Dr. Chiang leaned back on his chair and studied one of the subjects intently. “Tell me, Jackie,” he asked her in particular, “why do you hate her so much?”
Jackie was startled. She had expected this question, expected it for quite a long time now, in fact. But to actually hear it asked still startled her and made her feel a little uncomfortable. Excited, but uncomfortable. She felt that the doctor wanted her to answer this in particular.
“Well?” the doctor repeated the question. “Jackie, why do you hate Jenna so much?”
“It’s not…it’s just…” she started with a stutter, both excited and curious about where all this was going to lead.
“Yes? Go on…”
“It’s not that I hate her. It’s just…I don’t like her that much…She doesn’t let me do my own things. I just hate it when I can’t express myself.” There, she had said it. It might as well be all out of the bag. It was no secret anyway.
“Do your own things. Like what?”
“Well, for instance, she doesn’t ever want me to make friends with boys, much less, flirt with them. Like it embarrasses her.” He asked her if it did embarrass Jenna. Jackie wanted to give him a kick. “Yes! That prude!”
Mother gasped. Jackie had forgotten that she was there. “Jackie! Watch your language! And don’t talk about her like that!” Mother scolded.
Ugh! Here she was again, protecting her precious Jenna. “But she deserves it. And I’m only telling the truth. That wimp. Whenever I want to do something, she doesn’t want to let me. Whenever I do get to do something and she finds out, she ruins it for me.”
“That is not true.”
“It is true! I kissed Allan this one time and the next day, she found out when he tried to kiss me again, and she slapped him! Now he doesn’t even want to talk to me.” Jackie’s lips quivered a bit. Her anger returned whenever she remembered the incident. She was too angry to be uncomfortable anymore. “She’s destroying us, Mother. It’s true. You can ask David. He doesn’t like her, either.”
“No, I don’t!” David snapped, his usual silence broken. “I mean, I don’t not like her…” He so wanted to give Jackie a hit on the head. That girl had such a big mouth. Now the doctor would ask more questions and want more answers as he scribbled on his pad. Maybe he diagnosed them all as crazy, who knew? He also seemed to be very interested in Jackie…Damn him. Damn Jackie. Damn them all! Couldn’t they just leave him alone?
The doctor cleared his throat. David cringed. He hated it whenever the doctor cleared his throat. “So, David, do you really or do you not dislike Jenna?” Dr. Chiang regarded him now.
“I told you, I don’t hate her.”
Jackie suddenly laughed, shifting the doctor’s eyes back on her again. “Really? So you didn’t take it against her when she forbid you to ride the roller-coaster, just because she was afraid and didn’t want to go? When she stopped you from whacking that mean bully at school who kept calling us names? When you couldn’t go play basketball with Allan anymore because of her?”
“If you didn’t kiss him, then it would not have happened. Stupid.”
Mother interrupted. “Now, David, we all know anyway that you can’t anymore play basketball with– ”
“Oh, yes, I can!” David snapped again. These people were trying his patience! Mother and her morals. All those years of friendship, gone, just because of Jackie and Jenna. And now, Mother was telling him it was necessary…Oh, why was he stuck with all these women!
Dr. Chiang cleared his throat again, annoying David further. “Doesn’t that bother you, David, that you have somehow lost a friend because of Jenna?”
Extremely annoyed, David stifled a smart retort and tried to sound as civil as he could. “I can’t play basketball anymore. I can’t stay out much longer either even if I should be able to now that I’m older. I can’t even stop her from making me read all those tacky romance novels…If you were me, wouldn’t you be bothered?”
Jackie felt herself turn crimson. “They’re not tacky…”
Dr. Chiang watched this development very well. Why was Jackie suddenly embarrassed? Could it mean she shared the same interests with Jenna sometimes, somehow? What about David? What about Mother? Curious.
David first seemed at a loss, then he burst out laughing. “Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re the tacky reader. Jenna’s the one who reads the kind of stuff I like–Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King…”
“Hey, I like those, too, if you haven’t noticed!” Jackie said indignantly.
“Yes, except that you read tacky romances as well.”
As usual, Mother thought it best to stop any bickering. “Now, now, kids, let us all be nice,” she said, flashing the doctor a forced smile.
Jackie rolled her eyes. Mother was always self-righteous, always tried to tell everybody what or what not to do, according to her values, her standards. She even tried to control Jenna at times. But Jenna seemed to always have the upper-hand when it came to Mother, who was always ready to forgive and comfort her. That wench.
“Be nice like Jenna, huh?…Come on, why do you always baby her?” Jackie answered back with a pout.
