The Long Road Home
by Kim (KP) Pritekel
Disclaimers: Though these two lovely ladies seem familiar, well, that's about where the Deja Vu ends. These two belong to me.
Subtext: Yes, this story contains all the good things in life. If you can't buy me a beer, or have a propensity for severe narrow mindedness, I suggest you don't read this.
Violence: This story depicts domestic violence, as well as some mild description of child abuse, and its results. If this bothers or offends you, then perhaps you shouldn't read this one.
In Memoriam: To Karey- March 23, 1977- February 16, 2001. Rest now.
Note: The lyrics for "It's For You" by Melissa Etheridge were used without permission, and I thank ME for such a great song.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at:
Jenny opened her eyes and lifted her head from its place on Sean's shoulder. Her gaze was met by two smiling blue eyes. She smiled in turn. Sean continued to stroke her hair, and Jenny realized that that was what had awoken her, the gentle feel of Sean's hands, like a mother's caress.
"How long have I been out?" she asked quietly, noting that the bedside lamp had been turned off, and now the room was filled only with the light from the moon.
"Not long. Hour maybe."
"I'm sorry I fell asleep on you, Sean." Jenny said, placing a soft kiss on Sean's neck. Sean pulled her in closer.
"Well, that is quite the exorcise." she grinned.
"I guess." Jenny nuzzled Sean's neck with her cheek. "That was so incredible, Sean." she said, running her finger along the soft skin of Sean's shoulder, and down across her chest. "I had no idea that it could be like that."
"Did you ever enjoy sex with Ben?" Sean asked, her body so warm and content; she had no idea that she could feel so relaxed. Jenny sighed as she ran her fingers along the underside of one of Sean's breasts.
"Sometimes. But that was just the thing. With Ben it was always only that,... sex. We never made love. It was always like a race. I always felt like what he got from me, he could have gotten from anyone on the streets." Jenny lifted her head from Sean's shoulder, and held her head up in the palm of her hand, looked down into Sean's beautiful face. "I mean, maybe I am somewhat of a romantic, but when you're with your wife, shouldn't it be something special? Have some meaning?" Sean smiled, and reached up to cup Jenny's cheek.
"Tonight, with you, held more meaning for me than all the times I've made love put together."
Jenny stared into blue depths, and she saw her own heart reflected there. She took Sean's hand from her face, and kissed the palm, then leaned down to kiss her lips. Sean pulled Jenny down to lie on top of her, and wrapped her arms around the smaller body, craving the contact, needing it like she needed her next breath. With Jenny in her arms she felt like everything that was wrong would be right come morning, that Jenny's light would shine into the darkest corners of Sean's mind, and life. If she had Jenny by her side, then she had hope.
She raised her head a bit to glance out the window, and saw that it was already pushing late morning. Damn. She had wanted to get an early start today. They were to start off for Chicago, and Jenny's brother. Then Sean felt her heart drop. Paul. Would Jenny still want to go? What did last night mean? Was it just as Jenny had said, a way for her to forget Ben, and everything that had happened? She sighed again, and pulled slowly away from Jenny's body, not wanting to wake her. She stood and stretched her long body, the cool morning air hitting her naked skin. She felt all of her insecurities wash over her like the morning sun. Glancing back down at Jenny, Sean watched her sleep, her breathing steady, unchanged. Sean pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, carrying her boots and socks with her, and headed out of the room.
"Good morning, honey." Helen said with a smile as Sean entered the kitchen. She looked at her mother with a strange look. The woman seemed almost chipper.
"Morning." She mumbled, and plopped down into a chair, running her hands through her hair. She could still smell Jenny on her fingers, and her chest suddenly felt heavy. She should never had allowed that to happen. It always happens that way; she tells someone how she feels, and then has to pay for it. When would she learn? Maybe she was jumping to conclusion? Maybe last night had meant something to Jenny, too? Sean shook herself. No matter. Safe money was to assume the worst. She could do that; expect disappointment, then the good is a bonus.
"Earth to Sean?" Sean shook her head to clear it, and focused on her mother, raised her brows in question. "Where did you go?" Helen asked with a smile, handing Sean a cup of coffee.
"Just thinking. Thanks." she sipped from the mug. "So did you get home okay yesterday?"
