The blinds in Doctor Braid’s office were completely shut, letting in only a hint of daylight. The darkness in the room was diluted by a dim yellow glow coming from the desk lamp.
Doctor Braid, an extremely tall man in his sixties with a full head of white hair, sat deep in his chair, running his long fingers along the edges of a Rubik’s cube.
“Would you say you’re preoccupied with those thoughts?” he asked, rising from his chair. He walked to the bookshelf, put the cube down, and immediately picked it up again.
Dolly, a young woman with a slim, miniature figure sat on the leather recliner with her eyes closed. She wore a long gray skirt with a white, Victorian style shirt.
“I wouldn’t say I’m preoccupied, doctor,” she replied, “but I think about it quite frequently.”
“Did you speak to your husband about this?”
“I tried, but he never listens to me. He says I’m being silly. He says I should stop putting those bizarre ideas into my head and take better care of our house.”
“Would you say you’re neglecting your household lately?” asked the doctor, walking up to the window and peeking at the street through the slats. He noticed a parking authority truck across from his office. An officer standing next to a large, expensive car was busy printing a ticket. Brad knew the car’s owner. He sneered and turned on the spot.
“Your household, Dolly,” he repeated his question. “Would you say you’ve been neglecting it lately?”
“I don’t know,” said Dolly, wiggling her toes. “I don’t think I’ve neglected our house, it’s just that those thoughts are distracting me. They get in the way. I have to constantly pay attention how I do things. I have to point my comb in the same direction after I use it. I have to turn left every time I leave my driveway. When I go grocery shopping, my car has to be always parked facing South and…”
“What if there are no spots meeting your requirement?” asked Braid, interrupting.
“Then I just don’t shop there. I can’t afford making mistakes or bad things happen that day.”
“What do you mean by bad things?”
“You know like stocks would sell off, conflicts in foreign countries would intensify, bad weather, traffic accidents, you name it.”
“You realize that those ‘bad things’ as you call them do not actually depend on the color of your shoes, don’t you?” said Braid in a patronizing tone. He moved his fingers along the slat edge, looking down the street again and smiled watching the parking authority van driving away.
“No, no, no. I don’t think my shoes have to do with anything, thank God,” replied Dolly with a slight giggle and adjusted her hair. “But… But the color of my lingerie is certainly a factor!” she added. Braid could hear her breathing becoming shallower. She didn’t seem comfortable in her recliner anymore.
“Come again,” he said, cocking his head.
“The color of my lingerie influences the stock market,” said Dolly, blushing.
Braid walked to his desk and sat down on the edge of his swivel chair. He took out a pen and a notepad and wrote Dolly’s name down. “Go on, Dolly, I want more details on that,” he said, keeping his pen ready.
“If… if I wear red lingerie the stocks sink.”
“I see. What happens when you wear a green pair?”
“I never wear green!” replied Dolly with her eyebrows crossed. “It’s distasteful and plain ugly!”
“So the stock market never goes up then?” asked Braid, trying not to sound overly dismissive.
“It does… obviously… It goes up when I wear white.”
“White?” asked Braid, propping his glasses. “That’s interesting, Dolly. That’s very interesting. So you’re saying you know for sure that the stock market goes down whenever you wear red and goes up if you wear white?”
“When you say stock market, what are you referring to?”
“The Dow Jones index.”
“Dow Jones!” said Braid nodding his head. “I see. Have you ever tried to profit from your predictions?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Have you tried buying and selling stocks based on the color of your lingerie.”
“Why is that? Isn’t your husband a stockbroker? You’re telling me you never mentioned your observations to him?”
“My husband doesn’t believe me. He doesn’t even want to listen to me talking about this.”
“Have you tried opening your own brokerage account?”
“No. I can’t take risks. I’m too nervous. No money in the world would justify going through the hell of watching the ticker.”
“I see,” said Braid, lowering his voice. “I see.”
