Dear J, when I think of the women in my life, I’m left completely bewildered. How is it that they can be so kind, strong and nurturing yet leave me with the sense that they are the most mysterious beings on the planet?
Take my sister, for instance. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen less and less of her. Granted, Blue is a little older now and not as needy as she was when she was just a toddler. So, Rachel has been pursuing a life of her own. I’m glad, if not curious, about this because it means she is less interested in my own private life. I was afraid that she would continue to try to influence who I was seeing and that it would cause a rift between us. I can’t imagine anything worse right now than that. Still, I wonder what she’s been up to and who with?
Then, there is Bexley. Since I met her, I have felt the most comfortable around her. She’s easy to talk to and so I find that I confide in her a lot. But when I ask her to tell me some things about herself, she always turns the conversation back around to me. I’m not sure why. Does she feel she isn’t interesting enough? Because if that’s the problem, she couldn’t be more wrong.
The biggest mystery in my life right now is Cricket. Once I finish this entry, you will see why I’ve raised more than an eyebrow at these little things. At first, some of the things I noticed were so small, I discounted them altogether. Lately, though, I’d begun to wonder if it didn’t all add up somehow.
Not long ago, in my writing to you, Cricket mentioned I wasn’t seeing how the others were treating her. She claimed that Bexley had done or said some things that I was unaware of. At the time, I was able to convince Cricket to stay, but the conversation had been swimming around in my head ever since.
Every time I tried to bring this up, Cricket managed to avert my questions. Finally, early one morning, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I decided to just ask her flat out what she’d meant. I’d forgotten the time, though, and she was less than thrilled that I was knocking on her door so early.
Reluctantly, she let me in. When I asked her what she’d meant about Bexley, she frowned and said, “Really, Leo, let’s just put it behind us. It doesn’t matter.”
“But it does matter if you were going to leave because of it,” I said.
“I just want to forget about it.”
Then, she stepped into the light and I saw her face. There was something different… something disturbing about her but I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was it?
“Okay?” she asked when I didn’t answer her.
Dumbly, I nodded. Something wasn’t right.
Replaying visions of her in my mind, it suddenly struck me in the face like a brick. It was her eyes! I could have sworn she had blue eyes, but now they were brown.
“Snap out of it, Leo! Are we finished? I want to take a shower.”
“Your eyes…” I stammered even though she’d made it clear she wanted me to leave.
As if she’d forgotten something, she put a hand to her face and sighed. This would all have been easy to explain except that she quickly glanced away from me. I was sure I saw apprehension flash through her expression, but then she shrugged. “Yeah, I don’t have my contacts in yet. I wear blue contacts.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. But the way she was acting… as if she was so uncomfortable made me think there was more to it.
“It’s not a big deal, is it? If you must know, my hair isn’t really blonde, my nails are fake and Cricket is just a nickname my mother gave me. Lot’s of girls wear contacts, bleach their hair, get their nails done and have nicknames. Satisfied?”
Why was she so defensive? Uninvited, a line from Hamlet ran through my head, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”* I’d totally zoned out in high school when we read this play, but suddenly, this line had some meaning to me. For the first time, I was sensing some kind of deception with Cricket and I didn’t like how it made me feel.
“Well?” she demanded.
Squinting, I tried to understand how this situation had turned out so badly. “I wasn’t trying to give you the third degree, it just surprised me.”
Slowly, she let out her breath. She still seemed really upset and I couldn’t fathom why.
“So, uh, what’s your name then?” I was hoping my question would divert her from her mood but I think all it did was fan the fire.
“Victoria Catherine Blackwood. My mother never called me that, though. She didn’t like Victoria. She also didn’t really want to call me Catherine either and told me once that Cricket was her nickname for Catherine.” Her expression had turned almost sullen.
“Why did she name you that if she didn’t like it?” I really shouldn’t have prodded because Cricket totally lost her mind with that question.
“I don’t really want to talk about this. Honestly, Leo, do I come pounding on your door at the crack of dawn to ask you a bunch of stupid questions?”
I tried to apologize but she wouldn’t hear it. Instead, she pushed me out of her room; only half of it was under my own speed. I barely got out before she slammed the door shut behind me.
Stunned, my mind reeling, I just stood there. What had just happened? It had been rude and impulsive of me to knock on her door so early, that was true. But… What. Had. Just. Happened?
