Joseph Ch. 02bykalamazoo707©
The week before her mother's arrival flew by. The spare room that Lainie had used for baby-sitting was spotless with all of the supplies tucked safely away in a corner in her room. She hated the additional clutter but reminded herself that it was for a good reason. As she took another look around the room she was filled with happiness, but sadness as well. Once again she realized that she didn't deserve to be loved in the way that her parents loved her. A tear escaped and she absently wiped it away. This wasn't a time for sadness. Her mother was coming and they were going to do lots of mother/ daughter things including a manicure and pedicure. She still wished that her father was coming for the week but he did promise to come for a long weekend. That way he and her mother could go back together.
Satisfied that the room was in good shape, Lainie went to her room and looked at the baby sitting supplies. She had already told the parents that in a few weeks she would be unable to babysit on a full time basis. The news was met with a mixture of pride, happiness and sadness. The truth was- she was going to miss the kids too, but she wasn't going to miss the mess that they created.
School would start in four weeks. She was so excited that she checked the online book store several times a day hoping that the syllabi and books would be available. She did manage to get the book list and ordered as many of the books as she could online. She made a trip to Wal-Mart and stocked up on paper, pens and pencils as well as energy drinks.
She stood by her bed trying to decide where she was going to store things until her parents were gone and finally decided on beneath the bed. The last thing that she had to do was go grocery shopping. She sat at the kitchen table and began to make up the grocery list. As she did, she thought about how her and her mother always did it together. A warm feeling filled her as she thought about those times. She put the pencil down and decided to wait until her mother arrived to make the list. Now with nothing else to do, she decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful summer day and one not to be wasted.
At the last minute she decided to pack a snack and to go to the park. Snack in hand, Lainie left her apartment and made her way to the park. It was a hub bub of activity. There were children everywhere playing games and families enjoying picnics. She looked around for an empty spot and found one where a group of young men were playing softball. She wasn't an avid sports fan but she did enjoy watching on occasion. She had just sat down when the softball whizzed by her head and hit the tree behind her. A moment later, a tall muscular dark haired young man was there looking down at her.
"Are you okay?" he asked as he retrieved the ball.
"I'm fine, it missed me," Lainie replied looking up at him.
Something about him disturbed her. She wasn't afraid of him, but he seemed familiar to her somehow. She was positive that she didn't know him but when he spoke...
"I haven't seen you here before."
Lainie's mouth went dry. She knew him but she didn't. She had heard those words before. That was how it all began. The series of bad decisions...
"Excuse me but I have to leave," she said as she picked up her back pack and stood up. She was gone before the young man had a chance to say anything more. She rushed home and ate her snack in front of the television. As she ate, a name that she had tried hard to forget came forward. The name of the man that had almost destroyed her. No, she amended. She had let him almost destroy her. She had allowed him to cloud her thinking. She had almost done the unthinkable because of him.
Elliot Robert Mitchum.
Robert was tall, dark haired, blue eyed and a self-professed god's gift to all women. At one time, she had agreed with him. He had often bragged that his mother named him after the famous actor Robert Mitchum because he resembled him down to the blue eyes. He had even considered to having his name changed to the late actor's full name. Lainie didn't know who Robert Mitchum was and had no real interest in finding out. She just accepted his word for it.
Lainie shook her head to clear it. The man in the park had in no way resembled Robert except for the dark hair. It was those words- "I haven't seen you here before" that had rattled her to her core. After Elliot, she had shied away from any relationship that was more than platonic. The deep seated guilt and shame always stopped her when she even thought about more than a friendship with a male. The choices that she had made still boggled her mind. The fact that she had been young was no excuse- she knew better but had ignored everything that she knew to be right and for what? A man who had cared nothing for her and had only cared for himself. She wiped away an angry tear when she heard a tap on the door. Elliot Robert Mitchum sank back into her memory when she saw the large box sitting in front of her door. The first of her books had arrived.
