Nadia opened her eyes to find a tall, thin, and impeccably dressed older man standing in the doorway. “Come in. I’m awake.” She sat up, plumping a pillow behind her back for support.
Rather than move forward to shake her hand, the man pulled the one chair in the room over to the side of the bed and sat down. He had a leather portfolio in his hand. When he opened it, she spotted a yellow tablet inside. She also noticed him withdraw a fancy fountain pen from an inside pocket of his tailored suit and remove the cap. Crossing his legs, he propped the tablet on his thigh and gave her a practiced smile.
“And you are…” she prodded.
The expression of disbelief was expected. What she wasn’t anticipating was the smug grin that replaced it. Immediately, Nadia knew she neither liked the man nor trusted him.
“You know who I am. I’ve been your psychiatrist since you were eighteen, Ehrynn.” His tone was condescending, further annoying her.
Psychiatrist? She mentally shrugged. She shouldn’t be surprised these people would think she was running on three cylinders. But it didn’t give the man the right to automatically assume she was trying to pull some kind of scam. Rather than respond, she clasped her hands in her lap and waited for the man to continue. The doctor scratched a few notes on his pad before addressing her again.
“I understand you claim you’re no longer Ehrynn Rose. That you’re some other person instead, inhabiting her body.”
“That’s true. My name is Nadia Logermeyer.”
“For the sake of argument, I’ll go along with you. Where are you from, Nadia?”
“The city or the state?”
Scritch, scratch, scratch. The sound of the fountain pen’s nub against the paper was starting to irritate her. To counter it, she decided to go on the offensive.
“Where am I? Am I still on Long Island?”
“You’re in Houston. Texas.”
Nadia gasped softly. “Texas?”
“Ehrynn, or rather Nadia, do you know how you managed to inhabit Ehrynn’s body?”
“I wish I knew.”
“Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
“Well, for beginners, do you look anything like Ehrynn?”
Nadia shook her head. “No. For one thing, I’m a redhead.”
“A real redhead?”
She glanced at her hands to keep the man from seeing her rising irritation. “I’m twenty-seven years old. I’m a dental assistant at Parkhurst Dental Associates. My mother’s name was Daysha. My father was Oris. Dad died from lung cancer when I was fifteen. He was a smoker. Mom died two years ago from ovarian cancer. I had a younger sister, but she died two years ago.”
Nadia looked at him. “She’d stopped at the market for some milk on her way home and got shot by an eighteen-year-old hopped-up meth addict who tried to hold up the place.”
More scratching on the yellow tablet.
“You seem to have your story all worked out,” the man casually remarked.
“It’s the truth,” she retorted. It was becoming more and more difficult to curb her tongue. “You said you’ve known Ehrynn since she was eighteen?”
“Mind if I ask you a few questions about her? Kind of help me fill in the blanks, so to speak?” Since it was supposedly herself she wanted to talk about, she knew the man wouldn’t be restricted about sharing that information.
“Ask away.” He re-crossed his legs, resting his hands on the tablet.
“Who is she? Age, work experience. You know, the usual stats.”
He sighed through his nose, but before he had the chance to answer, she added, “Oh, and you can begin with telling me what you want me to call you, Dr…”
“Nottman. Chet Nottman.”
She flashed him a smile. “Dr. Nottman.”
“But you always call me Chet.”
“All right, Chet. You have the floor. I’m listening.”
“You’re twenty-eight years of age. You’re a native Texan, and a graduate of Texas A&M University.”
Nottman shook his head. “No job. You could say you’re a full-time homemaker.”
“And I’m married to Mr. Rose? When?”
“Three years ago.”
“Is it a happy marriage?”
The man hesitated slightly. “Why would you ask that?”
She had her reasons, but she wasn’t about to explain them to this man.
But don’t forget he’s Ehrynn’s psychiatrist, which means she’s probably spilled her darkest secrets to him.
“Just a feeling I get.” For emphasis, she held up her bandaged wrists.
Nottman made a few faces. It had to be an affectation the man had whenever he was thinking. He wrote a couple of things, then looked back up at her.
“No. You’re not happy in this marriage. That’s why you’ve asked Nash for a divorce.”
She didn’t try to hide her surprise. “Why? Is he cheating on her? I mean, me?”
