Authors: Marion Studer
Seeing his face going pale, I'm not so sure anymore if I really did the right thing calling the police.
I straighten up my back, take a deep breath and squeeze his hand. I can't say I'm not shocked at his revolution and it chills me to my bones.
There is something nagging in the back of my mind every time I think about that day. Sometimes it feels like whatever it is that needed to come out of me, is right there on the tip of my consciousness. Like a word that I can't quite remember, but something I knew would be there if I just thought about it long enough.
I'm shaken in the inside. Just to think about him responsible to the death of my step dad and what it means for him, his growing up thinking of this everyday of his life and not knowing of what is to come. On the outside I try to stay calm.
For the sake of him I won’t break down. I won’t ponder now about what it means for him or for us. I know in my heart it wasn't intentionally. He was just a young boy outraged and hurting for me.
He lowers his eyes and my heart breaks a little at the amount of shame I see in them before they look to the ground.
My eyes cloud over with tears and I can feel them breaking free while my arms clutch at Tucker.
And if it was anyone else, I could just say goodbye. I could just walk away, but I'm bound to Tucker in a way I would never be bound to another soul in my life. Ever.
My mind is made up. I don't have to think about it. What ever will come of it, I will stay at his side. He did all he could for me back then and now I will do all I can for him.
We will wait for the police to get our statements and we will wait for Tucker's injuries to heal. One step after another.
His eyes slowly close again; I guess the drugs kick in.
Rushing over to my house, I take a quick much needed shower and when I'm back, I see Tucker has fallen into deep sleep.
I take Rufus and stroll with him around the lake, letting him do some sniffing and running, while I have some time to think.
It makes so much sense now. All the excitement on that day, even before the fall of my step dad. That morning I was doing my chores of feeding the chickens and the dog and mopped the kitchen floor before I went to school.
I liked school. I liked it because I could blend in. I was one of many. I didn't get picked on or shouted at. I was almost invisible. Almost. Except for one single boy who tried hard to keep me as close to him as his classmates aloud to have a younger, shy girl dragged around the schoolyard.
On that day I raced home after classes, knowing my step dad was waiting with just another assignment for me.
It wasn't for a couple more hours later that day when his drinking got so bad that I got to feel his full blown rage again.
Escaping once more to the tree house and into the embrace of Tucker, I just let my friend hold me until all the shock of it subsided. He then told me to stay there, while he climbed down the tree and vanished. I didn't wait to long and hurried home of fear to get even more punished.
Rounding the corner of our house I have seen my step dad in a grapple with Tucker and my mum and suddenly I have seen him plunge down the eleven steps until coming to a stop and lying on the ground while my mum was glaring in shock at his body sprawled in an awkward angel. I just stood there with no emotions for quite a while, it seamed like hours until I got lead away from someone in a uniform.
And there was something more, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is.
Everything from there on is only a blur. I remember strangers asking questions, mum crying, hushed whispers and a burial on which I got to hold my aunt Hilda's hand, while my eyes frantically searched for my friend.
Days went by until I got to see him again - in the back of his dad’s car as they drove away.
And my world broke.
If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
Two police officer show up to take my statement, but I'm not in the right state to give a complete report, so we postpone the whole thing for later, when I will feel better.
While I slowly slip into another medicated sleep I can hear Chloe’s' soft voice coming from the kitchen, talking to the officers.
Oh god, how much I love to hear her voice again. I'm astound that she is still here after what I confessed. For just a short moment I have seen all the different emotions running through her until she broke into a heartbreaking teary smile and laid her head careful onto my shoulder. How can she still look at me and not run. The one emotion I haven't seen in her eyes is fear.
Why does she not fear me or the monstrosity of what I have done?
My parents assured me after the dilemma that they understood why it happened, even if it broke their hearts and then we never talked about it anymore and we moved to a different state. I guess that was their way to try to help me to forget.
But how could I ever get over a man's death I'm responsible for and leaving the one person behind to comprehend my reason for doing it in the first place?
I always thought the experience of abuse broke Chloe.
But to think of Chloe as being broken is so wrong on so many levels. Her not talking for so many years was just a coping mechanism and made her into the person she is now. Strong and beautiful.
My wounds are healing slowly, with every day that goes by, my body aches a little less and with the help from Chloe I can do some things on my own. Chloe is living almost entirely at my house where she takes over the household, takes the tasks of a nurse, my companion and makes enough time for Rufus, who walks like a shadow on a sunny day beside her wherever she goes.
A couple of days go by and I finally give my side of the story to the police, letting them do their investigation. I’m nervous and its shows when we walk out of the station. I told them about everything except left out the part about me and Chloe’s’ step dad. Now I only have to hope they don’t get the story from that asshole McAllister.
