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Maisie sat with her hands dug into the soil, she could feel things wriggling past her fingers in the damp dirt. She sat rooted in the grass with her legs criss-cross applesauce. It stank like it did after the dog wet the kitchen rug the other day. There was something wet on her face, and she couldn’t feel whether or not she was breathing. Her heartbeat was everything.

I can’t move! she thought, vicious waves churning in her stomach.

No, something else said. You just won’t.

Those words echoed, everywhere and nowhere. Where was it coming from? She didn’t know. Her eyes were fixed on the grass in front of her, her short brown hair falling in front of her face. You’re a liar! she thought back, the wetness on her face spreading down her neck and pooling onto her legs. Maisie gawked at the water and the ground and the pale skin on her legs. She heard the wind as it raked through the trees. Something cried out, but she heard no words. They’re rooted. I’m rooted. She knew she’d see savage claws slicing through the fresh green canopy if she could just move. They’ve been here longer than me. They can’t move. I can’t move. Everything was sopping wet. She shivered.

You aren’t a tree, something else echoed again. You just won’t move.

 

When she felt firm, hot hands clamp down on either of her shoulders, she snapped her head up to look and only then did she hear her own screaming. Her father crouched in front of her with his hands on her slight shoulders. She shook, her heart beat wildly, her freckled face flushed red. She gasped out little bursts of noise and fought herself for her own breath, her hands fisted in the carpet. It was wet. She whined and started to pull up on it, confused as to where the grass went.

“Breathe, sweetheart. You’re okay now,” he said, a shushing tone in his voice. He didn’t need to look down at the carpet to know she’d wet it. At least she came out of this one before it got too smelly.

Her cries and gasps sputtered from her mouth like a car’s engine, stuttery and sharp-- in little bursts. Her heart clattered around violently in her chest, almost hard enough to break a rib or three. “D-dad…” she whispered, and he smiled at her, crinkles in his face highlighting his tired, keen eyes. Behind Maisie were her mother and younger sister Sophia, the latter grasping onto the former’s shirt for dear life. Maisie’s mother had a hand on the younger sister’s shoulder, holding her. Sophia repeated over and over in her head that everything was fine, it was fine-- Maisie’s brain is just sick. Her mother just looked on, but it took a great deal of effort to not let her grip on Sophia’s shoulder tighten too much. It would worry the little thing, and her mother’s goal and role here was to stay as calm as possible.

“See, you can move, baby girl,” her father said, wiping a hand across Maisie’s face. He kept his eyes on Maisie, searching for any facial indicators that her mind was trying to drag her back into herself. She let go of the wet carpet and reached to hold one of his hands in both of hers. “Want to tell me where you were this time?” he asked. Her father watched her with practiced patience. She responded well to questioning, but was slow to speak, as per usual after an outburst.

Maisie studied his aged hands, sniffling, noticing that her hands smelled bad. “I…” She turned one of his over, opening her own smaller, paler palm beside her father’s tanned one. “I was in the grass in the woods, there were a lot of really old trees. I think it was in the woods behind my old school.” She played in those woods with her friends years ago, but that was long before the day the odd little things she saw every now and then became half of her reality. Maisie looked up at her father, her eyes as big mirrors. “Dad, was that you talking to me?” She’d already forgotten her friend’s faces, anyways, and although she never forgot the sadness, she did forget how it felt.

He raised his eyebrows a little and sat down in front of her. Really getting down on her level and asking again would get something out of her, at least. That much he knew. “Well, it could have been. What did I say?” Maisie’s mother and sister leaned a little closer from their post at the door.

“I called you a liar… and yelled at you… and--” The answer was too important to let this rabbit trail continue. Her father squeezed her hands in both of his, interrupting her, and only then did she feel just how grossly wet her hands really were.

“Woah there, honey, I asked you what I said in the forest. What did the voice tell you? If you tell me,” he said, getting eye contact from his daughter again before continuing, “then I might be able to figure out if I said that to you or not. Okay?” He commended his own patience.

Maisie stared at him for a moment while the train of thought carrying everything else she was about to say before derailed abruptly, and another rolled slowly into her mind. It hurt a little. “You told me I wasn’t a tree, Dad. You said I could move but I just wouldn’t.” Her brain felt fuzzy.