Mother sighed. Why did things always have to come to this? To her protecting Jenna from them? “I don’t…‘baby’ her. She just needs to feel loved. We, of all people, should know that.”
“And so she takes it all out on us, by repressing us. And you love her for that? You must be mad! Don’t you just hate it when she goes against your will? She’s not all-angel, you know that.”
I don’t need to be reminded. Mother did not answer, though. Whatever Jenna’s shortcomings, she would accept. If she wouldn’t, and these two obviously wouldn’t, then who would? Poor Jenna.
The doctor took this opportunity to ask another of his many questions. “I am really rather curious about that, too. Hasn’t anyone ever really tried to go against her wishes at all? Surely– ”
“Oh, Doc, weren’t you listening at all? I thought you were interested in what I had to say ’cause you sure look like it whenever I talk,” Jackie complained. It was Dr. Chiang’s turn to be embarrassed. This girl was really smart, although rather outspoken. She could go far if she so willed it. But it could be rather detrimental to Jenna’s health. “Didn’t I tell you I sometimes do get to do something?”
“Ah, forgive my memory. Alright. So you did. So, care to tell?”
“That’s more like it. Focus!…Anyway, there was this one time that I got a major part in a school play, you know, Romeo and Juliet. You see, I saw the announcement for auditions scheduled on a Saturday. Jenna ignored it, but I certainly didn’t. So when she had her afternoon nap on that Saturday, I snuck out, went to the auditions, and got Juliet’s part!” For a moment, Jackie was excited. Her smile soon faded, her expression turning to gloom. “She found out Monday and pulled me out of the play. So they got someone much less talented than I am.”
“But, from what I’ve gathered, Jenna seems to be quite the artistic person herself. One thing you have in common, now that I think of it. I should think she would be happy. Didn’t she even think of joining?”
“That selfish girl? She was too caught up in her low self-esteem, she couldn’t have cared less.”
David snorted. “That’s not entirely true,” he said and provided more information. “To make up for the bother she caused the production, Jenna volunteered to help in the stage production instead. Not to say that she understood everything that happened, though. Anyway, Jenna actually did quite well. Painting is her forte, you know, not acting. That’s Jackie’s line. But whenever someone took notice and praised her work, she shrank back into her shell, like she couldn’t handle being the center of attention. So unlike Juliet here.”
“Interesting,” the doctor said out loud. Each of Jenna and Jackie actually has her own talent! Very interesting! And what was more interesting, he got David to talk. Among the three visitors, David had always been the most reserved or secretive. His inputs were always far and in-between that Dr. Chiang cherished them every time. It was easier to extract information from the women, particularly Jackie who, like David said, liked to be the center of attention.
Dr. Chiang glanced at the video camera between them. It was still on and running smoothly.
He was surprised, though, to find Jackie looking at him again when he looked back. David, unfortunately, shut his mouth, deciding to clam up again. “Ah, but here’s the more interesting part, Doc…One time, after rehearsals, every one had gone home. As the last one to leave–and they trusted her enough–the keys were left to Jenna. So that evening, as she slept, I went back to the auditorium and…Guess what happened?” Jackie asked, her eyes twinkling.
David provided the answer. “You destroyed the set…She destroyed the set, Doc, the whole set! The night before the play!”
“She did what?” Mother exclaimed. She obviously never heard of it.
“You heard me. Miss Evil was quite the vengeful witch. The next day, everyone was outraged and hated Jenna. She was after all the last one there. And after what she did, pulling Jackie out of the production, of course, they thought it was one of her machinations, too, so as to ruin the whole play.”
Jackie had an arrogant smirk on her face. “It served her right! Why? Did she really think she could simply get away with humiliating me? And besides, I don’t see what you’re so mad about. You’re one to talk.”
“What are you talking about? Don’t you go making up stories.”
“Oh, don’t you remember? Don’t play innocent, David. She didn’t want you to compete last year, remember? In the inter-school swimming competition? She found out that you got in the swimming team and tried to dissuade you. She was afraid to compete herself and forbid you to. She– ”
“She couldn’t swim, no, not her,” Mother said, perplexed. “Not after her father almost drowned her when she was little…No, don’t tell me…”
“Well, you’re right on that part. She couldn’t. But David here made her go anyway and half-way through the relay, Jenna drowned!”
David protested. He was not the one in the wrong. He did make her go, but… “I didn’t mean it! Why are you making me look like the bad guy all of a sudden? Besides, Jenna let her trauma get to her after all. She was doing so well until she suddenly panicked. I couldn’t make her stop. How was I supposed to know? I wouldn’t do anything to hurt her intentionally. And I am not cold-hearted like you.”
