The Reluctant Psychic Ch. 13byonly_more_so©
If you are new to my Reluctant Psychic series, please consider starting from the beginning. The story, characters and events in this chapter will make more sense when given context from the preceding chapters. If you're returning, welcome back and I hope you enjoy the story.
* * *
We didn't take long getting cleaned up and were soon walking through the woods on our way back to the main house. Jill held my hand as the darkness settled around us. My thoughts were also turning to darkness.
Betsy's father's funeral was tomorrow, and I was worried. Betsy was taking her father's death as well as anyone can take a death of a loved one. I was more worried about who might show up to the funeral. The local paper, that ran the obituary, had significant regional distribution and could be found at news stands around the country. It was unlikely that any of my enemies would happen to read the obituary, but...
Jill jerked on my hand, pulling me out of my paranoid musings. I looked over at her and saw that she was watching me intently. We stopped in the middle of the woods, holding hands and looking into each other's eyes. She leaned forward, rubbed her nose against mine and gave me a little kiss. Then she smiled, as if to remind me to be happy.
She was right, I should be happy. I was walking through the woods with a beautiful woman, a woman who loved me, and whom I loved. Looking into her eyes, I was reminded of one of Jill's favorite sayings, "Don't borrow worries from tomorrow." I cupped her head in my hands and gave her a gentle kiss then said softly, "Thanks for the reminder."
I could have stayed in her loving embrace for hours, but Jill was a bit more pragmatic, and reminded me that dinner was about to be served. I was about to say they would wait for me, but Jill gave me a look that let me know that that might not always be the case. So we continued our walk back to the house, but with our arms around each other instead of only holding hands.
* * *
Dinner seemed a more raucous affair that usual. Stefanie sat with me at the head of the table, but her attention was mostly on Jill who was sitting on her other side. Stefanie and Jill had been an item almost since Stephanie joined my household. Jill's strange blend of pragmatism and optimism had helped Stefani get over her lover's murder.
On my other side sat Katia, who had become a fixture at the head end of the table. It was the girls' way of making sure Katia and I had plenty of opportunity to get to know each other. They also made sure that Magda wasn't sitting close enough that Katia could rely on her sister for conversation. The later wasn't too much of a concern since Katia seemed to be fitting in with the girls quite well, even if she remained a bit of an enigma to me.
It was strange, really. Here I sat with psychic power, but I hardly knew the first thing about the woman sitting next to me. Of course, I didn't currently have my powers since Jill had seduced me not an hour past. Actually, I seemed to have had that problem quite a bit recently. It seemed like every time Katia was going to join us for a meal...
Dinner certainly was raucous tonight. I had been saying something to Katia and my mind suddenly blanked. To make matters worse, I felt a headache coming on. "I'm sorry Katia, I seemed to have lost my train of thought."
"Are you feeling alright?" she asked. I could see more than a usual amount of concern on her face. "You keep getting this pensive look on your face. Then you suddenly snap out of it and seem to forget what you were saying."
I searched my memories, but I couldn't remember losing my train of thought earlier. I also couldn't seem to remember what sort of brooding thoughts might have been on my mind. "I feel fine, I suppose I just have a lot on my mind right now. Thoughts of retiring, welcoming a lovely new member into our family, and –" I knew there was something else that was on my mind. I looked up and down the table to try to jog my memory.
That's when I realized it wasn't something that was there that was nagging at my memory, but what was missing, or more precisely who was missing. "Where's Betsy?" I asked. There wasn't an empty chair which is likely why it took me so long to realize Betsy was missing.
"She's taking a nap. She hasn't been sleeping, so we thought it best not to wake her for dinner," answered Marie. Marie had been Betsy's first lover and was still her most frequent lover. If any of the girls would be aware of Betsy's trouble sleeping it would be she. But despite the practicality of the reply, I still didn't like the idea of Betsy being alone.
I excused myself to go find Betsy, but halfway through standing up, I found myself sitting down instead. Katia asked again if I was okay. I felt a headache coming on as I tried to stand once more. As I struggled to rise, all I could think was that I couldn't let Betsy down. My head was pounding, and I began to wonder if there really was something wrong with me.
