- VII. -

December 15, 1989

”Can I come in?”

 

Vincent rose from his chair at the sound of Sybil’s voice. “Come in,” he said. He watched as the doctor entered his chamber, lugging her heavy briefcase. “Here, let me help you.”

 

“Thanks, Vincent. It’s such a pain sometimes…” Sybil stopped in mid-sentence as both briefcase latches popped open, spilling files and equipment and compact discs onto the rug with a muffled clatter. “Oh, dammit!” She dropped to the floor and began sorting through the mess.

 

“You need stronger latches on that case,” Vincent said as he knelt beside her.

 

“I need to stop carrying around so much junk. Thanks,” she said as Vincent handed her a couple of CD’s.

 

“Where is Diana?” Vincent asked.

 

“She met me at the elevator in her building with a map and a flashlight.” She raised her eyebrows. “I guess I’m on my own.”

 

At that moment Catherine came in. “What happened?” she asked.

 

“Hi, Catherine,” Sybil said. “Just a little accident.”

 

Catherine sat on the floor and picked up a framed picture. “Is this your husband?” She handed the picture to Sybil.

 

Sybil gazed at the photo. She smiled, but the smile was almost instantly replaced by a worried look. “Yes. This is Don.”

 

“You said he’s in the Navy?” Vincent asked, craning his head to see the photo. The man was muscular, handsome, with a friendly smile and warm, intelligent eyes. He wore a uniform and gazed directly into the camera.

 

“Yeah. And that’s about all I know right now.”

 

“What do you mean?” Catherine asked.

 

“Well, it’s like this. My husband is an intelligence officer. The Navy, in its infinite wisdom, hasn’t told me where he is or what he’s doing or when he’s coming back. So...”

 

“All you can do is wait,” Catherine said.

Sybil tore her eyes away from the picture and glanced first at Catherine, then at Vincent. Suddenly brisk, she placed the picture back in the briefcase. “That’s right. Wait and hope.” She stood and began arranging her equipment, turning her back on Vincent and Catherine. “Why don’t you all have a seat and we’ll get started.”

 

“Very well,” Vincent said, exchanging a glance with Catherine. He sat on the edge of the bed, and Catherine sat at the table.

 

Sybil set the CD player on the bed and inserted a disc. “Chopin tonight,” she said. She sat next to Catherine at the table, turned on her tape recorder, and looked at Vincent.

 

“Where do we begin?” Vincent asked.

 

“Where we left off last night,” Sybil said. “I want you to close your eyes and concentrate on my voice and the music.”

 

Vincent did as she asked. In less than five minutes, Sybil’s soft voice eased him from full consciousness into a relaxed but alert state of mind. He was aware of his own body and Sybil’s voice; everything else, even the music, had faded away.

 

How does he do it? Sybil wondered. She had never known a patient who was so easily hypnotized. “Vincent, can you hear me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Are you comfortable?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Tonight we’re going to work on some memories and feelings. Some of the questions I ask may make you uncomfortable. I want you to remember that nothing you feel or think while you’re under trance will hurt you. You will be able to examine things objectively. You will be in control of yourself and your feelings. If I see that you’re becoming distressed, I will help you. Do you understand?”

 

A brief hesitation: “Yes.”

 

Sybil glanced at Catherine and mouthed two words: “Watch him.” Catherine nodded and focused her attention on Vincent.

 

“Vincent, I’m going to ask some questions about Diana Bennett. She’s a good friend of yours, isn’t she?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Sybil noted the frown that appeared between Vincent’s eyes. “Diana was a great help to you, wasn’t she?”

 

“Yes. Without her...my son would not be alive. I would be dead as well.”

 

“And do you feel you owe her a debt of gratitude? A debt you can repay?”

 

“I can only repay her with my love and my friendship.”

 

Sybil scribbled on a yellow legal pad and stole a sideways glimpse at Catherine, whose huge grey eyes were riveted on Vincent’s face.

 

“Your love and your friendship,” Sybil repeated. “Tell me, Vincent, do you love Diana?”

 

Vincent’s body tensed, and Sybil quickly responded. “Listen to me, Vincent. I want you to breathe deeply and slowly. Relax and listen to my voice and to the music. Nothing can harm you. Just relax.” She kept a careful eye on him as he followed her instructions. She looked at Catherine, who whispered, “O.K.”

