Trigger warning: Contains bitches.
Continued from yesterday:
“No, she’s not a patient, here,” said Sam, “she’s *with* a patient, here. Todd Tolenski? Only he’s probably still in the ER and hasn’t been registered, yet.”
The receptionist took all this in, ignored it, and searched for the both of them on the computer. “I’m sorry, I can’t find either of those patients on our records. Are you sure they went to *this* hospital?”
“We followed the ambulance all the way here,” said Scott. “Look, can we check the ER? They’re probably in there.”
“I’m sorry, only relatives of patients are allowed inside the ER *with* patients.”
“Hi Dad,” said Sara. “I got the vibe you were near.”
“There she is,” said Sam. “Can we go in?”
The receptionist gave up. “Go ahead.”
Todd was stitched up and bandaged, from what he could see. He was also being treated for shock, judging by the copious blanket and the hot beverage clutched in his hands. “*Hate* hospitals,” he said by way of greeting.
Sara explained about the bill, about wanting to help. About the Antoinette accounts and how they’d been stopped cold by a court order.
Sam just sighed and murmured, “So, it is to be war between us…”
Sara hugged him and whispered, “I’m sorry, Daddy. ’S all my fault.”
He caught her up in a fierce grip. “Never, love. *Never*. It’s your mother who’s broken.” Broken and breaking everything her shattered shards could reach.
What had happened to turn such a dazzling woman into such a mean-spirited harridan? When had been the moment that first fissure appeared, turning mother against family?
Well… whatever and whenever it had happened, it was time now to *do* something. It was very blatantly obvious that Jaquelline could only realise what she was when she hit rock bottom. And that meant… taking everything away, if he had to.
Sam found a payphone and dailled home.
“Hello,” he began.
“Sam! Sam! O Sam, it’s so horrible…”
“Yes. What you did *is* horrible. Are you going to try and fix it?”
“That wretched girl, she– what?”
“You’ve done some very bad things, Jaquelline,” he said. He kept his voice even. Calm. “I know what they are. Now. Are you confessing, or are you somehow going to turn this into Sara’s fault?”
“Of *course* it’s her fault! That horrid little creature’s been nothing but a burden to me, all these years! Nothing I do *works*! She’s willful and weird and she’s doing it on purpose to *shame* me!”
Sam took a deep breath. “Sara can’t help being herself, Jaquelline. You should *know* that by now.”
“Are you taking her *side*?”
“Someone has to.”
“And I suppose you want a *divorce*.”
Ah, the weapon in her arsenal. Striking out at his one weak point - that he still loved her, even after watching her slowly kill her true self for sixteen years. “If that’s what *you* want, dear.”
He could just imagine her stunned look of shock and outrage.
“You won’t get custody of Sara. Not after the court sees the DVDs of your systematic abuse. They might even make you pay damages out of your own funds.” And he knew that she only had a few thousand set aside in her personal account - in case of ‘God forbid’s. “You won’t get the house, since that’s Sara’s home and the courts take a dim view on upsetting the children any further. I suppose I could let you have a car, but… you’re not really in the habit of driving. What with your chronic alcaholism and all…”
Now she recovered. “HOW *DARE* YOU! I GAVE YOU THE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE!”
“No, Jaquelline,” he said. Firm. Enough to stop her bluster short.
“You gave me years of watching you kill yourself. I tried to stop you. So hard. So often… and you still did it. I… I can’t watch it any more, Jaquelline. You can kill yourself in your own time. I won’t be there any more.”
“But I *can’t* get divorced,” she wailed. “Mother would *disown* me!”
“Then I suggest you re-evaluate your actions,” said Sam, “and do what must be done to get what you want.”
“…i wanted you t’ love me…”
“I still love you, Jaqui. Always. And I love you too much to watch you do what you’re doing, any more.”
“You need to turn around and look at yourself. And I need to help Sara.” He sighed. “You can… join me. When you’re back to being yourself.”
“Sam! No! *SAAAMMM*!”
He heard her screaming his name as he hung up.
He thought he could save her. He thought he could help her grow.
How was it that she kept chipping away at herself, despite his best efforts?
“I’m sorry, Jaqui,” he whispered. “I tried.”
Her father was grey when he returned. Not that his hair had changed colour from shock - dreadful old myth, that - he was just… grey.
Grey of spirit.
All the colour had gone out of him. Like he was dead inside.
Sara wept for him. Silently, thank whatever powers controlled such things - but she wept nonetheless. Wept as she watched her formerly vibrant father slump in a plastic chair and sigh away his hopes and dreams.
“I don’t think she ever really loved me,” he said, voice husky and soft. “She loved… an ideal. A dream husband. Soccer star millionaire from Old Blood. Just the thing to make her mother happy.” Another soul-destroyed sigh. “I wanted to make *her* happy… show her that there was more than lables to the world.” He shook his head. “She chose her fantasy over truth… and she’s dying of it.”
“I’m sorry,” Sara found herself saying. Dad had had his heart torn out. Or maybe finally excised after years of painful wrenching and tugging. He’d cut himself away, and it had taken part of his soul with it.
“No, it’s my own fault. I let myself be fooled.” A third sigh. He turned to the bemused and silent Todd. “We Adriens love thoroughly and we love long. When we commit ourselves to our heart’s desire… It can last us the rest of our lives.”
Sara moved so she could comfort them both. “In the right circumstances, it’s a blessing. In the wrong ones…” Tears filled her eyes and cut off her voice.
Todd did what he could to hug her. “Never do you no wrong, babe. Promise.”
Sara barely managed a, “…'nk 'oo…”
Jaquelline screamed at the dial tone. How could he? Didn’t he love her any more? Had he actually chosen the unthinkable? Did he love his own daughter more than he loved his wife?
Traci found her. “What’s all the noise?” she said. “Your guests are very alarmed.”
Traci, Jaquelline recalled, was a cousin. She, too, had been raised in the way that her own mother had bought her up. Competing for honours and attention.
Nevertheless, she asked, “Can you keep a secret?”
“Of course, sweetheart,” soothed Traci.
“Sam… my Sam… he’s *leaving* me! And he says I’m not going to get *anything*…”
The expected soothing coos were not forthcoming. Instead, Jaquelline received only an icy stare.
“Then don’t expect *us* to help you. *You’re* the one who fucked up… and none of us want to catch any of your shrapnel.”
In less than five minutes, her family had abandoned her. The few friends who were left quickly excused themselves thereafter.
She was left alone.
Jaquelline picked up forgotten beverages and downed them, one by one, as she collected the glasses. She didn’t care what the drinks were, only that they made the darkness around her a little less painful.
Less and less painful