Carl

By Anthony Giuffre

Jane’s beauty was unique. It was unique because of how very beautiful she was. Even in competitive Los Angeles where it seemed everyone was a celebrity, she stood out. She was tall, maybe 5’8, with dark brown hair, fair skin that tanned but she kept it fair, green eyes, slender but built well. If she wasn’t already the rich daughter of the psychiatrist to the stars – who was also a self-help author phenomenon to the stars and beyond – and if she had the desire to, she could be a rich film star. She didn’t have that desire though. And recently it was coming into focus that the ambition she did have was thinning.

She had begun to distance herself from the friends she had which were all life-long friends from the early days of the small private school she’d gone to her whole life. She graduated from high school then went on to graduate from UCLA where she majored in English literature and lived at home, driving to the campus each day. School was done and it was in the second year of living at home, working for her dad as an assistant secretary (there was another secretary) for his medical practice which he ran from a part of their large house, that this story takes place.

The job was really easy because, as mentioned, she was the assistant secretary so she could pick the hours she worked but more so because Dr. Clemens had done research that showed patients preferred to make their appointments through an elegant automated service that offered the availabilities and let patients select from a list, confirm, and be on with their day. When patients arrived, Jane, or the full-time secretary would only give a chic wave hello and the patient would take a seat in the high-end waiting room furniture.

At a price of $2,000 for a 20-minute session, there was no need for “checking in” because there wasn’t an option to cancel appointments. In fact, there were no bills. It was an annual fee to be a patient of Dr. Clemens and anything above the yearly visits paid for was billed separately. Dr. Clemens worked full days, speculated well with his money, and was a best-selling author. Also Mrs. Clemens had inherited a fortune from her family’s paid parking lot empire, so the Clemens were a family of great means.

More to the point, Jane’s life allowed her to “slip into the cracks” as it were, and fall further into what would become a tremendous depression. It came on gradually. She was always so optimistic and happy, which is why it was not a concern and thought only to be a passing mood. Also, she looked so effortlessly attractive that there weren’t any physical signs.

And so, we jump head first into this Christmas story on December 1st 2015 in Bel Air, Los Angeles at 2:00 pm as our gorgeous Jane Clemens is just making her way down the stairs after having not signed up for a secretary shift in ten days and had prolonged her waking time more each day. Dr. Clemens was already on his twentieth 20-minute patient, or “$40,000 in” as the good doctor mentally refers to it.

“Jane dear, are you getting enough sleep”? Mrs. Clemens asked in her dry, cutting humor that is indeed very funny and does win her friends, admirers and even patients for her husband. “I popped my head in but you were lying nearly face first in your pillow fast asleep so I didn’t wake you. Would you like breakfast”?

Jane had slowly taken on a distinction where she would, when listening to people, hold her head cocked slightly to the side and downwards a little, and the way her well-done, healthy hair would frame her pale and growing paler with etiolation face, it gave an almost eerie appearance like a disassociated Channel-like model driving by in the opposite lane of traffic. It was probably because of increased depression, though, and she was, in fact, slouching slightly. Jane held her glance on her mother for a half second longer than would be normal before answering, “Yes, thank you. I’d like fried eggs, ham, bacon, yogurt, toast with strawberry jam, milk and orange juice, please”.

Mrs. Clemens relayed the tall breakfast order to Martin, the family’s elderly, spry maid, cook, chauffeur, or butler in short. Jane took a seat at the kitchen table and Mrs. Clemens sat beside her and started about her hair.

“Your hair looks great. I mean it looks perfect. What are you doing”?

“Thank you, mother”. Jane kept formalities with her parents by using ‘mother’ and ‘father’ instead of ‘mom’ and ‘dad’. “Nothing new. Just the same things”.

“Well it looks great”.

“Thank you” and Jane gave a delicate smile which was happening less often and becoming more delicate.

Breakfast arrived and was laid out on the table with a “Good morning, Jane” from Martin and a “Good morning” from Jane. She started to eat breakfast while Mrs. Clemens looked on. Jane picked at the eggs, at the yogurt and bacon, picked at the ham and drank the juice and milk and didn’t eat the toast.

The kitchen door swung open and Dr. Clemens came in and walked to the refrigerator for a bottle of water and cheerfully said “Good morning, Jane” when he saw her. He was avaricious and adept at pursuing it, but it didn’t affect how much he cared for and loved Jane.

“I’m missing you in the waiting room. I’ll check the sheet again but I don’t think you’re on at all next week. Do you have something else going on or am I not paying you enough”? he said, smiling, because in addition to a generous salary regardless of how many shifts Jane works she also has a credit card, but that she barely uses, but is free to use unquestioned.

“Good morning, father”. Jane looked up from the orange juice glass and gave her dad the growing colder look she has been unconsciously giving to everyone. “I’m re-reading some favorites up in my room. It’s like a holiday. I’ll be back in after next week”.

And Dr. Clemens opened the bottle of water, drank a third of it while looking happily at Jane and said “Okay, I’m back to work. I’ll see you ladies this evening”. And he briskly walked back to continue seeing his beloved patients.

Jane watched her dad head back to his office and returned her look to her orange juice glass to say, “He’s awesome”.

And Mrs. Clemens said, “He sure is”.

Breakfast was cleared and Jane went back upstairs to read. Her selection of books wasn’t at all uplifting but that’s common with literary greats. Her first self-assessment, which can often be correct, was that she was giving up hope on people. It might have been her beauty but it seemed people wanted from her what she wasn’t interested in and she wanted what they weren’t interested in. Whatever it was, she was content enough to read the travails of Fitzgerald characters while listening to mournful Enya and Cranberries music.

Things went on this way for the rest of the week then she signed up for a few days of welcoming patients into the waiting room. Even though the job only involved waiving briefly to patients when they arrived, she soon didn’t notice them enter or if she did she’d forget to wave. Her beauty didn’t miss a step and so the other telling signs were overlooked. It was depression setting in to Jane, why exactly, is hard to know.

“Jane it’s nice to see you”. Said Ms. Fleming, one of Dr. Clemens’s patients, as she walked towards the reception window on her way to a seat by one of the glass structure art fountains in the waiting room. As Ms. Fleming got nearer to Jane, though, she realized what she thought was the top of her head was actually the back of her head because her face was nestled into her crossed arms on the desk, motionless.

“Oh” said Ms. Fleming.

Jane looked up puzzled, then waived a wave and welcomed Ms. Fleming.

“It’s nice to see you, Jane” Ms. Fleming said.

“Hello Ms. Fleming, thank you, it’s nice to see you. How are you”?

“I’m doing much better. I’m looking forward to seeing the doctor. What a man your father is” Ms. Fleming said. “He’s helping me so much. How are you”?

“I’m happy to hear that, thank you. He is good at what he does. I’m pretty good” said Jane. “I’m good” she said “thank you”, and she smiled the period-equivalent in a conversation and Ms. Fleming happily smiled back and walked to a chair.

With that embarrassment Jane decided to always make an effort to keep herself propped up. Dr. Clemens stepped into the waiting room and smiled signifying he was ready to see Ms. Fleming and they disappeared into his office.

The rest of the day crept on like that, Jane’s job was easy, but while beautiful, she was struggling and it being a premiere psychiatrist’s office, she figured she was decidedly bad for business and resumed not taking any hours greeting patients for a while.

It was December 8th and Christmas was starting to fill the city. The Clemens’ joyously celebrated Christmas, especially Mrs. Clemens, with expensive house decorations and cookies, carols and the best of most everything commercially available for the holiday. They hired decorators to furnish the outside of the house with dazzling displays of lights. It was a decorating process that lasted the month of December culminating in not a gaudy but a pricey and tastefully festive and warm house.

The prize of the house decorations were the boutique gingerbread houses from a waiting-list bakery in New York City that were intricate, large and $10,000 each. Mrs. Clemens ordered four each year for the house.

The decorations and decorators were starting to materialize. The houses would arrive on the 15th and now it was time for holiday shopping, cooking and the regular things. Jane announced her vacation to her dad, who took his vacation starting the 21st, and her beauty hid any despair as fast as it was coming, even to a professional.

Again, at about 2:00 pm after breakfast was sort of eaten Ms. Clemens asked, “Jane dear, I’m going to the mall, do you want to go”?

Jane loved the mall. The stores, fashion, decorations, coffee, especially during the holidays with special Starbucks cups, admirers admiring her – most everything about it. But she didn’t want to go. She wanted to be alone in her room. But she said, “Yes, I’d like to. Let’s go”.

“I want to see if I can find any little metal Christmas trees like the one Charlie Brown hated” and Mrs. Clemens smiled. “I think Restoration Hardware might have some”.

 Even though it was funny Jane smiled coldly, not to be mean, but coldly, her mother noticed and Jane said, “I bet they do. Let’s go”.

Her mother squinted in a puzzled way as Jane began to stand and push her chair out. Her hair fell across her face and the pale, titled beautiful face framed for one instance something eerie. Her mother inhaled once quickly out of sync, undetectable to anyone, but was relieved when Jane had stood completely up and radiated beauty as she knew it.

Mrs. Clemens got her purse and keys, Jane didn’t get anything, and the two walked toward the foyer after the kitchen door that lead to the large garage. There were four cars. Two BMW sedans, a Mercedes sedan and a Porsche sport utility. The lights flicked on the Porsche and the ladies walked past the first BMW and got in on either side.

The garage had tall ceilings and was lined by light wood cabinets which held spare things organized by an organizing company. The car started solidly and the halogen headlights triggered in the dark and came into focus first blue then a white light. The garage door opened casting bright L.A. sunlight in and the lights shut off.

Mrs. Clemens turned her head around with an energetic whip, her hair that came between her shoulder and elbow also whipping and looked out to the landscaped front yard that sloped down to the gates. Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” came on, it was about a week before she played Christmas music, and she hummed along to the chorus as they backed out.

It was a short drive to the Beverley Hills mall and the first part Mrs. Clemens talked about Dr. Clemens, mostly successful talk and ideas she had of presents for him. Golf clubs, new golf cart, and honeymoon vacation trip possibilities. Jane was nodding to her suggestions but not saying a lot other than “that’s a good idea” or “he’ll love that”.

Then Mrs. Clemens started talking about the new custom marble coffee table she had bought recently and how her friend Rebecca had “absolutely loved it”.

“She kept asking where she could get one and I kept telling her it’s custom made by a patient of your father’s. I mean I told her she could get one if she wanted, I’d introduce them, but, I mean, it’s custom. You don’t really want to get a duplicate of someone’s custom design, I thought, do you? Ha ha. But she wanted ‘that exact one’, she kept saying she wanted ‘that exact one’. So, I said I’d tell Larry to call. He’ll call you I said and you two can work on the design. I said ‘work on the design’ you know, I implied that they could design their own. I didn’t want to tell her to design her own but come one, it’s custom”. She was pleasantly laughing in flattery that her partially own design had made such an impression. “Anyway, we’ll see what she has made. I suppose mine will still be custom even if she gets an identical one”.

They had pulled up to the valet, stopped and were waiting for him to jog up. “What do you think? Do you think she’ll get the same table made? I said specifically ‘they could design theirs together’. What do you think”?

Jane’s hair was scrunched in the back against the seat. Her head was tilted back a bit. She had fallen asleep.

“Jane”? her mother asked. Then she nudged her and Jane started, opened her eyes and looked around.

“I guess I dozed off”.

“You guess you dozed off”? Mrs. Clemens said. “It’s a five-minute drive. Are you feeling okay? Are you getting the flu”?

Jane turned towards her mother, smiled how she’s been smiling, “No, I just got tired. The song put me to sleep. Let’s go”. She opened the door and got out. Mrs. Clemens watched her get out and then she got out. They were off to Restoration Hardware now.

There was some concern but it left because no one that looked as good as Jane did would initially appear depressed. They walked through the mall, Mrs. Clemens looking around at the giant Christmas tree beginning to be put up. Ladders were out to hang lights; it was coming into her absolute favorite time of year.

“Do you want to get coffee before we look around”? Jane’s mother asked her.

“Yes. That’s a good idea. Let’s do that”. So they directed to Starbucks and ordered iced lattes because it was afternoon and sunny and not yet cold, then on to Restoration Hardware.

When they walked into the home furnishings for the elite store, the first thing was they were greeted happily by an employee. Jane looked on as her mother said they were looking for little metal Christmas trees.

“We have some”! the employee said. She turned to show them the way but Jane asked her mother if she would mind if she walked around outside while she shopped.

“I guess. Sure, of course”.

“It’s really nice out and I’ve been inside and walking sounds fun”.

“Of course. I’ll be about 20 or 30 minutes. I’ll text you”.

“Okay. Take your time. I’ll just walk down to Tommy Bahamas and back around once or twice”. She pointed but it wasn’t in the direction of Tommy Bahamas or even the front door of the store.

Mrs. Clemens looked at Jane’s languid point to nowhere that made no sense but she smiled and said, “Okay, see you in a bit” and followed the employee to the decoration section.

Jane walked out of the store, made a right and sat down at the first wooden bench she saw. She looked at the shoppers, the immaculate storefronts, the nice cars, people laughing, smiling and enjoying themselves. She turned around to see what was behind her, more of the same beautiful things. Then she crossed her fairly long, fairly slender legs so they touched, not crisscross but more like an important business executive or yacht owner then spread one arm as far as it would go to the left, resting over the top of the bench and her right arm to the right in the same way. Her drink teetered in her right hand on the verge of spilling but not quite and she remembered her pact to stay propped up and she sat there.

She had managed to seemingly take up most of the bench. She looked beautiful in a statuesque way but in the effort to sit straight her head titled forward a little and to the side. Other than that, and the tilting cup, she appeared normal and sitting patiently but in a bracing manner.

Some people noticed something off about this very attractive young lady and the details of her posture. Some looked, no one stared, but a few looked. The ones who looked more intently were the ones who had passed once and then were circling back and Jane hadn’t moved really at all.

Mrs. Clemens found the trees she had wanted and bought seven of them to decorate the different dining tables. On her way out, she turned right and took out her phone to text Jane. Between taking her phone out and looking where she was going she saw Jane on the bench. She got a chill and called her name out, then she walked, faster and then into a jog.

“Oh, God” she said. “Jane, oh God”. And she made her way to her. “Jane”! not loud but a bit forceful, “What’s the matter, what is it? Are you alright? What are you doing”? she asked with some panic.

“What do you mean ‘what am I doing’? I’m sitting here on the bench. I got done walking and I was waiting for you. Yes, I’m alright. Did they have the trees”?

Mrs. Clemens was quiet for a second looking at her daughter. She collected herself and said they did have them and she bought some. “Jane I’m sorry to rush up and act like that, but Jane” and Mrs. Clemens looked around with a toned polite smile, “Jane you look a little frightening sitting there so still. Your drink is about to spill and your head, well it’s sort of crooked. I guess you’re just relaxing though. I’m sorry. Should we walk on? Should we get lunch? I’m a little hungry and Capital Grille is right there”.

Jane’s mother was very concerned. She didn’t exactly know it yet but she had gotten concerned starting that day.

“What do you want to do? We can do what you want” she asked Jane.

Jane had switched positions on the bench and was now sitting facing more towards her mother.

“Let’s go home. Martin can make us lunch and we’ll eat in the courtyard”.

“Great idea. Let’s do that. I want fried shrimp, that spinach and feta salad and Pellegrino. What do you want”?

“I’m not sure yet. That sounds good but I’m not sure yet. I’ll decide on the way” Jane said.

Our ladies got up from the bench and started walking back to the valet where Mrs. Clemens would pay twice the amount asked and then drive back home. Conversation was light on the way home, it was mostly about the little metal Christmas trees and where they would be placed and then Jane turned the music up and feigned interest in whatever was playing for the rest of the ride and only said she was looking forward to lunch. But when they got home and brought the bags in Jane said she wasn’t actually hungry and that she was going to read in her room instead.

Mrs. Clemens looked from where she was setting the bags down quickly to Jane.

“Jane dear, what will you do for lunch”?

“I guess I’m not too hungry. I’ll wait for dinner”. And she smiled, kind of, and turned to go upstairs.

Once again Mrs. Clemens watched her go but this time she knew something was wrong. She placed her order with Martin and walked out to the courtyard which overlooked a pretty big grass yard and trees that separated the different houses in the distance.

She waited at the patio-type table under a large blue cloth umbrella and went over the afternoon to herself. Jane had barely eaten breakfast, fell asleep on the way to the mall even though she slept until 2, then had genuinely scared her with the way she was sitting on the bench. Being honest with herself she was momentarily in panic. Something was wrong and she would talk to her husband that night.

For now, she looked toward the wing of the house where Jane’s room was and felt how much she loved her. Maybe it was a crush that didn’t work and she didn’t say anything. That might be it, she hoped. And with that Martin brought out a large bottle of Pellegrino water in a champagne cooler and the salad. He said the lunch would be out soon.

And it was. As she was finishing her salad, Martin’s lightly breaded and flash-fried shrimp arrived with the different sauces on the side. Martin was a chef also. Mrs. Clemens ate and looked over the yard and had already resolved to talk with her husband later that night, so tried not to worry now.

Meanwhile up in her room Jane was playing Enya again and was on her perfectly made bed reading “Great Expectations”, a more or less heartbreaking book in its own right. But reading wasn’t bringing her much enjoyment no matter the selection because she was re-reading paragraphs or losing track of the line she had just read, mainly attributed to a lack of focus. She had read it a few times before so she went along and the day went along in a similar way, eventually leading to dinner being cooked downstairs and the bright afternoon sun turning to dark night.

Mrs. Clemens had decided to let Jane’s father know about her concern that night and not say anything before dinner. So, when dinner was almost ready, Martin had said five more minutes, she walked up to Jane’s room and knocked gently on the door. Jane had stopped reading a little while ago and was sitting in front of her mirror not really doing anything but she was sitting in front of the mirror.

“Come in” she said. She had turned around and was looking at the door as it crept open.

“Jane dear, it’s almost time for dinner. Are you hungry”? Mrs. Clemens asked, hoping to hear “Yes, I’m starving” and a bright smile, but Jane only said, “Yes mother, I’m hungry. I’ll be right down, thank you for coming up” and there wasn’t anything bright about it, in fact it was the opposite of bright. At any rate, Jane’s mother smiled back at her and shut the door and walked back downstairs, her own steps a little drearier with some mounting concern.

Jane took one last look at herself in the mirror then pushed her chair out and stood up and walked out the door to join her parents and Martin for dinner. Most nights Martin would eat with them and spring up to get whatever anyone needed before they could ask, very pleased with the opportunity to eat with the family he worked for. He was a gentleman and a top-rate butler and cared for the Clemens like they were his own family.

Jane made her way downstairs slower than usual and glided her hand along the wooden banister and that’s what caught her father’s eye first as he walked through the foyer to put on some music to play while they ate. By nature he was observant but his profession made him more so to a lucrative degree. He picked up on almost everything about his patients’ demeanor because that was one of his keys to helping so many people.

Dr. Clemens didn’t say anything at first but Jane was looking at the stairs and hadn’t noticed him walking or looked up and she was going slowly and using the railing so all those factors made him ask, “Jane are you alright”? Not out of concern from a professional psychological standpoint but it was an off the cuff question. Usually he would prefer to observe someone longer before asking such a straight forward question but he did pretty much blurt this one out. And that caught Jane’s attention who looked up from staring at her feet and took her hand off the railing and stopped walking at all momentarily to answer her father.

“Hello, father. How are you, how was work? I’m fine, just coming down to dinner”. She realized holding the banister might have been strange so she started walking down the stairs without holding the banister.

“Good, it was good, I’m good, we’re having steaks tonight. You look great. Very lovely tonight. Are you hungry”?

“Thank you” and Jane smiled but it probably had more characteristics of a smirk which caught her dad’s attention but so many things about this trip down the stairs were catching his attention that it manifested in him just opening his eyes a little wider and raising his eyebrows slightly.

“Yes, I’m hungry” Jane said, going the easy route because her appetite was light but she’d deal with that later. “Martin always makes them perfectly” Jane added.

“What do you want to listen to”? Dr. Clemens asked. “I’m going into the living room to put on some music”.

