Finding Happiness Ch. 10byXantu©
Chapter 10: Old Wounds Healed.
For the second time in as many days, Junie found herself staring at her phone with distaste. The caller ID said it was her ex-husband, Greg. She let it go to message. There was no way she was going to speak to him if there was any way to avoid it. Every time she spoke to him, it always seemed to end up with him yelling and calling her names.
A nagging worry that something might be wrong with one of her children wormed its way through her consciousness as she accessed the message. She reassured herself that the message was not marked urgent.
The message was vague, a demand she call back as soon as possible regarding Tammi, their daughter. Junie pursed her lips in irritation. She had been in email contact with her daughter and both her sons letting them know that she had moved and telling them if they needed anything or just wanted to talk they could call her or email her back. She had gotten a couple of short dutiful answers from one son and her daughter, but had heard from neither of them in a month or so. Her oldest was in the military and seemed too busy or just too lazy to respond.
Junie straightened her shoulders and dialed Greg back. "Greg, this is Junie. What did you want to talk to me about?"
"How come you didn't tell me you were moving?"
Junie took a deep breath and blinked, determined to not let him get her upset. And yet at the same time deciding that he was not going to bully her this time. "Greg, I can't see how where I choose to live is any of your business. Your message said you needed to talk about Tammi."
"We need to talk."
He exploded over the phone, "Fuck yes, about Tammi. If you were here maybe you would know a little more about what's going on with your daughter."
Junie forced her voice to remain even. "Greg, if you cannot discuss this civilly I will hang up. And I have been in contact with Tammi. She wrote me a nice letter about how school was going. You and I both know that you did nothing to encourage our kids to spend time with me."
"Well she wants to move out and get a place of her own."
"Well, she is turning nineteen in just a month, maybe it is time for her to move out. I don't see why you called me about this. I haven't had any influence in her decisions since she moved in with you."
Greg's voice was taking on his old familiar tones of sarcasm and rage, "Nineteen or not, she is not ready to be out on her own. When was the last time you even laid eyes on her?"
Junie paused, a tiny tremor of guilt shaking her, "I don't know, maybe six or seven months. It was Thanksgiving, I think. You took her abroad at Christmas." The painful truth was that she had only seen her daughter a couple of times in the last year and then their meetings had been formal and strained. It felt like she hardly knew the young woman her daughter had grown up to be. "She seemed fine then."
All her children had taken after their father, with his strong Mediterranean features and thick curly black hair. Junie had been silently delighted that all three of them had grown up tall and slim like him as well, though her daughter had inherited her large, expressive, brown eyes.
Greg's voice was harsh and accusing, "Well, she is not fine. She did not go abroad at Christmas. She was in the hospital. She has been in the hospital twice more since then. Tammi has an eating disorder; she keeps making herself throw up."
Junie felt a wave of rage and guilt flow through her. "Why didn't you call me? Why did you keep this from me?"
Greg fell silent on the phone and then abruptly attacked, "And what good do you think you could have been? What would you have done, cooked her something? Maybe those amazing double fudge brownies of yours or maybe a cake? Or those truffles that everyone raves about. That would have been fucking brilliant! And I sure as hell did not want you fucking visiting, walking, no, waddling into a fucking eating disorder clinic with a big plate of food. That would have been rich! You stupid fat cow!"
Junie hung up and raised her hand to throw her phone across her sewing room, but stopped herself and carefully put it down on the table.
Her whole body hurt like each of his words had struck her like fists. Greg had never laid a hand on her in anger, but he always could destroy her with his words.
Junie found herself shaking so hard that it was hard to turn and walk up the stairs; blindly, almost instinctively, seeking the shelter of her owners' arms.
Donna was curled up on the couch reading when Junie threw herself on the floor at her feet and buried her face in her Mistress's lap. Junie wrapped her arms around Donna's waist in a frenzied grip. Still too much in shock to cry, she just hung on, her whole body convulsed with spasms of grief and rage.
Donna had dropped her book and was holding her close. "Baby, what's the matter? What happened?"
It seemed like her words were the key to the flood gates and Junie burst into tears. Donna kept her hold on Junie and crooned and rocked until the worst was over and then she prompted again, "Tell me about what has happened."
