Margaret’s cell phone sounded.
I heard one side of the conversation, but managed to piece it together. Dr. Vickers confirmed what Sean had told me. It also confirmed that there had been traces of semen in his rectum.
He’d had sex and took drugs, but it hadn’t answered the question of how he ended up in the park or the clothes. When Sean was ready to talk we’d know the answers.
When I re-entered the bedroom Sean had awakened.
“It’s time for a pill. Do you want it with the soup or with some juice? I asked.
“Juice,” he said with a stronger voice.
After feeding him, wiping his brow, and straightening his hair, I removed the blankets and then handed him my floral print velour cloth robe.
“Come on get up. Let’s walk around the apartment and get that body moving. It’ll do you good.”
After helping him with the robe, we at first walked around the bed and then headed out to the kitchen. His brother joined us and the three of us made our way around the apartment. I signaled Jason to allow him to attempt walking alone. He managed a few steps before his left knee buckled. He saved himself from the fall and managed to continue to walk.
“That’s enough for now,” I said, while guiding him back to the bed. “We’ll walk some more later on.”
His mother, brother, and I took seats in the chairs that paralleled each side of the bed.
“We were all sitting around really stoned,” Sean said. “The girl started to kiss me and jerk me off.” Margaret dropped her head and held it with her left hand. “I remember her saying that I had a nice body — a girl’s body. She laughed and said she wanted to have a look. The last thing I remember before losing it was my roommate saying something about screwing the new bitch.”
His mother left the room and closed the door, no longer able to control her emotions.
Jason left the room to comfort her.
Sean continued. “The next thing that I remember is waking up here.”
“Get some sleep. I’ll go see to your mother.”
“Could you ask her to come back in?”
I motioned for her. Jason followed.
“Do you want me to leave?” I asked.
“No stay,” all three said in unison.
“Mom,” he said. “I’m sorry that I lied to you. I’m sorry for the taunting, the yelling, my behavior toward Dan, and the accusations about your love life … everything.”
“I deserved some of it,” she said while bending down to hold him in her arms and kiss his cheek and brow while Jason held his left hand. “After the divorce, I forgot how to be a parent. I tried to become one again when we went to the motorcycle training, but by that time it was too late.”
“It’s not too late, Mom,” he said. “Maybe Dan and Dr. Vickers and Jason can help.”
Mother and her two sons looked at me with hopeful tear filled eyes.
“We’ll see about me,” I said. “What’s important is that the three of you work it out with Dr. Vickers help.
I left them to be alone — wanting to bathe — as I’d grown quite ripe. While showering, I couldn’t get the vision of the three of them out of my mind. So rich … so helpless. And looking to me to help them.
After my shower, I dressed in a black sweater dress and stiletto boots, then sat at the table to sip yet another cup of tea.
Jason joined me leaving his mother with his brother. “Do you feel like showing me where you found Sean? I vaguely remember the party location had been near a park.”
“Let’s tell your mother that we’re going out.” We walked into the bedroom and found a sobbing mother and a sleeping teenaged boy. “Will you be okay by yourself?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Jason and I got into my car and headed off to the park.
We walked along the path in search of a possible clue as to how Sean got there. Approaching the spot where I’d found him, the tarp lay untouched. We looked around not knowing what to look for.
“Dan,” he said. “Take a look at this.”
“This,” he said pointing at the snow near the tarp. “What does this look like?”
“Looks like someone dragged something.”
“Let’s follow it and see where it goes.”
We followed the marks through the calf deep snow. Jason moved through the snow much faster than I due in part to his youth and to him not wearing a calf length sweater dress and stiletto boots. The marks led us to an aging garden apartment complex and its parking lot.
Jason paused for a moment to get his bearings while I attempted to catch my breath.
“This place looks familiar,” he said while surveying his surroundings. “Let’s walk around.”
We made our way around to the front of the building and walked along the sidewalk that ran parallel to the apartment doors.
“That one,” he said, pointing toward the door of apartment twelve.
“You knock on the door and when they open it we’ll crash it,” I said.
With fear in his voice he said, “Okay”
He knocked on the door and we both heard numerous locks un-latch.
When the door opened we rushed it and knocked the resident to the floor. I stuck my stiletto-heeled boot onto his chest to keep him down while Jason grabbed the now advancing girl by the arm. A third person lay on the couch too wasted to be a problem.