By now Jane had finished walking down the stairs and was standing before her dad.

“Anything you want” she said, and with that Dr. Clemens nodded and looked at the ground before smiling and walking off to put on Mozart. “I’ll see you in the dining room” she said and walked on to her seat at the table.

Mrs. Clemens was already seated and she stood up to give Jane a kiss when she walked into the room. Martin was walking back out to the table with the rest of the arugula and shaved cheese salads and greeted Jane warmly as always, “Good evening Jane, you look very good as usual. There is a beautiful filet waiting to be cooked for you tonight” and he put her salad down next to her water glass with a genuinely warm smile.

“Thank you, Martin. This looks delicious”, and Jane looked up at him with her new way of smiling and some of the warmth inadvertently left Martin’s face as he looked at Jane then professionally it returned as he smiled in her compliment’s appreciation and turned and went back in to the kitchen to get the pepper grinder.

Just then Mozart could be heard pleasantly through the house’s custom Bose ceiling speakers creating a comfortable ambiance and Dr. Clemens came in smiling.

“Good evening ladies” and he kissed his wife who was smiling back from her seat and put his hand on Martin’s shoulder and thanked him for dinner. With that the four of them were seated at the table and began arranging their plates and utensils in the final preparation before eating.

Mrs. Clemens gave Jane a quick look. She was the only one of the group to not have made any initiation towards eating but was only looking at the table cloth between the glasses and plate. Then Mrs. Clemens gave an equally quick look to Martin whose face she was watching while he talked to Jane earlier which validated, but in a sad, nervous and scary way because he too had noticed something in her. Mrs. Clemens then looked to her husband whose stairwell conversation with Jane she was unaware of, and asked him, “How was your day, honey”?

Dr. Clemens looked brightly at his wife but he was already thinking about the way Jane was walking down the stairs and he had noticed she was just sitting there looking at the table as of now but answered “Very good. It was fluid and everyone is making great progress. Laura said to say ‘hi’ and that she’s planning to bring some things she’s baking for you at some point”. And tacitly like instinctively Dr. Clemens and Mrs. Clemens were both looking toward their daughter while they talked and their agreement that something was wrong was already agreed on.

Jane usually was nearly energetic. She was talkative and cheerful; she usually was a generator of cheer even if there wasn’t any. She was perceptive and alert and above all optimistic. While physically she hadn’t seemed to change there was an evident shift in her personality.

Martin, too, was in tune to this new situation and watched husband and wife as they carried on a conversation mainly to be observing their daughter but he didn’t know what to do. His personal opinion was that it was heartbreak or relationship orientated. But this would have had to of been some sort of secret relationship, he figured, because Jane was open, offering, and she would have told them by now. So, Martin figured it had to be something else because this was a palpable shift. She had become gradually more reserved, yes, he figured, but this was nearly moribund. Maybe not moribund but pronounced. She was sitting there staring at the table cloth not at all listening to anyone, such an in sync person completely out of sync.

“Oh, dear” Martin thought.

As the family, well Mrs. and Dr. Clemens, began to eat their salads Martin went to the kitchen to cook the steaks.

“Great” said Mrs. Clemens, “Laura makes my favorite brownies so I hope she brings those”. Jane’s mother opened her eyes a little wider at her husband and faintly nodded toward Jane. “Jane and I went to the mall today and got coffee and those little metal Christmas trees that are here and around the house”

“They look good” Dr. Clemens said. “They’re like the ones in ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas’ you were talking about”.

“Ha ha, yep” said Mrs. Clemens.

“Did you have fun Jane? What else did you do today”? her father asked her and took a bite of salad but all his focus was on her reactions.

Jane sensed she was being spoken to so she first looked up at her mother and looked blankly at her for a moment but she was sure the voice was her father’s so she slowly turned her head towards him and looked at him the same way for a moment.

“I’m sorry. What”? Jane said.

Dr. Clemens had stopped chewing during this raising and turning and blankly looking he had never seen his daughter do. Then he quickly finished chewing and swallowed and asked her again the same questions about the day and if she had fun and what else she did after they had gone shopping.

Again there was a little pause where she looked at him after he had finished asking the question and said, “Yes, it was fun” and she looked at her mother briefly then panned back to her father, “I went to my room and read a little and rested then came down to dinner”.

There was a second of silence from everyone and Dr. Clemens asked what she was reading trying to disregard any abnormality in the flow and feel of the conversation so he could observe more now.

“Great Expectations” Jane said still looking at her father the same way but she tweaked her eyebrows a little, briefly, but in no way that made apparent sense but more just to do something with her face because she felt she wasn’t being lively enough. So then she did it once more and looked back down at her salad.

“Great book” Dr. Clemens said, taken aback with confusion at this dreary tone of talk Jane was using. “Pip and Joe, Pip and Joe. Pip and Herbert, I like that one” her father said as he shifted his glance to his wife then back to his daughter. “Dinner should be ready any moment” he said.

Mrs. Clemens looked at her husband but this time she squinted a little instead of opening her eyes wider but nodded again the same way towards Jane.

“Jane are you feeling alright”? her father asked. “You seem a bit distant”.

This time Jane looked up more quickly with added worry that maybe how was feeling was apparent to people.

“Yes, I feel fine. Just tired from walking today. I’ll get to bed early”.

“A good night sleep can work wonders” he said. “You look great. I mean you look really great. You just seem sort of distant but being tired can do that. We’ll all get to bed early tonight”.

And so Dr. Clemens pretended the issue was settled and smiled and looked towards the kitchen and asked out, “Martin do you need any help”? But the doors swung open and Martin had Mrs. Clemens’ plate to place in front of her.

They all had the same filet cuts and they all liked them between medium and medium rare. Martin cooked them somehow so they came out sizzling and alive on the plate next to garlic mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli.

“Here we are Mrs. Clemens” he said and placed the plate in front of her and went back to the kitchen and returned with Jane’s and Dr. Clemens’ plates.

He gave Jane hers and smiled and then gave the doctor his plate. Martin stood over them for a moment to get anything they wanted but they all complimented the steaks and thanked him and waited for him to get his and come back and sit down and they would start to eat.

And so, five seconds later he came out with his plate and the meal began.

There was concern and discomfort among the three others at the table that Jane was oblivious to but what they perceived now would be a speck in the distance of the descent that would engulf Jane. Dr. Clemens was, in a rare moment, unsure of how to direct a conversation so he went back to Laura’s brownies and told his wife, “Laura’s brownies are good. I remember them. I wonder how she makes them so well”.

“I’ll ask her when I see her next” Mrs. Clemens said. “It would be good to know how to make brownies like that”. And they focused back on the food, cutting into the perfect steaks and eating. Mozart was playing and acted as a conversation substitute for a moment while nothing else happened outside of eating.

Jane hadn’t eaten lunch and she had barely eaten breakfast, so from a physiological standpoint, she was hungry, but this new weight that was weighing on her mentally was distorting her and she didn’t feel hungry or have any interest in eating. She did eat though because she knew not eating would only result in having to immediately discuss why she wasn’t eating and more concern and obstacles in her way to getting back up to reading, which is what she was pretty sure she wanted to be doing. So she ate what she could. It amounted to about half of everything on the plate but a little less than half of the mashed potatoes. She didn’t pick up on any of the conversation the rest of the table was having and her focus was mostly on staying fairly propped up and eating as much as she could. The conversation was light and mostly a façade to their observations of this new plateau Jane had settled on. She looked like what she was trying to do, that is, staying propped up and trying to eat.

Her father was trying to think of how he would begin to approach this because he saw she got mostly defensive when he asked her if she was alright. But that was a fine first step for him to make because it could be something like an upset stomach or a virus coming on that had shifted her mood and be an easy and fixable thing. But she had said nothing was wrong when so apparently something was wrong, so it would most likely be a relationship problem, or, against the odds of what he would have previously thought, a psychological problem. Dr. Clemens also knew that if it were a psychological problem that came about like this, then this probably isn’t the worst of it. If it is an onset of depression it would probably get worse. He’d keep observing her, of course, and try to figure out if maybe it was something like unrequited love, which is hard to imagine in Jane’s case, but possible. If it’s depression, then, he figured, he could have a therapy session with her. He was after all among the best in that field.

That brought him some peace for the moment and he continued the conversation with his wife and Martin, all of which was very light with the focus mainly on Jane, and asked her a few questions to keep her in the loop of the conversation, of which about half she didn’t hear, a quarter she looked up to the wrong person, and the remaining quarter of questions she answered listlessly and in the most succinct way. Woe had officially clicked up one notch from zero with the three others at the dining table with Jane.

Dinner went on this disconcerting way. On the nights that Martin ate with the family, which were most, he timed it so he would finish just before the rest and be up and ready to clear the table and offer coffee and dessert, which is what he did but not before Jane brought her plate to the kitchen and came back to say, “Thank you for dinner Martin, mother, father. Is it alright if I go upstairs early, I’d like to read and rest”?

This was no shock to anyone being that Jane looked not at all interested in being there. “Of course, dear. I’ll come in to say good night” her mother said. Dr. Clemens was expecting this and he smiled and asked if she wanted dessert or coffee. They had cheesecake. Jane said she didn’t, but thank you anyway, and turned and walked back upstairs and closed the door to her room. She sat on the Copenhagen leather couch in her room instead of the bed and picked up “Great Expectations” to read.

Martin brought out coffee for Jane’s parents and a slice of cheesecake for each of them but didn’t have dessert himself to leave them alone to discuss Jane. Mrs. Clemens talked more about the metal Christmas trees until she had given enough time for Jane to get to her side of the house then told her husband, “I was going to tell you about my concern from today about Jane but I wanted to wait until after dinner to see if you noticed anything, like a precipitous from the sullener way she’s been acting”.

“Yes, I noticed something. Go on, tell me about today” Dr. Clemens said.

“Well it’s been building up to it, I guess. She’s sleeping until two and she’s been more and more reserved, not yet like tonight, but it’s been getting more prominent this week. Then today at the mall she didn’t want to shop around in the store, she wanted to walk outside for exercise, so of course, fine, ‘That’s fine’ I said, but honey I don’t think she even walked around. I think she went to the first bench there was and sat down. Which of course is fine but, darling, when I came out of the store and saw her I panicked. She had her arms out all the way to either side and her drink was tilted so it almost was spilling and her head was sort of forward and to the side, she was like frozen in an uncomfortable looking position, like she was struggling to stay seated, like really trying to not fall forward I guess is what it was. And sweetheart, people were looking anxiously at her. I rushed over because I didn’t know what was wrong but I knew something wasn’t right, but when I got there she just said she was sitting on the bench, which she was, but it was in so strange a way. I got so worried, I panicked, I got chills, but she just asked if they had the trees I was looking for and that she wanted to go home and that Martin could make us lunch. She said she was hungry and would decide what she wanted when we got home. But when we got home she changed her mind and went up to read and I didn’t see her again until I went up to get her for dinner. Then there was dinner and she was acting, but you were there for that. I think something’s wrong. I haven’t seen her like tonight at the table but she’s been getting more reserved and, well, I guess, clearly, I’m worried. What do you think? Do you think it’s a relationship problem? Maybe someone didn’t ask her out that she wanted to, or maybe someone said no to her. I haven’t seen Claire or Marissa or Julie or any of her friends in a while”. Mrs. Clemens had her coffee cup in her hand but hadn’t had any or picked it up since she started talking and her husband didn’t drink his either.

“Huh” Dr. Clemens said as he watched his wife finish what she was saying then shifted his look out the façade of windows that looked over the front part of their yard then back at his wife, “I think something is definitely wrong. When I think about it I have seen a change in her recently but I’ve been busy and she looks so good, she looks so great I didn’t pay much attention. But tonight, it’s clear. Now, when I was walking out to put music on tonight she was walking down the stairs unlike I’ve ever seen her walk down stairs. She had her head down and she was looking at her feet, and she was holding the banister like she needed it for support, it was initially a bit spooky with the lights low, and I’ve just never seen her walk like that”.

“Yes, spooky. That’s how she was today on the bench. It was very spooky. Almost frightening” Jane’s mother said.

“I know what you mean about today and the bench. My heart raced when I saw her. I can imagine the way she was sitting would have been similar. It was frightening”.

“So, what do you think, what do you think it was? What do you think is wrong”? Mrs. Clemens was calm but remembering back to how she felt today and Jane’s dreariness at dinner, she picked up her talking pace a little.

“Well, I think obviously first of all, that she isn’t feeling well. None of these bracing for support styles of sitting or walking are affiliated with well-being or strength. That much is clear. As to what’s making her not feel well, I can only guess but it wouldn’t seem to be physical because most likely she would tell us if there was an ailment that was physical that we could address. So, initially I’m thinking it’s emotional, like a psychological weight that is weighing her down. She might not think it’s as apparent as it is, that can be part of trying to get by or not telling us. So, then it’s a question of why she is feeling like there is a psychological weight. In other words, why is she feeling this way or why is she feeling unwell”.

Dr. Clemens continued, “It’s possible that it’s a romantic issue. Unrequited love or broken hearts can take a big psychological toll on a person. Especially someone who is not used to them like Jane. If that is the case then it’s always just a matter of time before they feel better no matter how rough or severe it feels from the start. If it’s not romantic related, it is possible that Jane is developing or has developed depression. Of course, depression is a large diagnosis, or beast, and can come quickly and can be devastatingly powerful. That’s on the far-right spectrum of major depression” and he moved his right hand off to the right symbolizing the breadth and scope that a depression diagnosis can range. “But, and my thought after I saw her walking tonight and how removed she was through dinner, is that if it is depression and it’s come on this quickly, meaning a few weeks you and I have seen the start of a change, and she has reached this level as of now that is inhibiting or at least interfering with core things like posture, appetite and communication, then it’s possible that it will keep going, keep getting worse and could slide off the cliff. That’s the worst, I mean, that’s severe, rapid onset of major depression at its worst. That can be fatal. But we’re jumping way ahead, I mean way ahead” and Dr. Clemens made the same hand motion that he used to represent the scope and breadth of major depression to represent this time that they, mostly he, was jumping way ahead with the potential of the illness which Jane might have.

“The gradually reserved behavior and declined mood leading to this apparent inner struggle and the symptoms we’ve seen only means that they, among other things, could be in line with someone developing or rapidly developing severe major depression. That being said, there are things I see in Jane that wouldn’t be in line with that. Mainly how physically healthy and attractive and put together she looks. That hasn’t changed. At least to me I see no change there. Do you? Does she look at all to you less good or less presentable in any way that you’ve perceived”? Dr. Clemens drank from his water glass here because he was just sort of talking a lot.

“No, not at all” Mrs. Clemens said. “She looks beautiful. Nothing at all has changed from even a style perspective. She’s wearing new outfits, different outfits. Her hair looks great. I was just complimenting her a few days ago. She looks if anything more beautiful, although I prefer when she is upbeat and smiling. But physically, no, she looks great”.

“Then I think the best thing to do is bring something specific up to her. Then gradually say we’ve noticed a change and ask if there is any different way she’s feeling. I think we should go about it like that. It’ll either get better or worse or stay the same in the next few days and we can address it accordingly”.

Up in her room Jane had turned on the electric fire in the black fireplace in her room and had sat down on the couch again to get back to trying to read “Great Expectations” and was aware that her parents might now be aware of how she was feeling, and that weighed on her. She wasn’t sure they knew but she figured they probably did. A few times she remembered looking up to answer what she knew was a question but she’d forget or not realize entirely who had asked it and would switch looking from one to the other while she figured it out, and that’s what made her think they were aware. Other than that, she felt she did alright and ate at least half of dinner. She didn’t let it consume her too much because there is only so much someone can be consumed so she opened her book and forgot about dinner.

Back downstairs Mrs. Clemens said, “Okay, that’s what we’ll do. Should I go up there now or tonight to say good-night or talk to her”?

“I don’t think so because we wouldn’t ordinarily do that. Let’s let her be tonight and watch over the next couple days and then talk to her about anything we’re concerned with”.

“Okay. We should definitely do what you think is best. I was sort of hoping it was just me that noticed something but if you did too then at least we’re on the path to helping her. We don’t know anything’s wrong. It could be anything from a mood to a guy or anything, I see why you want to give it a while”.

And they left it at that. They weren’t at all relieved but they went back to coffee and dessert and tried to talk about anything else. Martin couldn’t hear what they were saying from doing the dishes and organizing the kitchen but sensed a lull so he came in with coffee and asked if they wanted anything.

“No, thank you Martin” Dr. Clemens said. Martin had worked for the Clemens’ for eleven years and while a thoroughly professional butler, he cared for the family on personal level. They were as good a family to work for as any servant could hope for and as good individually as anyone could hope for in a friend or family. Actually, the elder Martin loved them. “Martin did you notice anything unusual about Jane tonight? What did you make of it”?

Martin stood still over the doctor for a moment thinking about the best way to respond. “Yes, Doctor. I did. It was a night and day difference from her usual self.  I’ve seen a decline in her cheerfulness for a few weeks but not anything like tonight. My opinion was that it was a relationship that didn’t work, although that is difficult to understand unless she fell in love with a married man”.

“That’s an interesting point” Jane’s father said. “We both also noticed her dreary behavior and are somewhat concerned. Has she said anything to you about a relationship”?

“Not a thing, sir. I also haven’t seen any of her usual friends around the house for some time. She hasn’t been going out to places as much either but I noticed people stopped coming over about a month or so before I started to notice her mood to generally get lower. I hope she’s fine. What do you think it is”?

“We don’t know”. Dr. Clemens looked at his wife then back to Martin. “That is really an interesting point about her maybe meeting someone that’s married. We hadn’t thought of that. Unrequited love can hit as initially hard as some of life’s worst deals. While that might not necessarily be unrequited, it does fit in to one of our thoughts about a form of rejection”.

“What else do you think it might be, sir”? Martin asked with the concern of a grandfather.

“Depression” Dr. Clemens said.

Martin knew that that was what it was but outwardly mulled it over as only a possibility. He also knew that for someone like Jane to become depressed it was probably severe. “I suppose it could be depression” Martin said, “It’s hard to believe someone with as much beauty and optimism and anything anyone could want could be depressed but it looked like depression. Of course, that’s definitely your field, sir”.

Mrs. Clemens watched Martin finish what he was saying and turned her look to her husband who after looking at Martin looked down at his coffee and cheesecake and shifted the fork and knife around before saying, “That’s the way depression can be. It’s such a large and domineering thing that it comes in all different forms and different degrees. It can be a weaker case that lingers all someone’s life and then it can also come on crushing and abruptly and all the variations between are also possible. There’s all types of treatments for it with different degrees of success. It might be that or it might be romantic or something else. We don’t know but what we do know is that it’s a change in her that we all see. Mrs. Clemens and I have decided to give her a few days and see what types of changes we see and how her mood is then talk to her about what we see. I asked her tonight if she was feeling alright and I noticed she moved with her quickest reaction of the evening to look up at me to say that she was fine. So, whatever it is she doesn’t want to talk about it. We’ll give it a few days without asking her again and then her mother and I will talk to her. Let’s all do that, though. Let’s not ask her too frequently or at all if she’s okay because she got a little defensive and we’ll talk to her in a few days.

“Okay sir, I won’t ask her if anything is bothering her in particular but I’ll just ask how she is when I see her like I always do, like ‘hello’”.

“Very good, Martin”, Jane’s father said.

“It could be nothing. It could just be a mood” Mrs. Clemens said with inner hope. Martin stayed out of the conversation but in the group until it was clear to break away.

“It could be. That’s possible.  It’s a possibility” Dr. Clemens said though it was clear he doubted it but he entertained the thought for its optimistic value.

With the drifting off of the parent’s thoughts and an unusual concern now in the household, Martin added, “She’s great. Jane is such a good person. I think it will be a passing thing, whatever it is”. The parents showed appreciation and agreed about Jane and that it might very well be a passing thing. And with the next momentary silence, Martin offered more coffee but the cups were mostly full so he excited back into the kitchen to wash more dishes and tidy up, being sure to make just enough noise to delicately offer some unspoken reassurance that things were back to normal and that they were by no means alone in this, whatever it was.

