Saturday, April 17, 2010

72.) Mini-Breakthrough

So, I was feeling incredibly inspired after the Pens win last night and especially Tanger's game-winning goal, but after the stressful, crazy, busy, emotional, frustrating week I've had... all I ended up doing was catching up on some well-deserved sleep instead. I love my readers so much; you guys are the reason I keep writing. Stick with me, guys, everything's happening for a reason.

Soundtrack Song - Papa Roach, Lifeline

It was a relief to finally get back to Kris’s mom’s house. If all had gone as planned, he would have taken me straight to the airport, but we made it back into Montreal in record time, which probably had a little something to do with not stopping to stretch our legs along with starting our drive before rush hour traffic. And plus, with the time difference factored in, we had also gained an hour.

Needless to say, I was glad to finally put my feet on solid ground again. It was a tough trip, and I felt really, really sick. My stomach hurt, I felt nauseous and queasy but not like I was going to throw up, my head was killing me, and I was shaky, and all I wanted to do was relax and not move a muscle until this little funk passed.

“Why don’t we just go inside to unwind from the drive, and then we’ll worry about the airport?” Kris suggested as he pulled into the driveway.

I nodded in agreement, thinking that maybe a shower or just washing my face would help. “Sounds good.” I was so anxious to get inside that I didn’t even notice that Marlene’s car wasn’t in the driveway. We had the house to ourselves.

Kris carried in his bag but left mine in the truck. He opened the door and held it for me to enter. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back,” I told him. It was his turn to nod as I took the stairs to the second floor.

I wasn’t one to get carsick, but then again, I didn’t go on car trips like this back in Pennsylvania. My parents took James and me to Disneyworld in Florida when we were kids, but that felt like ages ago. The longest I’d ever sat in a car since then was when we visited my mom’s side of the family in Ohio, but that was a two-hour drive. Eight hours was a little much.

Splashing water on my face, I took a few sharp breaths from the shock of the cold. Then I held my wrists under the faucet, letting the temperature of the water cool off my pressure points. It helped, a little. I dried off and then re-pulled my hair into a pony tail.

When I made my way back downstairs, I found Kris reclining on the couch, his feet resting on the coffee table and his legs crossed at the ankle, with a remote in his left hand as he scanned the channels for something to watch. Also on the coffee table was a bowl of steaming chicken noodle soup and a sleeve of crackers. I looked at the food, and then at him; he returned my look with a cocky, raised eyebrow, as if challenging me to argue with him.

It was a kind, considerate gesture, and I knew that... but I couldn’t quit the thought about how pushy and assuming it was. That was Kris, though. He acted like he knew best, and willingly—and sometimes forcefully—tried to give me what I needed.

Without posing an argument about how I still didn’t feel hungry, I sat beside him on the couch, crossed my legs underneath me, and then leaned forward to pick up the bowl. Pressing the rim to my lips, I tipped it upward and sipped some broth. My stomach settled and adjusted, making me feel a little worse before it finally growled and demanded to be fed. I ate and immediately felt better—not great, but better.

Kris had been silent as I continued to eat, continuing to try to find something good to watch on television and effectively ignoring me; I wasn’t sure if he was waiting for me to say something to him or if he was just waiting for the moment to say “I told you so.” To avoid that particular conversation in its entirety, I commented. “Are there any channels in English?”

Pourquoi?” he returned, the lopsided smirk I had grown to know so well back on his face.

“Fine. I’ll just bug you every two seconds and ask you what they’re saying.”

He laughed and shook his head, but that didn’t stop him from going back through the channels. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing good on. It’s all daytime television, which sucks in any language.”

Finally, Kris settled on some crime show, like CSI or Law & Order or something along those lines. I watched absentmindedly as I finished eating, not really following exactly what was going on because it was dubbed in French. When I was done, I set the bowl down on the table and scooted down on the couch to lean against him. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” he replied, slinging an arm around my shoulders. “For what?”

