So Much Harder


everleigh_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif

Scene Title So Much Harder
Synopsis While Odessa stumbles on the path before her, Everleigh helps her find her way again.
Date October 10, 2019


Odessa is already seated in Everleigh’s office space when she arrives. Actually, she’s reclined on the leather loveseat, her shoes kicked off and resting on the floor, legs dangling off the arm, feet swaying through the air languidly.

“What’s up, Doc?” Madison’s patient practically purrs. Her lips are curved up in a feline smile, eyes tracking the therapist’s movements without lifting her head. While the mood is vastly different from their last session, it’s not out of character from the woman Everleigh read about in her files.

Everleigh does not look surprised when she walks in the door to see Odessa’s current positioning, but her lips quirk up in the slightest hint of amusement. The door is shut behind her and she moves smoothly from the door to her own seat, which she settles in and takes a moment or two to really make herself comfortable in. If this was the mood for the session, she was leaning fully into it.

“Good to see you, Odessa. I hope you’ve been well.”

“Oh, fantastic.” The sarcasm is clear, but not barbed. “They had guacamole for Taco Tuesday. What more can a girl possibly want?” Her head tips to one side, watching Everleigh settle in from her sideways positioning.

“Where do you want me to begin this time?” She lifts her brows. “I’ve got a Publisher’s Clearing House of issues we can work through.” Odessa is skeptical that anything she’s dealing with can be truly worked through, but she recognizes Everleigh’s earnestness, even if it is bringing her amusement at the moment that is not entirely kind.

“Guacamole is one of the many treasures that life brings us,” Everleigh says, completely neutrally. It’s entirely hard to tell if she’s making a joke or if she’s being serious. Either way, the avocado-based train of thought is guided aside as she looks back over at her patient. “You don’t seem to be in the best of moods, at the moment. Do we want to start with whatever seems to be on your mind?”

She chuckles. “I mean, if you want to rant about guacamole I can certainly find a way to track down what the real issue is.”

“The real issue is probably that I’m salty about what happened to the country’s avocado supply,” Odessa retorts. There’s something to it, despite the fact that it’s just banter. The amusement drains out of her face and her eyes unfocus. Or focus on something in the middle distance. It’s hard to tell. One hand curls into a fist.

“I watched Washington burn,” she says in a quiet voice. It appears that’s where they’re starting. “I knew it was going to happen days before it did. And for all my power, I could do nothing to stop it.”

“I don’t think that you’re being fair to yourself. Some things are out of our hands, no matter who you are you can’t solve every problem, even if you’ve got vast amounts of power. The fact that you couldn’t stop it isn’t the issue. The real thing that defines your character is the question of if you wanted to stop it, and what your reasons were for feeling that way.”

Everleigh smiles. “We like to think we can single-handedly do things others cannot. Sometimes it’s possible, yes, but if we go in expecting there to be one tool that performs all functions we are setting ourselves up for failure. I certainly don’t think I can come in here and make some dramatic difference in your life, but I’m a unique tool that provides a specific purpose… and that’s one step in a forward direction.”

“I could literally stop time,” Odessa responds with misplaced bitterness. “I should have been able to do so something, shouldn’t I?” It seems she isn’t willing to let go of the internalized blame just yet, but something strikes her, causing her expression to soften a bit and for her focus to return to Dr. Madison.

“You really don’t blame me for what happened there, do you?” That seems to be some kind of revelation to her. Odessa studies Everleigh’s face and posture for something beyond what her extra senses already tell her.

“No, Odessa, I don’t. I think that things are always more complicated than just one person’s actions. People will always want a villain because that’s the easiest answer. If you can point a finger at a person, say it’s their fault, they can write off things neatly. It’s easy for you to do the same thing, it’s easier for you to blame yourself for not being able to do something than it is to understand that maybe nothing could have been done. The truth is, we aren’t villains or heroes, we’re somewhere in between and it’s never cut and dry as to if we’re acting heroically or villainous. People forget that.”

Everleigh offers the hint of a smile. “So no, I don’t think your actions or lack thereof were ones that should be blamed for anything. Truth is always more complicated than that. Truth is always more complicated.”

There’s a wry smile on Odessa’s face at the notion of heroes and villains. She understands just how easy it is to paint with broad strokes, with a color palette consisting of only black and white.

