He didn’t say anything for a moment and then, “First off, you are fucking good enough and you are worthy. Okay? Yeah, you made a shit choice when you got behind the wheel of that car, but that’s not going to define who you are from this point on. You know why?”
My eyes widened. “Why?”
“Because you learned from your shit choice. You are still learning. You are doing everything to not make a shit choice like that again. And secondly? You have depression. So do how many million other people? I’m not trying to downplay it. I know it’s serious shit, but do you think that makes me think less of you? Depression isn’t a villain in this. The way you were trying to cope with it was. Depression isn’t the bad guy and neither are you. Not when you recognize what you’ve done.”
Tears rushed my eyes.
“And finally?” he continued. “I love you, Andrea.”
My lips parted. “Come again?”
He barked out a short laugh. “I love you. Okay? I’m not quite sure when I realized it or how long I’ve felt it, but I know that’s what I feel. Trust me. When I thought you were going to die, the panic and horror I felt? Yeah, I know how I feel.”
All I could do was stare at him.
“I’m not expecting you to say it back to me.” He gently cupped my cheeks and tilted my head back. “I don’t want you to say it back to me now, because when I hear those words, I want you to be sure. I want you to say them with only happiness in your eyes. I can wait for that. I will wait for that.”
As I stared into his eyes, in that moment, I knew that I still loved him, but I could not shake the feeling, the realization that I so did not deserve him.
I did not deserve the happy ending Dave loved so much.
“Do you really believe in happy endings?” I asked.
Dave arched a brow as he sat behind the desk. “Of course I do. Without them, what’s the point of all of this?”
It had been two weeks since I’d seen Tanner, two weeks since he’d said that he loved me and he’d wait to hear me say it with only happiness in my eyes. Two weeks where I had a hard time accepting that I deserved a happy ending.
“It’s a strange question to ask,” he commented. “May I ask why?”
The last thing I wanted to do was talk about Tanner with some oddly attractive guy. Why, oh why, did my counselor have to be a dude? “Tanner said—”
“Oh, the dreamy Tanner?” He grinned when I narrowed my eyes on him. “Continue.”
“He said that he loved me,” I told him.
Dave picked up the baseball. It was like he had a special relationship with the damn thing. “Is this a bad thing? From what you’ve said, he’s a good guy.” He threw the ball up and caught it. “Or do you not feel the same?”
My heart did a little jump. Answer enough. “I…I love him.”
“Does he suck at kissing?”
I rolled my eyes.
He chuckled and then quickly sobered as he clenched the ball. “Do you think you don’t really deserve it—the happily ever after?”
I pulled my legs up and wrapped my arms around my knees. A moment passed and Dave waited, and from prior experience, I knew he literally would sit there and wait until I opened my mouth. “I don’t know,” I said, shrugging one shoulder. “I mean, I’m a fuck-up and I’m a shitty person. I could’ve killed someone, and he…he deserves someone better than that, you know?”
“Having depression does not make you a fuck-up, Andrea.”
I frowned. “That’s not what I mean.” Or was it? I was still coming to terms with what it meant to have something that was shaping my life.
“We obviously haven’t gotten through your skull yet. Not completely. I see I still have lots of work to do,” he said, placing the ball on the desk. It rolled to a stop against a large binder. “That’s good. I like job security.”
“Ha. Ha.” My lips twitched, though. “Seriously. I just…I just want to be normal.”
“You are normal,” he replied. “Depression does not make you abnormal. Neither does anxiety, but the way you cope with it, the way you treat it, is what can make you abnormal.”
I nibbled on my lower lip, mulling that over.
“Let me ask you a question. When you volunteer at the suicide call center, do you think the people you talk to are fuck-ups?”
“God.” I scrunched up my face. “No.”
“Do you think they’re abnormal?”
“No. I think…I think they just need…” They just need help. God, I closed my eyes, exhaling softly. A few minutes passed before I reopened my eyes. “I think that’s why I volunteered there. Maybe in a way I related to them. Maybe I was coping…”
“And that would be a good coping mechanism as long as you’re not bringing that home with you.”
I hadn’t. At least as far as I knew. We’d talked about my volunteering before. Dave thought it would be a good idea if I backed off from that until I had a better grip on everything.
“I’m going to ask you another question.” Dave inclined his head. “Do you think I’m a terrible person?”
Odd question. I looked around the room. “Um, no?”
He sat back, resting his ankle on his knee as he studied me. “When I was close to your age, maybe two years older, we had a lot of things in common. I didn’t drink a lot.” He smiled. “Or at least I didn’t think I did. I just liked to relax on the weekends or whenever I was out with friends or when the day was stressing me out.”