This is Chapter Nine… I think that I will share one more chapter and then that will be it until I find a publisher. Thank you for all who have taken the time to read this. I love your feedback. It has been like gold to me. For those of you just reading for the first time… this is part of a book… it won’t make much sense unless you follow my blog back to chapter one. Here is Chapter Nine for all those who asked for more….
I am off to work and wanted to get this posted this morning before I left so there may be a few extra type os than normal… I intend to go back and edit some more after work today!
Thank you for reading.
In the weeks that followed, Keri learned to handle Jack and her relationship on her own. It was a little like a balancing act. Though she thought that she was doing a fine job people began asking her if she was okay. “Sure, why?” She would almost snap. Having no one to talk to about Jack’s mood swings, Keri weathered the weight of it all on her own shoulders. Until one day, Mrs. Walker came to her with tears in her eyes. She had been worried about Keri and had actually read her journal, “not all of it, but enough” she had confessed. Keri was horrified. She had always trusted the agreement they had shared, without so much of a second thought and through the years, she had never suspected otherwise. And if truth be known, her teacher had never breached that trust ever before, until she had seen a change in Keri. She had come to class obviously upset one day to drop off her assignments and hadn’t waited to talk to Mrs. Walker who had called after her but Keri had not heard her or at least had acted as if she hadn’t. Though, Mrs. Walker was pretty sure she had.
Keri scrambled inside her head as her teacher stood in front of her with a pitiful look of concern, she tried to recall what she might have recently written. There had been some pretty bad times lately. Times when there had been no other place to go but inside the pages of her journal. Mrs. Walker laid the leather bound book in front of her. Tears of anger burned in Keri’s eyes. All this time, Keri had believed that Mrs. Walker was just initialing each new entrees without reading a word. Now, she didn’t know what to believe. Keri snatched the book up and held it tightly against her chest. She wondered how far back that Mrs. Walker might have read. Her teacher saw the look of betrayal on Keri’s face and rushed to explain. She had been concerned, now, she couldn’t ignore what she had read. Keri stiffened as Mrs. Walker tried to touch her arm. She pulled away as she picked up her books and ran out of the library without a word.
Keri agonized all night long. She couldn’t talk to Jack about this. He would be so angry with her. He did not know about the journals. She had read poems to him, but her journals had been hers. They were not even for Jack to know about. She had not wanted him to ask to read them so she had not mentioned them. Her head swam. All of a sudden the room started spinning. Keri grabbed her mouth and ran to the bathroom and got sick. Keri kneeled by the bain coughing and crying. She had never felt so betrayed. And yet the hardest thing about her anger was that she knew that her teacher really did just care. And yet she was just so ashamed that anybody else knew that she had allowed Jack to treat her the way she had described in those sacred pages. Now, she felt naked and as if she wanted to run away, far away where no one knew her. That night she decided that she was going to finish High School even earlier than she had planned. She did not want to have to deal with Mrs. Walker or anyone she may decide to confide in.
The next day Keri went to her counselor to find out what credits she still needed. She was happy to discover that she could complete them by taking the required exams through a few independent study classes that she could do on her own through the counseling office. She explained that she wanted to finish early so she could start working at the Speech and Development School full-time, and have a little time in-between before she had to start her college classes. She had decided that rather than go away to school right away, she would take some of her general education classes at the local near by community college which would be where the counseling office was that she would be reporting to until she completed her credits. Surprisingly, her counselor and her parents didn’t question her new change of plans. In fact, her mom and dad didn’t seem to discourage or encourage her to go to college. Jack was the only one who really encouraged her to go and yet the idea of going away to school seemed less and less appealing to both of them as they fell deeper in love.
Graduation was uneventful. There just wasn’t one. A few months later, she had completed all of the requirements. She went to pick up her report card from the office shortly after Thanksgiving and was told that her diploma could be picked up after her graduating class had gone through the actual ceremony in June, the following year. Keri knew that she would miss her prom and other school activities but she also knew that Jack would not have wanted to go to any of it and she did not have want to go without him. The year before meeting Jack, she had been invited to a boy’s Grad night. They had been dating casually at church. He was the Valedictorian for his graduating class at South High, a school outside of her own district. The night had been like a dream, she had so much fun with him and his friends. She was glad that she had that memory. And decided it was going to have to be enough. She was just relieved that school was behind her and that Mrs. Walker had not said anything to anyone else about what she had read in Keri’s journals. Keri was sure she would have called her parents but for some reason she hadn’t, and Keri was grateful.
