(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.
Dr. Rolfe sits and crosses his legs with a grace that seems choreographed. He smiles, his hawkish face rearranging into a mask of warmth and charm. I relax a bit, daring to hope that he might be won over. I’ll demonstrate calm rationality, and he’ll answer my questions. Simple as that.
“How are you feeling, Lacy?”
Lacy. Did I remember my own name wrong? I decide not to ask. I’ll be Cleopatra if that’s what he wants. “Much better, thank you,” I murmur.
“Wanda tells me you have some questions.”
“About a thousand.”
Dr. Rolfe nods encouragingly. “Go on.”
“I remember a man with longish, dark hair. A musician, I think.” Dr. Rolfe’s smile becomes strained, but I press on. “I feel like he’s someone important … to me.”
“Important, yes. But not in a positive way.” Dr. Rolfe shakes the foot dangling from his crossed leg. “He gave you drugs. When you fell apart, he abandoned you on your front porch.”
My stomach drops. I’d hoped this was someone I loved, and who loved me. But he dumped me off like a sack of garbage. A friend or a fling. Or worse, just my dealer.
“So he did this to me?”
“I don’t think we can say he’s responsible, can we? After all, you chose to take the drugs.”
“Are you sure? It doesn’t seem like me.” I realize this makes no sense, absent my memories. “I mean, it doesn’t feel like me. I don’t think I’m a drug addict. Am I?”
“I don’t know if you’re an addict. You do have a history of drug use with this individual.” Dr. Rolfe leans forward in his chair, eyes probing, cold.
I shiver. Wanda and Dr. Rolfe have the same inconsistent manner: human one moment, robotic the next.
“I know this is hard, Lacy.” Dr. Rolfe’s voice warms, and the paranoid sensation passes. He’s probably just a scientist-type: a little socially inept, but brilliant at what he does.
“Did you ever do research, Dr. Rolfe?”
“What?” He looks taken aback, then smiles. “Why, yes I did. The effects of dopamine five on the breeding habits of rats. Of course, that was years ago.”
“Why did you switch to clinical practice?”
Dr. Rolfe taps his heavy gold pen against his notepad, looking annoyed. He glances at his gold Rolex. “Let’s get started. Where would you like to begin this time?”
“My parents.” I try to sound decisive and calm.
“Excellent. It’s the most normal thing in the world to want to know about your family.” He beams at me, and I find myself beaming back, like I just solved a quadratic equation.
Dr. Rolfe bends over and opens the briefcase at his feet. He pulls out some photos and hands them to me. “Tell me what you remember.”
I have the irrational impulse to thrust the photos back at him.
“It’s all right, Lacy,” Dr. Rolfe says, soothingly. “Take your time. No rush here.”
I force myself to look at the stack of photos. The one on top shows a strong-featured woman with green eyes, and tawny hair and skin. My heart starts to beat faster, a memory edging in. Legacy, baby. I see her splattered with blood, reaching out for me.
“What is it, Lacy? Tell me.” Dr. Rolfe leans so close I can smell the cigarettes on his breath.
“Just a minute.” I strain, desperate for a different memory, something rational. Just as I’m about to give up, I see her again. She glances up from the sketch pad in her lap, smiling. Drawing me.
“She’s an artist!”
“Yes. Your mother was a graphic artist.”
“Was? Is she….”
This news doesn’t fill me with the relief I expect. “Where is she?”
Dr. Rolfe shakes his head. “I can’t do the work for you, Lacy. You know where she is. When you’re ready, you’ll remember.” As he stands, I have a moment of panic, thinking he’s going to leave.
“Wait! I can do this.”
Dr. Rolfe glances at the sheet draped across the grotesque, nude painting of me.
“Dr. Rolfe, please!” Hysteria creeps into my voice.
“Very well, Lacy. If you’re sure you’re ready, I can help you.”
“What should I do?”
“Lie back on the bed,” he says. “Close your eyes and breathe deeply.”
I smell coppery blood and offal. “Legacy, baby.” White teeth. Red splattered face. She pulls me into her arms. She holds me too tight. I fight her. “It’s over, Legacy. He’ll never hurt you again. You’re safe.”
A sob wrenches from my chest. My eyes fly open.
Dr. Rolfe stands next to the bed. His eyes on my face, not black, but the dark blue of storm clouds.
“My mother’s the monster, isn’t she?”
Words harden in my throat. Gray walls. Are the vines starting to show through?
“If you want to get better, you’re going to have to trust me, Lacy.”
I push myself up to a sitting position. “I’ve been having hallucinations. A monster’s after me. After my whole family.”
Dr. Rolfe jots something in his notebook. “Go on.”
“I remembered my mother covered with blood. She said, ‘He won’t be able to hurt you again.’ But I don’t remember who he was.”
Dr. Rolfe pats my arm with an encouraging smile. “Why don’t you look at the other pictures of your family? See if that brings anything else back.”
The next photo shows a middle-aged man wearing a red flannel shirt, digging in a flower bed in front of a wood and glass house. I feel a rush of warmth, and then unaccountably sad. That thinning hair and tentative smile….
“Do you know, or are you guessing?”
“It’s him, I think, but….”
“Maybe this will help.” Dr. Rolfe walks to the closet, and I feel stupid for not looking in there, myself. He emerges with a red flannel shirt, the same one the man wears in the picture. “Here. Sight’s not the only memory trigger.”
I bury my hands in the soft fabric and press it to my face. Inhaling the spicy citrus aftershave I see Dad in the kitchen of his house. Dad working in his garden. Dad laughing. Dad in a suit, driving. Longing washes over me. “Can I see him?”
“Lacy,” Dr. Rolfe says, an edge in his voice. “There’s more.”
“Why do I have to remember everything before I can see my family?” I fling the shirt down on the bed.
“Do you need a tranquilizer?”
“No,” I snap. “I need answers.”
“Very well, Lacy.” His eyes flick up at the painting under the sheet, again. His constant, reflexive glances tell me he’s accustomed to looking at my naked form, splayed out in paint. “Your father’s dead. Your mother’s in jail for trying to murder him.”
My chest heaves, lungs constricting so that no air passes in or out. I slump over, darkness swirling through my vision like a swarm of bees. Bees to the flower. The dead preserved in honey. Dimly, I hear Dr. Rolfe calling Wanda. Feel prick of a needle in my arm. The world goes soft.
Rain on the roof. Drops of blood. Blood-splattered mother. Dad’s shirt, red, but not blood. Blood is someone else’s. The equation, not solved. Too many variables. The constants a lie. What does it mean? Too fuzzy to follow the train of thought.
“Lacy?” Dr. Rolfe’s balloon head floats near. His mouth makes funny shapes. “You did a good job today. Now rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I feel tears on my face. Dr. Rolfe’s head bobs away. I float down a river. Smells of ozone. Pine and spring turn copper. The river runs faster. I grasp onto what I think is a raft. Dad’s shirt dissolves in my hands. The river turns thick and red. It pulls me down. Underwater. Vines twist up from the bottom. They twine and slither up my legs. They bloom murky faces. Pull tight. Pull me down and apart. Spreading me. Dragging me to the blood-colored waterfall that can’t be true. That shouldn’t be there at all.