Chapter 23 Sophia's POV
I managed to calm myself down just lying in bed. I tried to relax and do my calming exercises. Before I knew it, I was waking up after a short nap. I think emotions are exhausting. Of course, it could just be waking up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. When I was feeling so scared I really appreciated all the love and attention I received, now I was feeling embarrassed. My mind started heading towards some really negative thoughts, calling myself a silly child and worse, so I got out of bed and sheepishly joined the three adults at the table, not quite meeting anybody's eyes.
“Feeling better?” Gem asked me. She was sitting opposite, so facing me.
“Much, thanks. And err... thanks for taking care of me.” I quickly glanced at each of them so they knew I meant all of them.
“You're welcome.” Laura said. She was sitting next to me and she reached to rub my back in a comforting way. “Do you want to tell us what happened?”
I took a deep breath and tried to organise my thoughts. “I think I might need a female therapist. As stupid as it sounds, I started getting scared as soon as I saw him, just because he was a big man. I realised that I would probably find it difficult to relax with him, but I didn't want to be rude, so I was hoping to get through the session and then talk to you.”
“It's not stupid honey.” Gem replied. “Your mind has a valid reason to be scared of big men, we just need to convince it that what happened to you was an anomaly not commonplace. What went wrong?”
“I tried to get some distance to make myself feel better, so I sat as far away as possible. As soon as he asked you to leave, he came a lot closer to me. That stressed me out, so I tried to do my calming exercises. I think he thought I was ignoring him and started becoming irritated and maybe even angry. That made me more anxious so I tried to tell him that he was making me nervous. By that point, I couldn't calm myself down anymore. I hate being so useless.” I said, breaking down and crying into my hands. I can't seem to go five minutes without crying, which made me feel worse and even harder to stop the tears.
Gem reached over to stroke my head and Laura side hugged me. Both telling me that I wasn't useless and I was getting better. The problem with them being so nice was it didn't help me stop the crying.
“Let's change the subject.” Eve declared. “How about a gym workout?” She asked me.
“Yes, please.” Having something else to think about and do helped me the most to calm down. So I got up and went to my room to get changed. I also took a small bag with my swimming costume, since we usually finished with a few laps and a relax in the hot tub.
When I came out everyone else had vanished. I thought about going to the gym on my own and meeting Eve there, but that seemed antisocial so I waited. Gem was the first to join me. She really didn't like doing any gym work, but she would do some swimming and join us in the hot tub at the end. Laura and Eve came out together in their workout gear then we all headed to the gym.
Eve and I tried to do a similar workout to what Jane had pushed us to do, which was a combination of yoga, weights and cardio. Laura did the same but skipped the weights and Gem was out of sight, swimming. I pushed myself, mainly to try and stop thinking, or maybe to punish myself for being hard on myself. I always hated it when Jen was hyper self critical and knew it was not helpful in any way. I wasn't sure if it was a female thing or that my thinking was due to my experiences as a girl.
We then did a few lazy laps in the pool to cool down and jumped into the hot tub. We talked, but by unspoken agreement avoided anything too emotional. It almost felt like we were forming a little family. We ordered pizza and watched movies together. We had to avoid all of Laura's movies since it made her self conscious. Still, she was very knowledgable about the movie industry and was able to pick some great choices. I decided that I needed to watch some of her movies when she wasn't present. They would have more meaning to me now. I would have to chose them carefully, I didn't want to watch any where she was hurt or behaved evil.
It was a lovely, heartwarming, emotionally comforting day, after a terrible beginning. I was so lucky.
We were still gathered in the lounge watching a movie when the day caught up with me and I realised that I needed to go to bed. I wanted some way to say thank you, so I went up to each of them, gave them a hug, kissed them on the cheek and said goodnight. I went through my nightly routine as shown by Amy and started to settle in my bed when I heard a knock on the door.
“Come in.” I called.
Laura came in, already dressed in a nightie, her hair in a sleep braid, clearly also ready for bed. “We had a chat this morning when you had a nap and decided that it would be better if one of us slept with you tonight, if you don't mind.”
I smiled at her. I could hardly refuse and then scream in the night and wake everyone. “I don't mind. Did you draw the short straw?”
“No. I won the honour at a game of cards.” She smiled back at me. “Gem has a lot of work to do tomorrow, Eve sleeps like the dead and probably wouldn't wake anyway, which leaves me. I am happy to do it. I have a naturally trusting nature that has been through a couple of bad experiences recently. It feels good to let someone in again. Helping you is helping me. Tonight almost feels like a sleepover. We have had movies, pizza and now company when we sleep. Practically perfect. I think tonight has been magical for all of us, we will definitely need to repeat it.”
I opened the covers invitingly and she jumped in. When I had slept with Gem before we always started going to sleep separately and then after I needed reassurance, she would cuddle me and we would wake up that way. Laura did not wait for me to need it, but went straight for a cuddle. It was nice and almost spiritually comforting. I fell asleep thinking how nice she was and how so very lucky I was.
I did wake in the night, terrified as usual, but I think Laura knew what was happening before I did and was already stroking me and murmuring soothing words. I may have made some noise when I woke. Not the ear piercing scream I usually manage. The proactive approach was clearly effective. I fell back to sleep quickly. One of my better nights.
Eve told me at breakfast that we were still going to the meeting with the principal and on a tour of the school, but I wouldn't be starting school until a therapist said it would be a good idea. Clearly there were going to be boys and some, especially in the football team, were quite large, so, although Eve wanted me to continue my education, not at the risk to my mental health.
I asked Laura to disguise me. If I was going to tour the school with Eve, and ended up going to that school, I didn't want anyone pretending to be my friend so that they could meet Eve or Laura. I almost expected them to laugh at me. They didn't though, they treated it very seriously. Laura lent me a dark brown hair wig, chose my clothes and did my makeup so that I could hardly recognise myself. My normal day wear was trousers of one type or another, so she chose a dress with a cardigan to keep me warm, nude tights and one of the pairs of three inch heels. Essentially dressing me very different to how I would normally do so. Since I wasn't wearing sunglasses inside, the properly observant could see through the disguise, but very few teenagers were.
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