Friday, December 28, 2012

Womp Womp

It’s been 4 days and Mike has still not called me.

“Maybe I should call him.” I said staring at my phone sadly.

“Don’t you dare.” Molly said sipping her coffee.

Molly came home last night from visiting her mom for Christmas. I told her what happened with Mike and I and also explained why Zoey was crashing on our couch temporarily until she could find an apartment and move her stuff out of what was now Wesley’s place.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had a big fight.” I said, “What if I’m just being too stubborn. I should call him.”

I went to grab my phone, which was sitting on the coffee table, but Zoey got to it first.

“Faith, you have absolutely NOTHING to apologize for. He needs to call you, especially since he’s the one who wanted space and, ultimately, he’s the one who needs to apologize.”

“But what if he’s just taking the ‘don’t ever call me again’ thing too seriously. I mean, I did say that to him.”

“He’ll call.” Molly said, “They always call.”

“I say just enjoy the temporary single life until he figures out what he wants to do. Boys are dumb and Mike is just one example.”

“The other being Wesley asking you to marry him? Or planning to, anyway?” Molly smirked.

“Of course that was dumb. Just because we’d been dating for awhile doesn’t mean we automatically need to get married.” Zoey was filing her nails.

“Maybe I was in the wrong.” I said, “I mean, even though Maggie was incredibly rude to me she’s his sister. I can’t expect Mike to put me above his family. We haven’t even been dating that long. I should never have opened my mouth and started arguing with her in the first place.”

“Do NOT call him.” Zoey said, “You didn’t give him an ultimatum that put you above his family. And, honestly, Mike should have stood up for you and he should have done it ages ago. If there’s one mistake you made in all of this it was not telling Mike about Maggie’s treatment of you sooner so he could take care of it before it exploded in front of his entire family. But, still, that’s not really your fault either because how do you tell your boyfriend that his sister is being a huge ass when he’s about to bury his mom? There is no easy fix to this, Faith. Accept that’s things are going to be weird and complicated for awhile. And DON’T call him.”

“She’s right.” Molly said tipping her head to Zoey, “Personally, I think you handled yourself with as much tact as possible in such a bizarre and uncomfortable situation. I think Maggie has a ton of issues that have nothing to do with you.”

I was pretty bummed about the whole Christmas Eve fiasco but life had to go on. I was still expected to be at work at the theatre for performances of the holiday show and at Bruno’s for the late shift. Cara and Brad could tell I was upset about something but were kind enough not to pry.

The holiday show will be ending in a few weeks and then my work situation will be up in the air again. This whole freelancing-stage-manager thing is already getting old. I don’t like the stress of having to constantly be looking for my next job. At least Bruno’s is a steady job, even if it is just being a bartender.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cause You Gotta Have Friends

“Zoey?” I asked. Her head popped up over my couch. I noticed a suitcase by my door.

“Faiiiiiiith.” She said holding up an almost empty bottle of wine. There was a second bottle on the coffee table that was completely empty.

“You are SO drunk.” I said collapsing on the couch next to her, “You being here isn’t a good sign, is it?”

“NOPE.” She took a swig of her wine, “I am sssssingaaaaal.”

“Oh, Zoe. I’m so sorry.”

“Sss’okay. The wine is helping.” She offered me some and I took it.

I downed the rest of it as Zoey watched.

“Why are you here right now?” She asked.

“I could ask you the same question. How did you even get in here?”

“Molly told me where you keep the spare key; I didn’t want to go to my place and be reminded of Wessssley. Now you answer. I thought you and Mike were spendin’ tonight with his famuhly.”

“Yeah, we sort of broke up. Or…are on a break. I don’t really know.”

“Yeeeesh. Faith! We’re like twins. Break up twins!” Zoey wobbly put her head on my shoulder.
“I am not drunk enough for this.” I said getting up and opening another bottle of wine.

I woke up the next morning with the worst hangover ever. I thought for the briefest moment that the night before was just a dream but the sounds coming from the kitchen told me Zoey was making breakfast and I knew it hadn’t been a dream. I dragged myself out of bed and checked my phone: No missed calls or texts. My heart fell that Mike hadn’t tried to call me. I sighed and walking into the kitchen where a cup of coffee and some aspirin were waiting for me on the table.

“Morning sunshine!” Zoey said.

“I haven’t been that drunk since probably college.” I said to her.

“Yeah, me, too. Remember that frat party we went to junior year?”

“Oh God.” I said putting my head in my hands. It wasn’t a fun drinking memory, “I haven’t had tequila since that night.”

I got up and helped Zoey finish making breakfast and set the table. We settled into our hangover food.

“Did you and Mike really break up last night?” Zoey asked.

“Yeah. Sort of? It’s complicated. He wants to go on a break and I told him to never call me again.” I shoveled cheesy scrambled eggs into my mouth while Zoey ate a sausage link.

“Ouch. What happened?” She asked.

“I…I yelled at Mike’s sister and…things just kind of spiraled downward from there. Maggie called me a trashy whore and Mike tried to step in but she just steamrolled him. Then she accused me of trying to replace Betty and Mike didn’t disagree with her. He told me we needed to go on a break and that’s sort of how we got to this point.”

“Maggie is the oldest one, right?”

“Yeah.” I said.

The girls were aware of the difficulties I was having with Maggie but none of them really had any advice to give me because how DO you tell someone they are being a massive asshole right after their mother died? They recommended I try to ignore Maggie’s behavior but, well, we all know how that went.

“She’s an ass, Faith. Don’t sweat it. I’m sure Mike will call you soon to apologize. I must say, I’m really surprised that he didn’t stand up for you.”

I sighed.

“I’m not. Maggie is…she’s a very overbearing person. She has complete and utter control over everyone else in the family and when they try to go against her she basically nags or insults them into submission. Mike is probably just used to not standing up to her. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t disappointed in him, though.”

“It’s a tough situation, Faith. I’m sorry.” She put her hand on mine and sighed.

“Thanks. So, now it’s your turn. What happened with you and Wesley?” I sipped some orange juice.

“We got to Australia for the holidays and I just sort of freaked out in the airport. I asked him if he was planning on proposing during our visit and he said yes and I just sort of had a panic attack before we even got to customs.”

“Wow.” I said nodding with appreciation, “I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was humiliated simultaneously while their relationship ended.”

“Wait, what?”

“Oh, Maggie announced Mike and I’s sexual activities in front of the entire family last night.”
Zoey choked on her coffee.

“Nice.” She said, “Anyway, I told Wesley I wasn’t ready to get married and ended things on the spot and he left me at the airport. I booked a flight to come back here and got in last night. I didn’t want to go home so I came here and got very drunk.”

Zoey and I commiserated some more over our failed relationships before cleaning up our hangover feast.

“You know what, though?” Zoey said putting her plate in the dishwasher.


“I really do think I’m okay. I love Wesley but we’d run our course and I feel so relieved. I think I feel the best I’ve ever felt in a long time.”

I gave her a hug.

“You’ll be okay, too” She said kissing my forehead, “Mike will realize how stupid he was to let you go. And if he doesn’t? Well, he never deserved you in the first place. Now let’s watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and watch Murphy play with his Christmas presents.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Mike and I arrived at Frank’s house for Christmas Eve dinner promptly at 5:30. Maggie had sent everyone an e-mail detailing the itinerary for the evening to the smallest minute the day before. Mike and I were expected to bring the wine and an appetizer. I decided to bring my famous stuffed mushrooms.

