The next day I went looking for Ann. I was planning on calling her first but I was afraid that she would reject me like the way I rejected her so I went straight to her house. I drove up feeling determined to get the answers I needed but once I stood in front of her door I hesitated with my hand in the air, mid knock. I stood there feeling confused, hoping that none of what I had seen was real and that Josh was not the problem. I doubted in myself so much at that moment that I decided to leave. I was unsure if I felt ready to hear what Ann had to say and if I heard it, I wondered if I was ready to believe her. As I turned around to leave, the door opened behind me and Ann stood in the doorway. ‘So what, you’re just going to stand at my door the whole day’? She asked with a sly smile. ‘I uh’ was all I could say as I felt like a naughty child that has just been caught out. Ann stepped aside and cocked her head to one side, showing me to come in. I looked at her for a moment and slowly walked past her into the house. She closed the door and motioned for me to take a seat in the living room. I sat there in uncomfortable silence for what felt like forever when finally Ann cleared her throat and said ‘You gonna tell me why you’re here or are you just going to leave me to guess’? Again I felt small and stupid now for even coming as I was unsure of how to start the conversation or how to get the answers I needed. I started fiddling with my fingers and softly said ‘I’m here because of what you said at the tea garden’. Ann took a seat on the edge of the couch and said ‘Yeah, what about it’?
It felt like my stomach dropped through the floor at that moment leaving me grasping for straws. ‘You look nervous’ Ann said and stood up. I looked at her with panic in my eyes as I was afraid that I had blown my only chance at getting answers. Instead she walked over to me and kneeled down in front of me. She took my hands in hers and looked straight into my soul. ‘I’ll tell you everything’ she said and I was flooded with relief. I didn’t screw anything up after all and maybe I was going to take one step closer to closure. Ann made us some hot chocolate which made the tight atmosphere seem a little more relaxed. She started talking about when she had first met me and how deathly afraid I was of Josh. She repeated the things I had said to her and I felt utterly horrified at the thought. ‘I didn’t spare you any details, did I’, I said to Ann in a heart sore tone of voice. It felt like my whole world and everything I believed was falling apart and that everything I thought I had with Josh was a total lie.
Ann was talking without skipping a beat or even thinking to remember anything. ‘How do you remember so much of it’? I asked feeling frustrated at myself for not at least seeing the signs. ‘I stopped drinking those horrible pills doctor Marshall gave me the moment I left the institution’ she said as a matter of fact. ‘I was like you, I kept forgetting things that I felt were important, but I had so many gaps in my memory that I knew I had to do something, so I just threw them away. It was the best decision I could have made. At first I started seeing flashes of things and then the flashes would become longer, more like my mind was recalling things for longer periods until finally I just remembered everything’. ‘Wow that must have been so overwhelming’ I said feeling sorry for her. ‘It was bad, I can tell you that, but I don’t regret my decision at all’ Ann said while waving her hands all over the place like she was giving directions. I couldn’t help but feel amused by this and think how strong she must have been going through something like that all by herself. Here I am looking for help and answers and she did it all on her own. ‘You need to leave your tablets, throw them away’ Ann said as she slammed the palm of her hand down on the table. I got a fright and almost leapt to my feet as I saw another flash in my mind. Josh was holding me down by the neck, pressing my face into a pillow while he was raping me. It felt like it was never going to end and I started screaming only to find myself really screaming when Ann shook me by the shoulders trying to get me to focus on her. I was out of breath when I came to and burst out in tears when I saw Ann’s face in front of mine. I buried my head in her shoulder as she wrapped her arms around me tightly. Ann held me in silence until I stopped sobbing and offered me a tissue, which I took gratefully. ‘I don’t have any more tablets’ I said softly. ‘I started drinking double doses trying to make the flashes stop’. Ann took my face in her hands and wiped away my tears. ’No wonder your memory is torturing you so. You can only suppress something that traumatic for so long until your mind pushes it out for you to deal with it.
