To Dr. Lottie Morgan, hindsight wasn’t twenty-twenty. It was a curse.
Sure, she knew to be more positive about recent life lessons that led to her to that conclusion, but that was hard to do when you were sitting in your Jeep in the office parking lot, ready to go into work, while dozens of people stood outside the front door waiting to meet you. Or ask for an autograph.
If it had been a one-time incident it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the crowding turned into a regular occurrence, an expectation even. Every morning Lottie ate breakfast, prepared for work, and hoped the day would turn out differently. It never did. And she only had herself to blame. Well, she could blame fate, too, but her life now was the direct result of a decision made several months ago and as much as she wanted to place blame elsewhere, Lottie couldn’t. Her decisions and their consequences belonged to her, and they didn’t excuse her from her clients or her job.
With a resigned sigh, she cut the engine, locked the Jeep, and strode toward the door. Halfway to Amrose Counseling Center, the crowd overwhelmed her. Head down, Lottie shoved through the group and plunged through the front door, knowing she’d been rude but also knowing she had no other choice. She wasn’t a celebrity, only a psychologist trying to help others find their way through life much like she’d found hers.
Some of the bystanders spilled into the building after her, converging on the reception area like sand pouring from a beach pail. Alicia, Amrose’s smart-dressed and middle-aged receptionist, jumped from her desk and rushed to Lottie’s side, threatening to call the police if the bystanders didn’t vacate the premises. The group hesitated and Alicia barked at them again, and when the last visitor loped back outside into the chilly October air, Lottie turned to Alicia and offered her thanks.
Alicia sent a soft smile and returned to her desk.
Someone coughed and Lottie noticed a full waiting room; people who wanted emotional guidance and mental help and who deserved a safe haven that Lottie once again disrupted. Feeling more than guilty and every bit the troublemaker, she strode toward the hall and her office at the end, hoping to leave the bad energy behind. Once inside, she powered up her computer, opened the window a couple of inches, and checked her watch.
Twelve more hours, she reminded herself. Just twelve more hours until David got home and they started vacation. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander to walks on the beach with a bottle of red and a warm blanket, a much-needed respite from the craziness waiting outside the front door. Oh hell, who was she kidding? She intended to keep David in bed for a whole week.
“Just twelve more hours,” she said out loud.
But the mantra wasn’t going to make the time pass any faster, and counting minutes would only drive her crazy. To get her mind on other things, she launched her schedule and checked her appointments. The calendar showed a new client in ten minutes followed by two regulars, lunch, and two more new ones in the afternoon. A full day but not an unmanageable one.
A knock on the door disrupted her focus. She looked up and found Stuart Hanley, the director of Amrose Counseling Center, standing at the threshold. He strode in and settled into one of the two chairs facing her desk, his large-framed glasses and plaid shirt reminding Lottie of one of her psych professors back in college. He tipped the glasses up his nose and settled Lottie with an incisive, brown-eyed gaze.
“This is becoming a habit,” he said, and Lottie knew better than to ask what he meant. They’d been having the same conversation for more than a month, and each time Stuart resurrected it, she responded with the same answer.
“I’m sorry, Stuart,” Lottie said. “If I had known the interview in Current Psychology would have caused all of this publicity, I never would have done it.”
“Our clients expect refuge, Lottie, not a circus.”
“Some of those people outside are potential clients,” she reminded him. “They’re looking for help they can’t get elsewhere.”
“Because you took a trip to the dark side and invited them in.” Stuart shook his head, his dissatisfaction evident in the firm set of his mouth. “Seriously, Lottie, what were you thinking?”
She stifled a sigh. If she explained this once, she explained it too often, and explaining it again wasn’t going to make any difference. Still, she needed to try.
“Past life regression is a fact, Stuart. It happened to me three months ago, just as it’s happened to many others over the millennia, and people need to know about it. You know that’s why I did the interview with the magazine.”
“Past life regression is entertainment for movies and books,” he fired back. “It has no basis in reality and no place in this Center.”
“Then how do you explain the documented cases in perceptual studies, Stuart?”
“Those cases are rigged for publicity—”
“Many are children,” Lottie said. “Five- and six-year olds who remembered facts of previous eras and lives. Details that no one else knew about until people started digging and making connections.”
Stuart sent her a long, disbelieving look.
“Did you see the article in NatGeo?” Lottie asked. “An archaeologist in Egypt discovered a thirty-five-hundred-year-old burial tomb with a story that corroborated the memories I started remembering back in July.”
Stuart held up a hand. “I am not here to discuss the article, Lottie.”
His demand didn’t stop her. “There are other people who are experiencing what I experienced and who need guidance. The article was my way of letting them know they’re not alone and that their situations should be addressed and taken seriously.”
“Regression therapy I agree with,” Stuart said. “Not some bizarre dissertation about a life you lived in ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. Do you even realize how that sounds?”
“Open minds are more conducive to change,” Lottie said, even though she knew the words wouldn’t shift his perception. People believed what they wanted to believe, even when what they believed wasn’t based on complete knowledge or entire truth.
Taking his silence as encouragement, Lottie went on. “Do you realize that my client roster grew by almost thirty percent in the past month since the piece ran in Current Psychology?”
Stuart folded his arms over his chest. “How many of those new clients want regression therapy, Lottie?”
“How many of them are nutcases?”
“Stuart, please don’t call them nutcases—”
Lottie folded her arms over her chest, mirroring his defiance. “I’m not answering that question because it’s demeaning. You see the office stats. You can figure out my client representation without my help.”
