Chapter 6 I’ve Still Got the Blues
“What?” Jon asked her, his voice teasing. “I can see it on your face, you are not at all happy with me.”
“That’s a hold over from another time,” she replied as she adjusted her robe, her fingers fidgeting with the tie. Her voice a bit on edge as old feelings surfaced. “It’s not fair to you,” she cleared her throat, “or probably to me either, but there are just certain things that trigger a not-so-good-mood.”
“And this particular not-so-good-mood is because…?” his voice was light but serious as he pushed the curls out of her face.
Making a face, and avoiding his, she concentrated on the spider web that was being spun in her wood bin. “A lot of what Charles did was top-secret. I seldom knew where he was. I was told that he was killed by an IED in Afghanistan.” Pausing, her voice lost its stoic note and became hard. “I still do not know if I believe that or not.
Biting her lower lip she continued on. “Should it make a difference where he died…?” she sighed. Shrugging, she felt Jon’s hands shift to her shoulders and started massaging her there.
Shaking her head, she leaned into his ministering hands. “Please do not lie to me. I have had a lifetime of not knowing what my husband was doing due to omission by silence. I knew this when I married him that he would not be able to share the secret mission part of his life with me. But after almost thirty years of not knowing, that shit gets old,” she put both hands on his chest.
“Yes it does,” he smiled at her and rubbed his nose against hers. “So, no omissions. On my part or yours.”
“No omissions,” she echoed, wondering what she had just agreed to as he smiled at her.
“Please tell me about your son,” in his voice was interest. “I see photos of him in uniform,” he pointed to the one on the piano. “So I take it he followed in his father’s footsteps.”
“Yes,” she nodded, “yes,” her voice got quieter, “yes he did.” The tears formed in her eyes. “He was killed by an IED,” her voice cracked, “three months after his father.”
Ellen began gulping in air and wiping her eyes. “Nineteen-ninety five was a suck-ass year,” she managed to get out as that misery once more had her in its soul-consuming grip.
“Who else?” he whispered as he picked her up and held her close. “Deaths happen in threes. Who else died that year?”
“In October, my twin sister,” she found that quiet space inside of her that Helen had always filled. It was no longer the endless gaping, bleeding hole that it once was, vomiting out how alone she was. “The first of March,” she began ticking them off on her fingers, “The first of June, and the first of October.”
With a shove of his foot, he sent the chair moving across the floor, stopping in front of the fire. With easy strides, they were there and he was sitting them both down. Grabbing the blanket off the back he wrapped her up in it.
“What did you do?” he asked, his voice soft as he held her. His hand enfolded around hers.
“We buried Helen on an Indian Summer day. It had been cold, frost had come early that end of September. Lynn, my baby sister, after the funeral, she put me in her car, brought me home, packed a bag and we drove out to her farm.
Eventually she went to bed, I stayed up to have a nightcap. When she got up, I was still having a nightcap. I told her drinking myself to death could possibly be a very effective way of ending my life. She would still get the insurance money.”
“What did she say?” Jon asked as he stroked her hair.
Ellen started laughing. “She picked up a broom and started chasing me with it. She is small but feisty. I was out the door and with all of her might she was swinging that broom, occasionally making contact, and we were out in the yard and I was screeching and screaming and pleading with her not to hit me again and at one point I charged her and pushed her into the water trough. I ran into the barn and up into the hayloft.
I have to give her credit,” the laughter had ceased, “at this point she was willing to negotiate. We came to terms and I came down.
So now I have a drink, maybe two and never three, unless I am sitting with her.”
Jon nodded in understanding as Ellen sat in his lap. Her body still not at ease. An unhealthy quiet filled the room. An air that would welcome death still clung to her, cloying sweet and sickening and smelling of putrid grave rot.
“How many times have you thought about using the pistol?” his voice was low. “No lies…” he added, his tone and mood like the heavy starch in a crisp, white shirt.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged her shoulders. “Countless, I guess. But I promised myself if I ever put it in my mouth I was pulling the trigger,” she said with conviction.
“So,” he stroked her cheek and turned her face to his. “What is it that makes you so angry about this tragedy?”
“Well, I’m alone…” she began.
“Well yes, that is obvious,” his eyes pierced hers. “But there is something that makes you really angry,” he stressed those last two words. “I have seen flashes of it. It bubbles to the top and then dissipates.”
Silently the tears covered her cheeks. She began, her voice a rough, hushed sound. “I see dead people,” she sobbed as she wiped at her eyes. “Just haphazard dead people,” she rolled her eyes. “No one I know and it makes me so mad I could just spit,” she said in disgust.
“And Helen, Charles and Random, I loved more than life, itself,” her voice noted the sorrow she still held. “They have moved on. And I know this is how it should be. When your life is done, you should have no regrets about leaving this plane of existence. This speaks to who they were. They had done their job to the very highest of expectations and they held no regrets.
But I do…” she hissed and then willed herself calm. “How much,” her voice was a whisper, “how much did they love me? Not one…,” her voice broke as the pain engulfed her, “…not one glimmer of a shadow, not one photo out-of-place to show they have passed through. I was not enough to tie them to this place, to make them want to stay. Not even to say good-bye,” she was shaking as she cried. “And I hate myself because I was never deserving of them or they would have stayed, for only one moment in time to wave good-bye and I hate them for being so inconsiderate of me,” her vacant words echoing through her vacant heart.
Wiping her eyes, she sat up. “Selfish, whinny bitch,” she hiccupped. “That is me. But I don’t give a fuck,” she yelled out into the room and shook her fist. “I want something, anything, the smallest…” her voice cracked, as the tears flooded her cheeks. “The smallest of anything is better than nothing,” she lifted her eyes to his.