How long has your medication been finished’? She asked sincerely. ‘A few days’ I sniveled while wiping my nose. ‘It’s going to get worse before it gets better’ she said and took a seat beside me. ‘How have things been since your return’? She asked. ‘Great. Josh has been a real gentleman to me and we have been happy. I find these things I am seeing so hard to believe. Do you really think he did all those things’? I asked, hoping she would say I’m relapsing instead of what she did say. ‘Given all the things you told me in the institution and what you are seeing, I would say these visions are the real deal. Josh did all those things and he is getting away with it’. ‘But why all the secrecy though, why does he pretend as if he loves me and why does he treat me so well’? I asked as my heart was ripping apart inside me. ‘Maybe he is afraid of you knowing of remembering something that will implicate him somehow’ Ann said looking as though she was deeply in thought. ‘Have you or anyone you know of heard anything from Mindy yet’? She asked catching me completely off guard. ‘No, Josh and Chloe said she is travelling somewhere or something’ I said feeling unsure. ‘Why’? I asked Ann feeling very skeptical of where she was going with this. Ann flew up and started pacing the room like a detective trying to figure something out when she said ‘You said that Josh killed her right, so that means there has to be a body. So maybe Josh is afraid that if you remember something you’ll tell someone the truth of what he did’. I looked up at Ann and wondered what she was expecting me to do with her new revelation. I was starting to feel more and more sick by the second and knew it was time for me to get out of there and leave. I felt overwhelmed with panic at the thought of Josh and everything Ann had told me. Even though I couldn’t remember much at that moment, I had a nagging feeling inside that she was indeed telling the truth and that I was married to a monster. My heart started racing and I started feeling light headed as I got up to head to the door. My head started throbbing louder with each step I took and my ears were shutting out Ann’s voice. I felt a sharp pang in my head and saw black spots in front of my eyes. I felt my legs give way and then everything went black and I was left at the mercy of the darkness, sprawled out on Ann’s living room floor.
I woke up a while later with Ann hovering over me like she was a nurse and I was her patient on the operating table. ‘There’s my girl’ she said in a soft tone and smiled at me. My head was excruciatingly sore and my eyes felt blurry trying to focus on her face. I closed one eye and looked up at her trying to get her back in focus. ‘What happened’? I asked in a raspy voice. ‘You loved my floor so much you tried to hug it’ Ann said in a playful voice. I chuckled slightly at her feeling every sound cutting through my head. Ann helped me sit up straight and offered me some water. I gratefully accepted and begged her for something to ease the headache. Ann sat close to me seeing that I was ok and asked me if Josh had hurt me in any way or have mistreated me since I have been back. I frowned at her as I could not remember at that moment and shrugged. ‘Does Josh know your medication is depleted’ Ann asked quite abruptly and I shook my head no still feeling in pain from what just happened. ‘I have a plan’ she said with a look of fiery determination in her eyes. ‘Why do you care so much’? I asked feeling as though I didn’t deserve her. ‘Because you’re my bestie’ she said simply and continued talking about her plan. ‘So Josh doesn’t know you are drinking pain medication instead of your crazy meds. Don’t tell him anything and try acting as normal around him as possible. Be nice to him and stroke his ego. Make him believe that you don’t remember anything’. ‘I don’t remember anything’ I said cutting her off and she just rolled her eyes at me. ‘Like I was saying’, she continued as if my interference had just annoyed her ‘Go on as you have been doing and don’t give anything away. The flashes will start coming in hard and fast and when they do and you start remembering things you will be able to discern the truth from fantasy and we will get all the information we need to nail the fucker to the wall’. Ann looked so confident in herself and what she was saying to me that she almost had me feeling confident enough that I could deceive Josh. I just nodded and went along with what she said even though it felt like I could just run away from it all and never look back which was not such a bad idea at the either. Ann and I spoke for a while and when I felt better I bid her farewell for the moment and headed home. She greeted me with a tight hug and reassured me that everything will be ok and that once my memories are where they should be, I will be able to get the closure I seek.
Josh was home when I returned from Ann’s house and for some reason I felt scared of going in. I heard Ann’s voice echo in my head and scraped together all the courage I had and walked into the house. Josh was watching TV when I walked in but he quickly got off the couch to greet me with a tight hug and a kiss on the forehead. ‘Where were you’ he asked in a loving tone. I fought the urge to tell him everything and said ‘I went to see Ann. The friend I made in Green Meadows’. Josh took me by the sides of my head and bent down slightly so he was looking directly into my eyes. ‘I don’t want you seeing people that may cause you to relapse’ he said. His tone was loving but the look in his eyes told a whole different story. When I failed to answer him right away he pressed his hands a little tighter and said ‘Did you hear what I just said? I don’t want you seeing that woman’. I nodded my head and he let go of me, returning to the couch. He plopped down ungracefully and ordered me to start the food as he was hungry and apparently I was late. I looked back over my shoulder only to see him sprawled out on the couch like he was melting in the sun. He offered me a small smile and continued watching the movie. I felt uneasy on the inside, like I did not belong in that house with him but knew I could not leave either as I had nowhere to go.
