Chapter Eleven: Emily
My eyes open to someone standing over my bed.
“Hello, Emily,” Rudolf Masters croons over me. “I’ve found you.”
A bloodcurdling scream fills the air, followed by another. I throw myself backwards, against the wall.
The shadow that is Rudolf Masters jumps back too, and then the light flickers on.
I blink as my eyes try to process what the light is showing me.
A woman stands in the doorway, strawberry blonde hair in a disarray, just like her tank top and oversized boxers.
Sanity catches up to me even as fear keeps me trembling. “Vi-violet?”
“Emily.” She glances around. “What in the blue blazes was that about?”
I lick my lips. “Wh-what?”
“The screaming. What was that about?”
Groaning, I push myself into a sitting position. “Well, I could ask you the same thing.”
Violet frowns. “I wasn’t screaming.”
“No, you were sleepwalking.” I sigh and run my hand down my face. “I think we both got some explaining to do.”
Groaning, Violet drops onto her bed and lays back so I can’t see her face. “Okay, so I sleepwalk. It’s not dangerous or anything. I just… get flashbacks and wander around.”
I frown. “Flashbacks? Like PTSD?”
“Nothing like that.” She grunts like that’s the most absurd thing.
“I have PTSD.”
She sits up and raises an eyebrow. “And that’s why you scream at night?”
“Night terrors. It’s called night terrors. Sometimes it induces somnambulism like yours, but not always.” I take a deep breath and then shrug in attempt to appear more at ease. “It has been known to be dangerous.”
Violet shrugs, and actually does appear to be at ease. “Okay. I’ll watch your back, then.”
I nod. “Thanks. I’ll watch yours too.”
“No need.” Violet plops back down. “I can take care of myself. You can get the light.”
“So, you planning on coming to my frat party this weekend?” Donald asks us when he joins us at our table.
I glance at Christopher, who seems to be sitting closer to me than before, looking ready to grab me and run if necessary.
Donald cocks his head at us. “Dude. Does that missing student thing really got you worked up that much? Or did you just decide it was a good excuse to not leave enough room for Jesus between you?”
Mickey looks up in confusion, and I turn to Christopher. “What?”
He sighs a long-suffering sigh. “Donald found my Bible while I was out talking to another student.” Christopher narrows his eyes. “By looking through my personal items, I might add.”
Donald grins, not looking apologetic at all. “It’s got these pages in the front for recording marriages and deaths like my grandma’s old Bible- and he’s got, like, your first three kids named.”
At this, even Violet chokes out a laugh.
I raise an eyebrow at Christopher.
He continues to glare at Donald.
“Unless-” Donald goes so pale his freckles seem red against his skin. “Do you actually have kids?! I mean, I heard Christians get married pretty young.”
Mickey’s jaw drops and her eyes widen. “What?!”
Violet rolls her eyes and gestures to her left ring finger which is as naked as mine.
Christopher groans and looks heavenward. “For crying out loud, Donald, get your own life so you don’t have to snoop through mine.”
“So glad my roommate doesn’t do that,” Violet says. “Or else I’d kill her.”
I shrink into Christopher slightly. “Um-”
Before the conversation can escalate any more, the doors open, and a dazed-looking kid walks in.
Christopher stands up. “That- that’s the kid who disappeared.”
Licking my suddenly dry lips, I watch as he stumbles over to a table. The students already sitting there barely even look up to welcome the returned prodigal.
“See?” Donald says. “He’s fine. Just like I said.”
Almost reluctantly, and still studying the kid, Christopher sits back down.
I grab his arm and try to get his attention back. “So, you named our kids already?”
“Just some ideas for names for future kids whenever I get married to whoever I get married too.”
Donald’s eyes glint as he leans forward. “Did I tell you about that he’s already got half a date filled out in the wedding section?”
“No,” Christopher says.
“You do too-”
“I am declining your invitation.”
Donald blinks. “What?”
“I don’t do frat parties. I’m too Christian for that.”
He wrinkles his face before turning to me. “What about you?”
“Didn’t you see his Bible?” I ask. “Where he goes, I go.”
Christopher squeezes my hand. But his gaze is back on the kid who disappeared, a million questions flashing in his eyes.
I glance at Violet as we walk to art class. Are we going to continue the conversation from this morning?
She ignores me and keeps staring straight ahead.