Chloe takes my hand and squeezes slightly, giving me her full support and I send her a thankful smirk.
More days go by and I’m feeling a lot better. Just a little more time and I will be back at work. I’m looking forward doing something proactive again, but I’m threatening the confrontation with the guys.
I start doing little tasks around the house again and finally begin with putting on a protective coat onto the porch. It feels good to wake my muscles from the unaccustomed slumber.
Aching from all the work I put the paint brush and the can aside as soon I hear Chloe arrive at her home. Rufus’ waiting restless already spikes his ears and bolts over before I can say anything. Smiling I follow and like two little boys on Christmas we smile at her as she steps from her bicycle. “Hey guys,” her infectious warm smile greeting us before she wraps her arms around my waist and gives me a tight hug.
“Hey it’s Friday, any plans for the weekend?” I ask her as I hold onto her, I want to enjoy the last few days before my work begins again on Monday.
Chloe hesitates for just a second than glances at me. “I thought we could visit my mother tomorrow and see what she has to tell you.”
Instantly the smile falls from my face knowing I can’t avoid meeting with the woman whose husband’s death lies on my conscience.
“Tucker?” Chloe’s questioning eyes peers mine. I growl, rubbing my face hard. “You have no idea…”
“Tucker, I think I know enough to realise how hard this must be for you, but she sounded as if it’s really important for her to talk to you and I will be there with you…, so please?”
Her blue eyes full and flashing with a flood of emotions that roll over me and tier me down, knocking at the doors I was working so hard to lock.
Silence hangs between us and my heart constricts, she seems so hopeful and I choke out, “Sure.” I don’t look at her any longer, rather let go of her and busy myself with rearranging her bicycle to be underneath the overhang of the cottage, I don’t want her to see me like this, so defeated and self deprecating.
I’m no fool and hold no illusions, this will crush me, probably send me to jail and all hopes for Chloe and I will vanish. And like to hold onto her for maybe the last time I take her into my arms again, pressing kisses along her neck and jaw. I don’t want to push to hard but I need to make sure she feels me, everything I’m feeling.
Everything primal and male inside me wants to lock the door behind us and strip her clothes away so I can taste and touch every inch of her body. With a groan I jerk back. What am I doing? I can’t do this to Chloe. I can’t just take her and than have to leave for jail. It’s Chloe, for fuck’s sake.
“You okay?” She asks and I breathe deeply, pushing any unwanted bad feelings away. If I have only one night of so called ‘freedom’ left, I want to make the best of it. With a forced smile I lead her into my kitchen where I start to prepare dinner for her.
Later as we sit on a blanket I brought out onto the lake, Chloe snuggles into my side and we watch the sunset, talking quietly; remembering our childhood dares and pranks.
And my eyes burn with unshed tears.
We step into the room my mother has occupied for the last few months and face a very different person than we had known for so many years.
I have seen her for a couple of times already and still it amazes me how much a person can change. She could hardly believe that my voice was back and it seamed like she was truly happy for me.
It’s still kind of awkward to talk to her, remembering everything from the past, like the hurt and all the lost opportunities and all the unanswered questions.
She did apologize to me and I could see the sincerity in her eyes, pleading for me to forgive her; for her sickness and for indifference to what was going on around her, but she doesn‘t push it.
I don’t know if I will ever forgive her for not being there for me, emotional I mean and for not protecting me from harm done to me. I know that alcoholisms is a disease and she had absolutely no potency to fight it, not on her own anyway.
But what I can do is accept what happened and move on with my life. I do accept my mother’s apologies and I will support her alacrity to get better.
And that’s why I was determined to bring Tucker with me, so he could see for himself how much she changed and to listen what she has to say to him.
After I said hi to my mum, I take a chair on the small table and my mother takes the chair right on front of me. Tucker silently stands behind me, his one hand reassuring on my shoulder. He didn’t say a word yet and stoically and tense studies my mum who’s eyes glance uncertain between Tucker and I.
To fill the awkward silence I make some small talk with the strangely changed person opposite of us, until she lifts her eyes and with a long stressed stare at Tucker she tentatively says, “I never thought I would see you again, Tucker. You have grown to a man and I can see why Chloe is so taken with you.”
I can feel Tucker’s hand pressing down on my shoulder and hear a low growl, but still he’s not saying anything and my mum continues without pause.
“Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that you two are friends again. You both had always this special bond and I never told you how I appreciated your loyalty… “
“Oh please… c’mon…” Tucker frowns and steps away, taking some needed space I guess and leaning against the wall he stares at her, seemingly indifferent. I can only marvel at this guy, all tall and proud with only a slightly annoyed frown on his face, which seems I’m the only one to notice.
