I Still Love You
A free short story, following characters within the Starting Out Series
© Jane Lark
Not to be replicated without the permission of Jane Lark
Shit I felt down tonight myself, and I shouldn’t feel down, it was a big deal for Rach, it’s just I knew the old Rach would’ve been racing around super excited, laughing and shouting, and cheering, and teasing me for wearing makeup, but this Rach was subdued, even though she had laughed. It was like the meds were keeping her chained up.
But when she had been on no medication at all I had been getting exasperated and lost, because I never knew what mood she was going to wake up in, or what she’d be like when I came in from work, and I’d got really tired because when she was high she never slept, and I’d woken up loads of nights wondering where the hell she was…
I walked into the living room and she smiled at me. I smiled too. I had to get over this. I had to just be happy for her. “Come on.”
She turned to Mom and took Saint back. He got a good grip on her wig and pulled it so it was wonky.
“Here, I’ll take him.”
“No, I want to hold him when he knocks on his first door.”
“You do realize he is too little to be able to knock.” I laughed at her.
“I’ll hold his hand.” That was a stubborn, sharp answer. Yes, she knew I was not in the best of moods. I needed to cheer up.
“Well I shall put the sweetie bucket in his other hand and hold that then.”
“Have you got the trick?”
I patted the pocket of my suit jacket. “Yes, ma’am, I have the trick…” It was a worm in a can, if I opened the can it would pop out.
She took a breath, like she was gathering up a little courage, then said, “Let’s go then,” and smiled at me.
“Bye,” Dad said.
“Bye,” Mom nodded at me, smiling.
When we walked out the door, my hand settled at Rach’s waist, but as I shut the door behind us she turned and looked at me. “Jason, please be in a good mood.”
“You’re not, not really, I know I am hard work lately, but, just for tonight, can we try to enjoy it…”
So she was feeling down too, and trying to force herself into happiness. I gave her a hug, my arms about her and Saint. “Sorry. I am happy. This is going to be fun.”
“Smile then…” Had I not been smiling much? Shit, I guess it wasn’t just her who was not like her old self.
I smiled. “Smiling.”
A tear escaped her eye. Shit. I dabbed it off with my thumb. “Don’t spoil your makeup, you spent hours on looking that awful…”
She laughed, the sound was ripped from her throat, it was nowhere near a happy sound.
“Come on,” I slipped my arm around her shoulders, determined now to make this a good night and even more determined to get her to the party. I glanced at Saint. “Well, little man there is one house we are not going to, and that is that bastard next door who kidnapped my ball when I was a kid. I am warning you about him right now. So let’s start on the other side of the street.”
There were loads of people out, all talking and laughing. I breathed out, and tried to force my bad energy out with the breath. “Let’s go and spook Mr. and Mrs. Bishop.” I nodded at a mother vampire with three little ghosts as we walked down to the side walk, then we walked up the drive to the porch of my parents’ nice neighbors.
I looked at Rach, then I looked at Saint. “Here it is, your first trick or treat.” I was talking to both of them, it was true for both of them.
She smiled, properly smiled, I could see it lift up out of excitement as she lifted Saint’s hand. It made me smile more too as I wrapped his other hand around the sweetie pot, and held his fingers closed over it.
“Ready to knock,” I whispered at her. Her fist was closed over Saint’s and really it was her hand that knocked, but they did the action together.
She grinned at me in silence, as we waited for an answer, and I could see her heart pulsing in the vein flickering at the base of her neck. It was cold, but we were only trick or treating in the street so we hadn’t ruined our costumes with coats, and Saint was warm, snuggled up in his woolly pumpkin onesie.
The door handle turned and it began opening. “Trick or Treat!” I shouted in unison with Rach.
Mr. Bishop smiled at us, “Well what do we have here? A little pumpkin looking for a treat… What have we got for a little one? Edna!” He shouted over his shoulder.
Mrs. Bishop appeared, waving a little packet of white chocolate buttons. “I think these ghostly treats may be okay, may be you could have one at least…” Her hand lifted and she squeezed Saint’s cheek. “You are such a cute little pumpkin. I could make pumpkin pie of you and eat you all up.”
“Sweeties in the bucket or you’ll get a trick, and we are not being fooled by any witch wanting to make a pumpkin pie of us…”
Mrs. Bishop laughed as I made Saint hold the bucket out further, then she dropped the sweets into it.
“Thank you Mrs. Bishop. Mr. Bishop,” I acknowledged before I turned away.
“Happy Halloween!” Rach shouted as we walked down the steps. I looked over at her. She had enjoyed that.
“Come on then, let’s do another…”
We did the whole street. Well every house bar my dad’s next door neighbor who I still didn’t like, and at the end of it Saint had a whole pile of sweets he was way too young to eat, and about half a dozen lipstick kiss marks on his cheek. But there was one more place I wanted to go before we called trick or treating a night. My aunt’s. She had asked us to go over there and it wasn’t all that far to walk.
“Are you okay if we go on over to Aunt Helen’s and Uncle Mike’s, she was desperate to see us dressed up with Saint?”
“Yeah, that’s okay.” Rach looked at me and smiled.