It was now 9:45 pm on December 8th and Jane’s parents finished out their evening by talking first about the little Christmas trees Mrs. Clemens had bought that day and then the general plans for the holiday which always injected more cheer into Mrs. Clemens. At about 10:30 she would waltz upstairs to say good night to Jane and chat with her husband until then.

Jane had put on a downtempo electronic lounge style channel on satellite radio and was occasionally pursing her lips and needlessly squinting to help her focus on the book. Then she looked around her meticulous room. It couldn’t be any neater. It smelled fresh and the carpeted sections were nearly immaculate and plush with vacuum marks in them. Everything was arranged perfectly on her desk, on the bookshelves, in the drawers. The whole bedroom was ordered flawlessly. “Maybe it’s too clean” she thought. “Maybe I’d feel better if things were a little more disheveled”.

But that idea didn’t carry much weight and she put her book down and looked at the dancing flames for a few moments. This lost her interest quickly and she went back to reading. But that must have lost her interest also because the next thing was slight knocks on the door and it creeping open and her mother saying, “Good-night, Jane. We’re going to bed and I wanted to say good night”.

Jane opened her eyes and looked at her mother. She had clearly been asleep on the couch which was a first for her and it didn’t go unnoticed by her mother whose still optimistic view suffered another minor ding. “Good night, Mother” Jane said fairly expressionlessly but with a sort of pained and forced half smile as her mother would internally process it as. “I was just getting ready for bed”.

“Okay, dear. We’ll see you tomorrow” and Mrs. Clemens walked in and kissed Jane on the cheek and Jane put her arm around her and looked back into the fire and said “good night” once more and the two parted to head off to sleep for the night.

Mrs. Clemens walked out of Jane’s room and closed the door softly behind her and started down the long hall to the master bedroom where Dr. Clemens was in bed reading New York Times articles on his laptop without interest. “She was asleep on the couch. I’ve never seen her asleep on the couch before but tonight she was”.

“Like asleep for the night or she fell asleep while reading”? he asked.

“She fell asleep. The fire is going and she has her book next to her”.

“That is out of the ordinary. We’ll watch her for a few days and then decide what to do”. And with that Mrs. Clemens got ready for bed while her husband read and in a short while they turned out the light to go to sleep.

The next morning came and it was similar to the last. Jane got up at two, asked for a little less breakfast, ate even less of it than before, and went to her room to read and didn’t come back down until dinner where she acted about the same as the night before but with more effort. She tried harder to be attentive and eat and even act happy but it came out wrong and she felt it and that again weighed on her. Her mother and father and Martin went about things as usual as they could, knowing full well something was wrong but waiting a few more days to say anything.

The few days passed and things deteriorated. Jane ate less and started even to drink less juice in the morning. She made her way downstairs this particular morning and even though Martin took the orders as soon as anyone came into the kitchen and was quick, Jane opened the refrigerator and stared inside at the shelves and while she was looking in, her mother was looking at her. Jane had maintained her style and she looked good but her clothes were starting to not fit. She pulled up her jeans because they were falling down below her hips but they dropped immediately back to where they were. Mrs. Clemens felt a wave of fear pass through her. That night she and Jane’s father would talk to her.

“Good morning, Jane” Martin said even though it was 2:30 pm. “What can I get you for breakfast”? Jane let go of the fridge door and in about the time it took for it to close she had made eye contact with Martin.

“Good morning, Martin. I’d like some orange juice and oatmeal today, please”.

“It’ll be right out, Jane” he said and turned around to start making it.

Jane thanked him and started for the table where her mother was waiting, smiling at her and having just put down a Christmas version catalog from Saks Fifth Avenue asked Jane, “How did you sleep, are you hungry”? with optimism and hope.

Jane caught her foot on the rug between the refrigerator and table and tripped but not enough to make her fall and caught her balance and sat down. “Jane!” but she had caught herself, “that was close, is your foot alright”? her mother asked.

“Yes, it’s fine, I just caught it on the rug. I slept well. I’m pretty hungry. How are you”?

“Good, I’m good. I’m glad you slept well. Breakfast should be out soon. What do you want to do today? Do you want to help me put some decorations on the tree? We can bake, we can shop, we can cook, do you want to do any of that with me”? There were the beginnings of desperation in her offers but she hid it well.

“That all sounds fun” Jane said. “Let’s bake cookies a little later”.

“We’ll do that later in the afternoon. I’ve got it all. I’ve got sprinkles, frosting, flour, sugar, everything. It’s almost time for Christmas carols. Let’s start today, is it too early? Should we start playing them today”?

Martin brought out some orange juice and glasses of milk and water for Jane and she looked up and thanked him politely and he turned around to finish the oatmeal. Jane looked back at her mother, “It’s not too early. Let’s start today. Tonight. We can start playing them tonight”.

“Tonight, it is” and Mrs. Clemens smiled brightly through her deep concern and if there was something that could make her smile through concern it was Christmas time. Martin came back with oatmeal in a bowl, some milk in a little silver thing and brown sugar in a different little serving bowl.

“Can I get you anything else, Jane”? he asked. She looked back up with a look that the finely-in-tune-to-emotions Martin read as below the looks from the last days, maybe because of being drained from trying to be cheerful with the morning conversation but he read it as a non-intentional ‘help’. He smiled the way he always does, and left the two ladies to eat and talk and returned to a different part of the kitchen for a few moments in case they came across something they wanted and then a few minutes after that would retreat to a different part of the house. He always did that when they ate breakfast.

Jane put some brown sugar into her oatmeal first then some milk and started to eat as much as she could because again she had almost no appetite. Mrs. Clemens looked at her while she was eating and Jane’s left shoulder was turned inward toward the table a little and her hair was falling at a different angle and everything Mrs. Clemens was sensing and seeing looked like a struggle. Her heart sank again, buoyed by what was a more hopeful conversation that started the morning. The hope she had now was that they were going to bake cookies later in the day and that evening her father and she would talk to her and see if she would open up more and tell them how she felt or what was bothering her and they could start to fix it. Her husband would know exactly how to do that the right way.

For now, though, Jane inadvertently sighed. She never sighed but she did then and Mrs. Clemens who had turned to look out the window and let Jane eat for a moment turned back with a gleam in her eye because that was something different. She held back from asking if everything was alright because they would be talking to her that evening, and picked up with details about decorating the house because Jane always loved that before.

“The gingerbread houses will be here on the 15th and there’s a designer from a company coming the day after tomorrow with a tree to put in the front yard and decorate, you know the one but they do it different each year”. Jane looked up and watched her mother talk. “Then of course there is our tree and we’ll all go out and pick one out whenever you want”. Jane said nothing but was looking at her. There was an incorrect silence, Mrs. Clemens made her first slight involuntary look of worry, and Jane said:

“That will be fun. How many of the houses did you get? Those are beautiful”.

“Four” and Mrs. Clemens smiled lightly like a wealthy person who was proud to talk about their favorite purchase. “I got four. They’ll be here on the fifteenth”.

“Those are beautiful. They’re literally works of art” and she looked back down to work on the oatmeal.

A few more minutes passed and they talked about making cookies, the Christmas trees for the front of the house and living room and about looking forward to playing Christmas music that night. It was mainly the same conversation they just had, recycled. When Jane was sure she couldn’t eat any more she excused herself to her room and they had agreed to meet at about five that evening to bake.

Jane got to her room and put on her tranquil electronic music, avoiding the lethargic songs from bands she was listening to before. She sat at her desk instead of the couch or the bed because she thought that might make her feel better, like ready to work. But it didn’t. She looked out the window that was in front of her and for the first time realized she really didn’t feel well. She wanted to feel good or at least not bad but it felt like that wasn’t an option.

She got to thinking about the last time she remembered feeling good and decided it must have been the previous summer. They had taken a trip for four weeks to Paris, Rome, and then the beaches on Italy’s coast and France’s coast then to islands in Greece. Everyone was happy and having fun. She thought about laughing at dinners and the different people they had met and romantic dates for a night or two with people she had met and overall how happy she was. It seemed effortless and now there weren’t even any of those moments and before there was nothing but those moments. She kept thinking back mainly to that most recent trip and eventually fell asleep with her head in her arms on the desk and didn’t wake up until her mother knocked softly and opened the door to see her with her head on the desk. She knew she was sleeping and she looked at her face and it was peaceful and beautiful. She didn’t want to wake her but she had slept until two so she probably didn’t need to sleep but mainly she wanted to bake with her.

She walked over to her and woke her gently and as she woke up her mother saw the peaceful look leave her face and one more like struggle or even pain replaced it for a second and as was becoming usual, Mrs. Clemens’ heart sank. “It’s five o’clock and so I thought I’d come up and see if you were ready to make Christmas cookies”.

Jane sat up in the chair at her desk and looked outside and saw it was getting dark. Then she checked her clock and it said 5:02, then her stereo which was playing lethargic electronic soundscape music then she looked back up at her mother. Then she looked in the mirror behind the desk then back at her mother. “Yes, of course. I must have fallen asleep. Let’s go”. Mrs. Clemens smiled because just then there wasn’t anything she wanted to do more than make cookies with Jane. And so the two of them made their way out of the bedroom and down to the kitchen where Mrs. Clemens had everything laid out on the counter which she did while she was waiting.

“The oven is already preheated so I’ll work on the frosting while you work on the cookies. We’ll make those little Christmas trees and snowman cookies. Just measure out two cups of flour, put in that butter that’s in that cup, two eggs and a tea spoon of the vanilla then mix it all together”.

Jane said “Okay” and looked at the ingredients on the counter and felt the weight of this seemingly insurmountable task weigh on her. She weighed out two cups of flour and put that into the bowl to start. Then she was measuring out a teaspoon of the vanilla but accidently dropped the bottle into the bowl which made a clank and Mrs. Clemens looked up from the frosting and said, “That’s okay. I do that all the time. There’s probably still enough in there because it landed flat in the flour but if there’s not there is another bottle in the cupboard”.

Jane was looking at her mother while she said that then she looked back at the bowl and reached in and took the vanilla bottle out and put it on the counter. She emptied out the flour and spilt vanilla into the trash and set the bowl down to start again. She got the two cups of flour in and there was still plenty of vanilla left in that bottle so she measured out a teaspoon then brought the egg carton over to add the eggs. She cracked the first egg in and put the shells down and looked up at her mother. This was her favorite time of year and she was happy and focused on making frosting. Jane took in how beautiful her mother was and how kind and how much she, Jane, knew her mother loved her and all that weighed more on her because of how badly she felt right now and that this was, she knew, eventually going to weigh on her mother.

Jane looked back at the bowl, her mood lowering with all these separate components that needed to come together to make cookies and how hard that was going to be. She cracked another egg and put the shells on the counter. Why did she feel so bad? She only wanted to go upstairs and read and lie on her bed. Jane kept thinking about the severity of her mood and how hard everything was to do until her mother placed her hand on her forearm which made her look up at her and she saw fear on her mother’s beautiful face. Jane hadn’t stopped cracking eggs and was about to add the fifth one when she was interrupted. 

“That’s too many eggs Jane, dear” her mother said smiling through fear and concern. Jane looked at the bowl and the eggs and sat down in a chair at the kitchen table next to them.

“This is too much exertion, mother. I don’t think I can do it. Can I go upstairs”?

And Mrs. Clemens’ smile left her face and then through it all she brought it back. “Of course, dear. Of course you can. I’ll finish these and we can have them later. Are you tired? Do you want to take a nap before dinner”?

“I think so. I feel sort of tired. I’ll take a nap before dinner and feel better”.

Mrs. Clemens kissed Jane’s cheek and said “okay, dear” and watched her turn and head back upstairs.

Dr. Clemens came into the kitchen as Martin was cleaning the bowl and Mrs. Clemens was cutting out shapes from the cookies, thinking Jane might want to eat them later, at least. “How did the cookies go”? and he kissed her cheek as he stood next to her waiting for a report.

“I made these but Jane left early after mixing in too many eggs. She said it was too much exertion to make the cookies. She was tired and went up to rest before dinner” and Mrs. Clemens clearly looked like she wanted to cry. Her husband kissed her cheek again and said they would stick to the plan and talk to her that night.

“We’ll see how she says she’s feeling, talk about what we’re noticing and get something started to help her. We knew it would most likely go like this so try not to feel too badly now. We’ll get it on course to help her. It happens to a lot of people for different reasons. We’ll get working on it starting tonight”.

“Okay, honey. I’m obviously just very worried. She seems absent. It must be horrible for her”.

And Dr. Clemens picked up a Christmas tree cookie cutter and joined his wife in cutting out some cookies. “It is horrible for her. That’s why we’re going to help her. We’re byproducts in this because we love her so much but it can be devastating to them. I think after we talk to her tonight I’ll set up an appointment with Dr. Campbell. Her name is Jamie and she’s a great psychiatrist. She does therapy and can talk with Jane and see if she can see what’s bothering her and find some path to help and run it by me and we can talk about it and decide what to do. That’s the best way. She’s really a nice lady and fairly young so maybe Jane will feel comfortable with her rather than someone older or a man, at least for now”.

“Okay honey. That sounds good. Good idea, thank you”. And they got back to cutting out the cookies and Martin put the dishes away and quietly left them alone to make and then bake the rest of the cookies.

Well, back upstairs Jane was sitting on her couch looking into her electric fireplace again. As has been occurring previously, she had descended to another plateau and felt it weigh on her. She went back to thinking about the last time she felt good and how for granted she took it and how easily she laughed and how confident she was that it would always be that way that she never questioned it once. And why should she have? She thought about dinners on the sand on beaches in Italy and the resorts and everyone having fun and then she fell asleep again.

Her mother knocked on her door about an hour later and came in quietly to sit on the couch next to her. “You have such a nice room. I like what you’ve done with everything in here. It’s so nice”. Jane looked at her mother and tried her best to smile and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. Mrs. Clemens put her arm around her and was strong although she wanted to cry because she could feel that Jane didn’t want to feel like this. “Dinner’s ready if you’re hungry. Are you hungry”?

“Yes, I’m hungry. Thank you for coming up. Should we go down? Let’s go”. They stood up and Jane followed her mother out of her room and left everything the way it was. She didn’t turn off the music or the fireplace or the lights because some unconscious part of her knew that turning anything off right then would create a void that she didn’t need so they just left and made their way down stairs and on into the dining room where Jane’s father was waiting smiling and Martin was bringing out and placing the salads. It was the first night that Christmas carols were playing and the house quietly reverberated with upbeat renditions of the classics from different famous artists on a charity CD which was one of Mrs. Clemens favorites. Usually Christmas carols brought Jane happiness in themselves. They represented her favorite holiday, her family’s favorite holiday, Christmas, the colder weather which she loved, breaks from school and time to spend with friends, traditions, and of course like everyone she liked presents too. But now she didn’t even notice them.

“Good evening Jane, you look very good tonight as always” Martin said and pulled out a chair for Jane and she thanked him and took her seat.

Dr. Clemens had upbeatly said “There she is” when Jane first walked in and now he stood up to give her a kiss on her cheek and a one-armed hello hug as he went to adjust the music to be just a little louder. “What are you reading up there”? he asked before he walked to the sound system controls which were located just outside the dining room on the wall.

“I’m still reading ‘Great Expectations’”.

“It’s a good book. A classic. I’ll be right back” and he took two steps out of the room and turned the volume up two increments and came back in. “One more week and I’ll start my vacation so we can spend whole days together and shop and do whatever you want” Dr. Clemens told Jane knowing that no matter what stage of depression someone is in some part of them likes to know someone, especially family, will be around. “That’s a really nice sweater, Jane. I mean really nice. The color looks great on you”. It was a navy cashmere sweater Jane was wearing and she gave an attempt at an honest smile and thanked him.

“You got it for me last year at the mall. It’s my favorite”. Mrs. Clemens also complimented it and then they were all sitting at the table together.

Before dinner Dr. Clemens had talked to Martin about the plan that night to ask Jane how she felt, specifically because they had noticed changes. He asked Martin to eat with them as he usually does like any other night so as not to create any feeling of loss or missing that Jane could perceive. Then towards the end to excuse himself to make coffee and prepare dessert, and to take a little longer than usual and that was when he and Mrs. Clemens would talk to her.

Jane’s father figured this way there wouldn’t be a hindsight feeling of preparation because of her condition which is how she might feel if they ask her how she’s feeling and she sees Martin had been excused from dinner for that reason, on account of her. Martin would take a little longer with making coffee and bringing out dessert, not a lot but a little longer, then bring them out and retreat to another room as would be usual. Jane wouldn’t feel there had been some sort of set up.

The salads were a delicious Greek style with spinach, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, different olives, olive oil and pepper. Dr. Clemens commented first on the salads, “The salad is excellent, Martin. Very good again tonight”.

Mrs. Clemens looked at Martin and smiled, “Delicious”.

Jane too looked up and though she hadn’t started eating yet, said “Thank you. It looks very good”.

Martin thanked Dr. Clemens first for the compliment, “Thank you, sir. They had great tomatoes and that’s really the all of this salad”. Then he turned to Mrs. Clemens and Jane and smiled appreciatively and the group went back to eating.

 “One week, the fifteenth I’ll start my vacation” Dr. Clemens jumped into conversation as hopefully as he could.

“The fifteenth? That’s the day the gingerbread houses get here. We can get a tree right around then” Mrs. Clemens said.

“Unless there are any emergencies I won’t go back until after New Year’s” and realizing ‘emergencies’ wasn’t a good word, Jane’s father asked about the cookies. “How did the cookies turn out”? and that wasn’t good either, he realized, because Jane had to leave making them early and the doctor also realized that ailments in your own family weren’t at all like his patients but the conversation went on. Mrs. Clemens didn’t actually know how they turned out because Martin had taken over the final baking but she said they came out well anyway and looked to Martin for assurance that there were in fact Christmas cookies that had been made.

“They look great” Martin said. “I’ll bring some out after dinner with chocolate cake”.

Both Mrs. Clemens and Dr. Clemens had a passing glance that outlined none of that went well and looked to Jane who was looking down. She hadn’t started eating yet and hadn’t followed much of the conversation up to that point.

“Which part of the book are you in”? her father asked her.

Jane looked up and thought for a moment about where she was in the book and couldn’t remember because she really hadn’t read much of it this time around. “I’m in the middle” she said and cast her glance back down and took a bite of salad.

“I haven’t read it” her mother said “what is it about”?

Jane didn’t hear that question so her father answered, “It’s about a boy without parents whose strict sister and compassionate husband act as parents. Pip, the boy, runs into an extremely arrogant young rich girl that makes him feel inadequate and he sets off to become a gentleman but it doesn’t go completely as planned. That’s the briefest gist of it”.

“That’s a good summary. That’s what it’s about” Jane said to her father who felt a happiness go through him and realized it was because of how much he loved her and that the situation had really deteriorated to his being happy with her able to join into a conversation on her own without being directed.

Then Jane sank back into her thoughts. She was taken aback with how badly she felt but found some comfort in thinking she might feel better back up in her room but that had only a moderate effect because she remembered back up in her room earlier that evening she had the same hope about coming down to dinner.

They all went back to eating their salads. Dr. Clemens saw that eating didn’t look easy for Jane but that she was eating at that moment so he directed a question to Martin who was trying to conceal his worry about Jane. “Martin, how did the rest of dinner turn out? The salads are great”.

Martin looked to the doctor and said, “Very good, sir. There are three baked chickens with rosemary and garlic and russet potatoes that look very good”. He checked his watch. “They’ll be ready in two minutes. Also, there is sautéed asparagus. It looks very good sir”.

“That sounds delicious. I’m hungry and you make the best baked chicken”.

“I’ll go check them now, sir.”. And Martin got up to get the rest of dinner.

Dr. Clemens looked to his wife and Jane and said, “Whose hungry”?

“I am” Mrs. Clemens said. “Baked chicken sounds great”.

Dr. and Mrs. Clemens looked to Jane who had stopped eating and was looking at her salad but hadn’t put down her fork. “Are you hungry, Jane”? her father asked her.

Jane heard a question and then silence so she looked up at her father and said, “I’m sorry, what”?

“Are you hungry”? he asked her.

