Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blood Sisters

Yet another written composition to clutter your mind with...

This piece has never felt finished to me. It needed a lot more research and substance but this is all I could do in the time span we had in class. Though the story line needs more substance, I'm quite pleased with the plot. I think it would make a great movie.

***Note to my sister Diana - Any names that appear to represent real people is purely coincidental. ***



Blood Sisters
I remember feeling sick that Monday morning when I woke up, but I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower. There was no way I could afford not to go to work that day. I stood in the stream of hot water until it started to run cold, hoping the pelting droplets could somehow wash away the nausea and emptiness I felt.

I arrived at the office and dove right into work. Sandy brought me a cup of coffee and perched on the edge of my desk. “You look like crap, Laurie. Did you have a rough weekend?”

“Yeah, John was in town. He came to pick Jeremy up for Spring Break.”

“Well, at least he’s not a deadbeat Dad.”

“I wish he was. I know that all ten-year-old boys deserve to have a relationship with their Dad, but I always feel so rejected and abandoned when he drives off with that asshole.”

Sandy laughed as she turned to walk out the door, “Before you know it, he’ll be home and you’ll be whining because you didn’t take advantage of your week of freedom.”

I clasped the warm cup in both hands, thankful that Sandy was thoughtful enough to bring it to me, and even more thankful that she chose to leave me alone with it. I liked her well enough, but I didn’t feel up to dealing with her bubbly personality that morning.

As tears ran down my face, I stared at the phone, hoping it wouldn’t ring; knowing eventually it would, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just stared blankly ahead wondering how I got myself into this mess.

The first time I laid eyes on John, my propensity for bikes and bikers filled me with lust and a yearning for excitement and adventure. Unable to speak, I just grabbed Diane’s arm and nodded in his direction, making a throaty noise. I couldn’t take my eyes off him and his denim covered butt that showed above his leather chaps, as he climbed off his Harley outside of Becker’s Bar and Grill.

Diane just rolled her eyes at me over her beer when I announced, “One day I’m gonna have my own bike and my own hunka leather-clad man like that.” We had gone to Becker’s to celebrate us both turning nineteen. She, being two-and-a-half weeks older than me, had had to wait until my birthday before we could hit the bars to affirm that we were now considered adults.

Since fifth grade, Diane and I had shared just about everything: secrets, clothes, boyfriend stories, homework. She even called my mother “Mom,” since she had lived in foster homes most of her life. My fascination for motorbikes and stereotypical bad-boys was the one thing Diane never did understand about me. Though she didn’t understand it, she stood by me as I got myself into a few messes with guys over the years.

We were in the seventh grade when Diane said, “I wish you were my sister; then I’d know you’ll always be there for me. I don’t have anyone else I trust. Except maybe your mom. I love your mom. But of course if you were my sister, she’d be my mom too.”

“Let’s do it.” I responded.

“What?”

“Let’s become blood sisters. Y’know, where we cut ourselves and share our blood.”

We gathered up the materials we thought we’d need: an exacto knife, bandages, rubbing alcohol, gauze and a mountain of courage. We decided to do it outside on the lawn so we wouldn’t make a mess in the house.

After soaking my hand with an alcohol-covered gauze pad about five times (more as a means to build courage than to actually disinfect the skin) I made the first cut - a gash across my left palm. I thought I was going to throw up as I watched Diane make a similar cut along her right palm while blood oozed from my hand and onto the grass. As soon as blood was running from Diane’s cut, we clasped our hands together and intertwined our fingers. We held each other’s hand and walked around the block, blood and tears both dripping every few steps, making vows up as we went along.

“Diane, I promise to be your sister forever.”

“Laurie, I will do anything for you. Anything at all.”

“I will do anything and everything to defend you.”

“I will be your best friend until we are dead.”

“I will kill, if I have to, to support you.”

“Me too, Laurie.”

