Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Pairing: Mark/Callie Callie/Hahn
Summary: What happens when a man steps up and offers you everything you've ever wanted at the same time that a woman does? What happens when you're feeling things that you've never felt before and you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. Callie takes a journey that is rocky, wonderful, terrifying, and breathtaking as she realizes that there is one heart too many in her life and that's the one that she will have to break.
Dedicated: To the readers. Thank you!
I don’t read the book I bought on the flight. I don’t watch the movie or pull out my iPod. What I do ... is listen to the old married couple in the same row of seats that I’m in bicker about their plans in Miami. She wants to sleep at the hotel and he wants to go straight to the beach. They’re probably a hundred years old, but that hasn’t doused his sense of adventure. He’s ready to dive into the water and she points out that his pacemaker will probably stop working the second he does. I don’t chime in with a medical perspective and they’re so wrapped up in each other that they don’t even notice that I’m there. My reflection in the window reminds me that I am, though. I watch States pass below me and I know that we’re going hundreds of miles per hour, but I’d look you in the eye and tell you that my ghosts are flying faster. They’re already ahead of me ... waiting in Miami for me just like the ocean waits for the old man and the bed waits for his wife.
I wonder who will win.
My medical opinion, if they had asked, is that you can sleep when you’re dead and they should go stroll the beach.
Magic happens there.
The cab that I hail at the airport has no fucking air conditioning. It smells like a combination of feet and boiled cabbage and I quickly roll the window down when we pull away into the traffic. The driver doesn’t appear to speak any English and I’m grateful that he stays silent except to say ‘Where?’. If Jasper could be a cab driver ... that’s how he would ask, too. It’s a thirty minute drive to my parent’s house. Home, I remind myself, not just theirs. I only fucked up home a little and now they’re letting me come back. I don’t know what it will be like to go into my old bedroom and I kinda hope that my mother was too scarred to wash my sheets. I bet I can still smell Erica’s hair on my pillow.
I don’t generally get all invested in music. I learn the words of overplayed songs and listen to it in surgery, but it’s usually just background noise. As we merge in an out of traffic, though, every song on the radio is about me. Every song speaks to me and that’s saying something because the only person that ‘Ice Ice Baby’ spoke to ... was Vanilla Ice. I’m ‘too cold, too cold’ and I develop a headache by the time that one ends. I listen to lyrics in clips and phrases as the cabbie corners on two wheels and lurches me left and right.
‘My heart is crippled by the vein that I keep on closing ... you cut me open and I keep bleeding love.’
That’s me and Erica. I was crippled when she came into my life and I closed off all the major veins to my heart ... but she knows hearts like the back of her white, skinny hand and she cut me open. I bleed and bleed and bleed for her.
‘I’m not fine, I’m in pain. It’s harder everyday. Maybe we’re better off this way. It’s better that we break.’
That’s me and Mark. I wasn’t fair to him and I’m making it all about me when he’s the one that’s hurting. Truth be told ... I’m almost relieved that it’s over, that I can stop faking my way to his heart. He loved who I let him see. Not me. I was the lie that I thought he wanted and I wrapped him up in me until it suffocated him.
‘I hope you know, I hope you know .. that this has nothing to do with you. It’s personal ... myself and I ... we’ve got some straightening out to do ... and I’m gonna miss you like a child misses her blanket, but I’ve gotta get on with my life ...’
And that’s just me. I miss them both. I miss them both in that disturbing, god awful, tranquilize you with fear kind of way that I felt when I accidentally lost Jasper in a crowd one time. I had taken my eyes off him for just a moment, but it was enough. I was fifteen. He was five. And I thought it was more important for me to duck out of sight so that the cool kids couldn’t see that I was spending a Saturday night walking around the mall with my little brother for company. I hid behind a shrub and Jasper kept on going. I was so seized with panic when the jocks and their entourage passed and Jasper wasn’t still holding my hand that I nearly fainted. I tripped over my own feet and bit my tongue when I called his name and it was only a span of seconds ... just a matter of looking left to right and not seeing his Teenage Mutant Ninja Shirt or his skateboard battered knees. It was the time it takes to breathe, taste fear, and then build up to scream ... and then he was there. I saw him through the window of the Disney Store and he was waiting for me to see him.
"I knew you’d find me," he had said, holding out his hand. "I got losted. Can we get some ice cream now?"
I bought him a triple scoop.
How sad that his five year old voice was so much more *there* than his twenty five year old voice.
He’s sitting on the steps with a mannequin head and a wig when the cab pulls around the big circular drive and stops. The wig is blond and I’m sure that my mother painstakingly pinned it the head (maybe picturing headless Erica) so that he can brush it for hours and not scare himself by pulling it off. He slowly sets it aside and gets to his feet. His sneakers are on the wrong feet but they’re velcroed tightly. His plaid shirt is tucked into his khaki shorts (which are pulled way too high) and he points to his head when I get out. "Look, Lee! New!"
Someone has given him a fresh buzz cut and he rubs it like a magic eight ball. I wonder if his fascination with hair stems from missing his own. I scratch his head while the driver retrieves my bag and then I narrow my eyes when the driver looks at Jazz a little too long. Jasper greets him with a ‘hi, Mister, hi!’ but the driver wrinkles his nose and walks away. I don’t tip the mother fucker. I’ve parboiled in his backseat, smelled his sweat, and braced for impact more than once and he can’t say hello to my brother? Fuck him. Jasper’s face falls a little when the car pulls away and I don’t know if he was waiting for Yellow or if he understands that the man didn’t like him, but either way ... I hate to see his features stiffen that way. I tell him to sit down on the steps again and I pull of his shoes and put them on the right feet. He insists that he ‘tie ‘em’ which takes five full minutes for each shoe because he has to hear the rip of the velcro until it’s just right.
