Tie Break

by Bonnie


berlinpup@yahoo.de

2002

For disclaimers see Part 1.


Part 6

Chapter 7

Anne dressed comfortably and warmly for the march to the cemetery. Although her mother's property lay directly next to the cemetery with only a small stand of trees that served as protection against the wind whipping across the countryside, it was still a brisk twenty minute walk, even for someone with legs as long as Anne's.

Dressed in her thickest pair of jeans, a very warm leather jacket, and her favorite hiking boots, she set off at a pace that would get her to the cemetery quickly for some much needed quiet conversation with her dead brother.

She got as far as the main house.

As she passed the back door to the kitchen, the tall woman suddenly felt the urge to see her mother. I should bring Petey another rose anyway, she thought, and promptly altered her course. For as long as Anne could remember there had always been roses in her mother's house.

At first, it had been Pete who had always found a reason to bring a bouquet of roses, often surprising their mother with the flowers. No one knew where Pete's fascination with that particular plant stemmed from, but Anne had asked her little brother and he had said that it was the smell he couldn't resist, and the way the petals slowly unfolded when the rose began to bloom. He said he also admired the sturdiness of rose bushes, their ability to withstand all kinds of weather.

"If I ever had the choice to be reborn as whatever I wanted," he had once told her, "I want to be a rose. Beautiful, but not without its thorns. Resistant, but irresistible. And that smell " he had finished dreamily. Then, of course, there was the fact that their father hated his son's love for flowers.

Anne had never really shared Peter's passion for roses or any other flower. In her opinion flowers should grow somewhere in the wilderness, only to be stumbled upon occasionally and by accident. She had always been averse to any kind of holiday that required the giving of flowers as if it was decreed by the heavens above.

Mother's Day. Pete always had the most beautiful flower arrangements for their mother, even as a child. I always gave her something I had made myself, Anne mused. She probably preferred the flowers.

Valentine's Day. Definitely no favorite of mine. I never had anyone to give flowers to anyway.

But since her brother had died, Anne had discovered her own love for roses. They reminded her so much of Pete that she couldn't have resisted their allure had she wanted to. She and her mother kept roses at the house at most times of the year, and the fall after Pete's death they had planted their first rose bush together. That was the beginning of a tradition; now, the planting of a new rose bush was an integral part of remembering Pete's birthday.

Anne entered the kitchen and automatically looked around for her mother.

At this time of the year, the hotel didn't have too many guests, usually just a small number of elderly couples, so her mother had some time for herself. Being a cook with every fiber of her heart, she loved spending that time in the kitchen. At the moment, however, she was sitting quietly at the huge kitchen table, obviously enjoying a cup of her favorite tea.

"Hello, honey," she greeted Anne. "Looking for me?"

"Hi, Mom." Anne turned to face her mother. "I was just on my way over to visit Pete, and I thought I could take him another rose." She grinned sheepishly.

"Oh, that's nice, dear. He's just going to love that." Irene watched her daughter for a second and decided that something was definitely wrong. Hmm, I wonder

She gestured to the chair next to her. "Why don't you sit down for a little while and keep your mother company?"

"Ah," Anne stalled, "no, it's all right. I just wanted to get a rose for Petey."

"Anne," the smaller woman said, a little more insistent this time, "is anything wrong?" Irene decided that the direct approach would work best with her daughter. "You look like death warmed over," she added for good measure before she ostentatiously pointed to the chair again. When Anne still didn't move, she finally commanded, "Sit!"

Anne moved to the indicated chair and sat down.

"Now," Irene continued conversationally, "tell me what's bothering you."

Resistance is futile, Anne cited one of her favorite TV shows. She grinned slightly, strangely comforted by the predictable behavior of a caring parent. Wonder if the Borg got that from our mothers

Anne knew that it would be indeed futile to try and tell her mother that she was all right when she herself had flinched when she had checked her appearance in the mirror that morning. She decided to tell her mother the truth or at least a version of it the older woman could live with.

"I didn't sleep too well last night."

"Hmm," came Irene's noncommittal sound. She watched her daughter from the corner of her eyes. She looks like a caged animal. Seeing the weary look of the blue eyes she knew so well, she suddenly had a pretty good idea what was disturbing Anne's sleep.

"Nightmares again?" Irene asked quietly.

