“Ha-How could you se-send me –ah-away?” I cried.
Dr. Crowe stared at me with sympathetic eyes for a moment before handing me a tissue. I blew my nose, but didn’t let it go. “I still… Wh-why?” was all I could manage to get out before I had to blow my nose again.
“Annie, I have no idea what you are talking about.” She told me patiently.
“My… My dad is moving us to New York.” I said before taking a deep breath. I had to get through this. “My mom told me you helped him get a job in Syracuse.”
Dr. Crowe nodded. “I did.”
“Why?” I started balling again.
“Did you know your dad has been an associate professor in a very prestigious department at USC?” She asked.
I shook my head. I mean, I knew he was a professor or something, but I didn’t know the rest.
“Well, he is. Syracuse, on the other hand… well, they have a very good basketball team.” She told me. “Their Dean, Dean Lloyd, you see, I owed him a favor. He is trying to build the academics at his school and asked me for a recommendation.”
“So?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve known your father for more than 20 years. I asked him for a favor to consider this position. He did. And… he accepted.” She said, in a tone a kindergarten teacher might use to explain nap time to a 5 year old.
“I don’t want to go to New York. Can’t you stop this?” I begged.
“Annie, you’re missing the point.” She said smoothly.
“What?” I asked.
“I don’t want you to move away either. Just the opposite. I want you to stay here, where I can keep an eye on you and help you through this.” She told me.
“I don’t understand.” I admitted. “If you want me here then why…?”
Dr. Crowe took in a deep breath and released it before continuing. “For now, just know that I have a plan. When the time comes, I promise you, if you don’t want to leave, you won’t have to.” She told me. “Now, tell me what happened to you since Thursday.”
I wanted to press for more information, but she had taken her seat and had me sit in my normal spot and turned on the tape recorder. She said it would be okay, and I still trusted her. So I did as I was told. I explained to her how well the weekend went, and what my mom told me… and I told her about what happened this morning… and about what must have happened last night.
“You have no memory of it?” she asked.
“I… I was having a dream that I was chasing Sophie around. But every time I got close to her, she would appear somewhere else.” I said. “I don’t know what that means. It was just a dream, right?”
“Perhaps, perhaps not.” Dr. Crowe said. “Has something like this ever happened before?”
“Not really,” I started and then, “I mean, sort of?”
Dr. Crowe cocked her head questioningly, prompting me to continue.
“When I was at the mall with my mom. You remember, I wandered away naked?” I said.
“I remember.” She told me.
“My mom told me when she found me that I kept repeating the phrase, ‘Sophie is a good girl’ over and over.” I said.
“Oh!” she said, startled by the revelation. “Annie, why didn’t you tell me that before?”
“I didn’t think…” I began, but change to, “I was too embarrassed to tell you.”
“Annie, you have to trust me. I can only help you if I know what is happening. Has this happened any other time?” She asked.
“No, not that I can remember.” I said sullenly.
“Okay, so this ‘awakening’ of the Sophie personality is recent.” She said, more to herself than to me.
“I guess.” I said. “I have been dreaming about her for months though. Before I met you… just, she never took over my body before is all.”
Dr. Crowe nodded. “Well, let’s begin.”
Before I could ask what she wanted to begin, she pulled out a white binder that contained a bunch of clear plastic envelope inserts. She set it on my lap and told me to open the cover.
The first page was a woman who appeared to be walking down a fashion runway, except that she was only wearing a pair of high heeled shoes and a large brimmed hat. Otherwise, she was completely naked.
“What do you feel when you see this image?” She asked.
“I feel like you are showing me porn.” I said.
“No fear? You are able to see a naked woman and not panic?” She asked.
“No, she’s pretty though.” I admitted.
“Next page.” Dr. Crowe instructed.
The next page was a woman on a beach, playing volleyball with a mix of men and women. She was naked and they were all wearing bathing suits.
“How do you feel seeing this one?” She asked.
The picture itself didn’t make me feel anything weird, but when I closed my eyes, I remembered me playing on the beach with Craig and his friends. I blushed a little at the memory, but then told her. “It’s familiar to what happened to me, but… It’s okay.”
The next few pages were like that. All different women doing things that were similar to my incident, but other than a bit of embarrassment and empathy, especially for the girl being led around by a leash, I didn’t have any fear or panic from it.
Then I turned the page and my face went flush. It was a picture of a boat. More specifically, it was a picture of the ferry boat that you take to Catalina. I recognized it in an instant. Not the boat, but the picture. This was one of the pictures that was spreading around my school. I immediately closed my eyes and pushed the binder back toward Dr. Crowe.
“Where did you get this?” I demanded.
“Annie.” Dr. Crowe said firmly. “Open your eyes.”
I was shaking. I tried pushing the book to her, but she pushed it back onto my lap. She was a lot stronger than she looked. “Open your eyes. Now.” Dr. Crowe insisted.
Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked at her.
“You have to face this.” She told me. “Please.”
I nodded, a little. Then I looked down at the photo. It was the same picture I remembered. I was standing on the ferry with Craig and Jimmy on either side of me. I remembered this… not that someone was taking a picture of me, but I remember how happy I was spending the day with my brother and his friends. Then I finally allowed myself to look at me.
“You changed it.” I said to Dr. Crowe. She had drawn a bikini onto my body. It looked like it was done with a black sharpie, but it covered the important parts well enough.
“How do you feel about this image?” She asked.
I was still shaking from fear, but seeing myself clothed normally instead of naked made me feel… “Sad.” I said.
“Why sad?” She asked, carefully.
“I don’t know… I don’t understand why I feel sad, but… that is how it makes me feel.” I said.
“Okay, look at the next page.” She told me.
My hand began to shake a little, as I was certain what I would see on the next page. I tried to delay the inevitable. “Where did you get this photo?” I repeated.
“Annie, why is that important to you?” she asked.
“Are there more?” I asked.
Dr. Crowe nodded. “I have a few more.” She admitted.
My heart sank. I had thought that Craig had tracked all of these down, but if she could find them then… I was shaking.
She didn’t let me delay any further, and turned the page for me. “Look. How does this one make you feel?”
Tears began to well up, but I forced myself to look down. It was not what I expected. Instead of seeing a picture where she didn’t cover me up, she had a picture of a bouquet of yellow flowers. “How do you feel seeing this picture?”
I studied the picture. They were really pretty. I could see that they were actually yellow with streaks of red in them, reminding me of a sunset. “Calm.” I said. “I feel really calm seeing this picture.”
“Good. That’s enough exercise for today. On Thursday, come early. I’ll have something for you.” Dr. Crowe told me, pulling the binder away. After that, she asked me to tell her of my dreams. Any dream that I remembered with Sophie in it. She made special care to ensure that the tape recorder was close enough that it didn’t miss anything.
I was calm again when I left Dr. Crowe’s office. She told me it would be my choice to stay or go. I didn’t know how that could be true, but for some reason, I still trusted her.
On the way home, my mom stopped at the hardware store and bought a bunch of cardboard boxes for moving. My worry started up again.