The Marvelous Mind of Marilyn Hansen, Episode 5: Up in the Air

 By Lauren Derrick

Marilyn Hansen shuffled down the crowded aisle of the airplane, her little pug tucked under one arm with her purse, while her other arm awkwardly wheeled a small carry-on behind her. Once she reached her row, Robert Byrd put his aging hand on hers and gently slid the handle down. He hoisted her bag into the overhead compartment before doing the same with his own. Finley followed behind with a grimace. She held an ice pack to the back of her neck with one hand. She wore a large tattered backpack. She took it off, and Byrd squished it into the same compartment and shut the overhead bin.
Finley took the window seat. Byrd sat in the middle, and Marilyn took the aisle seat. Marilyn leaned forward to glance at her granddaughter.
“Is this the same headache from Thursday?” She asked.
Finley blushed. “Er… no. I mean, I was still hurting yesterday, but Jake saw his ex at the gas station in the morning, and he was brooding pretty hard. I thought I'd… um… test things out and see if I could help.”
Byrd looked intrigued. “How'd it go?”
Well,” Finley said hesitantly, “it was weird. He felt better at first, but then he got really insecure. Like he didn't actually believe that he could be feeling alright. Then he decided he was sick and spent the rest of the day playing video games.”
Marilyn simply nodded as if all of this was expected.
Ladybug scooted onto Byrd's lap and looked up longingly. Byrd scowled. “I don't give treats to car jackers.”
“Oh, don't be rude. I told her to do it.” Marilyn defended, pulling the little dog back onto her lap and scratching her behind the ear.
The safety video played, and the pilot announced their expected arrival time in Salt Lake City. A few minutes later, the plane was in the air. Finley put some earplugs in and leaned against the window, eyes closed. Byrd glanced at the girl, then turned to Marilyn and pointed to his eyes. Marilyn's eyes met his, and she began sharing thoughts with him.
What is it, Robert?
Byrd licked his lips, then thought, You seem on edge.
Of course I'm on edge. I have to get to my sister before the agency does, or else Finley may spend the rest of her life being tracked by people who want to use her abilities.
Byrd took a pack of peanuts from his pocket and tossed one into his mouth.
Marilyn smirked. What, you knew the airline wasn't going to give you any so you brought your own?
Yep. Byrd thought. So you gonna tell me about what's eatin' ya?
Marilyn looked down sadly at Ladybug. This is all my fault. Finley's in danger because of me.
Maybe partly. But I think you know that the REAL issue here is that you've had a lot on your chest that you haven't ever talked to anyone about.
Marilyn looked startled and threw her gaze towards a very serene Byrd—still munching peanuts.
Byrd continued. So Madelyn noticed that you're super worked up about telling your family about telepathy—which, after what you told me at the party, is due to the way your husband reacted when you told him. Then she digs up Frank's family history and emails it to you? Marilyn, I know you don't want to talk about this, but if you want me and your granddaughter here to be any good to you, then we need to have all the facts. You want to show me what happened?
Of course I don't! Marilyn thought in a huff. It was the single most traumatic event of my life, and you want me to share it with you on a crowded plane while you snack on peanuts?!
I could put the peanuts away. Byrd thought in reply. Marilyn, the sooner you share with the class the better. You know I've put a lot of trust in you over the years. Opening my mind to you exposed you to my 'bigotry' and 'toxic masculinity' and what the hell ever else. I found out a lot about myself that I didn't want to know—and so did you. But you stuck with me and helped me make myself a better human being. After all these years, I hope you know by now that you can trust me too.
Marilyn sighed and glanced sadly at a sleeping Finley. I do trust you, Robert. More than anyone.
Why don't you start by telling me about the first time you met him? Byrd prodded gently.
Good suggestion. Marilyn replied. Right now I'm seriously questioning how well I actually knew him.
The elderly couple gently closed their eyes. 
A young Madelyn Gray with dark curls pulled back and an orange collared shirt stared down a suave, dark-haired Robert Byrd. Marilyn sat in a folding chair not far behind Madelyn, arms folded and legs crossed.