Unwavering my mother continues. “I do value your loyalty towards Chloe and apologize from the bottom of my heart for everything you guys had to go through.”
My eyes land on Tucker, seeing him rubbing the back of his neck in short jerky motions. Feigning nonchalance even though the way he narrows his eyes gives away his irritation.
My mother continues. “I can never take back what was done and I have no right to ask for your forgiveness… I just hope I can be somehow in Chloe’s life and make good on some missed opportunities. Tucker you are a fine man, Chloe told me a lot about you and when she told me about the trouble you got into with this people I knew right away that I have to make this right for you.”
“What?” He whispers, pulling himself into a straight position so he can look directly into her eyes. My mother’s nodding vehemently her head as if she was thinking to herself, oblivious to Tucker’s disbelief. His eyes jump between mine and hers, he wants to push the issue, but seems to struggle with wanting to know about what she meant and not to upset me.
So I ask instead. “How could you make it right mum?”
Blinking my mum looks at me like she was in deep thoughts and then looks at Tucker. “I will make a statement or something, so everyone will know what happened that day.”
“For fuck’s sake!” He turns and frustrated slams his fist against the wall behind him, then leans his head against the white surface, breathing hard.
The pain in my chest is excruciating and I recognise it all to well. I feel just the same helplessness that curses through Tucker and I squeeze out, “that’s just what we tried to avoid mother. I can’t let you destroy his life with telling what happened that day. I won’t let you do that mother, he deserves a free life. I will deny everything that is said against him, he was just a boy and he… he did it for a friend… for me.” I’m quietly sobbing by now, hoping the growing shortness of breath won’t end in me having another panic attack and a heavy stillness lies in the room before I hear my mum’s dubious voice.
“What are you talking about Chloe? Why would he be prosecuted? I will just tell them how the accident happened.”
Holding my breath, my fingers laced so tightly together I’m cutting off my circulation, my heart’s pounding in my chest and a cold sweat chills my body. I swallow hard as I ask my mother, my eyes fixed on Tucker’s rigid back. “What do you mean with… an accident?”
“You know Chloe, when Frank fell down that stair. Isn’t it all about that accident?”
Finally Tucker’s voice breaks in. “The accident… was it… was it just an accident?”
“Of course it was,” my mother says surprised, “I was in a bad shape at that time, I will not deny that, but still I remember when Frank grabbed at your arm Tucker, and I tried to shove him away, yelling I would call the police if he won’t let go of you. He must have seen that I was serious enough to do just that, when he took a step back and stumbled over the edge.”
Tucker lets out a strangled groan, and with his back to the wall slams down to the ground, his legs angled, elbows on his knees he holds onto his neck and buries his head underneath his arms.
I turn my head back to my mother, my chest so tight I can hardly force a breath.
“Why then did Tucker’s parents move away?” I’m suddenly cold and I’m afraid I will go into shock but the question slipped out anyway.
My mum’s eyes find mine again. “They thought… we all thought that this would be the best for all of us. I guess to just… oh hell I don’t even know anymore… to just go on with our lives and to make sure Tucker will forget about it all. He was still so young and his parents didn’t want him to be remembered every time he came over to see you, I guess.”
A sob from my right let’s my head snap to the side and I can see Tucker’s shoulder shake.
I had never seen him cry and watching him now making an attempt to dry his eyes, is ripping my heart out.
On heavy legs I walk over to where he’s sitting and crouch down to him. I gently kiss the top of his head, trying to take away his hurt, wrapping my arms around his bundled up body. Tears sting my eyes and I think my chest will burst.
I feel lost. I have been cheated out of my friendship with Tucker for so many years, out of a life with him and now I have to choke back all the loss and resentment I feel.
My hands reach for his and with some strength I pray them from his hold but instead of letting me hold them he wraps them around his face, trying to hide, a quiet sob escapes from somewhere deep. I scoot closer and lean into him and kiss his hands then lay my own face onto his hands and cry with him.
These tears we cry are now for not just the pain of what happened - they are for all the time we missed out on each other. I cry for the hurt and agony that he feels. His agony is my agony. His hurt is my hurt. The pain in my heart feels like a stake has being driven through it.
“Please don’t cry, Tucker.” I choke out against his hands, placing another kiss against its palms.
His voice quiet and broken, he whispers, “I’m not crying because I’m hurt or relieved of what I heard. I’m crying because I can feel how much you love me right now. In this very moment. And I cry for all the times I was thinking of you, aching for you and aching for feeling love for you. I’m so overwhelmed right now that’s all.”