Monday, May 20, 2013
In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Khalil Gibran
Cindy and Sarah stopped at Seagull House before going on to the beach. The gardens were in full bloom; the lilacs had faded but the rose of Sharon blossoms were about to explode. The lawns were manicured, the hedges trimmed, the driveway edged and, as usual, there was no one in sight.
“It’s gorgeous,” Sarah said. “It must cost millions.”
“We’ve never seen anyone living here in all the years we’ve come down. And no one seems to know who owns it.”
“I can imagine sophisticated women in long flowing gowns, with orchids in their hair, escorted by elegant gentlemen in top hats, strolling the front lawn, admiring the gardens and speaking in exotic languages. Something like the Titanic on dry land.”
“I see that, too,” Cindy said.
“It reminds me of Donald’s house on the Vineyard. It wasn’t fancy like this but it had personality. Houses today don’t have personalities.” Sarah picked a lily, laced it into Cindy’s curls and kissed her. Then she drew back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--”
“It’s all right,” Cindy said. “It felt nice. And natural.”
“Thank you for giving up your day for me.” Sarah took Cindy’s hand. “I haven’t felt this light in years. Even if we don’t see Alex, this has been the most special day.” Two chipmunks scurried past, carrying their booty to the fieldstone wall. “I think often about going back to the Vineyard to see Donald’s cottage again. Just so I could be near him and the way things used to be. I think I might find peace there.”
“This is where I would come to find peace when I was on fire,” Cindy said. She sat on the rock wall and took a deep breath. Sarah knelt in front of her and held her hands. “I’d walk barefoot in the wet grass at night and watch the moon slide across the sky. On really hot nights, I’d swim naked in the pool around back. The air was perfumed with jasmine and the water was like silk against my flesh. When the wind was right, you could hear the bands playing at the clubs along Atlantic Avenue. In the mornings, I would run on the beach with the lifeguards. They were young and vital and still full of dreams. I told them about Seagull House. And they came by to swim with me. At first it was exciting and fresh. Later, it was like being caught in rip tide and carried out to sea while my family grew smaller and smaller until they blended into the coastline. I’d come home at two or three in the morning, half dressed, drunk on peppermint schnapps and crash on the sofa. Kristen would wake me in the morning and ask if I was sick. One night my brother, Sy, saw me heading off to Seagull House. Seth and I had been fighting a lot lately and Sy was worried about us. When I didn’t come back, he came looking for me. He saw me having sex with the lifeguards and ran off crying hysterically. The next morning, in front of the whole family, my sister slapped me and called me a whore. It was beyond horrible. Back into the riptide I went. So far out this time my family nearly disappeared. Then… That’s the garden where the boys… I almost died there.”
“It’s okay,” Sarah said as Cindy’s tears sprinkled onto Sarah’s arms. “Cry as hard and long as you need to. We have each other now.”
Sunday, May 19, 2013
“Would they be lying face down in the marsh now?”
“They would be standing in five feet of snow, eighteen thousand feet above sea level on Mt. McKinley. It’s particularly unpleasant up there this time of year. Especially wearing swim trunks. I should imagine their minds are quite clear and without illusion at the moment.”
“You can do that?” Jeremy cried in a high pitched whine.
“Where are you going now?” Peggy asked Alex as she headed to the door.
“To explain to Gloria Woodbridge why she will no longer be responsible for Morgan. Gloria is not an evil person. She means well and she sincerely loves Morgan. That’s why she will ultimately want what’s best for her. I’ll return in the morning. When Morgan wakes, her injuries will be healed and she will have no memory of the attack. I trust you won’t speak of it.”
“She will want to know why she’s in Colorado,” Lisa said. “What should I tell her?”
“Every night before Morgan goes to bed she says a prayer, asking for only two things. To keep you, Peggy, Jeff and Jeremy safe. And that she might see you just one more time.”
They watched Alex walk down their driveway and out to the street where, of all things, a taxi cab was waiting. Before getting in, and without turning around, she waved her hand as if knowing they were watching. Jeremy started back from the window as if it was electrified. “I’m getting too old for this,” he said. Lisa wagged a scolding finger at him before going in to check on Morgan. The swelling and discoloration had already left her face. The deformity in her forearm from the fracture had disappeared. Lisa shuddered. Morgan looked as though she been living there all her life. She was the daughter Lisa always wanted, unselfish, loving and courageous. From the moment she first saw Morgan racing across the meadows last fall, her hair streaming behind her like flames, Lisa felt a fullness in her heart. Still, she wondered how Morgan felt about being shuttled about the country like a chessboard piece. She didn’t have long to wait for an answer. As she pulled the quilt up to Morgan’s chin, Morgan kissed Lisa’s hand and whispered, “I love you.”