“...What I'm trying to say, Maddie, is that you can't just go off the rails like that. You have to communicate and let people know—get approval for these things.” Byrd calmly explained.
“While an innocent woman is in immediate danger? Are you serious?!” Madelyn demanded.
“I'm not saying that what you did was wrong,” Byrd defended. “It’s just that you have a lot of power, and if you go around doing these things without any sort of consent then you're going to get in trouble.”
Madelyn's eyes widened, and she sneered. “If I had taken the time to go up the command chain that poor girl could have been raped and maybe even murdered before–”
“He wouldn't have gone that far, Maddie.” Byrd said tiredly, rubbing his forehead.
“Oh so you can read minds now?!” Madelyn slammed her hand on Byrd's desk, causing him to jump. “I had the power to protect that woman, and I did! You're welcome!”
Her shouts left silent echoes in the office as Madelyn stormed out, her handbag slung coolly over her shoulder.
Byrd pinched the bridge of his nose, muttering. “She knows you two are basically the most powerful weapons ever created—we can't just send in nuclear warheads every time a woman's virtue is on the line.”
“I'm with her.” Marilyn said, her voice shaking slightly. “Y-you can't possibly think you can just wield us like… like some kind of sword. We're human beings. You c-can't control us.”
Byrd lifted an eyebrow and gave the timid woman a patronizing look. “I don't want to control you two, Mar, I just want you both to check in before using your powers to catch big wig politicians committing crimes. That senator was one of our agency's biggest supporters. Now he's on a fast train to jail.”
“He deserves it.” Marilyn whispered.
“Sure he does,” Byrd agreed, “but half of them do. Maybe more than half. You think they're going to keep us around if we keep sending them off to Sing Sing?”
Marilyn reddened. It took her a moment to counter. “But—do we want to keep operating under rapists a-and thugs? They… they can all go to hell for all I care. And you can go with them!”
She stood up tall, trying to mirror the confidence her twin had shown, and turned to leave.
“Geez—why do you two hate me so much?” Byrd complained.
Marilyn turned back to face him, lips pressed tightly. “You're a womanizer,” she finally said, “and you think that you g-get to control us j-just because of your gender.”
Byrd stood.. “I'm your supervisor!”
“Y-you're a bully!” Marilyn stuttered. “We don't need a babysitter.”
She started towards the door, but Byrd followed. “The kind of power you two have should never be wielded by just one person—”
“Well I'd at least like a say in how I use it. It is my power, not yours.” Marilyn said quietly as she increased her pace.
“We've been over this, Mar!” Byrd grumbled. “Do you two want to end up locked up over this? Because that's where this is headed! The people who know about you girls are terrified. We have to keep them convinced that you're under control...”
Marilyn stopped in her tracks, causing her pursuer to nearly run into her. Her eyes were red and ripe with accusation.
Byrd swore under his breath. “I didn't mean...”
“Stop following me.” Marilyn said, voice cracking.
The memory fuzzed, and Marilyn was pushing open the heavy door to a bar. She scuttled inside and sat down at the bar. A tall, lanky blonde man sat a few seats down from her. A round, balding man in the far corner was sipping from a large mug and staring intently at a small television set behind the bar. The bartender approached, grinning.
“What can I getcha, doll?”
Marilyn scowled. “Whiskey.”
The bartender laughed, his gut dancing with the motion. “A whiskey? For a little thing like you at this time of day?”
Marilyn reddened and stood as if to leave. The blonde man, who had been just a couple seats down, glided over and gently put his hand on her shoulder. “Hey Ben, be a gentleman and get your paying customers what they ask for—you're in for a surprise one of these days when you try to tell a lady what she can handle and she plants her pretty little fist right in your face.”
Ben rolled his eyes but bustled off to get the whiskey.
Marilyn turned her chin down. “Thanks.”
“Don't mention it.” The blonde man said. “Tough day at work?”