Her father smiled. “I did say that!” Her mother and sister relaxed a little. A familiar voice, this time. This was good. “I’m so proud of you, baby girl, you heard me! Were there any other people you heard?”

Knowing that it was indeed her father the whole time, she relaxed too. “Nope, just you, Dad!” Maisie gave him a smile back, shifting a little, and realized all at once that her feet were numb and her socks and jeans were soaked. “Dad? I think I, ah...” She glanced between him and the floor, face reddening.

“Oh Maisie, don’t worry about that. You know we have the best carpet cleaner that ever existed! I’m not mad about your accident,” he assured her, and behind her, her mother and sister paced silently out of the room.

Out in the hall, the mother bent to look at Sophia. “Go get Googles, Sophia, let’s help out your big sister,” her mother told her, and Sophia nodded, padding quietly towards the kitchen and pausing for a heartbeat before she crossed onto the tiles. Even though her sister was definitely not in the kitchen, Sophia couldn’t help the impulse to check first. By now, hesitance before entering a room was a fair compulsion to have.

She jostled with the latches on Googles’s cage, more than tall enough to reach and work them at age six. She liked her job-- she always brought her big sister their dog, Googles, after an episode. Sophia loved helping, and although Googles was definitely Maisie’s favorite, Sophia usually got a thank-you in return. That made it worth it, most of the time.

“Okay Dad… thanks.” Maisie reached both of her arms up and wrapped them around her father’s neck, still a little teary-eyed. Her father hugged her back, rubbing her back gently, pleased she’d come out of this one after just a few shouts and a shake. He wondered if the occurrence of combined urination and screaming would end up being an isolated one. His wife walked silently across the doorway and raised her eyebrows at him in question. She held her arm extended towards the kitchen, where Sophia held Googles just out of view, in a signal for her to wait. He gave a small nod.

“I love you, baby girl, no matter what,” he told Maisie, and gave her a little squeeze. She giggled. “Do you want Googles now?” he asked. The dog’s name brought light to Maisie’s eyes as she pulled away from her father’s hug and nodded with vigor. “Let’s ask Sophia to get him for you!” Maisie clapped and clapped, bright. She was around thirteen years old, but she acted more like Sophia.

“Sophia! Can I have Googles?” she called, and turned around, still in her spot on the carpet. Maisie’s mother stood in the doorway between the main hall and the living room. She gave a smile to Maisie as she turned, leaning against the wall when Sophia came in with her small hands grasping tight to the miniature poodle’s collar. Her steps were careful, and she took her job very seriously. 

“Here’s Googles, sis!” Sophia announced, standing straight, and released his collar to let him hop over to where Maisie sat. Glad to have his eldest daughter distracted, her father stood up as Googles wagged his tail a mile a minute, ears back as he play-bowed, licking Maisie’s face as she pet him.

“Thank you, Sophia!” Maisie sang, and little Sophia beamed, some tension draining from her body. A job well done.

Standing, the father pulled out his phone and nodded to the mother, who also pulled out her own phone. On the same online connected document, shared with Maisie’s doctors, the wife watched as her husband made a note of the date and the episode.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2XXX - 8:00pm to 8:34pm 

After dinner, before bed. In living room. Heard familiar voice (Bruce’s), no stranger voices. The living room is still a forest. She was alone before the start time, so no suspected triggers were observed. Urinated. Screaming during hallucination-- responded to Bruce’s voice without recognizing it. Panic attack during.

Extra positive: She remembered to say “thank you” to Sophia again.

Bruce dealt with Maisie. Sophia got Googles. Charlotte observed/comforted Sophia.

Charlotte watched the text appear as Bruce’s deft fingers typed. They kept notes on shared documents since Bruce and Charlotte adopted Maisie as a baby around thirteen years ago. The transcribing of these episodes took up so many pages that a new one had to be started every four months, or when the page count took longer than a minute to load. None of Maisie’s doctors minded the long loading times, but Bruce took the reigns on the organization of the documents, and insisted it helped with finding and categorizing her episodes and their causes when the page count was low. Charlotte never bothered much with the documents, and often noticed Bruce had gone over and edited her responses, not like she minded. The doctors could have their datasheets. All Charlotte wanted was answers-- a tentative diagnosis, some progress, anything-- so that Maisie could have a better life with minimal medications.

