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Author's Chapter Notes:

Alyssa tries a new exercise routine.


Chapter 54 - Bringing Sexy Back


            "Ugh!" Alyssa cried in frustration as she struggled with the button on the pair of jeans that she was trying on. When she finally did manage to secure the stubborn top bottom she critically examined her reflection in the mirror not being able to ignore the obvious roll of skin that still hung over the top of the waistband. This can't be right; she tried to convince herself as she double checked the tag again. Maybe I picked up the wrong size? Sure enough though they were a size eight.


            "This is crazy," she mumbled to herself under her breath. "There is no way that I'm a size ten." Previous to her pregnancy she'd been a pretty solid size six. In her early twenties she'd been a two. She knew that becoming pregnant would take its toll on her body, but she certainly didn't expect to go up two whole sizes. Not only did she gain weight from her pregnancy, but since she'd spent the past few weeks just laying around mostly she'd possibly gained a few pounds. Not that being a size ten was horrible. She knew a lot of woman who would be happy with that, but Alyssa was petite to begin with and had always been thin. Watching her weight skyrocket like it had the past few months had been difficult for her and now that she was no longer pregnant she no longer had an excuse to justify her weight gain. She was just getting fat plain and simple.


            A knock at the dressing room door interrupted her thoughts. "Alyssa? Are you okay in there? You've been in there a while now and all you bought in was one pair of jeans," Teri's voice asked in a concerned tone. "Do you need me to get you another size or something?"


            "No, that's okay... Uhmm, I don't really like this style anyway," she lied trying to hold back the frustrated tears that burned under her eyelids. She was having a bitch of a time trying to find clothes lately since very few of her pre-pregnancy or ‘skinny' clothes seemed to fit. She refused to buy anything in a size ten especially when she was so determined to lose weight. It sucked, but in the last few weeks since she'd had her final checkup with Dr. Spencer it had really hit her how out of shape she was. Her self-esteem had definitely begun to suffer big time. She was just beginning to feel like she was maybe starting to get over Zoey, but now seeing how much her body had suffered and not even having a child to show for it, brought back a lot of rough emotions for her. She'd been talking over her new found body issues with Julia in therapy, at first feeling selfish for caring so much about what she looked like. Julia had explained to her that it was a normal female reaction to be depressed about a change in their bodies such as this, especially when they'd like Alyssa never had any weight problems before. Still, it made Alyssa insecure at a time when she was already feeling down about herself. She should be focusing on trying to decide what she wanted with Nick, but she was afraid that with the way she was looking now Nick wouldn't find her at all attractive anymore. She'd let herself go since the accident and truthfully in her current state she felt anything but sexy and attractive.


            She changed back into the jeans that she had worn out that day; the only pair she had left that still fit her well and dejectedly exited the dressing room stall. Teri immediately noticed her sulky expression. "What's wrong Lyss? You look upset?"


            "I'm fat," she flatly announced. "Those jeans? I could barely button them and when I did I had major muffin top going on. It was not attractive at all in the least bit."


            Teri glared at her and just rolled her eyes. "You're not fat. Most women would kill for curves like yours. You're completely average."


            "Average is fat to me. I've always been skinny. I mean I know that like the average woman is like a size fourteen or something, but the average woman is also like at least 5'4. I'm three inches below that, making me resemble a balloon." She sighed. "I'm just not loving my body right now."


            "Well, Tricia just texted me while you were in the dressing room. She's over at Victoria's Secret now so I told her we'd meet her there. Usually shopping for sexy lingerie always makes me feel better about myself."


            Alyssa just sighed, but followed her friend anyway. Usually she herself loved lingerie shopping with her friends, but lately the novelty of it had seemed to wear off. She felt way too disgusting for anything sexy and it wasn't like she really had anybody to wear it for right now. Despite her negativity about her body though, the two women left the current store they were shopping in and headed out into the crowded mall. This shopping excursion hadn't been Alyssa's idea. Teri and Tricia had decided to drag her out to cheer her up a little bit, but if anything their plan was doing just the opposite.


