The hypnotist's office looked uncannily similar to a normal doctor's office. Mary was filling out a clipboard full of paperwork while Elinor allowed her eyes to wander. There was only one other person in the waiting room - a woman with long graying hair and a lot of beaded necklaces. She was flipping through a book she must have brought with her titled, Organic Living.
Just then the only other door in the office besides the entrance opened, and a woman called out softly, "Janet?" The older woman placed her book in her oversized purse, stood, and walked toward the door. "How are you today?" the staff person smiled. The woman's response was muffled as the door closed behind them.
Mary finished with the paperwork about twenty minutes later and turned it in to the woman sitting behind the front desk. It was another forty minutes or so later that the door opened again, and Janet exited, her lips spread into a large smile. She grasped the staff person's hand in both of hers and whispered what Elinor could only guess were words of thanks based on her expression.
As Janet went to speak to the secretary, the woman looked directly at Elinor and called out her name. Elinor swallowed nervously and glanced at her mother as she rose to her feet. She watched Mary curiously when she didn't make a move to go with her. "Aren't you coming?"
"No, we already spoke on the phone, and I think it would be better if you do this on your own. You don't need me there, sweetie."
Elinor nodded, then continued toward the therapist. "Hi, Elinor," she greeted her kindly as she shook her hand. "I'm Mary, like your mom," she chuckled.
"Hi," Elinor smiled.
"Why don't you follow me back to my office, and we'll get started." Mary's office was larger than Elinor expected. A large desk faced a sliding glass door opening out to a patio, a few bookcases filled with books and knickknacks scattered the walls, and two long couches sat in the middle of the room with an armchair resting between them. Mary led Elinor toward the far end of the room where more armchairs sat around a circular table. "Please, have a seat."
Elinor took a seat and folded her hands in her lap. Then she stared at the woman sitting across the table from her. Mary was a tall woman, even taller than Elinor, with pitch black curly hair pulled high into a messy bun. The only way anyone could have hair that dark would be if they dyed it, she thought.
She adjusted her thick-rimmed glasses, clicked the top of her inkpen, then looked up from her yellow legal pad. "So, Elinor, have ever undergone hypnotherapy before?"
Elinor was sure she already knew the answer to that question, given her previous phone conversation with her mother, but she shook her head anyway.
"Well, I think you'll find it isn't so bad. All I'd like to help you with is finding out what is triggering your panic attacks. Your mother tells me your most recent episode occurred yesterday at school."
"Can you tell me about that?"
"Uh... well, I don't really know. I never really know why I have them, or what causes them."
"What was going on when it happened yesterday?"
"I was just reading. Well, I wasn't reading exactly. We were reading out loud together; it wasn't my turn to read, but I was following along. And it just... happened."
"What were you reading?"
Mary nodded thoughtfully without saying anything for a moment. "And what about past attacks? Can you tell me about them?"
"I don't really remember them all. The one before this happened at an art exhibit, they happen at home, they happen on vacations, a few have happened during movies."
"What sort of movies?"
Elinor shrugged. "Different kinds of movies. I don't know."
"Okay, Elinor. Let's not waste any time then. What's going to happen is you will lay on one of the couches, I'll sit in the chair just there," she explained, pointing to the armchair between the two couches, "and I'll put you under hypnosis. It's perfectly safe, and I'll be there the whole time."
Elinor halfway grinned as she walked over to the couches and laid down. She heard Mary begin speaking, but it wasn't long before everything seemed to drift away. Suddenly she found herself somewhere else entirely. It was as if she was a spectator and an active participant at the same time. It didn't make sense to her, yet it felt like home.
Anne busily prepared dinner for her family while her mother, Sarah, was busy tending to her twin six year-old brothers, Thomas and David. Anne was fifteen, had auburn hair and blue eyes. "Anne?" Sarah called.
"Are you nearly finished? Your father will be home any minute."
"Yes, Mother. I'm finished now." Anne set the last plate on the table.
Anne's father, Nathaniel, worked for the richest man in town - Edmund Crawford, a tobacco trader - and provided a decent living for his family. Anne heard the front door open and knew it was her father. The entire family met him at the door and greeted him excitedly.
"Papa!" the boys shouted as they leapt upon the man.
He chuckled heartily, "How is everyone this evening?"
"We're well, Papa," said Anne. "How was your day?"
"Well, I have some wonderful news for you, Anne," he beamed.
Anne gasped. "What news, Papa? Please, tell me!"
Nathaniel chuckled again. "In good time, child! Let me first put some food in my belly."
Anne eagerly watched her father at the dinner table, willing him to eat more quickly. He glimpsed her staring at him, so as he ate his last few bites of corn, he did so extra slowly, teasing the girl. Sarah whipped her husband on the shoulder with the back of her hand. "Look what you're doing to her," she scolded him, and this only made Nathaniel laugh harder.
"Alright, alright," he began. "My good news is that I have found you a husband, sweet Anne. He's a fine young man."
Anne's excited demeanor faded, and her jaw dropped in mortification.
"Oh!" Sarah burst happily. "Who is he, Nathaniel?"
"Edmund Crawford," he said. Then he added, "The second, of course. Edmund's eldest son. He's shown a strong interest in our Anne, and he approached me today regarding matrimony."
"Today?" asked Anne. "And you've already said yes, sir?"
"Of course! Edmund is a wonderful lad. He'll take over his father's business when the time comes, and you'll be bountifully provided for. He's healthy, you're healthy, so you're certain to have strapping children as well."
"But, Papa..." Anne trailed off, staring at a notch in the wooden table.
"What's wrong, Anne?" Nathaniel asked.
"What if I don't want to marry Edmund?"
Nathaniel laughed softly. "Why wouldn't you want to marry Edmund, child?"
"She is only fifteen, dear," noted Sarah.
"Aye, but she's of marrying age. Anyway, I thought you might have reservations regarding her age, Sarah, so I've made an agreement with both Crawfords that Edmund won't take Anne as his wife until she's sixteen."
"But, sir, I turn sixteen in a month's time," protested Anne.
"Aye, and so your wedding day and the day of our birth shall be one and the same."
As Anne's family celebrated the news of her engagement, she knew she should be happy with the arrangement. She knew her father made the match out of love and protection, but she simply could not rejoice with them. She had not told them a secret she'd been keeping from them for more than a year now. She had not told them that she had already fallen in love with another man.