The Date by Laura A. Zink

Tevin, who lives with his boss and fantasises about his half-sister, waves down a drug-addled woman driving dangerously; by Laura A. Zink. First published in Oakland Review #3.

Tevin sat in his boss's living room with the lights off and his hand down his pants. On the television, District Attorney Casey Novak performed an aggressive cross-examination, the sounds of violins and cellos rising as she pressed the defendant for his confession. Tevin closed his eyes and imagined himself on the stand, her accusations swarming, eyes straining to penetrate his, a faint line of bra lace peeking out from her blouse. He rose from the stand and grabbed her. Desire and fear filling her eyes, lips parting, voice choked between protest and permission, and somehow the smell of Ben Gay and rose water joined them and...

"Jesus Christ!"

He jerked around to find his sixty-year-old boss standing behind the couch, stiff and wide-eyed, hand clutching her lilac print bathrobe under her chin. She took a few steps backward, turned, and shuffled back to her room.

The following morning, Tevin lay in bed, listening to her muffled voice worm its way into his room through the bedroom door. It assured him that she knew about a young man's needs, what with him being marrying age and all, and she would still help him while he saved for an apartment, but having him doing... what he was... a bad heart like hers wouldn't be able to take it, so perhaps he would have more privacy if he slept in the company van?

Mumbling strained and partial consent, he rolled out of bed and began packing his things.

Excluding jail, the Primping Puss Mobile Cat Cleaners van was the most emasculating place Tevin had ever lived. A giant cat's head with blue, eerily human eyes was painted across the sideboard. Next to it, a misshapen paw with scribbly, black claws batted at rainbow bubbles. Inside, his belongings, now reduced to five trash bags and a briefcase, were jammed against the backs of the passenger and driver seats. Empty cat carriers framing his twin futon mattress, he'd stare at the metal ceiling each night, thoughts of failure and smells of cat piss escalating until sleep evaded him completely. He took to driving at night, hoping to find some distraction. Or better yet, a little company.

On Monday night, he sat in the driver's seat, his briefcase on the passenger side. He flipped the dial lock to his secret code (HERS) and examined the contents - a dead cell phone, a six-inch Smith and Wesson folding knife, four Durex condoms, Powermint Tic Tacs, a box of rubber gloves, a pocket comb, and a faded, well-handled picture of his half sister, Casey, from her freshman year in high school.

He paused at Casey's picture. He gazed at her black turtleneck, her soap-washed skin, her red hair falling over her shoulders. He placed the picture in the cup holder and lifted his forearm to show a fresh six-inch scratch.

"You see what Mrs. Finley's cat did to me today, Casey? She keeps it up, she's gonna come up missing one day."

He checked himself in the rearview mirror, running the pocket comb through his curtained strawberry blonde hair. He thought he looked all right. Harmless at least. He popped a couple of Tic Tacs in his mouth and started the van.

Cat carriers clanging in the back, he headed west on the freeway. He glanced down at the picture. The streetlights rolled over it, flashing glimpses of Casey's red hair. He tapped it with the tip of his index finger, a smile creeping up the side of his face.

BrandyLynn had one picture of herself left. It had been taken a year ago, right before her mom's cop boyfriend, Dale, had kicked her out. In it, a chubby-faced girl stared into the camera, her brown hair in a loose knot pinned down with two artist's paintbrushes. Behind her, a canvas with a loosely sketched pair of eyes was mounted on an easel. Her hair, dyed a cheap-looking pinkish burgundy, framed a slack and hollowed-out face. Her eyelids slowly drooped down like coffins closing. And she was high. The anonymity and vastness of the freeway shielded her from the danger of this reality, but as her car lumbered towards her exit, she started to worry about making it home once she hit town. She had three grams of speedballs in her backpack. Needles, too. In California, that was two felonies at least. Not that anyone cared what happened to her anymore.

Except cops. She felt like cops were everywhere. Bored cops. Spying cops. Cops that hated eighteen-year-old junkies. Cops that locked up her dealers, her friends, and her boyfriends one-by-one. Cops that would lock her up. Cops that would search through her backpack and find two packs of Old Gold Lights, three lighters, a notebook, three ballpoint pens, and a metal "works" kit with two gold eyes of Isis painted on the lid. These cops would leave her dope sick in some cell while they laughed at the contents of her notebook - heart-broken poems, drawings of disembodied eyes, collages of models with their heads torn from their skeletal bodies.

