What We Hear
©2010 Rebecca Rhielle
“I’m a medium.”
The word hung in the air like smoke between the two women. Marjorie said nothing, only continued to stare at Sadie expectantly.
“From what Arnold told me about your beliefs, I anticipated a different reaction, I suppose,” Sadie remarked.
The elder woman’s tawny eyes never left Sadie’s face.
“At my age, child, you learn there are a great many things that you don’t know everything about. Now, I’m not saying you are, and I’m not saying you’re not able to talk to what you think are spirits. What I am saying is that you have no way of knowing about the promise Arnold made me, so you better start explaining yourself.”
“She always did get straight to the point,” Arnold conceded.
Sadie sighed. Here goes. “Spirits have talked to me since I was a child,” she began. “At first I thought I was crazy, hearing voices that others didn’t. But as I grew older, I realized that these were people just like me – they just didn’t happen to have a body.”
Marjorie’s eyebrow raised suspiciously, but she said nothing.
“Your husband came to visit me for the first time about six months ago, right after he passed from the accident. He was so worried about you, and so intent on speaking with you. He had tried to do it himself, but you couldn’t hear him, and he was frustrated. So he sought me out, and begged me to talk to you for him. As you’re aware, he can be quite persistent.”
That remark got a small smile from Marjorie, and it gave Sadie hope.
“At first, I researched the accident, and all the media coverage surrounding it. Apparently there were a great many people interested in the passing of a City Councilman and the injury to his politically involved wife,” Sadie said carefully. She had no intention of telling Mrs. Walker what the papers had said about her injury – that she had gone insane, turned into a raving lunatic that had to be locked away for her own safety. Somehow, though, she got the idea that the woman knew exactly what was being said about her, perhaps because of the sardonic look on her face.
“So, as you can imagine,” Sadie went on, “I was in no hurry to visit you. No offense intended, of course.”
Marjorie nodded her head in assent.
“I held him off as long as I could, visiting his barber and constituents first, seeing how everyone was dealing with life after his passing. But he wouldn’t let it go – my coming here, I mean. He told me you were recovering, that you were healing, and you were ready. I must admit, I didn’t believe him. But I have to say … I think I have changed my mind.”
The two women regarded each other for a moment, the elder seeming to weigh all that she had been told.
“If you know my husband, if this is truly him you are speaking to, ask him what the deal was he made with me. What he promised me,” Marjorie said guardedly.
Sadie spoke to Arnold in her head, asking him to give her the information. His answer was, to say the least, frustrating.
She looked again to Mrs. Walker and decided just to say what he had.
“He said no,” she said, defeated. Why would he ask me to come here, to go through all of this only to deny me what I need to validate it? Her cheeks burned with indignation and embarrassment, but she said the words he was telling her anyway.
“He said he can’t, because he promised never to tell another living soul.”
Sadie had expected Marjorie to laugh in her face, tell her to get out again, or give her a smug I-told-you-so. But nothing could have prepared her for the woman’s actual reaction.
She began to shake, to tremble. The color drained from her face, making the feverish look in her eyes that much brighter. Her lips pressed together in a tight line, her nostrils flared, and her chest heaved with quick, deep breaths. She stood up so suddenly that the chair pushed back a full foot, its legs shrieking against the floor.
“Heathen!” she whispered fiercely. “Demon-lover! Harlot!” She began to mumble unintelligibly, voice rising and falling with no recognizable cadence. Her voice went shrill, cresting at a fearsome volume, bringing nurses running down the hallway at top speed.
Sadie sat, transfixed by the transformation, completely and thoroughly immobilized by shock.
“Uh, oh,” came Arnold’s voice through her head.
And then Sadie was whisked away by strong male attendants and deposited into the lobby, where she found herself face to face with Miss Helpful herself, from the info desk.
“I checked Mrs. Walker’s file,” she said angrily, tapping the toe of one leopard print high heel shoe on the tile. “She has no granddaughter, no record of any adoption. But I suppose you knew that. You’re lucky I’m such a nice person, or I’d be on the phone with the police. You will leave now, Ms. Johnson, and you will not come back. Ever. Do I make myself clear?”
Nodding numbly, Sadie stumbled out the entrance and back to her car in a daze. Opening the door, she sat down, shaking, and rested her head on the steering wheel. She felt Arnold’s presence filling the seat next to her, and anger began to seep through her stupor.
“Uh, oh?” she asked him. “Really? That’s all you’ve got?”
No answer was forthcoming, so she shook her head and started the car, driving on autopilot toward home.
To herself, to Arnold, to no one in particular, she spoke outloud.
“I knew that wasn’t a good idea.”