Wake up!

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Ok, real adulting question for my friends here; I was once and raised as an early to bed early to rise person. Natural and without an alarm even. The past going on three years I have been very dependent on my alarm, but now working for myself (even with my own strict schedule) I have found it harder to wake early at all. And I am not just a little extra sleeping in. I am taking like a twelve hours sleep. My big problem is that back in the age of my 20’s I could also manage to stay up late and still wake up early…those days…ahhh memories.

Now I find myself wide awake very late but I also don’t feel that I get my best work done then, at all. So I feel it is closer to wasted time (other than the reading that I end up doing.)
I don’t like the feeling of waking up “half way through the day” at all, and set a lot of alarms to have to walk through, but I zombie sleep turning them off and head right back to bed (now that the cold weather is here REALLY doesn’t help staying out of my nice comfy bed.)

Working for myself, I try and shift my days schedule to fit from hour I woke to hour I sleep regardless but again sometimes the productive doens’t happen that way either, and my job needs the creative and the productive. This also began to be a problem before working for myself so it’s not only the work for myself thing I need more sleep but then feel that “too much sleep” feel. I have more and more trouble waking early.

Things I’ve tried:
*Coffee prepared and ready to go.
*No coffee and a lot of water and also juicing. Not being dependent on caffeine.
*Alarms everywhere to walk to and even move stuff around for basically booby trap myself to think in my zombie walk.
*More written plans of action than I can count
*Music of all types.
*Wake at 4, wake at 5, wake at 6, wake right at dawn, wake when the sun is up, sleep with the curtains open to wake with the sun and not in a dark room. No tv, no computer, hours prior to bed. Name it, I’ve done it. Also super healthy and health reasons ruled out.

So to other adulting people; tricks? Tips? Real you could hold a gun to my head and I would still just turn around ad go back to bed moments in your own life?

Wake up! Why don’t you put on a little makeup?!

WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 6.

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Behind The White Gate is my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel. I wrote it in one month. I changed and edited it million times during the next eleven over more coffee than I care to admit to. And more may be to come. This version I am sharing, it gives a piece of me to you. I am open and love any feedback you might have. If you wish to share it personally you can do so at peggyjdavenport@gmail.com .

I am that kind of writer who can tell you what I write..or what I am writing is about. But I will say that this one came to me by passing a white gate on a daily walk to a job I hated and letting my imagination go wild, combined with the coming of womanhood and the women in and out of my life through out the years who had shaped, molded, and influenced me, for the good or for the bad. There are also intertwined lessons in life we often learn the hard way and their shaping of oneself and there is the old “Nothing goes according to plan.” It is being lost and becoming grown up and recognizing yourself in others around you…especially those you tried to be the least like. It is often the lack of denying any longer all that has made you…all of it.

Behind The White Gate is secret’s that aren’t secret, controversy we face today and are just now beginning to speak of but in many homes still in hushed tones. It is shame that you carry and hide from only everybody else who also has their own. It is memories of childhood perceived as an adult. It is letting go. It is changing. It is forgiving, but also not forgetting.

It is raw emotion and no giving excuses.

It comes from a place deep of them that I hope resonate on the page for the reader.

It is fiction drawn on very real emotion.

Past that, maybe you can help me explain it better.

I will release over time, the Prologue, and then chapter by chapter. I had previously released some bits and pieces. This new full chapter by chapter release will be named WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 1 (and so on). You can easily search in the search bar for all pieces and keep in order as released.

Currently I hope this will go to publish sooner than later. I am in the search of, and have been researching for, a Literary Agent. Feel free to contact me at my email above.

Thank you for reading.

Peggy J. Davenport

 

Chapter Six

Going to her own bedroom she fell into the first best sleep she had had in weeks. Likely out of pure emotional drain. For the first time in weeks her sleep held no dreams. The last thought she had before drifting off was “I had never even wanted children. He and I had even decided never to have them by trying and took precautions not to have them. We always said if an accident happened that was one thing then, so be it. But we had actually thought of our lives without children.” She had held her journal notebook trying to write out her thoughts but no words ever went on paper.

The next morning she woke more refreshed than she could remember in a long time. Starting the day with a cup of coffee on the porch and her notebook…thankfully she had not forever lost it after leaving it at the smoky Old Quarter Cafe the other night. Back in the loft in Las Angeles she had a huge book shelf with hundreds of these books now. Sixteen years worth and here at home her shelves held some as well from the nineteen years before that, they still lined her shelves seemingly untouched. Pages filled with her thoughts, idea’s, works, bits and pieces and notes of stories and other writing’s. Some that went onto be something, other’s that lay as memories of a moment. This day she wrote a stream of idea’s and thoughts and feelings…journal like items that helped her come to conclusions of an idea or finding in a direction after having gone round and round writing something from different angles which was something she had developed over years as a writer by trade and not just by hobby, or as once she had been, a child. A child with her head filled with so many idea’s and crowded thoughts and feelings that she had found, with writing, some solution to release them.

As she thought about the life growing inside of her formed from the life that she had taken, and the decisions she had to make she had already mostly formed the idea of what to do…what her decision about what to do with the pregnancy would be. But sitting and writing now with a blanket over her lap and coffee in one hand, pen in another and a night of dreamless sleep behind her, finally, she wrote her feelings of having children…of having this child. And notions of what it would be like with one, especially as a single mom. And more especially as a single mom with the history and news and gossip and emotions and one day of her child knowing all of this that were involved that went with it all. And she considered her fears of mental illness and depression, the suicide of her father and the attempts her mother had taken. She even…this one was hard, wrote what it would have been like having this child with her husband, had none of the bad ever happened and if he was still the man she had known when they married, holding hands with him through hiking in Griffith Park and the picnics on the beach, surfing, and that time the surf board slammed him in the face real hard and all they could do was laugh, he was ok of course. Their Sundays spent visiting their favorite haunts…that one bookstore in Malibu where the huge shaggy dog always lay sleeping right in the open doorway and you had to step really wide to get in over it at all. It was a good thing she had long legs and she often had wondered what short legged people had to do. But these were things she thought of and wrote about. She also wrote a line in another direction of having the child with him and WITH the bad. The person not with whom she had fallen in loved with and married and knew but the person that she had to admit she had spent a year living with who had become a complete stranger. A very angry, moody and hurtful stranger. What then? What if a baby had not made him remember who he was and become again that good man she had once known? What if he remained angry and hurtful, or even became more so? What if it wasn’t only toward her that he turned that anger, but toward the baby? She faced a lot of what the problems were in writing it all down, forcing herself to think about all the things she didn’t want to. And how she had no control over some of it, and all the control over other parts. She thought and wrote of how often and in how many ways she had tried helping him, encouraging them to go to marital counseling, encouraging him to go to therapy himself. Something. She had tried to stay calm most times, more out of fear and walking on eggshells trying to not set him off into another rage that always ended aimed right at her. But other time’s she had been able to have complete calm conversations with him about it all, left off with his promises and agreements of getting help, admitting he needed it which he would forget by the next day. Help he would later make no move to get at all. And there had been time’s that frustration had won and she ended up in tears, even yelling at him “What is wrong with you?!” Once being a time in the kitchen, always their kitchen, when he had nitpicked at her all day, chasing her for a fight, like a small dog nipping just enough to bruise but not draw blood. So she had begun to cry, softly and to herself at first, as she kneaded dough, making bread which had become one of her favorite past times, her tears may have even fallen into the dough but she hadn’t cared. He walked around behind her, picked items up, set them down, sat and read things at the table, all the while speaking under his breath, mimicking when she spoke and just being down right mean. She hadn’t taken the baiting all day to the fight he was picking but finally her tears fell and blinded her to her task at hand and then he said “I liked you with your hair cut short, you know, the way you had it years ago. Much better than it is now.” It hadn’t even been the words that hurt but the tone, nasty. Sarcastic, venom filled just spitting at her and she finally punched her hands into the dough and with her head thrown back but her back still to him she wailed and yelled “WHY?! Why?! Why won’t you get help?!” Turning to him, her hands covered in yeasty paste and flour held out toward the ceiling. She only cried again, so blind with tears and hurt and frustrations more than she knew then that he had gotten the better of her, but she didn’t even care anymore, he had gotten what he wanted and she had lost her temper but not in the anger he had hoped, in her tears of giving up “WHY?!” Was all she had cried again and stormed off to wash her hands in the bathroom, change and leave the loft. She just had to walk until she couldn’t walk anymore and she’d returned home and went straight to bed. That night he had walked up from his downstairs shop soon after and crawled into bed next to her, she had been crying quietly into her pillow and he whispered “I don’t know. I don’t want to lose you is all I can think of” was all he said as he curled up around her. But she could never understood, then, why a person would treat someone they didn’t want to lose in such a way and even more so why he hadn’t wanted to hold on for so long and was now wanting to. It wasn’t long until it seemed he forgot those words, though. Now sitting eighteen hundred miles or so away on a porch on another coast she had moved on from writing idea’s and angles of her situation to writing these memories down, letting them pour from her, writing in her questions and wondering if there had been a solution she had missed, but it was too late to focus on that now even if she found one, and she wrote more toward her decision about having a baby now. Or not having one.

She wrote and wrote and never noticed that every so often her mom came and refilled her coffee cup, mixed just the right amount of sugar and cream and left quietly letting her stay lost in her thoughts. One thing the people of this house seemed to understand was to leave a person be when they needed it, especially if it was doing something that seemed to be their chosen release in life. Her legs curled up underneath her on the big whicker love seat, a soft gray blanket lay over her lap and her feet in warm socks…the morning went from beautiful and sunny to the afternoon bringing in rain and thunderstorms…and still Bird never stopped writing. Well covered underneath the large deep porch the rain never touched her though from time to time a wind gust sprayed mist her way, only to be mixed with tears that already wet her face. From time to time she could be caught staring off into space…see the memory playing before her like a movie. Sometimes tears came fresh to her eye’s and even once her mother watched through the kitchen window as she held her hand to chest and heaved back a cry…a lump stuck way deep down, the kind that seizes your chest. But still her sisters and mother and grandmothers gave her space, only casting occasional glances and refilling tea, sometimes you needed to cry like that. She once set a plate with a sandwich and tomato soup for her at lunch but it sat left un-touched like Bird had never seen it. The intense focus was not something new to this family and this family was well bred to leave one alone when in it. Usually not due to any mental field they were in but an artistic and creative one, actually. In Bird’s case they didn’t know which exactly she was in or what the words written were for and didn’t much care, they just cared for her and gave her quiet standing.

It wasn’t until the porch light came on with the dark that she stopped and moved to stretch…leaving the notebook laying there and slipping her feet into her shoes she stepped off the porch and went to get the guitar that she had seen still sat in her fathers library after all these years and walked back out to the firepit that someone had lit in the yard after the night had fallen and the rain had stopped. Grass wet beneath her feet. All of the women of The House Behind The White Gate had gathered around, chatting and talking, They smiled at her and made room in the circle..and they waited as her fingers strummed the stings and the tune began…and not the songs of her father they expected but instead songs that she herself had written over the years. She sang on a night crisp after an afternoon storm and her voice rang out across the clear night air like a bell…the story behind the lyrics even clearer.

After some time and enjoying the music, song, warmth of the fire and family and the healing that they could feel falling over them, Bird started in on some familiar songs of their papa’s…and her sisters and mother joined in. After Bird’s own songs and the settling of a beginning of a healing it wasn’t sad, though somewhat bittersweet to hear these songs at this house again for the first time in sixteen years.
Bird opened her eye’s and looked around at them as they continued to sing, all of their voices joining and ringing across the island…during this a few neighbors had walked in the gates and joined, bringing coolers and blankets and chairs and sitting around the fire with them. This was what she remembered about the neighborhood and she smiled brightly when she saw them come, not all things had been bad and not all things had changed, this warmed her on a crisp chill night… she saw Del walk in with a big dog and take up some space around the fire, thermos in hand. He nodded and sat and listened to the songs playing….and then at one point during her papa’s songs he had been handed a guitar by my mother and he strummed along…and began to sing too, words that he must have known long before…but then again…that was my papa on the island, Bird thought. He hadn’t died…he lived on and not in a bad memory or gossip but in at least song and lyric and when mentioned what came to mind first was always his big deep laugh.
I smiled and kept on singing….the voices filling my soul.

