Drama Fiction Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Emily Miller is a friendly, outgoing young girl. She enjoys helping her mother, Tracie, care for her two younger siblings. She is an above-average student. She is learning to play the violin and with her mother’s permission, she volunteers as a candy striper at the local hospital. For all intents and purposes, she seems like a normal twelve-year-old girl. But if you look a little closer, there is sadness in her eyes.

One Saturday afternoon, Tracie was preparing to go grocery shopping. The sports shoes she usually wore to go out were in the wash. So she asked Emily to go into her closet to get her other shoes. While Emily was in the closet she saw what looked like a thick white book under some other shoeboxes. She pulled the book out from under the shoeboxes. On the cover was the word, “Photographs”. She brought it back with her along with the shoes for her mom. When she got to her mom and showed her the photo album she asked, mom, do you have any pictures of you when you were my age in here? Tracie smiled and said, I think so. Tracie took the photo album and began fanning through the pages. She located a picture of herself when she was about the same age as Emily. She was standing with her brothers along the side of her father’s classic ‘77 Buick Electra. Emily said you were pretty like me, huh mom? Yeah, I guess I was, said Tracie. Tracie began flipping through the pages, stopping here and there to look at certain pictures. She stopped and looked at pictures of her brothers when they were in their twenties. When Emily saw the pictures, she began to feel strange and an unusual frown appeared on her face. Tracie was too busy looking at the pictures to notice the odd look on Emily’s face. Then Tracie said, I’ve got to get to the grocery store. Put this back in the closet, okay. There was a momentary pause. Then Emily responded, okay mom. 

Over the next few weeks, Tracie began to observe changes in Emily’s actions. They were subtle at first. For instance, she never had to tell Emily to load the dishwasher or to fold the clothes. On another occasion, Tracie received a phone call from Emily’s violin teacher. She told her that Emily was not remembering to do her violin scales and that she seemed distracted. Then one afternoon, Tracie overheard Emily yelling at her little sister about leaving her crayons on the floor. Tracie called Emily to her room and asked, Emily, what’s going on? Are you okay? What do you mean, mom, said Emily. Tracie looked deep into Emily’s face. There was hardly any expression. Just a vacant stare. From that point, things got progressively worse. Emily began to talk back to Tracie in a disrespectful manner. Then one evening Tracie walked into the bathroom while Emily was showering and noticed fresh cut marks on the side of Emily’s left thigh. Something had changed in her daughter and she needed to find out why as soon as possible.

Tracie called her sister Roslyn to ask her if she could keep her two youngest children for a few days. Roslyn has two children of her own about the same ages as Tracie’s children. Roslyn said, sure, pack ‘em up and bring them on over. Thanks, sis, said Tracie. I’ll see you in a couple of hours. After getting off the phone with her sister, Tracie phoned her primary care physician and asked for a referral to a good child psychologist. The nurse that handled her request gave her the address and phone number of a child psychiatrist by the name of Benjamin Waitzkin. Tracie phoned their office and asked for the earliest possible appointment. The nurse told her that the offices are closed on Thursday, but there was a cancelation on Friday and asked her if she could come at 2 PM. Yes, I can make that, said Tracie. Then the nurse asked for her email address so she could send her a link to their pre-appointment forms page. Tracie expressed her appreciation for the timely appointment and hung up. Then she walked into the living room and sat down at her PC. She filled out the forms and printed a copy for herself before she pushed the send button.

When Emily got home from school, she noticed that her brother and sister didn’t come out to meet her like they usually do. She walked into the living room where her mom was paying bills online. Mom, where’s Barry and Lisa, she asked. I took them over to your Aunt Roslyn’s so they could hang out with their cousins for a few days. Oh, okay. That’s cool, said Emily. Hey, Emily, when was the last time you had a check-up, Tracie asked. I don’t know mom, you usually keep up with stuff like that, said Emily. That’s just what I thought. That’s why I made you an appointment for Friday. It’s at two o’clock. I thought we could catch a movie afterward. How ‘bout that, said Tracie. Mom, I really don’t want to go to the doctor, said Emily. It’s not open for discussion, Emily, said Tracie. Walking away Emily says, dammit! Excuse me, what did you just say, asks Tracie. Nothing mom, just clearing my throat, said Emily. 

Friday morning Tracie is sitting at the kitchen table eating a blueberry muffin and drinking coffee when Emily walks in. She goes over to the cabinet and gets a bowl. Then she goes to the panty and grabs the Honey Nut Cheerios. Then to the fridge for the Almond Silk. She combines them in the bowl and sits at the table across from Tracie. Good morning, Emily, said Tracie. Morning, Emily says dryly. I’ve already called your school to let them know that you will be absent today, said Tracie. Gee thanks mom, said Emily sarcastically. I’ve got work to do online. You can watch TV, play video games or whatever. But be dressed and ready to go by twelve. Emily looks at her and nods. 

