Just a few words about Rolling Thunder

I just wanted to send a shout out to Juliet and Kimmy whose stories have recently been inspiring me and to my readers who, I hope, enjoy these stories

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chapter 14

You tell me everything's all right
As though it's something you've been through
You think this torment is romantic
Well it's not except to you
If I photoshop you
Out of every picture I could
Go quietly quiet
But would that do any good
Will it hurt? No it won't
Then what am I so afraid of

(from “Swallow” Emilie Autumn)

You wouldn’t believe the kids here. They’re so resilient. I can’t believe how happy they can be living in a tent with no facilities at all.” I grin because it’s impossible not to when I hear the enthusiasm in Max’s voice. 

“You’ve only been there a few hours and it sounds like you’re having a blast already,” I sigh, pushing the door open to the intensive care ward. “Look, I’m not supposed to have my phone on in here. Call me back in a couple of hours, okay?” 

If I can find somewhere to plug my phone in,” Max laughs and I can hear the sounds of happy kids in the background and I can tell that he wants to get back to them. “Do you miss me ma colombe?” 

What I want to say is ‘how can I miss if you if you keep calling?’, as if he’s checking up on me. What I do say is, “you know I do, gotta go bye,” before I hit ‘end’ and drop my phone into my purse as I turn the corner to head to the intensive care wing and the room my mother is in.  I’m still thinking about how Max has called me three times since I landed this morning in Pittsburgh when I skid to a halt at the sight of my sister Jen, hands on hips, facing a man I don’t recognize in a dark, pinstriped suit, holding flowers. The sight of a man in a well tailored suit makes me glad that I decided to wear my new favorite dress, the black mock necked sweater dress that makes me feel like the sexiest secretary in the world. If I hadn’t been wearing it, I might have turned around and went back out to the parking lot until he’d left. As it is, the heels of my boots sound too loud in the hall. The intensive care wing is always so fucking quiet, so you have to hear the whoosh of all those breathing machines and the beeping of all the heart monitors.

“I just want to pay my respects,” the man with the impeccably groomed silver brush cut is saying in this calm, almost soothing sort of voice that doesn’t match the exasperated expression on my older sister’s face. 

“Now?! You haven’t been around for…for years and now you want to pay your respects when she’s on a fucking ventilator? Do me a favor. Take those and yourself and get fucking lost.” I watch as Jen makes a grab for the expensive looking bouquet in the man’s hand, but he deftly moves the flowers just out of her reach as he steps back. I freeze, side stepping into the room of another immobile patient attached to any number of tubes and beeping boxes. 

“Jenny,” he begins softly but stops and I don’t blame him. I know the look my sister is giving him and it’s a look that would back off a charging tiger. That and I can’t even remember the last time anyone called my sister Jenny, as if she still has pig tails or at least that’s what she thinks. 

“You don’t get to just waltz back in here like nothing’s happened,” she snarls and I can see her narrow her eyes and purse her lips from here, neither a good sign. 

“I just want to see her Jenny. Just for a minute. If she’s as bad as the nurses say….”

“They’ve been talking to you?” Now I’m worried for the entire hospital as I see the tell tale red spots begin in my sister’s cheeks that always foretell a huge explosion. The fingers on my left hand start to ache at the sense memory of her holding my hand underneath a teeter-totter while her friend stamps on the end of the playground apparatus come torture device and hearing my bones slowly shattering.

“I am her husband Jenny”. My heart stops, literally stops in my chest and yet my feet start moving forward of their own volition. I can still hear my sister arguing but I don’t really hear what she’s saying, it’s all just background noise in comparison to my inner monologue which is going a mile a minute with questions I want to ask, like why did he leave, has he ever thought about me and where has he been?

“Daddy?” Christ, my voice sounds like a tiny child’s as it squeaks out of my mouth and when he turns those ice blue eyes on me that I thought I’d made up or at the very least misremembered and I suddenly feel like I’m only two feet tall with my thumb in my mouth and my blankie held tightly in my fist. 

