I didn’t have a car, so I was going to take the bus to the hospital for my appointment with the psychiatrist that had been scheduled as part of my release conditions. Did I say a bus? I meant multiple busses. Like three. Nothing like easy access, right?
But then a stroke of luck happened. Or misfortune, maybe? Brian saw me waiting and offered me a ride. He had a cheap parking spot just off campus, a result of his many personal connections.
“Don’t you want to know where I’m going before you offer me a ride?” I said.
He smiled. “Nope. Come on. You owe me after baling on my hockey game.”
“I’m really sorry about that,” I said. “It was unavoidable. The truth was I didn’t really want to talk to him about where I was going and why, even though he’d been there the night I’d had my attack, or whatever it was.
He said, “Okay, well. I thought I’d ask. But if you’re goo—“
“No,” I said, “Wait.” I was being stupid to refuse him. I could see it. “Let’s go,” I said. “Thank you.”
“So where to?” he said when we were inside his car.
“The hospital,” I said. “Where I was the other night.”
“Oh,” he said. “Are you all right? I mean, since then? You’ve been okay, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It wasn’t anything to do with that that made me miss your hockey game. It was kind of funny, what happened.” And to change the subject I told him about Monster’s escaped snake.
“That Monster guy,” Brian said. “He’s a little out there, don’t you think?”
“He’s cool,” I said. “He’s really smart.”
“You can be smart and not odd,” Brian said. “They’re not correlated.”
“Yeah I know. He’s also refreshing. He’ll say the things that no one else says.”
“Sometimes that’s called being an asshole.”
“No I know. But he’s not like that. He gave you my number, didn’t he? That wasn’t the act of an asshole.”
“No.” He laughed. “I guess I’m just annoyed that it was his snake you had to look for.”
“How long do you think you’ll be?” he asked when we arrived at the hospital.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t expect you to wait. I really appreciate the ride, though. Thanks.”
“I don’t mind waiting. We could get food afterward.”
“Okay,” I said. My heart was jumping up and down like a rabbit. Brian wasn’t super easy to talk to like Monster, but he did have a way of making me feel all the strong feels.
They made me wait almost half an hour before I could get in for my appointment. When I did see her, I told her everything. She had read my history and new about what had happened the previous year. For some reason she kept asking about Dad, though. If I’d ever seen him. How I felt after he died. Then she asked me about my classes. I told her about Victorian Lit and the other classes and the drama class, of course. And I asked her what she thought about drama therapy.
She didn’t know much about it. I tried to explain. “Do you think it’s okay if I participate?”
She gave me a smile. “Should be fine,” she said. “My best guess is that you’ve been having some night terrors. Probably as a result of your experiences last year. We could give you some medications to help. But they don’t always help and they have some serious side effects.”
“Really?” I said. I wondered if I should mention the blood I’d found on my blankets from the little boy. But hadn’t I decided that it was probably just an old bloodstain?
“I know you’re a student, but maybe try to avoid any really hard partying,” she said. “Alcohol can do funny things to the way the brain interacts with the nervous system.”
“Okay,” I said. “Umm…”
“Are they going to continue? The dreams or night terrors?”
“It’s hard to say. You’re not really the normal type of person we see night terrors in. Usually it’s young men or boys. But, because of the PTSD, from what you witnessed, it might be that they do last. They might become much less frequent. They might end all together. Or they might continue for years to come. You can’t predict something like this. And you can’t just have an operation and remove what’s causing them. That’s not how the brain works.”
“I understand,” I said, thinking that a lifetime of being haunted by ghosts was not going to be much fun.
“You can come back and see me,” she said. “We can make a plan to help you manage if they continue. Maybe the drama therapy will help too.”
“Okay,” I said. “Thank you.” Why was I saying thank you to a woman who just told me I might be cursed for the rest of my life?
“The first thing that I will help you do,” she said. “Is help you look at it as something that isn’t good or bad. It’s just part of who you are, like having the name Laura.”
“Right,” I said, not understanding at all.
“How ‘bout you make an appointment for next week?” she said. “We can talk more then. Bring a notebook.”
“Sure,” I said.
We said goodbye and I retreated somewhat thankfully to the receptionist’s desk, where I booked another appointment. Then I texted Brian to say I was done.
We went to a little pizza place that had maybe ten tables. All of them were occupied.
“Do they do takeout?” I asked. There was more than a bit of a line for tables. Strange on a Thursday night, I thought.
“I called ahead,” Brian said. “It shouldn’t be too long. They don’t take reservations but they know me.”
I wasn’t sure if I was annoyed that Brian seemed to have so many personal ins around the city, or if I was impressed. He didn’t ask me anything about how my appointment went as we waited. The pizza smelled gorgeous, all yeasty and spicy. My stomach growled loudly.
“So did you win?” I asked.
“The hockey game that I missed.”
“Oh, no.” he laughed. “We got creamed, as a matter of fact. A couple of our players were sick and our substitutes weren’t the best. Means we’re kind of low now in the rankings. But will rally.” He smiled and I felt myself smile back. I couldn’t help it.
We were seated and he asked if I wanted wine. “They have nice wines,” he said. “I’ve heard. I don’t normally drink wine.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. But the server had already brought the wine list. A pizza place with a wine list? They were all in Italian and I didn’t recognize any of them.
“Just your house wine?” I asked. The server smiled. Then he told me what it was called and told me where it was from and I promptly forgot. Brian ordered a beer.
The wine when it came was sweet and dry. It was a white wine and I really liked it. It was probably the best glass of wine I’d ever had actually. Admittedly my experience was quite tiny. But then the pizza came and that made the wine pale in comparison. It was like a flavour grenade went off on my tongue.
“Good?” he asked.
“It’s like a symphony in my mouth,” I said.
“I’ll tell Paolo,” Brian said. “He’ll like that.”
“Really,” I said, “you can bring me here any time you want.”
His grin widened. “Deal.”
The whole entire meal, he didn’t ask about my appointment. Finally I said when we were back in his car, “So I’m not hallucinating. I’ve been having night terrors, probably because of some PTSD I got from seeing the guy shoot himself last year.”
“Oh,” Brian said. “That’s not as serious?, is it?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess it’s all right.”
“Look,” he said. “If you don’t want to talk about stuff, I won’t pester you like I was doing before. I was kind of a jerk to keep on about it. To pry into what happened.”
“You’re not a jerk,” I said. “You’re like the furthest thing from a jerk there is.”
“In that case,” he said. “Would you like to come back to my place? Maybe for some hot chocolate?”
“Oh,” I said. I felt a flutter in my stomach that had nothing to do with my digesting pizza. “That sounds like an offer I can’t refuse.”
There were few things that could have topped the meal I’d just eaten, but my second night with Brian was one of them… The guy knew how to make a girl feel good. I did my fair share, too, of spreading the goodness, I mean. One of the best parts, though, not a single damn ghost all night.