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Pressure and Smoke [part 2/2]
“That’s what I thought. Now eat 3 more bites of turkey and three more bites of stuffing, and you can have some dessert later.” Grudgingly, Scott let her gently fork the small bites into his mouth, but his way of being a rebel was not chewing or swallowing. So, by the third bite of turkey, his mouth was full as a chipmunk before winter. Sharon was getting irritated with his attitude. By some magical mother powers, Sharon convinced Scottie to swallow his food instead of showing it off to the rest of the table and laughing.
Unfortunately, Scott is a true anti-authority child. As soon as his mouth was free of food, he started thrashing all over the place, kicking and screaming that he needed to get out again. “Just three bites, Scottie,” Sharon tried, but to no avail. It did no good that Michael and Brandon had burst into silent laughter. Scottie was getting louder and louder as the time passed.
“Scottie, I think you need a nap.” Sharon said, with a tone of finality in her voice, or as much as a drunkard could come up with. Scottie was now screaming louder than I thought possible. He had drowned out the television – both of them – completely, as well as Sharon, who was trying to get him out of his seat so she could take him to bed. EJ and Eric had joined Michael and Brandon in their snickering now, and Sharon gave him a death glare. Scottie struggled and squirmed and kicked at her, but Sharon didn’t falter.
As everyone watched in silence as Sharon left the room with a Tasmanian devil in her arms, EJ looked around the table, and then said to no one in particular, “Well, that was interesting.”
That broke the silence. Instantaneously, dinner went back to normal as the sound of a screaming 3-year-old drifted over to the dining table from his bedroom. For a little while longer, everyone ate their Thanksgiving / Christmas dinner, and all was well.
“Pieeeee!!” shouted Eric, and he could be heard everywhere throughout the house. As Sharon walked over to the oven where Eric was doing something similar to the potty dance, EJ got out the ice cream, a stack of plates, a knife, and an ice cream scoop. In that order. EJ handled the serving sizes with the pie. He worked slowly and carefully, trying as best as he could to dish up Eric and Scottie the exact same size of everything so there would be no fighting between them.
Everyone else was old enough to serve themselves, and I gave myself a respectable sized piece of pie-and-ice cream.
The adults were gathered around the outskirts of the kitchen, leaning against walls and sitting on counter tops. Us “kids” sat on stools around the island. We all ate our pie in peace.
Slowly and gradually, one by one, everyone finished until the sink was full with a pile of plates, a cupful of forks and spoons, a butter knife, and an ice cream scoop.
The entire night had gone by just fine so far with nothing to worry about.
Things started getting suspicious after dessert was over. Lynn and Brandon had said they could only stay for dinner, so after oodles of goodbyes were said, the two went on their way and everyone settled down.
Eric and Scottie were entertained by Michael and the television, while both of my parents, my aunt my uncle and I were gathered around the island, which was where the food was, and we were talking about all sorts of things. If I remembered all the random subjects that were discussed and debated over, I would go on for hours just listing them.
It really started sinking in that Aunt Sharon was heavily drunk when she reached across my body and kind of hugged my belly. I must have jumped three feet out of surprise away from her, and since my mom had noticed as well, I was spared explaining anything that had just happened. Sharon had moved away toward the fridge to grab more alcohol. Letting my mom hug me protectively, I told her that I was starting to be really wary of Sharon, and that she was beginning to act kind of funny, even for someone wayyy under the influence. My mom agreed. It was a long time before anything else weird occurred, and I thought the night would end without another disruption. The peace only lasted for another half hour or so.
It was late into the night. My uncle, and aunt were both intoxicated now. Mom had even had a little to drink. My dad doesn't drink, so of course he wasn't joining the two in their laughter at everything in the world.
“Hahaha! You – you really think – think I could...” Sharon stammered. She never finished her sentence.
“Heeheeheehoho!!” was EJ's only response. He looked like he was going to tip out of his chair. Behind him, my dad stood ready and braced to catch him.
I'm surprised they didn't wake Eric and Scottie, who were sound asleep on the couch, both cuddled up against Michael. Occassionally I heard very faint snoring.
I was still at my spot with two bowls – one for pistachios, one for pistachio shells. Occasionally a hand would reach into my pistachio bowl and grab a few. I was totally content with that activity because I was doing something, but my fingertips were getting red and raw.
