Regardless of how many times she’d been instructed to see the alliance psychologist, she could never get used to it. There was a certain anxiety of it to her, not knowing exactly what was appropriate to say. She trusted the woman fully, having known her for a few years now, but still she felt the need to guard her deepest, most troublesome of thoughts.
Her eyes drifted to the reminder flickering on her holo-display within her office, a drawn out exhale passing from her lips.
ATTENTION: MANDATORY APPOINTMENT IN 15 MINUTES.
With a simple thought, the reminder disappeared from the screen to reveal the massive workload that had been left unattended for so long. Some may have found such a prospect stressful. Overwhelming. Julianni, on the other hand, was welcoming of it. What better way was there to draw her focus away from the garbled mess that was her mind.
She stood with her normal grace, much more stable in her movements than she’d been in the past couple weeks. Her body had finally caught up to the recovery that had taken place, save for the weight loss. But that would come in time- her appetite was still returning. In a fluid movement, she crossed her office and exited the door. There was, of course, a guard posted at the door.
“Avala-haani.” A tone with professionalism, but she could hear the concern bordering on pity. Guilt, perhaps. Since her captivity, she’d caught on even more to such subtle sounds. The man straightened to attention, though remained where he stood, knowing full well where she was scheduled to be headed.
She offered a dip of her head and a smile that most certainly would pass as legitimate, turning to the door that stood just down the hall within sight. A strange feeling it was to know the office was so close. It was a comfort to know that if she needed to open up, all she had to do was walk down the hall and knock. There were many that would give anything to have that. Julianni was, however, less comforted by this fact and instead felt unease. It was not the support system she was necessarily comfortable with.
The door slid open once her knuckles gave a light knock, the scent of the office reaching out as if to taunt her. It was lavender.
She made no visible reaction, knowing full-well that the doctor often had flowers in her office during appointments to help put people at ease. A kind gesture, even if the current fragrance instead wrapped itself around Julianni in an oppressive weight.
“Doctor Aneozomi,” she said softly, bowing lightly at the waist to the older woman.
Emiri Aneozomi was already seated across from a couch, which Julianni knew as The Spot to sit.
“Avala-haani. Good to see you again. How have you been since returning to work?” This woman’s tone was harder to catch on to, though it was obviously quite inquisitive.
Julianni lowered herself into The Spot, smoothing the folds over her skirt. “It has been busy. Much was left while I was gone,” she admitted, jumping right into the session. At least it’d be over sooner.
“Too busy? Or are you happy for the fact?”
Doctor Aneozomi nodded silently as if taking an internal note. She sat with a certain confidence to her that made her seem so open. Julianni expected she was trained to do so, considering her job. After all, who would talk to a psychologist if they appeared closed off? Another question was posed by the doctor, moving the conversation right along.
“I understand you had a meeting with the designated SFRIM diplomat to I-RED. How did that go?”
Julianni considered the question, smiling with a bit more authenticity. “It went well. I had expected a much more tense evening, but Lord Iyhr was quite wonderful to speak with.”
“Wonderful to hear. A nice break away from the workload, even if it was technically business, hm?”
“I think so, yes,” she answered, though there was a hint of hesitation. Rather than question her or give an expression to suggest she expected an answer, Doctor Aneozomi instead patiently waited to see if Julianni expanded on that. Which she did, after a moment of gathering her thoughts.
“I’m having difficulty holding it together, wearing this mask. Acting as if everything is okay.” Her voice was soft as she spoke, her eyes moving to her hands in her laps. When had she begun picking at her nails? “I hear them whisper along the corridors. I see the looks that are given, the tones in their voice.”
Julianni glanced back up and towards the doorway. “The Internal Watch. The ones that know where I was.”
The doctor nodded again studying Julianni passively. “Do you think that by acting as if everything is okay, that they’ll be less concerned? Or that people won’t notice something amiss?”
She considered the questions and almost immediately came back with an answer. “It’s possible. It would at least prevent questions.”
“Do you think you’ve been convincing thus far?”
“And what about convincing yourself?”
Julianni frowned, unable to answer. Had she really been trying to convince herself as well, all this time? If she had, she knew it certainly wasn’t working.
