Heal All Wounds || Chapter 10. Wrennie Meets a Bloke

Author’s Note:

There are two companion pieces that go with this part of the story: John vs Stag Party, and Wrennie vs Stag Party. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

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Three days pass since the incident during the rehearsal. The issue is still not addressed, and all the participants seem to be fine with it. Which is definitely poppycock, since how can a bloke be OK with his future wife having a panic attack when walking down the aisle? She should be radiant and run faster than appropriate, her eyes bloody shining and full of ardent adoration, all happiness and unicorns and bloody rainbows. No luck in that area.

In the bath you did all possible to distract him from this topic. Pretty much you returned the favour of three orgasms, and then some. Worked out pretty well. If you forget that horrible moment when you remembered the similar moment with Phil and choked. Mouth full of bath water you coughed violently for a few seconds and then returned to your previous activity. Stuff your doubt as deep as possible, Wren. No pun intended.

Also, John is not Phil. He knew exactly what you were doing, and he let you. What does it tell us, Wren? No fucking clue. Is he trying to avoid the issue? Is he testing you? Oh bollocks, you don’t know anymore…

***

The day of his stag night comes, and in the early hours of the morning his hardly breathing body is brought home by Lan and Killian, the two of them giggling like a pair of schoolgirls. In the morning you leave him and a glass of water along with two pills of NSAIDs on his bed table in his posh flat, and since you left early you slowly walk to the research center where they moved your project last month.

That’s another issue that the two of you never ever address, while you definitely should. Once your engagement got settled, newspapers informed, all his pansy toff friends spent some time with you and drove you up the wall, the Yamazaki project suddenly received additional financing, and you and a few other lab rats, Maya being a not so surprising exception, were moved to a fancy research centre near his flat. Feel free to quote Bernie Kropp in here.

The centre is indeed fancy, and since you are done with your classes, you really don’t need to go to uni anymore. You feel sad though. It was your home for so many years, and it was really the only one you ever had. Plus Thea is still there. She switched her degree again. Technically you still are roomies, but you hardly go to your flat. Maybe you should hide there tonight. Maybe you two need some time away from each other. Maybe you need to clear your bloody thoughts. You feel very confused, and it never ends well. You start running around like a chicken that got its head chopped off but the legs are still jerking. In this condition you tend to make spasmodic decisions… Something like fleeing to Argentina…

You are walking through a small park, breathing in the smell of lilacs in the crisp morning air, when your mobile announces in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch that you’ve got a text. To your own surprise you see it is from Killian Durinson, and he demands – and you really can’t interpret all this CapsLock in any other way – that you called him right this moment.

“Killian, love, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Wren, I honestly didn’t know whom else to call…” You giggle. You are in a weird mood this morning.

“Did you wake up in a stranger’s bed, your undies nowhere to be seen, and you have no money for a cab?” Your barmy joke is met with dead silence. “Bollocks, Killian, I am not that off, am I?!”

“I am not in a stranger’s bed… I am in Lan’s bed…”

You squeak and pump the air with your fist. “Finally, love, I thought you’ll never succumb to the temptation!”

“What?!” he hisses, obviously trying to keep his voice down. “You knew?”

You laugh. “Did I know what? That you are gay, or that he has been drooling over you for the last two years?” He’s silent there, and you hope he isn’t hyperventilating. You giggle again. The tone of his next question is priceless.

“Two years?” He is hopeful and definitely pleased. Oh young love! There is nothing sweeter! You sigh, and it takes all your will power to hold your ‘awwww’ back.

“So, where is Lan?”

“He is in the shower…” You bite your bottom lip. And he’s immediately panicked. “It is not what you think… We didn’t… He didn’t… I just woke up, and we talked…” Awwww, bloody adorable! You imagine his puppy eyed look that he is no doubt wearing at the moment.

