Saturday, March 3, 2012
You wouldn't believe my week even if I told you. Sorry for the wait.
He wakes to the sound of raised, angry voices and Fern’s face hovering above his. It takes a moment but eventually he can make out the livid, red welt on her cheek but there isn’t pain in her eyes. There is, however, concern and, worst of all, fear.
“I don’t like your father,” she whispers, an almost smile on her face as she strokes his cheek.
“Get in line,” he mutters, trying to sit up but the room begins to spin so he lies back down, back onto her lap, and closes his eyes. “What happened?” He remembers this feeling, or thinks that he does, though he doesn’t remember losing consciousness before and he knows he must have, if only because the last thing he remembers he was upright.
“Well, near as I can guess, you were doing an impression of a linebacker, or I think that’s what they’re called because honestly I don’t watch football,” she adds, the corner of her mouth twitching with amusement though her dark eyes haven’t lost an ounce of fear, especially when she glances up towards the doorway. “Oh good, they’re in the kitchen” she breathes, “with all the sharp knives.” He listens, closing his eyes and picking out the voices; his mother’s small worried voice, his father’s booming, angry voice and then another, softer, more reasonable one.
“Your parents…,” he hisses, trying again to get up, wincing as a sharp pain at the base of his skull makes him catch his breath. “Ow…my head.”
“Mmmm, thank your father for that,” she says as he feels her fingers gently probing the back of his skull. “Nothing broken, I think, but then I’m not an expert.” He drags in a sharp breath as he forces himself upright and closes his eyes tight against the spinning room.
“So what did I do, miss?” he asks, flinching as her probing fingers find a tender spot.
“Not so much miss as you were deflected when your father did a pretty boss move of directing you to the corner kind of like Flower does, blocker save,” she explains and he tries to smile, though even that hurts. “Guess he’s not that a bad goalie after all,” she adds and he laughs and then winces again.
“Are you okay?” he asks, reaching for her hand and pulling it against his chest.
“Oh I’ll live,” she sighs and he opens his eyes to study the welt on her cheek. His teeth grind together and he forces himself to his feet, ignoring the way the world seems to tilt beneath him and turns towards the kitchen.
“I’ll kill him,” he growls, stumbling only when she pulls back on the hand he is still holding.
“How about after the medics have a look at you,” she pleads softly, her eyes big when he turns to look at her. He shakes his head. Paramedics, ambulances….
“No, no you haven’t called them have you?” he hisses at her. She blinks, frowns and then tilts her head to the side like a bird.
“Of course I did. You were unconscious,” she says, looking at him as if he’s the one that’s done, said, something outrageous.
“They can’t come here baby,” he tells her, moving to hold her against him. “If they do then they’ll have to write a report and then they’ll have to arrest him and….”
“And? And I’ll tell you what, that brute spends the night in the drunk tank and learns that someone will stand up to him? First of all, hello, he hit me and secondly, what if I’d Simon had been in my arms when he hit me?” Sid opens his mouth to argue but a little voice in his head tells him to think about what she’s just said and his argument dies on the tip of his tongue. She is simply right and there is no argument. “And you will go to the hospital,” she adds when he his focus shifts back to the sharp pain in his neck.
“It’s just a bump,” he sighs, lifting her hand to press his lips on her knuckles.
“Just a bump maybe, but a bump on the back of your head and your head is important to me,” she whispers, lifting her other hand to thread through his hair, “not to mention to pretty much all of Canada and like ninety per cent of Pittsburgh and….”
“I did not push him that hard, he fell,” his father’s voice booms from the kitchen and Sid turns to watch his father emerge, red faced with the veins in his temple throbbing.
“Yes, because he’s so uncoordinated normally,” Fern sneers at his old man. He aims a grateful smile down at her and then faces his father.
“She’s called the cops, you know that right?” he asks quietly. His father stops and turns to stare, disbelief clear on his face. “I don’t care what you did or didn’t do to me,” he adds, his arm curled protectively around Fern’s shoulder but with his other hand he gently urges her to turn her cheek so the evidence of his father’s crime is staring him in the face. “But for this…for this I’m done with you, once and for all.” The whine of sirens breaks the silence of the small suburban cul-de-sac but a heavier silence fills the room around him as he stares his father down.
“Sidney,” his mother begins, that familiar plea in her voice that she has so often employed in her husband’s favor.
“No mom…no more. He’s gone too far. Time to get off the ride dad,” he says quietly and then turns a half smile towards her father. “Mr. Smith, if you can get the door for the police?”
“You don’t want to do this son,” Fern’s dad says as he steps between them, using a calm, reasonable voice and not the ‘father knows best’ tone his own patriarch would have.