"You know?" Anne was surprised. As far as she could remember she had never really told anyone about the terror that visited her some nights. "But how what ?" she stuttered, a bit confused.

"I'm your mother." As if that would explain it all.

"So?"

"Anne, I've known you for 32 years now, and I know you well." Maybe better than you would wish for. Irene's mouth curled slightly in a private little smile. "I could tell you that all it takes was one look into your eyes to know everything that's going on behind those baby blues," she paused for effect, "but that would be a lie."

"OK, I'm curious now. How did you know?" Anne was still intrigued by her mother's behavior sometimes, even after 32 years.

"Do you remember when you came home from that horrible tournament in Germany?"

Anne nodded. How could she forget that? She had been thinking about it the whole morning.

"You were staying here because your house hadn't been finished yet. You used the room next to mine, and in the night there was some noise coming from your room. Normally I wouldn't investigate noises coming from my grown daughter's room, but I was worried, considering what had just happened to you."

Anne nodded again, letting her mother know that she understood perfectly.

"When I approached your bed, you were screaming and thrashing around. Your blankets and pillows were all over the place." Irene noticed the look in her daughter's eyes. "What?"

Anne looked at her mother, her teeth biting at her lower lip in a sure sign of her thinking process. "You said I was screaming," she said. "Do you remember what I was screaming?" Maybe, maybe she can help me figure it out. Why did I never think of asking her in the first place?

Irene thought for a moment. Then she shook her head. "No, darling. Unfortunately, you weren't saying anything that I could understand. You were just rambling."

Anne looked deflated, the glimmer of hope that had been there for a second gone from her eyes.

"I'm sorry," Irene said, gently laying a hand on Anne's forearm. "So, you have nightmares, but you cannot remember anything about them. Right?"

"Right." Anne snorted, thoroughly disgusted with her inability to overcome what she considered one of her biggest weaknesses.

"Have you ever thought about talking to someone about those nightmares?"

"No, not really."

Irene wasn't a bit surprised by this answer from her stoic daughter. "Maybe you should. I'm sure it would help. I'm certain that these dreams are connected to that horrible accident " An idea formed in Irene's mind and took the shape of a certain blonde tennis player.

"Why don't you talk to Shana about it? She'll be here anytime now, and she was right there with you when it happened." Irene was happy with her idea. "I bet talking to her would really help you. I mean, she was there for you when it happened, so why don't you try at least try it while she's here?"

"I'll think about it," Anne said quietly, her head bothering her again. Won't be of any help if my nightmares are because of what I did to Shana or the other women.

"I mean, not that you don't have enough to talk about," her mother kept on rambling, not really thinking that Anne would go for it. "Maybe she has nightmares, too, and you can help each other. She " Slowly, realization of Anne's reply sank in. "You're going to think about it?"

Anne nodded wearily.

Irene beamed. "That's all anyone can ask, honey."

Anne got up from the chair and looked around the large kitchen. I need to take a walk before Shana arrives. I need to think.

"Are you looking for something, Anne?" her mother asked.

"Roses." Anne breathed. "I need to bring Pete a new rose."

"I'll get you one," Irene said and left the kitchen. She knew Anne needed time for herself. If that meant that she would feel better afterwards or that she would consider talking to Shana about her nightmares, Irene was all for it.

*******************

Anne finally left for the cemetery bundled up in her warm clothes, one gloved hand clutching a deep red rose. When her mother handed her the flower she had known at once that the older woman had found the darkest rose she had, just like Pete had always liked them.

She walked as fast as she could in the snow to keep herself warm, and she reached the trees at the edge of her mother's land in record time. Once there, she slowed her walk a bit, letting herself feel the joy of being outside.

She took a deep breath and let the mixture of scents trickle down into her soul. The resinous smell of the old pines and the earthy scent of the dark soil that wasn't hidden under a thick layer of snow under trees. She stood still for a moment, just listening. A slow smile crept across her face when she realized that except for the sounds the wind made when it traveled through the thick branches of the trees, it was absolutely quiet. Except for the pounding in her skull, which she swore must have been audible even outside her head.

