I lifted my hand, palm up, and extended it toward her. She sat on the plush couch in my office, a distance away from where I’d positioned the chairs in front of my desk. The expression on her face far too worldly for a child of ten.
I knew her history. Not in detail, but enough to understand that her case required sensitivity. I was here to heal her if she let me. She looked healthy on the outside, but I knew how deep emotional wounds could run.
Serious hazel eyes regarded me. She was sizing me up, determining my worth from my words and actions. I stayed still, allowing her the chance to weigh me and decide if I was someone she could trust. Like an ornithologist coaxing a sparrow to land.
She nodded as though she’d decided, and closed the distance between us to settle in the chair before me. One tiny hand settled palm to palm on mine. I felt humbled by her trust and vowed never to break it.
I just let her hand rest there, aware of how fragile and small she was in every way.
“Do you know what I do, Olivia?” I kept my voice gentle. “What my job is?”
She tilted her head, regarding me with those wise eyes before speaking, “You help children like me.”
I nodded once, swallowing years of pain as each child flashed before my eyes. “Do you know how I help them?”
She scooted closer so her little knees butted against my bigger ones. I was happy that she’d chosen to wear bright colors instead of the drab ones that always signaled the darkness had taken root in them.
“You take away their pain.”
She said it so simply and maybe it was that simple. Seeing into their hearts and minds and absorbing all that darkness. They should only know light, and I wanted to give them that. I couldn’t explain my gift any better than that.
We locked eyes and with startling clarity I could tell she knew as much about me as I knew of her. It was frightening in a way and I almost broke our connection.
Instead of severing the connection, I closed my hand around hers and saw…
No, don’t touch–
I can’t breathe! He’s crushing me… I can’t–
I close my eyes and whimper at the pain
I can’t tell. I won’t tell. Mommy will be angry—
You promised! You promised you wouldn’t come again.
Please stop. Please stop hurting me
Her pain lit me up, consumed me from the inside. As it flowed from her to me in stark, terrifying images, I choked on my breath. Bile rose up, burning my throat even as I swallowed it back down.
What he did to her… How she bore it for even a short time would’ve broken anyone else. Just knowing what she endured was overwhelming. I dropped my hand, and drew in a ragged breath. A drop of wetness hit my hand and I knew I cried for her.
“I’m sorry.” My voice was a ragged whisper. “I’m so sorry.”
She stared at me, her eyes a bit softer now. Instead of going back to the couch, she reached out to take my hand again.
“You made it hurt less.”
I mustered a smile for her. “Come back and I’ll make it so it never hurts again.”
“But who makes you hurt less?”
Her question took me by surprise. No one had ever asked me that. It brought up the question of whether I wanted to hurt less. Holding their pain inside felt like penance…
I pushed old thoughts away before they swamped me. Swallowing hard, I rose from my chair. “Let’s not worry about me, Olivia. I want to make sure you’re fine. I’ll tell your mom to bring you back in two weeks, okay?”
I made to move away, needing space to draw in a full, pain-free breath. Her little hand on my arm halted me.
“It wasn’t your fault either, Dr. Fask. Just like what happened to me wasn’t my fault. You couldn’t have saved Mona.”
That froze me. I stared down at her, surprised at the intelligence and compassion in her eyes. How did she know about my sister? Tears stung my eyes. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with an unexplained gift.