Beneath These Chains (Page 72)
Margaux turned to the stove without answering. After she flicked on the control to light the burner under a frying pan that was apparently waiting on her return, she cracked three eggs into it and dashed them with salt and pepper. I waited, semi-patiently, for her answer.
“That was things getting right with the world.”
“What does that mean?” I asked. Because seriously—what the hell did that mean?
“I know you and your mama haven’t seen eye-to-eye in a long time, but things have been tougher for her than you know.”
“I think I know a little about that.”
“Well, that meetin’ this morning proves your mama is a strong woman, and ready to admit she has a problem that needs taking care of.”
My mind spun. “Wait. Do you mean … just freaking tell me who that chick was.”
Margaux grabbed a spatula and checked the eggs before flipping them for over-easy perfection. Finally, she turned to me.
“We both know the drinking has been out of hand. And I’ve done what I can to try to keep her from doing any permanent damage … but Lord, child, you didn’t have to live with that man. I’d be finding the bottom of every bottle I could if he’d treated me the way he’d treated your mama.”
I’d seen plenty. He’d been a complete and utter asshole every time I’d met him. But had he been worse in private? I’d assumed, but had never really known. But, assholes rarely improved in close quarters. Now, I wondered what I’d missed.
“What are you talking about?”
“Treated her like she had no mind of her own. The early days were the worst. It didn’t take long for him to break her. Every word that came out of his mouth crushed her into smaller pieces. There wasn’t nothin’ she could do right, and he let her know at every opportunity.”
“But we deal with our demons in different ways. We’ve all got chains to break free from; some might just be prettier than others.” She nodded toward the doorway. “This right here is your mama breaking free. First thing she told me when I helped her out of bed this morning was that she’d be checking herself into a facility to get some help as soon as the funeral was over. She said she’s let that man ruin her life for long enough, and it was time to take it back.”
No freaking way.
“Are you serious?”
“Serious as a heart attack. And you better be supportive, child. This isn’t easy for her to face.”
“I’m definitely supportive. I mean, I’d planned to try to talk her into it myself. I had a place lined up and everything.”
Margaux’s smile was slow as molasses, but once it got moving, it was brilliant.
“Good. Glad you’re on your mama’s side. Seeing you at odds for all these years has been hard on ol’ Margaux. Can’t tell you how many nights your mama’s rambled to me about how she ruined your life and hers.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that you got whiplash from how fast she married Denton, but she didn’t know what else to do. No education, no skills, a whole hell of a lot of debt, and college to pay for. Your mama made the only choice she knew how to make at the time. She was worried you’d have to drop out of that fancy school, and you’d be as bad off as her. She didn’t want that for you. She wanted you to go on and do better.”
Guilt multiplied inside me. I’d had no idea she’d felt that way, or had been worried about paying for college. “I thought my trust paid for all my college stuff. The money was there.”
Margaux shook her head. “It wasn’t written right. The lawyers said she couldn’t use a dime of it, even for your schoolin’. It was completely locked up until you turned twenty-one.”
And there was enough money that I’d never even bothered to check what had or hadn’t been spent before I gained control.
“I had no idea,” I whispered.
“It’s easy to judge what you think to be the truth. So often it’s a helluva lot more twisted than you realize.”
I didn’t know what to say. Didn’t know what to feel. All the resentment, hurt, and anger I’d bottled up for years—that I’d been working on pushing away just recently—began to fade.
Heels clicked in the hallway, and voices carried. My mother was showing her guest to the door, and the funeral director would be here next. We had a funeral to plan, and I had over a decade’s worth of assumptions to right.
When the front door closed, I met my mother in the foyer. The words were clawing up my throat, and there was no keeping them in.
“I—I didn’t know. I thought … I always thought you’d married Denton because of the money, but not because … of me.”
My mother just looked at me for a few moments. “I did what I had to do.”
“I haven’t always been the best mother, but there were some things I wasn’t willing to sacrifice. Your future was one of them.”
Her words stunned me. I opened my mouth to speak, but she continued.
“You were already destroyed by your daddy dying. I knew I was going to lose everything to the debts. Every last piece of the life you’d known was going to be gone. You might’ve been eighteen, but you were still a child in so many ways. My little girl had lost her daddy, the most important man in her life, and I didn’t want every familiar thing to be stripped away all at once. You’d worked so hard to get into that school—and your father had been so proud of you. I couldn’t let either of you down by making you leave it and start over somewhere else. I was bound and determined to find a way … and then I met Denton.”