Swiping another one…
“What issue?” Susan asked again.
“Yeah, what does she keep putting between you?” Holly wanted to know as she elbowed her way to stand inches from Ginny and me.
Immediately, I stopped trying to wrest the shovel from the unhinged Ginny.
Then, Alison said, “You guys, whatever’s causing problems between you, talk about it. Please! Don’t let anything undo what you two have shared for such a long time.”
But, I had talked about it. Does the idiom “blue in the face” mean anything? And, I was, quite honestly, more than willing and prepared to let it go. Ginny, on the other hand, was nowhere near being able to do that. I tried to give her time, but frankly, her attempts to get me to deal with the anger she erroneously believed I carried began to make me angry. That seemed the stupidest thing I could imagine.
“Talk, chickies,” Holly ordered and sat on the ground.
The others plunked down next to her, with the exception of Claudia and Laura, who knew the story and didn’t need to be meddling busybodies, albeit well-meaning ones. Kris knew it, too, so why she landed on the ground in that audience was beyond me.
“What happened?” Holly asked. “Out with it.”
“Nothing,” I said, more out of habit than honesty.
Then, I remembered a weekend with them not long ago when faced with a silly black and blue card game. I had told them about my parents up and moving when I was away at college. It had been horrible to utter, but surprisingly, turning that secret into public knowledge—LAC public, anyway—had been incredibly freeing. So, it seemed ridiculous to create a new secret. Plus, if you could’ve seen their concerned expressions and Ginny defeatedly collapsed against the shovel, you would’ve understood that not only would it have created a secret, but the kill-to-know kind. Yet, this didn’t concern just me; it concerned Ginny and her part in it.
“Ginny?” I called, intending to ask permission.
She about-faced to me so fast she blurred. “Go ahead,” she said, but I knew from her begging tone and the look upon her face, that she was more wanting a public flogging. Maybe she had orchestrated everything to get to this precise moment, with all of them there.
“You’re sure?” I asked.
She confidently nodded and then bowed her head.
I glanced to Claudia; seeking guidance, I guessed. Simultaneously, she shrugged and nodded. Yes, Kate, but I’m not at all sure. Finding that very unhelpful, I turned my eyes to Laura who almost imperceptibly shrugged—no nod of any kind.
“Come on, Kate,” Holly goaded. “Anger isn’t a good thing to carry, and neither are secrets.”
“I’m not angry, though,” I defended. I honestly wasn’t. I had even gone to see a counselor at Kris’ behest just to make sure that I wasn’t and that I was, in fact, dealing with what had happened.
“Something obviously happened, though,” Maggie said. “Just talk to us, dilly.”
“Fine,” I said after a quick glance to the head-bowing professor of English. I drew a breath and asked them whether they remembered what I told them about my parents during that damn black and blue card game. Readily, everyone knew what the hell I was talking about. “Well, six weeks ago,” I began, “totally out of the blue—” Inside, I laughed and rephrased, “Totally out of that black and blue, my mother showed up at the door.”
Predictably, they gasped.
“Oh my God, chickie, what did you do?”
“What did she want, Kate?”
“No flippin’ way!”
“Oh my good God.”
“Seriously, what did you do?”
I tried my best to encapsulate it. “It frickin’ blew my mind. I hadn’t seen her in almost twenty years. I didn’t know what to do. So, I lied and said Claudia and I were on our way out and closed the door her.”
They all scooted closer, hungry for details I wasn’t sure I could even recall. I watched Claudia and Laura sit down, and then I glanced to Kris, her head bowed, mimicking Ginny. That, in and of itself, was so very foreign to me.
“Then what happened?” Alison asked.
“Yeah, what did you do?” Janice asked.
“Nothing,” I answered and then admitted, “It totally screwed up my head. I tried to figure out what to do, whether to see her or not, and when I couldn’t make any sense of anything, Claudia called Ginny and Kris and asked them to come over.”
Everyone’s eyes shot to Claudia, including my own. Then, I knew, theirs turned to Ginny and Kris. Mine, though, remained fixed on Claudia, her eyes smiling and supportive, and I remembered how she described to me how blown away she had been. She had apologized to me a hundred times for what she believed was her failure to help me that day. I didn’t think she had failed me, but I eventually said I forgave her only because I knew she needed to hear it. She heard it, and we began to move on.
Ginny, on the other hand…
I sat on the ground with them, completely unsure how to even begin telling the next part of the story. But, I didn’t even need to figure it out.
Peripherally, I watched Ginny stand up straight. “I hit her,” she blurted. “I hit Kate’s mother.”
“You what?” flew from five mouths.
Again, she blurted, “I snuck out of Kate and Claudia’s house while Kris and I were there, stole the van, went to her mother’s room at The Rutherford, and ended up hitting her.”
Their eyes were wide. Their jaws hung. It was not unlike how Claudia and I looked when we learned the same thing.
Ginny unloaded the rest to her captive audience, “Security showed up. The cops showed up. Kate’s mother and I got arrested.”
They were gasping really loud now, and Laura even more loudly interjected an important piece of information, “She hit you, too, Ginny.”
They went dead silent.
“But, I hit her first, Laura. If Kate’s mad, I don’t blame her. Whether what I did was justified or not is almost beside the point,” she spewed. “Just as you said in that interrogation room, I didn’t think of Kate. I didn’t think of the long-term. I didn’t think of our relationship. Just myself. Just shutting her up.”
“Ginny, what did she say that made you hit her?” Holly asked a mere second before Susan asked, “Or, did you just hit her before she could say anything?”
