A Broken Heart Ch. 06bycellophanesmile©
Heidi quietly sat on the warm park bench, watching Fitz who was happily running around swings and going down slides. It had been two weeks since her wedding, a two weeks that Heidi could only describe as static.
Jake had been unfailingly pleasant and kind. He held her in his arms every night, though he kept true to his promise of not asking for anything more. What Heidi liked best about her new situation, though, was its affect on Fitz. He had always been a happy child, but he seemed to love being with his father, and Heidi loved seeing the two of them together.
Still, Heidi couldn't quite escape the subtle itch of melancholy she always felt lingering beneath the happy surface. This was probably due to the fact that she knew her new existence was temporary and tenuous. Her and Jake's problems weren't resolved, only pushed aside. She felt them, but she wondered if Jake did. He seemed all too happy with the current situation.
Jake tried really hard to give her everything his money could buy, and Heidi had to admit to herself that she didn't mind not having to buy all her and Fitz's clothes at second hand stores or the off brand foods at the supermarket. She enjoyed the luxury of new clothes shopping, but was still hesitant to spend too much of Jake's money. Though they were married, Heidi didn't really feel comfortable with the concept yet.
The only thing was, Heidi had nothing to fill her days with. She was just so used to working all the time, and going to school. Not that she would want to go back to her job waitressing, although she did miss Fran's constant company. She just felt that it was kind of a waste to spend all that time and energy getting her degree, and now she would never have the chance to use it.
Watching Fitz pop head first out of the long tube slide and tumble ungracefully to the ground before standing back up for another go, Heidi couldn't feel too disappointed. She loved the extra time she got to spend with her son.
Leaning back on the bench with the sun warming her face, she let her mind wander. If felt good not to think, to just relax. She watched the slide, waiting to see Fitz's little head pop out again, but it didn't come. Scanning the swings and the monkey bars, she realized that she couldn't see his little blonde head anywhere.
"Fitz!" she stood up and called, walking around the little playground. He wasn't there. She started to panic now. "Fitz!" she ran over to the parking lot, glancing between the cars. "Fitz!" she screamed again.
"Mommy," Heidi's heart lurched as she heard her son's voice. A wave of relief hit her as she turned in the direction it came from. Panic hit again though, just as quickly as it had gone, when she saw who Fitz was in the arms of.
"Get away from my son!" Heidi shouted, running to him and jerking him fiercely into her grasp. The balding man who had been holding her son looked around nervously at the curious eyes of the other parents.
"Really Heidi," his companion said with a light little laugh, "Don't start on all your little dramatics."
"It's okay," the man shouted to the people watching, "We're his grandparents." They reluctantly turned their heads away at this, thinking they had been caught staring at a family drama.
"You are not his grandfather," Heidi growled fiercely at the man she despised with all her breath, "And I never want to see you come anywhere near my son again." Heidi spat out each word.
"Heidi," her mother said chidingly, "Don't talk to Carl that way. Just because you are married now, doesn't give you an excuse to be rude. Speaking of which, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't invited to the wedding," her mother let her voice take on a sappy hurt quality that was just as face as her press on nails.
"Why would you be invited? We haven't spoken to each other in four years, too short a time if you ask me."
Her mother scoffed, "This child," she complained to her husband, "Always so disrespectful. I almost blame myself."
Carl was quick to comfort her. "It wasn't your fault, dear," he said as though Heidi wasn't even there, "Some children are just born bad."
Heidi started to walk away, she didn't know why they had come to look her up now, and she didn't care. Just so long as it was clear to them that she didn't want to see them ever again.
"Don't walk way from me," her mother told her, drawing Heidi to turn around. "Don't you even want to know why we're here?"
"No," Heidi said, walking to her car.
"What a nice car you have here," Carl commented, as she buckled her son into the back seat, "You've done really well for yourself."
Heidi glared angrily at him. "Stay away from me."
"Listen Heidi," her mother interjected, "The reason why we're here. Carl and I are a little low on cash right now, and since you seem to have so much..." she trailed off suggestively.
Heidi snorted disgustedly, "And why would I give you anything?"