“Becka!” Shit. The sound of his voice is like melted butter on toast and the warmth in his eyes looks genuine and I end up sticking my hands deep into the pockets of my leather jacket to stop myself from running to him and throwing my arms around him. “God, look at you, an honest to god super model.” I feel his hand on my cheek, big and warm and I find myself leaning into it, feeling tears well up in my eyes.

“Jesus,” my sister hisses, pinching my arm hard enough that it I know it will leave a bruise and the pain makes me pull back, to reality and away from my father at the same time. “He left us Rebecca. This isn’t some god damn Oprah family reunion.”

“She made me leave Jenny,” he says quietly, but his gaze holds mine, like he’s telling me and not her and not like there aren’t at least a dozen sets of eyes trained on us, probably waiting to call security at any moment. “I wanted to come back, asked to see you, both of you, many times,” he adds softly, reaching out to me and I naturally go to him, fitting comfortably in against his body, in the circle of his arm. 

“Yeah just like I’m sure you wrote and called,” Jen adds in a sarcastic voice, making that ‘I’m calling you on your shit’ face. 

“I did, for a while,” he says simply. “But a man can only try so hard for so long.”
“You left us with her,” Jen adds accusingly, pointing back at the still body in the hospital bed in the room behind her. 

You left Rebecca with her,” my father says, his tone suddenly less paternal and suddenly more forceful and as I watch Jen blinks at him, her mouth open but there isn’t a single sound that comes out of her mouth for a long, amazing moment and then she squares her shoulders and a bitter smirk pulls the corner of her top lip upwards. 

“If you knew that, if you actually care, why didn’t you come back for her?” I pull back and look up at him, still feeling like that little girl who used to look up at this tall handsome man with all the warm fuzzy feelings of childhood innocence. 

“I couldn’t, you know that,” he says in that same, forceful and stern voice that makes you want to stand up taller and straighter. 

“Why?” I ask, tears of the little girl left behind flowing down my cheeks. I watch as a certain amount of indecisiveness plays behind his eyes and he grinds his teeth as he glances at the crowd on the edges of our periphery. 

“I was in jail baby,” he says quietly. 

“Now tell her why,” my sister prompts, sounding smug. I glance at her and then back at my father whose confidence is clearly cracking under my sister’s glare. 
“This should be good.” 

“Jenny,” he sighs, pain shining clearly in his eyes. 

“No, tell her. Tell her why you were sent away, daddykins,” she adds in a acerbic sing song voice, her eyebrows raised, a mocking grin on her face. Turning my attention back to my father, searching his ice blue eyes with the smoky grey rings around his irises that I used to think were the colour of a cloudy day, I see resignation on his face.

“I’ve done some things I’m not proud of and….”

“Just get on with it,” my sister grumbles and my father’s stormy eyes narrow and there’s the slightest twitch beside his mouth. 

“Assault,” he says through his teeth, his voice taking on a dark tone that sends a chill down my spine as half remembered recollections begin to flood my imagination. 

“Of whoooo?” my sister prompts him again, rolling her eyes impatiently, and this time something dark and very dangerous flashes in my father’s eyes that makes me want to curl up in a small ball and hide and it feels like I’ve felt that way before. 

“You know damn well,” he says hoarsely, looking uncomfortably around him at all of the nurses and orderlies who are doing their best to look busy doing other things but all of us know damn well that if they could they’d give up the pretense of working and entirely and be sitting around with popcorn on their laps watching us with utter abandon. 

“Oh I know but she doesn’t,” my sister points out helpfully, still grinning at him like a cat with a mouse under her paw.

"Your mother,” he says, his gaze holding mine with an expression so pained that I know he’s expecting me to react badly.

"And?" I ask, looking from him to my sister, waiting for something even worse to come out of one of their mouths.