When we go inside ... my mother is cooking. I smell grease and flour and chicken and pie. She comes out of the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron and she’s gained weight. I don’t mention it as she hugs me. She leaves a spattering of flour on my shirt and asks me if I’m hungry. I’m really not, but it’s Mom’s Chicken and I’m Mom’s Daughter so I agree that I’m famished. My dad joins us on the terrace under a canopy of umbrella and it’s almost like old times. The biggest difference is that he skips the fried chicken in favor or grilled and eats yogurt for desert and not pie. Jasper finds everything interesting and stops eating to show me his fork (which is the same pattern we’ve had since before he was born), his watch (which I gave him for Christmas), and then he realizes that the ocean is crashing in the distance and his belly is full.
You really shouldn’t swim right after you eat.
That’s never stopped him before.
"LEE! SWIM!" He gets to his feet so fast that he bumps the table with the front of his thighs. The table is heavy wrought iron and he gasps when he feels it bite his flesh. "Ouch."
It’s the most he can vocalize about pain. Ouch. One word accompanied by the screwing up of his face and the eye squeezing wrinkling that speaks of tears. "Jazz?" I say, "You want to swim?"
Pain forgotten. "Swim now!"
By the time I’ve changed into my suit ... he’s already in the water. I find one sneaker here, one sneaker there. One sock here, one sock there. I gather it all and set it out of the reach of the licking waves. For a while ... this was *her* water. I showed her the ocean. I wish I could find the seashell that she was fascinated by. I wish I had plucked it from her hand and taken it to the jewelers in town so that they could have put a hole in it and slid a chain through it. She could wear the shell like I wear her.
I wish she was here now.
No, wait. I’m pissed at her. I wish that I had never met her.
Because if I had never met her ... I’d be here now with Mark and he’d probably be throwing me into the water and diving under to grab my legs. I can just see his shoulders glistening with sunlight and his graying hair slicked down with salt and fun. I can see him standing at the grill with my brother Joel while they drink beer and talk about who knows what and I can see me catching his eye and sharing a smile that tells him I want him to sneak into my room that night. And he would. I wish that could have happened. I wish this could have been his place, too.
I wish so many things.
I baptize myself in the Atlantic Ocean and stay under long enough to pray that God will change me and my life. That takes a while. I keep adding things to the list. Maybe I can break the record for holding your breath.
Jasper finally pulls me up because I’ve scared him by vanishing. He shakes me and says my name and maybe he remembers being under for a while, too. I should be careful what I ask for. He was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean by fire and wreckage and he left most of himself behind. I give him a smile and tell him I’m okay, but he’s had enough of swimming now. We sit on the beach, watching boats cut across the horizon like a merry go round ... and he puts his arm around me so that I can lean against him.
It won’t be the last time I lean.
It won’t be the last time that I take notes on his strength.
As the days float by and I listen to my mother make the final plans for Jasper’s twenty fifth birthday party ... my mood improves. I chase dolphins with my brother at night, my hand reaching out like his as we lie side by side in his bed. I let my mother spoil me with a trip to the salon where I get a cut, a manicure, and red toenails. It’s my way of being bright and shiny for her and she thanks me with a shopping trip where she piles clothing in the dressing room and buys everything that fits me. I’ll either have to ship it back to Seattle or buy a new suitcase for it all.
Or ... I could just stay. There’s enough clothing to last and what’s in Seattle anyway that I can’t live without? Cristina can send anything valuable and donate the rest to charity. That’s what I’m thinking as I spread out a towel and adjust my bathing suit as I flop face down on the sand. I pillow my head on my arms and close my eyes. It’s Friday. I’ve been here four days and I’m not closer to clearing my head than I was. I’ve spent so much time in the sun that my skin has darkened at least three shades because I have tan lines and I never really get tan lines. I’m listening to the waves and wondering if Miami General’s ortho department needs a helping hand when a shadow falls across me.
"Your mother just quizzed me about how many men I’ve slept with, whether or not I’ve slept with women, and whether I think you’re pretty."
I push myself to my knees, stunned. "Addison!"
Her hair is still darker than I’ve seen it, but I can see the signature red bleeding through. "We both think I’m a slut now ... me and your mother. The number of guys I’ve slept with doesn’t sound too bad until I say it to someone who tells me she’s had *one* lover."
I smile and launch myself at her. She hugs me until I gasp. "What are you doing here?"
"Mark." She takes a step back and drops her heels in the sand. "Mind if I sit with you?"
Real friends don’t need invitations to intrude. They appear when you need them and stay when you don’t and wade into the cesspool with you ... even in Manolo Blahniks. She doesn’t wait for me to tell her that she can definitely sit with me ... she just does it. She flops down on my towel without wiping the sand off and I want to tell her that she’s going to get her swanky beige pants dirty, but I don’t. I sit next to her. "I don’t want to talk about Mark."
"Do you want to talk about Erica?"
"Mark didn’t kill her, did he?"
"No." She takes her sunglasses off her head and slides them onto her nose. "He just wants to."
"You think I’m horrible, don’t you?"
"If I thought you were horrible I wouldn’t have come here." She brushes an imaginary piece of lint of her thigh and pulls her legs up, digging her toes in the sand. "He goes from hating you to loving you in zero to sixty right now. He was loving you when you he called me and that’s why he wants me to tell you that if he can’t make you happy then he’ll bow out. Of course ... thirty minutes later he called and told me to tell you that he’s sleeping with four nurses and had a threesome with two twins that he met at Joe’s and he hopes that you fall into a shark’s mouth and lose your pretty head."
"At least he called me pretty."
She pauses before she speaks. "Yeah."
