PREVIOUSLY: In Book 3, Carrie destroyed the time machine and Julie broke up with Clarke.
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PART 71a: SHRINK RAP
“Okay…” The word was hesitant, unsure. “Phil, you know what you just said, right? You’re telling me that, last November, or just under a year ago, Julie stole a time machine. Which she used to travel BACK to the year when she was born – whereby she tried to prevent her own BIRTH??”
“I know, it sounds crazy,” Clarke admitted. “And since then, Julie’s used it to stop people from the future who want to mess with our timeline. But Mary, I swear to God, it’s all true! And since Julie can’t explain any of that stuff to her regular psychologist, you’re the only one who can help her! After all, you’re studying psych in University!”
Clarke’s sister stared at him for a moment before raking her hand back through her short, dark blonde hair. “Phil… it sure sounds like someone needs counselling…”
“Not ME,” Clarke protested. “Just ask Carrie. Wait, no, she’s not talking to us – ask Frank or Luci. There really IS a time machine, and I think that’s part of why Julie has been adamant about retreating from everyone. Including me!”
Mary sighed and walked over to the window of Clarke’s bedroom, staring at the streetlights outside. She remained that way for a moment before turning back to him. “All right,” she said evenly. “All right bro, if this really IS true, what PROOF do you have?”
Clarke relaxed. “Give me a day.”
“What do you mean the time machine has been destroyed?!”
Frank reached under his glasses to press his thumb and index finger to the bridge of his nose. “If you must know, Carrie did it,” he said quietly. “She junked it after she got out of the hospital last week.”
“But… but… WHY??” Clarke asked. He realized that he’d raised his voice, and a few people in the school library were turning to stare. Quickly, he slipped into a chair next to Frank at the table. “Why?” he repeated, softer.
“I don’t know,” Frank continued, after observing the other students going back about their business. “She’s not talking to me about it. Heck, the only person she spends time with any more is Glen. My best guess is it had something to do with…”
He gestured at the far section of the library. It was still undergoing some repair after the van that had crashed into the building some three weeks earlier. When Mindy had come back from the future, only to be banished from their time by Carrie.
“But… look, Frank, I wasn’t kidding. I’ve got to convince my sister that this thing exists, so that she’ll agree to help Julie! And Mary’s only in town for the next three days, until this Sunday morning, so it has to be fast! Maybe… I don’t know, maybe somehow a message can be sent into the past, like the way we convinced Corry? Or could we convince Jeeves to get us into the mansion without Julie knowing, so that we can show Linquist’s old lab to her? Or…”
Frank slammed his textbook closed, cutting off Clarke’s voice. “Look,” he began, and for the first time Clarke noticed the pain in his friend’s voice. “The time machine is gone. The group is gone. I’ve tried speaking to Carrie, and she’s not talking. So there’s nothing short of a miracle that’s going to change her mind about things.” Frank paused. “I’m sorry, Clarke. There’s nothing I can do for you.”
Clarke clenched his hands into fists, then relaxed them. “I’ll find someone else who can help then,” he decided. “I’m not going to let this drop. I can’t! Julie deserves better.”
When Frank didn’t lift his gaze to meet Clarke’s, the tall boy stood and walked out of the library.
“Carrie, are we still talking?”
The response wasn’t immediate, and when it came, it sounded reserved. Wary, even. “Yes, but not about our powers,” Carrie said to her, without turning to meet her gaze.
Chartreuse tried not to fidget with the crystal around her neck. “Okay. It’s not about those. It’s, like, about Clarke. He wants his sister to help counsel Julie, but to do that properly he needs, you know, proof of time travel. And, well, now you’re the only one left who… who can…” Her voice faltered as Carrie finally turned to face her, with an expression that was part anger, part sadness.
“That’s about POWERS, Chartreuse!”
“Only indirectly,” Chartreuse protested. “Like, I dunno, maybe you could have Glen do something mentally for Mary instead? Please Carrie, PLEASE don’t be mad…” It felt like a hand closing around her heart.
