Melina narrows her eyes.
“Who are you?” she calls back suspiciously. I’m not surprised. Even though I’ve met with her four times thus far, she doesn’t know me now. But that is normal for her particular stage of psychosis. Some days she has known me, others she has not.
“My name is Evangeline Talbot,” I tell her, as though we’re meeting for the first time. “I couldn’t help but see you running and I was wondering if I could be of any assistance?”
I hear Sophia on her cell phone behind me, but I don’t take the time to listen.
Melina’s eyes are still crazily out of focus.
“I don’t think you can,” she answers back, her voice thin and frail. “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Here at Chessarae?” I ask. “This is your home and it is very, very beautiful. You’re so fortunate to have such a beautiful home.”
Melina glares at me. “You have no idea,” she spits. “Chessarae is evil, just like everyone who lives here.”
I take one step toward her, but as I do, she takes one step back. She is only a few dangerous feet from the edge now. I freeze, my hand reaching out to her. The wind is strong up here and it whips violently around us. Melina’s gown is wrapped around her legs and our hair is blown into our faces.
“Come in to me,” I urge her. “I’d love to talk with you about why you think Chessarae is evil, Mrs. Minaldi.”
“I can’t tell you,” she whimpers. “I can’t tell anyone. But I can end my involvement in it. And I will. I’m going to end it today.”
She backs toward the cliff, one more step.
My heart stops because I know that she wants to jump.
“Don’t,” I call out. “Please, Melina.”
She sinks down to her heels, rocking back and forth. Her dressing gown is spread around her, but her eyes are focused on me. I know she will lunge backward if I move at all.
“You don’t understand,” she whispers. “You don’t understand.”
“Then tell me,” I urge. “Make me understand, Melina. I can help.”
She laughs now, a haunting and horrible laugh. I know I will never forget the sound. “You have no idea,” she tells me. “You can’t help. No one can.”
I hear rustling from behind and I turn to see Luca and Adrian approaching us cautiously. Luca looks stricken, Adrian is resigned. They are accustomed to this behavior. But they can see, right now, the very real danger Melina Minaldi is in. In an altered psychotic state, she has no logical bearing on where she is.
“How did she get out?” I hear Luca asking Sophia.
“She attacked me,” Sophia answered. “While I was unlocking the door. She ran out and I couldn’t stop her. I can’t believe how fast she is.”
“Adrian,” I call. He approaches.
“Can you run into her rooms and bring me back a syringe and the sedative bottle in her medicine cabinet?”
And he’s gone. Melina looks at me suspiciously.
“What are you talking about? Where is the handsome one going?”
If this was any other time, I would have smiled at her description. Adrian is handsome, but not nearly as handsome as Luca.
“Adrian is going back to the house, Melina,” I tell her. “It’s dangerous out here on the cliffs. You don’t want anyone to get hurt, do you?”
She studies me for a moment, then shrugs.
“I didn’t invite anyone out here with me,” she says matter-of-factly. “You all followed me. I can’t control your behavior.”
She is laughably logical even in the middle of her lunacy.
We are silent for a moment as I wait for Adrian to return. I don’t want to startle her until we are ready to act.
“Why are you here?” Melina asks. “Why are you with him?”
The malice in her tone as she refers to Luca is astounding and I can’t wrap my mind around it. I can’t fathom why she hates her own son as much as she appears to. So I ask. She looks surprised by my question.
“My son is evil,” she tells me. “He is the devil’s, not mine. I should have had his nurse drown him when he was an infant.”
Luca inhales sharply from behind me and I ache to comfort him. The way she speaks of him is horrible, but dementia is often this way. The affected turn on those who they love. It is a tragic disease.
“I hardly believe your son is evil,” I told her. “Surely you’re mistaken.”
She laughs again.
“If you believe that, you’ll soon be dead with the others.”
My heart seems to freeze.
I look at her face and she is so convinced of her words. I glance back at Luca and he is impassive once again. He is so very good at covering up his emotions, but I’ve decided that it might just be the way he copes. It is a defense mechanism.
Adrian is back and running up behind us. He hands me the sedative and I turn, concealing my hands as I draw the liquid into the syringe. I tap it, then put it behind my back as I face Melina once more.
“Luca,” I murmur quietly. “Go to the right.”
He looks, then nods, then tells Adrian to go to the left. I focus on keeping Melina’s attention on me. I speak to her soothingly, making her focus on my face and my words.
Within a minute, Luca and Adrian rush her from each side.
She struggles within their arms, but I am there within a few seconds, administering a strong sedative to calm her. Her eyes flutter closed as they keep her restrained.
Luca scoops her into his arms and I accompany him as he carries her back to her suite. Her limp feet dangle over the side of his arm and she looks as small as a child.
He puts her on her bed, where we leave her with Sophia.
As Luca locks the door behind us, he thanks me.
“She could’ve died today,” he says. “You stopped her. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I answer, staring him in the eye.
He shows no sign of distress about the incident, about the way his mother feels about him. It breaks my heart that he buries his feelings in such a way. I know that if I were able to help him deal with the feelings, he would feel so much better. So I tell him that.