On the drive over to the doctor’s office, there’s hardly any dialog. Then as they drive into the parking lot, Emily says. This doesn’t look like the place you brought me the last time. No, it isn’t, said Tracie. This is a different doctor you’re seeing today. He’s going to talk with you and I want you to be completely open and honest while the two of you are talking, okay, said Tracie. Okay, mom, said Emily. After checking in, Tracie and Emily sat patiently in the waiting room. A few minutes later, a nurse steps in and says, the doctor will see you now. Emily follows her and the nurse shows her to a room known as “the conversation room”. The conversation room is painted in warm earth tone colors. It has real live plants and a large aquarium built into the wall. It also has two very comfortable soft leather recliner-style chairs that face each other. The chairs are separated by a small wood base oval glass table. The table is adorned with a bowl of colorful flowers and an aroma mist diffuser. The nurse tells her to sit in either chair. As Emily sits down, the nurse leaves out of one door and the doctor enters through another. He walks over to Emily and says, hello Emily, my name is Benjamin. He and Emily shake hands. Then he sits in the other chair. For the next hour, Dr. Benjamin asks Emily some basic but very pointed questions. As she answers, he watches her facial expressions and her body language. Once the doctor completes his initial evaluation, he says to Emily, Emily, thank you for coming by and speaking with me today. I hope we can do this again. Emily says you’re welcome. I enjoyed talking with you. When Emily leaves the room, the doctor walks across the corridor to a conference room where Tracie is waiting. He tells Tracie that Emily shows signs of having repressed memories and that he would have to put her under hypnosis to release those memories. Then he asked Tracie if she could recall when Emily first showed signs of a change in her actions. I can’t recall at this moment, said Tracie. That’s alright, said Dr. Benjamin. Just call the office should you remember anything. I will, said Tracie. When would you like to do the hypnosis? As soon as possible, said Dr. Benjamin. I’ll have my nurse email you the next opening in my schedule. Okay, Dr. Benjamin, said Tracie. On the way home, Tracie asks, how was it, Emily? It was good. I like the way his voice sounds, Emily said. Would you be open to another visit, asked Tracie. I guess so, said Emily. That’s good, said Tracie.

Emily seemed better after talking with Dr. Benjamin. When Barry and Lisa return home, Emily is back to playing with them like before. Then one afternoon when Emily was chasing Barry and Lisa around through the house, they ran through the living room where Tracie was on her PC in a three-way with her brothers on zoom. When Emily looked at the screen she stopped and stared at it. This time Tracie saw the strange frown on Emily’s face. Her uncles saw her in the background and said, hey Emily, hi Emily. Emily just stared at the screen. Then Tracie said, Emily, don’t you hear your uncles speaking to you? Then Emily said, hey, and ran off. That night around 2 am, Tracie was awakened by the sound of crying from Emily’s bedroom. She walked into Emily’s bedroom and turned on the lamp on the nightstand. She looked at Emily. Emily was crying in her sleep. Tracie gently slipped her arms underneath Emily’s shoulders and cuddled her to her breast. Emily immediately stopped crying. Tracie held her for several minutes before laying her down on the pillow. Tracie was now crying out of concern for her daughter. Then it came to her that Emily started changing after looking through the photo album. Tracie turns off the lamp and goes into her bedroom closet and retrieves the photo album. She tries to remember which photograph she showed Emily. She fanned through the pages and stopped at the photo of her and her brothers next to their father’s car. Then she recalled Emily’s reaction from earlier in the day when Emily stopped and stared at the PC screen. That’s got to be it, Tracie said to herself. 

Later that same day, Tracie phones Dr. Benjamin. When his nurse answers she tells her what she remembered. The nurse takes notes and enters them into Emily’s file. When Dr. Benjamin reads over the notes, he asks his nurse to rearrange his schedule and to make an appointment for Emily Miller. The nurse phones Tracie and tells her that an appointment has been made for Emily to come in tomorrow at one o’clock. Tracie thanks her and tells her that they will be there. 

