Authors: Marion Studer
The week goes by in no time and on Saturday I'm rubbing my hands constantly on my pants, trying to get rid of my nervousness.
Tucker knocks on my door and when I open it, I can see he almost is at a loss of saying anything himself and so we drive the two hours mostly in silence. I'm still contemplating on visiting my mum or to just give it some more time. But then we arrive at the house she is admitted to and I'm aware that I'm out of nervousness are biting my thumb. For most of the ride Tucker was holding my hand and I knew he is deep in thoughts too.
His concern for me makes it a little bit easier, to know there is someone waiting for me when I will come back out. So with taking a big breath I make my way into the white building that shows no sign of what the purpose of housing this is except a small sign beside the glass door.
My steps are slow and uncertain and I approach the administration desk with a big knot in my stomach. A middle aged woman takes my name and I get lead into a room where my purse and myself get checked out. Do they assume I will be visiting my mum with a knife or a saw?
Minutes later I approach the table in a different much bigger room where my mum is waiting. There are quite a few tables occupied with people, but my eyes stay on the woman in front of me.
I almost can't recognize my own mother. She looks much better, actually a few years younger then the last time I have seen her. It's now over half a year since she got admitted. For the first time in a very long time I see a small nervous smile on her face and I'm astound how it can transform her whole appearance. Her hair got a new cut and even her skin lost the grey colour, but most of all her eyes have a shine to them I can't remember seeing before. They seem so ... alive.
I take the seat across from her and we study each other for a moment.
“Hi Chloe,” she breaks the silence and I take my blackboard from my purse.
Calling old ghosts
I watch Chloe step into the building to meet her mother, knowing how hard it must be for her to come face to face with the one person who should have been there for her but did miserable fail.
I condemn myself for not accompanying her, but I can't bring myself to go and face this woman. I bump back in my seat and rub my eyes with the palms of my hands.
My thoughts go way back to a time I would give anything if I could erase them. My heart rate picks up and I see the day playing out in my mind like a movie, never being the same since then and my only goal in my life… to make sure Chloe is going to be okay.
For years I told myself Chloe was safe after her step dad died. But after time I just got restless and something was pulling me to move back to the town we grew up in. I didn't know then if I will find her still living here or if she moved away. But I guess I would have found out one way or another.
That's what amazed me the most that she just moved into the house next to mine. What are the chances? My heart almost jumped out of my chest when I recognized her.
Chloe. How can I expect a future with her after what I have done?
But more importantly, how can I expect a future without her?
Oh god, I just hope she won’t tell her mother about me. I need more time to plan everything out before Chloe finds out. I hate keeping a secret from her, but what are my options? I will tell her, I need to tell her… but the question is how.
The door opens and a couple of people walk out, then some more and finely Chloe steps out. The sun blinding her momentarily, she lifts her hand to shade her eyes, scanning the parking lot. After spotting me she makes her way towards me and when I get out of my truck she smiles up at me. A huge weight lifts from my shoulders and I take her into my arms.
“You okay?” I ask her and I can feel her nod against my chest. I press a kiss onto her forehead before I help her into the truck.
I drive to a coffee shop I spotted when we drove by earlier. After we order two coffees I take her hand into mine and wait for her to tell me how she is feeling. She takes out her board but takes a moment to write anything. I squeeze her hand to let her know I'm fine even if she doesn’t want to talk. Her eyes lift up and again I drown in their depth.
The waitress brings our coffees and after she leaves Chloe takes her pen and writes
, Mum seems to do really good. She looks different and we had finally a normal talk. She apologized for everything that happened and didn’t push me to forgive her. She just hopes for me to find the strength to do so sometime in the future.
Chloe let me read then erases and starts again.
She wanted to know how I'm doing and then I told her about you.
My breath catches and I slowly meet her eyes, which are sincerely on mine. She is still smiling what makes me breathe again. Then she writes
, She wants to meet with you, wants to talk with you. She said it is very important.
My head jerks up a little. What does this mean? Does she wants to tell me to stay away from Chloe or even worse? My hand shakes as I take a sip from my cup.
Chloe makes a hand sign for me to ask if I'm okay and lays her hand over mine. I sign back that I'm fine, when I'm not. Not really. I need to find out if her mother sad anything else, but for right now I don't push her to tell me more. I need some time to think too.
We drive home each one of us deep in thoughts. After dinner we settle on the couch to watch a movie. Chloe snuggles into my arms and I pull her close to my body, taking in her light scent. Rufus lying close to our feet lets out a big huff and closes satisfied his eyes.
Two weeks later Tucker finishes his deck and he wants to celebrate it with a visit to the fall fair on the weekend. He has even something planned for later, something romantic and I'm a little nervous about it.