“Not that you’re aware of. I mean, you have your suspicions, but the private detective you hired wasn’t able to produce any proof.”
“Well, if she was trapped in a loveless marriage, and she thought her husband was cheating on her, I can see why she filed for divorce.” She held up her arms again. “But it doesn’t explain why she did this to herself. I mean, give or take a couple of months, she would have been free of him.”
The doctor got that look on his face again. It raised red flags. Nadia narrowed her eyes.
“Chet, did you know she was going to pull a stunt like this?”
The man would have made a terrible poker player. She blinked in surprise.
He held up a hand. “You told me you couldn’t take the abuse any longer. But, to me, I assumed you were going to pack up and leave him. Not try to take your own life.”
She latched onto the one glowing neon word he’d uttered. “He abused her? In what way? Did he beat her?”
Nottman quickly shook his head. “No. You said Nash never laid a hand on you. It was more of a…an emotional abuse.”
“Emotional abuse? What? Did he threaten to kill her if she left him? Is that why she tried to kill herself, because he wouldn’t let her go through with the divorce?”
“No, no, no. It’s nothing like that. No, by emotional abuse, I meant it was a financial one.”
Financial abuse? That was a new one for the books.
“How does someone financially abuse someone? Was he withholding money to buy groceries and such?”
“He refused to honor your prenup.”
A prenup. That alone told her there was money involved. Lots of money. People didn’t enter into prenups unless one or both of them had a steady flow of cash coming in. Lots of cash. And since the doc confessed she was a stay-at-home housewife, unless she was an heiress to some fortune, that left Mr. Rose as the likely breadwinner.
What does the man do for a living?
Nadia leaned back against the pillows. “I don’t understand. I can see her slitting her wrists because of emotional or physical abuse. I can see her trying to get out of a loveless marriage, especially if he wouldn’t let her divorce him. But to pull a stunt like this over money?”
Again, that odd look masked the psychiatrist’s face. Even if she couldn’t read it, she realized there was a lot more to this iceberg than what was visible on the surface.
Crossing her arms over her chest, making sure she didn’t get tangled in the IV hose, she waited for the man to speak. After a few more seconds, and a few more scratchings on the tablet, the doctor placed both feet on the floor and leaned forward.
He nodded. “Nadia. When I initially got the news of your…accident, I was prepared to discuss the reasons for your decision once you were well enough to confront them. What I wasn’t prepared for was for you to claim to be this other woman. A woman I doubt you know or have met in the past.”
She shook her head. “That’s right. I had no idea an Ehrynn Rose existed until now.”
“Because Nadia doesn’t exist. Ehrynn, at some point you’ve heard the name or seen it written somewhere, and this story was created out of whole cloth. But I can see why you claim to be her. Because you want out of this marriage any way possible, and if by saying you’re not the person you are, you think—”
“I’m not saying it, Chet. I am Nadia Logermeyer. I didn’t make her up out of whole cloth. I’m real! I live in… Oh, Jesus. Go check! Go! Go call my phone. Write it down!” She gave him the number as he reluctantly scribbled it on the tablet. “Go call right now and see who answers. If I’m in Ehrynn’s body, then she could be in mine!”
The man was dubious, which made her more insistent. “Go check, Dr. Nottman! Go on! Call that number and see who answers! Do it!”
Giving her that look again, the man pulled his cell out of his inner jacket pocket and dialed the number. Nadia waited, straining her ears to catch the other side of the conversation.
It went straight to the automated voice messaging system.
“The party you are trying to reach is not available. At the tone, please leave—”
The doctor ended the call without leaving a message. “There. Are you satisfied?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I made the call. Now are you willing to listen to reason?”
This time, Nadia made no bones about her feelings for the man. “Please leave. Now. I’m tired and I need to rest.” She fought to keep herself from shouting at the doctor. The slim chance that her real self would answer the phone, and hopefully provide some clue as to what was going on, had burst like an overinflated balloon.
The man tried to placate her. “Ehrynn.”
“Nadia. My name is Nadia. Now please go away.” She slid further down the mattress and rolled over, presenting her back to him. After a few silent moments, she heard the door close, leaving her alone, frightened, and very confused.