“You guys created a tense situation for Aria here. This wouldn’t have happened if Trish wouldn’t have hit her. You created this Rudy,” Miles accused.
Rudy maintained an eerie calm.
“This is not about me, it’s about you blaming me for having to live the life you do,” said Rudy. “I am going to ignore that and keep to the point. Your daughter is missing. We need to find her and make sure she is safe. After we find her then we are going to figure out what is best for her.”
“I can make that decision myself.”
“Can you really? Brother, ask yourself again. You and Idelina have an amazing child in spite of your issues, actions, motivations, and immaturity. Let me say that again, immaturity. You can’t keep handing her off periodically to others to care for. Because, are you listening? Because it’s damaging her. She doesn’t ask much from us, nothing but film and deodorant. All the rest she goes with, eating the scraps of food and emotions we give her. We love her, God knows that little girl is changing all of us. She needs you to be present in all ways.”
“What the hell do you know? Wake up, take a look at yourself and your own miserable relationship,” said Miles.
“I am going to stick to the point because I love that kid. We need to find her, hope to God she is not dead; make sure she is safe.”
The two brothers stared at each other. Miles’ shoulders began to twitch, turning to a quiver and then a shudder. He reached for Rudy.
“We’ll find her, man,” said Rudy.
“Mama and Pops are dead because of me,” Miles sobbed in Rudy’s arms.
“What are you talking about, you were in Germany!” asked Rudy, startled.
“I called Pops, I called him and told him everything, about Mama and Mr. Young.”
Rudy continued to hold onto Miles. “What about Mama and Mr. Young?”
“She wasn’t perfect, Rudy. She wasn’t perfect. Not a saint, she was having an affair with Jay Young.” He wrapped his arms tighter around his brother. “I walked in on them once. At his house. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was going over to show him a piece of music I’d found. The door was open and “You Send Me” was playing. I went back to the music room and he and Mom were half-dressed.”
Beads of sweat began to form on Rudy’s flat brow. “Did they see you?”
“He didn’t. Neither did she.”
“Maybe it was just one time. A one-time mistake.”
Miles pulled away, “Rudy, think about it. When Pops chose to have a quiet night at home, who did Mama go out with?”
“And Pops thought Mr. Young was gay.”
“Exactly. They both played into that image. It was selfish, man, selfish. Pops was a good man. He loved Mama. Maybe not in the flashy way of these New York cats, but in a forever through whatever way.”
“Did dad know?”
Miles looked down, “I tried to just leave. That’s why I left when I was seventeen. I was afraid I’d tell. Remember that time I came home a couple of years before the crash?”
“Mama and Mr. Young were still involved. I could just tell.”
“Well they never stopped going out and doing projects together.”
“When I left, I felt so sorry for Pops. It wasn’t fair.” Miles paused, “then Mama called me and started criticizing my choices.”
“And I got mad. She no way had the right to call the kettle black. She wasn’t the saint that she pretended to be.”
“Miles, career choices and affairs are two different things.”
“There you go protecting her again. She had an affair spanning seven or eight years. Is that right? And had the nerve to expect us to be perfect.”
“No, it’s not.”
“I called back, the morning of the crash. I told Pops.” Miles sucked in air, “I caused the crash.”
“The other car caused the crash, you didn’t.” Sweat began to pour from Rudy’s forehead.
“If Pops wasn’t so distraught, he wouldn’t have gone. They were probably arguing and he took his eyes off the road.”
“It was determined that the other car was at fault.”
“He was a great driver.”
“Miles, the crash wasn’t your fault.” Tears welled in Rudy’s eyes.
“And Rudy, have you ever noticed how much Elias looks like him?”
“Miles we need to find Aria now.”
H-C found Eloisa in the city garden and let her know Aria was missing. She didn’t have to tell her about her motivations as Eloisa already knew the child’s reasons for being distraught.
“Eloisa you know this neighborhood. Would you help to look for Aria?” H-C asked.
Eloisa looked at H-C long and hard, as if she didn’t understand the language H-C was speaking. A tear cascaded down Eloisa’s face.
“H-C you start on Halsey and Malcolm X. I’ll take Reid and Patchen. I’ll start in a minute. I need to go back to my house for something.”