"This isn’t supposed to be my life, Addy. I’m not this person. I don’t toy with people and I don’t string people along so what am I doing? What the hell am I doing?"
"The same thing I did. I fell in love with two people. One was the love of my life and I would have died for him ... the other blindsided me and felt so good that I stopped thinking about what was right and went with it."
"When you left Mark to stay with Derek ... did you choose wrong?"
"I’d still be with Derek if Mark didn’t exist. I’d probably have a baby and a minivan and a suburban house. I loved Derek. I loved him with everything in me. It just wasn’t enough. And Mark is real." She looks at me. I can’t see her eyes behind her glasses, but I know they’ve found mine. "And I’d still be with Mark if I could have let my guilt over what I did with him stop making me feel like I was being pecked to death by chickens every time he touched me. I couldn’t, though. I loved him, too, but I couldn’t see him as anything more than a dirty little secret most of the time."
"You chose yourself in the end."
"There is that ... but I have also worn out six shower heads and can’t get up the nerve to move past flirting and into full frontal action with Pete."
"The new guy." She makes a face. "The new ... not really guy."
"What’s a not really guy?"
"The one you settle for when you’ve burned your bridges and chosen yourself." She glances out over the water. "I look at the ocean from my beach house and you know what I do? I second guess every decision, every word, every *thing* that made me wind up there alone."
"What are you saying?"
"I’m saying that Mark probably really is sleeping with half of Seattle right now and that you didn’t react at all when I told you that. I’m saying that Mark is a lovable guy, despite himself, and he doesn’t deserve to look at his life one day and wonder if you’re with him out of pity ... or because you want to be there. And I think if you are there, Callie, he’s going to be even more alone than I am."
"You were right," I tell her. "Erica and I were a happy couple for like ... a blink of an eye. And I think maybe I’m fluent in the ‘Vagina Monologues’."
And there it is.
That’s the first time I admit out loud to anyone that I just may actually be a little bit ... less than straight.
I may actually be very, very curvy.
George once called me curvy.
He was right.
"HI, LADY! HI!"
Addison turns her head and watches Jasper hurry toward us. His hand is extended like she’s a dolphin on his ceiling and I tell her that he’s my brother. She stands up and introduces herself. If his difference matters at all to her ... she doesn’t let on. I think I’ve underestimated people in my life. I kept him a secret the same way I kept myself a secret and the people who matter don’t really bat an eyelash over what sets us apart. She laughs when he bends down and scoops sand into both her heels like they’re shovels and when he touches her sunglasses, she hands them to him and he puts them on upside down before he rushes into the water.
He calls her ‘Dyson’. That’s what he hears of Add-i-son and that’s what sticks.
When I ask her if she wants to stay through the weekend ... she says she was already planning on it.
My mother ... ever the Orgasm Controller ... will not put Addison in the room next to mine. She doesn’t even put her on the same floor. She puts her in the room off the library where my father’s parents would occasionally stay because they were too old for the stairs and when I say goodnight ... my mother stands in the hallway and steps on a squeaky board. It’s her way of saying she will hear me if I go to Addison’s bed and I slam my door in her face as a response. She likely thinks that I’m horny and don’t want her maternal instincts to crimp my every-so-oh-my-god-gay-style ... but I’m actually just pissed. A mother’s love is supposed to be the one solid foundation that you can stand on and I feel like mine is a rope bridge across a rocky gorge. If I misstep one time and embrace that I curve ... she’ll buck me off and that’s that.
She’ll wash me off her hands the same way she washes flour off.
Am I ready to say goodbye?
Jasper’s birthday party has a Transformers theme. I’ve never seen him play with Transformers and he got scared trying to watch the movie because of sensory overload, but that’s what it is. It could have been a party for me. I’m transforming. Granted, I’m not as wicked cool as Optimus Prime, but I’m changing. Not necessarily for the better. I went from being a sleek sports car to being robotic. I’m tired of going through the motions and as Addison and I sit on the terrace and watch Jasper ride a horse in a circle ... something happens that makes the robot go away and the sports car come back with a V8 engine.
My brother Joel arrives and he skirts the table where I’m sitting. Trevor is allowed to run and greet me ... Hope keeps a firm grip on Savannah. My niece tugs twice to get away, but Hope hangs onto her so tightly that I see her hand turn red and she cries out. Her eyes meet mine and she reaches for me, but she’s not *allowed* to love me. Or touch me. Or come to me.
The truth breaks over me.
They think their son is safe with me as his aunt ... but their daughter is not because I’m attracted to girls.
They assume that what they perceive as my sexual perversion extends to little girls.
I see Hope stalk to where my mother is standing and they both look my way. Hope is asking about Addison and my mother is emphatically shaking her head. I don’t have to be close enough to hear it to know what’s being said. The thought that I would bring *another* woman into the inner sanctum and possibly *do* something with her and *taint* Jasper’s party is too much to take. The thought that I would be that *gross* and that *horrible* is enough to make me unworthy of my niece ... the baby that I held just moments after her birth with tears streaming down my face.
I’m finished crying over being me.
Most of the visitors in attendance are here from my parent’s church. Jasper’s nurse is here with her family, but it’s a small affair, and they’re all on the beach.
"I'll be back," I tell Addison and push myself to my feet. I lean down and kiss Trevor on the head and leave him asking Addy why her shoes are pointy.
Hope sees me coming toward her and gets a look on her face like she just caught a whiff of road kill. I ignore her and squat down by my niece so that I can give her a kiss. "Hey, Savvy!"
"Aunt Callie!" She flings one skinny little arm around me because her mother is still holding one. I pick her up to break the connection and she plants a wet smack on my cheek. "Jasper has a *horse*! Will you let me ride it?"
