“She’ll be fine,” I heard Dr. Blenkinsop say, his voice drifting out to the kitchen, where Father and I were sitting.[i] The doctor was with the Eastbrooks in our parlor, where they had taken the unconscious Harriet as soon as she had fainted. The Eastbrooks had no telephone yet, and Father had urged them to use our house.
“Dr. Blenkinsop will come right over,” he had said. “He’s a friend.”
“That’s remarkable,” said Mrs. Eastbrook. “A doctor who comes to a house. I thought those days were over.”
“Things are different in a small town,” Father said.
“They’d better be,” said Mr. Eastbrook. I wondered what he meant.
We got up from our chairs and went into the parlor. The doctor was still talking. “She may just be tired from the move,” he said. “The stress.” He paused a moment. “Or maybe she ate something that didn’t agree with her?”
“She’s always eating,” her mother said softly.
“It must be food,” said her father. “What’s a kid got to be stressed about?”
“Well, children can feel stress, too—” began the doctor.
“That’s ridiculous,” snapped Vickie’s father, his face reddening.
Dr. Blenkinsop just sighed. “Well, let’s just let her rest,” the doctor said. “That’s really all she needs. I don’t see any need for any medication or other tests for the moment. But keep in touch. Here’s my number.” He handed Mr. Eastbrook a card.
I looked over at Harriet, lying on one of our couches, her face still very white. She was staring at me, her eyes wide—the deepest blue I’d ever seen. Her mother was sitting beside her, stroking her hair. Harriet, her eyes never leaving me for an instant, whispered something to her mother. Mrs. Eastbrook glanced over at me, smiled, and made a little gesture for me to come over.
I walked over and stood beside them. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Are you feeling okay?”
Harriet smiled faintly—but still stared at me. Her eyes looked like those of a frightened animal.
“She’s fine,” said her mother. “But she sure had us worried there for a while, didn’t she, Vickie?”
“Yes,” I said, fighting the surprising tears in my eyes. “I was scared.”
“Vickie is just the same age as you,” Mrs. Eastbrook told Harriet. “Isn’t that wonderful? You two will be the greatest friends. The greatest friends ever.”
“Elizabeth?” Mr. Eastbrook was calling to his wife. “Do you have the checkbook in your purse? I need it … right now.”
“Sure.” She got up to go pay the doctor. Harriet and I, for a moment, were alone.
“Sit down,” she whispered.
I did, and she grabbed my hand, holding it so tightly it almost hurt.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“Vickie Stone,” I said, puzzled. “From next door. You know that.”
“No,” Harriet replied. “Who are you really?”
“I’m Vickie Stone. What do you mean?”
“Do you know why I fainted?”
“Were you sick?”
“I fainted because I’ve seen you before,” she said fiercely. “I’ve seen you many times.”
“You’ve seen me? But where? I’ve never seen you, Harriet.”
“I see you at night,” she said. “I see you in dreams.”
And that was all—because Mrs. Eastbrook was beside us once again.