She concentrated on relaxing, letting the scents of the earth and the trees and the sounds of the wind soothe her. She closed her eyes and consciously tightened and then relaxed every muscle in her tall body. She had done that a thousand times before, most often before matches, and she hoped that her ability to pinpoint the exact location of her pains would help her now. She really needed to get rid of the headache before Shana arrived. I'm gonna be a total grump otherwise.

One thing she definitely didn't want to feel when she met Shana was cranky. She was nervous enough without being thrown off balance by her nightmares.

When her head finally began to clear a little, she resumed walking and quickly made her way to the border of the small cemetery. She soon had an unimpeded view of the cemetery, including a small blonde figure that was walking around, obviously deep in conversation with someone.

Even from this distance, Anne had no trouble identifying her best friend. So, you're visiting Pete, too. She settled under the trees, deciding not to disturb her friend. She didn't feel ready to meet her yet, needing the comforting quietude of a visit to her brother's grave.

Instinctively she knew that Shana was there for the same reason, and she felt that her presence would not be entirely welcome right now. But I'd sure like to know what you're talking about to him. What are you telling him?

She looked closely at the woman she loved and noticed that her body language was one of indecisiveness and maybe nervousness. She had known the blonde too long not to realize that something was bothering her friend. She had spent hours on and off the tennis court watching Shana, often with a guilty conscience that told her she was just checking her friend out. But there was usually the very valid excuse of having to find out as much as she could about one of her greatest rivals.

Right? Right! Anne chuckled, knowing she knew more about Shana's body and its language than about any other player's body language.

Anne came out of her musings and saw that Shana seemed to be leaving the cemetery. The blonde headed for her car and got in as fast as possible. You're always so cold. How long have you been here talking to Pete? After what seemed like hours, Shana finally started the engine and drove along the road, straight towards Irene Patakis' hotel. Say hello to Mom for me, will ya. I'll be there soon

The tall woman made her way over to her brother's grave. She patted the headstone and smiled at her brother's name, then crouched down to place the rose on his grave. She noticed the rose that should have been buried by at least an inch of snow, the one she had brought him two days earlier. Thank you, Shana.

She put the fresh rose next to the frozen rose, placing them in perfectly parallel lines before straightening her whole body and taking another look around. You sure have been marching around here for some time, little one. There were tracks all around the grave and along the small path that led in several directions away from it. Seems you were either deep in thought or very, very cold. Or both.

She sat down on the bench Shana had so nicely cleared of snow, and just looked at the two roses. Suddenly she didn't feel like saying anything much, so she just tried to silently communicate her love for her brother. The dead can hear our thoughts anyway, she thought. Too bad we can't hear theirs.

She focused on her brother, trying not to let the guilt she so often felt cloud over her feelings of love for him. But damn! I should have been there for you! God, why didn't you tell me what was going on?

She knew he couldn't have told her even if he had wanted to because she wasn't there and no one knew where she was. The day of Pete's birthday party she had just vanished. And she would never forgive herself for that. Her little brother's 21st birthday was the last time she had seen him alive. It was the last time she had seen him, period.

Just thinking about that hurt like hell. But, just as always, being close to her brother's grave forced the memory of that day to the surface of her mind. Anne closed her eyes in pain and let the inevitability of her memories take over.

After Shana had left her room, Anne had felt empty and dead, and all she had been able to do was cry for a very long time. She hadn't known how long she had been rolled up in a fetal position on the bed, but at one point she had realized that she'd had to get up and join the party downstairs.

She had begun to roll onto her back, mentally preparing herself to get up. The motion had made her realize the uncomfortable presence of a square object in her pocket poking her hips. Once fully on her back, she had pulled the offending object out to look at it.

The ring, still in its box. And not on Shana's finger.

Her fingers had clenched around the box so hard that the material gave a small squeaking sound. For a second, she had felt the urge to just crunch the box and the ring inside to dust, and unconsciously she had tightened her hand even more. Then, just as suddenly, she had opened her hand and let the box simply fall onto her stomach, where it had bounced once and then settled on her navel.

Ignoring it, Anne had rolled herself out of bed and had gone to the bathroom to take a quick shower and prepare herself for the party. Had she taken a closer look at her eyes in the mirror, she would have been terrified by the emptiness that haunted her. As it was, she hadn't looked at her eyes. She just hadn't cared enough.

In order to survive, Anne had pushed her emotion somewhere down into the deepest recesses of her heart and mind, hoping to never find them again.