As time passed, Joseph began to feel a little more comfortable around Louise. It was obvious to him that she was taking great pains not to intrude on his thoughts or his feelings. What amazed him was the amount of control that she had for someone so new to her power. He would later find out that she wasn't new to the power- she had taught herself how to block out other people's emotion out of necessity.
"She didn't know what she was," Nathan explained one evening after dinner, "but she instinctively knew that she had to protect herself."
Joseph listened as Nathan told him about Louise's past and family history.
"Well," he said when Nathan was done speaking, "that explains a few things."
"Such as?" Nathan asked.
"The whole family dynamics," Joseph replied. "But I don't want to talk about that. I have enough of my own drama without delving into someone else's."
Nathan poured them a drink and sat down to wait. He knew Joseph had something on his mind and whatever it was couldn't be forced out of him.
"I know," Joseph said after taking a sip of his drink, "that we've talked about how you've managed to cope with this whole rape thing before but I still don't get it. Why am I the one so angry about it? I wasn't the product of rape. Mom loves dad, has forgiven him and they're even having another baby. You are happy with Louise and seem totally unaffected by it. Explain that to me."
"I don't know that I can," Nathan replied. "But you're wrong about one thing. I was and am still affected by it. I am still angered by not just what dad did but what our family as a whole did. We know that it started long before Uncle Ethan and the others came into being, we know that our grandfather continued the teaching because he was afraid of his father who was a true serial rapist but... It was the fact that once someone realized that it was wrong and did nothing that angers me. But that wasn't your question was it? You want to know how I've managed."
"Exactly," Joseph replied. "How do you do it?"
Nathan took a long swig of his drink before he answered.
"Joseph, we are each responsible for how we handle the circumstances handed to us. I was furious, hurt and confused when I found out and I had to let those emotions run their course. Once I did, I realized that I had a decision to make. I could continue being angry and let that anger control me or I could deal with it and take steps to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I also know that if Louise and I have a child, that anger will rise again. What parent wants to tell his child the ugliness and wrongs that his family has committed? But I will have to remake the decision on how I handle that anger when and if that time comes."
"So you chose to help, but wasn't it hard for you to keep take the last name of Sinclaire?" Joseph asked as he stood to refill their glasses.
"Let me ask you something," Nathan said. "You kept the last name of Richardson- has it really helped anything? Has it made you less than a Sinclaire? You are a Sinclaire no matter what you change your last name to. Anyone who knows us knows that you are a Sinclaire just by looking at you so my question is this- has it helped?"
Joseph thought long and hard before replying.
"The night they told me about the rapes I was going to hand them the papers asking that my name be changed to Sinclaire. After they told me, I ripped the papers up and threw them away. I wanted no part of the Sinclaire name and yes before you say it, I reaped the benefits of being a Sinclaire and I still am. Ripping up those papers didn't mean that I didn't and don't love my family. I do-but I still can't wrap my head around what we were- what we are."
"Joseph, we-meaning you and I are not rapists. Neither is every male in our family. Neither of us have ever hurt a woman or taken her against her will. We were born into a family with a horrible history. Unfortunately, we are tainted by that history and name change or not we will never escape that fact. I would love to go back and rewrite our family history but that is impossible. The bottom line is this, what are you going to do with your anger? I'm going to make a suggestion that you aren't going to like. I think that you need to think about seeing someone."
Joseph felt a surge of anger at the suggestion even though he had heard it many times before. His hope was that he could deal with his anger by talking to Nathan.
"I'm talking to you," he said after a few seconds had passed.
"Yes, but I'm not a professional," Nathan replied. "I also think that there's much more going on with you than you're saying and you need someone impartial to talk to."
Instead of replying, Joseph sat his glass down and stood up.
"I've got to go, thanks for dinner and tell Louise goodnight for me."
Before Nathan could say anything, Joseph was gone.
