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Debbie’s Story Part Seven

Debbie’s Story

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

Read last week’s entry here

 

 

Part Seven

December 20th

Mandolin Rain





 

Listen to the mandolin rain, Listen to the music on the lake, Listen to my heart break every time she he runs away, Listen to the banjo wind, A sad song drifting low, Listen to the tears roll, Down my face as she he turns to go

Bruce Hornsby

 

 

            I didn’t see Jack until the next day when he showed up at my house in his car. He looked like he was tired, but still a little cheerful. Actually, he had that look he often wore in those days, a look that made you want to inspect his person for canary feathers. The problem is, now I know what that was masking. It took a while, but I did get to deciphering the Collier Code, and I didn’t even need a lousy book to do it.

 

            “I thought you got suspended.” I said as I came out into the light of day.

 

            “I talked my way into restricted license.” He said, smiling at me. “I can’t drive after dark.”

 

            “You’re shitting me.”

           

            “After nine pm until six in the morning.” He said. “That’s the restriction they gave me. Three months.”

 

            “How the hell did you do that?” I asked.

 

            “I smiled, I talked about how I need to get a steady job now that school is over, she was sympathetic.” He shrugged.

 

            “Ah.” I said nodding. “She.”

 

            “Oh come on.” He said. “She was fifty and a hundred pounds over weight.”

 

            “Even better.” I told him. “It means you can flirt and she can dream.”

 

            “You really think that about me don’t you?”

 

            “Jack, you are amazing.” I laughed, “How do you not see what you can do?”

 

            “How is Karen?” He asked.

 

            “They’re going to bring her home tonight, I was supposed to call you, but I only woke up a little while ago.”

 

            “Okay.” He said. “Is she okay though?”

 

            “You don’t know?”

 

            “No.” He said, shaking his head. “I’ve been talking my way out of three or four aggravated assault charges. That fat bitch’s husband really is a lawyer. He agreed that it would be tough to press any kind of charges though and that I might be the one to get money if I pressed a countersuit. So we called it even and he went home.”

 

            “What about Adam?”

 

            “When he gets out, he’ll be facing assault with an illegal weapon. You can’t have switchblades in Michigan you know. He’s also got a dislocated knee cap and apparently I didn’t quite break his nose but I put it out of shape or something. How hard did I hit him?”

 

            “My hand is bruised.” I said holding up my swollen hand.

 

            “Yeah.” He nodded. “I hit him hard enough to hurt your hand.”

 

            “Why do you keep saying it like that?” I asked.

 

            “Nothing can happen to you or Karen.” His voice was hard then. Hard and serious in a way that scared me a little. “I’ve got nothing to ruin. You know a guy who stabbed a guy, you can’t be blamed for that. If you stabbed a guy, they might yank your scholarship or something. I won’t let that happen.”

 

            “Do you want to go for a drive or something?” I had the sudden feeling that I really wanted to be alone with him.

 

            “I’ve got to take my car to get cleaned, there’s blood all over the front seat.” He said waving to the car.

 

            “My car is already there, but I can get Dad’s car.”

 

            “No.” He shook his head, and there was some kind of sadness there. “I’ve got to go and do some stuff. I just wanted to know what happened.”

 

            “Why did you hit that woman?” I asked, not wanting him to go away just yet.

 

            Actually, I wanted to tackle him and rub against him until we were just a warm puddle of liquid sex on the pavement. I’m not sure how I would have expressed that to him, and I’m not sure if I could express it now, but that was how I felt. I wanted to be liquid with him. How dumb does that sound? I’m not sure. It makes sense in my head, which might just have to be enough.

 

            “Her kid got jumped by some guys in a skating rink. His friends were trying to help but one of the guys broke the kid’s arm. She was blaming them for it and that wasn’t fair.” He waved his hand nonchalantly. “I couldn’t stand to just sit there and wait for someone to quietly say something to her. Someone had to tell her she was wrong.”

 

            I felt my heart swell for him. He looked like some old knight from a lost kingdom that had forgotten about chainmail and had given him a fedora for a helmet and a trench coat for armor. The rain started to fall again, and he looked at the car and then at me. There was still sun poking through the clouds and it lit up the water as it fell around him. He looked so beautiful, and I could tell he was breaking up with me. I couldn’t understand why or how I knew, but I knew that was what we were coming to.

 

            “Don’t just leave me Jack.” I said running to him.

 

            “I’m not going to leave you.” He said, “I’m going to stay here and you’re going to leave me.”

 

            “You’ll help with Karen, right?”

