I woke up with a sense of resolution. Unlike the past few days, I finally felt rested, and calm. Sureness and confidence grounded me, in a way I had never felt before. I took a long stretch and approached the window, where the sun was glaring in. I felt its warm rays seeping into my skin, giving me life.
I opened the window as far as it could go. A sweeping air wafted into my nostrils, filling them up with a sweet, moist scent. The yellow streams penetrated the roof, soaking up the last of droplets left by the powerful storm.
I touched the surface; it was dry enough. I crawled out of my window and lay down on the warm shingles. The birds were louder and more present than ever. It sounded like an orchestra was playing beside me. Everything came together, like paint strokes in a heavenly portrait.
For once, I took my time and my brain didn’t spew off into a million places of worry. The simplicity was captivating and refreshing, however, one thought did come to mind, and that was of last night’s dream.
Maybe that is where my sense of deep conviction came from. I finally felt completely comfortable in my own skin. Everything made sense now. Any lingering doubts came with a sense of peace in knowing the answer would come in its own time.
A light tapping noise disturbed my peace. “Was that the door?” I asked myself, as I sat up. I heard it again, only it was louder this time. “I’m coming!” I cried, as I looked into the distance, beyond the forest. I felt drawn to the mountains more than ever today. I must go to them, for something special is hidden there.
Before I got up to answer the door I felt a thank you was needed. This exquisite morning couldn’t have come on a more appropriate day.
The quiet knock tapped against the door once again. I threw on my robe and went to open the door. I figured it would be Jamie. It wasn’t.
“Do you know what time it is?” My mother asked in a sarcastic tone.
“No, actually I don’t. Why?”
“Becaaauuse….. Elizabeth. It is late.” She said irritated.
“Late? How late?”
“Okay? So? I don’t have to go to school today, do I? I mean, we did just had Ruth’s funeral yesterday, and it is Friday.”
“No, of course not. But you did miss breakfast and everyone was wondering where you were. We do still have guests in the house Elizabeth, and, I don’t appreciate you making a fool out of me.”
“If you were that concerned, you could have just woke me up.” I said doubting her intentions. It was odd of her to care so much of looking like a “fool”.
“Don’t you have an alarm clock?” She quickly passed the blame back to me.
“Yeah, but I didn’t set it because I knew I wasn’t going to school today.” I snapped back.
“Well-, well-“ Her eyes darted back and forth, as she placed her hand on her hips, and straightened her posture.
“Well, what, mom? You never come and check on me, even when I am sleeping in. And I am sure Uncle George and Grandma and Grandpa don’t care. We did just experience a family tragedy. I think I have a right to want to sleep in. So… mother. What is the real reason you came up here?”
“Forget it. I will leave you alone.” She lowered her head and started to turn around.
“Please, mom. What is it?” Her body turned back towards me, with her head still lowered, and her eyes now watery.
“What is the matter? Did something go wrong?”
“No. But…. Nobody else is home.”
“Nobody? Where did they go?”
“I am not sure where Jamie went. He left early this morning. He told me to tell you he would be back around lunch time. The others went with your grandparents for a hike in the mountains. And…” She paused, and the tears dropped faster now.
“Father? Something happened to him?”
“No.” She sniffled. “He went to go drop your uncle off at the airport.”
“Okay mom. You really have me confused now. Please just tell me, what is the matter?”
“Nothing. Nothing. Sorry, I am going.”
I grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “No you’re not. Not until you tell me what is bothering you.” We looked deep into each other’s eyes for the first time, in a long time. I was almost the same height as her due to her short stature.
“You never cared before.” She looked away.
“Well, you wouldn’t come to me, if it wasn’t something serious right?” I pressed.
“Well, it’s not. It’s stupid just like your father said.”
“Dad thinks everything is stupid, especially feelings.” She looked up at me somewhat surprised like she was discovering for the first time I knew how horrible he was.
“It is about Ruth.”
“Yes. I did something horrible. I am a horrible mother and I am sorry. I should have spent more time with you-with her. I should have protected her, helped her.” The tears were gushing now and she was shaking.
“It will be okay, just come and sit down.” I held her arm and guided her to my bed.
“I’m going to be honest mom. Yeah, you probably should have done all of those things, but you can’t do anything about it now. Did you at least learn anything from this?”
“Yeah, of course. That is why I came to see you, Liz. I don’t want to lose you. I noticed you have been taking on her habits; disappearing and sleeping in.”
“You won’t lose me, mom. I am just going through a bad time. I need time to think and be alone.”
“What about Jamie? He has been acting the same way and I have seen you two leave together or have private discussions. What is that about? Do you know something I don’t?”
