"I love books, Doctor Lexicon," I say. "Hardcover, softcover, classic, trashy. Every kind of book. Even e-books. I always have."
He nods sympathetically and then urges me to continue.
"When I was young, I wanted to be a biblipole. I'd scour garage sales hoping to discover an original Little Women. That came in two volumes, you know. Or a forgotten first edition Whitman." I sigh. "I was so naive."
"How so?" His voice is high-pitched, Freudian.
My face floods with shame. It's the reason I'm lying on his couch again.
"I love all books," I repeat. "And books are made up of words."
I stop on the precipice of my confession, search his sunglasses until I see a glint of reassurance, and
blurt out, "I don't love all words."
He exhales sharply, his cheeks flapping like they're in the windblast of a slamming-shut Gutenberg Bible. Consummate professional, he quickly reasserts his composure. "Which words?"
"Pert and frisson," I whisper. "It happened when I switched from thrillers to romances."
He opens a dictionary. "Pert: Impudent; a pert remark. High-spirited, as in lively. Jaunty, like a ponytail."
"Doctor, does pert mean turned up? Can can a nose be pert? A chin high-spirited? Breasts impudent?"
"The meanings of words evolve over time. Let's move on to frisson. It comes from Latin frgre, meaning to be cold. Old French changed it to fricons, a trembling. An almost pleasurable sensation of fright or shock. A quiver, shudder, tingle, chill, thrill, shiver."
"Can it be used in love scenes?"
He smiles. "Close your eyes. Imagine you are at a party and the man you secretly love walks in. His eyes search the room until they land on you. He starts toward you, wanting to talk to you. You shiver with anticipation, with excitement. That's frisson."
My mind relaxes, and I know I will finally be able to sleep again. I understand frisson.
And pert implies sass mixed with beguile.