            They arrived at Victoria's Secret a few minutes later and already found Tricia already rifling through a rack of lacy looking nighties. Teri immediately went over to join her and within a few moments the two women were plucking off a few different styles that they seemed interested in. Uncomfortably, Alyssa wandered off on her own towards a display of bras. She could probably use a few new ones. Even her old bras didn't seem to fit. She suspected between her weight gain and the pregnancy she'd gone up about a cup size. I should probably have one of the salesgirls measure me, she thought to herself as her eyes searched the area for one.


            Before she could find one though, Teri approached her holding out a ruffled plaid babydoll with matching panties. "Okay, so I know that you really aren't feeling anything sexy, but you can't leave without buying something. This is cute. What do you think?"


            Alyssa wrinkled her nose at it. Under normal circumstances it would make good lounge wear, but the way she was feeling lately it seemed a little ridiculous compared to the more practical sweatshirts and baggy t-shirts she'd been living in lately. "No," she simply answered.


            "But it covers your stomach and it's pretty flowy," her friend tried to point out.


            "Yea, and perfectly highlights my thunder thighs. Face it; I think my lingerie days are over."


            Teri just rolled her eyes at her. "Stop being overdramatic. We're not letting you leave until you buy at least something." She grabbed Alyssa's hand and dragged her back over to where she and Tricia had been looking.


            Alyssa thumbed through the rack more to appease her friends than with the intention of actually finding anything. Really, most of the stuff was pretty ridiculous and not very practical. "I never realized until now how stupid some of this stuff is." She gestured to a skimpy, sheer, black, cut out teddy. "Like seriously? Who wears something like this? It's trashy."


            Tricia's cheeks reddened as she held out the exact same teddy that she already had in her arms. "I thought that AJ would like it. Guess that makes me trashy, huh?"


            Teri jumped in and placed a hand on Tricia's arm. "If you like it that's all that matters. Don't listen to Alyssa. She's just in a bitchy mood because she thinks that she's too fat to buy lingerie anymore."


            Tricia's eyes widened as she looked over at Alyssa. "Oh, puh-lese! I know you're feeling down and out about your weight, but you definitely can still pull off lingerie. Buy yourself something ridiculous. I guarantee you the minute you put it in you'll feel sexy again in an instant."


            "That's what I told her," Teri chimed in.


            Finally getting sick of the two women talking about her as if she wasn't there Alyssa jumped in to defend herself. "Lingerie is a pointless expense for me right now. I'm out of work and money is tight and I just simply can't afford to spend money on something that I have no reason to buy."


            "Yet, you had enough money to buy three pairs of shoes earlier in Macy's," Teri pointed out.


            A sheepish expression came over her face. "That's different. Shoe's are the one thing that no matter how fat you get still fit."


            Tricia rolled her eyes. "And what do you mean you have no reason to buy lingerie? What's going with you and Nick?"


            Alyssa sighed. "I don't even know... I'm trying to figure shit out first before I decide what's going on with Nick. Things are weird now. He's giving me space to get my head on straight and then who knows? The way I look now if he saw me in lingerie he'd probably beg me to put more clothes on."


            Teri just laughed. "Alyssa no offense, but the man still found you incredibly sexy while you were pregnant. I think that if he still found you attractive with a big, round belly he'll find you attractive no matter what you look like."


            Alyssa just shook her head in disagreement. "That was different. When I was pregnant he knew that I was carrying our child and that was a turn on to him. Now what's my excuse? I'm flabbier and I have stretch marks. Besides, all those hormones I had going on when I was pregnant made me really not give much of a damn of what I looked like. Sometimes I actually miss those damn hormones."


