I can just see you sifting through the ashes in your father’s fireplace ~ a desperate Cinderella with no ball to attend. How did you father take to your post-incendiary exploration?
I share your disappointment. The logical part of my brain told me ~ tells me still ~ that it was silly to look for answers in the ash. But the part of my mind that is both hopeful and worried harboured overgrown expectations that some sign or cure would be there waiting ~ some vial with a curative potion tempered by the fire.
I applaud your intention to visit Dr. Torres. After the way she departed so abruptly, I’m not sure I would have found the courage. I hope you can see her today. The weather is lovely, I see from window, and it will do you good to get out for a spell. I am, as you know,
I swear I heard your shriek before I finished slicing open the envelope! But I can’t blame you. You have had shock after shock, and there’s no way you could have seen this one coming.
I was so relieved when Dr. Morgan found a psychotherapist so quickly. You write that Dr. Morgan knew the — was she a psychologist or a psychiatrist? — counsellor was into some alternative practices, but that she had no idea the woman was a curandera! I suppose I wouldn’t have thought to ask that either.
You say that at first the examination seemed to go well, but when the new doctor looked at your father’s eyes, she turned pale, and — and here I am not sure, because your writing falters — I think you wrote that she rushed out, promising Dr. Morgan a report. Is that right? And that as she. Left, you heard her repeating, “The ash, the ash”? How strange!
Write me back and let me know if I have read your missive correctly. I am sitting here,
Please don’t cry. I can see the teardrops on your missive. Of course I have not forgotten your father’s antipathy towards psychiatrists, but don’t let his prejudices corrupt your thinking. I know your mother’s therapist couldn’t cure her, but sometimes mental illness resists treatment. And you know your mother’s depression played no part in her death.
You and Dr. Morgan needn’t tell your father that the counsellor is a psychiatrist. Merely tell your father that Dr. Morgan wishes to consult with a colleague for a second opinion.
Sometimes I think I can begins to discern a pattern to your father’s behaviour, but it’s more like a tapestry than a linear flow. Get the help you need, and do not allow your father’s illness to suffocate the beloved friend of
Oh my! I confess I never saw this coming. I was afraid your father would rage, become abusive, possibly even violent if you thwarted his demand. I hoped that in his upset, he would would let slip some clue about what is driving him.
But his swing into tears and despair never entered my mind. Oh Bridie, maybe I was wrong — indeed, I think I was. I think you ask Dr. Morgan to bring in a psychiatrist to examine your father. Though there be method, yet there may be madness in it. Tell me what you think, Bridget. I hardly know what to say, but am still
Your note urging me to relay my idea to you and emphasizing your father’s still-increasing requests for a sand-flower greeted me upon my rising today. Fortunately, my ideas coalesced as I slept, so I can give you a fairly coherent description of my thoughts.
I propose a test of sorts, a proffer of a partial truth to see how your father reacts. Perhaps it would be best if Dr. Morgan were around as witness and, if necessary, protection. My suggestion is that you set out on your walk, and head toward the woods, but go no further than the edge. Find a talisman of some sort: a rock, a leaf — break off a branch like the gardener’s boy in “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” — to bring your father. Return to the house with your token, and “confess” to your papa that you sense a fearful presence among the trees. Watch and listen closely for all the nuances of his reaction. Your father, in his usual state, might tease you a bit, but he would never attempt to persuade you to walk, especially not alone, anywhere you feel nervous or discomfortable.
I would that I could come, as you ask, Bridget. I am less enervated today — the absence of the wind helps — but fatigue continues to tether me at home. As soon as I can, I shall be
Your swiftly repairing, Hannah
P.S. I meant to add that feeling frail can lead people to be vicious. I hope your papa says nothing to hurt you.
Remember when “enchantment” was a charming word, the stuff of childhood fantasies and the cause of inconvenient, over-long naps? And now the word has a noxious look; it lies there, where I’ve written it, watching, glaring, all its innocence lost.
Perhaps I am seeing it through the haze of your letter, which I opened and read when I woke today. “Subtle differences,” you write, “subtle, but easily discernible to those who know him.”
