I brushed out my hair, tryin’ my best to ignore Henri. He had not stopped talking since Doctor Redding left. That had been an hour ago. But Henri still wasn’t stopping, and I knew I deserved it for what I did but I was tired of hearing the same things. His concerns, his fears… didn’t he realize I felt the same? I was very scared of what I had done and was prayin’ like crazy it hadn’t been a huge mistake. That she wouldn’t chop me up or something. I had to trust a false woman.
I had agreed to go in for one week every four months, and if somethin’ prevented me from doing that I could make up the time later. I didn’t tell her I planned on eventually possibly hopefully bein’ pregnant. I was not going to undergo any kind of experimentation while pregnant. Though I might put off trying, since I was going to be going into the lab at the end of the month and then after that using the money for the trip to France; Doctor Redding had agreed to a private plane so that would at least make it easier.
“…listening to me?” Henri finished and I set my brush down, lookin’ up at him. “You weren’t, were you?”
“No,” I said honestly. “You’ve been harping on about the same things since she’s left.”
“Harping?! Sen, you’re my wife! Am I not allowed to worry that you signed a pact with–some psychotic woman?” he demanded.
“What if I refused her?” I asked, tryin’ not to lose my patience. “She might have left, and come back with something. To hurt you, or hurt someone else in my family, or hurt me. Or maybe she’d just kidnap me. Who knows! I am well aware that I signed a pact with a psychotic woman but better a signed pact with her, than the unknown! If she kidnapped me… I have the feeling I’d never see the outside of the lab again. At least this way I have several weeks between visits, I get paid, and she’s not in complete control.”
He sulked for a long time and I was angry but we made up before midnight. He told me he’d never stop worrying and I promised him I would be as careful as I could be.
Over the next couple of weeks I was pretty jittery. I was glad I had my telepathic empathy to keep track of some of the people I was followin’ since a lot of the times my mind was on the lab and Redding. Still I exposed 3 cheating spouses, promised a worried spouse she wasn’t being cheated on, solved 2 minor cases the police threw at me and told some bratty kid I knew he had stolen the mouthwash. He didn’t believe me until I told him exactly where he hid it and WHY he stole it (so I would bribe him). He wound up crying and told his parents who grounded him and gave me a little bit of money for my time.
Just before my time to go to the lab came up, I told my family Henri and I were going on a short vacation. A romantic vacation, to a cabin in the woods (to explain how Henri could be there). I felt terrible for lyin’ but I knew if I even said the name ‘Redding’ my grandma would totally flip. Kaylee agreed to watch the house and take care of the horses, and then I had to force her to promise not to pretend to be me and take any of my cases.
“Do you really think I, your sweet sister, would do such a okay I won’t,” was her answer.
“Mhm.” I gave her a tight hug. “See ya later, Kaylee.”
She beamed at me. “Can I at least ride the horses? With a cowboy hat?”
“Yes as long as you’re wearing the hat and the horses aren’t,” I teased and she giggled.
With that, Henri and I got into the truck. He was wearing a hat, and a scarf that was wrapped up pretty high. He tilted his hat down and leaned so it’d be hard to see his glowingness, and we went at night to hopefully not be seen as much. Redding had been right–it was a long trip. We had to stay overnight (overday?) at a hotel, where I rented a single. It took half our second night of travel to reach our destination and I was not sure the place was right. It was in the middle of no where and the actual lab had no roads leading to it. I called the number Redding left and soon a helicopter appeared to take us in, the girl and guy inside not at all phased at seeing a ghost.
We were taken into the lab and to a room, told to wait. Henri and I sat down, nervous. He wasn’t going to be experimented or researched on but Redding said that was fine and that he was welcome to stay with me. I really hoped she kept that promise.
The door opened about ten minutes later and it wasn’t Doctor Redding who stood there but a man who looked a lot like her. “Professor, right?” I asked, recallin’ what I had been told.
“Y-yes,” he replied. I couldn’t sense a single thing from him but I could guess why: he had a strange contraption on his head. I assumed that was blocking my abilities. “You’re S-Serenity…”
“You’re supposed to be my great-grandfather, right?” I asked and Henri choked.
