The Broken Line, 52: Liar Interuptus

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 51: Voices in the Rain.

Feeling festive, I choose a strapless peach sheath that highlights my new tan, and a matching, embroidered half jacket. I stare at myself in the mirror. It’s like I’m wearing a costume. Lacy Strong, starring as The Socialite’s Wife. I have to admit I look good, though. It’s like I’ve taken on the reflected sheen of this beautiful life, glowing like an actress seen through a soft focus lens.

As I descend the stairs, I find John waiting, elegant in a light gray suit, the same color his eyes. He grins and hands me a jewelers box.

“What’s this?”

“I got it for Valentine’s Day, but … well, I’ve been waiting for the right time.”

The box contains a diamond teardrop necklace, easily three carats. “John, is this real?”

“Of course.” He looks a bit offended.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t believe … It’s gorgeous! Thank you.”

“Get used to it,” John turns me around to fasten the necklace. I feel the cold weight of the diamond against my chest. He buries his nose into my hair. “You are the most intoxicating creature I’ve ever known.”

I turn to kiss him on the cheek, but John swivels his head and our lips met. Instinctively, I pull back. Read more »

The Broken Line, 51: Voices in the Rain

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 50: Fertility Fetish)

JOHN STARES OUT the window. “What the hell?”

Maybe it isn’t just me. Maybe John hears it, too—the illusion of voices in the rain.

“What is that doing there?”

I strain to see through the misty, shifting blur. “I can’t see anything.”

John reaches out and picks something up off the windowsill, then opens his hand to show me a pale blue pill with a lightening bolt imprinted into it.

“I … I don’t know. I’m sure I took it this morning.”

“You’re positive?” John’s voice, disapproving and paternal. I felt the splitting sensation again—two Lacys, two Johns. Read more »

The Broken Line, 50: Fertility Fetish

(missed the last chapter? Go to 49: Snake in the Garden)

I’VE BEEN LYING in the sun only a few moments, it seems, when I hear the voices.

“… amazing recovery … looks twenty years younger.” A man, vaguely familiar.

“But she’s gone the other way. Or so I hear.” A woman. Smug.

“Maybe he stole the years from her.”

“Ooh, succubus.”

“He can suck my bus anytime.”

Laughter.

I yank myself up, suddenly sure they’re talking about John and me.

“Hello?” I call out.

No reply.

“Hello!” I make my voice cheerful. “It’s Lacy, your neighbor.” I cast about for faces to match the voices. “I fell asleep. Wondering if you know what time it is?”

The wind has picked up. Rustling through the oak leaves like distant laughter. I spy a knothole in the fence and peer through. I see a flash of white, like the tail of man’s shirt, darting away. Read more »

The Broken Line, 49: Snake in the Garden

(missed the last chapter? Go to 48: The Other John)

GETTING STRONGER. GAINING weight, which I need, though John says I’m beautiful just the way I am. I wonder why the anti-psychotic medications haven’t made me puff up the way my mother did.

Kitty. Flashes of her riding bareback, thighs gripping the horse’s glossy flanks. Her hair whipping like snakes. Her tense forearm grasping a knife, stabbing sacks of meat. I see her glance up from her drafting table, green eyes sharp, sketching with slashing strokes. Her finger jabbing at demons in her scrapbook as she lectures me. Yanking the white rose beads from my neck. My mother. A song I can’t get out of my head.

Dr. Rolfe says all children become disillusioned, to some extent, when they discover the frailties of their parents. But my mother attacked and injured my father in our house while I was there. More like a psychic earthquake. Read more »

The Broken Line, 48: The Other John

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 47: Sex Dreams and Secrets)

HANDS WITH LONG nails pinch me and then grab me roughly—lifting and shaking. Wanda’s face looms. I smell sickly sweet coffee on her breath. I gasp for air and then vomit a stream of bile onto her uniform.

“Filthy,” Wanda hisses. “Get into the bath.”

“No,” I moan, as she shoves me down the hall. “It can’t be true, can’t be.”

