A TOUCH OF DAWN Excerpt - Chapter 7 on Eat Sleep Write

*This originally posted here.

A  Touch of Dawn - Chapter 7 by Erica Sutherhome

November 10, 2013
by Adam Scull

“You’re going to go live with this man?  After what happened?”
            Caitlyn was just finishing her packing when she heard the question.  She had known her mother wouldn’t easily accept her decision.  She turned.  “Mama, I need someone who understands what it’s like.  I…”  The emotions crowded into her throat, and the memories came.  Tears filmed her eyes.  “I love you.  And you have tried to help.  I understand that.  But, you can’t even begin to imagine what I…”  She shook her head.
            “Oh, honey,” her mother managed. 
            “Jack is a good man.”
            “I know that.  But, living with a man?  You were…”  She shook her head too, unable to form the words.
            “Mama, I’m not even sure Jack is like that.”
            She frowned.  “What do you mean?  There’s no way that man could be gay.”
            Caitlyn shook her head.  “No.  It’s not really my story to tell.”  She shifted uneasily on her feet.
            It seemed to dawn on her mother.  “Oh.  Oh my God.  When?”
            “When he was a child.  But, please don’t say anything.”
            She only nodded.
            “Mother, I have feelings for him.  This makes sense to me.”
            Her mother shook her head.  “You’re so fragile right now.  How can you know?”
            “Are you psychoanalyzing me? You think because I was raped, that I don’t know the difference between love and transferring gratitude onto someone, and then morphing that into something I need? I do. I understand the difference.  I’m not naïve.  I just feel safe with him, Mama.”
            Many minutes passed before she responded.  “I only wanted to protect you.”
            “You can’t protect me from everything.  Bad things happen sometimes.”
            “It breaks my heart that that had to happen to you.”
            “I know, Mama.”  She approached the bed, reached out and squeezed her mother’s hand.  “But, I know this is right.  I want Jack in my life in whatever capacity he will allow.”  She sighed.  “We both have issues, I know that.  But, no one in this world could possibly understand me at this point better than he does.”
            Her mother nodded.  “I will miss you.”
            “And I’ll miss you too.  But, please don’t worry.  You can call me anytime you want.”  She dug into her pocket.  “This is Jack’s home number.  And when I get a cell, I’ll give you that too.”
            “Mama, I…I’m not quite ready yet, ready to be normal.  But, someday, I’d like to visit on holidays, maybe see you more than that.  We could go…shopping or something.”  She glanced away, knowing she was still too damaged for that kind of life.
            “That was very hard for you to say, wasn’t it?”
            She didn’t reply.
            “Please don’t lie to me.  If I’ll never see you again, I’d rather know.  I need to grieve if that’s what’s going to happen.”
            She released a shaky breath, so on the brink of a breakdown that she couldn’t speak.  “I’m not lying,” she managed.  “I truly do want to be normal.”  She sighed, gathered her courage.  “I’ll tell you what.  I will write you letters for awhile.  Jack said it’s helpful to get my feelings on paper.  I won’t write anything that makes you uncomfortable, of course, but I’ll send you something.  Okay?”  She closed her eyes.  “I...I remember things now, Mama.  But, I’m not the same person I was.  Do you understand that?”
            Tears spilled down her mother’s cheeks.  “Those bastards took your joy, your innocence.”
            She tamped down her emotions and kissed her mother’s cheek.  “I promise we’ll be in touch.  I’ll keep that promise.”  She sighed again.  “Jack is waiting in the car.”
            Her mother grasped her hand.  “Caitlyn, please take your journals.  I never want you to forget the girl you were.”
            “Not today, Mama.  Will you mail them to me?”
            “Yes.  Yes, I will.”
            “All right then.”  Though it hurt her more than she could express, she embraced the other woman briefly. “I’ll talk to you later in the week, okay?”  Then she turned to leave.
            “I love you, Caitlyn.  Don’t forget that.”
            “I know, Mama.”  She took one last glance at her room with the pink walls, the bright pink glittery comforter and the knickknacks she’d collected over the years.  A life had been lived here.  A life she didn’t think was a part of her anymore.  She mourned the loss just as much as her mother did.  She grabbed her suitcase.  Then she left the room and walked down the stairs and out of the house.  One look at Jack in the car, and she ran and got inside. 
            “Everything all right?” he asked gently as she got in and shoved the case in the backseat. 
She glanced at the house.  “It will be.”
He started the car, and drove away from the curb. 
Caitlyn looked out the window, watched the sights fly by, but she really saw nothing.  Her heart ached inside her chest.  Her throat felt tight with the press of tears.  She wasn’t aware she was crying until Jack pulled over, shut off the engine, and held her.  Sobs tore into her throat and she shuddered, the tears flowing freely from her eyes.  “I’m leaving my old life behind.”
“I know,” he whispered.
“I don’t wish to cut ties with her.”
“And you shouldn’t.”
“But, I can’t be the same person.”
“No, you can’t.  No one could.”
            She clung to him, pressed her face into his shirt. He smelled nice. She wanted to return his embrace, but she wasn’t sure she was ready for that.  “What about your parents?”