I felt a moment of calm, and suddenly I was able to stand. I could barely think over the throbbing in my temples, but I could move. I excused myself again, and walked out of the dining room. I barely noticed that the table had all but fallen silent behind me.
As I walked, a part of me realized I didn't know where I was going. I had never been to Betsy's room; I had never even been in the portion of the house given over to the girls' rooms. They didn't tell me I couldn't but it had always been an unspoken arrangement.
Even though I had never set foot in the hallway, it seemed familiar. I turned a corner and entered a large foyer that had a marble fountain set in the middle. I looked around the large space with a touch of awe before another wave of pain shot through my head.
Gritting my teeth against the pain, I began walking again. I was in a bit of a daze as I walked the unfamiliar space, but I unerringly navigated to Betsy's door. I entered her room as quietly as I could, and found Betsy asleep on her bed. She was curled up on her side, clutching the lion doll I had given her over a decade before.
I sat on the bed next to her, and with a gentle touch moved a strand of hair from her face. She looked just as frail as she had when I first met her, and tried to buy her trust with a toy from the hospital convenience store. At the time, I didn't know that she was too old for stuffed animals, and she didn't realize that some things you never quite grow out of. The little lion always seemed to be in the closet when I had visited her room during the day, and in her arms if I checked on her at night.
I looked around her room and realized it was almost exactly the same as the room she'd had when she first moved in with me. The computer on her desk might be much smaller than it was a decade before, but everything else was remarkably the same. On the nightstand she had the same picture of her and her father, taken at Disneyland the year before he was shot. The picture of Betsy and me was much more recent, but it was in the same frame as the first picture we had together. I kissed her forehead as she slept on, reflecting that a man couldn't ask for a better daughter than Betsy.
My headache hadn't eased any, but I had been able to block out the pain while I was checking on Betsy. I desperately wanted one of Magda's massages, but I didn't think I could face any of the girls after invading their sanctum. I decided on the medicinal solution and thought of the bottle waiting in my medicine cabinet.
I carefully wrapped Betsy and her lion in her blanket and lifted her out of bed. I carried her out of her room and began walking toward my own bedroom. I don't remember much of the walk, except that at one point Betsy woke enough to wrap her arms around my neck. By the time I settled Betsy onto my own bed, my vision was getting red on the edges.
I staggered to the bathroom and pulled out the supply of pain pills. I spilled four into my hand and swallowed them with a gulp of water. I held on to the bathroom counter with my head hanging, waiting for the pills to start to take effect. Thankfully, the narcotics were quick acting and it didn't take long to take the harsh edge off the pain. I splashed some water on my face and then made my way back to my bed.
It wasn't until I wasn't nearly back to bed that I remembered I was only supposed to take one pill, or two for severe pain. I sat on the edge of the bed, trying to decide if taking four pills was really that bad. The euphoria that started pouring over me pushed the pain far enough away that I didn't really mind anymore.
As I turned to snuggle up behind Betsy, a voice told me to lock the door. 'Why should I lock the door?' I wondered. Does the door even have a lock? The latter question somehow seemed more relevant to me, and I made my way over to the door to investigate. There was a little button on the doorknob that did indeed seem to be a lock. I pushed it in and it gave a click.
Now the other lock, the voice told me. The voice was very patient explaining where I could find the secret button that would engage the door's deadbolts, and reminded me that it was a secret. Eventually I found the button and felt more than heard the strong bolts settle into place. I walked to the door and discovered it was so secure that it didn't even rattle in its frame.
The voice was now happy, and would let me go to sleep in peace. I lay down in bed, snuggled up close behind Betsy and wrapped my arms around her, just as her arms were wrapped around her stuffed lion. Just before the drugs dragged me into the darkness, I asked the voice if this meant she had forgiven me, but I didn't get a reply.
