One can always hope (Alex)
Somehow we made it to the house without me completely falling apart. Jessica handed me the phone, silently, and I wiped my call history on the spot. But I knew that before very long, she’d be coming to me with questions.
Questions I didn’t really have answers for. My parents were going to be insufferable enough this trip. They always were. They wanted to control every aspect of my life, from the classes I chose to the boys I dated, and they’d never liked Dylan. Worse, for much of high school, they’d unsubtly pushed me toward a series of stuck up boys from families they knew, rich boys, boys with a future. Randy Brewer was one of those boys, and when we ended up going to Columbia together, they’d hinted more than once that Randy would be a good choice for my future.
If they only knew. I was certain that Randy’s parents, two of the most arrogant, stuck up people I’ve ever met in my life, would do everything they could to bury the charges, to avoid publicity, to scrub their son’s life clean. Oh God. My stomach cramped again.
Dylan was strong. He was brave. But was this going to be too much for him? Would it be one last thing that would finally push him over the edge?
And I had just rejected him yesterday!
I didn’t think it would be possible to hate myself more than I did at that moment.
Of course, just getting into the house was a production. Jessica and Sarah finally spoke to each other as we got out of the car. They started bickering over some nonsense, and my mother got flustered trying to get them to stop.
Our house was a four story townhouse, two blocks from Golden Gate Park, overlooking San Francisco. Our garage was on the ground floor, then the living room, kitchen and dining room just above. My bedroom was on the fourth floor. Getting up there meant stopping in the library first to greet my father, who was sitting in front of his computer when I walked in. He was a tall man, with a gaunt face accentuated by a neatly trimmed beard. Even here at home, he dressed formally, in a tie and sweater.
He stood, held his hands out to me and hugged me.
Jessica had paused at the door when I walked in, and said, “Alex isn’t feeling well today.”
“Oh no,” he said. “Do you need to go to the doctor?”
I shook my head. “Just something I ate. I’m going to go lay down for a bit, I’ll be fine.”
“Well then. Go get some rest, and we’ll see you at dinner.”
I escaped with no more questioning, then dragged my bags up to the fourth floor.
Thirty seconds after I entered my room, Carrie joined me, closing the door behind her.
“Tell me what happened,” I said.
She sat down on the bed, facing me.
“Kelly called me. She saw a news report about Randy… apparently last night he met a girl at the 1050, and followed her home. And forcibly raped her. ”
“Oh, God,” I whispered. “It’s my fault. If I’d reported it last spring…”
“Alex, stop that. Randy Brewer is to blame. Not you.”
I put my arms around myself and leaned forward, breathing slowly and carefully, trying to keep myself together. Then I blurted out, “Dylan talked to me yesterday. Told me he’d had second thoughts, and asked me to take him back. Just yesterday.”
She put her arms around my shoulder, and I whispered, “I told him no, Carrie. I told him he’d have to… somehow prove himself. That he was serious, and wouldn’t leave again.”
I began to shake with great wrenching muscle spasms, gasping for air as I sobbed on her shoulder.
“Oh God, I screwed up, Carrie. I told him no, right when he needed me the most.”
She whispered, “There’s no way you could have known this was going to happen, Alex.”
“It doesn’t matter what I knew or didn’t know. What matters is he’s all alone, and I’m stuck! I should be there with him, and instead I’m stuck in San Francisco for ten days.”
She whispered, “You’ve got friends who care about you. We can get a message to him through Kelly or Joel, okay? Just keep it together. You’re going to have a tough enough time with all this, without Mom and Dad getting on your case.”
“Screw them,” I said.
Just then my bedroom door opened. No knock. Nothing.
It was Jessica.
“You can stop whispering,” she said. “I heard everything.”
Carrie sat up straight, shock on her face. “How dare you?” she demanded, sounded at that moment exactly like my mother.
“I knew she was lying to us in the car. And then I saw her call history… she was calling you instead of Kelly.”
“So you just come and eavesdrop? Is that why you and Sarah have been at each other’s throats? Because you’ve lost all sense of decency?”
“Jessica,” I gasped. “You can’t say anything to Mom and Dad about this.”
She closed the door, and pulled the chair out from my desk and sat down. “I won’t. Of course, I won’t. I can’t speak for Sarah, of course. But I want to know what happened. You and Dylan are back together? And Randy Brewer raped someone? What have you been doing in college Alex?”
I started to laugh and cry at the same time, uncontrollably, and then, before I knew it, I spilled the entire story.
All three of us heard the creak of the stairs at the same moment. Quickly I wiped my face, then dived under my covers. Carrie and Jessica were still arranging themselves when there was a knock on the door, and then it opened.
It was my mom.
“Alex, I brought you some soup … oh!” she said, surprised to find my sisters in here with me. She recovered quickly, and set the soup on my desk. “This might help you feel a little better. I see your sisters are taking care of you?”
She phrased it like a question, but what she meant was, I see you and your sisters are gossiping? or something similar.
Carrie stood, straightened her blouse, and said, “We’ve got her all taken care of, mother. You don’t need to worry about anything.”
“Well, then,” my mother said, looking a little nonplussed. “I’m so glad to see at least some of you are getting along. Do you think you’ll be up for dinner tonight, Alexandra? Your sister Julia and her horrid boyfriend won’t be in town until tomorrow night, so it’s just the six of us. I can’t imagine why they aren’t staying here, we have plenty of room.”
Carrie gave our mother a level look. “He’s her husband, mother.”
Mom gave a quick, insincere smile, as if to dismiss Carrie, and said, “One can always hope.”
Carrie responded with a sniff, and said, “You’re right, mother. I can’t possibly imagine why they wouldn’t want to stay here with us.”
My mother stiffened her back and looked at Carrie imperiously. “You are impertinent. If you’re going to take that tone with me, I’ll just go downstairs. Perhaps Sarah would like some company.”
Jessica rolled her eyes and said, “Like that will happen. Good luck with her, Mom.”
My mother left in a huff.
Carrie took a deep breath, as if shaking off something, after mom left. Then she turned to Jessica and said, “All right, spill it. What’s going on between you and Sarah? You two are usually inseparable.”
Jessica frowned. “She’s gone bipolar I think. Or schizophrenic. Wearing black always, like some goth girl. And … God, I hate her! She kissed Mark Wilson, when she knew I wanted to go out with him. I heard she let him feel her up. At school! I could kill her.”
Carrie’s jaw dropped. “When did all this happen?”
“She’s been like this since school started.”
“Wow. I bet it’s been pretty tense around here, with you two at each other’s throats.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“Well, whatever is going on with you and Sarah, you can’t say a word about Alex and Dylan to anyone. You understand? This is serious.”
Jessica turned to me.
“Do you love him? Dylan?”
I nodded. “Of course. I … I always have.”
She looked serious. “Then I’ll do whatever I can to help. It might not be much, but I promise.”
I smiled at her, and said, “Thank you.”