"And she's your mother" my sister insists, looking pleased with herself, like she's won the big overstuffed teddy bear at the fair.

"And that woman is half evil. Do you know how many times I've wanted to kick her ass myself? Are you telling me he went to jail for hitting her?" I turn to look at the form in the bed that holds no sympathy for me and back at the man that I've missed for my whole life. "Why didn't you stand up for him? Why didn't you say something?" I ask looking at my sister for an explanation while she looks back at me like I've grown a second head.

"Because she's our mother."

"And he's my father!" As soon as I say it out loud I understand the answer to my own question. He’s my father, not hers. Her father left long before this man in the dark wool pin striped suit came along. I don’t remember when I learned that, but I know it. “You’re jealous,” I hiss at her, thinking of all the nasty things that she’s done to me over the years, things that I’ve always been told were just the result of normal sibling rivalry.

“Rebecca.” I feel my father’s hand on my shoulder and it almost hurts as I think of all the times I had wished that there was someone else to turn to, someone to comfort me when my mother would not or could not, when the booze got in the way and she became the evil twisted woman who yelled and threw things.  

“Don’t defend her. She has mom for that, always has,” I add bitterly, seeing my sister in a way that I haven’t for years. I feel the sting of tears in my eyes but staunchly refuse to allow myself to cry, at least not in front of her. However, she’s currently blocking my only route of escape.

“Oh so he can just walk back into your life and he’s the big fucking hero is that it?” she asks in that angry mocking tone she likes to use with me.

“Do you know that she’s cried herself to sleep saying his name?” I snarl back at her and am immediately rewarded by a widening of her eyes. “I’ve been the one taking the bottle out of her hand when she’s cried herself out,” I add, pointing at myself and leaning towards her, enjoying being the one with the upper hand for a change.

“Yeah you care so much that you’ve been sitting here with her all this time,” Jen shoots back at me, regaining some of her composure. “Oh, yeah I forgot. You’ve been running around with your playboy boyfriend, haven’t you?” she asked, her head tilted to one side and her shit eating grin firmly back on her face.

“Back to that,” I sigh, shaking my head. “Just because you got knocked up at fifteen and have to go home to a lazy welfare case with a beer gut.” It’s below the belt and entirely unfair and something I usually avoid saying to her, no matter how made I am, but now I’m pissed and unable to edit what’s coming out of my mouth. 
“You left me in that house with her and her fucking booze and all those sleazebag losers she’d pick up at the bar coming and fucking going at all fucking hours. Did you care about me then Jen? Were you there to protect me from them after she’d passed out? Well, were you?”

That’s when I feel his hands on my shoulders again, pulling me back towards the width of his chest and I realize it’s far too late for my father to protect his little girl. He’s been gone too long and as much as the wounded child within me would like to let myself melt into his arms, allow him to fight my battles or at the very least allow him to protect me from the bile my sister is spewing at me and the horrible things that are coming out of my own mouth, I can’t. Because it isn’t him I want to protect me. Not anymore.

So, wrenching free from his grasp, I turn and walk quickly down the too brightly lit corridor, ignoring the judgmental stares of the nursing staff and my sister’s shouted epithets that follow me like grasping fingers. Wrapping my arms around myself, I tell myself to go and keep going, anywhere, anywhere but here. 

His place is empty. I’m not sure what I thought. I’d heard through the grapevine that Max was going to go to Haiti. I should have known she’d go with him. Still, with the surprisingly astute advice of Sidney’s younger sibling still ringing in my ears, I had raced back to Pittsburgh, hoping to find her.

So far it looks like I’ve come on a fool’s errand.

Still, just in case, I have an ace or two up my sleeve. I remembered some time while I was twiddling my thumbs on the plane that Max had said something about Becky never wanting him to pick her up and I started doing the math and the next thing I had my lap top out and was doing some sleuthing with the little information I have, and he doesn’t.