"Sure," I reply. I notice the way Hope's eyes go to my hand which is against Savannah's backside as I brace her against me. Is this how my life is going to always be? Are people really so ignorant that they assume unconventional love and perversion go hand in hand?
Who am I kidding? If I can't accept myself then how can I expect anyone else to?
I tickle Savvy and watch her bow up in a little knot and giggle, then she points out at the beach, where Jasper and his horse are now trotting. "Papa is out there!! I'm gonna go."
I set her on her feet and watch her pink and yellow dress flounce around her bony legs as she makes a beeline for my dad. He bends down to scoop her up and I watch him nibble at her neck while she yelps with joy. I'm smiling when I look back at Hope. "My money says that she's gonna be too scared to get near that horse."
It's as if I didn't say a word. Hope turns to the ice chest and digs herself a Coke from the depths and walks away. My mother clears her throat and shields her eyes as she looks out at the beach.
"Mom, why did you tell them?"
She keeps looking at anything but me. "I asked your brother to pray for you. I had to tell him why."
"Did you ask him to pray for me when I nearly died? How about when I moved in with Mark?"
"Of course it is."
"Hey, you made your bed, Calliope!" she snaps angrily. "You shocked us all by marrying someone you didn't even see fit to bring home and then you divorced him in less than three months. Then you bring some woman here and take her to bed and you expect us to ... what ... exactly? Not pray for you?"
"I don't need prayers! I need you!"
"What happened with you and Mark? I've asked you three times about him since you've been here and you clam up like you've lost your damn tongue."
"It's MY business. It's not yours!"
"Okay fine!" Mom yells. "Don't tell me anything. But don't expect me to come when you 'need' me because I'm clueless. I don't know what you 'need'. It's *your* business."
"You should not have told them!"
"If you're that ashamed of the truth then maybe it isn't YOUR truth." She finally looks at me and her brown/gray eyes are blazing. "You shocked us."
"You think I didn't shock myself?"
Lucky for me ... the only people still on the terrace other than my mother and me are Addison, Hope, and Joel. My voice is so shrill over the question, though, that I see several faces from the beach turn my way. I take a deep breath. My father is heading our way.
I turn and stalk into the house and a moment later the door is shoved open behind me. My parents file in ... and Joel. My father has the agitated look of a bull that just got slapped on the ass. "What is going on!?" he demands.
"Who is that woman out there?" Joel growls. "Callie, I don't want my kids around -"
"Me?" I cut him off. "You don't want your kids around me? You don't have to say it ... I see it."
"It's a sin!" he shouts.
"Well, you're no saint!" I yell back. "You don't fool me, Mr. Preacher! You only chose this path because you felt guilty for drinking when you crashed us! It wasn't some big fucking calling for you! Our lawyer told you to stop being a damn bum and 'find God'. So don't you dare condemn me!"
"Stop!" My father is rapidly building himself into a tirade. I see it coming.
Joel apparently doesn't. "Let me tell you something, Callie, I'm the one who has to live with that crash and I handle it the best I can! I made a bad choice and so did you so -"
"YOU THINK I CHOSE THIS!?" I can feel angry tears fill my eyes and I struggle not to let them fall. I don't want to cry! "I HATE THIS!! I HATE IT! I DIDN'T PLAN TO FALL IN LOVE WITH HER OR-"
"OH MY GOD!" My mother screeches. "LOVE!? YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH HER NOW!?"
I feel like the fight has been sucked out of me with a hose. I accept the truth by saying it out loud. "Yeah, Mom, I am. And I've stayed away from her ... I've fought with her .... I've fought with ME ... I've fought with Mark ... I've fought with you .... and she still wins whether I want her to or not." I close my eyes. "I didn't choose this. I can't think of a single person who would choose to live with this condemnation."
"God condemns it."
"Then let me answer to God, Joel, don't expect me to answer to you and keep in mind that you'll be answering for a few things, too." I feel my face fall and I hate it for betraying me. "I'm not sorry. I'm not. I wouldn't trade the time I had with her for your forgiveness, either."
"THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!" My mother shouts. "IS IT OVER!? ARE YOU DONE WITH HER!?"
"NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!"
"NO! STOP! NO FIGHT!"
We all clap our mouths shut and look at Jasper. He is standing in the open doorway, his bare feet soaked and his shorts leaking urine on the welcome mat. My brain sees the mat and tells me that I've wet my own welcome, too. I hear a sound like two cats fighting in a pillow case and then gasp when Jasper seizes a picture from from the mantle and throws it against the wall. Candlesticks and potpourri and another picture frame follow suit and then he attacks a wing back chair, picking it up and hurtling it dangerously close to my brother.
It's weird the way that time stands still. We watched Jasper like he was the climax of a movie that we've been on the edge of our seat anticipating. None of us move. None of us CAN move, or breathe, or process what we were seeing. Jasper, see, has two moods: cheerful and sleepy. That's it. He will howl pitifully if you take something from him and cross his arms with his lip out for three whole seconds and then the storm is gone and he will smile. He cries silently when he's in pain or if his ice cream falls off the cone and those tears will still fall like a faucet for just a while longer than they should. The doctors said that his brain couldn't tell his tear ducts that it was time to shut down. Jasper never, ever, not since before the accident or since ... shows us rage.
It's a sight to behold.
His muscles grew from swimming and as he yanks the VCR from the entertainment center and pulls it from the wall ... I think that he's never been so handsome. Face contorted to express what he can't ... I hear him loud and clear and just before he can step into the shattered glass ... I take his hand. He looks down at our joined fingers and freezes. I see him swallow back the next scream of *something* and then he shows me his other hand, where blood is pooling in his palm.
