Authors: Minka Kent
I have no idea if we’ve ever discussed starting a family or how I felt about that as Kate.
By the time our food arrives, I’ve managed to keep our small talk generic. Weather, summer plans, his work, that sort of thing. And when we’re back inside his car a half hour later, I watch as he checks the time on his phone. Last week we went on a drive to fill the rest of the two-hour pass, and I’m hopeful he’ll suggest the same today, but I can’t bring it up because I’m not supposed to remember. From what I’ve gathered from all my cognitive behavior sessions and reading a couple of books Dr. Schneider loaned to me, the personalities are generally unaware of one another. They don’t share memories or recollections. If I’m Kate, I wouldn’t recall anything that happened when I was Brienne.
Niall starts the car and pulls back out onto the highway. I’m pretty sure he’s headed back to Crestview. The question lingers on the tip of my tongue, but I manage to overpower it.
“Any plans for the rest of the day?” I ask when we approach the main drag of Old Hundred, passing a quaint flower shop called the Potted Rose.
“Just taking care of a few things around the house,” he says, checking his rearview mirror. His voice is so mellow, so casual, but his fingers are strained around the steering wheel, almost as though he senses something is off. “We got some rain this past week. The lawn’s looking a little shaggy. Thought I’d do something about that today while the sun’s out.”
I glance down at my hands resting on the tops of my thighs and study my ring, still feeling nothing.
“Thanks for bringing this, by the way,” I say, giving it a twist until the stone is centered on my finger.
“Of course.” He slows to a stop as we approach a blinking red light at a four-way intersection.
A moment later, a car pulls up behind us, and Niall eases onto the gas. Streets and houses we pass are becoming familiar, and I know now that he’s taking me back to Crestview.
“What made you choose this ring?” I ask. “I was trying to remember earlier, and it wasn’t coming back to me.”
“Seriously, Kate?” The tiniest ounce of annoyance laces his tone. “You chose the ring. You wanted something classic. It was extremely important to you that it be timeless and heirloom quality. In fact, we went rounds on this very topic. I find it strange that you don’t recall
of this”—he glances at me as he drives—“now that you’re . . . back.”
My stomach drops.
“I know you want to come home. I know you don’t want to be here. But you can’t rush your recovery. You’re only cheating yourself. And honestly, Kate, it isn’t fair to me either.” Niall flicks on a blinker, waits for an oncoming car, and pulls onto the street by the psychiatric center. “I think I should take you back now.”
“Dr. Emberlin? You wanted to chat for a second?” Today’s charge nurse, an older lady I’ve never seen before, approaches me by the front office. “I’m Caroline. How can I help you?”
The woman at the front desk said Dr. Schneider had left for the day. Apparently, he only comes in on Saturdays so he can meet with Brienne and me for an hour, and then he gets the hell out of here so he can catch a round of golf before the afternoon sun scorches the top of his bald head.
I’m assuming, anyway.
“Is there an office we can go? Somewhere private?” I ask, scratching at the side of my temple, my other hand resting casually at my hip.
“Of course.” She motions for me to follow her into the main office, and then she takes me to one of the rooms in the back where a desk is covered in files and an older model Dell computer.
She takes a seat.
I take a seat, pausing for dramatic effect.
“I spent the morning with my wife,” I begin. “And I have reason to think she’s faking her recovery.”
Caroline leans back in her chair, unblinking. But just because she isn’t reacting doesn’t mean I don’t have her ear.
“There were some comments she made,” I say. “Things that she wouldn’t have done if she were Kate. This is going to sound preposterous, but I think she’s still her alter, and she’s pretending to be Kate so she can come home.”
The nurse slouches before straightening her shoulders, and then she raps her nails on the desktop.
“That’s . . . wow.” She cocks her head, eyes narrowing at a spot across the room as she thinks.
“She has some of her old diaries,” I continue because I feel like she might be a bit tougher sell than she looks. I’ve familiarized myself with this identity disorder enough to know that one alter generally isn’t capable of pretending to be another—but I also know there are exceptions to every rule and every diagnosis, and strange things happen all the time, unexplainable things. “I think she’s going off the things she read and pretending to be Kate.”