I'm thinking about Tucker, our making out, kissing and touching is more intense every time we are together and it feels like it isn't enough anymore. And still there is a feeling as if he is holding back and sometimes I can feel his thoughts are miles away. It's like he closes himself off of me, like he wants to tell me something but than thinks better of it and he just shuts down. There are times I want to shake him so badly, just to get him to open up to me or to wake him out of his closed up stupor. But I don’t, I will wait for him do take this step and tell me what was bothering him.
Maybe this weekend all of this will change.
After a long shower and taking extra care to my hair I slip into jeans and a soft pink top. I look at myself in the mirror and put on light mascara and some lib gloss when I hear the door open and Tucker calling out for me. I hurry into the living room where he is waiting for me. He is dressed in jeans and a black button down shirt, his hair still a little damp from a shower and I moan silently for the thousands time by the tingling feeling he awakes in me and I rise on my tiptoes to meet with his lips for a long loving kiss. Pulling away with great strength he tells me, “You look beautiful. Maybe we should stay here, so I can have you all to myself.”
I smile up at him and get my purse and shoes before I change my mind.
Uhm… we will still have the evening, right?!
Sitting in his truck I take my blackboard out and write something down. I thought about this for the last days and want to see Tucker's reaction. As I hold out my blackboard for him to read he gives a quick glance then stares straight out the windshield. The knuckles on his hand holding the steering wheel go white for a moment, but before I can write some more, he inhales deeply, visible relaxes and sends me a forced little excuse of a smile. I'm not quite sure what brought on this moment of discomfort, but he doesn't say anything and starts his truck. Confused I try to make sense of this sudden change in mood.
You know we don’t really have to do this
I write down but he stays quiet.
After a short drive we pull up close to the house Tucker was living when we were kids. I wrote down that I really would like to visit our old homes. I just want to see the places we played as kids together and thought he might like the idea too, but his reaction shows different.
So here we are placed now in front of his old house.
Not much changed I think.
The trees are taller and the house was painted recently, but there is still the sticker on Tuckers old window with a faded superhero picture on it. I take his hand and he interlaces our fingers when I throw a questioning glance at him, and like we did as kids we communicate with eyes only, he braves a smirks and nods his head before I pull him to the back of his old home. It doesn't seem like anybody is at home, but we still bend down and sneak around the corner like the kids we once been, quietly snickering. Then we come to an abrupt stop.
For the longest time we both just kind of stand there and stare. Stare at the ... empty tree.
A feeling of loss washes over us. Tucker lets go off my hand and I swallow hard. I can't believe what I'm seeing. Tucker with his hands in his front pockets steels glances between the tree and me.
I on the other hand have tears running down my cheeks.
The tree house is gone.
tree house vanished. Extinct. Dead.
The loss of a piece of childhood softly pulling hard on my heart. Finally I can feel his arm around my waist, pulling me away. Walking through the little deer trail still existing, we walk towards my old home. Rounding the corner of the house I come to another stop.
There the fenced in area under the stairs is gone and a lovely little niche with a playhouse sitting on an old carpet and a little table with two chairs occupied with dolls, replaces the old dark hiding space. I step closer, stand still and try to contemplate the reality of what this spot represents.
There isn't anything closely visual to how it looked all this years ago. It's all light and open now, free of all the odd feelings and I turn around with a big smile on my face, which gets slammed away in an instant at the sight of Tucker, his eyes glued to the stairs. And my gaze follow his. Eleven steps. Eleven steps tattooed deep into my soul. I don't know what’s going through his head, but right now he is scarring me. I can see the same far away look he gets sometimes and I don't like it. I don't like it at all. And a deep dangerous undercurrent of some awareness seeps up in me that I can't shake of, no matter how hard I try.
Taking Tucker's hand into mine, I pull as hard as I can and he just staggers behind me to his truck. There I wrap my arms around his middle, press my cheek into his chest and just let my tears fall. This didn't go as I thought it would. I can finely feel his arms wrapping around me and we just hold on to each other.
“Do you want to go home?” he finally breaks the silence, his voice unsteady and I shake my head vehemently. No, I don't think we can end this day with us both brooding. We need some distraction and the fair will be the right place for us to forget about the sad moment.
Determined to not let our conscious state of mind or the darkening sky override the day, I place a big fake smile onto my face.
At the fair we stroll about the neatly set tables and booths, eat hotdogs and ice cream, all the while closely pressed into each others side. The need for comfort undoubtedly showing. To others we might look a little tense, but otherwise just like a regular couple visiting the fair.
One of the booths is showing an array of jewellery and Tucker is wedging me to the display. He leans lightly over me to get a better look when he reaches out and hands something to the salesman. While he is talking to the man I'm distracted by the booth next to the one we are standing at. I take a few steps and admire the handcrafted wooden toys, which closely looking at a few give me an idea for a project in school I can do with my mute kids.
