Gabriella Ch. 07bysoular©
"What is she talking about?" Patricia asked. She waited for an answer as Simon threw the car in gear. The veins in his arms bulged and he was gripping the steering wheel so hard, his knuckles had drained of color. But it was his silence and the deliberate way he kept his eyes averted that had her stomach in knots.
"Simon, what is she talking about?"
When they rolled up beside Ella, he still hadn't given her an answer. Her daughter continued to walk, albeit stagger down the street. Patricia looked away from the troubling scene. "Simon, what did—"
"Can I please focus on getting her back into the car?" he snapped.
Patricia turned to the window, surprised that he had taken that tone with her. But she remained quiet.
He sighed heavily before he jerked the car to a halt and rushed out. The headlights lit up the path to Ella as Simon quickly approached her. Patricia couldn't hear what was being said, but Simon pointed back to the car. Ella walked off but Simon grabbed her arm and pulled her back. She swung her free hand at Simon's face. Patricia gasped with shock as he caught Ella's wrist in time and turned their bodies so his back faced the car and Ella was no longer visible.
Their body language filled Patricia with a strange sense of déjà vu as the scene played in front of her. She'd witnessed this heated standoff before when her parents fought.
She climbed out the car. Her breath made clouds in the night air. With every step she took towards them, she wondered what she could do to diffuse the situation. Standing around and doing nothing didn't seem like an option this time, especially after everything that had happened tonight.
She made out Ella's heels in the space between Simon's feet but before she got any closer, he turned away and was walking back.
"Is she okay?" Patricia asked as he passed her.
"Yeah." He got in the car and slammed the door.
Patricia waited while her daughter stood in the distance. Ella wiped a hand over her eyes before she approached the car. When she passed Patricia, she didn't look at her. Instead, she got into the car without another word.
A few words from Simon and everything was okay again. Patricia tried to feel grateful but she couldn't, not when Ella made it crystal clear that she gave Simon a different level of respect than she did her own mother.
The short ride back was quiet as a million thoughts swirled through Patricia's head. Ella lay balled up in the backseat with her eyes closed and head leaning against the window. For a moment, she resembled her twelve-year-old-self on the way to school. But that image dissolved when they pulled into the driveway and Ella stumbled out of the car. She fell to her knees, grabbing handfuls of grass while she vomited.
"Goddamn it," Simon mumbled, jerking off his seatbelt. He turned to Patricia. "I'm sorry."
Patricia hurried to Ella's side and pulled her hair back. Simon knelt down on the grass and rubbed her back. She groaned as her body swayed and fell against him. She mumbled something before Simon hoisted her into his arms like a rag doll.
Patricia opened the door and once inside, Simon moved down the hallway, Ella's hair dangling over the side of his arm. Neither said a word as he pushed her door open and disappeared through. Patricia waited by the door, feeling more and more like a stranger in her own home.
When Simon emerged, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead. "I'm going to take a quick shower before bed, okay?"
She nodded into his chest before he released her.
Patricia sat on their bed and listened to the water run. She replayed the last two hours, trying to make sense of it all. Something was missing. Ella seemed fine before the movie. What happened? Why did she do these things?
Simon came out of the bathroom and quickly pulled on his boxers before he sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Why do I feel like I don't know what just happened?" Everything seemed like a distorted version of reality. Even the way they faced away from each other like distant bookends felt odd.
He sighed. "You were there, Patricia. You know what happened."
She stared at his back. "But why was she so upset? Did you two have a fight that I don't know about?"
"Is there ever a time we're not fighting?"
Patricia massaged her temples. "I know. But she was upset about something specific."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "A week ago we had a big blow up. She's been pissed at me ever since."
"Are you purposely being as vague as possible with me?"
"No," he answered as he lay back. "But I'm tired and need to get to sleep. I was in the bed before this whole thing started tonight, remember?"
"I just feel like I don't have any control over anything. I don't know why my daughter decided to get drunk tonight. I don't know why she's mad at you and no one will give me a straight answer."
"Patricia, honey, it's two in the morning. I'm worn out. Gabriella and I fight every other day. You know that."
"I know, but I've never seen her lose control like that. It scared me."