Then before the night came close to an end of music that had continued on to other songs of neighbors and friends and family known and shared…the fire stoked and kept hot…I slipped away for a quiet walk to stretch my legs and back, hands warming in the pockets of my coat and my scarf pulled up around my chin and neck.

“Mind if I join?” Del stepped in beside her in the dark.

“Sure.”

“I heard all of the Strife women could sing but only one truly sang like a bird.”

“I am sure you have heard a lot about the Strife family on this island, sir.”

“I have.” Head down, smile gone and face went serious he nodded, hands deep in his own pockets.
“Everybody has their stories. And this island likes to make use of them all for their own entertainment a lot of the time.”

I nodded to that one and we walked in silence for awhile.

“Could I ask you out to dinner next Friday night?”

“Del, I….”

“I know…I am sorry. You are probably nowhere ready to date after everything that happened. I would like to date you….sometime. But in the meantime I offer my friendship and don’t ask for more, if you’d accept that?”

I took a deep breath and gave it due thought. “Maybe we could do that. It’s too small of an island to make enemies and I don’t have any friends here.”

“Good.” Even in the dark I could see his smile grow broadly across his face.

Suddenly I felt something rub my leg and yelped in surprise. “Bill! Heel!” Del spoke firmly and low and I saw his big dog round to his other side and walk at a perfect heel. And I started laughing…loud…and continuously. He joined in with a chuckle and we headed back to the circle of others around the firelight.

I saw Sas give me a look and raise her eye brow in that Oh So Big Sister way she had and look over at Mag with a look that said “told you so.” And Mag smiled at the two of us and then turn back to the child she had laying across her lap and slipping her hand into that of a man’s who sat beside her. Walking up they both stood, the man taking the child and turned to Del and I.

“Hi Del. Bird I’d like you to meet my fiancee, Jason and his son Jack.” My sister had nice looking man standing next to her and apparently a young father of a young boy who’s mother had taken off after getting wrapped up in some mistakes. Yes, Del was right, everyone had their stories. I realized then that I had not even thought of the lives my family went on leading, growing up and dating beau’s all these years and was caught a bit off guard and a little wistful at the time I had lost. Though I needed that time strangely for me, I had paid a price for it too.

The next morning…I lay in bed and stretched out and enjoyed the softness. My bruised body was finally healing and the color fading and with it decisions became clearer. I was sure. I just lay there thinking, enjoying the peace I felt come over me and relaxed, released so much of the tension that I had been holding…for the first time for as long as I could remember. Yet I also couldn’t, or wouldn’t try to, avoid the sadness. My mind lingered to a memory…many memories, of laying in bed on a Saturday morning together, him and I. In the happier times. The memory brought a bittersweet sadness but I felt for the first time the enjoyment of a good memory while letting go of the instant regret and guilt that I felt..and the sadness and tension that had come the past year, when he had changed. I hadn’t wished to shoot him, but it happened as it had and try and different as I wished I couldn’t change that or take it back. The realization was I had protected myself, if it had not happened it might have ended up being me who’s blood stained the concrete sidewalk. I had not shot the man I loved but I had shot the man he had become and who had hurt me, who would likely have killed me and who had come very close to it previously. Him catching me leaving him that day might have been the end of it….well, it was the end of it. I didn’t embrace that fact. I didn’t forgive myself for pulling the trigger. didn’t excuse it. I just…understood it. For a moment I could think about the good of him, the good he and I had had before. Our mornings in bed together before it all changed.

Finally the smell of bacon and coffee that had made it’s way upstairs made her too hungry to stay in bed any longer and she padded down in her pajama’s…hair a mess but a smile on her face as she entered the kitchen to the smell of bacon and the pile of pancakes…and saw Del mid-plancake flip…hearing his deep laughter the second she saw him. She stopped, shocked for a moment. Mag caught site of her and stopped laughing while holding baby Jack in her arms, taking his little baby hand she waved and said “Hey Auntie Bird, come get some coffee.” Jason stood nearby pulling dishes off of shelves and threw a smile and greeting at her over his shoulder.

Heck…I was already down there, Del wasn’t a love interest…oh no. Nowhere ready to think of that, though his blue eye’s twinkled when he saw her, they would only be friends. She…why was she even thinking this? She pushed the idea out of her head. She couldn’t do relationships, dating or even sex.No. God…it had been…when was the last time she had thought of such things? She couldn’t even remember. She felt guilty at thinking them. She laughed and came in, pushing her wild black hair into a bun at least. She poured her coffee, shook little Jacks hand, said hello to everybody else in the room including Mag’s fiancee, Jason and then to Del, as if not a ruffled feather upon her. She took a spot at the island sitting across from Del who was flipping pancakes and Mag’s handed her a plate piled high…”I can’t eat all this!” I said
“She will make you” Sas said from behind the newspaper sitting at the breakfast nook table where she was munching on her own slice of bacon, her raised eye brow over her thick black rimmed glasses peeked at me over the top of the paper. Her face saying ” I’ve done this a time or two… don’t argue. Just eat.”

But my stomach grumbled and taking Sas’s un-spoken advice I dove into my plate and Mag handed Jack to me to go take care of the eggs. Suddenly…I stopped eating. I was holding a baby and….Mag’s looked up and caught on “Oh…let me here. I’m sorry Bird I didn’t think…” She trailed off and looked around the room, at Del, biting off her words.

“It’s ok..It’s fine.” I bit into my pancakes and soon the room started to relax….get busy and pretend there wasn’t an elephant standing right in the middle of it. The normal way of the Strife family. Del gave a quizzical look and then seeing the reaction of the women…and Jason pretending to get busy with Jack too…went back about his pancake flipping making a big show of them and making baby Jack laugh…Sas kept reading the paper after a good hard shake and Mag finished scurring around with breakfast making and encouraging Jack to eat and then started cleaning but the guys shooed her to sit with some coffee while they handled the mess. She sat on a stool next to Bird, holding baby Jack and leaned close whispering “I’m sorry…this probably isn’t the time to have a baby around and I shouldn’t have thrown him in your arms, and when I saw your face when I handed him to you, I just …” I cut her off “It’s fine, Mag, really…everything is fine…it just kinda hit me for a second is all and yes it’s not easy and it’s weird and difficult and it all will be but it’s fine…it’s needed and life goes on and it doesn’t stop revolving because of my problems.” I leaned over and fed some pancake to Jack.

After the breakfast was eaten and cleared away, Del wiped his hands on a dishtowel and turned and asked who was up for some kayaking…Sas folded the paper, grabbed some books on the table by the back door saying something over her shoulder about work, took off…and Mag took baby Jack up off the floor where he was playing and said something about plans they had to meet with another couple and scurried out the door pushing Jason ahead so that it was just Del and Bird left in the kitchen…Bird was reading a part of the paper and Del turned and stared at her until her eye’s came up from it, giving him a look and saying “huh?”
“Kayaking…come on it will be fun.” He said.
“It will be fun, they say.” I mimicked, eye’s back on the paper, bacon in my hand. “Always the last famous words.” And took a bite of bacon. “It’s cold.”
“It’s perfect…go get dressed and I will bring the truck around.”

So an hour later they had shoved off the embankment of Offat’s Bayou, which was a bay area of Galveston Island, where they had driven to known for it’s sailing and other aquatic sports. The scene around them on a crisp winter day was of sailboats and glass pyramids. And they sat in a shared kayak paddling into the water away from shore…for a moment they were silent and Bird felt that the shoving farther from shore was exactly what her soul felt like…away into the deep waters and farther from safety…such was her life these days, toward the deep end. She dipped her paddle into the water again moving farther still. She wondered if she would ever be able to forget and ever feel normal again.

Del finally spoke from his seat in the kayak behind her, “I have a feeling that there is a lot more going on with you than just what was in the papers, Bird…if you want to talk…you can.”

I just paddled slowly, following his lead. I didn’t respond but instead looked over the sunlight glittering on the calm waters. The waters , however, did not reflect my life at the calm rate they gently lapped…but knowing that the water ran deep, was murky and sharks swam in it, did…this was where my mind wandered.

Del began chattering away, pointing out the sites and they paddled on through to some marshes…he occasionally asked if she was ok or needed a break…she always said she was fine and shook her head to keep paddling…letting her mind drift over his words and over the waters….just drift…not have to make any decisions.

She paddled on.

Finally Del had them directed back at the embankment and they had put in a few hours of kayaking, he praised her for hanging in there and doing a good job…obviously being knowledgeable and kind of kept up a busy chatter. Handing her a water bottle out of the cooler they sat for awhile after everything was loaded up, she was still in the calm quiet that she had been in all day.

“Bird…are you pregnant?”

I nodded. Looking down at the bottle in my hands.

“You aren’t keeping it though, huh?”

I waited awhile…I thought, ‘let that question roll in my mind and simmer’, and then shook my head and softly said “Yes, I am and no. I’m not. The family doesn’t know what I have decided yet though, they just know it’s a decision to be decided.”

He only nodded and reached over sliding his hand in hers and squeezed. The warmth of his solid large hand felt good, as good as the silence that he continued sitting there with her in until she was ready to shake it off and get back to the house.

She got back , leaving Del driving off in his jeep, to find her mother and both grandmothers on their knee’s in various parts of the garden snipping and trimming and digging and weed pulling…the day was unusually warm for winter but then again…this was Galveston, a little island off of Texas. Ninety degree weather could be found one day and forty the next, smack dab in the middle of January. One didn’t pack away the summer wardrobe here.

I joined my mother in the garden and bent to knee and helped her toil in the soil in perfect silence. The ladies all looked up by raised eyelids and brow but not more than that, no pause given. My mother wasn’t one much for nonsense talking and had always been very comfortable in long silences, another like her realization just then, allowing the words to come when they came and letting the thoughts drift when they drifted and sometimes…not thinking much at all and focusing on the task at hand. But never not thinking, either. Sometimes sort of…meditating. She was realizing that some things she had found cold and stand-off-ish about her mother as a child were now traits she recognized in herself and also found she appreciated about the older woman now. Her mother’s strong presence seemed solid next to her and right now that solid was just what she needed. Solid with silence something to be grateful for.

Eventually Mag called out to them carring a trey of hot tea onto the porch through the kitchen door and yelled at them “Take a break you old ladies your knee’s can’t take that much kneeling without one, and it’s cooling off, perfect for a cup of tea!” So we dusted the dirt off and went and sat on the porch, I leaned back on the porch steps with a warm mug in my hands and closed my eye’s basking in the warm sunlight of the day, remembering a time when we were kids, just the three of us first girl’s then, the two younger so set apart from us not yet born. Mom and Papa were kneeling in the garden together…I remembered watching them and thinking “they love each other.” Right then and there. I don’t know why those memories seemed so crowded out of my mind by the bad one’s and I shook my head as the red water bathtub image tried to creep in my mind again, an image that had severely blocked out many possible others. I saw my mother rocking in her chair and watching me. Maybe not so much a look of love as much as a look of contentment. I caught her look and she put her cup down and stood up, stepping down when she got to me she kept moving forward looking ahead and said, “Come walk with me, Bird.”

We walked through the garden, past the white gates and onto the sidewalk toward the beach…the entire way to the water we walked in determined silence, my mothers face set in serious lines. I studied her and I saw my own face twenty-five years from now, I hadn’t realized just how much we looked alike. The lines on her face were like a map of the journey I was taking leading to the destination I was would end up in.

