The parents arrived at six, and the family joined around the table in the dining room. The folks were pleased to meet the therapist, and bowled over by her stunning looks. It was not a formal occasion, but Emma wore an emerald gown. Its deep vibrant shade shimmered with a pavonine sheen, and set off subversive traces of henna in her dark hair. Amelia, scurrying underfoot, was under the impression the tall brunette was a second Christmas tree, and at every opportunity hung from her dress like a dangling ornament.
Miranda did her best as hostess, while Aloysius’ mother was put in charge of catching Amelia’s lobs of peas and carrots. Patient and therapist were seated side-by-side. Both made friendly conversation throughout the meal, though only a little with each other. After dishes were cleared away, and dessert served, the family moved to the living room. Miranda intercepted Emma and gestured her toward the stairs. “Would you like to see the rest of the house?” she asked.
Something in how this question was raised alerted the guest to the clear impression that the sister, in paying regard to her visitor, believed she may have possessed a previous acquaintance with the second floor layout.
Aloysius’ bedroom was the logical first stop, and perhaps the only intended destination. Miranda reached under the bed to pull out a battered suitcase, and commented wryly, “Aloysius never throws anything away. He only re-prioritizes.” Grey with dust, the relic was placed on the spread, where it surrendered its contents to a table lamp.
Emma looked over the loose pages.
“I hear you’re leaving the hospital to go to art school,” Miranda inquired. “Is this true?”
“Yes, I think Aloysius has had as much influence on me as I have had on him.”
The sister spoke frankly. “It’s brave of you, I think, to have worked so hard to earn one degree, and then to start over.”
The therapist admitted, “Sometimes it takes a while to find yourself.”
Miranda observed, “And you’re still young enough to make those big life decisions. You’re what…? Thirty…?”
“I just turned thirty-one.”
The sister was affable. “I only know you’ve had a profound impact on my brother.” She paused, adding parenthetically, “You and this nurse he’s taken up with.”
Emma answered gravely, “So I’ve heard.”
“Has he spoken of her to you?”
“Even if I knew…”
“Few would have the patience to piece together a story from so many scattered pages across time,” ruminated the sister. “Though perhaps only one page is needed to make sense of it.”
Miranda’s sights searched the suitcase, but she need not touch the pages to declare, “It is missing.”
“What is missing?”
“The poem,” was her answer. “A poem dedicated to you. My brother may be chronically disorganized, but what is most dear to him is always in plain view.”
Emma deflected. “It’s not unusual for patients to form attachments for their therapists.”
“Understandably,” was her reply. “Yet perhaps it’s fortunate that your professional relationship with my brother will soon be removed as an obstacle.”
Emma was nonplus, but would not entertain the sister’s assertions further.
Miranda, having said what she wanted to say, shut the suitcase and returned it to its hiding place. She moved to the light switch, but was honest in her feelings. “My brother is a difficult man to love, Emma, but I do love him. The only thing that matters to me is his happiness.”
The young woman’s response aimed at terseness, but came out softer. “Then his happy ending is what we both want.”
Miranda’s voice trailed away with unanticipated bliss. “Then there’s an end to it.”
The two women returned quieter downstairs.
Epilogue: The Unknowable Thing-in-Itself/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.