There was a small silence, just long enough for her to process things before the doctor continued.
“Have you been able to find a place of solace? I know you mentioned previously that you are having troubles with prayer at the chapel here.”
“I may have, yes. I’ve yet to go, but there’s chapels that accept the public that SFRIM has. I asked both Mister Onzo and Lady Aspenstar about them,” Julianni explained.
“I think it would do you well to worship with them. I know you struggle between paths here, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
She’d heard this before from the doctor, but she didn’t quite believe that Emiri really understood what it meant, being caught between two worlds. Instead of speak that openly, she decided it was best to simply keep it to herself. “I plan on taking some time to go out there and do so. I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to pray with someone else, though. It’s been many years.”
Emiri smiled, reflecting understanding as she spoke. “Take your time, Avala-haani, and let it come naturally. I’m confident that you’ll find what you need to heal.” As she spoke, she moved her gaze towards Julianni’s fingers which had apparently been fidgeting and picking again. Though she made no physical change in stature or expression, Julianni heard that small sigh, just barely touching at the quiet air around them.
“I’m glad you made it a point to attend this appointment, however brief they may be,” she finally said.
Julianni nodded, even dipping her head. “Of course. I realize how important they are.” What she didn’t say, though, is that she also knew that she had no choice in the matter.
“They are. I’m eager to see the progress you make from the unfortunate circumstance you had.” The more Emiri spoke, the more Julianni could pick up that there was something more to what she was saying. Her eyes were still focused on Julianni’s hands. Keeping silent, though of course accepting of the doctor’s words, she listened.
“I’d like you to go for testing today, after this meeting.”
A frown crossed Julianni’s lips, but she was quick to stifle it. “I mean no disrespect, Doctor Aneozomi, but I just had o-”
“You know I have to order them if I have concerns,” Emiri interrupted. “I don’t do it lightly, and it’s to protect you and this alliance. Your position is not one that allows for mistakes, Julianni.”
The silence that proceeded this time was much more uncomfortable. On one hand, Julianni could most certainly understand the worries. But on the other, the lack of trust was almost like a slap in the face.
Emiri gave a small smile, though it was somewhat forced. “Your decision to remain in that clone is the main worry over all of this. I never got the chance to ask you what your reasoning was behind that. Though, I have my suspicions.”
“If your suspicions have to do with my Faith, then they would be correct.” Her arms folded, both to stop herself from fidgeting with her hands as well as to give a small comfort to herself. “God meant for us to feel suffering when He deems it fit. I realize how easy it would be to put this behind me, physically. But I do not agree that it should be done. He has a plan for all of us. Aneozomi-haani. Pressing a button and diverting from that?” Her head then shook.
“I thought as much,” the doctor said with understanding on her features again. “Each decision we make in life has consequences. I’m glad to see you’re sticking to your ideals. Just remember that just as you have to do your best to accommodate our wishes, so to do we have to accommodate yours. My understanding is that they were moments away from switching your clone, but saw the request you made in your medical file.”
Julianni’s mind flickered back to when she filled out paperwork with the request to medical emergencies and her clone state. To know that, in the end, I-RED had indeed listened to her wishes was a comfort. “You’re right,” she said with a small smile. “Thank you for pointing that out to me. I’ll make my way to the test immediately.”
Emiri stood, making her way to the office door. “Rikaato. I realize how difficult all of this may be, but remember that you have a support system in place, and it’s ready to assist you.”
It was again a small comfort, though there nonetheless. Julianni stood in kind, striding towards the door. “Thank you again,” was all she said, and she could sense that Emiri knew quite well that Julianni had no intention of fully discussing what was on her mind. Though she’d known her for years, and in fact knew much of I-RED for the same time, she felt worlds away.
The farewell was brief, and soon Julianni found herself in the medical office for her mandatory drug test. It would come back negative, of course, proving that despite what stresses she may have been under, she still had not caved. There’d been no reason. Sure, she’d been stressed, having what many would call as a crisis of Faith. But turning to those kinds of substances was not within her mind. At least, not mentally.
Her eyes darted to her fingers once the results of the test had come in. As they trembled, she silently shook her head and began her journey to the bar. She needed a drink.