 

“Vincent, do you love Diana?”

 

“Yes. I love her as a friend.”

 

“Does she love you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“She told me.”

 

“When?”

 

“The night after Catherine returned.” Vincent’s voice was now a lifeless monotone.

 

Sybil heard a gasp. She turned to find Catherine holding a hand over her mouth. Sybil held one finger in front of her mouth, raised her eyebrows, then returned to questioning Vincent.

 

“You went to see Diana that night?”

 

“Yes, had to tell her...I don’t know.”

 

“You do know, Vincent. What did you need to tell her?”

 

“Goodbye,” he whispered.

“And was that difficult?”

 

“It was difficult for both of us.”

 

“How do you feel about Diana now? Are you still attracted to her?”

 

Now Sybil kept an eye on both Vincent and Catherine. Vincent visibly struggled with himself for an answer. Catherine rose from her seat, but Sybil motioned her back with a sharp gesture. “It’s all right, Vincent. You can answer.”

 

“Yes,” he said in a choked voice.

 

“And do you think…”

 

“I didn’t want to hurt her.” Vincent’s voice was flooded with emotion, although he still sat perfectly motionless on the bed. “I thought Catherine was dead, and I was so alone. And then Catherine returned...” He hesitated. “I love Diana, but it was never the same as what I felt toward Catherine. If I had revealed my feelings to Diana before Catherine came back...” He broke off, tears streaming down his face.

 

Sybil leaned across the table toward Catherine. “Are you all right?” she whispered.

 

Catherine nodded, wiping away her own tears. “I’m O.K.”

 

“Who are you crying for?”

 

“Him.” Catherine nodded toward Vincent. “He feels so guilty for things he couldn’t control. It’s just not fair. I wish I could help him.”

 

“You can. Just hang in there.” She returned her attention to Vincent. “Vincent, how do you feel?”

 

“Ashamed.”

 

“What if you had been the one to die? Would you have expected Catherine to live the rest of her life alone, without the comfort of a husband and family?”

 

“No! That wouldn’t be fair to Catherine.”

 

“Then why are you so hard on yourself?” Sybil leaned forward, trying to aim every word into his heart.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“What applies to Catherine applies to you.”

“No-”

 

“Yes. Absolutely. Have you discussed any of this with Catherine?”

 

“Some of it.”

 

“I take it she survived?”

 

A faint smile touched Vincent’s lips. “She understood.”

 

“Catherine’s been through some terrible times, Vincent. Don’t add to them by being anything less than perfectly honest about how you feel and what you think, whether good or bad. You may owe Diana your friendship, but what do you owe Catherine?”

 

“Myself.” The word was almost a question.

 

“Yes. Yourself.” She sat back in her chair and stared at him. Please, Lord, let that be a bull’s eye. If he doesn’t get this, he’s not going to get anything.

 

Once again Sybil addressed Vincent. “In a few moments, I’m going to count from one to five and bring you out of the trance state. When you wake up, you’ll be relaxed and peaceful. You will remember everything you felt, heard and said, but none of it will trouble you. You will be able to discuss your feelings for Diana with no restraints. You will realize that you can talk to Catherine about anything. And you will understand that you are not responsible for Diana falling in love with you.” She looked at the ceiling for a moment, then back at Vincent. “One...two...you’re starting to wake up...three, four...your eyes are opening...five, you’re fully awake.”

 

Vincent felt himself surface from the warm comfort of the trance state. He opened his eyes and blinked a few times, still caught in the limbo between light and dark. Slowly his surroundings swam into focus, and he saw Catherine smiling at him. He stared at her, feeling as if his eyes were deceiving him. “You’re still here,” he said in an awed voice.

 

“Of course I’m here.” She left her chair and sat beside him on the bed, enveloping one of his hands in both her hands.

 

“How do you feel?” Sybil asked.

 

He turned to the doctor. A few seconds passed as he groped for words. “Light.”

 

“You feel light?”

 

“Yes.” He gazed at Catherine, still trying to comprehend her presence.

 

“Do you feel better?” Catherine asked.

“Yes.”

