Learning to Let Go

“Mr. Frayne? I’m Dr. Blythe. Won’t you have a seat?” The middle-aged man motioned to a couple of arm chairs grouped around a small coffee table.

“What, no couch?” Jim asked, trying to hide his anxiety. He had spent years successfully avoiding this very situation, but after the incident with Dot, he had agreed to seek counseling if she agreed not to press charges.

“I can try to have one here for our next session, if you prefer,” Dr. Blythe replied. “Would you care for coffee or water?”

“Coffee would be great,” Jim said, realizing it would give him something to keep his hands busy. “Black, please. And I’m sorry for my sarcasm. I really do prefer these chairs.”

“Most of our clients do,” Dr. Blythe smiled. He set a cup of coffee on the table in front of Jim. “Please relax, Mr. Frayne. I can guarantee that everything we discuss will remain confidential. I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you.”

“I appreciate that,” Jim sighed. “It’s not easy to find privacy as Matt Wheeler’s son.” He grimaced. “I’m just thankful Dot didn’t run to a reporter.”

“So, let’s talk about it. Just why are you here?”

He flushed. “Anger management. I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately. I work in my dad’s office, and it’s a fast-paced job with a lot of travel. It’s also not what I wanted to do with my life, but under the circumstances, I didn’t know what else I could do. Anyway, I’ve been dating Dot off and on for several years now. We had a date about a month ago, and I had just found out that day that I would have to leave the following morning for Los Angeles , so I wouldn’t be able to take her to a fancy dinner the following weekend. We were in her apartment when I told her, and well, she wasn’t happy. I had had two glasses of wine that evening, and when she whined about my job and missing the dinner, I hit her before I knew what I was doing. It wasn’t a light slap, either.” He looked down. “I hit her hard enough that she wound up with a black eye.”

“Was this the first time you ever hit her?”

“I swear it,” Jim said. “Except for one other incident a few years ago, I have never hurt a woman.” He lowered his head. “It took me months to get over that, Dr. Blythe, and it was why I gave up my dream of running a school for orphaned boys. I’ve been so careful not to let it happen again. That’s why I’m here. I can’t let it happen a third time. I can’t turn into a Jonesy.”

“What is a Jonesy?” Dr. Blythe asked. “I’m not familiar with that term.”

Jim gave a wry smile. “Be glad. Jonesy was my stepfather.”

“Why don’t you start at the beginning, Mr. Frayne? Give me a brief overview of your life so far.”

“Yes, I think that would help. Only, it’s so mixed up….” Jim sighed. “I had a really happy childhood. I was named James Winthrop Frayne, the second, after my great-uncle. I loved my parents and they doted on me. Then my dad, well, Win Frayne, died when I was ten. My mom remarried a few months later. I never got along with my step-father, Jonesy, but it wasn’t that bad until my mom died when I was thirteen. He hit me for the first time the night of her funeral.”

He took a sip of his coffee. “It only got worse from there. At the worst point, he repeatedly whipped me with a horse whip, then tied me to my bed for three days. I still have scars on my back from where he left me bleeding. I finally managed to run away when I was fifteen. Went to Sleepyside, where I had been told my great-uncle lived. I hoped he would take me in.”

“What happened?” Dr. Blythe prodded after a moment’s silence.

“When I got there, I found his house deserted, and I thought he must have died. Turned out he was in the hospital with pneumonia, and he did die within a few days. He never even knew I was in Sleepyside. I was trying to decide what to do next when two girls found me, under the pretext of making sure the house was locked.” He gave a real smile. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. They tracked me down after I ran away again, and Madeleine talked her parents, Matthew and Madeleine Wheeler, into adopting me. The next two years were the best of my life. Madeleine, who went by Honey then, and I formed a club with the teenagers next door. The other girl, Trixie, became my first girlfriend, and I even began to hope we would get married one day. Her brother, Brian, started dating Madeleine about the same time, and we added two other kids to the club. We tried to devote our time to helping others and we wound up solving mysteries along the way.”

“What kind of mysteries?”