From that day on, we have been blood sisters. We have renewed those vows a number of times over the years, but without the mingling of blood ritual.

We had been hanging out at Becker’s for nearly a year the first time John asked me to take a ride with him. It was more like a command; but it was my chance to ride with a real man, so I jumped at it. Diane begged me not to get involved with him and I should have listened, but the pull of excitement was strong and I was drawn to him and his lifestyle.

“He’ll only hurt you. You’ve seen him screwing around with different women. You know he doesn’t take you serious. You are just a hot young chick for him to parade around on his bike.” I knew she was right, but it wasn’t like I was looking for a husband or anything. I just wanted to have a little fun. In a perverse way, I sort of liked being the submissive little trophy. A decade later, it sickened me to think about it.

During the next months, while I was riding and drinking with the bikers, Diane was being drawn into the drug scene. One day she confided in me, “It breaks my heart to see you spend so much time with John. The drugs help to take the edge of the loneliness I feel.”
“Oh, Diane, no matter where life takes us, you will always be my bestest friend. I will never abandon you. Not for John; not for anyone.”

I was terrified the first time I got called to the emergency room because she had overdosed on God knows what. We cried together and both swore off drugs for the rest of our life. But within hours of being released from the hospital, she was out looking for another hit. Over the years there have been many trips to the hospital.

Addiction is a powerful thing, and it’s hard to watch it destroy the life of someone you love. The last couple of years, I watched Diane’s body weight plummet and her mind degenerate into state of confusion. She would never have called herself a prostitute, but she often told me she had traded sex for drugs or to pay off debts.

About two years ago, Diane kept complaining of stomach pains and constant fatigue. After a month or so, she showed up at my door one morning just before I left for work.

“My God, Diane. What’s wrong?” I hardly recognized her. She was a rack of bones and her skin was pallor, almost yellow. She was so weak she could hardly walk or talk.

“I dunno. Maybe it’s food poisoning.” Diane gasped for breath a couple of times. “I can’t stop throwing up. Can I just sleep here today while you’re at work?”

“Forget work. Get in my car, you are going to the hospital.” She didn’t have the strength to argue with me.

Tests showed that Diane had contracted Hepatitis C; probably through needle use, but it could have been from some forgotten sex partner. The disease had already gone beyond the acute stage and was categorized as chronic.

The interferon alpha injections she received several times a week caused her to live with constant flu-like symptoms. She suffered off and on from depression, especially when it was nearing the time for her biannual liver tests and ultrasounds. She would call saying, “Laurie, it’s just not fair. I hate doctors. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” I did what I could to cheer her up. Often, I would have her over for a sleepover, like the old days. We would get out sleeping bags and popcorn and lay awake all night talking. We reminisced the good times and bad, and made up extravagant dreams for the future.

Diane’s addiction was drugs. Mine had been John and his lifestyle. I remember telling her, “If only you’d take up riding, you wouldn’t need the drugs. The adrenaline rush that comes with strapping on the leathers and flying down the highway at 100 miles an hour with your hair whipping in the wind is indescribable.” The surge of power I felt when a crowd of people parted to let a group of bikers through was intoxicating. When the other guys smiled and nodded their approval as John passed by with me on his arm, I was encouraged to continue this lifestyle, even when John started doing things I couldn’t approve of.

When he let some other guy take the rap after a stabbing incident in a bar, I was furious with him. “Your selfishness disgusts me. Who do…” My response was cut short as his fist connected with my lips. My flesh made a popping sound as my front teeth went through the skin and blood exploded all over the two of us.

“Sometimes you gotta let someone else take the fall so you can move on in life,” he flippantly said to me, as if letting someone else spend time in jail for his crime was some minor thing like stealing a cookie and letting your little brother be sent to his room for it.

He turned and walked away from me. Almost as an afterthought, he looked back at me with scorn and spewed, “Don’t ever question my actions again.”