She tucked her phone away with a frown, a lump forming in her throat, but quickly wiped the expression back into a more positive one before anyone but Bruce could see her. “Maisie, do you want to play with Googles and Sophia out in the backyard?” she asked, and both the girls turned to their mother with smiles and nods. “Then we can have bath time and go to sleep!”

Maisie popped up from the wet spot she’d made, suddenly not bothered by her soiled clothes, and bounced with Googles and Sophia through the kitchen to the back door and let them all outside. Charlotte moved after them to close the glass door.

“Char, what was that look?” Bruce asked, coming up behind her where she stood watching her children play. He wrapped his arms slowly around her waist, settling his chin on the crown of her head. He watched Maisie and Sophia too as Googles chased the two of them around on his little legs.

They watched the kids like this often, especially after an episode. Bruce knew hugs generally made Charlotte feel better, and since her being any more upset by Maisie’s condition than she was normally was was inconvenient for Bruce’s data, hugs were his go-to for temporarily quelling Charlotte’s unease. Sending the girls outside with the dog was therapeutic for everyone involved, too, so these moments were prime opportunities that a hug would count the most.

“You know how hard it is for me to watch when she screams like that. Soph was so scared. She was practically shaking.” Charlotte rested her hands over his and they stood there for a moment, she smiled a little. “I was just upset for a minute.” She blinked with a soft sigh, some tension filtering out through her nose as she shifted her focus from their children to their reflection in the glass door. Bruce’s eyebrows were raised and his frown was thoughtful on his face above hers. She could never tell what that expression meant, and she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that it unsettled her a little. Was he concerned, or focusing? She didn’t know.

His eyes met hers in their reflection and the smile he gave her was sincere. “I understand, honey, I’m just checking on you.” Bruce bent to give her a kiss on her cheek. Smiles and kisses and hugs, three of Charlotte’s favorite things to receive when asking for nothing. He knew that very well by now, and he could tell that her spirits were at least somewhat lifted. “I’ve got to go clean up the living room before the stain sets.”

He released her and went through the kitchen to the hall in the center of the main floor to retrieve the absolute monster of a vacuum-- it was one of those professional grade carpet doctors. Rolling the thing back through the kitchen and into the living room, Bruce plugged it in and started deep cleaning the spot Maisie had soiled. Looking through his notes on his phone about his adopted daughter in one hand and directing the machine with the other, Bruce chewed on his lower lip in thought. She hadn’t lost control like that in at least a month-- the screaming wasn’t unusual but the urination sure was. He wished he’d been able to see what happened in the moments before Maisie’s screams brought everyone running to the living room, but he suspected Sophia had something to do with it. 

Bruce hefted the vacuum into a turn, slowly dragging it back as it shampooed and dried the carpet all in one motion. More often than not, he mused, Sophia was with Maisie before an episode, but correlation didn’t imply causation. He’d kept Charlotte and Sophie from getting too close to Maisie earlier, as he did whenever Maisie was mid-episode. She could lash out, he would always tell his wife and biological daughter, so it was only safe for him to be closer to her-- he needed to keep notes for her doctors, as well. Two birds, one stone, he thought with a nod.

Maisie’s last episode involving urination was over a month ago, and it was outside, stated the document entry from just around four weeks prior. No connection, then. He put his phone back in his pocket and used both hands to urge the vacuum into its last required turn. The data from Maisie’s episodes also worked nicely for his clinical cognitive psychology research-- each one shed a little more light on the bigger picture, and Bruce only hoped he could keep watching long enough to see the whole thing.

So… three birds, one cage, Bruce thought with finality. The stone would damage them, and he didn’t want that at all. This household was a very delicate environment.

Carpet freshened and drying, he heard Charlotte going upstairs as he put the vacuum away. She reached the top of the stairs and made two turns into the bathroom, pulling a towel for each of her girls out of the small linen closet-- a pink one for Sophia and a warm red one for Maisie. The swaddling blanket they’d wrapped Maisie in as a baby was also red. Charlotte got a set of pajamas for each of them and turned on the tub faucet, wondering where that baby blanket had gone. Little Sophia had one of those, too-- a pink one with bunnies all over it. She sat on the edge of the tub as it filled with lukewarm water. Maisie didn’t like it too hot. The vacuum’s whirring roar fell silent as Bruce finished with it and went to put it up.