Joseph sat on the sofa dressed in his boxer shorts with his laptop open. He stared at the documents in front of him unable to concentrate on them. Now that he had some time to cool off, he had to admit that some of what Nathan said had some merit. What had keeping the last name of Richardson accomplished? Nothing- but he wasn't about to go running to get his last name changed to Sinclaire. Nathan was also right in saying that he was responsible for what he did with his anger. He had and was letting it control him and his relationship with his family. He loved them but...
"I hate what they are," he murmured.
His mind drifted to the women of the family. His mother Rachel in particular. It still amazed him that she was able to forgive his father enough to marry him and to give him more children. If she could forgive him then why couldn't he? He had the same thoughts about Katrina. She had been brutalized and the rape had almost destroyed her but she didn't allow it to. She used her anger in a positive way. The mandatory reporting, the group homes; getting her doctorates in social work, psychology and business administration and now she was writing a book about her experiences. Simply amazing.
He sat the laptop aside, leaned back and closed his eyes. It occurred to him that the women in the Sinclaire family had one thing in common besides being female. All of them, no matter where they had come from had an inner strength that he did not possess. The word coward came to mind and he shoved it away as if he had heard something disgusting.
"I am not a coward," he muttered angrily.
A moment later the laptop was back in his lap and he was reading the document that he was drafting. He had no idea of what he was going to do with it when he was finished or if he could even follow through with the things that he was proposing. He slammed the laptop shut and began to read briefs for court that week. The word coward again came to mind but he had the feeling that it had nothing to do with the documents but everything to do with what he and Nathan had talked about.
Unable to concentrate on the briefs, Joseph decided to go for a run on the treadmill. By his estimation he would need a new one by the end of the week. He ran for almost three hours and had hardly broken a sweat. He was however, calmer and able to focus on reading the briefs. After he read them, he went through them again to divide them between the lawyers working under him. One of the cases was a criminal case. It had Winston's name written all over it.
Joseph smiled as he wrote Winston's name on a sticky note and stuck it to the file. The young black vampire had been a friend of the family's for so long that he and Nathan considered him a brother. His smile widened when he remembered the chess games that they used to play by the gate when there was no school. Winston was by far the best lawyer that he had and was in line for a partnership. It was something that should have happened long ago.
"Why wait any longer?" Joseph muttered under his breath. "After this trial, I'll make the announcement."
He began planning the celebration and reminded himself to call Nathan and the rest of the family. This was a huge deal because Winston would be the first person that he would be adding as a partner. He began to hum to himself. It felt good to concentrate on something good instead of his issues with his family.
He sent emails to Nathan and the rest of the family swearing them to secrecy then to Winston's wife also swearing her to secrecy. Next he emailed the caterers that he usually used for any parties and finally his staff at the home that he rarely lived in. When he was done, inexplicably, Barbara Yancy came to mind. They were more alike than he liked to admit. Not personality wise, but in how they were distanced from their families. After thinking about it, he realized that it was a conscious choice on both of their parts. Both of them had families that loved them and both of them pushed those families away. The reasons didn't matter; the result was still the same. They were both loners in a group of people that loved them.
He pushed thoughts of Barbara Yancy out of her mind and went back to thinking about the questions that Nathan had asked. Had keeping the last name of Richardson changed or helped anything? He was forced to admit that it hadn't. It also hadn't made him feel any better. He found that the relatively good mood that he had been in while planning Winston's party was rapidly diminishing. On a whim, he decided that he needed a night out. There was a long list of women who would go out with him, but he was selective. He wanted someone that had a brain, someone that he could talk to and someone who wouldn't be after what she thought he could offer her.
He mentally ran down his list of options before deciding on Teri McAllister. She was brilliant as well as beautiful with her blue/black hair and dark eyes. But more importantly, she knew what the story was. Theirs was a no strings attached type of relationship. If he called and she was available then fine, if not he would choose someone else. The problem was with some of the others he had to make sure that they understood that it was just an evening out. Sex was optional and if there was sex, it was consensual and in no way meant that they were in a relationship. There were several that he no longer saw because they failed to understand that. A few of them understood but thought that they could change his mind.