“Great-great g-g-grandfather,” he mumbled, clutching at a clipboard. “You m-must be Henri,” he added, looking rather nervously at my husband. “Are you t-two tired, d-do you w-want to go to your r-room or…?” His eyes met mine and I ached to know what he felt since he looked so upset about… what? Me? Henri? Something else entirely?
“Yes, please, if you don’t mind taking us to our room,” I said. “We will be allowed to share, right?”
“Of c-course!” Now he smiled, though slightly. “F-follow me please.” We were taken down some halls and up a flight of stairs, to a small room that held just a double bed and a dresser. “Th-that door there is a b-bathroom. There are c-clothes in the d-dresser and bathroom t-t-t-toiletries in the b-bathroom. If you n-need anything call the s-same number you c-called earlier…” He stepped back and stared wide-eyed at us. “Are you hungry? D-do you n-need some dinner?”
“No, we have some food from the trip,” I said, holding up one of my bags. “Are we allowed to walk around on our own–“
“No,” he said before I could finish the question. “The d-door will b-be locked. Wh-when you’re r-ready, you’ll be coming to the l-labs and H-Henri… er, Mr. Laroche, you c-can go to the library or g-game room if you wish.”
Henri put a protective arm around me. “Can’t I go to the labs to stay with Serenity?”
Professor Redding bowed his head, nodding. “Y-yes, if you w-want. Um. If you n-need any–oh, I already said that. Um, g-g-goodnight.” He turned and fled the room.
Henri looked at me and I shrugged. “I couldn’t get anything from him, I think that hat was preventing it. But he sure seems scared of something.”
“Maybe me,” Henri said and wiggled his fingers at me. “Oooooooooowooooo scary ghoooost!” he howled, jumpin’ forward and tickling me. I shrieked and dropped my bags, begging him to stop. He laughed and kept tickling me until I could barely breathe. I smacked him and scooped up the bag with food in it. We had a dinner of peanut butter sandwiches and potato chips. Then we were both so beat that neither of us bothered with a shower, we just changed into our pajamas and went to sleep in the strange place. Just before I fell asleep I wondered if the day and a half drive there, and day and a half drive back, would count towards my week…
It was almost noon when we woke up. We got a shower together and had apples and chips for breakfast since we didn’t feel like ringin’ for anything. We chattered for a bit then I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I phoned the number but there was no answer, nor an option for voicemail; however, three minutes later our door was opened by Professor Redding who seemed a little better than the night before. We told him we already ate and were ready for the labs, so once again we were asked to follow him. This time we went several flights down, the lab apparently bein’ underground.
We passed several rooms before being taken through a door labeled ‘Lab E12’ and then writing underneath stating: ‘Authorized Personnel Only’. Beneath that was a piece of paper taped up saying ‘Foil Hats Mandatory’. Professor Redding (who was still wearin’ the anti-me hat) gave a snort and started to take the sign down. I guess he changed his mind since he fixed the corner he had ripped, then let us in.
I wasn’t sure what I was expectin’ but this wasn’t it. It seemed more like a living room than a lab, though I did see some machinery around. Doctor Redding was sitting at the table, tappin’ away at a laptop. She didn’t even turn when we came in but told us to take a seat. Professor Redding pointed at one of the sofas so Henri and I both sat, waiting. Doctor Redding stayed at her laptop while the Professor just sort of hovered. So the room was silent, other than the clackin’ of the laptop keys, until several, several minutes. Then she snapped the laptop shut and came over.
“He is supposed to be in lab I3,” she said, fixin’ her glare on Henri.
“I’m staying with my wife,” he said, taking my hand. “I want to make sure she stays safe.”
Doctor Redding pressed her lips tightly together. “Not to worry,” she finally said. “My brother stalks the Danevbies and does not like any harm done to them.” Professor Redding went red and spun around, going over to the other side of the room to shuffle through some papers. “The first thing we will do is a Q&A session.” She sat down, setting a tablet on her leg and holding up a stylus. “How old were you when you first experienced your telepathic empathy?”