            "Well, I think you're being ridiculous Alyssa," Tricia judged. "I mean not to sound heartless, but instead of whining about how unhappy you are with your body why don't you do something about it? I mean when we go to the gym you hardly even try to push yourself. You're not going to break if you sweat a little."


            Alyssa sighed, knowing that deep down her friend was right. In therapy Julia had suggested that she do something to try to actively lose weight such as join a gym or Weight Watchers. It was then that she remembered Shayla's Christmas gift to her, so after that session she had began to put it to use. Teri and Tricia had also signed up with her for moral support. Unfortunately, working out with her friends turned out to be more discouraging than motivating. Both women were in much better shape than Alyssa and after being pretty inactive throughout her pregnancy, Alyssa realized that she was having difficulty keeping up with them. While both women could easily run three miles on the treadmill, Alyssa found it a struggle to power walk a mile and a half. When she did try to muster up a run she could only make it for maybe two minutes tops before having to stop and rest. It frustrated her that someone who used to be in such excellent physical condition now could barely keep up. The gap in her abilities and those of Teri and Tricia's was too large for her to compete with. She found herself not even bothering to push herself anymore because she knew that no matter how hard she pushed she still wouldn't be close to them. Still, she couldn't give her friends the satisfaction of admitting that they were right.


            "I just had a c-section in January! That's still considered pretty serious abdominal surgery. I don't want to injure myself even further, so I have to be careful not to push it." The excuse was the best that she could come up with for the time being.


            "Yea... You did have a c-section. In January. We are now in April. I'm pretty sure that you're pretty recovered by now," Tricia shot back, not buying it. "I don't know what you're scared of, but maybe if you just had a better attitude, you'd drop the weight!"


            Not wanting to continue the fight any longer, Alyssa randomly picked up a light blue cotton chemise. "I'm going to go pay for this. Now you can't complain that I didn't buy anything." With that she angrily strode away towards the front of the store to pay for her purchase.


            "What is her problem?" Tricia asked Teri in a frustrated voice. "Like I know she's going through a lot, but things are never going to get better between her and Nick if she keeps that attitude up. It's like she's been regressing ever since the accident."


            Teri just looked over at Alyssa sympathetically and sighed. "She's having a hard time with all this weight stuff. She's never had to watch what she ate before, so it's pretty big for her I guess. I admit there are times I want to throttle her too, but she really needs our help now more than ever. We need to think of someway to get her to feel good about herself again..."


            "I thought lingerie shopping would be good. I mean she needs to believe that she still can be sexy and desirable, but I guess that kind of backfired, huh?"


            Teri didn't answer though. Her eyebrows were knitted together deep in thought and all of a sudden a wide smirk spread out on her lips. Tricia knew the expression very well. "Oh oh... What are you thinking? You have that, ‘I just got a major brainstorm' look on your face."


            Teri just continued to grin. "I think you were on to something with the whole making her feel sexy and desirable thing. We just need to trick her into believing that."


            Tricia frowned. "Trick her? How are we going to do that? I don't think I understand what you are getting at."


            "We need to get her to do something that not only makes her feel more confident in herself and her body, but that reminds her that she's still sexy. It's a little crazy, and a little out there. She's totally going to freak at first, but I think I have just the right idea..."


            Tricia looked even more curious now, but listened carefully as Teri shared the details of Operation Bringing Sexy Back, as Teri had decided to call it. The plan was definitely a crazy one, but it was very them and hopefully just crazy enough to actually work...




            Later that week, Alyssa pulled her car into the gym parking lot and hoisted her gym bag over her shoulder as she got out and began to head towards the entrance. She was meeting Teri and Tricia for another work out session, but this time they'd decided to try one of the aerobics classes that the gym offered. Alyssa hadn't yet had a chance to try out any classes yet, but her friends had and had promised Alyssa that it was the kind of work out she'd enjoy. Having an instructor there to push her sounded like exactly what she needed and an aerobics class sounded like something she'd be a lot better at then running on a treadmill or working on the weight machines.


