I looked across the dining room table at my brother as he poked at the salmon on the plate with his fork. Mother had taken great care to arrange the food on our plates so that the piece of fish was balanced by the crisp green asparagus spears and small pile of roasted red potatoes that accompanied it. Neither Daniel nor I had eaten anything, instead we pushed the food around with our forks, glancing at each other waiting for a cue as to the proper time to request to be excused from the table. Manners were paramount in our home and we both knew the consequences of asking to leave the table sooner than would be expected or appropriate. I was anxious to finish our earlier discussion concerning our shared missing time and what I had discovered at Aunt Rachel’s house when we were interrupted by Mother summoning us to dinner.
I listened to my parents discussing the annual fundraiser that was held at Arkham Waterfront Hotel that they attended every year. The date of the gala was fast approaching and Mother was enthusiastic as she prattled on about their required attire; black tie for Dad and an evening gown for her. Dad nodded his approval though he was clearly bored with the topic. He drained his beer glass of the dark ale and replaced it on the oak table with a gentle thud before gently wiping a hint of white foam from his upper lip with the cloth napkin that had been sitting on his lap. Mother described the evening gown that she would be purchasing for the gala in the next few days and though her tone sounded jovial as she spoke, her facial expression held a glaring contradiction. Their interaction felt strange to me. The usual underlying animosity between them had shifted and become something else; something akin to compliance or indifference. I wondered if Mother had told Dad about the detectives’ visit to the house that morning or if they had come to a compromise within their marriage while on vacation in the Bahamas. Whatever it was that had occurred between them it caused me discomfort; I sensed the energetic disharmony and desired to rewrite their symphony.
I set my fork on the table and drank from my water glass. I felt disorientated, misplaced, and everything about that moment of my life as I sat at the dining room table with my dysfunctional family felt surreal. It was as if I was watching a version of my life as I had once wished it to be while possessing the knowledge that it was just a fantasy, one that would never become reality. As I gazed at my plate of untouched food I felt a burst of hysterical laughter threaten to explode from me and it became a challenge for me to stifle it. How could any of them believe that this moment was reality? How was it possible the only one sitting at that table diagnosed with a mental illness was the one who saw through the absurdity of this moment? I felt as if I was losing my grip on sanity. I needed to be anchored in a reality based on truth and the only person or thing that was able to accomplish this and that was available to me was Daniel. How unexpected was that? For so long he and I were at odds with each other. We were as distant as one could imagine siblings to be. I had been convinced that our relationship was beyond repair, but now sitting across from him at the table I felt as if he and I were the only two individuals in that house that understood the gravity of our current predicament. We were the only ones who knew the truth of our situation; that someone or something had managed to steal time from our lives and manipulate our reality so that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. With Aunt Rachel missing I considered that Daniel might be a replacement for her in my life and considered telling him about my abilities.
“I’m getting myself another ale,” Dad said as he stood from his chair. “Do any of you need anything from the kitchen?”
“No, thank you, Edward,” Mother said as she stabbed a spear of asparagus with her fork.
Daniel shook his head, “No, thanks Dad.”
I stood from my chair, picked up my dinner plate, utensils, and water glass from the table.
“May I be excused?”
“You hardly ate anything, Angie. Are you feeling ill?” she asked examining the uneaten food sitting cold on my plate.
“I do feel a little nauseous,” I replied. It wasn’t a lie. The anticipation of revealing the truth about myself to my brother made me feel a bit queasy.
“Maybe it would be best if you laid down to rest,” she suggested.
I nodded and exited the dining room following the path my father had taken into the kitchen. I glanced over my shoulder hoping that my brother would follow my example.
Dad smiled and patted me on the shoulder as he passed me on his way back into the dining room with his beer glass filled with ale. I felt like shaking him and asking him all the questions I had in my head concerning Aunt Rachel, Mr. Stokes, and my abilities, but I understood that if I did, if I pounced on him with such unusual and bizarre questions, I might be giving him cause to believe that I had lied about taking my medication. Dad would be concerned about me and would promptly speak to Mother and that conversation would most likely motivate her to call Dr. Worth, who would have me checked into the hospital under his care; something I didn’t want to occur, so I refrained from saying anything; instead I just looked into his eyes, returning his smile.