"It's the least you could do," her mother said, "After I put up with you for all those years. I'm your mother, for Christ's sake, your own flesh and blood."
"You were no mother to me," Heidi said, but really just wanted to get out of there. Nothing she could say would make her mother feel guilty or sorry, it was no use even talking to her.
Heidi started to open the driver's door.
"Say goodbye to Fitzroy for me," Carl said. Heidi cringed at the sound of her son's names on this monster's lips. "Tell him I'll see him again really soon."
Heidi's face blanched. Was he threatening her son? It took all of Heidi's control not to start throwing punches at Carl's smug face. That wouldn't accomplish anything.
"What did you say?" Heidi's voice was carefully controlled, but lethal.
"Look," Carl negotiated, "All we are asking for is ten thousand dollars or so. I don't think that is unreasonable, considering the amount of money your new husband makes." He turned to his wife for confirmation, and she shook her head in agreement.
"Not unreasonable at all," she said.
"Ten thousand dollars?" Heidi stared at them like they were insane.
"You'll never hear from us again. I promise." Carl said.
Ten thousand dollars? Heidi thought. It wasn't something she could take from Jake and hope he didn't notice. She should just leave. These people had no control over her now and she didn't have to give them anything.
But was denying the money worth it? She knew Carl, knew he wouldn't let it rest. She could keep careful attention on Fitz, but what if he somehow got to him? It wasn't worth it. Money was nothing in comparison to her son's safety.
"Fine," Heidi growled. "Meet me here Monday, same time." She got in her car and started the ignition.
All she wanted to do was cry at the horror of it. She didn't want to give anything up to these people. She kept her emotions carefully in check though, for Fitz's sake.
"Who were they, mommy?" Fitz asked curiously.
"No one you have to worry about," Heidi reassured him as much as she reassured herself.
"How about some ice cream?" Heidi put as much enthusiasm in her voice as she could manage. She glanced in the rearview mirror to see her Fitz bounce excitedly.
"Yeah, yeah," he agreed.
"Okay, let's go."
"How was your day?" Jake asked, walking into the kitchen and kissing her carefully on the cheek.
"Fine," Heidi lied. She couldn't tell him. He would regret marrying her, regret taking a woman with so much baggage. She was reluctant to do anything that would change the peaceful atmosphere they had carefully constructed around themselves.
"Good." Jake sat down at the kitchen table.
"How was your day?" Heidi asked pleasantly, forcing herself to smile. He looked at her a little suspiciously, probably sensing her abused nerves, but didn't say anything.
"Fine, I'm going to have to go out of town for a couple of days." Heidi could sense him watching her intently, gauging her reaction.
"Oh really? When do you leave?" Heidi carefully injected mild curiosity into her voice. She didn't want him to see the sudden apprehension she felt at him leaving. She would miss him. And even more upsetting was her absurd notion that he was going to meet another woman.
She forced herself to stop being suspicious. It didn't mean anything. Not all business men had mistresses waiting for them when they went on business trips.
"Tomorrow. I'm flying out to Chicago."
Heidi nodded. "And when will you be back?"
"I'm only staying for a night or two, not too long."
"That's good," Heidi said pleasantly, concentrating on her dinner.
Jake was suddenly serious. "Is it, Heidi?" he asked huskily. "Are you going to miss me?"
Heidi's eyes jerked up to meet his. She wasn't used to the deep emotions she could see in his face, usually a face that was so carefully composed.
Before she could answer, though, Fitz spoke up, apparently just deciding to listen to the conversation.
"Daddy leaving?" he asked sadly.
Jake's voice was bright again. "Only for a few days," he assured his son. "I'll bring you back something from Chicago."
Fitz smiled happily, and went back to carefully picking at his food, getting as much on his face as he was in his mouth.
Jake didn't bring up the subject of his business trip to her again until that night when they were in bed. Heidi was pressed up against him, spoon style, and had his arm wrapped around waist.
"You never answered my question," he said carefully.
"Will you miss me?"
Heidi struggled for a moment, to open up and allow herself to be vulnerable. "I'll miss you," she said sincerely.