Cricket avoided me the rest of the day. All I could do was try to shake off the uneasiness I was feeling.
Things with Rachel went a lot better, thankfully. After lunch, I went outside to spend sometime with her and Blue. It was obvious my sister wanted to talk to me about something. I was hoping this would clear things up once and for all. At least one mystery would be solved then.
Rachel didn’t bother to beat around the bush. “I’m dating someone,” she said, her eyes sparkling and cheeks rosy. “He’s really sweet and I think it’s really heading in the right direction.”
“The right direction?” What was the right direction? Was she looking to get married already? She was still so young.
“I’m not one hundred percent positive, but he might be the one.”
The way she said “the one” really had my heart rate up. I hope she knew what she was doing.
“But it’s only been a few weeks since we’ve been seeing each other more seriously, so that’s why I say I’m not completely sure,” she continued.
I had to hand it to her. At least she was being smart about it. “So, who is this guy? I want to meet him.”
“I knew you’d say that, that’s why I hadn’t told you yet.”
“You don’t want me to meet him?” Was I that big of a moron that she thought I’d spoil this for her somehow?
She hesitated before answering, “Not just that. I’m not ready to tell you who it is.”
My blood pressure was starting to careen out of control. This could only mean one thing; it had to be someone I already knew. How had this escaped my attention? I knew that something had been up with her, but I hadn’t seen her acting any special way toward anyone. If there had been googly eyed glances at anyone, it had been lost on me. But then being googly eyed didn’t seem to be Rachel’s way.
Before I could respond, she said, “Now before you get all crazy, let me just tell you that I’m taking this really slowly and I’m not going to do anything stupid.”
I had to count to ten and I’m glad I did because it gave me a moment to run through all the possibilities and outcomes in my head. I could have chosen to blow a gasket and demand she tell me everything because I’m her big brother and I have the right to know. Yet how hypocritical would that be? Not not long ago, I had been clear that she needed to stay out of my relationship business. And she had honored that for the most part even though I knew it was killing her. The other choice was to trust her judgment. But doing that made me feel so out of control. Figuring I needed it, I counted to ten again.
Did she know everything? Every day, she became more and more like Mom. Out of all the Capra kids, Rachel was definitely the most intuitive and level headed.
Temporarily lost in thought, we both stared awkwardly at our feet. Just like a Capra would.
I’d had enough, though. I would not let there be a distance between us. With Blue looking on, I dragged Rachel into my arms and told her what she wanted to hear.
“I trust you, Rach. You’ve always made good decisions.”
I could feel her shoulders shaking against me as she laughed. “Thank you.”
When we pulled apart, I looked her in the eye. “But if he hurts you in any way, I don’t care who he turns out to be, I will pound him into the ground.”
Then, just as abruptly, I turned around, grabbing Blue up into my arms, growling like a bear and making her giggle.
“You didn’t think you could get away without a hug did you, you little monster?”
Normally, it would have been really difficult to enjoy the day with the news Rachel just gave me. Who could she be seeing? Instead of concentrating on Blue, I ran through the men I knew around me. Josh… Curtis…. Carl…. Cranky Sy? One by one, I crossed each face I pictured off the list, coming to the conclusion that none of the guys were good enough for her. This was just too aggravating!
“Daddy, you’re not watching!”
Blue’s voice brought me back to the present and reminded me that none of my problems were her fault. It would be hard, but I was determined to stay in the moment and not take her for granted. She deserved my full attention and every free moment I had.
“Hang on!” I yelled, grabbing her arms to swing her around in circles. The joy on her face was priceless.
After spinning Blue around and around, I fell to the ground, out of breath but happy. Looking up, I could see her face looming above me and we both laughed. Funny how she wasn’t dizzy or out of breath at all. I guess getting older had kind of sneaked up on me because when I was a kid, I remember being the same way.
We horsed around for the rest of the day, forgetting everything that troubled us.
Blue’s eyes lit up when the ice cream truck stopped in front of our house. So, I had to tease her.
“But you hate ice cream so much!”
“I do not! Daddy, hurry up before he goes away!”
She squealed as I picked her up with one arm to playfully stop her from running to the truck.
Of course, it really didn’t take much coaxing to get me to order some ice cream because I wanted some, too.
Rachel and Blue scarfed theirs down within minutes. Eating the ice cream quickly didn’t phase Blue but Rachel yelped, holding her head.
