Jack looks through the window into the operating room. Maya lies in a hospital bed. Maybe that means she’s getting better, he hopes.
Thoughts race through his mind. He wonders if the thought-terrorist did this to her, or if she did it to herself, awakening a power that causes the mind to buckle under the strain.
He wonders what Maya’s friends back home would think if they knew what was happening. Or her parents. They’d have a fit, he figures. But they probably don’t know. Jack suspects the doctor has no reason to inform them. This is all too secretive for something as normal and decent as that.
An unwelcome thought sneaks into his mind. She’s lucky to have parents.
His mom’s voice follows. It’s raspy, worn down by the smoking. She never seemed happy, working herself ragged taking care of Sophie and him. That’s how he sees her now, darting around, juggling ten different things, a cigarette dangling from her mouth. He still hears her husky commands. She’s wearing her bathrobe yelling, “Jack, find your sister’s other shoe,” “Jack, draw Sophie’s bath,” or “Whatever the problem, you deal with it—you’re the man of the house.”
He wishes he had a more pleasant memory of her. He searches for one. She was happy at the wedding. After she met Gary, it seemed like her life would turn around. She’d been burned—they all had—by Dad leaving. Jack hasn’t seen him since then and doesn’t know where he is. Doesn’t want to know. The toll it took on his mom was visible. He never saw her cry, but her face looked more weathered. Her short fuse got shorter. She’d bang pots around when she was making dinner, so loudly that Jack remembers putting his hands over his ears and yelling for her to stop, which only made her angrier.
He doesn’t remember her ever having a job with a paycheck. She joked about how much she loved her job, which was to go to the mailbox every two weeks and get her disability check.
He realizes he’s back on the negative track. He moves back to the wedding. His mom wore a dark green dress—the first and only time he ever saw her dress up. Gary wore a black tuxedo with a pink shirt. Jack remembers thinking Gary’s friends were so tough and cool. Gary worked as a security guard, and a lot of his friends were in security or other low rungs of law enforcement. They were big, beefy guys. They ribbed Jack, then ten years old, calling him a string bean. He didn’t like that, but they picked him up and gave him shoulder-back rides, which made everything better. For a while.
Jack could always comfort his mother. And she seemed to count on him for that. He was always in tune with what she was feeling and thinking.
“What are you doing?” comes a small voice from behind him. It gives him a start. He momentarily forgets where he is. He turns around and sees Sabine.
“Hi, Sabine. How are you feeling?”
“A little better. Is Maya in there?”
“You can tell, huh?”
She nods. “Is she sleeping?”
He kneels. “Actually, she was hurt.”
Sabine’s eyes widen. “Is she hurt bad?”
“They don’t know.” He stands up and looks in the window.
Sabine stands on her tiptoes to see inside the window, but can’t reach. Jack lifts her.
“It looks like she’s sleeping.”
He’s not sure what to say. He doesn’t know how much to keep from her or how much to reveal. He decides to change the subject.
“Sabine, when the ceiling fell, and the man was there . . .”
“He was a bad man.”
“Right, the bad man. Did you do something, you know, special? With your mind?”
She shrugs like whatever it was didn’t feel special to her. “I made it so he wouldn’t find us.”
“Right. That was really amazing. You protected all of us from maybe getting hurt by him, didn’t you?”
“Sometimes I hide.”
“Is that how you think of it—hiding?”
She turns her torso back and forth, demurring.
“Maya did something. Or, she might have done something like that. Something special. Something nobody else can do, with her mind. And maybe that’s what hurt her.”
“It hurts when you do it.” She stares blankly at Maya.
“Is that right?”
“It hurts bad.”
“What happens? Like, where does it hurt?”
“In your head, silly!” She looks at him and smiles.
“Right. Of course. Did it hurt you when you did that the other day?”
“It doesn’t hurt me too much anymore.”
“Oh, so you mean, it used to hurt you?”
Jack looks at Maya again, and then kneels and places Sabine back on the floor.
“How did you stop the hurting?”
She wrinkles her lips. “You just hide from the part that hurts.”
Jack lets that sink in.
“Hide from that part. Like, turn off a part of your head, sort of?”
“Sabine, you knew that man was there. Was that because you could sense his mind?”
“Uh-huh.” Sabine looks down, like she ’s done something wrong.
“I’m not mad. It’s okay—it’s good. It’s incredible. I just want to know. It could help us all to know. If you can reach into someone else’s mind, or feel it, could you help, you know, turn it off?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know.”
“Can you try?”
She hesitates for a moment. Jack raises his eyebrows at her, trying to encourage a response.
Jack peers furtively down the hall, both ways, and then leads Sabine through the operating-room doors.
They step up to Maya. Her hair is bound in a hairnet that’s nearly bursting from the strain. Her heart monitor’s periodic beep is the only sound in the room.
Sabine gets close to the bed, and then stops, closes her eyes, and appears to concentrate.
Jack looks at her soft little face and marvels at her. Her eyes move under her eyelids, and she begins to stiffen like she did in the accident.
He wants to put his arm around her, but doesn’t want to disrupt her focus. He checks on Maya. She’s not moving. Her heart monitor is beeping at the same pace. Nothing’s happening. Jack feels like an idiot for buying into the rich fantasy world of a child.
Sabine opens her eyes. “Okay.”
Jack sits on the floor in front of her. “Okay? Okay what?”
“She can do it now. Maybe she can do it by herself. You have to practice.”
“That’s true, practice is good. But, if she can hide from the pain now, shouldn’t she be waking up?”
“Maybe she’s still tired.”
Jack stands and holds his hand out for Sabine. “Let’s leave her be.” They turn to walk out.
Before they reach the door, Jack notices the heart-monitor beeps are speeding up. He stops and looks back at Maya. Then, something grabs Jack and draws him closer to her, as if by a magnet, his socks sliding across the floor—just a few inches, but no less astonishing.
Maya opens her eyes wide and gasps. She bolts up with a start.