Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Scream Out Loud

“I think you are about done there, love,” Aunt Kitty said, scooping up the rubbery dough into her floury hands. “What are you so busy day dreaming about anyway?”

Andie smiled and leaned back against the counter. She wiped her hands on the gingham apron at her waist. “Just about my mom. About how we used to make pies like this when I was little.”

“Really?” Her Aunt raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

“Well, sure.” Andie threw her hands up in mock exasperation. “Well, okay, when I was REALLY little…before all the black tie benefits and stuff. But I remember it very clearly.”

“What happened, Andie?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happened to your mom? What made her so sad? So hopeless.” Kitty turned to face her now, her face pale and drawn. “When she left Fairfax, she was full of dreams and promise. Full of life.”

“People change,” Andie said flatly.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” She pulled Andie into the fold of her warm arms and squeezed tight.

“Aunt Kitty?”

“Hmmmm?” Her voice muffled against Andie’s hair.

“I think my dad took it from her.” Kitty loosened her hold and tried to catch Andie’s eyes, but she had turned quickly to wash her hands at the sink. “He took up all the dreams…all the spotlight, she said. “I guess even though my mom found things to do, she never found something to make her whole. She just wasn’t whole without him. It was like she left Oklahoma with all sorts of plans and ambitions, you know? And then his dreams just took over. His medicine took over.”

“And you?”


“Yes, Andie. Are you whole?” Kitty stopped and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Are you happy?”

“I’m trying, Aunt Kitty. I thought I was. I really want to be.” The kitchen filled with silence as Andie wiped the flour from the counter top onto her hand and flung it into the sink. The kitchen smelled of Fantastic and bleach and reminded her more than a little of the emergency room at her dad’s hospital. Sterile.

“I found her you know,” she finally said evenly. As she glanced up, she saw her Aunt leaning against the door jam with quiet tears sliding down her cheeks and forming little polka dots on her apron. It struck Andie yet again how someone else could be brimming – no, overflowing - with deep and raw emotion while at the same exact moment, she felt completely detached from it all. She would have given almost anything to taste just a moment of that fire. Selfishly, she decided to go on. She decided that she needed to see the emotion face to face even if she herself could not feel it. So she began matter of factly with her back leaning against the light blue corion counter top.

“I had left work early that day to help my mom get ready for my dad’s big night. The hospital was presenting him with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Award for dedication to patient care and innovation in surgical procedure.” She sniffed at the irony of a man so in tune with his patients and yet so out of touch with his own family.

“My mom and I talked every morning on my way to the office and usually again on my way home. I’d tell her about my newest case or a judge that had really pissed me off. She’d always throw in her two cents and tell me I deserved a treat. Often she’d say my dad was working late and offer to meet me for dinner. We had a little Pub just outside the city where we always met. We’d take a table near the jukebox so she could pump five dollars worth of quarters into it to guarantee a healthy portion of country tunes mixed in with the usual pop and rock. We’d laugh whenever Kenny Rogers or Ronnie Millsap rolled up right after Funky Cold Medina.” A smile turned the corners of her mouth ever so slightly at the memory.

“When I called that last morning, my mom had sounded a little under the weather, so I left work early to go see if I could help her get ready for the banquet. It wasn’t like her to sound so low. Usually before a big event, she’d be flitting around getting her nails and hair done. I figured she must be really sick. When I got there, the house was dark so I let myself in and turned on the kettle. I thought a cup of tea and honey might perk her up enough to attend the dinner later. Then I went upstairs - careful to avoid the top step that had creaked ever since I was a kid. It used to tip me off when she was coming upstairs at night so I could turn off my light and pretend I was asleep.”

“When I got to the end of the hallway, her bedroom door was ajar so I pushed it open a little and called softly to her from the doorway. When she didn’t answer, I opened the curtains. You know, I thought a little light might wake her up gently. Then I climbed under the covers just like I always used to do when I’d have a bad dream in the middle of the night. I put my arm across her belly. I was lying so close that I could smell the lavender of her hair. Mommy, I whispered. It’s time to get up. And as I lay there waiting for a murmured hello or her gentle tug on my hand pulling me closer to her, I knew that something was wrong. I just felt it. Then I saw the pills. Two bottles open on the bedside table. Both empty. She was gone.” Andie stopped and wrapped her arms tighter around herself. Her voice was steady and unmoved.

“Her body was still warm from being under the duvet and I couldn’t help but snuggle closer to her. When my dad came home to get ready, he was carrying his tuxedo and a corsage of African Violets. He found us there.”

By now Kitty was sobbing into her hands. Not the soft rhythmic cries of sadness but the loud and uncontrolled hiccupping sobs of utter despair. Andie stood motionless, taking it in and feeling comforted in a way by the hysteria around her.

Finally she went to her Aunt and wrapped her in her arms. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “It’s okay.”

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