Marilyn snorted her affirmation softly and took the whiskey from the bartender. She sipped it.
“Probably not the first chauvinistic pig you've dealt with today then, eh?”
She lifted an eyebrow at him.
Suddenly awkward, the tall man licked his lips and scratched his head. “Sorry—I don't mean to pry. I'll just let you drink in peace.”
He stood up to leave. Marilyn touched his arm.
“It's fine,” she sighed. “Honestly I could probably use a distraction right now.”
The man held out his hand. “I'm Frank Hansen.”
Marilyn gave him a small but not-too-genuine smile as she shook his hand. “Marilyn Gray. So what force is driving you to drink this early in the day?”
Frank gave a quiet, somewhat bitter laugh. “Family drama. I won't bore you with it.”
“You should,” Marilyn said timidly. “It might help me get my mind off of the chauvinistic pigs in my life.”
Slowly, Fred began sharing some vague details about his life. He mentioned his father passing away and his sister's frustration at being left to sort out the funeral and take care of everything on her own.
“I feel bad, leaving her to handle it all. I'd go straight home right now if I could, but if I do I'm going to be in a world of trouble and hurt at work. Can't blame my father for dying—pretty sure he would have avoided that if he could. Still, it was the worst possible time. I'm trying to talk my sister into having a memorial service in a few months when I can get into town. She's angry about the whole thing. Gave me an earful on the phone this morning.”
Marilyn gave him an incredulous stare. “But it's your father. You can't get off work to go to your father's funeral?”
Fred sighed and took a swig of his vodka. “I got the job as a favor—and with the recession, I'm just lucky to have something. When I asked my boss about it he just told me, 'well he's not getting any deader.'”
“What a terrible thing to say! I'm sorry for your loss—and sorry that your boss is such a jerk.” Marilyn said, considerably more comfortable at this point.
“Thanks.” Fred said, taking another sip. “So what about you? Do you have a boss?”
Marilyn sneered into her whiskey. “Oh, my supervisor's really something else. Not that I think he'd ever keep me from attending a funeral, but he really seems to hold a high opinion of himself.”
“On a power trip, huh?”
“I can't hardly sneeze without letting him know in advance.” Marilyn said bitterly. “And the other day he asked me to take his dry cleaning in. I mean, who does he think I am, the maid?”
“Did you do it?” Fred asked curiously.
“Of course not!”
“Did you tell him off?”
Marilyn paused. “Well… no. I sort of did that today, but not very well. I'm not very good at speaking to him.”
Fred sighed. “Not to defend him, but he probably doesn't know he's being a prick. You need to tell him how it makes you feel.”
“He ought to be able to figure it out.” Marilyn insisted. “I can't think of anyone who wants to be treated that way.”
“Of course not.” Fred agreed. “But he may not be used to thinking of anyone's feelings but his own. If you can't get transferred, you gotta teach him how to treat you.”
Teach him?” Marilyn asked.
“Yeah. Expect him to treat you the way you want to be treated. Help him out.”
Marilyn mulled it over as the two drank in silence a few minutes longer. After that, they changed the subject and started a more engaging conversation that Marilyn didn't seem to remember. The details that stuck out were Fred's icy blue eyes, his wide smile, and the respect he showed her. They exchanged numbers before she left.
On the plane, Byrd let out a long sigh. Well, that explains a lot, he thought to Marilyn.
Yes, he helped me fix my relationship with you. Marilyn thought gently. He was always so supportive like that, so optimistic. He gave me the confidence to stick up for myself—but he always encouraged me to be patient.
Kind of suspicious, the way he brought up chauvinism right at the beginning, Byrd mused, almost like he knew what you'd been going through beforehand. And what kind of job won't give you leave to go to your father's funeral?
Marilyn showed Byrd a few more scattered memories of Frank. The memories waltzed from dates, to the couple consoling one another at the bar, to his proposal, to their wedding.
After experiencing Marilyn's memories of the wedding, Byrd seemed skeptical. Nobody from his family came to the wedding? Not even his sister?
