May 2007 (18 years later)
"And then, the squirrel tickled me to death!" Rachel started to sob. Good thing I had bought extra tissues for the office.
"I see. And how that make you feel?" I asked.
Yes, this was what I'd been reduced down to. I'd gone from having the greatest job in the world to this. Nuts like Rachel had become part of my everyday life.
Hey, I thought, it's not as if you never encountered the occasional schizophrenic back in the biz.
Just the other day, I'd had some strange old lady brought to me by the city. "She's confused and she's been making trouble," said the judge.
"What kind of trouble?" I had asked.
"She's been running an illegal business without a license," he replied.
I gasped. "She's drug cartel?"
"No, no, of course not. She's a 'fortune teller.'" Judge Hammond made air quotation marks with his fingers. "Seems to believe that she's psychic."
I froze at the p-word. "I see…" I said slowly. "Has it ever occurred to you that she might actually be…psychic?"
The judge laughed. "Dr. Colby, you know as well as I do that stuff isn't real."
Needless to say, I'd taken the case.
The woman was elderly; about mid-70's, I'd assumed. She had long grey hair that was in a fat braid at the back. She didn't look crazy, but you never really can tell.
She looked up as I walked into my office. "Ah," she said. "I've been expecting you. You know, you're really much more beautiful than you perceive yourself to be, Dr. Colby."
I paused, a little confused by what she had said. But I shook it off. You get used to weird remarks in my line of work. "So," I said. "Do you know why you're here, Mrs. Haversham?"
She smiled. "They sent me here so you can talk me out of thinking I know the future. I came because I wanted to tell you yours."
"Can you…can you really see the future?" I couldn't help but ask.
"Of course I can. I have a sixth sense. I know you believe me, because you share it too."
I froze. "How did you know that?"
"I know more than you think," she whispered. "You've lost dear friends whom you miss very much. But you will find them again…very soon. Destiny will bring you back together, and you will discover more about them and yourself than you could ever imagine."
"Like what?" All my professionalism was gone. "Tell me!"
Haversham shook her head at me. "You've always been such a child, my dear; innocent and impatient. They all thought of you as their little sister, didn't they…all but one. Oh, if only you could see how much he cares for you, how much he misses you."
She raised a hand to her forehead. "Oh. It's so loud…I can barely hear myself think."
The room was quiet except for the two of us. "What's wrong?" I asked.
She stared at me gravely. "I haven't much time. The tumor is growing, I'm afraid."
"You…you're dying? Oh, God," I breathed. "Oh God, I'm sorry."
There was silence until she softly said, "I believe Alice has an urgent matter to discuss with you."
I nodded, got up, and walked out. It was only until later that I wondered to myself how Mrs. Haversham had known my daughter's name.
I walked into my apartment. Alice was sitting on the couch, flipping through a book as usual.
Alice looked just like Alex-the dark brown, almost black, hair; the dark green eyes. All she inherited from me was the pale complexion, the vertical challenge, and the nearsightedness.
I worried about her sometimes. She was so quiet, so shy. As pleased as I was that I had been blessed with a genius child out of two semi-smart parents, I fretted that there might be something wrong with Alice, some mental defect that made her so non-social.
But I tried not to think about it too much. Alice seemed happy and healthy, and there was nothing wrong with studying and reading.
Alice looked up as I walked in. "Hi," she said. "How'd your day go, Mom?"
"Oh, alright, I suppose. There was this woman today…" I directed my thoughts away from the mysterious Mrs. Haversham. "So what are you reading?"
"Well, actually," said Alice, adjusting her thick, black, rectangular frames. Unlike her vain mother, Alice had no problem wearing glasses. "This isn't a book."
She handed me the book. I opened the cover curiously.
She had been right, it wasn't a book. It was my old photo album. I stared at a picture I hadn't seen in forever: the five of us, standing side by side, wearing jumpsuits and the packs. It was at least twenty years old, but God-it was them alright.
"Where did you find this?" I asked.
"On the bottom book shelf. Mom, who are all of these guys you're with? Why are you wearing these uniforms? Was this a club of something?"
I sighed and sat down beside her. It was about time I told the story. "Alice, we need to talk."