Friday, July 22, 2016

The Blood Bather: Chapter 14

Chapter 14
          Sherrisse sat silouetted before an enormous window, motionless in a rigid plastic hospital chair, her head bowed delicately over a black obsidian rosary in her left hand. Every 90 seconds there was a small glittery movement as she flicked a bead forward and repeated her prayer. She had been sitting like this for an hour as day turned into dusk and the light bled from the sky until it was full dark. It was only late afternoon but the light escaped quickly in deepest winter. The room where White Rose lay was small but well-appointed. It was a corner unit with windows on two sides, down one of the quietest wings of the hospital: the head trauma unit, which included comatose victims.

          White Rose had been here for a month, ever since she was discovered after her suicide attempt at the tanning salon. Everything about the situation had sent Sherrisse into a tail spin. In the days following the accident she had done a deep dive mentally, going over every single detail of what had been said and not said, done and not done in the days and weeks leading up to the accident. It was strange because she could not find one specific thing that pointed to a woman on the verge of a suicide attempt. She felt like she knew White Rose the best; no, understood her the most. That was more accurate. She had always felt like she and White Rose shared a very deep bond. Even though the doctors said she was in a coma, she still felt the thread of that bond. Weak but still there. Pulsing. 

     "Whitro, can you hear me?" She whispered. "I'm here for you". The silence that followed was expected but no less depressing. Sherrisse felt warm tears fall down her cheeks and flicked another bead across her palm. "Hail Mary, full of grace-" she began. 

     Down the hall came the staccato beat of a pair of high heels pounding on hard linoleum. Visiting hours were almost over but this was no regular nurse on her rounds. The steps got louder echoing through the silent ward where only breathing machines hissed gently and heart monitors occasionally beeped. Sherrisse felt her own heart rate increase in concert with the steps. Motherfucker. Sherrisse palmed the rosary and slid it into her bag in one fluid movement as she stood to greet the visitor: Audra. 

Audra stomped into the room and came to an abrupt halt upon spying Sherrisse, rocking back on her heels. 
"Audra. " It wasn't a greeting. 
"I didn't think anyone would be here."
The words were like nails on a chalkboard to Sherrisse. Of course she didn't. It was only the second time she had come to the hospital and the first time was probably just to confirm that White Rose was well and truly in a vegetative state. Audra had changed since White Rose's accident (accident! - Sherrisse refused to call it a suicide attempt). Audra had... blossomed. She was now the acting President of the sorority everybody was talking about for all the right reasons. For once. She media inquiries to handle and donations to accept. Her professors had bent over backwards to accommodate her school schedule in light of White Rose's family's significant donations to the school... And all the while Audra was milking it for everything she could get. Including Micah. They were often seen together and no one said a thing because it was assumed they both needed each other's support. Sherrisse was incandescent with rage but what could she do?
     Audra knew what Sherrisse was thinking. And she didn't fucking care. This was her time and Sherrisse was a fool to assume she knew how much Audra was dealing with right now. In fact it was annoying that she was even here right now. What the shit was she even trying to prove? White Rose had committed the ultimate narcissistic act. A fucking failed suicide attempt? You've got to be fucking kidding me. 

     Behind Audra stepped Micah. 
"Uh, hi, Sherrisse?" He stuttered her name like he wasn't sure how to pronounce it. 
"Micah." Also not a greeting, more a statement of fact, like applying the correct label to an insect. Both of them stared at her awkwardly keeping a distance from both her and each other. Audra was first to break the ice. 
"Can I get a minute alone with White Rose? I feel like I haven't seen her in forever." 
You haven't, thought Sherrisse but smiled benevolently before saying "Of course". She got up to leave, passing Micah in the the doorway she gave him a hard flat look. He met her gaze but it wasn't defiance she saw there, it was deep sadness and inner turmoil. He was definitely working through something. His guilt probably, she surmised.
     As she stepped out into the darkened corridor her cell phone began to ring. She dug it out of her bag as she hurried down the hall. It was on silent but even a mild buzzing was loud in such a subdued environment. She hit Ignore and it went quiet ...before it buzzed again. 
She looked down. A different number this time. 
She hit Ignore again. And it happened again. From yet a different number...