“Have you enjoyed it?”
“Still up for going over to Billy and Lindy’s for the party?”
She nodded, “Yeah.”
We were meant to be sleeping over there, but she hadn’t yet agreed to that.
The street was busy as we turned out of the close where my parents lived. Aunt Helen’s was about fifteen minutes’ walk away from Mom’s. The air was crisp cold, it bit through my jacket a little. Rach only had a thin wedding dress on. “Wait a minute.” I stopped and stripped off my jacket and rested it over her shoulders.
She smiled. “Thanks, but you are spoiling how we look.”
“I’ll put it back on again when we get to Aunt Helen’s.”
I put an arm around her again and tucked her in close, as she held on to Saint. It was nice walking down the street, beneath the stars, with loads of people milling about in weird costumes all talking and laughing. Stupidly, this felt like the most normal thing I had done in weeks.
“I’ve enjoyed it too,” I said to her. Her head tipped against my shoulder as we kept walking.
I looked at Saint. “Hey, little man, don’t nod off and drop your sweeties, you earned those.” I took the bucket from its cradle between him and Rach.
“I can’t wait ‘til he’s older and he can do it, I am gonna love it.”
“Believe me you are going to be the best Mom at this, you will be springing all sorts of tricks and have us dressed up bigger and better every year…” I was thinking of the old Rach, though.
She threw me a smile. “I hope so.”
I gave her shoulder a squeeze the sweetie bucket now swinging in my other hand. “I know so.” I didn’t but I wanted to give her confidence. That was what she needed to win back most. She had lost all her confidence.
When we got to Aunt Helen’s driveway we stopped and I slipped my jacket off Rach’s shoulders, then put it back on. “Here, you hold the sweetie bucket, I’ll take Saint, I want to get him to play his trick on them.”
Rach smiled at me, in an, oh go on then, way.
“Come here, sleepy head.” I lifted Saint out of her arms and he woke up. He smiled at me. I loved it when he did that––woke up smiling. His face said, oh, it’s you, l like you, I’m happy it’s you… Kids must be able to see beyond Zombie make up.
I pulled the can out of my jacket pocket, “Here it is, and when we open the door you are going to pull the lid off with me and we will pop the worm out at Auntie Helen.”
We walked up the drive quietly. Most of the trick-or-treaters had started drifting off home now, and the street wasn’t so busy.
I had Saint balanced between my chest and my elbow, as one hand held the can against his little pumpkin leg and the other one held his hand on the lid. Rachel rushed past me, a little of her old energy back, and knocked on the door.
“Trick or treat!” we both called brightly when Aunt Helen opened the door. Then Rach leaned toward Aunt Helen, putting her hand up to one side of her mouth, and she whispered behind it, loudly. “Say you won’t give him a treat.”
Uncle Mike, and my younger cousin Kirk came out of the living room probably because they’d heard it was us.
“Well I am sorry, we don’t give treats from this house.” Aunt Helen said, as Uncle Mike walked up behind her.
“And certainly not to little pumpkins…” he added, smiling at me.
Kirk had come closer too. He was laughing at me.
“It looks like it’s going to be a trick then, Saint, let them have it!” I pulled the lid off the can, moving his hand within mine, and the long fluffy, green worm popped out and flew at Aunt Helen. She squealed ducking out of the way.
Then oh my God, the most amazing thing… Saint laughed, I mean proper giggle laughed…
Rachel turned, her eyes wide and her mouth open. “That’s his first laugh!” she looked at me, tears sparkling in her eyes. Saint was still laughing. “That’s his first laugh…” She said it more quietly. It had shocked her.
It had shocked me, “I didn’t even know babies can laugh like that.” He’d stopped now.
“See if he does it again.” Kirk, bent down to pick up the worm. “Here.” He held out his hand for the can and he pushed the worm back into it, then he looked at Saint.
Saint was watching everything he was doing, and when Kirk popped the lid so the worm flew across in front of Saint he broke into laughter again.
“Oh my God.” Rach grasped him from my arms and hugged him hard, he was still laughing over her shoulder, I think it meant more to her than just him laughing.
“Come in and have a coffee, or a hot chocolate. Would you like a hot chocolate, Rachel? You two must be freezing.”
“Coffee, please, Helen.” Rach answered, stepping in. My hand touched her back.
Kirk bent to pick up the worm again as I came past.
“You two do look good. Very good. I suppose the makeup was your efforts Rachel,” Uncle Mike said. All my family where treading carefully around Rachel, afraid of saying the wrong thing. They had hated her when we’d got together, then when I’d told Mom she had bipolar all of a sudden everyone loved her, and then she’d had an episode of really bad bipolar and now no one knew how to deal with it––with her. And I guess I was just as bad. Worse, because I was way more emotionally invested in who she was, and bipolar defined that, and then constantly changed it, and then her meds had come along and smothered it.
“Hey, Saint!” Kirk called.
Saint was looking around Rach’s shoulder watching him anyway.
Kirk fired the worm, and it flew over my shoulder at Saint, who immediately burst into another round of the cutest giggles. I laughed. “Saint, we got that to scare people, it’s not meant to make you laugh, you are ruining our trick or treating credibility.”