While looking at him she titled her head to the side slightly and exhaled, not a sigh but just a regular exhale, and Dr. Clemens saw desperation unlike anything he had seen practicing psychiatry. “I’m hungry, yes” Jane said.

Dr. Clemens’ face involuntarily took a look of worry so quickly and strongly that it flinched as it would to an insult. He cleared it just as quickly though, but Mrs. Clemens who couldn’t see Jane’s face from her angle was watching her husband and the look he made sent worry through her.

“Martin is bringing out dinner now” he told Jane as if she hadn’t been at the table a few seconds ago. He said it as hopefully and as confidently as he could. Jane hadn’t looked away from her father as he said that and nodded lightly three or four times before looking back down at her salad but before she looked back down there was a message she sent if telepathy was real and her father read it as “something is very wrong” and then Jane was looking back down.

Dr. Clemens was more worried now than he had yet been. He wanted to ask her what was wrong or how she was feeling but had decided purposely to wait until after dinner was served because most likely there would be an increase in anxiety or just emotion in discussing how she felt that would eventually lead to her going to sleep possibly without eating. So, his resolve was to go with the plan and ask her after dinner. But while deciding that, Jane had drifted to sleep and dropped her fork and then picked her head up as it began to nod forward with a startled look. He asked her then.

“Jane are you alright”?

Jane looked to her father and then her mother and to the fork on the floor that had jangly rattled on the hardwood panels then back to her father. “Did I just fall asleep”? she thought to herself. She was confused and now scared. She had no idea what to say about why she had fallen asleep if that’s what had just happened. She didn’t try to cover anything up and rooted in fear and confusion and abandoning her usual use of ‘father’ she said, “Dad I don’t feel well at all. I don’t know what’s wrong and I’m scared”. Her voice broke up and was lower than her mother had ever heard when she said “I don’t know what’s wrong” and Mrs. Clemens put her hand to her mouth and began to cry before quickly getting up to put her arms around Jane.

Dr. Clemens reached out and put his hand in his daughter’s and told her “It’s alright. We’ll figure it out and you will feel better soon”. Martin had made his way close to the door with the rest of dinner when he heard their conversation and Mrs. Clemens crying. He realized the plan had been adjusted and place the baked chickens back in the oven on a low heat for a few more minutes. He would let them talk initially for that time and then bring the food out and look to the doctor for direction. He sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the door to the dining room and worried about Jane.

“What is it that you’re feeling, Jane”? Dr. Clemens was collected but understandably more agitated than he would be with one of his patients, unbeknownst to him. “Your mother and I have noticed a change in you. We love you so much. If you could describe it, how would you describe it”?

Jane looked to her left at her mother who was hugging her then back to her father who had his hand outstretched across the edge of the table in hers. Mrs. Clemens was still crying and hugging her and now and then kissing the side of her head. Jane was the calmest of the three and thought for a moment about the question. How was she feeling? How could she describe how she felt without making things immediately worse for her mother who seemed herself not to be feeling well? Also, her father had spoken faster than usual and all these changes didn’t make her feel any better but she loved them, she had to say something. She thought about it once more then said, “I feel like I have less interest in almost everything”.

These contradictory words coming from such a bright person as Jane did in fact not make Mrs. Clemens feel better but she hadn’t stopped crying yet so Jane didn’t notice a difference there. Her father kept his look on her and she felt more than any time before that he was actually a very calm-inducing person. Very genuine and stable and she felt comfortable. She continued, “I feel like things that shouldn’t be difficult take almost all my energy. I’m overwhelmed most of the time”.

So it was depression, her father thought, and he squeezed her hand. “We can fix it, Jane. You will feel better. How long have you felt this way or any different from how you usually feel”?

Jane thought for a moment and said, “I’m not sure. I guess it’s been a few weeks or months since I started feeling differently but the last week it seems like I’m almost becoming someone else. Everything takes more effort than I have”.

“I understand what you’re saying, sweetheart. Can you pinpoint it to anything that happened that made you start feeling differently”? her father asked her.

“That’s what I don’t understand about it” Jane said “I can’t say anything happened that I felt differently as a result of. I just started feeling this way and it hasn’t gotten any better”.

Dr. Clemens’ heart sank but no one would have known. She was describing what he had discussed with his wife as being the worst possibility. A rapid onset of severe major depression. She doesn’t know why she feels this way so there isn’t a start or end in sight. “You’ll feel better, Jane. We can start fixing it as soon as you want. Let’s eat dinner now and we can talk more upstairs in your room before bed”.

“That sounds good. Thank you, father”. She turned to her mother and kissed her cheek in one quick movement and Mrs. Clemens smiled and hugged her tightly. “Thank you, mother”.

“I love you, Jane” is what Mrs. Clemens said.

“Should I ask Martin to excuse himself tonight”? her father asked unsure of what she would want but she had been clear up until then so he figured she would now, too.

“No, that’s fine. Let’s all eat”. She was confused but not because emotions were increasing or decreasing in her. She felt the same for the most part. Most of all, Dr. Clemens noted to himself, she didn’t appear at all differently at any time. She had remained remarkably steady from a physical stand point. If anything, she appeared tranquil. Just then Martin came in with the food and looked at the doctor.

“They look great, Martin. Do you need my help getting anything”? Martin was relieved to see things were going forward and though not exactly sure what, he knew some progress had been made.

“I don’t think so, sir. I’ll be right back out with the rest of it”.

Mrs. Clemens had collected herself and gave Jane another kiss on the side of her head and went back to her chair and looked at her daughter who had gone back to slouching a little in her chair and was looking at her salad. She had the appearance that none of what just happened and was discussed had happened.

Martin came back in and put the asparagus and the third chicken on the table and checked everyone’s glasses to get an idea of who needed what. He went back into the kitchen and came right back out with two more large bottles of cold Pellegrino sparkling water and the utensils to cut and serve the chicken. First, he sliced pieces from one and placed them on Mrs. Clemens plate and served her some asparagus along with potatoes. He knew she preferred the white meat from this particular dish, so that’s what he served. Next, he served Jane the same way because she, like her mother, also preferred the white meat as he remembered her saying before, and that she likes legs and dark meat but not when they were freshly severed from the whole chicken. Jane looked up to thank him and her eyes sparkled a deep blue that looked like clear ocean water and Martin was once again startled but this time as more usual, with her beauty.

“Of course, Jane” he said with a fluid and respectful nod of his head and moved on to serving Dr. Clemens who was less particular with the different cuts of meat. He served him a little of all the types of meat, leg, breast and thigh along with the potatoes and asparagus. Then he refilled each of their water glasses to the top with the new Pellegrino water, served himself dinner and sat down. The family waited for Martin to sit down then they looked it over and thanked him again and all began to eat.

Jane had already forgotten about the conversation they had had. She knew they had asked her what was wrong and she knew she had told them something was wrong but beyond that the details were gone because from moment to moment how bad she felt consumed everything in her. These moments were uniquely difficult in Jane’s position because feeling good or normal were still close memories. She hadn’t lived or dealt with what was depression or really anything outside of being happy. She looked at the food in front of her and began to eat. One of the unusual changes for her was that she ate because of the time or because that’s what was going on instead of because she was hungry. She did her best and focused on eating half, as a goal.

Dr. Clemens was as happy or at least as content a man could realistically hope for while being by nature and as a choice, stoic. As with a lot of successful people, he didn’t get flustered and had strong confidence. He watched Jane cut her food and eat. She had most of her hair in a ponytail except for some strands that fell across the left side of her face. She held the knife in her right hand and the fork in her left and when she had finished cutting a piece she put the knife down and switched the fork to the right to eat with. He didn’t remember he or her mother teaching her how to use the knife and fork but figured she must have picked it up from her mother who ate the same way. Her slender hands looked fair and healthy. Her fingernails looked attended to and her skin even looked moisturized and even. She had lost weight, he noticed, and she was slouching but was presenting herself physically well and he could detect a fresh shower scent and some of one of her perfumes.

None of that was in line with too severe depression but other aspects of her behavior definitely were. He didn’t have an answer to that. Maybe Jane was an anomaly. In all the cases he could remember, as patients slid quickly with depression so did the details of their presentation. One option, he thought, was that these detailed preparations brought her comfort. Possibly though, he knew, there was the chance that things could get much worse quickly and some of the more standard indications of rapid major depression would manifest from a physical perspective. Another possibility was that Jane just was a uniquely clean person that didn’t need extra attention paid to things most people needed. That didn’t make sense though. Never mind, he thought. The important thing was that tonight they would continue their talk about how she was feeling and tomorrow morning he would call Jamie to make an appointment.

“Martin, the chicken is very good. It’s cooked perfectly. It’s all very good again tonight”.

“Thank you, sir. It did come out well”.

Christmas carols were playing in the background. It was another CD compilation of famous artists playing the classics and the house had a warm and comfortable feel. The family and Martin ate in silence for a moment and then Mrs. Clemens asked Martin, “What do we have for dessert along with Christmas cookies”? She knew what they had but the silence was too much and Dr. Clemens was caught up in observing Jane, she saw, and had unusually let the conversation lapse as he was most often its subtle and tactful navigator.

“There is a delicious looking chocolate cake from Le Rendeau’s and vanilla ice cream. I’ll bring them all out together after dinner”.

“That sounds really good. They have the best cakes”.

“Indeed, they are delicacies. I envy the baker” Martin said.

‘Silent Night’ began to play with a female’s clear and sparse vocals sounding through the room. Dinner continued with false starts at conversation, eyes watching over Jane and Jane herself oblivious for the most part about everyone else. Her thoughts dispatched with a rapidity and clarity she didn’t remember them having before, to what her friends were doing. She had stopped returning calls and then stopped checking her voice mails after she turned the notifications off. It was like she was flying above her memories of spending time with them. It was like there was music playing and she was looking down watching herself laugh and walk around the mall and shop and look beautiful. Then she wondered why no one had stopped by in concern from her silence and remembered with a sting that she had told Claire she was going to New York for Christmas to prevent that very thing from happening. At the time, she told herself she wanted to take a break from them and read and take it easy and that she attributed, possibly, stress to having fun with them and talking and hanging out. Now she realized that might have been a mistake but had no interest in fixing it, she was only realizing why no one had stopped by.

Then she thought about the same group of friends but when they were in junior high. It was like looking down on smaller versions of the people she was just looking down on. She remembered when Julie’s sister died in a car accident and that Julie came right to her as soon as it happened, she called her that night and then didn’t go to school for a while and then when she came back she talked to her again the same way she had that first night. Then that thought gave way to another vacation they had taken when she was in high school and a guy she had met. His name was Scott and he was from London, and how cute she thought his accent was and that they had kissed under like a gazebo next to the dance the hotel was having for the kids staying there. She remembered thinking how great this was and the thrill that this was her life and even if she never saw Scott again there would be a lot more of these handsome people in her life and that maybe they’d write or meet up again sometime there again but not too concerned either way. She had the best life of anyone she knew, famous or not, hers was the best, she thought.

Something tangible, just the site of her hand brought her back to the reality that she was dumbfounded at how horrible things were. The reality of telling herself things would be better upstairs only to get there and think they might be better back downstairs, and knowing what was waiting for her, in short, confused, no, forthrightly tripped her out with such a severely bad feeling.

Mrs. Clemens had asked Jane if she was going to save any room for dessert even though she was eating at what best could be described as glacially, but Jane didn’t hear her. Dr. Clemens put his hand politely and discreetly up to signal not interrupting her just yet and that he was trying to read this lucid but really distant look on Jane’s face and mostly in her eyes. She would come out of it but each thing with her was important to his thinking he could understand what was going on or at least get a clue.

And she did. She looked up clearer-eyed to Martin who was across from her then to her mother, then her father, and having divined she most likely hadn’t heard what someone had said to her, Jane said “What”? politely.

Her mother, simultaneously downtrodden from this detachment and uplifted from receiving Jane’s beautiful look, asked her question again. “Are you saving any room for desert? We have the Christmas cookies, chocolate cake from Trudeau’s and vanilla ice cream”.

Jane watched her mother finish talking to her, impressed with her overall beauty and calm and just personality, then looked at her for one extra second after and then looked down at her plate and back to her mother. She hadn’t really eaten much dinner, so probably, she figured, the question was about why she hadn’t eaten more or why she wasn’t eating. Jane picked up her utensils and cut a piece of the chicken and started to chew it and looked to her mother and said, “I think so, yes”. And with that dinner was back on track and Jane had mostly returned from her thoughts.

Dr. Clemens had observed and decided it was best to let Jane try and eat because she didn’t seem to want to talk and they would be talking that evening, most likely soon after dinner. To keep things going he talked about the main dinner topic, dessert. “Trudeau’s does have the best cakes. Thank you for getting that, Martin. I’m looking forward to it”. Mainly he wanted to be talking just so there wasn’t silence, for Jane’s comfort.

Martin had finished his dinner before the family, as was usual, so he got up to get coffee started and prepare dessert. “Would anyone like more water or anything from the kitchen? I’m going to make coffee and start getting dessert ready”. Dr. and Mrs. Clemens thanked him and both said they didn’t need anything and were looking forward to dessert. Jane was squinting now towards the center of the table and then looked regularly out the window.

“The house is looking good” Jane’s father said to both his wife and daughter. “When should we get the tree? Honey, do you know when they are coming to put the lights outside and the tree outside? It always looks so good each year, they really do a good job”.

“I know. I love it each year. Well, the tree out front is from one group and they’ll be here on the twelfth, so four days, and the lights and decorating out front and out back are being done by two different companies on the same day, though, the twelfth. So just a few days for them. Then we can get the tree for the house together and go shopping together for little things in here. I like to do the decorations inside ourselves. Then, of course, the gingerbread houses will be here on the fifteenth”.

“It’s organized well, sweetheart” and Dr. Clemens smiled to his wife. And then Martin came out from the kitchen to see whose plates were ready to be cleared. He took Mrs. Clemens’ plate first and then walked around to Dr. Clemens’ and took his plate also. He saw that Jane’s food wasn’t much eaten but when the plates were being cleared Jane decided she didn’t want to eat anymore. She hadn’t quite finished half yet but pushed her plate a little in front of her to show she was finished and then waited, hoping for no further questions regarding the food. There weren’t any. Dr. Clemens had bought protein shakes at Costco and planned to bring one up to Jane when they talked that evening. If she just drank a little of it that would be about equal to her having eaten most of dinner.

Martin saw Jane’s motion with her plate and looked to her father for a sign about whether to take the plate or not. Jane had looked back down at the table in front of her so there wasn’t really a chance she would see the tacit communication. Dr. Clemens gave a slight nod and Martin walked over and took her plate, too. “Now who is having coffee tonight”? Martin asked everyone. “I’ll be right out with the dessert”. Only Dr. Clemens said he would like coffee. The table was now cleared and Martin had gone back in to get the dessert.

“Jane have some dessert with us and after we can go upstairs to your room and you can tell us more about how you’re feeling” her father said. Jane had no sinking feeling about the imminent conversation and actually felt sort of like it could be a good thing, or really that it couldn’t be a lot worse than anything she had planned and maybe she would feel better because of it. She still, despite how she felt, had hope now of feeling differently. For the most part she was to a degree in awe of how strongly she didn’t feel good. She hadn’t actually given up or even come close to giving up. So, the thought of feeling better made sense to her as a possibility. Every one of her father’s patients raved about how good her father was at making them feel better so why not her, she thought.

“Okay” she said. “Thank you for coming up”. And with that her mother’s heart sank because, although Jane didn’t mean it or think it that way, she was in effect thanking them for talking to her. Dr. Clemens however had a different and more daunting look on what Jane had said. He noticed, and her mother was distraught the whole night otherwise she might have noticed it too, but Jane had slurred her words when she thanked them. This was a physical shift that would be in line with major depression. The weight of the sadness and continuous negativity inside of them gets so heavy that these straight forward subconsciously simple things to people without whatever is affecting her become more difficult until they begin to not be able to do them.

“Of course, sweetheart” he said to his daughter. “Have some of the cake and stuff and then we’ll go up and hangout in your room for a while”. Jane looked at her father and then forward to Martin who had brought out the chocolate cake and a plate of different colored cookies.

“Here we are” he said and put a smaller plate in front of everyone for the cake. “I’ll be right back with the coffee, sir”. And he came right back with the coffee and cut a piece of cake for each person, himself included, and put a scoop of ice cream and two of the Christmas cookies on each plate and gave one to everyone, starting with Mrs. Clemens then to Jane and around to his seat and then he himself took a seat for dessert which had been agreed earlier with Jane’s father.

Without any delay Jane forked a piece of chocolate cake and brought it to her mouth, pleased with how easy it was to eat. Everyone else followed similarly and dessert was underway. Jane picked up a green snowman cookie and bit his top half off and then placed him back down on the plate and cast her glance to the elaborate pine-tree looking ornamental centerpiece of the table and thought more in detail of the night and the talk they were going to soon have. Here she used a rare swear word, Jane almost never swore, even in her thoughts, “What the hell am I going to tell them”? And then the thought dissipated and she picked the snowman cookie up and bit more of him off and set him down and looked to the side but still at the table cloth and sniffed in a little lightly with her nose and wondered if that was her perfume that smelled so good or her mother’s but then looked back at the mantelpiece and stopped thinking about perfume.

For a moment, she had no thoughts and it was probably more pleasant than heavy and drowning negative thoughts but she didn’t really realize that in the moment. Instead she ate the torso section of the snowman and just put the lower small portion of him back on the plate and while she worked on this piece in her mouth she lifted her head all the way up to see the three people that loved her the most looking at her. They were each individually hurting in scary and unfamiliar ways regarding this situation they were facing but Jane had a slight lift from the sugar in the cookies and for the moment briefly saw them as very beautiful and caring people trying their best to address a potentially terrible situation and she didn’t see them as breezy and light-hearted and carefree like they were usually but like people trying in some unnatural and mostly unexplored territory of concern and discomfort instead of that and on account of her, as it was, and that sent her emotionally crashing back to a depth similar to the lows before but maybe a little lower even than before, and there she sat looking back at the plate in front of her.

There was a question to Jane about the dessert as seeing that she had ploughed remarkably well through it compared to her dinner eating pace but Jane didn’t hear it and didn’t want to ask what was asked. Instead she said “Thank you all for dinner. I’d like to go up to my room now. Is it alright if I am excused”? There was some agitation in her voice from the previous rapid emotional freefall that usually had not been there, and her mother answered first.

“Of course, dear. Of course”. Then her father answered similarly and added that they would be going up themselves soon and reached across and squeezed the small of Jane’s wrist. Jane looked down at her arm and thought a rare swear word, “This is an unbelievably fucked up situation. This is like an end-of-life hand squeeze in a Tolstoy or some heavy Russian novel”. And she backed her chair out and began walking upstairs, not pushing her chair in or taking her plate to the kitchen, both things she would have usually done.

The three of them watched her walk down the hall to the stairs and her deathly procession contrasted sharply with the happy Christmas carols. Dr. Clemens had his hands clasped together, his elbows on the table and her mother had brought her hand to her mouth. Martin watched quietly.

Jane walked up the stairs and down the hall into her room. The music and fireplace were still going from when she left, and the lights were on. She went straight to her bed, laid on it, closed her eyes and fell asleep. In a few minutes her parents began the short journey upstairs and they hadn’t rehearsed what they were going to say, her father would just go with it.

They opened the door and he began, “Jane, how are you”? They both saw she was asleep and decided not to wake her. “I’ll turn out the lights” Dr. Clemens said. He made his way to the switch.

Her mother interrupted him and said, “Don’t. She didn’t want to turn them off when she left for dinner and she didn’t turn them off now. Let’s leave them on”.

“That makes sense. Good idea”, Dr. Clemens said and they both went to their rooms, generally dumbfounded though the situation had been, pretty closely, predicted by the Doctor. In their haze of emotion, confusion and hope they went through their routines before sleeping and once ready they kissed each other good night and turned out the lights.

At about two in the afternoon the next day Jane came down to the kitchen for breakfast. She had started compartmentalizing time and it had morphed into that there weren’t periods now, but moments. So, time went from moment to moment and she didn’t process a bigger picture of things. She knew there had been a discussion of things at the table the night before but the individual and current moment was difficult enough not to allow any thought outside of it. Outside the struggle of it. She sat at the kitchen table with her mother while Martin was on the other side of the kitchen. “Good morning, mother” she said.

