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Now You See Me

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Now You See Me

  Now You See Me

  Jean Bedford

  © Jean Bedford 1997

  Jean Bedford has asserted her rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

  First published in 1997 by Random House Australia.

  This edition published in 2016 by Endeavour Press Ltd.

  For Peter once more

  Table of Contents

  PART 1


  PART 2


  PART 3


  PART 4


  PART 1


  There were demons in my dreams again last night.They made me think of you.This record is for you—was for you,once.You were the one who insisted that writing it all down would help. ‘Get things out in the open,’you said. ‘Get them out of your head and into some form that you can physically look at, an artefact. And it will help you to remember.’Well,it certainly has done that.Was it Oscar Wilde who said that he always took his diary on long journeys,so he’d be sure of something interesting to read?I think his actual word was sensational,but I’m not making that claim.

  Though I do read,and re-read,this journal,right back to those earliest fumbling entries,when I was little more than a child.The tone has changed over the years—especially since I no longer had to show you what I had written.But those cryptic first utterances still resonate for me—they still call up the secret diary I kept in my brain,that you would never read.What you read was a code,and you were never given the key.No wonder you were so frustrated at the last,so anxiously trying to analyse where you’d gone wrong,what you’d missed.Always analysing,when it was so simple—I lied to you.

  Still,I talk to you a lot in this journal,this log of my life.You were always easy to talk to.You never minded if I repeated myself,if I went over old ground again and again.You said it helped,that each time something new might emerge,some fresh way of looking.Of seeing.I repeat myself here,too.Not so much in the hope of a new perspective,but because it comforts me.I repeat myself and I gloat over what l have done,what I have got away with.And sometimes I’m surprised by a new detail,something I remember that bad been buried,so perhaps you were right.You must have been right occasionally.

  But you’ll want to hear about the demons.Last night.I could never satisfactorily explain them to you,even under hypnosis,and I still can’t.Unnameable,indescribable,they loom in the corners of my mind,bulky masses of darkness.They wait and watch and they terrify me.In the dreams I’m paralysed,which is just as well,because they would leap if I made a false move.That’s what they wait for. ‘But what would they do to you?’Sometimes I hear your voice quite clearly,as if you were in this room with me.They wouldtakeme.They would render me void like them and then they wouldplaywith me;forever,for eternity.These are the only words l can find for this feeling,which is so much more than fear.I once had a spinal tap for an unstoppable nosebleed and the terror is something like that feeling—the marrow is threatened,the marrow inside the bones of my existence,and that is where I feel the panic and the sensation that would he pain if it were not so icy cold and numbed.They threaten to withdraw my essence while I watch,to drain me of myself.

  You had various tactics to deal with them,remember?Those amateurish paintings I did of shadowy monsters.The reading of extracts from the demon mythologies:trolls and ogres and zombies;our discussions of the universal fear of unbeing.You would not like my present strategies at all,though l suppose I came to them partly through that early reading:it’s well known that sometimes the devil-gods will take a sacrifice as a substitute.I give them a sacrifice now,or at least they think I do.

  To put it into plain words,the way you said I should— ‘Be as direct and concrete as you can ...’ —when the demons come I kill the next one.And then they go away.

  Diana finished blotting her lipstick and went to stand in front of the full-length mirror. She had on a black satin half-bra with red ribbons, matching crotchless panties, and a suspender belt holding up black fishnet stockings. Her hair was scraped back into a French roll and round her throat was a black velvet choker with a large pendant pearl.

  She swivelled on her hips, examining her reflection from other angles, then she went to the shoe rack and frowned. She tried on the gold-tipped stilettos, next a pair of strappy black sandals with four-inch heels. She pulled on long tight boots and looked at them in the mirror, still frowning. She unzipped the boots and replaced them carefully on the rack. She put her feet back into the first pair of shoes she’d tried, the stilettos. Then she sat on the edge of the bed with her legs slightly parted and studied that reflection. She caught her own eye in the mirror and gave herself a grin. Her mouth was a slash of vermilion across her powdered pale face; her eyes glittered between heavy black lines under purple shadow. She picked up her lipstick and carefully reddened her nipples.