Maggie opened the door in a huff. The sound of a sports game was playing from the living room where Frank’s voice was mingled with Jamie’s. Mike gave me a kiss on the cheek before joining his dad and brother-in-law. I held out my stuffed mushrooms and Maggie directed me to the kitchen. She had asked me not to cook them before I arrived so they’d be hot when they were ready to be served.

I sat down at the kitchen’s island as Maggie popped the mushrooms into the oven, on the rack above the turkey. A few pots were boiling away on the stove top.

“Maggie, can I pour you a glass of wine?” I asked. She nodded as she began chopping some potatoes. That was a good sign. I smiled internally at Maggie FINALLY showing me something other than animosity. Sarah was setting the table in the dining room with Claire and Maggie’s kids were playing by the Christmas tree in the living room. It was nice to just sit and be with Mike’s family for a few small moments.

After about 15 minutes, Maggie served my stuffed mushrooms.

“Faith, these are amazing.” Claire said popping them into her mouth.

“Oh, thank you.” I said.

“No, for real, these are like crack. Can you bring them with you every time you come over?” Sarah asked.

Jamie came in and grabbed some too.

“Wow, Faith, did you make these, they’re great!” He said.

About 30 minutes later, Sarah and I were helping Maggie get everything ready for dinner. I was on salad duty and Sarah was in charge of mashing the potatoes. More and more dishes were sent out and the table slowly filled with Mike’s family. Maggie came out with the turkey and we all oohed and awed before passing sides and rolls around the table as Frank cut it.

Dinner was delicious and I was absolutely stuffed. Maggie had warm cider simmering on the stove and apple crisp ready to be put in the oven once the gifts were opened.

We all sat around the tree after dinner but the mood became fairly somber. No one really wanted to open the gifts from Betty, I think. There was a sense of finality to it and it also reminded everybody that there was a definite void this Christmas.  It was a fairly emotional experience to open the gifts Betty left behind.
Among the more memorable items Betty had purchased for her family was a necklace with pointe shoes on it for Sarah, a tea ball with Claire’s name on it and a matching tea cup, a car detailing kit for Mike and Frank to use for the car they’ve been refurbishing, and the scarf she had mentioned making for me shortly before she died. There were other gifts; handmade blankets for Annabelle and Grant, Jamie’s favorite kind of fudge. Mike got me a charm bracelet with a cat and fireman’s helmet on it to “symbolize [my] two favorite guys”.

But then it was time to give Maggie the heartfelt gift Frank had made for her. She opened it and started crying before thanking Sarah and Frank. It was very weird to see her show an emotion other than angry annoyance.

“This…this really means a lot to me dad.” She said looking at the cover which had a picture of her and Betty on it.

“It was really Faith’s idea.” Frank said.

I could feel Maggie’s mood shift almost immediately. She gave me a very cold, dirty look.

“Oh, of course it was.” Maggie said.

“Oh, that’s not really true I-” I said but Maggie cut me off.

“Well, Jamie why don’t you start throwing away the wrapping paper, I’m going to go put the apple crisp in the oven.”

She got up and left for the kitchen. She left the book on the couch.

About an hour and a half later, the kids were put to bed, Frank was snoring in his recliner and was out like a light, Mike was watching “A Christmas Story” on television with Jamie, and Sarah and Claire were sitting by the tree talking about their gifts.

I joined Maggie in the kitchen to help her clean up after we all ate her apple crisp and drank a bunch of cider.

“You really don’t have to do that.” She said.

“I want to. It’s not a problem. You’ve been in here almost all night, you deserve a break.”

“No, what I want is a break from YOU.” She sneered.

“Um, excuse me?” I said with complete shock.

“Ever since my mother died you have basically inserted yourself into this family to replace her and, frankly, it’s disgusting.”

“Maggie, I am not trying to replace your mother.”

“Oh, really? You’re basically acting like Sarah’s mother!” She shouted.

Claire and Sarah came into the kitchen to see why Maggie was yelling.

“You have done nothing but insert yourself into our family business without even being invited.”

“Maggie, you’re being more than a little rude.” Claire said.

“Shut up, Claire, this has nothing to do with you.” Maggie yelled.

“It does, too! We’re part of this family, too, and neither one of us has a problem with Faith being here.” Sarah declared. It was the first time I’d ever seen her stand up to Maggie about anything.

“Sarah, you’re just a child, you have no idea the kind of person SHE is.” Maggie said.

Claire and Sarah both deflated at Maggie’s admonishments.

“Okay, you know, what, Maggie? I have never met someone as toxic as you in my life. I have been incredibly accommodating to you and the pain you must be in about Betty dying, but I am not going to let you treat me like garbage anymore. This is ridiculous. Mike and I are dating, if you have a problem with it, you’ll have to keep it to yourself because I will not allow you to steamroll me like you do to your family members.” I said seething.

“My mother may have liked you, Faith, but I see right through you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I said.

“My mother had no idea what a trashy whore you are; just like she never had any idea about any of Mike’s other girlfriends.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I said.

“Oh, really? Are you denying screwing my brother during my mother’s WAKE?” She screamed.

Sarah and Claire looked at me with shock and disgust; then Jamie and Mike came to the kitchen and I absolutely wanted to die from humiliation.

“Faith, what’s going on?” Mike said taking in the scene of us arguing.

“Oh, your sister just decided to tell everyone about our sex life. Would you like to say something?” I said standing back to look at him and crossing my arms over my chest.

Mike looked at me with confusion.

“She just announced that we had sex during your mother’s wake.” I said.

“Whoa.” Jamie said looking at Mike.

“Go upstairs and check on the kids.” Maggie snapped at Jamie. He left reluctantly, looking back between Mike and I.

"How did she know that?" I asked Mike.

"I didn't tell her!" He said.

“I heard you two. I came to get Faith to ask her to help me in the kitchen and instead I got to see...well...hear what a trashy whore she is. Mike she has done nothing but act like she’s here to replace mom. AND she’s a trashy whore.”

“Hey, whoa, WHOA.” Mike said trying to step in.

“She took your little sister shopping for funeral clothes, she went Christmas shopping with dad, she disrespected our mother’s memory, she took OUR places by our mother’s death bed!!!” Maggie was hysterical.

I looked at Mike. His silence was deafening.

“I…should go.” I said quietly, “Merry Christmas, guys.” I said to Sarah and Claire who were still looking at me as if they had no idea who I was.

I collected my things and headed out of the house, thankful that Frank was still sleeping in his chair and hadn’t heard any of what was said in the kitchen. After pulling my coat, hat, and scarf on in the windy snow outside, I pulled my phone out and ordered a cab. I tried to fight my tears; I refused to let Maggie see me even sniffle.

“Faith, wait!” Mike yelled after me. He had run out of the house with just a sweater on.

“What?” I said with exhaustion. I crossed my arms and stood on the curb, refusing to look at him.

“What Maggie said was-” He put his hand on my shoulder.