Charlotte stared out the open bathroom door, one of her hands dangling in the water to keep tabs on how high it was getting. Her gaze burned holes into the dark wood door of her writing room and another frown pulled her head down into her free palm. Charlotte closed her eyes. She hadn’t gone back in there to work on her stories in over three months ever since one of Maisie’s episodes had nearly sent both of the girls to the hospital.

The palm against her forehead started to sweat-- she couldn’t tell if it was from the moisture in the bathroom, or her own nerves. Charlotte could never forget the gut wrenching wail that pierced through her study door that night, her hand had jerked and slashed an inked line across the page she was writing. Her special fountain pen clattered to the desk instantly when she heard the subsequent shrill commotion. It was probably lying in the very same spot, too. She dug her nails into her scalp, wanting to use that pen again. She didn’t feel the water on the tips of her other hand’s fingers.

Charlotte had almost slipped down the stairs that night on her way down them. Upon her arrival on the last step, she was presented with the scene of Maisie writhing on the hall floor in her own vomit. More spurt forth with each burst of crying as Maisie kicked her legs out, her hands were fisted around two sizable chunks of Sophia’s blonde hair and pounded the hardwood floor. In that same instant, Bruce had just rounded the corner and dropped down into a crouch beside Sophia where she curled on her side about a yard away, holding her head and convulsing with sobs, blotches of blood visible between her small fingers. Charlotte tried to comfort Maisie, approaching with one outstretched arm, but the girl thrashed so violently while she puked her guts out that her mother couldn’t do anything but watch.

The splashing noise of the water from the overflowing tub jerked her back to reality, and she hurried to shut the water off. She was sweating, she noticed, her breathing quickened somewhat. Charlotte took deliberate deep breaths, thankful that the splash missed the girls’ towels. A few moments later and the water was drained to a lower level and Charlotte heard laughing as Bruce opened the door to go outside with the girls.

“Who’s ready for bathtime?” he called and then shut the back door. Charlotte could almost hear their shrill, playful squeals and Googles’ barks as Bruce dramatically chased them around with his monster roars and exaggerated stature. Charlotte laughed, a soft smile finding her face as she thought of how lucky she was to have Bruce by her side. She didn’t know what she’d do if he wasn’t here to help out with the girls.

Fifteen minutes later, the three of them came up the stairs, Googles at their heels. Charlotte laughed as Bruce deposited Maisie into the bathroom and bent to pick up Sophia. “Thanks, hon,” she said with a smile as he closed the door. “Maisie honey, it’s time to get clean!” Bruce went down the hall to Sophia’s room, tasking her with picking out a bedtime story while he went to put up Googles.

“Okay mama,” Maisie answered, all soft giggles as she let her mother undress her and get into the warm tub. “Can I have bubbles?” Her mother reached for the bottle of bubble bath soap, but paused.

“What do you say?” she asked, eyebrows raised a little.

Maisie stared at her, and Charlotte saw the wheels turning in her head. “Can I have the bubbles please, Mama?” she tried again, and her mother cheered.

“Yes you can!” Popping open and upturning the bottle, Charlotte swished her hand through the water to activate the bubbles. Her daughter’s quick movements in the tub did something to Charlotte’s already frazzled nerves, and memories of past episodes shot tendrils of anxiety through her gut. It took her a moment and resulted in more bubble solution than she meant to add in, but a quickly applied nail to her outer thigh reminded Charlotte of reality. It was almost bedtime.

After Maisie’s bath, Charlotte dried her off and while Maisie was picking which scent of lotion she wanted tonight, her mother filled the bath up again for Sophia. She cast a quick glance back at Maisie where she deliberated over lotions by the sink when Charlotte realized that her daughter was a little too still. Charlotte quickly shut the water off and approached while on her knees. She placed a hand gently on Maisie’s back, just between her shoulder blades, and rubbed little circles with her fingers, keeping one nearer to own face in case she needed to react. “Maisie, baby? Talk to Mommy,” she said, a little loudly like the therapist recommended. 

