A knock made Amanda pause several treads from her front door. She listened, waited, wordlessly willing the unwelcome visitor to disappear so she could go back to her bed and book.
Unable to get herself out of bed, Amanda had decided to succumb to her anxious thoughts for that day. Normally, the choice to get up and be productive was an easy one for her. Two sleepless nights, an inability to concentrate, and an overall feeling of fatigue left her feeling numb to interests she typically partook in.
One mental health day was all she believed she needed to get back to her old self. There was no time for her to wallow in self-pity when she had two young children who needed their mother.
Recalling back to when she was a child, Amanda remembered how different her mother became when she suffered through bouts of depression. It often made her mother unrecognizable in Amanda’s eyes, like she was living with a stranger. If she could just get control over herself, Amanda could spare her girls from that same pain.
Amanda felt as if she was about to perform in a play for which she hadn’t adequately rehearsed. It was obvious to her that whomever was behind her door wanted to check in on her, ask her how she was doing by instigating conversation; a conversation she didn’t feel prepared for.
Reluctant to check the peephole, Amanda cried out, “Who’s there? Who is it?”
“It’s me,” Olivia announced. “I brought pizza. And beer.”
Amanda rubbed the back of her neck. Her arms trembled. A sudden terror filled her. Her heart hammered against her ribs, and for an instant she held her breath. Her head swam dizzily.
Why am I so scared? It's only Olivia. What, she wondered, is wrong with me?
Conquering her desire to ignore her unsought visitor, her fingers clawed at the doorknob.
Stood at Amanda’s apartment door, Olivia held up a six-pack of beer and smiled awkwardly. The pizza remained balanced between Olivia’s hip and her right hand.
“Fin send you?” Amanda asked suspiciously.
With a raised eyebrow and her head cocked to one side, Amanda reached out to grab the beer from Olivia. She offered a stiff smile, before she turned and headed towards her kitchen. Her stomach grumbled at the delectable smell of hot pizza, a reminder she had forgotten to eat again that day.
“No,” Olivia answered.
Olivia glanced around the abnormally quiet, tidy apartment, unsure if she was meant to follow. Feeling unusually shy, she hovered in the doorway with the pizza.
“No,” she repeated before she entered the apartment and closed the door behind her. “I’m here to check in, see how you’re doing.”
Amanda managed a “Hmm,” in response.
A concerned look crossed Olivia’s face as she followed Amanda into the kitchen. She put the pizza onto the kitchen table and stood still for a moment. Olivia pondered whether it was appropriate for her to search through Amanda’s cabinets for plates. She didn’t know where Amanda’s plates were located, nor did she feel comfortable invading Amanda’s privacy like that.
Instead, she pulled a chair out from under the kitchen table and sat down. Her eyes never left Amanda’s back as she did so. Olivia saw the anxiety radiate throughout Amanda’s body. Her detective’s movements were stiff, her shoulders high. Amanda was still in her pajamas, unshowered, but the dark circles under her bloodshot eyes were evidence she hadn’t gotten much sleep.
“Where are the girls?” Olivia asked.
With shaky hands, Amanda clumsily discarded the beer onto her countertop in search of the bottle opener.
“They’re at daycare. It’s already paid for, so...”
Amanda opened the drawer that held her utensils and saw the bottle opener clinging to the side amidst a disorganized mess of metal. She grabbed it, shoved the drawer closed with her hip, and expertly removed two caps from the bottles of beer.
Amanda held a beer out for Olivia to take and sat down at the table beside her. Hesitantly, she crossed her arms and slumped down in her chair, her legs wide open. She closed her eyes. Her forehead furrowed. With a soft exhale, Amanda opened her eyes again to find Olivia staring back.
The smell of the pizza enticed Amanda enough to take a peek from under the box. Amanda took a sip from her beer and put it down on the table. She crossed her legs, agitated at the delicacy with which Olivia was handling her.
“The pizza smells good. I was so busy tidying up; I forgot to eat today.”
“That happening a lot lately?”
“It’s just…” Olivia winced. She frantically pushed her hair out of her face, behind her ear. “You look like you’ve lost weight.”
“Now you sound like Carisi,” Amanda snickered.
“We’re worried about you, Amanda.”
Amanda let out a frustrated sigh. Olivia’s assumptions, although correct, made Amanda feel uncomfortable. It was an unusual occurrence for her to have others sincerely care about her well being and for the most part, she preferred it that way.
Her body language mimicked her guarded emotions. With her legs crossed, her arms holding her sides, and her head turned away from Olivia, she made it blatantly clear to Olivia how she felt about their current conversation.
“I‘m fine. I just wanna be back at work.”
“Carisi told me you’re thinking about quitting therapy.”
Olivia put her hands together and collected her thoughts, like she was about to lecture a child.
“Do you really think that’s wise?”
“I can handle it now.”
“I’d love to have you return to the precinct, of course, but only after I’ve seen some progress in your treatment with Dr. Hanover.”
“I’m not a victim. I don’t need help. It’s a waste of everybody’s time.”
Amanda knew what Olivia wanted. She wanted her to blow up, wanted to get a rise out of her. I shouldn’t be so catty, Amanda thought, but the pity in Olivia’s voice annoyed her.
Both women thought they were astute at hiding their emotions, at wearing a mask. With years of experience working alongside one another, they were skilled at noticing any sudden change in each other's personalities.
“I want you to know that you’re not alone, Amanda,” Olivia said before she reached for Amanda’s free hand.