“Good morning, dear”.

Her father had actually cancelled his appointments and was waiting in the other room. He didn’t want to say he cancelled them on account of her. At that moment he entered in what appeared like a break from work and a coincidence. “There she is. Good morning, Jane. How did you sleep”?

She hadn’t woken once and it felt like she closed her eyes and then opened them. It was resting, but so thoroughly did she sleep that it felt like she was missing out on the cool comforts of night and sleeping. “I slept well. I don’t think I even woke up once. It feels like I just left the dinner table”.

“That means you slept well” her father said.

“It feels like I missed out on something, I slept so soundly”.

No one knew how to answer that or where to take the conversation from that, so it shifted entirely. Her father said, “I made an appointment with a really nice lady, a young lady, a doctor, a psychiatrist. Her name is Jamie Campbell. Dr. Campbell. She specializes in depression and she seems like someone you would enjoy talking to. Are you interested? She’s probably only about thirty-five and attractive, like you” he felt he was saying too much at once, so he stopped and waited.

The one thing Jane took away from dinner the night before was the look of difficulty, almost torment, in her parents before she went to bed. She only felt love for them and gratitude for their helping. Some other thing was then affecting her after that. She would do what they asked. She would try to make it as easy as possible. Until that became impossible, she supposed. “Thank you. Yes, I’d like to talk to her. What time is the appointment”?

“Today at four”. He looked at his watch. “In about an hour and a half. Her office is close”.

“Thank you. I’ll go get ready” and she turned to go get ready.

“Wait. Jane dear, let’ have something to eat first”.

Jane sat back down at the table and turned to Martin. “Can you make me a smoothie? Like a fruit smoothie. Thank you, Martin” and she looked out the window.

“How do you feel, Jane”? her father asked her when they were all at the table together and Martin was making the smoothie, which wasn’t enough food, but there was no contradicting now. Just get her to the appointment and started with the doctor.

“Nervous” Jane said.

“Jamie is great. She’s looking forward to seeing you”. He realized again how difficult medicine can be when it’s not a patient but your family. He continued talking and saying there wasn’t anything to be nervous about, which was untrue, and that there are a lot of paths to help for depression. As he talked, Jane drifted out of attention and began to feel the weight again. She wanted to get back into bed. She would then be, as it was, entering a heavy sleeping phase.

Seeing she wasn’t listening but had begun sipping her smoothie and looking out the window, he stopped talking. At least she’s eating, he thought. When she was finished with all that she wanted, she said she would go up to get ready. There still was some peace in getting dressed and showering. The look in the mirror of such an attractive person looking back at her reassured her on some level.

The comforts went quickly and the pain was lasting. Before she knew it, she was back downstairs, dressed, showered, perfumed, and done casually beautiful. She went to the living room and sat on the couch.

“You look so beautiful” her mother said.

Jane thanked her and leaned back on the sofa and looked at the ceiling. Her father came out to kiss her goodbye, she still thought he had appointments, so he didn’t go. “Wow. You look great”. He kissed her cheek again as they stood up and the two women walked to the garage and got into the Porsche SUV.

Once they were in the car, Jane felt terrible. The Sun, now, contradicted too much with her mood and made it worse. What seemed like a fairly normal morning, other than the objective, had collapsed into a feeling close to destitution. Jane saw the gates to the driveway about thirty-five yards away and the thought of even having to drive that far seemed to outweigh her ability to wait that long. The pain was so bad it didn’t make remote sense. It was senseless.

Her mother sensed this change. She got scared. She said, “Should we listen to some music? Her office is really close”.

“Yeah” Jane said and looked from her mother back out the side window. She didn’t, she really didn’t, want to be impolite. But once the music came on it was absolutely necessary to ask it be turned off. The sound of those cheery voices, detached from pain, the optimism and innuendos of the lyrics hit Jane like a broken heart.

Somehow other people’s happiness or lack of torment, equated to a broken-heart feeling. It was like the very people singing were the ones having some sort of harming affair with someone she loved. It was incredible pain compounded by it not, actually, making sense. As in the feelings shouldn’t feel this magnified, maybe because she didn’t really know anyone then. She couldn’t have a broken heart. But she did. It was just a torrent of pain. It was a lack of energy relieved only by a feeling of what most closely was a broken heart.

They got to the office as Mrs. Clemens followed her iPhone’s instructions, to be sure, to get there. The aura in the car was, as Jane’s mother perceived it, closest to a medical emergency. “Here we are” she said. Jane clicked the door open just before the car came to a stop and looked around.

“This sucks” is what Jane thought. Her mother walked around the car to where Jane was now standing and put her arm around her and led her in.

When they entered the elegant little office, the girl at the secretary desk gave Jane a unique look. It was like she sensed trouble. But at some level there was almost a smirk, as if to say “Come now. What could have someone as stylish, as beautiful as you, dispirited? Just laugh it off”. Mrs. Clemens noticed the look and thought it strange but Jane didn’t really notice it.

But in that moment, in that exchange of glances, between her and the secretary, Jane would feel her only connection to other people and all it did was add to her misery. Maybe because she felt a connection but the thought of how vague it was, and how depressing it was that that was a ‘connection’ repressed her further into an isolated abyss of black.

It was five minutes to four when Dr. Campbell walked into the waiting room. “Jane, please, come on back”. Jane stood up and Dr. Campbell’s hospitable, gracious smile changed to one of admiration, though it manifested as just a fainter smile than the first ‘welcome’ one. The doctor acknowledged Jane’s mother, she was sitting next to Jane, but only acknowledged her, she didn’t invite her back or speak to her, then she followed Jane in and shut the door. She turned to look back at her.

Jane sat at the first couch, unaware if that was the right one. Dr. Campbell was looking at her. “You’re beautiful” she said. Then she sat at her own chair. Jane thanked her but she didn’t smile. She hadn’t smiled in days. Instead, Jane said the office was nice. Dr. Campbell was herself quite attractive but there was a shine, a glow to Jane that seemed effortless. She was a great beauty.

“I’m Dr. Campbell” she said to Jane. “Tell me how you’re feeling”.

“Thank you. I’m Jane”. There was a silence. Jane didn’t know how to begin describing things. She said, “Not good” then thought about how to begin explaining. She decided to be honest. She decided to be descriptive and honest. She started, sort of counterintuitively, with the car ride over.

She described the thorough torment of the happiness of the artists’ voices and how somehow her mind made her think those people were causing a broken heart feeling. Then she backtracked to the previous days and explained the torment of daily things. She summed up her overall feeling by saying “I have a hard time doing anything for the future”. She wandered a little and listened to Dr. Campbell’s questions but mostly she was on her own talking agenda until she got tired and became quiet and ruminated in painful thought until even those just became static space.

Dr. Campbell was hurt. She literally felt enough pain emanating from Jane that she felt pain. She asked a few textbook questions regarding an individual’s stability and listened. Each response was, from a medical standpoint, a warning sign. The appointment went on like that, switching between answers to direct questions and any extra information Jane gave, and when it came to the end of forty-five minutes, Dr. Campbell suggested they make another appointment for the next day. A double-hour appointment so that she could get to know Jane more. Jane agreed. Dr. Campbell wanted Jane to feel supported and a double-hour appointment for the next day was the best way to do that.

But Dr. Campbell didn’t think that was the best treatment. They got up and walked out to the waiting room where Mrs. Clemens was waiting. It had been agreed that Dr. Campbell would call Jane’s father right after the appointment and payment was already taken care of. Mrs. Clemens knew this, Jane was in a fog, and the three just parted ways. The two women to the Porsche SUV outside and Dr. Campbell to call Jane’s father.

“She needs to be in a psychiatric hospital as soon as possible. Tonight. She needs to be there tonight. I don’t feel comfortable recommending anything but that. I don’t think there’s any medication I feel comfortable prescribing now on this short of notice”. Dr. Campbell told Jane’s father on the phone. “She drifts from topic to topic almost incoherently, entirely lost in thought, and she failed the standard self-sufficient test. Medically speaking she needs to be in a hospital. Of course, that’s up to you, and I scheduled two hours with her tomorrow, but my opinion is to check her into Ocean Vista tonight. She’ll have twenty-four hour dedicated support and be around other patients in the right environment”.

Dr. Clemens signaled he processed that but didn’t indicate his own thoughts, so Dr. Campbell continued.

“I could prescribe her _____ or _____, or really any of the common drugs for depression but my opinion is she needs a hospital. It almost, and as you know I’m newer to the field that you, but it seems worse than depression. It’s like she, her body, is actually shutting down. She nods out in conversation. It’s bad, Dr. Clemens. She should be monitored”.

“Thank you, Jamie” Dr. Clemens said. He probably agreed with her but, as all parents do, he felt like more should be able to be done. Why not prescribe something now, he thought. “Why not prescribe something now”? he asked her.

“They would once she’s checked in. We could really try any drug to begin with. It seems more acute, though. This is, in my opinion, a medical emergency that needs to be attended by more than neurologists. A hospital setting is my recommendation but I’ll see her tomorrow and as much as you like. I really like her. I’ll call in a prescription for _____ right now to the Walgreens by you. You can do what you think is best but those are my thoughts”.

In the time she was speaking Dr. Clemens had agreed with her. He would take Jane to Ocean Vista that night. Meanwhile Mrs. Clemens had driven home with Jane who shut her eyes and focused on how she was going to deal with the rest of the evening. She had a feeling the appointment didn’t go well and being around people had suddenly started to annoy her.

The SUV turned into the gated driveway and the gates opened and they started up the slope to the house. Dr. Clemens was waiting outside out front, he was smiling though it was artificial – to some degree – he was happy to see them but anxiety had gripped him entirely now. He wasn’t sure how to begin this next conversation but he was taking Jane to Ocean Vista.

Ocean Vista was a super expensive psychiatric hospital and drug and destructive behavior rehabilitation center for the elite. It overlooked the ocean on a panoramic cliff and was frequented by celebrities of all scopes. The car doors opened and the ladies got out in front of Jane’s father, they didn’t pull into the garage. He walked straight to Jane who slouched as she stood and felt overwhelming fatigue. “I talked to Dr. Campbell. She really likes you. We think it’s best to check you in to Ocean Vista. It’s a nice center near the…”

“I know what it is” Jane said.

“How do you feel about going there”? he asked his daughter.

“That’s fine. Thank you” she said. Anything had to be better than how she felt then and she didn’t feel like confronting anything negatively.

That was easier than her father had planned. He had a suitcase filled with what he thought were things she would like to have and wear. “Let’s go” he said and he indicated, politely, to his wife to join them in the car. Mrs. Clemens got in the back seat of the Porsche and Jane’s father drove with Jane in the passenger seat. They drove around the roundabout in front of the house and then out the gates towards the beach.

They drove in silence for a while and Jane put her elbows on her legs and her head into her hands. A picture of perfect torment. Dr. Clemens’ anxiety peaked and Mrs. Clemens began to cry softly in the backseat. Jane didn’t say anything. Soon she lifted her head and looked out the windows. The scenery made her angry. It passed quickly, though, and she felt residual pain. She asked her father, “What’s the point? It’s a suffocating amount of misery just to get one thing done”.

Dr. Clemens looked at Jane then the road then back to Jane, all quickly and exasperated with worry. “You’ll feel better soon. It’s an onset of strong depression but they’ll have the right people at Ocean Vista to get you feeling better. There will be nice people dealing with the same thing there. You’ll have people to talk to and we can come anytime you want. It’s really a nice place”.

“I know who goes to Ocean Vista. I can’t believe this” Jane said.

Jane’s mother cried quietly and rubbed her daughter’s shoulder and her father reiterated what he had just said but in a little bit of a different way. They drove along the coast toward the facility. The light of the evening was like a painting and it aggravated Jane’s outlook. It had a cold and depressed taint to it. She decided in that moment she wanted to live somewhere hot and bright. She didn’t know where, though, but the damp cool was annoying. She exhaled and looked forward out the front window.

After a few more minutes driving in silence with the only interrupting being reassurance from Dr. Clemens, they pulled into Ocean Vista. They got past the gates then onto the grounds and stopped right outside the front doors where two people were waiting, smiling, and one had a wheel chair. They offered it to Jane but she said she would walk, she thanked them, though, and started to walk in. When her parents came, too, the two attendants told them they should say goodbye there and they would check Jane in and show her around and take her to dinner. They said all was fine, that’s just how they did things.

Mrs. Clemens cried consistently and Dr. Clemens was frazzled with nervousness. They said goodbye and got back in the car and started it with a sad sounding hum and watched Jane walk into Ocean Vista guarded by two strange but friendly people.

From here for Jane, the immediate next moments were close to a visit to the emergency room. She walked through a clean and well-lit lobby to some young and healthy-looking receptionists who took charge of her bag and belongings. Jane signed her name once on a form they gave her and passed it back towards them and then she was shown into a room where her blood pressure and temperature were taken. The nice lady asked Jane what medications she was currently taking and Jane said “None”.

Jane watched the attractive middle-aged nurse work the blood pressure machine and wondered why people that work in hospitals don’t get sick. This thought was interrupted by a stain on the carpet which for some reason amplified her feeling of miserable pain. She was too good to be there, and that stain showed that to her on some level.

After the blood pressure was taken they moved her over to the room next to the one they were in, in the lobby. “Here’s where you’ll be staying for the first few days” another attractive female, but younger, nurse told her. Jane looked around the room and out the hall at the linoleum and brightness.

“This is my room”? She asked.

“Just for a few nights, yes” the nurse said as she put Jane’s suitcase on a table and checked to make sure her bed and things were just right. There were two beds in the room and an older lady was propped up on a pillow and laying on her bed reading who had stopped to smile hello to Jane. Jane looked back to the nurse to see if she was going to say anything else. She did, she said, “All new patients spend the first few nights here under closer observation then we move them into a lodge with the rest of the patients”.

The lady on the bed said to Jane, “If I have just one more drink my liver will stop working and I’ll die”.

At first Jane didn’t say anything. Then she said “I’m sorry” and walked over to the window to see what she could see of the “grounds” in the words of Simon and Garfunkel. They looked expensive, she decided. After she had looked around the little room a little, she decided that the older lady might want to be alone to read, and she felt uncomfortable around her, so she meandered back out to the lobby and sat on a plush leather couch. She realized, now, that the lobby did have both a receptionist and slight dormitory feel to it.

The young attractive nurse told her, “I’ll be right here watching you. Let me know if you need anything. We’ll take you down to dinner with the other patients in about thirty minutes” and she pointed to a chair that looked directly onto the couch area. Jane thanked her then once she walked away, she looked at the ceiling.

Within minutes the first insult of the rehabilitation center occurred. A young man with a chubby face sat down next to Jane and told her, “I’m a Gucci model”. Jane looked from the ceiling to the person about her age next to her and thought of what to say.

“That’s cool” she said.

“I’m fat now because I was anorexic during my career”.

Puzzled again, Jane said “You look good”. Which may have been a mistake because this enormously medical situation became a romantic one in his eyes, now.

“As soon as I get out of here I’m going to get skinny again” he told her, then went on, “except after here I have to go to another facility for a year, then one more after that, then I’ll get skinny when I’m out of that one”.

“I have to go to the bathroom” Jane said. She stood up and walked into her room. The older lady looked up from her book and smiled at Jane and said hello, again. Jane went into the bathroom and turned on the faucet and looked at her face in the mirror. “This isn’t going to work. I have to get out of here” she thought. Then she turned off the water and laid on her bed, in misery.

“Why are you here”? the old lady asked her in geniality.

“Depression” Jane said, looking at the ceiling. Her first feeling of being discourteous to someone in a while, being that she didn’t look at her when she answered her.

“You’re in the right place. They’ll help you here. This is my third time here”.

Jane ignored the irony, thanked her, and looked back up at the ceiling. A few more minutes passed and the young nurse returned to take the patients from close-observation down to dinner. Once they got out into the air, Jane felt a degree of relief but it was mostly just to get out of that little monitoring room. Dinner really wouldn’t prove to be much of a help, though.

Jane walked into the dining hall and it was like a strange scene from a deprived high school. They were rich, yes, but maybe that was it, she instinctively realized. All eyes were on her because of her beauty, but that she was used to. It was other things that felt off. It felt like a show of some type. She couldn’t explain it other than it seemed counter-productive to something.

She sat down with her plate on her tray and a large, healthy, muscular guy with a shaved head began walking back and forth in front of her with “Predator” in bold type on a sign attached to the back of his shirt. A promiscuously dressed middle aged lady with large breasts began bouncing up and then down in her seat telling a sex joke and making her cleavage bounce along as she mimed the joke. There were beady, troublesome eyes on Jane.

To her misery was all of a sudden added panic. She felt an electric chill go through her and then she became claustrophobic with an urgency to leave. She stood up and went to the nurse in the corner of the room, “I have to call my parents” she said. The nurse told another nurse to bring Jane’s food tray with another like it (in case Jane wanted more) and quickly evacuated her out of the dining room and to the close-observation check-in building and Jane was on the phone with her father in a matter of minutes.

“I have to get out of here. This place is awful”.

“It only feels that way now. Give it a little time, at least. Just a few days. It will get better”.

“No” Jane said. She explained about the guy with a shaved head and Predator sign stapled to his back walking around menacingly, the jokes, the high school feeling in general.

“We’ll come get you now” Dr. Clemens said.

Dr. and Mrs. Clemens had their Mercedes sedan this time and the nurse came to get Jane to let her know her parents were there. “Your parents are outside. I’m sorry you aren’t comfortable”. They hugged her once they saw her and all got into the car and had a family conference about what to do.

“Why was that guy wearing a predator sign on his back”? her mother asked her.

“No idea. Maybe he’s a predator” Jane said.

“That’s extremely unprofessional” Dr. Clemens said. “That doesn’t sound like a good facility”. Jane was quiet and looked from her parents to out the window of the stationary car. “Jane, it’s up to you what to do. You can come home with us, see Dr. Campbell tomorrow, or we can try another facility tonight. It was Dr. Campbell’s recommendation to go to a facility. We can try Sierra California. It’s more money, maybe that will make it better. It’s just a lot smaller and I thought the more people would be a benefit but this place seems off”.

Jane thought of the moment when she walked out of that small room down to the dining area. That moment of solidarity with the nurse and the few other people back some way, in that moment, she felt a little relief so she agreed to try the smaller facility.

They drove inland just a few miles until they got to Sierra California. They said goodbye again and a similar process unfolded except everything was quieter, more private, and secluded. Jane was shown a large personal room with the nurses outside her room. She had her own hacienda with hospital staff dedicated only to her. Immediately it was a better situation. But all it really did was remove that clanging feeling of panic and Jane now felt the weight of the misery, just now misery without panic.

Jane ate meals at Sierra California in a large ski resort-looking lounge on big wood tables with a few hospital staff that were dedicated to her. The lights weren’t bright at all but not too dim. Everything was aesthetically about right. It felt conducive to healing there. It was now a matter of healing.

The days were flexible but mostly filled with therapy sessions, both individual and small group therapy. They went to some quiet yoga classes and all the while Jane had her own personal nurses and supervisor that went discreetly with her everywhere. She liked the environment but there was no lifting her spirit at all. After three days she was introduced to a small group of people to eat with and then the group got slowly larger until it integrated into about seven patients eating together. She had now been at Sierra California for five days, it was December 13th, and things weren’t getting better. Her weight had dropped eight pounds and the staff were in close contact with Jane’s father.

The staff liked Jane. Her beauty was inspirational but at the moment she was a soft-spoken young lady in a tremendous amount of pain making an effort to be cordial and polite to everyone. They couldn’t not hurt as they watched her deteriorate. On the 14th her supervising doctor called Dr. Clemens.

“We’ve tried three internists, two of ours, and one from St. Mary’s Hospital to meet with Jane. They aren’t sure nor do we even agree with the base illness but everyone is in agreement that the depression is manifesting into an acute disintegration of some of her motor and physical aspects. We worry that Jane is at a high risk of falling because of it. She drifts out of focus to a degree that isn’t safe for regular mobility”.