            All that Teri had told her was to bring water and be sure to dress in layers. This didn't strike Alyssa as odd because she knew from her dancing days that sometimes the studios could be especially cold at first, but as the classes wore on and you began to work up a sweat it was a good idea to wear layers that you could just toss off as you went along. She had dressed for the occasion in black tight fitting exercise leggings with a pair of boxer shorts over them, a tank top and a white zip up hoodie.


            She opened the door of the gym, flashed her gym membership card at the front desk and headed straight for the locker room. Once she had locked all her belongings in a locker, she threw her hair up in a messy bun and headed out into the gym area in search of Teri and Tricia. It was about half an hour until the class was about to start, so they had planned to do a little bit of working out on their own first. Finally she spotted them over by the elliptical machines and headed over to them waving.


            "Hey," Tricia enthusiastically greeted. "We weren't sure if you were going to show up."


            "Why?" Alyssa asked, sounding confused. "I'm actually really excited to be trying something new. I mean I think aerobics might be good for me. I need to have an instructor pushing me. At least I know I'll be getting a proper workout. Plus, aerobics is sort of like dance, right? I might be good at it."


            "Oh yea... Your dancing skills will probably be very useful for this class," Teri snickered.


            Alyssa frowned, not quite sure what Teri meant by that, but chose to ignore it stepping on to an elliptical right next to her. "So, does the instructor move really fast? How intense of a workout would you say it is?"


            Teri and Tricia exchanged amused glances. "Well, the instructor pretty much breaks everything down for you. As far as keeping up? Well, it's kind of work at your own pace," Tricia explained in an amused voice. "It's pretty intense though. It really works your whole body."


            "Uh huh," Teri agreed. "It's a pretty unique kind of workout."


            "Do you mean unique like Jazzercise?" she innocently asked.


            The other two women exchanged another look and laughed. "Not exactly," Teri supplied. "You'll see what we mean once the class starts."


            Alyssa gave up on trying to decode their cryptic responses, deciding that the aerobics class that they were about to take was certainly going to be an interesting one. Instead she popped in her ear phones to her iPod and began pedaling on the elliptical, letting her music distract her from the pain in her legs that she started to feel within a few minutes. She ignored it and went on for about fifteen minutes until she felt Teri tap her on the shoulder. "We're going to get going now into the studio. We want some time to get settled and stuff."


            Alyssa nodded and climbed off of her elliptical, tossing her iPod into the pocket of her hoodie. She followed her two friends down a hallway into another area of the gym that had studios set up for different kinds of aerobics, yoga, and pilates classes. They stopped outside of one of the studio doors and right before they went in Alyssa was struck with a strange feeling. She couldn't ignore the mischievous smirks painted on her friend's faces and that's when she knew that something was up. Still, she was not at all prepared for the sight that lay before her as they entered the studio. Scattered about the room were stainless steel poles that ran floor to ceiling; poles that strangely resembled the types that strippers used to dance on.


            "Oh, hell no..." were the first words out of Alyssa's mouth. She turned to walk right out of the studio, but Teri and Tricia anticipated her move and jumped in front of her to block her path.


            "Come on Lyss! Don't be such a prude!" Tricia insisted. "At least give it a try before you completely write it off. It really is a phenomenal workout. I know it sounds pretty crazy, but it works."


            "I'm sorry... There's no way that you're getting my fat ass to swirl around a pole like a fucking stripper. Even when I was like twenty pounds lighter I'd think you were insane," Alyssa told her. Sure, she'd heard of the whole striptease aerobics phenomenon. It was one of the newest exercise crazes in LA, but that didn't mean that she was ready to buy into it. She had her doubts about how much swinging on a pole could really be considered a workout anyway.


            "I agree with Tricia," Teri jumped in. "You can't judge it until you try it. What happened to being adventurous and trying new things? Tricia is right. It works out every muscle in your body and you feel sexy doing it too. Really now... What other workout can you honestly say that you feel sexy doing?"