Jake pulled her more tightly against him. "I'll miss you, too."
"Heidi!" Fran greeted her happily at her front door. "Come in, come in," she pulled Heidi and Fitz into her front hall. "It's been so long since I've seen you."
"I know," Heidi set Fitz on his feet and gave Fran a hug. "It's weird not seeing you everyday."
Fitz happily took off to find his playmate. "Come sit down for a minute, tell me all about married life," Fran said enthusiastically.
Heidi laughed. "I really can't stay, I have someone I need to meet."
Fran nodded, "Well, you have to promise me that we'll catch up another time."
"I promise," Heidi agreed and walked for the door.
"Oh, and another thing," Fran mentioned, "Ben stopped by the restaurant the other day. He looked kind of sad, said he hadn't seen you in a while."
Heidi nodded guiltily. She did miss Ben, too. "Don't forget about your friends now, just because you're married," Fran nudged her playfully.
"I know, I feel terrible." Heidi said, "I'll stop by and see him soon."
"You know, I always thought you two kids would end up getting together," Fran said wistfully.
Heidi looked surprised. "Ben? No, we were always just friends," she denied.
Fran looked as though she knew something Heidi didn't, but she didn't say anything else about it. "I'll see you soon," she said as Heidi walked out of the door.
"Bye," Heidi called and walked to her car.
Her happiness at seeing her friend quickly left her when she was finally faced with what she had to do today. See her mother and Carl. She didn't want them anywhere near Fitz again, so had asked Fran to baby-sit for her.
She felt herself getting tense, but tired to herself by saying she would just drop off the check, she didn't have to speak to them at all. Then it would all be over.
"Thank you," her mother had the temerity to say when Heidi gave her the money, "I knew you would do the right thing."
The smug look on Carl's face made the bile rise in Heidi's throat. She climbed back into her car. She wanted to tell them one more biting comment about staying away from her and Fitz, but she wasn't sure if she would be able to get the words out. She thought she had escaped their control, but here she was, giving them money.
The whole thing only took a few minutes. She couldn't go pick up Fitz yet, not without facing Fran's questions about why she hadn't been gone more than twenty minutes. And she didn't want to go home. She drove and drove without really having anywhere to go. She didn't pull over, because she knew if she did, she would start to cry, and she wouldn't let herself do that. Not because of them.
Finally deciding that she really did need to pay Ben a visit, she drove over to her old apartment building. The place was familiar and oddly comforting.
She wasn't sure if Ben would be home, but he was. "Heidi," he greeted, seemingly happy to see her. "What a surprise."
"Well, I was in the neighborhood," Heidi gave the age old excuse.
"I'm glad you're here," Ben said warmly, "Come in." He stepped back and gave her room to come into his apartment.
"How are things with you?" he asked when Heidi sat down on his couch. It was so familiar; the only thing missing was Fitzroy playing under Ben's coffee table.
"Good," Heidi generalized. "How are things with you?"
"The same as always," Ben answered, "It's your life that's changed, so I'm afraid that you're going to have to do the talking," he admonished.
Heidi sighed. "There really isn't that much to tell. Married life, you know," she let the statement hang.
Ben scooted closer to her on the couch and took her hand in his. It reminded Heidi of Fran's knowing look at the doorway, but she quickly dismissed it. Ben was just being friendly. "I haven't had a chance to talk to you since that night." Heidi knew the one he was referring to. "You said it was over, but the next thing I know, you're engaged."
Heidi laughed if off casually. "Just a misunderstanding," she said, "A lovers' squabble."
Ben scowled and dropped her hand. "So things are going well between you?"
Heidi hesitated for a brief second, but Ben seemed to catch it.
"Something's wrong, isn't it?" he guessed, "I thought I saw it at the wedding. The briefest flicker of doubt in your eyes."
Heidi looked away.
"You can tell me Heidi," Ben promised, "Look how long we've been friends. You can trust me."
Heidi looked back at him and her eyes were pained. "Let's talk about something else," she begged. She had had enough of dealing with her emotions for one day. She just wanted a pleasant distraction, and Ben was usually that for her.