"Oh yeah. No problems at all." Helen turned back to the stove "I'm just glad it's over." she opened the lid to the waffle maker, and used a spatchula to move the finished waffle to a plate, then poured more batter into the machine, and closed the lid, standing next to it with one hand on her hip, the other on top of the machine. She turned and looked at her daughter. "What's wrong, Sean?" she asked. Sean was surprised that even after all this time her mother could still read her fairly well. But this morning she was not in the mood to answer questions, certainly not any questions about Jenny.
"Nothing." she said, the slightest bit of irritation in her voice. Helen turned back to the waffle maker. "I saw that there were fresh flowers at Donny's grave." Helen turned back to her with a sad smile.
"Yes. I was there the other day."
"Do you go there often?"
"Not as often as I used to."
"Why not." Sean could feel the slightest bit of anger stirring in her gut.
"Well, honey, when your father was so sick, I didn't have as much time as I used to ." Helen removed the next waffle. The sweet aroma of the buttermilk mix swirled through the kitchen.
"Did Russell ever go?" she asked, her voice low, flat.
"No." Helen said simply. "Don't look at me that way, Sean. I know what's going through that head of yours. I am not going to make excuses for your father. Yesterday is the first time your father has been anywhere near Donny's grave."
"Why would he? He put him there." Helen sighed as her daughter voiced that which she could never let herself linger on for her own sanity. "You know I'm right, mother." Sean stood and walked over to the counter, leaning against the sink with her arms folded across her chest. "Please don't tell me you bought that bogus story about Donny roller-skating in the house." Helen didn't answer. "Helen?"
Jenny awoke with a start, hearing loud voices. She raised her head.
"Sean?" the bed was empty next to her, and had been for some time if the cool sheets were anything to go by. She quickly got out of the bed, and dressed. Opening the door to the hall, she could clearly make out Sean's voice, loud, demanding, and the quieter, sad voice of Helen. She quickly made her way down the stairs.
"No, I didn't believe it, either." Helen said, tears springing to her eyes.
"And yet you stayed!" Sean roared. "What is wrong with you? That is pathetic! I'm ashamed that you're my mother." Sean shoved herself away from the counter, and headed toward the front door where her keys laid on an end table. She was startled to see Jenny at the bottom of the stairs. She looked away in disgust, and headed for the door.
"Sean?" Jenny called, running after her. She grabbed Sean's arm, and swung her around to face her on the front steps. Sean turned eyes on her made of ice. "She's your mother! How can you say that?" Sean pulled her arm away.
"Until you've walked a mile in my shoes, perhaps you should stay out of it."
"Sean, don't treat me like I'm just some passenger you picked up!" Jenny exclaimed, her anger bubbling to the surface.
"That is exactly what you are." Sean growled, then walked down the steps toward the side of the house, and her Blazer. Jenny stared after her, her mouth hanging open, eyes brimming with tears. She was left utterly speechless, a pain so palpable spearing through her heart. Last night had meant nothing to Sean. Nothing whatsoever. Jenny felt hands rest on her shoulders as the Blazer roared in reverse down the driveway. Sean stopped at the end for a moment, glancing at Jenny. Their eyes locked for just a moment, then she was on the street, and gone.
"I'm sorry you had to see that, honey." Helen said quietly, squeezing Jenny's shoulders slightly. Jenny turned incredulous eyes on the older woman. "Just like her father. Speaks her mind before she thinks." Helen pulled Jenny into her, and hugged her tight. She knew that something had changed between her daughter and this wonderful young woman, but she was not quite sure what. Either way, both were hurting.
Jenny clung to Helen, her tears beginning to seep from her tightly closed lids. She still could not believe what Sean had said, that she meant so little to the older woman. Helen pulled away, and began to steer her toward the house, and into the kitchen where she was led to the table, and forced to sit.
"I'll get you some of my famous waffles." Helen smiled.
"I'm not too hungry." Jenny said quietly, staring at her hands that were laced together on the table top.
"You will be once you taste these." she placed a plate in front of the young woman, and then a glass of juice. "Syrup? Powdered sugar?'
"Jelly." Jenny said absently, sipping from her juice. Helen grabbed the jar from the fridge, and sat across from Jenny, her cup of coffee resting between her hands.
