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The Alphabet Stories: Jon

Story by Liane Carter

Illustration by E.J. Klepinger


Ben wanted his shift to last forever, and at the same time to be over five minutes ago. Why had he told Charlotte he would go and see the house with her? Because he needed a place to stay. He had two weeks to get out of his place, but … he liked her. He knew what that could mean. He liked this job. It suited him. Most of the time people left him alone. He looked up and saw her across the factory. She looked up and smiled at him and his hand raised without his consent. He whirled and busied himself with packing an order. The same argument went on in his head for the rest of the day. His nerves increased with the hours and he dropped a few boxes. Every few minutes he’d been pulling his mobile out of his back pocket to check the time. Ten more minutes. He would be with her. She’d said she’d meet him outside. His heart raced.


Edward walked towards him and Ben jumped. Edward never came out of his office. He stared at Ben and kept coming. Ben checked either side of himself.


“Ben,” Edward said. “My office, please.”


Ben tried to swallow. People looked. His fingers reached for the piece of paper in his pocket that Edward had given him how many days ago? He hadn’t rung either of them. He’d finally decided today to call Jon, but he hadn’t actually dialed the number yet.


He followed Edward through the factory and into the office.


“Shut the door,” Edward said.


Ben shut the door while at the same time wanting to run.


“You haven’t called Jon or Phil.”


Ben dipped his chin and stared at his feet.


“Is it because you don’t know which one to call?”


Ben shook his head.


“Are you scared, or is the person inside you stopping you?”


Jennifer. Jennifer had stopped him for days, yet Ben was also scared. He wanted to call. She didn’t.

“Ben, this is unorthodox, yet I think it is an opportunity.”


Edward walked to the door and locked it. He shut the blinds.


What? Why was he locking the door?


“Ben,” Edward said. “Jon’s had a cancellation and well, he and I, we’ve both ….”


Edward pushed his fist against his forehead.


“We’ve both had dreams.”


“Dreams? About me?” Ben took a step backwards. What had they seen?


“No. K - Kate, my late wife. Look, this is going to sound weird. Jon and I … we’ve both had the same dream. Kate tells us to help you. That we both need to help you together.”


“Oh.”


Edward brushed tears from his eyes.


“So we thought ... well, Kate told us, that you need to have your sessions with Jon and me. Somewhere you are familiar with.”


Ben checked over his shoulder.


“Jon’s coming here?”


“No. He’s arranged a video appointment on Zoom.”


“For when?”


Ben didn’t feel too great.


“Now. Kate told both of us, if we told you beforehand you’d run, that Jennifer wouldn’t let you.”


Ben felt his mouth gape.


“You know Jennifer?”

He could feel her curled up like a cat in his head, scared, seething and ready to pounce.


“No. Kate knows.”


“In the dream?”


Edward upended his palms.


“Yes.”


“What else did Kate tell you?”


“Not much. We’ll get into it with Jon. He’s waiting. Come and sit in my chair so your facing the screen so you can see him.”


Ben inched his way across the carpet and sat down in Edwards swivel chair.


“Do you want me opposite you? Or next to you?”


Ben wanted to run, that’s what he wanted.


“Kate said—”


“What’?” Ben tried to fight the feeling he might faint.


“That you might need to hold my hand at some point.”


Ben bit his lip, nodded and couldn’t look in Edward’s eyes.


Edward scooted the other chair around and sat next to Ben and opened the Zoom meeting.

A ginger-haired balding guy in a fitted fuchsia shirt appeared on the screen.


“Hi, Ben. I’m Jon.”


Ben managed a hi.


“You okay to chat for a bit?”


Ben nodded.


“So Edward has told you about Kate talking to both of us?”


Ben nodded again.


“Is it okay to ask you some questions?”


Ben swallowed. “Okay.”


“Great. What is it you want, Ben?”


Ben looked into Jon’s soft brown eyes. The truth rushed up from his groin to his throat.


“Freedom.”


Jon smiled and nodded.



“That’s good. We want that for you too, Ben. Is Jennifer with you right now?”


Ben turned to Edward who offered his hand. Ben took it. He liked Jon, yet he needed Edward there.


“Yes,” he said, “but she’s being quiet like … like she wants to pounce and hide at the same time.”


Jon glanced at Edward, so Ben looked Edward’s way too.


“What?”


Edward spoke.


“Kate told us that Jennifer is frightened of her.”


Ben looked from Edward to Jon and back to Edward. Jennifer was. He could feel she was. How could they know this from a dream?


“She is, isn’t she?” Jon said.


Ben nodded.


“You need to know that Kate had skills beyond standard psychology, Ben. It appears she is still using those skills.


“Ben, I am willing to take as long as it takes,” Jon said. “Everything you share will go no further than this room. No matter how bad, it will not be passed on. Do you think you can trust me, Ben? If you can, we can help you.”


Ben inhaled, squeezed Edward’s hand. Edward squeezed back. Ben looked at Jon.


“Yes. I trust you.”

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