#45 A toast to Mom
On the morning of my mother’s death, I wake up from a horrible nightmare, gasping for air. It was the one where she was with my dad in heaven, and they were complaining about what a disgrace their only daughter is. I feel tears stinging in my eyes, and I can’t seem to get my breathing under control.
“Baby?” Thomas’ voice sounds groggy, and he’s still half asleep when he throws a leg over mine and buries his face in my hair. “Nightmare?”
I’ve told him about them, not wanting him to freak out when he’d eventually wake up to me crying out in terror. He’s never seen me have one because we’ve been sleeping at either his place or mine ever since that first night, and falling asleep in his arms brings me peace I’ve never known before. My birthday didn’t bring up as many bad memories as I’d have thought, and having Delilah, Peter, Thomas and Dylan over for dinner made the day feel like it was actually a celebration. It hasn’t felt like that since my father died. And even back when he was still alive, it was always a sad day because it reminded him of losing the love of his life. For the first time ever, the day was just about me, and it was surprisingly nice to sit around the coffee table openings presents and eating cake.
Today is going to be hard though, so it’s not surprising that the nightmares are back.
“Tracy?” Thomas’ lips brush over my cheek, and he pulls me against him.
“Yeah,” I breathe, snuggling up to him and inhaling his scent that is rapidly starting to feel like home. “Sorry for waking you up.”
“Hmm,” he murmurs, his eyelids drooping. It’s only 5 am, and we stayed up late talking and making love, so it’s no wonder he’s so tired. “Wanna walk about it?”
“Maybe later.” I pull my fingers through his hair and smile when he moans from the feeling, resting his head on my chest. He’s fast asleep in a matter of minutes, and even though my mind is still reeling from the nightmare, I feel better with him here.
Dr. York told me that the nightmares might never go away, and that hit me hard, although I know she’s right. Everyone has nightmares sometimes, and the feeling of disappointing my parents runs so deep that I might never completely be able to cut it out of me. Therapy is helping me cope with my issues, but it doesn’t make them disappear. The good news is that life is pretty good these days. Even if things don’t get better than they are right now, I’ve still got a life very much worth living.
Thomas starts snoring softly, and I feel some drool staining my shirt. I laugh softly, rolling him off me without waking him up. It’s only been a week of sleeping in the same bed, but I’ve already come to the conclusion that he’s cute as fuck when he sleeps. He passes out with ease every single night, whereas I am the type that tosses and turns before finally letting sleep wash over me. Watching him drool over my pillow and murmur things in his sleep helps me fall asleep sooner than I’m used to. And, of course, it helps that I’m usually wiped out from the incredible sex we’ve been having every day since that first time.
I slip out of bed since I’m wide awake now, and I make a pot of coffee. I may feel awake right now, but I’ve only slept a few hours, so it’s a good idea to get some caffeine in my system so I’ll be able to function. Pumpkin jumps me eagerly, knowing I’m gonna take him for a walk. I always do right after my first cup of coffee. I write a note for Thomas and put it on the fridge so he won’t worry about where I am, and then I pull on my jeans and one of his shirts – he’s already leaving his stuff all over the place after only a week, the slob. It’s so early that I don’t even bother putting his leash on, and together we go for a long, brisk walk.
Over an hour later, I’m back in the kitchen for my second cup of coffee, while Thomas’ snores are still coming from the bedroom. I want to crawl in with him, but I’ll be tossing and turning the whole time, and that will wake him up. Memories of my childhood make me restless, and it’s too early to go in for work, so I text James instead, praying he will be up for a quick workout.
See you in fifteen, he shoots back right away. He’s an early bird like me.
I write another note for Thomas, feed Snoopy and Oyster, and drive to the gym. Aston is working, and he waves at me from behind the reception desk where he’s entering something into the computer system. He looks tired as fuck.
“Tough night?” I ask him while I swap my shoes and throw my stuff in one of the lockers in the front of the gym. I’m already in my boxing outfit and Thomas got me green gloves for my birthday, so I don’t need to change or find some equipment. I’m ready to go.
“Steffi is sick,” he grunts, rubbing his eyes. “And Anna is at the stage in her pregnancy where all she wants is to fuck all night, so I was up for hours with a horny wife and a crying kid.”
I laugh so hard I tear up. “Oh man, I never thought I’d see the day Aston Johnson would be complaining about getting some.”
He grumbles something I don’t catch and then he looks at me, frowning at the bags under my eyes, almost as dark as his. “You don’t look so hot either, Tracy.”
“Today is the day my mother died 29 years ago,” I explain. “She died two years after I was born. And in three days, it’ll be seven years since my father died.”