  She draped a loose wrapper over her shoulders when she heard the doorbell. She took long strides down the hall, hearing her heels rap on the polished boards, and lifted the peephole cover. Tom was there, his hand raised to ring again. He was carrying a David Jones bag and a bunch of blue irises. His face was distorted, elongated by the fish-eye glass; it made him look as if he were drowning. She grinned again, then opened the door.

  He gasped when he saw her. The silk gown hung open, revealing what she was wearing underneath. ‘Diana,’ he said, on the gasp. ‘Here, for you.’ He thrust the flowers at her and they kissed lightly. He ran his fingers over her breasts and shuddered. She linked her little finger with his and led him down the hall.


  She left him in the spare bedroom to get ready while she put the flowers in water and opened the champagne. She took out the chilled globular tumblers, with their etched design of grapes and nymphs cavorting with satyrs, and drank the first glass she poured, quickly, almost in one gulp. Then she filled them both and went through to the living room. Tom was in the bathroom now, she could hear the clink of bottles being replaced on the basin, the rattle of tops being taken off jars and tubes, the rustle of paper as he unwrapped things from his bag. She lay back on the sofa, willing her body to relax, hypnotising herself into the role she would play tonight, the role she played every night now with him.

  She turned her head slowly, checking the room. The irises seemed about to spring from the ceramic jug, yellow-eyed and perfectly blue against the ivory wall. The whole room was decorated in shades of parchment and blue; a cool uncluttered space, with polished floors and a cream and indigo Chinese rug in front of the couch. There were very few ornaments, no bric-a-brac or books, the clean planes of the walls interrupted only by several black-and-white prints and the CD player also black against the built-in cupboard in the corner. She got up to put a disc in — Chopin, though Tom preferred heavier, more modern music. She lay down again as the limpid notes of a prelude fell into the room.


  When he joined her he was wearing a blond curly wig and false eyelashes. He had put on a red lace teddy that bulged and bunched untidily over his erection, and stay-up sheer scarlet stockings. His high heels, of a slightly brighter red, made his feet look disproportionately large. He hesitated in the doorway, but she was in the mood now, and she beckoned him to the sofa. She handed him his glass and filled her mouth with champagne then let it dribble over him as she moved the lace aside and covered his cock with her lips. He moaned and clutched her head; she could feel the hairpins coming out. Her hand still on his cock, she slithered up his body, kissing and licking, then sucked his nipples hard, each in turn. ‘Is that nice?’ she asked. ‘Do you like that?’

  ‘Oh God,’ he said. ‘Oh God, Diana. I wish they were real breasts like you
rs. Let me touch your breasts.’

  They kissed, the scent and greasy texture of their lipsticks mingling pleasantly. ‘Tell me,’ he mumbled through the kiss. ‘Tell me while I come into you.’

  ‘You’re beautiful,’ she murmured. ‘You’re a beautiful woman, we’re two beautiful women making love to each other. You’re my woman with a hard cock. You’re beautiful ...’


  By midnight he was showered and gone. She no longer tried to persuade him into staying longer. Now she was the one who glanced at her watch and said he’d better be off. Each time he was more reluctant to leave.

  She ran a scalding bath, with rosemary essence, and lay in it until the water was tepid. She dressed in jeans and a shirt, picked up the clothing lying scattered about and put it all into a plastic bag to wash later. Tom had left his new gear; he would keep it here in the flat. She tidied, throwing the champagne bottles into the recycling box, stacking the glasses in the dishwasher, straightening the cushions on the couch. The living room and bedroom smelled of scented oil and sex. She left the barred windows slightly open to clear the air, then, after one quick look around, she let herself out, a last gust of sharp rosemary escaping as she locked the door. She’d be home by two; five hours’ sleep before she needed to get up for work.


  Tom carefully closed his front door behind him. He had taken off his shoes, but he could see the light on in the kitchen. Rosa was still awake. He took a long breath to relax the instinctive tightening of his shoulders.