Finally walking left when we hit the line of water she spoke “Bird, this decision is so very yours to make. You are loved and supported either way you choose. I am going to say something not to sway your decision but…so you know, and have support in any way that you may need. I do not regret you or your sisters for a single minute and I wouldn’t change having had you for a moment but I will say this…my life was different from yours, my choices of life were different than your choices. My lifestyle itself was different from the one you have built for yourself. You aren’t making a lifestyle, Bird, you really have set one. It’s hard to see it but it’s not over yet and you still have that life, a little different, but it’s your life. You may even be a little different but you are still you. But you set it anyway and I can see that it hasn’t fit children…and it could very well adjust to them as well. That’s parenthood for you, never ready and always adjust to when it happens. I wish I’d been able to adjust better. I hear that it works that way for most women.” She sighed, bent to pick up a shell that she brushed the sand off of before continueing “But at the same time, if I had made it to my thirties with no children and had a set lifestyle that perhaps didn’t fit them…I would have perhaps continued on. And if I had been faced with the decision you have now to make, even without all the circumstances you have circling in yours, I likely would make the choice to keep on without children. It’s not to say I regret you girls. I have in my time, truthfully, but I don’t now and mostly never did. You fit in my life, I just ever seemed to be able to make myself fit into yours. That is not to sway you to not have this child but to let you know it’s ok if you don’t. And it is ok if you do. I am also not in your shoes, either. If your father had…earlier…I don’t know. I don’t think that…” She paused as if she had more but didn’t go on, her face set looking out to the water, she reached over and took my hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze but then didn’t let go until I nodded and we both stared out over the water. I had a moment of thinking of how young my mother was when she had us and how she tried keeping it all together with five young daughters, a husband, and mental illness always trying to drag her down and force her to cry defeat. I thought of myself in her shoes and realized that with many young daughters almost all before she was my age I don’t see how I myself would have done it…and here I was blaiming her for not being a better mother. Expecting perfection. The tiniest sliver of acceptance lifted some of the anger toward her that I carried. Had carried for a very long time. Maybe not entirely, there was a lot that I didn’t understand or maybe a lot of pain that I was not ready to forgive. But the thought of her so young, with such babies, and knowing my own fear of mental illness but her actually dealing with it put things in a different perspective. I squeezed her hand back.
Later I opened my notebook, again writing some and reading over my thoughts and directions and the scenarios of my alternative choices. Writing and sometimes what looked only like staring at a blank page or scratching the pen across surface was often my form of clearing and sorting thoughts, ideas. A way of coming to conclusions, in both my work and in my personal life. Meditative and sometimes a needed calm came from it, sometime an answer to a question I pondered over.

I read back over some of the last few days and what I had written about the choice that I had ahead of me. I had never really seen myself with children and when he and I had married we both had held that same thought…a kinda hey if it happened sure we go through with it but our lives were better suited without and we took precaution. We built our lives for a childless way of living. We had renovated a historic down town industrial building where his shop was downstairs and our home was the loft above, opening onto a courtyard where we gardened together. He built furniture, carefully crafted really. Beautiful stuff. He had a real talent. He always came up for lunch covered in sawdust and an obvious love for his work. For a long time an obvious love for me too. I went toward the thought again of where that had gone. When. Going back to the thoughts of our…my,now…lifestyle, I thought of my days writing, my desk in the sunlit open loft upstairs next to an open window, my large desk where I spent many hours studying, writing, researching and working altogether. Sometimes I would go to one of the local coffeeshop’s nearby. Change my scene, absorb from other people, their colors, fashion, voices and mannerisms. Studying their faces and picturing their story in my mind. I would take long walks and soak in the sites and sounds. I spent time pouring through books at the library, melting into the pages of dusty books of history and the dark brown wood’s of the old library. Disappearing for hours before coming up for breath…taking moments to realize where I was once again and clear my mind, blinking my eye’s to focus and see that I was not lost in the pages I read but a library and often that it was time to go home when I’d felt as if I had just arrived.

We would joined friends in evenings, music, laughter and red wine glinting in soft complimentary lighting. We talked with many other artists and scholor’s and professor’s of the nearby college. We would cook a dinner together in our kitchen, barefoot and dancing to the music, laughing and testing the sauces, trying something new.
Again my mind wandered to better times and I shook my head clearing the images away. Not yet ready, if ever to cherish them. Feeling guilt, and a longing that hit so hard it hurt.

I read back further in my notebook…there were pages it held written in the last weeks of his life…when no longer did we laugh but when I walked in a constant tense waiting. Tip-toeing on eggshells afraid he would hear the crack of sound and burst into one of his becoming more and more frequent tirades. I never could pinpoint what would set him off to learn how to avoid that one such thing. It didn’t take drinking or a bad mood or bad news or even a bad day….sometimes the rages happened when we’d had a perfectly good day, when it felt like I had my best friend again…and then suddenly he would look up from what he was doing and look at me with pure disdain with eye’s that minutes before had held that old pure love that I had looked into when saying my vows.

I read one of the last passages, exactly a week before the accident.

“This evening while we made dinner I had the most frightening moment. I think in his mind he truly contemplated killing me. I could read it in his eye’s. One minute we were completely fine, almost the old good best friend again, we’d both had great successful days and had come home talking of our good achievements. I no longer talk of my own achievements if he doesn’t have one to share because of what happened that last time…
We had been talking about a funny client of his when suddenly he went super still and stopped chopping the onions he was dicing, he always could do the best real fine dicing that I can never seem to get right, he was real still, knife in hand. Hs shoulders had gone absolutely rigid. I looked at his face and he was like stone…I called his name like a whisper…he flinched at the sound and I stopped, flinched waiting for his hand to reach out and smack me. But he didn’t…he just stared down at the cutting board…for a long…long time. I stayed silent and didn’t move either, afraid that if I did it might set him off as he had such a weird look and…sudden feel about him…you could see the anger growing, the red creeping up his neck and the veins pulsing. His hand was tightening and gripping the handle of the knife so hard and for a moment I didn’t fear for myself but for him…the thought of him harming himself gave me the bravery to reach out and settle my hand over his, the one wrapped around the knife handle, instantly he relaxed…instant, his whole entire body, whatever had possessed him whooshed right out of him in an instant and he looked over at me, right in the eye’s and says “Bird, if I ever hurt you, I am very sorry.” And then there he goes back to dicing the onions like not a thing had happened or that hadn’t just been the freakiest phrase one has ever said. He just started back on the conversation about his funny client exactly where he had left off like nothing…”

I closed the notebook, sighed and stared off, the image of that day so strong. the feeling I had that day of the most pure fear in me. I was not sure if I felt more fear for myself, or for him but fear for myself had never made me feel like that. When I realized fear for him was when my stomach simply knotted in such a way and the breath constricted in my throat, and the hush of heavy air that settled had happened. The thought of him hurting himself had weighed on my mind a couple of times through the Bad Time as I called the time when he had changed from my best friend and became detached, lost in his own mind often wandering around muttering to himself, angry, so very angry all the time. All of a sudden.

Such a contrast from before when he had been the most smiling happy gentle and caring man, outside of my father, and who I had known and been married to for years.
I thought back to when it began and the one and only time that one of these outbursts brought anger from my side. Well, anger that I showed at least. I wished that I had found a way to help but I just didn’t know how and I felt so helpless when he became depressed all I did was try to help. It had started when I had a project with the production company and was gone much of the time at their offices, I did this from time to time with long stretches of working from home so it wasn’t anything completely new and out of the ordinary. The first day that I came home he hadn’t moved from his position I’d left him on the couch that morning, in his pajama’s and playing video games. Not like him at all, he had times that he played the games and even relaxed but usually they were days we both decided to have a down day all day lounging together, eating crockpots full of chili, but this time…I had walked in and he didn’t even look up, his face was set like he was mad which was a rare look on him. I pondered at how strong his jaw was and that I didn’t very often notice that. And I put my books down on the table and went and wrapped my arms around his neck, sitting behind him on the couch with my legs on either side I kissed his neck and then began to massage his neck and shoulders while he continued playing the came. He never responded and the tenseness I could feel in his shoulders caused his muscles to be un-kneadable. Finally feeling the aloofness and not knowing what to do with it I went to change into my running clothes, coming out I put in my headphones but not turning them on yet, bent down to give him a kiss on the cheek and he says “Leaving again? You are always leaving.” I stood back as if bit, I said ” I always go running at this time, everyday, hon.” My voice questioning more than telling or reminding. He just stared forward, his jaw set. I ask what’s wrong and he won’t respond, I ask if he’d like me to stay and hang out, play a game, make some dinner but am again met with no response…finally I turn and leave for my run, totally buffuddled at the scene. Now needing my run, a good head clearing, and not sure what else to do in such an awkward situation, thinking maybe he needed some time to think as well.
When I got back in he was still playing, I called out hello, and chatted happily about my run, making a glass of water as I spoke in our open living space my voice carried easily. He continued with his set face, I could see the veins bulging in his neck and I said ” hon? What’s wrong, babe?” He throws the controllers toward the tv, hitting the floor and stands up and just…walked out of the room. I stood there thinking “What the fuck?” Purely concerned because this was never…not in the least…ever at all how this man went about responding over anything. He was even the better communicator out of the two of us. I set my water glass down after shocked pause and then followed him through our bedroom to the bathroom and found his bent over the toilet throwing up, rushing to him I laid my hands on his shoulder asking if he was ok and what was wrong? I wet a wash cloth and handed it to him and he looked up finally…his face streaked with tears and snot coming from his nose even, his face in pure agony and I asked “Is it your dad?” Knowing his father was older and he was a big worry on his mind these days as well as being the only person in his family he even got along with…this emotion seemed reaction for something major that had happened. But he says “I am just waiting for you to leave me one day. I know you are going to.” I melted immediately onto the floor without pause even though surprised and crawling into straddling his lap I wrapped my arms around him and held his head to my chest and said ” Why would you think that?!” I was shocked…I wasn’t cheating and we had a trusting relationship. A good one. We had spats and arguments and debates but I had certainly not feared we were in trouble of any kind. He wasn’t an insecure type of man.
But he just started heaving his cries were so hard, his shoulders bouncing with sobs and his tears wetting my shirt and kept saying the same thing, babbling and not making sense. I cooed and held him and kept assuring him that I had no intention of ever leaving him. That he was my husband. That I loved him and asking why he would ever think such a thing and what had gotten into him?” He just bawled and I held on until the cries turned to hiccups and we ended up sitting on the bathroom floor laughing…kissing and then making love right there…ending with a climb into the shower, washing down the drain the tears and the lingering fears.

The week after that, nearly having forgotten about the incident entirely, I carried groceries in, reached the top of the flight of twenty-five steps….all of which I felt with a load of groceries in my arms, and he was standing over my desk, thinking nothing of it as I hid nothing and he often needed stamps or some such item but was otherwise respectful of my privacy, I walked to the open kitchen and began putting groceries away. “How’s your day going? How is that new Demsca desk you are building coming along? I need to come down and see how it’s turned out.”

