The Hypnotist's Love Story(15)

by Liane Moriarty

Rosie closed her eyes.

Ellen watched Rosie’s chest rise and fall and let her own breathing fall into the same rhythm. She spoke rapidly and smoothly, imagining her words pouring into Rosie’s mind like liquid from a jar.

“I’m wondering if you can visualize a wall. And I’m sorry to tell you that it’s painted apricot. But the good news is you’re repainting it an exquisite blue. Your paintbrush is moving up and down in rhythmic strokes. Up … and … down. Up … and … down.”

Too complicated? Ellen had found she needed to be careful with her metaphors. Men often got too literal. A man might say afterward, “You should have had me paint an undercoat first.” Women tended to go off on tangents. One of her earliest clients had said that she loved to sunbake, so Ellen did what she thought was a pretty safe induction about lying on a tropical beach. Afterward, the client admitted that she’d spent the whole time trying to choose which swimsuit to visualize herself wearing.

Ellen watched Rosie’s eyes move rapidly behind her eyelids and noted the tension in her body: her shoulders up, her hands gripping the sides of the chair, her fingers pressing hard into the leather. A cloud moved across the sun outside the window and a beam of light caught the diamonds of Rosie’s chunky engagement ring.

“Each time you see that paintbrush move, notice your body sink into a deeper feeling of relaxation. You’ll probably find your breathing is starting to flow in rhythm with the paintbrush. Up … Down … In … Out. Up … and … down. In … and … out.”

She watched Rosie’s tiny, pixielike black boots fall outward in a V-shape. “Watch their feet,” her mentor, Flynn, used to tell her. “That’s the giveaway.”

“The wall is nearly finished. By the time it’s entirely blue … or perhaps a little while later … you will be enjoying the most glorious state of relaxation you have ever experienced.”

Rosie’s mouth drooped, her face sagged and her head lolled to one side. If some of her clients knew how they looked when they were in a trance they would be horrified. It was something that Ellen had never mentioned to anyone, not even other therapists. It felt like something deeply personal she shared with her clients.

OK, Ellen, just exactly what are you going to do with this blue wall you’ve got in front of you?

But she knew. Sometimes her work felt clumsy and forced. Other days, like now, it felt natural and fluid. She was in a light trance herself. She was in the “zone.”

“Rosie, you have the power to turn that wall into a deep rich blue curtain like you might see on a stage. And behind that curtain somebody important is waiting for you. I don’t know who, but it’s someone with great wisdom, someone you trust implicitly. You’re pulling back the curtain and that person is waiting for you. Maybe they’re stepping forward to hug you.”

She waited and watched.

“Are you with that person?”

Rosie lifted her right index finger: the signal they’d agreed upon for “yes.”

“Now, it’s my belief that this person has something to share with you. They might be able to tell you why you’re finding it hard to give up smoking, or give you the resources or strength you need to break this habit. I’m going to be quiet now while you listen to what they have to say.”

A cloud moved across the sun again, and the room filled with warmth. Ellen could feel her own chest rising and falling in perfect rhythm with Rosie’s. Rosie’s face remained impassive, but she was chewing at her lip.

After a few seconds Ellen spoke again.

“Rosie,” she said. “I’m wondering if you would like to share with me what you’ve learned. It’s entirely up to you.”

For a moment Rosie said nothing and then she spoke. Her voice was a husky, slow monotone.

“I don’t want to marry him,” she said. “That’s why I don’t want to give up smoking, because I don’t want to be married.”

Ellen’s eyebrows shot up, and her eyes went to the cluster of shimmering diamonds on Rosie’s finger.

“I don’t really like him all that much,” said Rosie.

“So, this is my son, Jack!”

Patrick stood in Ellen’s hallway with his hands resting on his son’s skinny shoulders.

“Well, hi, Jack! How are you?” Ellen sounded exactly as she’d been afraid she would: like a librarian at story hour.

“Good, thanks.” The boy glanced briefly up at Ellen and then looked away again. He had his father’s slightly almond-shaped pale green eyes. His thick blond hair was long and messy, cut over his ears like a 1960s rock star.

“Good! Well, so … great! I’m hoping you like sausage sandwiches.” To her joyous relief, Ellen had discovered some sausages in the freezer before they’d arrived.

Jack didn’t appear to have heard her. He had his chin down and was tugging at the front of his T-shirt as if he was checking the fabric for strength.

Patrick cleared his throat. “Ellen asked you a question, mate.”

“No she didn’t.”

“Yes, she did. She asked if you liked sausages. You love sausages, don’t you!”

Jack shrugged his shoulders away from his father’s hands. “I don’t love sausages, actually, Dad. Also, she didn’t ask if I liked sausages. She said, I’m hoping you like sausage sandwiches. That’s not a question. It’s like a sentence. See? She said, I’m hoping you like sausage.”

“OK, well…” began Ellen.

“I love pizza. You said I could order a pizza tonight.”

“I said maybe we’d order a pizza tonight, but if Ellen has made sausage sandwiches for you, then that’s what you’re having.” Patrick gave Jack a stern, paternal and somewhat panicky look.

“I haven’t actually made them yet,” Ellen hastened to say. “You can have pizza, Jack, if that’s what you prefer, of course you can.”

“Yeah. Thanks, that’s what I’d prefer.” Jack sighed gustily, as if someone was finally talking sense. “So, can I watch my DVD now?”

“Jack. Please. You don’t need to watch your DVD straightaway. That’s not good manners.”

Ellen saw that Patrick’s cheeks were sucked in as if he was clenching his jaw. He was desperate for Jack to make a good impression on her. Her own nerves vanished.