“You have a lovely home, Dr. Michaels,” Karen said as she stepped into the hallway.
“Please call me Judith. Dr. Michaels is for the office. By the way, how is it going with the smoking, any more cravings?”
Karen assured her she felt completely over the habit, as Judith ushered her into the sunken living room where Mark was waiting for her.
“How was the traffic?” he asked.
“Terrible. I wish they’d stop working on self-driving cars and get moving on the jet packs.”
“In L.A.?” Mark smirked. “That would just mean traffic jams in the air.”
“Would you like some wine?” Judith asked them. “Red or white?”
“I’ll take white, on ice please, with lime if you have any,” Karen answered.
“Sounds refreshing. I’ll have the same, thanks, Mother.”
Judith’s smile faltered a little as she went into the kitchen.
“She makes me so nervous,” Karen took Mark’s hand. “Do you think she likes me?”
“Perhaps she still thinks of you as a patient. Try not to act crazy.”
Mark put a finger to his lips, whispering, “Want to see a picture of Father?” He withdrew a photo album from the bookcase, sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to him.
“Come, before she gets back.”
He opened the album and pointed, “That’s him.” She inched closer to him to get a better look.
“He looks just like you, and so handsome! I thought robotics engineers all had pocket protectors and greasy comb- overs.”
“I see you’re all caught up on your 80’s stereotypes.” he turned the page. “That’s me at the West Coast Home-school Science Fair. Father helped me build a toy speedboat.”
Karen noticed the banner in the background. 1975? He’s so old, she thought. What is it about him that makes him so irresistible?
“Look, there I am with my two closest friends.”
He indicated a picture of two 10-year-old-boys on either side of a short android.
“You were besties with a robot?”
She pointed at the android. “What’s with the robot? Was that one of your dad’s machines?”
“What are you talking about? There’s no robot in that photo.”
“What are you looking at?” Judith stood in the archway holding two wine glasses tinkling with ice.
“Sorry Mother,” Mark’s smile deflated as he closed the book.
“Give it to me please. You know that’s not for company.” she set down the wine so she could take the book from him. “I couldn’t reach the ice bucket. Would you get it please?”
“Yes, Mother,” he slumped his shoulders in a full body pout as he left the room. Karen looked away. Something wasn’t right. What was it she had just been thinking? Her mind felt cloudy.
Judith sat on the couch at an angle so they were face to face, enveloping Karen in her powdery perfume.
“You got to the photos quickly,” she said.
Karen smiled quizzically and reached for one of the wine glasses, but Judith put her hand up.
“One moment, please. I thought we could do a little session, just to make sure the environment here, the alcohol, doesn’t cause any triggers for you.”
“Oh, no, I’m fine, really,” Karen began, but Judith dangled a crystal pendant in front of her face and her thoughts again trailed off.
“Would you please lift your right hand?”
Karen stared ahead as her hand rose and hung in the air.
“Thank you. You can let that drop. Look at this picture.” She opened the album and pointed at the photo of the robot between the two boys. “The boy in the center of the picture is blonde, smiling, with freckles. Do you see the three boys?”
“I see three boys, yes,” Karen agreed in a monotone.
“Good, Karen. Do you see the boy in any of the other pictures?” Judith pointed to another page where the robot appeared. “How about here? Do you recognize the blonde boy here?”
“I see the boy.”
“Very good, Karen. We’ll continue this work next time. That little boy played a big part in the world his father and I created for Mark, and now you do too.”
“Mother, I couldn’t find the ice bucket, is it possible it is in the garage?”
Judith turned to the doorway. “Never mind, Mark. Have a seat.” She stood to allow him to settle next to Karen. He sat carefully, pulling up his trousers at the creases to avoid crushing them. Judith lifted her crystal. “Mark, it’s time for a session.”
His jaw slackened immediately. Years of practice had made him malleable.
“Now,” she said in her soothing tone. “I selected Karen for you because she has an excellent medical record, but you mustn’t pick up her bad habits. When you wake you will both feel nauseated by the thought of putting fruit in your wine. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
“And Karen, you will show more affection to Mark. He is very attractive. Please repeat.”
“He is very attractive.”
“You may return to consciousness.” She snapped her fingers and Mark and Karen blinked.
Judith picked up the glasses and examined them.“Oh dear, I’ve forgotten the lime.”
Mark wrinkled his nose. “I’ve changed my mind,” he said, while Karen pursed her lips in disgust and shook her head.
“Oh, well, if you say so.” Judith handed them each a glass. “So tell me more about how you met. What an amazing coincidence!”
Inspired by this photo:
From Vicente L. Ruiz’s weekly writing exercise https://plus.google.com/+VicenteLRuiz/posts/h6da6NmDcdM