In a quavering voice Junie told about her phone conversation with her ex-husband, not leaving out anything. When she said the last part where he had called her a 'fat cow', she could feel Donna's body flinch and tense with rage, but Donna's voice remained calm and gentle, "Good job telling me the whole thing. Now take a deep breath and tell me about your daughter."
"Yes, what was she like as a baby? Was she good in school? Tell me all about her."
Junie looked at her Mistress somewhat distracted and bemused, "She was the cutest baby. She had her father's curly dark hair and my eyes. She had the hugest brown eyes." Junie smiled at the memory, "She was a little butterball, with the cutest dimples and those rings around her wrists and ankles that fat babies get. She was so good, so quiet. She almost never cried." Junie's smile faltered and collapsed. "All her baby pictures that I had were in my filing cabinet. That man burnt them all up. All my pictures were in there."
Taking a big shaky breath Junie forced herself to move on, "Anyway, she was a smart baby, too, even if she didn't talk much. And she didn't stay fat. She turned out to be very athletic. We put her into dance and gymnastic classes. She was a cheerleader in high school. She was always her daddy's little girl. The separations and divorce were really hard on her. She became pretty withdrawn and really threw herself into her school activities. She wouldn't talk to me much."
Junie stopped and rubbed her face, a quiver of sadness shaking her. "And I was pretty depressed then, too. When she asked to go live with her dad, I didn't fight it. I am ashamed to say that in a lot of ways I was glad she went. I told myself that she would be better off with him than with me." A tiny tired hiccup of a sob shook Junie's voice, "I didn't act like I wanted her. There I was dying inside because I felt like no one cared about me and I was doing the same thing to her."
Donna gently stroked Junie's hair, "But you did care, didn't you?"
"I loved my children more than life itself; losing them tore my heart out."
"How old was she when she went to live with her father?"
"Beyond being withdrawn and naturally upset about the divorce, were you aware of any problems? Looking back now do you think that there were any signs of an eating disorder?"
Junie paused and thought back, "Well, she seemed always to be conscious of her weight, but I thought that was from how her father was always criticizing me and my weight in front of her and her brothers. But there was nothing like bulimia or anorexia."
Donna paused and looked thoughtful, "That could have some influence. Eating disorders are tricky, but they find their roots in body image and an attempt to gain control. Growing up in a world that pressures a woman to match an impossible ideal, and then dealing with her father's open rejection of your beauty, probably has a lot to do with it." Donna lifted Junie's face from her lap and looked into her eyes. "Don't you think that some of her problems may stem from her father's cruelty and controlling as much as from her feeling abandoned by you?"
The word 'abandoned' sent a pang of guilt through Junie. She realized she had held this secret in her heart, that it had not been her children leaving her. She had left them. "I guess so."
Donna prompted Junie, "Call Tammi, talk to her. See how she is doing. Start trying to be a mom again. It sounds like she needs you."
Junie reluctantly unwrapped her arms from her Mistress's waist and lifted her face from her tear soaked lap. "Thank you for listening. Talking with you really helped. I will go call her now."
Donna smiled and patted Junie's bottom as she stood up. "Glad I could help. Now tell her the truth. Tell her how hard it was for you. Tell her how much it hurt for you to lose her and ask for her forgiveness."
Junie made a strangled sound.
Donna looked at Junie sharply, "Junie, as hard as it is to admit that to yourself, you know you need to do this."
"Yes, Ma'am, I know. It was just so much easier to live with thinking that they left me and avoid taking responsibility."
"Nothing is ever so simple as to be able to put all the blame on someone else, little one."
Junie sighed and nodded.
Tammi answered the phone on the second ring. Her tone was cautious and surprised, "Momma?"
Junie felt her heart lurch, "Oh, sweetheart, I am so sorry I have not called you more. I have been such a coward. I felt so guilty about not being there for you during the divorce and I was afraid to talk with you about that. I was so afraid you would never forgive me."
Tammi voice was soft, "I remember you trying to talk with me. All I remember was I didn't want to talk with you."
"Will you talk with me now?"