“You know, I actually don’t really care what Maggie said.” I said spinning around and shrugging his hand off of me, “I’m a little more pissed off at what you DIDN’T say. SHE made me feel humiliated and unwelcome, but YOU…YOU made me feel even worse than that, which is funny because I didn’t think that was going to be possible after she announced my sexual activities in front of your entire family and called me a trashy whore. TWICE.”

I wasn’t even bothering to keep my voice down. I couldn’t believe Mike basically left me out to dry like that. I was so incredibly angry and also horrifically embarrassed.

“Do you think I’m trying to replace your mom?” I asked him.

Mike was quiet for just a beat too long and I became even angrier.

“No, but-”

“Mike, you KNOW I only did that stuff for your family because I care about YOU. I wanted to make things easier for YOU. I took Sarah out to buy a dress for your mother’s funeral because I knew you were having a hard time dealing with the funeral arrangements. I did it for YOU. Even the incident at the wake I did for YOU. I didn’t want to, if you recall! I have been dealing with your sister treating me like crap because I didn’t want to upset YOU and drag you into it! I suggested the recipe book to Frank because I thought it would ease the tension with Maggie and make things easier for YOU! I went to the hospital to be there for YOU. I was by your side so you could lean on me when you needed to!”

“Faith, listen, I know that, okay? I don’t’ think you’re trying to replace my mom. I know you just did all of that stuff for me, but-”

“BUT!? BUT!?” I screamed.

Mike backed away from me and tried to calm me down.

“Listen,” he said, “I’m not blaming you I just think that maybe my sisters and dad were trying to use you as a replacement and that’s OUR fault, not yours. Maggie should be angry with us, and I’m going to talk to her about it but I think all of us just sort of need to take a break from…you.”

“Oh.” I said suddenly quiet. I blinked, “Oh, you’re breaking up with me.”

The cab turned the corner and started driving towards the house.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying…I just think me and my family need to deal with this on our own…as a family, where we won’t be tempted to use you like a dead-mom-replacement. I think you and I should…go on a break. I think I need some time to deal with this on my own since-”

I opened the door to the cab and stared at Mike.

“You want some time away from me? FINE. Take as much time as you need, Mike. Don’t fucking call me again.” I said throwing the charm bracelet he gave me just a few hours ago at his chest.

I slammed the cab door and barked my address to the driver. I sat there in absolute rage and couldn’t even call any of my friends to tell them what happened because it was Christmas Eve and they were spending time with their families. I wiped away a tear that had escaped as soon as I got into the back of the cab. I sat there looking at the scarf Betty Made for me hanging around my neck. It was a gorgeous cerulean blue embroidered with shiny, white silk in the shape of snowflakes. I started crying harder. Betty’s death and the fact that Mike and I broke up on Christmas Eve all hit me at once and I was a sobbing mess. The cab driver took my money and was nice enough to ignore the fact that I was sobbing.

When I got to my apartment, the door was unlocked and all of the lights were on. Someone was there.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wrap It Up!

I got a phone call from Frank mid-morning. I was pretty surprised.

“Hi Frank. Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” he said with trepidation.

“What’s going on?”

“I…need your help, Faith. I need you to come shopping with me.”

I was a little confused but agreed to go with him. He picked me up about half an hour later and headed to the mall. In the car I asked him some more questions.

“What do we need to get from the mall?” I asked.

Frank pulled out a worn piece of paper and handed it to me.

“Betty would do all the Christmas shopping for the kids. She got most of it done,” he said indicating the check marks on the list, “but not all of it  before she…and I have no idea what I’m doing or where to get most of that stuff. She always did it and the kids are going to have a hard enough Christmas without her so I just…”

“You just wanted to make it as normal as possible.” I said quietly.


I perused the list while Frank tried to find a parking place. The mall was so busy and we’d be lucky to find the gifts that Betty still had to buy since it was so close to Christmas. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get everything.

After searching for a parking place for what seemed like an hour, Frank and I high-tailed it into the mall.

“Okay, well, we should probably go to a bookstore to get the book for Sarah on here and I think there’s a department store that sells sweaters in Mike’s size.”

It took us four hours but Frank and I were able to get everything except one last gift for Maggie. We sat down to take stock of it all and make sure we didn’t miss anything (and also eat lunch because OMG I was starving).

“Why didn’t they wrap anything?” Frank asked over a French fry.

I felt bad for Frank. It was obvious he was so out of his element with trying to run the holiday like Betty would have. I don’t think he really did anything but decorate the outside of the house and yard and haul up the Christmas tree every year. It dawned on me that Frank had probably never even wrapped a gift and wouldn’t know how to do it like Betty did (there are gifts sitting under the tree that have already been wrapped by her and, you guys, they are like works of art; it’s obvious Betty really loved the holidays).

“Oh, um, there’s a wrapping table somewhere around here, we could have them do it.” I said sipping my hot chocolate.

Frank looked relieved at my suggestion.

“It’s a blessing that Maggie is going to cook the dinner; I think I’d kill someone if I tried.” Frank joked, “I feel bad that we couldn’t find that cookbook for her.”

“You know,” I said, “I bet Maggie would probably really appreciate it if you gave her a compilation of all of Betty’s recipes. I think it would mean more than a normal cookbook.”

“Betty does have a recipe box. I could get Sarah to help me type them up on the computer and put them in a nice organizer…” Frank said.

We got done eating and headed over to the wrapping table set up in the mall by the Santa Clause meet and greet area. I think Frank really liked my idea. He was telling me how he planned to decorate the cover of the binder and put a picture of Maggie and Betty on the inside. It was touching to see how excited he was to make such a gift for his daughter. We swung by a scrapbooking store to buy some supplies for Frank to make it once we were done at the mall.

When we got home, Frank snuck into the kitchen to grab Betty’s recipe box and then headed up to Sarah’s room to work on it. I started putting our gifts under the tree.

“Where were you guys?” Claire asked coming around a corner with a cup of tea.

“Oh, your dad just had some last minute gifts to pick up.” I said bending down to put one last gift under the tree.

“You guys went Christmas shopping?” Maggie asked me. She was standing next to Claire.

“Um. Yeah, didn’t he tell you?” I said feeling uncomfortable.

“No, of course he didn’t tell us, that’s clearly why both of us asked where you went.” Maggie snapped, “If he’d told us he needed to go to the mall, one of US would have taken him, obviously.”

“Oh, well, he had to buy gifts for all of you, so he probably didn’t want you to see what he was buying for you and ruin Christmas.”

“Oh, it’s already been ruined.” Maggie said walking into the kitchen in anger.

I looked at Claire stunned. She smiled at me sadly before sitting on the couch.

“She doesn’t like me very much, does she?” I asked sitting next to her.

“Don’t take it personally…Maggie is….very protective of all of us, including Mike. She’s never been very welcoming to his girlfriends. Maggie has…she’s become very cynical about Mike’s girlfriends, I think, but she’ll come around to you, eventually. Things are just…it would have been better had mom not died right before we met you and right before the holidays, that’s all.”

About an hour later I left and went back to my apartment to wrap a few gifts and hang out with Murphy (Molly left yesterday for her mom’s place in Michigan). I’m going over to Frank’s house for Christmas Eve tomorrow and I’ll also be going over there for Christmas day, too. I have a bad feeling about being there, especially with Maggie’s chilliness towards me but I think it’s important for me to be there for Mike.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Now We're Talking

Mike and I finally had our discussion about his tendency to use sex to avoid dealing with his feelings, but it didn’t go the way I wanted it.