* * *
I woke sometime later, sweating out my nightmares. I was still disoriented by the pain medication but my headache seemed to have gone away completely. I felt a cool hand gently stroking my face and heard faint calming murmurs. I opened my eyes to see Betsy lying in front of me, one hand still clutching the lion, the other stroking my cheek. The really strange thing was that we were lying on the floor next to the door.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I should ask you the same thing," she replied. She gave a sigh and dropped her hand from my cheek. "I woke up and I was lying in your bed. You sounded like you were having a nightmare. Some of the girls knocked on the door but they couldn't get in. I tried to unlock it but it just wouldn't budge. Then you got out of bed and tried to open the door."
She stopped and hugged the lion closer to her. I hadn't seen her so hesitant in a very long time. She looked up at me again and said, "You looked like you were afraid of who was on the other side of the door. After a little while you just kind of collapsed, so I joined you."
Her description seemed to mirror my nightmare, and I felt a faint throbbing in my temples. "Maybe I should have let you sleep in your room. But I didn't think you should be alone. Everything at dinner was so confusing, and then I got this terrible headache. I can barely even remember going to your room, or how I got you back here."
"I think we need to talk," Betsy said. She stood up and offered me a hand, helping me to my feet. She led me over to the bed. She sat crossed legged in the middle of the bed and I lay back against the headboard.
"There are too many secrets in this family," she started without preamble. "A family can't stay happy keeping secrets from each other. The girls and I have our secrets, and you have your secret." She looked down at her stuffed lion and worried the lion's ear in her fingers. With a sigh she set the lion aside and looked me up at me. "I know your secret; we all know your secret."
I wanted to deny that I had a secret, or pretend that she was talking about a different secret. But I knew the truth just by looking in her eyes. I felt her thoughts, as if she were yelling at me to hear her. I felt her sense of betrayal, her self-doubt, and her anger. I was surprised to sense a thread of love weaving through all of the negative emotions. Behind it all, I felt her desire to hear the truth, no matter how terrible it might be.
"I can read minds," I started. Once started, it was like a dam bursting, and I told her all about my powers. I told her that I could control people's minds, not just read minds. I also told her how little control I seemed to have at times, unintentionally reading thoughts and influencing people's actions. "Remember when I left? How I would call and send people to check on you, but never visit in person? I cared for you too much to be around you when I had so little control."
She thought for a moment and said, "But you weren't doing anything to my mind."
"Then why did you stop eating chocolate?"
"Because I was getting fat from eating too much hospital cafeteria food," she replied, utterly convinced it was the truth.
"That is the excuse your brain came up with to explain why you stopped eating chocolate. You really stopped because I don't particularly like chocolate and that preference was getting transferred to you. That's how I knew I was corrupting your mind, that and when you started sharing my nightmares."
"But, I never had nightmares! " she cried, still trying to disbelieve. I looked at her pleading eyes and had to drop my eyes in shame. "You took away my memories of the nightmares?"
"They weren't your nightmares, they were mine. I only did it to try to undo the damage I had caused. I realized that all I was spending all my time causing problems and then trying to undo the problems without causing more problems." I tried to look her in the eye again, but I was still so ashamed of my past. "So I left."
We sat together for a long time, neither of us wanting to break that uncomfortable silence, but wishing that it would end. Finally Betsy said, "It all felt so real! Now all I can think about is what else isn't what I thought?"
"I don't know. That is one of the most horrifying things for me: I don't know what I've done to you, or to the other girls. I can't even be sure if you love me because you really love me, or if my subconscious mind made you love me. Are we always such a happy family because we all naturally get along, or because I want us to get along?"
I felt more than saw Betsy react to what I was saying. It took all my concentration not to pull the thought from her mind. "Is that why you always seem to doubt that we love you? Not because we don't actually love you, but because you don't know why we love you?" I could only nod my head in response. Betsy actually grinned a bit and said, "Nobody ever really knows why they love someone, at least we have the excuse of having a mind controlling boyfriend."
The joke was bitter sweet at best, but I forced myself to smile. "I hope you know I'm trying. Actually, I'm trying not to. But it's so hard! It's like trying not to overhear a conversation that people are having in front of you. And influencing thoughts is even harder to control."
