Bea’s body language was tight and guarded. She tried to vanish into the overstuffed armchair and couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact with Dr. Hepburn. The light from the sunset cut across the psychologist’s jaw, illuminating her glossy smile and the loose lock of hair that dangled by Dr. Hepburn’s lips. That loose lock was the sole deviation from the doctor’s prim, Victorian bearing. She pinned Bea was those damned eyes, so sure that she was the adult in the room and the Bea was the scared child. Bea certainly felt that way.
Dr. Hepburn clucked. Bea shuddered and corrected herself.
“That man… he came to my work. He refused to leave until I talked to him. The manager had to call the police.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“No! I… I hid in the bathroom. My coworkers wouldn’t let them through.”
“Did you want to talk to him?”
Bea shifted anxiously.
“…I miss him.”
“Bea, you don’t miss him. He has convinced you that you miss him. You want to believe that you have a boyfriend to miss, and he knows that. That’s what makes him dangerous. Have you been doing the exercises I showed you?”
“I… it’s hard. It feels hard. I feel confused.”
“Bea!” Dr. Hepburn’s voice tightened like a garrote. “Are you doing the exercises to help you ignore the false memories?”
“But they still feel so real, I don’t think-“
Dr. Hepburn sighed. “Bea, there is no such thing as a ‘real’ memory. A memory is a story that you make up in the moment when you try and ‘remember.’ That is why false memories can have such staying power. Biochemically, neurologically, they aren’t any different from trustworthy memories. For someone like you, who’s been isolated for so much of their life, it can be so tempting to believe a happy fairy tale. Abusers like that man know that. That’s why you have to work hard and not succumb!”
“I’m sorry.” Bea wiped away a tear that had been forming in her eye. “I’m tired. It makes me tired.”
“It is hard. But that’s why we have hypnotherapy. So I can tell you firmly what is real and what isn’t.”
Dr. Hepburn used a metronome on a small table to hypnotize Bea. They had been practicing it together for months. That’s how Dr. Hepburn explained it – she learned to hypnotize Bea, and Bea learned how to be hypnotized. Bea was good at reaching trance now. She listened to the metronome and she listened to Dr. Hepburn and she let her mind go, becoming transparent, becoming jelly, becoming permeable. She listened to Dr. Hepburn and let the objections and the arguments slip away like smoke.
“You do not have a boyfriend. You have never had a boyfriend.”
Never… had… a boyfriend…
“You have always been alone. You have always lived alone. You have always felt alone.”
“You are emotionally vulnerable. You are emotionally weak.”
“Dr. Hepburn is your lifeline. You need her help.”
Dr. Hepburn… lifeline… need… Warm tears slid down Bea’s cheeks. Just two more stars in the galaxy.
“Very good, Bea. I proud of you. Repeat it… again… again… again… again…”