“I actually do,” Sid replies, his unwavering gaze still focused on his father.
“You’ll have enough to deal with when news about our daughter and grandson get out,” Mr. Smith says, laying one hand gently but firmly on Sid’s shoulder and the other hand affectionately on his daughter’s cheek. “You don’t want to add a domestic disturbance call to the list for the internet gossips to chew on.” It is a reasonable argument but one look down at the still livid mark on Fern’s cheek and Sid shakes his head.
“No…he has to pay for this,” he says quietly, more to Fern than anyone else. Her dark eyes are turned up to his, her gaze calm, not, he thinks, anything like his.
“Please don’t Sid, please, for me.” It’s the first Taylor has spoken all night and his gaze automatically swivels to meet hers’. Her eyes are swollen and rivulets of tears run down her cheeks. His stomach knots. There is rarely anything he will not give his younger sibling. He knows that living in his shadow is almost unbearable for her, save that he provides for her in every way that he can and is always conscious of how little attention their father affords her. It is his Achilles. It is the guilt that gnaws at him now as she aims those big eyes of hers at him. And yet, when he looks back down at the mark on Fern’s face, his resolve begins to re-solidify.
“Then for Simon,” she says quietly, only to him. “Don’t let him read about this one day on the internet when he’s older.” His shoulders sag but he cannot refuse them both.
“Well no, not broken, but I think compromised in some manner. There is certainly something there but I do think that you should definitely get a second opinion. I’m not expert.”
Fern sits quietly on the edge of the chair and goes over the words the doctor has just said and then turns to Sid, who, while he sits further back in his chair, is blanched and white knuckling the arms of the seat. She reaches for one of those hands and while he does not withdraw it when she peels his fingers from the arm, his remains limp and boneless in hers’.
“You hear that? It could just be a flaw in the film,” she tells him though she doesn’t believe it herself.
“How long?” he asks, in a voice that sounds as if it’s coming forma smaller, younger version of himself.
“Healing process?” The doctor strokes his chin thoughtfully and then tips his glasses further down the bridge of his Roman nose. “Well if my diagnosis is correct and I’m far from convinced that it is, it could be some weeks before you are feeling better and as for playing…well, I think I would leave that up to your team physician to decide.”
As she watches Sid hangs his head and reaches back, his fingers feeling for a flaw that may, or may not be there, under his skin. She lays her hand over his.
“We’ll get a second opinion. It might be nothing,” she urges gently.
“My father did this to me,” he grumbles. Her fingers slip down to his cheek and he raises his gaze to meet hers’.
“It could just be a bruise. It doesn’t have to be anything worse than that to hurt,” she tells him, meaning it and putting all of her faith in her words so that he sees it in her eyes. He nods, though she can see clearly that her words have not done anything to take the edge from the fear that is in his eyes.
“I’m sure your team has access to more sophisticated equipment and experts in this field,” the doctor in bright white his lab coat and mint green scrubs says as if he would like to get his hands on such things as he gets to his feet and offers his hand. Sid takes it and shakes it, though she notices it is not the firm, business like handshake he would normally offer.
“Thanks for your time doc,” he says quietly and then, gingerly, gets to his feet before offering her a hand up, an offer she doesn’t take, turning instead to the stroller and busying herself with the blankets and bundle inside so that he doesn’t see her own fear. “I’m sorry,” he says, mostly under his breath.
“What have you got to be sorry for?” she asks, tucking the tiny blanket around the tiny form of their son, sleeping soundly on his back.
“He’s my father and he ruined his first Christmas,” Sidney sighs, reaching past her to brush his knuckles along Simon’s tiny cheek. Their son’s mouth opens and he yawns but his eyes never open but his fist goes into his mouth and he begins to suck.
“He won’t remember this. No one remembers their first Christmas,” she says as she straightens and aims the carriage toward the door but his hand closes around her upper arm and stops her from getting ahead of him.
“I’m sorry about our Christmas too.” She turns to him, her eyes glassy with unshed tears.
“Don’t be. This is…this is definitely the best Christmas I’ve had since I got a tricycle when I was four. I’m only sorry you’re hurt,” she adds, reaching up to cup his cheek in her hand. He leans into it and closes his eyes.
“You’re just saying that to keep the peace,” he mumbles. “You must be mad.”
“Why must I?” she asks, a teasing lilt to her voice.
“Because I’ll feel worse if you’re not,” he grumbles and then smile as she rolls her eyes.
“Oh well in that case, you’re a dick and you owe me a Christmas present,” she teases and gives his cheek a gentle smack.
“Oh fuck!” his eyes widen as he covers his mouth his hand.
“Let me guess,” she says as she rolls her eyes dramatically, “you completely forgot?”
