Memories encompassed her brain, circling like a pack of hungry wolves looking for their next kill. Rachel drifted in and out of consciousness, neither here nor there. Her head lay at rest in the hospital, but her mind lay rest in the past. Trickles of thoughts. Flickers of feelings. Weights of wounds impressing upon her body and soul. Rachel longed for relief.
The bed felt like rocks, her entire body crying out for comfort where there was none. Her pillow heated by the light of the sun, inflamed, too hot to touch. Her mind burned. The fabric of the hospital gown taunted every inch of her skin, as if she were pricked with needles trying to determine if she were alive. How did I get here? What happens next? Am I to shuffle back and forth forever wedged between conscious and unconscious memory? She heard voices talking, determining her fate, evaluating her being, speculating on her rehabilitation. Do I have any hope for recovery?
Hope! Rachel felt the word whip through her mind violently as she thought of her daughter. What kind of life had she left for her child? What kind of father would Bill be if Rachel didn’t make it? Who would raise her child if Bill chose to abandon his role? Rachel recalled a conversation with her father when she was pregnant, when she didn’t know if Bill would step up, when she wasn’t sure if the Rackets would let her stay. At the time, she had felt it would still be better for her parents, despite all their closeted problems, to raise Hope. Yet now as she recalled her decisions, and the will she had drawn up, she wondered if she made a grave mistake. With her recent recollection of suppressed and painful memories, she knew her child would be no more safe in the hands of her cold, distant father and emotionally unstable mother. And if her father’s lover had any say, Rachel could be handing her child over to a fate worse than death.
A vision of Hope in her bright yellow colors and tiny yellow bows flashed through Rachel’s mind. The sweet little child’s eyes bright and beautiful with her head resting on “Auntie” Gala’s red jacket. Rachel recalled her best friend, Gala, holding Hope, staring down at the bed and its occupant with concern. Did Gala come to visit and bring Hope? Rachel puzzled. No. Her niece had been babysitting last night or some night… or… Why can’t I remember? Perhaps Gala and DeAndre could adopt the toddler and give Hope the home she needed and deserved. The couple was nearing their wedding date. Rachel had been asked to be the matron of honor. If I ever get out of this bed…
Rachel couldn’t imagine wearing a bridesmaids dress now. Fabric felt like a shroud, and tightened around her body until her skin couldn’t breathe. Her entire being felt on fire. Fiery red was the color Gala had chosen for her ladies. It was her favorite color. Rachel would have to wear it. She just wouldn’t breathe.
Perhaps she could tell Gala about the pain. Rachel opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come. Gala smiled sadly, and brushed Rachel’s shoulder with her fingers. “Say goodbye to Mommy,” Gala had said. Her child had uttered a sweet “bye, bye.” Rachel felt her mind slipping away again into the black. It was safe there. It was quiet. But it was without her child. Even so, maybe Hope would be better off with Gala and DeAndre. With his money, he could take Hope away and keep her free from danger. Rachel wouldn’t have to worry. Hope deserved more. She needed more. She needed to be okay. She resolved to tell Gala about her plan… if she ever woke up.
What kind of mother could she be anyway? Not like Marigold… staying with the abuse, putting up with the abuse, and pretty soon committing her own abuses toward humanity. Then what would be left of me when I am old? If I get old?
Marigold stood on the precipice of death every day. Her memories were faded, stuffed in boxes in the back of the attic of her mind, coated in cobwebs. What memories did surface became drowned in bitter whiskey and the delirious ramblings of a woman past her prime. Once Marigold had said each wrinkle on her face covered at least two scars – the physical markings of the man who beat her and the psychological imprint of a lifetime of hurt and harm. She wasn’t certain which was worse. Rachel knew she was lucky. Bill didn’t beat her. But he didn’t love her either.
Bill had stood alone in the parking lot. He often stood alone. Despite their partnership, Rachel was certain she had never truly been “together” with the father of her child. This particular memory stayed fresh in her mind as if a milkman delivered a new warm bottle of regrets and doubts every morning.
Bill stood alone in the parking lot of the Starlight Hotel. At his parents’ insistence, he had whisked Rachel away to Starlight Shores in Califorsimia. Husbands and wives are supposed to take honeymoons, Max had grinned. He paid for everything. That’s how he kept everyone under his thumb. Bill had spent the bulk of it on gambling in local casinos and drinking everything in the mini bar, night after night. When he spent too much and drank too much, he called home to “good ole dad” and asked for more. Max promptly wired the money over Rachel’s protests.
