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Author:Brandi Reeds

Trespassing by Brandi Reeds

He who knows nothing is closer to the truth

than he whose mind is filled with falsehood and errors.

—Thomas Jefferson

Chapter 1

November 10

I know kids have active imaginations—and I have actually heard of invisible playmates—but this goes beyond what I’d consider normal.

“Who’s to say what’s normal?” Dr. Russo chuckles. “Kids do have wild imaginations, and your child is exceptionally creative. Artistic.”

Not once have the educators at the Westlake School referred to her this way.

I glance at the table, where three-year-old Elizabella is engaged in her favorite activity—coloring. I lower my voice. “Doctor, if I fail to set a plate at the table for Nini, Nini gets mad. If Elizabella gets into trouble at preschool, it was Nini who made her do it. Sometimes,” I continue, “in the middle of the night, she laughs loud enough to wake me, and when I check on her, she’s sitting down to a tea party in her room, saying, ‘Nini just said something so funny, Mommy.’”

“Have you considered removing toys from her bedroom?”

My brow wrinkles, intensifying my headache. He doesn’t get it. That’s not the point. “I just thought, you know, considering the family history . . .”

He fills in the blanks. “Schizophrenia is extremely rare. It affects only one percent of the population, and in children, especially children of Elizabella’s age, it’s practically unheard of. And based on what you’ve told me, your mother struggled more with depression than with voices in her head.”

Sure. Based on what I’ve said, it’s a logical conclusion to reach. But I haven’t told him everything yet. I haven’t even told Micah everything, and not because I don’t want him to know. I can’t explain what I don’t understand. I don’t like to think of my mother that way, anyway. It’s better to remember her at her best.

“And even if your mother had been properly diagnosed as a schizophrenic, which I doubt—the due diligence just wasn’t given to the case—the fact that you don’t exhibit signs of the disorder means a less than ten percent chance Elizabella will be affected.”

Would anyone, though, think herself crazy . . . if she’s crazy?

“Creative minds usually run in families,” the shrink continues. “Are you creative?”

“Not exceptionally.” I majored in women’s studies in college—not that I’m using my diploma for a damned thing since my little bundle of restless energy arrived. Ironic, now that I think about it.

“Your husband?”

I hold the doctor’s gaze. He already knows the answer to this one. Micah, who wears only shades of gray because he doesn’t know which colors go with which, is anything but artistic. I know where this line of questioning is headed, and I know he won’t quit until we get there.

“My mother designed jewelry,” I admit.

“I suspect you’re a little artistic, too, but you’re afraid to follow in your mother’s footsteps, no matter the capacity in which you do so.”

It’s a ridiculous thing to say, an overgeneralization. Anyone would be afraid to become what my mother became. She had her way at the end: a short service beneath a lovely pane of stained glass.

“You’re under a lot of pressure, with the fertility treatment, with Micah’s traveling,” Dr. Russo says. “Would this be easier to deal with if I prescribed you an antianxiety?”

I shake my head. I still have the pills he prescribed after the miscarriage in April. I don’t like to take them—it’s hard to be a mother when I’m on them—but it’s out of the question in the midst of in vitro.

“Perfectly normal.” Dr. Russo massages a hand over his beard. “This is the optimum age for the development of a ‘friend’”—he uses air quotes—“like this. Sometimes, the child creates the imaginary friend to deal with some sort of shift in the household. Moving, for example. The onset of preschool.”

I look again to the corner table where Elizabella is coloring. Dr. Russo is our family therapist; we’ve been seeing him together for about six months now, since April—since Nini made her debut . . . which coincided with the miscarriage. Not long after, we moved to the Shadowlands, a full-service, gated golf course community on the outskirts of Chicago. And Bella started preschool last month.

I twist my wedding ring around my finger; it’s tighter than usual.

“You’re trying to have another baby,” he says.

Always. I wish someone had told me in college it would be this difficult to knock me up.

“Have you begun . . .”

His inquiry fades with the images in my mind, always just a trigger away from revisiting me. Sticky sheets. Blood everywhere.


“I’m sorry.” I chase away the pain of the loss. “Yes. Yes, we just aspirated for eggs yesterday morning.”

“Elizabella has been part of the process,” he says. “She’s seen you take the shots. You’ve been preparing her for a baby brother or sister most of her life. She doesn’t know life without that preparation.”

“We’re getting her ready, yes. Just like all the books say.” And I’ve read them all. “We’ve even prepared her for the possibility a baby won’t come, you know, just in case . . .” I look away, out the window, at a brilliant display of gold-and-russet foliage.

“Considering this past April . . . that’s even more of a reason for her to create a sort of sister in the meantime, isn’t it?”

He has a point, I suppose, but still . . .

“Imaginary friends don’t last forever. Most disappear by age five or six. I suggest you document this time in her life. It’ll make for an interesting story for your new baby.”

“Nini!” My daughter reaches across the table and grasps a crayon that’s rolled away. “I’m using the red. You have to share!”

“And it’s normal for her to fight with this friend, too?” I ask.

Dr. Russo lets out another chuckle. “A good sign she’s learning right from wrong. She’s a very articulate, very intelligent three-year-old. She’ll be fine.”

Resigned, I stand. “Come on, Ellie-Belle. Time to get you to school.” She’ll be only a few minutes late, if traffic cooperates. This time of day, it could take half an hour to get out of Evanston.

“You’re preparing for the worst,” Russo says, “so subconsciously you feel you’ll be able to handle it, should the worst come to pass. It’s understandable, given all you’ve been through. Your mother, the falling out with your college roommate. Especially considering the miscarriage—”

“Thank you.” I extend a hand, which he shakes, before he can opt to lengthen the list of my trials. Then I wrap an arm around Bella’s waist and pull her, kicking and screaming, from the table.

She fights me all the way to the car, to the point I’m nearly dragging her down the hall, down the stairs, through the parking lot.

“No school! No school!”

“Yes, you’re going.” When I lift her to her car seat, she arches her back and slips from my grasp to a crumpled mass of girl on the floor of the SUV. “Elizabella, stop! You’re going to hurt yourself.”

No sooner said than done, she whacks her shoulder against the console between the passenger and driver seats and lets out an excruciating wail.

But at least it incapacitates her for a moment, and I’m able to wrestle her into her seat and fasten the buckle.

“No school,” she says again.

“Yes, school,” I retort.

Amid her sniffling and whispering blame on Nini, I drive.

At the second set of railroad tracks, when I’m stopped for another commuter train, a wave of nausea washes over me. This is the worst part of fertility treatment . . . feeling pregnant when I’m not. It makes sense. I’m pumping my body full of hormones, and just two and a half days ago, I took a shot of hCG to the ass. It’s a lot to go through for a very real chance that it will get us absolutely nowhere.

I take a sip of lukewarm water and cradle my head. A glance in the rearview mirror shows Bella twirling her chestnut hair around a finger.