Her eyes shut heavily and for a moment it seems like maybe she’s decided she’s done talking altogether and perhaps she’s just going to nap here on this couch for the rest of the session. “I was sitting with Michal in our lookout perch when he told me it would all burn. All I could think about was how badly I wanted to tell him we should just leave. But I knew he wouldn’t. One thing I always appreciated about him was his willingness to see something through to the end.”

Odessa opens her eyes again and stares up at the ceiling, her mind thousands of miles and many years away now. “I wish so badly I had made him leave with me. Maybe he’d still be alive if I’d managed to convince him.” What kind of life could the two of them have had? Likely not a good one. “But maybe there’s really only one way for things to end for people like him and I…” Guilt twists her stomach to admit, “I miss him every single day.”

“‘People like him and I’. Odessa, you’re categorizing yourself. People aren’t meant to fit in boxes. There are rarely binaries in life, especially when it comes to people. And even when there are binary categories for a person? People change. People have that choice.” Everleigh gestures around them. “This… this isn’t your prison. You are the prison. You punish yourself because bad things happened. Some of them were caused by you, yes, but not everything is your fault. You just can’t seem to allow yourself clemency for things you weren’t at fault for.”

She crosses her arms. “So tell me why that is. Why do you deserve to suffer for the wrongs someone else committed?”

“You have no idea.” Odessa pushes herself up with one arm so she can drag herself into an upright seated position. Her eyes narrow and she leans forward. “You wanna talk about how I’m the prison?” She’s not buying into it. “These walls are my prison. I am never getting out of here. Don’t try and tell me the prison is me.

She sits up straight again, making a sound of disgust. “How dare you? Real easy for you to say something like that. Maybe you are your own prison, but don’t you talk to me about how this isn’t what confines me.”

“You really think that if you weren’t in these walls that you’d hate yourself less? That you’d suddenly stop punishing yourself for things that have happened? Do you think you’d look back at events and spend nights thinking about people who were gone?” Everleigh’s expression remains neutral—she’s keeping her emotions out of this. Professionalism is necessary.

“It’s easy to paint someone as a villain, Odessa. Everyone wants something to blame for complicated issues and feelings. It seems it’s easy for you to claim that this prison is the only thing keeping you locked up. Do you really think that’s true?”

“At least if I were on the outside,” Odessa cocks her head to one side, expression contemptuous and challenging, “I could drink and fuck until I stop caring for a while.”

Yeah, because that’s healthy and absolutely not at all why therapy is necessary.

“Does nothing get a rise out of you?” She’s sizing up her therapist now, openly. “You’re so infuriatingly calm.” One corner of her mouth ticks upward in a little grin. “I’ve usually instigated a shouting match by now.”

If she’s honest, and she rarely is, Everleigh’s willingness to keep her own emotions in check is making it more difficult for Odessa to handle her own. Rather, it’s forcing her to recognize her own. She hates it almost as much as she hates knowing how everyone else around her feels all the fucking time.

Her mouth goes small and hard. Frustration writes itself plainly onto Odessa’s face. It’s easier when they lose their cool. Easier to blame the other person. She glances away from Everleigh for a moment, because even she can see the irony in that.

Everleigh gives Odessa a moment. It’ll either calm her down or rev her up, but she decides that the moment is needed so she sits, patiently waiting. “My job, Odessa, is to be here to get you to work through what you need to work through. My thoughts, my emotions, they aren’t to be at play. If I interject with what I think about something, it’s only to highlight something that’s going on or because I think it would help the moment. But I won’t fight you. You can get as mad at me as you want to, if that helps you get through this.”

She leans back in her chair a bit. “Do you feel really mad, or did you just need to get that out?”

Childishly, Odessa wants to shout I hate you in Everleigh’s face. But even she knows that’s the opposite of productive. And even if she’s not feeling terribly productive today, she knows better than to stoop to that level.

Her gaze darts back to Everleigh for a moment, then away, then back again. She’s practically fuming, nostrils flaring out like some sort of agitated dragon. Dr. Madison doesn’t play by the same rules, or maybe she’s playing another game entirely?