Ginny looked at me, and I looked at her.
This is precisely what I willingly admit I had refused to deal with. I did not want to know what had happened that turned Ginny into someone willing to hit another person. For that to have happened, for Ginny to resort to something she would undoubtedly deem Neanderthal, I knew it had to be pretty frickin’ bad. Yet, I didn’t want to be angry at my mother; I simply wanted to let go of her and hang onto the utterly astounding sense of freedom I found in telling her she wasn’t welcome in my life. That was huge to me—goddamn, unimaginably huge, and glomming onto anger would’ve given her all the power again and postponed my letting go—maybe even for another couple decades. The last thing in the world I needed was a reason, an excuse, to hang onto them. That sounded pretty damn healthy to me. Hell, it even sounded healthy to the counselor I saw, the one who didn’t sign me up for ten thousand sessions to salvage what little remained of my mental health, the one who simply said “call” if I needed anything further.
Yet, as I sat there in that field, I quite easily recognized the unsightly presence of yet another secret, the one of which Ginny was the keeper. Maybe that was what kept her stuck in that penitent place. Maybe that was why she couldn’t or wouldn’t believe that I wasn’t angry with her. Maybe she needed my concurrence that it was justified. Maybe she didn’t think it was, and when I didn’t either, I would end up angry with her. But, I trusted her, which was what made telling my mother she wasn’t welcome even possible. It was the best damn thing I could’ve done. If I truly loved my life, Claudia, Ginny and Kris, my friends, everything I had worked for, there really wasn’t a choice. I became capable of realizing that only because I trusted Ginny. Maybe I owed her this, though: the opportunity to unload a secret.
“Go ahead, Ginny,” I said over the din of a bazillion flapping butterfly wings in my gut. “Just say it.”
She looked shocked. “Here and now?” she challenged.
Frustrated, I nodded. “You’re the one that got us in this here and now.”
“I did, didn’t I?”
“On purpose?” I had to know.
Her face twisted in intense deliberation. After a long moment, she answered, “Not consciously.”
Again, I glanced to Claudia and then to Laura. I didn’t think either of them knew what had caused Ginny to start swinging. The looks on their faces validated that Claudia, for sure, didn’t and Laura, maybe, maybe not. They looked as apprehensive as I felt, and I knew for that reason neither would tell me to stop or forge ahead. It was my call, one I thought I had already made, but now it seemed as though I hadn’t.
Just buck up and frickin’ do it. Get it over with. Let this be done, once and for all.
“Go ahead,” I said. “Just tell me—tell us.”
“All right,” she said. Apparently, though, she had gotten all blurting out of her system, because for seemingly forever, she said nothing. The professor of English was weighing her words.
I braced myself, but something in the pit of my stomach, something hiding amid all those butterflies, said to stop this, that it wasn’t right. I was allowing Ginny to back me into a corner, to exonerate herself at my expense. For the life of me, I didn’t want my mother’s words twirling around in my head and pissing me off. And trust me: They would have. They’d twirl there for two more decades. I trusted Ginny hadn’t hit her for the hell of it or because she said something as benign as loathing cooked carrots. Whatever it was was toxic, with the half-life of twenty more years.
“Wait a minute, Ginny,” I blurted. “I really don’t want to know. I really don’t.”
Again, she looked defeated, as though I had snatched something vital from her.
For the hundredth time, I tried, “I don’t want excuses to stay mad at her. I just want it all over with.”
She nodded, but I knew it still made no difference to her. What the hell was I supposed to do?
I glanced to Claudia, to Laura, to Kris, and then to everyone else. Did they think I was a coward, a leaker? I wasn’t. I knew, for once, that was not the truth.
I looked at Ginny, and despite the hundred times she had asked, I honestly didn’t have what she needed; I had no anger to spew at her. Desperate, I took a stab in the dark. “Ginny, you got us here for some reason. Let these guys be your judge and jury, not me.”
Her eyes went to Kris, and mine landed on Claudia. Again, she shrugged and nodded. She was so not helpful, but I figured of all people there, she’d be honest with Ginny. Plus, I knew she was dying to know. Whatever, it was worth a shot.
“Do it, Ginny,” I ordered. “Get whatever it is off your chest. They’ll give you hell if you have it coming.”
“Damn straight we will,” Susan said. “Will rip her a new one, if need be.”
I reached and squeezed Ginny’s arm, saying, “I’ll walk to the house. Just do it.”
Turning, I started the trek, refusing to look at anyone, lest someone say or do something that told me I was wrong. In urgent need of a cigarette, I dug my pack and lighter out of my jacket pocket and lit up.
One ear tried hard not to listen; the other dared try. I figured I was far more worried about their reaction than whatever the hell Ginny could have to say. My mother found me or someone in my life, Claudia specifically, subpar and said so. That seemed the most logical, and that would likely have made Ginny reach for a defense other than her razor tongue and sharp mind. Every cell of me knew that, and that meant all my mother was offering me was more of the same. Again, I affirmed that I had done the right thing by casting her aside.
I got to the front step and sat down. A mere glance to the field told me they were in the thick of it. Ginny was unloading her secret. I hoped to hell it would make her let go and move on.
After taking a long drag, I tilted back my head and closed my eyes. I thought about an article I had been writing at work, busying myself with thoughts so I wouldn’t be tempted to listen or watch.
I had just stubbed out my smoke when I heard Claudia shout, “Honey! Come on back.”
As I shot to my feet, another bazillion butterflies offered to carry me back into the field. Instead, I put one foot in front of the other.