When we got back home there was a message from Dr. Davenport, “Call me as soon as you can…I have some information you might find helpful.”
I stared at the phone, tempted to pick up the receiver and dial his office. But I didn’t. I lay back on my bed and breathed. Breathed slowly, deeply. Rachel and John’s voices travelled down the hall, falling against my ears but meaning was far away, as sleep pulled me inside its vault, forceful and unforgiving. Dreams of peace danced along the edges of my mind. The more I reached, the farther away it felt. Arms outstretched, I waited for peace, for it to cover me in darkness, that space where rebirth was possible.
I awoke covered with a blanket, the phone beeping at my side. John, on his way to the kitchen, poked his head in.
“Hey sleepy head,” he joked. “You passed out…you okay?”
“I feel much better,” I said.
“Good,” he opened the door wider. “Mom’s making French toast when you’re ready.”
“Yum, can’t wait.” I pulled the blanket off and scooted to the edge of the bed. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Take your time.”
I joined John and Rachel midway through their breakfast.
“Let me warm your plate up for you,” Rachel said when she saw me coming down the hall.
“I can get it,” I smiled.
I poured a cup of coffee and sat down across from them.
“I got a message yesterday from Dr. Davenport.”
“What did he say?” Rachel asked.
“He said he had some information for me.”
“Are you going to call him back…before you leave?” John leaned in.
“Probably.” I took a sip.
“Your plane leaves at 8:30 this evening. I was thinking we’d go pick up a few things for you to take back,” Rachel offered. “If you want.”
“That sounds good,” I took another sip. “What do you think Dr. Davenport has to tell me?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” John retrieved the phone and set it down in front of me. “Call.”
The phone rang four times before Dr. Davenport’s secretary’s voice poured through, rushed and elevated.
“May I speak with Dr. Davenport? This is Juniper Price, Marcy Hensley’s daughter.”
“He’s awaiting your call. I‘ll connect you.”
“Juniper,” Dr. Davenport sang. “I’m glad you called.” He ruffled papers, his voice fading in and out.”
“No problem,” I said, cringing as I searched for the right words.
“Well, I’m not sure if you’re interested in pursuing this…but…if you remember the name Sebastian Margolis that comes up in your mother’s notebook…”
“Remember?” I screamed in my mind.
“I found a Sebastian Margolis who lives in Patterson and…”
I almost dropped the phone.
“I have a phone number…”
I had to remind myself to breathe.
“Do you have a pen…a piece of paper?”
I thought about the Gargoyles, how they lay crushed on the basement floor as two police officers carried Mother up the basement stairs. I thought about how she had, with a straight face, told stories about the impulsive Sebastian and Margolis, how they were an interplay of good and evil, evil winning each time. I thought about how even in their absence they tortured my mother, made us all fearful as threat dangled over our heads as punishment for surviving.
“Let me know when you’re ready,” Dr. Davenport waited.
I wrote the name, Sebastian Margolis, in big letters. I drew each number then traced over them.
“If he knew your mother it will be interesting to know more about their relationship.”
“I’ll ask,” I interrupted.
“Let me know what you find out.”
“Ok…take care Dr. Davenport.” I hung up the phone.
John and Rachel waited for me to say something.
“Is that the phone number?” Rachel asked.
“Yes, this is Sebastian Margolis’ phone number,” I laughed. “Weird.”
“It is a little weird,” John agreed. “Are you going to call him?”
I shrugged. I didn’t know if I’d call, or what I’d say if I did. Two voices that had harassed my Mother mercilessly were now one, embodied in a man I somehow feared and craved.
“It’s your choice. You don’t have to call right now.”
“What’s wrong?” Rachel asked.
“Do you still have the police report from…that night?” I managed.
“Yeah…let me get it,” John hurried towards their bedroom and returned with a folded sheet of paper.
I scanned it quickly until my eyes found “Unknown Intruder.”
“What if this is the Sebastian Margolis that my mother talked about so much, the one we thought was just part of her hallucinations? What if he was real all along?” Guilt started creeping in. “What if he was really hurting her and we did nothing?”
John nodded, waiting for me to finish.
“What if he…the footprints?” I struggled to piece my thought together.
“Okay, Okay,” John interjected to calm me. “Anything’s possible, but before we go down that path, why don’t we give him a call.”
I let out a loud, belabored breath.
“Let’s just see, kiddo…mental illness is a tricky thing.”
“I thought we’d do a little shopping. What do you say? A few new outfits?” Rachel offered as a distraction and I accepted.
I finished my coffee and a slice of French toast and went back to my room to pack. Rachel joined me, making a list of things I needed. Then off we went to our local mall, pulling hundreds of items off the rack only to return them and move on to the next. I settled on a few outfits to try on. Rachel stood outside the changing room.
“How does it fit?” she asked as I tried on each one. “Let me see.”
I stepped out, posing and twirling.
“Beautiful.” Rachel confirmed.
We ate a quick lunch and headed back home. John was waiting, my bags at the door.
“Now you sure you don’t want to stay another week?”
“I’m already behind,” I laughed. “I’ve got a chemistry exam to make up and a paper on Shakespeare to write.” I cringed.
“I see…you could have just said no,” he joked.
“I’ll miss you…and I’ll be back in a month.” I gave him a big hug.
By the time I got on the plane I was exhausted. I put my seatbelt on and leaned back in my seat, hoping the seat next to me would remain empty. Moments later a man in jeans and a plaid shirt interrupted.
“Excuse me, miss. I believe I’m sitting next to you.”
I tucked my legs in so he could pass. “Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” he said as he squeezed through, the edge of his black messenger bag brushing against my knees.
I smiled and nodded, my eyes catching the initials, SB, stitched onto the side of the bag. In that instant the blood drained from my face.
“How are you doing today?” he asked as he adjusted in his seat.
I couldn’t answer. My face went blank, my heart pounding so hard its echo deep in my ears. I thought about the phone number Dr. Davenport had given me, the name Sebastian Margolis in big, thick letters. I thought about Mother, how she had tried to escape only to be pulled back in each time. Sebastian and Margolis a stronghold in her mind, perhaps a combination of real and invented. I tried to shut that part of my mind off, but it got louder. Anxiety set in as I imagined the man next to me was Sebastian Margolis, a murderer, a manipulator, a tyrant who ruined our lives. I clinched my fists. I thought about my nights at A Place Called Home when I wrapped myself tight in the quilt Grandma Betty started and Sage finished, how I could never wrap it around me tight enough to find safety, peace. I thought about Mother being hauled away to the mental hospital, bloodied and feral. I thought about Sage lying on the basement floor, axe marks up and down her back. Rage and pain balled in my gut. I was ready to scream. There was nothing to keep memory from unfolding like an intruder, the same crime scene playing over and over again.
“Are you okay, miss?” the man asked.
“What does SB stand for?” I asked, my voice quivering like an injured child.
“It’s my initials…Steven Browning.” He smiled.
My entire body relaxed.
“Okay.” I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes, memories of Steven and Sage streaming like soft music.