At about 8:30, my dad left the room for some reason, and my mom and uncle were engaged in a conversation about something to do with the water supply to his house. I didn't pay attention to the fact that Sharon watched until he was out of sight, or checked to make sure that my mom was occupied before she turned to me. I thought nothing of how she drained the last of her Budweiser, and refrained from smoking her half-gone cigarette once before calling me outside. I didn’t pay attention to the fact that she was speaking quietly, almost to the point of a whisper. I didn’t realize that my mom had no idea I was going anywhere with Sharon.
“Jacqueline,” she whispered. I didn't respond with words, but simply by looking at her. I still don't know why exactly, but as soon as she spoke my name I was on high alert. With a drunk gesture, Sharon beckoned me outside into the backyard. Red flags were going off in every area of my mind, but I obliged. What do I have to lose? What could she possibly do? That thought somehow blotted out all my instinct warning me against following Sharon.
I slowly followed her, dragging my footsteps, thinking, I'm going to regret this... every second of the way. I crept through the rest of the kitchen, through the mudroom door and stood on the inside of the doorway, while Sharon was standing on the other side. I noticed she had a new Budweiser in her hand, and a new cigarette as well. I didn't speak. She looked at me as if I had poofed there, and then said, “Come on. A little closer.”
I looked down at the doorway, lined with metal. For some reason, that was like an imaginary barrier. On my side, was where she couldn't do anything to me. On her side, was where she could.
I inched forward.
“Keep coming.” She beckoned with the cigarette hand. The smoke trail made a curly-cue in the air.
A tiny piece of it made it's way to my nose, and I almost coughed at the pungent smell of rat poison, cleaning detergent, and who knows what else.
I procrastinated by watching the tiny wisps float toward the sky. Quickly – too quickly for my taste – it dispensed and was no more.
I inched forward.
My feet were right up next to the edge of the metaphorical barrier.
She was getting impatient. Waving her hand back and forth furiously, she almost made her beer bottle fall out of her hand. I saw the alcohol swish around inside as if a storm were rocking it.
I moved so slightly, that the edge of my toes were could just barely feel the coolness of the metal, and I could only slightly sense the breeze drifting in from outside.
This seemed to satisfy her just fine. Sharon took a big swig from her bottle, and I watched as she chugged almost half of what was left. After she had gotten over the sudden “rush”, she looked down at her cigarette, and looked up at me. The silent me. The statue me. The me that was terrified out of my skin of what this plastered lady would do to me if she got the chance in the next instant.
She held out her cigarette hand. The smoke drifted toward the skies. “Here. Want some?”
It felt like my mind erupted. I could not have counted high enough to cover every one of the warning sirens and symbols and red flags and skull-and-crossbones running in circles in my mind.
A fraction of a second passed. “No!!” I yelled without hesitation. It took every ounce of mental strength to not run inside, slam the door, and keep running every mile back to my house, which was across the pass. I arrived back in the kitchen, my mind still reeling from what just happened, and according to my mom, I looked like I had seen a ghost.
“Honey, what's wrong?” She looked up and asked immediately.
There was an eerie silence. Do I tell Mom was happened and get Sharon in trouble, or not tell what happened and keep Sharon out of trouble? This is how my mind works. Even after someone has just done what ranks #1 on my NEVER DO list, I'm still looking out for them, not wanting to get them in deep waters, no matter who it is.
I decided quickly that this was something I needed to tell my mom.
There was an unoccupied stool next to my mom at the island. Sitting down quietly, I felt my eyes tear up a tiny bit as I started to whisper in her ear.
“Sharon....” I felt like the words were stuck in my throat. “Sharon tried to get me to smoke.” I said it quickly, but in my mind, it took an eternity to get out.
My mom's face distorted. She filled with rage instantly. At about the same time, Sharon walked in behind me from outside, and I moved as fast as I could over to a couch in the television room. I didn't want to witness what would happen next.
The argument passed between my mom and Sharon was loud and angry-sounding. I'm surprised but thankful it didn't wake up my cousins. In the kitchen, screams ricocheted off the walls and left a stain in the house's memories. I could hear that my mom was infuriated that Sharon would think of doing such a thing. The entire time, I heard Sharon say almost nothing. Amidst my mom's voice, was my dad's and uncle's.