I excused his hitting me, foolishly thinking that I probably deserved it for provoking him. After that incident of seeing him stab someone and not feel any remorse for it, and worse, take pleasure in the fact someone else took the blame, I began to worry about the handgun he always packed under the seat in the truck.

“Why don’t you keep it locked in the closet? I’d feel safer.” I suggested one day just after Jeremy was born. I reasoned that if he had to drive home to get the gun, he would probably think twice about using it, should the occasion arise.

“Listen bitch, when you’re with me, you’re safe. I can take care of things; the gun is just there for insurance, should I need it. So don’t you be worrying your pretty little head about things that you don’t need to.”

Of course, nagging at him would get me nowhere except a trip to the emergency room with a broken nose, so I just kept my mouth shut. As Jeremy got older, I made sure he knew it was there and educated him on the dangers of guns.

When our relationship was falling apart, Diane was always my rock of support; she would hold me and try to comfort me when I knew John was out with other women. It was she who would dress my wounds after he beat the crap out of me. Once, she took a baseball bat to his truck after I begged her and made her promise not to go to the cops after a particularly bad beating.
“That bastard is lucky I didn’t see him. I would’ve killed him.” I knew she would have, and it scared me. That was the final straw that convinced me to leave John and clean up, get a job and start supporting my two-year-old son and myself.

I have often told John that Jeremy and I would survive just fine should he choose to drop off the face of the earth. He always made his monthly support payments, not so much for our benefit, but because it made him feel in control. This past weekend, when I packed Jeremy’s suitcase to John’s truck while he was upstairs looking at a science project, he yelled, “I don’t need your help, bitch. I’ve been taking care of things for years.” I just shrugged him off and didn’t even give him the satisfaction of an argument.

The little things like that have reassured me I made the right choice to be a single parent.

It seemed the more I got on track with my life, the more Diane began to lose a grip on reality. Soon it was me holding Diane and nursing her while she suffered through the effects of drugs. She owed a lot of people a lot of money and often came to me in the middle of the night fearing for her life. Sometimes, I didn’t know whether it was just a drug hallucination or if there was, in fact, someone after her. Either way, she was my blood sister and I was there for her, just as she had been for me so many times. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done for her.

RRIINGG! The phone startled me so badly, I had to muffle a scream. It was my mother, sobbing hysterically. “L-Laurie, come home. I c-can’t tell you over the phone. Just… just hurry, hurry home.”

“Mom. What? What is it? Mom, has John done something?”

“Just come home, baby. It… it’s Diane.” My eyes went immediately to the scar across my left palm. My voice caught in my throat and I was unable to say anything. Mom broke the silence, “Actually, don’t go home.” She blew her nose. “Meet me at Diane’s house. I…I…I’ll head there now.”

My shaking hand dropped the receiver to the desk. I wondered what the future held. I longed for a chance to start over again at our nineteenth birthday. Numbly, I left my office and got into my car.

The drive to Diane’s house only took about eight minutes. Somehow, I was unprepared for the number of emergency vehicles in the driveway. There were four police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance. As I was half running up the walkway, I was met by the paramedics wheeling out a gurney with Diane’s body covered in a sheet. It was too much and my knees gave out under me.
My mom ran out and knelt beside me, “She’s dead, Laurie. They had found her slouched over on her couch with a single bullet hole through her temple. She had been holding the teddy bear Jeremy had given her for Christmas a couple of years ago.”

Mickey, her most regular drug dealer, was the one who had called the cops. He said he had come to “pay a visit” and found her that way.

Because I was the nearest thing to a relative that Diane had, I was able to ride in the ambulance to the hospital with her. At the hospital the police accompanied me to the mourning room and proceeded to bombard me with questions.

“Who were her friends?”

“Me. Pretty much, just me. She had gone way downhill this past year or two.”

The impact of the situation, and the truth of the statement I had just made, hit me like a ton of bricks. I screamed and punched the wall beside me. The police officer put his arm across my shoulders.