 

“You’ve been carrying a tremendous load of unnecessary guilt, Vincent,” Sybil said. “It’s the kind of thing that can crush you if you let it. But you got it out in the open, in front of Catherine. And look, she’s still here. You both survived.”

 

“But I didn’t do it on my own.” Vincent surrounded Catherine’s hands with his hands; he glanced at her, then at Sybil. “Why can’t I say these things without help?”

 

Sybil sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Oh, Vincent. I’ve had men in VA hospitals ask me that same question. Vets with half a face gone, or both legs blown off above the knee, still rapping themselves because they weren’t able to save a buddy’s life. Rape victims, too: why couldn’t I stop it? What did I do wrong? Why can’t I solve my problems by myself?” She looked at Vincent and Catherine and shook her head. “Why in God’s name are people so hard on themselves?”

 

“Perhaps we expect too much of ourselves,” Vincent said.

 

“High expectations are good up to a point, but you have to be realistic.” Sybil left her chair, switched off the disc player and sat on the bed to Vincent’s left. “I want you two to make a point of talking to each other, about everything. If you’re going to spend your lives together, you can’t have any barriers or taboos.”

 

“What about limits?” Vincent felt a tight pull around his heart.

 

“Remember, we don’t know what our limits are,” Catherine said.

 

“Limits!” Sybil said. “The only limits you have are the ones you place on yourselves.”

 

Vincent looked at Sybil; he felt the constriction around his heart ease.

 

She smiled at his expression. “You heard me.” She stood and began gathering her belongings.

 

“When can you come back?” Catherine asked.

 

“How about tomorrow?”

 

“We don’t mean to take so much of your time,” Vincent said.

 

Sybil shrugged. “It’s O.K., believe me. I need to keep busy.”

 

“You must really miss your husband,” Catherine said.

 

Sybil nodded. A few silent seconds passed as she fastened her briefcase. “You know, you two are lucky. You don’t have to worry or wonder when you’ll be able to see each other.”

 

“We have experienced that,” Vincent said.

 

“When I was pregnant with Jacob,” Catherine said. She looked at Sybil. “How much do you know about what happened to me?”

 

“I know that your life might be in danger if you left this place. Actually, I guess that applies to both of you.”

 

“But that’s not the only reason I’m here,” Catherine said.

 

“Convince him.” Sybil pointed to Vincent.

 

“I know that!” Vincent protested.

 

Sybil moved closer. “You know it up here -” she pointed to his head “- but what about in here?” She poked a gentle finger into his chest and raised her eyebrows. “Hmm?”

 

Vincent felt Catherine’s eyes on him, but he said nothing.

 

“Well, O.K.,” Sybil said. “I’ll be back tomorrow around two, if that’s all right?”

 

“Fine,” Catherine said, her voice distracted.

 

“Actually, I’ll be here earlier. I’m bringing Father some psychiatric journals. We’re going to eat lunch together, and I supposedly am going to catch him up on the last ten years of developments in my field.” She smiled and shook her head.

 

Vincent returned her smile. “Just don’t let him talk you into a game of chess.”

 

“Wouldn’t be much of a challenge for him. I have a six-year-old nephew who kills me at checkers. I think you two have a lot to talk about. So...” She shrugged her shoulders and raised her eyebrows  “...talk.” One quick smile and she was gone.

 

Vincent and Catherine were alone in their chamber.

 

“Vincent, you’ve got to believe that I’m here because I want to be here.”

 

“And because you have nowhere else to go.”

 

“No, that’s not true! Don’t you see? I’m bound to you by our love and by our son. I can’t leave you, Vincent. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

 

“Even after what I said...about Diana?”

 

“Vincent...you’re only human.”

 

“Am I?”

 

She held his face in her hands and gazed into his eyes. “More than you know.” She brushed the hair away from his face. “I’m going to get Jacob now. And when I come back...”

 

“We will talk.”

 

“Yes.” She leaned forward to kiss him and was surprised when he pulled her into his embrace.

 

“I love you so much,” he whispered.

 

“I love you, too.” She hugged him so hard that for a moment she felt as if she were a part of him. She pulled away and looked at him. “Nothing you could ever say or do could drive me away. Nothing.” She kissed his cheek and left to fetch Jacob.

 

Chapter 8