We’d had sex multiple times the night before and I was wiped.  And I was so sick of having sex like that. I know it’s not always supposed to be loving or intimate or super connected but it would be nice if it wasn’t always aggressive and meant to be a distraction.

I woke up and decided to take a hot shower to try and prepare for what was going to be a very awkward talk. I turned the shower on and stripped down before climbing in and letting the hot water wash over me. I sighed and started lathering up my loofah.

“Heeeeey,” Mike said stepping into the shower and pulling me to him.

I…um…I didn’t handle it well. I started hitting him with the loofah to get him out of the shower. I was just really surprised and I guess we should all feel good about the fact that if a robber tried to get in the shower with me I’d be able to beat them off with my loofah.

“Ow, Faith! What the hell!?” Mike said standing in my bathroom wet and naked.

I wrapped myself in the shower curtain.

“I can’t do it Mike! I cannot have sex with your angry penis one more time!” I screamed hysterically.

Mike and I both sort of stared at each other before he burst out laughing.

“My angry penis?” He gasped out between laughing.

“It’s NOT funny!” I said throwing the loofah at him while he wrapped a towel around his waist.

Mike tried to take me seriously but couldn’t hold a straight face.

I angrily sighed.

“Okay! Okay, look, I’ll stop laughing.”  He said putting his hands up in surrender.

I turned the water off and wrapped myself in a towel before sitting on the top of the toilet seat cover an then I burst out crying.

“Oh…” Mike said. He knelt down next to me, “Faith, I didn’t mean to scare you, I thought it would be fun…romantic.”

“It’s not that,” I said wiping my runny nose, “I just…don’t want to have sex anymore.”

Mike looked really surprised.

“Why?” He asked.

“Because…lately I feel like you’ve just been using me for sex.” I said between tears.

“What!? How could you possibly…”

“Ever since your mom died you’ve been using sex to try and avoid dealing with your feelings and it’s partly my fault because I allowed it at first.”

“What are you talking about?”

I gave Mike a serious look.

“Are you kidding me? Mike, we had sex during your mother’s wake. Are you going to deny that you haven’t been using sex…using ME in that way?”

Mike sighed and looked like he was in deep thought. I put my head in my hands.

“This wasn’t how I wanted to bring this up.” I said quietly.

“Faith, I wish you would have just told me this sooner.” He said, “I feel awful that I’ve made you feel like this. And you’re right. I have been using sex as a distraction. And that’s not fair to you, not just because you shouldn’t be used like that, but also because you cared about my mom, too. You’re grieving, too, and it was selfish of me to use you as an outlet for my own grief because it was too uncomfortable for me to deal with mine.”

I looked at him and sniffed. He pulled me in for a hug.

“I am so sorry, Faith. So, so sorry.”

He kissed my forehead and I nodded.

“I don’t want you to be afraid to tell me if I’ve upset, you, okay? You can talk to me about anything. I love you.”

I nodded again and then kissed him.

So, Mike and I are good now. This was technically our first fight and although I could’ve been a little more tactful when I brought it up but I think it went as well as I could’ve expected.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Longest Day

Frank decided to have a funeral for Betty but to get her cremated after and keep her urn. He told Mike that he’d decide if he wanted to scatter her ashes once some time had passed. Her funeral was going to be held at a funeral home and then there was going to be a funeral procession to the crematorium. Betty’s coffin would be dropped off, a priest would say a few words, and then everyone was invited to the wake at Mike’s parents’ house.

Mike wanted me to ride in the family car with him but I had some trepidation about that. I had a feeling Maggie wouldn’t like it but I didn’t want to explain that to Mike because he’s been dealing with so much; the last thing he’d need is me complaining about his grieving sister. I tried to get out of it, regardless.

“Are you sure there will be room for me? I know Maggie’s husband and her two kids will be there, too.”

“They’re going to be riding in his rental car.” Mike said.

I couldn’t argue with that. We left dressed in the appropriate attire.

“Are you okay?” I asked Mike while he drove to his parents’ house to meet everyone before heading to the funeral home in the family car.

“It’s going to be a long day.” He acknowledged.

I smiled sadly at him and put my hand on his knee. Eventually we pulled up to the house and I waited in the living room while Mike went into the garage and started bringing in cases of soda for the wake later that day. There was a sense of chaos with Maggie storming in and out of the kitchen grumbling about how she got stuck cooking all the food for the wake. Sarah couldn’t find her shoes and Claire misplaced her coat while Frank was struggling to tie his tie.

“Frank, let me help you with that.” I said smiling. He walked over and I began tying it for him.

“You’re a one in a million, you know that?” He said eyeing me closely, like he’d only just seen me for the first time.

I laughed, “Why do you say that?”

“You’re not like any of the others. There’s something special about you and it’s not just your kindness or your compassion. Betty saw that. She didn’t know you for very long, Faith, but she loved you.”

I wiped away a tear and tried to smile at him. I didn’t know what to say but I was incredibly touched. Maggie walked in as I opened my mouth to thank Frank and tell him how sorry I was, again, but she spoke before I could get the words out.

“Honestly, dad, shouldn’t you have learned how to do that yourself by now? Faith isn’t this family’s personal stylist.”

“It’s fine,” I said trying to diffuse the situation, “I offered.”

Maggie shouted for Sarah and Claire to get downstairs before letting her husband and two children inside, they’d just arrived. She gave her husband a kiss on the cheek and then rushed back into the kitchen mumbling something about deli meat.

Her husband and kids stood there awkwardly looking at Frank and I.

“Uh…hi. I’m Jamie, Maggie’s husband. This is Annabelle and Grant.” He said shaking my hand and motioning to his two children.

“Hi, I’m Faith. I’m Mike’s girlfriend. I wish we were meeting under happier circumstances.”

“Likewise.” Jamie said.

Within a few minutes we all packed into the family car and headed over to the funeral home where family friends, relatives, and other loved ones began congregating.

Betty’s service was short and sweet. It was a closed casket but it was beautifully done. The eulogy was given by the priest and he talked about a mother’s love and how it stays with children even when mothers can’t be there physically. I cried because it made me think about how much I love my own mother and how hard losing a parent is; my mind kept wandering to thoughts of Sarah and how she was going to cope with all of this.

The funeral procession to the crematorium was somewhat uncomfortable. Sarah wanted to sit next to me in the family car and I think that really bothered Maggie, she shot me dirty looks while we slowly moved down the road. Mike was a pallbearer for Betty’s casket and so I stood next to Sarah while we watched him, and several others, move the casket inside the crematorium. The doors closed as the priest said a final prayer. It was time to say goodbye.

Once we were back at the house and waiting for the guests to arrive, I went into the kitchen.

“Maggie, do you need any help? I’d be glad t-”

“No. I’ve got it handled. Can you tell Mike that he should put some more ice in the coolers for the sodas?”

“Sure. If you need help later, I’d love to help.” I said on my way to find Mike.

Once the guests arrived, Frank played some of Betty’s favorite music and Maggie started laying out fruit platters and cheese plates. People were mingling with sodas and coffee and I eventually found Mike.

