General Fiction posted July 29, 2014 Chapters:  ...82 83 -84- 85... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Sarah tells to her husband what Karen confessed about Carol

A chapter in the book Enough to Miss Christmas

Sarah's Turn to Tell Paul

by Fridayauthor

Sarah feels obligated to tell her husband what daughter Karen has revealed about her mother. The child has long buried these secret feelings.
            I picked at my fingers and chewed my nails while sitting in bed, nervously awaiting my husband’s appearance. He would arrive with questions about what I revealed to Karen, but I was anxious to get past my paltry problems and convey the far more important revelations from our daughter. My confession should be shelved somewhere between inconsequential and absurd by comparison.
            It was after eleven when Paul came into our room as I dabbed a tissue on two bloody fingers. I had worked myself into a wreck. I pitied the poor stowaway in my belly, having been assigned so tempestuous a vessel for his, or as Karen continued to insist, her maiden voyage into the world. Paul took one look at me, sighed and stepped into his walk-in closet to disrobe. When he returned, he looked down on his disquieted wife.
            “This is too much for me to digest tonight, Sarah. Let me sleep on it, please.” He flipped off the light and slunk into bed, leaving me as, hyper as a flea in a frying pan, as far from sleep as high noon on my wedding day.
            I didn’t bother looking at the clock but hours later, resigned that sleep was impossible, I left a contentedly snoring husband and plodded downstairs. While I was mercifully past the morning sickness stage of my pregnancy, this little belly dweller was playing havoc with several of my body functions. My child was generally making life bothersome. I sat at the kitchen table, munching on a cheese and peanut butter sandwich when I was surprised to see Paul shuffle into the room, rubbing his eyes against the light. He took my hand. I left the half-finished sandwich on the table and let him lead me into the living room, still chewing, until we were cozied together on the sofa.
            “I hate turning over in bed and not finding you,” he said.
            “Sorry. I couldn’t sleep.”
            “I was remiss not discussing this business last night but, I have to tell you, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say or do, and I was afraid I’d screw up. I’m a take charge kind of guy. When I have control of the situation I’m off and running, but this shrink-stuff is so far beyond my comprehension it might as well be written in Sanskrit. I can’t fathom it. Karen is upset; I know that, and I spent a long time with her last night. It didn’t seem to help. She kept saying you did this terrible thing to your mother and needed to be punished. I don’t want to seem insensitive; I’m sympathetic, but frankly, it’s difficult for me to understand. Granted, you left home, got dragged around the world by a sleazy guy, and were estranged from your family for years. But you came back. I can understand you feel guilty about your absence, but that’s over and done with. You had a few good months with your mother before she died, you’re having a great relationship with your sister and we all love you to death, so what’s the problem?”
            “There isn’t a problem with me, at least one that matters. Forget what Karen said I told her. It’s foolishness compared to major trouble that’s going on in Karen’s mind.” He looked confused but took a deep breath, waiting for me to continue.
            “I know you’ve had a pile of do-do dropped on you Paul and I hate to dump even more, but here goes.”
            I started slowly, explaining how Dr. Mason had arranged for us to confess to one another, in an effort to bring to the surface long held secrets and feelings of guilt. I slid over my guilt, letting it seem as if I’d agreed more to draw out Karen than pour out my soul. Yes, I’d divulged much more than a twelve-year-old might need to know but my candor with our daughter, though seemingly unwise, allowed her to trust me enough unlock her long held fears and secrets.
            “Karen’s mother wasn’t the person you saw or the person she described to you. She forced her daughter to lie, saying how much she adored the woman and wanted to be her as a near-constant companion when in truth, Karen was terrorized by her. Carol beat her frequently, and had her lie to her doctor to gain more medication then she ever should have taken.”
            Paul was speechless but now that I had blurted out the highlights, I slowed down. “The woman was crafty and manipulative to the extreme. Karen was petrified of her and still is, at least the mother of her nightmare dreams.”
            “Karen told you all this?”
            “Yes, and more.”
            “Karen must be exaggerating. She was only ten when Carol died. I know I messed up over the suicide and I know Carol could be difficult, but what you’re saying is my wife was . . .  downright evil.”
            “That’s a perfect description for the woman Karen describes, and no, I don’t believe Karen is amplifying what occurred; not one iota.”