Over the next three hours we went through dozens of questions, sometimes going from the answer to the next question, sometimes her getting me to expand on some of my answers. Henri, not noticin’ any direct danger, floated over to Professor Redding and began chatting with him. Now and then someone would go through but Doctor Redding never once stopped questioning me. After the three hours, she left without another word and her twin explained she’d be back soon and in the mean time would we like some food?
“Professor, about the week thing, do you know if my day and a half of travel here and what will be a day and a half travel back–that’s 3 days–will be part of the week I am supposed to spend here?” I asked as we ate the pizza that had been delivered.
Professor Redding looked down at his lap. “I’m n-not sure, I c-can ask my sister if y-you’d like. Maybe we c-can arrange more suitable, er, t-travel arrangements.”
I leaned forward. “Professor, is everything ok? You seem scared of something.”
He jerked a bit. “N-no. It’s my st-stammer. I always s-sound scared. Excuse me a moment.” He stood up and went over to the same papers he shuffled through earlier. I raised my eyebrows but kept silent, not wanting to say it was more of how he was acting and the looks on his face that made him come across as frightened.
The first two days consisted of getting me set up into whatever system Doctor Redding had for the telepaths. I had to get my brain scanned, fingerprinted, and did some basic tests so she could find out how strong I was. She also kept asking Henri if he wouldn’t mind going to the lab where they were testin’ ghosts but she never did more than ask. Professor Redding mostly was the more social one but I wished he’d take that hat off so I’d know why he was so scared. On the third day he wasn’t around at all and Doctor Redding was really uptight about who-knows-what. Henri read while I performed more tests, this time on what I couldn’t do. Such as the physical manipulation of objects.
“I can’t do anything but sense feelings and–and make people feel things,” I said after an hour of me staring at a small rubber ball.
“Some of the subjects in the D Project have shown tendencies towards their abilities overlapping with other abilities,” Doctor Redding said without looking up from her tablet. “I need to be clear where your boundaries lie in that aspect.”
“May I ask you some questions?” I inquired.
“No,” she replied flatly, still writing.
I fidgeted in my seat, first diggin’ my nails into my legs then movin’ my hands, trying to figure out how to phrase it. “Then, um…. didn’t you say I would get some answers? I have questions, you know. About my abilities.”
She looked up, narrowin’ her eyes. “I require at least a full year of compliance on your side before I give you any information. I can’t have my test subject leaving, or breaking the deal.”
“You never said anything about a year!” I got to my feet but she just kept staring. “I won’t break my side of the deal but it seems like you’re going to break yours! You never, ever, EVER said anything about a year! And by year I assume you mean three weeks over a year like we talked about and not, literally, a year.” I clutched my head. “52 weeks! That would take like…. 17 years!”
“17.380952,” she said, pushing her glasses up. “Minus the four extra days that leap years will give us. No, not a full year of you being here, but three full weeks. This time next year you shall begin to get some of the answers your seek.”
“Well… what if I come in more often?” I asked, tightening my arms across my chest.
She shrugged. “A year, Mrs. Danevbie. No more, providing there is not an accident, and no less. Now sit down, I have a few more questions for you and then we shall start working on a few more practical tests involving direct empathy with another human. Unless you desire to leave in which case, go. But you will not receive any compensation, nor the trip to France, nor the answers you seem so intent on getting.”
I sat back down, and grouchily answered the rest of her questions. Before we started the next bit I asked about the traveling thing and she told me normally my days of traveling would be in my own time but this first week, I could leave early. “After all, I need to do a lot of work with this preliminary research on you. In four months, however, I expect you to stay a full week. Understand, or shall I speak slower?”
“Has anyone ever threatened to knock your teeth in?”
“Three hundred and twenty-two times, now come with me to the exercise room.”
I was glad we got to leave early and I could tell Henri felt the same. Doctor Redding didn’t say goodbye, not that I expected her to, but Professor Redding at least accompanied us on the helicopter ride back into the small town where my truck was waiting. The trip home felt like it took longer than the one there so I was real glad to get home. Kaylee asked about the trip and I told her she was too young. She just giggled and poked my ribs. “Pervert, pervert. When’s the baby due?”
I poked her back. “Not for a long time since I’m not even pregnant! Though…” I looked at Henri who was far enough away. I dropped my voice and leaned in. “I’ve gone off the pills.”