“Hey, your sister wanted y-”Mike grabbed my hand and led me upstairs to his bedroom.

“I can’t do this Faith.” He was upset.

“Do what?” I asked with concern as he shut the door behind me.

“Listen to all of these people tell me how sorry they are and how sad they are for me. I just can’t listen to it and I can’t thank them for telling me they’re sorry she died. I just….I can’t do this.”

“Hey….it’s okay… come here.”  I said pulling him into a hug.

I patted his hair and then suddenly pulled away from him. His hands moved down to my ass.

“Mike…it’s your mother’s wake. We are not…”

“Faith, please…I just don’t want to feel this way anymore. Please.” He started kissing my neck.

“What if someone hears…” I asked as he pulled me towards his racecar bed.

“No one will hear us or see us, I locked the door. Please, I can’t do this anymore.”

“Oh my God, Mike, this is so disrespectful.” His hands were up my dress.

He started crying.

“Shhh….it’s okay.” I said. I was straddling him on his racecar bed.

“Faith, please….”

I can’t believe I’m actually typing this out but we had sex in Mike’s racecar bed during his mother’s wake and I feel so gross about it but I didn’t know how else to help him at that point. We will definitely be having a conversation about that, later, though. He has been using sex to avoid dealing with his mother’s death and it’s not fair to use me in that way and it’s not fair to him because it’s not healthy for him to deal with his feelings like this.

When he finished, I pulled my tights and underwear back up and straightened my clothes. He cleaned himself up and then straightened his clothes, too, before unlocking the door. I left and headed downstairs to grab some food and check on Sarah. She was in the dining room with a plate. Maggie had a sandwich bar set up in the kitchen for people to make their own sandwiches with different meats, cheeses, breads, and toppings. I was actually really impressed. I couldn’t believe she was able to pull everything together with such short notice. As far as I knew, they hadn’t decided on the wake being at Mike’s parents’ house when I left the other day.

I made up a plate and sat next to Sarah. She laid her head on my shoulder in silence.

“I just want it to be over.” She said after awhile.

“It’ll be over soon.” I said.

“Faith, do you think I could maybe come hang out with you sometime…just to…you know…get away from here if I need to until I go back to school?”

“Sarah, Faith has more important things to deal than hang out with a teenager.” Maggie said, she was carrying a bag of ice, “Oh, Faith, thanks for telling Mike to fill the coolers with more ice, I took care of it since he didn’t.”

I was so shocked at Maggie’s rudeness. I didn’t mind that she was being rude to me but I didn’t like how she was treating Sarah.

“I’m sorry, Maggie, I haven’t seen him.” I said.

She left to go into the kitchen. I waited until she was out of ear shot and then turned to Sarah.

“You can come visit me whenever you want.” I said. She put my number into her phone, gave me a hug, and then went upstairs to her room. I wanted to leave but felt obligated to stay for Mike. I tried to find a place out of Maggie’s way and ended up talking to Jamie and his two children. Annabelle and Grant are absolutely adorable. Grant is 7 and Annabelle is 5. I think she was probably confused about what happened to Betty. 
Jamie had to keep explaining that grandma had gone up to heaven.

“We tried telling her that grandma went to sleep but I heard that can make little kids afraid to go to sleep.” Jamie said to me. We watched Grant and Annabelle play with some small toys Jamie had brought with him to keep them occupied.

“How’s Grant dealing with it?” I asked thoughtfully.

“He’s been really quiet. I think he understands more about what happened than Annabelle does but he just doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings about it.”

I nodded. Jamie seems like a great dad and husband, he’s kind and warm and basically the opposite of Maggie. I know it’s not the nicest thing to think about but my conversation with Jamie made me wonder how he could be with someone who was just so…mean. I obviously didn’t ask but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.

“Faith?” Claire came up to me and asked if I could start helping her clean up. The guests were trickling out and I began collecting cups and plates from around the living room and dining rooms while Claire followed me around with a garbage bag.

“Wow, Claire, I can’t believe you’re actually cleaning things up, especially since you never clean up after yourself. “ Maggie stood in the archway to the dining room with her arms crossed and a smirk across her face.

Claire rolled her eyes and kept cleaning.

After about an hour, everything was put away, cleaned up, or taken out to the garbage. I saw Mike helping 
Maggie clean up in the kitchen while Claire and I roamed for cups and dirty napkins.

“Ready to go?” He asked as I put a final garbage bag in the trashcan.

“Yes.” I said with exhaustion. I stayed with Mike at his apartment for the night but could barely stay awake once I got changed out of my funeral clothes.

“You were right.” I said. I was laying on the couch with my head resting on Mike’s lap.

“About what?” He asked.

“It WAS a long day.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Mike didn’t want me to meet his sisters for the first time at Betty’s funeral so he invited me to his parents’ house while they made the funeral arrangements, which was obviously not ideal but nothing about the past few days has been ideal. I wore a dark outfit (dark long-sleeved sweater, dark jeans, boots, and my black peacoat) and prepared myself as Mike and I walked to the front door. We didn’t knock, just walked in.

Frank was sitting on the living room couch with a young woman in her early thirties; they were looking at a book with coffins in it. She had shoulder-length dark brown hair and wore a dark blue dress with small flowers on it. Her eyes were ringed with exhaustion. Frank looked at me and gave me a sad smile before looking back at the book.

“Maggie, this is Faith,” Mike said to her, “Faith, this is my older sister, Maggie.”

I smiled at her and she smiled back, although it was tinged with sadness.

“I’m so sorry.” I said to her.

She nodded and then went back to the book with Frank. Mike walked me into the kitchen where Sarah was sitting at the kitchen island lined with bar stools. Another woman was sitting with her, she had a cup of tea in front of her that she was staring at but she looked up with red, puffy eyes as Mike and I entered.

“Faith, you’ve already met Sarah, but, this is Claire,” He gestured to the other woman, “Claire, this is Faith.”

Claire got up slowly and pulled me in for a hug. She had dark blonde hair like Sarah’s but hers was much longer, it went to the middle of her back. She looked to be in her mid to late twenties and was wearing a pair of skinny jeans and an oversized dark gray sweater.

“I am so sorry.” I said, hugging her back.

Claire sniffled and thanked me.

“It’s so nice to meet you.” She said holding my hands, “I just wish it was under better circumstances.”

I nodded, “Me too. Your mother was a wonderful woman.”

Sarah came and snuggled into my side for a hug, which I obliged.

“I’m sorry, Faith, I’ve barely slept…” Claire said.

“Oh, that’s fine, please, do whatever you need.”

Mike hugged Claire before she headed up to take a nap.

“I’m going to go help my dad and Maggie…” Mike said to me quietly. I was still holding Sarah so I just nodded and patted her hair as he left us in the kitchen.

“Sarah, are you hungry?” I asked pulling away from her to look at her face.

She nodded sadly.

“How does grilled cheese sound?” I asked.

Sarah perked up a bit and I got to work. Within a few minutes we were sharing a grilled cheese at the kitchen island. We ate in silence. What do you say to a 19-year-old girl who’s just lost her mother?

“I…I’m going to major in dance.” She said finally, “I was going to tell her when I got home for Christmas break, I know she would’ve been happy.”

“She would’ve been proud.” I said putting my arm around her.