The storm has passed. Like a hurricane that races for shore and batters everything ... he has become the eye of it ... steady and eerily calm. "Be careful," I tell him, pointing at his feet. "Broken glass."
"Boken gas," he repeats, looking down. "Bad, bad fight."
"Yeah, bad fight," I agree. "You want me to fix the ouch?"
"You." He grins, big and beaming. His teeth are green from the icing on his cake. "Fix ouch."
I keep his hand in mine as I lead him to the bathroom. When I sit him down on the toilet he points at the wet crotch of his shorts. "Uh oh."
"I can fix that, too," I tell him.
"Fix you, too."
Now ... he could have been parroting what I said, but it doesn't feel that way. When I kneel in front of him and blot away the blood in his hand, he says it again. I look up at him and he trails his uninjured hand over my face the way that a blind person would to 'see' you. I feel like he's seeing me more than I have lately. He touches the tears that have yet to dry under my eye ... or maybe its the circle of misery underneath that catches his attention. he leans forward and kisses that spot. His breath smells like a strawberry lollipop and his lips are sticky. I feel a stirring in my stomach when he lowers his hand from my face and touches the heart necklace around my throat. I'm almost afraid that he will snap the chain, but he doesn't. He looks me in the eye and says, "Jazz kiss it."
He kisses MY heart ... the one I've been dangling from my own chains and puts a bandage over it the same way I put one on his hand. When I take him to his room to change his shorts, he picks up a comic book and shows it to me. "Yellow say 'Pow'!"
I goose him in the ribs the same way Erica did the night she read the comic book to him on her belly in the floor. It's the same book. He has it open to the page where Superman is throwing something toward a wall in order to get through it. There are shackles on his wrists that he pulled loose from a trap. It dawns on me, judging by the stickiness of the pages and the way it naturally stays open to that page, that Jasper has been looking at that drawing a lot. Jasper BECAME Superman downstairs when he emulated him by throwing whatever was at hand toward the wall that makes him a prisoner. He's more of a superhero, in his soiled shorts and bare feet, than I ever was in my Supergirl costume.
Because he commanded attention, put out the fire, and slipped back into his own world.
"Jazz?" I say, as I locate a pair of clean briefs. "You just might be a rock star. You know that?"
"Close enough." I dry him off with the towel that I carried with me and pull fresh underwear over his hips, then hold out shorts for him to step into. He holds onto my shoulders the same off balance way he did as a kid and I can remember being fourteen and he was four and he was shaking with urgency because going to bed early meant that Santa would come and I wasn't fast enough. "There you go, buddy."
"Buddy ... too." He pats my head like I'm a good puppy. "Lee ... happy!"
He makes a face and sums my life up in one word. "Lie."
He's got me there.
The little shit.
"I will be," I say.
"Okay, okay. Go ride the horse."
"Go ride the course."
I watch him run in his own unique way. I have to keep riding the course. I have to stay the course. Whatever course I'm supposed to take.
If it's not supposed to lead me to her ... then why is her face on every sign?
Addison and I go out for drinks when Jasper goes to bed. She heard most of what transpired in the living room because her back was right against the window. She doesn't mention it as I drive toward the restaurant and I finally tell her that I'm sorry she had to be there for it.
"Don't apologize," she tells me. "God, I didn't realize that they - that you - what was it like when Lori Anne found you in bed with her?"
"Imagine going to sleep in complete bliss and waking up with the Devil glaring down at you. My mother cried ... like Jamie Carr cried when her baby died ... and then she kicked me out. Wouldn't even let me go to the hospital to tell my dad goodbye." I weave through traffic, thinking that my dad's Jaguar is ever so much better than my Range Rover. "It was the hardest day of my life. When I left ... I didn't know if they'd ever let me come back and ... well, they didn't, did they? They don't want me here."
"I think they're just ... shocked." She's staring at me. "Mark called me after that happened. He said that you were like a zombie and that it was because of him. He said that he couldn't take hurting you like O'Malley did. He said that you were mad at him, mad at Erica, and that you wouldn't get off the couch. This is why ... right?"
"Yep." I think about my next words carefully before I choose them. "I didn't speak to her the entire way home and when we did finally say something ... it was nothing but hurtful nonsense that we hid behind work to say. There has not been a day since we flew home together that I haven't wished I could do it again .... differently. I shouldn't have agreed to be with Mark just because it made him happy or ... my mother happy. I should have made myself happy and that makes me self centered, but I'd rather be self centered than responsible for this mess."
"I didn't realize that you were in love with her. I thought ... I dunno what I thought."
"That I was curious. That I wanted to experiment. That I wanted to test the waters and see what happened." I glance over at her. "I told myself that, too. For a long time. I loved her as a person and a friend before I ever touched her. And - I don't think that matters because even if I didn't know her, even it was a random one night stand ... I'd know her. I'd love her."
"You're in love." Addison says it with a smile. "What are you going to do about it?"
"I called her a whore before I left to come here. That pretty much sealed it, didn't it?"
"Mark said she showed up at the airport." Addy clears her throat. "Actually, what he said was 'I looked up and the fucking skank was standing there like a blond albatross'. But, she came."
"They both did." I clear my throat now. "She slept with somebody else. I went to her house the other day to tell her that I was leaving Mark and ... she had company."
I smile, thinking of Jasper. "Ouch."
"But - you had someone, too, Callie. Imagine how that felt for *her*."
"I've done nothing but imagine how it feels for everyone. You told me yesterday that I didn't react when you told me about Mark and new conquests. You think I don't care .... but I don't have the right to a reaction. I have overreacted so much that I need to just ... not react at all. If sleeping around helps him ... then more power to him."
"But not her? She shouldn't?"
I tighten my grip on the steering wheel just thinking about the girl who called her baby. "No. She shouldn’t."
