BEEEEEEEPPP. The heart monitor’s shrill pitch pierced through Grace’s head, and echoed on even after the machines were switched off. Totally unaware of the doctor and nurses offering their condolences and leaving the room, Grace stood across the room, rigid, silent, and staring at the hospital bed before her. She waited to feel. Something. Anything. She felt nothing. No loss, no regrets, and ironically no relief.
The monitor’s incessant alarm still shrieking in her ears, Grace was startled by a hand on her arm. Grace turned and faced her concerned assistant, Joy.
“Your phone is ringing”, Joy said, handing Grace her cell phone.
“Thanks”, said Grace, realizing that she was in her office, with just her mind stuck in yesterday’s events.
“Damn. I missed it. It was Sean”. Grace looked annoyed as she checked her phone.
“I’m sure he will call back in a few minutes”, Joy reassured her. “You ok? You seemed a million miles away.”
Smiling, Grace assured Joy that she was fine. “Just tired is all. I promise. I think I’ll call Sean back now”, she added, desperate to be alone in her office. Joy was the sweetest girl and a damn fine assistant, but no one knew anything about Grace’s private life and she wanted to keep it that way.
Joy smiled understandingly and retreated to her outer office, closing Grace’s door behind her as she left.
Grace sat at her desk and picked up the one photo she had on display here at work. Sean. Her world. He had changed it. He WAS it.
She had to go home and make certain that she did not lose all that really mattered to her. She knew Sean was hurt that she had not told him when the hospital called. Had not turned to him as she waded through memories of the past and the ethical dilemmas she had recently been faced with. She had felt it was her mess and that it should never touch him. An evil, toxic parcel of the past that she wanted nowhere near the beauty of the life they shared. Grace understood though, knowing she would feel the same if he chose to turn inward to sort something out. She would feel shut out, maybe not fully trusted, and worst of all not in a position to help him. Yes, Grace knew what was paining Sean, as he stood by her, supporting her, and assuring her all was well. No. No it wasn’t.
Even as she sat here now, realizing the repercussions of her choices, she still could not fathom what she could possibly have said. Sean knew about her family, her past. He knew every single detail. They had no secrets, no walls, no barriers. It felt entirely different though to bring him into the reality of a life and death decision of this magnitude. This was not just her father. Not just a man who had tormented her and others for her entire childhood until she broke free of his grasp as a young woman. This was almost not about a person. It was weighing the atrocities of abuse, murder, and evil incarnate, against the still indelible fact that he was indeed her father. Nothing seemed to erase that. There was no sentiment, but was there responsibility? Was there too much guilt now, considering how often she had wished him dead, as even a little girl, listening to him rage violently at others in the house? Was there a responsibility to not let him suffer, no matter how much suffering he had caused?
How could she have burdened Sean with supporting her through such ugly thoughts? Through such a no win, horrific dilemma?
Drawing a deep breath, Grace had to be honest with herself. All of that was true and part – a HUGE part even – of why she handled this alone, but truly in her heart, it had been fear. What if Sean didn't approve of her decision? What if he thought she was a bad person, an unethical daughter to decide as she had? DID she have to decide as she did?
NO! Stop! She would not let her father, even in his death rob her of any more happiness or safety or love. NO MORE.
It wasn't too late. She would make sure of that. She may not be able to rewind the clock a week or so to handle things better, any more than she could rewind it years and decades prior, to rewrite history in a more palatable fashion, but she could protect her future from its impact. It simply could not be too late. Sean was rolling with the recent waves and how she chose to ride them, but she was not about to risk her happiness, their happiness. Grace had to fix this as best as she could. Fast.
Grace reached for her signature leather journal, to try and sort her thoughts on paper, as she always did. It was a daily ritual, sometimes more than once a day, and was always her best way to think, express, and just get it all out, when it was too much to hold inside. As her hand grasped the leather volume, it hit her. She knew what had to be done and how she could do it.
“Joy, can you come here for a second please?”, Grace spoke into the intercom on her desk.
Joy came in a second later, clearly eager to be helpful.