    Audra walked over to White Rose and sat down as Sherrisse had. She reached out and grabbed her hand, it was still being kept perfectly manicured thanks to hospital staff. 
"White Rose,..." she whispered. Her attention was brought back to the present when Micah shuffled and coughed in the doorway, his hands were jammed in his pockets and his eyes glittered in the half light, feverish. Had he been drinking? Audra wondered. 
"Audra, I need to talk to you"
She loved hearing him say her name. 
"Yes?" She turned her head to him, still holding White Rose's hand. 
"Audra we need to end this."
It was a shock, yes, but not entirely unexpected. 
Audra allowed the silence to spin out. She could manage this. She could control this. All she had to do was stay calm.
"Micah, we love each other."
"Micah, yes. We do. We were sneaking around for long enough and now, ... Now we have no reason to. The circumstances are terrible...", a small giggle escaped her lips. She was getting hysterical. This was bad. Stay calm!

     Micah walked forward and looked down at her. His presence always had the same effect on her. Her body betrayed her and she stood to reach out to him but he caught her wrists not unkindly and held them at her sides. He was taller somehow. And stronger. Another harsh giggle escaped like a hiccup and she gasped and the tears came.

     His resolve was unwavering but he was no without remorse. Her face was one more face disappointed and saddened by him. This had to end. All of his failures and embarrassments had to end. He had to make a change. He had to put these childish games aside. He was doing the right thing, he reminded himself. His family would expect him to stand by his injured girlfriend. Right now he didn't really remember what it had been like between he and White Rose, it had occurred to him that they had always been strangers to each other, but it didn't matter. He was clawing at some semblance of normalcy. He hadn't had a drink in weeks and he couldn't continue on with Audra. She made him want to drink. Or rather the situation did. He wasn't sure, he just wanted it to end. He heard her say: "I love you." Audra looked up into his face. She was weeping and it was horrible and he had to get away. He could not have White Rose and Audra in the same room with him. He felt claustrophobic and the desire to run matched his desire to drink. 

He was hurting her. 
He wanted a drink.
He was aware of this. 
He wanted a drink. 
He did not care. 
He wanted a drink.

     Micah looked at Audra with dead eyes. She was clawing at his shirt with both hands holding him fast. She was saying words and crying at the same time. He couldn't understand her. He pushed her wrists away but she was fighting him. He pushed harder and she released and fell backwards clattering to the floor, heels, hair, hard chair, silent destruction...

     Suddenly the world came alive. People were running into the room. A nurse, then a white coat. Must be a doctor, he thought inanely. My father wears one too! They were talking but he couldn't hear a damn thing above the ringing silence in his own ears. They were helping Audra up and pushing him towards the open door. His phone was ringing in his pocket. He could feel it buzzing against his thigh. White Rose was getting smaller and smaller in his vision. Her lovely face looked pale but peaceful against the pillow. Audra was red-faced and looked like she was screaming, but White Rose was cool as a cucumber. She was always so cool, he mused, cool as a cucumber. He started to laugh and it erupted like a bark from his chest. They kept pushing him back out the door until he was in the corridor and he didn't fight them. His phone was buzzing again. 

     So much was happening but his thoughts were calm. He was proud of his ability to stay calm. Just like my dad, he thought proudly and puffed out his chest. It was almost like being drunk. The nurse was talking and pointing to the stairs. But he couldn't hear her. His phone was buzzing. Maybe the nurse thought he looked like his dad. He calmly looked down at his cell phone and was surprised to find a series of emails and voice mails and other notifications, they were coming in fast and furious. How did that happen? he wondered...calmly. The nurse had a new friend it seemed and he was walking down the hall towards them. Her friend was a police officer. He was talking too, but Micah still could not hear a thing. One email address on his phone stood out, an email from the Dean. He opened it. It was a link to youtube and as he calmly clicked the link it opened to video. He calmly recognized his own face. His own face between a pair of tanned thighs. He own face between a pair of tanned breasts. His own face as he was kissed and fellated by a pair of twins in wet white shirts...