"You get that you're fucked up, right?"
"That's old news."
We decide not to hit up the restaurant and I show her Miami's nightlife instead. The city comes to life with Salsa after dark. Gyrating bodies, heavy perfume, and the erotic thumps of body charging music will leave you lightheaded. I love Salsa and after ten minutes of being stiff as a board on the edge of the dance floor ... Addison is whisked off her feet by a guy who gardens part time at our house. His name is Israel, but he's known as El Diablo on the dance floor. He dances seductively and it really is a dance with the devil as you try to hang onto your panties when he grinds into you. I can tell that she is enjoying it as much as he is. I dance beside her ... with a man who touches me with a little too much familiarity and watch a girl with sand colored hair spin and show her thong.
Yeah ... I'm more interested in her.
At three in the morning, I've had one mixed drink. Addison has had two fishbowls, four shots, and three jello shots ... that I’ve seen. I stand beside her outside the car while she pukes. When I try to strap her in, we bump heads because she's trying to take her strappy heels off. My own feet are being tortured in dancing shoes as well, but I take pity on her and pull hers off. I watch her rub the bottoms of her feet on the floor mat and laugh when she groans in ecstasy.
This should be fun.
Addison is a talkative drunk. And unexpectedly and quite shocking talkative drunks. I’m not prepared for what comes next. She tells me that she didn't call me during my zombie mode because she was a little pissed at me for dancing out of Joe's with Mark the day she visited Seattle. Her feelings were hurt because it was like I was staking a claim and making her see that she had been forgotten. I had a new best friend and Mark was going to fuck me blue. She was pissed, in short, because I broke the friend code by sleeping with him again at all. And for not realizing that she wasn’t okay with it. I let her ramble and I know she's telling me the truth.
I ease onto the highway and point towards Casa Torres. Casa HELL. She keeps talking now, telling me that Pete is okay, but hard to figure out and he's sexy, but no Mark Sloan.
She didn't come here to talk me into being with Mark and I know that now. She still loves him.
That's what SHE says ... not me. She actually SAYS it. She loves him. Still.
And then she slugs me on the arm hard enough to make me swerve. I quickly right the car and tell her to knock it off.
You probably know what's coming, right?
I hear the siren before I see the blue lights and as I'm driving onto the shoulder, she turns in her seat and says, "BUSTED!"
"Shut up," I growl. "Do not say a word."
When the officer arrives at the window ... I know that we're Going. To. Jail. Call it sixth sense or a premonition, but I know it won't end well. I give him my dad's registration and elbow Addison back into her seat when she tries to get a good look at him. Her boobs are hanging halfway out of her dress and her eyes are so glassy they could be a mirror. She's trying to hum something seductive but it sounds like the Oscar Meyer wiener commercial and I'm so mortified when she whistles at him that I could DIE.
"Addison, zip it!"
"She is soooooo mean to me," she warbles at the cop. She's now stretched across my lap like an oversized ankle biter so that she can see the man. "Wanna frisk me?"
I see him raise a brow and shake my head apologetically. "Don’t mind her. She's from New York."
"So am I," the cop replies. "And your point is?"
"Uh," Shit. "I have no point."
"Something struck my car after being thrown from this one and you were swerving. Can you explain that?"
"I threw my shoe out," Addy announces. "I have BLISTERS!"
He scratches something on his note pad. "Littering."
"It's not litter! It's Prada!" she huffs. "I can toss the other one and call it a pair."
I make a promise to Baby Jesus right then and there to remain celibate for life if she will just. shut. up. "Addy, sit down!"
I tug at her dress and when that doesn't work, I grip her panties and give her a wedgie to end all wedgies. She screams and flails and for some reason that gives the officer probable cause to think she has drugs up her ass. Her chorus of 'get it out, get it out' doesn't help. He questions me with the passion of Matlock. Not that I watch that.
"Ma'am," he says to me when I finally wrestle her into the seat. "I need your license."
I reach for my purse, but it's not there. I look behind my seat, then hers and try to remember where I left the damn thing. "Uh - I can actually explain this and -"
"Step out of the car, Ma'am."
"Hahahahah!" Addison hits my shoulder again. "He wants to FRISK YOU! Lucccky!"
I open the door and stand up. "I think I left my purse at the bar."
"You been drinking tonight?"
"I had one drink. My alcoholic friend here drank the rest." I try to smile. I really, really try to smile, but alas, my mojo is broken. "I apologize. I have a Washington license and I can give you the number, but-"
"Hide the crack pipe!" Addison says suddenly when another cop car appears. "Fast!"
If alcohol poisoning doesn't kill her ... I will.
Within minutes we're both sitting in the back of his squad car while a shedding canine prowls around my dad's Jaguar looking for drugs. The mutt finds a bag of medication prescribed to my father and unpaid parking tickets that belong to my mother in the dash. And Barney Fife doesn't believe me when I say that my name is not Lori Anne and it is NOT my nature to collect points on my license like stamps the way mother does. He doesn't even bother with the breathalyzer or with making me touch my nose. I think that is due in large part to the island of vomit Addison spills into the backseat. He simply calls for a wrecker to come and get the Jag and hauls us in, telling me he knows my dad.
We don't literally get arrested, but it's close enough. The cop tells me on the way that he can't let me drive with no license. Addison looks like she could have been arrested for prostitution, though, because her boobs are still on display and she seems nonchalant about being put in a small room to wait for me while I call my dad. The yelling that Santos Torres does is loud enough for Erica to hear it allllll the way across the country and when I join Addy in the room ... she is still puking.
"Is this as bad as I think it is?" she whines, her red/brown hair sticky around her face for her efforts.
"Oh, you have NO IDEA!"