            Alyssa just shrugged. Teri had her there. Exercising definitely did not make her feel anything close to sexy. More like sweaty and discouraged. But then again there wasn't much that did make her feel sexy lately.


            "Besides if there's one thing that you need more than anything right now it's feeling sexy," Teri continued. "So, you're going to at least give this class a try today. I promise if you absolutely hate it I won't force you to go again. Just try it this once is all I ask."


            Alyssa groaned. She really should have seen this one coming. Really, leave it up to the two of them to come up with some crazy scheme like this. She should know better by now. The whole ‘dress in layers' comment, their giggling at her naïveté... It all made sense now. She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. "Well, I guess I have no choice do I?" Her two friends shook their heads. "Fine, I'll do it, but I can't promise that I'll be able to take it seriously."


            Teri and Tricia slapped each other high fives and pulled Alyssa over to the nearest three poles they could find, so that they could stand together. Alyssa eyed her pole warily. It certainly looked easy enough in those bad VH1 reality TV shows, but she was already having visions of herself losing her balance and falling on her head or something else equally embarrassing. "So, you guys have taken this class before?" she tentatively asked.


            Both of her friends nodded. "Yea, we decided to give it a try last week," Tricia told her. "Don't worry... It's not anything that you can't handle."


            "Yea, there are a lot of different ability levels, so the instructor breaks everything down really simple for people like you who have never taken a class before," Teri added. "Sometimes she'll give you the option to simplify a more complicated move, so in that case you'll just do the basics."


            Alyssa just nodded, when Teri put it that way it almost sounded like any other aerobic class. She glanced up at the clock hanging over the wall of the studio, seeing that there was only another five minutes or so left before the class. You can do this; she mentally coached as she preoccupied herself with stretching out her tight muscles. All she knew was that she was probably in for the most interesting hour of her life. Just wait until she got her hands on her two friends, for this.




            When class ended an hour later Alyssa had to admit that she was wiped. Who knew that sliding down a pole required so much upper body strength? As Teri had promised almost every muscle in her body seemed to have gotten a workout and she knew for a fact that she'd be paying for it tomorrow morning.


            "So?" Teri asked, coming up beside her as they excited the room. "What did you think?"


            "I think that I've developed a new found respect for strippers," she answered completely straight faced which made the other two women burst into laughter. "Seriously! Like it's a lot harder than it looks and I totally understand now what you were saying about it being a pretty intensive workout. I'll be lucky if I can walk tomorrow."


            "Would you do it again?" This question came from Tricia. "I mean you seemed to do pretty well. A little stiff at first, but towards the end I think that you were starting to get the hang of it a little bit."


            Alyssa paused to think it over as they headed through the locker room doors. She had to admit that for almost the first half of the class she'd probably resembled a deer frozen in headlights. She'd been nervous and of course not expecting that it would take a few tries to even nail the most basic of moves on the pole. Somewhere towards the middle though she'd realized that her uptightness was only hindering her performance and if she wanted to not look like a complete idiot she was going to definitely have to relax herself. Surprisingly, she realized that once she'd actually loosened up a little, everything became that much easier. She even dared to say that by the end of the class she was almost enjoying herself. A sense of determination had come over her to be able to execute the provocative moves, because lets face it, she wasn't exactly the kind of woman that one thought of when they pictured pole dancing. The challenge of trying to learn something that would be considered unexpected for her did put a certain amount of thrill in her, a thrill that she had to admit she hadn't felt in a long time.


            "It actually wasn't so bad," she slowly admitted. "I'd do it again I guess. A shot of tequila before class would've made the experience much easier, but once I finally loosened up it was almost kind of fun. It seemed to be an awesome workout and I am willing to try anything at this point to shed all this extra baby weight. If it works, I'm there."