He kept standing over my desk, something in his hand. Not looking up at all and answered back “Why do you suddenly need to check on my work?” His words came out in such a vicious snarl I stopped unpacking the bags, setting the bell pepper down slowly onto the counter and looking over at him. I think the only time I had heard him speak in such a tone was a time when a guy tried picking a bar fight after he kept grabbing at me even as we walked our way out.
“I don’t check up on your work, hon, I was just asking.” Confused, as we spoke about each others work all the time, in detail, and asked each other’s opinions even. Our work was very important to both of us, and our partner’s work to us because it was to them. Our lives farely revolved around our careers and was often the topic of discussion or idle chatter. Questions such as I asked were not uncommon of either of us in our daily talk. He brought over the papers in his hand and said “Is this supposed to be the kind of man I am?” He waved them in the air, leaning on the counter. I saw he was holding my latest article on a relationship series that I was writing for a magazine. It was about communication.
“Actually I was able to use much of your personality as a good base for it, it’s more how you’ve always been rather than what I wish you were or think you are supposed to be.” I responded slowly, cautiously Still very unsure of why and where this was going. “But it’s only influenced a little, otherwise it’s not based on you at all.” Relationship based articles geared often toward womens magazines were nothing new of my writings.
He threw the papers on the table and spat out “A man not afraid to show his emotions?” That’s you’re bullshit writing?!” He was so furious that spittle came with every word. “I”….I began but he cut me off “You and your fucking idea’s of what a man should be. Always trying to change me. You think that you have something to fix?! You don’t have anything to fix. I don’t need fixing!” More dumbfounded I recalled that my article…nor any of them previously, mentioned fixing a man or changing him at all. I stood there at the counter, turning to watch as he began marching around the kitchen, picking the papers up and reading a line and then waving them around to then be thrown back onto the table just to be picked up on his next round of it, another line read in furious state. But none of the lines matched the rant he was ranting even for this seemingly misinterpretation. He had always been a reader of my writings before I’d send them in, I never wrote anything to offend him and I was at a loss for his reaction or even, really, why he’d been reading unfinished work before handed to him to do so at all as he usually gave me space in my work. Respect of my space. So as bewildered as I was, I also felt the heat of anger rising in me. “You are taking things out of context…why….what is going on?” I managed to choke out.
“Going on?! Why don’t you tell me what is going on? You always say you are at the library when I know you are fucking someone else!” he shoved a chair against the table, hard and began picking things up off of various surfaces and then slamming them down. “What?! What are you TALKING about…?” He cut me off again rushing and shoving his face into mine and and grabbed my jaw with one hand, spittle landing on my face as he said “I know you are. You fucking little cunt!” He shoved me down until I was leaning so far back over the counter that my feet came off the ground…I couldn’t breath but more I was shocked and appalled…he let me go suddenly and stormed out to his shop downstairs. I had stood there a moment looking around the kitchen and thinking, again, “What The fuck?” But now I was mad…I wasn’t cheating…hell I barely spoke to other people without him there, he was the social butterfly. I worked hard when I was at the library, headphones on and not looking up from the pages for hours. I was usually pretty lost in my own head I hadn’t ever even looked at a man sexually since I had met him…I got mad…I pushed away from the counter and stormed down the stairs after him
“What the FUCK is your problem?!” I yelled.
He was sanding on a furniture piece he’d been building.
He looked up in surprise like he didn’t know why I was upset and said “Bird, whats gotten into you?” I saw his eye’s were clear and the rage from them gone…I stopped and bit my tongue…wondering at this change if I had just imagined the entire scene that had happened just a minute ago in the kitchen, I reached up and felt my jaw, sore from the roughness he had grabbed me with, “Bird?” He said in genuine concern I turned and stumbled upstairs…unsure of what was going on….I was left wondering if my mothers problems had started in my own head and that perhaps I was losing my mind.

Back in my life in Galveston now, and back from my memories to the present day, I set my notebook on the bedside table and turned out the light but I wasn’t able to turn my mind off and the memories that swam through.

“You looked like you slept with an angry bobcat last night.”Sas said as I walked into the kitchen the next morning.
“Shhh.” I grumbled and poured my coffee.

“Just didn’t sleep well.”

“Well I’m off to the the shop…need anything before I go?”

“No, I’m good, thanks.” I waved her off and buried myself behind the paper…not to read, just to be left alone.

Mag who had stayed silent, kneading some dough at the middle island, raised her eyebrow as soon as the door closed. “I could hear the nightmares you were having. Not bad enough to come wake you but from time to time you made enough noise to know you were having them.” She said, more of an amused mixed with concern on her face, she tried teasing and keeping the conversation somewhat light.

I mumbled into my coffee and didn’t look up.

She put the dough into the fridge, washed her hands and went to start her own day, stopping to peck me on the cheek on her way out.

One thing this family knew was when to back off and for that I was grateful as I wasn’t in the mood to talk or explain or to answer. Right now I wasn’t in the mood for anything but coffee. I was damn near in the mood for a fight, and I think my sisters had sensed that most. Left alone in the kitchen I took my coffee and opened the door to my fathers library. I breathed in deep and setting the coffee on a table, opened all of the curtains. The room was obviously dusted thoroughly from time to time as I had at first expected to choke on it. I picked up my coffee and sat on the brown leather chair in front of the fireplace. Sipped…and then stood up and walked over to the desk. There I lifted the cover off the the old typerwriter which my father had preferred for his writing, rather than computers, and slipped a sheet of crisp paper inside that I found still nestled in a drawer on the right hand side.

I hadn’t touched a typewriter in …well since the last I had played in this office, writing some paper or another for school I suppose but usually I did that at the library on the computers. I pecked a few keys…typing out the word Hello and then sat back and sighed…staring around the room. Nearly waiting for the walls of it to talk back to me.

Then I typed and the words flowed,

Hello Papa,

I think of you every day. I still cannot understand or wrap my head around why you did what you did. I just can’t. I want to yell at you and scream and ask you why you would do such a thing, especially after you knew what it did to all of us when mom attempted the same. Why would you leave us? Did you not love us? Did you hate us that much?
I will probably never be able to understand, but Papa…I love you and I do understand the feeling of just wanting to give up, stop fighting and lay your head down and let go. Sometimes it seems so hard…like this heaviness on my back and shoulders and I want so badly to lay it down but I can’t. I also don’t feel that I could give up, not like mom tried, not like you did.
I just….I won’t understand. And you aren’t here to try and explain.
More than anything I wish you were here with me through all of this. You would know what to do, and the thing that I don’t know about any of it is what to do.
I don’t know if I can swim this time, Papa. I think I might sink.
Not even a letter. Not a word. And in my mind rings forever the sound of that gun shot…now taken over by another shot. I shot my husband , Papa. Do you know that?
I always feared being like mother, having what made her the way she was. But I ended up being more like you. I hurt someone really badly. I killed him. I don’t know what to tell you really…how to tell you. I imagine if you were here when this happened. I imagine you could and would fix it all and make all of this bad dream go away. I am glad that you aren’t here in a way though. I am so ashamed. So hurt and afraid and ashamed. I not only killed a someone, but my own husband. For a long time he reminded me of you…the good that you had taught me to want out of a husband. But …I don’t know how to explain the change, Papa, if you were here maybe you would be able to explain it to me. The sudden smiling and happy man all of a sudden not being….

I feel there is a comparison…nobody shoots himself in the head without some kind of anger, I feel. He yelled and showed plenty of his anger, you bottled it and held it in…was it anger or was it more sadness? Was that achieving what you wanted or simply giving up? Papa all of these questions and more than any other, the one I would ask if you were here….is it ok that I don’t want to have my baby?

I look back and think how I hadn’t really wanted kids or planned to ever have them, even with my husband and his own wants fell into that. We just had lives better without them. Not built for them.
Do I have a child because I am with one but now, under the circumstances made worse by the fact that one day my child will surely know, ask or find out the answers they may hold of who or where their father is. I don’t think I can do that to them. I didn’t plan to get pregnant I took all the right precautions…we didn’t have any accidents but somehow I now have this…unwanted child.

There, I said it. Unwanted. Does that make me a terrible person? A hardened hateful mean murderer of a person? I have killed my husband and now do I abort my child too? Once is an accident, twice is…

Papa if you were here….
Why aren’t you here?
I rested my hands from the type writer…filled with more questions, my eye’s filled with tears, I had never attempted to talk to my father since his death and now I had found my fingers fly over his very own typewriter where his own fingers had rested, where his own words had been spun from. And this is what I brought to him. My question’s. My burden’s.

Do we ever get to understand?

The next morning I woke up early , showered and dressed and Met Sas in the kitchen to drive me to the doctor. She took my hand when they called my name in the waiting room and gave me a squeeze “I’ll be right here when its all finished.” I was making a decision that couldn’t be unmade.

WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 5.

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Behind The White Gate is my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel. I wrote it in one month. I changed and edited it million times during the next eleven over more coffee than I care to admit to. And more may be to come. This version I am sharing, it gives a piece of me to you. I am open and love any feedback you might have. If you wish to share it personally you can do so at peggyjdavenport@gmail.com .

I am that kind of writer who can tell you what I write..or what I am writing is about. But I will say that this one came to me by passing a white gate on a daily walk to a job I hated and letting my imagination go wild, combined with the coming of womanhood and the women in and out of my life through out the years who had shaped, molded, and influenced me, for the good or for the bad. There are also intertwined lessons in life we often learn the hard way and their shaping of oneself and there is the old “Nothing goes according to plan.” It is being lost and becoming grown up and recognizing yourself in others around you…especially those you tried to be the least like. It is often the lack of denying any longer all that has made you…all of it.

Behind The White Gate is secret’s that aren’t secret, controversy we face today and are just now beginning to speak of but in many homes still in hushed tones. It is shame that you carry and hide from only everybody else who also has their own. It is memories of childhood perceived as an adult. It is letting go. It is changing. It is forgiving, but also not forgetting.

It is raw emotion and no giving excuses.

It comes from a place deep of them that I hope resonate on the page for the reader.

It is fiction drawn on very real emotion.

Past that, maybe you can hep me explain it better.

I will release over time, the Prologue, and then chapter by chapter. I had previously released some bits and pieces. This new full chapter by chapter release will be named WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 1 (and so on). You can easily search in the search bar for all pieces and keep in order as released.

Currently I hope this will go to publish sooner than later. I am in the search of, and have been researching for, a Literary Agent. Feel free to contact me at my email above.

Thank you for reading.

Peggy J. Davenport

 

Chapter 5

“You are the woman who shot her husband in California. I saw your picture on the tv.” The nurse said. “I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have said that. We are used to giving people their privacy here. Don’t worry. I spoke without thinking. Your vital signs are all good. We are going to take an ultrasound to see how far along you are and if under the amount of weeks allowed and healthy enough yourself to go forward with no problem’s, then we can proceed.”
As my blood filled the syringe the vision of my dream…no…my memory, my earliest and clearest childhood memory that set the path for the rest of my life…filled my mind again and again I pushed out any doubt that edged in. I was doing what I needed to. What was right. I was doing what was best for a child that would otherwise be brought into this world and taunted in school, learn that her father was an abusive man, who maybe had suffered a mental ill that might pass down, who’s mother had shot and killed him who also came from a family of mental ill and might have it herself to pass down, single mother hood was the last reason to do what I was doing. My family wasn’t one I could bring a child into and I myself, murderer of my husband and the childs father, wasn’t fit to be a mother. Under some circumstances maybe wrongs could be righted in a family tree, but in some the limbs had to be cut before they grew. Not only a dead father was enough of that reason, but their mother who had killed him. The mental illnesses and suicide on some of the branches weren’t even a concern after that.

“Everything looks good so you can come back Tuesday we have an opening at three.” The nurse said walking back into the room, where I had been sitting nervous and waiting, for about forty-five minutes. The thoughts in my head nearly ready to destroy me but the convincing mantra kept rounding about.

“Tuesday at three? But I thought I could do it now?”

“Oh no, procedure, we have to check everything then schedule for the final procedure and you also really should have a ride back home afterwards. You will have been slightly sedated so you will be woozy.”

“But that’s not…I need…is there any way?”

I pleaded…leaving now, not getting it done now…left too much room and opportunity for doubt as well as days to cringe and worry and think….I needed to stop thinking!

The next thing I knew the nurse had rushed to my side and was holding my head down and telling me to breath.

I ended up leaving…a little freaked out and started driving…but not Island-ward. I drove around Houston…drove and drove and drove. I had even had a lot to drink the other night, not caring about the baby…too lost in my own thoughts and feelings and problems to care, that’s the kind of mother I made right there. I wanted to drown those thoughts. I wanted to drown. I wanted this baby to drown. And suddenly the image of my mother in the bloody bath tub turned into a naked perfect baby floating in a bloody bathtub.