"Oh yes, Momma, I missed you and Daddy has been acting so weird lately."
"Your Daddy called me and said things weren't going so good for you."
Tammi's voice was defensive, "What did he say?"
He said you have been in the hospital a couple of times. He said you have been making yourself throw up."
Tammi's voice was confused, "You didn't know? He said he told you. He said you told him you were going to visit. And then when you didn't come..." her voice broke and took on a tone of disbelief, "He lied to me. I waited and waited for you to visit and when you didn't come, he said that you were never dependable. Sometimes, I just hate him."
Junie interrupted, "Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry. If I had known I would have been there. I swear it. I should never have let you go. I should have fought to keep you, but I was so weak. I was so depressed after the divorce; I felt like there wasn't anything I could do right, that I really was a bad mother. I made myself believe that you would be better off with your father. I love you. I love all you kids like you wouldn't believe. You were my whole life." Junie's voice shook.
It was Tammi's turn to interrupt, "It's okay, Momma, I remember how Daddy used to yell at you, call you names. I remember how he always made you cry. I know why you stayed away. You called. You emailed me." Tammi's voice became cautiously curious, "Momma, where are you living now? Daddy is all the time asking me if I know where you live. He is all the time saying stuff about you being a slave or something."
An icy wave of shock washed over Junie. She forced her voice to be light, "A slave? I have no idea where he got an idea like that. Honey, I am a housekeeper for a nice couple. I cook, clean and help around the yard. They pay me and I have health insurance. I have a nice room of my own and a nice sewing room. It's nice, a lot easier than my last job." She carefully jockeyed the conversation back to Tammi, "Darling, how long have you been making yourself throw up?"
"I don't do it all the time. I haven't done it since March. I go to my counselors and my therapy group." Tammi's voice was evasive and Junie could sense her reluctance to open up about this part of her life.
"That's good." Junie forced her voice to sound relieved, though a little worrying doubt nagged at her that eating disorders were not so easily dealt with, that eating disorders were like any addiction and denial and relapse went hand in hand. "Tammi, if you ever want to talk to me about it, you know I would listen. I promise not to yell or try to make you feel bad. I just want you to know I care."
Junie forced her tone to lighten, "Well, one of the things that your dad mentioned to me was that you wanted to move out. Tell me about that."
"He says he won't let me do that, that I am not ready to be independent. I just want to move into the college dorms. He says maybe in a year, if I stay in control of the eating thing. It's not fair. I am in control; even my counselor says it would be a good thing. And I have so many things going on at school in the evenings. It would be so much easier without having to drive back and forth. But he says it's his money and he won't pay."
"Well, Darling, I am sure that you probably are ready, but he does have control of the money and if you want him to pay the bills you have to play by his rules. Is it so bad at home that you can't live there for another year?"
Tammi giggled and Junie was struck to recognize her laugh, "Not so bad. His last little hottie moved out about six months ago and he's out most nights looking for a replacement. I have the whole place to myself a lot and I am busy with school a lot."
"You were always good at school. Do you still want to be a teacher?"
"I don't know. Lately, with this bulimia thing, I have been thinking about becoming a counselor."
It seemed like they talked for hours. There was so much to catch up on. Tammi filled Junie in on how her brothers were doing and talked about dating. Tammi had gone out with a couple of different guys, but so far had not felt very serious about anyone. She was very involved in the cheerleading squad and had a heavy load of classes. Finals were coming up soon.
When Junie was saying good bye for the tenth time, Tammi spoke up, "Momma, could I come out to where you live and visit you sometimes?"
Junie felt her heart sink, visions of the St. Andrew's cross and the other contraptions in the basement looming in her imagination, "I don't know, honey, I will have to ask the people I work for. It is their house so it would be up to them. I could come see you if you want. It's not that far and I have the cutest little sports car now. You will love it."
Junie was giddy after she hung up the phone, all the sadness of the previous call erased by the joy of reconnecting with Tammi. She found Donna standing by the front porch scolding Honey, "No! Honey, come out of there. Honey, come!" Honey was three-quarters under the deck and energetically digging a hole, completely ignoring Donna as the soft black dirt flew up between her hind legs, her tail wagging in absolute delight.