“Kind of yeah,” he admits as she heaves a heavy sigh.
He had not been exactly truthful about forgetting her present but the moment he’d thought he’d have, with their families around them, presents and multi-coloured paper strewn across the floor had not happened. Not that she’s mentioned it. Her parents had greeted them with a scaled down dinner and not brought his family’s absence up even once and he is grateful not to have to go over it, pick at it like a turkey vulture on a corpse.
Once Simon is fed and in his cot and her parents have gone home and it is just the two of them sitting in the dark with only the lights on the tree illuminating the dark and Christmas carols playing softly in the background he slips a slim black velvet box onto her lap.
“What’s this?” she asks, her fingers brushing across the top of the box.
“Open it and find out,” he tells her with a grin, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek when she frowns.
“Well it can’t be a Christmas present because it’s not wrapped,” she replies with a smirk.
“There’s a ribbon,” he points out, reaching around to pull at one end of the gold ribbon tied around the middle of the box.
“Maybe it’s a good thing you were such a dick to me for so long, you’d already ruined my vision of you so stuff like this is not so disappointing,” she giggles, toying with the other end of the bow.
“Quit yer bitchin’ and open it,” he snorts as he wraps his arms around her middle and pulls her back against him. As he watches over her shoulder, she unties the ribbon and sets it carefully aside, as if she might use it again, and then, very slowly, she opens the box, just half an inch and peers inside before snapping it shut again. “What?” he asks.
“It’s really sparkly,” she replies in a tiny voice.
“How can you tell? You hardly opened it,” he asks, digging his fingers into her ribs and making her squirm.
“I can just tell,” she informs him and tries to lay the box aside as if it might burn her, our bite.
“Open it,” he growls playfully and digs his fingers into her ribs, making her squirm and wriggle against him.
“Fine, okay!” she huffs and reaches for the box again, opening it. gingerly lifting the necklace out and holding it up so that the ring on the end of the chain dangles in front of her eyes, catching the light from the Christmas tree, making the three stones in the simple antique gold band glimmer. “It’s beautiful,” she says breathlessly and without a hint of the disappointment he’d anticipated.
He reaches for the chain. She drops it carefully into his hand and he slides the ring from the simple chain leaving a simple gold locket behind. He slips the necklace around her neck and fastens it. While he’s fussing with the clasp he hears her say ‘oh’ almost entirely under her breath.
“When did you take this?” she asks. He doesn’t need to look to know that she has the locket open or what is inside.
“In the hospital, the night they took the breathing tubes out, when I could let myself believe he’d be okay,” Sid answers haltingly. “You can put a newer one in there if you want,” he adds, thinking how much stronger and pinker Simon looks now.
“No,” she says turning to dazzle him with her smile. “I love it even more now that you’ve said that.” He returns her smile while deftly, and without needing to look, slips the ring on her hand.
“I want you to consider this a place holder,” he tells her, guiding her hand up so that it catches the light and the three stones shine back at her; one sapphire, the topaz in the middle and the purple amethyst on the other side.
“A promise ring?” she asks, snuggling back into him while leaving her hand in his, held up in front of both of their eyes.
“Yeah I mean…I don’t think we’re ready for all that, y’know, other stuff but…we’re a family, right?” he asks, suddenly insecure, especially after their disaster of a day.
“Yeah,” she agrees, lacing her fingers in his and bringing his arm around her so she is cradled protectively against his bigger body. She falls silent for a moment and he itches to ask her what she’s thinking, worried that he’s either pushed it too far or, equally, not far enough. “How’d you know…my birthstone, how’d you find out?” she asks softly. He runs the pad of his thumb across it and smiles to himself.
“I asked your mom,” he admits and he almost hears her smiling in response.
“Your dad would’ve hated this,” she tells him suddenly and with an equally sudden grin he realizes that she is right, that it is perfect that his bear of a father is not here to witness this. He would, indeed have hated this. “He’ll get over it though,” she promises him and of that he is not at all certain.
“Maybe, maybe not, but my mom and Taylor will want to see Simon. Did you see the look on my mom’s face when you put him in her arms? I can hardly remember ever seeing her that happy,” he admits, his voice trailing away as he remembers the look of pride on both of his parent’s faces when he won the Cup. That might have been the last time.
“We’ll figure something out,” Fern tells him quietly, looking up at him and he believes the intensity in her eyes when she says it. This girl, this girl that he thought wasn’t much of anything that, as he looks at her now, he knows he is better for having her by his side and that now that she is there, he will always want her there.
“Yeah,” he agrees pressing his lips tenderly to her forehead. “It’ll all work out. It always does.”
I kind of think this might be the end, it feels like the end...