She heaves again and one hour becomes two and then three. My parent's house is forty minutes away and it's rapidly approaching six thirty in the morning before the door opens and my father is standing there. Addison is passed out over the trashcan, slobbering a little. He looks at her, then at me, and says, "If you HAVE to start rebelling, Mija, could you please do it during decent hours?"
He isn't smiling, but I can see that he wants to. I nod at him and he helps me with Addison. She slumps in the backseat and doesn't make a sound. I'm the one with the motivation to drink myself unconscious so what the hell is she doing?
I strap into the passenger seat and my dad starts the engine. He doesn't put it into reverse. I glance at him nervously and he says, "Did you drink and drive?"
"One drink before midnight. I was not intoxicated."
"Are you okay?"
"I guess it depends. Did you tell Mom?"
"I am so NOT okay."
"She's trying to understand you. We both are." He touches my hand, then covers it with his. "It'll work out."
"I don't think it will."
"I gently reminded your mother last night that her parents hated me for being Cuban. I reminded her of not being welcome in her home and of the way she felt during the holidays when it was just the two of us and we had nowhere to go. I may have pointed out that her family didn't care that she loved me ... just that my skin was darker. And I came out and said that I would not tolerate her doing the same thing to you."
"Thank me by not going to jail again. You wouldn't do well in prison."
"She's a little gay," Addison speaks up, her words still slurred. "She'd be fine."
Dad chuckles and puts the car into gear. "There are worse things to be than a little gay," he tells me. "Ask her in a few hours when she wakes up how she feels."
"Like shit," Addy assures us.
I suffer my mother's wraith well.
She keeps her voice down as much as a flustered Southern Belle who has been jarred from sleep with an unwelcome phone call possibly can. The riot act she reads me is lengthy and she wraps verbal barbed wire around me only enough to make me cry just a little ... and then she fusses over Addison and forgets that she's pissed at me. She cooks me French Toast while Addison sleeps and then she tells me to go for a walk with her. I'm leery of being drowned because the ocean is lethal enough on its own, but I follow her. She barely reaches my chest she's so little, but I don't let it fool me. Petite people are more likely to be serial killers ... it's true ... I swear.
"I'm sorry," she tells me finally, when we're standing in the waves. "I was wrong."
The blisters on my feet protest the salt and I nearly protest her admission from shock alone. Did she really just say that? Out loud? "About what?"
"Did I ever tell you about Davis Buchannon the Fourth? The sheriff's son in Valdosta?"
She says it 'Buck-annon', not 'Bew-cannon'. I shake my head. "Sounds like an overall wearing, tobacco spewing old goat. Why?"
"That's the man that I let my parents talk me into dating after they talked me out of dating your daddy. Davis was the most handsome man in Valdosta and all the girls were jealous of me because I got to ride around town in his little convertible and hold his hand in the theater."
"He put a ring on my finger that felt like a noose. I tolerated him for seven months and then I came to Miami and threw that ring in the ocean. I walked into Santos's office and asked him if he still wanted me like I wanted him and we got married the next day."
I grin at her. "Were you a virgin?"
"That's not the point, you nosey jackass." She turns a little red around the neck. "The point is ... I lost seven months with him and when he nearly died ... I sat there wishing I could get those seven months back since I had squandered them." She reaches across the water and takes my hand. "I will never, ever understand why you would even consider the path that you’re on. It's going to be hard on you and if the people who love you can't even tolerate it then the people who don't love you will crucify you ... but I have to let you make a life for yourself. As much as I want to kick your ass for it ... I'll settle for kicking hers if she hurts you because she'd be easier to take than Mark."
I have to laugh at that. "I don't know. She's pretty feisty."
"I do not want to know!"
"I'm not talking about sex!"
She makes a face and now she's fire engine red. I watch her rub a hand over her head and I realize that my mother is getting old. As much as I hated her the day she made me leave home with Erica ... she's from a different generation and a different culture than what she raised me in. Dad gave us his customs and maybe she turned her back on everything but the Southern cooking because her well of breeding was poisoned with intolerance, too. And ignorance. My first and only real memory of Lawrence Allen Chisum, her father, is of him telling me I was cursed to look like a 'damn Mexican'. Then he walloped me good on the backside when I told him to buy a 'damn globe'.
My dad had gotten in his face over that, but they had stopped just shy of coming to blows. Mom was pregnant with Jasper and my dad walked on eggshells for her comfort the entire time she was. We never really interacted with Mom's family after that. She was ostracized and I guess it was because Santos Torres stole something that Davis Buchannon the Fourth never had a shot of finding. I never knew that my parents had broken up for a while, either. I learn a little something more every time I come home.
"Mom, I realize that you suffered forty hours of labor with me, but can you NOT call me Calliope? It sounds like a disease."
"Callie sounds like a puppy." She shrugs. "Can I ask you something?"
"When you're ... with women ... does it not feel *wrong*? Does it not ... lack certain things?"
"Do you mean a penis?"
"Honestly, Calliope! Such talk!"
"No ... it doesn't feel wrong. And it doesn't lack anything." I lean down to pick up a seashell. I tell myself that it's the one Erica had that day. I hold onto it. "And I've only been with one woman."
"How many men have you been with?"
"Well, if it's as many as your loose friend Addison then it's no wonder you gave up on them! There are no men left!"
"How many did she say?"
"Hmmm .... I've got her beat."
"I'm sorry I even asked."
"No, you're not."
We walk together until ten that morning. We watch birds and I chase her with a dead fish and it gets better. When we head back to the house, I say, "Has Jazz ever had a tantrum like that before?"
"No," she replies. "Never. I think all the yelling got to him, sweetheart, and he just couldn't take it."
"When I was helping him in the bathroom ... for just a second ... it was like he was back. He knew what to say to me."