  ‘Hi, babe,’ he said, coming into the bright room. ‘You didn’t need to wait up.’ He kissed her lightly on the cheek and sat down at the other side of the table. She had papers spread out in front of her, and legal case books. The air was redolent of strong coffee.

  ‘I had work to do,’ she said, smiling at him. ‘Boring meeting?’ She put her hand out over the table to stroke his arm.

  ‘No, not too bad, surprisingly. We had a few drinks after. I could do with some of that coffee if there’s any left.’ He put his hand briefly over hers to disengage it and stood up. ‘Want some?’

  She shook her head. ‘I’m jumping already.’ She looked at his rigid back as he stood at the stove and let out a silent, deep sigh. She raked her fingers up into her already untidy hair and bent to her reading again.

  Tom took his coffee into the living room and stood staring through the window at the shadows of the garden, at the milky moonlit puddles of flagstones and the black filigree of leaves and branches. His mind was still full of images from the evening; himself passive and feminine, Diana’s certain touch. He knew Rosa would be gazing unseeing at her books, perhaps tearful, in the kitchen. He fidgeted with a framed photograph on the window sill, turning it round to face him: Rosa, laughing, her wild auburn hair flying away in the sea breeze, her broad honest face squinted up against the sun. Bleakness overcame him then, but a residual elation was there, too, somewhere underneath.

  He heard the scrape of her chair and her light footsteps on the pine floor. She came up behind him, and took the picture from his hands. ‘We should go back there this year,’ she said, smiling at her own careless image. She put the photo down again and turned to hug him. ‘It’s all right, Tom. Tommy darling. Isn’t it? We’ll manage. We’re all right.’

  He held her loosely, the panic starting at her close embrace. ‘Yes,’ he muttered into her hair. ‘Of course we are.’ He felt her waiting; these days he always felt her waiting. ‘I’m buggered,’ he said. ‘I’m going to bed.’

  ‘OK.’ There was no disappointment evident in her voice, but he knew that carefully neutral tone. I’ve got a bit more to do. I’ll try not to wake you.’

  They kissed gently and he held her hand as far as the bottom of the stairs. He knew he should say something, anything, that might ease her, but no words came. He squeezed her hand and left her there, feeling her eyes on his back.

  ‘So, do you chink he’s having an affair?’

  ‘No. I told you.’ Rosa shifted uncomfortably on the couch. ‘He doesn’t ... he can’t, these days.’

  ‘Then why do you think he’s lying to you?’

  ‘Iknow he is. I know him. There’s something terrible happening to him and he won’t tell me what it is.’

  ‘Whatdo you think lie’s doing then, on these late nights when you say he lies to you?’

  ‘I don’t know.’ She turned onto her side so that she could see Fran at her desk, in profile, gazing at the window while she asked questions and listened to the answers.

  ‘Don’tyou have a theory?’ Rosa asked. ‘You sit there and pose question after question. What I feel. What I think. Why I think and feel it. You never offer an opinion. You never agree or disagree. It’s like talking to the cat.’

  Fran smiled. ‘Are you angry with me?’

  ‘See?’ Rosa laughed. She turned onto her back again and stared at the white ceiling. ‘I wish I knew that I could trust you. But I don’t know you. Nothing of you comes out to meet me. Nothing.’

  ‘Do you think I would tell anyone what you say to me? Do you really think that?’ Rosa could tell that Fran had turned to look at her. She could feel her watching, intent on her answer.

  ‘No.’ She sighed. ‘I know I’m legally and ethically protected in that sense. That isn’t what I mean by trust.’ She closed her eyes.

  ‘Then what do you mean?’

  ‘I don’t know.’ She sat up. ‘Yes, I do. I mean that I need to have some awareness of you, as a person, your beliefs and your own private code of living. It’s all one-way, what we do here. I reveal myself and I get nothing back. It’s been months and I don’t even know if we’re on the same side politically.’ She laughed again, softly, and lay back down, shielding her eyes with her hand.

  ‘Is that important to you?’