Jeff and Jeremy were hunched over the table, scribing frantically in notepads like disobedient schoolboys when Lisa came out.
“What’s up with them?” she asked Peggy.
Peggy drew her sister aside. “They’re making lists.”
“All the bad things they’ve done in their lives.” Peggy shrugged. “It’s a guy thing.”
“I went back to tell them I knew what they had done. And--”
“Went back?” Jeff broke in. “Back to Massachusetts?”
“And then came back here? In twenty minutes?”
“Excuse me for being skeptical, but--”
“I’m not governed by your laws, Mr. Botticello.”
“Physical laws. It’s not something I can explain to you at this time.”
“I knew it,” Jeremy said slyly.
“And the boys who attacked Morgan?” Lisa jumped in. “Can you explain that?”
Alex glanced at Morgan's door to be sure it was closed then swept her hair to one side. “Explain why three boys beat Morgan senseless with their fists? Then raped her? Then urinated on her unconscious body? Then cut off her hair. Then dragged her to the water by her ankles to drown her?” Lisa fell to her knees and vomited. “No, Dr. Botticello. I can’t.”
Peggy helped her sister to a chair and both women sobbed. Alex directed her next statement to Jeff.
“I went back to tell the boys I knew what they had done and that if they didn’t turn themselves into the police, I would.”
“Just like that?” Jeff said.
“I am very straight forward, Mr. Botticello. I don’t believe in playing games.”
“I guess not. You’re lucky you’re still in one piece.”
“Luck has nothing to do with it, I assure you.”
“Well, I don’t suppose the boys marched merrily off to the police station,” Jeff said sardonically.
“I don’t subscribe to sarcasm either.” Reproached, Jeff sunk back. “People need to be clear, dry and without illusion if they intend to challenge me. And surely better prepared. They were neither. In fact, they decided they would rape me, slit my throat and throw me face down into the salt marsh.”
“That was probably a really stupid thing to say,” Jeremy said. “Especially to someone who, well, isn’t governed by our laws.”
Saturday, May 18, 2013
“She’s asleep.” Alex closed the door and walked to the center of the room. All three Botticellos backed up as if a tiger approached.
“We’ll take her to the hospital when she wakes,” Lisa said.
“That won’t be necessary,” Alex said.
“Her left arm is fractured. Probably several ribs, judging by the discoloration. She may have internal injuries.”
“Trust me. Just let her sleep. She’ll be fine in the morning.”
The front door burst open and Peggy rushed in. “I got here as fast… Alex? When did you get here? Where’s Morgan?”
“She’s asleep,” Lisa said.
“I want to see her.” Peggy brushed past them and slipped into Morgan’s room.
Alex leaned against the counter and unbraided her hair. Lisa saw for the first time that Alex had been crying. She felt a strange sense of relief. Jeff was on his second beer as he and Jeremy waited apprehensively for more information. Jeff wasn't sure he wanted to know more. Alex wrapped the gold thread that secured her braid around her wrist with great care while staring at the tiled floor.
Lisa broke ranks first. “What happened to Morgan?”
Alex dabbed her eyes with a paper towel. “She went to the aid of two girls who were being assaulted and became the victim instead.”
“My God. Why?”
“Because that’s the way Morgan is made. Her first thought is always for the safety of another. Your daughter is the most unselfish person I have ever met.”
“Morgan will be staying with you now.”
“Staying? How long.”
“Forever. Her mother is grossly incompetent. She can’t even take care of herself. Morgan’s future is far too precious to be entrusted to the woman.”
“Morgan was always coming here, Lisa. She needed to find someone who could love her as deeply as you do. And you needed to let go of the pain of losing your sister and allow yourself to love again.”
Peggy came out and cried, “Who did that to her?”
“How do you know about my sister?” Lisa interrupted.
“I know everything about you,” Alex said. “All four of you. Do you think I would bring Morgan here if I didn’t?”
“I don’t know. No. Of course not. It’s just that… What about Morgan’s mother?”
“I will make the arrangements.”
“What do we tell Morgan when she wakes and you’ re not here?” Lisa said. “She thinks you went back there to kill those boys.”
Friday, May 17, 2013
Jeremy pulled Lisa aside while Jeff foraged in the refrigerator for a beer. “Jeff is losing it, Lisa. He thinks we made a big mistake getting involved with this girl.”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know. I want to help. We all do. God knows there’s a lot of need out there. But are we in over our heads? Will Alex bring us more Morgans? I mean, we're not talking about a little tiff with her boyfriend. Girls who get beat up and stabbed and shot come from a whole different world than we’re used to.”