“Are you . . . sure?” Caroline asks. “Dr. Schneider’s been working with her all week, and I’ve been around her and—”
“Are you suggesting I don’t know my own wife?” I make my voice a hair louder than hers.
“No, no, not at all, Dr. Emberlin. It’s just that something like this is . . . I don’t want to say unlikely, but it’s rare for something like that to slip past us. That said, it isn’t implausible.”
Did I call it, or did I call it?
“Psychiatry isn’t my wheelhouse and by no means am I an expert on my wife’s diagnosis, but I’ve been around her long enough to know when she’s Kate and when she’s not Kate, and I’m telling you . . . that woman? The one I spent the morning with? The one who sat in front of Dr. Schneider and pretended she had no idea what she was doing here? That’s not Kate.”
Caroline contemplates my words for a moment, and I steal a peek at my watch and sigh, like I don’t have time for this.
And I don’t.
“I’ve got to head back to Iowa. Why don’t you have Dr. Schneider call me when he gets a chance? I’d like to speak to him
.” I emphasize “personally” because that sort of thing always puts the fear of God into underlings, and then I get up from the chair.
I’m halfway across the office when she scrambles for the phone on her desk.
“If you have a second, I can call him right now,” she says, her fingers punching in the numbers. I wait while she cradles the receiver on her shoulder, and when she taps her nails on the desk, I get twitchy. A few seconds later, she mouths the word “voice mail” and then waits for the tone. “Hi, Dr. Schneider, it’s Caroline at the center. Kate Emberlin’s husband would like to have a word with you when you get a chance. If you could call back at your earliest convenience, that would be great. Thank you.”
She hangs up, looking up at me, shoulders braced as she awaits my response. It’s funny—people fear you when they think you’re someone with influence, someone of importance. I have to say I’m going to miss being able to throw my weight around to get what I want.
“He can reach me on my cell,” I say, and then I leave.
This should buy me some more time.
“Your husband is on the phone,” one of the orderlies says from my doorway Sunday night.
I haven’t spoken to Niall since yesterday morning, when he dropped me off after breakfast. I don’t know where he went after he walked me to my room, but I happened to glance out the window by the social hall fifteen minutes later and saw his car was still parked outside.
I’m sure he was talking to one of the nurses, sharing his suspicions.
I meet with Dr. Schneider tomorrow morning. I guess I’ll find out then whether or not this is working.
Closing the worn, dog-eared copy of
Pride and Prejudice
in my hands and peeling myself off the bed, I trek down the hall, following the aide to the room with the phone.
“Line four,” he says.
Taking a seat, I press the flashing button and lift the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hey,” Niall says. He doesn’t call me Kate this time.
There’s a pause, a hesitation. “How are you?”
His question grates under my skin, but I know he means well. “I’m okay.”
“Look, I feel bad about the way we left things yesterday,” he says.
“You mean the way you accused me of lying and then dumped me off?”
“I just want to make sure you’re getting the most of your treatment,” he counters. “I know you want to come home. And you will. When the time is
“They said it’s possible I won’t remember everything at once,” I lie. “That things will come back to me in pieces. They think it’s possible that the brain trauma—”
“Kate.” He doesn’t believe me. “That’s not how it was last time . . .”
“All I know is that I don’t remember being Brienne, and I don’t remember a lot of what happened over the past six months. I just know that I’m Kate. And I wish you’d believe me.”
Niall exhales into his end of the phone, his silence concerning.
“I want to come home.” My voice breaks. Niall is the only one with the power to make this happen, and I’m not above begging if it comes to that. “Please . . .”
“I’ll talk to Dr. Schneider after your session tomorrow.” He speaks as if he’s doing me a favor, humoring or appeasing me. “And if he says you’re cleared, I’ll come get you the second I leave work. I promise.”
“Thank you,” I say, though I’m not entirely sure I believe him.
