Thursday, October 18 — Tucson,
My own scream woke me
up. I found myself sitting bolt upright in my desk chair, terrified, heart
pounding, lungs straining, as if I'd raced up four flights of stairs.
A dream, I told myself,
letting my gaze sweep around the familiar walls of my office in the University
of Arizona Psych Department to bring myself back to reality.
Definitely a dream and not much of one at that. Except for yelling my sister's
name at the end, I remembered nothing but pure emotion. Fear. And powerful
enough that my fight-or-flight instincts kicked my adrenal glands into red
alert. Fear, somehow linked to my sister. My twin, Sara.
My computer monitor
suddenly went black, making me jump as it switched from screen saver to sleeper
Taking a deep breath, I
gave the mouse a shove and the personality analysis I'd been working on when I
dozed off reappeared.
The case was chronic
vandalism inside a corporate headquarters. Mustaches drawn on portraits, stuff
like that. Tucson's Finest had given me the case to profile because none of them
wanted to waste time on it. The only reason I'd been wasting time on it was so I
could procrastinate the grading of Intro to Psych midterms due back to my
students Monday (part of my full-time day job, after all). Served me right for
falling asleep and having a scary dream.
The clock in the corner
of my PC screen read 7:56 PM, so it was pushing ten in Pennsylvania. No,
eleven—the East Coast was still on Daylight Time. Arizona was on Mountain
Standard Time year-round, so the difference was three hours.
Was Sara asleep yet?
Didn't matter. I reached for my cell phone and punched in the number at home.
That's when it hit me,
I was actually calling my sister. Calling her. Sara and I hadn't so much as
exchanged a greeting card in over five years, not since the summer after we
graduated college. What would I say to her? "Hey, sis. Just wanted to see if
you're in any kind of danger." Sara would figure the whole thing for a bad joke.
Our relationship, dysfunction-wise, didn't need the extra boost.
To my relief, the
machine picked up. My sister's recorded voice, saying, "You've reached the home
of Sara Ziegler. Please leave a message when you hear—"
I hung up and prayed
she didn't have caller I.D. I'd changed my cell number when I moved, but she'd
see the Tucson area code. She'd know it was me.
I thought about trying
her cell phone. "No," I said aloud. "Just a stupid dream." My voice sounded like
an unconvincing scam artist. Would I buy a used car from someone with a voice
like that? Conflict avoidance, pure and simple.
After that, I spent the
rest of that night—Thursday—trying on various styles of common sense:
First, the Scientific Look, which consisted of me spouting erudite statements
like, "Clairvoyance is a bunch of hooey."
Too tight around the
brain. I didn't like to label anything "hooey" unless I had proof.
Next came the Not-In-My-Backyard Look. I couldn't speak for the rest of the
world, but I knew I wasn't psychic.
That I could call
hooey. Or at least basic denial. Ever since Sara and I were kids, I'd always
known when she was in trouble. When her appendix burst, when a vicious dog
chased her, the car accident in high school...every time my sister had felt
threatened, I'd have a kind of panic attack. Not wanting to be branded a freak,
I'd kept the episodes to myself. Tonight would be no exception. I was a criminal
psychologist, not a 1-900-PSYCHIC operator.
I settled for the
Off-My-Shoulders Look. Why should I drive myself crazy trying to find out if
Sara was all right? If anything serious had happened to her, someone would get
in touch with me. I wasn't that hard to track down. Sara and hubby Rick both
knew I'd come to the University of Arizona to do my grad work. All Rick had to
do was check the U. of A. website. I was listed on the faculty, complete with
college email address.
Of course, that was
assuming he would, which was based more on wishful thinking than on what I knew
of human nature. During our first three years of college, Rick and I had
been...well...and then he married my sister.
Truth was, unless my
signature was needed for some legal document, communication from the other side
of the continent wasn't likely. If Sara wanted to sell the house, which was
still half mine, I'd hear from her. No, I'd hear from her lawyer.
Fine. Let my twin
handle her own problems.
I'm usually a whiz at spite, but this time it didn't work. By the next morning,
the memory of the fear in my dream had morphed into a fixation. I couldn't
concentrate on my teaching, couldn't even finish my analysis of the vandal case.
My plan had been to grade those Intro exams on my lunch hour, but instead, I
tried to call home again.
four....I was ready if the machine picked up this time. I'd just say, "It's Gen.
Call me," and leave the number. Six.... That way I didn't actually have to come
up with a reason to be phoning until she called back. If she called back. Eight
After a dozen rings, I
finally hung up. I tried her cell number, but that was disconnected. Like me,
she apparently had a new one.
Sure, I knew other ways
to check up on her. Run an Internet search, see if her work email was listed,
check the social networks. She used to be on more than one, with thousands of
friends. Sara was the social butterfly in the family. I was the hermit.
Still, I knew that only
the sound of her voice would tell me she was truly all right. I wished that I'd
left a message the night before.
Thinking that, I
remembered the sound of Sara's voice on her machine, and remembering it, my jaw
dropped a good two inches.
"The home of Sara
Ziegler," she'd said. Not "the home of Richard and Sara Davis," or even "Richard
Davis and Sara Ziegler."
A new wrinkle, which
made up my mind for me. Time to go home. Not permanently, of course. I was
thinking more along the lines of closure. Anyway, that's what I told myself.
Within forty minutes,
I'd found an empty seat on a red-eye to Philadelphia for that night.
Then, so I could get
away for the weekend with a clear conscience, I graded my Intro midterms.