What Will Tomorrow Bring?



Prologue


“I don’t need to be here. I already told you, I’m fine.”

“Yes, I agree, you are making a lot of progress. But you are still in a very delicate position, and-”

“Look,” she cut in, “what happened… is in the past now.” Her eyes met his, radiating intensity. “I’ve moved on.”

A brief silence followed. “Maria, do you remember what the first stage of recovery is?”

She shook her head and turned away.

Outside of the 33rd story office window, the day’s last light was receding from the landscape; distant mountains glowed with a rosy aura beneath billowing masses of crimson cloud and steel buildings turned to shadow against the fading skyline. It had been the same, on that night...

He cleared his throat. “Maria? We talked about this last time, remember? ”

She knew the answer. It was a stupid question.

“Acknowledgement,” she said, without turning away from the window.

“Yes, that’s correct. Right now, you are in denial, but as soon as you acknowledge your true feelings…” he waited, hoping she would finish the thought.

“You’ll let me leave?” she suggested, a sarcastic drawl drawing out her words.

“Maria, I am trying to help you, but you have to work with me.”

She shrugged her shoulders, saying nothing.

“Acknowledgement is just the first step,” he went on, “The others who saw what you did came out of the experience… changed. Your friend is—and I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I think it’s important for you to hear—she is on twenty-four hour suicide watch. Because of what she saw… what you both saw.”

Memories of that disturbing evening lingered on the edge of her awareness. She let them be, shifting her body to face him as she returned her attention to the present moment.

“That’s sad, and I hold only love in my heart for those people, especially Rose, but I’m not them.”

“That’s true. You are not. Deep down though, you feel the same emotional unrest that they do.”

“No, it’s not the same. We are not the same.” There was an almost desperate insistence in her voice.

“You aren’t? Are you sure that you’re so different?”

“Yes, because…” she paused, mulling over her choice of words, “I didn’t see the same darkness that they did.”

It had sounded less dramatic in her head.

“What did you see instead?”

“Whatever I wanted to.”

“Whatever you wanted to?”

“Yes.”

He paused to write in his notebook. She watched him, searching for a twitch or glare, something to show how sick he thought she was. But his face remained blank, emotionless.

A thought came to her.

“Sculptor...” her voice was playful now; seductive, even.

“Yes?

“Those orchids on your desk are exquisite…” She leaned forward to admire the flowers’ graceful milky petals, stained with yellow strands.

“Oh, thank you,” he said distractedly, still writing in his notebook.

"Who did you buy them for?”

“What?” He looked up, perplexed.

“Well, you don’t seem like the kind of man who buys flowers because he admires them for their beauty.”

He sighed and cocked his head disapprovingly. “Maria, I’m not going to play this game with you. I am here to help, but you have to want my help. Don’t forget that your research license is on the line, pending my evaluation.”

She reclined against the leather sofa, taken aback. That was a low blow.

“Fair enough,” she said. “In that case, I’ve come up with an analogy that will help you to better understand me, inspired by these delicate flowers of yours.”

“Go on.”

“An orchid,” she began, motioning towards the snowy blossoms, “is beautiful only because we say it is. We have identified it as a symbol of purity. We could just as easily identify it as a symbol of decay. The orchid itself doesn’t need to change to become ugly.”

“I’m not sure I’m following you…”

“Perspective determines reality, sculptor, not the other way around. The ‘reality’ that most of us believe in merely colors our perception… certain parts of it more strongly than others.”

“External influences do more than merely ‘color our perceptions,'" he replied dismissively. "You need to come down from the clouds and realize that the most you can do is accept the world around you. You cannot magically change it by wishing it away.”

She laughed lightly and smiled to herself.

“Okay, well, imagine this. If a mental patient lives his life in a padded cell wrapped in a straight jacket, but believes completely that his life is full of beauty and that he is doing work that fulfills his deepest purpose in life, how is that different from the real thing?”

“Your mental patient is delusional. He doesn’t have any concept of the real world.”

“I don’t think we do, either.”

“And that is why you are here in my office. Look,” he said, his voice taking on an admonitory tone, “you are not as unique as you think. You come in here thinking you are clever or something, or above my help. But you are just hiding from reality. Eventually, you will have to accept it.”

“I’m not hiding,” she said.

“It is precisely that attitude-”

Stop
,” she demanded “I need you to stop... and listen. I need you to understand.”

She didn’t know why, but it was true. She did need him to understand.

“Understand
what?” he asked, brusquely.

“When I saw what happened… when I saw those people die…”

“You shut it out.”

“No… I didn't. I let it become a part of me. How else could I have survived?”



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