28 days of flash — #16 of 28 — fiction
Sylvia had only booked the appointment with the hypnotherapist to get out of going to her pickleball group. Aggie was too competitive and it made Sylvia uncomfortable when she would scream and demand Sylvia return her aggressive high fives. Last week, Aggie put it to a vote that the four of them should join a league. Sylvia agreed. She knew she would need to find reason to get out of it.
She saw the ad for the hypnotherapist on Facebook and made a bet with herself: if she called and the therapist had an opening at the same time she was supposed to go to the pickleball league, that would be her sign.
Xandra had an opening next Thursday at 10 AM, an hour before the league start time, but she couldn’t do both. Sylvia sent a text to Aggie, announcing a prior commitment she neglected to remember. She quit pickleball and that was that.
She didn’t feel like she was creating a problem for anyone. There were plenty of women who circled the courts like sharks trying to get in a pickup game. Surely, one of them would be a better fit for Aggie. She certainly wasn’t.
Now, Sylvia was in a room that was floor to ceiling ocean green and there was a sage colored blanket on a massage table. What had she gotten herself into? Sage and ocean green don’t match.
Xandra welcomed Sylvia with a hug that lasted five seconds too long and she smelled too much of lavender. Sylvia had worn yoga pants and a hoodie and felt underdressed compared to Xandra’s boho look.
Xandra swept Sylvia into the space. “I always start these sessions off with a little interview. Would that be okay?”
Sylvia nodded while casting a concerned look at the massage table.
Xandra laughed. “Don’t worry, you won’t start out on the table. You can just take a seat.” As she lit a candle, she asked, “What’s your interest in hypnotherapy?”
Sylvia looked at the floor and then back at Xandra. “I’m in a group on Facebook that’s always bringing it up. I’ve listened to some sessions where people have healed things or gone back to past lives and learned they were famous.” Sylvia looked down at her hands. She had a habit of twisting her fingers together when she was nervous, and they were all but knotted.
Xandra smiled and nodded. “And which are you hoping for?”
Sylvia looked down at her hands again. “I don’t really know. I’m just curious to see what happens.”
“Okay. Let’s dive in,” Xandra said. “Just a few questions and then we can begin.”
Xandra launched what sounded like a job interview. What did she do for a living, where did she grow up, what did she think she was going to be when she grew up, did she go to college, and if there was one thing she thought she would be doing by her age, what was it?
Saying that raising responsible kids to adulthood and watching them become parents themselves was her lifelong dream sounded just as hollow as Sylvia felt when she said it, and Sylvia felt even worse for feeling hollow. It was what she thought she always wanted, but she never admitted to anyone that it felt like she had wasted her life. Xandra nodded and wrote things down.
“I don’t know where I thought I’d be now,” Sylvia said with a hint of bewilderment.
“That’s okay. We don’t have to have answers for everything. What’s the one thing you want for your future?” Xandra asked. Sylvia realized she had been holding her breath. Letting her shoulders fall and trying to relax, she looked straight at Xandra.
“The same thing everyone wants,” Sylvia said, knotting her fingers together again. “To be happy.”
Xandra asked Sylvia to lay on the massage table with the mismatched blanket over her. She selected a playlist from her phone. “Native American drumming can help hold space, so it will play in the background the whole time.”
Sylvia couldn’t help but feel like the room’s heartbeat started.
Sylvia closed her eyes when Xandra began talking low and soft — about the room they were in, how warm it felt, what calm felt like. The darkness behind Sandra’s eyes dissipated and waves of colors emerged like a bad paisley dress was liquifying on the back of her eyelids. She decided to focus on following a lapis blue colored wave that was undulating across the scene. Xandra’s voice was somewhere in the background, blurring on the edges of the blue wave when without warning, without prompting, Sylvia was staring at a translucent glowing blue face.
She opened her eyes. The face was still there. She closed her eyes. The face persisted. She rubbed her eyes.
“Who is that?”
“What are you seeing?” Xandra asked, still using her low, quiet voice.
“A translucent face. Even when I open my eyes. It’s still there.”
“Who do you think it is?”
Sylvia stopped trying to wash it away and focused in. “It sort of looks like someone I know.” It was undeniable. It looked like Aggie. The face itself seemed asleep, but the lines and what would have been the skin was undulating with the cobalt blue.
“And who is that?”
“A woman I know,” Sylvia said, squirming. “I don’t really like her.”
“She’s always loud. Aggressive. She wants to win at all costs. She doesn’t match. I had to quit playing pickleball because of her.”
“Did you enjoy playing pickleball?”
“Then why did you do it?”
“I had time to fill.”
“Is that why you’re here? To fill time?”
Sylvia opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, still seeing the outline of a translucent sleeping Aggie in her vision. She came here to avoid her. Why did she show up? She closed her eyes again.
“Why is your friend here?”
“She’s not my friend,” Sylvia snapped back.
“Ok, why is this person here? Let’s ask her. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind.”
“She’s not going to give in.”
“What does that mean to you? Do you want to give in?”
Sylvia opened her eyes and let the breath drain from her lungs. A voice she didn’t recognize as her own surfaced from her throat. “She is at a crossroads. She should not go back to who she has been.”
“Why is that?” Xandra asked in a whisper.
The translucent eyes opened. Sylvia got chills. As the face’s lips moved, Sylvia heard a whispering voice coming from her own throat again. “Because she will go to jail for my murder.”