Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
I can’t stop staring at Kate and she hasn’t stopped staring at me. She’s statuesque, with gentle eyes and short black hair. Her presence and attention is both angering and intimidating Jennifer, the demon in my mind. Kate is Edward’s dead wife. I don’t know why I can see her, and though it freaks me out, she’s mesmerizing. There’s a hint of a sparkle at her edges. As she rests her hand on Edward’s shoulder, she appears as present and real as Edward sat beside me.
I turn back to the screen because Jon, her best friend - and a psychologist like her - is asking me another question. He - like Edward - is aching to be able to see Kate too. But only I can. Jon’s been trying not to lean forward and peer into the screen at the spot in Edward’s office where Kate is standing … where I keep looking.
Edward and Jon’s grief is engulfing. It’s like a rock on my chest, yet at the same time Jennifer’s starting to feed off of it, which is keeping her quiet. I almost feel … I’m scared to think it … peace.
I can’t imagine Jennifer not living in my head, but Edward told me he used to have a person living in his head. Used to. I am daring to hope. Edward says Jon can help me. Kate has said the same. Jon has been on this Zoom call with us for who knows how long now. He’s been asking questions that I don’t really understand, yet my mouth has answers for, revealing things I’d forgotten. They come tumbling into the front of my mind as they pour out of my mouth. I’m a mess of memories.
I don’t know how he knows what to ask. I wonder if Kate has access to all of the life I don’t remember.
“What happened when you were two?” Jon asks me.
My mouth spills out the words and I’m there again, struggling to get out of the water.
“My mother tried to drown me in the bath,” I say.
Edward, who has been sitting beside me holding my hand the whole time, squeezes it so hard that it actually helps me come out of the memory. I turn to him and he gives me a smile and squeezes my hand again.
Edward had to use the back of his free hand to wipe the tears away. The tears are still flowing. I think I am reminding him of things that happened to him.
I glance up at Kate who is still standing beside him with her hand on his shoulder. She is sending me love and it is pouring into me. I can see it and it is pink and beautiful. No conditions, just love. I feel like I should hug Edward, yet he’s my boss. It’s awkward enough that I’m here, locked in his office with him helping me, holding hands, with Jon on the screen in front of us and Kate who is a ghost. But I think I love him. I think I am feeling love. I haven’t felt it since I was small. I loved my little sister, Amanda, like this and she loved me. It felt so good. Yet when I killed our parents, I blocked her love in case I hurt her too.
I glance at Kate for help. She nods and says in my head, You are loving Edward’s big heart. That is good. He will be a good friend. You can’t harm with pure love, Ben. All three of us feel love for you. Do you feel our love for you?
I nod at her and feel the tears in my eyes. My heart heats up and I feel like a reptile living in a freezing sea who’s just discovered the warmth and wonder of sunlight.
“Why what, Ben?” Jon says.
I turn back to the screen. I gulp. It’s been so long.
“Why … why do you three love me?”
Jon’s face erupts into a smile.
“Kate is telling you everything, isn’t she?”
I can’t answer. My throat is swollen.
“Ben,” Jon says, “We care about you.”
He glances at Edward. I turn to him.
“It’s true, Ben,” Edward says. “I don’t know why. I love you like a younger brother I want to take care of. Is that too weird?”
I shake my head, and the tears run from my eyes. I hear myself begin to howl, and the next thing I know, for the first time in my life, someone is holding me in their arms for as long as I need. Edward is holding me tight. I am feeling … love.