Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Because of the holiday, Friday Fiction is coming to you a few days early! Below is Chapter 45 of Jessica. The story is winding down, but there are still some loose ends hanging! I hope you will follow me to the finish and tell me what you think.
Chapter 45 – “Stevie’s Battle”
Throwing the Briarwoods brochure in the trash gave me a feeling of wild strength and I walked out into the parking lot with a burst of energy. I couldn’t help thinking I was in the center of something big. A new focus had just opened up possibilities I hadn’t seen until then. I felt I had taken the first steps to achieve balance and I could see now that there were two people who needed me to be strong: Jimmy and Stevie. I looked at my watch. It was only 10:30 and I had plenty of time to visit Stevie before I met Stu back at his house.
I still didn’t know enough about Stevie’s health. How strange to find him after all this time, and at the same time be robbed of what the reunion could have been! How sick was Stevie? Could he possibly recover? Just days earlier, I had been overwhelmed by the news, but now I was beginning to see that finding Stevie might be the key to creating some kind of family for me. I hoped there was enough time.
My thoughts jumped to the sight of Dad’s car in our driveway this morning. Had they gotten back together? Mom had read Dad the riot act just hours earlier, I couldn’t imagine what had changed.
All these years and suddenly the idea of a reunion with Stevie, and then Dad, was out there. I realized, with satisfaction, that it didn’t really matter to me if Mom and Dad got back together. I had finally gotten over the longing, the hope for them to be in the same house. I’d been bitter all these years, and somehow now, with the possibility that they could reconcile, I realized I had passed through that phase.
But Stevie, my misunderstood brother. I was starting to soften about all the times he had treated Mom so badly. The aggression, the sneering, the shouting. Positioning himself with defiance, refusing to be part of us, lashing out at the two people who wanted him to be around. Now I was seeing him differently. He was so small, so weak now. Was there still some kind of fight in him?
I hadn’t told Stevie when I’d be over today. As I drove up 401, I hoped he’d had a good night. I planned to ask him about his doctor’s visits, his medicine and the nurses who rotated their shifts at his house. I hoped he would tell me more about how sick he was. Maybe I could help him.
When I pulled into his driveway, another car was already there. Something didn’t feel right and I felt a panic rise inside me. I parked and walked up to the door. The house was dark and the shades were still drawn. Had they been pulled down yesterday? I couldn’t remember. I started to knock but almost immediately the door opened and I found myself looking straight into the face of a woman in a nurse’s smock.
“Shhhhhhhh!” she greeted me, her finger up to her lips. “He just fell asleep and I don’t want anything to disturb him.” The nurse stepped out on the porch and closed the door halfway.
“Whatever you’re here for, you can’t stay. I won’t have anyone barging in on him today, so you’d better head on out.”
“Hold on,” I answered. “I’m Jessica, Stevie’s sister. He knows I’m coming today. We made plans yesterday. I want to see him.”
“Well you can’t, not now. He’s not seeing anyone today.”
I was getting mad. “Well who are you to decide whether he can have visitors? I told Stevie I would check up on him today and now I’m here and I want to know what’s going on!”
The nurse reached for my arm and pointed towards our cars. “Here, let’s walk down here. Don’t get angry with me, Jessica. Something’s happened and I don’t want Steven to hear me talking about him, although I doubt he would be able to after the night he had.”
When we got to her car, she opened the passenger side door. “Hop in and we can talk in my car.” She walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and got in.
I was sure the nurse was going to tell me that Stevie was about to die and there was nothing anyone could do. I didn’t want to hear the words, but I had to know. My throat tightened around my words. “Please tell me what’s happened.”
“First of all,” she started. “I’m Carrie and I’ve been one of Steven’s regular nurses for about six months. I was on the 11-7 shift last night and when I got here, the other nurse had already left. I couldn’t find your brother. I called and called for him. I looked all over the house and I couldn’t imagine where he had gone.”
“Steven is so weak, I knew he couldn’t possibly have gone far,” she continued. I looked in every room, checked the basement. Nothing. And then suddenly I thought of the shed out back. I grabbed a flashlight from the kitchen drawer and I raced out there, through the dark, calling Steven’s name. When I got close I thought I could hear something. It sounded like a child, not your brother, but I called through the door, hoping whoever it was would answer. I was shaking, Jessica, Something didn’t seem right. Why on earth would he be in the shed? I didn’t want to open the door myself. I prayed for him to open it for me. In a burst of hope I told myself maybe he was looking for something and was coming right back out. But all I could hear was a high-pitched kind of wailing. Was he asking me to come in?