Dr. Clemens listened and felt more nervous now than before. A lot more nervous.

“We would, from here, actually recommend Jane stay in a regular hospital setting with IV care and much less mobility. She’s on _____ for depression but she needs to be directly fed more nutrition and she needs to have a minimized environment for falls. She becomes disorientated in either rumination or initial syncope but her risks are, in short, too big to stay at Sierra California. You can take her home and bring in physicians, along with you Dr. Clemens, to monitor her, but as much as we like Jane, she can’t stay here”.

“Thank you” Dr. Clemens said, “for keeping us updated. We’ll be there in a few minutes to get her”.

“Okay. We’ll be outside with Jane. She does seem to enjoy being outdoors”. Dr. Clemens cried as he hung up the phone and Mrs. Clemens wanted to know what was going on. He explained it to her and, like soldiers, the two of them were in the car and on the way to get her.

On the way they talked about what they should do. After some discussion they settled on setting everything up in Jane’s room. They would turn it into a hospital. An even nicer place than Sierra California. Anything for Jane. She was out front in a wheel chair with her head up and eyes closed when they pulled in. A nurse was pushing her around and saying something to her as they rolled around. Mrs. Clemens saw she had lost weight. They thanked the doctors and nurses and brought Jane back to the house, with a new line of attack in mind.

She didn’t need a wheelchair, in the sense that she could walk fine, but Jane went deep into pained thought and it distracted her to the extant that falling became a potential issue. That’s why Sierra California ultimately asked her to leave. It was too much of a liability. Jane and her parents drove home in the Mercedes and back at the house Martin was organizing the assembly of a one-patient hospital.

“How do you feel? Did you like it there at all”? She did, to some extent, like the facility, or at least on some level she did. What it resulted in, though, was a feeling of separation anxiety and a different element of sadness at having to leave. She didn’t know the details of why she was leaving other than she wasn’t there anymore, and it had a bleak effect to an already collapsing world.

“It was better than the other place” Jane said softly. “Where are we going now”?

“Home” her mother said. “We’ve got it set up nicely and we can all be together and Martin will cook. He’s looking forward to seeing you. Is that alright with you? Does that sound good”?
 

“Yes. Home sounds good. Thank you”.

The Clemens took what hope they could. Jane’s communicating and approval to go home was a positive thing and in the still and dark lake of catastrophe, any hope is welcome. The ride went on with brief questions and brief answers about eating and dinner and life at Sierra California. Jane didn’t smile once. Her face looked beautiful and soft and composed, but she never smiled or expressed anything other than sometimes a contorted eyebrow, altered in some sort of pain or concentration. They did, however, maintain some conversation.

But when they turned into and past the open gates and began up the driveway, the panic from Ocean Vista, the desolate emptiness of leaving Sierra California and the black and hollow pain from before leaving came rushing into Jane with a force that made a tear run down her cheek. “What is it”? her mother asked. “What’s wrong, Jane, dear”?

“There isn’t anything that isn’t wrong” her daughter told her. And Jane went back into the tortured rumination that the doctors had talked about. Dr. Clemens watched her in the rear-view mirror and wondered, through his fear, what type of distress that pain is even like. They stopped the car in front of the house and Martin opened the door and two nurses were there with him. “Who are they”? Jane asked.

From inside the car her mother told her that they were nurses to help watch over and stuff. They would be there until Jane felt better.

“Why didn’t I just stay at Sierra California”?

“This is better” her father said and the ambiguity was cold feeling. Jane slipped into a darker place then. She didn’t at all like the discussions, the planning, the organizing going on around her and in subconscious response she signed off further from wherever she was.

“Hi Martin” she said and began on her own account, to walk to her room. She wanted to sleep. She didn’t have the energy to keep up with anything and she didn’t feel safe. Occasionally she had a light dream and that was better than whatever was going on awake.

“Jane, it’s great to see you. Do you have a request for dinner? Your room is set up very comfortably”.

Jane stopped to speak to Martin, whom she loved like a grandpa, and said, “Thank you, Martin. It’s good to see you, too. I’d like a smoothie for dinner, please”. Then she turned and went on her way up the stairs and to her room. But the nurses followed her for safety, which she didn’t really pay attention to because that was what she was used to from the last rehab place. When she got to her room she stepped on the back of her shoes as she walked, to take them off as quickly as possible, and laid on the bed. She looked at the ceiling and then closed her eyes and fell asleep.

It was about four in the afternoon when she fell asleep and in about an hour she briefly woke up and saw the two nurses in the room, sitting, and watching her. She became disorientated for a second then remembered where she was and the situation. The weight of lonely and piercing pain took over her and she closed her eyes. “Are you hungry, Jane”? one of the nurses asked her. “I can smell dinner. It smells good”.

Jane opened one eye and looked at the speaker. There was something simple in her statement about dinner that might have made her laugh in a different life. But now, she noticed, humor had a strange effect on her. It was like laughter; happiness was a tool of evil. It wrenched her heart in some strange way to think of people smiling in happiness. It felt like someone she loved leaving her to smile with someone else. But there wasn’t anyone that she could equate to be that fickle and dark-spirited lover. None of it made sense beyond the pain. She closed both eyes then opened them. “Yeah, let’s go eat”. The two nurses helped her out of bed and they went downstairs to see about dinner.

It was December 18th and the four gingerbread houses had arrived and decorated the house in magnificence. There was a colored glow coming in the front windows of the house from a large and well-lit Christmas tree outside. In fact, the whole front of the house had been decorated, mostly with tight and fine and extra bright colored Christmas lights. Trees and the gazebo and the backyard portion visible from the house had also been attended to by the decorators. There were Christmas carols playing because Mrs. Clemens thought, and Dr. Clemens agreed, that decorations in the festive spirit could only help and a lack of them would only hurt.

There was a classic song playing in the house and a warm and kind feeling throughout as Jane walked slowly down the stairs with a nurse on either side to help her in case she needed it. Jane didn’t really give much thought to why the nurses were there, she just walked slowly.

Mrs. Clemens knew they were coming because one of the nurses had radio signaled with a click-device to let the downstairs in-house doctor know they were on the way, so she was waiting, faintly smiling, more disorientated with her own distress from the situation, near the bottom of the stairs. All went without hitch and the group went into the dining room and found chairs and sat down.

Dr. Clemens was becoming frazzled but everyone was dressed nicely and dealing with whatever it was valiantly. Martin served soup first and with Jane’s soup he put a sort of red colored fruit smoothie and Jane looked at him, she didn’t smile, but she thanked him. Martin felt an unexplained pain, his own confusion wreaking havoc on his mind about what was wrong with her, and he smiled and said, “Of course, Jane” and went back to get more soup servings for the added guests now eating with them.

The conversation had a new slant to it because there were three new people present. Two nurses and one doctor that would go in the same combination of professionals but shifts of different actual people throughout the days, for as long as it was needed. They talked about the decorations and the house, their own families, even, and always included Jane in the discussion. Jane drifted in and out of paying attention. Her pain was always there but it came in debilitating waves that were far more severe than other times. It was sporadic.

She ate some soup and drank her smoothie, which Martin promptly replenished with a fresh one towards the bottom part of the first, with a smile. They had like a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and gravy and all the other components. Jane picked here and there and became accustomed as best she could to how she felt. Minutes felt like longer periods of time. “I’ll live for eternity this way” she thought.

The presence of the in-house medical staff gave a veneer of false hope to the situation, though. There was more polite banter and small talk, and Jane got caught up on some level with it, too, but it was like a veil over a waiting disaster. But what could anyone do? They were doing all they could. Being more aware of her pain might only exasperate her pain. Maybe life is, in fact, just a shoddy patch-work over a permeating and large disaster waiting to happen. Or maybe it’s not.

At about 7:30 Jane excused herself from dinner. She kissed her parents on the cheek, a rare addition but definitely welcome, said good night and thank you to Martin and brought her dish to the sink. Then she walked past everyone and towards the stairs to her room. The shadowing attendants followed her. Like a ghost she went into her room, her mind was functioning like it was in a different realm. The things around her registered cognitively as object things but she had different emotions now attached to everything. All of them were painful. She laid on the top of her covers and closed her eyes in the bright room.

“Would you like to talk a little, Jane”? one of the nurses asked her, according to some sort of plan, probably, that they had been instructed in. But Jane didn’t open her eyes. She was close to sleep and she felt herself freefall down levels of consciousness. It was a degree of comfort in her newly allocated world. “How about we brush your teeth”? the same attendant asked.

“In ten minutes” and Jane rolled to her side and fell asleep. The other attendant signaled to her partner (both nurses were women. That particular doctor on that night, too, was a woman) to let Jane sleep. They got comfortable in their chairs and watched her sleep.

All normal people will revert to normal schedules in times of distress, and that’s what Jane’s parent did. To cope with what was happening to their daughter they tried to attend to the things that they usually otherwise would have. Two more days went like this. Jane became bleaker, her parents were in their own panicked freefall but they showed it differently. They showed it by trying to maintain normalcy. The pain was immense.

Showering always was something Jane could do. She bathed well and dressed herself well. It was pretty much everything else, all the other moments, that were so difficult. Things took a turn on the twenty-first. It was about one in the afternoon and having showered first because of lack of appetite, the three, Jane and the two nurses, were making their way down stairs. At the bottom when only one step was left, they let her walk unaided and Jane fell. She landed with a solid sounding thump and one of the nurses gasped. One her way down she had turned and so now lay on her back, but sat up on the ground. Her face was calm, she wasn’t seriously hurt, and her parents came rushing in. They had a panic sent through them that will always be with them.

Jane was just sitting up looking straight ahead. She didn’t have an expression on her face. “Oh, my God, are you okay”? her mother asked. Jane just looked forward, she didn’t respond for a second.

“I’m fine” she said. “I just slipped on the last step”.

Her father was there and knelt beside her. He kissed her cheek and she rested her head on his shoulder. He delicately looked her over. She was holding one of her wrists and he asked her if it hurt.

“I fell on my wrist” she said. “But it isn’t too bad I don’t think”.

There wasn’t time to assign any blame to the fall. Dr. Clemens helped Jane up and they all maneuvered her to the car. They were going to the emergency room to have her checked out and her wrist x-rayed. They backed the car out of the driveway. It was her mother, her father driving, and the attending doctor next to her. The two nurses stayed at home. It wasn’t their fault, per say, but they felt terrible.

The physicians working at St. Mary’s knew Dr. Clemens, respected him, and got Jane in to an examining room immediately. After her blood pressure and temperature and things had been taken, she was shown to the room and asked to wait on the stretcher. The doctor would be there soon. Her parents were with her and there aren’t really any words to relate the general feeling, more of the same but in a new setting.

Jane had put on her sunglasses because the bright lights annoyed her. She sat half upright with her hair done perfectly and her sunglasses on. The dark lenses and frames contrasted against her pale skin and together with her blue shirt and dark jeans, they all gave an image of beauty that was in odd comparison to the reserved bleakness of the expression and slow movements of hers.

Within two minutes a young and by all means attractive male emergency room doctor strode in and wheeled the stool in the room and sat next to Jane. “I’m Dr. Lehren. How is your wrist feeling”? and he attended to her wrist with very gentle movements.

Jane’s head turned from looking straight ahead and looked at the doctor with her wrist in his hands. She was silent and calm and elusive in her sunglasses. She gazed at him for a second, “It feels okay. I don’t think it’s hurt”. She slurred her words and her gaze caught the attention of the doctor but he focused on her wrist, externally.

“How many stairs did you stumble down”? he asked while carefully moving the wrist joint to eliminate the possibility of fractures.

“Just one” she was staring at him. She didn’t look away at all.

“And then you caught yourself with your wrist. That’s common. I don’t think it’s fractured, so that’s good, but we’ll get an x-ray done”.

Jane kept looking at him but didn’t say anything. When she felt the conversation was done she looked back forward. “Thank you” she remembered to say.

“Of course, you’re welcome” the doctor smiled nicely and wheeled away from her to get the x-ray request started. When he stood up he motioned for Dr. Clemens to talk with him outside. He could have investigated on his own further but decided to go this route. “Dr. Clemens, I’m Dr. Lehren. We’ve talked on the phone but never met. It’s nice to meet you”.

“Thank you. It’s nice to meet you”, they shook hands.

“What… what’s wrong with her”?

Dr. Clemens breathed in and looked away then back to the doctor. “We aren’t entirely sure but it seems to be extremely severe and acute depression. It’s been about a month of this freefall. She’s been to Ocean Vista then Sierra California. Now she’s under supervision at home”.

“I’m sorry. She’s very beautiful. Why did she leave those facilities in this short a time”?

Dr. Clemens explained the general path of things and the concern for falls which led to the early departure from Sierra California. From there the x-rays were done and all came back negative and okay. Dr. Lehren prescribed pain medication, though, in the chance the sprain bothered Jane and interfered with her sleeping. He returned to the room with Jane and her mother and father to go over the x-ray and explain the general uses for the medication he had prescribed. Jane listened but less intently this time. The family left the emergency center and drove home. When they got home one of the nurses took their company car to pick up the pills the doctor had prescribed. Jane had half a smoothie in the kitchen then went up to her room to rest.

The sterile feeling of the emergency room and the bright lights of it with the chaotic feel and plastic large beds mixed with the high education of the doctors gave Jane a new feeling of seriousness in her suffering. She fell asleep right away, however, and downstairs her parents were in the kitchen with coffee and the in-house physician. They were solemnly discussing what to do next. It was difficult to think of the next step but something had to be done.

“Dr. Clemens, I’m very sorry for any lapse in attendance that must have occurred for that fall to have happened” the doctor told him as he and Mrs. Clemens, the three of them, sat down at the kitchen table. Martin hovered on the other side of the room. “We might want to consider moving Jane’s sleeping area to the first floor until we have a better handle on the situation”. After speaking, the female doctor was quiet and waited for Dr. Clemens or his wife to say something.

Dr. Clemens drifted his eyes and face from out the window to his wife then the doctor. “That’s a good idea. We can get that started”. All were quiet for a second. “It got so bad so fast”. Quiet again, then, “We need to do something more pro-active”.

“She’s taking _____” the doctor said. “We should get her into as much therapy as we can, I think. Sometimes talking… well, Dr. Clemens, of course, as you know, talking along with medication can turn things around as efficiently as anything”.

Dr. Clemens agreed and Mrs. Clemens looked at him wearily with frightened eyes. “Dr. Campbell is good. She wants to see her for two-hour sessions, daily. We can start that tomorrow” he said.

“That’s good” the in-house doctor said but Dr. Clemens quickly added more before anyone else could say anything.

“I’ll call Keith. Dr. Kaufmann. He’s been practicing psychiatry for twenty years longer than me. He’s seen a lot more. Just to see what he has to say. I first picked Jamie because she’s younger but Dr. Kaufmann is about seventy now and his take would be appreciated”. Jane’s father stood up and began to scroll through his contacts and tapped on ‘Keith Kaufmann’ and put the phone to his ear. He turned away from the table while it rang and the doctor put her hand on Mrs. Clemens’ hand for one second, for comfort.

“Keith, it’s Dr. Clemens. How are you”? There was a pause while Dr. Kaufmann answered. “We have a real issue with Jane and I was wondering if we could take her to see you, as soon as possible. She’s not doing well”. He lowered his voice then walked through the kitchen and the foyer and out to the front of the house to continue the conversation.

Keith had agreed to see Jane as soon as they wanted, that evening even, but they decided the next afternoon at four because of the already stressful day. The phone call ended and Dr. Clemens turned to head back in to relay the news. His anxiety was constant but any new possibility created somewhat a feeling of hope, and he tried to take that in to the house.

As Jane’s father opened the front door he heard the nurse starting up the lower part of the driveway with the pain medication from the pharmacy. He didn’t wait for her but went on in to the others in the kitchen. “Keith’s a good guy” he started by saying, “he’s going to see her tomorrow at four. It’ll be good to hear what he thinks. He’s the best I know of”. The three others looked at him with weary faces but a glint of hope, a hope like a stray animal hoping you’ll take it home. Sort of sad but still hope.

But no one really knew what to say because Dr. Clemens had made a fortune from psychotherapy. He was considered the best. He felt their exasperation in their silence. “That’s good” Mrs. Clemens said. “We’ll take her there tomorrow at four”. Then she put her hands on her head and braced her arms on her elbows on the table and stared at the table. She looked up and out the window and exhaled. “Fuck” she whispered.

The tense moment was broken by the nurse coming in and the crackling sound of the paper bag with the pills in it. She sat down at the table and put the bag on it for all to see. She didn’t, though, say anything. “Thank you” Mrs. Clemens said and looked to her husband. “What should we do now”? she asked him.

“Let’s get the house feeling as good as we can. Get Christmas carols going again and try to be as lively as possible. I’m going to go up and check on Jane and see if she’s interested in eating anything in particular for dinner”.

Simultaneously upstairs Jane was asleep. She rolled over and slipped out of her sleep and gracefully opened her eyes. A cold horrifying fear went through her as she saw the two nurses watching her. She felt unhealthy and weak and she was almost floored with this dark feeling in her bedroom. It was the worst of the worst of anything she had even imagined before. There was the real feeling that she wasn’t going to pull herself out of this. There was the feeling that she could see how her life would end. And these strangers were sitting and watching her. She felt the cold hand of fright grip and release her heart.

“Can I be alone for a minute to change clothes”? she asked them She did need to change because she sweat in her sleep now from sleeping for other reasons than the body’s natural requests.

“Of course, Jane. I’m sorry if we frightened you”.

“It’s okay. Thank you”.

There was a soft knock on the door and Dr. Clemens creaked it open and walked in slowly. “It’s just me, Jane” he said. Jane looked from the nurses to her dad walking in. Dr. Clemens put the pills on her nightstand and sat on the bed. Jane was sitting up, her hair a bit deranged but a calm and placid expression on her face.

“We were just stepping out to let Jane change” one of the nurses said to Dr. Clemens; “we’ll be downstairs, Jane” she said, that time to Jane, in a reassuring way.

“Thanks” Jane said then looked at her dad.

“The room has a bit of a musky feel” her father told her. “Can I open these windows for a little air? I’ll turn the heater on. It’ll be like when we’d get ice cream then drive home with the car heater on and the windows down. Remember”?

Jane wanted to smile because she did remember and she loved her dad a ton but any reminiscent feeling only seemed to add to the futility she felt then. “I do remember. That was fun. Yes, thank you, you can open the window. Good idea”. Then she looked at her hands instead of her father as he helped her and thought she noticed them starting to look differently. Like weaker and injured. She felt death close in too close for a physically not ailing person.

“There we go” and as the cool air breezed in he looked at his daughter then walked over and sat in the chair next to the bed instead of the bed. “Do you feel like anything special for dinner? Your mother and I and Martin are about to get started cooking, but mostly Martin, and we thought we’d see what you wanted”.

Jane’s pain acted like a filter on any other emotion she would have normally felt then. She only felt scared, heartbroken, lonely while in company, and an especially chilling feeling of misery and hopelessness. “Really anything is fine with me. Thank you. I was just going to get changed then come down”.

Dr. Clemens smiled at his daughter’s beauty looking back at him. It’s hard for people, even doctors in the field, to see someone so beautiful, young and promising and be able to empathize, or understand, how black things have become. It’s akin to a total shift of perceiving everything, from the patient’s view. The patient themselves don’t have a chance to understand it because things keep getting worse before they can comprehend the severity of the last phase.

Dr. Clemens’ mood lifted with only his daughter’s agreeance to come down to dinner. In the micro view, that was elation. He asked her how her wrist was from the fall. Jane twisted it around one way then back the other.

“It feels fine” she said simply. Her dad smiled at her.

“I’m really glad of that” he said. He felt joy in just talking to her. In moments of real trauma, or real conclusions to real things, or just very bad situations, people learn to live and enjoy the seconds. They enjoy the smallest scale of time because anything else isn’t promised. Dr. Clemens was enjoying a moment with his daughter then. He felt optimistic because she’d be down for dinner that night, and maybe, everything would change back to normal as fast as it changed to devastation.