“Um…I don’t know what I’m supposed to wear.” Sarah said after a few moments.

“Well, usually people wear nice clothes, like the things you’d wear to church, and usually in dark colors. Do you have anything like that?” I asked her.

She shook her head and started to cry. I pulled her to me and rocked her.

“Shhhh. It’s okay. We’ll just go get you something, okay?” I wiped away her tears and she nodded.

Maggie walked in and saw us. She walked to the fridge and pulled out a soda before sighing and picking up the tea cup Claire left behind.

“She never cleans up after herself. And who made this mess in the sink?” She said looking at the pan I used for the grilled cheese.

“I’m sorry, that was me, I’ll make sure to clean it up before we leave. I’ll take care of the cup, too.” I said getting up.

“No. You’re a guest here, I’ll take care of it.” Maggie said waving me away angrily.

I didn’t want to insist on her letting me clean up but it was awkward for me to stand there and watch her fret about dishes so I changed the subject.

“Maggie, Sarah and I were going to go out and get her a dress, would you like us to stop and pick up some groceries or dinner on our way home?”

Maggie shot Sarah a dirty look, “You’re going shopping for clothes at a time like this? Honestly, Sarah, what is wrong with you?”

Sarah looked hurt and mumbled something.

“What? Speak up!”

“The dress is for the funeral.”  I said.

Maggie gave me a cold look and then shrugged nonchalantly, “I’ll make you a list; just let me clean this mess up.”

I nodded and then Sarah and I walked into the living room.

“Dad, maybe we should revisit the idea of cremation. Then we could keep the urn here or put it in her garden out back…”

“Your sister said no to that.”

“But she…hey…” Mike said seeing Sarah and I. He stood up, sensing that I wanted to talk to him.

“Sarah and I wanted to go get her something to wear for the funeral. Can I borrow your car?”

“Yeah, sure.” Mike dug in his pockets for his keys before handing them to me.

“Frank, would you like us to get anything for dinner on our way home?”

Frank asked me to pick up a fried chicken meal from KFC for everyone and said he’d ask Mike to text me how much to buy. I nodded, gave him a hug, and then told Sarah to go get her coat. She ran upstairs just as Maggie came out of the kitchen with the list of groceries.

“This should get us through the holiday. Mom had most of the stuff already bought for Christmas dinner but not everything.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll be sure to get all of this. I’m stopping to pick up fried chicken for dinner so, if you’re hungry be sure to let Mike know. He’s going to text me how much to get.”

“Fried chicken?” Maggie asked with disdain, “Let me guess, dad, you asked for that? Are you trying to kill yourself?”

I tried to keep the shock from Maggie’s comment off my face but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was relieved to see Sarah bounding down the steps, ready to go.

We left and hit a few stores before finding a sensible and age appropriate dress for the funeral.

“We should probably get you some tights so your legs aren’t cold.” I said looking around the mall.

“Okay. Faith….?”

I looked at her.

“Thank you for doing this.”

I nodded, “Of course.”

When we got back to Mike’s parents’ house laden with groceries and fried chicken, I could hear voices from outside the front door.

“That is NOT what she would have wanted Mike! I’ve already explained that I’ll pay for the burial plot!”

“It’s not about the money, Maggie! Mom didn’t leave any kind of instructions for this and you know how much she enjoyed gardening!”

Sarah and I quietly walked into the kitchen as Mike, Maggie, and Frank continued to argue. I put the groceries away with Sarah’s help and made a plate of chicken up for Frank. Sarah sat down at the dining room table with some food.

“Thank you, sweetie.” Frank said as I handed it to him and sat on the arm of the couch.

Mike and Maggie were still fighting, although not as loudly. Claire sleepily walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where I could hear silverware and plates being pulled out of cabinets.

I didn’t want to interrupt Mike and Maggie, so I left his keys on the coffee table where he saw them and then wandered back into the kitchen. I was really uncomfortable, like I was witnessing something that was intensely private. And the argument about what to do with Betty just intensified. Claire eventually joined into the argument but I sent Sarah up to bed before calling a cab.

I motioned to Mike that I was leaving, it was really late, and he came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m sorry you had to see this, today.”

“It’s fine.” I said, “But I should really go, are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

I nodded and then saw my cab from the front window, so I waved to Maggie, Claire, and Frank who all barely noticed me due to the argument they were having over the obituary.

I feel bad for leaving Mike with them but there was really nothing I could do for him. It would have been massively inappropriate for me to try and insert myself into such an argument or try to mediate it. And, really, I don’t think Maggie would have allowed that, anyway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I showered, fed Murphy, and then headed over to Mike’s place to wait for him. On the way, I stopped and bought a bottle of whiskey. I hadn’t slept since the Adam woke me up the day before and I felt the exhaustion crash over me as I collapsed on Mike’s couch. My eyes closed for what felt like five minutes but when I woke up it was dark out and the sound of Mike opening the door woke me up. I sat up and rubbed my eyes as he sat next to me.

He didn’t say anything. I grabbed a glass that was sitting on the coffee table and poured the whiskey in it. He took it and drank it, then held it out. I filled it. He drank it all and held it out again. I took the glass out of his hand and pulled him to me. His head was against my chest as he started crying. I stroked his hair and held him as his body shook with sobs.

I rested my chin on his head and rocked him back and forth while I silently cried. He slowly moved his head up after a long while and started kissing me.

“Mike…” I said quietly.

“Please, Faith….Please….I don’t want to feel like this anymore. Please make it stop.”
He continued to kiss me through tears.


“Please…” his voice sounded so small. I sighed and took his hand, we stood up. We walked to Mike’s bedroom where he took my clothes off and we had sex.

It wasn’t meant to be intimate or loving. It was meant to be aggressive; a distraction and I gave that to him. I gave him the outlet he needed to avoid his feelings temporarily. After, he laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. His hand was over mine which was laid on his chest.

“I have to call Chief Gunner and tell him I won’t be in tomorrow…” He said in a monotone.

“I called him already.” I said, “He wants you to take as much time as you need.”

Mike just nodded. He pulled me to him and nestled his head into my shoulder. All I could was hold him.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Into the Long Night Part II

Frank was crying and kissing Betty’s hand. They had taken the tube out and she was breathing on her own. She was talking quietly.

“Mike….Faith….” she croaked when she saw us in the doorway.

Mike ran to her side and smiled through the tears he had in his eyes. I suddenly noticed how exhausted he looked. The doctor was in the room, examining her.

“Betty do you remember what happened?” He asked her.


“You had a brain aneurysm and needed surgery. During that surgery, the aneurysm burst.”

“Is that why my head hurts?”

“Yes, but I’ll get you some more pain meds for that, okay?”

“Thank you.”

The doctor left after telling Frank that she wasn't showing signs of brain damage but that Betty wasn't out of the woods yet. Frank nodded.

“Mom, the girls are going to be here tomorrow.”

“Mike, I told you I didn’t want to worry anyone. I’m going to be fine, now they’re going to speed out here for no reason.”

“I think they deserved to know what was going on, Mom.”

Betty waved him off and started coughing. And she didn’t stop. I went to get the nurse and when I came back the monitors on Betty were making loud beeping sounds and she was holding her chest. Mike looked at me with panicked eyes and Frank was telling Betty to try to relax and breathe.