As she exited onto State Street, the severity of her intoxication seemed to double. Stopping at a red light, she concentrated on her steering wheel, straining to get her eyes to focus. The image held for a moment, then blurred and rolled away. She shook her head and lowered the window, locking her arms as she gripped the steering wheel. Once the cold air flowed in, she looked across the street and saw a familiar sign:


At twelve years old, she had sat across from her mom, watching her cut undressed iceberg lettuce into tiny diamonds. Dale sat next to her, smirking as he monitored each bite she took. BrandyLynn looked down at her placemat and gazed at her sketch of a panther. Paws squeezing a sparrow. Fangs gnashing, moving in to swallow her whole. She picked up her pencil and pressed hard into the picture, lead crunching as the tip wore down to dust.

Now, she looked past the restaurant toward Oleander Avenue. Dale had always tried to scare her about that street, recounting crime scene horror stories one after another after another. He called them "typical" things. A slut chased down and strangled. A dead junkie girl left in a ditch. "There's a reason it's so dark back there," he would say. "It's a place where you get what's coming to you."

"Ok, pig," BrandyLynn said. "Thanks for the tip."

When the light turned green, she made a left and disappeared into Oleander's darkness. She drove through the thin, twisting back roads up to Heartland Avenue. The orange rays of streetlights glowed in the distance. Her little white car stumbled out of the dark and headed towards Forest Valley Road.

Tevin drove down Forest Valley Road, scouting the landscape. Drapey trees and little puffs of shrubs. Bright gas stations. Streetlights bathing their orangey glow on tidy, empty streets. Crossing State Street, he saw a darkened, ranch-style house on the side of the road. A law firm resided there, their specialty marked by a rotting, wooden sign:


Every time he passed it, he thought of his father. He left when Tevin was thirteen. He had stood at the top of the staircase that day, watching his father drag Casey out the front door, her red ponytail swishing back and forth as he pulled. His mother wailed, begging them not to go. "Dr. Penden said Tevin's too dangerous," his father said. "I'm not leaving my daughter around that kid." That kid. They were bitter words. Like their father wasn't that kid's flesh and blood. Like Casey wasn't half that kid's blood. Like all the times Casey sat with that kid and stroked his hair after the neighborhood boys had beaten him up meant nothing. Like all the times she held him and told him you will be ok now meant nothing. Like taking the only good in his entire world away forever meant nothing. That kid. That fucking bastard.

Tevin pulled at his collar, staring at the sign. He pointed to it.

"You know what them dots mean, Casey?" He waved his hand as if casting his answer in marquee lights. "To be continued. You know, kinda like a story on a TV show. Or maybe a movie you didn't get to finish."

In the distance by Heartland Avenue, Tevin saw a white car pull onto the main road. It swerved, coasting over two lanes and swerved back, the road button lane dividers trailing behind it like never-ending ellipsis.

"What we got here?" He checked the rearview mirror. No police anywhere. No cars either. "Maybe we should get a look-see."

He grabbed the cell phone, holding it against his thigh with one hand and gripping the steering wheel with the other. He pressed the gas, and the van roared. He leaned forward, willing the van to go faster, praying he'd catch up in time.

A bright light flashed into BrandyLynn's car from behind. Adrenaline flushed across her chest. Cops. She rolled to the stoplight, and checked her rearview mirror. It was a white Cargo van. As it pulled up beside her on the right, two crudely painted eyes leered at her. They were human eyes. In a cat's face. It made no sense.

The light turned green, and she pressed the gas. The van gunned forward with her, pacing her, keeping neck-and-neck. She looked over and saw a man staring back. He was pointing to the side of the road, mouthing words she couldn't hear. Screaming them. What was he saying? Red rover?

"Pull over!" Tevin yelled. The driver was a woman. A young woman. He rolled his window down. "Pull over!" He held up his cell phone. "I'll call the police!"

He dropped the van back and merged into the lane on her left side, racing up until he reached her again. He could see her looking at him, stiffly, anxiously, like a kitten gazing up from the bottom of a free box.

A shopping center was coming up on the right. He edged into her lane. Her car jerked and slowed down, the right turn signal blinking. She was caught. As he trailed her into the parking lot, he started to feel hopeful. Loose and warm. He was going to help her, whether she liked it or not.