I slammed on the brakes and ended up being slammed into the back by another car.

Oh god…oh damn damn damn. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel and cried…just fucking cried as the driver behind me walked up to the window and a Police Officer who had been nearby and seen the accident approached.

The other driver seemed concerned as soon as he saw the mess that I was and stepped back as the Officer came up to the window, rather having the Officer deal with the crazy woman crying hysterically.

“Ma’am? Ma’m are you ok? Can you get out of the car, Ma’am? Ma’am?” All I could do was see the image of the floating baby and hear a babies cry and a four year old little girl crying out for her mother and my fathers voice yelling my mothers name and the blood on the sidewalk and the crumpled body of my husband lying at my feet….

Then there was Sas…picking me up from the hospital rather than the police station. My hysterics had been so much that I had been taken in for mental evaluation…found ok and released into the care of family. The driver of the other car and I ended up exchanging insurance and was on his way. With the impression I was too crazy to deal with any further than that. I was sedated but found able to leave the hospital and we drove home…all forty miles, in silence. She didn’t have her judgy look…just her serious one. Her jaw tense, neck rigid. I didn’t care…slightly drugged up and completely exhausted. I slumped in my seat against the door and watched the lights go by, listened to the sound of the cars on the swooshing pavement and felt relief that the image and sounds of earlier had left me alone for now. But in sedation I became a little talkative and finally asked Sas “So how the hell have you done it? How have you stayed after Papa died? How the hell do you manage Mother? And WHY?!” But I don’t remember Sas even answering, perhaps she did not. I likely would not have remembered anyway and the next thing I knew I was waking in my own bed.
I woke early before even the earliest riser of the house the next day and went for a run on the beach…loud music on my headphones and just…sweated it out. A little of Los Angeles still in me. I ran until my legs couldn’t carry me further and headed back to the house. As soon as I walked into the kitchen I poured some fresh brewed coffee.

“You know the thing I love about this house most? There is always coffee…always hot and fresh and smells good ready to drink coffee. Always. It’s like our family chose coffee over booze when forced to choose sometime in our history. That would be the only good decision our family had ever made…or at least the only moral one. Morning!” I said to Sas who was by herself sitting at the island sipping her morning coffee in a slow and measured manner which I had noticed immediately and was ignoring.
“The beach was amazing today…man I haven’t run in weeks. I am sooo out of shape!”
I jibbered and chattered my voice too high and excited and filling the air…I just….I just needed to fill the air with noise…the music in my headphones…the sound of the ocean and the gulls that I stopped for a moment to listen to. My own talk but not any silence that would allow the sounds of my image to step back in, or the doubt’s and question’s or the million’s of other thoughts that tumbled, like the echoing of gunshots I always heard now…I had heard those sounds all night long through my sleep. Now I banged pots and pans too loud, closed cabinet doors too hard and chattered overly excited while making breakfast…talking all the while to Sas about absolute nonsense.

She remained quiet. Hadn’t said a word and watched me careen around the kitchen on what looked like a far different drug than what I’d had the night before had she known any better. It wasn’t until I put a plate in front of her and sat down with my own and began shoveling food into my mouth like there was no tomorrow that I stopped making such a raquet for a split second…and Sas says ” Are you finished?”

“Finished?”

“Ready to talk?”

“No.”

“Yesterday.”

“No.”

“Bird….you went to a doctor for an abortion. You got in a car accident. You ended up at the hospital in hysterics and you are pregnant yet been out drinking once and you drink coffee like there is no tomorrow. So…you decided not to have the baby?”

“It’s a fetus. I decided not to have the fetus.”

“Whatever. So you decided not to? I’m not judging. I’m asking. This isn’t something you have to do alone.” Sas was obviously in her taking no prisoners stage “Bird….you had hysterics for a reason…I know this is hard to think about and deal with when you aren’t over dealing with…haven’t even begun to get a handle on what happened. I think you need to see somebody.”

Slamming the pan and my plate into the sink I stormed out…having just come from a run and still in my running clothes I ended up running anyway. I ran down the street’s overhung with the huge oak tree’s. Past the nation’s largest amount of lasting Victorian homes in one place. Past’s ghost’s that haunt and memories they carried. For me. For everyone else here. It is said that this island is haunted, most have some ghost story to tell of their home here. But I felt that the ghosts wheren’t ghosts of the dead who had not left but rather the ghosts of the memories of the people living and breathing here today. Their ghosts of mistakes and past choices that should have gone differently. Those decision’s they made but that would nag them in the back of their minds for the next twenty or more years of which then some spoke out of in their last days when their mind wasn’t any longer right and their loved ones standing around didn’t understand. I ran from my own ghost’s. I ran until my heart and lungs gave out. Ending up at the end of a jetty and looking out into the water…this place where the strength of God, if you believed in him, was most powerful. The water could swallow you up and you may never be found. The sound of the waves can consume you. I pictured again the image of my dream…my mother in the red bath….then the baby…the calling of my father’s voice of my mothers name…turning into the cries of a baby. And the gun shot’s echoing over and over, two combining into one. My Father’s, my Husband’s. And I realized that I had been running a long time. Not this physical run that had me bent over, hands on knee’s, staring out into the water as angry at it as it seemed to be at me, gasping and catching my breath. Sweat pouring down my forehead. But rather from life itself…but was it life or was it ME that I was running from?

I carried a fear that the problem’s in my family ran through the blood of my veins. My mother’s fit’s of rage and anger…her screaming through the house when we were children…her blood in the bath. Moody and quiet and then chipper and too-nice, trying to make up for it in lucid moment’s that would turn into frustration and soon something would be flying or another pill bottle would be rolling empty across the floor.
My father always smiling. Nobody knew. Nobody knew. Nobody knew. And that, I woke up to facing now, was what scared me the most. Nobody knew until the day that he walked into his library in our home and we all heard the shot ring out. The single shot that immediately froze us in our movements…my mother had been bending over my sister while she practiced piano just then. I had been lounging reading, in sight of them all at the kitchen window seat. It was a hot summer day and we were all trying to stay cool. Sas home from college but studying at the kitchen table through the door way looked at mother and mother looked at her…and said “stay” yet she didn’t move herself. Her own mother and his own mother, who had both lived in the mother-in-law cottages in the back since their own husband’s had left them widow’s…came running in the kitchen door from the garden, looks of fear on their faces and dirt on their knee’s…they relaxed a little when they saw my mother standing there, still frozen. Still bent over my sister, gripping the side of the piano she held on tightly. Mag had stopped the mixing she was in the midst of in the kitchen mid-mix and just stood there. Everybody thought it would be my mother. Not him. Not papa. Nobody would have been surprised if it was her. Everybody was surprised that it had, instead, been him. It seemed as if everybody stood frozen for so long. Mag had silent tears just start down her face but still stood frozen, wearing her apron, big mixing bowl in the crook of one arm, whisk in the other stuck in the batter. She didn’t move. It was as if we would realize the bang which had not been mistaken, would soon be discovered as a shutter loose or anything else…anything else than what it was. We all knew. There was no denying, yet perhaps if we just didn’t move maybe the reality would never set in, become true. I closed my book and sat up…walked a few steps and stopped, unsure of what to do. I looked at mom and thought “we all thought it would be you” I remember thinking this so clearly that I may have even said it out loud, she looked straight at me while I thought it. Yet I had walked a few steps toward the study, and then a few steps back to her. My father’s mother broke out in a cry realizing the only person who was missing from our view and fell to her knee’s saying “no no no”, knowing before anyone else did, acknowledging before anyone else did. And my other grandmother held her tightly saying “no it can’t be, shhh.” But nobody moved toward the closed door to find out. Everybody too afraid to move. Sas is who stood up from her college studies at the table and walked…slowly…and then more quickly, briskly and mechanically…toward the library were we had all know my father was working that day. Where he had closed himself in early and we had not seen him since breakfast, but when then we had seen him with his usually smile and bad joke’s. We waited…all of us. Cowards. We couldn’t move. We waited for Sas to laugh and say “nothing to worry about” Even though we knew she wouldn’t. She screamed finally and yelled to call 911. Suddenly we all went into action. I sprinted to the phone and dialed …my mother…my mother simply and calmly walked into the library were we all ended up following soon and finding her, knelt beside our father in his blood holding him on her lap and rocking. “Not you. It was never supposed to be you. What am I going to do now?” She kept crying until the siren’s and flashing light’s and men in uniform took over and gave us the direction our numb bodies and minds needed then. Too many people in the house, all loud stompers in their boot’s. All shouting direction’s and asking question’s and suddenly it was too much.

I hated my mother from then on. Before I had only tolerated her and as my mother I had loved her as a daughter wishes to have a Mother she can love. But in seeing her knee’s knelt in his blood and her crying, worried and sorry for herself, I had broke the last string on my guitar so to speak…and I hated her. I turned and ran…ran to the waters edge and cried and cried. Exactly to where I stood now. I suppose I do that a lot, I thought. I ran to the waters edge the day my father died and the day any last love for my mother died. I ran from one coast of water to another to run from myself, the fear that what made my parents seek to spill their own blood ran through me cold. I ran to the waters edge the day that my husband died and now I run to the waters edge on the doorstep of the death of my own unborn child by my own hand and a decision that I had to make.
I was tired. Tired of running. Tired of life and that moment of thought had my fear spike even more so.

I turned and walked back…crawled into the shower when I got home…I had walked past every person of the house not saying a word…they didn’t say one back, just turned and stared, watched me walk by. Knowing I was in a place…not knowing what they should do. It was not the first time that our house-hold had stood back unsure of what to do. Unsure of a step to take toward the person’s cry that may need them….or might not any longer.

The water washed away the sand and sweat and I let it…just wash over me and I thought of the image of the blood red water….and the ocean mingled in the image this time. The powerful sound of the ocean was what range in my ears, not the babies cry nor my fathers nor the sound of gunshot range out.

Entering the kitchen and gathering myself for the faces who turned toward me. Me being much more presentable and pulled together now than the tear and sweat streaked face I had walked through with an hour prior.

All of the women were there that I needed. And I did need them.

“Can we talk?”

Many of course dears sit down here have some tea.

“I have a big important decision to make that is my own to make and I need any one who doesn’t agree with my decision to be supportive and anyone who doesn’t support my decision to just still…be there and love me regardless of my decision. ”

Nod’s and Yes Dears all around.
I looked around the women sitting at the big butcher block island that was the center point of our kitchen, our house hold and even our family over generations now and took a deep breath.

“In the next few days I have an appointment for an abortion. I will admit that I am not sure if I want to do this. I don’t know. But I feel that I should. And I think I am going through with it but I will know…then…when I go to do it.”

“That’s all…ok. Please, no…don’t say anything just now. Not right now, please. Just…know.”

Going on “I know me being back is a shock and everything that was in the new’s and what happened is…I know that there are a lot of question’s and eventually maybe we can come to them and deal with them but I have a lot to deal with and am not in a really good place right now.” My voice broke and the chin I’d been holding too high in trying to get through saying what I felt like I had needed to say right then to the women in my life, in my home, came down a few notches. Swallowing the lump in my throat, the women of three generations staring, waiting and listening, not inturrupting “I am not sure what I am even going through really. Or what I need to do to get through it. This is not easy and for whatever reason this house is where I ended up coming to, it was unplanned and I am not even sure why or if I should have come here. But I’m here.” Looking at each one’s face. “That is all…for right now. Ok” Before anybody could react I took deep breath in and stepped away from the group of women who surrounded my life. And I went to the door that had once led to my fathers library. I didn’t know, after sixteen years and leaving four days after he had shot himself, only waiting until after we had laid him in the ground, what changes may have been done to the room, even so, the ghosts would remain, as would the image burned in my memory.

