Lennet always gave himself a moment of contemplation before she arrived. He gazed around his office; at the prints Barron had provided, at the comfortable chair on the far side of his desk, and at the dark-wood outer door. He turned to the lighter internal door, to his left, and pictured the smoothed covers on the bed, the towels hanging straight in the shower room, and the polished tiles. He smiled. It pleased him to contemplate his home. He only needed to leave these rooms for shared meals and meetings with colleagues, or to take one of his short walks around the patients’ quarters. In his role, it was important to show a friendly face.

There was a rap at the door, and he called for her to enter. Who else would it be at this time?

“Ah, my dear Yanis, so good to see you again. Please, take a seat.”

She sat and took a sip from the glass he’d prepared, as usual. She only touched water, not trusting anything stronger to pass her lips lest it interfered with her contemplations, as she phrased it. Lennet knew she feared a relapse and a return to her previous troubles.

“So, how are our dear friends? Should we start with the frightened bunny?”

She giggled, a sound at odds with her advancing years. “Oh, Lennet, you are naughty to use such a term. But yes, we can start with Dennie.”

She talked, informing him of each patient in turn, talking of their concerns and her perceptions of their mental and emotional stated. She mentioned the progress they were making, and made suggestions for possible treatments. As she talked, he made notes on his screen. Of course, all meetings were recorded, but he found the very process of inputting aided his clarity.

Yanis became animated as she talked, her arms waving, thin where they protruded from her gown. She preferred the one-piece, and only wore light sandals‌—‌and, of course, she wore her undergarments. Lennet knew of them because one of her gowns was wearing thin, or maybe it was designed for warmer weather. The experience had been unnerving, but she apparently didn’t notice his discomfort.

She needed precious little encouragement to talk, and for the most part Lennet remained silent. Only when his screen highlighted the time did he take the lead, letting her know that their consultation was at an end. Her face dropped for a moment, and then brightened as she confirmed their next meeting, two days hence. Then she left, back to the part of the facility she always referred to as ‘Bayrooms’.

Lennet took a sip of his own drink, now lukewarm, then sent the usual call out to Barron. The man would no doubt have been monitoring the meeting anyway.

Barron arrived within the space of a couple of minutes, letting himself in and taking the seat she had occupied. If her residual warmth worried him, he didn’t let it show.

“How is she?” he asked, without preamble. Lennet gave his thoughts, both on what she’d told him and on his impressions of Yanis herself. That, of course, was the main reason for their consultations. Barron interjected with questions, some of them flying at tangents, but Lennet was accustomed to this. He had yet to fathom Barron, although his superior presented an intriguing study.

“And how do you feel about this whole situation now, my friend?” Barron asked, after Lennet had divulged all on is patients.

“I still feel unsettled by it.”

“Unsettled, you say? That is an improvement. A few weeks ago, you were calling our dealings with the woman cruel. Does this mean you are more accepting now?”

Lennet nodded. He had considered it cruel to feed a patient’s fantasies, but Barron had been persistent in his logic. “I accept that there is no harm in letting Yanis believe she is working for us. As you have said before, it does allow us a unique insight into the other patients, and it gives her a raison d’être, if using such a phrase is not overly dramatic.” But he did wonder if, on some level, Yanis knew her true status within the facility.

“Yet it still unsettles you? You it difficult to persist in the the façade?”

“No, no. It is much like any other patient consultation. In many ways, Yanis is easier to deal with. She talks freely, and I find our meetings pass by quickly. I might even say they give me a pleasant break from more intense dealings with others. I thank you for assigning her to my caseload.”

“So the unsettled feelings?”

Lennet shrugged. “I am not sure. I need to meditate further on the matter.”

Barron nodded. “Understood, my friend.”

And the meeting was at an end. They exchanged pleasantries, and Barron left.

Lennet shivered with the knowledge of his lie, because he knew exactly what unsettled him.

Yanis was a prisoner like all patients, yet she believed she had freedom to wander through her ‘Bayrooms’, and beyond if the desire took her. She believed her presence in the facility was through her own choice, and that she was a part of the team of professionals. She believed she was not one of them. He fed that belief. As did Barron.

Lennet looked at the door to his personal quarters. His home. He knew the space intimately, but could only picture other areas of the facility with mental effort. And as for the outside‌—‌that seemed a distant memory, and he could recall little beyond accepting this job. Even that process was hazy.

He was doing good work here, and that pleased him. But now, as he grew to see the deception Yanis relied on, he questioned his own status.

And he wondered if he would ever see outside again.

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