Tragedy Revisited - Part Nine of Angel
“. . . deep inside it whispers
just a mote against the wind
deep inside it whispers
my jack-o-lantern's friend. . .”
Eve heard the whole thing. But she didn't witness it. She heard everything down to the final slam of the front door. She remembered giving her son money what seemed like moments before. It wasn't much, perhaps forty dollars. Then she was alone.
She replayed these events over and over in her head to get a grasp on what had happened. Eve didn't know for sure. That's why she was looking. Perhaps the reels of her fragmented memory would say.
After Adam left, she could hear Jack in the living room, swearing madly. But Eve didn't come out then to investigate. Jack is even angrier after a fight, than before it, if one could imagine such a thing.
After time, she learned-just like her son-not to resist. It was important for her not to. To refuse what Jack was giving to her was refusing his love. Her father had told her that every time he would show Eve how much he loved her. By letting Jack do what he did every night, she was showing him how much she loved him, too.
That was the only love she knew. It's the conditional, self-deprecating love that comes to you with whiskey breath and rough fingers. It's the kind of love that whispers soothing thoughts in your ear-the very thought of which would curl the skin at the back of your neck.
“Not much longer, honey.”
The kind of love that thrusts into you as effortlessly as all those men who force-feed ducks for their livers. It's the kind of caring compassion that requires the unwavering faith in God for an explanation. And the trust that God sent this to you for a reason. You're growing somehow, you know it. Your faith has never been better.
What about the rest of you? Do you feel just as loved by him as you do by God? Or was your father just another false prophet? Don't answer that now. Those were all rhetorical questions.
Truth is: this world is a fucked up place. And I'm sorry to break it to you. Things like this happen a lot.
It was morning when Eve came out of the bedroom. Jack wasn't by her side when she rolled over to say good morning. But that wasn't entirely out of the norm. He was always busy in the mornings, playing golf with his buddies.
Adam's room was empty. And it was a mess. He usually forgot where he left his school books in the morning and ended up tearing apart his room. Eve would usually be there with him, looking too.
Nothing seemed out of place at first. Until she ended her circuit in the living room, staring at the crimson red stains splattered across the white shag.
Just wine, she told herself. Jack always spills wine.
Eve busied herself with cleaning up the mess. She even picked up a torn off fingernail without any second thoughts. Jack bit his nails. It was a bad habit, but he didn't seem to notice it. Well, not unless his wife pointed it out. But, like with everything else, he never expressed the will to change.
She sang to herself a maiden's song from a classic Disney movie. As a little girl, she was always in her own little world. All of her teachers would comment on it. She could still hear them.
“Eve is such a bright, creative little girl. I just wish she would put more of her energy into school work than doodling.”
At forty-five, she hadn't changed much. Eve liked to think that she'd been able to keep a hold of her good childish qualities, despite some of the bad things that came with them. In those forty-five years, the word “victim” never entered her mind.
With the wine stain soaking in soap and salt, Eve took a shower. After that, she would continue knitting the scarf for a sweater that Adam would be presented on his birthday, only a month away. Her little boy was growing up so fast. It amazed her how, even though she saw him everyday, that he would be an inch taller or his voice an octave deeper every time she turned around.
Eve would usually knit until the time when Adam would come home from school. Her son would never know what she was working on. Even when the sweater was its closest to completion, Adam couldn't guess what it was. But today, he didn't come home. She figured he was working on one of those projects he always he had. Adam was always busy with something.
But Jack didn't come home either. That was understandable. He was probably pulling overtime in the E.R. They were always understaffed. She felt proud about all of the time he was away from her and saving lives.
The rag came off with the stain. There was nothing left of the wine. While throwing the rag away, she complimented herself on her homemaking skills.
At eleven o'clock, Eve called Jack.
The line picked up without ringing; but there was no one on the other side. She could hear faint background noise. It was enough to tell that he was driving somewhere. Eve tried to yell a few times, hoping Jack would hear her, to no avail. Then the connection died.
Jack had never done this before. And Eve was worried. Adam hadn't come home all day. She wanted to know where he was. But when she called his friends, none of them knew where he was. Eve tried not to worry. There was a reasonable explanation for everything. And if it was too scary to think about, Eve had always reasoned it away. But that was something she did without thinking.
Tomorrow, if he didn't come home, she would report Adam as missing. As for Jack, she was sure Jack was fine.
In the middle of the night, Jack came home again. The harsh light of the television set splayed across the bedroom and blinded her momentarily. But even when she could see, all she would see was the shadow of Jack hovering above her. Behind him, she could hear the preamble of Ripley's Believe It or Not.
Jack was gentle that night. Like nothing she had ever experienced before. When he laid her down beside Scott, she couldn't help but wonder who the boy was. And why she was sleeping in the reeds, instead of her warm bed.
“I hate seeing you like this,” Jack spoke to his wife. “I hated doing what I did. But you need to understand: this is for your own good. If this hadn't happened, there would be a lot more hurting than you had tonight. You understand, right dear?”
Jack knelt down and kissed her forehead. Eve heard an echo of her voice from far away. He's crying!
“I have to leave you here for a long time, Evie.” Jack stood and fished his car keys out of his pocket. But he didn't leave yet. “I'll be back, though, darling. You can count on that. I'll have Adam with me and we can all be a happy family again. You want that, don't you?”
The echo whispered, Yes, I do. I miss Adam. Where did he go? I still don't understand why I can't come with you.
“But you'll have to stay here and hide, okay?” Jack fingered the key to the Ford truck waiting as patiently as an undertaker. “Stay here and hide until I find Adam. People will want to find you soon. But you can't let them find you.”
“Stay here and keep him company.” Jack nodded his head towards the boy beside her, “Once they go away, I'll be back and we'll get you out of here. We'll all go down to Cancún. You've always wanted to go to Cancún.”
You promised we would, Jack.
“I know I promised.” Jack scratched his head, “But this time it'll be for real. You'll see. We'll all go there on a vacation.”
Oh, good. Adam will like that. He's always talked about wanting to get away from Los Angeles.
“Now just wait here and I'll be back.” Jack knelt down and kissed his wife one last time. “I promise.”
Eve got up to hug Jack goodbye and promise that she would be a good girl and hide for as long as he needed her to. She got up, out of her body and fell through Jack. She realized it then. In a terrible moment of realization, she watched everything slip into place.
Then, she was alone, standing beside her body; and watching Jack drive away.
She screamed, Murderer!
But everything was already gone.