            “How could I possibly believe Carol would beat her child? Sometimes she could be manipulative, yes, but to hit her daughter; I’m sorry. That’s just not possible.”
            “She’d force Karen to brush her hair by the hour.”
            “Karen loved doing that. She told me hundreds of times.”
             “If she stopped, Carol would use the hairbrush on her daughter.”
            “Her gold comb and hairbrush set? No way!”
            “Look at the evidence. Karen won’t touch the hairbrush. She was annoyed at me when I salvaged the brush-set from your Newton home. I thought she might want it as a memento of her mother when she was older.”
            “Carol cherished that set. She’d never use it as a weapon.”
            “Karen doesn’t treasure it, or her mother. She wouldn’t talk about the woman to anyone, you included, until I managed to draw out the suicide business.”
            “She was grieving too much to discuss her mother.”
            “In reality, she was sick of lying about the woman, but instead of confessing her true feelings, she just refused to talk about her mother at all. That was Karen’s way to stop lying; not tell the truth, just say nothing about her.”
            “Until now, you say.”
            “Yes. She’s seeing a professional and talking to me. Look at the evidence. She won’t let anyone see her naked because her mother told her the marks of her beatings never go away.”
            “That’s preposterous!”
            “She didn’t let out a sound when you struck her out of anger. Any other child would have screamed her head off.”
            “I didn’t strike her very hard.”
            “If she’d never been hit before, she’d have yelled like a banshee, just because of the shock of it. Silence wasn’t a normal reaction, Paul. Why? Because her mother made her remain silent when she beat her, so none of the hired help would know what was going on. Karen won’t take medicine; she endured an enema, for God’s sake, because she knows first-hand what medicine can do to a person. And she won’t tell me she loves me because her mother so corrupted the very word she’s afraid to use it anymore.”
            “She tells me, and Timmy, she loves us.”
            “You’re grand-fathered in. I’m not.” I had to control myself. I only imagined how Paul felt hearing this and knowing he was culpable for not seeing his wife for what she was. It was time to distribute the blame.
            “Mrs. Doberchek knew all along. Carol caught her pilfering your wine and blackmailed the old lady into buying her gin and supplying her with extra pills.”
            “I would have known if my wine was short.”
            “Paul, you had twelve hundred bottles!”
            “Karen said Mrs. Doberchek did that?”
            “Yes. She was the only one of the hired help that knew what your wife was doing. If the others suspected, Carol fired them.”
            “Carol was hard on the help, yes, but nothing like the way you describe. I wasn’t there all the time but when I was, my wife was calm and her old self.”
            “Karen had to clean up after Carol, change her.”
            “We had nurses for that,” Paul muttered.
            “Did you know Karen witnessed Timmy’s birth? Your wife made her stay in the room the entire time! Have you ever seen anyone giving birth? I haven’t either but I know it’s not a pretty sight, especially for a girl who was eight years old at the time!”
            “That’s ridiculous! I know Karen was in the house but Dr. Graham delivered Timmy. He never would have allowed it.”
            I sighed and tried to think. “The nurse quit or was fired right after the birth. I know this is difficult to grasp, but it’s true.”
            Paul began to pace. “I told you in New York, Carol wasn’t a saint, but she was terminally ill so I cut her some slack. It was only near the end she was agitated and in pain and not herself, but nothing close to being the person you describe.”
            I knew why but dreaded telling him the reason. I could see Paul was building a case in his mind that I was magnifying the situation, or at least Karen was. I couldn’t take this next step, at least not yet. Could it be he believed Karen was lying? The very idea frightened me.
            “You think she’s lying, don’t you?”
            “Sarah, she’s twelve years old. Look at what she’s gone through; her mother’s death, changes in her life beyond anyone’s wildest dream, all this guilt-punishment business, a need to please; both of us, especially you. Who could blame her for anything she might say or do?”
            “You didn’t answer my question.”
            “I love my daughter unconditionally but you have to admit, she’s strayed from the truth in the past, multiple times. You picked up on it almost from the start. Now, you look at the evidence. Yes, she’d been lied to in the past, and I admit I did it, but we’ve addressed that issue. She has an overwhelming urge to tell someone what they want to hear. She’s comparing you to Carol and I’ll admit you’re so far ahead it isn’t even a contest. Maybe in Karen’s confused mind, discrediting her birth mother makes you look even better. The medicine? The reluctance to run around naked? I don’t put much stock in that being more than normal behavior for her age; twelve. Didn’t you lie a little at that age and have weird phobias?”