When Keri ripped open her report card and saw the A+ in English, a melancholy feeling came over her. She walked to the parking lot as she scanned the paper. Memories flooded her thoughts as she remembered all the things she had learned about writing from Mrs. Walker. She remembered the first time she had approached Keri with tears in her eyes after reading something that she had written and telling Keri that she had a gift. Tears blurred Keri’s eyes, only just looking up just as she was about to bump into Mrs. Walker herself, who looked equally surprised. She had not seen Keri for several weeks though she had learned of her plans to not pursue her current scholarship she had decided to not interfere. In fact, she had decided to do nothing.
Mrs. Walker had to sign off on Keri’s plans to graduate early. Keri had seen the familiar signature but that had been the extent off their contact since the day in the library. ”Thanks for the A” Keri said uncomfortably. “You earned it as always, Keri”. Mrs. Walker smiled “Good luck to you honey, you are very talented, I hope you do something great with your writing.” Keri knew that graduating early had ruined her chances for several of the scholarships she was up for, ones that they had worked on together. Suddenly they just hugged. Though it wasn’t clear who reached out first. The embrace was long and genuine. “Thanks for everything Mrs Walker” Keri whispered hoarsely and Mrs. Walker hugged her a little tighter and then slowly let go. She knew Keri better than any adult in her life right then. The years of mentoring and long talks about her dreams to write, and then watching her progress and win awards for her writing had been her teacher’s own reward. She wanted to say so many things to Keri at that moment and yet she knew that they were all things she would have to learn on her own.
Jack had been supportive about Keri’s decision to graduate early. Though she had discovered it was not so easy to just slip into a job at the Speech Center as she had assummed it would be. She hadn’t considered that there was a protocol to follow and a hiring process unlike the volunteering that she had been doing. The school had assured her that she had a job promised to her the following semester but the class she had been volunteering for, already had an Associate Teacher that happened to be leaving mid year and so it would work out as they planned but not any earlier than they had promised her. Lee owned a small oil company with her husband and offered her a job as soon as Jack told her about what had happened. Keri happily accepted the job offer. and Keri told the Center that she would have to stop volunteering in the Interim so that she could work full time at her new job and they understood.
Lee paid her more than she had ever earned at any other job before and she was delighted. It was such fun working with Jack’s mom . She taught Keri about the billing and invoicing and Keri caught on right away which impressed both Lee and Robert. Keri was a hard worker and a natural when it came to dealing with the truckers who would come in and out of the office all day. They all seemed to love her and would bring her extra little cases of soap or whatever they happened to be hauling. It would annoy Jack but Lee and Robert thought it was hilarious as the older men would fall all over themselves flirting with Keri.
Lee put Keri in charge of the trucker’s key lock system. Each company would be given a key to use when they needed to fill up. Lee taught Keri how to go out and read the meters on the diesel pumps twice a month and then how to invoice them. Keri would even take her work home with her staying up late at night, typing up invoices and stuffing envelopes. Lee would take Keri to fancy lunches and out to get their nails done. They would wait for Jack to get off work and then meet them and the four of them would all go out to elaborate restaurants for dinner each night. Keri also bonded with Robert and he seemed to enjoy Keri’s sense of humor as they would try to top each other’s jokes. Lee was a joy to be around. Jack enjoyed his mom and seemed to relax and Robert was always charming.
Everything was wonderful, Jack seemed happier and each week they seemed to settle in a little more until one day, Lee called Jack crying hysterically. Robert had left her. Everything seemed to fall apart after that. Lee began drinking and not showing up to work on time and sometimes, not at all. Slowly, Keri began taking on more and more of the work load. And bringing home more and more work on the weekends. Jack complained when Keri couldn’t go with him one week, missing a soaring lesson. And then a few weeks after Robert had left, Keri got a call. It was Robert. He told her that he couldn’t explain it but that he had ended up in Arizona “pushing a broom in the local hospital, happier than he had been in a long time”. Keri didn’t know what to think. She told Jack and he just looked at her and said “Why did he call you”? Good question Keri thought. About a week later, Jack’s sister Rachel, found Lee passed out at her house and called Jack. The combination of pills and booze was almost lethal and she found herself in the hospital with her stomach pumped and placed on suicide watch. Keri had never experienced much more than knowing her father had gotten in trouble for drinking and driving and that about did her in. But for the most part, she had lived a pretty sheltered life.