“How dare you offer up something like that to my daughter! How dare you!!” My mom's screams were getting close to an octave higher than a normal voice would be. While she was taking breaths, Uncle EJ's voice wasn't drowned out any longer, and I heard that he was backing up Mom, and not Sharon, as was my dad.
I don't remember specifically the next half hour or so. I was crying a little, my mom was screaming so that God could hear her, and I kept thinking, I don't think I'll ever forget this. I'll want to, but I won't. Those long minutes dragged by, and my memory has garbled together the words that were spoken, save for some few that struck me.
My uncle spoke. He was trying to calm Mom, but his methods were off. “Jeanine, I think she was doing it as a test. Now, I'm on your side. If I were to do that kind of test on her, I would not have given her the cigarette had she said yes. But Sharon would have.”
Each time I caught a sentence from the argument, tears that had dried against my eyes and cheeks welled up again, trying to break free. The only thing keeping me from crying a waterfall was me, whispering to myself. “It's okay, Jacqueline. It'll be okay. You'll be okay. It'll all be all right.” I was acting as a comforter for myself, but I longed for my mom's arms anyway. Instead, all I had was a pillow to hold on to.
The noise had finally died down. My dad walked slowly into the television room where Michael and I were sitting. Just behind him, comes Mom, who's face is pinkish from her temper. Dad's movements were all slow, but I could tell that he was working to control himself. He sat on the edge of a chair.
“We're going home,” stated my mother. Behind her words was another message; “you have no say in the matter. If you talk back, you will be punished severely. Let's leave. Now.” Michael and I said goodbye and goodnight to Eric and Scottie, who were yawning and trudging to their beds. They were slightly confused. We had planned that the stay would last until the next morning, and they didn't know why it was cut short.
I hugged EJ and said goodbye. While we were embraced, he whispered in my ear, “Jacqueline, I'm so sorry. I wish I could have avoided this whole thing from happening.”
“Me too,” I murmured in reply. “Bye, I love you.” I looked up at him, and then squeezed one more time before turning away and carrying various bowls and boxes out to the van.
The five minutes or so that it took us to get out of their driveway were silent. Ghostly silent. You-could-have-heard-a-pin-drop silent. My mom broke it once we were pulling off the main road and onto the freeway. “Honey, I -” she started, but didn't finish right away. Mom began crying, and she was having trouble driving at the same time.
“Dear, why don't you pull over and let me drive?” Dad asked genttly and kindly as possible. My mom pulled onto the dark shoulder and got out of the car to trade seats with Dad. She was still crying.
“Jacqueline, I just want you to know, that... that I'm sorry.” My mom choked out. “I love you, and I'm so sorry you had to go through what she did, and I'm sorry you had to listen to that, and I'm sorry....” She didn't finish her sentence, but I got the picture.
“Mom, don't be sorry for something you didn't do. I love you too, and it's okay.”
Darn it! I scolded myself. I was getting teary-eyed all over again, when I had just stopped a little bit earlier.
Most of the ride home was passed in sad silence. The sorrow hung over all of us, and I could almost see it dragging my family down. I couldn't do anything to help though.
Every once in a while, mom or I would say something about that evening, and we would talk, finding comfort in each other's words for a few minutes. Then the discussion would end, and everyone would be affected by this new piece of information.
It was past midnight by now. Michael had fallen asleep in his seat, and I was staring blankly out the window. I wanted to turn the radio on because KXLE is one of the only things that can cheer me up from anything, but I was almost afraid to.
Finally, Mom did it for me, turning it on to a song I knew. Immediately, the station worked its magic, and I quietly sang along with the songs until we got home.
“We all got a hillbilly bone down deep inside, no matter where you're from, you just can't hide... when the band starts playing and you're filled with song, you can't help but hollerin, 'yeehaw!'”
Michael joined in softly for the 'yeehaw' part.
That was the only time in my life that I wasn't fully cheered up solely by listening to country songs.
Today, I remember that night as the worst of my life. So does my mom.
Whenever the subject is brought up, it's talked about with great caution, and abridged a lot. This is one of the worst subjects for my mom and I to talk about, because we will never forget it.
In the bad way.