“Well shit,” Aston says, his eyes widening. “I don’t know what to say. I’m not good with words. I’m really fucking sorry, though.”
“Thanks.” I’m glad to see James walk in, and he’s ready to kick some ass right away, just like I am. We hug in greeting and then we start hitting the punching bags to warm up before sparring. He seems wound up just like me, although I can’t see a reason why he’d be in bad mood. When he knocks me on my ass for the fourth time and he yanks me back up without so much as an apology, I’ve had it.
“Look, I don’t need you to take it easy on me or anything just because today is tough for me, but you also don’t need to kick a girl when she’s down.”
“What?” he asks, frowning at me. “Why are you down?”
“Erm, did you forget what week it is?” I remind him, surprised he forgot. He’s one of the few people who gets how hard this week is for me, because the anniversary of his sister’s death is the worst day of the year for him as well.
“Oh God, I forgot!” He curses and takes off his gloves, throwing them down. “I’m sorry. I’m so out of it today. How are you doing?”
“Forget about me,” I say, worried about him now. “What’s going on with you, James?”
He sinks down onto the floor and puts his face in his hands. “Dora broke up with me last night.”
“Oh, well fuck.” I sit down next to him and put an arm around his shoulders. He’s not crying or anything, but he’s obviously shaken up about it. “What happened?”
“She said things are going too slow for her.” He laughs without humor. “Can you believe that? Me, James Tyson, moving too slow. I used to propose to girls after only a few months, and I’ve dropped the L-bomb so many times that I’ve lost count. Finally, I get my act together, and Dora, the chilliest girl out there, thinks I’m moving too slow.”
I rub his back and put my head on his shoulder. We sit like that for a long time, until Aston comes over to ask us who died.
“Seriously?” I ask him, throwing my gloves at his head one at a time. “Who died? Did you seriously just ask me that?”
“Ah fuck,” he grumbles. “Sorry. I forgot. I’m so tired, Tracy. I just fell asleep for a second with my eyes open, standing up. Never have kids. Seriously, never ever have kids. They suck the life right out of you.”
“So do break-ups,” James adds, getting up from the floor. “I should get home, shower, head to work. Sorry for not being much of a distraction, Tracy.”
“Friendship works both ways, James.” I hug him again and then he’s off. I go for a round with Aston, but he’s so tired that I beat him easily, and where’s the fun in that?
I head home, and find Thomas on the couch, the cats both in his lap and Pumpkin next to him. He’s got his hand buried in the dog’s fur while he scrolls through the news on his phone. He looks up when I walk in, smiling.
“You look hot all sweaty in that tight little outfit,” he comments, winking at me. “You doing okay, baby?”
“Not really,” I reply honestly. “Better than other years, though.” I strip down to my underwear in the middle of the living room and pick up his coffee mug from the coffee table, taking a swig before leaning over to give him a kiss. “Wanna take a shower with me? I’m not up for sex, but I’d love to be close to you right now.”
“Definitely.” He pushes the cats off him, and he laughs when they hiss at him. “Love you too,” he tells Oyster and Snoopy. He follows me to the bathroom, undressing on the way there, his clothes landing everywhere.
“You’re never gonna pick them up, are you?” I complain as I throw my own clothes in the hamper along with my underwear. “Your stuff is all over my apartment and you’ve only been staying over a couple of days.”
“Ah, the whining is starting already,” he says with a dramatic sigh. “Fine, I will clean up after myself. Let’s first clean you up, though.” He turns on the shower and when it’s hot enough, we both step into the shower. He lathers me up with soap and massages shampoo into my long hair with the utmost care. It feels so nice to allow him to take care of me. He can’t really do anything to make this day good for me, but he sure knows how to make it less crappy.
“I love you,” I say as I turn around and kiss him.
“You’re okay too, I guess,” he teases, handing me the soap so I can clean him next. I take my time, loving the way his muscles ripple underneath my fingers.
I try not to compare Thomas and Michel too much, because I know I need to leave my previous relationship in the past, but in moments like these it’s hard to not to be amazed at how different it is to have Thomas in here with me. Michel would be feeling me up already, deciding that even though I told him I wasn’t in the mood for sex, he’d be able to put me in the mood. And I wouldn’t want to tell him no, leading to me bent over in the shower, getting pounded without enjoying it.
Thomas gets hard from all the time I spent massaging soap into his skin, but he doesn’t do anything about it. He doesn’t even press his erection against me. Instead, he washes the shampoo out of his long blonde hair, turns off the water and grabs a towel, wrapping it around me.
“You’re amazing, you know that?” I take his face in my hands and kiss him.