He remained silent for a while, gazing down at the soft carpet. Dolly sat still in her recliner afraid of breaking his concentration. Even the smallest creak of the leather on her chair sounded like thunder to her.
“Can you tell me more about the other ‘bad things’?” asked Braid, breaking the silence. “You mentioned bad weather…”
“It rains when I turn left from my driveway.”
“Have you tried keeping a record? I mean have you ever considered that maybe; just maybe it’s a coincidence?”
“No. I’ve never written it down really, but I just know it rains when I turn left getting out of my driveway. How can this be a coincidence?”
“Fascinating,” whispered Braid, clasping his hands. “Most fascinating!”
He leaned back in his chair. Another bout of prolonged silence weighed heavily on Dolly’s shoulders. She shifted in her recliner nervously.
“If I leave my comb in the wrong drawer in the morning, I always see an accident on the road when I pick up my son from school,” she said unable to endure the silence any longer.
“How far is the school?”
“I don’t know. Ten miles. Maybe more.”
“Do you see accidents on your way to school or when you drive back home?”
“Sometimes on my way to school, sometimes on our way back.”
“Are those accidents bad? Casualties?”
“No. Just minor accidents. It’s a quiet street.”
“I see,” said Braid writing down her response. He rose slowly from his chair, walked around his desk, and sat on top of it.
“Why don’t we try something,” he said, playing with his pen. “A little experiment. What do you say?”
“I’ll do anything to save my marriage, doctor. I love my husband! I want to prove him I’m all right. He thinks I have an obsession, but he doesn’t understand. I just want to be careless again. I want to do things without worrying about the consequences.”
“Good. Good. I like your attitude, Miss Patterson.”
Braid took another long, dramatic pause.
“I want you, Dolly to wear green lingerie this Friday,” he said slowly, weighing each word. “Strictly as an experiment,” he added, clasping his hands.
Dolly felt dizzy from his proposition. Partially, because she couldn’t stand green lingerie, but mostly because it was the first time in many years she was on the cusp of doing something about her obsession, instead of running from it.
“I’m not sure I can do this, doctor,” she said in a small voice. “James would freak out.”
“Why would he?”
“He only likes red or white. I tried wearing black once, and he got real angry with me.”
“But have you tried green?”
“Never. I told you I hated green.”
“So how do you know James would freak out?”
“I have a bad feeling about it. Somehow, I know he won’t like green. He’ll be upset. I can’t let this happen.”
“Dolly,” said Braid, coming close to her recliner and taking her hand. “You need to break out of this vicious circle. You need to be more courageous. You need to allow yourself to do reckless things. That’s what life is about.”
“I’ll try, doctor,” replied Dolly. “I promise.”
“Good. See you in two weeks, Dolly. And I want to know every little detail.”
Dolly nodded. Braid led her to the office door.
“It was nice meeting you,” he said shaking her frail hand.
“Thank you, doctor.”
Dolly has been contemplating Braid’s suggestion since their session ended Monday evening. It was a long week. James was busy at work, much busier than usual, coming home way past dinnertime. Every day she would promise herself to talk to him, and every day when he returned home with his face dark as a storm cloud she would withdraw her plans and make herself invisible.
On Wednesday, before leaving for her session at the manicure salon, she sat in her car, playing back her chat with the doctor. “You need to allow yourself to do reckless things,” Braid’s voice echoed in her mind. “Courageous… break out of a vicious circle… life is about…” She shifted the stick into the driving position and pushed the gas pedal. The car rolled forward, and when it was about to cross the curb line, Dolly swiftly steered to the right. Her heart racing, she drove along the crescent, looking up at the blue sky, waiting for the clouds to appear, but nothing happened. There was no rain that day, not even a drop, and the humidity stayed low for the whole night.
