Short Story Prompt – Make a list of five things that you’re afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to the character…

Thanks, Ms. L! (I cheated a little with this one, though. You’ll see…)

The List

In the past, she had therapists who couldn’t abide by her silence. Some would visibly shift uncomfortably in their leather chairs while waiting for her to respond; others would allow it for mere moments before breaking the silence apart, eventually pressuring her toward a reply/conclusion that they themselves created.

Robin Thurston was nothing like this.

Dr. Thurston had a way of almost retreating into the shadows after posing a question or a thought, almost disappearing into thin air while Jean customarily took her time to wrap her mind around an idea. It was jarring at first; she had become used to impatient therapists, using their intolerance as an excuse to continue with the desperate and toxic acts that now framed her life. Ultimately, however, she realized that—surprise, surprise—Dr. Thurston was neither intolerant nor a fool. She simply wanted to help her.

That morning, after they did away with their usual pleasantries, Dr. Thurston placed a blank sheet of paper on the glass coffee table that sat between them. Jean regarded her and waited. They tended to do these kinds of exercises. Dr. Thurston would ask her to write down silly things like her favorite memories from childhood, or five things she was grateful for. To date, not one exercise had resulted in Jean writing anything down. She wanted to tell Dr. Thurston that she was killing trees, wasting paper on someone who was enshrouded in so much darkness.

“I want you to write a few things down for me,” Dr. Thurston said.

Jean sighed inwardly. It would be another quiet session, another blank piece of paper.

“Make a list of five things you’re afraid of happening to you.”

Swallowing thickly, she peered at Dr. Thurston, waiting for an explanation. They’d never done something like this before.

“Go ahead, Jean. Here’s the pen; write them down.”

With trembling fingers, she accepted the pen and picked up the piece of paper. There was no need for her mind to assimilate the request, as she was prone to do. She began writing, and quickly.

Death

Assault

Drowning

Spiders

Everything

Dr. Thurston looked over the list, and then smiled. “These are the first honest things you’ve said to me in the six months we’ve known each other, Jean.”

She nodded slowly, unable to halt the hot, unrelenting tears that descended onto her chin, her neck, her clothes.

“Now,” Dr. Thurston said, gently tapping at the piece of paper, “now we can talk to each other.”

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