He looked at the clock and decided to call Teri although it was early, she would be up. He dialed her number and waited for her to answer. A few minutes later, the plans for the evening were set. If there was sex afterwards, they would either go to a hotel or to her place. Bringing someone to one of his places was off limits. Teri had asked him about it once and he had given her some vague excuse which she had accepted. After that she had never asked again.
Now back in a relatively good mood, Joseph finished reading his briefs and then got ready for bed. He wouldn't sleep but would read the law journals that he kept at his bedside until it was time to meet Teri later in the evening. As he read, his mind drifted to the matter of his last name. As far as he was concerned, his last name was and always would be Richardson and he wasn't going to change it. As he made the decision, the word coward floated around in his brain as soft as a whisper.
"I am not a coward!" he exclaimed as he threw the magazine he had been reading across the room.
Angry again, he got out of bed and stomped around his room. He had to ask himself that if he was so content with his decision, why was he so angry? Not for the first time did he wish that he could get so drunk that he could pass out. He was tempted to try although he knew that he would fail. Instead, he got back on the treadmill and ran until it burned out.
Teri was waiting for him at the restaurant that they usually went to whenever they went out. She greeted him with a cool kiss on the cheek knowing that he neither expected nor wanted more than that. It was the kind of kiss one gave to a friend and not a lover because they really couldn't call themselves lovers.
"You look lovely," Joseph commented as he returned the kiss on her cheek. "How have you been?"
"I'm good... how are you?" she asked looking up at him. "And don't lie," she added. "You only call me when you're bugged about something so what gives?"
"Maybe I just wanted to pass the evening with a good friend," Joseph replied knowing that she wasn't fooled.
"If you say so," Teri replied taking his offered arm.
Joseph knew what a handsome couple they made and ignored the stares and whispers. On some level, he wished that he and Teri was a real couple, but she wasn't his and even if she were he wouldn't subject her to his family history.
When they were seated and drinks ordered, they talked about their respective firms. While Teri didn't own her own firm, she was a senior partner. What Joseph didn't understand was why she didn't branch off and start her own firm. She was smart and one of the most talented corporate law attorneys that he knew. It was something that they discussed every time they were together.
"I like where I am," she always said when he asked about it.
"If it's the cost..."
"It isn't that," she always interrupted. "I like where I am and besides, I'll know when it's time to move on and it isn't time."
After that, the conversation would turn to whatever his particular issue was.
"So," Teri said after the conversation about her starting her firm was over, "what ails you? And don't give me that shit about wanting to spend time with an old friend. I know you Joseph Richardson so spill."
"I don't know," he said lying. "I was just thinking that I needed a night out. Good food, good wine and good conversation with a beautiful woman who happens to be a good friend."
Teri looked at him long and hard before she spoke next.
"Joseph, there's something going on with you and I'm worried. I never said anything before because I thought that it would pass. For as long as I've known you, there's been this underlying anger to the good mood that you try to portray. So what gives? What has got you so tied up in knots?"
Joseph blinked. Had it been that obvious?
"I'm just going through some personal things- family issues," he replied.
"I see," Teri said not believing him.
"Look Teri, I'll be fine; I promise," Joseph said with a forced smile. "What I need from you is fun and laughter. I don't want to talk about my issues. Can we do that?"
"Of course, but Joseph, I'm here if you ever need me," Teri said reaching across the table and holding her hand out to him.
Joseph gratefully accepted her offered hand and gave it a gentle squeeze by way of thanking her. They ordered dinner, danced and went back to Teri's apartment. Joseph fixed drinks for them while she changed into more comfortable clothes and washed her make up off. Even without makeup Joseph thought that she was gorgeous. She had the girl next door look and one would never have guessed that she was a high powered corporate attorney who played with the big boys.