So once I’d deduced that she wasn’t at Max’s I got in my car and headed for an address that I’d scribbled on a napkin, a trailer park that’s not exactly in the best area of town.

Once I find the place, I make a mental note not to park my car out of sight and leave it just inside the gate, making a show or arming the alarm as I walk away from it. There isn’t any grass, just pavement and run down trailers with abandoned and ruined cars around them, skinny strays with their ribs showing and I’m sure I see a rat running from beneath one trailer almost across my feet and underneath the front step of a single wide mobile home that looks like a crime scene from CSI.

The door is ajar and Becky is standing just inside, her arms held close to her body, protectively around her chest as she surveys the disaster inside; chairs turned over, smashed glass and plates, dog feces and rotten food dot the floor. There’s little else to see. Whatever else was in the mobile home before is gone; there’s no television, nothing on the walls, at least nothing that isn’t lying smashed on the floor and even the refrigerator is hanging half off of its’ hinges, empty.

Her eyes are red and bloodshot, her cheeks are streaked with mascara and her hands are trembling as I reach for them. I don’t say anything and neither does she as I pull her towards me and then she sort of falls against my side and I wrap my arm around her and lead her to my car, which she falls into, without a sound, like some kind of rag doll. I even have to put her seatbelt and she doesn’t even raise a hand to help, but not to be difficult, it’s more like she can’t. She just sits there, sort of broken and pale like a porcelain doll that’s been forgotten and left out in the rain.

All the way home I think about taking her into my place, putting her into my bed but as soon as I help her out of the car, I head straight for Max’s front door.

She stares blankly at the lock, as if she’s never seen anything like it before and I end up digging for the spare key that Max keeps in the planter and taking her right inside, up the stairs and into the bedroom. I have to push her down onto the bed and even then she just sits there, silently, like a mannequin and stares at nothing in front of her. It doesn’t look like nothing though, not when I look in her eyes. When I squat in front of her and study her face, she reminds me of those pictures you see of holocaust victims with their vacant staring eyes.

I try to press her down onto the bed, but at first she resists me. She even cringes and lets out a little whimper, sort of like a child would when you try and make them do something they don’t want to do but know they have to. I try and say soothing things. I try to be gentle but it’s like she doesn’t hear me. It’s like she doesn’t know it’s me or anyone at all. It’s like she’s somewhere else, someone else.  

It takes more than one try but I finally get her to lie down on the bed and then she curls up, brings her knees up to her chest and wraps her arms around them, making herself tiny, like a hedgehog rolling into a protective ball. I can almost see the protective spikes she’s trying to put out.

Even so, I slide onto the bed behind her and pull the quilt up to our chins before wrapping my arms around her and fitting my body behind hers, as close to her as I can and then I rock her like you would a child. I even sing Frère Jacques to her, over and over again, until her breathing slows and she relaxes in my arms and I’m sure she’s gone to sleep.


  1. Aw, a missed opportunity for Max to be the good knight. Well he's still being a good knight just in another place.

  2. Wow. I didn't see the returning of the abandoning father element coming in to play yet, or even at all really.
    I feel so aweful for her.

  3. Good for her pushing the father away. Her sister sounds just as poisonous as the mother.
    Aww Kris - don't know how he found her, did I miss the napkin bit? I quite like the idea of him singing Frere Jacques :)

  4. This is one of my favorite story's out there right now, I love the fact that Kris is being so sweet with her but its almost unfair to say Kris is the one for her when Max is out helping other people, I really hope that she stays with Max in the end

  5. I'm with all the others who are team Max. He doesn't have a chance to see the moments like this because he's gone. She doesn't let him in and you can't have a relationship if you don't let the other person in.

  6. I'm on the fence still, but....
    Max may not see this particular incident because he's in Haiti now, but he's had opportunities before when he was right there with Becca to try and really know her, and what's going on with her. He didn't stick up for her when others called her trashy, and when those that said that also mentioned he (Max) also said something silmilar about her, he acknowledges he did.