I was done preparing dinner and served Josh as I had done every day before and for the first time I saw the ungratefulness in Josh’s face with what I had made. ‘Food ok’? I asked as we started eating and Josh just smiled and nodded at me. ‘Delicious’ he said with a mouth full of food and I could see in his eyes that he was lying to me. I smiled at him and wondered if maybe Ann was right about him, that he didn’t want me to remember anything and that he indeed had killed Mindy. We finished up and I headed to the kitchen to clean up. I looked down as I walked past the fridge and saw something dark lying behind one of the kitchen cupboards. The cupboard was free standing so I moved it a bit to see what it was. It felt like my blood ran cold as I picked up a pair of black lace panties off the floor. I could see that it clearly was not mine as I never wore anything that slutty. I walked over to Josh and held it in the air towards him and cleared my throat ‘Whose is this’? I asked in as neutral a tone as I could manage. ‘Chloe’s’ he answered simply. I felt taken aback by how candid he was about it and almost forgot what I wanted to say next. ‘What’s it doing behind the cupboard’? I asked feeling a little annoyed. ‘She was over here looking for you’ he said and offered no more information on the matter. ‘And she left her underwear for me behind the cupboard’? I asked as if the answer was logical. ‘She brought it for you’ he said. ‘She said she brought you something and wanted to put it in the room for you. So I let her in and she went to the room. She took a while so I went to see what she was doing and as she came out I bumped into her and it must have fallen in behind the cupboard’ he said motioning slightly with his hand as if he was waving me off. I knew that he was outright lying as his story didn’t even make sense to me but it felt like I had no argument on the matter as he wasn’t about to be honest with me in any way. ‘I’ll message and say thank you’ I said as I turned around to walk away from Josh. I felt angry at his betrayal as I knew that was not what had happened and Chloe never bought anything but alcohol which she could partake in. I knew right there that I had to get my head straight and get my memories back as soon as humanly possible because I knew just then that Josh was taking me for a fool.
After dinner Josh brought me my medication and some water. I felt thankful that he didn’t notice that it was his pain medication as I took it from him. ‘You seem different, anything the matter’? He asked as he sat next to me looking concerned. Josh had seen through my pretending and I knew I had to do a better job at trying to be normal around him, whatever that may mean. I softened my eyes and looked at him like an adoring wife would look at her husband and said ‘I’m fine my love, I am just feeling a bit tired’ while trying to sell the façade. Josh looked satisfied with my answer and told me to get some rest. The pain medication usually didn’t take too long to kick in so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was asleep. I saw Josh check on me a few times and I pretended to be fast asleep as I felt he was waiting for something. After pacing the house and checking in about four times, Josh decided I was asleep and I heard him on his phone talking to someone. ‘She suspects nothing, we have her where we want her’ I heard him say. ‘You forgot your underwear, I told her you bought it for her’ and he chuckled slightly at what the other person was saying. I could only assume that it was Chloe at the other end as Josh had said she had come over to bring me underwear. ‘How dumb does he think I am’? I thought to myself as I found myself drifting off to sleep.
My dreams were filled with horrors of Josh. One moment he was hitting my head so hard that it bled and the next he was forcing himself on me. The dreams kept blending into each other and it felt like I would never wake up from the horror! Then all of a sudden I was standing in our room, naked and ashamed. I wrapped my arms around myself and looked around. I was standing alone by the bed unable to move. My body was shaking from fear and my heart was racing. Slowly Mindy came into focus next to me with a look of fear in her eyes. Her mouth was moving but I was unable to hear what she was saying. I frowned at her and asked her to repeat what she was saying but no sound came out of my mouth either. Her eyes went wide as Josh tackled her to the bed where they wrestled for a moment before he got the overhand and pinned her down. She looked at me and started screaming something but I still couldn’t hear anything. Josh was on top of her as he turned around to look at me. He forced himself into her as he looked straight into my eyes and smirked as he wrapped his hands around Mindy’s throat. He thrust violently as he turned back to look at her. She was hitting and scratching as she was trying to break free from his hold. I tried to help her but I was frozen in place, an onlooker to her last moments. I saw her body starting to shake as Josh choked the life out of Mindy while raping her. Her eyes were wide from fear as she knew she could fight no longer. I saw her eyes glass over as her hands dropped to her sides. Josh finished inside her with a loud scream and I felt so helpless and afraid that I burst out in tears. I just stood there, crying uncontrollably when I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard my name.
