The years Brody had spent in this place seemed like seconds compared to the endless anticipation of finally seeing Carrie for real and getting to talk to her. Time and space: Tiny monosyllabic grunts of words, meaningless when it came to affairs of the heart. He had to get to her today.
This time, Alex accompanied Brody to Yevgeny’s den. Leiming did his part in distracting the guards with a technical issue he cleverly inserted into the security system. It was time.
As they approached the den, they saw that Yevgeny was again alone with Carrie. No one was dancing this time, though. Carrie, again, looked stricken and confused. Yevgeny sat across from her, his eyes laser focused on her face, talking to her softly.
Brody crouched around a corner while Alex knocked on the door.
Yevgeny looked around for his guards as he opened to door. “How did you get in here?”
Alex immediately launched into Russian. He spoke to Yevgeny about the massive security breach and told him he’d been sent by the hub to get him to safety.
Yevgeny glanced back at Carrie, seeming to consider whether to take her with him or not. He decided to leave her and rushed out with Alex.
When it was all clear, Brody entered the room, locking the door behind him. He drew long breaths to quiet the vibrations inside him of finally being so close to her. He approached her slowly and quietly, careful not to startle her more than was necessary.
“Carrie, it’s me Brody.” Brody reached out to her arms but didn’t touch her.
“B-Brody? No, I’m hallucinating again. You’re dead. This happened before in Pakistan. I saw you when they gave me bad pills. It wasn’t you, you’re dead.” Carrie rose quickly and paced the room frantically. She looked at him directly only with abrupt glances, afraid to keep looking, afraid of the awful tricks her mind was capable of playing on her.
Brody remained stable and kept his arms out for her, an anchor for her to land on if only she’d stop pacing. “No, no hallucination this time. The real deal. In the flesh. It’s me Carrie. You remember me.”
“It can’t be. The meds. I’m off my meds. This isn’t real.” Carrie ran to the door and finding it locked, started pounding on the window. “Yevgeny. Get me out. I’m hallucinating. Please. Help me, please, somebody.”
Brody grabbed her arms as gently as he could to get her to stop. “Shhh… Carrie, just let’s sit and talk, okay. That’s all. No one has to come rescue you. I’m here. It’s me, Carrie.”
“No. I’ve been off my meds for months. You don’t understand. My mind hasn’t adjusted to being off them. This is hypomania. I know it.”
“Okay,” Brody said, determining that this line of reasoning wasn’t going to go anywhere and there was no time to lose. “Say I am a hallucination, say I’m not real. Let’s pretend for a minute, can we? That I am real. What would you say to me if I were real? What would you tell me about this place and what you’re doing here?”
“If you were real…” Carrie grew still, considering the possibility. “If you were real…”
She walked closer to him and put her hands on his outstretched forearms. She squeezed gently, gauging the solidity of him, then extended her hands to his shoulders, to his neck, and to his face where she stayed, adjusting to assure every cell of her palm touched his face, and then drew closer still to feel his breath on her face.
“If you were real…” She finished the thought with her mouth on his. They kissed voraciously. They kissed like two people drowning, coming up for air, like two people, parched, taking their first sips of sweet water.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Carrie said between kisses. “Nothing, NOTHING has been the same without you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” Brody breathed. The words just barely came out. He had a hard time wrapping his head around this entire thing. Being gone for so long, and, now, finding Carrie here, of all places. He’d said goodbye so many times to so many lives. Once when he was stuck in a hole for 8 years, then when he was back but not as himself, and now after ending it all again after Iran. How many incarnations was one man allowed? Insane the way time and space just rolled up to nothing with her touch, as if the years hadn’t passed, as if they’d never said goodbye at all. “Help me. Tell me how to get you out of this place.”
Carrie awoke to her previous disordered self as if out of a stupor. “No, I can’t leave here, Brody. No.”
“What do you mean Carrie?” Brody loosened his embrace allowing her to pull away but kept his arms extended to her. “Why are you here?”
“Brody, you know it’s not all bad.” Carrie swept the back of her hand over her forehead as if to clear hair out of her eyes, despite her hair already being swept back.
“Yevgeny has been kind to me,” she said. Her eyes were again darting back and forth, not landing on anything. “He showed me his novel. The one he wrote in college. Never got it published, but it’s really good and he shared that with me.”
Brody frowned in confusion, but grateful to finally get her talking, he indulged the conversation. “So, he’s a writer? What was the novel about?”
“A romance. A love story about two star-crossed lovers spending an idyllic summer on the Volga.”
“Was the place real?”
“Maybe,” Carrie shrugged. “He did tell me his mother’s brother had a dasha on the river. He was a baron or something.”
“Okay, so he came from old school czarist Russia.” Brody had to break character to see how deep Carrie’s delusions went. “You know they had a revolution to get rid of people like that, right?”
“I know, but it was a good time for a lot of people. A time before bread lines and black market Levi’s.”
“It was a good time for a small group of people with inherited wealth, yes.”
“Why are we talking about Russian history, Brody?”
“I don’t know, I just want to get you out of here. And it seems like you don’t even want to leave.” Despite the effort to contain his frustration, Brody’s voice cracked. “Is that true, Carrie? Do you want to stay imprisoned in a Russian gulag? Away from your home. Away from our child?”
Carrie flushed with anger. “Don’t talk to me about Frannie. You have no right to mention her name. You chose death over her. You chose to leave us before ever meeting her.”
