1,001 Nights: Day 03bysensualwriter©
Sara puttered around the apartment Sunday morning, drinking coffee, listening to some mellow tunes, watching a little television with the volume low. She had been dressed and ready to go at seven-thirty. She wore a mid-calf length black dress with short sleeves and a scoop neck. Crocheted insets circled three tiered seams. She had four inch black pumps on, and her only jewelry was tiny opal earrings. Her dress, shoes and jewelry were more conservative than her normal attire. She was half waiting for Rebecca to wake up, and half avoiding the visit to her mother. For the last four years, Rebecca had always gone with her, the supportive best friend. She wasn't sure she could bear the visit alone. In fact, the very thought of it filled her with anxiety.
Just as Sara was getting antsy, Rebecca came out of her room. She wore a short, pink silken robe tied loosely at her waist. Her hair was a mess, brown curls jumbled all about her head. She walked past Sara without saying a word, without even looking in her direction, and shuffled into the kitchen, her bare feet slapping on the linoleum as she prepared a cup of coffee.
Sara didn't know what to say. Rebecca seemed to be ignoring her, which could mean almost anything. Should I apologize? I don't even know specifically what set her off. Sara stared distractedly at the television, not even aware of the infomercial touting the benefits of some new exercise equipment. Should I just ask if she'll go with me? Pretend like nothing happened? If I apologize, it might set her off again. Then again, if I ignore it, that might set her off as well... She hated when Rebecca got like this.
Rebecca came back into the living room, her laptop in one hand, a giant mug of coffee in the other. She sat at the far end of the couch, powering up her laptop and setting the coffee on a wooden coaster. She continued to ignore Sara, acting as if she were the only person in the room. The laptop beeped, and she moved the cursor around the screen and began typing short bursts of text. Sara decided to break the silence.
"Rebecca, I..." she began, but was instantly interrupted.
"I'll jump in the shower quick and go with you to visit your mother, just let me check my email first." Rebecca didn't look in her direction, and the tone of her voice foreshadowed an argument if Sara didn't agree.
"Ok," Sara said. She was staring at Rebecca, wishing she would turn her head, wishing she would look at her, anything to get a feel for her mood.
Rebecca, typed for a couple minutes, responding to messages Sara couldn't see from where she sat. Finally, she flipped the laptop closed, stood, and walked into the bathroom between their bedrooms. She still hadn't looked at Sara, and without seeing her eyes, Rebecca was a difficult woman to decipher.
Sara spent a half hour picking up around the apartment, washing the few dirty dishes, stacking magazines under the coffee table, straightening the dish towels on their rack, anything to keep her mind off of Rebecca and the upcoming visit to her mother. When she heard the shower turn off, she finally gave up and sat on the couch. Practicing breathing techniques she learned in yoga and meditation classes, she tried to bring her turbulent thoughts to rest, centering herself. She was just getting into her comfort zone, starting to block out the riotous noise inside her head, when Rebecca came out of her room.
She wore a red, pink and black floral print sundress that stopped just below her knees and red wedge sandals. Long, silver earrings dangled from her lobes, a complex silver necklace adorned her neckline. Her make up was dark, as always. Heavy mascara and eyeliner, dark eye shadow, dark red lips, combined with her dark, loosely curled hair, the contrast to her pale skin was striking. But the thing that struck Sara immediately was the gigantic, friendly smile that spread across her features. She practically beamed as she crossed the room and stood before Sara.
"Ready?" The bubbly, expectant tone in Rebecca's voice was even more unnerving after two days of the cold shoulder.
"Yeah," Sara said, standing. She grabbed her purse from the coffee table, the faced Rebecca. "Are we ok?"
Rebecca laughed, she actually laughed, the sound like music to Sara's ears. "I can't stay mad at you." Unexpectedly she pulled Sara towards her and hugged her. "You're my best friend."
Sara returned the hug, bewildered. Whatever reaction she had expected from Rebecca, this was not it. Jesus, maybe she's bipolar, she thought as the embrace ended. They headed out together to visit Sara's mother, the tension of the past two days replaced by something less worrisome, but still disturbing.
. . .