            He stiffened then.  “What about them?”
            She lifted her head to look at him.  “Are you close to them?”
            “No, I wouldn’t say that.” He sighed. “I still stay in touch. But, I think they quickly realized I would never be the same again. They sent me to therapists, anything they could do.” His voice was tormented. “It wasn’t their fault I couldn’t handle everything.”
            “It wasn’t yours either.”
            “I’m not so sure about that.  I was terrible at first. I got into trouble a lot.”
            “You were a rebel?”
            “Oh, yes. I got a wake-up call when I was sixteen. I ended up in juvenile hall. At that point, I realized how stupid I was.  I had to change that.”  He sighed again. “I tried harder in school.  Finally, I got some focus.  I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to prevent this from happening to other kids and other people.  Because I wasn’t naïve.  I knew it happened to adults too.  And if I couldn’t prevent it, I could help them handle it better than if they did it alone.”
            “You feel you were alone?”
            He shrugged.  “When you’re in that situation, it feels lonely.  So, yes, I didn’t have a support group of others that had been through it before.  But, I want to be that for someone else.”
            She reached up and touched his cheek.  From his widened gaze, she knew she had shocked him and that he probably wanted to pull away from her.  She had that automatic reaction with people too.  “I admire you, Jack.  You’re a good man.”
            He frowned.  “Ever heard of transference?”
            Her jaw clenched briefly.  “Don’t be a bastard.  I know the way I feel.”
            “Well, then.” He chuckled. “You never stop surprising me.”
            “I hope not,” she whispered.
            He seemed to stare at her for a long time.  Then he kissed her. When their lips met, it was like a fire bursting between them.  Caitlyn closed her eyes and submitted to him.  His mouth moved over hers gently and his tongue met hers just as tentatively.  It was just what she needed, that careful discovery, and she responded in kind.
            He pulled away, releasing a breath.  “Wow.”
            “I agree.”  She touched her lips.  She had been with one man long before she was kidnapped and it had certainly never felt like that.
            “I don’t know how to feel about that.”
            “Me neither.”  She sighed.  “You can’t exactly call that platonic.”
            “No, you can’t.  Second thoughts?”
            “No, not at all.”  Though her racing heart said otherwise.  But, Jack was so good to her.  For her.  She just knew it, whether or not it made sense to other people.  “Jack, were you ever with anyone else?  I mean, later?” 
            It took a long while for him to reply.  She was afraid she’d really screwed up with him, being so curious. She vaguely remembered her blatant curiosity was one of the things that had driven her to become a reporter.
            “No,” he finally answered. “Not really.  I might have been close, but no.  I couldn’t.”
            She nodded.  “That makes sense actually.”  She sighed.  “Perhaps we’re born again virgins.”
            He shot her an exasperated glance.  “You’re kidding.”
            “Not really.  Maybe we should look at it that way though.  You and I are so damaged.  We need to think of it that way.”
            Jack frowned.  “Maybe you’re right.  I have no idea what I’m doing.”
            “You were perfect.”
            He laughed.  “You have low standards.”
            She paled.
            “God, Caitlyn.  I didn’t mean it that way.  I was-“
            “I know how you meant it.  My mind just automatically went there.”  She sighed.  “But, you’re wrong.  That kiss was exactly right.  Exactly what we both needed.”  She frowned.  “Am I wrong?”
            “No, you’re not wrong. You realize this changes everything.”
            “You’re moving in with me. Even if we never…” He shook his head.  “There is still something between us.”
            “Yes.  And I’m okay with that.  Actually, it’s better.  Because we’re both on the same page.”
            He chuckled.  “I guess that’s true.”
            “My experience is just as limited.  I was with one guy in college, but I barely remember it now.  He…”  She shook her head.  “He wasn’t loyal.  It wasn’t worth it. And neither were the other bastards.”
            “Damn right.  But, I’m hardly worthy of you either.”
            “You’re more worthy than anyone has been.  I have feelings for you, Jack.”  She sensed his hesitance and grabbed his arm.  “Don’t run away.  I promise what I feel is real.”
            He frowned.  “I…you know I care about you.”
            “No, I didn’t, but it’s good to know.”
            He drew her close against him.  “I do.  I would never have gotten involved with you if I didn’t.  I would never have asked you to move in with me.”
            “Thank you. Thank you for that.”  She did return the embrace this time, and it felt so natural she could hardly believe she was touching another human being.  Why didn’t it feel awkward, strange, unbearable as it did with others?  She couldn’t explain it.  But, maybe there were just some things in life like that.  They couldn’t be explained. 
Her attachment to Jack was one of them.  She couldn’t imagine him not being a part of her life in some capacity.  What did that mean?  Afraid to analyze it, she pulled back from him.  “Should we go home?”
            He laughed.  “Yes.  Thank God you said that.”
            She giggled a little as he started the car and drove away.