Copyright © 2021 by UKAF
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
“I do,” you confirm, smiling at the frail yet charismatic young man in front of you.
In the ending
You had been here for the usual two-hour talk, listening to his complaints of having his younger sister knocking on the door every time he sleeps. You know it’s not true, but you listen still. You are supposed to be sad, or as the person you are, you feel sad but don’t show it. Instead, you keep a neutral face, sometimes creasing it to show you feel the anger he feels for his sister’s constant play of hide-and-seek knocks.
“Where are you off to?” asks Declan in a wobbly voice as he watches you pick up your purse from his bedside table, placing it on your arm. His eyebrows furrow as you look at him strangely. When did he begin asking that? You smile, sweetly, because you know it tends to keep people happy, especially him. He loves smiling and smiley faces, even if his sister didn’t smile.
“Home, like always,” you respond matter-of-factly, raising your hand to wave as you walk towards the door. He squirms, climbing down the swing chair, then moves forward, his hands shaking, “Don’t leave me, you promised.”
Did I promise? I never make promises, much less one to stay with him. “Declan, I don’t understand what you’re saying. My session with you is over for today. You know I can’t stay—”
“But you promised,” his voice comes out persistently in a whisper, cutting you off. You notice his lips are trembling, his eyes red, and his forehead wet with sweat. The last time you had seen him like this was when he told you about his life story.
You wonder what is wrong as you stare at your patient, a mentally ill young adult. “Declan, I’d be here—”
He knows what your response is because it’s not the first time he hears such, “Be here now, not tomorrow, not next week, but now,” he pauses, biting his lips, waiting for you to say something, anything. You’re tongue-tied, so you stare at him, reading his thoughts, emotions. A little information to get you going, to at least know why he’s acting strangely a few days you’re about to declare him healed.
“Don’t you remember?” He looks at you, searching your eyes for an answer you know nothing about or possibly can’t remember.
You see him whispering under his breath – something about forgetting, a psychologist, helping people with their memory.
“Remember what?” you question with a straight face, uninterested eyes roaming his features because you’re late, and you know your father would be furious, furious with you for not keeping to your words, and your mother won’t be able to do anything. Maybe, you’ve promised a few times, a few people on few occasions.
“Do you like me – I had asked you. You had replied affirmatively, smiling. If you weren’t lying, like I know you’d say, why then do you want to leave me like—”
“I’m not leaving you like the others. And, I won’t lie. Yes, I do like you, honestly, but I don’t just see why that has to stop me from going home.” You lose a bit of your temper, dropping your bag back on the table. You don’t make your anxiety known as you look at him sadly, seeing through his eyes the memories that flash in by the second yet again. I won’t be like them. I would help you fight your trauma. Even if he can’t hear your thoughts, you assure, maybe promising to make sure you stick by it.
“Home, you say, where exactly is that?”
You wonder the pain he must be going through at such a young age. 24 with a family that thinks he’s abnormal, no favourite baby sister, no place to call his except a psychology centre, but still you’re willing to explain, “Home is where your heart is at peace, where everything shines brightly, and there’s—”
“Be my home then. My heart is at peace when you’re around. Everything glisters and, I feel like a whole new person anytime I’m with you.” You open your mouth and close it back, unable to utter coherent words that you’d possibly understand, much less that he’d understand.
“Marry me,” he finishes for you, helping you with your indecisiveness, grinning and taking small steps forward. You’re scared, worried, amazed, confused as he closes the gap between you and him. Your emotions are in chaos, the same as your mind and your entire being. Your eyes flutter shut.
In the beginning
“Lynn—” your father starts, eyes staring into thin air. You’re on the porch, having cookies and juice with your parents. Your mother is reading a magazine while you are dusting crumbs from the table to feed the ground termites. You raise your head to your father’s call. Judging from his tired voice, you know he’d argue with you about your job again. Maybe while he stared away, he got thinking and realised psychology just wasn’t for you.
You sigh, holding his hands pleadingly, “I’m only going over to his house to talk to him, and I’d be home. Ask mother, since I began, I made sure I always came back early. I kept my promise. He’s ill, father. He needs help. I can help. Please, let me.”
He looks at you, his eyes holding warmth. He cups your cheeks and pecks your forehead, “I want what you want. If it’s working as a psychologist, go for it as long as it makes you happy.”
“It does, father,” and behind the magazine is your quiet mother, smiling that your father has finally accepted.
Yes, your father would be mad, but Declan would be happier. You place a hand up for him to stop walking, wait for you to say something, maybe your final phrases before you get married to a patient that is older than you by a year.
“When I said I liked you, I meant as a person, for who you are, ill or not. I meant I would not judge you, hate you or stay away from you even after our final session next week. I would always remember you and keep you in my second home right here—” you hold your heart, breathing softly, praying he listens like he always did.
He follows your movement and places his hand on his chest, “My second home?”
“Yes, our second home. Because we cherish the people, the memories, the thoughts, the feelings, the decisions and everything with this small thing that beats and pumps, I would keep you there, and I want you to do the same, not just for me but for your family, all of them. They like you, Declan, no matter who you become, they do, even after Xena’s death which you never caused.”
With that, you leave with a weight lifted off your shoulders, knowing you’d possibly never come back. I do, break promises.
GENRE — Thriller, Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Prompt Held By — Reedsy, accessible at blog.reedsy.com
Submission Date — 27/05/2021 12:00 PM – Universal Time Coordinated
Written by Aisha Olanrewaju.