She was mumbling to herself fragments that definitely weren’t words, but thankfully she blinked a few times after the gentle touch from her mother. Her wide, dark eyes looked spooked. “Mama, I was by the little river, there were more trees than last time,” she reported, but her voice wavered a little bit. Her mother reached to hug her. “I thought I wanted the Forest Flowers lotion this time, but I don’t want it any more.”

“Thank you for telling me, my big strong girl,” Charlotte said, holding her and looking Maisie right in her eyes. “Do you want the Ocean Breeze one instead? I think it will help you feel like you’re at the beach so you can sleep.” Maisie’s expression settled as her mother spoke, and she nodded. 

Down the hall in Sophia’s room, Bruce and Sophia sat together on a massive pink bean bag chair, Sophia in his lap, a colorful book in her lap. Reading to a child was very important to the development of their little brains, and had the added side effect of strengthening one’s bond between parent and child. “Soph! Your turn!” Charlotte called as Maisie pulled on her pajamas all by herself. He noted the time, four minutes longer than the normal bath time duration, and was sure another episode had happened in there. Bruce knew Charlotte could handle it.

Bruce lifted Sophia off of his lap and she ran off to the bathroom still holding the book. The cute kitten in the storybook made Sophia giggle, his funny tricks fresh in her mind, and she wanted to take the book and the kitten with her into the tub. Bruce walked after her. “Soph, you can’t bring that into the bathroom. You’ll get it wet, and we won’t be able to read it any more.” She stopped and turned, her father catching up to her, his hand out in request for the book. She didn’t want to give it back. They weren’t done reading it yet.

“Can you please read it to me in the bathroom, Papa?” she asked, clutching it to her chest.

Bruce shook his head. “No, but I can read it to you in bed. How does that sound?” After another second of hesitation, she gave up the book and he opened the bathroom door for her. “Thank you, Soph. Maisie, it’s bedtime!” Bruce tucked the book under his arm.

Sophia replaced Maisie in the bathroom and Maisie trotted ahead of her father to her room, small smile on her face from the smell of the lotion. As he closed the bathroom door, Sophia stood in silence near the sink. The bath filled up, her mother typing something on her phone while the water level rose. She knew what her mother was typing up-- Sophia called times like this one “Maisie Moments” . Her father always reminded her how important it was to write down every single one of her sister’s episodes on their phones, but she hated it when Mama’s Maisie Moments cut into her bathtime.

Bruce walked just behind Maisie as she pranced happily into her room opposite Sophia’s. Maisie’s walls were white save for the warm red window wall, stickers of smiling planets stuck to the wall beside her bed. Bruce peeled back the red and grey checkered quilt to reveal dog paw print patterned sheets which Maisie clambered into with glee. “Bedtime story, Papa?” Maisie asked. “Please?”

To Maisie, sometimes the kitchen was a mountain, the living room was a forest, the main floor hall was someplace dark, the second floor hallway was a classroom from her old school, and the bathroom a small wooded creek bed. Sophia was a little protective of her room, understandably so. It perplexed Bruce to no end that of all the places Maisie had episodes, her room was never one of them. He was not sure if Maisie was aware of this fact. “Of course, how about The Adventures of Twist the Kitten?” he asked, pulling the story book out from under his arm, and Maisie nodded, shifting around to get comfortable. Bruce and all of Maisie’s doctors wanted to know how Maisie worked. Her condition resembled fragments of mental disorders from across the board, but was its own beast altogether. She had to know that her room was interestingly episode-free, Bruce reasoned, sitting down on the edge of Maisie’s bed, opening the book to read. She certainly felt safe there. 

“Mama, can I please have bubbles?” Sophia asked when her mother put her phone down to shut the water off. 

“Of course you can, baby girl, hop on over here!”

Sophia really loved bathtime. She gave her mom a little hug as she was lifted into the warm water. The bubble bath solution plopped generously into the tub and the swath of white bubbles that rose from their swishing of the water brought a big smile to Sophia’s face. Bathtime was all about her and mama and nice smells and sudsy soap and shampoo. She loved her sister, she was sure she did, but sometimes she liked bathtime more. To her, it always felt like it never lasted long enough, and before she knew it her mother was letting the tub drain while she toweled her off with her favorite pink towel. The lotion after the warm bath was Sophia’s favorite part, and the fact that she was tall enough now to see over the counter to the veritable army of different scents only made it better.

