Pulled (Page 74)

Author: A.L. Jackson

I shook my head as I thought back. “Not for me, but for Daniel.”

“I was scared for Daniel, too. Steve was so angry with him. When I first got to the hospital, he was obviously furious about the whole situation and hurt at being deceived, but not any more than I was. Then when Eva passed.” She paused as if saying her name hurt, and I’m sure the expression on my face reflected the way she felt.

“He just snapped. He was set on making Daniel pay, and he figured the best way to do that would be to take you away from him. I tried to make him understand that it would punish you just as much as it would Daniel, but he wouldn’t listen. He told me to go along with it or he would take care of it himself. I had no idea what that meant. I just thought it would be better to take you home with me and let things cool off.”

She chuckled humorlessly, shaking her head.

“That was where my plan fel to pieces. I thought Daniel would try to get in touch with you, and Steve’s anger would wear off. But Daniel never cal ed, though Steve did, insisting I keep you in Dal as. It was awful.”

“That’s why you tried to stop me when I decided to go back.” It wasn’t a question. That afternoon all became clear to me, the panic on her face and her pleas for me to stay.

“I had no idea what to do, Melanie. You were so determined not to wait another minute. I panicked. The instant you left, I knew I had to do something. I called Steve and told him to leave you alone. I said that I was finished watching you suffer and that you deserved to be happy. He was irate, screaming he would kil Daniel if you went back to him. I don’t know how I gathered up enough courage to do it. I told him if he hurt either of you in any way, I’d spend the rest of my life destroying his, exposing him for who he really was.”

I shook my head, confused. “What are you talking about?”

She breathed slowly and closed her eyes,

seeming to make a decision before she continued.

“Melanie, I wasn’t honest with you about the reason I divorced your father.” She fidgeted with the handle of her coffee cup, her agitation clear. She finally looked up as she blew out a long breath of air. “I left because he was abusive.”

I gasped with the shock of her confession.

“What?” I knew my father could be harsh, scary even, but I’d never imagined that he could hit my mother.

“It started right after you were born. He had been such a good husband in the beginning. I loved him so much, but then he started drinking.” Sadness clouded her eyes as she swal owed. “At first it was just on weekends when he was out with the guys. It really didn’t bother me, but then he started coming home angry. At first he’d just yel and scream, picking fights with me over nothing. Then one night he hit me.”

I grimaced, clutching my coffee cup and feeling sick to my stomach.

“He gave me the typical excuse and promised me it would never happen again.” Tears started to fal down her face, and she batted them away. “I thought everything would be fine, but it wasn’t two weeks before it happened again.

That time it was so much worse than the first. I felt so trapped. He threatened that if I left, he would take you away from me, so I stayed.

“Mom,” I cried out with a shaky voice through my own tears.

She shook her head, stopping me. “Please, let me finish. It went on for two years. One night you were sick with a fever.” She pursed her trembling lips, struggling with the words. “You were crying, and I couldn’t do anything to comfort you. Steve came home, drunk again. He flew into a rage when I couldn’t calm you down. He started yel ing at you, screaming to shut up, but you only cried harder.” She shut her eyes as she continued. “He hit you, hard.” I stared at my mother, horrified. How had I never known this?

“I ran to the neighbors and called the police.” She took in a shaky breath. “They arrested him, and while he was gone, I packed up all of our things. We moved in with my parents in Texas. After the divorce, I didn’t hear from him for two years. Then he called and told me he hadn’t had a drink in all that time. He said he’d messed up, that he regretted everything he’d done. He knew it was too late for us. I was already married to Mark and expecting your sister by then. But he was asking for contact with you. At first I’d refused, but he started sending money and notes from his therapist to show proof he’d changed. He never gave up, and when you were five, I started all owing him to come for supervised visits.”

She shook her head in what appeared to be regret for making that decision.

“Then he married Cheryl, and they moved to Dal as to be close to you. You started spending the weekends there and everything seemed so much better.” She grimaced as she looked at me, her face washed in guilt. “When Cheryl left him, he wanted you to move with him to Colorado. I never once considered that he might start drinking again. He had been a near-perfect father to you all those years. It never even crossed my mind until I smell ed it at the hospital when he’d dragged me outside and demanded I take you home with me.” She appeared ashamed as she looked down at her empty coffee cup. “Suddenly, I was right back in that smal house where I’d lived in fear with him, terrified and feeling as though I could do nothing but what he said.” The tears fel harder, and I sniffled, wiping my nose with the back of my hand as my heart broke for my mother. “Al this time I blamed you as much as I blamed him.” I shook my head, still reeling from her story. “Why now, Mom? Why did you wait all these years to tel me something I should have known all along?” Every emotion she seemed to be holding in burst, and she cried out in desperation. “Because I hated myself. I went through so many years of depression after you left. So much guilt, especially for not tel ing you Daniel had come to Texas. That’s why I stayed away from you. I didn’t believe I deserved to have a relationship with you after what I’d done. Mark convinced me to get help about a year and a half ago. I went on medication that helped me to think more clearly, but it was the counseling that made the difference.

The day I cal ed, I’d just been to see my therapist. I’d had a breakthrough, and I knew I had to at least try and make things right with you.”

Resting my elbows on the top of the island, I buried my head in my hands, trying to deal with this new past my mother thought she was protecting me from.

Instead, it had become a secret that had stolen the last nine years from both of us, and from Daniel as well.