The door opens and there is a pause as we make eye contact; the silence and her frosty stare are the closest I have to a greeting. I smile, idiotically, and pass her by to the safety of her pre-session space and take a seat. The clatter of cups and the kettle, and the clink of spoons as she makes our drinks are the only sounds while I sit and wait, feigning interest in the framed pictures and curios about the room. Even those everyday noises resonate warnings as loud as air raid sirens. Anticipation builds to a level that is exquisitely uncomfortable.
At last, we speak.
Our conversation ebbs and flows. In one moment we are equals, existing easily in each others’ company and talking of the small things; the next she is the disciplinarian as we speak of my goals and touch on topics attracting her obvious disapproval. I am scolded, even now, and I wither under her words. My own words falter in return and my mouth runs dry. I curse my failing courage as I am forced to swallow mid-sentence and look away from her piercing gaze. I am nerves and bravado, bravado and nerves, and as my heart hammers loudly in my chest I start to think that she may hear it. No matter: I know that she sees me – really sees me – for all of my imperfections are difficult to disguise even under the cocksure cloak I am well-used to wearing. She makes heavy promises of what is to come. I am cowed momentarily, until my lioness stirs and rises to the threat. Hackles up, she flicks her proverbial middle claw at the challenger and immediately I feel relieved. This battle is not lost.
We are role-playing, but we cannot escape the tension between us. It is as palpable as the metallic taste of fear on my tongue, and the polished wood of the school desk beneath my hands. We spar and I flit between compliance and rebellion, at war with myself as much as with her. I am taught the price of my defiance but it is not heavy enough to make my lioness yield, yet. Intensity heightens as we continue to clash, and retribution becomes harsher. I am testing boundaries and I find that they are solid and unmoving in the face of my wild attempts to free myself from them. Their presence is re-instated, forcefully, and in a place deep down inside myself, I am glad. The scolding continues and letter by letter the words penetrate past the thick walls of my pride; walls that are rarely assaulted or scaled and yet now begin to crumble. She is relentless and unremitting as she senses my demise. Our session reaches a roaring crescendo and with only her voice of steely calm and control to keep me afloat on this sea of suffering, I realise that I need her to navigate me through this. Acceptance dawns and with a final flurry of punishing strokes, it is done. Silence descends once more. The tension has gone, its threads unpicked one by one.
We share a smile.
Our war over for today, we return downstairs as veterans, eager to swap stories and revel in the moments created between us. Clinking spoons and clattering cups – now welcome sounds amidst our chatter – preface the warming tea that serves to soothe and ground me again. My lioness sleeps contentedly, safe in the knowledge that she has fought well for me today. I am recharged and revived and so gloriously grateful for the gift I have just received. There is no rush to return to the world outside but when I eventually do, I walk tall and proud and ready to face it once more.
Thank you Miss Kendal. Until next time…