“Yes, Doctor, she was.” For the next few minutes, my mother and I were tightly intertwined in a bear hug, consumed in wails. All of those years, she’d blamed herself for something beyond her control. “Doctor, I wish I could be of more help, but after a couple of weeks, Zoe started acting real strange. She acted like nothing even happened,and when my husband and I broached the subject, she gave us the impression she didn’t remember. He and I decided the best thing was to just move away and leave it all behind—especially since we never discovered who harmed her. In our eyes, that meant they could do it again. We didn’t trust anyone after that. Everyone was suspect.”
Jason, who loves my mother almost as much as he loves me and wanted to comfort her, told her, “It’s not your fault. Zoe’s going to get through this. We’re all going to get through this together.”
My mother glanced up at Jason. “She almost lost you because of this. She almost lost everything. My baby even tried to kill herself, and all these years I thought she was faking about not remembering. I thought she pretended not to know just so she wouldn’t have to talk about it. When she fell in love with you, I was so happy, because I was scared she would never lead a normal life and find someone who truly loved her.”
“I do love Zoe. You know that more than anyone.”
“Yes, I do know that, and I’m so very grateful that she has you, Jason.”
I was totally unnerved. “For the life of me, I don’t remember any of this.”
Marcella walked closer to the bed, looking wearier than I had ever seen her. I guess we were all emotionally drained. “There is a way you can bring it all back, Zoe. There is a way to find out what really happened to you that day. Let Leonard hypnotize you. We’ll all be here for you, and when you wake up, this entire nightmare will be over.”
“Will it be over, or will it be worse?” I pondered out loud.
“Let him do it, Zoe.” My mother made her request. “Iwish I could fill in all the missing pieces, but I can’t. You have to do it.”
Finally, I looked at Jason to get his opinion. He kissed me on the forehead and then whispered in my ear, “I love you, and this is forever.”
Dr. Graham was standing at the end of the bed, waiting for my decision. “Well, Doc, I guess if I ever want this to end, I have no choice. So, bring it on.”
It all happened so quickly. I remember his pocket watch swinging back and forth in his hand like a pendulum, and I remember him softly speaking some words to me. He didn’t say the comical shit I was expecting like, “You’re getting very, very sleepy!”
Whatever he did say worked like a charm, because the next thing I knew, I was ass out.
I have no idea how long I was in a hypnotic trance, but after I woke up and took a quick survey of everyone’s face, I wanted to be put the hell back out. Dr. Graham looked as if he had just been on the receiving end of an enema. Marcella looked as if she’d just found out she had fibroids the size of grapefruits. My mother looked like hell froze the fuck over, and poor Jason looked like someone had just chopped his dick clear off. All of them had their mouths hanging wide open, and if a bumblebee had been in the room, it could’ve stung each and every one of them on the tongue before they even saw it coming.
I couldn’t decide which one of them to ask, so I directed it to the love of my life. “Jason, is it that bad?”
He broke out of his own hypnotic trance, pressed his thumb under my chin, and gave me a kiss on the lips. “It’s bad, Zoe, but nothing we can’t fix together.”
I didn’t say another word. You could have heard a pindrop until Dr. Graham broke the silence in the room. “Umm, Zoe, the reason we’re all shocked is, as it turns out, there wasn’t just one incident in your past that came out during hypnosis. There were two.”
“Two? What the hell?”I looked at my mother, but she could be of absolutely no help to me. She was too busy fighting demons of her own, thinking I was perpetrating a fraud all of those years by pretending nothing happened when the entire time to me it never did happen. All of it had been suppressed somewhere in the deep, dark crevices of my mind.
Marcella finally spoke up. “Zoe, the best way to clear all this up is by letting you hear it in your own words.” She pressed the rewind button on her mini cassette recorder and asked, “Ready?”
Jason still had his arm around me, and I laid my head on his chest, hoping I would still have an ounce of sanity left
after I listened to the tape. “Ready!”
When the tape first began playing, it was about what I expected. Dr. Graham was asking me a bunch of questions about my life, gradually working his way back to my childhood. We got back to when I first moved to Atlanta, across the street from Jason, and of course I mentioned the ass-whupping I gave him, since it was one of my most shining moments.Then he asked me about Dallas, and with the mere mention of the city’s name, my voice on the tape changed to one even I would’ve been hard pressed to recognize if I didn’t already know it was me. As an adult, if you were to tape record yourself and then play it back, you would probably wonder to yourself, “Is that me?”
That was the case. It was me—the younger version ofZoe, who had disappeared once puberty set in. I hadn’t heard the voice in almost two decades. My mother and Jason recognized the voice of my youth. I heard my mother on the tape, sounding frantic. “Zoe? Doctor, what’s happening? That’s what she sounded like when she was a little girl!”
Dr. Graham responded, “I’m sure it is, but please calm down. That’s the Zoe we need to talk to.”
I heard Jason jump in, yelling at the top of his lungs, “Dr. Graham, if this is something that’s going to damage my wife in any way, I want this shit to stop right now!”
“Jason, it won’t harm her. It’ll make her better. She has to get the secrets out, or they’ll destroy her, like they almost did this past year.”
Jason’s voice lowered, but I could hear him breathing heavily, and I could sense the fear. “Okay, Doctor. As long as you understand I don’t want my wife harmed.”
“I understand, Jason, and I promise you that won’t happen.”
Everyone fell silent, allowing Dr. Graham to continue. He asked me several questions about my early childhood. I was amazed, listening to the tape, that I even knew the answers to half of them. We all sat there while the little Zoe described her first day at kindergarten and how she won the biggest smile contest in the schoolyard, how most of the other kids had cried when their mothers left them there but not her, and that’s why she won the lollipop. Then, little Zoe talked about how much she liked finger-painting and playing ring-around-the-rosy, she talked about the various dolls she had as a child, including the black Barbie I still have stowed in the attic to give Kayla Michelle once she’s old enough to appreciate it. She talked about how she used to make new dresses for it from old pieces of clothing around thehouse and how she always wanted to be an official member of the Mickey Mouse Club. She talked about the piggyback rides her daddy used to give to her and how he used to sit her on his lap in his recliner and read Dr. Seuss books to her. Little Zoe talked about how much she used to hate carrots and how she would sneakily feed them to her dog, Spot, underneath the dining room table, and how he got ran over by a car when she was in the third grade.
Then, the first incident came to light. Since the incidents seemed to be running in chronological order from kindergarten on up, it appeared to have happened sometime during my third-grade year—an incident my parents obviously never knew about, one that preceded the incident in the fifth grade that ultimately made my parents relocate to another state.
I still had my head resting on Jason’s chest. I tried to let his heartbeat comfort me while I listened to the little Zoe on the tape begin to recall the story. “It was a holiday. I’m not sure which one, but it was one where everyone has cookouts and get-togethers at someone’s house so all the kids can play. Momma and Daddy took me to one of Momma’s friends’ houses from college. Her name was Lisa or Laura or something else with anL.”
I heard my mother call out, “It was Laura! Oh my goodness, did Laura do something to her?”
Marcella said, “Shhhhhhh!”
Little Zoe continued. “All of the kids were out in the street playing when Momma’s friend came out and told her daughter to walk down the street to get her son from his girlfriend’s house because it was time to eat. She told her daughter to take me with her so I could go for a walk too, since we were about the same age.”
My mother interrupted again. “Laura did have twokids. A daughter, Monique, who was about a year older than Zoe, and a son who was in his teens.”
Dr. Graham told my mother to calm down. “That’s great, but let her finish, and then you can fill in the blank spots, okay? We’ve got to let her tell it in her own way!”