“Do we still have that big gift box with the bow that held all the party favors from the office party?” Grace asked.
“Sure! Let me go grab it for you” Joy said as she left to get the box from the supply closet.
As she reentered the office with the beautiful and oversized gift box, Joy gave Grace a knowing smile and asked, “A gift for Sean?”
Grace smiled back and replied, “something like that”.
Joy checked if there was anything else she could do before leaving for the day. Grace said she was fine, but thanks, and the women wished each other a great weekend.
Once again alone in her office, Grace went to the far side of the room, to the vintage armoire, and unlocked the safe that was built into the bottom half of the cabinet. She carefully removed stacks of identical leather journals, well worn from being written in daily, and reread countless times, and placed them in the gift box.
Grace let out a deep and shaky sigh. Nodding to herself, she acknowledged that this felt right. It was time.
Carrying the oversized box to the car was no easy feat, as Grace was a petite woman, not even a hair over five feet tall. Trying to see over the top of the large parcel and its bow was quite the trick.
Once both she and the box were safely in the car, Grace called Sean. He answered on the first ring.
“I was going to call you in a minute. Figured you were still busy”, he said.
“Yes. Yes I was. I had to prepare a very important presentation” she said looking at the box in the passenger seat with a smile.
“Want me to put up dinner?” Sean asked.
“Hmmm. No. You know what? I think it’s a wine and pizza kind of night. That ok with you?” she asked.
“Of course. If I order it now, it will be here when you get home. Drive safe ok? I love you”.
“I love you too” Grace replied, mentally adding ‘more than you know’.
About half an hour later Grace juggled her way through the front door, as Sean came to help her with the box.
“Wow. What’s this?” he asked. “It’s nearly bigger than you are” he added with a grin as he bent to kiss her hello.
“You’ll see”. Grace put her keys and purse on the side table under the mirror in the hall way and followed Sean to the living room.
She smiled. Of course he had. Sean had set out two glasses, a freshly opened bottle of wine, two plates, and the pizza on the coffee table in the living room, and had started a fire in the fireplace. Grace loved this room. It had been central in nearly every dream she ever had about having her own home one day.
“Ok?” Sean asked.
“Perfect” said Grace. “Do you mind bringing the box in here with us?”
“Sure. Any special place?”
Grace sat on the couch and patted her lap, indicating for Sean to set it down there for the moment.
Sean carefully balanced the oversized parcel on his Grace's lap, then sat beside her. Turning to face her with a concerned look. “Everything ok?”
“I hope so. I think so. Or it will be. Even more than now. This is for you” she said patting the box.
“I kind of gathered that”
Sliding the box to the floor between their feet, Grace took Sean’s hand and started to explain. “You know everything there is to know about me. I told you everything. Everything. I know that I should have come to you last week and…”
Sean opened his mouth, starting to speak, presumably to reassure her all was well, but Grace held up her hand as if asking him not to.
“It’s time, it’s way past time that I gave you these. It’s stories you know, facts you are very familiar with, and you know how it all affected me along the way, but now…now I want you to see it through my eyes. If you want to, that is.”
“Are these… your journals!?!?!” Sean asked incredulously. He of course knew she wrote in them and knew they did not hold secrets but were just her space to go and write and process and be ready to share with him. He had never peeked at them, never even asked to read them. He respected her need for that space. To still have something that she felt was all hers. After a lifetime of being such a solo act, she needed that. But not anymore?
“Are you SURE?” Sean asked Grace. She nodded, a bit too terrified to speak. She knew she could back out now and he would understand but she didn’t want to. She was scared but she was doing this more for herself even, than to prove to Sean that she trusted him. As she opened the box and reached in for the first journal, and handed it to Sean, she realized and finally felt that she no longer needed or even wanted any part of ‘alone’ ever again.
Reaching for the wine, she poured some into both of their glasses, handed Sean his, and nestled up against his side, under his arm with hers, as he started reading.
It was the first time Grace had exhaled in nearly two weeks, and it felt great to finally be… home.
In : Novel
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