BrandyLynn's breath was shallow as she watched the van circle her. It pulled across three parking spaces and stopped, brakes squeaking. It was no more than thirty, maybe forty feet away. The drugs. She looked at her backpack. What was she going to do with the drugs? She leaned over, trying to push the backpack under the seat. It wouldn't fit. And there were footsteps. A throat clearing. She turned.

His hands clamped down on the sill, fingers curling over the side. His eyes were wide and grey. Lashes faint. He scanned the insides of her car. His thin lips parted slightly, emitting a minty, chemical smell.

"Hey girl," he said in a boyish, countrified voice.

The voice was unexpected, kinder than she thought. She opened her eyes wide, trying to act sober. She needed words, some kind of words.

"You could have killed someone out there." He thumbed behind him.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said. "Who are you?"

He rested his forearm on the sill. "Now, you're probably thinking I had no right to run you off the road like I did, but you scared me, little one." He leaned in, shielding the side of his face with his hand. "I know you're high."

She shook her head. He wagged his finger, lips curling into a smile.

"I know what you're thinking," he said. "You're probably asking yourself, 'Who the hell is this guy here driving that funny looking van and running me into this drugstore parking lot in the middle of the night to talk about responsibility and pain and all of these other big things I never had the need to worry about before?' Now I ain't your daddy, but I know what's going on here. I ain't gonna let you go."

He reached his hand through the window.

"Give me the keys, little girl." His fingers opened and closed in a pantomime of grabbing. "You may not believe me now, but this is a matter of life and death."

Tevin shook his hand a little. Nothing. He tried again. Still nothing. He pulled his hand back and rested his elbow on the windowsill. This girl looked sick to him, kind of starved. She stared at the windshield, blue eyes lined with thick black makeup, sights seeking some beyond as if she could ignore him right off the earth. A single lock of her burgundy hair fell down and curled into her cleavage. His gaze fixed on that lock. It was like that picture he had found in his father's bureau when he was eleven. Kitty Rose. Mouth open, legs wide, fingers spreading open glistening pink flesh, large curl of red hair trailing down her neck and circling her nipple. She held his gaze, hypnotizing him, her parts and pieces crawling inside him, filling his body with hunger and heat. His eyes lingered over the girl before him now - black shirt cut in a low scoop neck, a tiny line of lacy bra peeking out, fingers twisting that lock of hair between jagged, black fingernails. The backs of his legs tingled. He smiled.

"Now look, girl," he said. "You're in a lot of trouble here, but I want you to know I am not the kinda guy who's gonna call the police unless I have to. A girl like you probably has a phone to call someone to come get you, right?"

"Didn't you have one?"

His throat tightened.

"Funny you should ask that," he said. "I was gonna bring it, but the darn thing died before I walked over here." He thumbed back to the van. "There's a pay phone over there if you want to get out and use it."

She looked past him to the van, then back. She didn't move.

He tapped the windowsill, a tickle of anger tightening his jaw.

"Well, all right then," he said. "Have it your way." He reached in his back pocket, pulling out his wallet. Sighing theatrically, he slid out his driver's license and took a few steps back, holding it at window-level.

"This is me. Name's Tevin Meal." He flipped the card between his fingers and placed it back in his wallet. He shifted his weight, feeling the bump of rubber gloves and condoms in his left pocket and the edge of the folding knife in the right.

"C'mon now." He put his thumb in his belt loop and covered the knife-bearing pocket with one hand. "What kind of man would I have to be to show you my identification? An honest one, that's what."

BrandyLynn wasn't getting near that van. Even if there was a payphone back there, she had no one to call. Not even her mom answered anymore. She looked out the windshield to the edges of the parking lot, further to the street, to the park, to the tentacle-branched oak trees, and then to nothing, nothing but distance and darkness.

"Why don't you let me drive you?" Tevin had his hand on the door. It clicked as he lifted the handle. "C'mon." Click click click. "I'm just trying to help you."

Her mind surged, flashing senseless bits and pieces. A girl running through the woods. A chasing shadow. Her mom's skeletal face, body shrinking smaller and smaller. Pink lines on a pregnancy test. Dale's face receding from rage into disgust. "You did this to yourself, Brandy," he said, slamming the door in her face.

Click click click.

