Jack hadn’t gone into work since the accident, almost three weeks ago. He’d never missed a day of work before, not since he’d started at The Orchard’s Psychology Center as an intern, fresh out of school. It had been eleven years. It was strange to stay there all day. The hallways and big, open rooms of his childhood home were familiar, but everything was so different now, and the house was quieter then he remembered. They’d left his mother’s furniture where she’d arranged it. It was all collecting dust now, and when the late afternoon sunlight slanted through the big windows, Jack could see the dust particles dancing in the air. It was pretty, in a way, but it made him sad. It made the house seem abandoned. Jack began to feel the need to leave. In the morning, instead of putting on his suit and going to work, he stayed home with Charlotte. His sister needed him. He knew this, but nothing was helping. Nothing was changing. It had been three weeks, and Jack was impatient to go back to work, to go back to the patients he knew he could help. His opportunity came one morning, when the phone rang. Jack found Charlotte in the pool room. Luna was floating in the green, slimy water, and Charlotte was tossing cracked corn to her. They’d stopped putting chemicals into the water a few weeks ago, when the duck had moved inside. Jack leaned against the doorway while he buttoned the cuffs of his suit. He didn’t like how much Charlotte depended on the creature. It wasn’t healthy, and she wasn’t going to get better this way. He watched as Luna scooped up the corn, water dribbling down her beak. She quacked noisily. The sounds reverberated against the glass walls and sounded like a child laughing. “You spend too much time in here,” Jack said, coming into the room. Charlotte frowned at Jack’s suit. “Where are you going?” “Out. I got a call.” “You’re not taking any calls.” Jack lifted his chin to knot his tie. “I know. I shouldn’t be gone long.” “But-” “I’ll be home soon, Charlotte.” He held her gaze for a moment, until she gave up protesting. “I’ll see you soon,” he promised her. Charlotte turned away from him and picked up her wine glass. There was no alcohol in it, Jack knew. It was grape juice. That habit was leftover from when she was pregnant. The house was big and old. It seemed better maintained then Jack’s house – the lawn was mowed and the paint was bright and clean. Jack knocked on the door, and had a moment to wonder. It probably wasn’t any real disorder, from what he’s heard on the phone. The girl was only seven. And then he thought of Charlotte. The girl was only seven, just like – The front door opened. “Dr. Wilson, I’m so glad you’re here.” Josephine was older then he’d thought she’d be. Her fingers fiddled frantically with her skirt, wringing wrinkles into the fabric. Her hair was falling out of its bun, and there were shadows under her eyes. She looked like a woman falling apart. “I’ve been so worried,” she said, glancing over her shoulder as she led him through the house. “She won’t eat, can’t sleep. She wakes up screaming – it’s a terrible thing. I’m so glad you’re here.” “You said on the phone that her father is dead?” “Yes. He died about a year ago, I think. But she never met him. Her mother works in Europe, and McKenzie only sees her on holidays. I’ve raised her myself since she was two, the poor girl. All this didn’t start until just a few weeks ago.” Jack nodded, but he didn’t reply. He began to mentally tick off the possibilities. Grief made the most sense, especially in a child of this age. It could also be an attention-seeking ploy, or even just an overactive imagination. McKenzie was so young that he couldn’t imagine this being a real mental illness. Seven year olds just don’t go crazy. Josephine knocked on McKenzie’s door. There was no answer, so she opened it and poked her head in. “Kenzie,” she said softly. “There’s a nice doctor here to see you.” She pushed the door open wider and led Jack into the room. The room was dim. It was midday but the curtains were shut, so that only the suggestion of daylight came through. The light from the hall shot into the room, but it wasn’t strong enough to entirely push away the dark. McKenzie was lying in bed. Jack could just make out the glow of her light hair against the pillow, but it was too dark for him to see any details. Josephine moved slowly through the room and opened the curtains. The sudden bright light caused a shriek from the bed, and McKenzie shot upright. “Shut the windows!” she said. “Shut the windows, or they’ll see me!” When Josephine didn’t move, McKenzie leaped out of bed and lurched for the windows, frantically pulling the curtains closed. As they stood in the dark Jack could hear her panting. “All right, Kenzie. Is the electric light acceptable?” McKenzie must have nodded or given some signal, because Josephine stumbled across the room and then the light