"I'm sure you heard most of that conversation?" she asked. Jenny glanced up from her plate, and shook her head.
"No. But I think I know most of the gist of it." Helen sighed loudly as she watched Jenny scoop out a spoonful of the grape jelly, and smear it over the waffle.
"I had Russ arrested, you know." Jenny shook her head, knowing that Helen wasn't looking for feedback, just someone to listen and understand. "That day I had been at work. I got a call from the neighbor next door, Karen Stevens. She said that there was an ambulance in the driveway, and two police cruisers in the street...."
The blue and red lights on the emergency vehicles were bright in the darkening night, and cast strange colorful dancing shadows on the nearby houses and cars. Helen pulled the car to a stop at the curb, and ran into the house, not bothering to even shut her headlights off.
"Ma'am, you can't be in here." an officer said at the front door, his hands on her arms to stop her.
"This is my house!" she yelled, looking past the officer she saw Russell standing in the doorway to the kitchen talking to anther officer. Oh, god. "My baby, where's my baby!" Helen screamed, fighting past the officer at the door, and looking around frantically. Then she saw him. Two paramedics had been kneeling on the carpet next to him, and stood, both shaking their heads, and pulling a white sheet over him. Helen couldn't breath. "No," she whispered, walking over to the small form as if in a dream. "No, what have you done to my baby?" she asked the first paramedic she came to.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. We did all we could, but-"
"No, there has got to be something, what happened? What happened?" she knelt down next to her son, and flipped back the sheet. Donny lay on his back, one arm at an unnatural angle, his head leaning to the side. He was pale, dark bruises were scattered around his face, his eyes were closed. He almost looked peaceful. "Oh, Donny." she whispered, gathering the child's limp body in her arms, his head falling back, arms hanging down. She buried her face in his hair, the sobs torn from her throat with such force that she was frightened by them. One of the paramedics knelt down beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Ma'am?" he said gently.
"What happened?" she whispered again, still holding her son close.
"He fell down the stairs, ma'am. His neck was broken." the hand moved in small circles over her back. "He probably didn't feel a thing, ma'am." Helen looked up from her son, and met the kind brown eyes of the paramedic. "Let him go." Helen turned back to her son, and gently laid him back down on the floor, leaned over and kissed his forehead, her insides numb, feeling like she had been gutted. Even her heart felt like it had been removed.
"I love you, Donny." she whispered against his skin, and stood. Her grief was beginning to turn to rage as she turned to meet the bloodshot eyes of her husband. Russ had been drinking for so long now that to the unobservant eye he seemed tired, but not the least bit drunk. But she knew. "You bastard." she spat through clenched teeth. "How could you!" she ran to him, and began to beat upon his chest, and shoulders. Two officers rushed over to Helen, and tried to restrain her, but she managed to squirm her way out of their grasp, and flung herself at Russ again. He tried to fight her off, but she got in a few good blows, one landing squarely at the side of his neck. He winced, and slammed into the wall behind him. The officers finally got a hold on Helen, and pulled her away from him, but not before Russ stepped forward, and slapped Helen in the face, once, twice, a third time.
"Don't ever hit me, woman!" he bellowed, his breath rancid with old whiskey and cigarettes. The officers let go of a stunned Helen, and attacked Russ, slamming him face first into the wall, and holding his arms behind his back.
"Ma'am?" one of them said, looking back at Helen who was just getting her composure back.
"Take the bastard away." she whispered, the sting of his slaps finally kicking in, breaking through the adrenaline. The officer cuffed Russell Farrow, and hauled him out of the house on charges of domestic abuse.
"What about what that bitch did to me?" Russ yelled as he was led outside.
"You are twice her size, and she was under control. No man should hit his wife." one of the officers said as they hit the front door.
"My god, so he hit you?" Jenny said, her hands covering her mouth, eyes wide. Helen smiled sadly.
"Yes. They took him away, and I pressed charges. I wanted them to file murder charges for my son, too, but there was nothing that indicated Russ had anything to do with Donny's death."
"But you think he did?"
"I do. I don't think he would have done it sober, but Russ was drunker than a skunk when I got there that night, and I think he started fighting with Donny, and things got out of hand. Nothing could ever be proved."
