Ties that Bind


After a few hours trying to sleep, I finally call the nurse in about my headache.  She steps out into the hallway for a moment and then opens the door a crack.  She pauses, pursing her lips before speaking.

“You feel up to a phone call?”

“Yes.” 

“I’ll see about something for your headache then.  Be back in a few so you should keep it short.”

The phone at my bedside rings and I pick it up. 

“I was hoping they wouldn’t trouble you.”

“Well, frankly I’m surprised you haven’t taken me off of your emergency contact list.” 

It’s good to hear his voice and I instantly feel the same old wave of guilt for feeling this way.  He deserves better.  But the fact is I can’t take him off the list.  There’s still Jasmine to think about and she, well, she is what forever ties us together.

“You ok?  What happened?”

“I’m fine.  Just a concussion.”  I pause.  “You know I won’t tell you what happened.  It’s better this way.”

“Yeah, you keep saying that.”  I can feel his tension through the phone.  “What should I tell Jazz?  I can’t keep cover for you every time something happens.”

“Put her on the phone.”

“No.  Way.”

“You’re right.  You shouldn’t have to cover for me.  I’ve never asked you to.  But you will not explain things to her as I would.”

“That’s because what you’ll say is all crap and nonsense!”  He catches himself immediately.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes you do.”

“But it doesn’t help.  You’re hurt.  And I…”

“It’s alright, Dan.  You do mean it and I would rather you not lie.  But you can’t ask me to lie either.  This is who I am.”

I hear him sigh.  Then, in a faraway voice so I know he is covering the phone, “Jazz?  It’s your…”

“Hi, Sophie!”  Her voice is unmistakable.  She must have picked up the other line.

“Hello, sweetie.  Were you eavesdropping?”

“I got it, Daddy!  You can hang up now.”

I hear a soft click.  No goodbye.  No get better.  I don’t deserve it from him.  I struggle with the guilt but I do not wish that what we were had never happened.  A little girl back in Ohio stands as witness that life is bigger than any of us can know.

She whispers.  “He’s off now.  I checked.”

“How are you doing?”

“I liked the dress.  But you don’t need to send me those gifts.  I love you anyways.”

Nothing keeps the tears from falling.  “I know, sweetheart.  But I still like to think of you growing up like a normal little girl.”

“Like you were?”

I was.  At least, I had thought so.  I had once wanted to be a princess and get carried off by a knight on a gleaming white steed.  I had even thought I’d convinced myself that Dan was that knight and that I could make him happy.  But you can’t make someone happy when they think everything you believe in, everything you are is “crap and nonsense.”

“Ok, ok.  Miss sassy mouth.  You don’t dare say things like that to your father, do you?”

“No.  But he can tell I’m different.  He just ignores it.  For now.”  She is old beyond her years.  But no memories…well, not yet.  Hopefully not for a long long time.  “You ok, Sophie?  Daddy was really worried about you.”

“I’m resting.  I don’t mean to make him worry.”

“You can’t stop him.  He likes to worry about you.  But you sound fine.  Ooh, send me something from Seattle!  Isn’t that where that tower is?”

I laugh.  She loves collecting from my travels.  I’m not sure what is local flavor here but I’ll have to get her something.  “It’s called the Space Needle and I will, honey.”  My throat clenches as waves of loneliness and yearning pour through me, through the phone.  “I miss you, baby.”

“I miss you too.  Nite Nite, Mommy.”

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