Mary Alice Zaad Beloved Wife and Mother 1953 - 1993
Sara stood before her mothers' headstone, arms straight at her sides, the flowers all but forgotten as they dipped towards the ground, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. Immediately to the left was her fathers' headstone, and off to the right, her brother. Within the eighty-one square feet directly in front of her lay her immediate family. They were right in front of her yet the distance between them was immeasurable, eternal.
She came here every year on Mother's Day, Father's Day, and on each of their birthdays. It was her way of immersing herself in the truth, her grounding in the reality that they were gone and had been gone for years, that she would never again see them, talk to them, embrace them. It was her reminder that she was alone in this world. It was her way to request their forgiveness, to atone for her role in their deaths. It was her penance.
She blamed herself for their deaths; she always had, no matter how often countless family friends and distant relatives had assured her it wasn't her fault. If she hadn't begged to drive her uncle's new Porsche home from the restaurant, fearless in her eighteen-year-old immortality, forcing her cousin Jen to ride with her family, if she had taken the highway instead of the twisting turns of Lake Road at high speed, her father trying desperately to keep up in the gigantic old Chevy Caprice, if she hadn't sped up, if she had allowed her father to catch up, the timing would have been different, the oncoming truck would have already passed the turn, they wouldn't have been in the same place at the same time, the boxy Chevy no match for four tons of moving truck.
She remembered the sound more than anything else. It still haunted her dreams, twelve years later. The shock of impact like an explosion, the horrible crunching of metal on metal as she looked in the review mirror and saw her fathers' car, the front end mangled, launched sideways through the guardrail and into the tops of the trees, crashing down, down through the trunks, branches sheared off, landing unseen below her line of sight. She didn't remember stopping or running from the car. She didn't remember sliding down the hill in her summer dress, or the fall that tore a gash in her head. She didn't remember anything until she was looking down the last twenty feet of leaf-strewn valley at the mangled wreckage, parts of the car twisted in a confused jumble, almost unrecognizable.
She had a vague recollection of her uncle racing past her, slamming into the side of the car, tugging at the door with all his might, reaching through the open window, trying desperately to reach his brother, his daughter. She was frozen, incapable of going any further as she saw the flames leap up from beneath the engine compartment. She moved then, in slow motion, closer to the car, walking in a dream, reality must be far from all this devastation; the sight before her was impossible, unreal. She reached the drivers' side, her uncle straining through broken glass, pulling at the seatbelts, and saw her brothers' face through the backseat window.
Blood. So much blood. His face was covered in it, it ran down his neck, saturated his shirt. His neck... his neck was twisted at an impossible angle, his head lolled back, mouth agape, eyes open wide, blood flowing freely into them. She had covered her mouth with her hand as it hung open in horror, shock taking over her system, and she screamed.
A single scream, an unending scream that had lasted for seconds, hours, days. She was still screaming, or was she sobbing, after her uncle had forcibly dragged her from the scene, after the paramedics arrived, after she had been bundled in a scratchy blanket and huddled within an ambulance. Exhaustion or drugs had kicked in then, she wasn't sure which, and she had slept. She awoke in the hospital, her head bandaged against the gash she had received falling down the hill. She thought it had all been a dream, had tried to piece together the shattered fragments of her memory until she remembered her brothers' face and the blood, and she had screamed again, an unrelenting shriek of loss and horror.
After days in the hospital, she was released into her uncle's care. Her only surviving immediate relative, she had allowed him to take her to his house, had hidden in the guest room, unable to sleep in her cousins' bed. The arrangements were made, the funerals held together on a beautiful sunny day that she would despise forever. She had buried her family that day, had buried her past, her life, her ability to love. Her uncle had cried when his daughter was lowered into the ground two rows beyond Sara's entire family.
She couldn't cry. Tears wouldn't come. She had cried everything she had in the days preceding the burial, was drained of every emotion, and bereft of any ability to feel. Numb, she watched the caskets lowered into the ground, had stood immobile as the guests departed, had stared mindlessly at the three holes in the ground, empty, her heart and soul a vacuum.
