The first time she entered the “Hideaway Office”, she found the atmosphere quirky but pleasant. The walls were pearly purple and the pieces of furniture around the room mismatched, some of the chairs were scarlet, others yellow, with cushions coming in different colours. The choice made for the desks was the most peculiar as, unlike the chairs and the prevailing style of the room, they looked old-fashioned.
One could have seen these in period films or imagine Charles Dickens writing one of his masterpieces on them. Her eyes filled with wonder and her heart lightened at the sight of this far-fetched mixture. She felt as if she had the right to be imperfect there, as if once in her life she found the right place.
She tried many different techniques, she asked many different people for help but none of these things worked, none of these people had found a way to make her feel better. She had nearly given up at some point, she couldn’t afford the price of a therapist especially when she had to visit them once a week. She found it really expensive for something that didn’t work on her. However she felt happy when she saw the Hideaway for the first time.
“First impressions are nearly always right,” she thought, “I feel like I could belong here.”
An interview with a certain Mrs Doe had been planned and she was early so she decided to sit on one of the pretty chairs. She took out a book from her backpack but found the objects on the desks more entertaining.
What one could usually find in an office was stationery but the place showed once again its uniqueness. A draughts board game that looked as if two people had already begun a round was in the middle of one of the desks. No pens, no pieces of paper, no post-its nor anything that could make one think of an office.
She turned her head towards another desk on which were placed several screwdrivers as if the employees were handymen.
And the most amazing object in the room was an object she had never seen in her life, she even wondered if she ever thought of it really existing: a crystal ball. She always thought it was an object used by witches or people who pretended to have superpowers but she considered it as an object that was invented by writers and filmmakers. She should have realised at that moment that she was sitting in a magical place.
The appointment she had with Mrs Doe had been arranged by her friend Clara who spent most of her time talking about the place and how it changed her life. She remembered her saying once it was the right place to cure anxiety and depression. That’s when the penny dropped. She absolutely wanted someone to help her feel better and apparently, it was the very best place for that.
She didn’t know how it was going to be done or what meds they were going to give her but she couldn’t wait to know what was wrong inside her and how it could be cured. She had been interested for a log time in everything that was related to her well-being. As a child, she wanted to be like one of those yoga teachers who looked healthy and happy.
Unfortunately, it has never been the case. She never has been a happy woman. She didn’t know why and yet she was predisposed to happiness. She had a loving family, she could afford a nice little cottage in the Cotswolds, she had two of the most adorable dogs ever existing. She simply couldn’t find joy in her life. She couldn’t find the beauty in little things. Waking up in the morning felt sometimes like a torture. She had the courage to carry on but she was turning thirty and it was about time she found a way. She needed to find a way.
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a tall brown-haired woman. She was wearing red tartan trousers with a white shirt tucked in it. Her hair were long and wavy, they beautifully cascaded over her shoulders.
“Hello Imogen, I’m Mrs Doe,” she said in a soft voice.
Imogen suddenly felt something eerie invading the place. As they shook hands, electricity was passing through her nerves.
“You can take this chair you chose to sit on and put it behind my desk.”
“Have you ever heard of the Hideaway Office?” Mrs Doe asked.
“Actually yes, one of my friends recommended it to me.” Irene answered.
“Who is this friend?”
Mrs Doe didn’t seem to know who Clara was. She didn’t say anything at first, as if she was lost in her thoughts. Then she asked Irene to remove her shirt.
“I beg your pardon?” Imogen said, thinking she didn’t hear properly.
“Remove your shirt please.”
The tone was commanding. Irene complied. She unbuttoned her shirt with a hesitant hand.
“You seem tense and I want to see how your back looks like” said Mrs Doe as she was approaching Irene.
Imogen could feel Mrs Doe’s presence behind her back. She began to feel a weird sensation down her spine, not an unpleasant one but it was rather unusual. She couldn’t figure if she was cold or hot. It was as if some air was sucked up from her body. She was even beginning to feel good. It hadn’t happened to her for a long time. She was curious and wanted to find out what Mrs Doe was doing to her. She didn’t find the courage to ask. Mrs Doe seemed like an odd individual. Then she realised there was a reflection in the crystal ball and she could see Mrs Doe’s every gesture. She was doing something with her hand that indicated she was removing something. The only thing is, she never touched Imogen's body and yet Imogen could feel a physical contact. Mrs Doe seemed to be into a trance.