“How can you say that Jeremy? It’s the same world we live in. We just turn a blind eye to it.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. Look, when you and Peggy scoop up a litter of kittens that’s been left in a garage the papa cat doesn’t come looking for them. Are we going to get a rock hurled through the front window in the middle of the night? Or find our tires slashed in the morning. Get hang up calls. I’m just saying--”
“What are you saying? Do you want to close the school before we even open it?”
“No. I just think we need to talk about this some more. The four of us.”
“What about Morgan? Should I tell Alex to bring her back…” She stopped to choke back tears. “Back to the Cape and dump her on the beach?”
“Of course not. But is it asking to much to know a little bit more about what's going on. I feel like a rookie lawyer walking into court to try his first big case and being totally unprepared.”
“Are you saying we should rent some troubled girls for the weekend and see what happens?”
“Come on. Don’t be like that.”
“What is it you want to know then?”
“For starters, I’d like to know just who the heck Alex is?"
“So ask her when she comes out.”
“Yeah. Sure thing.”
“Hell, yeah. She’s not what I expected. She’s…different.”
“You bet your ass she’s different.”
“And you’re not the least bit nervous about all this?”
“Of course I’m nervous. I’d be an idiot if I wasn’t. But I believe Alex wants to make things better in this world. I don’t think she expects us to do this alone.”
“Tell me this then. Where did she go after she left Morgan here?”
“Back to the Cape.”
“She just, what, stepped through a black hole and poof, she’s there?”
“You can ask her that, too.”
Jeremy stifled a laugh. “Okay, Wiseass. I’m guessing she went back to find the people who beat Morgan up. And judging by your panicked expression and her glaring eyes, they were about to have a really bad day.”
“That would be my guess, Jeremy.”
The door to Morgan’s room opened and Alex came out.
“What’s this all about?” Jeremy asked his brother.
“I don’t know.”
“What did Lisa mean about Morgan being in Cape Cod a few minutes ago?”
“Did you even see a car out here?” Jeff said and scratched his head vigorously. “I mean--”
“I don’t know, Jeremy. I don’t know. How do you think Morgan got here last fall?”
“In a plane. I thought. How should I know?” Jeremy sifted his hand through his hair and grunted. “Do you know how she got here?”
“She said she was biking in Vermont?” Jeff said. “And suddenly she was in Telluride. We joked that she was probably smoking weed and then we had a good laugh. Not so funny now, is it?”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
“Damn straight. We’re in way over our heads, Jer. Way over our freaking heads.”
“We shouldn’t have accepted her money. God, where was my head at?”
“It’s kinda late now. The hospital and school are nearly finished.”
“That’s another thing. What the hell are we doing? Opening a school for abused girls. We’re not counselors. These girls aren’t stray cats. You can’t patch up their cuts, give them a hot meal, pat them on the head and tell them everything will be fine. My partners at the firm think I’ve lost my mind. Maybe they’re right. There’s going to be people coming around looking for those girls, Jer. Bad people. What are we going to do then? We’ll have to hire a security force. Guys patrolling the grounds with guns. We’ll be living in a compound. There will be no end to it. Enough is enough.”
“Yeah, well, you can tell her that, Bro. She looked pissed. I could feel it when she walked by. Like when one of those monster tandem tractor trailers blows past you on the highway. Voom! Whoever she’s pissed at, man. I’m glad it ain’t me."
“She’s back, Lisa,” Jeff said.
“Alex. She wants to see Morgan.”
“Send her in.”
“Okay. Sure. I’ll be right outside, Honey.”
Thursday, May 16, 2013
“Please, Lisa, don’t let Alex go.”
“She’s just in the next room, Morgan. Talking with Jeff and Jeremy.”
“No. She’s going back.”
“To the beach. She’s really mad, Lisa. Really mad. She’s going to kill them.”
“Please, Lisa. You have to stop her.”
“All right, Morgan. Calm down. I’ll get her.”
“Jeff, where’s Alex?”
“She didn’t say. What’s going on? Can we see Morgan now?”
“No. Find Alex and bring her back here.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“All right. All right. Jeremy, come on.”
“Well?” Lisa said.
“She’s gone,” Jeff said.
“Did she say where?”
“She didn’t say a thing. What’s going on? What happened to Morgan?”
“She was beat up.”
“Some boys on the beach. She was in Cape Cod with her mother--”
“Cape Cod? Massachusetts?”
Lisa drew a deep breath. “A few minutes ago.”
“How the hell did she get here?”
“Alex brought her.”
“In what? The space shuttle.”
“No. That would, um…”
“Lisa!” Morgan cried.
“I’m right out here, Honey. Jeff, please, check outside again.”
“Okay, okay. Come on, Jeremy.”