‘Liz’ the deep voice said in my ear. ‘I’m here, you are safe’. The voice sounded so familiar and it made me feel so safe. I looked down to see that I was fully clothed again in my black jeans and tank top. I slowly turned around and saw a dark haired stranger with dark, mysterious eyes standing in front of me. He smiled at me and it was so bright that it took all my fears away. I felt mesmerized by this beautiful, dark haired stranger. He had strong, defined arms with tattoos on them, one of which said WTF written under each other on his left forearm. I couldn’t help but find it quite amusing and smiled at my thought. He cupped my chin in his hand and tilted my head up so I could look in his eyes. ‘Remember me’ he said as he started fading from my dream. I heard his voice echo as I woke up and the sound gave me chills. I drifted back to the present reluctantly and I felt so sad as I wanted to stay there in the dream with him, whoever he was. He made me feel safe and loved and I wondered if this man really did exist if not only in my dreams. He made all the fear and horrors I saw in my dream disappear the moment he touched me. I opened my eyes to see that I was still in my bedroom in the house I shared with Josh and felt disappointed to the point I felt like crying. Tears unwillingly welled up in my eyes just as Josh walked in. I tried hiding my face from him but he saw the tears roll down my cheek and came over to sit next to me. ‘What’s wrong’? He asked with a frown on his face. I knew I could not tell him about the man I was crying about so I lied as convincingly as I could. ‘I just feel so lucky so have you in my life, you are such a wonderful husband’ I said to him trying to look convincing. Josh smiled a small smile and I could see that he bought what was selling and relief flooded me.
‘You’d better get ready, your appointment is in an hour’ he said as he got up off of the bed. ‘What appointment’? I asked him feeling confused. ‘Doctor Marshall’ he said and motioned for me to get up and get dressed. I did not know that I was going to be seeing her again as she did not mention it to me when we said our goodbyes. ‘Why am I seeing her’? I asked Josh. ‘You have a few follow up appointments with her so she can monitor your progress and fill your prescriptions’ he said as if I was being dumb. ‘Oh, yes, right’ I said. I finished getting dressed with an impatient Josh pacing the room and telling me to move faster as he was not planning on being late. He was agitated today and showed little patience towards me. We drove to the doctor’s office in silence and I couldn’t help but feel that something was bothering Josh. ‘What’s wrong’? I asked as I could no longer handle the atmosphere in the car. ‘I’m just worried about you, I would just like to hear that everything is as it should be with you’ he said as if I had done something wrong. I wanted to pursue the conversation but didn’t want to upset Josh and give away that I suspected him of anything so I just smiled at him. He was gripping the steering wheel a bit tight to my liking but I decided to ignore it and stare out of the window.
