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SCI: What's missing?
Everyday when Melissa came home there would be some subtle change that she couldn't quite put her finger on. Her flat was — on the surface — the same as it had been when she had left for work, and yet it somehow wasn't. She had something very close to eidetic memory: she had always managed to survive with an archaeological filing system rather than a more conventionally-ordered one, and she only left things in places where she would expect to find them. And now, it seemed that her memory was failing her. Things were in places she would have sworn that she would never even have dreamed of putting them. And, more worryingly, some things weren't anywhere at all. She feared this might be the beginnings of her losing her mind.

Her mother had succombed to early-onset Alzheimer's. Melissa thought she ought still to be too young for that, but who could tell? Her GP had told her that, unfortunately, the genetic tests to find out whether she needed to worry or not were not available in England. Privately, Melissa wondered whether or not that was true — after all, why would the Alzheimer's Society suggested getting tested if it weren't possible? — but she also wasn't entirely sure whether she really wanted to know. There was also the worry that she was an only child of elderly parents. Her mother had gone to the GP expecting to be told that she had entered the menopause, but instead had been told that she was finally, after ten years of trying, pregnant. Who knew what sort of weird mutations might have been present when that 44-year-old egg had been fertilised?

After all, Melissa was hardly without her problems. She had had severe depression (which she privately suspected was more than likely bipolar rather then unipolar, looking at the equally unpromising genetic heritage she had down the paternal line), almost glancing into psychotic episodes on occasion, since she was thirteen. The Faustian pact she had made to allow her creative muse access to the Divine left her open to such, and she had eventually decided that a life spent embracing the poisoned chalice was the life she would prefer to live. Even if sometimes the transition between the peaks and the abysses was so abrupt that her continued existence was endangered.

But this was a new problem. It was like some sick twisted version of one of those children's party games, where you had to concentrate on a tray of objects for two minutes, and then one would be removed, the tray brought back, and you had to try to compare the remembered version with the new version and work out which one had vanished. Melissa had always won those games, but this adult version Melissa seemed to be losing terribly. It was no game; it was reality. And it was a very worrying reality.


What Melissa didn't know, and would never have imagined could be happening, was that for her husband, Richard, love had turned to hate. Envy at her greater professional success whilst his own career was going to the dogs had chipped away at his love for her until eventually there was nothing left. His being made unemployed had been the final straw. Left at home all day, with childcare his sole responsibility, rather than making the best of things he had sought instead to destroy Melissa, and to drag her down to his level. It had been an accidental game at first, but when he had discovered how worried it made her, how it made her doubt her own sanity, he had been delighted.


Melissa only discovered, years later, after she had lost everything and undergone years of seemingly pointless therapy, that there was an established term for Richard's behaviour: gaslighting.

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I've read about gaslighting and how it's emotional abuse. Poor Melissa.

I identify with her decision to deal with the emotional problems that also allowed her creativity.

I haven't seen the film from which the term originated, because I know I'd get too creeped out! (It's one of my biggest triggers, partly because I share a house with someone who randomly moves objects around unconsciously. The thought of someone doing it in a calculating fashion ... *ugh, no*.)

It's too bad she didn't realize what he was doing before it was so late.

I think that's fairly typical for people who actually believe in the basic decency of humanity. From what I've read/researched, the human brain is pretty plastic and adaptable and people tend to try to adapt to "the new normal": hence Stockholm syndrome, gaslighting, and why people discharged from the army or released from prison often end up failing to cope.

Terrible she didn't recognize what he was doing to her. Well done.

Thanks. But how could she have believed it possible, given that she had shown ultimate trust in him by exchanging marriage vows with him? (Maybe I'm just kind-of old-fashioned ...)

How terrible! At least she got out.

Gaslighting? Is that a reference to the movie, Gaslight? (A movie I love, and which gives me the creeps, by the way.)

"...she had eventually decided that a life spent embracing the poisoned chalice was the life she would prefer to live." Love that line.

Nicely done.

I think I would have been a little suspect of someone in the house, but I haven't seen the movie...

By finding out years later, did you mean he'd stayed with her for all those years keeping it up? Or did you mean, the marriage failed and she spent several years in therapy afterwards, then found out from him later that it was him? Just asking, I don't think I'm familiar with the concept, but it IS well written. Very well done!

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