Traumatic Love

BY Capt_Esq

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Chapter Twelve

 

“Nydia? Nydia?” Jo tried to get Nydia to respond as she pulled up on the parking brake. Pulling into the driveway, Jo didn't wait for an answer. “Nydia, are you okay sweetheart? You've been so quiet since we left?”

I hope mom's home, I've never felt so lost in my life . I have no idea how to fix this. Mom has a way of drawing people out . Hell, she's been doing it my whole life . Now she hoped could do the same for Nydia.

Jo saw the heavy burden Nydia had been carrying lately. Jo could see it. She knew Nydia gave everything she had into the care of her patients, and Jo saw it wearing her down. The way she squared her shoulders as she walked into the hospital, or didn't quite make eye contact with the repeat domestic violence victim the other day. Jo felt it was almost becoming a physical presence in their growing relationship. Something that stood in the way. Like a little piece of her heart is being kept way for safe keeping.

*******

Cassandra opened the door as the two of them approached. “What's the matter? What happened? Are you both okay?” Her concern made her rub her hands together, and a slight tremble cracked her voice.

“I'm okay mom. Nydia had a bit of a confrontation at work. Her boss thought she should take a day or so off.”

Cassandra looked at her oldest and knew it was not the whole truth. Jo's eyes never met her own. It was how Cassandra always new she wasn't getting the complete version of a story. Cassandra recognized the risks Jo took in her job every day, and had come to some level of acceptance. However, this was new to her.

“What happened? What kind of confrontation? Nydia is obviously shaken up beyond just a simple argument.” Cassandra asked in a rushed tone, placing an arm around Nydia's shoulder.

“Come inside, dear.” She said in a soothing tone she meant only for Nydia.

“It was a bit more complicated than just that. My instinct was to just get her home.” Jo said.

Cassandra noted the way Jo's entire state was focused on Nydia. Jo's eyes never left her and watched each movement Nydia made as she came into the doorway. Cassandra could see the reluctant look on Jo's face, her brow furrowed, when she was forced to take her arm of Nydia to let her into the house, and the look of relief when she saw Cassandra take her place.

Cassandra ushered Nydia towards the front room, rubbing her back as they moved along. “Shh, honey. We're all here for you now. You're surrounded by love and family here.”

Before the words had even finished coming out, Nydia's arms flew around Cassandra. Cassandra's heart broke for the young woman she knew her daughter loved, and who loved her back. She held back her own tears as Nydia buried her face in the crook of Cassandra's neck. Nydia's body became wracked with sobs, and Cassandra began to feel the tears fall on her neck and shoulder. Cassandra could barely hold them both up, then she felt the strong hands of her daughter begin to guide them to the couch and help settle them in.

Holding Nydia in her arms, Cassandra leaned back against the couch cushions, listening as Nydia cried, barely able to catch her breath. “My poor child. That's it, just let it all out,” she said in a quiet, soothing tone, rubbing Nydia's back in small, yet firm circles.

Quietly she looked at her daughter, noticing the way her whole body seemed to be shaking. “I haven't seen her do that in a long time,” she said to herself. “It can only mean that something has awoken her demons.” With that little knowledge she suspected it was much more than just an argument with a fellow doctor.

“Honey, can you go get Nydia something to drink. Give us some time to talk.” She winked at Jo to let her know she would take care of her lover, and to give her room to help Nydia heal a little.

“Sure. Sure mom. I'll make some tea.” Jo said, turning on her heel and heading towards the back of the house.

Cassandra looked down at the head of blonde hair that was resting on her bosom. She sat calmly, whispering gentle words. The same one she used on the girls when they had been young and scared. “No one's going to hurt you, Nydia, not anymore. You're safe.” Cassandra couldn't be sure her words were getting through to the young woman, but she kept talking. Her voice carried a lilting hint of her Greek accent as she spoke her gentle, consoling expressions of love.