Thursday morning, encouraged by her success a day before, Dolly put her comb in the middle drawer instead of the top one. Maybe I’ll be able to break out of the vicious circle, after all, she thought, as she turned right from her driveway for the second day in a raw. She drove her son to school, witnessing no accidents on their way. When they were returning home, a minivan jumped in front of her car, speeding towards the intersection, aiming to sneak in before the lights turned red. A black pick-up truck rolled into the intersection, slowly turning left, blocking the way for the minivan. Dolly squeezed the wheel, bracing to see a collision when the driver in the minivan hit the brakes and managed to stop just in time to avoid the disaster. Dolly wiped her sweaty palms on her skirt and glanced back at James Jr. Her son was busy playing video games. No accident! She thought triumphantly.
Later that day, her mother called, offering to take Junior with her to the cottage in the country for the weekend. Dolly took it as another positive sign. On Friday, after she dropped little James at her mother’s house, she drove to the nearest mall with her mind firmly set on buying green lingerie. If James likes the color, she thought, this would be like killing two birds with one stone. She giggled, delighted by her own wit as she approached the store on the second level.
She went straight to the displays, ignoring the greetings from the clerk. To her surprise, there was a lot to choose from. I can’t believe I’m doing this, she thought, beginning to enjoy the mere fact of being that much daring as she tried on the panties and the bra in the fitting room. I never thought it would suit me so well. What an effect! She said to herself turning left and right. I bet James is gonna like me in this. Who wouldn’t? She smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Who wouldn’t like me?
She arrived home at eight o’clock, after stopping at the wine shop and the bakery and rushed upstairs to take a shower and prepare herself for a night of seduction. She could hear James’ car in their driveway when she walked downstairs dressed in her new green lingerie and a nightgown of matching color.
“Honey, I’m home,” said James in a tired voice. He shut the door behind him and kicked off his shoes. “How was your day?”
“Mine was great,” replied Dolly playfully. “Do you like my surprise?” she asked, putting her hands on her sides, letting him have a glimpse of her flat tan stomach. She came up close to him and kissed him on his cheek, pressing her body against his.
“What’s wrong with you Dolly!” hissed James, taking her hands away. “Junior will see us!”
“No, he won’t. I sent him to grandma’s for the weekend. Don’t you wanna see more?” she murmured in his ear.
“Not now, dear. I need to read my e-mails first,” he replied.
“Haven’t you read e-mails all day at work?”
“It took almost an hour to drive. There ought to be something new and important in the mailbox. Just give me five minutes, okay? It’ll be quick.”
“Fine,” she replied with a sigh, dropping down her hands. “But no more than five minutes, okay?”
“I promise,” he said, rushing into the office room.
Dolly heard the door shutting behind her husband. I guess he didn’t like the color, after all, she thought disappointed. She opened the wine and poured herself a glass up to the rim. Damn it, she said to herself, dumping it in one volley. I knew it was a bad idea. Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna tell the fucking doctor when I see him. Mister Braid, you had a fucking horrible idea. I’m not insane! You were insane to suggest wearing this horrible green! And I’m not stupid. Your ideas are stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Your ideas are the stupidest thing ever! She cut a hefty slice from the cake and was about to pour more wine when she heard a sudden loud bang from the office room.
“James!” she yelled in panic, letting the bottle slip out of her hands. It landed on the tabletop, shuttering the glass. “James, are you all right!?”
She rushed to the office and flung open the door. James was lying next to his desk, his hand clutching a gun, his head in a puddle of thick blood. Dolly knelt in front of him, taking his head in her hands, blood getting all over her nightgown. She pressed her ear against his chest, hoping to hear his heart beating. It wasn’t.
“James! No!” she bellowed, pounding on his chest with her fists. “Please! No!”
She rose on her wobbly legs and stumbled to the desk to phone the police. James’s laptop was on. Dolly squinted her eyes at the screen, struggling to catch her breath. “We’re fucked beyond repair, buddy,” she read the message. “Lehman is going to default over the weekend.”
She collapsed on her knees, tears rolling down her face and began to rip off her green nightgown stained with her husband’s blood. She had no air left to scream.