Jack had called Keri at work and told her what had happened. Jack’s voice cracked. He tried to sound so stoic, but he could not hide his heart from her. She felt his pain and sometimes she could see that small little boy who held so much hope for his future, the one who needed everyone’s approval, especially his mom’s. He pretended that it really didn’t matter. But Keri knew better. She knew that even though this was not the first time, it still rocked his world. Dealing with Lee was a brand new experience for her but Jack seemed to be an expert at it. She watched as he took charge. Filling out papers, calling doctors and being the rock for his mom. Keri admired his take charge ways and yet her heart broke for the little boy inside, that she knew so well now and realized that he must have been terrified. She was just glad that this time, he did not have to go through it alone. She would be there for him.
Keri went to visit Lee after work. She made a lot of wrong turns getting there. She was new to driving on freeways. Jack had carefully written down directions to and from work when she had started. She caught herself tuning in her radio wishing that a voice could magically come on and tell her where to go. After stopping twice at gas stations to ask for directions, she finally arrived. She was flushed as she walked past the hospital’s gift shop. ”Do you get flowers on occasions such as this?” She wondered. She was late as it was, and decided not . She looked down at her scribbled directions and the room number that Jack had given her and found Lee’s room.
The minute she walked in the doorway, and Lee saw her, she began complaining about the volunteer “sitter” assigned to her door, as she continued ranting, she realized that Keri was not going to kick the woman out, she proceeded to use all kinds of profanity now making it known how unhappy she was. Keri looked at the poor elderly volunteer stationed at Lee doors apologetically and the lady smiled with such a sweet and understanding expression, that Keri figured she was used to such treatment. But Keri who had not seen this side of Lee was appalled and had not been prepared for this kind of behavior. Even with all the stories Jack had shared with her, this was the first time, she witnessed one of the episodes he had vividly described before. As Keri took in the situation, something came over her. An anger she never known rose inside as she recalled all of the different horrible things Jack had shared with her. She barely ever raised her voice, and especially not to her own parents. But she scolded Lee like a pro and said firmly with a strength she hadn’t even known was inside of her,“This poor woman was assigned to sit here, it’s nothing personal, for heavens sakes Lee she doesn’t even know you! Now knock it off, before I walk out of here and if I do, believe me, don’t expect me to come back”.Lee blinked and looked stunned like a little child. And to Keri’s surprise, apologized and settled down. She still looked at the chair with the volunteer in it, and pouted scornfully but at least she had stopped. Keri’s heart pounded hard but she felt a triumph knowing her words had impacted Lee enough to shut her up.
Jack who had come from the admitting office, met Keri in his mom’s room. He had heard the whole exchange and hid a smile as he walked in the room and gave his mom a stern look. He greeted Keri but did not move in her direction. She took his lead and kept her distance as well. His mood was dark and she could tell that he was stressed. She had expected him to be preoccupied with everything and so did not take it personally. Her heart hurt for him. She knew this was not the first time he had, had done this. He sat down and spoke sternly to his mother and surprisingly she listened. Almost like a child. She pouted as he explained the process of the seventy two hour hold that had to be followed before she was discharged.
They both stayed till the end of visiting hours. Lee was behaving helplessly, like a small child. So unlike the vivacious, take charge mentor and teacher that Keri had grown to love over the last several months, she was seeing a completely different woman lying in the bed in front of her. When visiting hours were over, it had grown dark. Keri mentioned to Jack that she was not familiar with the neighborhood and could she please follow him back to his mom’s house?” He shrugged and then nodded in agreement. When they both pulled out of the parking lot it all seemed innocent enough and then suddenly, Jack seemed to jump ahead of her in traffic. She thought that he would wait after a red light separated them but he seemed to take that opportunity to stay two blocks ahead of her for a few miles and then began to turn corners quickly. Keri was nearly in tears when she lost him.
She considered just going home to Palos Verdes, she was so upset with him. She was sure that he must have been preoccupied with everything that he had forgotten she was following she reasoned, excusing him at first. But it had almost seemed as if he was trying to ditch her. Eventually, she found her way back to his mom’s house where he sat waiting in the driveway with a little smug look on his face… As soon as she saw his expression, Keri knew that losing her, had not been some kind of an oversight. She knew that he had blatantly tried and it baffled her. But then, a lot of things that Jack did baffled her lately.
Keri drove up and was visibly shaken from the whole experience. Upset about his mom and at his mom and now at him., she snapped, “Why did you try to lose me?” “What do you mean?” he asked, not bothering to hide the sarcastic tone or the smirk she had seen on his face when she had pulled up. His tone and expression spoke volumes, even as he insisted that he had noooo idea what she was talking about. She just looked at him in the same way that she had at his mother, a few hours earlier and sharply said, “ What are we seven here?! I didn’t have to come all the way back here, and trying to lose me, well it was just a mean and shitty thing for you to do”!