Ben seemed to sense Heidi's discomfort and he quickly agreed. "What do you want to talk about?"
Heidi shrugged. "Has someone moved into my apartment yet?"
Ben grinned, "The nastiest old couple that ever lived. You know the Satanists from Rosemary's baby..."
"What did they do?"
"They didn't do anything. It's just that when they are around other people, they are creepily nice, although they always seem to be torturing each other somehow. All the children are terrified of them," he shrugged, "They're just creepy."
"Oh, that's too bad. I would have wanted to see how the new people decorated my place, but now I'd be afraid to ask."
"Don't be!" Ben got a sly grin on his face, "We'll go ask now."
"I don't want to. Forget I said anything."
"Too late," Ben said, pulling her up from her spot on the couch.
"It's really okay," Heidi protested, waving her hand dismissively.
"We're going over there." Ben said, the final word. He tugged Heidi the short distance to the neighbor's apartment.
"Hello Mrs. Krantz," Ben said loudly to the little old lady who opened the door. Her back was hunched over and curly white hair sat like a mop atop her head, an old shawl was wrapped around her thin shoulders.
"Oh, hello there young man," Mrs. Krantz said, "Come in. And who is this you have with you?"
"This is Heidi," Ben introduced her, "She used to live here."
"Oh how wonderful," Mrs. Krantz clapped her hands once.
If Heidi hadn't been sure this was her place, she would never have guessed it. It looked completely different. The old woman had painted the walls a pale pink, and there were pictures of cats hanging everywhere, as well as thousands of needlepoint pillows.
"What's going on?" an old man walked into the room, Mr. Krantz, Heidi guessed. He was the prefect picture of the cantankerous get-off-my-lawn neighbor. He wore a green sweater over his frail shoulders, and his fingers were long on his wrinkled hands. "Oh, company," his scratchy voice sounded a bit friendlier.
"This is the girl who used to live here," she pointed at her husband.
"Ah ha," was his reply.
Mrs. Krantz turned back to her guests, "We were just about to have some soup. Would you two like to stay for soup?"
"Sorry, but we just ate," Ben made a quick excuse. "Heidi just wanted to stop by and see what you've done with her old place."
"It's extremely lovely," Heidi said warmly, "I love your cat paintings."
"Oh yes, yes," the woman agreed, proudly.
"Oh, you like those?" Mr. Krantz said. "Go ahead and take one."
Heidi looked surprised, but quickly refused. "Oh no, I couldn't," she held up her hands and shook them in refusal.
"Don't be silly, doll," the man insisted, "Take a painting." He reached over to the nearest painting, one hanging right next to his head, and simply plucked it off the wall. It was one of a Siamese cat, its staring black eyes as dark as the background around it.
"Here," he tried to hand it to her.
"No, no," Heidi said desperately, "I couldn't."
Mrs. Krantz looked a little upset that her husband was giving away her paintings. "She doesn't want it," she protested to her husband.
"Don't be silly," Mr. Krantz denied, "The girl likes the painting. Give her the painting," he forced it into Heidi's hands.
Mrs. Krantz looked a little desperate for a moment, but she finally agreed. "Yes," she said, dejectedly, "Take the painting."
Heidi looked at her guiltily, not knowing how to refuse. "Thank you," she said.
"Yes, yes, go, go," Mrs. Krantz said, ushering them to the door. Heidi suspected she wanted to get them out of there before Mr. Krantz tried to give away another of her pictures.
Ben burst out laughing as soon as they were out the door. He looked at the large picture in Heidi's arms, and started laughing again.
Heidi shook her head, but couldn't help from grinning at his infectious laughter.
"Well, they seemed nice enough. Though I see what you mean about torturing each other," Heidi held up her painting. Ben laughed happily.
They were back in his apartment now, and Heidi set the Siamese cat picture by the door. She turned around and Ben was hunched over. "Would you like to stay for some soup?" he asked in a perfect imitation of the old woman's voice. Heidi burst out laughing.
She stayed at Ben's place for a couple more hours, effectively forgetting all her worries.