I saw the handsome stranger’s face in front of me and his voice replayed in my head as if he was sitting next me. I closed my eyes and felt his hands on my skin, holding me protectively. I lost myself in the memory of this stranger, floating away in a bubble with him until Josh slammed the car door and walked around to my side. I got a fright as I did not feel the car stopping or see Josh getting out. I loosened my seat belt and started opening my door to get out when Josh caught hold of the door and opened it for me. He narrowed his eyes at me as I got out and I offered him a small smile. It felt like he had caught me out doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. He laced his fingers in mine as we walked up to the doctor’s office as if he really cared for me. He opened the door for me and let me walk in first and said he will let the receptionist know we are there for our appointment. I felt flushed as I took a seat but acted as if everything was just fine. I was afraid that if anyone saw that I was slightly different form the way they expect me to be that I would be sent back to the institution and I wasn’t about to let that happen. Especially not since I was feeling so determined to find out exactly what Josh had done. Josh came over to sit next to me and started bouncing his leg up and down in anticipation to see doctor Marshall. I felt nervous and felt my heart beat loudly in my chest, sending my pulse racing and the palms of my hands sweating. It felt like forever having to wait for doctor Marshall to come out and say that she would see me. I also felt afraid of what she would pick up on and that I would give something away and she would know that I was no longer drinking my medication. My mind was a jumble of thoughts and worries when I heard my name. I looked up to find doctor Marshall standing a few feet away from me, smiling brightly at me. Josh stood up next to me and took me by the arm to lead me to her room but doctor Marshall stopped him and told him that she was going to see me alone and that he had to wait for me to finish. She told him that the session would take about an hour and that he should come back if he was unwilling to wait. Josh reluctantly let go of my arm as I started walking away from him. I felt grateful that he was not going to be a part of our session but my insides still felt like they were twisting. My heart started pounding in my head and I felt my body starting to tingle. ‘No, not again’ I thought to myself as I remember the last time it happened I ended up on Ann’s floor. To my relief, the doctor offered me some water when we stepped into her office and I accepted gratefully. ‘Please sit’ she said as she walked over to her chair. I took a seat opposite doctor Marshall and smiled. ‘Look confident, don’t fiddle with your fingers, make eye contact’ I said over and over to myself in my head as I waited for her to begin our session.
‘How have you been’? She started and it felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest from nerves. ‘I’m doing great’ I said trying to compose myself so I would look confident. ‘How are you’ I asked her in return which made her smile even brighter. ‘I have been good Liz, thank you for asking’ she replied. ‘Why don’t we start with you telling me how you have been coping since you have been home’ she said which was an easy question to answer. I told her about how great things have been between Josh and me and how he has been so kind and loving toward me and how I thought I was the luckiest person on earth having such a supportive husband by my side. Doctor Marshall was nodding and writing as I was talking and I remembered her doing the same in sessions we had previously. I kept my posture confident and spoke without hesitation with each question she fired my way. I hoped that by putting on a façade and pretending to be happy and sane she would give me the all clear and be happy with my progress.
‘Have you had any new visions’? She asked me and I answered her a little too fast. ‘No, none’ I said and I saw her eyes narrow slightly. ‘Liz, you know we are in a safe zone, you can tell me anything and there will be no judgment’ she said trying to reassure me. I started fiddling with my fingers feeling afraid that I have been caught out and she said in a soft tone ‘What did you see’? I was so afraid telling her about any one of the many things I have seen so I lied to her again. ‘I saw Josh being the perfect husband and I was lashing out, being nasty towards him’ I lied while looking down. ‘That could be your mind’s way of healing you from all that you have been through. In one of our previous sessions you told me that Josh was abusive towards you. Seeing now that you were the one being abusive is a great step to take towards emotional healing for you both’ she said and I couldn’t help but feel like I could slap her. Instead I offered her a small smile and just nodded my head. We concluded our session with doctor Marshall feeling satisfied with my progress which left me flooded with relief. ‘I am changing your prescription’ she said while she was writing something down. She tore out the paper and handed it to me. ‘I don’t think you need such a strong dose anymore as I see you are taking all the right steps and that you are coping quite well. I’ll see you again in a few weeks. Take care of yourself’ she said as we parted ways. I walked out to find Josh still sitting where he had where he had when I went in. He looked anxious when he saw me and flew up out of his seat. ‘What did the doctor say’? He asked and I noticed him looking behind me. Doctor Marshall came out of her office and Josh looked like he was going to tackle her.
‘Is she ok’ he asked her frantically as if I was lying on my death bed. I felt confused by his reaction and just frowned at him. Doctor Marshall had her hands up in surrender trying to calm Josh down and she turned around walking him into her office so I took a seat. A few minutes later Josh emerged looking happy and confident, the insecure worried husband from a few minutes ago was gone. I stood up and he took me by the arm, leading me out of the building. ‘Let’s go fill your prescription’ he said looking a bit chipper to my liking. I walked with him in silence just wondering what he spoke to the doctor about. In the car on our way home I couldn’t keep quiet anymore and asked him ‘What did the doctor say’ and he looked over to me with a smile. ‘She said you are doing great’ he said while tapping on the steering wheel to the beat of the song playing on the radio. I heard his phone vibrating in his pocket and my thoughts flashed back to his conversation with Chloe. I bet my life that it was her on the other side of the phone again, probably asking him to go over to her house or something. He slid his eyes over to me to see if I heard anything but I just looked at the road ahead of us, pretending as though I hadn’t heard anything. We drove for a while before we got home and the first thing Josh did was put my medication in my hand telling me to take it and go lay down. ‘I have an errand to run’ he said as he kissed me on the fore head. I was sure he was on his way to Chloe so I just shook my head as he headed out of the door.