“Counterfeiting, jewel thefts, kidnappings, gun running, you name it,” Jim replied. “It was Trixie that always got us into these mysteries. She wanted to become a detective one day.” He frowned. “Even at that point, she solved cases that stumped our local police department. The more she got into mysteries, the harder it was for me to handle. I had lost everyone I’d ever loved, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her being hurt or killed. I started lecturing her, and it got to a point where she didn’t even want to tell me when she was involved in a mystery.”

“But you continued to date?”

“Yes, up until about four years ago.”

“Did you break up because of her mysteries?”

“No,” he shook his head. Tears came into his eyes. “I hurt her, badly. I was on an emotional roller coaster when I went off to college. My cousin Ben had come to stay with us for a few months so that he could finish school with me, and the day of our high school graduation, Ben, Brian, and I overheard my ‘adoptive’ father and his sister Deanna, Ben’s mom, talking. She accused him of being my biological father. We couldn’t believe it when he actually admitted it. It turned out he had been involved with my mom when they were in college. It was a couple of years later before I could bring myself to confront him, but he told me that Mom had broken up with him after they had an argument. He then went to Europe for the next semester, and not long after he left, she found out she was pregnant. Win Frayne was a neighbor and close friend of hers, and he offered to marry her. Dad found out she was married when he got back to the States, but didn’t know I even existed until Madeleine first mentioned her idea of adopting me. That was when he did the math and realized the probability that I really was his son.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Lost. I had grown up idolizing Win Frayne, and so many of my values and ideals came from him. Ben had grown up in boarding schools and essentially had the life I would have had if I had grown up knowing I was a Wheeler. We became closer when we started college, and he influenced me more than I realized.” He frowned. “It didn’t help that I was only seventeen when I started college. It was a whole new world of freedom. Sure, we went to classes, but Ben joined one of the fraternities as a legacy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to join, but he convinced me that I should. I was glad I had once I ran into an old friend at a frat party. I had no idea Dot was in New York, let alone at our school. We had some friendly get togethers, but it wasn’t long before she started pushing for more.”

“Did you want that?”

“Yes, and no,” Jim answered honestly. “Trixie was the all-American girl next door that any man would want to marry. Dot was the glamorous super-model type and I was a normal, hormonal teenage male. I wanted her physically, but not for life. I was still officially dating Trixie, and I tried to remain faithful to her, but I eventually gave in, thinking Trixie would never have to know. I really liked the sex with Dot, but soon the guilt started to eat at me, and as soon as Trixie was seventeen, I started pressuring her to go further physically than she was truly ready for. My thought was that I would break it off with Dot once I had the physical relationship with Trixie, too.”

Jim looked at the psychologist expecting to see condemnation in his face. Instead, the doctor’s expression was neutral, and he found the courage to continue. “Trixie finally agreed on Valentine’s Day, not long before her eighteenth birthday. She told me it hurt, but I assumed it was the normal pain a woman has her first time, and that she would enjoy it once the pain stopped. I didn’t want to hurt Trixie, but I was too caught up in the moment to realize how badly she really was hurting. When I finally finished and truly looked at her, I saw pain and fear in her eyes instead of the love I had hoped for. I felt like I had raped her,” he whispered in anguish.

“Dot came over the next night, and I wound up having sex with her, just to try to erase the image of Trixie’s expression from my mind. Alcohol helped with that, too, and I managed to convince myself that it was all Trixie’s fault for not relaxing, for not trusting me enough. Our relationship ended for good when she showed up at the apartment unannounced and caught me with Dot. A couple of months later, I got a call from my sister, telling me that Trixie was pregnant, but that it was someone else’s child.”

He shook his head. “There is NO way that child isn’t mine. In all fairness, I wasn’t ready to be a father, but if she had come to me, I would have done the right thing and married her. Instead, she came up with a story about it being our groom’s child and announced her engagement to him. I went home and tried to talk to her, but she stuck to her story. She had already seen my temper, and I suspect she felt like I had raped her that night as much as I felt like I had. It didn’t help when I flew into a rage and started to shake her. If her brother Mart hadn’t come in when he did, I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“What happened to the child?”

