[ T ]
Rebecca said goodbye to her job in May. They had wanted to keep her as long as possible. So she stayed through three reduction in forces and several division shutdowns. When the main office finally closed too, she was asked to stay six more month to "help clean up the aftermath". They knew as I do, that she was one of the most dependable person out there.
She said goodbye to her down payment when the new condo her bought continued to leak water from the day she inspected it to the day she finally left. A dream of living downtown, and perhaps a more carefree life, gone down the drain.
She said goodbye to us, her so called friends, who told her that "we'd be there for her", then wasn't. Life has a way of working itself out, we'd told ourselves as we watched her life spiral. Or some such nonsense. She hugged us goodbye and we her, waving away the shadows of regrets weighing down her car and our hearts.
[ Rebecca ]
I came up here to see family -- my family and the pea sized town where I grew up. The oceans of green here replaced the myriad of sandy brown and steel blue down south. I love it. When I crossed the Washington state line, I wanted to hug the moss growing up redwoods, the needles quietly falling, and the flash of wings leaving trails of songs above.
My sister Stella took me in, though Dad and Sally also offered. Stella has a four bedroom, for her and two kids from dads that never appeared, so that was a no-brainer. People say we look like twins. I offered to cook for her, seeing as she worked all week as an RN and, sigh, stayed in bed sleeping or crying most of the other times.
Stella came home one day, and saw me got all my cooking going. I had let my friends talk me into starting a food blog recently, seeing how popular those photos of my cooking had become on facebook. I had planned a fantastic menu for them that night. I got pots and pans on all the burners, dishes spread across the counter. Fire licked one pot boiling, and sizzled the other one brown.
"What are you doing?" Stella said with a scowl.
"Cooking" I said, in my matter-of-fact face.
"Why do you use so many dishes?"
"I need them."
I mean I didn't know what else to say. I kept on cooking. Just yesterday after spending all day in bed, she announced to no one in particular that she was the only one who ever cleaned up. What a lie! I thought to myself. I stabbed at the browning pieces of stakes to make sure they stayed in the pan. No telling if this upside down house would turn the food out to take a bite of me.
"I will wash them." I said, finally.
She scrunched her face even more, and kept on telling me she usually just used two or three dishes. So I kept punching holes through the potatoes instead, waiting for her to finally stop.
It didn't even occur to me to confront her. How could I? It'd get ugly. She'd tear open the buckle keeping her mouth pressed and pour out the venom reserved only for her kids. Her anger. Her poor boys, the sweetie in kindergarten, the moody teen in high school. Oh, no, not now when I felt so sick like I could burst into flames from this crazy itch all over me, when I didn't have a plan, a job or anywhere else to rest.
No, not even then when I do. She took anti-depressants, then washed it down with her beer, sometimes. I don't know what that's like for her, but this had gone on for as long as I could remember. I wished for the thousandth time she got it together already.
No, perhaps never will I confront her.
[ T ]
Rebecca called me from a payphone. She had ran out of money to keep her mobile. When I invited her for a visit last month, she had debated that against snow tires. I was glad to hear snow tires won, though I'd missed her.
Her voice sounded shaky, like somebody had done a job on her. I've seen her explain things for the dozenth time until someone who should have gotten it the first time gets it, without even a tinge of frustration in her. But whoever it was took her calm this time. That coolness, that matter-of-fact-tone, gone.
"Oh. What did she do?"
She gave me a run down, except she didn't. She shook into the phone and I could feel the vibration of her, full of shock, disbelief and a soft wail hanging just on the edge of her voice. But I only learned that she had moved out and not much else. After so many exclamations, she faded and only whispered an occasional um or uh, as I deliver my "it's-okay's and I-am-sorry-to-hear-that"s. Useless words, the only thing I could send across an off-and-on, in-and-out telephone line. We both took a pause and let the idle buzz talk us into believing calm, prayers and hope. Then she told me she had lupus, and her uncle Billy had cancer. He was dying. She'd have to take a trip to see him in Texas after all.
I couldn't tell if she needed to cry, and whether I should have helped her along. I did what came instinctively, what every cowardly so called friend would do, I talked her out of it. Crying that is. Hiding behind the same faint hope of 'things will work out eventually', hiding behind the cause of comforting someone you really didn't know how to comfort, I whispered those tears dry.
"The stress of everything is just getting to me, I think I just need to get out, T."
"Nothing wrong with that..., and family is tough. " I concluded, reflecting those little things that I couldn't quite name but got under my skin every time. A thought came to me then, and I had to ask her.
"Do you still love her, as a sister?"
I didn't hear anything for so long I checked to make sure she was still there. Then her voice came up again.
"Do I love her?
Do I hate her?
Note: I am incredibly lucky to have a friend who cares about my writing almost as much as I do. She shared her story with me and agreed to let me interview her for further details. All the names had been changed to protect identities. Otherwise events are written to the best knowledge and recollection of the protagonist and to some extent, the author.