“Mama, can I please have the love and sunshine one?” Sophia asked, her chin on the edge of the counter. 

“Oh I love that one, Soph! You sure can!”

Not long after, Sophia was in her bed in the room across from Maisie’s. Charlotte tucked her in, no bedtime story because it was past her bedtime, and kissed Sophia and her stuffed bunny goodnight. Both the girls’ rooms were on one end of the hall, the bathroom and Charlotte’s study were in the middle, and the master bedroom was at the other end of the hall.

Charlotte checked the closet for monsters, and kissed Sophia goodnight a second time before turning off her lights, leaving her room quietly and shutting the door. 

When Charlotte turned around, she saw Bruce quietly shutting Maisie’s door. “Soph’s in bed, is Maisie?”

Bruce nodded, and they both walked to their end of the hall. Their twin bedside alarm clocks each read 9:45pm, and after he shut the door, she sat down on the bed and stretched, flopping over. “Do you want to shower first, Char?” he asked.

In her bed, Sophia turned over to face the pink wall and peered out of the corner of her eyes at the time projected on the ceiling by her clock. Five minutes passed, and Papa never came in to finish Twist the Kitten’s story. Sophia shut her eyes, gripping her bunny tight as she tried to sleep.

Charlotte was still for a moment before she nodded and and sat back up with a grunt of effort. She wondered why she was so tired. “Yeah, I’ll shower first. It would be for the best, I’m beat.”

“It’s all yours then.” He paused, setting his phone on his dresser. “Did everything go alright with the girls’ baths?”

“Maisie had a mini trip to the river, and Sophia gave me a big hug,” she told him, hugging herself. What if it wasn’t a mini trip? Charlotte sat on the edge of the bed and ran her hands through her tangled dark blonde hair to stop that train of thought. Bedtime, not overthinking time.

“I saw your entry into the log, good job catching that and pulling her back to reality, honey,” he said, coming over to where she was and bent over to give her a kiss. She returned the kiss, but her stiffness betrayed her inner turmoil, and Bruce planted another kiss on her forehead. 

“Thanks.” She stared up at him, somewhat distant. He met her gaze, waiting for whatever was bothering her to surface like it eventually did whenever she got into her post-episode moods. “I’m worried about Sophia. She didn’t say anything about Maisie’s episode. Do you think she’s okay?”

Bruce took a moment, expression thoughtful. “I see what you mean, but it doesn’t sound like there’s anything wrong. Isn’t it good that she doesn’t always bring up her sister’s episodes? I’d hate for her to fixate on them and get afraid even when they’re not happening.” Sophia definitely wasn’t sobbing about it every night like she did during the first year and a half, Bruce noted to himself. He acknowledged that the decrease of reactions from an otherwise properly reacting six year old girl when upsetting things occurred was concerning and confusing-- was she okay? Depressed? Internalizing everything? “It’s hard to tell, Char, but Sophia is strong-- she’s a trooper.” Either way, Bruce reasoned, she’s got something to do with a lot of Maisie’s episodes.

Charlotte was very sure that nothing was okay with Sophia’s relative silence, but her own exhaustion re-focused her, for now, on getting to sleep. She nodded. Standing, she went into their ensuite master bathroom. “It’s just one of those feelings that I have. I worry about her almost as much as I worry about Maisie.” She stopped in the bathroom doorway after opening it, looking back to Bruce in time to see him strip off his socks and the belt from his pants. “Bruce? Do you really think everything’s okay with her?” She pinched at the hem of her shirt.

“Soph’s strong, Char,” Bruce said without missing a beat.  “She’s a great helper and really loves her sister, she’d tell us if she was really mad. She has before, even after the second year.” He wished that he could figure out a way to keep his wife from worrying so much-- all these whining questions about Sophia distracted from Maisie’s behaviour, which he was infinitely more interested in. Charlotte sighed, offering a nod before she closed the bathroom door behind her.

Her shower was quick. She kept herself moving the whole time-- wet, wash, rinse, out. Sophia and Maisie were asleep across the house, dreaming of a peaceful dinner and a field full of dogs like Googles, respectively. Charlotte stood staring at her reflection in the fogged mirror, longing to fall asleep knowing that something could be done to help Maisie. She collected herself and emerged from the bathroom wrapped up in a towel.