"My god, Helen." Jenny reached across the table and covered the older woman's hand with her own. "I'm so sorry. Does Sean know any of this?"
"No." Helen stood and refilled her coffee cup, and sat down again. "Jenny," she said with a sigh. "She wouldn't let me get that far. I could have made her listen, I suppose." she glanced out the kitchen window, as if looking for the answers there. "But I don't know how much good it would have done. Sean blames herself, as I do. If only we could have been there, if only Donny would have gone to school that day. He had stayed home sick. Too many if onlys. It could drive you crazy if you let it. One thing Sean needs to realized is that, yes, I did stay with Russ after all that. But where she lost a brother, I lost a son, and a daughter." she smiled warmly at Jenny. "Honey, you will find that Sean walks to the beat of her own drummer; always has. Each of us has a path, but I think Sean has chosen the long road home. The road where she can go it alone, not worry about being hurt because no one else is there with her on that long, lonely path."
"I want to walk that path with her, Helen." Jenny said, to her immense surprise. She clamped her mouth shut, and stared down at her half-eaten waffle. Helen chuckled softly.
"I figured as much, honey." she gently patted Jenny's hand again, then rose to begin washing breakfast dishes.
"But, I don't think she wants me to." Jenny took a deep breath, and thought about it. She should catch a train, go to Paul's while Sean was gone. It would make it easier on everyone involved. "Helen, do you have a phone book? I need to call the train station."
Sean glanced at the clock on her dash, it was just after noon. Where was she to go to get a beer? She looked around the street on either side, all the little businesses she passed, and noticed a bar just off to the right, and it looked open. She slowed the Blazer, and pulled into the near empty parking lot.
The place was called Pot of Gold saloon. It was small, the bar that stretched the full length of the place directly to the left, a line of metal bar stools directly in front. Off to the right were small round tables with chairs. Sean turned to the bar, and took a seat toward the middle. She looked at the wall-length mirror and all the bottles that were neatly placed in front.
"Can I get for you?" a man who had suddenly appeared before her asked, a white towel over one shoulder, the end shoved into a mug that he was drying.
"A shot of 10 High."
"You got it." the bartender walked down a bit further, and grabbed a bottle from the shelf, filled a shot, and brought it back to Sean. "Here you go."
"Thanks." Sean placed a five dollar bill on the bar, and wrapped two fingers around the shot, looking into the gold liquid. The man looked at her for a moment, then went back to his glasses. The woman looked like she needed a good ear, but he never pried. If she felt the need to talk, he'd listen.
Sean ran her hand through her hair, and glanced at her reflection in the mirror. She looked tired, and come to think of it, was. She and Jenny hadn't had much sleep last night, and she wasn't sure if she had quite bounced back from the stress of the last week. She glanced down into her shot once again, and realized that she was thirsty. But not this kind of thirsty.
"Hey, mister, can I get a water, too?" she asked. The bar keep walked over to her.
"Want that mixed with your whisky there?" he asked, grabbing a glass from under the bar.
Sean smiled, and shook her head. "Nah." he grinned, and gave her an ice cold glass of water. "Thanks." she took a gulp, and closed her eyes in pleasure as the cold liquid drained down her throat to cool her overheated blood.
"Feel better?" the bar keep asked. Sean grinned and nodded. "Well, if you need anything else, just holler." he said, and walked out from behind the bar, and began to clean off some of the tables.
Sean pushed the shot away, and glanced around the bar. In the back corner stood an old Wurlitzer juke box, the red and yellow tubes lit. She grabbed her water, and walked over to the classic, and inserted her coins, browsing through the selection. She saw Melissa Etheridge's, "It's For You", and pushed the button. The beginning of the song started, and Sean leaned against the machine, listening:
Hey you, watching as this life bleeds all over me.
Shadows rise and fall, listen as I call, is this reality?
I will be with you tonight, and tomorrow be a thousand miles away.
I will be with you tonight, I will be with you as long as you say, stay,
Oh, one little piece of my soul, one little piece of my whole, life.
I give to you, take it now....
