The Alphabet Stories: Edward
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Edward didn’t realize when he hired Ben that Ben had … well, problems. He would have noticed it earlier, even during the interview, if he hadn’t been in his snow globe of grief from losing Kate. He twisted his wedding ring on his finger, closed his eyes and fought back the tears. Four months and three days had passed, the snow had settled a little, and he could see some world again through the glass globe of his grief.
Charlotte, the girl who rode the Harley and kept to herself, had come into Edward’s office yesterday and told him what none of his other workers wanted to bother him with. He hadn’t exactly been approachable since Kate ....
She said Ben prepped orders in the warehouse quicker than some of Edward’s best workers, yet he also scared many of them. And it wasn’t because he interacted with them, because he didn’t. She said Ben sat on his own in the cafeteria during breaks and at lunchtime. What scared them, Charlotte told Edward, was that Ben spoke to a person or people none of them could see. And some of the things he said to this invisible person or people scared the shit out of them. She said she wanted to reach out to Ben before he lost his job or someone reported him, yet thought it best to come to Edward because something told her he’d be able to help.
Edward had stared at her and wondered if Charlotte could see into his soul to his own tormented past.
This morning, possibly because they’d seen Charlotte in here yesterday, two of his best employees had come in and at first looked at each other urging the other to say something. Edward waited, guessing what was coming, and then leaned back in his chair as the words burst out of both of them at the same time. His eyes darted from one to the other and his ears struggled to decipher, yet he heard murdered and killed and that one of them was going to have to leave because of her nerves if Edward didn’t do something. He sighed and put his head in his hands.
He knew what he had to do. He looked up.
“Ask Ben to come in here,” Edward said.
They both looked at each other wide-eyed then back to Edward.
“You want us to talk to him?”
Edward raised his eyebrows. They both shook their heads.
“Ask Charlotte to do it then.”
They both raced to squeeze through the door together.
A few minutes later when Ben knocked on the door. Edward jumped despite himself.
Ben walked in, as tall as the door and built like a bear.
“Morning, Ben.” Edward gestured with his hand. “Sit down.”
“Sit down. I’ve got a neck ache.”
Ben shook his head, clenched his fists.
“You’re firing me.”
“What? No. Of course not. You’re a great worker. Now bloody sit down.”
Edward rubbed the back of his neck.
Ben sat down.
“Do you enjoy your work, Ben?”
Ben furrowed his brow, stared at his hands.
“It keeps my hands occupied.”
“But it doesn’t keep everyone occupied, does it?”
Ben’s head jerked up and he stared at Edward wide-eyed.
“You’ve heard her?” he said.
“Ah, a female. I had a male.”
“You had a … another person in your head.”
Edward couldn’t believe he was sharing this, yet the torture in Ben’s eyes threatened to crumple his already-broken heart if he didn’t.
“My … wife was a psychologist. And luckily for me, so was her brother. That’s how we met.”
Edward floated away in memories and wasn’t sure how long Ben had been waiting there.
Edward cleared his throat and sat up.
“So, I know from first-hand experience, you can be helped.” Edward gestured to Ben’s head. “She won’t want you to. She’ll try and stop you and tell you terrible things about me probably because that’s how she operates.”
“How do you know?”
“Because, like I said, I had a ... someone inside who was hurting me and others.”
“Yes, I did.”
He pulled open his top drawer, grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote the two numbers he knew by heart: Phil’s - his brother-in-law, and Jon’s - Kate’s best friend and matron of honour. A memory flashed in Edward’s mind of his wedding day: Jon walking up the aisle ahead of Kate in a pink suit with flowers in his hair. Edward had forgotten he could smile. He looked up.
“Ben, I think we’re helping each other here.”
He wrote Phil and Jon’s names on the paper and pushed it across his desk to Ben.
“Both of these are excellent psychotherapists.”
Ben picked up the paper.
“Phil is my brother-in-law and Jon’s a good friend. Go and see one of them for as long as it takes. I’ll pay for it all. Tell them I told you to call and they’ll know to bill me.”
“Why? Why are you doing this for me?”
Edward didn’t want people at work to know, yet it wasn’t like Ben had people coming up and chatting to him. He scratched his head, exhaled.
“Kate, my wife, she told me ... told me that when I was ready, she would send me someone who needed help, someone like me. And in helping him, I’d set him and me free.”