“I know it’s tough. Take your time.” His arm brought me comfort, although even at the time, I knew it was there more as a restraining measure than for solace.

He gave me a minute to pull myself together before asking, “Who were her enemies?”

I inhaled a deep jerky breath. “She owed a lot of dealers money. Mickey the most. He used to rape her as interest on her loans. She hated him, but she needed him. He was pretty much the only one who would still supply her.”

“Anyone else?”

“Dave. Her ex. He really resented having to pay her alimony… they were only married for three months. About five years ago. It was one of her longest clean streaks –six months. She met him at a grocery store of all places. They dated for about three weeks and took off to Vegas for the weekend and came home married. It wasn’t long before she was back into drugs and wasting all his money. He filed for divorce.

“She wasn’t working when they married, and didn’t hold a job during the short relationship. The judge deemed that Dave knew she would be dependent on him, and ordered him to pay her monthly support. He hated that.”

“Was there anyone else who might have wished her dead, or even just been angry with her?”

“Not really, other than dealers. Maybe John.”

“Who’s John?”

“My ex.”

“Your ex?”

“Yeah. They have hated each other forever. I think it started out as a jealousy thing. Fighting for my attention, way back when. Diane and I have always been extremely close. Neither one of them liked to share me or feel second best.”

“Were you lovers?”

“Me and John? I told you we were married.”

“No. You and Diane.”

“Fuck you. We were best friends. Sisters really. Blood sisters. For twenty four years.” Subconsciously, I ran my right index finger along the scar on my left hand.

“Sorry to offend you. I have to ask. I know this is tough for you. Do you know when she last saw any of these men?”

“I don’t think she has seen Dave for weeks. Possibly months. He just deposited her money in her account each month. She saw Mickey a few times a week. He was her dealer. You know the scene.”

“And John?”

“He was at her house this weekend. He got to town on Friday, to pick up our son for Spring Break. Diane was having a rough day that day. She was an addict y’know.”

“Yeah, I’ve gathered that.”

“I had Jeremy, that’s our son, over at her house with me. I was expecting John, so I had left a note. He was furious that he had to go to her place to track down his boy, and then go back to my place to pick up Jeremy’s things. Diane and John got into their typical shouting match. He said she was a waste of skin and for two cents he’d kill her. I don’t know that he meant it. Maybe.”

They drilled me on whether or not I thought Diane was suicidal. That was a pretty stupid question, even though she did suffer from depression with her hepatitis and drug problems. It didn’t take much of a detective to realize it was pretty obvious that she didn’t shoot herself in the head; there was no weapon at the scene. Mickey wouldn’t have been stupid enough to take a gun that had been used to kill someone, if it wasn’t him that did it.

The questioning lasted for about forty minutes before I was allowed to leave. The cop offered to drive me back to the scene to get my car, but I asked him to drop me at Mom’s. I’d have her go get my vehicle; I didn’t want to go near the house, the thought of it made me nauseous.

I spent that night at Mom’s place; I didn’t want to be alone. That evening as I sat on her sofa just staring out the window, she said, “Why don’t you call John. Let him know what happened.”

“No, Mom. John is the last person I want to speak to right now. He’ll find out soon enough. I’m sure the cops will want to question him; he did hate her. He was still in town last night when it happened.”

Mom raised her right eyebrow in a way that always gave away when she was thinking something she didn’t want you to know about. She never said anything, but I knew what she was thinking.
She confirmed it when she said, “It really bothers me to have Jeremy go off with him like that.” I didn’t respond verbally; I just nodded and then cried myself to sleep on the sofa.

The following weekend when John brought Jeremy back, his dad informed him the police wanted to talk to him. He voluntarily went without hesitation to the station for questioning.

The coroner’s report had concluded that the gun used in Diane’s death was a Ruger single action .22-calibre pistol – the kind that John had admitted had been under his truck seat for fifteen years. When he was unable to produce his gun, he was placed high on the suspect list, but since they had no hard evidence against him, they had to let him go.