Sean opened her eyes as realization dawned on her. She had some say in this with Jenny, too. Why was she trying to follow her lead? She should take some control, ask what Jenny wants before she jumped to any conclusions, well, the conclusions that she had already jumped to. Jenny did not deserve that. Hadn't she been through enough mind games with Ben? And hadn't Sean offered enough mind games in place of offering her heart? And what about he mother? Everything that had happened was now ancient history, nothing could be done, changed. Did she really want to continue living with the regrets that had weighed her down her entire life. She had so much baggage, and it was getting awfully heavy....
Sean walked back to the bar, downed the rest of her water, and placed the glass next to her untouched shot. She smiled at the bar keep, and walked out into the cool day, clouds gathering once again. Looked like it could storm again. She did not feel like going back to Helen's yet, so she drove around, looking for what, she did not know.
Up ahead Sean saw a large red brick building loom up from the winter-dulled landscape. A slow smile spread across her face. Matheson Elementary School. She and Donny both had gone there starting in kindergarten. She pulled up to the curb, and turned off the engine, stepping from the Blazer, and walked up to the fence, her fingers grabbing onto the links.. It must have been recess as kids were running around the playground, skipping, laughing, playing. Sean glanced over to the right, and saw the old swings, still there. She smiled.
"Come on, Donny! You can run faster than that!"
"Nah, ah! Wait, Sean, wait!" the seven year old Donny ran after his big sister, his little legs carrying as fast as they possibly could. Sean reached the swing, and threw herself into the black, rubber seat, and grabbed the thick length of chain in her hands, and pushed off with her feet, making a deep rut in the sand under her feet. Finally the little boy reached the swings, and did exactly as his sister did, pushing his little body high into the sky, his giggles filling the late afternoon of summer.
"I'm a bird, Sean! Look at me!"
"Yeah, well I'm Superman!" Sean yelled back, pushing herself ever higher.
"Yeah, and I'm Batman!" Donny squealed with delight.....
Sean could hear her brother's laugh echo in her head as she saw the kids swinging, two little girls holding hands so they could swing at the same pace. She and Donny had had so much fun together. She had loved being a big sister.
The drive was relatively short, but Sean felt good about it. The Blazer passed under the arched gate, and drove slowly down the path that she would not have known had she not been there just yesterday. She parked at the curb, and grabbed the clear plastic bag from the passenger seat, and walked across the grass, the cold-brittled blades crunching under her boots. The two stones were just as she remembered, side by side; one just slightly larger than the other, and obviously newer. She stood between them, looking from one to the other, contemplating the meaning of both.
"Hey, guys." she said quietly. Sean opened the bag, and removed two red roses, placing one in the small vase next to Donny's stone, and sticking the other in the freshly turned earth of Russell's. She stood again, and glanced down at her father's grave. "It should have been so different, Russell." she whispered, regret and hurt marking her voice. "Goodbye. Dad." she turned to Donny's grave. "I love you, little man."
As Sean walked toward her Blazer she felt as if a weight had been lifted, a weight that had consisted of hate, anger, and her own guilt. Now it was too late for any of those feelings; nothing could be changed, so why try through anger? Now the only one who was hurting because of it was her. She did not want to live with it anymore. She realized at that school that all these years she had been concentrating on the pain, the bad. But there was so much good, too. The good had been in her love for her brother, and though she wouldn't admit it, her mother. True, she had no remaining feelings for Russell, so let him go. Sean raised her hand and looked at the palm where she had been burned by the burner so many years ago. The scar had mostly disappeared now. But if you knew where to look, it was still visible. The slightest lightening of the skin, curving lines dead center. Sean smiled as she thought of that circle. It was like things had come full circle. Here she was now as a grown woman, back where she vowed she'd never go again, burying a man she had vowed to never see again. All this was accomplished. Now it was time to create her own ring in that circle. Start making her own mark. With a smile, she closed her hands, her fingers pressed to the palm, and got into her Blazer, headed home.
"Hello?" she called. "Helen, Jenny?" faintly she could hear a television, and followed the noise upstairs to Helen's bedroom. Her mother laid on the bed, her sock-clad feet crossed at the ankle. "Helen?" Sean said again, her voice quiet. She had a bad feeling. Helen looked up, her eyes sad.