I picked the guy up off the floor and threw him against the wall. He seemed to be about twenty years old.
“Did you shoot up Sean Collins?” I demanded.
“Who?” he asked, still half-asleep.
“The kid that you left for dead under the tarp in the park.”
“I told you not to shoot him up,” he shouted at the girl across the room, where Jason held her at bay.
“Answer me, you little shit,” I shouted, banging his head against the wall.
“Yeah, we gave him some stuff, what of it?”
“Who dressed him in the women’s clothing?” I demanded.
“She did. She gets off on it. Her pants are probably wet from looking at you.”
Torn between beating my captive senseless and doing nothing, I lowered him to the floor and left him in a seated position.
“See if you can find your brother’s clothes, and then let’s get out of here before the police get wind of this.”
We headed back through the park and to my car. We drove in silence for a bit.
“You were with Sean when this all happened, weren’t you?” I asked.
“Sean’s roommate, the guy laying on the couch, said that his friend could fix us up. We went to the apartment to buy stuff, party a little, and then we were going to leave. That girl started to come on to Sean. That’s when he asked me to leave because he wanted to get laid.”
“What did you do then?”
“I took off. Sean told me to come back in an hour or so to pick him up. When I came back no one was around.”
“What did you do then?”
He started to cry as he spoke.
“I went to his friend’s house thinking that they’d come back on their own.”
“Where were you when your mom called?”
“At his friend’s house,” he mumbled.
We drove on for a time in silence.
“You didn’t leave when Sean was having sex, did you?” I asked.
“No,” he mumbled. “I was there. I saw what the girl did to Sean and what his roommate and the other guy did. I got scared and ran away. I didn’t want them to do it to me.”
“You feel like you let your brother down — not defending him or fighting for him.”
Jason and I returned to the apartment and found Sean sitting up in bed with his mother feeding him.
“Where did you two head off to?” she asked.
“We had to take care of something,” I answered. “Jason, why don’t you take your mom to get something to eat. She needs a break and some fresh air. I’ll stay with Sean.”
“That’s a good idea,” Margaret said sounding much more composed than when we’d left her.
Jason and his mother left the apartment while Sean and I sat together.
“Were you and Jason trading sex for drugs?” I whispered my question.
“I was. Jason wasn’t.”
“You have all the money in the world; why would you do something like that?”
“It’s not about the money,” he said turning his face away from me. “Sex for drugs took care of everything without money.”
“How did you end up in the women’s clothing?”
I fought back my anger with him. A kid with everything going for him. Money, brains, good looks, a family of sorts and he throws it away on drugs.
“She’d only do me if I wore them,” he said while trying to restrain tears.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Couple of months.”
“When did you start the main lining?”
“This was the first time — it was mostly pot and coke before.”
Hoping that Jason’s drug use hadn’t reached the level of Sean’s I asked, “How dirty is Jason?”
“Pot, but that’s about it. What are you going to tell my mom?”
“Nothing. That’s up to you and Jason.”
“Could I ask you something?” he asked, as his throat grew thick.
“Could you please help me?”
I patted him on his head and rearranged his blankets. “Try and get some sleep. Your mother and brother should be back soon.”
Dr. Vickers, Margaret, and Jason returned to the apartment shortly after Sean and I finished our conversation. Dr. Vickers examined Sean, deemed him strong enough to be moved, and then called for a private ambulance to transport him to a de-tox and family counseling clinic.
I declined the offer to accompany them choosing to clean up the carnage that had been left behind by the Collins’s family tornado. Thoughts that I should’ve left the kid to die crossed my mind along with Margaret’s words that fate brought us together. ~Would I get swallowed up in the Collins’s malaise of a family if I agreed to help with Sean’s recovery? ~ My worry caused me to pour myself a glass of wine.
One blustery evening, as I sat sipping wine in the darkness of my apartment reviewing the events of New Years Day and the day after, my thoughts became broken by a knock at the door. I hadn’t been expecting anyone. For that matter there’d hardly ever been knocks at the door.
“Margaret,” I said as I opened the door. “What brings you here?”
“May I come in?” she asked.
I stepped aside to allow her entrance to the apartment.
“I never had the opportunity to properly thank you for helping us.”
I nodded, but didn’t encourage.
“The boys are asking for you, especially Sean. He wants to see you, and you and I have some unfinished business.”
“Unfinished business? Not likely.”
“Boy, you’re dense.”