The ring had fallen to the floor, unnoticed.

"You know what the crazy thing is, little brother?" Anne asked the silent grave. "Shutting off my emotions had always worked before that, you know that and it still does when I need it to but " A sigh escaped her lips that was both wistful and exasperated.

"But it never worked with her. I could never get her out of my system." Especially not after those kisses. Before that, maybe. After that day never. I just didn't realize that until it was almost too late for me.

Her brother's party had been an exercise in coolness for her. After taking a scalding hot shower, she had dressed in the toughest clothes she could find in her closet. She had pulled out a pair of black leather trousers that she had bought a while ago for one of Kevin's parties that she hadn't gone to in the end. A black satin shirt and her black leather blazer had completed the outfit.

"How fitting," she had quietly commented to her own dark image in the mirror. Dark, distant, and meaningless. With a last clenching of her fist, she had turned and left the room.

Downstairs, she had behaved as normally as possible towards her family and most of their friends, but had ignored Shana almost completely. At least as much as she could, among a group of people who they were best friends. Used to be best friends.

Peter had been totally confused. He had asked her several times throughout the evening what had happened between her and Shana. She had shrugged him off. At one point he had asked her, "What's going on? First you're making out like crazy in the kitchen, and then you're not even looking at each other. So, what went wrong? Did you you know do more than you know what I mean?" He had been uncomfortable at that point.

"What do you think happened? Do you really think I touched precious Shana? Do you think she said no and I did it anyway? What do you think?" she had growled, deep in her throat, coldness streaming out of her eyes like a glacial river.

Pete had been scared of her, she had seen that, and it had ripped another hole into her already wounded heart. "Sorry, Petey!" she had muttered. "I'm just in a bad mood. I don't want to ruin your birthday. Come on, have fun, just leave me alone, will ya?"

He had simply nodded and had gone back towards their friends. Anne had looked up and had gazed right into a pair of green eyes that seemed to be confused and hurt. For a second, she had been able to see confusion and hope in those eyes, but then the tall woman had made a conscious effort to put on her coolest facade, and had turned away from Shana.

Anne looked up into the blue sky and watched the clouds chasing each other. The snow had stopped in the early hours of the morning, her mother had told her before she had left for the cemetery. It had been snowing continuously for several days until then, and the countryside was covered by an even white blanket.

Looking at the almost blinding whiteness surrounding her, the dark-haired woman realized she should have brought her sunglasses. She began searching in her coat, but merely confirmed that she had indeed forgotten them at home. "Stupid," she muttered.

She focused her gaze on the dark red roses on her brother's grave to relax her eyes, but then decided to just close them. Probably better for my head anyway. Her thoughts drifted back to the last time she had seen her brother.

The party had ended on a very low note, even for her father, when George Patakis had decided to vent his drunken rage. Anne and Pete had been able to drag their father off to another room in an attempt to save the party. Once in the study, George had started shouting at his son, who had been helpless against the wave of mindless rage coming from his father.

"You're not my son! Never!" The big man had shouted, standing not two feet away from his son. Anne had hung on his arms, trying to hold him back, but years of work as a tennis coach and his drunken rage made her father extremely strong. She had tried to soothe him with words, but he had ignored her completely while shouting insults at Pete.

"You're you're a sissy, a fag, a fucking homo! Always bringing flowers into the house! Writing poetry! That's not normal." His voice had become higher and higher. "And look at you, blondie! You don't even look like me."

He had noticed Anne hanging off of him then. "Look at your sister, protecting you! You're not half the man she is, you little girl. She could wipe the court with you even if she was sleeping!" At that, Anne's arms had noticeably tightened around his biceps.

"Stop it, Dad!" Anne had said, right into his ear. She had been raging inside, but had been sure that shouting at George would only make the situation worse.

He had simply pushed her off. "Don't protect that bastard, Anne! He's not worth it! You can't really love him, can you?"

His voice had sounded unbelievably cruel to her ears at that moment. Anne had searched for Pete's eyes to reassure him, to let him know that his father's words were not true, that she loved him with all her heart.

Pete had not looked at her, and with painful clarity the dark haired woman had realized that her little brother was scared his father was right. She had remembered the scene at the party where she had sent him away, because he had been concerned about her and Shana.