Even as I resist, the pieces click into place. The man’s clothes in the closet. John’s reportedly blasé attitude toward Dorothy’s affair with my father. Dr. Rolfe’s reaction every time I said Uncle John. Wanda’s shock when I mentioned the dark haired musician. My lover. The one who’d dumped me on the porch for my … husband to deal with? Read more »

The Broken Line, 47: Sex Dreams and Secrets

(missed the last chapter? Go to 46: Splitting in Two)

IN THE DREAM I remember the musician’s name—Branson.

We’re in the painting. Branson, John, and me. Both men stand naked and erect, staring down at me with flat expressions. They look impossibly tall, until I realize that I’m flat on my back, unable to move anything except my head.

I look down at my naked body and see vines like manacles holding me spread eagle on the ground. One vine runs like an IV into my arm, dripping a milky white sap into my veins.

Neither of men touch me. Instead they begin half-chanting, half-singing a haunting, erotic song. Their voices weave and twine together. I shut my eyes. I want it to stop but, instead, I moan and writhe, straining against the vines, climaxing against my will again and again. I open my eyes to see a thick vine thrusting in and out of me. I scream and wake myself. My body still pulsates from the orgasms. Read more »

The Broken Line, 46: Splitting in Two

(missed the last chapter? Go to 45: Meet the Family)

“I DON’T UNDERSTAND why my mother tried to kill my father.”

Dr. Rolfe paces the room, lithe as a cat. “A constructed reality can be very elaborate, with its own internal logic. In your mother’s case, she became convinced that your father was a demon.”

I process this information in light of my own hallucinations: the flower faces of my ancestors, the monster controlling the vines in the walls. The river of blood.

“Can a delusion be genetically inherited?”

Dr. Rolfe appears delighted by the question, pointing at the ceiling theatrically while he considers. “No. However, current theories hold that a genetic predisposition to mental illness can be triggered by environment. In your case, the delusions of a mentally ill mother could be a triggering factor, compounded by stress, trauma, drug use.”

Check, check, checkcheckcheck. I gaze morosely out the window at the oak tree. Its strong branches, laced with new, green leaves, give me a faint sense of hope, though for what, I can’t say. Read more »

The Broken Line: Chapter 45, Meet the Family

(Missed the last chapter? Got to 44: Face the Truth)

“GOOD MORNING.” DR. Rolfe doesn’t introduce himself. Why should he? According to Wanda, we’ve met many times before.

He’s younger than I expected—greyhound lean, dressed in slacks and a white shirt with pinstripes. I have a sense that I know him. As he scrutinizes me with sharp, dark eyes, I feel pinned like a butterfly to a board.

“Glad to see you awake and lucid.”

“Thank you,” I murmur, embarrassed.

Dr. Rolfe hefts the straight-backed chair that Wanda left in the corner and swings it closer to the bed. I feel myself grinning nervously. A would-be teacher’s pet on the first day of school—too eager to please. Read more »

The Broken Line, Chapter 44: Face the Truth

(Missed the last chapter? Read 43: Molesting Vines)

“WELL, THIS IS just peachy.”

I blink in the light, unsure where I am. I was running through the woods along the edge of a river, water rushing over stones, air fragrant with water and pine. Now my whole body aches. Did I fall?

My eyes adjust and I recognize the face hovering over me. Lush, false eyelashes framing dead eyes. I groan and try to cover my face. “Leave me alone. Tired.”

“We never should have let you out of those restraints,” Wanda fumes. “I told him it was too soon. Come on, get up.” Read more »

The Broken Line 43: Molesting Vines

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 42: Rabid Rabbit)

I FEEL A DISTURBANCE in the air and catch a whiff of something salty. I turn to see Wanda standing in the door, a tray of food in her hands.

“Look at you, up and about.” Wanda’s expression, as she glances at the grotesque pink painting, reflects disgust. I want to say something, deny any connection with the painting. But how can I? That’s my face up there. My body.

Wanda’s professional mask slips back into place as she sets the tray, bearing a bowl of broth and crackers, on the bed. “Eat up.” Her smile, meant to convey encouragement, strikes me as grotesque.

Wanda arches her painted eyebrows. “Didn’t your mother teach you it’s rude to stare?” Read more »