Charlie is lying in the same bed he had slept during his childhood. His hands are resting underneath his head, one of his legs is bent, and he is staring at the ceiling lost in thought. I flick his big toe before I lie down on the bed next to him. He turns to look at me as if he is expecting me to say something, and although I had no intention of conversing with him tonight, his look makes me ask the question I had been pondering about all evening.
“How did you feel when you found out about your dad’s infidelity?”
“As you know I was very young when that happened. I barely understood what was going on. I remember I asked Al why Mom was mad at Dad, and he told me that Mom was upset because Dad made a new friend. I felt this was unjust because I had several friends, and I did not understand why Dad could not do the same. Plus if Mom felt that she was being ignored, I did not understand why my dad could not play with my mom and his new friend at the same time.”
“A parental menage a trois,” I say with a laugh. “But what about when you were old enough to understand your dad’s actions.”
“Well I don’t approve of my what my dad did, but I mean, well….A tragedy occurred. People don’t make the best decisions when they are upset.”
“So you feel cheating is acceptable at times.”
“Of course not. However, when a person suffers a loss, I believe they start acting like a chicken with it’s head cut off. A headless chicken without eyes or brains might injure a mouse by stepping on it. Once the tragedy subsides, and it gets its head back, it now has to deal with the consequences of its actions. However, can we really blame a chicken for injuring a mouse while it had been decapitated? It would be a different story if the chicken searched the fields for a mouse, and maliciously injured it with its feet.”
“So cheating in cold blood is unforgivable,” I ask, trying not sound too invested in the question.
“I didn’t say that. Of course it’s forgivable. Most things are forgivable, but you shouldn’t confuse forgiveness with acceptance.” Charlie picks up my hand and begins to play with it. “Why are you so interested in cheating all of a sudden. Are you worried I’m being unfaithful, or perhaps you have a guilty secret you wish to share with me,” he asks with a coy smile.
“Do you think I have a guilty secret,” I ask, trying to replicate his smile.
“To be honest Ann, I think that if you wanted to have an affair, you would not go to the trouble of hiding it,” he replies, and he gives my hand a small kiss.
I giggle at his statement and kiss him on the mouth.
As Charlie is driving us back to Boston, he bobs his head to the music and taps his fingers on the steering wheel. We had said good-bye to his parents earlier that day, and I avoided Don’s eyes when he told us to drive safe. My husband’s favorite song begins to play on the radio, and he starts to sing along. His good mood is contagious, and although I usually don’t sing, I can’t help but start a duet when the chorus rolls around. The ringing sound of my phone interrupts our singing. I pick up and Charlie turns down the volume on the radio.
“Hey Ann, it’s me Ellen,” My stepmom informs me as I hold the phone to my ear. “I’m planning on throwing a birthday party for your dad. Now I know your dad would never admit this, but he would simply love for you to be there. I found the perfect restaurant. It’s this Italian place that has mountain frescoes on the wall, and on top of each mountain painting there is a framed photograph of that mountain hanging there. It’s just a beautiful place, and your dad would be so happy if you can make it. It’s going to be in three weeks.”
“I can probably come; I just need to talk to Charlie about it.”
“Well don’t take too long, I need to make a reservation,” Ellen tells me before she says goodbye. I tell Charlie about the party, and I ask him if we should go.
“Sure, why not. Sounds like a cool place,” he says.
“I didn’t know you enjoyed my family so much.”
“Yes its true, spending time with your family is not my favorite activity. But there is nothing like celebrating your brother’s death that makes one realize how important family is. Besides,” he adds with a wink, “spending time with family seems to have a good influence on you.”
“You just want to go so you can get free Italian food.”
“You might be right,” Charlie replies with a laugh as he turns the radio back on. I stare through the side window, and I notice how the trees seem to have tuned into a brown green blur. They have stopped resembling nature and have begun to look more like abstract paintings. I remember how over a decade ago I had stared at a similar blur while my mom had driven me to the dentist.
“So why do you think Amy tried to end her life,” My mom asked me.
“I dunno,” I said, annoyed at the question. “I do not understand why everyone thinks I could read Amy’s mind.”
“You two are so close. I saw her so often I felt as if she lived with us.”
“We talked about what boys we want to date, not about what razors would be most effective to slash a wrist with.”
“I understand that she never told you about her plan, but couldn’t you read it in her body language. It’s hard to hide that kind of turmoil.”
“Amy is very good at hiding her emotions.”
“That’s true,” my mom agreed. “Perhaps that had something to do with her suicide attempt.”
“You think Amy tried to off herself because she kept all her feelings inside ?”
“I dunno Ann. However, I do know that keeping her feelings a secret did not help the situation.”
As I recall the conversation, I wonder if my mom ever had suicidal thoughts. I turn my head so I can stare out the front window, and the trees are no longer blurry. Each tree is very detailed now. I can see the brown bark, the long branches with leaves at the tips, and dirt they are standing in. I decide to tell Charlie that I will fly to Chicago a few days before the weekend so that I can spend some more time with my dad. My dad does not think having visitors is a good enough excuse to skip work, and my days alone will give me the perfect opportunity to visit with Kelly Myers’ parents.