“I haven’t seen Emily in three years, and you expect me to call her out of the blue to ask her if she wants to come out here to stay here with me for two weeks?”
Bill’s laugh was void of humor. “No. I won’t. Are you insane? Suzette, you have come up with some wild schemes over the last twenty-five years but this one takes the cake. No, no, no, and just so we are absolutely clear, my answer is no.”
The moment Bill stopped ranting, Suzette jumped into the conversation. “Let me explain. I’ve never asked anything like this before, and I wouldn’t ask for this favor unless I had a good reason.”
Bill heard the note of desperation in Suzette’s voice and it worried him. He stuck the paint-loaded brush in the nearby container of paint thinner. That pause in the conversation gave him a moment to think over Suzette’s words. “Okay. I can’t think of anything that would make me change my mind, but please feel free to try.”
Suzette breathed into the phone for several moments before letting out a loud sigh. “Three weeks ago Emily was over-the-top with excitement about being hired as a physician for the Murfreesboro Medical Center, but last weekend she showed up at Mom and Dad’s and has been holed up in her old bedroom since. She hasn’t mentioned returning back to her own apartment.”
Bill switched the receiver to his other ear. “That is strange, but maybe she just wants to spend some time with the family before starting her new job. It must have been stressful finishing medical school and then jumping right into her internship at Vanderbilt.”
Suzette let out a small growl of frustration. “Normally I would agree with you, but Mom’s worried. You know Mom never overreacts but she called me yesterday crying. When I asked what was wrong, she said that Emily has woken up screaming and crying each night since coming to stay. Mom has to shake her awake before the screaming
stops. Emily claims the nightmares are caused from being exhausted. We would have an easier time believing that excuse, if she didn’t jump every time anyone comes anywhere near her. She stares off into space for hours at a time, refusing to eat or sleep. She's had a huge weight loss, and she never laughs or smiles any more. She won’t talk to anyone about what’s going
Suzette drew in a deep breath before speaking again. “My little sister’s scared and hurt. No one knows how to help her, but
maybe you can. You've always been the one who could get her to open up."
Bill leaned on an arm of a nearby chair. Suzette’s words tore at his heart. “Stop. I get the picture.” He sighed and bowed his head. It crushed his heart thinking about his Emily being in so much pain. “I’ll do whatever you ask.” He stood and walked over to the window of the two story farm house. But even as he stared in the direction of the corn filled fields, none of it came into
focus. Suzette’s description of Emily’s mental state was puzzling. It didn’t sound like the girl he used to know. Even as a scrawny kid she had always been so self-assured and happy. Even though he hadn’t seen her in over three years, in his mind’s eye he could still clearly see her sparkling, green eyes and sweet smile.
An overwhelming sense of frustration had him running paint-streaked fingers through the long strands of blonde hair that had escaped the confines of the rubberband. “It’s obvious that Emily needs help, but are you certain I’m the right person to offer it? The two of us are friends, but Emily....we were friends a few years back but not so much since she started medical school. She’s changed. I’ve changed. Even if I asked, I’m not sure she would come. Don’t you remember New York City and the opening night of my art exhibit? One moment we were talking but when I turned around to answer a question from a patron, Emily disappeared. Houdini would have been proud of the way she cleared out of there without a trace.” Her leaving without a word had broken his heart.
Suzette’s heavy breathing brought Bill back to what needed to be done. “You’ll have to tell me what I need to say to get her to agree to come out here.”
The relief was evident in her voice, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. Wait until I succeed. What do you want me to do?”
“You want me to lie to Emily?” Bill laughed. “You really have forgotten the most basic things about me. When have I ever been able to lie and get away with it? Ask me for anything else, but that.”
Suzette’s voice remained firm. “Please. It’s just a little one.”
Bill shook his head, even though he was well aware that it was a wasted gesture. “You’ve known me since the first grade. It’s not in me. You’ll have to come up with a better plan.”
“Please. Tell Emily you’re having terrible headaches, and they’re so bad you can’t function. How hard is it to act like your head hurts? Even I can do that, and you know I didn't inherit any of Dad's acting ability.” There was a brief hesitation before she added, “I’ve already told Emily you were complaining about having migraines. For the first time in days she seemed interested in something other than whatever was bothering her. She’s concerned about you.”
Bill cleared his throat. “So, I’m supposed to tell someone with medical training that I’m having migraines, and you really believe Emily’s going to fall for that?” He rolled his eyes at the absurd notion, but knowing full well that no matter what he said, once Suzette had a plan, there was nothing he could say to change her mind. This was a disaster waiting to happen.
“Emily isn’t her usual self so I don’t think she’ll notice you’re lying. Please, for Emily’s sake.”