His parents were dead, Marilyn pointed out, and he said his sister was still angry over their father's funeral.
So you never met a single family member? Byrd asked
Marilyn sighed out loud. Not one.
Half-way through the flight, Marilyn stopped showing memories. Byrd looked over at her and rested his hand on hers. He spoke in a near whisper. “Just one left?”
Marilyn trembled slightly and nodded. She looked deeply into Byrd's eyes. I know I need to share it eventually, but… oh, Robert...
He squeezed her hand. I'm right here. If it gets too hard, we can take a break. But it's time, Mar.
A young married couple danced in the living area of their small apartment. The feedback of the radio didn't seem to bother them at all as she, a shorter woman with dark curls, looked lovingly into his eyes. He held her tight around the waist, smiling down at her. In Marilyn’s memory, he seemed to be the only noteworthy thing in the room, almost as though he had a glow.  He seemed too distracted to sway exactly to the beat of the music as he looked down at his wife. Unexpectedly, he twirled her, and she giggled in delight.
Why do birds suddenly appear anytime you are near? Just like me, they long to be close to you. Why do stars fall out of the sky anytime you walk by? Just like me, they long to be close to you...” The radio sang with some crunching.
“Do you think that's enough time for the turkey?” The man asked, glancing over towards an oven that seemed to be stuffed into an undersized kitchen.
She blushed. “I hope so. It looked so pretty when we took it out—I really thought it would be...”
“It doesn't matter.” He interrupted. “The turkey doesn't matter.”
“Doesn't matter! It's Thanksgiving! We have to have turkey...”
“It doesn't matter.” He repeated. “The first time we've both had a whole week off since we got married—I'll be happy if we eat lunch meat with our mashed potatoes.”
She pouted. “I shouldn't have spent so much on the turkey, then.”
“You really went all out for tonight.” He said, gesturing towards a lace tablecloth on a perfectly set card table. A tray of vegetables and a bowl of mashed potatoes sat on the counter nearby.
Marilyn pursed her lips together, trying to prevent a smile from exploding onto her face. “The application went through—they told me yesterday.”
“You mean… the application? I finally get to know what you do for work?”
She nodded, unable to hold the smile back any longer. “I… I don't know where to begin, though! There's just so much to tell!”
He put his hand on hers. “Just start with today. We have a whole week—plenty of time to tell me everything. What did you do today?”
“Oh! Well—today mostly I was working on dinner. But yesterday I went to the doctor...”
Fredrick had wandered over to the oven and was glancing through the little window at the turkey. He turned sharply to Marilyn. “Aren't you feeling well?”
“Yes! I mean no—I mean… it was the obstetrician.”
“Oh. OH!” His blue eyes widened with sudden understanding. “So you're...?”
Marilyn touched her abdomen. Fredrick strode back to his wife and rested his fingers on top of hers. “He thinks I'm about two months along now, but everything seems to be going well.”
“That's… I… that's wonderful!” He stuttered.
“I was surprised too!” Marilyn laughed, wiping a tear away from one eye. “It’s good though, I wouldn’t want to lose the opportunity.  Of course I'll be taking some time off to have the baby, but they'll want me back at the agency, no question. My mother says she can help tend the baby when I'm away for work.”
Fredrick just nodded. He stumbled into his seat and poured himself some champagne. He poured Marilyn some too, and she sat. “Well, this is a day to celebrate!”
Marilyn's eyes sought Fredrick's. “It is big news!”
“The biggest.” Fredrick croaked, sipping from his glass. He cleared his throat. “I'm happy—I just… wow...”
He laughed a little uncomfortably, and Marilyn giggled a little too. She rose to grab the mashed potatoes and gravy.
“I suppose we ought to eat these before they get cold—with how raw that turkey was inside I doubt it's done just yet.” She remarked.
They sat in silence for a moment, eating mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.
I believe in you. You know the door to my very soul. You're the light in my deepest darkest hour. You're my savior when I fall...” The radio sang.
“What's this?” Fredrick asked, gesturing toward the radio.