Simon reached for her hand. "I know honey and I'm sorry. But this isn't anything new for me."
"And see, that's what makes me feel this big," she said, indicating a small amount with her fingers. She rested her head on his chest. "I feel like things are getting worse, when they should be getting better." She looked at him. "They were for a while, weren't they?"
Simon paused a moment before answering. "I guess." He turned off the lamp. The sudden quiet was a stark contrast from the ruckus earlier that night. But in Patricia's mind the fight hadn't ended.
"Simon, what did you two argue about a week ago?"
"Patricia, can we please go to sleep?"
"I don't remember. They all blend together after a while."
Patricia lifted her head and stared down at him, her eyes already adjusting to the darkness and shadows. "Last time I saw her that mad at you was when you called her a slut."
"Patri—I never—" He closed his eyes and his nose flared. She wasn't used to seeing him so irritated, but when he opened them again, he spoke calmly. "I didn't call her a slut. I said she was dressed like one."
"True. But maybe you shouldn't have used that word at all."
He exhaled and placed his arm over his face. "You're right, I shouldn't have said it, but I've already apologized to her for that."
He rolled over on his side to end the conversation.
Patricia thought back on that night, wishing she had spoken up. Ella's usual poker face had shifted, revealing how hurt she was by his words.
"Fuck you!" she had yelled back at him before slamming her door and ending the battle started by her risqué attire. But Simon won the war by taking her door off the hinges for a week for her slamming it one time too many in his face.
Patricia was always stuck in the middle of this constant push and pull between her husband and daughter. Both refused to give an inch while she watched on helplessly. If she sided with Simon, then Ella accused them of ganging up on her. If she sided with Ella, then Simon would say, "That's why Gabriella is the way she is." She was always left trapped in a lose-lose situation no matter what.
When they married, Patricia questioned whether to turn over full disciplinary reigns to Simon. She didn't want to be one of those mothers who let anyone punish their child, but she was usually too worn down from work by the time she got home to deal with any more problems. And because she had never taken an authoritative stance before, Ella hardly paid her any attention when she did try to enforce rules.
So she let Simon take over and at first, it seemed to work. Ella stopped skipping class and graduated from high school and even entered college, which was a subject they had never broached before. For the most part, things ran smoother after Simon arrived. Even with the frequent blow-ups, she had noticed progress in Ella's behavior. Until tonight. And witnessing up close and personal how out of hand things could get, Patricia suspected that the problems between her husband and daughter ran much deeper than she ever imagined.
She needed to hear Ella's side.
Ella pried her eyes open to shield them from the sunlight beaming through her window. Her tongue felt like sandpaper while her limbs refused to cooperate as if they were tied down with weights.
"Fuck," she groaned, after sitting up too fast. Colorful spots danced before her eyes, along with a searing pain at the back of her head. She was still in last night's clothes, but couldn't remember how she had gotten into bed.
Then panic set in.
Her mother slapped her.
What had she said?
She quickly stood and wobbled before sitting back down. She squeezed her eyes shut and gained her balance again.
Ella leaned against the cool tile in the shower and blasted the hottest temperature her body could tolerate. She tried to remember last night, but everything came in bits and pieces. Drinking had never been her drug of choice and now she remembered why. There was rarely an upside to the morning after.
In the hallway, she had yet to hear anyone stir. She looked at their door, her constant reminder of the barrier Simon put up. With warning pushed aside, she gripped the door knob right before it flew from her grasp.
Simon stared down at her with a confused expression. But his eyes grew dark as he quickly stepped through and shut the door behind him.
The hallway seemed to shrink as she kept her eyes focused on his, until his burning gaze forced her to look away.
He made his way towards the kitchen, leaving a light trail of fresh soap behind. It held her frozen in place until the familiar lingering scent of their past mornings together faded.
Ella exhaled and followed him.
Simon pulled a mug from the cabinet and prepared the coffee machine with sluggish movements. While it brewed, he leaned against the counter facing away from her. He rested on his elbows and pushed his hands through his hair. He sported his usual weekend lounging clothes, a short sleeve tee over a long sleeve shirt, athletic pants and sneakers. He looked more like a frat boy than married professor.