Carrie finished pulling her gym bag out of her locker, then slammed it closed and leaned her head against it. “Chartreuse, you helped me through a REALLY difficult time. You have no idea how much I appreciate that. But if you’re going to bring this up after I expressly said to NEVER–”
“Carrie, come on, it’s Julie! Our friend! She’s, you know, closed off even worse than you, and I mean, it’s gotta be because of what we, like, all got up to together! Right?”
“That’s not my–” Carrie cut herself off. Then she muttered something, and Chartreuse wasn’t certain, but it sounded like ‘Timeline Two’. The blonde girl pushed herself away from her locker. “Tell Clarke I’ll think about it.”
“Okay,” Chartreuse said, unable to hold back her relief. Though as Carrie began to walk away, it occurred to her to add, “Are we… still good?”
“I’ll think about that too,” Carrie said, again without turning. “Right now, I need to get the cheerleaders ready for the big game.”
Chartreuse bobbed her head. “R-Right, I’ll be watching!” And trying not to picture myself in your arms, she added mentally. She shuddered, wondering just how much longer she was going to torture herself with the feelings she had… feelings that Carrie didn’t seem to return.
“Hello,” Mary Clarke said as she walked into the front foyer, drying her hands on a dish towel. “Mom said you came here looking for me…?”
“Yeah,” Luci replied. The girl hesitated. “Can we talk somewhere private? Where your parents won’t walk in on us?”
Mary hesitated, then gestured down the hall. “Basement’s as good a place as any. I’m staying down on the sofa bed this weekend; never had my own room in this house.” She glanced at the clock. “Though we’ll all be leaving to get to Phil’s basketball game shortly…”
“I won’t be long,” Luci said slowly. “Thing is, if I leave… I don’t think I’ll be back.”
“Let’s start a conversation then,” Mary decided, venturing a smile.
The young asian girl frowned, but ultimately nodded. It took at least a minute after they proceeded downstairs for her to speak again. “Clarke tells me you’re pursuing a psychology degree,” Luci began at last. “That he wants you to counsel Julie.”
Mary nodded. “Look… Luci, is it? If this is about that time travel stuff he was telling me about last night–”
“It’s not,” Luci interrupted. “It’s personal. There’s some issues that I… I need to talk to someone about. And if Clarke has confidence in you, then I do too.”
Mary tried not to wince. She was tempted to tell this young girl that all she could realistically do would be to offer a referral, but there was something in Luci’s tone… Mary gestured to the couch instead. “Have a seat. But know that I’m only fourth year university, so if this is big stuff, I might have to bring in an actual professional.”
Luci sat on the edge of the couch. “I understand. I’ve had professional counselling before,” she asserted. “But I don’t want that, not this time. Not when… when…” Her fists clenched on her jeans, and her head bowed.
“Okay, ease up,” Mary soothed. “What’s this all about?”
Luci sat unmoving for a moment, and when she lifted her gaze again, there were tears dancing in the corners of her eyes. “I was abused by the next door neighbour as a child, which is affecting me now in ways I never thought possible.”
Mary exhaled. “Oh, loverly. You don’t pull any punches, do you.”
Luci leapt to her feet. “And I know what you’re about to say,” she said, pacing across the floor. “That you’re not the person to take this to. But I told you, I’ve been to the pros once before, and all that’ll do here is ensure that everyone at school gets to know I’m a head case. Again. I don’t want that! Because I don’t have psychological scars, I don’t, I dealt with it back then, I… I… damn it, the issue is, I don’t know why this memory has been emerging lately!”
Mary paused. “Don’t you?” she asked quietly.
Luci opened her mouth, then closed it, and finally threw herself back onto the couch, crossing her arms. “FINE. Maybe I do. Linford, Linquist, you don’t have to be a genius to spot the name similarity… except, transference aside, I KNOW they’re different people. And the log book didn’t trigger the crumbling memory block. So the timing is WEIRD. It’s like one evening I was simply thinking about Frank and then the images just…” She stopped, closing her eyes and thunking her head back into a pillow. “I shouldn’t have come here. I’m sorry.”