I took the tablet he put in my hand and flushed it down the toilet. ‘I don’t need them’ I said out loud and it felt good that I was able to fool doctor Marshall into thinking that I was the guilty one. I sat on the bed for a while, reflecting on the conversation I had with her and then my thoughts went to Ann. I couldn’t wait to see her as I had much to tell her about what had happened today. Then my mind wandered to the mysterious stranger in my dreams. He was so handsome and felt so familiar to me. It felt like I knew him from somewhere and that he was somehow more than a dream to me. I thought that maybe my dream was just too realistic and that was why he felt so real, but I could still smell him, his scent filled my mind and his voice still whispered deliciously in my ear sending goose bumps down my spine. Having nothing else to do, I lay back on the bed and kept the picture of the stranger in my head alive for just a while longer. I remembered looking at his forearm in my dream and seeing his tattoos so I decided I should draw them as they stood out to me. I got out my sketch pad and started drawing but I didn’t just draw his arms, I ended up drawing his whole face and upper body. I detailed his tattoos down to the last stripe I could remember and when I was done I looked down into the strangers face, now sketched on my paper. It felt like I was in a daze while I was drawing and I felt amazed that I was able to detail his face so well. ‘Damn I’m good’ I thought to myself and smiled. This face brought me so much peace each time I looked at him. I couldn’t wait to show Ann how creative I had been and besides, doctor Marshall said that it was good for me to use my talents and keep myself busy. It was part of the healing process and if my healing looked this good, I didn’t mind it at all.
I had just put my book and pencils away when Josh returned home and I was glad I wasn’t still staring at the face I drew. Josh would not appreciate me drawing or staring at some random guy. Josh looked peaceful and happy when he came in and I knew whatever he went to do, went as he planned. ‘Want to go out for dinner’? He asked. ‘That would be nice’ I said but still my head was with the beautiful stranger. ‘Put on your blue dress and put your blue flower in your hair’ Josh said as he walked over to the closet. My blue dress was an evening dress and I knew he was taking me out to a fancy place. I was not going to complain at all as I was looking forward to a night out of the house. I took my time getting dressed and did my makeup to go with the dress. I thought I looked quite good when I was done and Josh confirmed it by saying ‘You look nice’. I hoped he would have said something a bit more flattering than nice, but it was better than nothing.
Josh and I were done getting dressed at about the same time and we headed out the door for our night out on the town. I had no idea where we were going as I could not recall any place that would call for such fancy attire. Josh drove us to a retreat about half an hour away and pulled up to the front door. He stopped the car and a valet came up to park the car for us. I got out of the car and saw that we were at a masquerade party. There were so many people outside already and I couldn’t help but feel insecure for some reason. Josh came over to me and took me by the arm, leading me to the door. We were greeted at the door by the host and Josh gave him an invitation card. The host read it and handed us masks. Mine was black and blue and Josh’s mask was just black. We were told to put the masks on before we were to enter the building. I felt surprised at Josh that he brought us to a party like this as he was not the type to go to such parties. I leaned in to him and asked ‘How’d we get invited to such a fancy party’? Josh looked down at me with a frown on his face as he replied ‘I’m important to people. The card said my presence would make the evening perfect. Without me the party wouldn’t be possible’. Josh pushed is chest out with pride as he spoke and I could see his ego filling up his head. ‘Wow that’s so nice’ I said. ‘Do you know who it was’? I asked him more curious now that anything else. ‘Probably someone who admires me’ he said which left me feeling affronted. ‘Stop bickering with me and let’s go in. You are making me look like a fool standing here like this. Our hosts are expecting us’ he said and started walking toward the door that led to the ballroom. ‘Whoever she may be’ I mumbled next to him as he led me into the party.