“What are you afraid of, Nina?”
I look up at Dr. Hewitt’s question. I’ve been going to these sessions for the last four months, two times a week, ever since my discharge from Clearview. Dr. Hewitt would not have been my first choice. For starters, I probably would have picked a female therapist and someone younger
—like without a full head of gray hair. But Andy’s mother highly recommended Dr. John Hewitt, and I didn’t feel comfortable saying no, considering Andy has paid through the teeth for all my psychiatric care.
Anyway, Dr. Hewitt has turned out to be very good. He does press me with some hard questions. Like right now we are addressing the fact that I have not gone near the attic of our house since I’ve been home.
I shift on his leather sofa. The expensive furnishing in this office is a testament to my therapist’s great success. “I don’t know what I’m afraid of. That’s the problem.”
“Do you really think there’s a dungeon up in the attic?” “Not a dungeon, but…”
After all my claims about what had been done to me in our house, a police officer was sent to check out the attic. He found the room up there and verified it was nothing more than a storage closet. Filled with boxes and papers.
It was a delusion. Something went wrong with the chemicals in my brain and I imagined Andy was holding me hostage. I mean, making me pluck out my hair and put them in an envelope just because I missed a hairdresser appointment? That’s completely insane, in retrospect.
But it felt so real at the time. And I have been diligent about coloring my hair ever since I got home. Just in case.
Andy has been keeping the door to the stairwell up to the attic closed. As far as I know, he hasn’t opened it since I came home.
“I think it would be therapeutic for you to go up there,” Dr. Hewitt tells me, his thick white eyebrows knitted together. “That way the place won’t hold any power over you anymore. You’ll see for yourself that it’s just a storage closet.”
Andy has been encouraging me to go up there as well.
Just see for yourself. There’s nothing to be scared of.
“Promise me you’ll try, Nina,” he says. “I’ll try.”
Maybe. We’ll see.
Dr. Hewitt escorts me into the waiting area, where Andy is sitting on one of the wooden chairs, reading something on his phone. When he sees me, his face breaks into a smile. He has rearranged his schedule to take me to every single one of these appointments. I don’t know how he could still love me so much after the terrible things I accused him of. But we are working together to heal.
And he waits until we’re in his BMW to ask about the session. “So how did it go?”
“He thinks I should go visit the attic room.” “And?”
I swallow as I watch through the window as the scenery flies by. “I’m considering it.”
Andy bobs his head. “I think it’s a good idea. Once you get up there, you’ll realize the whole thing was all just a
delusion. It will be like a revelation, you know?”
Or I could have another complete breakdown and try to kill Cecelia again. Of course, that would be difficult since I’m not currently allowed to be alone with her. Either Andy or his mother are around at all times. That was one of the conditions of my coming home. I don’t know how long I’m going to need to be babysat when I’m with my own daughter, but right now it’s clear that nobody trusts me.
Cece is on the floor, playing with one of the educational games Evelyn bought her. When my daughter sees us come in, she abandons her game and hurls herself at me until her little body makes contact with my left leg. It almost knocks me off my feet. Despite the fact that I’m not allowed to be alone with her, Cece has been achingly clingy with me since I’ve been home.
“Mama, up!” She raises her arms to me until I gather her up. She’s wearing a frilly white dress that is a bit preposterous for such a little girl playing in the living room
—Evelyn must have dressed her in it. “Mama home.”
Evelyn is not as quick as Cece to rise to her feet. She slowly stands up from the couch, brushing off her pristine white slacks. I never noticed before how frequently Evelyn dresses in white, which has always been Andy’s favorite color on me. It suits her though. Her hair looks like it might have once been blond, but now she’s just at that precipice between blond and white, her hair surprisingly thick and healthy for a woman her age. Evelyn is, in general, incredibly well preserved and flawless. I have never seen her with so much as a loose thread on her sweater.
“Thanks for watching Cece, Mother,” Andy says.
“Of course,” Evelyn says. “She was well behaved today. But…” Her eyes drift up toward the ceiling. “I noticed you
left the lights on in the bedroom upstairs. Such a terrible waste of electricity.”
She gives him a disapproving look and Andy’s entire face turns bright red. I’ve noticed how desperate he is for her approval.
“It was my fault,” I speak up. I’m not sure it was, but what the hell—I might as well take the blame since Evelyn already dislikes me. “I left the light on.”
Evelyn tuts at me. “Nina, producing electricity takes a lot of our planet’s resources. You should remember to shut off the lights when you leave any room.”
“I absolutely will,” I promise.
Evelyn gives me a look like she’s not quite sure I mean it, but what is she going to do? She’s already failed to stop her son from marrying me. Of course, maybe she was right about me after the terrible thing I did.
“We stopped off to get food, Mother,” Andy says. “We got extra. Do you want to join us?”
I’m relieved when Evelyn shakes her head. She’s not a pleasant dinner guest. Having her stay for the meal guarantees a string of criticisms about our dining area, the cleanliness of our dishes and utensils, and the food itself.
“No, l should be heading out,” she says. “Your father is expecting me.”
She hesitates in front of Andy. For a moment, I almost think she’s going to kiss him on the cheek, which is something I’ve never seen her do before. But instead, she reaches out and adjusts his collar, smoothing out his shirt. She cocks her head, examining him, then nods an approval. “All right, I’m off.”
After Evelyn is gone, we enjoy a nice dinner together, just the three of us. Cecelia sits in her highchair and eats noodles with her fingers. Halfway through the meal, one of the noodles somehow makes it onto her forehead and adheres there for the rest of the dinner. But even as I try to enjoy the meal, something isn’t sitting right in the pit of my
stomach. I keep thinking about what Dr. Hewitt said. He thinks I should go up to the attic. So does Andy.
Maybe they’re both right.
So after I put Cecelia down for the night, when Andy brings it up, I say yes.