No One Knew Me
After a foggy start to the morning, the sun is now beating down with August intensity. I sit in the shade on my parents’ deck and watch my older brother’s kids splash around in the pool. Inside I hear Chrissy’s voice and steel myself for this moment when I see Ed with her.
When she comes onto the deck in her denim mini and halter top, Ed isn’t with her and I can’t help looking through the windows to see him.
Chrissy smirks. “He didn’t come with me. He’ll be here. We’re inseparable. We just needed to find each other again.”
Who talks like that? I sip my peach iced tea, wish that my hand didn’t shake. At least the ice isn’t bouncing against the sides of the glass. I guess that’s something.
“You’re not going to talk to me?” she asks.
“I don’t really have much to say.”
“Now there’s a first. Little Pollyanna not trying to make the world better for all mankind.”
It’s her dad’s birthday. You would think she’d at least call a truce instead of constantly picking. I unfold myself from my chair and wander to the kitchen to see if Mom needs some help although I’m certain, as usual, she’s had everything prepared in advance.
She’s pouring gin into a glass, adds Tom Collins mix, a little maraschino cherry juice, and then a cherry. She holds the glass up to me then her jaw drops when I shake my head.
“What’s this about? Herbal iced tea and not having a Tom Collins?” Recognition flashes across her face, followed swiftly by a look of happiness and then realization. If I’d blinked, I would have missed it all.
“Are you…” she begins.
I nod, but like her I don’t know how to feel. The doorbell rings. I hear my stepfather talking to someone and then Ed’s there holding a gift-wrapped package for my stepfather and sunflowers for my mom, her favorite. He stills when he sees me and I feel everything. It’s like an entire storm and rainbow of emotions flash through me instantly.
My Mom takes the things from his hands and then in two long strides he enfolds me in his arms. His warmth floods through me and I let it. Pressing my cheek against his chest, I hold him tight, so tight like I’d never let him go. His lips press a kiss against my forehead. I breathe him in.
The sound of the sliding glass door whooshing open penetrates my consciousness, but I’ve done nothing to regret. I have no reason to feel guilty. The last thing I expect is for a glass to shatter against the cupboards above our heads, but that’s what happens. Wine falls over us, over everything. Chrissy’s face is mottled red and she seethes with anger.
Immediately Ed slides me behind him, shielding me.
“What are you doing?” Chrissy asks.
“Chrissy–” Mom starts.
“You’ve got to stop this,” Ed says.
“You’re with me now,” Chrissy says, letting her fury fall away and hurt and tears take over.
I’m mesmerized by her ability to change her emotions so quickly. She literally seems to dissolve into a puddle on the floor. I have seen her do this before. I have seen Ed move forward trying to comfort her before. This time his arm slides around me, holding me tightly against his side.
“You love me,” she says tearfully.
Mom glances at us and then holds her hand out to Chrissy who slaps it away.
I have seen this play out differently in the past. Different audiences, different moods. I never felt pity before as I do now. She can’t do alone. She’s never had to stand on her own and make her way in life. There’s always been someone, usually a man, to save her.
Her eyes move over Ed and me, his arm around me, the way I am held so close, and she changes again and anger causes the veins in her forehead to jut out. She leaps to her feet and grabs the nearest thing, a cocktail glass which she hurls at us. Her aim is off and it shatters several feel away. Before she can seize anything else, her father grabs her and holds on.
“You can’t do this, Sweet Pea,” he says, his voice soothing. “Let’s go to my office. I’ll call Dr. Friedman and you can talk to him. Tell him what you need.”
Chrissy looks around and her face falls. She nods and says something I can’t make out, but her voice sounds resigned and suddenly I’m not sure what is happening.
“Did you take your meds?” he asks as he leads her from the room.
“I stopped. I didn’t feel like me anymore,” she says. They enter his office and I hear the door click behind them.
My Mom starts cleaning up the mess. She looks us over. “Did glass fall on you?”
I shake my head and look at Ed. We’re shocked, or at least I know I am.
Mom grips his elbow and smiles tightly. “You’ve got to take care of our girl now.”
It’s not the time or place and Ed seems baffled by Mom’s words and she doesn’t seem to want to enlighten as if she too realizes this isn’t the time.
I help clean up glass fragments that collect the light and shimmer belying their dangerous sharpness. The complexity of their break startles me, making me realize how little I know, how little I understand.