“Everything,” I sighed. I reached up and played with the fingers of his hand. “For the soup, for bringing me home with you, for taking me up to Shippagan. These past few days have been a lot of different things, very emotional and stressful, but I wouldn’t take it back or do a thing differently. I just... I appreciate the opportunity to share this with you. I know that it was a big deal for you to bring me and show me this and share it with me, and well, it’s a big deal for me, too, that you shared this with me.”

“In that case, I should be thanking you, I think. I thought that I knew how this was gonna go, what it was going to be like to come home for Luc’s birthday. But it wasn’t what I expected, and honestly, Jo, I can’t imagine having to go through it without you there to stand by me. It was a tough day, but it was easier having you there.”

“I’m glad I, uh, I helped, or could be of service. But I don’t feel like I did anything—”

“That’s just it. You didn’t have to do anything. You just had to be there with me, and that was enough.”

I rested my head against his shoulder, completely leaning on him and absorbing his warmth and strength. Being in this position was soothing, but most of all, it was comforting and reassuring. I felt wanted, needed. It felt good.

There was nothing I could say in response to that, so I just sat there with him and watched TV with him. I wouldn’t let myself fall asleep, because I wanted to nap on the plane. If I slept now and then also on the plane, I’d never get to sleep tonight—and I was really looking forward to get back into some semblance of a schedule again, even if that meant going back to Pittsburgh without Kris until the Olympic break ended.

I’m not sure what exactly was going on in the television show, because while I could understand the individual scenes, I had no idea what the overarching plot line was. I followed along, though, with whatever was going on. One of the characters, blatantly the bad guy, was sitting and drinking at the kitchen table. The lady, who I’m assuming was his wife or girlfriend or mistress or what have you, comes in and talks to him. She must have said something that less than pleased him, because he promptly backhanded her and sent her crashing to the floor.

Then the screen went black, as Kris pressed the power button and tossed the remote on the coffee table.

“Hey, I was watching that,” I scolded. “I wasn’t really understanding it, but I was watching it.”

He wiped his hands over his face, trying to mask his contempt. “Well, like I told you, nothing good on. I can’t watch stuff like that.”

He was obviously agitated by what we had been watching. I tried to dismiss it. “It’s just a show, Kris. It’s fake, scripted.”

His grip around me changed; his arm went from around my shoulders to around my waist, and he held onto me tightly like he was protecting me. “But they show it on TV like it’s no big deal, when it is a big deal. Like they’re making it acceptable and commonplace, making light of it. Stuff like that really happens, and it shouldn’t.”

I knew what he really meant with that statement; he was talking about his dad and what his mom went through. I, however, was not supposed to know even that much, and I was curious to know more. Had Kris been a witness to it? How young was he? Did he remember? What had he experienced at the hands of his father? I couldn’t outright ask, and I didn’t want to scare him off by saying too much, because this was a very sensitive, touchy subject for him. I wanted him to be open and talk about it, because he couldn’t keep it in—bottling it up, as he had been doing up until now, was not healthy. I had to tread lightly if I wanted to coax it out of him. So I said, “Yeah, you’re right. It shouldn’t, but unfortunately, it does.”

“I just,” he sighed, pausing and starting over. He was really irritated by it. “I can’t believe that people out there really treat other people like that. You can’t tell someone you love them, and then do that. Jo, I would never, ever, hit you.”

Kris had only been trying to be reassuring, but his words got under my skin and irked me. Getting worked up myself wasn’t going to help this situation, but I couldn’t help but react. I pulled back and just kind of stared at him, wondering why the hell he’d even say that to me.

“What?” he asked as he returned my gaze and pulled his arm away from me. “Why are you so pissy all of a sudden?”

“I can’t.... I mean.... How the fuck.... Ugh, Kris, why would you even tell me that? Of course you wouldn’t. As far as I’m concerned, everything you’ve ever done has been with only the best intentions in mind—even when it’s something that annoys me, you do it because you think it will help me. You’re so caring. I don’t even know how you think you could be capable of something like that, because you’re not.”

He looked down at his hands, which he held in his lap. “Mamie says I look like him, that I act like him. What if I become him?”