was on, feeling cold and fake after the sunlight. Jack got his first good look at his new patient then, and the feeling he got was like when he saw Sammy and Johnny in the hospital that night, like his stomach was missing and the silence was too loud. McKenzie’s eyes were bruised and sunken into her chalky face. Her pale hair was tangled around her head, and compared with the rest of her, the nightgown with lace and pink ribbons seemed weirdly macabre and ridiculous. She looked at Jack with a desperation that he had never seen before. “So you’re here to help me?” she asked. “I’m here to try.” McKenzie went back to her bed, sitting down and pulling the covers into her lap. She watched Jack explore her room. There were pictures covering the walls, grizzly faces with fangs and dark eyes. “What are these?” he said, touching one softly. “They’re guardians. To protect me.” A shadow moved across the floor, and Jack looked up. Old screws and nails and a pair of scissors were hung on the blades of the ceiling fan. McKenzie followed his gaze. “They don’t like metal things,” she explained. Jack couldn’t take his eyes away from the nails dangling above him. “Who are they?” he asked. “What do they want?” “Fairies,” McKenzie shuddered, pulling the blanket tighter to herself. “They’re trying to kidnap me. It happens all the time in fairy tales. They get into my dreams when I’m sleeping, and now I see them more and more, even when I’m awake. I don’t know what to do.” McKenzie stared at her hands in her lap, her limp hair falling into her face. “So, was it nothing?” Jack startled. He’d been staring out the west wall, watching the leaves move against the glass. Luna was in Charlotte’s lap, and she was petting the bird’s neck as she nibbled her leg with her beak. It was a duck’s way of purring. It took Jack a moment to remember what she’d asked. “No. I don’t know. It was strange,” he rubbed a hand through his hair, sighing. It had been hard. McKenzie was seven. She was the same age, and she almost looked like her, too. But she was so different. “A child that young can’t be crazy. That’s what my experience and logic tells me. But this girl,” he laughed shortly, without humor. “She could be faking, but I don’t think so.” “What are her symptoms?” Now that she saw him every day, Charlotte was learning a lot about madness. “Well,” Jack said, “she thinks she’s being kidnapped by fairies.” “A lot of children make up fantastical stories.” Charlotte said softly. She was probably thinking about Sammy. Jack turned to look at the pool. It was hard not to think about when the water was still clear and the pool room smelled like chlorine, and a child’s laughter reverberated against the glass walls. Jack jerked suddenly. The green pool surprised him for a moment. He was just tired, he reasoned. These past weeks had been so hard, and now this. McKenzie looked so much like Sammy, and she was so desperate. Jack knew that he had to help her. “It’s more than stories,” Jack said. “She won’t eat, and she can’t sleep. She wakes up screaming every night from her nightmares. If she were older I would diagnose her with paranoid schizophrenia, but she's seven, Charlotte. You should have seen her today. God, I have never seen a child look like that in my life.” Jack’s mother had been sick for so long, it was hard to remember her any other way. It was something like a blessing when she died. It still hurt, more then they’d expected. They had been hoping more a miracle, even if they didn’t talk about it. The loss of that hope was almost the worst part. Charlotte had moved in with their mother months before the end. Her husband and daughter came with her, filling the sick house with a life it hadn’t had in years. Jack would stop by on his way home most nights. Sammy would be playing in the pool – she loved the pool. She would float on her back and look up at the glass surrounding her, and pretend she was a princess in a fairy castle. Charlotte had still been playing with the Philharmonic then. She was a cellist, and she used to play all the time, filling the halls with her music. She was playing in a concert a week after her mother died. Johnny and Sammy were on their way. They’d come to every concert, and they’d bring her roses after the applause. It was so common, so unexpected – the other driver hit them, and they went off the bridge. It shouldn’t have happened. But it did. Jack got to the hospital first. Charlotte didn’t find out until hours later, when the concert was over and she was waiting in the lobby for Sammy to run up to her, holding the bouquet. That night was the reason Jack couldn’t leave, and the reason Charlotte couldn’t get better. Charlotte hadn’t played since. The Philharmonic called once, to see if Charlotte wanted to pick up the music for the next concert. Jack wasn’t home and Charlotte ignored the phone, petting Luna while it rang and rang. Josephine