“These are some pain pills from the doctor today. He really liked you” Dr. Clemens said and pointed to the medicine bottle with the pills on Jane’s nightstand by the bed. “If you wake up form pain or if it begins to bother you, start by breaking a pill in half and taking it and then wait about thirty minutes. If that doesn’t make it go away, try the other half”. He was giving medication directions like he would any other patient. He felt in control, strong, and hopeful in this fairly misread moment.

“I doubt I’ll need them but okay” Jane said.

“Well I’ll let you get dressed. I’ll think of something good for Martin to make us” he said, trying to be a little light and funny.

“Okay. Actually dad, I have a question”.

Anytime his daughter called him “dad” instead of “father” Dr. Clemens felt an importance in the request. “Yes, Jane”?

“Can I sleep alone tonight? It really weirds me out to have the nurses in here. I woke up and they were looking at me and I…”

“Of course, Jane. Of course,” and he sat back down. “I forgot to tell you. We have an appointment tomorrow at four with a great doctor. He’s an old friend of mine. An older guy and he really knows his stuff. Good guy, nice guy”.

That feeling of selected elation her father was feeling just then had some sort of equivalence in Jane. She had, also, and only to a degree, felt less bad in that moment. But when the mention of a new doctor came, it crushed her. She didn’t show it, though. Her face had the same still look on it. The pain was only echoing inside a lonely feeling body. “Thank you. That sounds good. I’ll be right down”.

Her father kissed her cheek and walked out and shut the door softly. The delicate violet curtains were blowing gently into the room from the wind outside and Jane looked at them then out the window. She leaned back and laid on her pillow and looked at the ceiling. Then she closed her eyes lightly and a tear ran down her face. She brushed it off and with effort got out of bed to change.

When Dr. Clemens got downstairs, all eyes were on him again. “Martin how about tonight we cook up those chicken cutlets Jane loves. Then some of the canned minestrone soup and pasta with just butter. We can have the grated cheese out. Also, let’s steam some artichokes. All things Jane loves and we should be able to get those things going sort of quickly”.

“Good idea, sir. That sounds like a very good dinner”. All those ingredients and components were kept in routine stock at the house. If they weren’t cooked before they went bad, Martin dropped them off at a food bank before restocking. Soon the smell of cooking artichokes filled the house. Mrs. Clemens had Christmas carols on and everyone, as instructed, did their best to be light and upbeat.

The in-house doctor was looking over one of the elaborate and intricately designed gingerbread houses in the living room. She had wandered over there to get most of the rooms lit with at least a low but warm and inviting light instead of darkness. She walked around the creation twice. Looking at the facets and decorations and elegant workmanship. Each house was about three feet long and three feet high. They were large and almost intimidating. Despite the feeling akin to horror in the house, a faint smile passed over the face of the nurse as she remembered Christmas’s from her own life. Like almost everyone, she loved the holiday.

“Those are really beautiful gingerbread houses” she said to Mrs. Clemens when she walked back into the kitchen after having toured the first floor of the house illuminating rooms.

And like the owner of a once prized winning horse that had since been put down because of an ailment outside of everyone’s control, Jane’s mother smiled as best she could. “Aren’t they? They’ve always been one of my favorite parts about the holiday”.

“They are absolutely amazing. You didn’t make them... did you? The detail is incredible. They are like ginger-palaces”.

Mrs. Clemens exhaled as she smiled once more, exhausted with free-falling emotions. “No, no. A company in New York makes them. I just buy them” and she smiled again befitting the joke.

“They are stunning” the doctor said as she sat at the table with Mrs. Clemens. Dr. Clemens was standing watching Martin starting to cook dinner and when the in-house doctor came in he remembered Jane’s request to sleep alone.

He addressed her, “You know, when I was talking to Jane just now she expressed a desire to sleep alone. She got spooked when she woke up and the nurses were sitting and watching her. It’s understandable. I think we should let her sleep alone. I said we would, in fact. They can wait outside the room and if she needs something we can let everyone know the new arrangement, and work out a signaling method. Jane and I had a great talk. She’s such a good kid. I think, for now, this is better than moving her downstairs because she likes her room. We just really need to be careful with the stairs”.

All were watching Dr. Clemens talk in a not too organized way but understood him clearly enough. “Yes, we can definitely do that, Dr. Clemens. I’ll talk to them tonight. Waiting outside will give Jane more privacy. I think, though, if she would let them know when she gets up to use her bathroom, it would be a good idea. The medication she’s taking, alone, can affect her chances of falling”.

“That’s a good idea” Jane’s father told the nurse. “I’ll let Jane know tonight. She’ll call out to them before she gets out of bed. That’s fair”.

Martin had finished breading the chicken cutlets and he began laying them into the boiling oil creating a distantly welcoming crackling of frying sounds and the kitchen came more alive. When each cutlet finished cooking he placed them in growing little heaps on plates with paper towels on them. “Martin, do you need any help with anything? It smells delicious” Dr. Clemens asked him.

“No thank you, sir. Dinner should be ready in about ten minutes. Cooled by then and ready to serve”.

“Very good, Martin. Thank you”. There was a brief silence.

“Should we check on Jane”? her mother asked but just then they could hear voices at the top of the stairs and the sound of light steps.

“We’re on our way” one of the nurses said from the top of the stairs. Dr. Clemens walked out of the kitchen to watch his daughter come down the stairs and to stand instinctively ready to block any falling that might happen. After the earlier mishap on the last step, the nurses paid extra close attention and the group of them made it to the dining room without a problem and took their seats.

Dr. Clemens’ lifted spirits from his talk with Jane earlier had positively infected the others and the general mood was higher but this was soon enough dashed by Jane’s distance and disconnection. Martin placed the food, this meal was served all at once, in front of everyone, starting with Mrs. Clemens, and then Jane looked up and said “Thank you, Martin”. From there her head and focus turned to her food. The rest of the group was served, then Martin himself, and everyone was seated and dinner began.

Jane plucked leaves off the artichoke and dipped them in butter then tossed them into a bowl near her. She had a resigned flicking motion as she tossed her eaten leaves away that seemed cold but it was hard not to notice that she ate the artichoke without the same resistance as with other food. It was noted in everyone’s mind to serve artichokes more often.

The conversation turned naturally to the decorations then to the food they were eating then to how nice Jane looked and finally back to how close Christmas was. Jane only looked up once or twice at them when she was scraping an artichoke leaf with her front teeth and she’d look from one person then glide her eyes across to the others to see if anyone was waiting for her to answer a question. She was tuned out of the conversation for the most part, entirely.

Then she took her spoon and after having plucked the short, inedible leaves before its heart, she focused her eyes on the task and began to scrape and clean and prepare the heart for butter-dipping then eating. The strands of hair that weren’t in her ponytail fell across each side of her face as she focused. Once it was clean she picked up the heart by the stem and plopped it in the melted butter. She took a bite and looked at the others while she chewed. She ate the whole heart that way. She herself took note that the one thing that seemed least affected by her decline was artichokes. But when she was finished she looked to the other food and it seemed daunting, again. She did her best to eat a little soup then stretched her arms into the air and said, “I’m tired… I think I’ll head off to bed”.

The group looked at her. An idea came to Dr. Clemens just then. He would call Keith and ask him to come and see Jane there at the house. It was only seven and too early for her to go to sleep for the night anyway. “Jane, I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk with Keith Kaufmann tonight here at the house. He told me it would be easier to meet you here, tonight, then tomorrow at his office”.

Then mention of doctors and meetings and the underlying idea that it was somehow supposed to help how she felt, made her feel immediately worse. “I’m good. I’ll just got to bed”. She was becoming a little more defiant and stubborn in getting herself alone and asleep. But her dad met her halfway with the stubbornness.

“Please Jane” he said.

Jane looked at him and her misery from mention of new doctors was met with sadness for her dad and her mother and everyone at the table trying to help her. “Okay” she said. “I’ll wait in the living room”. She assumed that was the right room.

“Perfect. Thank you” her dad said. The nurses walked with Jane to the living room and Dr. Clemens got up and called Keith. He wasn’t sure if Keith would be able to make it that night or if he’d even answer his phone. He gambled on it, though. And Keith did answer and he sensed the urgency and seriousness of the situation and got into his car while he was talking to Dr. Clemens. They hung up and he was there at the house five minutes later.

Dr. Kaufmann was about seventy-four years old and dressed in navy slacks with a thin navy sweater over a light blue dress shirt and red tie. He had black dress shoes and graying and white thinning hair parted and combed neatly. He shook Dr. Clemens’ hand when he entered and said hello to Mrs. Clemens and was then directed to the living room where Jane was dozing on the couch with the nurses on either side of her. She had wanted to lay down on the couch but the nurses told her it would be better to just sit because Dr. Kaufmann was on his way.

Dr. Kaufmann walked up and stood in the center of the wide and door-less opening to the living room; he was on the top stair of a two-stair partition that led down to the dimly lit, elegant room with a gas fireplace going and Jane and the two nurses sitting on the couch. He was already adding to the mental notes he’d been putting together about the whole case so far. From the first phone call from Jane’s father to the feeling in the house in general and now to what he was seeing in Jane.

She had her head back on the couch cushion and her arms crossed over her chest. Her eyes were closed and she appeared unagitated. Her presentation was remarkable for being attractive and stylish. Her hair was in a ponytail with a few casually stylish strands to either side. He noted that she was very attractive, in fact. He introduced himself to the room, softly but not timidly, and Jane opened her eyes and looked ahead at him. He smiled gently and when the nurses stood up to leave and let them begin, he introduced himself to each of them and shook both their hands. Then the nurses made their way out of the room and Dr. Kaufmann sat in a leather chair that was to the side of Jane.

He smiled at her and said, “I’m Dr. Kaufmann. I’m a friend, although so far only a professional friend, of your father’s. This is a very beautiful house you have”. Then he turned his look from Jane to other areas of the living room and then out the open entrance to the large and also softly-lit foyer area. He looked back to Jane.

“I’m Jane” she said, “it is a nice house, thank you. It’s nice to meet you”.

“It’s nice to meet you, too. Your father called me because I’m a psychiatrist like him except I’ve been doing it a lot longer”. He waited for her to smile or laugh at the subtle joke but she looked at him placidly. The therapy session and assessment were underway. “He tells me you aren’t feeling well. Tell me, if you would, how is it you feel”?

Jane was getting tired and annoyed with trying to explain how badly she felt. She looked at him for a second before starting to talk. She decided, again, to just try and tell him how she felt. But the annoyance she felt at having to describe this misery again manifested in the slurred speech that has happened before. She began with her new desire to sleep because there were moments in dreams that were a relief from what felt like pain and misery she didn’t know could exist. She went at describing how she felt from different angles and, ultimately, it resulted in a similar discussion as the first one she had with Dr. Campbell.

Dr. Kaufmann had never met Jane before but he somehow could tell from different physical characteristics and a gleam in her eye that her regular behavior and demeanor were far from what she was presenting then. Jane, when talking, would let her head drop a little and hang and lose herself in thought before starting something else, as equally bleak, but on a different, specifically speaking, topic.

There was no way to deny the seriousness of Jane’s condition. Dr. Kaufmann was what would be called a handsome older man. When he was younger, Jane’s age, he would be described as attractive. He could understand how beautiful Jane was. She was underweight at this point, but she was well dressed and presented well. Even for someone as experienced as Dr. Kaufmann it wasn’t easy to know for sure how severe Jane’s depression was. It just wasn’t easy to see such outwardly desirable traits and at the same time understand the depths she was in.

Notwithstanding, he knew Jane was in a serious condition and he knew she needed serious and consistent attention. They kept talking and continued for about forty-five minutes. It was Jane that said, “Dr....” and she paused then continued because she had forgotten his name, “I am really tired and I’ve been going to sleep about now”.

Dr. Kaufmann understood. He drew the session to a comfortable close and when he turned around he saw the nurses in the dim distance who registered that they were finishing up and started to walk towards them to watch Jane and guide her up to her room. They said goodbye and Jane was led to her room and her parents kissed her cheek on her and the nurses’ way up. They said they would come up to say goodnight but they knew she would be fast asleep.

From there, Dr. Kaufmann was brought to the kitchen to discuss with Dr. Clemens and Jane’s mother, his impressions. They sat down in a group and Dr. Clemens asked if anyone wanted coffee. As a way of not saying a negative to anything, they all drank coffee. “Jane’s condition is serious” Dr. Kaufmann said. “It’s like you described. These cases are rare but people can suffer from an astonishingly powerful case of depression”.

Mrs. Clemens had tears in her eyes. Dr. Clemens asked him what he thought they should do next.

“The hospital setting has its benefits but it also had its negatives. I know she isn’t permitted to the traditional psychiatric hospitals, so the decision is whether to put her in a regular hospital or get your house setup accordingly. Personally, I think her staying here, in an accommodating fashion, is the best option. She is put together well and her hygiene appears good. That means she’s benefitting from being accustomed and comfortable in her own home, to at least some extent”.

“Those are really good points” Dr. Clemens said. “What do you think about medication”?

“Well” Dr. Kaufmann began, “She’s taking _____, so that’s a good start. As good as any other start. She should, of course, be monitored for any changes made to the prescription. My personal opinion, medically speaking, is to start on one anti-depressant and then switching to another and trying individual prescriptions alone, first, before trying to combine drugs. I am glad to see Jane as often as you like in addition and in conjunction with any other doctors she has.

“Thank you, Keith” Dr. Clemens said.

“As you know Dr. Clemens, these things can come quickly and they can leave quickly, also. We’re going to work as a team to get her the best possible care and try to have her recover as fast and as completely as possible. But there is the chance that this is just how Jane will be from now on. The old Jane might not ever return. That’s the nature of such strong and acute cases of major depression”.

Mrs. Clemens whimpered once at what Dr. Kaufmann had said and her husband reached over and put his arm around her. “We’re going to get through this, sweetheart. That’s the nature of the disease but we’ll do all we can for Jane and we’re going to pull through this”. The three of them talked a little more about Jane and how really great she is, they talked about the nature of the disease and that they would do everything possible for her. They decided that Dr. Kaufmann would drive to the house for daily sessions with Jane for an open amount of time. He’d come after his regular hours, in the evening, to help monitor her prescriptions and do regular talk therapy. Those in combination act as really the best treatment that can safely be done to help Jane.

They would see Dr. Kaufmann the next day at about the same time but a little earlier. At first the two doctors shook hands as he departed and then they hugged, for support. He only said goodbye to Mrs. Clemens and told her he would see her the next day. They walked out front as Dr. Kaufmann started his black Mercedes sedan and watched him drive slowly around the roundabout then down the driveway. They turned and went back into the house.

When Jane had first walked into her bedroom with the nurses, she said good night to them and went to her bed. “Jane, let’s brush your teeth” one nurse said.

Jane was sitting on the edge of her bed and figured it would probably be easier to just brush her teeth and then the nurses would leave her alone without any more effort. So, they got up and walked into the bathroom accessed from her room and brushed her teeth. She reiterated that she liked to shower only in the morning and that she was exhausted, so she was going to sleep then.

Jane was already lying on the bed on her side. She looked like she was in pain. “Should we turn out the lights”? one nurse asked her from the door. “Or do you want to change into something else before you sleep”?

She wasn’t quite asleep yet so she said, “Yes, just turn out the lights. When it’s cold like this I like to sleep in my jeans”. The nurses looked at her for a second and then turned out the lights and shut the door. That all happened in about five minutes, so at this time, Dr. Kaufmann was still downstairs talking with Jane’s parents. In the twenty or so minutes they talked and had coffee, Jane had fallen fast asleep in her dark room.

As promised, though, her parents came upstairs to say good night. They saw the nurses sitting outside, waiting to hear if Jane calls out to use the restroom, and when they saw her parents, they said she had gone to bed a little while ago and was probably sound asleep.

Dr. and Mrs. Clemens slowly creaked the door open and saw Jane sleeping peacefully on her bed in the dark. She was now in a regular sleeping position and looked at ease and comfortable. Both of them felt surges of love go through them and softly closed the door without going in. They said good night to the nurses and went down the long hall to get ready for bed themselves. Tomorrow would start the focused therapy sessions for Jane. Through their fear and bleak misery from the situation, they tried to nurture hope from that prospect.

Inside Jane’s bedroom the heat was flowing in through the vents and the windows had been shut but the violet curtains were open to let sunlight in when mornings came. And inside Jane’s mind was one of the most vigorous nightmares she had ever had. She had slept dreamless for about an hour and a half, but then a sinister dream entered her mind. It was abstract in nature and caused from unrelieved pain and black misery. She couldn’t decipher any concrete aspects of it but it was so bad, so frightening, that in her sleep her heart began to race.

Her racing heart waked her. She looked at the ceiling in the dark and then the wall. She had confusion about where she was. For one second she felt relief to wake from the nightmare but then almost instantly the weight of the misery of reality hit her. Her one previous relief from reality, which was sleeping, was now blackened with fear of horrifying nightmares that made her heart spin out of control.

She felt that there was no way out. Her refuge in dreams had been infiltrated and, really, now nothing was safe. But beyond not being safe, nothing offered any relief. She was forced awake in a reality that was more than she could deal with. She looked back at the wall, lost in torturous thoughts, and the idea of sleeping scared her now as much as being awake was painful. Her eyes drifted over and stopped on the prescription bottle of pain medication on her nightstand.

She didn’t make any plans but there might have been, in the most distant way, the realization, on some level, that the bottle of pills was a way out. In the same moment from outside in the night sky, from through the window that had the curtains drawn, Jane saw a green streaking light. “Shooting star” she thought. But it kept streaking. She sat up and then scurried across her bed with an energy that had been put on the shelves recently.

She got to the window and it was still, in the distance, streaking green through the black sky. She pushed the windows open and the curtains breezed in and the wind blew her hair gently back. “Whoaa” she said, and her face illuminated by the moonlight was probably one of the most beautiful in the world. She watched the exaggerated shooting star streak from still high above then down and finally disappear into the blackness just above the tree line.

She stood there a minute longer letting the breeze blow her hair. Then she shut the windows and went to her dresser to put on a pair of pajama bottoms instead of her jeans and crawled back into bed. She got under the covers and found a cool spot on her pillow thinking about the dramatic astronomical event of the night, sort of mesmerized by the rarity of it, before falling asleep into a dreamless sleep.  

As soon as Jane opened her eyes the next morning, the same misery was there waiting for her as any other recent morning. Maybe on some level she benefitted from having at least a moment, the moment fascinated with the shooting star, where she was at least somehow removed from torment but she didn’t register it the next morning. At about one in the afternoon she felt it necessary to go downstairs because if she didn’t she knew it would ultimately result in more difficulties and questions and concerns. So, she got out of bed and went into the hall where the nurses were waiting for her, smiling.

“You’re wearing pajamas” one of them said to Jane. “Did you change last night or just now”?

Jane thought for a second. “Last night. There was a huge shooting star that I watched then put them on”.

“Shooting star”? the other nurse said.

“Huge one” Jane said and the three of them made their way slowly and carefully to the stairs.

“I love when I see a shooting star. How big was it”? said the first nurse to Jane.

“Like” and Jane motioned up and to the right and then down and to the left, “the whole sky”.

“Wow. I wish I had seen it” the second nurse said. Then they began their descent to the kitchen and pain re-entered Jane’s mind because the starts of days met her with a hollow feeling, knowing that the only relieving part, the sleeping, was the furthest away then.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Jane’s parents were at their lowest yet. They slept poorly the night before because the reality of what Dr. Kaufmann had told them reverberated in both their minds the whole night. They each had coffee and Mrs. Clemens’ eyes were swollen-looking from previous crying. When the nurses and Jane entered, their eyes fell on them like hopeful, dying vultures hoping for something, even anything, good.

Jane had the same slouched posture and her having eaten so little was starting to show. Part of what Dr. and Mrs. Clemens had talked about the night before was increasing Jane’s nutrition intake with protein shakes, but as of that morning she was really starting to look frail and weak.