"Hello, honey." she said quietly. Sean took a deep breath and walked into the room, sitting on the side of the bed next to her mother.
"I'm sorry. I had no right to say what I did." Sean could not meet her mother's gaze, so she glanced over at the window, the early evening light shining through, casting a bluish hue to the room.
"Oh, honey. It's okay. I know you have been so angry-"
"No, that's no excuse. Well, actually, that was my excuse." Sean finally met Helen's eyes. "I am so sorry. For everything." Helen's features crumbled as she grabbed Sean by the shoulders, and pulled her to her in a bone crushing hug. Sean clung to her mother, her eyes clenched shut as she fought the tears of relief, of release.
"I love you, baby. Always have, always, will."
"I love you to." Sean whispered.
"I'm sorry, too, honey. I'm sorry I wasn't stronger." Sean pulled back from her mother, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. "You did the best you could. You did what you thought you had to. I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to realize that." Sean swallowed, and looked around. "Where's Jenny? I owe her an apology, too."
"She's gone, honey." Helen said quietly, Sean jumped from the bed.
"She's decided to head out to Chicago. She left about an hour ago by taxi."
"Going where? To Chicago in a taxi?"
"No, to the train station. She's catching the six-thirty." Sean glanced at the clock on the bed side. Her train would be there in twenty minutes! It would take nearly twice that to get there.
"Why didn't you stop her?" Sean exclaimed as she threw her jacket on, and grabbed her keys from her front pocket.
"She's a grown woman, Sean. She can make her own decisions."
Sean ran out of the house, and with a screech of tires, was on her way. The traffic was bad, people getting off work. Sean's heart pounded in her chest. She couldn't lose her now. Not now....
She nearly ran into the car in front as she slammed the Blazer into a space, and ran into the train station. People were sitting around, various pieces of luggage at their feet, and in their laps as they waited for their train. Sean looked around the huge station in desperation, praying that she would see a familiar head of blond hair. She ran from one end to the other, glanced at the huge wall clock: 6:42. Damnit! Maybe the train is late. Sean found the train platform, and stopped as she was greeted by empty tracks.
"No." she breathed. She ran her hands through her hair, and fought the lump in her throat. She'd drive to Chicago, she'd leave tonight. God, Jenny must hate her. She would probably not even want to see her, not want anything to do with her. She-
"You look lost."
Sean spun around at the sound of the voice behind her. Her vision became blurry as she saw the small woman sitting there, a suitcase at her feet, hands in her lap.
"I couldn't do it. I couldn't go, Sean." Sean ran to the bench, and Jenny threw herself into her arms.
"I'm so sorry, Jenny, so sorry. I didn't mean it." Sean sobbed, holding Jenny to her with every ounce of strength she possessed. Jenny held on tight, her arms around Sean's neck almost painfully tight, but Sean didn't care.
"I love you, Sean." Jenny sobbed.
"I love you, too. Oh, Jenny. I love you, too."
We got your letter today. Thank you, and yes, we got home okay. Jenny called her brother and told him about her decision to leave her husband, and he was very supportive. Thank you for asking.
Yes, I agree, it is odd that Ben just disappeared the way he did. I don't know, Jenny thinks maybe he was worried about Jenny going to the police. But Jenny's friend Johanna and I have talked about the possibilities of him coming back at some point. We are both willing to defend her to the end, no matter what it takes. Take care.
Thank you so much for your offer to let us stay there if Ben or anything should happen. And as for Jenny's pregnancy, well, we're getting there. I have got to admit, I am almost as excited as she is! But don't you dare tell her I said that. I'll deny everything. (smile) Johanna is having a huge baby shower for us. Only two months to go. And, yes, Jenny has settled in quite nicely here. She loves the house, and she loves working at the store; all those books. Who wouldn't love it? She has also started writing a children's book. It's called The Long Road Home, or something. She won't tell me why that title. Anyway, better go.
I am beside myself right now! We have a daughter! She weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, three ounces, and is nineteen inches long. She has the thickest head of blond hair I have ever seen, and her eyes are the same color as Jenny's. Oh, I hope they stay that color! Jenny is fine, everything went great, and she is just beaming. So am I. I want you to come and meet your granddaughter. Mom, I love you.
Love, Your Daughter,
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