The comfortable feeling that had just moments ago settled in Sarah's mind was now shifting restlessly. She was back in her apartment, sure, and it was familiar, but it felt different somehow. Like going back to her old room in the house she grew up in, only to discover that nothing had changed about it except for her. Everything was the same and yet everything was different. There's a good word for that, Sarah thought. Perspective.
The most noticeable difference for Sarah was that she now had a great sense of mental clarity. While just a few moments ago she had been slipping in and out of reality, right now she felt the mental equivalent of a sailor standing on stable ground for the first time after being away at sea for months on end. There was the slight, memorable mental tingle that Sarah liked to call her "psychotic sea legs;" she had experienced this feeling before with previous episodes. The familiarity of the sensation caused a laugh to bubble forth in her throat — the sea legs were making Sarah feel giddy and triumphant. She had remembered something! After packing away her delusions into little boxes for so long, Sarah had finally accessed a part of herself that she had long forgotten, and she was finally feeling real again! It was a difficult sensation to describe, but it translated into euphoria.
Sarah jumped up from the couch suddenly and began searching under piles of papers for her handheld. She felt a sense of urgency. She needed to dial someone now, thank you very much, and where was that blasted phone? James stayed on the couch, flustered. A moment passed where it seemed like he was going to stop Sarah, calm her down, ask for answers, but the moment was fleeting, and before he knew it Sarah had found the phone and had already called someone on speed dial.
The line rang and then there was a mechanical click, and a sleepy voice on the other end of the line said "Hello?"
"Gwendolyn? It's Sarah! Can you put Toby on please? ...yes, I realise it's after nine. No, I know the baby's asleep. I wouldn't call if it weren't important."
After a few moments, during which Sarah could hear faint muffled conversation, Toby's familiar voice came on the phone. "Sarah, you know you're not supposed to call after nine—"
"Yes, I know that, Toby, would you just listen for a sec? Be the caring younger brother I know you are and not the self-important family man you're pretending to be right now." After that quick outburst, Sarah lost some of her momentum and paused for a moment to let Toby respond. Ok, maybe it wasn't the smartest thing to attack him right now.
Sarah could hear Toby breathing as she waited for him to respond. When he did, his tone was hard to read. He seemed colder, perhaps because he felt affronted, yet at the same time Sarah could hear the concern in his voice. "Ok, Sarah, what's up?"
"Toby, do you remember anything about what happened when I was fifteen? After my first… episode, hallucination, whatever? I know you were really little, but do you remember anything?"
There was a long pause, a heavy sigh, and then Toby answered. "Sarah, you know I don't like to talk about that. You were… not healthy for a long time. And even when you started getting better, people gossiped. You made middle school hard for me, Sarah."
"I'm sorry, Toby. You know I'm sorry." Sarah waited.
After a while, Toby spoke again. "You liked to tell me stories when I was little. I think you made them up; I don't remember you reading to me from books or anything. But there were always these adventures about a princess who had somehow earned her freedom from an evil tyrant, and she went on adventures with her friends. I don't really remember much about the stories. But besides the princess, there were her friend, the little fox that rode around on a dog like a knight, and the giant beast that could talk to rocks, and the little dwarf who liked to steal shiny things. Sometimes I wish I could remember the stories better… I think they would make Wendy laugh."
"Did I ever say who the evil tyrant was?"
"You know, I really don't remember you saying anything about him. But I always had a really clear picture of him in mind. You know how it is, like when you read a book and you get this really vivid picture of what one of the characters looks like? And then when they make a movie version of it the actor never looks right. Well anyhow, I always pictured him as this kind of dramatic flamboyant guy, who liked to sing about how evil he was. And he liked glitter. And leather boots. And did he keep a horde of goblins around him all the time? I can't remember. Do you remember any goblins, Sarah?"
At that, Sarah smirked. "No, Toby, I don't remember any goblins." In a sarcastic tone, she added, "but the evil guy sounds scary. All that glitter and leather. Did he like Spandex? Was he a member of an 80s glam rock band?" Sarah couldn't help it; she started to giggle. On the other end of the line, Toby huffed.
"Ok, yeah, fine Sarah. Laugh all you want. I was only answering your questions because you said it was urgent."
Sarah stopped giggling then, and grew quite serious. "I had another episode, Toby."
Toby faltered. "When? Tonight?"
"A few days ago, actually. I only just recovered. James was here."
"And he didn't call me?"
"It probably didn't cross his mind."
"But he should've called! Are you ok?"
"I'm fine now. Listen, I should probably go."
"Sarah, you can't just announce something like that and leave! …Sarah?...Sarah!" All Toby heard was the dial tone as Sarah hung up.