“WAIT A MINUTE! Can somebody PLEASE tell me why I didn’t know about that?” Mother demanded with anger in her voice. She had to know. Maybe this would explain the dreams Jenna had been having for almost a year now, of her drowning again. “I’m always the last one to know, aren’t I?”
Jackie laughed. “You didn’t know because you weren’t there. It was in school, after all. And you weren’t needed anyway. We knew you’d just make such a fuss if you found out. Simple as that.”
Dr. Chiang watched these exchanges still with great interest. So, the plot thickens, he supposed. Jackie and David often, if not always, knew what was going on. Perhaps, they kept many things from Mother. She was, after all, quite sympathetic to Jenna.
The doctor leaned closer to Jackie. “I’ll bet you don’t tell Mother that much. How is that possible that she wouldn’t know and both you and David would?”
“Seriously, Doc. You’re the expert here. You should know. It’s possible not to let her know the way it’s possible not to let Jenna know. Mother can’t be with us all the time. Even David can’t be with me all the time. Do you think he would have let me kiss Allan if he was?” Jackie gave him a contemptuous look.
“And you didn’t tell Mother about the set you destroyed, either.” Dr. Chiang braced himself for another of Jackie’s outburst.
“Honestly! Do you think I would actually let Mother know that? Would you let your own mother know if you did something like that? Not that she’s my mother, but hey, would you?”
“I guess not.”
“Are you afraid of her?”
Jackie could feel Mother anticipating an answer. But she wasn’t afraid. Jenna did not frighten her, why would Mother? “Of course, not. But she’s just very annoying and quite a nagger. Nag-nag-nag-nag-nag!” She sensed Mother about to protest and beat her to it. “Well, you are. Nothing you say will tell me otherwise.”
“Why do you talk to her that way?”
“And why not? Are you going to nag me about it, too?”
“Just a question, Jackie, just a question.” Dr. Chiang decided to let the matter rest for a while. If there was anything sure about this girl, it was fiery temper. “Going back to Jenna, what happened to the play must have depressed her.”
Mother sighed. “Devastated her was more like it, for sure,” she revealed. “Now everyone hates her. She’s been ostracized for far too long already and now, this. I can guess how hard she’s coping in school.”
David stood up and paced around the room, bothered by his guilt. Yes, he hated Jenna, but not that much. He hated it more when any of the girls got hurt. They were, after all, his only family. But this thing about the play did get too far for Jenna to handle. Sometimes, Jackie could go overboard and this was certainly overboard. How could they all let her walk all over them? How could he?
“Stop walking around! You’re giving me a headache!” Jackie complained.
“David? David, anything wrong?” Dr. Chiang inquired once again. David wished he’d quit asking already.
Mother asked him what the matter was as well. Surprisingly, her voice somehow soothed him a bit. David finally replied. “I just feel guilty…about the play, you know.”
“Why? It wasn’t your own doing.”
“Yes, but it might as well be. I let Jackie. I was there, I knew, but I still let Jackie!”
Jackie retorted, “Let me? Let me? I don’t know how you could have helped it, stupid. You couldn’t have stopped me even if you tried. I have much more control over all of you.”
“Oh, really? So how come Jenna still has the last say on a lot of things? Can you prove otherwise?”
Jackie felt anger building up in her. Who did David think he was, daring her like that? She had power, she had control, and yes, she was going to prove it! “Jenna’s days are numbered. Mark my word. And if you start defying me, so shall your days be!” Jackie smiled. It was a smile too disconcerting and eerie that everyone in the room, even the doctor, felt a chill run down his or her spine.
Still, Mother was quite scandalized. “Jackie, stop talking nonsense. No one’s going to control anyone.”
“Who are you kidding? She’s been controlling us ever since I can remember and I have never, will never, bow to her. And may I remind both of you, I was the first one here, long before you two came along. If anyone’s going to take over the control, it might as well be me. The two of you are just as weak as her. Don’t think you can order me around just because you think you’re her mother. You’re not, you know that. Stop being everyone’s mother. It’s sickening. Jenna’s never had a mother. Her mother walked out on her family long ago, remember? And her father has always blamed Jenna for it and hated her…REMEMBER?”
Mother kept silent. She didn’t need this. She didn’t need to be reminded of Jenna’s past, and she sure didn’t need to listen to talks such as taking control over anybody. This interview had gone far enough. Why she even agreed to it was beyond her. She must walk away, away from here.
“This session’s over. I’m leaving,” Mother announced, and before anyone could make her stay, she had already gone.
“Mother?” Dr. Chiang tried to call her back. No, she couldn’t leave. So much had yet to be answered!
David answered for her. “She’s left, Doc.”