Kirk laughed, and bent to pick the worm up again. He was good with Saint. Kirk was still in high school, and I think he thought it was cool having a married cousin with a kid.
“Is Rich not in?” I looked at Uncle Mike.
Aunt Helen sighed. “He came in at some time in the early hours last night, then went out again this morning. Hopefully to work, but I have no idea if he actually goes there, and he has not come back since. I have no idea where he is half the time, or what trouble he is getting himself into and he just looks at us like we are crazy, and mean, and talk nonsense, if we say anything… He won’t listen.”
“We had to bail him out of jail again a fortnight ago,” Uncle Mike said. “He’d got into another fight.”
“He is going to end up in a jail permanently…” I said in a low voice. I didn’t get Rich, he’d been hanging around with the wrong people, and it was like he’d turned blind. He couldn’t see how bad the guy he’d gotten friends with was. But I had enough of my own problems, he’d have to sort out his.
“Hey, Saint!” Kirk called again, and fired the worm. Saint laughed again, and I laughed too. God that was a good sound…
“Helen, do you think it would be okay to give Saint just one little white chocolate button. It would be cool if you could have his first taste of chocolate,” Rach asked.
“I’m sure that one little piece is not going to do him any harm.”
Rach turned and handed him to me smiling. I could see his laughter had really pulled up her mood too. Then she set the sweetie bucket down on a side table and found out the buttons, tore them open and pulled one out.
She smiled at me. Yes, I could see another little glimpse of the old Rach, there was excitement in her eyes that said, I am about to give him his first taste of chocolate! “Here, Saint.” She broke it in half and popped one half in his mouth. He sucked it rather than chewed it, and his eyes were full of, what is this, thoughts.
I laughed and grinned at her as she gave him the second half.
Awesome. This had turned into the special night she’d wanted. I was really glad for her.
It was nearly seven after we’d drunk our coffee and time to get home and get Saint tucked in. Uncle Mike gave us a lift back home so we didn’t get cold. Saint fell asleep in my arms on the drive back, even though it was only minutes.
Mom was at the door to welcome us home. “Now there are my ghoulish wanderers…”
I smiled at her as she smiled at Rach. To be honest they were the best people with Rach, Mom had endless patience, and she was not as emotionally involved as me, she could be a little more dispassionate and the sensible presence. I just tended to cling to Rach and ride her roller coaster of emotions with her. But I had got used to that, and now the ride had stopped and stupidly I was unsure what to do.
Mom reached out to take Saint from Rach as we stepped in. “I’ll take him, and give him a wash and get him ready for bed, you two can go straight out if you want to.”
“No.” Rach said immediately. “I want to put him to bed.”
“We have plenty of time,” I said to Mom. “It’s too early to go out now anyway.”
She smiled at me, as Rach wandered off along the hall with Saint.
“He laughed for the first time ever.” I said to Mom, as I shut the door. “When we fired that worm thing off, and then Kirk kept doing it and Saint laughed every time.” Mom smiled. “I’ve never heard anything so sweet in my life.”
“I forgot to say!” Rach turned at the end of the hall. “Oh my God, Granny! It was amazing!”
I smiled at her. Her meds made her thoughts a bit mixed up in a pickle, and confused, she would be annoyed with herself that that had not been the first thing she’d said to Mom, she would be down on herself and tell herself that that is what mother’s did, they bragged and if she didn’t brag then she was not good enough… I knew a lot of the constant shit that went on in her head now… when her down voice was speaking anyway. But when her up voice was speaking, well that I could not predict… but that had been the addictive thing, and her up voice hadn’t spoken in a long time.
Shut up brain––you married her in sickness and in health––for better or worse.
“Jason, would you run some water in the bath for me, while I get him undressed!” Rach shouted from the end of the hall.
I smiled at Mom.
“Do you want some coffee?”
“No, we had some at Aunt Helen’s.”
“Are you going to stay out tonight?”
“I don’t even know if we’ll go yet, it depends on Rach, she hasn’t really committed to it at all yet.”
She patted my arm. “Give her time, sweetheart, she’s been sick, you don’t expect someone to recover from a broken leg overnight…”
“It’s not that… I just… I feel like I miss her.”
“And she is missing herself too, don’t forget. Just be there for her.”
“I am. You know I am.”
“I know, but what I mean is, don’t beat yourself up over the fact that that is all you are doing right now. That’s the right thing and it’s enough.”
I nodded. I knew what she was getting at, that what we had right now may not be what it had been a year ago, but for the moment, I should stop looking for anything else and just accept that.
“Go and run that bath for Saint…”
I nodded again.
When I walked off I took the worm trick out of my pocket and left it on the side, smiling at the memory of his laughter. I wish you could bottle that.
Click on this for a soundtrack… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKRRg150OYU
There are more parts coming later!!!
and if you want to read the beginning of Jason’s and Rachel’s story it runs throughout The Starting Out Series
Book One I Found You
Book Two Just you
Book Three I Need You
and the story will continue in 2015 in I’m Keeping You