“Angela, where are you?” He asked soon after taking her off hold. “We’ve been worried sick about you!”
“I know and I’m sorry. I should have called sooner, but I just couldn’t pull myself to do it.”
“I shouldn’t have fussed. I’m sorry,” he quickly said, easing onto one of the steps and dropping his head. “Are you okay? Where are you? Do you need me to come and get you?”
For the first time in a long time Angie laughed and it wasn’t forced. One thing she could always count on when it came to Tad was his ability to make her laugh. Even when it hurt. “No, you do not need to come to my rescue. Yes, I’m okay and I’m in Georgia.”
“Yes. Pat and Jeffery,” she replied.
“Whoa… I mean when I got your note uh… I was in a state of shock you know? I couldn’t believe it. And then when you didn’t call sooner I immediately thought you just told me that so I wouldn’t worry and that you were somewhere else,” Tad explained. The day he received the note he thanked god up and down for a sign that she was in a safe place, with somebody who would no doubt take care of her. But then as the days went on and the calls never came he began to think the note was just a ploy or something. Something to get him off her back or to ease some of his worries.
Angie chuckled. “I considered going somewhere else, but my heart led me here,” she admitted. “And trust me you’re not the only one that’s in shock… We haven’t really talked about what happened years ago, but we’ve moved on from it in the short time I’ve been here.”
“Yea,” Tad sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “How are you doing? I mean how are you really doing?”
The line went silent and for a minute Tad thought Angie had hung up because she wasn’t ready to talk just yet. But then he heard her sharp intake of breath. “I’m holding,” she replied softly. “I have days where I just wished God wouldn’t have spared me, which is everyday almost. Then there is that one day where I start feeling a little hope.”
Tad nodded. “I understand…”
“And… and mama and Jeffery are making things a bit easy. Though I’m sure they’re tired of hearing me cry so much.”
“No such thing… I’m sure they understand too. How did Pat take the news?”
Angie went silent once again. “Truth… She only knows half of the story.”
“Angie,” he sighed.
“I know… Tad, I know I need to tell her everything but right now I don’t know how. I don’t know where to begin. Don’t know how… I mean how can I tell somebody something when right now I’m not sure about it myself?” She asked, taking another deep breath and sighing. “I mean… After hearing Jesse that night I just… I just… I’m just at a lost. I don’t know anything anymore.”
“Angie, Jesse didn’t mean that stuff,” Tad defended. “He didn’t and I’m telling you baby he regrets it. He regrets every word he said to you that night.”
Angie smirked and shook her head. “Tad, like I said before, a drunken tongue speaks a sober mind. He wouldn’t have said all of those things if he didn’t mean it.”
“Angie he didn’t.”
“No you know what… He probably didn’t mean it, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t thinking it or at least hadn’t thought about it from time to time. And that is almost worse than him actually meaning it. Tad, my husband! My best friend. My lover. My soul mate actually let the thought of me being responsible for our daughter’s death enter his mind. Enter his heart! And I’m not so sure he was far from the truth.”
Tad could only sigh. “Please, Angie talk to him. He’ll tell you himself. He was stupid that night and he regrets every word, every action. Angie I’ve never seen him in this state. He needs you!”
“And what about what I need?” She scoffed. “All my life it’s been about what everybody needs and wants. You hardly even think twice about what I need. What I want! Tad, I want to find peace. I want to find strength. I want to find hope… I want to find the truth. I need too.”
“The truth to what Angie?”
Looking out of the bedroom window and watching as a squirrel chased another through the tree, Angie shrugged her shoulders. “Am I the reason…”
“Of course, you’re not the reason!”
“Hear me out,” Angie sighed. “The day we returned I felt something in me shake. Like I was about to experience something and not a good something. And from then on I couldn’t shake that feeling and it only got worse the day of the shower. I was having pains, so I chalked it up to Braxton Hicks and played it off because I didn’t want to become a further burden on people. So I… I did what I always do. I bottled it up and carried on like I was just hormonal,” she explained. “The whole way to that house something in me was telling me to get Jesse to turn around and get us to the hospital, but I just… I didn’t.”
“Angela, stop doing this. Saying this.”
“Think about it. Had I just opened my mouth, had I just been honest with everybody, Ellie would have survived. And now that’s something I have to deal with.”
“You don’t know that!”
“And you do?”
Tad sighed and dropped his head. He didn’t know anything, except that Angie was not the reason! He knew that in his heart and soul. “Angie, baby please just rethink everything. You don’t know if Ellie would have survived had you gone to the hospital. You don’t!”
“I do know. I know had I had just stopped being so stubborn we would not be here!” Angie glanced at herself in the mirror and sighed. “And I’m tired of thinking. It’s all I’ve been doing since I arrived. Thinking and crying. Crying and thinking!” And she was tired. Tired of crying, tired of thinking. Thinking about she and Jesse’s past, together and individually. Thought of their present and their future. If there was even on that involved them as one. She was tired of breathing! “I’m just tired, Tad. I’m so tired.”