I hesitated to answer. I had no idea she noticed our changes in behaviour. I felt like she wasn’t even a part of our lives any more, that she wasn’t present at all. I had no idea she still cared, and even better, noticed what we were doing.
“I probably know a lot you don’t know. What exactly are you talking about?”
“I am not sure. I just feel like there is something more. I can’t believe Ruth would just do something like that.” She continued to sniffle. “I know it is partly my fault, and I know this house can be crazy sometimes but, I just thought I would never lose any of you.”
“That is probably what all parents believe.” I tried to reassure her but it didn’t work.
“No. You are not understanding. There is something more. There has to be!”
“What are you getting worked up about mom?”
“You know!” She stood up and looked down at me accusingly.
I couldn’t tell her, but how did she know we knew something? Had Jamie told her? “What makes you say that? Did someone tell you about what I have been doing?”
She started pacing, “No. No. No. No.” then stopped dead in front of me. She bent over and gripped my shoulders. “I know this sounds crazy Liz, but Ruth didn’t kill herself. I know it, I feel it. I am her mother.” Her eyes stared into mine with the upmost seriousness I have ever seen in her. She did care. And not only that, she had the same feelings I did before I even found out the truth. She also deserved to know the truth. This motivated me even more to find out. For some reason, I knew our family would be better after all of this.
“Don’t worry mom. I will find out for you. I have that same feeling.”
“You do?” She looked happily surprised. “Is that why you have been sneaking out? Are trying to find out what really happened?”
“Yes, but you can’t tell anyone. Only Jamie and I know. We definitely don’t want dad to find out either. I don’t want to say this but, he might be connected to it or, know someone who is.”
“Right of course, but how do you know that? He couldn’t harm her like that.”
“I am not saying he did, but, he might know the person who did- and not even know what the person did.” She looked even more confused now.
“Okay. All I’m saying is, he could be connected directly or indirectly. And Jamie and I are finding that out.”
“You can’t.” She was strict now, pointing her finger at me and everything.
“You can’t. No. It is too dangerous. Even if he has no connection to it- if he catches you guys snooping around-” She was pacing nervously now.
“He won’t. We are very careful.”
“No! You don’t understand! You don’t know what he is capable of. You don’t know where he goes in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Your father is sick and I don’t want you following him, you understand!?” I never heard her speak with such importance. She must know what he really does and, who he really is. This might be the perfect time to get some honesty out of her.
“Ok. Fine. But I need to know why you are so scared for us. I know dad can be mean sometimes but, do you think he would hurt us?”
“Maybe not, but he associates with people who would. He doesn’t care for you kids like I do- he can’t.”
“How do you mean? Doesn’t he love us?”
“Of course he does……..I think, or I don’t know, honestly. I know he doesn’t love me, as you might have noticed.”
“But why is he around us, if he doesn’t love us?”
“You know how important his business and the community are to him.”
“Yes, but he can’t possibly go through all of this trouble to have a family, just to look good in front of people.” I said in disbelief.
“No. I don’t think it is just that. I believe it is also a mask. A mask for what he really is.”
“But what is that?”
“I have said too much now. I shouldn’t be talking about your father this way. It is not right of me. And even if someday you do want to know the truth, you are too young right now. You may not understand. I don’t even understand.”
“I could understand, really, mom-please.”
“No. It is unfair for me.”
“No it’s not. You have to tell me. If not for my benefit, then for Ruth’s.”
“Well, I have been wanting to tell someone for a long time. But I just can’t. If this gets out, our family will be destroyed.”
“Our family is already destroyed, can’t you see that?” I could feel the emotions well up inside of me. I was angry that she wouldn’t tell me, and angry at my father for making her keep his secrets for so long, and using us as pawns, and not loving us. I felt my heart breaking, and I saw my mother’s doing the same.
A part of me was happy that she cared and she did love us. Unfortunately, Ruth had to die for her to make some kind of effort, but I appreciated it, regardless.
“I can see it, Elizabeth.” She sat down beside me on the bed now, and put her hand on top of mine. “And I am sorry.”
“I know mom, I know.” I wrapped my arms around her for the first time in years, and felt her hugging me back. We both sat there crying and holding each other for what seemed a long time.
Just then I saw Jamie out of the corner of my eye in the doorway. “What is going on? Everything okay?”
“Yeah, we were just reminiscing- you know- about Ruth.”
“Oh.” His eyes read my thoughts.
My mom wiped her eyes, stood up and brushed off her spring dress. “Well, I will leave you kids alone.” She crouched down and gave me a kiss on the cheek, then walked over to Jamie, put her arms around his neck for a hug and, also gave him a light kiss on the cheek. The side of his mouth raised slightly in an unexpected smirk.