“Wait,” Mary said, raising her hand to stop Luci as the young girl moved to stand. “How is Frank involved?”
Luci paused, then settled herself back on the couch. “He hasn’t done anything to hurt me, if that’s what you’re thinking,” the young girl countered. “He’s been great, when I see him. Granted, of late I hardly see him, I’ve been more obsessed with this notebook I found because… okay, you want the Reader’s Digest version of my life?”
In for a penny, in for a pound. Mary nodded. “Might help.”
Luci took in a deep breath. “I’m adopted. No idea who my real parents were. The Primroses got me out of the orphanage when I was six. I was put into school with kids a year younger than me because I’d never applied myself in learning. There was also this neighbour, Mr. Linford, who… who took a fancy to me.”
Her jaw tightened. “I didn’t know at first. No one did. I thought he was a great guy, letting me use his pool. Then once I realized, once he started making advances… well, I liked my new parents, and my school, so I didn’t want to raise a fuss for fear of getting sent back. To the orphanage, I mean. By the time I finally told my mom about what he’d done, he’d flown the coop.”
“Is that when you got the professional counselling you mentioned?” Mary inquired as Luci took an extended pause.
“Yeah,” came the eventual answer. “I said I didn’t want any, but my parents insisted I speak with someone. After those sessions, I did feel better, I’d accepted it wasn’t my fault – and I closed it off. I thought I could shoot for happier memories. But maybe it was still hard to get close to people? I’ve chalked that up to my above average intelligence – heck, I’ve skipped three grades and I’m two years younger than my peers – but I guess it’s more. It wasn’t until I got to know Frank that I thought I could finally…” She stopped again.
Mary smiled gently. “Tell me about Frank.”
“Frank.” Luci pressed two fingers to her forehead. “Well… he’s intelligent, like me. With book smarts, that is, he’s SO clueless with people at times. He’s also… how do I put this? He likes me for who I am, and not in a bad way. Before him, I was all about growing up as fast as possible. Now I’m not so sure.”
“Is he the only one who likes you for yourself?”
Luci squirmed. “I guess not. But his opinion is the most important, since we’re kinda dating.”
“Kinda?” Mary kept her tone carefully neutral.
“Okay, we’re dating,” Luci yielded. “But we drifted over the summer. He spent more time on temporal mechanics than dating mechanics. And then when school started, he was more concerned about Carrie’s boyfriend Glen than me! Which… okay, I have to accept that in retrospect, because of who he turned out to be. But at this point, me and Frank aren’t talking any more.”
“Because he’s been brushing you off?”
“Yes! Well, okay, no. Not since I called him on it last month. Actually, he even took me to a school dance.” Luci slumped down in her seat. “Look, I see where you’re going with this. You think I should have talked to Frank instead of you. That he’d be more than willing to help me out, once I’ve confessed to him the deeper issues behind why I’ve gone all notebook vendetta on Linquist.” She thunked her head back again. “Maybe you’re even right. But there’s a bigger emotional issue at stake!”
Mary stared at the girl on her couch in mild fascination. In fact, that hadn’t been where she was going with this at all; she hadn’t even had a destination in mind. The use of questioning to allow the patient to arrive at their own conclusions… it was more effective than she’d thought. She wondered what her next question should be.
“What emotional issue is that?” Mary continued.
The silence that followed stretched long enough that she thought she’d finally said the wrong thing. But then Luci spoke again.
“It’s this,” the young girl whispered. “The sense of joy and happiness I got when working on bringing down Linquist… it’s like the same feeling I got when I was going out with Frank. Which doesn’t seem right. It implies that both are simply a way I’ve been tackling that abuse from when I was young. Yet if THAT’S true then, well…” Luci looked back up at Mary, searching her expression carefully. “Mary… how does someone know if they’re truly in love?”
Mary’s eyebrow began to twitch. “Whoa boy.”
NEXT: Psych Doubt
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