“All yours, Bruce.” No reaction. He was on his phone again, staring at what was surely the Maisie Episode List they kept. She was right. “Do you think we should get Maisie more medication? See what else the doctors can do for her?” 

That got his attention pretty quick, and he looked at her, wondering why his earlier answer didn’t satisfy her. “Why?” He didn’t want Maisie to be on any more medication, it could skew his data. “She’s not been getting worse, Char, and she pretty quickly came out both episodes today.”

Charlotte walked over to her dresser to the left of the bed. “But just last week the third episode of the day was a violent one, don’t you remember? She was almost in the same exact spot as today, too-- in the living room with a fork in her hands.” He set his phone beside him on the bed, watching Charlotte. “It’s just scary, especially for Soph. It doesn’t matter if she’s strong, she shouldn’t have to live in silence. We have the money, Bruce, please...” she said, bracing her free hand against her dresser. “Every single time it gets that much harder to handle when Maisie screams like that.”

He shook his head, but only a little. “I get how you feel, but I have a good feeling about how things are faring. She responded well in the bathroom and told you what she saw. She’s learning-- dare I say… getting better!” He sounded optimistic, and all Charlotte could do was sigh and look over her shoulder at him. “I really think things are getting better, Char, though her screaming isn’t easy to listen to, I agree.” 

“Don’t you remember the first time she told us what was going on? She’s been afraid of so many things since then. I don’t like seeing her this way, Bruce, can’t we just get her some more help? Maybe tell her neurologist to up the dosage of her morning medication?” Charlotte looked like she could cry at any second, her lips drawn into a close line.

Bruce listened, light frown on his face. “I understand, Char.” He rolled over to her side of the bed and stood, walking over to her. “If we ask to increase her gabapentin, then there’s a chance that her drowsy and dizzy spells will get worse. I don’t want to see her suffer either, honey, but a higher dosage means stronger side effects.” Charlotte held her towel tightly, she looked so sad. “It’s going to be okay. There are days like these, Char.” He hoped he wasn’t being too dismissive. Talks like these tended to have a propensity to snap like live wires.

“I haven’t been able to work in my study for three months Bruce,” she said suddenly. “My editor has been patient but I don’t know how long I can keep this up. They need progress, and I-” She took a deep breath, trying to keep her voice level. “I can’t be in that room with the door closed, I get so afraid that she’ll have another violent episode, and if I don’t close the door then I can’t write at all!”

He turned her around and drew her into a hug, towel and all, her hair wet against his face. “I’m so sorry, Char.” She gripped him hard. “I don’t know what to do about this, either. We just have to be patient.” With her face against his shoulder, she breathed in his scent. He smelled vaguely like urine, and that knot in her throat turned over and over, tightening until she coughed out a few sobs. 

Her eyes burned as she cried, thoughts flying through her head-- her inability to safely have any more children, something’s wrong with Sophia, Maisie’s episodes. “I can’t write or focus on my job at all in the study with the chance of them getting hurt again, Bruce,” she said, and he barely heard her.

“Just breathe,” he said, his voice soft in her ear. “In, one, two, three, four, out, one, two, three, four.” She followed his directions, noticing her fast heartbeat gradually slow down. Her racing thoughts rolled to a crawl, and she pulled away to look up at Bruce.

“I wish I could have another child. A baby brother or sister for Sophia to play with when Maisie can’t, and when we’re working.”

He definitely didn’t want another variable added into this equation. “I know, Char. Me too… but I’d rather not have you getting hurt again.” Charlotte looked up at him. When she was pregnant with Sophia, they’d already adopted Maisie as a baby. Later in her pregnancy, she began experiencing unquenchable thirst, blurred vision, and was always needing to run to the toilette. A visit to the doctor netted her a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, and a warning to not try for another baby after this one. Her family had a history of diabetes, even though Charlotte hadn’t had it before having Sophia. “You mean too much to me, Charlotte. We can always adopt young again, but… let’s get some sleep now. It’s late, and Maisie needs her medicine early in the morning.” He was getting tired of smelling like pee.

Charlotte sighed, letting go of Bruce to change into her pajamas. He moved off to the bathroom, stopping for a moment to smile reassuringly back at her. “I’m going to sleep first, then,” she said. He nodded, and she crawled into bed, defeated.