I rested my hand on the doorknob of the room that I had not seen open in the entire time I had been back. I pictured the once we known room that was dark woods and red’s, a room once filled of comfort and now filled of dread. In it held a fire place and lined in heavy wood built in bookshelves. The place where a dog usually laid across the middle of the room and a fire in the cold months flamed in the fireplace and a wild turkey stuffed and stretched by another generation hung above it. I pictured my fathers big heavy desk to the corner, facing the room placed where he could see the fireplace. Two big leather chairs and an ottoman in front of the hearth. And the shelves full of books collected by generations of family members in this house of reader’s, seeker’s always of more. His father, his father’s father and himself had held office in this room, though all family had always enjoyed. Not yet had anybody in this generation placed a new book before I had left sixteen years before, not to say the entire rest of the house wasn’t littered with them. The high ceilings, tiled in bronze, reflecting the warm look and feel of the room that burned in my memory before what bleed in was the image of my father in the middle of the room where he had fallen after shooting himself, the image of his blood spreading over the red oriental rug. Before then, it was a good room. The safest place of my life. And I turned the nob and pushed the door open, not knowing what lay behind. But ready to face it. Ready to face the images. Ready to face the past and ready to make the decisions I needed to make. No more running. I was too tired to run. But I wasn’t ready to give up.

The room…the room…I let my breath out in the gasp I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
It was the same. The rug…no blood. Maybe even a different rug. Almost as if the image I’d held of that day wasn’t a memory but a trick. My grandmother, my papa’s mother, walked up behind me and laid hands on my shoulders “We couldn’t change it. This room held too much happiness for too long before the one day of sadness. We replaced the rug, the floor is stained underneath like the memory of that day in our minds. But we couldn’t change it. We just closed it.”

I nodded. I understood. I was not sure if I had wanted the room to be any different, or preferred it to be exactly the deep warmth that I remembered it to be growing up my entire childhood. And then I said “Why did he do it? I whispered the words and no answer came….so I said it louder”Why did he do it?”

My mother’s mother walked up and, putting her arm around her best friend since childhood and a hand on my shoulder as well “Darling. Nobody knows why. He never left a letter. He never said a word. He never didn’t smile and laugh. We never would have thought.”
“Sometimes…not every question get’s answered.” Sas said from behind me, walking up to join us. “We try our whole lives to understand an answer to question’s that just don’t have them.”

“I thought…I just…”

“You thought it would be me. Everybody did. Nobody understood that, and you had been a child, darling. You couldn’t be expected to understand.” My mother’s voice to my right shoulder now. I didn’t feel the expected anger to rise, but anger I was too loaded down with to act on….I just…let her words fall and settled like the dust particles that floated in the sun beams streaming in through a space of the closed blinds.

“Mom? Why did you do it? That time in the bath?” I heard the question leave my lips that I had thought for my entire life but had never spoken. Never thought to actually ask the living breathing person who was standing by my right shoulder for some understanding for what I had no understanding of…and many questions for.

She breathed in deep and held it long before letting it out. “I was sad. I had always had this sadness that just wouldn’t leave me. I loved you all so much but I was always trying to find an answer, too, to why other people didn’t feel the way that I did. I just….I could never walk out of the fog into the sunshine I could see other’s walked in. That day of the bath I ….I woke that morning and waited for your father to leave for work and I didn’t even think of you girls. I always had before before that. That day was what broke me from ever putting you girls first again. You girls and my thought for your well being had always been what kept me awake each day. But that day it didn’t exist…like…a part of my brain was missing. I don’t remember filling the bathtub or taking the razor to my wrists. I do remember when laying there at one point thinking ‘There…the pain is gone. I am in the sun. And then I remember nothing more. I can’t explain it anymore than that. I can talk about it all you want but sometimes question’s even inside ourselves just don’t have answers.”

I felt her hand slip inside of mine and squeeze. “I can’t begin to ask forgiveness of you and all of this family. But I am glad that you found me that day. That you tried so hard to wake me up. I don’t regret it at all. And that is an answer to one question I know lays in your mind. I’ve had days it crossed my mind. Days where I walked in the fog and watched those in the sun and still wished it would all end. That I could go to sleep and not wake up. Days when I took enough pills to let me sleep it away, sometimes too many pills. I didn’t mean to, but one wasn’t enough…and then two, and the two wasn’t enough. I needed to make my brain stop, sleep seemed my only refuge from the heavy fog I carried around like leaded weights all day every day. I do everyday. But I have somewhat learned to enjoy the quiet and beauty in and through my fog as well. Much help has come from finally seeking therapy after the death of your father. When I saw him there that day, I wanted it as much as I didn’t. I was jealous of him as much as I hated him for doing it. The pain of his loss was more than I could bear. The knowledge that he suffered so silently and so much was overwhelming. But there were you girls, and many of you still very young. And no more of your father to rely on. So I sought help.”

“Why do you feel the way you do mom?”

“I just don’t know. What our brain does is one of those un-answered questions, Bird.”
“The question I began to answer was to live. To just step forward. I didn’t want to die if I asked myself that. I just wanted it it stop…I wanted the sun. But death feels like an answer, even when we learn it is not. Your fathers death taught me it wasn’t the answer I wanted. I never tried again after that and I sought the help that I’d refused to even though he had begged me to for years. Therapy helps, treatments help. Medications done properly help. It’s not fixed but it is manageable most days and recognizable others. I am still in the same fog but I am able to steer the boat through it so to speak. I can see the light and sometimes feel it’s warmth for moments. But I don’t dip as deep into the gray waters of sadness and drowning as deeply or as often because of the help. It isn’t overnight and takes a lot of work and focus to find the right treatments and even those have to often be adjusted.”

I nodded and swallowed deep past the lump in my throat.

“Ok. Ok.” I just nodded my head and repeated again and again, as if I said it enough times, then it would be.

Sas’s voice behind me “Bird…are you afraid of this happening to you?” It was the first time I had heard the question out loud and from a voice not inside my own head. I just nodded “Have you thought about …leaving like this?” She asked.
“No. I never have. I am just…so tired and I want it to end sometimes. I want to wake up and none of this ever happened. To live a time when I never heard that gunshot….and I never shot my husband. And he never changed. But I wait for it all the goddamned time. Wait for that thought, I guess you could say.” I just continued on and we all looked upon the room as if seeing lives upon lives and mistakes upon mistakes floating before us like we might be watching a slide show movie. But I continued.

“I don’t understand what changed all the time. I asked him what was wrong all the time. I asked him what made him angry….I asked him and he said ‘I don’t know.’ Everybody’s answer seems’ to be ‘I just don’t know’. But I want to know! I just….I can’t….I can’t do THIS and I am carrying this baby and I don’t know what to do! I am afraid…every day it tires me to be so afraid. I am afraid I am like mom and I am afraid I am like dad and I am afraid of the person who stayed after he hit me and I am afraid of the person I am because I killed him. I’m only not afraid of him anymore because he’s dead which I am reminded about every time I go to sleep and every day that I wake up!”
At this point I was down on my knee’s…my throat straining with the crying and yelling through the lump in my throat and I heard myself screaming the words through my chokes and coughs but I didn’t care…

All of the women where there. All of them. The women of my family tree. Of three generations. Of pieces from each of them that made of all of me. Many of those pieces I didn’t want making me. Many I saw in myself more and more. Right now they held my hand. Laid a hand on my shoulder and ran a hand over my hair until I was beyond exhausted…again…three times in a row now of crying myself to exhaustion and I just couldn’t seem to make the pain stop. But those women stood around me protective and calming but letting me let it out, like tree’s circled in a forest they stood around me with all of their strength as one, together. At the moment I was a weeping willow but they were sturdy oaks.

Later, I was sitting on the front porch after dark, wearing a big sweater, jeans and socks and covered with a soft blanket against the cold…though it still surrounded me, if warmly dressed, it was very nice to sit out here. My grandmother’s and mother and sister’s stayed nearby but giving me space, occasional comfort of a hot cup of tea and a pat on the hand in silence. The door to the kitchen left wide open and I knew they were keeping an eye on me but for now I felt comfort in that too. I’d been just sitting and ….not thinking actually. Just letting my mind float. Just facing the images that came in and letting them vanish when they had finished their visit. I was tired. Emotionally drained and not wanting another cry-fest nap at all. So I sat. For hours before my mother came and sat next to me and stayed in silence for a good long time.
After a time she rested her hand on my knee and said “I felt the way you do now. It’s run in our family for a long time, Bird. I feared it too…and then when it started showing it’s face to me…I feared it more but…I couldn’t run from it either. And neither could your father. We all just handle it differently. I’ve been in therapy for years. Tried pills and med’s the doctors gave me but moved on from them. From time to time I have to re-balance though and tell my therapist when I am feeling the need. Your father wasn’t on pills. He didn’t go to therapy. None of us, not even me, knew at all that he felt that shadow. I’ve still yet to find anyone who ever knew a whisper of his demons. If it hadn’t been for your father finding me everytime and getting me to the hospital on time I never would have gotten help eventually, either. If I had used a bullet I would have succeeded.”

I just nodded. We sat in silence. Then she continued.

“I remember a time when I was real low. Just…you had just been born and I was going through post partem on top of my already existing depression. But people didn’t talk about depression or post partem then. I had you in your crib and just kept staring down at you wondering “What am I trying to do? I can’t be a normal mother.”
I snorted. “You sure weren’t that.”

She looked at me sharply…and patted my knee. “I don’t have a good reason for the affairs. I don’t at all and I regret every bit of it but I really couldn’t help it. If it wasn’t that I would have been one of those that goes and does lot of drug’s, become’s one of those junkie homeless we know around town that we also know of some who come from a well to do pocket book. People don’t understand why some do that. Choose that life, they call it. But I have over time come to make a choice of which life I wanted and they don’t choose it, some were never given the choice to take. But I know why they do it. It’s a voice so deep inside their heads they can’t get away from it and they do everything they can to try…it destroys them. So…it…I don’t even know how it started. I just was so unhappy…it wasn’t your father. I loved him more than anything, and I was blessed with a patient and loving husband and a wonderful father to my children. But I was trying to fill this emptiness inside of myself and next thing I knew I was in another man’s bed.” She paused and took a deep breath.

“I should have gone for the drugs.” She let the breath out and said.
“It would have broke your father’s heart less at least in that aspect. We never had a bad love life ourselves, even after. It almost made us closer after the turmoil of it had settled. He never asked me why. He never asked me anything like that. He let me have me, always. Never tried controlling, your father was a good good man. But he also just hid his demons better than the rest of us. He was human, and he had seen mine, understood them better than I thought maybe, too.”

Silence again, except after a moment I reached out and placed my hand on top of hers which was on my knee still. And we sat a bit longer like that. I said “Thank you. I do need understanding. There doesn’t seem to be much I can get in all of this but it’s something.” She smiled. Got up and headed off to bed.