The next day, Emily is back in the conversation room. When Dr. Benjamin comes in, he greets her and asks, how do you feel today, Emily? I’m okay. Just kinda tired. I don’t know why, said Emily. Well, that's why you are here today, Emily. So that we can help you figure out why you’re feeling tired. Dr. Benjamin opens a small bottle and removes a single pill. He gives Emily the pill and a cup of water. He says, take this. It will help you to relax. She takes the pill and then Dr. Benjamin tells her to lie back in the recliner. He asks her to close her eyes and listen to his voice. He begins to speak to her in a soft tone. He tells her to count down from one hundred in her head. Moments later, Emily is semi-conscious. Dr. Benjamin tells Emily that she is in a safe place where no one can harm her. He asks, Emily, do you remember the images of your uncles on your mom’s computer? She responds, yes. Do you remember how you felt when you saw those images? Yes, I remember, she said. Tell me how it felt when you saw those images. Emily recounts how she felt. Then Dr. Benjamin asks, do you remember the first time you felt like that? Yes, said Emily. Can you tell me when that was, he asks? Emily pauses. Then she frowns. Dr. Benjamin says again, remember Emily, you are in a safe place. No one can harm you here. Her frown fades and she says when I was little. Tell me what happened and how it made you feel, he said. Emily tells him. While she is speaking, he is taking notes. When she finishes, Dr. Benjamin tells her to start counting and when she gets to ten, she will wake up refreshed. She starts counting and when she gets to ten, she opens her eyes. How do you feel, said Dr. Benjamin? I feel fine. How are you, Dr. Benjamin, asks Emily. Oh, I’m okay. Come on, let me take you to your mother, he says.

When Dr. Benjamin and Emily get to Tracie, he asks Emily to have a seat and he says to Tracie, come with me. Tracie follows Dr. Benjamin into his office. He begins to tell Tracie what he learned while Emily was under hypnosis. Emily has definitely had some type of trauma. Whether it is real or not is a different matter. You see Mrs. Miller, some of the things Emily said sounds more like the things that occur in dreams. It is my opinion that Emily experienced a nightmare and it has become a part of her subconscious mind. These types of memories are called false memories. It’s the belief that something happened even though it never did. Can anything be done to remove these memories, asked Tracie. No, not really. They are her memories now. They are imprinted onto her subconscious. I suggest that you continue to observe her actions and if things worsen, I have medications I can prescribe to help her sleep. Okay, said Tracie.

A month has passed since Emily’s last visit with Dr. Benjamin. She has been sleeping through the night without any issues. Her school work was improving and her violin teacher phoned Tracie to let her know that Emily had completed a wonderful solo in class. One afternoon, Tracie was on another three-way with her brothers when Emily walked by. Her mom froze for a moment when she walked up to the computer. Then Emily said hello to her uncles. She chatted with them for a few minutes, said goodbye, and left to play games with her brother and sister. This pleases Tracie immensely. 

One day while Tracie was online filling an order for a client, her cell phone rang. The attendance clerk at Emily’s school called and asked whether she was aware of the number of absences that Emily had accumulated over the past month. Tracie said, no. How many are there? Four said the clerk. One day a week for the past month. Always on Thursdays. Oh, really, said Tracie. Thank you for keeping me informed. You’re welcome, said the clerk. Let us know if we can help. Alright, thanks again, said Tracie. Thursdays, Tracie said to herself.

As Thursday begins, Tracie goes about her routine as usual. As soon as Emily leaves for school, Tracie phones her next-door neighbor, Evelyn. She asked Evelyn to come over to look after Lisa and Barry while she ran some errands. Tracie followed Emily from a distance. She saw her walk past the school bus stop. Emily walked another quarter mile to a strip mall where she walked up to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. When the passenger door came open, Emily climbed in. As Tracie drove closer, she noticed that the van’s windows were tinted, so she couldn’t see inside. Then as the van drove away, Tracie followed. 

The van got on the interstate highway and drove for twelve miles. After exiting the highway, it continued down the road to a posh neighborhood. It turned into the driveway of a stately-looking house and drove around back. Tracie stopped at the corner and called the police. She told them that her daughter had been kidnapped and that she’d followed the vehicle. She gave them her location and the make and model of her vehicle. When the police arrived at her vehicle, she explained to them what she had witnessed. The police checked their computer for the owner at that address. The property was owned by Dr. Sudha Patel. 

The police called for backup. When the backup arrived, they approached the house on foot. Noticing mounted cameras at the corners of the house, the police did their best to avoid them. Once they have the house surrounded, they synchronize their watches and bust in. They wound their way through the house and down to the basement. There they find photography and video equipment connected to laptops and tablets. Images of child pornography have been hastily pasted to the walls and strewn about the floor. In another room, the police find three men hiding in a large storage closet along with six nude minors, three boys and three girls. The minors seem to be in a trance-like state. The policemen took off their outer jackets and wrapped them around the children and handcuffed the three men. The police brought the children out first. When Tracie sees Emily, she calls her name and runs over to her. She kneels and hugs her daughter tightly. Then as the police are bringing out the three men, Tracie looks up at them as they walk past her. She gasped as she recognized one of the men as Dr. Benjamin Waitzkin!

November 15, 2021 18:27

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