Bill stood alone in the parking lot of the Starlight Hotel a few steps from their rental car. Rachel had looked out the window wondering if her husband would come up and join her. They had just arrived and he had returned to the car to retrieve her purse. She had forgotten it on the front seat. Rachel had wandered onto the balcony, about to call to her husband, but she hesitated. He was staring dead ahead into nothingness, the emptiness of the parking spaces flanking their rentals. He looked right. He looked left. He opened the car with the remote control, and picked up his new wife’s purse, but instead of returning to their suite, he walked the other way to the road, whistled for a cab, and left.
Rachel sat alone in their room. The first night of their supposed honeymoon a complete sham. Her husband had absconded with her wallet and keys. Daddy’s money wasn’t enough. Leaving her alone wasn’t enough. He had to humiliate her by leaving her to fend for herself while he went and got wasted and spent money that wasn’t his night after night after night.
Rachel sat alone in their room of the Starlight Hotel. She waited for Bill to call, to say there had been some mistake, to apologize. But there really wasn’t a good explanation. There wasn’t a good explanation for why he left in a taxi when their rental was there. There wasn’t a good explanation for why he left with her purse when he had his own money. There wasn’t a good explanation for why he abandoned his wife on the first night of their honeymoon. Nothing except for an addiction… to everything that wasn’t her.
Rachel sat alone in the room of the hotel, wishing she could take the rental. She wished she could drive straight to the airport and return the vehicle. She wished she could abandon her husband like he did to her. She wished she could get on a plane and fly back home to Twinbrook. She wished she could return to the one person who loved her unconditionally – her daughter, Hope.
What kind of mother am I? For staying with a horrible loser like Bill? For staying married to a man who is so distant from me? Who doesn’t love me? What kind of example am I setting for my daughter? Rachel cried herself to sleep that night and many nights after. Then she learned that the tears did absolutely nothing. They released the pain, but offered no true relief. What kind of mother am I? Surely, I’m not like Silver.
Rachel’s sister-in-law hated her husband. She mocked him. She teased him. She belittled him in public. She embarrassed him in front of their children. She humiliated him in front of his family. She disgraced him in front of his friends. Silver said and did anything and everything to get what she wanted with no regard for the consequences. Why did Dennis stay?
Silver was currently in rehabilitation, and still Dennis stayed. He stayed despite years of abuse. He stayed despite the mockery of his marriage. Rachel had always suspected an ulterior motive. Silver must have something over her husband. What was so dreadful, so terrible, so horrific that he stayed with such a dreadful, terrible, horrific woman? She wasn’t a wife. She was a whining bitch. She wasn’t a mother. She was a mad woman. And still he stayed married to her.
Oh gawd! I don’t want my daughter to see this… to see us… her father and I… to end up staying in a marriage with a man who I don’t love and who doesn’t love me! This isn’t what the sacred covenant of marriage is supposed to be. Compared to Dennis and Silver, Rachel’s and Bill’s marriage looked like peaches’n’cream. But it’s like we’ve both got spoons and we’re stirring the opposite directions in our bowl of oatmeal. Hope needed better role models.
Rachel hoped Lolly would be a good influence on her daughter. The kid seemed to be going places, even if her parents’ marriage was a disaster. Lolly had already proven to be a good influence on that boy, Sinbad Rotter. He got out of trouble before it was too late for him. If Lolly could help an ex-criminal, she would do wonders for Hope. Perhaps Lolly was proof that kids could still turn out okay despite terrible parents. Well, it wasn’t like Dennis was a terrible parent. Rachel could tell he truly cared about his kids, but he was distracted by his work and his wife, and all this was compounded by his family history. In different circumstances, Dennis could be the kind of dad he wanted to be.
And I could be the kind of mother I want to be, Rachel thought miserably. Lolly needed to get out while she could. Shark, wherever he was, needed to get out while he could. The family hadn’t heard from him in awhile. Hope needed to get out while she could. Rachel needed to… her thoughts trailed off. No, it’s too late for me. But when she woke up, she knew what she had to do.