            A dark haired woman about their age looked over towards them from the corner of the locker room as she raised her foot onto the bench to tie her tennis shoe. Alyssa vaguely remembered her being in the same class with them a few minutes earlier. Realizing that she had been noticed, the woman's face reddened. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to eavesdrop," she apologized. "But, that class is an amazing way to tone up and lose weight. I just had my first child in the fall and I gained like thirty pounds that just refused to come off. I was feeling really down about myself and that plus the addition of a baby was really impacting my relationship with my husband. So, I decided to try the class out on a whim and its done wonders for me. Not only have I finally dropped all that weight, but I'm feeling so much more confident and so much more comfortable with my body. Plus, it's definitely had an impact on the connection I have with my husband. Like the sex is ten times more amazing than it was pre-baby."


            "See!" Teri elbowed Alyssa in her side. "I told you it's amazing!"


            Alyssa felt her cheeks redden. "Thanks," she told the woman. "I'm kind of in the same situation in myself." She purposely kept the details vague, not wanting to spill out her life story to a perfect stranger. "I had a c-section in January and was out of commission for a while which I think caused me to gain more weight and I feel pretty disgusting right about now."


            The woman nodded her head understandably. "Take this class two to three times a week and just try to eat better and I promise you you'll see results. Nice meeting you ladies. See you next week." She picked up her gym bag and strode out of the locker room.


            "Well, the testimonial speaks for itself," Tricia announced. "So, are you in?"


            Alyssa sighed, still feeling a tiny bit of trepidation, but it was too late to back out now. Besides, maybe this was exactly what she needed. Something absolutely crazy and unlike her to focus her energy on and get her mind off of Zoey. If it helped improve her plummeting self-esteem, rebuild her confidence, and make her lose weight throughout the whole process then those were just added bonuses, right? "All right... I'm in. But if either of you breathe a word of this to Nick you're dead," she threatened.




            "So Alyssa, let's get back to your body issues. I know that one of the last times we spoke you told me that you were unhappy with the way your body has changed since your pregnancy," Julia began their next therapy session a week or so later. "I remember we talked about doing something to improve your self image while losing weight and maybe interacting with new people. How has that been going for you? Have you gotten involved in any new activities since then?"


            "Well... I've been going to the gym," she started off. "Two of my girl friends joined up with me, so we've been working out together, but it was beginning to get a little discouraging."


            "Discouraging how?" Julia prompted.


            "They're a lot more athletic than I am. I was getting discouraged because I'd be pushing myself, but even at that I wasn't anywhere near the level that they were at. I was becoming frustrated that they could spend over half an hour on the elliptical, barely breaking a sweat, and meanwhile fifteen minutes for me and I felt like I was going to die," she explained. "I know that everyone works at their own pace and that I can't expect myself to immediately be able to run three miles with no problem after being out of commission for the last few months, but I felt myself just kind of giving up too easily."


            "Maybe you should find someone else to work out with? Someone closer to your ability level?" the older woman suggested. "Or maybe take the whole working out idea from another angle? Maybe instead of working on the machines, you should sign up for a guided class. Does your gym offer any kind or aerobics or yoga classes?"


            Alyssa nodded her head. "Actually, we did uhm sort of take an aerobics class," she sheepishly admitted, feeling her cheeks already start to turn red.


            "Good for you! And how was it?"


            "It was interesting." Alyssa made sure to pick her words carefully. "It was a lot different from any kind of exercising that I had ever done before."


            "And is that a good thing or a bad thing?"


            "A good thing." She frowned. "I think..."


            "Well, what kind of class was it?" Julia continued to curiously pry.


            Alyssa's face continued to redden as she looked away. "Does it really matter? It's a little embarrassing."


            Julia shook her head. "Nothing is embarrassing. Remember, I'm not here to judge you in the least bit. As long as whatever you did made you feel better about yourself and your body than I'd say that it was successful. That's what we want to achieve right?"