“I hate brain freeze!” she exclaimed while I laughed.
Looking at this picture, I can’t help but write here that someday, when I give this journal to Blue, I hope she remembers how much fun we had.
I could have ended this entry here, J, but I haven’t yet told you about the riddle that is Bexley.
I don’t believe in eavesdropping at all. But when I came upstairs from the kitchen this evening, she was standing there in the open, talking on her phone. Even though I didn’t mean to listen in, what she said made me freeze in place.
“…One more push and it just might be over.” Then she paused, apparently while the other person spoke. “Yes, I’m certain of it.”
That’s when I took the opportunity to clear my throat loudly as I came into the room all the way.
“I have to go,” she said quickly, clearly ending the call before the other person could respond.
Sitting on the couch, I asked, “Everything okay?
She sat next to me and smiled. “Yes, everything’s fine. I haven’t seen you all day, where have you been?”
“Outside with Blue and Rachel.”
Pushing aside how strange her phone call had sounded, I confided in her about my bizarre experience that morning with Cricket. Bexley listened without interrupting.
“Why is this so complicated?” I’m pretty sure I was whining.
She smiled patiently and said, “Honestly, it shouldn’t be. It isn’t with my boyfriend, anyway.”
“You have a boyfriend?” I asked.
Belatedly, I realized how stupid and offensive that question sounded because she sat up straighter and became pretty indignant. This was not my smartest day. “Why does that surprise you? Actually, I’m very much in love.”
“I’m sorry, Bex. I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I guess it surprised me because you never talk about him or bring him around.”
“Well, it’s not exactly something he wants me to share yet. He’s a lot older than I am and he’s afraid his family will think I’m a gold digger.” Her velvety brown eyes glazed over slightly as she spoke. “We’re so in love, though. I can’t wait for the world to know.”
Boy, she’s a goner, I thought as a smile curled my lips. “I’m really happy for you. More than I can say.”
“Then it’s our secret?”
More secrets. “Of course.”
“Now, back to Cricket,” she said. “I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, but Cricket is not all that she seems.”
“What do you mean?”
She shrugged. “She creates the impression that she’s hiding something, I don’t know.”
I had to admit that thoughts of Cricket purposely misleading me had been going through my head a lot today. I kept asking myself the same question over and over again. Why was she so secretive with me?
“You’re not going to keep dating her, are you?”
My jaw dropped and I couldn’t hide the surprise on my face. “I don’t think wearing colored contacts is a reason to stop dating someone.”
“But you’re so uneasy about all of this. Your life is so complicated as it is that if you insist on being in a relationship, you need to be with someone who isn’t.”
“But I really like Cricket. I realize you and Rachel don’t like her, but she’s not some evil person.”
“No?” she answered. I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or not.
“No,” I said, emphasizing the word.
She shrugged and said, “But obviously you don’t know her well and it seems as if she doesn’t want you to know her well. She either evades all of your questions or gets angry when you ask. That just isn’t normal.”
Bexley had a point. Every time I tried to find out more about Cricket, she shut me down. “Maybe she had a rough upbringing. Maybe her parents are raging alcoholics or they’re in prison or something and she’s embarrassed.”
Bexley laughed and shook her head. “You’re just making up stories now to try to excuse her behavior. That may all be true, but you don’t know because she doesn’t want you to know.”
“Well, what do you suggest then?”
She laughed as if the answer was obvious. “Did it ever occur to you that you don’t have to date anyone? There’s nothing that says you have to get involved with someone. There’s no rule. Cricket isn’t the right woman for you, that’s for sure.”
Bexley excused herself and I sat there alone, thinking about our conversation and the day I’d had. Hearing her say Cricket was not the right woman for me was not comforting at all. Instead, what she’d said on the phone only moments before ran through my head.
“…One more push and it just might be over…”
She could have been speaking about anything and without a frame of reference, I just couldn’t be sure. But those words almost sounded sinister to me now.
And Cricket? What was going on with her? Why was she so defensive over things that shouldn’t matter at all? Was she just a person who liked altering the way she looked because it made her feel good? Or was she purposely trying to look different than she really was for other reasons?
My head began to pound as I realized how crowded in by secrets I was. Was it just me? Was I just paranoid? Or were both Cricket and Bexley not all they seemed to be?
Author’s Note: *Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 230