o Mother Dear has been 'in touch' again?"
"Quite understandable under the circumstances, don't you
Oh, quite. I'm surprised she isn't here. You did discourage her
from coming to the rescue?"
"I did my best."
"Fine. Good. Now back to the point; I want to quit the
"That's absolutely out
"Let me finish. I've been two days without it and haven't had a
seizure or a nightmare. I know that doesn't mean I'm cured; I'm not that
optimistic. It does, however, seem to suggest that the drugs induce the wretched
"There may be
"The gist of which I'm about to tell you. I've wanted to before,
but up to now, it's been a jumble. I've had time, though, to sort things out. And Melanie
is the key."
"The dream is about her, not me."
"Sounds crazy, I know. But hear me out, at least."
"I wasn't being judgmental. Go ahead."
"You'll correct me if I get things wrong?"
"Wrong? How would I
"About Melanie's case."
Julian, I've told you before, I will not discuss
"I'm not asking you to discuss itnot yet, anyway. Just tell
me whether what I say is true or false. Based on what you know. Otherwise, there's no way
I can prove I've not gone mad. Agreed?"
The risk of betraying one patient's confidence on the basis of
another's dream seemed smallespecially when so little of Melanie's past was actually
known. And, even if by chance a fact or two should be involved, the issue, to the nun's
mind, was not Melanie, but Julian. His refusing medication was a serious decision, a
mistake. What confidence he had recently recovered could be lost if he fell victim to
another bout of seizures. Better to allay his fears by letting him give vent to his
"Mostly there are men's voices; three, I think. None of them
speaks to me. I'm only an eavesdropper. That's one of the uncanny things about the dream;
I'm totally detached. The dialogue goes on regardless, like it would if I weren't there. I
can't recite what's said; I don't remember. And that's another puzzling thing. I
don't remember. I can tell you about dreams I had when I was five, in full detail. Why
this one's an exception, I don't know. It has to be the drugs. Which isn't to say I'm
spinning you a fairy tale. What I have been able to recall is real. Accurate, I
mean. It's just not comprehensive. They're crude, they're violent, and they're
The nun had not expected this. And though she affected calm, she knew
her surprise had registeredand that Julian, of course, had noticed.
"So it's true?"
"What's true, Julian?"
"That Melanie was raped?"
She felt he had trapped her. How could he have known? Was he guessing?
Was he using the pretext of this dream to wheedle information she had denied him? The
thought occurred that his dream itself might be a fabrication, a device that he had
concocted to achieve some private end. What end, though? She knew Melanie was somehow
important to him. But this was so implausible a schemeif it were a scheme. Was he
lying? She thought not. Yet she could not overcome the sense that Julian was trying to
He waited patiently for her answer.
"Yes, it is true."
"So that's the thing she can'tor won'tremember. It's
no wonder, I should think. What's the situation now?"
"Or Marcy, as the case may be."
"She's quite herself again."
"I'm glad to hear that. By the way, what caused her 'minor
"I agreed I would listen to your dream, not answer questions about
"But they're inseparable."
"In your mind, perhaps."
"I resent that."
"Listen, Julian. How this girl's unfortunate affair has found its
way into your subconscious, only you can tell. But I sincerely doubt your medicine is to
blame. It may affect the frequency with which you dream, but certainly not the
"Then how would you explain my little nightmare?"
"Be my guest."
"I would say that you gained this information consciously, and
through guilt about how it was obtained, you locked it into your
"How moralistic. Do I detect a hint of accusation?"
He knew the nun was groping in the dark. She had no proof. Besides, his
espionage had simply evened the odds. There was no need to feel guilty.
"Perhaps this matter is best resolved by calling it
The nun's dismissing it thus was hardly satisfactory, however. That he
indeed had used 'irregular' means to learn the facts did not explain the nightmare's
authenticity. It was all still much too vague.
There were but few things more he could relate, besides his intuition
that the dream was not a dream per se. But in exploiting the subject, he realized he had
lost his chance to hear the nun's opinion. Her 'adversary status' (which he knew he had
imposed himself) prejudiced whatever she might say. How to plumb her expertise without
relinquishing his slim advantage? Mentally he shifted gears. The nun's black habit became
a field of sixty-four squares, half of their ranks white. He peopled them with pawns,
Rooks, Bishops, Queens, Kings, and the last two Knightswhich had yet to be
With a blink, the pattern disassembled.
"For the sake of argument, let's grant I do know something
about her history."
"Surreptitiously, of course. Let's say Ms. Dana told me."
"I can't believe
"Too farfetched? We're only hypothesizing. Well, let's say, then,
I pilfered Melanie's filehave it stashed away somewhere. Under my pillow. Now, with
such a source of comprehensive data resting nightly under my head, do you think it likely
my imagination could take those factsthrough osmosis, if you likeand
manufacture circumstances into which they'd fit?"
Was Julian confessing? He must have seen the file. She had difficulty
reading him, this man behind the poker-face fa�ade. Why did he persist in all these
bluffs and feints and stratagems?
"Julian, what's the point?"
He thought a moment. She had him there. Maybe the dream was
spawned by a guilty conscious.
"A black van with a fisheye window."
"I beg your pardon; what?"
He had studied her reaction closely. The image had not rung a bell.
Perhaps the nun knew nothing of the rape. Perhaps his own extrapolations could only be
corroborated or dispelled by Melanie. And that was the pointone of them, at
least. He had to find a rational explanation for the dream, before it came again. The
exchange would have to wait. The nun apparently had no more to offer.
"Nothing, Ms. Zoe'an undigested bit of beef.'"
He rose to go.
"Just a minute, Julian. What about your medication?"
He took the bottle from his pocket and set it on her desk.
"Here. I told you, I'm trying to kick."
"And I told you, autonomy is not the way of it here, especially
for one who just caused such an uproar. I needn't remind you that this entire county was
searching for a man who 'simply took a little stroll.' Sit down!"
"Honestly, Julian, you amaze me. It's bad enough you haven't
offered an accountnot to mention an apologybut then to say blithely that you've
decided not to take the medication we prescribe, is tantamount to
"No, disrespect! Blatant, arrogant, ignorant disrespect!
Your epilepsy is treatable, not curable. The seizures will resume. And the
responsibility for that is yours. Accept it, and give the rest of us some credit. We're
not fools, you know. Don't let conceit deprive you of a helping hand; we all can use one
every now and then."
She shook the proper dosage from the pill container and held it out to
"Please. You wear those glasses to protect your eyes; willpower
doesn't make the light less painful. Let the drugs protect you, too."
It looked incongruous to him, almost sinisterthis 'representative
of heaven' pushing pills. And yet he could not help believing that she cared. It was
touching, even. Was she right, though? Were his nightmares and these anticonvulsants
unrelated? He looked at the tablets. He plucked them from her palm, popped them into his
mouth, and slowly chewed.
With the insides of her mouth constricting sympathetically, Sister Zoe
"How can you do that? Oh, swallow. Swallow, please!"
He gulped and grinned.
"Must do penance before receiving grace."
She shook her head, holding out the bottle.
"Here, take them with you."
"You mean you still trust me? Why Ms. Zoe, I'm truly
"I've simply lost my nervealmost my dinner."
"Which reminds me, I could use a bite to eat. We're through?"
"I have your promise to obey the curfew?"
"You will take the pills?"
"And these walks of yours will be curtailed?"
"All right, then. You may go."
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