 

            “Yes.” He said. “But I think the fun is probably going to be over for a while.”

 

            “We should probably not talk about it too much then. I don’t think I can take the rumors, even if we’re leaving here soon.” I looked over my shoulder at the house and then at him again, and I wanted to die. I still can’t understand why I asked him not to talk about it, but there it is, I did.

 

            “I haven’t told anyone anything they didn’t need to know.” He said, looking like something out of an old black and white movie where the tough guy did what had to be done.

 

            “What did you tell Karen’s dad?”

 

            “Oh, I told him you stabbed Adam, he needed a reason to like you so I gave him one.” He said shrugging. “I figured that one thing would make him forget whatever little prejudice he might have and accept you as a daughter-in-law. But I didn’t tell him anything else. I’ll keep everything else quiet.”

 

            “What the hell Jack?” I asked as he turned to his car.

 

            “I won’t ever talk about it.” He said as he looked back at me. “I love you Debs. I love Karen and I love you and I won’t tell. We don’t need a lot of rumors flying around.”

 

            “It’s got nothing to do with that.” I whimpered.

 

            “I’ll keep it under here.” He touched his hat and got into his car and drove away.

 

            That was the last time I saw him for nearly two weeks. He wasn’t avoiding Karen, he saw her every day, but something had changed. He seemed to blame himself for what happened and didn’t want the three of us together for fear something might go wrong again.

 

            He came to my graduation party, and by that time Karen was up and about again. It seemed that everyone had just decided to agree that it was okay for her and I to be together, but Jack wasn’t going to be part of it. He avoided letting anyone know what had happened, and only told people that we were hanging out at his place because we thought anyone else wouldn’t have understood. He never did talk about it to anyone. I think he even denies that we ever slept together when the subject comes up.

 

             It hurt, for a long time it hurt that he avoided being with us. I understand now, he was trying not to make himself the center of our relationship. I think he was trying to tell us it was okay not to need him, even though we really did want him. He walked away, and went to hide in his basement.

 

            I went to see him one day, and I tried to kiss him, but he wouldn’t let me. He pushed me away and started to cry. I tried to comfort him, but he just pushed me away again and left the room to sit on the other side of the basement. I watched him cry for almost an hour before walking over to him. I sat down next to him and put my arms around him very slowly. A watch’s hand moved faster than mine. He let me kiss him then, but only a little.

 

            “I love you.” He said. “But I can’t have you getting hurt because of me. I can’t have either of you getting hurt because of me.”

 

            “We won’t get hurt.” I said.

 

            “Karen got hurt.” He said through his tears.

           

            “It won’t happen again.” I said.

 

            “You watch.” He said and shook his head. “I’m marked my dear. People will drop like flies around me. If you’re smart, you’ll run away from me.”

 

            “Why are you trying to be noble?” I demanded, feeling suddenly angry.

 

            “I’m not trying to be noble.” He said and I wondered if the problem was that I had put the word ‘trying’ in there. “I couldn’t live if one of you got hurt. You need to get away from me.”

 

            “Jack, that’s crazy, you’re being crazy.”

 

            “Paranoid.” He said. “That is what my court appointed psychologist says. She says that I have a paranoid personality and that if I’m not careful I could be a danger to those around me.”

 

            “That’s just some shrink!” I demanded, trying to get over the idea that he had one appointed by a court. That meant that there was a lot more to the story than he’d been letting on.

 

            “You’ve got to understand, I want to be with you, but I can’t.” He said. “Please, don’t put me through it anymore.”

 

            “Okay.” I said standing up. “Have you talked to Karen about this?”

 

            “Yes.” He nodded, but wouldn’t look up at me. “She doesn’t like it any better than you do, but she understands.”

 

            I left after that, what else was there to say? I drove over to see Karen, who wasn’t having to lie in a bed changing her dressings anymore. Even the stitches had been taken out and she could more or less act like she had before. She looked a little more scared sometimes, but she was okay with me. We drove to Stony, back to the log where we started, and had what most people might think of as The Talk.

 

            “I talked to Jack today.” I told her. “He says he shouldn’t see us anymore.”

            “Yeah.” She nodded, tears already starting. “He doesn’t want to risk getting us hurt again or some bullshit. And that’s just because the shrink has him convinced that he’s two steps from snapping.”

 

            “Yeah.” I said, trying not to cry.

 

            “So, is this where you tell me that you don’t want to see me anymore either?” She wanted to be strong, but the tears just came rolling down her face and she began to sob. “Because I don’t think I could take that.”

