Saturday, 21 September 2013

Nothing Ever Happens: Short Part 3

The continuation of my Nothing Ever Happens short story. Hope you're enjoying it.

Nothing Ever Happens - Completing the Family

Part I

Part II

Part III

Nancy was frozen in fear, unable to get out of the rental car.
“Mom?” her daughter said, looking at her anxiously. 
Absently, she wondered at what point she'd become ‘mom’ instead of ‘mommy’. She hadn’t even noticed. “I’m coming, sweetheart,” she said and hoped she wasn't about to faint.
“Honey, do you want me to wait with you for a moment?” Aaron stood by the car door, patiently waiting for her to make the first move.
Nancy licked her dry, cracked lips. “No, no, I’m good.” A blatant lie, but thankfully Aaron let it slide.
“I’m here, and so are the kids.” Aaron held her hand, stroking her knuckles with his thumb. He used to do that with the kids when they were fretful as babies. “You're not on your own. Anything happens, one word outta place and we're gone.”
“What if they hate me? I hurt them badly.”
“They don’t matter. Only you matter.”
Nancy took her first look at the house. “It’s beautiful.” It was an enormous house with gables and a wrap-around porch; she’d dreamed of living in a place like this as a child. She felt the welcome warmth of her husband, his hand resting on her lower back on the other side. “What happens if—” Nancy started again, as panic flooded through her.
“No ifs,” Aaron said gently. “There are no ifs. It doesn’t matter what they say, you will always have me and the kids.” He kissed her, and she ignored the gagging sound of the kids.
Nancy mouthed, “I love you,” to Aaron as he led her to the front door. “Do they know I’m coming?”
“You know they don’t, honey,” Aaron said. “Andrew wasn’t sure you would turn up and he didn’t want to get their hopes up for nothing.”
She wanted to be indignant but it was a fair call. She’d changed her mind so many times over the last few days Aaron had complained he was getting dizzy. If they didn’t know, her family would have no time to school their emotions, and she’d see what they really thought, raw and unfettered. Dear Lord, look after me.
She was taken aback as a strange man with long hair tied back in a ponytail answered the door. He smiled and held out his hand to Nancy.
“Come in. I’m Gary, Drew’s friend.” He shook hands with Nancy and then Aaron, and said hello to the kids.
“Wait here a moment,” Gary said as he disappeared into a room off the spacious foyer. The volume of chattering voices increased and she tried to hear one she recognized.
Andrew stepped out and smiled at her, but she could see the strain around his eyes and mouth. She'd asked him not to tell them of his discovery for months and keeping the secret must have taken its toll. “Thank you for coming,” he said, and held her hand between both of his, as if she were a child about to bolt. The analogy was probably accurate.
“Did I have a choice?” she asked, even though she knew she wasn't being fair. Andrew hadn’t put any pressure on her during the five months it took her to decide whether to see her family again.
The door opened again and her heart leapt into her throat—it was him.  He was taller, broader, and definitely older with a whisper of gray at his temples, but it was him. A different man to the boy he’d been when she last saw him, on her knees in the filthy bathroom as she blew a john to pay for smack.
“Drew, what’s taking so long? Dinner’s getting cold and your mom’s getting antsy about the meat.” He stopped as he saw the group, a puzzled look on his face. “You didn’t tell me we were expecting guests.”
Then he saw her and he stilled, so still Nancy knew he had stopped breathing. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the concern plainly written over Andrew’s face but her focus was on Nathan—her big brother.
“Amy?” Nathan’s voice was hardly above a whisper.
“Is it really you?”
She nodded, unable to speak because of the lump in her throat. Her husband and children moved closer, unsubtly warning the strangers they had her back.
“Oh my God.” He closed the gap between them in a few strides, hauling her into his arms to hug her close. “Oh God, Amy, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, Amy.”
Tears welled up as Nancy clung onto her brother as he squeezed her so tightly she was breathless. She closed her eyes as she listened to him apologize over and over for that last time, wanting to reassure him it wasn’t his fault but unable to speak for the lump in her throat.
Nathan held her for an eternity before he looked at Andrew. “Did you do this?”
Andrew nodded slowly. “Yeah, I… uh… found Nancy… Amy.”
Nathan’s gaze snapped back to Nancy. “You’ve been alive all this time? Where?”
“Alabama. I… this is my husband and children.”
Nathan barely took his eyes off her, but he shook Aaron’s hand and smiled at Nate and Tessa.
Nancy saw her son’s eyes widen as he realized who he was named after and how big his uncle was.
“Mom and Dad are in there,” Nathan said. “Are you ready for that?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she said.
Nathan held out his hand. “May I take you in?”
She nodded, placing her hand in his huge one. “I think you’ve gotten even bigger.”
“He never stops growing,” Andrew said. Nancy and Nathan startled as if they’d both forgotten he was there. Andrew rolled his eyes. “Come on.”
He held the door open and Nathan led her in.
“At last. Where the hell did you get to?”
Nancy stumbled at the familiar sound of her mother's voice.
“I’ve got ya,” Nathan whispered.
The room was light and airy, dominated by large windows overlooking the lake, but that was all peripheral to the people around the table, to the two people that she’d hurt—over and over. Nancy knew the exact moment her mother recognized her as the color drained out of her face.
“Amy? My God, Amy?”
“Teresa, what are you talking about?” And then her dad saw her. “Amy?”
No one moved. The rest of the table knew she was someone, but had no idea who the strangers were or why Nathan’s parents were falling apart. Nancy would have run if Nathan hadn’t been holding onto her so tightly.
“Everyone,” Nathan urged her forward. “This is my sister, Amy. Kids, this is your aunt.”
Nancy smiled at a boy and a girl that she recognized from the photo Andrew had shown her.
“And this is Amy’s husband, Aaron, and her children, Nathan, he is called Nate, and Tessa.”
Her mom made a choked noise as she heard the names of Nancy’s children. “Oh my Lord.” She stood, pushing back her chair so hard it tilted over and stood frozen to the spot.
“Mom?” Just saying those words for the first time in half a lifetime was like a weight being lifted off her shoulders.
Teresa moved around the table, and everyone fell back leaving Nancy alone, and then not alone as her mother’s arms were around her and her head was resting on her mother’s shoulders and she could let go, let go and be Amy again. Tears flowed as she held onto her mother.
Then she was in different arms, more solid a chest to rest against as her dad held her so close Nancy wondered if she’d ever breathe again. She was crying so hard she couldn’t seem to stop, but no one cared or pushed her away.
Eventually, Nancy calmed enough to raise her head and see Nathan standing to one side, Andrew’s arm around his shoulders. She held out her hand and he was there, the four of them, all of them holding on and sniffling and crying.
Her mother cupped her face. “I’ve dreamed about this moment.”
“Me too,” she whispered.
“You’re so beautiful,” her mother sobbed and the tears flowed once more.
Nancy stood in the middle of the emotional storm as it whirled around her. She caught Andrew’s eye and mouthed, “Thank you.”
He nodded. There would be questions, lots of questions, some she wasn’t prepared to answer, but for now, she was back in the shelter of her family.