He looked at his watch nervously. 11:35. The session was half over and Marie still hadn’t shown up yet. He had been meeting with Steven regularly for the past six months or so, and today was the day he had been expecting to meet her.
“So I guess what I’m trying to say Dr. Cox, is that I’ve been feeling a lot better. More, at peace.”
“That’s great Steven. I’m glad to hear it.” He still wasn’t used to being called Doctor yet. It had been almost a year since he graduated and began practicing psychiatry, but most days he still felt like an imposter. “Have you been taking your medication regularly?”
“Yes,” Steven replied, begrudgingly. “I take it every morning, even though it makes me sleepy. Sometimes Marie has to remind me, but I take it.”
“Great. Speaking of Marie, do you know if she’ll be joining us today? I’ve been looking forward to meeting her.” He glanced down at his yellow note pad, hoping Steven couldn’t hear the nervousness in his voice.
“Oh, she’ll be here. She’s a pain in my ass, but she’s nothing if not consistent.” Steven looked down at his hands, a sheepish grimace on his face. “We’ve been fighting a lot more than normal. It’s like, she’s not happy that I’m doing well.”
“Why do you think that?”
Steven shook his head, refusing to make eye contact with Dr. Cox. An uncomfortable silence filled the office.
“It’s not that I’m unhappy when he is feeling better, it’s just that he’s going out more with his friends and he has less time for me.” Dr. Cox looked up from his note pad, trying to conceal his surprise.
“You must be Marie.” He was startled at how steady his voice was. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
“Yeah, well Steven’s been nagging me enough about showing up, I knew I needed to just get it over with.” She narrowed her eyes as she spoke.
“I’m so pleased to finally meet you.” He repeated. He didn’t know what else to say.
“So you’re the famous Dr. Cox, huh? Steven talks about you all the time.” She looked towards the place on the couch where Steven had been sitting. “I bet he tells you all kinds of things about me.”
“He has told me a few things. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve been fighting about?”
“He didn’t tell you? Of course he didn’t. He’s been inviting Felicity over more and more. He wants to go out with his friends all the time and he knows I don’t feel comfortable with his friends. He dresses like a total jock – it drives me crazy. Should I go on?”
Dr. Cox was furiously scribbling notes. “If you want, please continue.”
“He’s so rigid all the time. Doesn’t feel like himself around me. I keep trying to get him to come back to me. I remind him to take his medication – it makes him sleepy, but I like him when he’s sleepy. He’s so much more relaxed and easy going. It’s easier for us to communicate.”
“Tell me more about that – your communication.”
“What do you want to know? We used to be so close we could read each other’s minds. Now, he’s changing… and sometimes he just disappears for hours at a time. Sometimes I can’t even find him anymore.” Marie paused and took a deep breath. She looked up and met Dr. Cox’s eyes, and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Sometimes I think he doesn’t need me anymore.”
The timer on his desk chimed softly. Dr. Cox glanced down at his notes for a second, wondering what he was going to say to wrap up this session. Marie interrupted his thoughts.
“That means it’s time to go, doesn’t it?” She sounded surprisingly sad.
“I’m afraid it does. But thank you so much for joining us today. I’ll hope you’ll come again.”
Almost inaudibly, she replied “I doubt it.” Marie scanned the room, grabbed Steven’s jacket and started to walk away, stopping just shy of the door. “You know,” she said, without even turning around, “We’re not just figments of his imagination or his personality. We are all individuals. All of us.”
“All of you?” Dr. Cox asked, quizzically. “How many of you are there?”
“Twenty-seven,” she didn’t even pause to think.
“Twenty-seven,” Dr. Cox repeated, incredulously. “It’s highly unusual for someone with Dissociative Identify Disorder to have so many alters.”
She slowly turned around, a murderous look in her eyes. “Oh yeah? Well he needs us ALL.” Something had shifted on Steven’s face and Dr. Cox knew instinctively he was no longer talking to Marie.
“And who are you?” He asked, tentatively.
“I’m Francisco. And you need to shut the fuck up.”
Dr. Cox swallowed hard, regretting every decision he had made in his life that had led him to this exact moment.