After five or so minutes had passed, Nydia's body lost the energy to continue sobbing. Only falling tears, and the sporadic hiccup remained to let Cassandra know the time had come to talk. Reaching behind her onto the end table, she pulled several tissues free from the box she kept handy for the random sad movie. She placed them into Nydia's hand and said, “Here sweetie. Try and dry your eyes. Give your nose a good blow too. You'll feel better. I promise.”

Nydia lifted herself up off the woman. When Cassandra looked into her eyes she could see the pain and fear that filled them. If Cassandra didn't know better, she could swear she was back in time looking straight into Elly's own green eyes. She couldn't remember the number of times they sat like this.

Nydia began wiping the tears off her face, and blew her nose loudly.

Cassandra watched Nydia begin to try and compose herself. “You know I wanted to be a nurse when I was younger. That's where I met Jo's father, Dominic. He was studying to be an engineer. Has Jo told you anything about her father?”

“Only a little,” Nydia said, taking a deep breath and letting it out as a calming sigh.

“He was a handsome man. My family, being traditional Greeks, weren't too happy I began dating him since he wasn't. I told them I knew what was best for me, and stood my ground. He was always so attentive and gentle. Dominic would show up outside my class with flowers, take me on picnics down by the waterside.” Casandra let the memories comeback with a sense of wistfulness. She remembered that time in her life as happy moments.

“We dated for six months before I found out I was pregnant with Jo. That entire time he was nothing but loving. Once I told him about the pregnancy, he seemed to change. Dominic became a little distant, short on temper. Nothing drastic, just a bit harder than he had been. I grew accustomed to working around it. I made sure that I did as little as possible to cause him anger or drive him away. He was the only one I had, other than my family.”

Cassandra's fingers gently moved through Nydia's hair, gently stroking ad massaging. Their eyes met. Cassandra grew sad knowing how much her life resembled Nydia's. For different reasons, she was certain, but in the end did the cause of the spark that lit the fire really matter when the house was burning down? No. You just knew that suddenly, you were standing on the street, cold, wet and alone with nothing to your name except what little dignity you could scrape together and your resolve to survive. Cassandra came to the conclusion when she first met Nydia that, that strength and determination were something they shared. Their stories were different, she just hoped their ends were not.

“I had hoped, that telling my parents would bring them happiness. Their first and only grandchild was about to be entering the world. Up to that day, my upbringing was strict, but not without love. I was the center of my parent's hearts. They made sure I knew that. So that Saturday, Dominic and I went to their house for dinner, to give them the wonderful news.”

“I never thought for a second I had anything to be concerned about. They loved me. Why would that change? The birth of a child should draw a family together, not rip it apart and destroy it. But it did. My mother began sobbing, talking about the mortal sins I had committed, and the damnation of my immortal soul.”

“My father. My father actually spit at me. Spit at his only child. The daughter he loved, and who thought he had hung the moon. Who he had kissed on the forehead every night when she was a child and in return who worshipped him. The vile things he called me no one should ever hear of themselves, least of all from those who are supposed to love her. He tried to hit Dominic, but Dominic was too fast. Instead it was my father with the bloody nose.”

Cassandra let her voice take on a sad tone, as she felt the tears in her eyes threaten to spill over. Only her resolve to comfort Nydia, and not burden her more, kept them at bay. The sting of them though was something she hadn't felt in many years. Holding this woman she had quickly come to think of as her daughter while she cried, saddened her, but gave her the resolve to relive and share her own demons. Ones she had fought long ago, or so she thought.

“Before I had a moment to understand what was happening, my mother threw us out of the house, damned my soul to hell, and my father disowned me. Both blaming me for the shame and disgrace I had brought into their house. In a matter of minutes I had gone from having a family that loved me to being an orphan, even though in name only.”

