” In love we often doubt what we most believe” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Evelyn woke up screaming. She’d been having nightmares. The most vivid one was about a game of hide-and-seek. She’d been hiding in a trunk. No one thought of looking there, so she stayed alone and suffocated for hours. Eventually, they did find her and managed to revive her but her dreams were different. She’d always be sweating and breathless when she awoke and the nurses had to calm her down. This went to an extent that she began to doubt herself – had her entire life been just that, a dream? Then she saw the framed photograph of a happy family – a mother, father and two children. Her mother looked so happy in that picture..It was a relief. It was at times like these that she was glad her family was away and didn’t have to see her state.
She had never liked the ward but she didn’t have much of a choice. She needed to recover on her own and not cast the shadow of her disturbed mind over their home. When they first diagnosed it, she wasn’t allowed to talk about it. There wasn’t much to say, but talking about it was like walking into the Great Hall in Hogwarts and saying Voldemort(..that’s right. You-Know-Who). She never really understood what was wrong with her – her head was always swimming with doubts. Nobody bothered – she wouldn’t understand, they said. Eventually, she stopped asking.
They were going to let her go home, once they thought she could handle it. She just assumed that meant when she recovered. She was astonished when the nurse came to her one morning with a change of clothes. Evelyn was confused. The nightmares hadn’t stopped, why were they letting her go? But her doubt was put to rest – she wasn’t getting discharged, she was paying a visit. The car ride home had been pleasant. She was looking forward to meeting her family. The nurse insisted on accompanying her to the house, but she refused. I know the place all too well, she said.
She pushed the door open and walked in. It was different. The smells, sounds and sights were different. She checked all the rooms. They were different too. She wondered about the whereabouts of her family. Was the nurse mistaken? Perhaps it was another day? Why weren’t they all there to greet her? Enough with the doubts, she told herself. They might be in the garden. So she drew the curtains away and peeked. Over there, she saw a man and two children seated on chairs. The photograph, she reminded herself. It was her family. But who was that little girl with them? Had they sent her away so she could replace Evelyn in the family? No no no no. They were her family, they wouldn’t do that to her. She needed to see her mother. So she barged in and confronted them. They were the people in the picture, that was certain. Who was that little girl, she wanted to ask. But she couldn’t.
The man saw her first. He stood up and smiled, “Eve, you’re here. Come join us.” What was he talking about? Evelyn had just begun to doubt whether she’d walked into the wrong house but he seemed to know her. She needed to see her mother. The children looked nervous about her. She smiled at the boy and without thinking, tried to attack the girl. It had been an impulsive thought. The boy and the man held her back as the little girl shook with fright. Finally, the man took the little girl away and the boy calmed her down.
“Who was that? What was she doing, sitting in my chair?” Evelyn yelled at him. The boy turned to look at her. “I must have gotten the house wrong. It’s been a while after all, ” she continued, ” My family wouldn’t get someone else to take my place..” The boy waited until she was quiet and spoke to her in a gentle voice, “No, Mom. We would never do that to you. We all love you.”
It was as if she had been knocked out cold. What had he just called her? Mom? Evelyn stood up. She hadn’t even realized she had been sitting down. She was a little unsteady on her feet. Then she saw her reflection in the glass of the window. The photograph, she remembered. She had been mistaken. There was no mother, father or brother. She was the woman in the photograph, not the little girl.