All the pieces fell into place in that one particular moment. I knew that he was a kind, considerate person because of his childhood and being raised by a single mother and wanting to do something to be proactive and help her in that situation. But he was legitimately afraid of turning into his father. That’s why he didn’t drink. That’s probably why he was so overly thoughtful, to compensate for the genetic bad instinct he imagined was inside of him. That’s why he said to me, that night he came to the party at my house, that I shouldn’t drink either because history would repeat itself.

But as much as I felt like I should contradict his thoughts, I was afraid to. It almost felt like lying, to not tell him that I knew, but it wasn’t my place to know what he hadn’t told me. I moved closer to him on the couch, so our legs were touching, and asked, “Who, Kris?”

He didn’t look up at me. Instead, he kept staring down at his hands. Kris was like a little boy, scared and unsure. I placed my hand over his, not saying anything else until he looked up at me. His big brown eyes were round and anxious. I wasn’t sure if he’d respond, or how. It felt like forever until he finally and quietly confessed, “My dad.”

I squeezed his hand, my heart almost palpitating with this mini-breakthrough. There were so many questions flying through my head, so much that I wanted to ask him, but as much as I wanted to know everything about his past, I wanted to reassure him. “I don’t know what you’re so scared of, but you should know that you are, beyond a doubt, Kris, the best person I know. You’ve got such a good heart,” I told him, pressing my free hand against his chest. “Maybe you don’t like your dad, but the way I see it is, he made you. So he did at least one thing right.”

He smiled sadly, tangling the fingers of his left hand with mine, and then taking my hand, which was still positioned over his heart, with his right hand. Bringing that hand up to his mouth, he pressed his lips against my open palm and then closed my fingers over it, like I could hold onto that kiss for safe-keeping.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” I asked him tentatively, watching his face and waiting for his reaction.

Before he could answer me, we heard keys jingling in the distance. Someone was home, either Marlene or Henrí, and whoever it was interrupted our special, tender moment. Kris clammed up again, focusing his eyes away from me and onto the door as it swung open and his mother appeared with grocery bags in her hand.

“Kristopher!” she cried, hastily slamming the door behind her as she stepped into the living room. He stood to embrace her as she prattled on in French. Although I wasn’t sure what she was saying, in my head I gave her words. I didn’t think you were going to be back so soon! I ran out to the store to buy a few things, thinking that you wouldn’t be home for an hour yet! How was the trip? How did it go?

He answered in French, until he switched to English and said, “I have to take Jo to the airport soon, so she can catch her flight.”

I smiled at them, as Marlene looked at me for the first time since she showed up. It was a little grating to be ignored like that, or to be thought so little of that she didn’t even acknowledge my presence, but I tried not to let it bother me too much. Especially not now that I knew the full story behind the closeness of their relationship.

They both switched back into French, and all I could occasionally catch were names. After a few minutes of that, Kris finally told me that we were going to head out to the airport. I stood and nodded as Kris got our jackets for us, and his mother headed into the kitchen with the store bags she had brought in with her. As he did that, I followed Marlene into the other room. I looked her square in the eye and hoped she’d understand me. It didn’t matter if I liked her or not, and maybe it didn’t matter if she liked me; but I did want her to know that no matter what, I respected her for the son she reared singlehandedly.

“Mrs. Letang, thank you for opening up your home to me. I know that it must not have been easy, because you don’t know me. But the only thing that you need to know about me is that I love your son, so much. He’s a wonderful man, an amazing person, and you did a great job raising him into the person he is. I can’t thank you enough for that. I can’t possibly put into words my....” I lost my ability to speak and my ability to put my thoughts into words, because I was moved by my own thoughts. I started to get emotional because I wanted to convey the way I felt but I couldn’t find the words to do so. I waved my hand in circles as I searched through my vocabulary, like I was trying to grab the words out of thin air. Appreciation? Gratitude? Admiration?

Marlene touched my stationary arm, giving it a very light squeeze. I had no way of knowing if she had actually understood whatever it was I had said, but I felt like somehow she knew what I was feeling.

“Jo, come on. We don’t want to be late,” Kris hollered from the living room.