And he calmly realized he was crying.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Blood Bather: Chapter 13

The Blood Bather

Chapter 13

            Darryl's mother Wanda had never told him the name of his father. And that bothered him. It was Christmas holidays and he was returning home to spend it with Wanda. He was resolved to ask the question and get some answers.
            Holidays were never fun at home but he was relieved to leave campus this year. After some sorority girl had been found half dead from an aborted suicide attempt - at a tanning salon of all places! - the school had talked of little else. When he first heard the news, he was momentarily worried it was Audra, but it wasn't, although she did know the girl. They belonged to the same pussy palace sorority, or so he was told. They said she was currently in a vegetative state and her friends were spending all their time at the hospital.


Where was her son? He should be here by now…
     The sky was slate gray, leaded with snow and it coloured the small bland buildings that squatted underneath it, seemingly huddled together for warmth. The forecast called for several inches, but it hadn't started yet. It was a good thing too because once it did, travelling by bus would slow to a crawl as holiday travelers packed the one-room bus terminal. It was a converted train station, but the train had long since gone and the grain silo had been converted into another kind of storage. There was nothing festive about this last December day and the pathetic old Christmas decorations that had been strung carelessly throughout only served to underscore how lonely the season could be.

     Wanda felt like she had been waiting for ages in the cold green-tiled bus terminal when she decided to sneak off and have another cigarette while sitting in her car. It wouldn't do to stand outside and smoke. Only sluts with no breeding stood outside and smoked on street corners. Everybody knew that. She waddled outside, casting disparaging glances at the young women who were entering with their luggage; on their way to some exciting Christmas vacation to fornicate and be promiscuous, no doubt. Wanda glared behind thick glasses and shook her head but it was hard to take her seriously as she fumbled with her lighter while dragging a small oxygen tank behind her. No, she preferred to sit in her car where she could be comfortable and listen to the bible-thumping radio station. The holy roller this afternoon was well-oiled and halfway through his long and detailed list of sin and vices that afflicted the masses as she humped herself behind the wheel and lit up.

     The declarative sentences and brazen judgements filled Darryl's mother with a sense of righteous indignation that by turns got her blood pumping and relaxed her. She liked knowing that someone was in charge. She wanted to be with the winners. She happily puffed away listening to the state-sanction hate machine that was republican radio when she noticed a well-dressed man headed right for her car. He walked briskly with a small leather duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a pair of expensive-looking sunglasses to cut the flat light of the dreary afternoon. She did the only thing she could do, she began to panic. Who the hell was this? What did he want? The radio man would have said he was there to rape her. They talked a lot about rape on that radio show, actually, she just hadn't noticed before this moment. How for some women it was their god given destiny to be raped, which was truly awful if you thought about it. But was that true? Was this her moment?

     Her breath caught in her throat as she inhaled and she began to cough frantically, waving her hands in the air, ashes flying. Her breasts heaved as she tried to catch her breath and more smoke caught in her throat. She had effectively hot-boxed the car and the atmosphere was dizzying. Wanda clawed furtively at the driver's door to roll down the window. A sharp gust of wind blew through the car as the passenger side door suddenly opened and a man sat down beside her in the passenger seat. He reached across and rolled down the window for her, plucking the cigarette stub from her hand and flicking it out the window in one fluid motion. Then he gently put his hand on her back and began to rub in small circles. Her hacking cough began to subside and she was just choking on mucus caused by the eye-watering smoke, then even that began to clear in the icy air.

     "Just breathe", the man said softly. He was looking at her with a furrowed brow over his elegant sunglasses. The a fresh of gust of wind blew through the car again and she realized that a few small snowflakes were falling from the all-white sky. The man snapped off the radio with a dismissive grunt. The small kindness of human touch robbed her of her defenses and she was rendered speechless. She swallowed a few times experimentally and the rigid fear in her body unknotted.

     "Who-" she attempted to speak. The man lifted his glasses over his head and looked at her with clear eyes. They were beautiful blue and for a moment she was lost in time.

     "Mom!" He said sharply, "I'm going to drive". And rattled the keys in his hand beside his head where she could see them. "Are you hungry?", he grinned, "I know I am!"