“The door was unlocked and, as I pushed it open, I could see a figure sitting on the floor, leaning against the tractor, his knees up to his chest. He looked so tiny I didn’t think it could be Steven. But as my flashlight lit the room I saw that his face was all wrong, Jessica. It was the most painful expression I had ever seen. In all my days of nursing, people who fight the worst possible fights only show this kind of pain in their weakest most private moments. Steven’s face was that and a thousand times worse. I called to him, quietly. ‘Steven, it’s Carrie. Let’s go back in the house.’ But I don’t think he heard me. He was staring straight out the door, past me, to the lights in the house. That’s when I noticed the gun pressing up against his head.
“Panic took over. I was afraid to do anything, but afraid to do nothing. ‘Steven,’ I croaked. ‘Can you put that down? Leave that here and let’s go inside where we can talk.’
“‘No, leave,’ he said quietly. ‘I don’t want you here. All this time I’ve been letting everyone else treat me, but for what? So I can die in pain later instead of now? What difference does it make? I’m going to die, no matter what you and the doctors do. And everything hurts so much. What’s the point?’
“Jessica, I’m a nurse, not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I don’t know anything about how to talk to someone when they’ve reached this point. My brain was scrambling for the right thing to do. Finally I guessed at the right words, ‘Steven, come inside the house and let’s talk about this. There are better ways to handle your pain.’
“‘I’m so tired,’ he answered. ‘I just want to be finished. The battle is done, and I’ve lost.’ I was so afraid he was going to pull the trigger. I didn’t know what I could do to stop him. I said nothing, but I took a step towards him. He sat and watched me. I moved closer and he continued to watch. I began to inch toward him in agonizingly slow steps. When I finally reached him, he looked at me and pushed out his mouth and let out a heartbreaking cry. I was sure his finger was pulling back on the trigger and I braced myself for the violence that would come, but instead I heard the gun drop to the floor and then the only thing I could hear was the combined pounding of our terrified hearts.
“Once I got him back to the house, I gave him a sedative and he’s been sleeping ever since. I’ve called the doctor and I’m waiting for him to arrive. I sent the new nurse away this morning, but once the doctor examines Steven, she’ll come back and stay with him. Why don’t you stay and wait for the doctor with me?”
I nodded okay. My resolve had vanished.
Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.
Just jumping in? Click below to check out earlier chapters.
Chapter 1 – “Jimmy”
Chapter 2 – “Stevie”
Chapter 3 – “A Photo and a Letter”
Chapter 4 – “The Life Within”
Chapter 5 – “Jimmy’s Truck”
Chapter 6 – “The Springs Diner”
Chapter 7 – “Dinner and a Game”
Chapter 8 – “He Made Me Nervous”
Chapter 9 – “I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday”
Chapter 10 – “Connections and Time”
Chapter 11 – “The Reverse Apology”
Chapter 12 – “Empty Bedrooms”
Chapter 13 – “Job Description”
Chapter 14 – “The Car I Saw”
Chapter 15 – “It’s Not What You Think”
Chapter 16 – “A Different Route”
Chapter 17 – “Choosing Balance”
Chapter 18 – “A Mother Sees”
Chapter 19 – “Taking More”
Chapter 20 – “Robbing the Future”
Chapter 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
Chapter 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Chapter 23 – “Separate and Icy”
Chapter 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
Chapter 25 – “Help Has Its Price”
Chapter 26 – “Who Asked for Help?”
Chapter 27 – “You’ve Done Enough”
Chapter 28 – “The Plan”
Chapter 29 – “Who Says I’m Not Okay?”
Chapter 30 – “What’s So Great about Balance?”
Chapter 31 – “I’ll Call You When It’s Over”
Chapter 32 – “Sorting It Out”
Chapter 33 – “Truth and Lies”
Chapter 34 – “The Car-Port House”
Chapter 35 – “It’s a Dead Yard”
Chapter 36 – “I Just Want To See Him”
Chapter 37 – “I’m Not Going Anywhere”
Chapter 38 – “He’s Here Now”
Chapter 39 – “Not Everything Changes”
Chapter 40 – “Anger’s Release”
Chapter 41 – “What Are Rights?”
Chapter 42 – “Visiting Stu”
Chapter 43 – “Control”
Chapter 44 – “Balance of Power”
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