“I don’t know,” Odessa admits finally, unhappy about it. “I don’t know what I’m feeling anymore.” That’s a dangerous admission, by her estimations, but hopefully safe enough, given the setting and the topic. “I want to be angry with you, because I don’t like what you’re saying to me right now. I don’t like you telling me that this isn’t a prison. It is a prison, Doctor. Just because my own mind is hell doesn’t mean this doesn’t contribute.”

Maybe they can debate this like civilized adults.

Whatever game Everleigh is playing, she’s got a hell of a poker face. “I’m not telling you that this isn’t a prison. It is, by definition, a prison. What I’m saying is that it’s easy to blame the physical prison for things, for being what stands between you and freedom, you and happiness. What I am trying to tell you is that you’re…”

Here, she pauses, thinking. It takes more than a moment, just long enough that Odessa might think she’s not continuing, but then she does. “You have the delicate chain of a beautiful silver necklace. But there’s a knot, a tangled mess near the clasp and you can’t put on the necklace can’t be put on until you fix it. Your fingers are bigger than the tiny chain and it’s hard, so you fumble with the necklace and get upset at it and tangle it more. But eventually, you take your time. It takes more time than you’d like and sometimes it fails but eventually, eventually you get that unknotted. You get that necklace on.”

She smiles wryly. “Not a perfect way of phrasing it, but you’re punishing yourself. You think you deserve to be in here, so you punish yourself. Obviously, if you’re being punished, you must deserve it. You’ve created a cycle built on false logic. We’re gonna break that.”

“Great,” Odessa deadpans once the explanation is done. “If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s breaking things.” Rolling her eyes, she reclines on the sofa again, staring up at the ceiling. “I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life, I know that. But I’ve tried to do a lot of good, too. But it doesn’t balance. I can’t cancel out either of those things. The bad doesn’t cancel the good and the good can’t cancel the bad. They’re just… separate things.”

“Life doesn’t work like that. There’s no karma, no cosmic balance. I hate to be negative to those religious, but there’s no indicator that good and bad have any sort of weight to each other. Sure, people like to judge like there is, but there’s not. People don’t often look beyond that.”

Everleigh glances back at Odessa. “You’re right, though. They are absolutely separate things. Where there’s merit is what your intentions are. When people says ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions,’ they often mean that it doesn’t matter what your intentions are if you do a bad thing. I think that’s false. Sure, there are lines that I believe shouldn’t be crossed, but those are usually hard lines that most believe in. Ignorance can come into play. There’s a lot of levels when it comes to the idea of good and evil, so I guess at its core what matter is what you want to do. What you seek, what you feel. What drives you.”

“I don’t know what drives me anymore,” Odessa admits. “It’s hard to see a light at the end of this tunnel. I’m here for the long haul. What’s the point? Why do I bother?” Redemption, ostensibly. But what is there in that when there’s no hope of parole?

Something in Odessa’s gaze goes dark, her eyes narrowing faintly on Everleigh. “You should send me back to my room,” she says suddenly, like a grave warning.

“Odessa, if you’re feeling something you don’t like, don’t just bottle it up. Talk about it. Don’t just throw yourself into these self-destructive loops. You have time to figure out what you want, you don’t have to have all the answers now. Right now what you’ve got are feelings. So let’s pick through those, one at a time. Deep breath, tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Feelings now.”

Everleigh, while a little surprised at the sudden change, isn’t pulling back. She remains where she’s at, the only change being that she leans forward, just slightly.

Odessa sits up and leans forward, her expression a dangerous scowl. “I want to hurt you,” she tells her therapist. “I want to earn my keep.” Her head tilts to one side, the barest hint of a smile curving her lips. “Do you think you could fight me off? Could you sound the alarm in time for the guards to come in here and stop me?”

And like that, she leans back in her seat again, languid. Like she can’t be bothered to expend the effort it would take to attack Everleigh. “I don’t think you could.” She lifts a hand and examines her nails casually down the length of her nose.

But Everleigh's not shaken.

She sits still in her chair, the calmness about her never wavering. She either doesn't believe Odessa will hurt her or she's not scared. Either way it's a hell of a poker face. She shifts in her chair, one leg moving to cross over the other.

