Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Earned You.

 I knew it was a bad idea to move in with my sister. It was one of those ideas you get when you're really upset about something and are eating ice cream in order to feel better. A brain freeze comes on and contrary to popular belief, despite the term, your brain is very active during such incidents. The result is many ideas at once, some of them outlandish and some of them just plain crazy. To be honest, the idea had developed after my sister fell on hard financial times. At the same time, we were falling behind in our bill payments. We couldn't complain with an extra hand around the house.

 It wasn't that I didn't like my sister, it was just that she was too hard on Murray. She gave him more than he could stand, stretching him between his boundless love for me and his ever-present desire to show her respect no matter what.

 He didn't like Mira-Ri, our 'Miracle' child around her aunt. He wasn't jealous, he was just protective and wary. He could already see our girl at twenty rebelling against us and dashing off to follow her aunt's muddled ways instead. Needless to say, even at three years old, Mira-Ri was susceptible. My sister seemed to pet her wild side rather than to tame it.

 Things came to a head one day. Murray was at the end of his rope at work and at home. He had been seriously demoted from a position of great responsibility and privilege for something he hadn't done. While struggling with the shame and dishonor that accompanied the disgrace of his demotion he had to deal with my mother's controlling ways at home.

 That day, when he came and everything blew up, I could feel it before it started to happen. As he pulled into the driveway, I saw a look of death in his face that I will never forget. Mira-Ri was sitting beside me on the porch swing. Full of joy and energy she leapt off it as fast as her chubby three year old legs could carry her when she saw her father. I wanted to hold her back; he looked so angry. But, I didn't. She ran to him but he ignored her. I still remember the confusion on her face. She turned to me with a baby pout and I encouraged her to return to me.

 "Hi Murr..." I ventured cautiously as he stormed up to the porch.

 His gaze brushed over me briefly. Something was bothering him. I rose with a sigh as he walked inside. Just as I had stepped off the porch to collect Mira-Ri, who was still standing in sad confusion where she had stopped, I heard Murray's voice in the kitchen. Keeping calm I gathered Mira-Ri up and went inside.

 The heat that accosted me when I encountered him in the kitchen was stifling. He was standing in the doorway leading to the hallway when I came in. Disbelief and rage was on his face. My sister was leaning against the counter across the room from him, a look of innocent fear written on her features. When he spoke again, his voice was charged with furious tones.

 "Am I hungry?!! I NEED to eat??!!!" He replied, obviously echoing her question which I had not heard.

  "I think that's what I said." She replied in turn, mildly.

  "No, I'm not hungry!! And I never will be in this Godforsaken house! You can make the rules around here, but you can't enforce them! I'm so sick and tired of this!! I will never stoop this low again! To think I'd like to be coddled and ordered around by you! Never again!!"

 "Murray, I've tried hard to be everything I could be to you and to Megan. This here is merely a display of ingratitude."

 I could barely believe my ears. Right before my very eyes, my sister,  who was the last surviving member of my maiden family, and my husband, whom I loved dearly, were fighting! It was so terrible I didn't want to believe it. Mira-Ri was squirming in my arms and had started to cry.

 "This isn't about gratitude!!" Murray took a step towards my sister. "I can't explain what it is but whatever it is it's coming between me and the people I swore to protect!!"

  "Get out then!" My sister's voice had risen to a howl. "Get out and never come back if that's the way you feel. The next thing you will say is that it's me, that I don't know how to treat you, that's why you're angry. Well, I'll tell you one thing, men don't deserve special treatment. We don't have to treat them differently. They're just animals, that's why they react like you do."

  "Rebecca!" I cried, unable to let her go on. "Please!"

  She turned to me, her eyes blazing. "You shut up, Meghan! This has nothing to do with you! This is between me and your good-for-nothing husband!!"

  I gasped and swung my gaze back to Murray. I was still reeling in horror. His lips were parted and he was panting rapidly. For a moment, I thought he was going to say something, but he was silent. Suddenly, without warning, he slammed a fist down on the counter top. There was a splintering sound as he withdrew. He turned glittering, menacing eyes towards my sister and then marched out. By now, Mira-Ri was screaming. I ran into the bathroom and locked myself there.

  Sitting down on the edge of the tub I cradled Mira-Ri in my arms and wept for hours.
  It was around midnight when I finally worked up the courage to look in on Murray. After spending several hours in the bathroom crying, I had come out eventually, fed a sleepy Mira-Ri and put her to bed. Then, I had sat with my sister while she ate dinner. I was too angry and sad to eat anything. She went to bed shortly afterwards without saying a word to me.

  I sat in the living room for several hours after that until the clock struck midnight. I was afraid to go to bed. Murray was in our room and I didn't want to talk to him yet. Maybe he was still angry. I stared around the room, hoping the elegant wallpaper and tasteful decor would comfort me but I was mistaken. When the clock chimed twelve times I rose slowly, like an old woman, and made my way upstairs, dread heavy in my heart.

  I dragged my fingers gently across the walls that I passed. I could hear my nails scraping lightly, like a feeble person scratching at the walls in a cell. Tears glittered on my eyelashes as I stopped in front of the bedroom door. No light came into the hallway from under the door. I looked across at my sister's room. Her light was on: a pale stream of lamplight slipped from under her door. I shuddered and went into our room.

  Pitch darkness accosted me but slowly my eyes adjusted to the gloom and I was able to make out Murray's form hunched over near the window. Slowly, quietly, I moved across the room towards him. He was sitting on a chair that he had apparently seized from the right side of the bed. I stopped inches behind him and began to reach out my hand. I felt cold. A bitter sensation rippled through me. My fingers were shaking and I felt my breathe become ragged.

  "Meg, don't touch me." He bit out the words so suddenly in the dark that I almost screamed. But it was too late. As startled as I was, his acrimony wasn't enough to discourage me. I was already too close to move back or stop.

  A spark ran through me when my fingers finally rested on his shoulder. He flinched but as I had expected didn't attempt to move my hand or throw me off. Gradually, carefully, I worked my way around him until I was standing before him.

  I didn't say a word. I knelt on my knees in front of him. Then, I closed my hands around his. He had them gripped together before his bowed head. We sat like that for a while before he finally lifted his head and spoke in a shaking voice.

  "Meg, all I ever wanted for you was happiness, but this, this is beyond comprehension."

  I opened my mouth to protest, but his eyes glared even in the low light and I was silent. I could tell that he was under a great burden of emotion. There was no use setting his fury off again.

  "Becka is good to us, but I tell you, I can't stand her. She's a control freak...I don't mean it when I say it like that, but you know I meant every word in there." Murray lowered his head onto his hands. I felt the warmth of his chin on my fingers. "We need to get out of here. We should never have come here."

  I wanted to agree, to tell him he was right but something was holding me back. Did Rebecca think anything less of him because of the disgrace he had endured? If so, why? I felt confused and insecure just thinking about how she had treated him.

  "Meg...you belong to me. I earned you, fair and square."

  "Murray, I know that." I snapped, unintentionally.

  He didn't move but when he spoke again his voice was so charged I thought he was going to cry. 

  "Can't you see what she's doing? She's come between us. I understand her being your only surviving kin and all, but what about me and Mira-Ri? Aren't we important too? Or are you willing to sacrifice us for your sister, who wouldn't appreciate it anyway?"

  I felt sobs rising in my throat. I let my head fall against Murray's so that our foreheads were touching. He was hot and I was so cold. For a moment, I could barely think.

  "Murr...I'm sorry..."

  "I earned you, Meg. There's no reason why I should have to share."

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