Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter 13


Getting To Know You All Over Again


"A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” – Mark Twain

 Lee and I spent the next couple of days getting reacquainted.  We were both the same yet different.  I found his grown manliness a bit intimidating and frankly a little frightening to have him so focused on me.  He was surprised at my independence.  It startled him at first but it was really weird, it was like he was tasting a new food and discovering he liked it after all.

“You … you really did a good job setting yourself up Bella.”

“You sound surprised,” I told him in a half joke.

“Yeah.  I mean no.”  When I looked at him and smiled to show I wasn’t offended he sheepishly admitted, “Ok, yeah I am some.  Not that you could do it exactly but that you would … did … have.  You know what I mean.”

I nodded, understanding what his words couldn’t seem to put together.  “The girl I used to be might have dream about doing it, but I doubt she would have actually done it.  She only thought about surviving day to day.  It was like thinking of the future was just another way of saying the next bad thing was on its way.”

“What changed?”

“Realizing my days under Uncle Jerry’s roof might not last until my inheritance came in.”

He gnawed on the edge of his mustache before asking, “Things were really that bad?”

I shrugged.  “Depends on how you look at it I guess.  Some people would say it was awful.  Daddy would have whooped Uncle Jerry a hundred fold for every hand he ever laid on me … and the boys too for that matter.  At the same time therewas never any drinking or drugs.  I had food to eat and a roof over my head.  No boys were trying to proposition me.  Uncle Jerry isn’t really a bad man, just weak and scared cause deep down he knows he’s weak.  People like that … they’re just not healthy to be around cause they can act on that fear to make themselves bigger than they are.”

“I never knew he hit you Bella.  You never said a word.”

I shrugged again.  “I didn’t know how.  And didn’t really want to.”

“Why forever not?!” he asked confused.  “Even if you didn’t know how I felt you knew we were friends … good friends.  You had to have known I would have at least tried to protect you.”

Thinking about how to say it I finally answered, “Pennance I guess.”

“Huh?”

“Pennance.  For living.”

Lee opened his mouth then shut it.  I thought he’d gotten angry or uncomfortable with the subject and stopped talking but then he asked, “Did you ever hear about my brother Job?”

“Job’s one of the older ones … super quiet, has that great long scar from his chin to his ear.  He … something about the military right?”

Lee nodded.  “Yeah … well the National Guard anyway.  He was driving a transport and drover up over and IED.  He was the only man in the vehicle to survive.  He was OK at first but then he did some crazy stuff … took chances he didn’t need to take, always getting into fights with bullies, drove like a maniac as long as no one else was with him … played hero like his life meant nothing.  His wife didn’t know what to do with him.  Mom and Dad did want to see it.  Anyway it was Brother Jacob that finally got him to go to the VA and join up with some support group for PTSD.  It was after that everyone figured out he had survivor’s guilt.”

“Oh,” I said quietly.  “I … I never did anything like that Lee.  You know I hated any kind of ruckus or attention.”

“You sure?  ‘Cause I may not know how it feels but you can still talk to me.”

“I’m sure,” I told him confidently.  “I kinda climbed that wall when I realized I had to decide whether I was gonna do for myself or not.  I hat to let go to grow up so I could deal with things.  I accepted that just because I didn’t like what happened didn’t mean it somehow wasn’t meant to happen.  I just … it’s still hard to talk about it.  I guess whether you realize it or not I’ve talked about it more to you than to anyone else.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.  I just don’t wanna talk about it right now.”

Softly he said, “Sure.  OK.  Just so long as you know you can.”

“I know it.”

“Good.”  Then with a sigh he said, “I still wish I’d known.  And I wish more than ever I’d just gone ahead and let you know how I felt … feel”

I shrugged. “It might have been nice.  Then again if I had found out too soon maybe I wouldn’t have had as much incentive to do the growing up that I did … might not have felt the need to creat this bolt hole.  The we would be in a fix.  Or do you wish you were back home?”

“Oh I miss my family, but not the way we were living.  Wish I could send them some of these hogs that are rooting everything up.”

“You and me both.  I got a bad feeling a lot of trees are gonna come down this winter when they get top heavy with snow or ice.  Ground around the roots is already soft from the rain.  Them hogs making it worse isn’t gonna help.”

“Go ahead and tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

“The silver lining.  You always seem to be able to find one.”

After thinking a moment I answered his challenge with, “More mushrooms next year.”
I popped a wire hanger full of mushrooms off the rotisserie and put them on his plate.  He laughed and said, “That’s my Bella.”

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