As always, thank you for reading, liking, lurking, and commenting,
Dear Diary, something has changed since Bea became a teen. (It’s still hard not to write “Chicken” instead of her name.) I expected things might be different for us as she grew older. What I wasn’t counting on was being demoted to an observer in my daughter’s life. All at once, I’m not cool enough to hang with.
“You’re killing me, Dad,” was her new favorite expression.
This morning, as I sipped my coffee, I stared outside at Bea and Jem. They were at the end of the driveway in what appeared to be a serious discussion. What I wouldn’t have given to know what was going on.
When Jem left, I grabbed the bills I needed to mail and sauntered down the driveway. Glancing up at the sky from time to time, I tried my best to look uninterested or curious.
“Oh, I thought Jem was here.”
Bea sighed and walked toward me. “He was. Whatchya doing?”
“Oh, mailing some bills. I was thinking we could go to town and see a movie after school today? Little Dragons looks good.”
“You’re killing me, Dad. That’s a kids’ movie.”
“Oh.” Taking a deep breath, I tried again. “Well, we could see any movie. All you have to do is pick one.”
Finally, she smiled. It was only a little gesture toward her old man, a look of sympathy, but I’d take what I could get.
“Can we go another time?”
“Do you have plans?” I asked.
“Jem and I are going to the mall. Mom already said I could.”
“Uh, yeah, sure, some other time then.”
Her blue eyes softened as she regarded me. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m letting you down.”
“No, of course, you’re not. You’re a teenager which means you’re supposed to want to spend time with your friends, not your dad,” I said.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I do miss doing stuff with you,” she said.
“That does make me feel better, Chi – Bea.”
My slip up made her laugh, her eyes dancing with life. “About that,” she said, “I kind of miss you calling me Chicken, too. But not in front of friends.”
“Scout’s honor,” I swore, my heart lighter than it had been in days.
“I was going to get those,” I told Ellie as I came inside to find her washing the breakfast dishes.
“It’s okay,” she said, not looking at me. “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it, then it will get done. And I am busy.”
I stood on the other side of the counter and watched her for a moment. There were so many things I could respond with. Not having asked her to do them crossed my mind.
But where would saying something defensive get us? She would only get angry and I didn’t do well with that kind of vibe. I liked things calm and steady. In that regard, I hadn’t changed much over the years.
The more I dwelled on it, the more I couldn’t help but blame Rosetta for Ellie’s growing distance in our relationship. It always came back to my sister in one way or another.
In the past several months, Ellie’d been working extra late hours with Rosetta. The election was coming upon us and my sister made it clear she wouldn’t fail this time. She would be Leader of the Free World even if it meant everyone else’s life around her fell apart.
When Ellie and I got married, I never dreamed my sister would come between us like this. But every time I tried to talk to Ellie about it, I froze up.
The main reason for freezing up had to do with Ellie always defending Rosetta. She made it seem like I was the psycho, not my dear twin.
I guess it doesn’t sound fair for me to talk like this about my sister. After the shooting, she did so much for us and was always there by our sides.
But I was born with her and knew her better than anyone. There were too many memories of the things she’d said or done. Things that would make grown men terrified.
This is the first time I’ve ever written about those memories. I guess it’s because I’ve always considered them better forgotten. No matter how hard you try, though, there are some things you can never forget.
Rosetta thinks I’m weaker than she is. As a result, she’s been protective of me. It began when we were children and one of our parents’ associates, Shelly, noticed we had a “gift.” Rosetta embraced everything Shelly taught us. Some of the gift came by instinct to us. It was that instinctive part I couldn’t escape. It was a part of me and would be the rest of my life, I assumed.
After a time, I learned not to fight it. It was an intuition within me that told me what Rosetta was thinking or that she was near. This ability also gave me glimpses into my sister that often freaked me out. She was good to me and my family. But there was a darkness in her, too, that I hoped never to see first hand.
“Finally,” Ellie said under her breath as she turned off the water and drained the sink.
“Hey, uh, what do you say we go away for the weekend?”
“We only just got back from a weekend trip, Holden.”
“I know, but what if it was just you and me? We could have a romantic weekend at the Brass Ridge Hotel & Spa.”
She sighed, her face reddened from the steam of the dishwater she’d been leaning over. “You know I don’t have time to do something like that. First of all, it’s too extravagant. Second, Rosetta needs me. I can’t flake on her right before the election.”
I wasn’t beneath begging. “C’mon, baby, she has a huge staff. She can let you go away for two days for some well-deserved R&R.”
“Will you be serious?”
“I am,” I said. “You’ve been working hard and I’ll make her understand.”
“Oh no!” she said, her voice rising. “You will not get involved in my job even if I work with your sister. We’ve had this talk before.”
It was my turn to sigh. “Yes, I know. And I haven’t interfered.” I stared at my feet for a moment. It was all I could do to keep my emotions at bay. Finally, I decided to tell her how I felt. Nothing would improve otherwise. “I miss you, Ellie. I miss us.”
She bit her lower lip, holding it in her teeth for a minute.
“I love you as much as I ever did – if not more. You’re everything to me. Please… tell me that hasn’t changed for you,” I said, my voice a mere whisper.
All at once, she fell into my arms, grasping me with a might I forgot she possessed. In return, I held onto her, burying my face in her silky hair.