Things after that went by very quickly. Betty lost consciousness, her breathing slowed down too much which made her heart go into distress. The doctor came in and ordered several rounds of medicines that were supposed to help her heart beat better but they didn’t work, he had to intubate her again. He tried shocking her heart but she didn’t respond. The doctor looked at Mike and Frank.

“You need to tell me how much you want us to do for her.”

“What do you mean!?” Frank said, “You can’t let her die! Do everything you can!”

It was a long hour and a half. Betty continued to code. After the third time, the doctor pulled Frank and Mike aside.

“You really need to ask if this is what she would want. Every time we do this to her, it’s painful, we’re breaking her ribs, electrocuting her, and, in my medical opinion, she’s not going to be able to come off the ventilator and have a meaningful life after this.  She’s coming back weaker each time. Her body is giving out. Do you want us to keep going?”

Frank started to yell but Mike stopped him.

“Dad, she’s in pain. She wouldn’t want this. We should…we should tell them to let her go if it happens again. We should…say good bye.” His voice shook. I stayed in the corner and didn’t say anything. 

Frank collapsed in a chair and started crying again. He nodded his head slowly to Mike and the doctor. He picked up Betty’s hand and kissed it. Mike sat on the other side of Betty’s bed and held her hand, I sat next to him and held his.

Her heart went out again and the nurse turned off the monitors and the ventilator. She backed away to give us some privacy to say good bye. Within minutes, Betty was gone.

Frank sat in Mike’s car, his eyes were puffy and red, and he blankly stared in front of him. He hadn’t spoken since… It had been awhile since they took her away when we left the hospital. Mike drove me to my apartment and pulled me aside on the sidewalk.

“I have to go get my sisters from the airport. They’re all coming in within an hour of each other.” Mike sniffled.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, I don’t want that to be the first time you meet them, they’re not going to want that either, plus, I need to take my dad home. He’s…he’s…”

Mike looked over at his dad with sad eyes.

“I understand,” I said, “I’m going to take a shower but then I’m going to go to your apartment and be there when you get home, okay?”

“Okay. I’ll need to get everyone settled, I’ll probably be home really late, I think it’s going to take awhile.”

I nodded and squeezed Mike’s hand.

“Thank you for…for being with me when this happened.” He said. His voice shook and he avoided looking into my eyes. I think it was because if he had, he wouldn't have been able to hold back the tear he'd been holding back to be strong for his dad.

I nodded again and gave him a small kiss. He got in his car and left.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Into the Long Night Part I

When I got back to the hospital with Mike and Frank’s burgers, we ate together in the surgery waiting room. They still hadn’t heard anything.

Finally, the surgeon came in. All three of us stood.

“There were complications with the surgery. The aneurysm blew almost as soon as we put her under. She lost a lot of blood and her heart stopped several times. We were able to restart it and repair the aneurysm but she’s very unstable. We’re doing all that we can for her but she might not make it through the night.”

It was grim news.

“And…if she does make it through the night? What are her chances then, doc?” Frank asked.

“If she makes it through the night, her chances are much higher, but brain damage is a definite possibility.”

“Can we see her?” Mike asked.

The doctor lead us to her room. She was hooked up to a lot of tubes.

“She’s still intubated. We tried to take her off the ventilator but she wasn’t breathing on her own. Given her age, she’ll probably need some more time to come off of it.”

“If she makes it through the night, you mean.” Mike said.

“Yes.” The doctor said.

He left us alone with her and Mike and Frank sat down on either side of her. I sat in a chair near Mike. Frank had tears in his eyes. She didn’t look very good; the bandage around her head and all of the tubes didn’t help.

“Mikey…you should…you should call your sisters.”

Mike nodded and looked at me. I followed him out into the hallway. He put his hands behind his head and let out a deep breath, his eyes were red.

“Hey, shhhh, come here.” I said pulling him into an embrace.

“Faith, she’s not gonna make it.” He started crying into my shoulder.

I put my hand on the back of his head and started crying, too.

“Shhhh. Let’s go outside, okay?”

Mike nodded and we found a bench in a garden the hospital keeps open for patients.

“I don’t know what to say to them, Faith.”

“I know.” I said holding his hand, “But they need to know what’s going on, Mike.”

So I sat there and supported him. He took a shaky breath before calling his oldest sister, Maggie. Then his older sister, Claire. And finally, I listened to Mike call Sarah. I listened to him tell them that Betty was probably going to die during the night. I could hear their sobs on the other end of the phone. All three of them said they’d leave as soon as they could. Even though Mike and I sat in silence in the cold, the sounds of his sisters' sobbing echoed all around us like a howling wind that cuts down to your core.

After a few minutes, a nurse came and found us.

“She’s awake.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Love and Miss You

Mike and I arrived to meet his dad at the hospital in 15 minutes. He was waiting for u sin the emergency department’s waiting room.

“Dad what happened!?” Mike said as soon as he saw him.

“Your mom was feeling dizzy…she…she started shaking. I had to call an ambulance.”

We followed him back to Betty’s room where she was laying in a bed hooked up to several monitors.

“Oh, Mikey, you shouldn’t have come! This is so embarrassing…and you brought Faith? Oh, really this is not a big deal. I just got dizzy.”

“Mom, dad says you had a seizure, that is a big deal. And I was with Faith when he called me.”

I sat next to her and held her hand.

“It’s really not an imposition, Betty. I wanted to come, I was worried about you.”

“You’re such a good person, Faith.” She said.

She sounded out of breath and her hair was damp with sweat.

“Has the doctor seen you, yet, mom?”

“Yes, they’re going to send me for a test soon.”

And so we waited. About 30 minutes later a nurse came and wheeled Betty out of the room.

“We’re just going to take her to get an MRI to see what’s causing the dizziness, okay.”

“Wait.” I said coming around to look at Mike’s mom, “Betty are you in pain?”

Betty gave us all a look of helplessness.

“Mom, it’s okay.”

“Sweetheart?” Frank said, “You gotta tell ‘em if you’re in pain baby.”

Betty looked at Frank and nodded slowly.

“Yes. But it’s okay. Don’t fuss over me. I’m sure I’ll feel fine soon. This is really all so unnecessary.”

The nurse said she’d let the doctor know after she dropped her off for the MRI.

We waited in her room for at least two hours. Mike couldn’t stop pacing.

“Hey,” I said, putting my hand on his arm, “Do you want me to go get you some coffee?”

“I’m fine.”

“Frank? Do you want me to get you some coffee?”

He nodded and I headed out to the waiting room where they had a coffee vending machine. When I came back, the doctor was talking to Mike while Frank listened.

“She had another seizure while she was in the MRI machine, we stabilized her but we’re going to do a shorter test to see what’s going on. It won't give us images that are as clear as the MRI but it won't last as long. I’ll keep you updated. It should only take about 30 minutes.”

“Thank you.” Frank said.

Mike nodded in agreement.

“Here, Frank,” I handed him a cup of coffee, “Why don’t you go outside and get some air?” I suggested gently. He nodded and left.

Mike sat down in a chair and nervously wiggled his leg. I sat down next to him and held one of his hands in both of mine.

“She’ll be okay, Mike. They’re taking great care of her.” I said putting my chin on his shoulder.