“While Dominic drove me back to my dorm room, I began to feel the emotional shock of it all. The betrayal, the hurt, and the knowledge that except for Dominic and my child, I was completely alone in the world. I began to sob and shake. I remember it so clearly, as he laid his hand on my back and said, ‘Cassandra, it's time to grow up. You have your own family to take care of now. Try and pull yourself together and remember that.' That was the only thing he said. Even when he left me at my dorm room door, he simply gave me a soft kiss and left. I went to bed thinking I lost everything that mattered to me. Then I remembered I would soon have a new family. I promised my child then and there that nothing like that would ever happen to them. I would love him or her always, no matter what.”

“The next month was the end or the semester. I learned from the bursar's office that my parents hadn't paid for the next semester. I asked Dominic what to do. His answer was that my job was to see to the family, him and his child. We argued over the fact that he was demanding I give up my dreams for a career.”

“Eventually, I agreed to leave school. On some level I believed him. That I should take care of our family. After all, I felt I owed it to him since he was going to marry me. The wedding was small. His family felt he was marrying below his potential, so they refused to attend. In the end it was just us, and a few friends from school down at the city hall. That was it. It was all over in a matter of minutes.”

Nydia raised herself off Cassandra and looked at the women's countenance. “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you had to go through that alone.” Nydia wiped at her eyes to try and clear away the tears, and quickly took the tissues Cassandra placed in her hand. “No one should be forced to give up their family.”

Cassandra gave Nydia a sad smile. Not for herself, but for the strong, young woman sitting beside her. She realized Nydia didn't see how closely their lives were similar. Unlike herself, Nydia's family was still in her life. She saw them around town, and at work. On some distant level they were a part of her routine. Cassandra wondered if Nydia thought of herself, in the same way Cassandra did, or if she felt she was still a part of the family. Looking into Nydia's eyes, Cassandra told her the truth for both of them, “On that day I Knew I became an orphan. One with no family except whatever one I chose to make.”

Nydia leaned back into Cassandra as her lover's mother reached her arm around her shoulders and drew her close again. “Dominic worked in between the spring and fall semester, but once school started he demanded I work until the baby came. We needed money to live on and it was my duty to support us. He expected me to support us while he studied and ‘prepared for our future,' he said. There was a Greek restaurant near the university that was very popular. I was able to secure a job as a waitress in the beginning, before I became too pregnant to work on my feet. Jo's father didn't want me to quit. Luckily the family that owned the restaurant had become to accept me into their family. They had come over from Minos, but their only child, a son, had died as a result of injuries he received during in Vietnam War. They had created a new family though in the community. Each student that was a regular, was family. They attended graduation every year, they got cards from all over the country and the world. The Canstanoplolis' were proud of each and every one of them, and know they chose to include me and my child.”

“Jo was born in the beginning of the spring semester. Dominic was due to graduate that year with a degree in criminal justice. His plan was to graduate, join the police force, and within a few years make Lieutenant. To do that he said, he need to study hard and grease some hands. As he attended the Police Academy , I was again expected to work. Luckily Mrs. Castanoplois had taken to Jo from the start. So she would babysit while I worked. Soon she and her husband had me working in the kitchen. My mother had taught me well in that area. I worked alongside Gregory all day and left in the evening to take care of Dominic.”

“For two years I worked like this, only as time went by Dominic changed. He was home less and less, instead spending time after work with his fellow police friends. His temper grew short. He would yell for the slightest reason, his dinner wasn't to his taste, Jo was making too much noise, or taking attention away from his needs. I began to feel like nothing was making him happy.”

“Our lovemaking even changed. The romantic man I had dated and married was soon gone. In his place was someone who gave little care to romance, or gentleness. To him it became about his satisfaction. Dominic's concern about my needs became almost non-existent. No matter how tired I was, he expected me to see to his wants and desires.”