And she had realized her father had won. He had worked so hard to divide the siblings, driving wedges between them whenever he could, and now he had managed to reduce Pete's self-esteem to nothing. He had managed to make Pete believe that no one could love him, not even the sister he had adored all his life.

She had let go of her father and had walked over to where Pete sat, huddled into a corner like a small child. Her father had never stopped ranting, but she had pushed his voice into the background, concentrating on her brother instead.

She had touched his chin to lift his head. She had wanted, no, needed to look him in the eyes and tell him she loved him, but Pete had just tried to make himself smaller. Bending her head, she had tried again, this time bringing her brother's eyes up to look at her own. What she had seen had scared her. The warm hazel eyes she had known were gone and had been replaced by a hollow emptiness that she had never before seen.

She had gotten Pete up from the floor, pulling at his arms until he was standing. She had realized that her father must have done that to her brother many, many times to get that sort of reaction from Pete. She had known that he had not gotten on with their father; neither had she, but George had never abused her the way he had just abused his son. Pete had never told her, and that had hurt Anne more than she had thought possible because it had meant that he hadn't trusted her enough. Trusted her to help him.

She had gently pushed Pete out the door and had turned around, intent on stopping her father once and for all. Stopping him from hurting Pete, hurting her, and for making all their lives miserable. George, however, had pushed her aside with brute force and had followed his son as fast as his inebriated state allowed him. When he had caught up to his son, he had started beating him, being long past the ability to speak.

Anne had followed him, and with the help of Kevin and Mike, had then finally been able to subdue her father, who by then was completely out of his mind. By then, her father had not been the only one seething with rage. Anne was mad at her father, herself, and her mother, who was just sitting there, watching the whole scene. She had been able to feel the tension of it in every single cell in her body.

George had then left the house, leaving six miserable people inside. Anne had stood to one side of the room, eyes unseeing, just trying to control herself. Then she had felt Shana's presence close to her, and she had known in that one moment that she had only two choices.

Break down and cry like a baby in Shana's arms, hoping to be loved and forgiven, or run.

Shana had touched her arm then and Anne had looked into those green eyes, still undecided. She had seen Shana's eyes widen and had recognized the feeling reflected in them as fear. Right then, she had decided to run. To run and stay as far away from Shana as possible. It's the only way, little one, she had thought. I don't want to hurt you.

She had pushed away Shana's hand and had simply left, not looking back.

"And I've never made a worse mistake in my life, Pete," Anne said, unconsciously looking up at the sky again. I wonder where you are, sometimes. Are you up there? Is there a heaven? If there is, you deserve to be there, doing all the things that bastard never let you do. Aloud she said, "I'm so sorry I let you down, Pete. I should never have run."

Anne looked at her watch, surprised to see that only a few minutes had passed since Shana had left the cemetery. You sure can remember a lot of bad stuff in such short time. She decided to head back to the hotel to greet her friend. She should be there in a couple of minutes. Anne felt a light tingling at the base of her neck, as if the tiny hairs there were standing on end. My body seems to be already preparing to meet her. She grinned, and for the first time since waking up that morning she felt good.

She thought about the ring she had wanted to give Shana so many years ago. She had returned deep in the night after the party and had walked into her room to grab a couple of things. When her eyes had fallen on the ring on the floor, she had tried to ignore it. She had moved about the room for ten minutes or so, touching this, looking at that.

In the end, the ring was all she had taken with her when she had left the house that night.

The ring had kept her company in all those years. For a long time she had used it as a reminder of the dangers of love. One day she had looked at the ring and had seen Shana in her mind's eye. With that, the ring had again become a symbol of her love for the blonde woman, and the ring was still waiting for Shana wherever Anne went.

Anne made her way to the wooden gate, deciding on a whim to take the slightly longer walk along the road to her mother's place. She gently closed the latch on the gate and made her way towards the road, following in Shana's footsteps as much as she could, smiling in anticipation.

Then the sickening groan of tortured metal reached her ears and her heart stopped beating.

Total stillness followed, in which Anne could hear her heart resume a frantic pace, and she set off at a run in the direction of the sound. She thought she heard a car in the distance, but pushed the thought away, focusing only on one thing. She just knew it.

Shana.

TBC in Part 7.


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