Donna gave Junie and exasperated look, "She did this last time, too. She completely tore up all the flowers trying to dig a den. And those hormones have her totally obsessed. She won't listen to me at all now. Come help me."
Donna reached down and grabbed Honey's hind quarters and began dragging her out of the hole, "Come out of there you!"
Once Honey's head was out of the hole, Junie grabbed her collar. Honey looked up at her with soft shining eyes, smiled a wide doggie grin and strained to get back at the pit she had started.
Donna grabbed at her collar too, "Oh no you don't!"
Together Donna and Junie walked on either side of Honey, forcing her to go to the kennel. As they walked by the garden Bob looked up from where he was working, his eyes curious. Donna called to him, "She has been digging under the deck."
Bob laughed, "That's a good sign; it won't be much longer then."
Donna nodded, "Just a few more days."
Honey walked to her cage without much of a fight, though she repeatedly tried to stop and look back. Once she was locked inside she stood at the gate with her nose pressed against the wire, a low whine making her tremble. Her big brown eyes were so sad that Junie felt a wave of sympathy well up. "Oh, sweetie, I am so sorry, but we can't let you make your house there. This is your house. You have to have your babies here."
Junie slipped into the kennel, deftly catching Honey as she tried to slip out the gate. She knelt down and wrapped her arms around the soft golden neck. She could smell the scent of the dirt as she laid her face against Honey's fur. She looked up at Donna, "I came out to thank you for making me call Tammi. She missed me as much as I missed her."
Donna leaned against the fence and looked down at the two of them. "I am glad it worked out well. I was never close to my mother and that is one of the things I regret most about my life. Don't let her go again."
Junie blinked a little forcing back the tears, it seemed like she was crying all the time lately. She took a deep breath, "She said one thing that kind of freaked me out. She said her dad, Greg, was telling her that I was a slave."
Donna's eye brows shot up, "Really? What did you say about that?"
"I told her that I could not imagine where he could have gotten an idea like that. I told her that I had a job and that I was paid. I told her that it was an easier job than my last one." With that last statement, Junie dimpled up and giggled, but then she sobered, "I just wonder where he has been getting his information. There are only a couple of people who know about us, Agents Durant and Gold."
"Don't forget the police detective Funk. She definitely was acting suspicious." Donna shrugged, "Well whatever, we will deal with that only if we need to."
Junie sat down and leaned against the box, pulling Honey to lie down next to her. "Tammi asked if she could come out here and visit me sometime."
"What did you say?"
"I told her that it was your home and I would have to speak to you about it."
"Good answer, a visit would need to be planned, but it isn't out of the question."
"Really, Ma'am? I would love for her to come see our house. She would love it here."
"You would have to help take down the dungeon."
Junie giggled and nodded, "For sure. I think I will sit here with Honey for a while."
"Good idea, try to encourage her to spend some time inside the whelping box. I will get a leash; she will need to be on a lead when you take her out. Bring her into the house with you when you come in. And for god's sake don't let her go. If she gets any more obsessed with that hole we might not get her out so easily next time."
"Yes, Ma'am, thank you Ma'am." When Junie stood Honey jumped up and eagerly went to the gate. When Junie did not move to leave, Honey began to pace back and forth, sniffing hopefully at the fence, looking for a way out. Junie called and pointed at the doorway of the box, "Honey, kennel," using the same command that Bob used to put the dogs to go into their travel boxes. Honey paused in her pacing and looked at Junie for a second. Junie could see the conflict in the heavily pregnant bitch's eyes, the urge to obey fighting a losing battle with the overwhelming urge to return to her chosen den. Junie grabbed her collar and pulled her head around to face the door and once more commanded her, "Honey, kennel!" Junie made sure to put a low deep growl into her words. Honey quickly slipped into the box and just as quickly turned around to come out. "Oh, no you don't." Junie moved to block Honey into the box, "Stay!"
Honey looked up at her with miserable eyes and Junie gently admonished her, "You know there is no way you are going to enjoy everything you experience here." Honey heaved a heavy sigh and flopped down on the cedar chips.