“And?…”

“We are taking it slow.” There’s some shuffling at the other end of the line, and then a yelp. “Bloody hell, I bumped my head. He has this bloody Japanese futon, and it’s so low…” There is more shuffling, and then you hear the second voice at the background. Lan is offering Killian a towel, Killian is mumbling in return. You are perched up on a bench in the park, enjoying it more than you should.

Killian’s voice is back into your ear in a second. “OK, I’m hiding in the bathroom like a spotty teenager.” You guffaw. “Shut it, Wren. I need advice.”

“I honestly don’t know what to tell you, darling. A lot of lube and…”

“Wren!” He’s hissing again. “Be serious, would you?” You are really trying, but he is just way too cute.

“Yes?”

“Am I being mental? I mean, you have seen him, he’s a bloody prince… And since I am starting this, should I even?..” He sharply exhales, collecting his thoughts, and in his next question you recognise the Durinson backbone. “Am I in danger of having my heart broken? He is my first, and if it is not the same for him, and I am going to fall really hard for him, it will be devastating.”

You smile and suddenly feel teary. What is wrong with you today? The day feels strange…

“Killian, I think we are always in danger of someone breaking our heart, but don’t you want to try? I mean, I am the last to judge… Even my trust issues have trust issues, but Lan is a decent person… And damn, you look hot together!” He chuckles warmly, and you are suddenly flooded with affection for him. As weird as it is, you realize that recently he has become one of your closest friends. You spend a lot of time together, the wedding and shite, and you are family now, in the most mental of ways, and you so want him to be happy.

“What are you going to do, love?”

“I am going to take this bloody shower, and then we are going to get some breakfast and I am getting myself some of that famous Thrandon quality brand.” You laugh, and he joins in.

“Go get him, tiger!” He hangs up, and you spend a few moments sitting on the bench, some strange emotions brewing in your blood. They are elusive, you feel like you are missing something, and you have hard time remembering where you are going. After a while you push yourself up and start walking. There is no point in wallowing in the confusion and heart searching. You are fine, your life is fine, you are marrying John Thorington, everything is fine… Bugger…

You scuff slowly into the lab, looking anywhere but where you are going, and of course the moment you are trying to get through the door, there is a person leaving.

You bump into a hard body, your nose squishes into a definitely male sternum, and you stumble. A strong arm wraps around you, stopping you from falling, your senses suddenly assaulted by an expensive masculine perfume, slightly bitter and fresh, and you are pretty much pressed into, as you realized in a mo, a six feet four gorgeous bloke. You lift your eyes and meet a pair of the most beautiful brown eyes you have seen in your bloody life.

“Wren Leary, I presume? August Anderson at your service.”

Well, hello you! And damn…

The Question of Publishing a Book

I have come to the realisation that publishing a book is like getting a tattoo.

First you don’t know what to expect, but it looks like an ace idea.

You plan and plan, and then you make a decisive leap, and go for it!

And that is when expenses start. And panic. There is a lot of panic involved. Am I doing it right? Why is everyone going to this place for it? Should I have gone with a different approach? Have I bodged it up completely?

Then comes the pain. It’s new, different… You have never felt a pain like this. It’s charring and you ask yourself what sort of a barmpot you are to have decided to do it.

There are bouts of ‘it’s not as bad as I thought’ feeling, though. And then something new pops up, and you are in agony.

There are questions to answer, and you have no idea if you are cocking it up. Also, somewhere in the middle of the process you are hit at the back of your head with a very ‘funny’ thought: it’s forever.

For all you short mortal life; and maybe, with enough ‘media coverage’ (Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.), even for a wee bit longer than that. That is the bloody scariest feeling you will ever have in life.

And then it’s done.

Just like that.

1 2 3 4

The last photo is taken after a short pause. It involved bawling. A lot. I opened the box and burst into tears. I can’t tell now if they were happy ones, or not. I felt very emotional after my first tattoo as well. It might be just a shock thing for my poor INFJ personality.

5

 

And when it’s over, you want another one.

