Sensitive subject :
Michaela finished packing, the SUV almost ready now, as the sun rose to a warm glow of pink hues on that July day. The day she would go back. She'd been debating on a road trip anyway, it has been awhile since she went away. Work, her boyfriend Nicholas,who was a young ambitious lawyer in political affairs. Their relationship had been a journey to say the least, the ups and downs, building the trust that took time, and patience, as well as the therapy she had to endure. Nothing was easy. It was her way to persevere what had happened in her past. That dark period where she'd decided wasn't going to ruin her forever. However, there were still loose ends, that were too powerful to ignore now. And as much as she loved Nick, this trip was the necessary piece of her past that she needed to set right.
She made sure her top storage was secure, tightened the straps. It was going to be a good drive. From the Canadian border to the US, back to Wisconsin. So many years, she had graduated from college and began her career as an RN at the Medical Centre in Toronto. She had other reasons for not wanting to go home again.
"Ok, got everything ready? Are you sure your going to be okay, I mean it's been a long time." Nicholas looked down at her petite frame, there in body, but her mind, well.......a thousand miles away already. Her heart was leadened with memories. Her mind swimming with emotions, it was time.
"Yes, I am fine, my mom is dying, I have to go back, Cassie will be there and Jack too, I won't be alone with him" The emphasis hard on the last word.
"It can't be easy after all this time. He's old now, what? 87, 88? I wonder if he even remembers." Nicholas did not want to sound emphatic in any way.
"I dont care if he does or if he doesn't. I dealt with his bullshit all my life, I will deal with it now. My mom is on her deathbed, I have to pay respects. Besides, the road trip will be fun too." She wore her big floppy old leather hat. She'd hand beaded a band in various colors, with tiny little seed beads, and it looked perfect. Her life had been anything but perfect, unlike those little beads on her hat. To Michaela, they represented happiness.
"I will text or call when ever I stop?" She kissed him.
"And you come right home if you feel uncomfortable in any way." He made her promise that.
Nicholas worried about her. What she had to deal with as a child was beyond imagineable, the horrors of what that monster had done to her. The years of therapy, and tears, comforting her when she felt badly. He loved her to the moon and back, would stop at nothing to protect her. He was going to marry her. But now, his surprise proposal would have to wait. The small diamond engagement ring hid in his drawer, now was not the timing.
"We should take a trip to Paris, someday soon, maybe next Spring." He'd suggested, as she got in the driver's seat, pulling the seatbelt in and around her shoulders.
"Ahhh, yeah, Paris sounds awesome, always been a dream to go. Let's do it." She promised. That would be awhile away yet, she had other things on her agenda.
"I am going to hold you to that. You know I will, we can stay in Montpetit, and have wine and cheese in the cafe's" He breathed as he spoke so softly, dreaming of the two of them. Nicholas was such a die hard romantic, one of the many reasons she loved him so much.
"And walk under the moonlight in Lourdes." She continued cheerfully. She then climbed into the driver's seat, and blew the horn on the van, backing out of the driveway, and later nearing the border.
***** Wisconsin, years earlier - Esther
"Mom, I can't stay, I have to go, don't cry, I will be okay." She'd had her bags packed. Her stepfather had left town on a business trip, she had just turned 16 and had enough. She never confronted her mother, she'd been too afraid after he'd threatened her. Too many years the hate that built up inside her, she buried it like a dog a bone, fervously deep into the dirty soil in the ground.
"You don't have to go, we both love you so much." Her mother pleaded, Esther had nowhere to go, he provided for them both.
"Mom, I will stay in touch, tell Cass I love her." And the tears had fallen, the salty drops on her cheeks staining her face. Her mom was weak, as a mother and as a protector of her children, but she was her mom. Michaela hated her for years too, for letting things happen. But Esther had nowhere else to go, she would never face the truth of what really was going on. Making it easier to escape........also for the hate to build up, and the guilt at leaving her sister behind.
Cassie, her younger sister, had now married and stayed on in Wisconsin. As Michaela drove down the paths of paved highways, she was not sure what she was going to find, as far as that went, she hadn't even spoken to Cassie ever since she'd left. Once she was gone, she'd arranged a stay in Canada, taken on a new life, with her French cousins. She just told them she wanted to become bilingual, and get a degree in nursing in Canada. The secrets had stayed buried. She'd prayed for all these years he would not do what he did to her to Cassie, sweet and innocent. But, as the paths of darkness grew into desperation, if she hadn't left she would have killed him.
The drive had been uneventful. Of which she was grateful, the weather was fine as she crossed the Thousand Islands Bridge. By nightfall, she was tired and hungry. She got a room at a small roadside motel, checked in, ordered room service. After a shower and food, she lay down, listening to the crickets outside.