Knowing already, that he had gone too far, he stopped. But he was angry and scared and tired , so tired of his mother’s emergencies and now he felt scolded and suddenly became unreasonably enraged with her. Keri knew that this had everything to do with his mom and really nothing to do with her but even so, something told her that she needed to set boundaries now, and that he needed to know that even in his pain, she was not his punching bag. This last little incident had been the last straw and had really made an impact on her. She wanted to be there for him in his time of need but she was not willing to overlook bad behavior from anyone. She knew that when she was right about something, she was entitled to her opinion and was not backing down this time. She put her car in reverse and backed out of the driveway and proceeded for home as he stood there with his mouth open watching her leave. And then saw the rage take over. She saw as he kicked his tire in her rear view mirror. ”Let him have his tantrum all by himself tonight.” She thought.
Keri understood a little bit more now about Jack’s rocky childhood and the more she got to know Lee, she could only imagine what kind of ups and downs and crazy scenes he had witnessed as a young impressionable little boy. Her heart broke as she wondered what he remembered. She knew that he had never learned where to go to feel safe and so his defense was to know more, be stronger, and always remain in control even if he were screaming inside. Jack had shared a lot about his childhood with her, but Keri knew that there were some things he had pushed so far down, she wasn’t even sure if he knew what was reality and what was too painful to even remember. But he could not explain it to anyone. He just wanted to lash out, to rid himself of the pain he felt and Keri seemed like a willing target. Until something had clicked for her, as she followed him in her car. She had felt humiliated by him for the last time and something in her began to fight back.
Jack had called several times that night but Keri did not answer her phone. She had her own number in her room and so finally, she just took the phone off the hook and went to sleep. The next day, Jack met her at work as she drove up. “I am sorry Keri,” he said looking relieved that she had even shown up. He had been unsure if she would. He had never seen her so angry and though he had been too. He wondered if had gone too far. He had a habit of doing that, pushing away the people he loved. Recently, he had seen a strength in her that he kind of admired, though he hated the feeling of uncertainty that came with someone being upset with him and he would usually become angry when he felt a lack of control and as Keri found a new voice, Jack felt out of conrol more and more of the time.
They were alone in the office and Keri stood her ground. “Okay, she said. I know you are worried about your mom. I am too. But don’t take it out on me”. Her voice was firm and in a way, maternal, the way Jack had wished his mom would have been without going so crazy when she disciplined him as a boy. Keri got up to get something out of the filing cabinet and Jack sat down at his mother’s desk and silently started making a list of calls he had to make. When he felt Keri wrapping her arms around him and leaning down to kiss the top of his head, he got up and took her into his arms and held her there for a long time. He had wondered all night what he would do if he lost her. He had never heard the kind of strength he had heard yesterday. He had been impressed and a little bit frightened that she was discovering that Jack Sagen might not be worth the trouble.
Jack began working for his mother’s company after her hospitalization. She offered him a salary that he couldn’t refuse and he knew he had to do something as she was still not showing up regularly at work since Bob had left her. Lee’s depression seemed to grow worse until the medications finally seemed to stabilize the highs and the lows. Lee seemed grateful that Jack had taken over and that she could depend on the both of them. Slowly, she seemed to start wanting to go out again and would show up at work for half days. They never spoke of that little drive again but it was another memory that Keri would not forget.
Christmas was approaching and the cheer of the season seemed to lighten their moods. They had loved working together though Jack had still kept his job at the station, not fully trusting his mom’s mood swings. Never knowing when she would throw him out again. He had finally learned to expect the other shoe to eventually drop because it always did. But in the meantime, he had enjoyed the few months, feeling like a family again. Lee had seemed to appreciate all that both Jack and Keri had done while she was away and with her meds adjusted, she was her old self once again.
Jack even accepted a dinner invitation for he and Keri on Christmas. Lee even talked Rachel into agreeing to spend a few hours with them all on Christmas for dinner. Jack was like a young boy full of hope and Keri loved it when he was happy. As they bustled around cheerfully planning for Christmas, Keri was doing some persuading of her own. Her dad had gone out all on his own and had bought Jack a jacket that Keri had mentioned that he admired. It was leather and lined with fleece. And when she saw it in a box on her parent’s bed, she threw her arms around her father’s neck and cried, “Oh thank you Daddy, he will love it”. She was so happy Jack was invited to Christmas Eve, which was her dad’s favorite day of the year. Everything seemed to be headed for the most perfect Christmas ever!