A Life Apart

Chapter 17: Confrontations (pg. 95)


Entering the house, Mirabelle was accosted by a partially muffled siren like alarm. She found its source under the sofa in the living room. She hung up the phone and called for her mother. There was no answer. She hurried up the stairs to her mother’s room. Opening the door, she found the room empty, though eerily echoing the sounds of wheezing and wining nearby. She rushed to the bathroom where her mother sat on the floor, pills strewn about her.

“Mom, did you take any pills?”

Jill looked up at her daughter through glazed eyes, her face streaked with dried tears. “No, I was going to throw them out. But I guess I just lost it.”

Mirabelle spied the cracked mirror and drew her own image of what had transpired. She took a wash cloth, rinsed it in warm water, and proceeded to wash her mother’s face. She helped her to her feet, guided her to her bed, stuffed a pillow under her head, and placed the wash cloth over her forehead. Sitting on the bed beside her mother, she said, “Mom, I’m okay, really. The doctors say my life can be ninety-nine percent normal. I just have to be prepared for that one percent. There are precautions I can take—that I will take.”

Jill placed a hand on her daughter’s forearm. “Honey, I’m so sorry. I’ve misjudged you terribly. It’s not just you. I’ve messed up everything.” With those words, she began to cry uncontrollably.

Mirabelle pulled her up into a heartfelt hug. “I know it’s been hard for you. Maybe we both have to start over.”

“Dear, you don’t understand. I’m a drug addict; and so is my son. I’m a mess. No one would want to live with me. I can’t blame your father for wanting something else.”

“I don’t understand.”

“This Applee woman, she called looking for your father. She said Cindy told her he wasn’t in the office. I thought about her visit to our house. Something didn’t seem right. So I decided to call Cindy. He damn-well was in the office! Moreover, he had told Cindy not to receive any calls from that woman.” Jill pulled away from her daughter’s embrace. She was no longer crying. She raised her voice and blurted out, “Don’t you see what’s happening? He’s trying to break off a relationship with a younger woman. He’s been cheating on me for god knows how long!”

“She came here?” Mirabelle was incredulous. “Mom, he might not have cheated on you. Maybe he was trying to avoid this woman because he didn’t want her advances. Maybe you’re misreading the whole thing. You need to hear dad’s side of the story before you judge him.” In truth, Mirabelle had no better interpretation, but she felt it necessary to calm her mother. She added, “You need to pull yourself together and confront him with your concerns—your feelings—before you condemn him. I know you two have had your difficulties over the years. But I believe he does love you. Don’t you?

“I don’t know. It’s been such a long time . . . since we’ve talked.”

“Then, now is that time. Tell him how you feel, what’s missing in your relationship, what you think he can do about it. Hear what he has to say. I have a feeling you’ll be surprised.”

Jill studied her daughter coolly, her emotional storm seemingly passed. “When did you get all this wisdom?” Briefly she smiled. Then, turning serious, she added, “What do I do about Billy?”

“Nothing, he’s decided to detoxify. It’s what he needs to do. We just support him. What else can we do? He has to choose his life and then live it, just like the rest of us.”

“Honey, come down to the kitchen with me. You can help me with dinner if you like, or just keep me company.” Jill saw Mirabelle’s momentary look of surprise. “Oh, I gave Betsy the day off. In my current state, she’s better off free of me.”

Mirabelle grinned, knowing how Betsy quietly bore the side-spatter of her mother’s emotions. She descended the stairs behind her mother in order to keep her company, at least until her father came.

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