“I love you,” he says. “We’ll talk again tomorrow night.”
I end the call and take the long way back to my room to kill some time, even if it’s just an extra couple of minutes. When I pass the nurses’ station, I stop when I see Caroline, the weekend charge nurse. She’s one of the friendlier faces, one of the nurses who treats me with patience and authentic compassion.
“Caroline, hi,” I say, resting my elbows on the tall counter.
She glances up from her clipboard, eyes softening. “Good evening to you.”
“I was wondering if you knew if my medical records ever came?” I ask. Dr. Schneider had brought them up to Niall in our last session together and how he was still needing them for my file. “I’d like to go
over them if I could. I’m just wanting to get an idea of how things were last time. Might be able to give me a better idea of what to expect with everything? I signed that release last week, and I was told someone would request a rush on them, so I thought I’d follow up.”
There’s a hesitation about her, the way her lips dance and her fingers tap. “The records processing facility in Georgia is still having trouble finding you in their database. From what I understand, your husband was going to check into it and get back to us.”
“Keep me updated, will you, please?” I ask before letting her get back to her charting. I’m halfway back to my room when my wedding ring slips off my finger, bounces off the soft tile floor, and rolls a few feet away before settling to a stop against someone’s closed door.
But it’s only when I pick it up that I notice something strange.
The inside of the white gold band has worn to the point that its natural yellow hue is showing through. I distinctly remember my grandmother’s—or Brienne’s grandmother’s—wedding band, which was a simple, stoneless piece, and how it had the strangest color to it, like it was neither gold nor white gold. I remember her telling me that all gold is yellow, and it’s mixed with another metal to make it white and the whiteness tends to fade with time.
Hers took a lifetime to fade.
There’s no way this ring is only three years old.
In a hurry, I carry the ring to the natural light of my window, inspecting the stone as closely as I can. The facets dance and glimmer in the light, flawless and colorless.
The stone is fake.
“Hello there. Good morning,” Dr. Schneider says Monday when I step into his office. The orderly shuts the door behind me, and I take my spot on the sofa. Dr. Schneider gathers his yellow pad and pen and his coffee and makes his way to his leather chair, adjusting his glasses and crossing his legs and settling in for the hour-long session that awaits us.
He doesn’t ask me about my week so far. He doesn’t waste time with small talk. His typical jovial casualness is gone, and in its place is a concerning expression and vacant, avoidant eyes.
“You spoke to my husband over the weekend,” I say, hands folded in my lap, knees pressed together to keep my foot from bouncing.
He clears his throat. “I did.”
“He thinks I’m making this up.”
“He does.” Dr. Schneider looks me in the eyes now, though I think he’s trying to gauge how I’m going to react to this news.
“He’s not wrong.” I spent all weekend thinking about this very moment, about what Schneider was going to say to me Monday and whether or not I’d carry on this charade or fess up, and I decided coming clean would be my only chance at being taken seriously.
Dr. Schneider nods. There’s no shock registering on his middle-aged face. No flinch or reaction of any sort.
“I appreciate the honesty,” he says, the way a calm parent would speak to a teenager who’s coming clean about a lie they’ve told.
“But before we get into that, I have a few concerns myself,” I say. “About Niall, actually.”
He flips to a clean sheet in his legal pad and readies his pen. “What kind of concerns?”
“I remember posting a classified ad for a tenant,” I say, “shortly after my assault. My friends insisted. They wouldn’t let it go. I remember not wanting to be alone in that big house. And I remember getting an email from him to set up a meeting. He showed up in scrubs, and I gave him a tour of the house.”
Dr. Schneider’s hand covers half of his mouth, his elbow resting against the arm of his chair as he studies me.
“Why would he pretend to be a stranger if he was my husband? Why would he let me give him a tour of the house? Why would he respond to an ad for a roommate?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer right away, mulling everything over. “It’s possible that in your current state, as Brienne, you made assumptions about him. As Brienne, it’s important that everything makes sense in
context—not Kate’s. There might be truths that Brienne refuses to see or things that Brienne interpreted differently.”