Okay, guess not.
I finish up my self-portrait during art period. What I’ll do the rest of the week, I’m not sure. Perhaps I’ll attempt to embellish it.
As Christopher walks me to swim class, I glance down at his bum leg. “You look like you’re walking more easily.”
“Yeah. I think this water therapy is really helping.”
I smile at him and he smiles back.
Then I’m in science class.
“Today, I want you to theorize,” Professor N. announces. “Let’s say there is a vaccine. This vaccine is effective, but it has one hiccup: if the person who has the vaccine is exposed to a certain frequency, their body shuts down.”
Donald whistles. “That’s some hiccup.”
Several students chuckle.
Well, at least he’s paying attention.
“This is serious,” Professor N. snaps. “If any of you become professional scientists, you’ll face problems like that often. Ridiculous as they seem, they’re serious. Often they’re solved only by being creative- by looking at the problem differently. So be creative as you ponder how to remove this anomaly from the vaccine.”
“Chicken soup!” someone calls.
Covering my ears, I try to focus on the assignment. Try to think. Think outside the box… That’s it!
I raise my hand.
Professor N. turns to me. “Yes, Miss Rogers?”
“What if there was no way to rid the vaccine of the anomaly?”
He frowns. “There’s always a solution.” He turns to the rest of the class. “Anyone else?”
I take a deep breath. “Wait- I’m not done.”
Confused, Professor N. turns back to me.
Licking my suddenly very dry lips, I plunge on. “What I’m trying to say is that while there may be no cure for the vaccine itself, there may be a cure for the person with the vaccine. Like a way to reverse the side-effects of the vaccine without canceling out the benefits of the vaccine.”
Professor N. taps his chin with his pencil. “Interesting observation, Miss Rogers.” He scribbles something on a piece of paper. “Yes; very interesting.”
“What do you guys think of this whole ‘Cure’ business?” I ask at lunch- for some reason, my science lesson today brought it to mind again.
Donald thumps the table. “It’s awesome!”
Violet rolls her eyes. “It’s extremely unlikely.”
I glance at my boyfriend.
“I have to agree with you, Vi,” Christopher says.
“Don’t call me Vi, or I’ll be forced to hurt you- or call you Chris.”
Christopher nods once. “Understood.”
“Why are you skeptical?” Destiny asks. “It’s just as likely as superheroes- and those exist. I think that with this Cure, we could all be superheroes.”
“I don’t know,” Mickey says. “It sounds too good to be true. Oh, I just don’t know what to think.”
I sigh. “Same here. Same here.”
I take a seat across from Dr. Earnestine.
He looks up from his file and smiles. “Ah, Miss Rogers.” He gestures to his water dispenser. “Would you like a drink?”
“Oh, yes thank you.”
The next moment, the cup is my hand and I’m taking a sip.
Dr. Earnestine folds his hands and leans forward. “So, how are you? Any night terrors since last we talked.”
Sighing, I lean back in my chair. “Maybe.”
“Miss Rogers, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Did I tell you that I once suffered night terrors?”
I blink. “You did?” The truth can be very startling sometimes.
A mental list of other startling truths:
(1) People who can sleep pretty;
(2) People who can cry pretty;
(3) The existence of superhumans;
(4) Rabid rabbits;
(5) Gray hair (not that I’ve actually suffered from it- or rabid rabbits- but it’d still be a surprising truth whenever I do);
He nods. “I did.”
“What fixed it?”
“Therapy. That’s why I’m here, actually. Because I know how much it helps.”
Pursing my lips, I nod. I suppose I could put that on my list of possible careers. Psychology is pretty interesting.
I glance to where Christopher is at the doorway. I wonder what he’ll think of that.
“Is your boyfriend still waiting for you?”
“Hmm?” I turn back to Dr. Earnestine. “Yeah. He’s really protective of me.”
“Protective? Or do you mean overbearing?”
I blink. “Overbearing?”
“I mean no disrespect or anything. Bossy sometimes people in our lives who are well-meaning step out of place. Take control and do minating and annoying things.”
“I’m not saying that’s necessarily the case, Miss Rogers. I just wanted to put it on your radar that there are dom people who can be nating on our nerves.”
I shake my head. Are his words even making sense? “No, Christopher has always been protective of me. He saved my life multiple times.”
