Arnold was trying to get comfortable on the red sofa while Dr. Maddox watched him twist and turn in amusement. She’d told him they wouldn’t begin until he was relaxed and he had spent the past half hour attempting to do just that. He finally curled up his body, like he did while sleeping in his old cat bed, and then looked at her and nodded.
She made no attempt to hide her amusement at his chosen position, “Are you comfortable?”
“This is the best we’re going to get.”
The doctor smiled and prepared her pen, “That was faster than I expected.”
Arnold raised himself, a little indignant, “How long were you ‘expecting’?”
The psyciatrist decided it would be better not to answer that, “Let’s try not to be distracted,” The cat slowly nodded his agreement and she sat back in her own chair. “I’d like to start at your childhood, or should I say kittenhood.”
“No.” Arnold’s reply caused Dr. Lionheart to look up at her friend with a frown. He continued, “I don’t want to talk about that yet.”
Dr. Maddox stared into his slitted blue-green eyes for a few moments sadly. She knew that something had happened between him and his family, and she also knew that he’d lived on the streets for years traveling from city to city as an urchin. She didn’t know the full story, but she needed to know now. “I understand that this will be difficult for you, but I can’t help you until you open up to me. Not just as a familiar, but as a person.”
Arnold frowned unhappily, he knew that she was right…but that would bring up Id, and he wasn’t ready to talk about her yet. “Can we work up to my childhood instead?”
The doctor considered this for a few moments, and then agreed, “All right, we can get back to that soon enough. What are you willing to talk about first?”
The cat lowered his head into his paws in thought for a few moments, before he looked back up at her, “There is one thing I’ve been wondering about for some time. How do I have any friends?”
“We’ve talked about this before, Arnold.” Maddox lectured. “You are not a horrible friend. You kept me alive when we first came to this city, and I’d have probably forgotten about that bathtub threat if you hadn’t brought it up again.”
“For once, I didn’t mean it like that.” Arnold said with as much of a twist to his mouth as a muzzle allowed. “I meant how do I have any friends? I’m terrible company most of the time.” Even after a month his encounter with Lo still confused him.
“Oh,” Maddox smiled again, amused. “Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that Father had a theory about that.”
“Dr. Solsen?” Arnold was instantly suspicious, because he didn’t think nearly as much of the man as Dr. Maddox did. “What was it?”
Trying to keep an innocent face she said, “Some people just like grouches.”
Arnold blinked in surprise. “That’s it?”
Maddox tried to make a straight face and failed as she began to chuckle into her own hand. In between breaths she managed to say, “That’s all there was to it.”
“That’s…” Arnold spluttered for a few moments, “That’s not a real theory!” Maddox burst out laughing, and Arnold was close to joining her. They spent the next few minutes like this, until finally Maddox caught her breath and wiped a tear from her eye.
“Apparently Thad came up with this theory when you reminded him of an old, very grouchy, friend of his…called Oskir, I think.”
“Oskir?” That name reminded him of someone, and then he recalled a man who he had known a few years ago. “We ate out of the same trash can sometimes.”
The doctor doubled over at his revelation, chortling once again, and she eventually managed, “Thad always did like to take in strays.”
“Well if Dr. Solsen’s theory is correct then there’s nothing wrong with me.” Arnold said loudly, no longer taking anything he said seriously. “There’s something wrong with them. They’re the ones that need to be on your couch.”
“If there is something wrong with everyone who is your friend, then I think I’m the least qualified to help them.” Maddox replied, abandoning her original intent to be his therapist for the night. The two talked for a while, just enjoying each other’s company. They spent over an extra hour in that chair and the couch talking, and when it got late they went to the Cocoa Java together before they went home. Arnold agreed to a weekly schedule for every Wednesday, and also promised they would actually work on his issues then.
Before they said goodnight however, the doctor had one last question to ask, “So when are you going to tell me about you and Njal?”
“Who says that there’s anything between me and Njal?”
“Didn’t you have a date with her last night, after the party?” Dr. Maddox asked, who had seen the two whispering to one another.
Arnold just shook his head and went on his way, laughing on the inside to himself.