“Right after Jo's second birthday, I became pregnant with Ellie. I worked again until I gave birth to her. By then my reason for living was my children. They were now the center of my family. Elektra the shining sun of my life, and Jocasta the shining moon. They were as opposite as their names implied, but they balanced each other. One light and carefree, the other serious and stubborn. From the very start Jo looked over Ellie, and later on when she needed to she protected her.”

Cassandra held Nydia a little tighter to her. Sensing that the next part of this story would be harder for the young woman to hear. She wasn't sure even she could make it through. It had been many years since she had to relive this part of her life. After all these years, would the pain be as fresh. I hope not, she thought.

“When Ellie was born things got worse. Much worse,” Cassandra started. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, trying to calm herself, hoping the memories didn't come back as a tidal wave. To be calm for Nydia's sake, she tried to keep her voice level, not giving into the pain she knew the recollection would cause.

“Jo's father had been on the force for a few years by then. He felt he should have been promoted by then. Most of his fellow officers told him to give it time. That he was too new, and it could take up to ten years to get make detective, if ever. Those answers weren't good enough for Dominic. He felt he was entitled to it. He was a better cop then the rest of them. He began to lose friends. His sense of superiority rubbed too many on the force the wrong way. Soon, he was being given less than favorable reviews and details.”

“It was our fault, he would say. That the children and I were holding him back, or undermining him somehow. He became resentful and angry. He stayed away from home more and more, and his anger grew, as well.”

“Luckily Helena , Mrs. Castanopolis, loved the girls as much as I did. As I took over more and more duties in the kitchen and running the restaurant, Helena and her husband George babysat the children. They treated them like their own grandchildren. I never told them about the bruises. At first it wasn't that often, but as he stayed out drinking with his friends more, it became more frequent.”

Rubbing her hand up and down Nydia's arm as if to ward off a chill, and her gaze looking off into the unseen distance, Cassandra continued her tale. “I tried everything I could think of to make him happy. I never asked for anything. What the children and I had, I paid for out of my own earnings. I kept the house clean. When he came home his dinner would be I the oven warming, and the children sent to their rooms. Jo seemed to be able to sense his mood. Keeping Ellie amused and quiet when she felt Dominic's anger. But he never aimed it at them. I was his sole source of anger and hatred. Hatred that I had somehow ruined his life, that I had burdened him with children and a family. That we prevented him from being successful.”

“Over the years it just got worse. As every year passed that he failed the exams for promotions, or got reprimanded for his anger, things between us just grew more and more strained. By the time Jo was ten, she knew about the abuse. She had seen him beat me with her own eyes. Heard him call me names and try to destroy my self-esteem in any way he could think of. The verbal abuse was easy to hide, the physical got harder and harder. Soon the makeup and long sleeve shirts couldn't keep my secret anymore.”

“It was only a matter of time before Helena and George came to me with their concerns. George even threatened to kill Dominic, but still I tried to protect him. I had somehow come to believe his words that it was my fault. That I deserved it.”

“When Jo turned 11, it all changed. Dominic came home drunk that night, as was usual by that time. He was angrier than usual because the promotions list had come out, and once again he was passed over. He didn't even pretend to look for an excuse this time, he just came in and started hitting me. As he took the police baton he kept by the door and raised it over his head, Jo came running out of her room and tackled him. I don't know who was angrier, Dominic or Jo. He started hitting at her, but by then she was almost as tall as he was, he only had a few inches on her. She was striking back at him as hard as he was trying to hit her. He was more furious than I had ever seen him before. I tried to step in because I was afraid Dominic would try and kill her. But he pushed me away. Finally, Jo must have tired him out, because he took a drunken swing at her and she was able to land a punch to the side of his head. She knocked him out.”

“I was too shocked to move. I just kept thinking about how angry he would be when he got up.” Cassandra closed her eyes tight for a moment, trying to shake the memory of the helplessness she had felt. “Jo was frantic. Calling out to me over and over. She was certain she had killed him. I pulled her away from him and told her to go into her room and pack whatever she wanted to take with her into her suitcase, and to help Ellie pack her's. When she left I checked on him. He was alive, thank God. I called 911, but I was afraid of what would happen. He was one of them. Would they believe our story, or would they try and arrest poor Jo. She had witnessed so much for someone so young. When she came back with Ellie, we left. We just left him there, on the floor.”