His eyes looked different to me. Something about them had changed. Was it his eye color? No, that’s impossible. They were always hazel colored; the same as Aunt Rachel’s, the same as my own, but something was different about them. There seemed to be something abnormal happening to them, a haze clouding them, keeping him hidden from my own prying stare. Strange, I hadn’t noticed it before. Had something happened while he was away with Mother to cause this?
“Dad, are you alright?” I asked. I was concerned for him and began to wonder if there was something darker occurring within the walls of our home and family relations.
He held my gaze for a beat before he wrapped his farm around my shoulders, gently kissing my forehead, something he hadn’t done since I was a young girl.
I heard him whisper, “I’m so sorry, Angie. I love you.”
What? I was confused. The gesture was out of character for my father and it caused me distress. I felt my heartbeat quicken and my body tense. I was unsure of how much longer I could deal with the level of stress I was experiencing without my medication.
I was rinsing my dinner plate when Daniel entered the kitchen carrying his dish and utensils.
“What the fuck is going on?” my brother whispered, pointing to the archway behind us that lead to the dining room. “They’re acting weird.”
I nodded. “I noticed. Dad kissed me on the forehead.”
“Seriously?” my brother chuckled, handing me his plate so that I could rinse it with water. “Maybe he’s drunk. He’s been downing those ales like they were water.”
“Maybe,” I shrugged as loaded the dishes into the dishwasher and shut the door.
As we walked through the foyer my body became tense.
“Still no call back from Aunt Rachel?” Daniel asked.
“Well, maybe she’s in Europe like Dad said,” he proposed. “I mean since she wasn’t at home and her house didn’t seemed jacked up and her car was in the garage it seems likely. Right?”
“No Daniel, it doesn’t. Nothing is ‘right’. Nothing’s been right since you came home. Something happened here in our house that night and it affected us; you and me and Aunt Rachel,” I paused as I considered our relationship to each other before adding, “and maybe even Mr. Stokes.”
“Mr. Stokes?” Daniel raised an eyebrow as he approached the staircase that led to the second floor. “Mr. Stokes as in your tutor?”
“Why would the old man be involved?” he laughed. “He wasn’t even here that night.”
The crimson carpet tumbled down the staircase spilling into the foyer as it always did, but as I reached out for the banister with my hand and placed my foot on the first step the sensation of dread overwhelmed me. My vision blurred as disembodied sounds filled my mind. I blinked numerous times, attempting to clear my eyes, but my sight remained distorted, everything appeared to me as if I were looking through water. I reached my hand out toward where Daniel was standing and immediately found his hand. His presence gave me strength and braced me against the wave of vertigo that washed over me.
I heard my brother, but I couldn’t respond. I had no ability to speak. I opened my mouth, but nothing happened. My head tingled and I felt as if I were falling into myself. The crimson carpet beneath my feet shifted and rippled becoming a warm thick liquid that rose to my ankles. I gripped my brother’s hand tighter. What was happening? Could Daniel see what I was seeing or was this a personal hallucination?
I turned to where he should have been standing, expecting nothing, but hoping to see him and not something else, some strange apparition attached to the hand I held tightly in my own. As I focused my eyes I was relieved to see my brother standing next to me though he was clearly concerned about my well-being. He reached over to support me with both his arms and I allowed him to guide me up the stairs and into my bedroom; only then in my private sanctuary did my vision return to normal.
I allowed myself to fall onto my bed as Daniel closed the door to my room.
“Are you ok?” he asked. “What happened to you?”
If I was seriously considering revealing my secret to him then this was the opportune time to do it, but I was hesitant. I was afraid that once he heard the truth of who I was and what I was capable of doing he might think that I was experiencing some sort of a psychotic episode and feel compelled to tell our parents, and I knew with certainty that they would contact Dr. Worth and off to the psychiatric hospital I would go. I knew that my claims sounded mad and I wasn’t sure if he would believe me.