 

 

The Question of Mental Health

When I started writing the story that later became my book “Convince Me the Winter is Over,” both protagonists had been well established characters. I had written numerous stories on fanfiction.net about them. The circumstances were different, they would have had different professions and family history, but the core qualities were the same. She had always had high intellect, a collected, slightly OCD personality, and had been introverted, empathic, and controlling. He had always shown himself passionate, courageous, imperious, impatient, and dominant.

Except this time she had a clear and undeniable mental disorder. In chapter one she mentioned scars covering her back from abuse, her inability to touch or even talk to strangers, and since the story was presented through her eyes the text was frantic, almost delirious. These days, editing the first chapters for publication I sometimes have to take a break and do some breathing exercises. Some days I just can’t edit at all. Wren in the first few chapters is resistant, avoidant and plainly unpleasant to be in the head of.

And several readers didn’t like it. They had been used to the little know-it-all Wrennie, the ‘perfect match for our grumpy King,’ the woman capable of controlling her emotions after being threatened by her husband’s sword and the woman who knew how to rule a country and its moody King.

When Wren started suffocating from painful anxiety at the prospect of sitting on the same sofa with a male person, half of those readers felt pity. Other half would question whether she was even good for him. It was John, their beloved John, the modern version of Thorin Oakenshield, and they did not want him to go through what it is like – to be with someone with severe anxieties.

I would get angry messages. Or “Poor Wren…” would appear in almost every review. Rejection or pity, these are the two most common reactions. “Pull yourself together” (also known as “Snap out of it”) or the stigma of being broken/sick/incomplete/in need of fixing.

And then I got that first personal message. A reader, and bless the anonymity of fanfiction.net, told me they were the survivour of childhood abuse and my story was important for them. They told me that every day, at least once (or a dozen times) they felt there was no way out, that the life they had built would fall apart any moment, and my daily updates made them see that there was hope.

‘Hope’ was the word that stood out for me. It reminded me that that is what art is about. About making difference, and making a statement, and if you have even the mediocre ability to do it, you have no right to not to.

Other messages came, more and more. Different stories, different people, those readers that were new, and those I had talked to many times before. I cried, I agonised over my answers for days, I felt honoured and awed.

***

When I took my draft to a professional writer to have a look at for the first time, I was told to get rid of the clinical language.

‘Don’t label it,’ I was told. ‘No one would want to read about a person with C-PTSD.’

Why, I asked myself? Because there is a stigma on mental health issues? Because people are told to be ashamed of them, to hide them?

“Stop letting yourself emotional-ise!” I was told when I would have a panic attack in my teen years. And yes, there was a word invented specifically for that state of mine.

***

There isn’t enough awareness. There aren’t enough words for it. And those words honestly shouldn’t be ’emotional-ise.’ There isn’t enough resources. When you are depressed, you have nowhere to go, and you need to, right now, and talk to someone.

We need to talk about. We need to give it names. We need to be open about it.

I felt this story had to be told.

***

I distinctly remember one personal message from that time. The reader was enraged with “poor Wren” once again appearing in other people’s reviews. She was not ‘poor,’ she was not a victim, she was a survivour, as cliche as it sounded to many. She was fighting, she was growing, she was healing.

That was and is what the story’s about. Healing.

It isn’t a love story, because it is not love that heals all wounds. The person does. Wren was trying to. John was a trigger, an impetus to shake her out of her stagnated, frozen world of highly functional and thus somewhat ‘comfortable’ anxieties. But she did it herself. Through making steps and making effort.

She has C-PTSD as a result of childhood abuse trauma.

She sees a therapist.

She has panic attacks.

She self-regulates.

She brings her mind onto breathing. It has to be done gently, otherwise it can trigger higher level of anxiety.

She is in the state of constant vigilance, she experiences fear-potentiated startle.

All that needs names. We need to talk about. We need to be open about it.

With awareness we will get rid of the stigma.