“Yeah, I’m pretty great.” He towels off and grabs the hair dryer, using it on me before starting on his own hair. There is something so cute about seeing a big, strong man with a body full of tattoos and piercings blow drying his hair with the utmost care. He’s so goddamn cute.
I wrap my arms around him from behind when he’s done and hold him for a long time. He just stands there, meeting my gaze in the fogged-up mirror, smiling at me.
“This is the best worst week of my life,” I tell Thomas, tearing up. I’m such a cry-baby these days. Dad would tell me to toughen up, but I feel way better letting it all out, and Dr. York has been trying to get me to see that Dad’s way of coping with his feelings wasn’t healthy and that Uncle Greg was right all along. My mother was an emotional person, and Dad loved her. He worshipped her. Me crying every now and then wouldn’t have made my Dad stop loving me.
Thomas turns around and wraps his strong arms around me, kissing my forehead. “You make me so happy, Tracy. I’m happy can return the favor. Now let’s have breakfast, because I know you’ve got work and I need to get home to feed The General.”
We have a quick breakfast and then I’m off. The rest of the day is pretty tough, especially since Peter and I have to put three dogs down, but I get through it. I have dinner with Delilah at the clinic because the day ran long, and Thomas is working on an app with Dylan, fixing something that can’t wait, because the client needs the app up and running tomorrow morning.
It’s late when I finally pull up at Thomas’ place, and he jumps into my car right away. He’s got the biggest bouquet of red roses in his arms and he doesn’t try to talk to me as we drive to the cemetery. I walk straight to my parents’ graves and sink down onto my knees in front of them, wiping the grime from their headstones so I can read the Packard name on both of them. For the first time ever, I cry while I visit them, my tears spilling onto their graves. Thomas’ big hand squeezes my shoulder, but he doesn’t speak.
My dad’s voice sounds in my mind: Packards don’t cry.
Well, this Packard does cry.
“Hi Mom,” I whisper, digging my hands into the earth. “Hi Dad. I’d like you to meet someone. This is Thomas. He’s my boyfriend, and I’m pretty sure he’s the love of my life. He likes animals almost as much as I do, and he’s very good to me. I think you would like him. I know I do.”
Shaking, I get up and take half of the roses from Thomas. I start pulling the petals off them and scatter them across Mom’s grave. Thomas does the same, and together we fill her small patch of grass with beautiful red flower petals. I remember me and Dad doing this, and how he’d always pull a bottle of scotch from his bag and propose a toast to my mother.
I pull the bottle I brought from my purse, as I’ve been doing since the year my father died. The first few years it wasn’t even legal, but I did it anyway. Dad can’t have a drink in her honor anymore, but I sure can.
“To Mom,” I say softly. I’m no longer crying, but my eyes are still wet. “I never got to meet you, but from what I’ve heard, you were pretty amazing. I want you to know you daughter is okay. Very okay, in fact. It took me a while, but for the first time since Dad died, I can stand here without wishing to be in a casket under the ground like you guys are.”
Thomas gasps softly, but he doesn’t say anything. I’ve only said this out loud once before, to Dr. York. I don’t have a death wish, I was never suicidal, but on the anniversary of my parents’ death, I always got this sense of dread, convincing me that no one would miss me if I’d lie down on their graves and stop breathing. Especially last year, which was the first year without Uncle Greg to talk to.
“To you, Mom,” I whisper, and I take a swig of scotch. Then I hand the bottle to Thomas, who puts the bottle to his lips and takes a tiny little sip. I gulp down some more, knowing he will drive us back to his place, so I don’t need to stay sober. I’m not getting drunk, but a nice warm buzz is more than welcome. It reminds me of the slight blush on dad’s cheeks when he drank a bit too much occasionally, and he’d start singing crude songs he’d learned in the army.
Thomas wraps his arms around me and holds me until I’m ready to go home. We head to his place in silence, and he doesn’t speak until we’re in bed together. He’s so quiet that it’s starting to freak me out, and I notice tears in his blue eyes when he leans against the headboard, looking at me while I prop myself up on my elbow and look up at him.
“Please never kill yourself,” he says, his lower lip trembling. “Please don’t, Tracy.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I cried during this chapter, while writing it AND while editing it. I put a lot of myself into these chapters, and while I always do that, these ones hit close to home. I don’t want to talk about it in an author’s note, and I’ve been lucky enough not to experience losing someone to suicide in my family or in my circle of friends, but I did deal with some tough things relating to depression and suicide that will always stay with me,
If you are dealing with something relating to suicide, please know that you’re not alone. Every single country has a free suicide hotline / phone number. I don’t know where you live, but please call it if you need someone to talk to. Google the number and call, or talk to someone.
Love you all. xoxo