General Fiction posted June 23, 2014 Chapters:  ...33 34 -35- 36... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Sarah confronts Paul and the begin the healing process

A chapter in the book Enough to Miss Christmas


by Fridayauthor

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

Sarah learns secrets from step daughter Karen, and now must confront husband Paul before the family can move on.
            I leaned against the car door, my face, inches from Paul’s at the open window.  “You bastard! How could you do that?”
            “Lie through your teeth to your daughter, cover up Carol’s suicide, forge a death certificate, lie to everyone else!  Do you want to hear more?”
            He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “How did you know?”
            “What does it matter? What matters is your daughter has been living with nightmares after being in that fucking cellar while her selfish mother choked herself to death at the end of a rope! Then the poor kid had to endure listening to her lying bastard of a father telling her bull shit about the angels dragging mommy away to heaven because she loved her children so much!”
            Paul was shocked beyond belief. “Karen was there?”
            “Close enough to smell her mother’s shit and see her tongue hanging out her mouth when you cut her down, hauled her ass upstairs and conspired with your other lying bastard friends to make believe the woman died in her sleep. No wonder your daughter lies to you. She’s had a great teacher!” I couldn’t help myself.  I’d spewed it all out and now I began to sob.
            “God, how could I know?” He was sobbing as much as I. It was several minutes before I let him out of the car. He leaned against me. I didn’t push him away.
            “Please, Sarah. Start at the beginning.” When I didn’t respond, he added, “I’m begging you.”
            I took a deep breath and related the details I’d gleaned from Karen. Paul didn’t interrupt me once and when I finished, I asked, “Why? How could you let it happen?”
            “It was simpler, easier . . .”
            “Simpler for whom?  You? Surely not ten-year-old Karen! Lord knows what hell she’s carrying around in her head. Paul, your daughter needs help badly. Our daughter needs help and she’s going to get it!”
            “God knows, I can see that now. At the time, I was so mad at what Carol did to her family, in our house, I couldn’t think straight. It was Dr. Graham’s idea. He said no one would care, and it would be easier on everyone; all of Carol’s friends.”
            “Whoopee! Your wife should have thought of that and been considerate enough to swallow arsenic or pills instead of going out in a pile of piss and shit. I’m sorry, I never even met the woman but I hate her for what she did. I know it’s tacky for a new wife to trash the old one and I apologize but I have no sympathy for cowards who kill themselves and leave their so called loved ones to clean up their mess.”
            “It all happened so quickly. Dr. Graham took charge. He’d been Carol’s doctor for years; her only doctor. I never considered for a second Karen might learn otherwise, or God forgive me, know what was happening at the time.”
            “You forged documents! That’s against the law, for God’s sake.”
            “The doctor did that.” As I started to protest, he added, “I know, I was a party to it.”
            “It was stupid, Paul. And unnecessary. Karen could have been told the truth. . .the glossed-over truth, that her mother wasn’t herself or in her right mind. I don’t know; anything but an out and out lie.” He looked as petulant as second grader. “Who else knows?” I asked.

            “Thatcher Wright. He handled the funeral arrangements.”
            “Good old lie-for-a-living Thatcher,” I grumbled.
            “Karen will never forgive me,” he said. I could feel the hurt in his voice.
            “Yes, she will. She loves you. She wants to forgive you in the worst way but she needs a reason; a truthful reason. It’s going to take a lot of work to convince her.”
            “I’ll do anything. You have to believe that.”
            The steam was draining out of me. “I know that, Paul.”
            “We’ll skip the camping trip, and I’ll take her into Boston first thing Monday and see a specialist. I’ll get the best I can find.”
            “Bull shit! We’re going on the camping trip and be a family. That’s the first and best remedy. Then we’ll talk to a doctor here in Summerside where there’ll be a minimum of disruption to Karen’s life. I already looked in the phone book. But we’re not waiting that long. We’ll start this minute, with the three of us sitting down and discussing this out in the open. Before we do anything, you and I and Karen will talk. First and foremost, we’re going to be there for our daughter. You’ll mostly listen and agree. I’m sorry to be a bossy bitch over this and I apologize for my language but it goes to shit when I’m this fucking mad! And you’d better believe I’m fucking madder than hell. You lied to me too!” I opened the car door and marched into the house.
            “Karen,” I called at the top of my lungs. “Come on down, Hon. Tell Timmy to stay in his room for a while. We’ll have a surprise for him later.”
            If Paul had something to say, I didn’t give him a chance. He followed behind me into the living room.
            Karen crept meekly down the stairs and I grabbed her in a hug and led her to the sofa. Paul took a seat across from us. The poor kid was scared to death.

           “Karen, your father has been a big fat liar and he feels terrible about it now that he’s been caught.” While she was shocked by what I said shock was preferable to being frightened. “Do you know why he lied to you?”  She shook her head no. “He was trying to protect you because he thought you were too young and too immature to understand that your mother was so sick in her mind she killed herself.”

            I looked to Paul. His eyes told me to continue.