The hands moving phase lasted a few minutes. Imogen was gradually feeling better and better. She even felt sorry when Mrs Doe stopped the movement of her hands.
Mrs Doe reappeared in front of her desk, sitting on her chair in a graceful manner.
“Well, how do you feel?” She asked Imogen.
Imogen didn’t really know what to answer. She felt like she had been emptied from all the bad vibes that had been her companions for a very long time. She stammered something out but couldn’t really explain herself.
“It looks like I did a great job here,” Mrs Doe said. “I recommend you to go back home and sleep all day. Tomorrow you will be another person. An opportunity to start fresh. I wish you good luck in life.”
On that note she disappeared from where she had arrived earlier.
Imogen didn’t know what to do with herself. She was in this colourful room on her own, feeling exhausted. Exhausted but free from her depression.
She came back home and didn’t follow Mrs Doe’s advice. Instead of going to sleep, she called her friend Clara to know more about this Mrs Doe. She explained the whole story: the room, the weird objects, Mrs Doe and her magical hands.
“What are you talking about my dear Imogen?”
“Well, you remember. The place you advised me to go to. The Hideaway Office.” Imogen answered.
“You must be mistaken, darling. I never told you about a place called The Hideaway Office.”
“But you did!”
“I’m sorry Imogen, I have to go back to work. Let’s talk another time, okay?”
She hung up.
Imogen went to bed and fell asleep right away. She dreamt of the room she was in earlier and of Mrs Doe. Was it true that she was going to start fresh and lead a very new life? She hoped it was the truth. She had never met anyone who helped her being a better self. If Mrs Doe was as talented as she imagined, tomorrow she would be a new Imogen. Not the shy Imogen she had always been. She would be a self-confident woman who didn’t fear anyone nor anything.
She woke up the next morning with a clear head. She felt like creating things, she felt the urge to paint, to write, to sew. She must have turned into her new self! She was so happy that she took her car and went to Clara’s home.
“It really worked! Like I told you, I’m really happy with Mrs Doe’s services.”
“Honey, I still don’t know who that Mrs Doe is. I assure you, I was not the one who recommended this person to you.”
“But it must have been you! I never talk to anyone else! My dogs didn’t talk to me about this place.”
“You know this is all weird because I think I heard of this place once.”
“See! You must have been there to!”
“No, Imogen. I’ve got a friend who told me once she went to a similar place but what happened to her was extraordinary.”
“I keep telling you this place is magical!”
“Yeah but this Mrs Doe, she is not real.”
“What do you mean?” Imogen asked.
“I mean that everyone who wants to choose a fake name chooses Mr or Mrs Doe.”
“So what? She probably didn’t want to reveal her identity.”
“And it doesn’t seem weird to you?”
“Anyway, who is this friend of yours who went to the Hideaway?”
“A former colleague of mine. She was suffering from depression and one day, she magically became happy and spent her time talking about butterflies and how the weather was good. It was a bit annoying really.”
Imogen smiled. The description fitted perfectly the state of mind in which she was. Nothing could have stopped her being happy, even not the fact no one had told her about Mrs Doe and the Hideaway Office. How could the appointment have been arranged? It didn’t matter. She felt good and it was the most important.
A few days had passed and she still felt happy. She had made a few paintings, sewn Christmas jumpers and even wrote a book. She had never been that creative in her life and it was all thanks to Mrs Doe.
She was happy but deep inside she really needed to know how she got the appointment and who was Mrs Doe, the woman who helped her leaving her old life behind. She drove to town and parked herself in front of the Hideaway Office.
She entered the building like she did the first day she went in. The place looked different. The first time she was there, she had went up a staircase but it didn’t seem to exist anymore. The place looked dull and unoccupied. The grey wallpaper was torn and the colourful place she had entered before had disappeared. Nothing was left of the happy place in her mind. In her mind. That’s what it must have been. She must have invented everything: the office, the objects and the woman who changes people’s lives. What if she had been the one curing her depression herself?