Anesthetized days passed into weeks, then into months. She had dropped out of college, hid within the confines of the family house. Most days she stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling, red-rimmed eyes seeing nothing, sleeping when sleep would come, lying motionless when it wouldn't, the burden of guilt too heavy to allow her to rise.
Sometimes she wandered the house, everything in it reminding her of her family, her loss. Every time a thought of any one of them arose in her mind she wallowed in her responsibility for their untimely deaths. She would come to her senses in front of the piano, staring at her parents wedding picture, or holding her brothers' graduation picture to her chest, slumped on the floor in the hall as tears streamed down her face. She would find herself on the floor in the doorway to her parents bedroom, having collapsed there, unable to enter, a trespasser in her own home, unfit to tread the floor of the room they had shared.
It had taken her nearly a year to find the momentum to move on with her life. Friends and distant relatives had phoned, called on her, stopped by on random days to check in. She had finally closed up the house, had moved into an apartment to distance herself from the painful memories. Her fathers' accountant had taken on the responsibility of the financial affairs; she left him to it. His constant suggestions to sell the estate were rejected; she couldn't bring herself to wholesale her history, her memories. She had moved on, but couldn't let go. Her grief waned, but never died. Guilt kept her tied inexorably to the past.
Sara felt a hand upon her shoulder. Rebecca had moved closer and now began rubbing her back lightly, the small circular motion reassuring, her presence comforting. She remembered the flowers in her hand, and lifted them to her face, inhaling their weak aroma. Blinking back tears, pulling herself from her reverie, she knelt before the grave and placed the flowers on the grass before her mothers' headstone.
She remained on her knees for a moment, her mind filled with brief flashes of her mothers' smile, the kind look her eyes had always held, and then the harsh words Sara had directed at her. In hindsight, she knew that her parents had nothing but the best intentions in everything they did for her, but her rebellious nature and the teenaged certainty that she knew everything had put her at odds with her mother on an almost daily basis. She had purposely done everything in direct opposition to her parents' wishes, and only years later did she understand the truth; that their vigilance and restrictions came from their boundless love for her.
The fact that she could never apologize for her behavior, that she could never tell her parents that they were right, that she had fought so hard against their wishes and could never make it up to them only added to her guilt. What she had learned in the years following their deaths, what life and experience had taught her, how right they were, she would never be able to tell them to their faces. She would never be able to ask forgiveness for her childish rebellion, for the unforgivable errors in judgment, for what she had put them through for years as a teen.
She stood and took a step back, brushing against Rebecca as she moved. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with feelings. She turned to Rebecca, wrapping her arms around her, clinging to her like a shipwrecked sailor clutching a life preserver, as the storm of turbulent emotions brought great, wracking sobs from deep within her being. Rebecca held her, her embrace warm and reassuring, comforting in its familiarity. She buried her face in Rebecca's chest, her body shaking with grief. Rebecca held her, rubbed her back, said nothing but conveyed everything, her ever-supportive best friend.
They stood for a long time like that, until Sara's grief ran its' course. She raised her head from Rebecca's shoulder and wiped her eyes. They moved half a step apart, Rebecca taking Sara's had in hers and giving a firm, heartening squeeze. They walked back to the car, and Rebecca drove home.
. . .
Sara was in a haze for the rest of the day; she never quite recovered from her visits to her family's graves, always remaining withdrawn and quiet. She sat with her legs pulled tight against her body on the couch, arms crossed under her breasts, head bowed, floundering in her own private world of misery.
Rebecca sat opposite her in the oversized chair, watching her over the top of her laptop screen, hoping she was alright. She knew most of the details; she had heard the story before, a night of too many tears and tissues, and empathized with her friend, but couldn't completely understand her overwhelming guilt, the punishment she heaped upon herself, the blame she placed squarely on her own shoulders. She was worried about Sara. After twelve years, the pain was still as immediate as if it had been yesterday. Something within wouldn't allow her to move past the guilt, the grief, wouldn't allow her to move on to a normal life.