            “Men don’t understand how strong us females are. I know how strong you are. His misjudgment of you was his mistake and he’s unbelievably sorry for underestimating you. It wasn’t only dumb but wrong and there’s no excuse for what terrible pain it caused you. How’s that? But that’s all behind us now. Your father promises to never, ever lie to you again, just like I promised you. Sometimes grownups make mistakes too. We have to take our punishment and move on.” I was spent. I gestured to Paul that it was his turn, wondering if I’d irreparably damaged our family.
            He came over and snuggled on Karen’s other side and hugged his daughter. ”I’m so sorry, baby. I was so wrong.”  He somehow managed to hold back the tears I knew were close.
            “I’m sorry too, Daddy. I should . . .”
            “Stop it!” I shouted, startling them both. “Karen, don’t you dare say you should have done anything! You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. Nothing.  Do you hear me?  I won’t even let you say the words. You did nothing wrong. There was nothing you should have done!”
            “I shouldn’t have been there and if I’d come out . . .”
            “Stop it! You were ten years old! If you say that again, I’ll make you sit in the love chair until tomorrow!” I’d shocked a half-smile out of her, but she continued.
            “I wasn’t supposed to be in the cellar. . .”
            “Okay, big deal but the statute of limitations ran out on that minor offense. No punishment necessary. It’s been too long ago. It has nothing to do with what occurred in that cellar. Let’s talk about your mother instead. She did an awful thing but I’ll bet she wouldn’t have done it if she had a hint you were nearby. Remember. She did it. No one else. It was her choice. Why did she do it? We don’t know. Maybe her mind got all messed up with her illness or drugs she had to take. It was a terrible thing to happen, but it’s over and done with and we all have to move on. No more talking about ‘what-ifs’ or guilt. It happened and we’re not going to hide it anymore. Anytime you want to talk about your mom or her death, it’s an open subject.” Paul cringed but I moved on. “Now, let’s talk about lying. No statute of limitations on that sin. It’s a major offense. What are we going to do about it?”
            “Are you going to make Daddy sit in the love chair?”  Karen said. I couldn’t believe the relief I felt at her hint of humor. For the first time I sensed we’d make it through this session, probably the most intense family discussion any of us would endure in a lifetime. Just the right mixes of humor and honesty was doing the trick.
            “No way will he get off that easily. He gathers all the wood on our camping trip and washes all the dishes, and he has to perform any other chores we can think of. What else?”
            “What would Grandma have done if you lied?” Karen asked, her voice tense.
            “She would have sent us to the pantry to wait until my father came home and he would have taken a hairbrush to our backside!” I added quickly, “Your father is much too old for that sort of punishment, and besides, we don’t do that stuff in this family. Think of something else,” I offered.
            Karen was as relieved as I now that everything was out in the open and the tension lifted. “He has to sleep in the tent with Timmy instead of with you,” she said with a smile.
            “That’s good.” I wanted to add, no humping, but that was a tad inappropriate. “That still might not be enough. We’ll have to keep thinking.”
            “Whatever you say, I’ll agree," Paul said, contrition painted on his face. “I deserve it, and I’m taking responsibility.”
            “Good for you,” I answered. “Now let’s get Timmy and give him a surprise by going out for pizza and his favorite ice cream. We’ve all been far too busy today to cook.”
            Later, in our bedroom, Paul thanked me for how I’d handled the situation.
            “We’ve only begun, Paul. This is going to take a lot of work on everyone’s part. We have to talk and be open. All of us, even big-mouth me. I know it’s not the way you or the children were raised but open honesty is part of the answer if we’re going to make it through this mess.”
            “I hope our making so much of it isn’t too strong a course to take.”
            I felt my temperature rising. “Am I making too much of a barely ten-year-old child discovering her mother strangling to death, hanging in a darkened basement? Think about it, Paul. Isn’t it the Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, the fucking Mummy and every Stephen King’s novel all tossed in together?” I pounded the pillow and stepped out of bed.
            “You’re right. I just haven’t had time to think it through.”
            I was thankful he sensed my frustration. “I’m sorry, Paul. I know I’m not being fair and I’m blaming you for far too much. I love you. I always will and none of this changes that a bit. I’m not really mad at you, just what you did. I’m frightened to death, and I can’t sleep with you until we get our arms around this mess.”
            “This mess I’ve caused,” he added. I didn’t disagree. My husband kissed me. “I’ll sleep in the guest room. Get Karen and bring her in here with you. Maybe it will help with her nightmares.”
            I did as he said. Karen was surprised our bed was empty when I led her to it. “Is Daddy mad?” she asked.
            “No, honey.  He understands.  He’s doing penance for being a liar and hurting you, even if he didn’t mean to do it.”
            “You mean . . .”
            “Right. No ‘humping’ .”
            “Really? For how long?”
            “I’m not sure. We’ll decide together. Until then, you’ll sleep with me until we’re sure there are no more nightmares and we all can be happy again.”
            “Won’t that make him mad?”
            “Nope. Because he knows he deserves it. He’ll take it like a man and then it’ll be over. Anyway, if he was mad, he’d be mad at me and not at you. I’m the one who’s kicking him out of our bed, not you.”
            She turned and hugged me. “What’s a ‘statute of limitation’?"  Karen asked.

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Enough to Miss Christmas is a family love story, about sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, parents and children. Foremost, it tells the story of a step mom and a precocious young lady and how they bond in spite of overwhelming odds.
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