"No, I probably couldn't fight you off physically and this isn't about me anyway. But you said something interesting just now. You said you want to earn your keep, as if you haven't already. Are you scared that you're realizing you aren't the monster you thought? Do you deserve to be here, Odessa?"

Odessa scrutinizes Everleigh for a long moment, then goes back to looking at her nails as though she hadn’t just threatened to kill her. “You’re an odd one,” she decides. “Is that your superpower? Fearlessness?”

She doesn’t expect an answer to that.

“I’m just saying,” she returns to the matter at hand, “that I can be on my very best behavior and it’s not going to get me out of this place. Life sentence. What’s the point in being good if it’s not going to benefit me?” This is clearly something Odessa has struggled with for a long time. But as the testimony about her at Albany said, her moral compass was installed improperly on purpose.

“Oh, if we’re going into superpowers I’m afraid you’re going to find me frightfully boring,” Everleigh says, easing against the back of her chair, perhaps looking the tiniest bit relieved. “And no one’s truly ever fearless.”

The doctor gazes over at Odessa for a long moment. “Does being ‘bad’ benefit you, though? You get stuck in a place like this, people won’t want to be around you, don’t trust you, probably don’t treat you well… is that incentive to be bad? Bad is not a default. And bad always has consequences.”

“Oh, honey,” Odessa’s brows furrow, a wry little smile twisting her lips. “Nobody trusts me or wants to be around me anyway. May as well have a little fun with it, right?” Her hands lower to her lap again, folding in place over her knee.

“Bad is easy. Good is so much harder.” She rolls her eyes. “You have to think about it.” But she mentioned consequences. Odessa glances down at the floor, then back up to Everleigh. “Are you going to tell them about this session? They’ll probably put me in solitary for a while.” Speaking of consequences.

“Do you want me to tell them?”

Everleigh’s question is innocent enough. “So tell me what it is you find fun then? What about this whole situation do you think you’re having fun with?” She folds her hands in her lap. “Somehow this doesn’t strike me as anything other than you just feeling frustrated, frustrated because there’s little you can do to improve your situation.”

Frustrated that Everleigh always seems to be right.

Odessa frowns, staring off at nothing for a moment while she collects her thoughts. “Nothing is fun,” she admits. “I’m stuck in this place, waiting for death. Whether I hasten that inevitability by stepping out of line one too many times, or it comes to me after a slow crawl toward oblivion… I’m never leaving this place. I don’t know what the point is to anything. Any of it. Ever.”

“Pouting like a petulant child isn’t a good look for you,” Everleigh looks over with a raised eyebrow. “This isn’t the Odessa I’ve seen before.” A small chintap, and she leans forward. “Did something happen, Odessa? Usually I find that someone changing behaviors so drastically is due to some kind of change. Something happened.”

She doesn’t say that for some people all it takes is the change of a brand of pudding cup.

“You do know that the whole point of this is to talk to me so I can help you figure out how to not feel like this, right?”

“I thought the whole point of this was to give the people in charge of keeping me here some sense of security that I won’t just snap one day.” Odessa taps one finger restlessly against her knee. “I realized the world is passing by without me. Friends are getting married. Children are growing. Milestones are being reached, and without me. Visits are becoming less frequent.”

Odessa shakes her head slowly. “I’m going to sit here, rot, and be forgotten.” For someone who has a complex about being special, that must be a difficult revelation.

“I think you were lured into this under false pretenses. I’m not a triage nurse. I’m not here to stop the bleeding. I’m a doctor, quite literally, here to get to the bottom of things. I’m sure that the administration wants to make sure you’re safe to interact with other people, but I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in seeing you thrive, as much as possible.”

Everleigh frowns a bit at the admitted concern. “I can imagine that’s something hard to hear. It’s never good to hear people have moved forward when all you feel you’ve done is stay behind. You still have a world in here, you’re still living. If you need help trying to reach people, I can try and arrange some visits. The world isn’t over.”

“No, you’re right about that.” Odessa smiles wryly. “The world isn’t over… It just doesn’t need me in it.” Maybe — definitely — that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s honest.

Then, Odessa’s head lifts and she fixes a stare on Everleigh. “Wait… There is— There is something you could do.” She leans forward, a glimmer of hope in her eyes for the first time today. “Liberty Island. There’s a prisoner there, James Woods. If you want to give me a reason to live, you’ll go there, meet with him, and find out how he’s doing.”

