I stared at my feet planted on her ugly, burgundy carpet, feeling the weight of her stare, but never looking up.
"I'd like to know about the dreams, Evangeline. I'm willing to bet they've got something to do with your discovery a few years ago."
I took my seat again.
In truth, the dreams had nothing to do with how I was or wasn't processing being told I'm not a Callahan by blood. For one, the dreams started a whole year later. I simply made the mistake of mentioning them briefly in one of my sessions with Alice and she never let it go.
Apparently, Dr. Cruz was going to follow in those same footsteps.
"One has absolutely nothing to do with the other," I sighed.
"How can you be so sure?"
It was hard to forget the looks on my parents' faces when my grandmother accidentally let the cat out the bag over dinner. Gram's battle with dementia made it commonplace for her to spill all of her, and everyone else's, secrets. I just don't think any of us expected that particular secret to tumble from her mouth over a meal of cabbage rolls and glazed carrots.
Was I in shock? Yes.
Did I feel strangely disconnected from my family? For a while, yes, but I was seriously past all that now. My mom and dad loved me and I didn't need Dr. Cruz, or anyone else, to help me see that.
"Evangeline? I asked how you can be so sure the two are unrelated?"
She's so pushy...
"Because I don't know what dreaming through the eyes of some random guy I've never met, have never seen, has to do with being adopted."
Vivid imagery flooded my thoughts the next second. At first, these visions, or dreams, or... whatever they were... they used to only happen maybe once a month. Even every other month on occasion. But now, I couldn't remember a night I hadn't had one lately.
"And this guy... you say you've never met him before?"
Anxiety had me choosing my fingernails to snack on instead of the meatloaf.
I answered by shaking my head.
"Are there any distinct characteristics or traits that stand out about him in these dreams?"
Closing my eyes helped me visualize and the first thing I saw were arms.
They were tanned like he spent a lot of time in the sun, or maybe his skin was just naturally that way--the color of desert sand. Dark ink stained them both--from his knuckles well past his elbows.
"Tattoos," I sighed. "A lot of them. Sleeves on both arms. Lots of color, but I can't make out what any of them are. And there are always these... two leather bands on his wrist. Both brown. They look old," I shared, touching my own wrist as I explained.
"Does he speak to you?" Dr. Cruz asked.
I shook my head again. "No. I can only see. There's no sound."
That was always frustrating. I dreamed of this guy having full conversations with people, but had never heard a single word. Once, a dream consisted of nothing but him sitting on the couch, reading an old classic, and I simply observed in silence.
"Have you ever seen his face?"
"No. Never. When he passes mirrors it's like..." I searched for the words to explain. "It's blurry. Intentionally blurry. Like, I'm not supposed to see it." My foot tapped the ugly carpet and I remembered something else. "There was this one time, he was at a train station or maybe it was a bus station. I distinctly remember him showing the clerk his I.D., but there was this... this distortion over his face in the photo."
I'd taken my thumbnail down to a nub, but my teeth were still working on it. Talking about this made me sound crazy and I was sure Dr. Cruz was thinking it.
"I know this may be difficult to answer because you've never been able to see his face, but, if you had to guess, how old would you--"
"Twenty." My answer came too quickly. It was too solid, too sure, and I immediately regretted not hesitating.
"...Twenty? You sound very firm on that."
I was. I couldn't explain how or why, but I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that was his age.
His name came to me the same way about a year ago. I hadn't seen it written on anything in my visions. Definitely hadn't heard it. I just knew.
He was Liam.
The blank look on Dr. Cruz's face made me tremble, but I clasped my hands tightly in my lap to hide it. Not because I felt afraid, but rather because I felt exposed. Like I'd let her in too far.
"Can you tell me about your most recent episode?"
Episode... the term rubbed me the wrong way.
"Last night, I dreamed he was here in Seaton Falls."
"Is that usually the case?" she asked. "Is the setting of these dreams always where you live?"
To get a clearer mental picture, I closed my eyes. "When they first started, he was in California. I distinctly remember him driving up the coast at night."
I left out that there was a bottle of alcohol in his hand as he swerved. Swerved and sped.
Like he had a death-wish.
It'd be just my luck that Dr. Cruz would interpret that as a cry for help, a warning that I, myself, was suicidal. So, I didn't mention it.
That night, I'd seen the moon and stars brighter than I'd ever seen them in my life. Through Liam's eyes.
My fingers wandered through my hair, letting it settle on my shoulders as I decided to tell her more. "There were fewer tattoos then."
"So, he changed." Her pen went still. "That's interesting."
The tone of her voice bordered on condescending and it brought me to my senses, reminding me not to say too much.
"It isn't really," I countered with a dismissive shrug. "It's just tattoos."
Dr. Cruz may have noticed that I clammed up because she moved on quicker than expected.
"What came after California?"
I exhaled and leaned deeper into my chair.
"A lot of endless road. Sometimes on foot. Sometimes bumming rides off anyone willing to stop and pick him up. It was like that for months. Then, eventually, he was in Chicago where I was living at the time. I recognized the Wilson Viaduct."
A vivid memory of waking up from that particular dream, crying inconsolably, made me pause before sharing the rest. I'd never been more afraid in my entire life than I was when living through Liam's eyes that night. It didn't matter that it wasn't real.
It felt real.
"What was significant about the viaduct?" she asked.
I swallowed, wishing I could forget. "He slept there."
Her eyes met mine as she repeated my words. "He slept there."
I nodded. "Yeah."
"Is he always homeless? You mentioned a moment ago that he was taking rides from strangers to get to his next destination."
Liam always seemed like somewhat of a nomad to me. Like he was constantly on the move.
Always searching. For what, I wasn't sure, but there was a keen sense of being unsettled when I saw the world through his eyes. Like I, or he, was out of place.
Out of time.
"It's hard to tell," I finally answered. "But that was the only time I can recall him sleeping outside."
"And when he sleeps, when he dreams... do you see that, too?"
It was hard to tell if she was being facetious, but I assumed this was a question any shrink would ask, so I answered.
"No, it just goes dark. It feels like it stays that way for... hours, I guess."
Dr. Cruz wrote in complete silence and, looking at my thumb, I realized I'd drawn blood. In a desperate attempt to regain just a strand of credibility, I blurted the words, "I'm not crazy."
The outburst earned me an awkward stare from my new psychologist, but I explained myself anyway. "I'm fully aware that these dreams aren't real. They're vivid and strange, yes, but... I know the difference between reality and fiction."
And whether Dr. Cruz still believed me or not, I knew Liam was just that.