“You need to be more forgiving of your mother.” The voice from just outside the cast of the porch light and soon the body that belonged to it followed. My grandmother sat where my mother just had left from. And the stance she took was the same her daughter-in-laws had been. Hand on knee. It seemed that the small power of touch could say a lot that the voice couldn’t. Silence for a moment before speaking.
“Your mom, she has her problems. Don’t we all though? The brain does weird things. I saw it eat my own father alive but in him it made him mean and have to take everyone around him into the hell he was in. In my husband it did, too. And then my son. Each acted in their own and different way. Each person has their own view, their own way, and their own hell. They can only run from them for so long. Some people are better at it than others, maybe. But for some, they don’t have control and there isn’t much help for such things available. And even just ten years ago it wasn’t even whispered about. Other than the town gossip, but not in any helpful way. No one gives you a hand book for life. Or for being a wife or a mother or a mother of a man who shot himself only a handful of yards from where you stood, or a daughter. The guilt I always will have is feeling that as his mother I should have known. One minutes I’m tending the tomatoes, my biggest problem in life trying to save them from the bugs…and the next minute my own son needed saving….and I couldn’t save him. No one could. He made sure of that. Always smiling. Always holding it in. Ohhh his laugh was enough to warm the coldest heart! We all expected that shot to be your mothers. We had thought the gun’s were long gone since the time in the bathtub happened. Before that it had been normal to have gun’s in the house. None of us knew he had kept one. I can’t even say I wasn’t disappointed and angry that it was my son and not your mother. I know that might make me a terrible person. I am glad now for her, though, but I always loved her even when I saw what she put my son and you girls through.”
She paused, her gravely voice that I’d always found comfort in and I remembered her singing lullaby’s to me as a child, had more to say than I’d ever given room to be said. With the sigh heavy of a long life she continued “We would have been more prepared. Our brains would have settled to it more because we would have accepted the thought ‘yep, saw that coming’. Not that we would have been any less sad, just…perhaps more prepared. It’s why it’s been harder to heal with my Frank being the one who shot…turned a gun on himself and didn’t falter….still gets me. I’m glad his papa wasn’t alive to be there through that. Would have killed him dead of heart break. Nearly killed me. The surprise of it all made it more of a shock. Less of a possibility. Not to say I would have preferred it to be your mama, today. Not at all. Had it not been for that woman this family and every member of it would have fallen apart and done the same as Frank and you need to know that. You really do. She not only held us together and snapped out of a lot of her own hell to do so but she did it with that shadow she carries over her head, somehow, through it all. Medicine and a world that talks about it more now has helped, too. Had she had that decades ago maybe you girls would have a lot less anger for her ad a lot less reason for it. But she is a different person, it took her awhile, but she is and it’s a good person. Realize that. We all make mistakes that we are in control of, and her brain was making mistakes for her that she didn’t have any control over to some degree’s. So go easier on her. Maybe not forgive her just yet but at least listen to her. Give her room to breath in your life. You’ll learn something you don’t already. I can guarantee you that about you and that woman.”

I waited to listen for more…she sat awhile…swallowing a lump that seemed to appear in her own throat now…dabbing her eye’s with a handkerchief. She patted my knee again and sat forward “But eventually you need to be more forgiving of your mother. Our brains do crazy thing’s to us, but it doesn’t mean we are crazy. As a mother I stared down at Frank in his crib one day and imagined just putting the pillow over his face….just a split second and the fact that I had such a thought had me scared for dear life. But I was so tired and he had been crying and ….”her voice trailed off. She shook her head at the memory that seemed to have crept through the cobwebs “I wasn’t a bad mother. I loved him more than anything and never thought it again. I’ve read a lot about what that was now. Hell lack of sleep can make a human go insane…but post partem depression…hormones and chemical’s in the brain…all of it and we barely still know a damned thing about what makes a man take a gun and pull the trigger around on himself…spilling his blood for his loved family to clean up. But he can’t answer me and I almost feel that if he could, he wouldn’t even be so sure himself. The last thing he was sure of was pulling that trigger. That’s a sureness that has to run real deep in someone to do. We can’t control or even understand people. But we can control and find understanding in ourselves.” She sighed again and walked inside on that note.

Two pep talk and history bite’s in a row from two of the women of my family. I half expected another to stroll along any moment. But after awhile no one did. I walked up and knocked on Mag’s bedroom door. She was in bed reading for the evening but hollard for me to come in. I plopped across her big bed and looked around her room, which had changed a lot since the last time I had seen it. “I was fifteen, Bird. If I am a woman living with my mother at my age still living in a fifteen year olds bedroom, shoot me now please.” She said not even looking up from her book but must have guessed my thoughts. The room was done in soft greys and lavenders, a very calm and grown up woman’s room.

The women owned this house, a house that had more rooms than were ever in use, great hiding places as children. A house that took up more bocks on an island than most and it’s yard and extra housing on the property even more so, surrounded and tucked in by a high stone wall and allowable entrance by a double white gate. Each woman who lived here had her share of ownership, even me, even after I left it was willed to me for my part. She didn’t live in someone else’s house, we lived in our’s. We did’t answer to, I saw that now, we lived among. Typically when married and wanting to stretch some wings one moved out, but the rights were that we could move anyone in and the sound of children could be permanent rather than visiting. There was enough room not to share bedrooms but entire wings of houses and suites. Yet still somehow small enough not to feel ‘above’ the rest of the island nor set apart from it and those who lived there. Now I saw how the women here had grown and become a entire different family. They had changed and I had not ever allowed for that change. There was a strength here, in this house, among these women, underneath these oak tree’s and nearly within earshot of the Gulf of Mexico’s musical waves on sand. I had left thinking I wanted nothing to do with the house or the people here. But I had come back to it for some reason by the call of something unknown inside me deeper than I myself could understand.

“It looks good Mag’s….maybe you could help me update mine.”

“So you plan on staying?”

“Even if I don’t full time or in the long run I would still like a room I can come back and visit to, I think.”

“Sounds like a good idea. Is your favorite color still orange?”

“Yes it is…clean lines…more modern, mid-century but not that mid-cen type of orange…more bo-ho meets class and elegance.”

“Got it….I’ll start looking on pinterest for some ideas.”

“Thanks. Sis.”
“If you want, too, this bedroom is closest to yours to change around sometime.”
“I’ll be moving out soon. You haven’t met him yet and we haven’t gotten to talk about it yet but I’ve been engaged to be married in the Spring.”

“Oh Mag, I’m so sorry. Everything has been so about me…for like the last sixteen years…..Congratulations!” I said hugging her. Hard.

“I’m an idiot. I never even noticed the ring. That’s how out of it I’ve been”

“Well, that is true. You can be a bit. But it’s more than understandable for the moment. Anyway I am moving out then but we are living on the island so there is no need for me to keep even a visiting room here and it will be available to redecorate. The timing would be about perfect too.” She hesitated. “If you choose. Maybe an office for you if not.”

I sat there looking down, picking at imaginary lint from the white comforter.

“You haven’t decided yet, have you?”
“No. I think I know one minute and then…I just don’t.”

“The answer will come to you…and regret’s either way…always a little in the back of your mind wonder if you go through with it, maybe even always a little if you don’t….you will be ok either way, Bird.”

“Yeah….Night sis.”

“Night.”

WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 4.

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Behind The White Gate is my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel. I wrote it in one month. I changed and edited it million times during the next eleven over more coffee than I care to admit to. And more may be to come. This version I am sharing, it gives a piece of me to you. I am open and love any feedback you might have. If you wish to share it personally you can do so at peggyjdavenport@gmail.com .

I am that kind of writer who can tell you what I write..or what I am writing is about. But I will say that this one came to me by passing a white gate on a daily walk to a job I hated and letting my imagination go wild, combined with the coming of womanhood and the women in and out of my life through out the years who had shaped, molded, and influenced me, for the good or for the bad. There are also intertwined lessons in life we often learn the hard way and their shaping of oneself and there is the old “Nothing goes according to plan.” It is being lost and becoming grown up and recognizing yourself in others around you…especially those you tried to be the least like. It is often the lack of denying any longer all that has made you…all of it.

Behind The White Gate is secret’s that aren’t secret, controversy we face today and are just now beginning to speak of but in many homes still in hushed tones. It is shame that you carry and hide from only everybody else who also has their own. It is memories of childhood perceived as an adult. It is letting go. It is changing. It is forgiving, but also not forgetting.

It is raw emotion and no giving excuses.

It comes from a place deep of them that I hope resonate on the page for the reader.

It is fiction drawn on very real emotion.

Past that, maybe you can hep me explain it better.

I will release over time, the Prologue, and then chapter by chapter. I had previously released some bits and pieces. This new full chapter by chapter release will be named WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 1 (and so on). You can easily search in the search bar for all pieces and keep in order as released.

Currently I hope this will go to publish sooner than later. I am in the search of, and have been researching for, a Literary Agent. Feel free to contact me at my email above.

Thank you for reading.

Peggy J. Davenport

 

Chapter Four

The door burst open and with it the storm that had been now grown to raging outside and in flew three rambunctious kids, two with super white blond hair and one with dark curls…behind them men’s voices mixed with the laughter of women.

My two other and youngest sisters and their perfect families….fantastic timing.

Both the youngest sisters of the family and yet the most advanced in life. From what Mag had kept me updated on through the years. They had been good students, good college students, then come back to the island engaged, bringing soon to be husbands with them straight out of college. Had successful career’s in absolutely boring fields, one being a teacher, another being in medical, and then both had children, giving their mother the grandchildren that her three eldest daughters had not. Giving her mother the steadiness of predictability that her three eldest had not. Given her son’s-in-laws and steady real jobs rather than the follow their passions types of Sas, Mag and Bird. They also had given no trouble at any time in any way shape or form to their mother or in-house living widowed-grandmothers. Bird had obviously not been topped but Sas and even Mag held their own in pranks and teen angst episodes. They were good people, they were Bird’s youngest sisters, set a world apart from the first three daughters of this house by years and an entire different upbringing even of the same home as well as separated by life, it seemed, though the same house hold raised, even though they had known the least of their father, we still shared the same mother and I wondered at how we could be so very different, aside from a generational gap in todays society. It always seemed THEM and US even early on. Eve before our father’s death. To Bird who hadn’t seen them since they were eight and ten years old, they were more strangers than sisters.

“Oh I forgot you all got back today!” Mag exclaimed and stood up in time to grab the bundles of children that threw themselves into her arms…she squeezed them hard with the love of a spoiling Aunt and then hugged their two sets of parents as Sas hugged the parents and then greeted the little one’s, her sisters, and the two brother-in-laws whom Bird had not yet met, who’s weddings she had both received invitations to and both which she did not attend. No explanation. Bird stood and let it sink in that she was there. Both girls…women I mean…they had been girls when I had left, little ones, walked up and hugged me together…

I kept holding my breath on every new encounter thinking I had to be prepared to explain…but nobody was pushing me with the questions asking me what happened or why and how.

They where just…there.

After the initial hug though, the two younger sisters stood off a bit. After stiffly introducing their husbands, and their children who’s births and birthday’s I had missed. And all the Auntie milestones in between. I could barely keep their names straight immediately after the introduction, much less ages. Being introduced as “Aunt Birdy” threw me off immediately and for a moment even Sas and Mag lost composure, realization’s hitting them all at once deeply, strongly, just how awkward a moment this really was and that talking to Bird, and understanding her, wasn’t over yet either.

It was an awkward moment because we were much like strangers who shouldn’t have been. So many years had passed and they had been so young when I left and I hadn’t been the best of sisters…I had been completely non-existent in all of my sister’s lives since leaving except for a very occasional correspondence with Mag only because for who persistence never ceased.

They took the kids to find their grandmother, who was watching and visiting with them while the set’s of parents went to their separate homes to unpack from the vacation trip in Europe they had all just returned from.

Simone and Sierra promised they would come do dinner and coffee’s and catch up with me soon and left with their handsome young husbands. Leaving the children with ShooShoo, as they called her, upstairs in her craft room.

After the whirlwind had left the kitchen with a suddenness all three remaining sisters looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“I don’t want kids.” Sas said to me pointedly. And went about drinking her tea.
“I do when the time comes along.” Mag said, also settling back into her tea.
“Well…I guess I hadn’t really thought to have them. We lived artistic busy lives and both figured that children didn’t fit into that but now I am pregnant. We never said a definite no but we both leaned more in that direction. Sort of an “if it happen’s ok but if not even better and we sure wouldn’t try for it.”

“Are you keeping it?”

“SAS!” Mag gasped and threw a hand towel at her.

“Well she has a choice and it is obviously still early. It’s a logical question, especially in her situation. I am not saying you should or shouldn’t. I am just asking.”