Dr. Earnestine nods. “Oh, I understand. But I just thought it was pressing to bring it up to you, as your therapist. Men like him can be very territorial. He probably has your future children already named.”
Despite the water in my hand, my mouth goes dry. “That’s just his nature-”
“I know it is. But are you completely all right with that?” He leans forward, his eyes filled with concern. “I mean, if it is, bully for you. But if there is any part of you that feels even the slightest modicum of uncertainty about your relationship with Christopher and your place in it, maybe you should consider taking a step back? Just to make sure that your hands aren’t tied and you can ran for it all.”
I put my cup down to push my hair back, all my insecurities with my relationship coming to surface. I try to make myself look at Christopher, but I can’t.
Dr. Earnestine smiles before leaning back. “Sorry. I kind of go auto against oppressive relationships because their not all they’re cracked up to be.”
“Oh, I understand. It’s just- it’s not like that, okay?” I stand up and look for the trashcan.
“I understand also, Miss Rogers. And if you like him- well, he’s a lucky fellow.” Dr. Earnestine’s face goes serious. “Just promise me you won’t let him get in between you and your mental health, okay?”
I frown. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, men like him see anyone peeling back the levels of their relationship as a threat. He might try to encourage you to stop coming here to see me.”
“Oh, he wouldn’t.”
Earnestine smiles. “Splendid, then. Just jealid and splendous. Good day, Miss Rogers. And remember you can tell me anything, Miss Rogers. Anything. And I’ll take care of it for you.”
“Well, thank you...”
His smile deepens even as his eyes sadden, like he’s upset to have to send me back into the harsh world. “Please, Emily, take care.”
Nodding, I move to open the door.
And startle to find that Christopher isn’t alone anymore. He’s talking to the kid from the cafeteria he said was the missing one.
The moment I come out, the kid nods at Christopher before stepping into the room I just came out of and taking my seat.
Christopher’s frown follows him before he turns back to me. “Well, how did it go?”
“Fine...” I start walking.
He seems to be struggling to keep up. I frown. But his leg was doing so well. Though, I am going a bit faster than usual.
I slow my pace slightly, and Christopher wraps his arm around my waist as we walk. A shiver runs up my spine at this rare physical contact.
“Are you sure it was ‘fine’?” he asks, his breath playing with my hair.
I swallow hard. “Wh-why wouldn’t it be?”
“I don’t know. I was talking to that kid for a few minutes, and, well, something just didn’t seem right about him. I mean, I didn’t know him before… whatever happened to him. But he seemed really desperate to get to his appointment.”
“Maybe he’s really punctual?”
“He was really early. And couldn’t seem to talk about anything long without coming back to how he couldn’t wait to go back to your Dr. Earnestine. It was like he was on replay or something.”
I frown. “Okay...”
“Look, it just… raised a few flags.”
“You don’t seriously think he’s drugging me still, do you?”
“No, but there are other ways of being addictive-
I stop walking so abruptly, Christopher almost falls over. Then I whirl around to face him. “Really, what is this about?”
He blinks. “What about?”
“Your doubts.” I gesture back at the office and then everywhere. “Your paranoia?”
Christopher frowns and steps toward me. “I’m not paranoid. But it’s my job to protect you.”
I take a step back. “There is no danger here, Christopher. You’re seeing things. And I know why.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Oh, do you?”
“Jealous. You’re jealous.”
“Of another man being in my life.”
“Really? Earnestine counts as another man in your life?” He glances back at the doctor’s office. “Should I be jealous?”
“No! Maybe you should give me some space. I know you have everything planned up for our ‘perfect’ little lives together, but I’m still figuring it out.” I wag a finger at him. “And I might just not be ready to be your fiancé.”
Christopher blinks, steps forward, and takes my hands in his. “Emily, I’m not trying to hurry you toward anything-”
I pull away. “Good- because there might not be an anything to begin with! Maybe it’s time for me to get some breathing space away from you and focus on me and my mental health for a moment, and not always so much on that.” I gesture at Christopher’s bum leg I didn’t ask him to get for me.
He follows my gesture. “Emily, I don’t understand.”
“No. You’re too busy being overbearing!” With that, I charge away.
“Emily!” Christopher calls, and I can hear him struggling to keep up.
But I’m going too fast for that to happen any time soon.