brought McKenzie up lunch. She sat the try down and then hovered a bit, asking if McKenzie needed more crackers, or was the soup hot enough. When she was satisfied that there was no reason for her to stay she left, leaving Jack and McKenzie alone. Jack waited for McKenzie to eat. He looked around her room again, looking for any clues. There had to be something. He knew that she couldn’t be schizophrenic – but what did that leave? That she was really being abducted by fairies? There were toys everywhere. Stuffed animals stacked against the walls, dolls still in the package. A TV in the corner with stacks of DVDs to the side. He hadn’t noticed them before, but the things were obviously new. Jack turned to ask McKenzie something, but a bookshelf under the window caught his attention. He ran his finger across the spines. One of them surprised him. He paused, his finger brushing the gold script of the title, then slid the book of fairy tales off the shelf. “Do you like to read?” He asked McKenzie, holding up the book. She looked up from her soup and froze, staring at the title. Slowly, she picked up her glass and took a small sip of milk. Her hand shook. Jack opened the book and flipped through the pages. Something began to fall into place then, and he thought of what McKenzie had said earlier. Children are kidnapped all the time in fairy tales. His heart beat quickened. He could hear the blood rushing in his ears, and he knew he was losing his temper, he knew she was only seven, but suddenly, he didn’t care. The stories, the pictures – he looked from McKenzie to the book, and he laughed sharply. “Oh, you little liar,” Jack said softly, laughing to himself, shaking his head. It wasn’t funny and he stopped. He had been worried about her. She was so much like Sammy, but now she wasn’t. “You little liar!” he shouted. She startled, dropping her spoon into the bowl with a clang. Jack threw the book on the bed and it bounced on the mattress. The grotesque figures on the wall stared down at him. Protection from fairies, he thought to himself. He laughed again. He paced the room, rubbing his hand through his hair. The stuffed bears and kittens watched him with their plastic eyes, and the scene was reflected back to him in the television, slightly warped. “You bitch,” he said. “You little faking bitch!” McKenzie was frozen on her bed, watching Jack with wide eyes. At some point she had begun to cry. Jack thought, briefly that he should stop, that he was out of line, but the thought was pushed away. “How long ago did you figure this scheme out, huh?” Jack asked, picking up a tiger with its price tag still attached and throwing it against the wall. “Pretending to be sick for what? Attention? This shit?” He threw another animal, a pink zebra. He’d felt sorry for her, he’d thought he could help her – hell, he had to help her. Helping her would be like helping her, like helping Sammy, but Sammy was gone and this piece of shit, she was faking, she wasn’t sick. He threw another animal, and in some way, the fear in McKenzie’s face made him feel good. Josephine rushed into the room. “What’s going on?” Her eyes moved between Jack and McKenzie, like she didn’t understand what she was seeing. Jack turned to her, pointing his finger towards McKenzie. Josephine stepped back. “This brat’s been lying to you,” he said. “She’s not sick. She’s playing you for this crap!” He picked up another bear and threw it down. It bounced slightly, stopping at Josephine’s feet. “What’s wrong with you?” Josephine asked. “Dr. Wilson, what are you doing?” Jack was breathing heavily. He didn’t know what to say. Couldn’t she see? She’d been deceived all this time, stressing herself out, over nothing. She should be thanking Jack. She should be relieved. “I want you to leave, Dr. Wilson,” Josephine said firmly. She moved aside, so Jack could step past her. Jack glanced at McKenzie one last time. The girl was curled up on the bed, sobbing. All he could see was her blond hair. Blond hair, floating in the pool. Blond hair, dripping wet, splashing water on the floor. Jack knew he was going to cry if he didn’t get out of there. He left, pushing past Josephine into the hallway, and he didn’t look back. Charlotte was playing when he got home. He could hear the music from the foyer, a sound as rich as chocolate. It had been three weeks; four since his mother’s death, three since his brother-in-law and niece. It had been so hard. He was so tired. Luna was in the pool, sleeping with her head tucked under a wing. He sat on the edge of the pool and coaxed her out with cracked corn. She was hesitant, but she came, jerking her head up and down and quaking. She stopped a few feet from him and ate the treat off the water. When the corn was gone Jack held her in his lap, stroking the smooth feathers of her back. His tears landed on her and slid off her smooth feathers, one after another.