“EEEEEEEEE!” she squealed, grabbin’ my arms and jumping up and down. “Ohmygoshmohmygoshohmygosh! Little SJ babies! I am so excited!”
“Shhh! We’re keeping it secret for now so the family doesn’t go nuts,” I said, flappin’ a hand at her. “So don’t tell anyone, okay? This family is baby-mad as it is, I don’t need them knowing about this.” She just squealed in response, jumpin’ up and down some more. “Yeah that was my eardrum.”
“I’m sorry it’s just so exciting. Duncan, River, now you! I love being an auntie.” She hugged me tight. “Your babies are gonna be gorgeous. As long as they look like their daddy. OW!!” she howled as I kicked her. “Teasing! You know I’m teasing! They should all be blonde! OWWW okay, okay! I’m shutting up!”
I made sure to spend lots of time with the horses. Night and Storm were hyper to see me, demandin’ my attention and nuzzling up against me. Ducky nuzzled me but she didn’t move too much. I hadn’t seen her for a week and seein’ her now made me realize just how old she was getting. I ran my fingers through her mane, wishin’ I could get the Redding’s youth secret for her.
Over the next month I was busy catching up with some cases that people had waited for me to come back for, and new cases. I was also tickin’ days off on a calendar, from my last cycle. I had done a bit of reading about it, guessing when my fertile days were and how early I’d be able to try one of those early detection tests. I still had a couple days to go, though I wanted to take it now. But I was goin’ to stick to the schedule I gave myself. After all I could take the test now and it being just a few days too early… but staring at those empty days on the calender was torture. According to my guess, it had been 7 days since I could have gotten pregnant. Three more days. Just three more days before I could take the test. Something I had to keep remindin’ Henri who was even more excited about the idea of being a parent than me. I was still scared.
During this time I had also been working on learning French and trying to locate Dr. Laroche. I planned on lettin’ him know I was coming in for a visit and if we could perhaps have some dinner sometime. I tried his home number, figurin’ it was changed which I was right about. Henri had to talk to the person and found out they didn’t know anything. I tried the hospital where he worked but they didn’t have anything, and tried the hospitals in Champs Les Sims but got no where. Henri remembered the number for his old office way back before they moved to Sunset Valley but of course it was disconnected.
So I tried family. Henri tried rememberin’ phone numbers and e-mail addresses but that got us no where. We tried home addresses, and I sent off four letters. One to the Laroches’ old home that Henri insisted his father still lived at as of a few years ago, one to Dr. Laroche’s parents, and two to cousins. The one to the old residence came back first, return to sender. We were still waiting from the other three, while still trying to hunt down phone numbers and e-mail addresses. I even tried doing internet searches but didn’t find out much, some some of his early work and death notices for his wife and son.
I had one day to go before takin’ the test (it was hard not taking it now) when I got a phone call. It was from France and I assumed it was Dr. Laroche. When I answered, it was a woman speaking. Her English wasn’t great but we both spoke slowly. She introduced herself as Bernette Laroche. “Laurence’s second wife,” she added. “You are a friend from Sunset Valley….?”
“An old friend, yes,” I answered. “I was–I was close to his son, Henri.”
“Yes. Laurence spoke of you,” she said softly.
“I was thinking of visiting France soon and was wondering if he might like–” But I never finished my sentence. Bernette interpreted me saying, “Oh I am sorry, you were never informed?”
I didn’t like the sound of that. “Informed of wh-what?” I asked.
“Laurence… died. T-two years ago,” Bernette said and I felt dizzy. She said something about a cousin and a letter. I finally found my voice and asked how it happened. It had been a heart attack, Bernette told me. Most likely from all the stress of his job. “He had been head neurosurgeon,” she explained. “I am sorry.”
“Th-thank you. I’m sorry if… I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Thank you.” I hung up the phone and sank down onto the chair, puttin’ my head in my hands. How the hell was I going to break this news to Henri?
I’ve been debating what to do for weeks, I even had that poll, I changed my mind several times but after a long, hard decision I came to this one. I had subplots for Dr. Laroche if he was told and none of them would end up happily. I’m sorry to those who wants him to be told, but it would have added a lot of complications to the story. 😦