“Left? Just for now? I hope not for good…”
David shrugged, looking defeated as he slumped back on the office sofa, trying to be comfortable, trying to be comforted. But Mother had left. She was such a nagger, but still, she always gave him comfort when he badly needed it…Some guy he was! No help to anyone at all! Not even to Jenna. He was, he realized, also in need of help.
“David, what’s the matter? You’re all pale.”
“I don’t know…I…I think I better go as well…” I’m done here.
“What?…Well, alright, but you will be back?”
David nodded. But even if he did, somehow, the doctor felt that it could probably be the last time he would be there, maybe like Mother. Still, he had to be optimistic. Maybe David would come back, maybe he could convince Mother to come back one of these days. All Dr. Chiang held on to was hope. He let David go.
“Jackie?” he asked, just to see if she was still interested. After all, she was the most enthusiastic about this in the first place.
“Yes, Doc?” Jackie beamed again. It seemed David and Mother had gone. She hoped, forever. Of course, she would miss them but the rewards would be higher this way. This might be easier than I thought! Jackie felt so excited that she could hardly keep from smiling.
“Do you want to leave, too?”
“Awww…And miss these interesting conversations? No, Sir!” The doctor heaved a soft sigh of relief. She knew she had given him the answer he wanted. She let him have it. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the others. They’ll come back.” Not if I can help it.
“Well…,” Dr. Chiang glanced at his watch, smiling. She could be right. “It’s almost the end of our session, anyway. Think we should stop for now and continue next time. Still have to talk to Jenna before the session’s over…What do you say?”
“Okay. I’ll be here, next time. Promise. Even if Jenna won’t want to.”
To the doctor’s surprise, Jackie leaned closer to the table. “See you later, Jenna,” she said to the camera, smiled sweetly and waved. Satisfied, Jackie stood up.
“See you later, Jenna.”
Dr. Chiang turned off the camera. He had just played the whole session for Jenna to see. The appointment then took much longer, but he didn’t mind. Jenna was an interesting study, after all. The first and probably only one of such cases he might come across in his lifetime.
Somehow, he felt his feelings melting, too. He did expect the tears running down Jenna’s face, but he did not expect to feel this. How did others like him handle such situations?
“T-that’s them? All of–all of me…?” Jenna asked, trembling.
Dr. Chiang nodded. Here was the proof Jenna demanded from him. It was necessary. It was her body. She needed to know the truth. Knowing was the first step to healing.
“Yes, Jenna, all of them.”
“But…They let you record them?”
“They thought things just might be better if you knew.” Jackie was mighty interested about it, Dr. Chiang silently said in afterthought. Why it made him a bit queasy, he didn’t know.
Dr. Chiang decided he was just a bit excited, too, about this case. And it helped that Jackie was cooperating rather well. Since he had met Jenna’s other personalities, he had sensed Jackie as the strong-willed one, though rather harsh and unreasonable at times. She was right, in a sense. She did have more control than the other two. Probably because she hated Jenna the most.
“J-Jackie…She seemed…mean…” Jenna said. It was more of a question.
“Well, yes, in a sort of way,” he said. How could you explain these things? “I guess if you got cooped up, trapped, the way that she is, maybe you’ll be a bit mean, too, at times. Jackie is actually smart, and quite brave, and strong and…Jenna, you do realize that these traits aren’t hers alone, don’t you? All you have to do is work on those traits. Lose the insecurities, be smart, be brave! Jackie and David came out because you were afraid of showing who you truly were. Or are. And Mother came out because you felt you needed protection, love, a mother…They are all you, Jenna, YOU.”
Jenna looked at him, tears still streaming down her face. “Then, how do I banish them?”
“You don’t ‘banish’ them. You cannot banish what is you. What we have to do is to slowly ‘converge’ them and you so that all of you will become one. Only then will you be healed…I’m sorry, but do you get my point?” She did not answer but the look in her eyes said she did. She was staring directly into his eyes now. “You have to help me help you, Jenna. You cannot go on being Jenna and then Jackie or David or Mother the next. There is only one you, and that is Jenna. I will need your cooperation. Will you give it to me?”
All he heard was a faint, “Yes.” Faint, but it was a start.
She left Dr. Chiang’s office with tears in her eyes, but now, Jackie was smiling broadly. This just might be it. This really could be easier than she thought. She didn’t care if David or Mother left forever. That would be much better. Not to forget Jenna. Let them think she’s Jenna. Jackie was the better actress, anyway, as she had proved today. Even the doctor got fooled. Maybe Jackie could stay a little longer. Better yet,…maybe she could stay forever…
Hmnn. That sounded like a good idea.
Story Copyright © J.Gi Federizo
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