She looked up at Tevin. His awkward smile. Pinched brows. Eyes so eager and clear and clueless. He even told her his real name. He had nothing to hide. He didn't know anything about her either. None of her humiliations, none of the sleazy compromises she had made, the bad decisions, the secrets, the drugs and needles. Drugs. And. Fucking. Needles. Fucking felonies in her backpack. It was jail or Tevin. Tevin or fucking dope sickness, three whole grams replaced with jerking tremors, vomit, sweats and sleepless shakes and shit. She wouldn't do it. Couldn't. With a trembling hand, she clicked the automatic lock open.

"Thatta girl." He pulled open the door. "You're gonna be ok now."

Once she moved over into the passenger seat, she could feel him enter, her car sinking with his weight. He reached up and adjusted the rear view, pausing to look at himself, sending a hand back through his hair.

"Want to tell me what way to go here?" he said.

"Go out the back of the lot and take a right."

The car eased into silence and stillness. Tevin watched the road, hands in ten and two position, eyes occasionally checking the rearview, the side mirror. He was a living driver's manual. It made her feel like a child. Like she was thirteen. Drunk and arrested for breaking into an abandoned house with her boyfriend, Milo. Dale driving her home from the police station, hands in ten and two, squeezing the steering wheel, strangling it. "All I do is give and give and give," he said. "You never apologize. You never change."

"I'm sorry," she said. "Turn right here."

Tevin slowed at the intersection and switched the right blinker on. BrandyLynn felt the car take a little dip right, and then make a sudden swerving movement to the left.

Tevin felt a pulse of adrenaline.

"Oops," he said. "I'm getting all turned around here."

"Take a right at the end of this street." She fidgeted, letting out a soft, scarcely audible, "Please."

Please. He pulled at his collar. He'd gone to jail because of please. It was that doozy-eyed, red-haired Kitty, drunk and stumbling through the alley, grabbing his shoulder to balance herself. "Please help me get home," she said. Of course, he'd help her. Hold her up, too. Pull her in close. What are you doing? Graze his fingers down her neck. What are you doing? Pin her against the wall, his flesh tearing as she clawed him, abrasion stinging and swelling with heat as she kneed him and ran into the night.

"Calm down, girl." Tevin scratched the scar on his neck. "I'm trying to help you."

The street was vacant, too. He began to ignore the stop signs. He let a street pass. Another. From the corner of his eye, he watched her tense up, little black claws perching and unperching around the passenger seat like she didn't know which way to hold.

"This isn't right." Her voice cracked. "Where are we going?"

"Just take it easy." He pressed the gas harder.

The end of the road was approaching. There were only two ways this could go. Turn right into a residential neighborhood where he'd find lights and stop signs. Or, turn left out of town where he'd find hills and dark and freeways, no stops, no people, no escape. And she had to know this. That was why she was carrying on like that, her voice getting louder, larger, blurring into something baseless and non-descript, some girl's, some Kitty's. HERS. Didn't she understand a guy needs some space? One square foot of privacy? Just one. A lock box labeled HERS to keep all his pictures and secrets. But his father had found it and broke it open and demanded to know why all those nasty pictures and why are their privates and eyes blackened with marker and why Kleenex and why Vaseline and why rubber gloves? And what was Casey's picture doing in there? But he couldn't explain. How could he tell him it was for after? After, he stared at Casey's picture, hitting his knuckles against the side of his head, whispering not her, not her. Because he didn't want to feel that way about Casey. Because Casey was good. Perfect. A saint. His angel. But Kitty wouldn't leave him alone, wouldn't stop suffocating him with bad thoughts. Warping everything he saw. Chasing. Poison. He didn't start it. Kitty did. They did. This girl next to him. What are you doing, Tevin? Turn right! Please turn right!

He gritted his teeth and turned left.

BrandyLynn watched the trees thicken and close over them. The road narrowed and poured into the hills, the earth rising up around them, the world disappearing as the car picked up speed. It was like one of Dale's stories. She could feel the tears coming.

"Well." Tevin coughed and scratched his neck.

She saw a scar. Jagged streaks the size of fingernails.

"How about you tell me your name?" he said.

It escaped before she could stop it. In a small voice. A tiny bird-like peep.

