Recovery, Relapse, Relationship (part 12)

(Continued from the last post. Click here to catch the whole story from the beginning.)

“Okay.” She nodded. “Why don’t you start at the beginning? What’s the first thing about your parents that comes to mind?”

So I told her about my father, how he used to tuck me into bed when I was a little girl, how he used to read to me, and how he always understood me and accepted me for who I was, unquestioningly and unconditionally. I didn’t get very far through before Ange was handing me the Kleenexes.

Then I told about my mother, how she explained to me the other kids in school, how she helped me get ready for my first date, how she helped me move into my first dorm at college, and all the other firsts she did for me that only a mother can do for a daughter.

“It sounds like you loved your parents very much,” Ange said. Loved, in the past tense. I had never told her about any of this, but she must have picked up on what was coming. “What happened?” she asked.

And so I took a deep breath, and I told her the story, the short version, because I don’t think I could have handled the long version just then, and even the short version was a big step forward for me.

“I was just finishing up my first year of college,” I explained. “I planned to go home over the summer to stay with my mom and dad. I was really looking forward to it. What I didn’t know was that they were coming to surprise me. But they never made it. They were driving along a curved part of the road, and the pickup truck coming the other way must have been driving too fast and swinging wide around the turn.” I shook my head. “They never had a chance.”

At that point, I didn’t know what to feel. Actually putting the story into words seemed just to make me numb.

“I found out,” I said, “when a policeman visited me at my dorm. It was finals week. I was packing for the trip home, planning to take the train. He told me my parents had been in a fatal accident and he needed me to identify the bodies.”

I had stopped crying.

“Have you ever told that story to anyone?” Ange asked.

I shook my head. “No,” I said.

“Why do you think that is?”

“I just didn’t want to think about it.”

“What does thinking about it remind you of?” she asked.

I shook my head again, this time in wonder of what they had done, all those years ago. “If they had just called me, I would have told them to stay home and let me take the train. They were going to surprise me. And I guess they did.” I stopped a beat. I was hurt and angry, angry at them, angry at me. “They made hotel reservations and everything. They probably planned to help me pack and everything. But damn it, why didn’t they just stay home?”

“So how to do feel about that?”

I couldn’t put my feelings into words. All I could say was: “They were coming to see me. Do you get that? Me. Damn it.”

“Damn what?” Ange asked, unemotionally. “Damn them? Or damn you?”

I froze for a moment, nausea rising through my heart. “Damn… both.”

I felt like spitting, to get the bitter taste of this awful conversation out of my mouth. It tasted like soap.

“I just have one more question for you to mull over,” Ange said. “You don’t have to answer. Just think about it. Is any of that Clydene’s fault?”

“No,” I said, answering the question anyway. “It isn’t.” Then I said, “I think I owe her an apology.” The words felt dirty, grainy in my mouth, but I knew them to be true. Sometimes, the truth is jagged to swallow and painful to learn.

(To be continued…)

This story is tangential to The Conscience of Abe’s Turn and takes place in the Abe’s Turn universe. If you enjoy this story, please also check out The Conscience of Abe’s Turn (the novel).

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