     "Darryl", she gasped. "Darryl, oh, it's you…" She sounded different to her own ears. More gentle, more…. needy? No, just softer. It was okay. It was okay how she sounded. But he couldn’t hear her because he had stood to move his bag into the trunk. He dropped the lid with a firm thunk and came around the driver's side. She slid on along the bench of the old model Grand Prix and Darryl dropped the car into gear. He rested his arm behind her head as he back out of the parking space and negotiated the extralong car out of the lot. It wasn’t crowded but the snow was beginning to stick. It would be a white Christmas after all.

     As he angled out onto the road and into traffic he accelerated toward the centre of town, where the restaurants were and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, humming a little. "How are you doing?" he said. "Feeling better?" and he smiled again at her. She nodded eagerly and noticed that he had lost a lot of weight. She had so many questions. Why was he so different? "Mom, I met someone," he stated proudly. She felt a tinge of jealous but overall her heart leaped at the thought. He moved his hand to hers and gave it a little squeeze. "And I want you to tell me about my father." And her heart sank.

     In the end it wasn't that bad. Over coffee the two of them flipped through old photographs and newspaper clippings. Almost twenty years of articles and pictures that Wanda had carefully stored in albums and folders concerning Dr. Micah Ballantree...

     Wanda and Dr. Ballantree had had a whirlwind affair, the stuff dreams are made of. After weeks of sending yellow roses to her office, he followed up with a small silver necklace with a pendant of a moon. The card attached said, "Only once in a blue moon do you meet the One. Will you have dinner with me?" Since there was no way to respond she simply had to wait until he made the next move. It was agony, but in a good way. It was also profoundly destabilizing in that she never knew what to expect when she went into the office. In retrospect, she probably should have spoken to someone. The whole affair had always been on his terms. 

"So this is my father?" Darryl asked hesitantly. "But this means..."

     Actually it felt good to go over things in her mind. The whole situation had left her so humiliated and ashamed and scared that she had buried it tightly and never looked back. By the time he told her he was married, Wanda was already pregnant. From a legal perspective, she knew that David Ballantree and his ice queen of a wife had the power and the means to remove her child from her custody. But still she was in love with him. She dreamed of a life with him but her pragmatic farmer's upbringing eventually won out: nothing real can be built on a fantasy. Those final weeks of her relationship with him were how long it took to come to terms with her new reality but everyday she came dangerously close to telling him.

     Sensing something was wrong, David came to Wanda and told her that he was thinking of leaving his wife, that he wanted to make a future with her. But talk is cheap and Wanda in her heart didn't really believe him. Some part of her wanted to raise this baby on her own. In David's world she would always be the "second wife", the legal secretary, without family money or connections or breeding. She would always be an outsider. Something inside Wanda revolted in disgust. Disgust at herself for falling so hard, disgust at David and all the men like him who did this to women, disgust at the air of respectibility that favoured doctors no matter how many vows they broke.

     So she ran. She moved out of her apartment and back home to the farm. She quit her job at the legal firm - a truly stupid move in retrospect - and took part-time work as a cashier at the local general store. This gave her the support and time to raise her son in veritable anonimity. Darryl was a strong brave boy, good with animals and loved to run and camp in the fields. He was his father's son. When her own father died and her brothers sold the farm, she moved back to the city and picked up where she left off as a legal secretary but this time it wasn't as easy.

     The salaries were meager and she had trouble settling in any one place, always fearful David would find her good, bright boy and take him from her. She followed his career and family in the newspaper. He seemed to be thriving, which created a spark of bitterness that took root and grew within in her. More and more Wanda leaned on her son as the man of the house, ultimately emasculating him. She smoked too much and it began to cripple her lungs. She drank too much and the weight gain caused diabetes.

"Does he know about me?" Darryl asked, quietly. This was a lot to take in.

"No. Not as far as I know. But you are 21 now and free to ... free to ... leave me..." For Wanda, the tears had finally begun to flow. She had done a horrible thing robbing her son of a father. She was just so scared. So, so scared all the time. She curled in on herself and cried and cried endlessly, almost silently. Long minutes passed. Then she felt his arms around her. But they almost could not get all the way around her.

"We are going to start exercising", he whispered in her ear. 

And they both started laughing.