 

            She fell to her knees and started to cry in earnest, and I couldn’t help but run and grab her.

 

            “No!” I cried and wiped the hair, like spun sunlight, out of her face. I kissed her and started to cry too. “I don’t want to break up with you.”

 

            “Then why come here?” She asked. “Why come back to where we started?”

 

            “I want to know if we can keep going.” I said, rubbing the leather of my jacket with my palm, and whatever it was that had first gripped us in this place seemed to take hold again. I felt stronger, more confident, like we would be okay if I could just spit the words out. “We first kissed her, I thought this place would be strong for us.”

 

            “Really?” She asked, and sniffed.

 

            “Yeah.” I said and kissed her. “I want us to be together for as long as we can.”

 

            “I love you.” She said and kissed me.

 

            “I love you too.” I said, and it started to rain again.

 

            I didn’t care about the rain though, I cared about having her warm body against mine for all time. I cared about squeezing her so hard that she could never escape. That was all I cared about then. I wanted us to be together, because together nothing could hurt us ever again.

 

            As it turns out, we were not together forever.

 

            I went to State, but she got accepted at Central and went there instead. For the first year, it was okay. We drove to each others’ places each weekend or so, but as things happen, we drifted. She met a guy and girl in Yipsi and started sleeping with them, not exactly behind my back but not really asking me if I minded. I did mind, but at the same time I didn’t. She and I never actually really broke up, we just sort of agreed that she was going to be with Pete and Angela. They moved in together and it seemed like a happily ever after. When Angela and Pete got married a year after that she was the maid of honor and I went to see her. Jack was there too, but we only said hi to each other. They still live together, Angela and Karen have both had one of Pete’s sons and Karen had a daughter too, so I guess that’s her happy ending. I still see her once a month, sometimes twice a month. Sometimes we still act like it’s old times. I still love her so much, but she belongs with Pete and Angela and I’m okay with that. Mostly.

 

            So how did I end up with Jack? Looking over this, I’m not sure I’ve really made it clear here. I might not have really put it all there for you. Maybe I don’t really have the words to explain it. I can’t really say that he’s of noble bearing and I feel like being around him makes me feel like I’m part of some great work for good.

 

            Maybe I came home to be with him because I’m just a dumb little bitch who keeps hoping he’ll take me to his bed again. No, that’s not right. I’m my own person, but at first I wanted to be near him. I was with Geraldine by then, before she broke it off to go to Berkley, but I wanted to be near him. I’ve dated men and women while I’ve been with him at the office, it’s not like I’m holding out hope he’ll turn and offer to make love to me forever. In fact, I sort of don’t want him to, it would break the thing we have. It might turn into something else, something wonderful, but I like the thing we have.

 

            I was going to start looking for work after I graduated, and that summer was the summer his friend Char gave him the money to start his agency. That was after he got back from whatever he did in Europe with Char’s niece and her husband. I needed a job, and he had lots of money to give me a really great salary. That first year, I kept saying I was just going to do it until he was able to find someone to take my place or I got a job somewhere else, like Chicago. And somehow, it never happened because I just can’t bring myself to leave him.

 

            What would he do without someone to take care of him? None of the other women take care of him. They just buy him off with cars and funding. He wouldn’t even eat breakfast if I didn’t bring it in for him. Maybe a classical word, used technically can do it. I looked up affianced once when I was looking up banks and wanted to know what assurance meant. They’re both based on the same Latin word affidar that means ‘to entrust to’ or ‘to trust oneself to’ if you’re talking about yourself. If that can be disconnected from a traditional relationship, than that is what I mean. I am entrusted to him. I will follow anywhere he leads, if only he’ll lead. I trust that he knows the right way to go, and I think he trusts that I’ll be there to make sure things run smooth as we head to where ever he’s leading us.

 

            I love him so much, I love with a love that is more than love. He’s like my Annabel Lee or something. I am tied to him forever. And now someone, no angel that’s to be sure, has taken him away from me. I don’t know if he’s ever going to wake up now, or if he’s going to have to be put into a tomb by the sounding sea. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I can’t lose him again.

 

            I know he doesn’t love me anymore, so I just look at the door when he passes through and try to keep typing so I won’t start crying. It hurts so much, but I have to be near him because I love him so much. I want him to be back in the office, I can hardly bear having him so near and not being able to touch him, but knowing he might never come back is too much. Oh God, please let Jack wake up soon, I don’t think I can take this much longer. Who will take care of me if I can’t take care of him? I don’t think I can do this anymore.

 

            I have to stop now, I’m sorry.

 

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June 18, 2010 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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