"Isn't that pretty. Pretty name for a pretty girl." He slapped the dash in front of her. The glove box rattled. His eyes searched her. Hunting. Firelit. "You got a boyfriend, Brandy?"

She turned away and looked at the road, wishing she could disappear. It clipped under the wheels. Faster. Faster.

"Hey, I'm talking to you." He leaned over and smacked the dash again.

A dark building loomed in the distance. It bore a weather-tattered sign:


She felt sick, like her insides were pulling in on themselves and hollowing. She wrapped her arms around her knees, pulling them into her chest. She thought of her mom, of walnut trees, of suburban ranchers. She was three years old, running down the street, away from the pictures she crayoned on the wall, away from her mom yelling, away until she was lost and breathless. She curled up in a jungle gym, hiding until she was awakened by her mom's touch. Her mom lifted her up, wrapping her in her arms. She was all strength and protection, always knowing when it was over and her baby girl needed to come home. BrandyLynn nestled her chin on her mom's shoulder and watched the world bob up and down as she walked, bouncing sidewalks, green lawns, weeds that looked like flowers, sparrows nesting in the trees.

She felt a tap on her shoulder. Tevin gestured to the hotel.

"Maybe we should stop in," he said.

Tevin's body seemed to harden, rooting itself into the driver's seat. A streetlight rolled over the windshield, reflecting back an image of him licking his lips.

She lunged at him. Clawed. Shoved. Grazed the steering wheel. A jumble of limbs. He grabbed her hand, wrenching her fingers and throwing them back in her face.

Tevin's hands gripped the steering wheel, strangling it, teeth clenched. Whatever happened was her fault now. HERS. That faceless vacant whoever she was. He'd hold her down and shove himself inside her and he'd give and give and give, feeling her tightening, tearing, his hand over her mouth, her eyes wrenching shut, throat widening with strained breath, her body giving in, wanting it now, and he'd cum and cum and cum until he was breathless and spent, his body shuddering, still inside, feeling their throbbing settle like little earthquakes fading into a dream, and he'd stroke her red hair and whisper in her ear you will be ok now because he loved her and loved her and loved her and why was Casey looking up at him? He hit his temple with his knuckle until the image evaporated. Hissing, he adjusted his shoulders, cracking out the tension in his neck.

"So, you like it rough, huh?" he said. "Well, I ain't gonna let you scratch me. Nuh uh. Not this time." He laughed.

And then something pushed through. A sound. Some ugly, sniffling, gaspy sound. He looked over. She had her face in her hands. She was crying. Cowering. His throat felt feverish.

"Hey now." He reached over to pat her shoulder, then winced and pulled back. Why was she doing this? His mind searched for words.

"So. You... uh, like movies, Brandy?"

She didn't move.

"I had someone once who taught me about movies," he said. "Showed me all kinds. Love stories mostly. You like love stories?"

There was one he would always remember. The Date. A man's car ran out of gas in the woods. The lady was scared. The man took her hand. Kissed it. And she let him do it again and again. Tevin had been sitting on the couch next to Casey, red hair shining in the flickering TV lights, her hand next to his. His legs tingled. Funny thoughts swarmed. Pleasure and fear and urgency all mixed together. And pain. He inched his hand over. It was unbearable. He placed his hand on hers. She tore away, looking at him like he was a monster. And when she left him in the dark, he stared at the lady on the screen, imagining it was Kitty Rose. He was straddling her stomach, watching her face swell with blood as his hands tightened around her throat.

Tevin looked back at the girl beside him now, black-sleeved arms wrapped tightly around her knees, eyes and cheeks blackened by makeup and tears. She was just like those pictures, like so many Kittys he blackened so long ago.

He glanced at the gas gauge. One-third tank remaining. This was his opportunity. He finally had all the pieces he needed to finish the story. He could run Kitty's car until the fuel was almost gone. They'd drive along, the trees closing over them, the world turning into isolation and dark when, Oops. Looks like we ran out of gas. What are we gonna do now, little Kitty? What are we going to do now?

BrandyLynn's eyes felt swollen and raw. The roads flowed one into another, turns and turns until she didn't know where she was anymore. She looked at each exit longingly and watched the cars pass by them. The streetlights rolled over the windshield, wheeling reflections across the glass. Swan thin neck. Jutting collarbones. A skeletal face, like her mom's. Tevin staring at the road, half-hypnotized. His reflection glided over to her side of the car, the eyes catching hers.