“So, thank you,” I repeated. “You have no idea how he’s changed my life. I don’t know where I’d be without him.” I turned around and she let go of my arm, and I reentered the living room. Kris handed me my jacket and I slipped it on quickly, heading out the door for my trip home.

“What was that about?” he asked me, closing the front door and following behind to the truck.

“What was what about?”

“You were talking to my mom?”

“Yeah,” I told him with a smile, as he opened the door for me and I slid into the seat. “Just thanking her for everything.”

“Oh, that was nice of you. I’m sure she appreciated that. She’s a stickler for manners,” he replied, closing the door and trotting over to the driver’s side, so he could take me to the airport and send me on my way. I laughed to myself, thinking that it probably made no difference because, even if Marlene had understood me, it wouldn’t make her like me any more.

8 comments:

  1. Hmm she probably does like Jo, she's probably v protective of her son. V touching chapter... (GO PENS!)

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  2. mmmmmhmmmm. K.L is very yummy.
    you are a talented writer.

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  3. Kris is layer upon layer of complexities. Jo is finally getting to the bottom of what he is all about, I think. Or perhaps not yet?

    Really like the 'little boy' section, there was a touching vulnerability to that moment. Also like the way he just leaves the soup out there, he knows that Jo will argue with him so he says nothing about it. And she drinks it, even though she feels resentful. Can they be learning how to navigate their differences?

    I can't even hazard a guess as to what's coming next, I'll just wait and see.

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  4. Poor Kris :( I'm really happy that he opened up to her more!!!

    I'm still kind of nervous that something is going to happen between Jo and that Dave(?) guy while Kris is away... idk maybe I'm just being paranoid. lol

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  5. Hands down, this is my favorite chapter so far. I LOVED reading about his mini-breakthrough and to be honest, it's reassuring that he can be human like that and FINALLY open up to her.

    Also, congrats on 72 chapters. Damn that's a lot girl! All of them are so good that I didn't even notice that you had written than many until today!

    Great chapter and I loved Jo's speech at the end. Always stand up to the mothers!

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  6. I think for me the favorite part of this chapter is when Kris calls Jo from the living room while she is in the kitchen with his mom. Seriously you are such an effective writer and the smallest most delicate details really make this story so vividly realistic. I was disappointed that they didn't get to talk about what happened in further detail but I think it is maybe good they each have a bit of time once it's out there in the open to reflect on what they want to say, it could help make things so a lot smoother.

    As always I have been loving this for the past few updates. I think we are really starting to see a new developped side of Jo as we learn the complexities of Kris' character. Again, so true to real life that the longer and better you know someone the more you find out and the easier it is to relize that the person you first met is a product of so many underlying events and characteristics.

    So, excited for more.

    Also, funny side note: I was also super inspired by the game and celebrated and tormented my family (Sens fans, ugh) and then anxiously went to sit down and write after everything was said and done and fell asleep! It was a draining game to watch because of how intense it was! And of course, Tanger coming up with the money shot. Yeah, that's right I said money shot...


    GREAT UPDATE :D

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  7. One of the sweetest chapters of this story...loved that he finally admitted to being afraid of something...I was beginning to worry. Jo was awesome with him and with his mother at the end.

    Fabulous, as always!

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  8. Ok... this might be short because I can't wait for the next one lol.

    “I just,” he sighed, pausing and starting over. He was really irritated by it. “I can’t believe that people out there really treat other people like that. You can’t tell someone you love them, and then do that. Jo, I would never, ever, hit you.”
    ^^ UGHHHH! It makes me so sad that he even needs to say that to her!
    Like he could even possibly be anything like that douche of a father he had.
    How much more of an incredible, kind, person does he have to be to prove that he's not his father?
    I'm so sad for him =(

    “Maybe you don’t like your dad, but the way I see it is, he made you. So he did at least one thing right.”
    ^^ And of course Jo would have the right thing to say... love it! She makes me super happy! I just... ugh they're so cute together

    And the end... still sad that Kris' mom isn't a fan of her yet but, at least she never stopped trying and she's found some kind of peace with it.

    Totally need to go on to the next one now... sorry this isn't more epic!

    Very awesome update =)

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