He didn't answer.
She moved from the wall to the table. "Are you playing football today?" she asked, although she knew the answer. He met up with Steven, Pete, Tek and a few other friends at Langley Field for a game every other Saturday. It had been their tradition for years.
But he acted as though she didn't exist as he poured his coffee.
"Can we talk?"
He passed by her on his way to the living room. She reached for his arm, but before she could say another word he had backed her into a wall.
"Don't fuck with me today. Not after what you pulled last night." His mouth remained in a hard line while his eyes searched hers. She'd seen anger and desire, laughter and intelligence in those blue eyes. Now she saw nothing but coldness. Ella swallowed.
"I'm talking now. You've done plenty of talking already, so now you hear me out. I know what you're trying to do. She finds out about you, she'll divorce me, right? But what you fail to realize is, even if that's the case—"
"This isn't about her or—"
"I'm not finished!" he said in a cool menacing voice. "Even if that's the case, we still won't be together. Do you fucking understand that? That I'm not going to be your boyfriend or husband or whoever you've pictured me as in your life."
Ella wrenched her arm from his grasp. "I know that!"
"Then that's all we need to talk about." He turned away from her and sat down on the couch.
Ella remained against the wall, unsure of what to say or do. She wanted to apologize, but in this mood, that was the last thing he wanted. No apology, reason or excuse would help. He just wanted to be left alone. Or at least for her to leave him alone.
"Fine," she said softly before heading back to her room.
"Shit," Simon muttered to himself when he pulled into the park parking lot at Langley Field. Steven was leaning against Tek's truck. Simon hadn't spoken to him since the night of their altercation and his mind was too unfocused to deal with it now.
The effects of last night had followed him all day. And now Patricia was asking more questions. Questions he couldn't answer without throwing all of their lives in upheaval. He hated himself for being so cruel to Gabriella, but with her, there was no middle ground. She only dealt in extremes and would think there was a chance for them if he tried the diplomatic route with her.
Steven smiled and tapped on the window. "Hey, wasn't sure if you were coming."
"Always do," Simon said as he grabbed his bag.
"Cool. Wouldn't be the same without you."
Tek zipped up his jacket. "Too cold for football. Gonna play basketball inside instead."
"You'd make a shitty Green Bay fan," Pete said.
"Don't like them anyway," Tek answered. He was the skinniest of them all and usually the first to complain about the weather.
Pete and Tek teamed up, leaving him with Steven. But it was expected. He and Steven had always paired up, dating back to college. The combination of his smart plays and Steven's shit talking usually landed them the benefit of a win.
As they played, Simon pushed his worries to the back of his mind. He just wanted to wear himself out until his brain was mush and last night was far from his thoughts. But by the eighth straight game, Pete had to sit out.
"I ca—can't," he panted. "Getting too old for this shit."
"You just need more exercise," Steven chimed in, gulping down water.
"Please, when was the last time you hit a gym?"
Steven smirked. "I have plenty of night time activities that keep me in shape."
"Oh, yeah. How much do hookers cost nowadays?" Pete said with a laugh.
"Less than your wife."
"Ooh," Tek inserted, the ever-present instigator.
Pete glared at Steven. "You know one of these days, you're going to say the wrong thing about Liz and I'm gonna kick your ass."
Steven sipped his water. "And how long have you been threatening that?" He turned his attention to Simon. "You're quiet today. Everything okay?"
Simon plopped down on the bleachers. "Long night."
"A good long night or a bad long night?" Pete asked.
Steven stared at him a moment longer before turning to Tek. "Guess who I saw the other day?"
"Who?" Tek asked, tossing the ball around his waist.
He nodded. "Cool. How was she?"
"Healthy as always," Steven said, causing Pete to choke and spray water onto Simon.
"Fuck man," Simon mumbled, wiping it off.
"Oh, there you go," Tek said, resting the ball at his hip. "Angie was a really sweet girl. And beautiful."
"I'm sure she was," Steven admitted, smiling over the rim of his bottled water.
It was always the same argument. Angie was an attractive woman, albeit much heavier than Tek, which had been the source of debate years ago.
"Whatever. And she wasn't that big."