“It was only five minutes later that the police and ambulance began arriving. We all stood and watched from the darkness across the street and down the block, behind a row of cars. Tears were running down Ellie's face and every once in a while she would try and hold it back with a sniffle. Jo took hold of my hand, and in a quiet voice asked me, ‘Will he be okay, do you think?' I looked down at her and said, in what I hoped was a reassuring tone, ‘Yes, honey. They'll all make sure he's taken care of.'”

“I didn't notice Mr's O'Connell come out of the building towards us, so when she cleared her throat I jumped.”

“'Calm down Cassie,'” She said. ‘I just wanted to tell you. I spoke to the sergeant. I told her everything. Now don't be ashamed,' she said, before I even had a chance to protest. ‘You did nothing wrong. Whatever happened tonight was in self-defense, and that's what I explained to her. She gave me this card. Said to go there and she would come by shortly to take a statement.'”

“I looked down at what she was handed me. It was the name and contact information for a domestic violence shelter. I almost cried right there. I held it to my chest, as I hugged her and cried. Mrs. O'Connell explained there was no need to thank her, ‘I should have done more sooner. For that I'm truly sorry. Now get going, these children need to get a bed under them.' With one last tight squeeze she was away. Standing there, I looked at my children and knew there was no more obvious choice. I wasn't going to put them back in there with him. Within ten minutes of calling, a minivan pulled up and I piled our life inside it. None of us ever looked back.”

Nydia stirred, sat up, and buried her face in her hands to wipe her face off. “What happened to Jo?” She asked, taking a deep breath.

“The sergeant came and took our sides of the story down, just like she promised. No charges were brought against Jo, and the shelter helped us get a restraining order against Dominic. After an internal review, Dominic was forced to retire. None of us had any contact with him after that. I know Jo looked him up in the police files once before he died. She never explained what she found, but from her anger I was sure she had learned he hadn't changed. An old friend of mine once told me he had taken to drinking once he was let off the force and was still cursing my name. I assume that is how he died. Alone and angry.”

Nydia took a deep long look at her. Cassandra could feel Nydia's soul reach out to her. The sadness coming off her was almost a living entity to Cassandra, that's how deep she could tell it ran.

“Is Jo still here?”

Jo came around the corner where Cassandra knew she had been loitering. She watched as Nydia melted into Jo's arms. “I'm right here Sweetheart. I never left. I will never leave.”

Without letting go of Jo, Nydia reached out her hand to Cassandra, “Thank you for telling me that, Cassandra.”

“It's mom, and as a part of this family, you had a right to know it. I hope it helped.”

“It did,” Nydia replied with a tired smile. She looked at Jo, her face growing serious as a crinkle appeared on her forehead. “I remember now. At least most of it I think. I'm sorry Jo. I'm sorry I wasn't able to tell you earlier about my family and everything. It affected us, and I shouldn't have let that happen. I love you too much to risk losing you over them.”

Jo placed a gentle kiss on her lover's lips. “You will never lose me. You're stuck with me for as long as you will have me.”

Nydia pushed away, but without letting go. “Barbara, I have to tell you about Barbara, I know her. I must have pushed it away, but I recall now. We went to school together. Her father,” Nydia let out a deep sigh. “He beat her, too, and I think I know how her husband is hiding. My family is probably helping him.”

“I'm sorry Jo.” Nydia said, unable to meet Jo's gaze.

Jo lifted Nydia's chin up so there eyes could meet. Looking in deeply she said, “Stop apologizing Nydia. What they do has nothing to do with you. We'll catch him, and if we need to, the rest of them as well.”

To Be Continued

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