"Yes, that would be fine, oh and a glass of red?" A burger platter and a glass of wine, she would sleep. Then the dreams, always the shadows of something around her, casting her into a hole, like a dead fish in a bucket, as she would cry out. Always trying to escape, dissolve away but not going anywhere but THERE. That fear choking her, sweat on the back of her neck and face, dripping relentlessy like the fear that hung. She got up, took a shower. It was four am. She made coffee in the coffee pot the room provided, placing the packet into the canister, pouring a bottle of water into it and switching it on. The red light glowed, the hissing sound promising hot liquid, the scent of caffeine steam coming out.
Outside, the fireflies buzzed, like little sparkles in the darkness of night, so cute she mused, like little teeny lights in the sky. A spider then crawled along the window. She watched it, its legs scurrying and hanging onto the glass. Somehow, the spider made her feel better. Maybe it lived just to survive, it knew fear, but felt no fear, only its DNA giving it the mechanisms it needed to escape or search for food. She laughed. 'If only us humans could just live on DNA, wouldnt that be boss.' she thought. Her fingers rubbing the windowsill, in sync with her thoughts then, the old paint chips scratched off it in flakes. She brushed her hands off, lay back down on the bed, checked her phone for any more messages.
Early the next morning, after a fitful sleep, she'd grabbed a fried egg sandwhich and a "real" coffee from the diner once it opened at six am. A few truckers already beginning to pulling in, blaring their horns. One man, as he got out, looked like he started to stride towards her, and stared. A little too long for her liking. She looked away, and quickly got into her SUV. The small hand gun was in the glove compartment. When she started college, she had taken a gun course and got her firearms, plus some self defense with the police department. Never again would she ever let a man paw her, touch her, handle her in any way whatsoever. And she thought of Cassie again, the little baby girl she'd left, what choice did she have? She could not endure the abuse, not one more minute. She'd been dying herself, her whole being for life had been taken from her. But now, this was the one thing that she could never forgive herself for, maybe she could set things right. And as she got back onto the road, that hole, down deep inside her heart, pushed her into going home.
Another day, she would be there. Michaela texted and spoke with Nicholas, still worried, who knew the depths of her plight. He had tried to talk her out of it. He didnt want her to go and face that hell again, but - at the same time, he knew she had to find out about Cassie. And it was time to face him too, the monster.
Michaela was one of the kindest souls he knew, why he fell in love with her in the first place. He also accepted her past, her fate that had not been any choice of her own to be had, who would? She would have cut her right arm off to not have had that happen, she ran, and couldnt take the little baby sister with her.
He would have found them, and killed them both, or she would have killed him instead. No good would have come of her staying there, after the abuse that went on behind her mother's ignorant eyes. Esther's health had been failing for years, her mind always wandering, maybe she knew, she probably did. Always watching her, touching her, never letting her grow up into a young lady. Having been abused by his own mother, Edward was damaged goods. But he provided for them, her mother never worked, weak and fragile she had been. Edward courted her and then he moved into their house, taking control. What a scenario for him!! How convenient to find a delicate woman and her two little girls, alone, her real father having been killed in a car accident after Cassie had been born. He paid the bills, put food on the table. And so much more.........
They usually knew. Nicholas pounded his fist on the table in their living room, as he stood, looking at pics on the fireplace mantel. Their pictures, the few years they had been together since they met. She had turned into such an amazing, caring and sensitive human being. Someone with dark circumstances, and a past she had learned to hide. She never stopped thinking about her sister. Of course, there were the times when she thought, that maybe, she was left unscathed, that he only wanted her. But, Michaela highly doubted that. It was not as if Cassie had ever tried to reach out to her either. She had only found out about her mother's health after speaking to an old childhood friend on social media, in private. Kristen found her out and sent her a message. It had been a fluke encounter, maybe it was Karma.
"Why don't you just call? It might give you a rest of mind and soul." Nicholas would say.
"I...I can't, she must hate me for leaving her there. I abandoned her." Michaela never stopped the tears of shame, and fear, of what might have happened to her sister.
"You had no other choice, we all do things we regret in life, yes yours is not the usual circumstances, but it's not your fault either. She may have been okay. You won't know until you make the call."
"No, I can't take the chance of him finding me. I never want to see him again." Michaela would always end debate. She'd been broken. But now, her journey was about love, and forgiveness, she would go and see for herself. It was the only way she would ever be free from a past that empowered her every being.
Now, here she was. Back at her childhoold home. The rose bushes were in full bloom, their colors warm and welcoming in front of the house. The bird feeders were abundant with seeds, those little red ones with sugar water for the hummingbirds, sat on the veranda above the roses. The scene that stood before her posted a perfect house, serene and pleasant. Ironic how life just continued on, in a small mid-western town. The morning was hot and still, not a breeze stirred in the air. She parked her van in the driveway, and she could see that her sister was already there. Michaela watched as the shadows from behind the shears moved, from where she stood. Fighting the panic that wanted to overtake her, Michaela stood back. But then, very slowly, she then walked up to the house, and knocked on the door......