  ‘Yes. What if you’re a card-carrying born-again right-wing nutter? What if our world views could never coincide, on anything? How could I trust you to understand anything about me then?’ She waited, but Fran said nothing. ‘You don’t even defend yourself. Why won’t you give me even that?’ She sounded melodramatic to her own ears. In fact, she admitted, she wasn’t completely sincere. She wanted Fran to make pronouncements on her, Rosa, more than to reveal herself.

  Fran sighed. Rosa could hear the groaning of her chair as she turned back to the window. ‘Do you want to discontinue the therapy, Rosalind?’

  ‘Rosa.’ The correction came automatically after all this time. ‘Yes ... no. I don’t know.’ There was silence again for what seemed like minutes. ‘All right. I knew you were this sort of therapist when I came to you; that’s what you’re waiting for me to say, isn’t it? I thought it might help, just talking, but it doesn’t. I need some input from someone else. From you. If you won’t give it, perhaps I need to see someone more ...proactive.’ She tried to sneer on the last word, but she could feel she was close to weeping.

  ‘I’m terminating the session now, Rosalind.’ Fran switched off her tape recorder and stood up. She came over to the couch, sitting in the crook of Rosa’s knees and leaning forward to remove the hand from her eyes. ‘Look at me, Rosalind.’

  Rosa stared. She had never seen Fran away from her desk. She tried to joke. ‘You’ve got legs,’ she said, then the tears began to run down her face.

  ‘It’s up to you,’ Fran said, still holding her hand, loosely, exerting no pressure at all. ‘You either trust me or you don’t. This is the way I operate in this stage of therapy — it works for me, but sometimes it doesn’t work for my clients. In this early stage I think of myself as a sponge. I absorb everything you offer me. Later — when I feel that you’ve given me all that it’s possible to give — I try to synthesise the information, I try to present it back to you in patterns that seem to make sense, patterns that we can both work on together. But first you have to make that blind leap into trust. It’s necessary for the way I work. Do you understand?’

  ‘I knew there’d be a question in there somewhere.’ Rosa wiped her free han
d across her face and began a grin, feeling it go awry. ‘Yes, I understand, but I don’t know if I’m capable of that leap. These aren’t just my secrets I’d be telling you. They’re Tom’s as well. It feels like a betrayal.’

  ‘Secrets. Betrayal. Such big, general, meaningless words.’ For a moment Fran’s usually impassive face tautened with irritation and she let go of Rosa’s hand. ‘If there were no secrets, there would be less cause for betrayal. That’s my platitude for today. I suggest you go now and think about whether you want to continue with me. If so, I’ll see you on Friday at the usual time.’

  She stood, patting Rosa’s knee lightly, and went to sit behind her desk again. She was tall, Rosa noticed, and not as thickset as she had always supposed from her round face and wide shoulders. Tall and slim and quite imposing. Perhaps that was why she kept herself behind the desk, so as not to intimidate her ‘clients’.

  Rosa got up, too, and put her shoes on. ‘I’m glad you said all that. I think I will see you on Friday.’

  ‘If you do,’ Fran said, already flipping through her calendar and reaching for a manila folder from the stack on her desk, ‘If you do, then perhaps we could start with what’sreally making you unhappy.’

  ‘Sure,’ Rosa said softly, letting herself out. ‘As if I knew.’


  Fran sat for a while after Rosalind Larson had left, sinking carefully into a self-induced trance. She had skimmed the notes on the next patient and put his folder back in the pile; there were still ten minutes until he arrived. She had set her mental clock for five minutes, but she was aware before that that her habitual trained blankness was disturbed. It was not that Rosa had challenged her methods — patients often did that in the early stages — it was more the simplicity of Rosa’s statement of her needs. Not that her needs were simple, Fran thought, realising now that she had no hope of her rest. The needs themselves were sophisticated, but Rosa seemed to have a rare ability to go to the heart of them. Something she had said still resonated: ‘Nothing of you comes out to meet me. Nothing.’ She’d heard words like this before. ‘You’re a withholder, Fran,’ Mick had said to her, long before they separated. ‘You withhold love, affection, approval, trust. No wonder you’re so attracted to Freudian methods, after everyone else in the whole universe has thrown them out. They could have been designed for people like you, terrified to show anything of yourself.’

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