Rebecca wished there were something she could do, something she could say to ease the pain, to lessen the guilt, but she knew there was nothing. Sara had to get past this on her own, in her own time. It was as if she was waiting for some event, as if some unknown milestone lay before her, beyond which she could finally find peace, finally put it all behind her and move on with her life. But watching her like this, year after year with no progress, Rebecca still strove to find a way to alleviate the guilt complex Sara built around herself.
They sat like that for hours, Sara wrapped in her own thoughts, Rebecca pretending to read something on the bright screen of her laptop while concern for friend caused an internal battle, the desire to say something, anything to break Sara from her trance warring with a friends' instinct to remain silent and give space when space was needed. Just as Rebecca decided to say something, Sara's head jerked, her eyes lost their glaze, and she seemed to snap back to reality. She looked about as if seeing her living room for the first time, noticed the slanting rays of the setting sun angling through the window, dust swirling through the shafts of light before they struck the coffee table, casting bright yellow lines across the glass surface. Her arms relaxed, hands sliding down into her lap. She stretched her legs out in front of her and rose from the couch.
On her way to her bedroom, Sara grasped Rebecca's shoulder and gave a small squeeze. Rebecca looked up and was met with a sad smile. Sara's lips scarcely curled into the tiniest of smiles and her eyes betrayed all the sorrow within her. She let her hand fall to her side and walked into her bedroom, pushing the door closed behind her. It swung closed, but didn't latch. She ignored it and lay down on the bed, curling up on her side at the edge of the bed. Rebecca sat for another moment, trying to decide if she could help her friend in any way. Finally, she chose to take action, rising from the chair and pushing Sara's bedroom door slowly open. She saw Sara on the far side of the bed facing away from her, curled almost into a fetal position. Silently, she padded across the room, stockinged feet soundless on the thick carpet. She stood at the foot of the bed for long moments, various options racing through her head, until she fixed on comforting Sara to the best of her ability.
Rebecca climbed into the bed and curled up next to Sara, lining up their bodies against each other, matching the curve of her legs to that of Sara's, her pelvis against Sara's butt, breasts pressed into Sara's back. She placed one hand on Sara's shoulder, her skin white against Sara's tan, and rubbed lightly, soothingly. After a moment, Sara placed her hand over Rebecca's, stopping the movement up and down her arm. Her hand was cold, and Rebecca entwined her fingers between Sara's until they were locked together.
Rebecca leaned up on one elbow, glancing down at Sara beside her. Sara's head turned, looking up at Rebecca and their eyes locked. Feelings flowed wordlessly from one to the other, thoughts traveling like a beam from one mind to another. Without words, they shared everything with that one, long look. Rebecca pulled Sara's hand softly to her mouth and placed a gentle kiss on her fingertip. She kissed each finger, one after the other and felt Sara stir next to her.
Rebecca let Sara's hand drop, moving her own hand down Sara's arm, running fingertips over her ribcage, her touch near weightless through the thin fabric of the dress as she traced her fingers over Sara's body. Rebecca's ruby nails sketched a line down Sara's leg, then back up, over her stomach, up her ribcage, under and around her breasts, over her collarbone. Sara leaned back into Rebecca as she was caressed, feeling a tingling warmth inside her. Rebecca leaned over, shifting her weight onto her knees, both hands now working their way over Sara's body.
Sara was becoming aroused, feelings stirring deep within her, desire rising. Rebecca's fingers were like a magnet, pulling sensations to the surface of her skin with every touch. Her clothing seemed suddenly restrictive, heavy, a barrier between her and what she wanted, and she couldn't remove it fast enough. She sat up, wriggling her dress from under her, pulling it up over her head, tossing it on the floor beside the bed where it lay in a crumpled heap. She reached for Rebecca, pulling at the wait of her dress, wanting to feel the warmth of her pale skin against her body. She lifted the dress off over Rebecca's head and let it fall to the floor as well.
They stared at each other as they say on the bed. Sara leaned back on her elbows, legs together, knees bent slightly. Her blonde hair draped over one shoulder, partially hiding the black lace of her bra, her tiny panties barely concealing her. Rebecca knelt before her, the bra and panties she wore almost the same white as her fair skin. Her dark hair cascaded down her back, over her shoulders, curling around her face, framing her beautiful features.