“Do…do you think I should call my sisters?”

“I don’t know.” I said.

“I should probably wait until we know something. I don’t want to worry them if it really is nothing.”

“Okay.” I said nodding.

We sat together in silence, eventually Frank came back, and, finally, Betty was wheeled back into the room. Frank started crying at the sight of her.

“You gave them a big scare, sweetheart.”

“I didn’t mean to worry anyone.” Betty said.

“She’s a bit woozy from the pain meds we gave her.” The nurse said, “The doctor will be in shortly once the tests have been analyzed.”

Betty fell asleep about five minutes later.

“Dad, do you think we should call the girls?” Mike asked.

“What do you think, Mikey? I don’t know. I don’t think your mom would like that if it turns out to be nothing.”

Mike nodded and the doctor walked in.

“The tests we did on Betty indicate that she has a brain aneurysm and I think the seizures, pain, and dizziness may indicate that she needs emergency brain surgery immediately.”

Mike, Frank, and I weren’t sure what to say. Frank spoke first.

“How long can we wait?” He asked.

“I’ve already called a brain surgeon; he’ll be here in 20 minutes. We need to prep her now.”

Everything after that happened so fast. It’s all a blur. Betty was whisked away while Frank was told about all the risks the surgery entailed and was asked to give consent for the surgery. She woke up long enough to talk to us and for Mike to explain what was happening.

“Mom, you have to have surgery, that’s where they’re taking you right now.”

“Frank…I’m…I’m scared.”

“Me too, sweetheart. I love you.”

“Mikey,” she reached out for his hand and gestured for him to lean closer. I couldn't hear what she said but she looked at me and smiled, “Faith, thank you for being here with me. Knitting you a scarf for Christmas seems so small, now.”

All of us laughed. I hugged her and then she was taken away.

The nurse came in and showed us to the waiting room for surgery. We were there for hours.

“Mike, Frank do you want me to go get you something to eat?”

They both nodded and Mike handed me his keys. He gave me a kiss and I headed out to a Mcdonald’s nearby.

On the way there I got my phone out; it was late but I really needed to make that call.

“Hey, mom. No…everything’s fine, I just wanted to call you and tell you that I miss you and that I love you. No, I promise, I’m fine, I just miss you and dad, that’s all.”

Friday, December 14, 2012


I woke up to a frantic text message from Adam:

              Can I come over? I need to show you something.

I told him he could and then got dressed. About 30 minutes later he was pounding on my apartment door.

“Jesus, Adam, what is it?” I said answering the door.

He walked into my apartment with a newspaper.

“I got a front page headline. And it’s HUGE. It’s about the fire at your apartment, Faith. It was arson!”

“Would you relax?” I said, “We already know that it was arson, Adam.”

“Yeah, but the fire started in YOUR apartment, Faith. And this isn’t the first time the person that did it has lit a building on fire.”

“What!?” I said, I took the paper out of his hands and read the article he wrote.

Adam found out that the fire started in my apartment and that the accelerant that was used was a homemade mixture used in at least three other fires. He also accused the Fire Marshal of sitting on that knowledge which prevented a honest investigation into my apartment building’s fire.

“How did you find this?” I asked.

“I hired a private investigator with ties to the fire department and the police department. They showed me the investigation files, Faith. There hasn’t been any further evidence about your fire that has been released because they’re more concerned people will panic.”

I sat there in silence, staring at Adam’s article. Then I spoke.

“If the fire started in my apartment…then someone was inside it. They could’ve been waiting for me to get home.”

The thought made me want to throw up.

Someone else was knocking on my door.

“Mike…?” I said as he walked into my living room.

“Have you seen this!?” He said holding up a copy of the paper.

I nodded and Mike looked over at my dining table and saw Adam.

Adam’s face was surprised but only for a moment, he introduced himself quickly.

“Hi, I’m Adam.” He said shaking Mike’s hand, “I’m a friend of Faith’s.”

“I’m Mike. I’m her boyfriend.” Mike said before turning to look at me again.

“I saw it, Mike, but why are you so upset?”

“This article completely trashes the fire department. There were reasons that evidence wasn’t being released. This could have a huge impact of finding the person that burned your apartment down.”

“No it won’t. If anything, it’ll add transparency to the investigation and get things moving again.” Adam said with his arms crossed against his chest.

“You said your name was Adam?” Mike asked.

“That’s right.”

Mike looked at the article again and then slowly looked up.

“YOU wrote this? Faith, he has completely ruined any chance of finding this person now.” Mike gestured to Adam angrily, “The only way we’ll be able to find them is if they burn another building down and make a mistake! And then the people they end up killing will be entirely YOUR fault!” He said to Adam.

“Is he part of the fire department!?” Adam asked me.

I was standing between them as they got into a shouting match.

 “Mike, please stop! Adam!” I shouted.

“You’re just trying to help cover it up!”

“You IDIOT! Do you know WHY that evidence wasn’t being released!?” Mike asked.

I calmed Adam down.

“Because when the details of an arson, or ANY crime for that matter, are released a bunch of people come and confess to it! And even though they’re always fake confessions, every single one has to be investigated! You’ve just made it HARDER for anyone to do meaningful work on that case for MONTHS! And based on the profile for that arsonist, it’s likely another fire will happen while everyone is dealing with that. You just helped murder a bunch of people!” Mike said.

I pulled him aside.

“I need you to cool off. Can you go in my room please?” I put my hand on his shoulder.

He shrugged it off but went to my room and slammed the door.

Adam and I looked at each other in stunned silence, what Mike had said had an effect on him.

“I…” He started.

“Adam, it’s fine. I’m…I’m so proud of you for getting your first headlining story but I need to go talk to him and I think it’s best if you leave.”

He nodded sadly and left. I walked into my room and found Mike laying on my bed with his legs hanging off of it. I laid down next to him.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

He nodded.

“How do you know so much about the fire at my apartment building?” I asked him. It sounded more like an accusation than I had intended.

He sat up and looked at me.

“My dad and the Fire Marshal are close, I asked him to keep me in the loop on it as a favor a few weeks after we started dating.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I care about you. I wanted to know that there was still movement being made on it. I know how hard it was for you to go through all of that and I just wanted to know if they were closer to finding the person that was responsible for it.”

“Are they?”

“Not anymore.” Mike said angrily.

“Okay,” I said calming him down again, “But WAS there new evidence?”

“Yes, but it’s useless now.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me that the fire had started in my apartment? Wouldn’t I have been a suspect?”

“No, they knew you weren’t there when it happened. The security cameras your landlord put in showed you leaving and not returning. They decided in light of that evidence to withhold it from the public so if someone DID make a confession, it could identify it was a real one or not.”

Mike put his arm around me.

“Are YOU okay?” He asked.

I nodded.

“It’s just…a lot to take in. And Adam really thought he was helping, I think he feels awful now.”

“Tell him I apologize for yelling.”

I gave him a sad smile and then hugged him. He kissed my forehead and then fished his phone out of his pocket. It was vibrating.

“Hey dad, what’s g-”

I looked up at Mike’s face, it was whiter than a sheet.

“Okay, I’m coming.”

“Mike, what happened?”

“We have to go to the hospital. My mom was taken to the ER in an ambulance.”

I grabbed my house keys and we were gone.