            Alyssa slowly nodded her head. "All right," she reluctantly gave in. "My friends dragged me to a strip aerobics class where they like teach you how to pole dance and stuff." Even though Julia had promised not to judge her, Alyssa still inwardly winced expecting a disgusted reaction from her therapist, but Julia's reaction was just the opposite.


            "That sounds like a great idea to me!"


            Alyssa looked up at the woman in surprise. "You do?" Julia definitely did not look like the type who would approve of something like that, but she guessed appearances could be deceiving.


            Julia nodded her head. "Absolutely! I mean it sounds like exactly what you need right now. It provides you with an excellent workout I'd assume which is only going to help you lose weight, and I'm sure that it forces a certain degree of confidence out of you, and of course makes you feel a little sexy. These are all things that you're trying to work on, right? Plus, it provides you with something new to get your mind off of your personal problems. How did it go? Did you enjoy it?"


            "Yea... I think I did," Alyssa shared, finally beginning to relax a little now that she knew that Julia was on her side. "At first it was really weird and I felt kind of stupid, but once I forced myself to relax it got a lot easier and it really did get my mind off of my problems. I sort of enjoyed the challenge of learning something new and doing something that I never in a million years thought I'd do." She paused for a moment. "It was almost empowering in a way."


            Julia smiled, obviously pleased with Alyssa's response. "And I'd imagine that it was a turn on for you because it was something that is normally considered to be ‘naughty', right?"


            Just when Alyssa had felt that she was beginning to relax again she immediately turned bright red again. One subject that she and Julia had yet to discuss was her sex life and to be completely honest talking about sex with her therapist sort of reminded her of talking about sex with her mother. It just felt awkward. "Uhmm, yea... I guess a little bit," she awkwardly agreed.


            Julia just laughed. "Alyssa, you don't have to look so mortified. I may be older than you, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy sex as much as the next person. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Human beings are sexual creatures. I am glad that you seem to be doing something to actively lose weight and feel better about yourself, but I am starting to think that maybe you're self confidence issues stem deeper than just gaining a bunch of weight during your pregnancy. Have you had a history of self-esteem issues?"


            Alyssa's back stiffened; almost amazed at the way that Julia seemed to read her so well. She sighed in defeat, knowing that she was caught. "I guess you can say I've struggled with being comfortable with who I was on and off for the last fifteen years of my life. I was kind of awkward as a teenager. Meg, my sister was always the pretty one. I was the cute, funny one. I wasn't very popular with boys in high school. I mean yea... I had a few guys interested in me I guess, but it just never worked out. I didn't even get involved in my first relationship until I was nineteen and it was a very rough one. You name it, it happened."


            "Why don't you tell me about it?" Julia sympathetically asked. "We've never talked about any of your relationships with men. It may not sound like it has anything to do with why you are seeing me, but you'd be surprised what you might learn about yourself from just looking back into the past."


            Alyssa nodded and launched into the long winded story of her relationship with Nick from the beginning. She told Julia all about how Izzy had introduced them and how excited she had been with him at first when everything was just a new and fresh experience between them. She told her about the night before he left for Sweden and how he'd wanted to sleep with her for the first time, but how she had refused, not wanting to take such a big step in their relationship when he'd be gone for so many weeks. That of course led into her explanation of Nick cheating on her with Katie and Katie later announcing that she'd become pregnant. She talked about Nick wanting to marry her so that they could have custody of Katie's child and her refusal, his marriage to Katie, and her rebound relationship with Dan. She mentioned Katie's death and the guilt she felt about it. She discussed their relationship on tour and the issues she'd went through during that time period to try to become the woman she thought that Nick wanted her to be. Finally, she told her about their seemingly happy engagement, and Nick only a few months later throwing that engagement ring into the ocean, too hung up on his parent's divorce to handle a committed relationship. By the time she was done, she'd felt as if she had shed a gallon of tears, but she did feel lighter almost. And to think that was just Phase One of their complicated relationship.


