"This is a very nice office you have here."
"I definitely prefer it to the hospital. It's more relaxing."
"That is always a bonus. What would you like to talk about today?"
"I don't really know. It's been nice not to have to focus so much on me lately, you know?"
"How about we discuss the night you spent in the hospital--the phone call you got?"
"You're clenching your fists. Is that out of fear or anger?"
"Oh, anger, definitely. I couldn't believe he did that to Amie."
"Amie is...your youngest sister?"
"Yes, she's seventeen. We always called her 'mom's little surprise' since she was born on Mom's fortieth birthday."
"I think we should discuss the phone call, since it has direct ties to the current goings-on in your life."
"Oh, all right. I guess it's no good trying to pretend it never happened, is it?"
"It's also not healthy for you, Andrea."
"I know. Well, it was two a.m., and I had fallen asleep for the first time soundly in over a month..."
The phone was buzzing, jarring me out of a deep sleep. I reached over and picked it up, trying to figure out where I was, as the surroundings took on an ethereal glow in the light of the hall trickling from under the door. The unfamilar shape of the phone, coupled with the recliner-like bed, reminded me. The hospital. I brought the phone gingerly to my ear, being careful not to disturb the bandages holding my broken nose in place.
"Andy?" It was Amie, her voice soft and breathy.
"Amie, what's wrong? Where are you?"
"I'm downstairs with Mom." I sat straight up in bed, the bandages on my nose forgotten. "She's fine, but can you come down here?"
I realized that she was not breathless from fear; she was trying not to cry. I struggled out of bed on to the linoleum floor, fumbling with my pajamas and robe.
"I'll be down in a minute, Amie. Relax, okay?"
"Umm-hmm." A small hiccup escaped her as she hung up, and I knew it was bad, whatever it was. Bonne Amie, we always called her, because she was everyone's sweetheart; talented, sweet, incredibly smart, and beautiful. It was impossible to hate her, even harder to make her upset because she saw the good in everything. She was the eternal optimist to my pessimist, and for her to be on the verge of tears was worrying.
I reached Mom's room and saw that all my family was there, speaking with a police officer. Amie was sitting on the chair in the corner, her heart-shaped face streaked with tears. Mom was reclining in bed, eyes half-mast, as the officer talked to Dad. She was holding his left hand in hers, her right twitching nervously on the coverlet. Alyssa and April were leaving, and each one hugged me tightly as they left the room, April's eyes growing round at the sight of my face and my belly. Amie saw me enter the room and rushed over to me, heedless of my size, throwing her arms around my neck.
"He-he was so angry with me, Andy. I-I didn't know what to do, so I called Dad and he told me to come here." Her tears fell hot on my shoulder, wetting the thin cotton nightgown. I wrapped my arms around her small frame, rocking back and forth. I didn't have to ask who "he" was.
"When did he show up, Amie?"
"About eleven-thirty. I had just gotten home from seeing a movie with Jessica, and he was waiting at the front door. He looked tired, so I asked if he wanted to come in for some cocoa." She paused and straightened up to look at me, the room silent. Amie gasped when she saw my face, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes. "Oh, no, Andy, I'm so sorry!"
"Shh, don't cry. I'm fine. Take a deep breath. What happened?" I saw the officer taking copious notes out of the corner of my eye, and suspected he had been waiting for me to arrive.
"He came inside and I made some water for cocoa. I told him you were staying at Alyssa's and he said he knew, he had seen you. He made small talk while I made the cocoa, then he asked me if he could see your old room."
"Did you take him?"
"Well, not at first. I asked him why, and he said you had left something for him in there from before that he was supposed to get. I hadn't checked my cell phone yet, so I didn't know what happened at Alyssa's, and it seemed normal."
I nodded. When we were younger, we had a hiding spot for letters, trinkets, etc., in each other's room. When one of us would go on vacation or would be ill for a few days, we would leave stuff in our rooms for the other person to find. His was an old cigar box hidden under his dresser, mine was a little miniature hope chest under the floorboards of my dollhouse.
"So, he checked my dollhouse floorboard?" I prompted. Amie was on the verge of tears again.
"No, he didn't. He wandered into your room and sat on your bed. It was then I realized he looked different--there was something dried all over his shirt, and he...well, he smelled bad. So I asked him to leave and he got mad."
Amie's face started to buckle, her eyes twisting into small knots. "He threw your porcelain clock threw the window and smacked me twice across the face. Then he ran out of the room-" She dissolved into tears and buried her face in my shoulder. I sat there, swaying gently, as the officer met my eyes. He nodded once, his face set and concerned.
"We'll have someone drive by the house," he said, and spoke spoftly into the speaker clipped to his lapel. I patted Amie on the back as her sobs subsided, her hiccups more pronounced.
"He was so mad, Andy. Why is he so mad? What did I do?"
"It's not what you did, it's what I did. What we did." I stroked my distended abdomen, the inhabitants now stirring. Amie and I sat down on the small couch, her flushed cheek settling on my belly as her niece and nephew tumbled and kicked. The officer left the room, Dad in tow, and the three of us sat quietly, waiting. I rubbed Amie's back, and her breathing slowed until I could tell she was sleeping, snuffling like she did when she was still little. Mom had also fallen asleep and I closed my eyes, grateful for the peace and quiet in the room.
Our peace was short-lived. Dad came back into the room, his hair twisted into spikes. I slid out from Amie with little grace, settling her more comfortably on the little sofa. I lumbered out into the hall after Dad, his eyes set and angry.
"He's completely destroyed your room, Andy. The walls have been punched full of holes, your belongings all broken or ruined, there's huge burned patches in the carpet, even all the linens have been covered in bleach. It's a complete wreck. The police are looking for him, but they told us not to hold our breath."
"He didn't do anything else to the rest of the house, did he?"
"No, just your room, but it's going to need to be completely gutted. I'm so sorry, kiddo." Unable to restrain myself, I began to cry for my childhood room, and for my parents. The didn't need this right now, not with Mom so sick. Dad put his arms around my shoulders, rocking me as I had done with Amie a few short minutes ago. "It's not your fault, Andy, honey, it's okay," he kept saying, over and over like a mantra.
I knew it was, though. Devon was taking this out on me, on my family; he was trying to scare me into doing what he wanted, and it was working. I looked up at my Dad, and tried to smile. I couldn't let Dad know how much I blamed myself; I couldn't burden him with my selfishness.
Then, an alarm went off and a trio of nurses came pelting down the hall to my mom's room.
"I'm sorry, I have to stop there. I can't do this today."
"That's fine, I understand. Devon's reaction still surprises you, though."
"It does. I never imagined he would get so violent--before, his anger was always verbal, never physical. But, then again, he was off his meds a lot longer this time around."
"And your sister?"
"She was a bit shaken up, but she understood. She was more afraid I'd be upset with her, as stupid as that sounds."
"I'd like to explore the rest of this night next week. Can you prepare yourself before then?"
"I think so. I hope so, anyway."
"Good. We'll see you then--same time."
10 September 2008
"This is a very nice office you have here."