Steven's eyebrows rose. "Compared to what?"
Pete chuckled, while Simon squeezed his lips together. He hated laughing at such a touchy subject for Tek. Angie had been the first girl he had ever thought about marrying.
"Compared to a lot of people," Tek said.
"Okay, because I thought you were going to say compared to you and that would be a big understatement."
"She wasn't that big. She was curvy."
Steven shook his head. "No, fuck that PC shit. She wasn't curvy, she was fat man, just admit it. And you like fat chicks. There's nothing wrong with that."
Simon bit down on his bottom lip to keep from laughing. Steven knew how to push every button any of them had, but it was always funny to watch as long as it wasn't his buttons.
Tek stood and threw the ball at Steven. "At least she had an actual body. Not like those plastic stick figures you bring home. Looks like they'll break if you do them doggy-style. Biggest thing on them are their fake tits, which by the way, I just don't get the attraction."
Steven shrugged. "You wouldn't, because you like fat chicks."
Simon couldn't hold it in any longer as he pulled his shirt over his face to stifle the laughter.
"Fuck you," Tek said.
Steven grinned. "I'm just messing with you man. My dream girl was actually a plus sized model."
"It's true! Simon, tell him. If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one chick to bang for the rest of my life, who would it be?"
Simon had heard more than enough graphic details about Christina Hendricks to last him a lifetime. "That curvy redheaded chick from Mad Men."
"Fuck, that girl is hot. Now that's how women used to be made," Pete added.
"Amen. I swear I would marry her tomorrow and be a one woman man for the rest of my days," Steven said.
They all nodded in agreement.
After two more games and countless jokes from Steven, they decided to call it quits.
Simon watched Tek and Pete shit talk each other to their cars, well aware of the fact that he had been left alone with Steven.
"So...long night. What happened?"
Simon shook his head. "Nothing. I'm taking off."
"Wait, wait, wait," Steven said, pressing his hand down on Simon's shoulder.
Simon sighed and sat back down.
"We're best friends, right?" Steven asked.
"So, if we were stranded on a deserted island, we'd kill Tek and Pete and eat them first, right?"
Simon chuckled. "Yeah. And what is it with you and islands?"
"I don't know, probably has something to do with emotional trauma from years of bachelorhood. But never mind my problems, what's going on? You know you can tell me anything."
"I don't really want to talk about it."
"Maybe I can help."
Simon stood and slung his bag over his shoulder. "It's cool man. Not a big deal." He walked toward the door when he heard Steven speak.
"You must be freaking over your relationship with Ella."
He stopped in his tracks as the hairs on his arms rose from the mention of her name. He slowly turned. "What?"
Steven stood and tossed his bottle into the trash. "Like I said a while back...Ella seems like a handful."
His stomach churned. "Did she say—"
"Nope, no one told me," Steven said as he shook his head. "But when she followed you to my place, I kinda thought that was weird. I mean, I thought she was going to jump your bones in front of all of us. Plus, your fist in my face didn't help."
Simon dropped his bag to the floor. "Fuck. Do Pete and Tek know?"
"Nah, I don't think so. Too wrapped up in their own shit. But you know my senses are heightened the more I drink, so it's hard to get things past me."
Simon sat down on the bleachers and placed his head in his hands. Steven wouldn't blab, but he wasn't sure how he felt about him knowing the truth.
"So, is it just a little innocent crush or has the bomb detonated?"
Simon leaned back. "Fucking Nagasaki and Hiroshima."
"Wow. How long?"
After a rare moment of speechlessness, Steven asked, "And who came on to whom?"
Simon rolled his eyes.
Steven threw up his hands and laughed. "I know, I know, dumb question. But I'm assuming since your dick is still attached, that Patricia doesn't know."
He shook his head and exhaled. "She knows about the affair, but she doesn't know who it is."
Steven rolled the ball back and forth under his foot. "So, is it just sex, or is there something more?"
"Yeah, I'm sure!"
"Okay, sheesh, calm down. Just checking."
"Sorry man. I'm just wound really tight these days. I feel like I'm losing my mind. I don't know what to do."
"Well for starters, you can stop fucking her."