Everleigh raises an eyebrow at the line about the world not needing her and is about to reply when she notes the way Odessa’s demeanor changes. “James Woods?” She takes a long time looking at her before she sits up a bit. “Is he a friend of yours? Someone worth fighting for?” For once, an unusual move for her, she actually reaches over to her notepad and scribbles down something—likely the name and location, just to make sure it’s not forgotten.

“That’s within my ability to do, most likely. You would be amazed the places they’ll let you in if you’ve got any sort of medical credential.” It’s said, half as a joke, as she looks at Odessa. “Anyway, if that pulls you out of it, I’ll ask after your friend.”

Odessa nods her head in confirmation when Everleigh repeats the name. “Yes. He’s… He’s definitely worth fighting for.” She watches the doctor pick up her pen and write down the information. There’s no urge in her to try and crane her neck and see if she’s written anything else of note.

“I’d really appreciate it. I… Don’t tell him I sent you, though.” Odessa looks down at her hands in her lap, biting her lip for a moment. “I don’t think he wants much to do with me, but… I still care about his wellbeing.”

“I’ll keep your name out of it. He can just know that someone wanted to make sure he was alright.” Everleigh seems to take that just fine, but she does get around to the question that was probably being avoided. “Do you want to talk about him? It sounds like he’s important to you, even if you want to keep him out of things.” She looks briefly at the notebook before glancing back to Odessa.

“It’s alright if you don’t. But it might be good for you.”

“I don’t know how to begin to explain it…” Especially not with that NDA she had to sign. Odessa tips her head back and lets her eyes roam the ceiling a moment. “James and I were both assets of the Company, back in the day. He was one of the few that didn’t treat me like some sort of oddity or curiosity to be studied. He treated me like a person. I didn’t… appreciate that fully at the time, but I do now.”

She sighs quietly, closing her eyes now and letting her memories, multitudes of them, wash over her. “He’s my best friend. My confidante. My protector.” It’s complicated. “But he sees me for what I am, and he doesn’t like what he sees.” Just admitting that is a stark reminder of why she should be on her best behavior. Why she needs to work hard to change her nature. For him.

“It always helps, to have someone to fight for. Even if they don’t know or understand it, it can still get you through.” Everleigh smiles over at Odessa, but it’s a sad one. She certainly feels for her. “Are you sure that’s what you are and not what the world has made you to be? I don’t believe that any one person is truly unable to change, if they’re willing to try. It’s a matter of how strong that will to fight is.”

She tips her head to the side. “What if you tried to be ‘good’? Is he enough of a reason to do it?”

“Yes,” Odessa answers without hesitation. “Unequivocally, yes.” Everleigh’s sympathy is a perplexing thing to her. Not many people feel that way. Not toward her, at least. Certainly not those who aren’t related to her in some fashion.

“I would move heaven and earth for him,” the blonde continues. “I guess I may as well start with myself before I move on to the things I have less control over.”

“You do certainly have the option to change yourself, yes. If he’s who you believe in, if he represents what you believe in, I think you should let that drive you for a while. Eventually, though, you need to do this for yourself. You have to want to change not because of him, but because you want to be a better you.”

Everleigh isn’t sure those words will sink in right now, but she clearly approves of this attitude instead of the wallowing that was going on moments ago. “You work on yourself and I’ll see about checking in on him, make sure they’re treating him alright over there. That shouldn’t be too much trouble.”

Odessa nods her head and starts to climb to her feet. “You’ve given me a lot to think about, Dr. Madison. And I—” Her lips purse, then pull into a frown. “I’m sorry about what I said earlier. You… You don’t deserve that. I just…” She trails off, gaze drifting to one side, ashamed. “I’m going to try to do better. I wouldn’t ever actually hurt you. I promise.”

She holds her hands up to show she isn’t even crossing her fingers.

"I'll hold you to that," Everleigh says, offering her a tiny smile. She rises to her feet when Odessa does, moving to escort her towards the door. "Just try and remember that I'm here to help you. I don't have to be here, but I am because I want to make a difference. That means if you need anything, you can call on me. I mean that."

She sweeps her arm to let Odessa lead the way. "We'll talk soon."

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