“Angela, I’m begging you,” Tad urged. “Think about this some more. Don’t make any decisions until you’ve had time to calm down from the shock. Until you have had a chance to really look at this from every angle.”
“Tad, I’m tired,” she yelped. “And… and I already made my decision and I’m not changing my mind.”
“You and Jesse are forever.”
“There’s no such thing,” she mumbled. “Tell my babies I love them and I’ll be in contact with them soon.”
“I love you too, Tad.” And with that Angie hung up and threw the phone on the bed.
Many, many, many miles away, Tad stared at the phone and sighed. “Please rethink this,” he mumbled as if she could feel and hear him. As much as Tad believed Jesse was getting what he deserved for doing what he did to Angie, he still felt at some point somebody had to bring this to an end. Or more like bring this train back into the station. He felt at some point, and that point was now, that Angie and Jesse needed to sit down and talk about this. From beginning to end.
“And if it’s the last thing I do, I’m gonna make it happen,” he promised himself and Ellie whom he felt was listening, watching, feeling all that her parents were going through.
After touching the red icon on the screen Angie gently tapped the top of the phone against her top lip. You and Jesse are forever! You and Jesse are forever! Tad’s words replayed in her mind a million times and as hard she tried she couldn’t get them to stop! “Ugh! Damn you Tad!” She fussed, throwing the phone across the room and walking over to sit on the edge of the bed. “Dammit,” she sighed, dropping her head and covering her face. “Dammit.”
Unbeknownst to Angie, there was somebody watching her. And that somebody stood in the doorway for a minute before finally dropping their head and walking away. If anybody knew first hand what Angie was going through, it was Jeffery and like hell he wanted to help her in anyway he could. If only he knew how. If only he knew what he could say or do or…
Maybe you could, something deep inside whispered to him and suddenly as he walked down the hall he was hit with a flashback from a couple of weeks ago.
He’d been at he’s and Pat’s restaurant, “Lover’s of Soul” when his old grief counselor walked in and though seeing her brought up some unwanted memories, he couldn’t help but admit it was good to see her again. Good because he wanted her to see what an amazing job she did by helping him deal with the death of his wife and child, wanted her to see what God had blessed him with thanks to her.
“So tell me Stevie, what brings you here,” he asked her after sometime of them just sitting there laughing like a best friends. “Last we parted you were up in New York.”
Dr. Larissa Stevens chuckled and nodded. “Well, about a year after your last session I moved to Chicago to be with my family, in the midst I met somebody, we got married about two or three years later and just recently his job contracted out this way and they were offering him a better pay. I didn’t want him to not take the job and I wasn’t willing to give him up, so we talked and talked and… here we are in Hotlanta, as you all would say,” she giggled, hitting his shoulder lightly, but not in a sexual way.
“Wow! Congratulations! I can’t wait to meet this guy. Need to check him out,” he teased. “So where are you now? I know somebody picked you up, I mean with your many degrees and the outstanding job you’ve done with your patients.”
Larissa or Stevie as he would normally call her back in the day, looked down and trailed her index finger around the rim of her glass. “I’m no longer working.”
“I loved what I did, don’t give me wrong… But, I needed a break. I had a patient come in while I was in Chicago and it drained me. It was like no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t distant myself from her, I couldn’t replace my human and soft hearted person hat for my therapist hat and in the process I ended up being hurt.”
“What happened?” He asked softly.
She sighed. “Long story short, this young girl lost every family member she had because of her father. He literally took each of her family members out and she had to watch and bury each one until it was only her. One day while my husband and I were out, I received a call from her and she was crying and telling me she couldn’t take it anymore. I begged for her to tell me where she was, to hold on and that I was coming. By the time I made it to her, she had committed suicide,” she softly cried. “Right then and there I quit. You know, me being somewhat of a loner, knowing how it feels to be without your true family, being adopted and not having somebody of your own blood there with you, I sympathized with her. Plus she was just so young, too young to deal with that kind of pain. And in a way I looked to her like the daughter I never had and it caused a huge hurt for me. So huge I just couldn’t bear to help anybody else.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” he said, reaching across the table and taking her hand. “Truly sorry.”
“Thank you… Anyway, after that I just couldn’t find the strength to do it any longer.”
Jeff nodded. “Do you think you’ll ever go back to doing what I know you loved?”
Stevie shrugged lightly. “Probably not.”
The ringing of the house phone and Pat’s voice served as a shake from the past. Though he knew that Stevie wasn’t helping people anymore and knew she wasn’t yet ready or if she would ever be ready, he couldn’t shake the feeling that she could help Angie. Truthfully if anybody could help Angie and Stevie it would be both of them. Stevie could help Angie and Angie could help her.
“But how do I make it happen,” he mumbled, rounding the corner to the living room.