After leaving the station, he went directly to my house and pounded on my door. “What the hell did you tell the cops?” he demanded.

“I only answered their questions. Get off my property you freaking lunatic, or I’ll call them to come get you.”

Three weeks went by without the police coming up with anything. I suspected they weren’t putting any effort into the investigation because Diane was a drug addict with no family. A breakthrough came when the landlady was cleaning up the yard at the end of the month to prepare it for new renters. She found a handgun. It was registered to John.

He was arrested and detained without bail until the hearing. I sat in the courtroom for the entire trial and took my turn on the witness stand. The lawyers asked me a lot of the same questions the cops had asked me at the hospital that day. I was asked to recall times when John and Diane had fought.

“The first time I remember them fighting was a couple of weeks after John and I started seeing each other. John showed up at my door unplanned, expecting to pick me up, but Diane and I were just heading out to catch a movie.”

I recalled their argument.

“You can’t just waltz in any time you like and expect everyone to drop everything.” Diane snapped at him. “She already has plans for the evening.” I looked from one to the other. I felt quite torn. I wanted to spend the time with Diane but at the same time, I was afraid that John wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me if I didn’t bend to his wishes. How na├»ve of me not to see right through him the way Diane did.

“I’m sorry John. I’ll be home by 9:30. Come get me then?”

“I’ll see what happens.” He looked directly at Diane, but spoke to me, “Make sure you are alone.”

I didn’t think I’d see him again, but his bike was sitting in my driveway when I got home. It was as if the challenge of getting me away from Diane is what kept him coming to me. I came to realize that, over the years. I am sure that is the only reason he married me in the first place – he had no desire to be tied down, or remain faithful to one woman. He just took it as a challenge, and I foolishly played into his game.

I told the court about the time Diane threw a beer bottle at John. “He still has a scar above his left ear.” I explained. “At the time John never reacted physically to her. He just told her to watch her back.”

It was exhausting recalling all the things that have taken place and I was never more relieved than to hear the words, “No further questions.”

Even Jeremy had to take the stand against his father. I didn’t like the fact that a ten-year-old had to go through an ordeal like that, but he was a mature kid, I knew he’d deal with it. He was shielded from most of the trial, and was only present in the courtroom for his time of questioning. When asked about their activities that first weekend of spring break, Jeremy replied, “We had a fun weekend. We slept at Granny and Grampy’s house. I don’t see them very much, mostly only if Dad’s in town. We went four-by-fouring on Saturday. Sunday night was cool, Grampy took me to play laser tag.”

“Did your dad play laser tag with you?”

“Nope. He said Grampy and I could have some bonding time. He went out to meet some friends.”

The lawyer probed, “Do you know who he went with? Did you see anyone with him?”

“Nope. I don’t know his friends. Mom says they’re scary.” Jeremy nervously glanced in my direction. I forced myself to flash him a big grin, so he’d know I thought he was doing a great job.
The whole ordeal made my heart ache with loneliness, missing Diane. But I knew she was better off; life had become too difficult for her to bear. She didn’t want to live any more.

I brushed off the guilt I felt. I had been true to my word; honouring the vow we made so many years ago to support and aid each other through anything. As long as I live, I will never forget the feel of the thumb-cock, the sound of firing, or the pungent smell of gunpowder mixed with blood.

John was the one who taught me well that sometimes you gotta let someone else take the fall so you can move on with life. And moving on was exactly what I planned to do. I’ll take with me the memory of Diane, that last hug goodbye, and our final elaborate plan of support: me helping Diane out of the misery of life, and she taking the misery of John from my life.

When the verdict came in as “guilty,” I didn’t even look at John. I heard him cursing at me as I turned and walked resolutely out of the courtroom and into the sunshine. The trees around me were in full bloom, lush and green, full of life. Life pumped through my veins in blood. Mine and Diane’s.

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