She puts her arm through mine. "I see glimpses of him all the time. Every single day that goes by ... he learns something new."
"I miss him," I tell her softly. "I wish-"
"Wishes are what you have when your hands are empty. He keeps mine so full that I don't wish for anything but his smile." She tightens her grip. "And yours, too. I have faith."
"Joel will never come around."
"He will when I get your father's belt and make his legs pop Dixie."
I laugh. "What does that even mean?!"
"Go to jail again and I'll show you."
El Diablo, the man who danced with Addy until she her boobs blossomed out of her dress, brings my purse home. I left it at the table and nothing it missing, but he phone number is tucked in the side for ‘Red’. Addison's flight is scheduled to depart at nine. I wake her up at five and tell her all about my mother's runny eggs and gristle filled sausage. It does what I hoped it would and I sit on her bed to enjoy the dulcet tones of her stomach rocketing through her nose. Payback, I've been told, is a specialty of mine. I finally take pity on her and wet a cloth. Jasper hears the commotion and comes into the bathroom with us. He rubs her on the back and says, "There, there, Dyson."
"You do suck like a vacuum," I tell her.
What I don't tell her is that she admitted her feelings for Mark to me. I don't tell her that I found her picture in a suit coat he keeps in his closet and I don't tell her that I thought at times he was with me because I was connected to her. I don't tell her that I'd love for her to come home to Seattle and make him hate me less or that I think she's flailing in California with her Pete who isn't really her Pete. I bite my tongue and tease her relentlessly about the officer and let her think she played with his nightstick and when she hugs me goodbye at the airport, I don't cry. She doesn't either. We stand there looking at one another and I'm envying her for going back to normalcy and she's envying me because I had the life that could have been hers for a while. When she tells me that she loves me and to call her ... I say it back.
I buy a ticket for myself to depart on Wednesday and then stand outside until I'm sure she's in the air. Addison Montgomery is still my friend. She's no longer my BEST friend, but she's the kind of friend I'd go to jail for and only want to really kill about five percent of the time. I know her past better than I know her present and I don't know where I fit in her future ... but I still want her in mine. For the long haul. I pull out my phone and text her. I tell her that I miss her already and that I can't wait to see her again.
Sometimes we need to watch someone get piss drunk to realize that humans are stupid enough to intoxicate ourselves even though we know what the end result will be. It's because the threat of spending hours on your knees and even more hours with a marching band in your head isn't bad enough to make you give up the buzz after you take a few gulps. I was intoxicated by Erica ... and the threat of fallout or closets or ridicule or even losing my family down to fragments really isn't enough to make me not do it.
I have to try.
In my car, I whip out my Blackberry and text her. ‘I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry for calling you a whore. I didn't mean it and I'd like to tell you that in person. I'm flying home on Wednesday. Can you meet me at Warren's Pub?"
I sit there baking in the Miami sun with the top down on my mother's BMW (dad's Jag will be impounded until Monday) and I finally give up on a reply and start the engine when my phone vibrates.
Oh my God ... it's her!
'I can't on Wednesday. I have plans. What about Thursday? I can pencil you in at four thirty if my last surgery goes well. We can grab a beer at Warren's.'
Oh my God ... she has plans.
With *her* I'm sure.
And pencil me in? What the fuck is that shit? Like I'm asking her to give me a checkup. And why does she want to meet me at four thirty instead of say ... seven-thirty? Does she have plans then, too. Whether it's the heat of the sun or the fury that propels my fingers is beyond me. 'You know what? Forget I asked. Don't 'pencil me in' your cramped calendar, Social Butterfly, because the olive branch is now up your ass.'
She responds immediately. 'Kinky, Social Outcast. I'll see you Thursday."
Bitch doesn't even *acknowledge* my freak out! And I swear to God I bet she smirked at the phone and silently roared in triumph!
I buy a lilac bush on the way home and tell Jasper to bury it in the sand. He can't possibly dig a hole deep enough to get her out of my system, but I watch him try. I even HELP HIM. We dig and dig and dig some more and then my mother comes to the beach and rescues the plant before I can trash it. She tells me she fears for my sanity and hauls it up to the house where I'm sure she will nurture it to full bloom.
I sit down in the sand, pissed at the world, and let Jasper take off my shoes and bury them instead. When I say goodbye to him on Wednesday ... he asks me if I'm going to 'scoo' now.
Does he remember me leaving for school and him wrapping his eight year old arms around my waist and telling me to hate it and come back home fast? Does he remember calling my dorm and asking if it was over yet three days after I got there? Does he remember sleeping in my bed for a month to keep it warm for me and not letting my mother clean anything so that it was just the way I left it? Does he remember *anything* about what we were or is he just projecting his own 'scoo' on me ... where he paints every sheet of paper blue in the church's nursery once a week and calls it home.
I don't let myself hope too much. He grabs my suitcase and hauls it outside like he's glad to see me leave and then he sits on the steps and rubs and rubs his shorn head, stopping only to let me kiss him. He watches the cab arrive and greets the same fucking driver who dropped me off. I didn't tip the guy last time so I brace myself for payback. My parents hug me and then Jazz stands up and follows suit. "You go bye?"
"Yeah, Buddy, I gotta go home.'
His forehead wrinkles and he points at the mansion that surrounds us. "Home. One. Seven. Four. Bay. Island. Cove."
It stuns me so much that I drop my purse. He says 'whoops' and grabs it before I can. My mom just pats my hand and says, "I told you about wishes, honey. Wishes and faith are two different things, but they can both pull you through to the end."
I’m thinking about wishes and faith when I turn to watch the house disappear.
I’m full of both.
I wish Mark the best.
And I have faith that Erica wishes for me.