“I…I…well I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess that is a choice. I really…I don’t feel it’s real yet. I haven’t felt anything of a pregnancy yet and my mind has been so preoccupied with… survival. And I’ve been in such a fucking fog. I ….left out of instinct of protection and now here I am having dreams about him coming and taking the baby so I think…I guess I am leaning toward keeping and having the baby. I just…if I think about it I don’t know how. How do I one day tell my child that I killed their father? What of when they begin asking questions like who their dad is? Not to mention single motherhood. Right now I don’t know tomorrow!”

“Well, you should start thinking on it because nine months flies by real fast and you have already lost about a couple of those.” Sas said…got up and set her tea cup on the drainboard and turned around with a real serious look in her eye just as I had stepped up behind her to do the same. “Bird. Look. It’s your decision and we back you one hundred percent either way. It won’t be easy either way and it’s a long hard haul if you go through with it but if you go through with it…you have to be ready to be a mom. Put yourself in that mind frame. You will have to pull yourself together.” With that she gave a hug warmer than her words and then walked out of the kitchen. Sas, always say what anyone else is too afraid to say type of person.

Mag walked over and grabbed me into a big deep hug. “I know Honey. I know.” She patted my back and cooed. I hadn’t realized that the tears had been streaming. I didn’t understand why she was comforting me like a child until our mother walked in with my niece and nephews and caught the scene…abruptly turning the kids around and shooing them off for some errand through the house. She came directly over and grabbed Bird in a rough hug but then squeezed…and didn’t let go until the cry was good and done. Hearing the three children running back through the house yelling “We found it ShooShoo!” She let go…took Bird by the shoulders and looked her square and hard in the eye’s “You are perhaps cracked, My bird, but you are far from broken.” And gathered the children as they burst in and swept them along outside leaving me and Mag alone in the kitchen again, but not before giving Mag a look that said “take care of her.” I really didn’t know what to think on that. With every question that swirled in my head. I hadn’t been able to think past the blood stained concrete and now I realized ….almost just remembered, that I had this to situation to think about but even more so was I thrown off by the woman who I hated almost my whole life and for sure the past sixteen years, somehow being this quiet force since I’d been back. All of it confusing. Not at all who I remembered and yet not at all who I was still ready to talk to and who easily was pretty avoidable so far since I’d returned.

Mag took me by the arm and led me to my upstairs room where I, on my own, washed my face at the sink and Mag drew a bath. I stripped down upon command and Mag turned and caught sight of my naked body…covered in bruises from neckline to toe. Easily covered during winter months and turtle necks. Gasping she nearly whispered “What did he do to you?” In absolute horror. Hearing it and seeing it were two different things. Two weeks later and my body was far from healed. She helped me tenderly into the bath and washed my back softly. She was in her own shock at the sight of my body. Finally I said ” He never touched my face. This last time was the first time he touched my face. Most of those bruises are gone and it wasn’t that bad. Nothing broken. But this is pretty normal…what my body looks like now. He wasn’t really about hitting as much as…torture in ways, grabbing and twisting flesh and whatnot. But the bruises. He did that. A lot.”
Mag swallowed back the lump in her throat and unable to speak simply nodded. Then her tears began to spill and she dropped the washcloth and spun from the room apologizing. I leaned back and soaked and lay there for a good long time. It had been the first time I had been able to cry, to just….cry. I had been wandering in such a shock and daze the past two weeks. It was sometime later and I must have dozed as the water had cooled when Sas knocked softly and then entered “Mag has been in crying hysterics for awhile but finally fell asleep. I calmed her and gave you time to yourself but am now checking on you. Are you ok? She told me what was wrong.” I nodded…she entered and closed the door and grabbed a big towel, holding it out so that I could modestly step out of the cooled bath. She helped dry my hair, staying silent while she stared at each bruise she saw as I dried my body. My blackened shoulders and arms, my blue and purple turning to yellow now legs and feet. She just stayed silent in a steady calm. That had been her always, even when it was our Mother’s bruises left on our bodies then. Bruises we had kept hidden from our Father. I met her eye’s in the mirror and she finished drying my hair and said after a moment “I would have killed him. And I wouldn’t be the least bit sorry for it.”

I wrapped into my robe and also, like Mag, went to my own bed to fall into an emotionally tear ridden exhausted sleep. Sas turned down the lights and sat with me until I was sound asleep before leaving the room.

It was dark when I woke up, slightly disoriented a moment before I remembered where I was, the tears had apparently continued in my exhausted sleep, though I had no memory of dream. Mom was sitting in the chair in a corner reading a book when I woke. I didn’t say anything. Just watched her. She knew I had risen but continued reading. I didn’t interrupt her…the golden rule of readers. Do Not Interrupt.
I studied her face and the lines that had come upon it in the time since I’d last seen her. Her jet black hair was completely gray now but long and still silky. It was quite becoming of her really and I thought fleetingly that if I aged like her it would be a good thing. She was still fit and slim and gravity had not hit her much, if at all. Her green eye’s still prominent and her mouth set in that determined look with the slight furrowed brow I remembered growing up. She was the same, only older, and it seemed to me and the memory that I held of her..perhaps…quieter in spirit.

She put the book down, closing it’s pages but not looking up. She looked at her hands upon the book rather. She sighed and sighed again before saying ” The girls told me about the bruises.” I nodded and shifted position upon the bed. Sitting Indian style facing her, still studying the calmness about her that I held no memory of.
“They have told me you are expecting.”
Again all I could do was nod.
“I wish you had told me. I wish you had come home before. Called us. Anything. But I understand it too, Bird. You need to understand that I know what is in your mind about this.”
Anger rose as I realized where she was going with this. I got up off the bed, wrapping the robe I was still in tightly around me and pacing the floor “No. No you don’t because Papa never would have hit you. He never would have done this to you.” I stood in front of her and dropped the robe to show her the bruises. She ….her eye’s gleamed with instant tears and breath caught in a gasp. She stood up and walked over but I brushed her away, angry at what she was ready to accuse my father of. Angry that here she was, ready to blame someone else for the way she was. For what she had done to our family. For killing her husband. For forgetting the bruise’s she had left on her little girls in one or another of her own rampages. “I wasn’t blaming your father, Bird. I was blaming mine. But you have to let this anger about your father go. You have to let this anger about me go. I didn’t kill him, Bird. It wasn’t me. Your father…Your father shot himself. That was him. Nobody made him do it. Nobody pushed him to do it. Your father did that. You can listen and hear me and know the truth or you can continue being angry with me but it won’t change what really happened and why, and no good will come of your holding your anger, At me, or at your father, especially carrying a baby. They feel what you feel, Bird. Mothers advice right there.”

“Mother’s advice? Children feel what their mother’s feel? So, mom then tell me what exactly you think I feel. What I have felt since I was a baby, a little girl finding you the way I did?” The venom spitting from my mouth seemed to hit my mother like punches to her face but she stood quietly. She put her hands out…touching but not touching the bruised shoulders….and she cried and cried while I stood there. My anger seething. But seeing her different but not wanting to let go of the anger that I felt pulling away from me at the same time.

Finally we both sat, her on the chair and me on the ottoman. I handed her tissues.

“I never wanted this for my babies. I never wanted them to hurt.”

“You never protected us. You hurt us more than anybody”

“I protected you a lot….Bird you have a view of things that isn’t everything…it doesn’t hold all of the pieces.”

“I just….I can’t believe you had any reason to do what you did. Leave us like you did. Hurt Papa the way you did most of all. He never hurt you mom.”

“No no..not this…not….God My Birdie…not that. But…Your father had his demons and you have to know that. He WAS a good man….but he could be the ugliest too at times.”

“I …mom…please leave me alone will you?”

A paused and pressed silence, lips held tight as she studied me and then she got up and left. I could feel her own anger rising.Strife traits and the woman I was like most but wanted to be like the least. The door slammed behind her. I was left alone again but sat and wondered about the things she had said, what little I’d let her say. Perhaps I should let my mother have a chance at explaining. Ask her now the question’s I never had asked her then. But I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to feel empathy for her or understanding for her reason’s of why she was the way she was. Not one bit ready for giving her an inch. But at the same time I realized for the first time that my attitude was incredibly juvenile as the small bit she had said did make the adult self in me realize that there was a story that I had not yet read, that my mother and my childhood only seemed like the cover of the book I’d plenty judged.

I fell back asleep crying again but this time I had plenty of dreams.

I dreamt of a time when I was around four years old and I had woken up and called out for my mother…but no one came. The house was very quiet and I got up and walked out of my room and down the hall. Our house was never in complete silence so I became scared. I called out again and no answer. I found the door to my parents room at the end of the hall open and went inside but it was empty. The bed perfectly made. Then I stepped in water puddled on the floor….and heard the water on coming from the bathroom, underneath the door is still came. But the water wasn’t just water…it was red and pink and black too and it swirled around my feet like a water color painting as I walked to the bathroom door and turned the nob, calling out “Mooom?” Again, scared but for some reason knowing what I was about to find in a way which I couldn’t, what four year old could understand this? But my dream-child new.

The tub was over flowing and she lay in it , wearing her pretty pink dress, the blood all around her, her black hair floating around her face, her eye’s closed and her skin pale. I dropped my stuffed dog and went running…splashing through the water but I ran to her, not away, and grabbed her arm which looked hurt and pulled and pulled screaming “Mom wake up! Mom wake up!” I last remember my father’s voice yelling her name and grabbing her around her body, reaching his arms still in his suit jacket straight into the water and lifting her up….

I woke to the sun streaming in again, my hair matted with sweat and tears. I made my way to a hot shower and contemplated what image burned into my memory that often haunted my dreams since I was a child. What would make my mother do the things that she did, Multiple times through out my childhood. Her moods, her gray times as we called them, “mama’s having a gray-time”, Sas would whisper and we knew to play quietly then. I also thought about having this baby and what that would mean. And I let my mind wander to not having it, either way I hadn’t thought about it at all…not in a selfish I have better things to think about way but in a fog of I have killed my husband way. I knew not at all what my future held outside of the plans and life I had spent years building and constructing that on the day when I left the loft and as I turned the key in the door even before I heard his voice, felt his hand grab my arm and heard the gunshot, that carefully constructed life had begun to crumble came crashing down entirely.

Getting dressed in jeans and pulling my hair back I made my way out of the house without stopping for coffee. Thankfully I didn’t even run into anybody in the house as I wasn’t in the frame of mind. I was in a hurry before I could change my mind and the next thing I knew I was pulling open the big garage doors where my sister had told me dad’s car still sat should I want to try and drive it, if not I could drive her’s too but it looked like it was in use that day and not in it’s usual spot. Memories didn’t hit me in this house or being back as strong as they did the moment I opened the car door and slid into the rich brown leather seats. I hadn’t thought about or expected his smell. I didn’t expect it so strong and I didn’t expect the memories that rushed over me as I inhaled deep the smell of polished leather and tobacco mixed with ironed starched handkerchief and aftershave. That smell was my dad as strong as if he was sitting right here with me giving me my first driving lesson and sixteen years after the last time I’d sat next to him in this car it was still so strong. So strong it stopped me dead in my tracks and I flashed back to a moment of driving on his lap, laughing and telling him when the light had turned green “It’s geen pappa!” The sound of his baritone laughter ringing as I shook off the memory and slammed the door closed, started the engine and turned toward Houston. I had made a choice in the shower, realizing that what illed my mother and caused her to be the mother that I remember was not a mother I could allow myself to ever be and I was more like her than I wanted to admit but more like her that in the face of motherhood and the ending disaster of being a wife I couldn’t help but to admit. That ill that had caused her to want to leave her daughters and cut her wrists and lie in the water without thinking about us at all had made my decision. I had that in me too, her blood coursed through my veins and what was in her could be in me and I could not put my child through the pain I felt. That was enough reason. I needed no reason of my father’s death or my childs father’s death to be my reason.