They had the appointment with Dr. Campbell at four that afternoon and they had, at least at one point, felt that the therapy was just then getting underway. But at that moment Mrs. Clemens saw her daughter hunched over and frail and her fear from the night before, and it being the first time her husband, Jane’s father, wasn’t able to fix everything, or her own personal wealth and ability not being able to fix everything, came all together and she burst crying and sprang towards Jane and hugged her and kissed her and told her how much she loved her, and helped guide her to a seat at the kitchen table and asked her what she wanted for breakfast, all while heavily crying.

All of it sort of confused Jane. She was already starting her morning of painful and miserable down-spinning and now her mother crying this much made her more scared. Mrs. Clemens was breathing heavily between audible sobs with her hand on Jane’s forearm and her father had kissed her and said, “I love you, Jane” and sat in the chair beside her. Martin was hovering on the other side of the kitchen, waiting and staying available for when anyone wanted to eat.

The nurses and the in-house doctor were in the kitchen and sitting at the table, offering unspoken support to everyone. Dr. Clemens began to cry a little, lightly. Jane didn’t know what to say. Things were a nightmare.

“I saw a huge shooting star last night” she said. All eyes looked at her. Her mother calmed her crying down.

“A shooting star”? Mrs. Clemens asked her, drying her eye.

“Huge one” Jane said.

Then an idea struck Mrs. Clemens. “I love shooting stars” she said. “Jane, would you like to go to the mall today and look at the decorations. It would be nice to get out of the house, and I love the decorations at Christmas”. The change of topic from pure misery to shooting stars gave her the idea.

Jane looked at her mother. She thought to herself, ‘It’s the least I could do for her. Look. She loves me’. “Yes, I’d like to go, mother”.

Mrs. Clemens instantly felt better but the bleakness of the expression on her daughter’s face prevented her from feeling anything was alright. She smiled, though, at Jane and kissed her beautiful cheek. Dr. Clemens was pleased at the plans but he reminded the table of Dr. Campbell’s appointment at four that afternoon, so, the point being, that they should go to the mall after they eat to make the appointment on time. But the mention of the doctor’s appointment had a predictable effect on Jane. Her head felt heavy and she became overwhelmed with doing anything. She told herself though, that no matter what, she going to the mall with her mother because her mother loved her. That was her reasoning.

They introduced the protein shakes again that morning and Jane had a half a one with half a smoothie. After that, through constant pain, she went upstairs with the nurses and showered, dressed, brushed her hair and put it in a ponytail, put on perfume and came downstairs with the same precautions and nurses. Mrs. Clemens and Dr. Clemens were waiting in the kitchen. Everyone was going on the trip to the mall, even Martin and the in-house doctor.

As the group made their way out front to where the cars were parked and waiting, they looked like an entourage with a sick and dying, although young, queen. Jane walked along, exhausted already from the exertion expanded just to simply feel that badly. They got into two cars, Jane with her parents in the SUV along with the nurses next to her in the back, and Martin and the in-house doctor in the Mercedes.

On the way to the mall, Jane rested her head against the leather seat behind her. She dozed off and on and would have, had her mother not cried that much just then, asked to be taken home. The mall was a short drive away and a few times when her parents asked her something, the nurses would have to get Jane’s attention and Jane would lower her head from looking at the ceiling with it rested back, and look at one of the nurses and say, “What”? They would direct her to the parent that had asked the question. Jane would do her best to stay focused and offer a credible answer. It was a painful process for them all.

It happens this way for some people. Depression can set in and alter a victim’s cerebral makeup. It’s a tragedy and one of the world’s scariest and most dangerous tragedies. The fleet of two cars pulled into parking spots next to each other and they reassembled and decided where they wanted to go. Jane looked a little frightening because her entire world was collapsing from the inside out. Such an attractive figure also contrasted strongly with her current mannerisms, and any contrast too big will scare people, usually.

The mall looked beautiful. It was afternoon but there were trees decorated with ornaments every fifty yards and a few giant ones along the main promenade with big glass ornaments and gold and silver garland. Christmas music was playing through the speakers and people were happily and briskly walking here and there with Starbucks coffees and jackets and scarves, even though it was only about sixty-eight degrees, and the general spirits were lifted.

Jane and the nurses were walking slowly. Her head was cast downward because the energy needed for the outing was more than she seemed to have. They took a short break at a bench and Jane put her head in her hands and elbows on her knees and cursed softly, inaudibly, to herself. Then they got up and continued on. Her parents were there close to her. They wanted things to be better and sometimes when in public, there was a feeling that nothing was wrong with Jane, but then the reality would be remembered and black misery would set back in.

Mrs. Clemens decided on going into Williams Sonoma because the atmosphere in there always cheered her up. The cookware and the cider and bright lights and expensive equipment, all of it came together to instill Christmas spirit. They walked in that direction and when they got closer, she said, “Here it is. Williams Sonoma. Let’s go in”.

Jane stopped for a second and looked up at the large sign in front of the store and then went in with the nurses by her sides. Her parents were just in front of her and they turned around frequently to smile at her and see her beautiful face. They milled around. Dr. Clemens selected a food processor he wanted and Mrs. Clemens didn’t choose to buy anything; they were walking slowly throughout the store.

“Isn’t it nice in here”? Mrs. Clemens asked Jane, pointing to a nativity scene that was connected to the ceiling and spinning around in an ingenious way.

“It’s really nice” Jane managed to say.

“Well let’s buy the food processor dad has and then stroll outside a bit more”.

“Okay” Jane said.

They walked as a group to the cash register and a young man with stylishly tussled brown hair, fair skin, brown eyes and a name tag that said ‘Carl’ was waiting for them.

“Ah, good choice” he said, pointing quickly to the food processor. Then he began to ring them up. He started pressing a few buttons on the cash register with his right hand and after some ‘bleeps’ and ‘bloops’ he brought his left hand up and began pushing buttons with it, also. The same ‘bloops’ and ‘bleeps’ were produced and he made some understanding nods and ‘uh huh’s’, then after five more seconds said, “This one is free today. It’s on us. Out you go, beautiful day” and he put his gaze out the front window of the store and waited for them to leave.

Jane exhaled a single laugh at Carl’s attempt to ring them up. Dr. and Mrs. Clemens looked from Carl to Jane in dumbfoundness to hear anything like a laugh from Jane.

Then Carl said “Whoop”! and ducked below the counter. His eyes peered up from behind it at the nativity scene spinning behind them, from the ceiling. On his way back to a standing position he picked up a little china teacup from a saucer, which was from the for-sale display area, filled with free cider. He didn’t use the supplied paper cups. “I keep thinking that spinning nativity scene is birds entering the store”. He took another sip and looked at Jane then out the front window, again.

Jane smiled. It wasn’t a full smile but it was a smile. Her parents looked at her and in that moment, they felt the pure joy, the pure relief that only great misery can deliver. Like a mysterious cool breeze on a hot day in the desert in summer, or, likewise, water on ice in glasses in that same desert, appearing. This was a miracle so far for them.

Dr. Clemens was marveling at Jane’s face and the sly smile that was on it so Mrs. Clemens took the lead. “Surely” she said “this can’t be free. I think it was about one hundred and twenty dollars”. She put two hundred-dollar bills from her wallet she had taken from her purse on the counter. “Here, take this. Once the register starts working you can ring it up. We’ll come back later on today for the change”.

“We can do that. That’s probably a good idea” Carl said. He put the money in his pocket then looked briefly for a manager but there wasn’t a single person around them. “This should only take me an hour or so to figure out. If you came back then I’ll have the change”.

This time Mrs. Clemens smiled. “Okay. We’ll come back in about an hour” she said.

With plans to come back then, the group began to depart from the store. As they turned around to walk out, Jane cast her gaze back on Carl who was sipping tea and watching the spinning nativity scene. Then he looked out the front window, peacefully. She looked back forward and some of her brainpower that was consumed in suffering was somehow set on decoding, deciphering the guy from Williams Sonoma. The first thing her parents and nurses noticed apart from her smile was that she was walking better.

Women like Mrs. Clemens know some things about how the world works. She had read the encounter and had a plan. “What do you want to do”? she asked Jane once they were outside.

“I’d like to go brush my teeth” Jane said.

“Okay” her mom said. “Then we’ll come back and get our change from that nice guy at Williams Sonoma”.

“Okay” Jane said, looking up now at the sky and thinking to herself that the colors seemed different. The rest of the group were taken aback to see even a slight change in Jane. It had become so bleak and so chilling that the slightest amount of enthusiasm or just a lessoning of cold gloom was a phenomenon to behold. They walked to the cars and drove home.

Mostly Jane was in her own world but for a shift of reasons now. Each thing she perceived was starting to defrost and life was creeping back into her outlook. It was the start of being born again. She didn’t stop to question anything. Once you’ve seen the cliff that falls into the abyss of the end, there isn’t any analyzing that goes with certain resurrections. She just brushed her teeth then walked with the nurses back downstairs.

“How about a quick light lunch before we go”? her mother asked her. “We need to give him that hour or so to work that out” and she smiled at her daughter. Dr. Clemens was there in the kitchen with Martin hovering in the background and the in-house doctor was sitting at the table, amazed herself at what looked like a positive change in one of the darkest psychological cases she’d seen. It seemed almost impossible.

“Sure. Good idea” Jane said, and another distant smile encroached her previously unchanging face. Saying ‘good idea’ reminded her of the Williams Sonoma guy almost giving them the food processor thing. She sat down at the kitchen table and said to Martin, “Can I have a club sandwich”?

“Of course, yes, Jane. It’ll be ready in five minutes” and he began assembling her lunch.

“Martin, let’s make that two” Mrs. Clemens said. She was going to share one with her husband so Jane didn’t eat alone.

In a couple of minutes Martin placed two great looking club sandwiches with Lay’s baked potato chips and two large bottles of cold Pellegrino sparkling waters and three glasses with ice. The Clemens’ started to eat their lunch.

The immediate next change that was taken in by all is that Jane ate the whole sandwich and the chips and drank the whole bottle of water. Mrs. Clemens looked at her watch once lunch was finished, because it had been eaten, and said “Jane, do you want to go with me to get that change? It’ll be about an hour and a half once we get back to the store”.

“Yeah, I’d like to go” she said. Dr. Clemens perceived this was a mother-daughter trip and he stayed home Only one nurse went with them. The three ladies got in the Porsche and began to drive to the mall.

“That guy was sort of funny” Mrs. Clemens said. “And cute, too. Jane, ask him to dinner at our house tonight”.

“To dinner”? Jane said as they drove.

“Yeah, why not? He’s cute. I like his hair. And how funny is that, he tried to give us the food processor”.

Jane looked from her mother back out the side window of the flying-by scenery. “Okay” she said, “I will”.

They pulled into a parking spot and the three of them got out. In the moment it was now almost like Jane wasn’t suffering at all. It was amazing for anyone who was watching the metamorphosis. The nurse noticed she was walking alright, briskly even, as they headed towards Williams Sonoma. She made the decision that offering to guide Jane, now, would probably only run the risk of hindering her somehow. She dropped back a way with tacit approval from Mrs. Clemens as mother and daughter approached Williams Sonoma.

They didn’t have to go in, though, because Carl was on break, having lunch at an umbrellaed table a little way outside the store. They saw him and walked to him. He was looking down at a single pigeon pecking at a whole cheeseburger he had put on the ground. He was, however, eating French fries, one at a time, from a wax paper container as he watched the lone bird.

“Here we are” Mrs. Clemens said. She stopped when they got near him and she and Jane looked down at the pigeon then back up to Carl. “Did the register start working right”? Mrs. Clemens asked him.

“Hi… Yes” Carl said. He put his French fries on the table. Then he put his right hand in his pocket and took out folded bills and handed them to Mrs. Clemens. Then he put his other hand in his other pocket and took out coins and handed them to her. “Thank you for coming back” he said.

“Sure, no problem” Jane’s mother said.

Jane was looking at Carl. There was silence and it seemed she had forgotten to ask him to dinner or was amazed, maybe, at how she felt. At any rate, Mrs. Clemens wasted no time and asked Carl. “We really appreciate your offering to give us the food processor. Can we pay you back by inviting you to dinner at our house tonight”?

Jane remembered the general plan. She said, “And seeing how you gave your cheeseburger to the birds, you’ll be hungry” she lightly smiled at him and Carl looked from Mrs. Clemens to Jane then back to Mrs. Clemens.

“Yes, I’d like to go to dinner. Thank you”.

“Great, okay, um, do you have a car or a way of getting there? We live close. We can send someone to pick you up, if you don’t” Mrs. Clemens said.

“I have a car” Carl said pointing to the parking lot.

“Perfect, I can give you our address and directions now”.

“I have an iPhone. Just the address and I’ll find it”.

“Mrs. Clemens smiled and Jane looked at Carl. “It’s 2920 ______. How about tonight at seven”?

“That works. I’m done here at six and I can go home and change out of my work clothes and into my dinner attire”, and Carl smiled for the first time.

Both ladies were a little enthralled with the young man’s handsomeness. “Ha ha” Mrs. Clemens laughed lightly, “perfect. We’ll see you at seven. The gate code is 1730, I almost forgot”.

Jane was looking at Carl. “See you then” she said.

“See you then. 1730, got it”.

The ladies turned and started back to the car. The nurse met up with them discreetly a little way off. “He’s cuute” she said once they were together. The ladies agreed but all were in their own world, impressed with Carl for their own reasons.

Jane’s father called the doctors and explained the turn of events and appointments were put on hold for now.

The ladies made their way back home and by now dusk was beginning to come into the air and the world kept taking on new and magical elements for Jane. She saw things for seemingly the first time, but the changes weren’t too drastic. They got inside the house and Jane went up to shower and change. Before showering she spent a few minutes looking at herself in the mirror. Then she looked out her window and experienced for the first time in a while thoughts that weren’t painful.

She didn’t only think of the guy from Williams Sonoma, Carl, she just thought about anything. Everything she thought of was different, it felt different because some horrible filter that plagued everything was starting to be removed. Why, exactly, she didn’t know because she didn’t seem to have a romantic interest in Carl. It was somehow deeper while being unexplained or, even, shallow. It was extremely relieving, pleasant, even joyous, but at the same time sort of distant, vague, and confusing if thought directly about.

After she had showered and dressed and brushed her hair and put it in a ponytail and put on perfume, she walked out of her room. The nurses were there, of course, to guide her but it was becoming apparent they were less needed. But they guided her just in case, down the stairs.

When she was halfway down the stairs, there was a knock at the door. They completed their journey downstairs and Jane opened the door. “Hi, Jane” Carl said.

“Hi… how did you know my name”?

“I heard your mom in the store. I’m Carl”.

“I’m Jane” and they looked at each other. “Come in”.

Carl was dressed elegantly in navy khakis, a navy, thin sweater and a light blue dress shirt and a red tie. He had on black dress shoes and his hair really was styled interestingly. Like controlled and organized whimsical chaos. Once they were inside, Jane shut the door.

“This is a really nice house” Carl said.

“Thank you. I’ll show you around”. The house was in its peak of Christmas glory. The outside lights and Christmas trees were beautifully lit and the lights and decorations inside were brilliant but at the same time warm and inviting, not overbearing. The house smelled deliciously of savory turkey roasting and gravy and stuffing. It was the pinnacle of both success and Christmas spirit. The tour continued with Jane and Carl alone as they wandered from room to room. It wasn’t a complete tour but a sufficient example of the first floor of the house.

They walked into the kitchen where everyone was, waiting. Carl looked at Dr. Clemens. Jane’s father looked at Carl then his daughter smiling lightly, standing with elegant posture, then he smiled and looked back to Carl.

“I’m Jane’s father, Steve. It’s nice to meet you”. Dr. Clemens was intoxicated, on some level, with pure relief. They shook hands and then Carl was introduced to the rest of the group. They had some hot cider in the kitchen and talked about the mall and looked over the new food processor a little, then all filed into the very elegantly set up dining room.

A delicious turkey dinner was served, in the regular fashion, with Martin joining. Conversation was light and everyone was a little stupefied with joy at seeing Jane smile here and there and with her looking happy. There were some laughs at the table but mostly dinner went on with a feeling of happiness that one would imagine the gods of ancient Greece dined with as they looked down on Earth, or maybe more fitting, old friends reunited again, happy, thoroughly, to just be together.

After dinner they all shifted into the living room where the large and gorgeous tree was shining in brilliance. Martin was going to serve apple and pumpkin pies with Haagen Daaz ice cream. While he was in the kitchen setting up desert to be presented, in the living room Carl saw one of the gingerbread houses for the first time.

Winter Wonderland performed by the Eurythmics was playing through the house and Carl was amazed with the gingerbread house. The rest of the group was finding seats to continue chatting and Jane was nearby and comfortable. Carl walked around the large house of gingerbread looking down at it in amazement.

Mrs. Clemens noticed his interest and came up and said, “Pretty cool, huh? There’s three more, too”.

Carl looked up at her then back down. “It’s amazing. Awesome”. He circled it once more. Jane was smiling, watching. After one more lap around the gingerbread house, Carl asked Mrs. Clemens “Can I eat this”? and he pointed at the elegant, large pastry.

“Ha ha” Mrs. Clemens said. “Yes, you can”.

Jane laughed for the first time. “Me too”! and she tucked her head down a little and ran towards Carl, laughing. They got chairs together and sat them next to the gingerbread house. They looked at each other then each broke off a lamppost decoration and the other a part of the roof and started to eat the gingerbread house. Jane was enraptured with laughter.

Dr. Clemens sat in a leather couch with legs crossed and his taught dress socks and expensive dress shoes were rocking back and forth as he watched his daughter laugh. He looked at Carl and couldn’t believe how happy he felt. They all were watching Jane and Carl laugh in unfiltered joy as they ate. It was amazing.

After they had consumed portions of the house they had some cider and Carl and Jane decided among themselves that they wanted to walk outside in the backyard to look at the decorations there and the stars. They got up and left to explore the outside.

They walked mostly in silence and Jane was given, to start, a small dose of pure contentment and pure happiness. She looked at the stars and then Carl and then they found a portion of grass to sit down on and look at the oak trees in the distance. When they sat there, Jane’s dose was increased a little and the meaning of life, in short, flowed through her. “This is amazing” she said.

“It really is” Carl said. “Wait here, I’ll be right back”.

Jane was enamored with how she felt and she didn’t really, as was planned, hear or pay attention to Carl. She was receiving therapy on another level. “Okay, I’ll be here” she said. Carl got up and walked back to, and then went in the house. He thanked Jane’s parents for dinner and they looked at him with gratitude of the largest magnitude. There was, though, like a spell on the house. It was a spell of understanding, contentment, love, joy, and meaning. Carl walked back outside to sit next to Jane.

He pointed out to the oak trees once he was next to Jane and said, “Check that out”. And there was an enveloping green blanket of light on the tops of the trees and Jane’s dose was at, then, its peak. She only felt. She didn’t talk for a second. They were giving her enough so that she always remembered how beautiful she was and how beautiful life is.

Finally, she said “How are you doing that”?

“That’s where I’m from” Carl said.

Jane looked at him. “What do you mean”?

“You almost didn’t make it so they sent me”.

Normally no one would have known what Carl was talking about but they intervened and instilled meaning into Jane, “You mean, you’re an angel”?

“Mmm hmm” Carl said. “And you’re clearly extra important… because they sent me”.

There was silence so Carl continued. “They probably need you especially. Your beauty is incredible”.

“What kind of angel, like what religion”? Jane asked.

“I’m not really sure, they don’t tell us. But I play foosball with a guy with long hair and he always wins, so I’m guessing that’s Jesus. So, the Christian one”.

Jane smiled at Carl then looked back at the green light. Her dose was at its peak and as per accordance she was starting to already forget Carl and anything about the night except what she needed to heal. Carl noticed it so he got up to walk off into the green light, as it was. He stopped and turned to Jane, “And Jane…”

“Yes, Carl”?

“Try reading some lighter books. All that tragedy can’t be good. Maybe try Paul Stanley, Anthony Giuffre, or Rebecca Romani”.

“I haven’t heard of them”.

“Look them up”.

“I will”.

“Bye, Jane”.

“Bye, Carl”.

And Carl walked into the green light and disappeared. Your correspondent doesn’t know where he went because your correspondent doesn’t know where angles go when they are needed elsewhere.