Angel and I didn’t survive Christmas Break. She didn’t kick me out when we broke up, but I was no longer being watched. I was much of the time trapped at her house. When Bekah showed up to pick me up one day, I was… well, I was at home.
I can’t tell you what it was like to see her standing outside Angel’s door that morning. I just pulled her into the room and held her. Angel was at work. She had not wanted me to go with her, and expected me to find my own way to the restaurant. I was still sleeping when I heard the knock. I opened it up to see Bekah.
She looked clean. That was the only way to say it. She looked clean. She had this kind of washed look to her that made her glow. What I would find was that it was exhaustion. She had driven from her parents’ home in Virginia to Springfield without stopping. Had made the twenty-two hour trip with no long breaks, just one immense effort to get back to Springfield so she could see me.
We snatched up my things and out the door we went. There is another thing with Angel I will tell you, but then we need to move on. See, Angel and I had broken up the night before. She had screamed at me and we had fought. I can’t remember what the fight had been about, but I can tell you she wanted me out as soon as the break was over. When I left, I left the necklace.
Her daughter had been teething a few weeks back and nothing would get her to sleep. I held her while Angel slept one night, and she reached out and grabbed my necklace. This was no little thing.
This was a bear claw necklace that had been given to me by a friend in Waynesville before Bekah and I had gotten together. I had added beads to it and had made a thing beautiful and terrifying. It was a totem for me back then. A mark of the wild that I put on myself. There were times when it made sense more than anything else in my life. Well, that little girl grabbed it and had gone quiet. I let her hold it as she fell asleep. When I got her to her crib, I hung the necklace from her mobile and left it there.
The next day when I got up, I grabbed it. That night when she was being put to sleep, she would not rest until that necklace was hanging from her mobile. That is where it stayed. Well, when we broke up the next day at work as Angel fired me, she slapped the necklace on the counter.
“Take this piece of shit with you. I don’t need it. My sweet daughter doesn’t need it. We are done with you. Stay away!”
That was at about seven at night. That night at three in the morning, I got a call.
“It’s Angel. Listen, I still hate you, but you should not take it out on my daughter,” she snapped.
“Is she okay?” I said.
“No, she can’t sleep.” I could hear her screaming in the background. “Can I come get the necklace? I have tried everything else.”
I met her downstairs at the porch of Kentwood. She pulled up and rolled down the passenger side window. I dropped the necklace in the front seat and walked away. No words being exchanged at all. That was all I heard about it, until 2010.
In 2010, I came to Springfield to visit Bell. I had just written the hardest, most extensive book I had ever written and I needed a bit of a vacation. He was in the bathroom in Walmart, me waiting for him, when I saw Angel again.
I won’t comment on how she looked. That is not important, but I saw her daughter. The girl was around twelve I think, maybe thirteen. She was lanky and awkward, with long brown hair and a snarl on her face, and on her neck hung a choker with my bear claw on it.
When I went back to Kentwood, Bekah was gone again. She did not live with me. She lived on the other side of town. I lived alone in Kentwood with Randal and no one else. I started to have nightmares. My therapy was kicking up clods of memory that I could not deal with.
I stopped sleeping. I would stay up all night and during the day catch tiny whiffs of naps that were just long enough to get ugly before I would wake up screaming. I was averaging two hours of sleep a day.
I remember being in therapy and talking to Roslyn and Branch when I came up with an analogy. Therapy was to me like paddling my way through a swamp. It is dark there all the time, the sounds of alligators and panthers loud and menacing. The water steamed and bubbled, and every memory I talked about was a looming tree or a hanging vine. Every inch of the swamp a nightmare. Then I remember slowly weeping as I looked at Branch and said, “And there are things below the surface. Memories unfound and horrors forgotten, ready to float up from the depths and grip the sides of my boat. Ready to pull me down under that water.”
“If that happens, we will deal with it,” Branch said. “Until then, we deal with what we have. We fight this thing one day at a time. One step, then the next.”
One night when I was up way past late, I went downstairs to the porch and found Sapphire in the chairs talking to Anton and Job.
“What are you doing here?” I asked her.
“I called her over,” Job said. “Hadn’t heard from her in a while so I invited her to come see us.”
They had never been friends. I did not even know how he got her number. She lit a cigarette and tipped back her can of Dr. Pepper. When we got together, she had told me one day that drinking soda was the worst thing you could do to your body. Something about carbonation and bone density. I had been unwilling to give it up and it had bleached over into her life. Now she drank it, and she looked up at me and grinned.
We talked that night, and when Anton and Job went to bed, I told her I wasn’t sleeping.
She spent the night that night and held me while I slept. When I woke up, she told me this story.
First a little backstory.
There is a movie out there that, if you haven’t seen you should rush to go see, called Legends of the Fall. It is brilliant for so many reasons. Acting, setting, script, and more acting. The movie is a gripping odyssey about one family’s descent into darkness after the loss of the youngest son.
All three boys go to fight the first World War with the father turning to his favorite son, the second-born, and commanding him to bring his younger brother home. Well war being war, that turns out to be an impossible and unfair command, and the youngest dies. The guilt of the death of his brother eats the second-born alive. He spends every day burning in emotional horror.
One day the oldest is talking to the second-born who had taken up with the dead brother’s fiancée, and they are arguing.
“And what about Samuel?” the oldest says.
“We all loved Samuel. Samuel is dead,” the second-born says.
“And how lucky for you,” the oldest says. He is in love with the girl too, and his hate for his brother is hot and his jealousy even hotter.
“You say that again and we are not brothers,” the second-born said. He stabs his finger in the chest of the oldest, “Not brothers.”
It is an impressive scene acted well. Directed well. Shot well. It is impressive. And that night in Sapphire’s arms it came to find me.
In my sleep she heard me stutter. “We all loved Samuel. Samuel is dead.”
“And how lucky for you.”
“You say that again and we are not brothers.”
She hugged me tighter. “Jesse, wake up, darling. You are having a nightmare.” She shook me and I pulled back hissing.
“We all loved Samuel. Samuel is dead.” She heard again. Now weeping. Sobbing and a change of the voice, a shift of the body. A tremble and more.
“And how lucky for you.”
It continued into the night. Her grabbing my face, turning it to see her, but my eyes were closed as these two alters fought over the loss of Bekah. Over not being able to protect Less. Over my life and whether it needed to be taken or not.
“We all loved Samuel. Samuel is dead,” Guardian said. Less was abused. Molested by Char and you did nothing about it.
“And how lucky for you,” Shadow retorted.
“You say that again and we are not brothers.” Guardian.
“We all loved Samuel. Samuel is dead,” Shadow said.
“How lucky for you.” Now Bekah is gone. We are lost and here we are in a bed with Sapphire again.
On and on these two alters tore at each other. On and on through the night the metaphors replayed and were reinvented as Shadow fought his nemesis Guardian. Each blaming the other for failings. Each stating that if they said such things again, they were no longer brothers.
On and on it went for hours. And Sapphire held us. She wiped tears from our eyes as she wept herself. And she fought to wake us up.
But we were not asleep. We were just at war. At war with an enemy we could not kill. Locked in battle with a power too immense for either of us to overcome. And too protected to ever kill.
It was a war that could never be won. A war that would stretch on for years.
By the end of the night, Sapphire and I were back together. How it ended up that way, I cannot tell. Maybe Servant had finally begun to obsess about the love he lost. Maybe Shadow, after fighting with Guardian all night, had the desperate need for the love of anyone close. The relationship was back. It was once again in full swing.
Guardian hurt about it.
And Bekah cried. But she was doing that all the time now.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.