She walked quickly to her house. Unlocking the door, she ran straight through the house to the backyard, down the path, past the pond and grape arbors to the statue of Mary Mother of Jesus. She fell to her knees, hands clasped upon the soft thyme in front of Mary. Speaking in Creole she prayed.
As she rose, she gathered spiritual strength for the emotional and physical task in front of her. Eloisa began the walk back to her house. The pond looked like a mirror, flat, metallic, reflective. She hadn’t turned on the filter; in fact she hadn’t visited the back yard at all this morning. “I’m getting a little forgetful.”
The cats had something under the creeping roses, or maybe one was giving birth. They were going in and out of the little cave the branches formed. She didn’t have time to see about the commotion. It probably was just a mouse or rat they caught. One of the feral cats may have had kittens. She surprised herself by stopping to look.
“What is all this fuss about? Adam, Eve, move your little selves out of the way. Hera and Hel scoot, scoot, Hortensia what are you doing back there? Now let’s see who’s in there.”
Red sandals. Calling her name while she moved the branches, Eloisa revealed Aria’s body. No response and no movement.
“Lord, let there be no blood. Let her be breathing. Lord let the child be alive.”
She felt the body for warmth and a pulse.
Racing into the house for the phone, she thought, how did she get into the garden? Eloisa’s house was three houses into the row, but it wasn’t important. She didn’t have Aria’s family’s information. She could run and find H-C but that would take too much time away from Aria. Her fingers hit 9-1-1. She made sure to stress it was a child and that she was unresponsive and perhaps close to death. She ran out to the stairs and shouted to her neighbor.
“An ambulance will be coming at any moment. Tell them to come right in and come to the backyard through the house. I’ll tell you later. Don’t try to ask me anything now.”
She darted through the house to the backyard, to under the rose bush to wait with Aria.
“Darlin’ stay with us for awhile longer. Life isn’t always going to be like this. Stay with us, stay for me Doll.”
Though her voice was strong and steady, streams of tears fell from her eyes and the muscles in her chin and jaw twitched.
“I’m going to tell you a story. Just stay put and listen. This is the something personal I needed to tell you. When I was a girl, I was around your age of eleven or twelve. A devastating thing happened to me, I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to recover from. I’ll tell you what it was. My uncle tried to rape me. I got away from him, but I was still harmed emotionally. One of the reasons why I got married early on was to
get away from my family and that house. No one believed me. Instead, they called me all kinds of names and that rotten uncle of mine got to hang around the house smiling and strutting around like a rooster. Bête noire. I felt so down and thought that life just wasn’t for me. That was my bag of horse crap. But before you go thinking that life stinks a heap listen what happened to me. I made a couple of bad mistakes and then ended up in New York. Before I got married a second time I met someone, an actor from France. He adored me. At first I couldn’t figure how someone like him could like me as much as he did. One day after a particularly wonderful evening we were strolling past a set of mirrors that were set against one of the stores downtown. We turned to see and I saw me. All this time, I refused to look at myself thinking I would find what those folks called me. Caught off guard there I was. Radiant. Beautiful. Happy. Perfect. I mean I had to stop seeing myself through the lens that had been tainted by others. Aria, Beautiful One, there’s nothing wrong with you. You got lots of stuff happening but it’s going to pass, trust me. Hold onto your soul Doll…do it for me…Aria I am leaning hard on that table of faith, I’m holding you and please consider staying…I know you got to find your own way.”
Eloisa’s heart raced as she heard the EMTs come through her door trailed by her neighbor. She squeezed Aria’s hand and said a quick Hail Mary, then began assisting in answering what she knew. She collected the information on what hospital she was being taken to and then proceeded to the studio hoping that someone was still there.
Marching upstairs to the studio, she found Kiev standing looking out the back window, down at the buddleia bush.
“Kiev, I found Aria in my home garden.”
Kiev turning, looked directly but briefly at Eloisa.
“She’s been taken to the hospital and I need to let the family know. Do you have Rudy’s phone number?”
“Affirmative, there,” Kiev responded.
She found the phone number and used the land line at the studio to call him.
“She’s found but is in bad shape due to an overdose. She had Trish’s prescription medicine with her and they think she took it. I think she was trying to stop the pain.”