Marilyn swallowed a bite of potatoes. “I like this one—it was on Saturday Night Fever. It's the Bee Gees.”
They stopped to listen for a moment. “How deep is your love? I really mean to learn, 'cause we're living in a world of fools breaking us down when they all should let us be...
Frank cleared his throat. “Well! I was looking forward to hearing about your job finally, but whatever news you share from that must pale in comparison to the baby!”
Marilyn nearly choked on a bite of carrot. She coughed for a moment. Fredrick moved behind her.
“Are you alright, love? Do you need water?”
Marilyn blushed and shook her head, reigning in her coughs. “No, I'm sorry. It's just… I'm afraid I'm going to shock you.”
“You're afraid you're going to shock me after telling me that I'm going to be a father?” Frank laughed nervously.
Marilyn cringed, looking up and back at him. Her eyes plead. “Yes.”
Fredrick knelt down next to her. “Marilyn, I love you. Whatever you do—whatever you've done—I won't let it bother me. I knew you had secrets when I married you. It will be alright, I promise.”
Marilyn squeezed his hand tightly and smiled weakly. “I… I have a surprise. I'm not just going to tell you, Fred. I'm going to show you.
Fredrick's mouth opened slightly. He didn't seem to know what to say.
She stood, taking both Fredrick's hands in her own. “Look into my eyes for a moment, won't you?”
Fredrick frowned but looked into Marilyn's eyes. She nodded at him encouragingly. “That's it—now close your eyes and count to five for me.”
He tilted his head and furrowed his eyebrows. Marilyn cupped his face in her hands. “Trust me?”
Obligingly, he closed his eyes.
“Alright—now open them.” Marilyn's voice quivered with anticipation.
He gasped. The little apartment was gone, and in its place was a wedding chapel. He glanced down at his clothing, which had been replaced by a sharp black tuxedo. Marilyn wore a white wedding dress with long, flowing lace sleeves.
Fredrick began to shake, then turned around, nearly tripping. Marilyn touched his arm.
“It's alright—we're still at home. It's an illusion, Fred. Just an illusion.”
Fredrick's breathing slowed a little, but his eyes continued to dart around nervously. “Wh-what? H-how...? Marilyn, how did you… how are we… what happened?”
Marilyn looked up earnestly at him, worried. “It's the chapel where we got married. Don't you… don't you remember?”
“'I'm just… this isn't possible! How are we here, Marilyn?” Fredrick was shaking, staring intently into Marilyn's eyes. There was a note of anxious demand in his voice.
Marilyn looked up at him for a moment, but his face remained panicked. She sighed and took his hand. “I'm… I'm sorry. This was a mistake. The wrong way to tell you. I'm sorry. Shut your eyes and I'll make it stop.”
Frank did not close his eyes. “You made this? You got into my mind and… made me see this?”
“Well, yes—I'm telepathic, Frank.” Marilyn said weakly. “You know how much red tape I had to go through before I could tell you. I've always wanted to—please, Frank. Close your eyes, and I'll stop the illusion. I didn't mean to startle you.”
Finally, Frank complied. A moment later, he opened his eyes. They stood in their small apartment. The oven timer sounded, and Marilyn went to get the turkey out of the oven. She didn't look at Frank as she strode over.
“I… did… Did that just happen? Just now? You're… you...” Frank faltered.
Marilyn took the turkey out of the oven and set the roasting pan on top of the stove before turning to face her husband. Tears threatened, making her eyes appear larger. They shone with anxiety as she wrung her hands. “It did happen. I can speak directly to your mind if… if you allow me. I only do that with permission so you shouldn't worry...”
She blushed, shuffling nervously in place as Frank sat, hand to his head, eyes wide.
“Could you look at my memories? Could you read my mind?” Frank finally asked, voice growing hoarse.
Marilyn nodded slowly. “I was asked to interrogate a criminal like that once—it was awful. I don't do that anymore unless someone wants to share something with me. It's… it's useful for explaining tricky situations quickly, I suppose.”