"Listen, Cas... uh, Kit... uh, Brandy. Brandy. Dammit!" Tevin shook his head and hit his temple with his knuckle.

The highway lights ran over his face and body in strips, passing over his hands, the orange hairs across their backs appearing and disappearing. He put one hand on the console, inching it toward her.

"I think you misjudged me." The light rolled over him again. All teeth, then shadow.

She felt his hand cover hers. He squeezed it.

"Thoughts are lonely things, aren't they?" he said. "It's like they come up on you and force you to see all the evil in the world. Make you feel so private that maybe you ain't sure who you are anymore. I think a person'd do about anything to get rid of them, just so they ain't bothered no more." His hand moved to her leg. "In pain." He rubbed her thigh. "Empty maybe."

She looked back out at the road, thinking of its hardness, its ability to break heads and crush bone.

"I think you know what I'm saying, little one." He took her hand again, raising it to his lips. "I think this misery has lasted too long."

Tevin felt the swell against his ribs, the strain in his lungs. He'd force the thoughts out soon. He'd push them into her and fill her with them until there was nothing inside her except them. And after, happily ever after, her face streaked and soft, eyes rung dry of tears, voice silenced and body curled up and still, his thoughts all transferred and transforming her, that's when he'd tell her everything - how she haunted him, how she made him feel so evil and unshareable, how she made the world something he could only walk through and never touch. She'd finally understand that this was their story now. No, his. And she had to change with it. She'd have to say sorry and never ever leave again.

There was only a little fuel left. Oleander Avenue was coming up. That's where he'd take her. That's where he'd make Kitty run away.

BrandyLynn saw a small light in the distance. It was a tiny building. A familiar sign. GILDA'S BBQ. Oleander. It was up there, too. All its silence, knotted trees, ditches, creeks. The end of the story. A typical crime scene horror with all its chasing and strangling and death.

GILDA'S became brighter, the windows filled with light. There were dark shapes moving. Bodies. A green light. Tevin flicked the blinker on. The car's pace slackened. More. He was taking a left. The car would have to slow down further still. Had to lean. Had to go by GILDA'S when people were inside.

She coughed to cover the click of the door unlocking. Gripping the handle, she leaned into it, cracking it open, the tips of her burgundy hair kissed by little puffs of incoming wind...

Tevin felt the wind on his face from the right. When he turned, the passenger seat was empty, the door swaying out. He lunged for it, thrusting out his hand. Pawing. He couldn't reach. He snapped back up and jerked the steering wheel left, forcing the door to swing back. He lunged at it again, fingers grazing. He gripped the handle and yanked it closed.

He looked in the rearview mirror. BrandyLynn was face down on the street. A dark figure appeared and crouched down beside her. And then, BrandyLynn moved.

She left. There would be no after. No end. No release. It was all thoughts now. Only thoughts. And rattling. Throngs of rattling. Glove box spewing contents onto the floor, garbage falling onto a backpack, a picture of a smirking, brown-haired girl in front of a canvas. Two disembodied eyes stared at him. Stared right at him. She knew who he was.

He couldn't breathe. This was the wrong picture. Wrong story. No good there. No good anywhere. He had to get back to the van. Take Casey's picture into his hands and run back into the innocent past forever. And hide. He had to hide. The thoughts were on him, worse than before, swarming, one over another, shutter speed flickering, red hair, flesh, nails, eyes, ashes, back roads, through Oleander and Heartland, Heartland to Forest Valley. He was on the same street he chased her. Near the same parking lot he caught her. The van came into sight - white body, cat painted on the side, enormous black claws reaching out to paw at his face...


  1. Strong, vivid writing that navigates two life-times in a short story fraught with tension and loss. Psychologically savvy and well realised. Many thanks,

  2. Intense story. Excellent job of getting inside the chatacters’ heads, especially Tevin’s.

  3. Wow! First rate story, well done! Like watching a true crime film - so visual. And the tension, building, but controlled. Excellent, Laura. Thank you.

  4. Tough, tough story, and I'm glad I read it.

  5. first class story, has a great noirish feel to it, and superbly drawn characters.
    Mike McC

  6. I liked how you seamlessly went back and forth between POV's, and how both of them were fractured with painful flashbacks, one psyche obviously more fractured and damaged than the other.