"We know. We know more than you think." She bit off what she was going to say next, and it was clearly very difficult for her to do so. Instead she said, "but just think: You had no idea that Katia was moving in with us. You allowed us to keep her move a secret." She paused for a moment, clasping my hand in both of hers, "You also didn't know that we knew about your mental powers. Maybe you should give yourself a little bit of credit."
"Maybe," I agreed half-heartedly. With that, she stood up and offered me a hand. I took it and let her help me off the floor and lead me to bed. She had me lay down, then went to get the covers mounded by the door and carried them over. Soon we were under the covers faces only a few inches apart.
She stroked my face gently and rubbed her nose against mine. "We still have a lot to talk about, there are still too many secrets, but they can wait. Now go to sleep, my love."
* * *
I woke the next morning with a terribly dry mouth brought on by the excessive dose of pain medication. I wondered briefly whether the conversation I'd had with Betsy had been a hallucination caused by the pills, or if it'd really happened.
I left Betsy asleep in bed and went to brush the cotton from my mouth. I was halfway through gargling when I heard her call from the bedroom, "I forgot to ask you last night: how do I unlock the door?" I nearly swallowed the mouthwash when the full impact of last night's conversation hit me in a rush. While the conversation was fresh in my mind, I couldn't remember exactly why I had locked the door in the first place.
I spat out the mouthwash and headed back into the bedroom. Betsy stood by the door with her stuffed lion, looking a lot like the girl she'd been when I first met her. Suddenly I was overcome with a sense of paternal affection and wrapped her in my arms, lifting her off the ground and crushing her lion between us.
She gave a bit of a squeak as I squeezed her, and when I finally let her back down she gave me the "what was that for?" look. I said, "Because I'm your father that's why," before heading over to the secret button which would unlock the door. I pressed the button and felt the low clang of the bolts being retracted from the door.
From the surprised look on Betsy's face, she hadn't been aware of how tightly locked the door had really been. She tried the handle and the door opened freely, the little button lock popping open. She turned back towards me insinuated her arms under mine and gave me a squeezing hug. With the side of her head pressed against my chest she said, "I hope you can get yourself dressed today?" She didn't wait for a reply, just released her grip and headed down the hallway to her bedroom.
* * *
I didn't really have that many somber suits left, the girls kept replacing them whenever I managed to buy one on my own. But as I descended the steps for breakfast, I thought I was suitably dressed to attend a funeral.
When I entered the dining room, the first thing I noticed was that the girls were also dressed for a funeral. The second thing I noticed was that they were all unusually quiet. I realized that the silence wasn't for the somber occasion, but from an underlying nervousness that the girls shared. They all must have known about the locked door last night, but they couldn't already know what Betsy and I had talked about.
Betsy entered the room looking better than she had in days. She was still a bit pale, but she walked with a confidence that had been missing since her father died. The other girls looked at her with questions in their eyes. They knew the status quo had changed, but they didn't know in what way.
The awkwardness continued through breakfast. Betsy was sitting next to me at the head of the table so the other girls could not question her without me overhearing. Likewise if they were to question me, Betsy was sure to hear.
I rested my hand on Betsy's leg and gave her a gentle squeeze. Since she now knew my secret, I sent her a thought, "Would you like me to leave so you can tell them about last night?"
She turned to me and opened her mouth to talk, before she realized my words were not spoken aloud. I allowed myself to sense just her surface most thoughts and heard her inner dialog, "How do I respond, can he just pick the thought from my head or do I try to speak it to him? If I don't say anything will he just read everything in my mind? Will he find out about—"
I cut her off by replying, "I'm just reading your surface most thoughts, your inner dialog. That's why I cut you off, so you wouldn't reveal something you would rather I didn't know. It is human nature to think about exactly what you don't want to think about, so I'll stop until you let me know you're ready to answer." With that I pulled away from her thoughts, wondering what she didn't want me to know, and trying to take my own advice about not thinking about it.