“M-m-m-m-m,” he replied, his eyes was that of a doctor and not a-would-be-lover.
“Do not m-m-m-m me,” she elbowed him, returning to this reality, her voice a bit angry. “That is what I would do to Random when he would have this great big grand idea that was going to get his ass in serious trouble.”
“M-m-m-m-m,” he followed up with as he kissed her hand. “Sometimes,” he brushed away the rest of her tears. “We just need to say things out loud to someone else.
Now,” his voice was still that of the professional. “Have you ever put the barrel of the gun in your mouth?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I came close one day. I had it loaded and one in the chamber, the safety off. Thinking about what my last thoughts should be. My mind kept drifting,” she laughed. “I was reading a murder mystery and everyone thought that the victim was murdered because he did not leave a suicide note. And there is this big, long-g-g-g lengthy discussion between these two detective characters about the lack of this note. So I am sitting there staring at the gun and all I can think is…well shit…really? There is a protocol for killing yourself? A note, I have to leave a fucking note? Really? Why? This should be obvious to anyone…I am tired of living and just decided not to live anymore. But no-o-o-o-o, now I have to write a fucking note and state for the record that this life blows and I want out. Just great, I am thinking to myself. My last thoughts alive are about writing a fucking note.
So, I started to get up to find a pen and some paper and at that time in walks Lynn, calling for me. I was so lost in thought I did not hear her open the front door with her key.
I did not have time to even try to disguise what I was doing. She is standing in the door of my bedroom, sees the gun on the bed and starts to cry.
All I can say to her is that I was going to do it in the shower so I would not make a mess all over the room and that I was going to leave her a note. Truly. I was going to leave her a note.”
Ellen became very quiet. “The grief in her comes out in wails and screams as she just crumpled onto the bed and curled into the fetal position. I thought she was going to rip what was left of my heart out of me.” Ellen blew out a lot of air and thought about those awful moments. “I envied her at that moment. She was capable of venting her grief in a way that I could not,” a very small voice inside of her stated.
“You’re the oldest of the three,” he said gently to her as he rubbed her back.
“Yes,” she nodded her head.
“Counted on at all times. No time for play. Always to the business at hand. Your husband would have found this to be a very attractive trait, as well.”
“Yes,” she sighed. “That sums it up.”
“It explains a lot about you.” His voice was sincere as he stated a brutal truth. “You helped everyone else through their grief but you would not allow anyone to help you through yours.”
“Fucking-Always-Right-Mr. Asshole,” she thought as she felt the steel in her seep back into her bones. Well, that steel would do her no good around him. Fucking-Always-Right Mr. Asshole would just keep pulling the scabs off until she bled to death. He was just like that Fucking-Always-Right-Mr. Asshole she had married.
“M-m-m-m,” was all the response she was going to give him. “So, we went to dinner and we negotiated that outcome and I just promised her that I would not take my life.
Lynn still whacks me with a broom from time to time,” she chuckled. “A gentle reminder, she tells me, of the heartache I caused her.”
Ellen grew thoughtful as she looked Jon in the eyes. “So how much heartache have I caused you? I killed Reggie without even blinking. I saw him pointing that weapon at you and threatening you and I did not even think twice about the consequences when I pulled the trigger. All I thought was I like silver bullets and that he was one dead motherfucker. “
“Reginald,” Jon snorted. “A quick death was too good for him. I did not thank you for that. And so I do at this time. That asshole was indeed trying to kill me. The arrow that went into the wall is loaded with a very noxious weed that grows in the outer edges of the realm called Thwarpe. Because that is the last gasping sound you make as you wheeze out your last breath.” His eyes narrowed. “He knew it would not kill me, but he believed it would combine with whatever energy stream he was pushing at me and it would have slowed me down and he would have made the most of that opportunity to do his worst. I mean, what great bragging rights. I killed/maimed/fucked over the king of the Supernaturals. All hail King Reggie and bow down and worship.
I know I would have survived whatever he was flooding the room with, along with whatever else he thought to toss at me, but you might not have,” he stressed as he squeezed her tighter.
“I know I am a vain fellow,” he kissed her lightly, “but I like to think perhaps you would enjoy keeping company with me…you know…instead of being dead,” he eyed her.
“Well yes, dead,” her eyes grew wide and her smile was almost sincere then she became settled in herself once more. “I honestly thought I was dead the first time I saw you and that you were Charles, there to escort me across. I still do not know if that is a cruel joke or…”
“Or memories in the making,” he added for her, his voice sure.
“I like that,” she smiled shyly at him. When he smiled at her, the corners of his eyes crinkled up and on his face she thought she saw contentment.
“Sun is coming up,” she put her arms around his neck and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Clive needs to be rewarded for his good works. Since you benefited the most…,” he gave her a great big horrified look and started to protest. Placing her hand over his mouth, which was now grinning at her, she continued. “I think you need to be the one to toss out the kitty kibble as a thank you. We will ring the bell and see who comes for breakfast.”
Setting her down, they walked with their arms about each other into the kitchen. He stopped her as she started to bend over into the cabinet and turned her to face him. “Ellen,” he put both hands on her face. “In regards to your family, you did your job to perfection. Your loved ones, they were not only grounded in their strength, but yours as well,” he said gently. “In life, with you loving them, you gave them permission to always move forward. Life is about moving forward or you stagnate. The same truths hold in death. These fortunate ones carry your love with them, ever forward as they ascend into the heavens, soaring forever with what you gave them in this life.”
He held her while she wept and the grief and anger that she had held for a decade, she offered up to the new day.