Tamara sinks in deeper.
Tamara has made a fateful decision to marry older federal judge Blaine Castellan. After a year, the marriage has grown emotionally abusive and cold. Further complicating things, Blaine has two children from his previous marriage—surly seventeen-year-old Justin and adopted eight-year-old Kateryna. To top it off, Tamara is secretly in love with associate psychologist Gil Payne (unbeknownst to him).
Tamara surreptitiously plans to end the marriage, but stepdaughter Kateryna has already lost two mothers. Plagued with guilt and as a psychology graduate student, Tamara is aware of Kateryna’s alexithymia (emotions without words) and the incidence of severe emotional disturbance.
Against Blaine’s wishes, Tamara enlists Gil to begin therapy with Kateryna at his clinic without Blaine’s knowledge, hoping to stabilize her stepdaughter before making a hasty exit.
But instead of the therapy solving the problem, it begins to sink Tamara even deeper into a complex situation whereby the ensuing divorce would evoke yet another life crisis for Kateryna from which she might not emerge.
Excerpt from Soul Tie—Kateryna's therapy (unedited):
“Well?” I asked while seated across Gil’s desk in his office on a bright Tuesday morning. The sun slanted through the paned windows, and I’d dressed carefully for the occasion in my new plaid suit. “How is Kateryna doing?”
Gil’s modest appearance in his slightly frayed, conservative clothing sharply contrasted with my own. After clearing his throat, he faced me. “I was hoping Blaine would accompany you this morning because what I’d like to discuss regarding your daughter is rather recondite.”
I frowned, a bit sketchy as to what the word recondite meant. I made a mental note to look it up at a later time. “Blaine is in the middle of a lengthy trial,” I explained, the peace of sitting alone in the same room with Gil slowly beginning to work its magic. Even with the trammels of dishonesty on my part lurking between us, I felt an ever-deepening connection to him.
“He hasn’t contributed to this process,” Gil stated, visibly concerned. “Perhaps we could arrange a meeting after hours sometime?”
I knew Gil never returned to the Center after six o’clock in the evening, and I doubted he did at the clinic either. His day generally began at seven, so it was already long. “He’s rarely home early,” I hastened to explain. In another minute, I was going to confess the forged signature. My weariness with Blaine had reached a breaking point. I also discovered that as Kateryna’s other legal guardian, I didn’t need Blaine’s consent. I longed to be honest with Gil for a change.
“I could come by your home in the evening if necessary.”
I was tempted to reply that it would be a dream come true as long as Blaine wasn’t around. Instead, I lied again. “All right, let me talk to Blaine and get back to you.”
Gil sighed and glanced down at the papers before him. “Kateryna exhibits a marked flat aspect and almost no desire to initiate a conversation. Do you find her to be this way at home?”
I nodded. “Yes, she keeps very much to herself. After a year, she shows almost no attachment to me.”
“She’s attached to you,” Gil assured me.
I stared in surprise. “Did Kateryna tell you that?”
“Tamara, if you were to go away on a trip, perhaps, I believe it would affect Kateryna profoundly. It’s just that, at this point, it would be difficult to read. I assure you, she feels things very deeply.”
A feeling of horror began to overtake me. I’d assumed a few months of therapy would help Kateryna to the point where I could escape the marriage relatively guilt-free. I thought of the long years ahead leading up to her eighteenth birthday. There was absolutely no way I’d be able to survive it. I began to feel lightheaded like I might hyperventilate.
“Are you all right?” Gil asked, as sensitive as ever.
I nodded and gulped the coffee he’d provided earlier. “Yes, fine,” I managed, lying again. Three strikes, and you’re out.
“She is beginning to open up a little,” Gil explained. “And she’s participating in art therapy with Marie. I’ll have Marie discuss her observations another time.”
“I’m not sure I agree that she’s attached to me. If anything, she’s closest to Blaine’s sister, Jansey.”
“She’s never mentioned Jansey.”
“She does talk about you, however.”
“You see,” Gil explained, “The loss of her biological parents and Betty is world-shattering. Even if it’s not evident in Kateryna’s behavior, you meet her emotional and psychological needs.” He paused.
I sensed he was thinking of Blaine’s lack.
“She’s quite close to her aunt,” I insisted, knowing Jansey had filled in for Betty and would undoubtedly stand in for me when I left.
“Do they spend a lot of time together?”
Truthfully, Jansey saw Kateryna for an occasional overnight visit when she typically bought her a gift she didn’t need. And she rarely babysat her any longer since Blaine had coerced me to change my schedule. “Not really,” I replied.
“I do not mean to imply any criticism toward your husband. I realize being a federal judge is a demanding career. But Blaine’s lack of participation in Kateryna’s therapy thus far implies that you are the person in her life currently meeting her physical and psychological needs.”
I sighed inaudibly. Gil was right. But I didn’t want him to be. My deepening significance to a troubled stepdaughter in a failing marriage and Michael’s physical decline left me no chance of my emotional deprivation lessening.
“Kateryna is going to begin journaling to help manage difficult life experiences. I feel she’s locked in a severe emotional blockage, and it’s affecting all of her current behaviors. As we work through this and help her release these emotions, it would be wise to prepare for a distinct change in her personality.”
“Do you think she’ll become happier?” I asked with hope. Kateryna wasn’t a happy child. She wasn’t any definable emotion at all.
“Not initially,” Gil warned. “It will probably be quite the opposite. What I hope you’ll see is a temper manifest in her. She has every right to be angry over how her life has turned out. And she must feel that before she can appreciate what her life is like now.”
“I see.” If Kateryna developed outbursts, I doubted Blaine would consider it an encouraging sign. He felt his daughter to be well-adjusted because she caused no problems. Conversely, Justin proved an unending bane to his father’s existence with his surly attitude and reckless behaviors.
“Anyway, as the therapy unfolds, we’ll reevaluate things. It would help if you kept me apprised of any changes you see at home. Blaine, too,” he added.
“Okay.” If Kateryna were to make a breakthrough, then what? Considering the dysfunction in her home, might she not become like Justin in a few years? My stepdaughter had parents who did not love each other but pretended that they did, an older, troubled brother headed for inevitable disaster, and an emotionally unavailable aunt who was a shopaholic. She would find herself again, only to live in an upside-down world.
“I feel very positive regarding Kateryna and her therapy,” Gil assured me. “She’s a remarkably perceptive and intelligent child.” He smiled kindly.
I wondered if Gil and his wife had ever planned to have children. For a moment, I imagined Gil as Kateryna’s father. I did not doubt that she would have emerged from her shell long ago and blossomed under his loving, solicitous care, as would I. Perhaps he could have helped Michael, too. As dedicated as Gil was to his profession, he maintained a sort of equilibrium that neither my brother nor I possessed. Michael and I were like two ever-toiling sailing ships lost at sea.