Brody softened and reached out to take her hands. “I didn’t though. I couldn’t. I’m here now and by some miracle, so are you, Carrie,” he said. “We had a girl? And you named her Frannie. That’s a beautiful name, Carrie. Does she have your eyes?”
“She looks exactly like you actually,” Carrie said before shaking away the thoughts of their daughter. “Don’t you see though? Something has changed. I’m off my meds completely and I see everything crystal clear for the first time in years.” Carrie pulled her hands out of his and started pacing again. “Yevgeny is a prince. A son of Russian czars. He has a castle. In the mountains, on a river. He’ll take me there and I’ll send for Frannie. She’ll be so happy there. Like a princess. We’ll get a governess for her. She’ll grow up bilingual, Brody. Don’t you want that for our daughter?”
“Carrie…What’s happened to you? What did they do to you?” Brody sighed with exhaustion then shored himself up to continue the fight. “Listen, I went through a bunch of great therapy after Iran. Even if we can’t get you back on meds right away, I can try some of the techniques that worked on me.”
“What, did Iran put you through medical school when the crane didn’t do the job?” Carrie sneered.
“No, come on, Carrie,” Brody approached her, gingerly touching her elbows in an effort to still her. “What do you have to lose? This isn’t real. Yevgeny is not your friend.”
Finally getting her to look at him again, Brody continued. “Remember that waterfall? At the end of the hike outside your cabin?”
“Yes, you remember. The first star in the twilight, the pasta with fresh garlic, the fireplace, then the morning playing Russian roulette on the screened-in porch.”
“It didn’t end well, did it,” Carrie stated flatly.
“No, it didn’t. But you remember it, right? The parts that mattered. The parts that were real.”
“Yes,” Carrie said. “B-but Yevgeny has a dacha on a river. N-not a lake.”
“No, YOU have the cabin on the lake and we were there together. Once, the time it didn’t end well. And then again when it did. The night we made Frannie.”
“Frannie, yes, the lake. Maybe we can make it, I said. You said it would end in tears and I told you maybe we can make it.” Carrie nodded remembering and continued through tears. “But we didn’t. I had to go back to work. We didn’t make it, Brody.”
“We didn’t then, but there’s no reason we can’t now,” Brody said. “You can make it. With or without me, it doesn’t really matter. If we’re not meant to be, that’s fine. This is about YOU making it. And me doing everything in my power to make sure that happens….So will you try please? For me. For Frannie. Will you please try to let me help you?”
“Okay.” Carrie seemed exhausted too, darkness around her eyes indicating she hadn’t slept for days.
“This method called EMDR. It’s a version of hypnosis, I guess. It really works. It mimics a dream state. When your eyes are rapidly moving, seeing dreams. In the therapy, you’re awake. The process mimics the movements of dreaming, making whatever you’re focusing on seem like a dream, like it happened to someone else.”
“But I’m bipolar. It’s chemical,” Carrie said. “What’s wrong with me isn’t based on trauma. It’s not something I can just get over.”
“I know, Carrie,” Brody said. “I’m talking about the trauma of being off the meds and held prisoner. That’s something we can start to deal with now. I want to help you see that it will be better, that where you are in your mind right now is not a place you want to stay.”
They sat across from each other, the backs of her hands in his palms, with his thumbs cupping her palms. Slowly he took her mind back to when she was captured, and tapped on her palms as she recalled it all. Climbing the outside of a building, getting to the Russian asset, Simone Martin, handing her over to the authorities and taking her place, letting Yevgeny take her prisoner. A lot more came back than just the events around Yevgeny taking her, more about everything else she’d been through in the intervening years. The guy in Germany, her trying out a normal romantic stable relationship for once and still failing. Quinn. How they were alike is so many ways, nearly twins, same degree of damage and no way to go back, all the way to the end when he sacrificed himself to save her and the President. Everything.
Brody wanted to hear it all, but there wasn’t time. So he tried to get back to talking about Yevgeny and only the most current trauma.
Luckily, going inside herself was a skill Carrie had developed well from years of living with a debilitating mental illness. The process didn’t take long at all. When she opened her eyes, they contained a lucidity that hadn’t been there before.
“You’re right,” she said. “It feels like it all happened to someone else.”
Brody remained silent, taking in the unencumbered Carrie he knew and loved, the lucid, unclouded version of the woman who had been a part of his sleeping and waking thoughts for years.
“What now?” Carrie asked.
“Well now we have to get you out of this hole.”
Carrie nodded. “Yevgeny’s coming back soon. He has to be. We don’t have time. You were able to get past his guards, but he’ll know you. He’ll recognize your face.”
“News of the Langley bombing got as far as the gulag, did it?”
“What do you think, Brody,” Carrie said. “He’s been into our business far enough to nearly install a puppet for President of the United States. In far enough to nearly topple our democracy from the inside out. Of course, he’s heard of Sergeant Brody and the Langley bombing. He’s got all the intelligence of the RT, the CIA and NSA combined.”
“Look, I’ve been working with these people for a long time,” Brody said. “I’ve got a handle on their comings and goings. And I have some allies who can help.”
“You are a Marine after all.” Carrie’s prior mask of confusion and panic opened into a brilliant smile.
“Damn right,” Brody returned her smile and touched her newly alive face. “And you are fucking CIA. Let’s do this.”