“You are mistaken.” A stubborn stick to his jaw.
“Jillian is the one who told me.” A gamble, but those words are the ones that truly get his attention. He turns back to me.
I move to the ground before him and kneel, my hands on his knees. “In Belize. The weekend you were going to first propose. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t find you. I went downstairs… and saw you in the bar. But you weren’t yourself. You didn’t recognize me. Introduced yourself as someone else—”
I stop, his form rising above me, stepping to the side, his hand roughly pushing me aside. Like Lee, not like Brant. I choke back the rest of my sentence.
“You’re wrong. You were confused. Probably drunk.”
I struggle to my feet, reaching for his hand and miss, frustration spreading through me. “No! I stood in the bar and you told me you didn’t know me. You made a fool out of me, made me look crazy. You introduced yourself as someone else. Had your hands all over another woman. I left the bar and called Jillian. She told me.” I lower my voice, his gaze finally back on my eyes. “She told me that you’ve suffered from DID since you were eleven. Since you became a savant. She said the doctor said you must never know. That you might have a mental break, lose Brant and adopt one of the other personas. Your parents, Jillian… they all know. They keep the secret to protect you!” My voice gives out on the last word, the hoarse rasp of the final work breaking the sentence in two.
He steps closer, his hands fisting, the calm stride of his voice no match for the frustration in his tone. “So why then, Layana, are you telling me this?”
“I can’t…” I lose my nerve. Don’t want to give voice to my selfish thoughts. “Lee… he wants me to choose. What you do in your other lives… I can’t ignore that. I can’t be your wife and know that when you are away from me, when you are living another life, that you are touching other women. Loving other women. I need you to be fully mine. I need you to love only me. Right now, I have you both. I love you both. But Lee… he wants me to choose. I can’t lose him, Brant. I need to find a way to have you both, without losing either of you.”
“So your plan was to tell me. To burden me with this.”
“A part of me hoped it would be freeing.”
“I want to speak with Jillian. I don’t believe you.”
“How can you love me, want to marry me, and think that I would lie about this?” I stare at him, wanting more, wanting the man I love to recognize the man I can’t live without.
“It’s inconceivable, Layana. What would you do if I told you that you had another person living inside of you?”
“But I don’t.”
“That’s how I feel. I’m in my head all day long. Have been for almost forty years. Trust me, there’s no one else up there.”
With that, he turns away from me and heads inside. Less than a minute later, I hear the roar of his car.
I listen to him leave and wonder who will return.
This is not possible, yet she is not lying. Can’t be. Everything about that interaction screamed truth. I need Jillian. I need to look in her face and find out the truth. I feel stress, pushing on my chest in ways I cannot cope with. Now is the time for a pill. I can feel a blackout coming, pushing on the edge of my sanity with greedy feelings, my mind’s source of relief simple in its black oblivion. I fight the urge, suddenly suspicious of the only relief I’ve ever known, the pale pill that calms my world. Refocuses my anxiety. Lets me sleep. Lets me continue my uninterrupted life.
Is everything I’ve known a lie? How deep does this level of deception go?
On October 12th I blacked out. Woke up with half of Jillian’s face beaten in. They said I had gone crazy. She had tried to pacify me and I had turned on her. Punched and kicked and knocked her backward. I woke up in a children’s pysch ward with absolutely no memory of the exchange.
That was back when I used to have blackouts. It was explained that they were my brain’s way of coping with the pressures that my intellect forced on it. Spots in time where I would act in a manner that made no sense. The longest lasted five hours. Two decades ago Jillian found a doctor who solved my problem. Provided a cocktail of meds that calmed my dark demons. The blackouts stopped, my only moments of dark occurring when the drowsiness side effect knocked me out. I’ve lived without a relapse for decades.
Blackouts. That is what I was told, what I believed.
I push harder on the gas, my hands trembling against the steering wheel. Jillian. At the root of all of this, is Jillian. She will have the answers.
Jillian is standing before her home when I pull in. Wind buffering the long coat around her, her hands tucked in its pockets, a resolute look on the face of a woman I love like a mother. I turn off the car and we stare at each other through the glass, a long look where I read fear and try to understand it. I am so confused. I am so lost. I need Layana. I open the car door and stand. Watch Jillian step backward until she reaches the steps and turns, moving rapidly up them, her black-coated figure framed by her colossal house of white. Around us, dusk hit and lights suddenly come on, illuminating trees and pillars, accents of drama that are unneeded in this clusterfuck of a situation.
I step away from the car and tuck my hands in my pockets against the chill. My shoes are heavy as they take the stairs, her profile illuminated in the open doorway, her hand bracing open the front door. I meet her eyes as I step in. “Jillian.”
“Brant,” she says with a resigned sigh. “Come on in to the den.”
Den is a word used by a woman who doesn’t understand what it means. Dens should be comfortable, not the formal atmosphere that is the bones of this room. I sit on the edge of a divan and watch her face as she settles into an upright chair.
“Layana called me,” she says. “She told me what she told you.”
I watch her hands smooth the front pleats of her pants.
“I never wanted you to date that woman, Brant.”
Not the words I am expecting. “Is she telling the truth, Jillian?”
She looks at her hands, then up at me. “You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you, Brant. She has you so twisted around her finger. Multiple personalities?” she scoffs. “It’s her delusional attempt to explain an affair.” She stands and paces before me, her shoes clicking on the floor like a metronome. “You’re the one who suspected her of cheating.” She points a trembling finger at me. Trembling. From anger or fear? “You know what’s going on here, Brant. She’s found someone else and doesn’t want to lose you over it.”