“History repeated itself. Trixie married Regan within a couple of weeks, and by that point, with my dreams shattered, it was too hard to even look at her. I covered up my pain with condescension, and determined to act as if Trixie’s story was true and that she had cheated on me. Madeleine was convinced of it, and refused to even speak to her anymore. My adoptive mother figured out the truth and kept me informed. She knew my temper, and believed Trixie did the right thing by marrying someone else, but she wanted to make sure the baby was taken care of financially after Regan moved Trixie to Minnesota. The one decent thing I did was to go with Mother to see Mr. Rainsford. He’s an old friend of both of my fathers, and an attorney specializing in family law. Mother told him the situation, and he helped me set up a trust fund for the child from the money I inherited from my uncle. It’s set up so that Trixie and Regan won’t know about it unless they’re in a financial need, or unless something happens to me. Mother is close friends with Trixie’s mom, and she’s able to stay informed without revealing why she’s curious. That was how she found out that Trixie had complications when Jacob was born. Mr. Rainsford was able to contact the hospital and legally determine the amount of her hospital bills. I had a cashier’s check anonymously sent to the hospital to pay it. Neither Trixie nor Regan would have accepted it if they had known.”

“What do you want now?” Dr. Blythe asked. “Do you want to be part of Jacob’s life? Are you still in love with Trixie?”

“I don’t know,” Jim admitted. “Part of me does want to know my son, but there’s no way I could interfere at this point.” He sighed. “I’ve thought about it. Deep down, though, I know how I would have felt if my real dad had suddenly shown up and destroyed the only family I knew. From everything I can find out, Regan is the father to Jacob that Win Frayne was to me, and he’s loved Trixie for years. I’m not going to ruin their lives any more than I already have.

“I admit a part of me will always love Trixie, but for her and Jacob’s sake, I’ve got to learn to let go. I’ve got to learn to let go of Dot, too.” He sighed and set his cup down on the table. “It started out as only physical, but we’ve been together too long for me not to love her, too, even though I know I’ve lost her now. She’s not the kind to forgive and forget, and I honestly couldn’t expect her to.” He sighed. “I’ve got to learn how to move on without them. I need to start over somehow, Dr. Blythe.” He bowed his head. “I don’t know what to do.”

“First, we help you figure out who you want to be,” Dr. Blythe told him. “Who you are isn’t determined just by your genes, and we’re all human. We all have good qualities and bad qualities. No one is defined just by their negative characteristics, nor do those have to be the only ones you inherited. You were raised by three different men, Mr. Frayne. All three of them are a part of you now, even if not biologically. Win Frayne raised you as a very young child. What were his good qualities?”

“He made me feel loved. He taught me about the outdoors and nature. He was honest and upright. He took responsibility for us when he didn’t have to.”

“What were his bad qualities?”

“He was too trusting,” Jim admitted. “He even believed Jonesy was a good man.” Tears came to his eyes. “They were friends, and I overheard my dad right before he died asking Jonesy to take care of us after he was gone.”

“And did he?”

“As long as my mom was alive, he did. He really loved her, and I suspect he did even when my dad was still alive. I admit we never got along, but we managed until she died.”

“What would you say were Jonesy’s good qualities?”

“He loved my mom,” Jim said. “That’s all I can say about him, though.”

“What about Matthew Wheeler? What are his?”

Jim smiled sadly. “Once he knew about me, he immediately made plans to take care of me, and he has. He’s got a good head for business, and he would do anything for his family.”

“What about you, Mr. Frayne? What are your good qualities?”

Jim was quiet for a moment. “I don’t even know anymore. I used to be a lot like my first dad. I tried to be honest and responsible. I still try to be those things, but other than that, I don’t like who I’ve become.”

“Do you want to change?” Dr. Blythe asked.

“Yes, and not just because I had to come here. I need to change.”

“That’s the first step,” the psychologist smiled. “Our time for today is almost up, but I’m going to give you an assignment for the week. You can think about the role models you’ve had, but you can also think of other characteristics you want to have. I want you to think about what you want to be like. Determine which of those good qualities you want to have. We’ve talked about your anger issues, and we’ll discuss ways to handle anger constructively. Think about any other negative traits you want to work on getting rid of. I won’t lie to you, Mr. Frayne. It’s not going to be easy, but if you really want to change, I can help you do it.”

“I do,” Jim said softly. “Thank you.”