better against her curves.
“He called just a few minutes ago and he is on his way,” Lucy's assistant Wendy said in her sweet voice. Lucy smiled at the younger woman and nodded. “Thank you. Please just let him in when he gets here. Feel free to head home once he's arrived.” Wendy nodded in understanding and Lucy clicked the heavy oak door closed behind her.
Sitting down in her oversized leather chair, she sighed as she looked out the window. The moon was bright this evening, despite the clouds trying to cover its shine. The clock above her desk showed that she had another sixty seconds before her final client of the evening arrived.
“I'm not exactly sure why I agreed to see someone so late,” she said to herself aloud.
“I presume it's because I'm so convincing,” a smooth voice said at her office threshold. She startled in her chair before turning to see her client.
“I'm sorry, I did not mean any offense,” Lucy said, quickly getting up to greet the man.
He waived her apologies off. “I understand you are doing me quite the favor. Please know it is appreciated and think nothing more of it.”
Lucy smiled. From day one, the man was brimming with charm. So much so that Lucy had to be careful around him. “Please, have a seat,” Lucy said, gesturing to the petite sofa placed beside her chair. Her client sat down gracefully and Lucy took a deep breath before taking her own seat. “It's been a week since I've seen you last. Anything happened during that time that you would like to tell me about?”
The man lifted one corner of his mouth slightly. “Work has been rather--” he hesitated slightly before saying “difficult.”
“Oh?” Lucy said with interest. “Care to elaborate?”
“When you ask so politely, how could I resist?” the man said, directing a smile at her. Lucy tried to cover her blush by reaching to her desk for a notepad and pen. “We've hired two new employees this past month. They are not doing as well as expected.”
“Can you give some examples?”
“Of course,” the man replied smoothly. “I've given them each three case assignments. They act as if they do not understand their responsibilities.”
“Well, have they attended some orientation or are they somehow expected to know what is required of them?”
The client seemed slightly agitated at the question. “They were hired because they indicated they had.a specific skill set. An orientation to this kind of work is simply not done.”
Lucy frowned slightly. “Odd. I don't seem to have in my notes what type of work your company performs. I see here you are the owner, but I don't believe you've ever told me your business?”
The client’'s features schooled as he responded, “It's not odd as it was entirely intentional. My business is completely confidential.”
“You do understand that there is something called therapist-patient confidentiality. I cannot share any details of our sessions. I cannot even confirm or deny that you are my client, or that I even know you,” Lucy explained.
“Nevertheless,” the man said with a small smile, “I don't believe it's relevant to my therapy goals.”
Lucy nodded. “Well, I'd like to help you work through this issue. Can you at least give me some generic information about how these employees have not met expectations.”
“More like failed me,” the client said with ire. “They were given tasks and they failed to complete them within the required time. What else is there to say?”
“And this bothers you so much, why?”
The man huffed slightly, shaking his head as his long, dark hair he had pulled back swayed slightly. “I expect results of people. If I give them a task and a deadline, I expect them to meet the same.”
“Is that how you feel about our sessions?” Lucy asked, unsure of exactly why she was asking.
The man’s eyes caught hers and he leaned in closer. Lucy's breath hitched as he spoke the next words. “You have met all of my expectations and more.”
Lucy's voice caught in her throat and her lips trembled slightly before she was finally able to say “I'm glad.”
The man leaned back, his dark silk suit catching the glint of the moonlight, finally giving Lucy to space to suck down some much needed air. “May I make a suggestion?”
“I'm open to one,” he replied smoothly.
“Show these two employees some compassion. Give them another week to complete the assignments you've given them. It may do you some good to relax your standards a bit.”
“I'm not sure if I can agree to that,” the man replied with a raised eyebrow.
“You came to me complaining of anxiety. We've already determined that much of that comes from your need to control everything around you. Just this once, give up a bit of control. Try and give people space to meet your expectations but on their terms. They may surprise you.”
The man looked out the window, his angled features looking even more gorgeous in the muted light. “Give up control?” he pondered aloud to himself. “A rather difficult proposition for me to agree to.” He turned and met Lucy's eyes. “But you can be so convincing.” Lucy blushed and the client stood. Lucy allowed her gaze to follow him to his full height and for a moment, she allowed herself to feel consumed by his presence.
“Ms. Lucy, as always, an hour with you passes faster than those without. I thank you for staying late on my behalf and I will take your suggestion just this one time.”
Lucy smiled and stood herself. “I am glad to hear that,” she said, as she walked her client out of her office and towards the main door.
The man stopped to pick up the briefcase he had left outside Lucy's office. Lucy watched as he opened the leather case to retrieve his gift from inside. This had become their weekly ritual, on the client's mandate. “For you,” he said, handing her a beautiful red rose.
Lucy smiled as she took the flower. “Thank you.” She walked him the few extra steps to the office's main door.
“Good night, Lucy.”
“Good night, Mard,” Lucy responded, closing the door shut behind him. Walking back to her office to grab her own belongings, she placed the bloom into a small vase on her desk, the rose from last week still vibrant as ever. She smiled, feeling somehow refreshed herself after talking to the man.
Fishing her car keys from her desk drawer, she noticed a small drop of blood on one finger. Looking thoughtfully at the droplet, she pondered aloud, “Must have pricked myself on a thorn.”