Bridget, I know you don’t want to see the changes in your father, but even through your letter I can tell the changes are not subtle. Your father has always been a person of vast intelligence, but “wily, deceitful”? These are not attributes of your papa. Dr. Morgan has eliminated all the obvious medical causes, and while she is still waiting for other test results, we should open our minds to other possibilities, even if they provoke a shiver in our souls.
So your father has intuited that you may not be taking your walks in the woods as he has “encouraged” you to do and wants you to bring a “sand flower” (and you’re right; he made that up) from the edge of the lake to hasten his recovery.Bridie, we both know your father would never manipulate you so and that if he were mad, his insanity would be a gentler sort, one that would give him an excuse to live in his library, in a literary world with his favourite characters. Moreover, if he were ever to retreat so, he would invite you in to whatever realm he was inhabiting and would not insist you walk away from him to become “wode within this wood.”
Birdie, I have an idea forming in my head, but my weariness is sliding the pen out of the hand of
Your loving, Hannah
(And, truly, more and more it seems your father is enchanted by some power whose epicenter is in thge wood.)
At such a time — oh, at such a time! — my lassitude suffuses my bones, turns my skin husky, weighs me down with terror so that I can’t even break the seal on your envelope. I’ll attend to your letter tomorrow. Forgive
I have never liked the wind. I don’t mean the breezes that cool the summer days or waft the turning leaves along rivulets of air. It’s the locomotive winds that start like an idea in the mind and build to a roaring whisper that irritate my soul and de-rail my mind.
But now, knowing what you told me, the wind troubles me even more, especially when it blows from the woods. I can’t help but fancy that I detect the reek of something noisome and malicious, almost a presence that seeks to distract me and slip my thoughts into another stream.
And my fears may not be unfounded. Dr. Morgan tells me she now suspects that my perpetual lethargy may be related to your father’s illness. Thinking back together over tea (and really, Bridie, when we get this all sorted, you MUST share your soup recipe with me. It would have been the perfect accompaniment to the sandwiches), we realized that my fatigue came upon me shortly after my coming to visit you and your papa when he first fell ill. She will be at yours before long to drain you of blood as she did me. She wants to compare our samples with your father’s.
Thank goodness your father hasn’t smoked your subterfuge of heading to the store instead of the woods. Yes, I do know the dangers of the ice cream counter, but that is a sacrifice you will have to make to ease the mind of
You know how I abhor a cliché, but I must tell you that your letter made my blood freeze. Truly, I felt it run cold in my veins.
Thank heavens Dr. Morgan was able to get rid of your brain fog. Funny how it took a doctor to see clearly that you needed a cup of strong tea!
While I understand your tale now, I would credit such a story from no one but you.I do not know if we’ll need to involve anyone else in this perilous conundrum, but if we do, it will be of tremendous value to have Dr. Morgan’s corroboration.
It must have been terribly unnerving to hear your usually patient papa speak to you in a voice so unlike his own in timbre, tone, and pitch. You’re right: I have never heard him raise his voice either, not even when he caught you packing to run away to prove, at eleven, that you could too take care of yourself.
If only his querulousness were due to his advancing age and poor health. It seems indeed that some thing has taken over your father’s mind, even if it manifests at intervals.
I know you are worried that Dr. Morgan’s tests may have a deleterious effect onyour father’s health, but I think that you have to trust her. Whatever is affecting him must be taking a toll on his body and his mind.
But no matter how upset he gets, do not let your father persuade you to return to the woods. Pretend, if you must, to accede; let him see you in your jacket and gloves; open and close the front day and walk to the corner store so you come back wreathed in scents of fresh autumn air.
I must think further about the venomous fog and your vague recollections about believing yourself to be bait. Have you remembered anything further?How you came by that idea? For what you might be the enticement? Or to what purpose?
Sit tight, Bridget. As you know, Dr. Morgan comes to me tomorrow and I shall keep her to tea after she finishes my examination. As soon as she pronounces me well enough to leave home, I shall come to see you (how plagued you must feel, caught between an ailing father and a foundering friend!).
I shall send you a note tomorrow by the good doctor; I hope together she and I will be able to hit upon a course of useful action. Watch out for yourself, and keep away from shadows. Give your father, when he is himself, my fondest regards, and hoard for yourself the best of my