            Their hour must've been almost up because Julia held up a hand to interrupt her. "I'm very glad that you are opening up so much to me and it is very insightful to why you probably are the woman you are today, but we are running out of time for today's session. I definitely want to continue this conversation next time I see you, but before you go I just want to share with you what I've managed to pull together from your story."


            "Okay..." Alyssa leaned forward, genuinely interested in hearing Julia's analysis of her relationship with Nick.


            "First off I can definitely begin to see how your self-esteem issues played into this relationship. It's always very hard when you get into a relationship with somebody who you feel is more attractive than you and even harder when they are involved in something like the music business. I can definitely see how you would feel pressured to look and behave a certain way because you feel that is what is expected of you. Obviously though, Nick must've seen something in you that he liked originally to initiate a relationship with you in the first place. I definitely think that the birthplace for all your doubts in your relationship with him was that night you decided not to sleep with him. Your reasons were very justifiable and I can see how you very easily convinced yourself that because you did not have sex with him that particular night that is the only reason he cheated on you. That is not the case. I don't believe that he cheated on you for that reason alone. It was understandable. Sex is a big step in any relationship, but an especially big one if it is your first time like it was in your case. I think it was smart of you to wait until he came back from Europe. Of course though whenever a partner cheats it was normal for a person to blame themselves and think, ‘What did I do wrong?' "What was I not doing?' You definitely went through that phase, but you convinced yourself that he cheated on you because he did not find you sexually attractive, right?"


            "Sort of," she agreed. "I mean I knew he was attracted to me. If he wasn't he wouldn't have tried to make a move in the first place. I just kept comparing myself to other girls and I started to convince myself that because I was inexperienced and had no idea what I was doing that he wanted a girl who knew how to please him better than I could. Even later on in our relationship after we had finally slept with each other the thought manifested into well, I'm not as wild as other girls. Maybe he'd rather be with someone who was more adventurous in bed than I was. It certainly didn't help seeing girls throwing themselves at him and offering him the craziest things. It was tough... For a while I tried doing things I wasn't comfortable with just to impress him, but then I realized that I was only making myself feel worse because it wasn't me. My early twenties were a very confusing time period for me."


            Julia looked delighted with her self analysis. "You pretty much summed up everything else I wanted to touch upon. I think that you are very aware of the mistakes you made in your first relationship. You sound like you've matured a lot since then. The early twenties is a confusing time to most people in terms of who you are and what you like. I also feel like maybe you blame yourself for Nick breaking off your engagement."


            "I did at first," she honestly answered. "I didn't buy into the him being afraid of ending up like his parents excuse or the whole wanting to be single and independent thing. He never really had gotten much of a chance to go through that whole single male, string of casual one night stands phase that most guys go through. He'd been in a serious relationship since he was seventeen with a girl and they only broke up a few months before he met me. He'd had a few flings in between the two of us, but he pretty much went from one serious relationship to another. I think I understand the need for him to be independent for a period a lot better now that I am older. I mean I'd never really known anyone else, but him, so it didn't bother me as much as I guess. Plus, we got the chance to discuss the whole engagement thing a few years later and we both agreed that it was probably for the best."


            Julia looked at her watch and sighed. "I'm sorry Alyssa, but we're now out of time. I definitely would like to pick up with that conversation the two of you had in our next session if that is okay with you. I'm very proud of your work today. I think that we're finally beginning to get somewhere with you and I'm glad that you are beginning to open up a lot more towards me. Just remember, there's nothing that you can tell me that I will find absolutely terrible. Good job."


            "Thank you," Alyssa told her as she got up off the couch and exited the office. Julia had been right about one thing. By beginning to unravel the complicated past that was her and Nick, she'd finally opened the door towards ultimately confessing their affair to Julia which would only help her further get over the loss of their daughter. For the first time since starting therapy she felt on the verge of a breakthrough.