“I asked you to seek therapy of your own. Have you done it yet?”
Lottie suppressed a sigh. “No, because it’s not necessary.”
Stuart leaned forward, challenging her. “According to who?”
“You think that I’m dealing with issues, and I understand that—”
“I think you’re not always operating in reality and that you need help. Go get it.” The alarm sounded on Lottie’s computer, signaling her first appointment. “I want you to find a reputable psychiatrist who will help you through this or I will choose one for you.” Stuart stood up and stared her down. “I also want you to clean out your client list and focus only on those people who need help. Real help. It’s now mid-October, and I want both accomplished by the end of the month.”
“I’m on vacation for two weeks after today.”
“Then figure out how to do this while you’re on vacation.”
Lottie stared back at him, meeting his challenge. “And if that doesn’t happen?”
“Consider October thirty-first your last day at Amrose.”
“Closed minds won’t help this practice, Stuart.”
“And quackery will destroy it.”
Lottie pressed her lips together, the curse of her decision to do the interview once again rearing its ugly head. This was something that should have been simple. She’d been meeting so many people who craved acceptance because they were being dismissed the way Lottie was being dismissed now. And it gave Lottie a better understanding of why prophets and so-called witches were treated as dangerous and often killed. People were afraid of what they didn’t understand.
A young girl in a gray baseball cap, pink and gray shirt, and blue jeans rapped on the door. “Who’s Dr. Morgan?” she asked.
Lottie stood and looked past Stuart, erasing the impatience and dissatisfaction from her face. “That would be me,” she said.
“Excellent.” The girl barreled inside and headed toward Lottie. “Can I have your autograph before we start my therapy?”
Stuart caught Lottie’s gaze and gave her a stern look just before he left. “By the end of October,” he warned.
The girl shoved a piece of paper and a pen at Lottie. Lottie ignored her, walked to the door and looked down the hall, trying to locate either a mother or father and finding no one.
The girl followed and shoved the paper and pen at Lottie again. “For a psychiatrist, you’re not a very good listener.”
“I’m a psychologist.”
Lottie looked down at the girl, took the paper and pen, and placed them on a nearby bookshelf. When she turned back, the girl was thumbing through an issue of Current Psychology.
“And that’s precisely the point,” Lottie said, watching the girl drop the magazine onto the coffee table and move to the sofa where she flopped down, watching Lottie from beneath her cap’s brim. “I’m a psychologist not a psychiatrist, and I’m also not a celebrity. Are you Monica?” Lottie added, trying to find out if the girl was her nine o’clock appointment and if someone had made a mistake when they pulled together her profile. Lottie was expecting someone older.
“No. I am,” someone else said.
Lottie turned to a woman standing at the doorway. She was short-haired, square-jawed, and olive skinned, and looked as if she had just walked off a Mediterranean photo shoot in a billowy pink blouse and tight jeans. Her eyes were as striking and as brown as her pixie cut, her body fit and tanned, and if Lottie didn’t have a file that specified her as forty-five, she would have pegged her for a dozen years younger instead.
Lottie welcomed Monica inside, and Monica turned on the young girl.
“What have you been up to?” Monica asked with a dark eyebrow arched in warning.
The girl’s equally dark brow rose with rebelliousness. “I wanted Dr. Morgan’s autograph. Is that a problem?”
“Yes, because it’s rude.” Monica sent Lottie a sideways glance. “Sorry about that, Dr. Morgan. Ada’s smart for an eleven-year old, but she’s also impatient. Ever since she’s seen your article in Current Psychology, you’re all she’s been talking about.”
Lottie looked from Monica to Ada and couldn’t rein in her surprise. “Ada reads CurrentPsychology?”
“I also read about the find in Egypt in NatGeo.” Ada jumped to her feet, came over, and stared up at Lottie, wide-eyed and eager. “Was that really your mummy that they discovered in that dig they did back in July? Was that really all your gold? And was that man buried with you really your lover?”
“Ada!” Monica snapped.
“I only want to know.” Ada rolled her eyes. “Come on, Mom. You’re always saying how we gotta find the truth in life, and Dr. Morgan’s one of us so it’s gotta be okay.”
“That’s enough already.” Monica grasped Ada by the arm and escorted her to the door. “Go to the waiting room. I’ll be out when I’m done here.”
Ada made a face and muttered colorful thoughts that were just loud enough to hear, then followed Monica’s pointed finger to the reception area. Once she was gone, Monica looked at Lottie with obvious apology.
“Children,” she said with a quirked smile that revealed teeth as white as the whitest paper. “A parent’s blessing and curse.”
Lottie nodded, having heard that wisdom hundreds of times before, and motioned toward the sofa. “How about taking a seat so we can both be more comfortable when we talk?”
“Oh, I’m not here for the entire session,” Monica said. “In fact, I’m here for you not me.”
Monica dug into her Fendi, pulled out a business card, and handed it to Lottie. Only a phone number appeared on it.
“What is this?” Lottie asked.
Monica rested a warm hand on Lottie’s shoulder. “There is a group of us who are just like you,” she said. “Those who experienced regressions just like you did, who remembered and relived details of past lives, and who’ve spoken about it and now face persecution as a result. We meet regularly and we want you to join us.”
“Meet for what?”
Monica’s smile widened. “Whatever it is you will need.”
“I don’t understand.”
Monica patted Lottie’s arm. “You will, once you leave this counseling center behind you and move on to what you’re really meant to do with your life.”
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