“Dense? Me, dense? What about you?”
“The boys and I, especially me, want to have a relationship with you. We want your participation in helping Sean. He likes and trusts you and I think I love you.”
“You’ll love me only if I change.”
“You really are pig-headed. You hide behind the smoke and mirrors, thinking everyone wants you to change, but it’s you who won’t give anyone else a break. You think that you’re so superior.”
Who the hell did she think she’d been speaking to? I’d managed to live this long without her sage advice and I’ll manage to eek out a few more years before they nail the lid shut.
I walked the snow lined paths of the park that led to the partly frozen lake feeding bits of stale bread to the wayward birds and squirrels along the way. The silence had been broken by the sound of Jason’s voice.
“Dan,” he called. “May I talk to you?”
“What do you want?” I growled.
“Sean’s out of the hospital and is back in school. We go to sessions with Dr. Vickers as a family and as individuals. Mom cries a lot when the three of us are together. She keeps saying its all her fault for what’s happened despite us telling her that it isn’t. Sean asks for you all of the time.”
“You don’t need me there. It’s a family matter and I’m not family.”
“You saved my brother’s life, so to me that makes you family.”
“We have different definitions of family.”
He stood in front of me hands on hips and leaning forward to invade my space. “You know, I thought you were really cool. I loved the way that you helped my mom learn to ride, the way you goofed on Tim without him knowing it, the way you took care of Sean, and the way you took it upon yourself to go to those drug guys, but by choosing to ignore us when we could use your help the most, you proved to us that you’re nothing but a fool.”
“Are you done?”
“No. My mom told me about when she came to visit with you. As smart as you think you are, you’re really dumb. She can’t stop thinking about you. She’s got a real thing about you, and what do you do? You blow her off like she’s nothing, and then hide behind the fact that everyone who doesn’t think like you is stupid. You’re the stupid one.”
After my encounter with Jason, I made my way home with five gallons of kerosene in hand. The cold flat had grown colder when the fire had gone out in the stove. With the fire going and the cast iron warming, the chill of the room subsided.
~All screwed up with every place to go. ~ The Collins family would have to learn that money, fame, power, and fringe friends don’t make a life. I pitied them because they couldn’t see through the fog that the only thing that mattered was contentment — just being who you are.
As I sat at my kitchen table circling the rim of my teacup with my finger, my daydream ended with a knock at the door. I hoped that it wouldn’t be another Collins.
“It’s open,” I said.
“Hey Dan,” Annie said as she entered the apartment with a notebook in one hand and half of an apple pie in the other. “I wrote a play for my theatre class and I’d like you take a look at it. The last time you helped out with one of my projects I received an ‘A.’”
“Sure what’s it about.”
“The assignment was to write a play using Greek Tragedy as a basis. The hero’s hubris pulls him down time after time.”
“Excessive pride. In the Greek myths it usually results in harsh punishment.”
“I’ll give it a shot, but I don’t know much about literature. That paper I helped you with was for Economics.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just read it and tell me if it makes sense.”
“Okay, I’ll read it later.”
“No, read it now, please? If you have any edits or suggestions I can fix them right away.” I gave her a look, and she gave me puppy eyes. “It’s due tomorrow. Please?”
If Sean hadn’t been so screwed up, I might have introduced him to her. Innocent, yet at times so wise. That was Annie. I sighed.
“All right, let’s have a look.”
I read the six-page play, as she poured a cup of tea for herself and cut a slice of pie for each of us.
“Sad story,” I said when I was done. “The poor old fool has a chance at everything. He walks away from a good job, spends his life alone thinking that the world is against him, can’t seem to have a friendship or a relationship … I feel sorry for him.”
“Really?” Annie smiled. “Does he remind you of anyone you know?” I shook my head. She just looked at me as if she was waiting for other shoe to drop.
Then it did.
I suddenly realized the man in the play had a lot in common with the guy I saw in the mirror every morning. Hubris? Yeah, I had that covered, in spades. All I had wanted was to just be who I was, and to hell with everyone else. I spent so much time on my high iron horse that I damn near rode away from a bunch of folks who needed me … and a woman who could love me for who I am. Maybe.
Annie watched me figure it out, and didn’t say a word.
“Do you have an end in mind for this play?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“Yup, but you know how that goes. Anything can happen.” She grinned, stood up, and handed me my kitchen phone. “Anything at all.”