Frank licked his lips, speechless.
Marilyn hugged herself. “I thought maybe someday you could share your memories of your parents with me. So I could get to know them. I thought I could share some of mine with you.”
“I… wow, Mar.” Fredrick finally said. “You sure weren't kidding about the shock.”
Marilyn sniffed, laughing nervously. “No, I wasn't.”
“I—I don't know what to say.” Frank stood and walked over to Marilyn. She still looked like she might cry. He embraced her, and she let out a long sigh, as if she'd been holding her breath. “I love you, Mar. I just never… never could have guessed this was even possible. It's a lot to take in. I… let's eat turkey now. Then I think I'm going out for a drink. I'll bring you back some chocolate.”
Byrd's eyes looked misty as he glanced over at the 75-year-old version of the young woman in the memory. No...
Yes. Marilyn thought quietly.
That was the last time you saw him?
It was. Marilyn replied, sniffing and embracing her little dog. To be fair… to be fair he did send the chocolates. He just never came home.
I remember there were rumors that he had jumped off the bridge—that wasn't something you talked about back then though, so I never asked. Byrd thought carefully. I hate to ask now, Mar. I feel like I should have known by now… but did he… did he jump?
That's what his note said. It was dark, but there were witnesses that said they saw a man jump from the bridge that night. I called Susan up in the middle of the night, and she sent out a small team to gather information for me. None of it was good news. Tears were now flowing from Marilyn's eyes as she clung to Ladybug. The little dog put her front paws up on Marilyn's shoulder and licked her cheeks dry.
It's not your fault, Mar. Byrd thought firmly. From what you showed me… I don't know. He had something to hide. It must have been something he'd rather die than have, you know.
But… but how bad could it have possibly been? The sadness in the thought seemed to weigh down the very air. I was ready to tell him everything—I could have gotten past anything for him, I was so in love. I thought he felt the same… but I was wrong.
Byrd clearly didn't know how to respond. He put his peanuts away in his pocket. What did his note say?
Marilyn opened her purse. Her voice trembled. “I brought it with me. It mentions his sister in it and has his handwriting—I thought it might be helpful.”
Her hand trembled a little as she removed an old rusty tin from the purse and opened it up. She handed an aged paper to Byrd, who unfolded it reverently. The blue pen on the paper did not exhibit the best handwriting, but it was legible.

I love you, but I can't face you again.
When we met, you reminded me so much of my sister. I regret that we never visited our home near the capitol so you could meet her. She has good reason to hate me by now. I hoped I would never give you a reason to hate me, but now I'm sure you will find several.
Our baby needs to know a monster did not spawn him. I'm sorry I'm not coming home tonight like I promised. You and the baby both deserve better. I plan to jump off of the bridge tonight. It is the last honorable path left to me.

He didn't sign it. Byrd thought.
Marilyn sighed. It's his handwriting. I had forensics verify it, just to be sure.
But why didn't he sign it? Byrd thought anxiously. And… you know when he mentions a monster he's referring to himself, right? Did you ever find out what he was so ashamed of?
No. He had no record to speak of, so over time I decided he must have been referring to me. I… I appreciate your assessment to the contrary. I never found his sister. He said she lived near the capitol, but nobody near DC had connections to Frank or his sister. I've wondered if she actually existed, but she's on the pedigree chart that Madelyn sent—and if it's accurate, then she's alive.
Well that's good, I guess. Byrd thought, digging the peanuts back out of his pocket and throwing a few in his mouth. Did it give us any clues on ‌how to find her?
Marilyn looked past Finley out the window. The plane flew atop billowing clouds in a blue, endless sky. Not directly. But there were birthplaces listed, and I'm hopeful that the genealogy center will be able to provide clues.
“So where's his family from?” Byrd asked quietly, the roar of the plane engine nearly obscuring his voice.
Marilyn shook her head. “If Madelyn's right about this...”
Byrd waited patiently, looking confused at Marilyn's hesitancy.
“Soviet Russia.”   


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