Olivia craved physical contact with Amanda, who she assumed hated to be touched. Her need to nurture overwhelmed her anxieties about Amanda’s need for personal space. She squeezed her hand tightly and was surprised when Amanda didn’t instinctively pull away.
Having grown up in a house where physical touch resulted in bruises, it was an arduous effort for Amanda to accept any intimacy. She yearned to be touched by Olivia, to no longer feel lonely, but every fibre of her being told her it was wrong.
Olivia dropped her beer onto the table so she could cover their entwined hands with her free one. She stroked Amanda’s hand and hoped her gentle encouragement was enough to convince Amanda to open up.
Continuing, Olivia whispered, “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”
“I know that this is difficult, Amanda.”
It was Amanda’s idea of torture: Olivia repeating her name, sat there, tight-lipped and stubborn, concerned about whether she was in therapy or not.
“Frank didn’t do anything.”
“I get that but after a trauma, survivors can experience a wide range of reactions, from stress to fear to numbness.”
“I'm okay. I’m fine.”
“Are you feeling angry right now, Amanda? Do you feel like you’re in control of your emotions?”
Olivia looked her over with concern.
“You think I’m not.”
“Your face is red, your hands are balled up in fists. I’m concerned.”
There was no point in arguing further, Amanda realized. It was foolish of her to expect anything less than compassion from Olivia. It was foolish of her to shield herself from the compassion she craved.
“I think you’ve been through a traumatic experience. You’re not a superhero. You are not invulnerable, Amanda. Maybe therapy is exactly what you need. I know you’re anxious to get back to work. But..”
Amanda shifted uncomfortably in her chair when Olivia didn’t continue. “But what?” she spat.
With her voice low and calm, Olivia whispered, “Is SVU the best place for you right now?”
Even though Olivia’s intentions were good, anyone who inferred they knew what was best for her infuriated Amanda.
Unable to speak without yelling, Amanda stayed quiet. She tried to focus on her hands, which gripped tightly around both of her knees to keep them from shaking.
Olivia leaned her head to one side while her eyes searched Amanda’s face for answers. Amanda had barely maintained eye contact with her but she hadn’t run away yet.
“Healing takes time, support, counselling. You know that. If you don’t do anything about it, it won’t just go away.”
Amanda’s eyes swept the room. She couldn’t face Olivia and say the words out loud. Her eyebrows creased, but her lips remained sealed when she looked back to find Olivia still waiting for her to answer.
Olivia nodded, knowing Amanda wasn’t ready to take off her armour.
“After Lewis...” Olivia paused to control the shakiness of her voice. “After Lewis, I was terrified of walking back into the squad room. Of seeing everybody look at me differently, wondering if I was okay, treating me like I was broken.”
Amanda’s interest peaked. It was rare for her to hear Olivia wantonly discuss William Lewis, especially with her. In recent years, the women had comfortably connected through motherhood. Seldom were they privy to personal information separate from that. It was an honour for Amanda, who deeply admired her boss, to finally be trusted by Olivia.
“My therapist once told me,” Olivia pondered for a moment. “...to forgive myself. I used to blame myself for things that were out of my control. I get the feeling you might do the same?”
It was a statement phrased as a question. Olivia hoped Amanda would take the bait and finally let her guard down.
Amanda pursed her lips. She swiped at the hair in her face and tilted her head to the side. Amanda wrapped her arms around herself, as a form of self soothing.
“Yeah,” she sighed begrudgingly.
Olivia smiled sadly, knowingly. “Healing takes time. The first step in finding a pathway out of darkness is to track what’s alive. In my experience, one small spontaneous action led me to another and so on, until I was finally back in the light.”
“I’m not following.”
“Change your routine. Instead of taking the subway to work, walk. Instead of checking your phone, pick up a book. Whatever makes you happy. Concentrate on the good things in life. Eventually, they outweigh the bad.”
“I'm trying to let things go, to forgive. But I am so angry Liv, and it scares me.” Amanda hesitated as if she wanted to say more before she stopped herself.
“It’s okay. Whatever you’re feeling is okay.”
“You were right, you know. I do hate my mother. She was supposed to protect us.”
“Protect you from your father?”
“No, he never hurt us.”
“Okay, but... someone did.”
“I can’t. I don’t want to think about any of them.”
“I know how hard this is, but you gotta try to find a way to deal with it, okay?”
“I don't— I don't want anyone to know. I don't want anyone to know.”
“There's nothing you could say that would make you any less of a detective in my eyes. Amanda Rollins, stand up.”
“Just stand up.”
Amanda hesitated for a moment, but obliged and stood up straight. She faced Olivia, anxiously expecting a reprimand of some kind. All she could think about was how embarrassed she was to have let herself be a victim, and how disappointed Olivia must be in her. She stared at the floor.
Olivia hugged her, firmly.
Amanda’s petite frame made it easy for Olivia’s arms to grasp around the detective’s back. The bear hug was awkward at first, with Amanda’s stiff arms still at her sides.
Part of Amanda wanted to backup and run, but another part ordered her to stay, that she needed the physical contact. The former won and her arms reached up to hold the back of Olivia’s shoulders. Amanda’s fingers dug into Olivia, but the lieutenant made no move to stop her.
They stood there, embracing each other.
Oliva wondered when the last time was that Amanda had been hugged, while Amanda fought the tears that threatened to escape.
She bit her lip, and cried out, “I’m scared.”
Hugging the blonde tighter, Olivia whispered, “I know.”