At one point I feel Tuckers hand pressing around my waist and I smile up at him. Tucker's eyes are gentler now, almost like nothing happened earlier, but something still hangs in them, haunted and heavy.
The air seems to be filled with things that need to be said, questions that bag to be asked, at least on my part, but I don't know what to say, where to begin. Where to start with someone who you have known for what seems like forever who in fact you don't know at all?
Or do I? Isn't he the same person, just a little older, a little more experienced, and a little more mature? Maybe we just need a real good talk and all will be fine.
My eyes watch the sky where heavy clouds are guttering and Tucker follows my gaze, seeing the concern in my face.
“Are you ready to head home?” he ask me and I nod my head, take his hand and pick up my pace. I take the lead, prompted by an uneasiness I can't describe.
Suddenly there’s a party of three persons in our path and I try to move around them, but I bump into them and with a jolt I notice this guy from the diner, Mike… something, Rob Carlson and another guy. Damn, can this day get any more menace?
I dug down my head and try going around them on the other side, but without luck. This Mike guy just grins at me and I try to push him out of my path. With a disgusted grin he moves in front of me each way I try to go.
I feel Tucker's hand on my shoulder and he growls, “Give her some room,” slapping a “please” on the end that does nothing to soften his brusque tone.
Mike sends Tucker a deadly glare, but slowly by-steps and I hurriedly walk on. I don't look back, just take Tucker’s hand and make my way out of the fall fair ground. There I take a big much needed breath before I slow down, throwing a quick glance at Tucker, who has this stoic glare.
We walk the little distance over the small field to where we parked the truck in a nearby parking lot. But before we reach the truck we hear noises from behind and a distinctive voice shouts, “Davis, where do you think you're going?”
All the blood rushes out of my face and I send Tucker a fearful glance, but before I can even comprehend what's going on, the three guys close in on Tucker and Mike shouts at him, “Didn't I tell you to get your ass out of here? And why can't you keep your hands off of her?” his head dips in my direction, without breaking the stare he has on Tucker.
Tucker in return takes my hand and growls, “We are just about to leave.”
“No, no, no.” Mike snarls, “You won't leave with her. She can do much better,” he throws Rob a knowing smirk before turning back to Tucker, “she doesn’t need to be with a killer.”
My head spins back to Tucker, my eyes searching his eyes. His dark glare bores into mine - to not listen to the accusations? - before they rush back to watch the guys who like a pack of wolfs are closing in on him.
I squeeze his hand, to let him know ..., know what exactly? To let him know that I'm on his side or more to let him know he is not alone in this, or just to let him know I have seen the dismay? I don't know, I just feel him squeeze back before he takes a step in front of me as if to shield me then orders me to get into his truck, sliding his key into my hand. But I don’t make a move. I can’t.
“Chloe, get into the fucking truck,” he hisses out between clenched teeth, “now!” He stops as if realizing how menacing that sounds. But I can't move. I won't move.
I'm here with him and what ever they say or do I'm here to stay.
Mikes takes a step closer and like on commando his two lackeys do the same.
I feel the first raindrops hit the top of my scalp seeping unseen into my hair, and my anxiety peaks.
Tucker takes a deep breath, “hey guys lets be civil here. Let this day not end on a bad note.”
One step closer, Mike's face gets even more evil and he spits with a nasty snort to the ground barely missing Tucker's shoes.
I put my shaking hands flat onto Tucker's back as if to steady him and stare desperate at Rob, waiting for a helpful input on his side, but there is nothing. He just stares at me, pitiless.
Then everything happens at once. I see Mike shifting his shoulders, and at the same time I can see a muscle works its way across Tucker’s cheek as he clamps down hard, and I know he wants nothing more than to plant his fists into this guys face.
And the once light drizzle has now turned into a steady rain, slowly I'm drenched and I find myself shivering, my fingers digging into Tucker's back.
Almost simultaneously their fists are thrown at each other and I stagger back until I hit the grill of Tucker's truck with my back and the sheer horror of the moment spills another awful sound out of my mouth and once again I slap my hand over my open mouth while my eyes go wide.
Did anybody hear it too? My eyes search every face, but they all are fixed on the two guys throwing fists. The sound of knuckles hitting on skin and the unmistakeably crack of bones breaking lets me push forward. But before I get close to them I see the two other guys taking Tucker into a tight hold and Mike's fist swings a combination of hits at Tucker's stomach and one final blow to his head. Instantly the guys let go of Tucker and he stumbles on, takes a step and falls, his legs giving out.
Furies I lurch forward, badly shaking I push and claw at anything I can get my hands on. Only when there is another awful sound escaping my mouth somebody's fist lands on my head and the side of my head explodes in a burst of pain before everything goes dark.