            I had to bite my tongue not to revert to my military vocabulary and fly off the handle. I knew my temper would do nothing to solve this impasse. I desperately wanted to return to the heart of the problem.
            “Yes, I sometimes fibbed, Paul, and so do most kids at one time or another but we’re talking about an entire detailed and very serious scenario; not skipping school or taking an extra piece of pie. Why would she invent such a fable if it wasn’t true?”
            I could sense Paul too didn’t want this conversation to turn acrimonious. “She’d do it to please you, Sarah.” While his words hurt, they didn’t shake my faith in my daughter’s veracity.
            “Paul, you have to believe me when I say Karen isn’t lying. We’ve built up this honesty thing between us; for months. I’d know if she lied.”
            “I lived with Carol. She was my wife. You never even met her. She was far from perfect, but what you described just couldn’t have happened. How could Karen concoct such a tale? I don’t know. Maybe it’s this school play she’s in, children making up stories and lies, bewitched. Maybe she’s living The Crucible. We may never learn the reason but consider this; is knowing the truth so vital here? Carol is dead and gone and we’re a family, happy together, beyond the wildest expectations of any of us. Why not put the past to rest? Let Dr. Mason continue to talk to Karen; to both of you if you still need his counsel, and move on. He’s the professional.” Then he added, “We have a baby on the way.”
            “You can’t go along thinking your daughter is a bold-faced liar, Paul. It isn’t fair to either of you.”
            His frustration showed. “I’ll buy part of it; that Carol was possessive, especially near the end and maybe coerced Karen into spending more time with her than she really wanted to. A ten-year-old wants to go play, not be around a sick person. The beating? No way! Maybe Carol gave her a swat one time to get her moving and Karen blew the incident up in her mind. The pills? Who knows?  Maybe Karen misunderstood something Dr. Graham said or maybe Carol did overuse her medication. Who cares now? I don’t. Carol is history, and you’re the present. I love you.” I searched for the right words to say but my mind was drained.
            “Maybe lying is too strong a word. Who knows what goes on in a child’s mind? Look at this play she’s in; children, the girl whose part Karen is playing; accusing adults of horrible crimes! Seeking attention. Maybe Karen’s fantasied this story and actually believes it to be true. Who knows? Look in that book she keeps writing in; her diary; it’s supposed to be full of secrets. Maybe that will give you a clue to all this business.”
            “I’m sorry. I won’t look in my daughter’s diary or stand by and let you. There are certain things in life that are private and a diary is one of them. Believe me, I know.”
            “Okay. I agree. I was off base. I’m just searching for answers, Sarah. Think about what I’m saying. We may never know the truth, for sure.”
            “We have to.”
            “Then let’s question her together and hope the truth comes out.”
            “We can’t interrogate our daughter like the inquisition, for God’s sake! She needs our help, not a browbeating.”
            “Sarah, I’m not fighting you. We’re on the same side here. We love each other and we love the children and want what’s best for them. You and I are simply disagreeing. I can’t believe Carol, my wife, systematically beat my daughter and grossly mistreated her behind my back. You, on the other hand, totally accept the recollections of a child. That’s our disagreement.”
            “What do you want me to do?”
            “Sarah, since I’ve met you, I’ve always let your judgment prevail. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted the choices you’ve made, though God knows, there have been times I haven’t understood them. I’ll go along with whatever you want to do, but I can’t believe my wife ever did those horrible things. If I’m wrong, I don’t know if I could live with myself for letting it happen.”
            “What will you tell our daughter?” I asked.
            “I’ll tell her the truth; that I love her unconditionally and always will. I’ll acknowledge she has demons and nightmares and I’m there for her and fully support her continuing to see Dr. Mason.”
            “And if she asks if you believe what she told me?”
            “I won’t lie. I’m through with doing that. I’ll tell her I don’t believe she’s willfully telling an untruth and leave it at that.”
            “I hope that’s enough, Paul. I truly do.” I kissed him and followed him up to our bed, knowing full well it wasn’t near enough.

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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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