“Of course, I still love you,” she murmured as if to comfort me. “I know I’ve been distant. To be honest, my job stresses me out so much but it’s crazy because I love it at the same time.”
“I don’t want to lose you,” I said as I felt her hands rubbing my back.
“You and Bea mean everything to me, please know that.”
Hearing her say that was music to my ears.
“Remember on my grandparents’ farm? You talked about a romantic love and how you wanted to be swept off your feet? At first, I tried to be that for you. But then, after we got married, it wasn’t like that at all. I got shot and everything changed.”
She looked up at me, her eyes meeting mine with a firmness she usually reserved for our daughter. “You’ve always been that for me. Things did change after the shooting, it’s true. But you need to let that go. I know things aren’t always ideal, but I love my life with you, Holden. That is enough.”
It is enough, she said. I held onto those words as much as I held onto her during our embrace there in our little kitchen.
“I don’t know man, I’m kind of glad Jem’s more independent,” J.P. said later that day at his house.
“Showing independence is good,” I agreed, “I didn’t expect that to mean I’d never see the kids, though.”
J.P. waved his hand as if to dismiss my concerns. “What do you expect from teens? They spend their entire childhoods following us around, begging us to play with them. When they’re teenagers, we end up following them, begging them to spend time with us. It’s life.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“There’s something else bothering you. What is it?”
I sighed. Would he even understand if I told him? “I’m feeling my age, man. It’s like, when I look in the mirror now, I see my dad staring back at me.”
“That’s rough. Lucky for me, I take after my mom, so that won’t ever happen to me.”
“You’re usually funnier than this,” I complained.
“Look, are you gonna mope or are you gonna help me plan this year’s ugly sweater party?” he asked with a chuckle.
“I’m glad it’s at your house this year,” I said. Last year, our house turned into a disaster. After everyone left, we thought it might be easier to move than clean up.
“I bet you are! Your house was trashed!” After he gave me a chance to roll my eyes, he continued. “We should cut down on the guest list.”
“Oh, okay, now that it’s your turn to host, we’re inviting fewer people.”
“That’s right,” he said with a grin.
“All right, so, where’s the Christmas Tree going to be?” I asked.
We spent the rest of the afternoon going over our plans.
At exactly seven, I arrived at the Capitol building to pick Ellie up. Yes, I drove. These are crazy times.
As I mounted the steps and began to climb them, I saw my sister’s identifiable red hair out front.
“Hi, ladies,” I said as I joined them and kissed Ellie.
“Hello,” Rosetta said. “I am so glad you are here. I was just trying to convince your wife how delighted I would be if you would join us on election night.”
“You seem pretty certain you’ll win.”
Her left eyebrow went up as she stared at me. “Of course I will win. I have seen it.” A smile touched her lips. “It does take some of the fun out of it to know the results ahead of time.”
“Remember what the team briefed you on,” Ellie said to Rosetta. “It wouldn’t be good for people to hear you say you already know you’re going to win. It could cause scandalous rumors that you’ve rigged the election somehow.”
“Yes, yes,” Rosetta said with some impatience. “I remember. It is a fact that is difficult to keep inside.”
“I can imagine,” Ellie said. “Oh! I left a file I need in my office. I’ll be right back!”
When it was only the two of us, Rosetta took a few steps forward, her eyes never leaving mine. “What is going on?”
“What do you mean?”
Her eyes narrowed and I willed her to get out of my head.
“Stop it,” I said. “Do you think I don’t know when you’re trying to butt into my thoughts?”
Immediately, I felt the tentacles of her reach recede from my mind.
“Hmm,” she murmured.
“Look, you didn’t used to do that to me and I’d appreciate it if you stopped. I’m not hiding anything from you. When have I ever done that? It’s like this election has made you paranoid.”
“If I cannot trust you, I cannot trust anyone,” she finally said. “I am not paranoid.”
“Then what is it?” I demanded.
“There is a certain… animosity… radiating off of you and it’s directed toward me. I only wondered why.”
“If you must know, I was going to talk to you about it anyway. Ellie is working too hard, her hours are too long. I’m worried about her.”
Her eyes narrowed at me once again. “She does not know you are speaking to me about this. And she does not feel that way. If she did, I would know.”
“Does it matter to you at all that your brother feels that way?”
Her expression softened and she even smiled a little. “Everything about you matters to me. I should not have to tell you that. Unfortunately, there is a very important election coming up. In a short time, I will become Leader of the Free World. Do you understand I intend to make far-reaching changes once I am elected? Until the moment I can do that, I need Ellie and the rest of my staff working as hard as they can.”
My ire was up. I could feel my heartbeat quicken and when I spoke, I ground out my words. “I understand that without your staff, everyone would see the darkness you have inside. It’s because of your employees you look so good in public.”
“I am glad you understand the situation,” she said without any malice in her voice.
How could she be so matter of fact after moments before, I’d shown such anger toward her? I was more confused than ever.
“When you get elected, can you keep that darkness at bay? What exactly do you plan to do with all that power?”
Again, she smiled. “You call what I have darkness. But you are wrong. It is amazing and it will allow me to do so much. No matter what happens, I will always protect you and your family, you know that.”
She meant to assuage my concerns. Instead, she gave me a thousand more.
As always, thank you for reading, liking, lurking, and commenting,