“My mother tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists three months after we buried Rachel. She waited until after I visited her so she could see me one last time. Fortunately, she cut them the wrong way—many people do, you know—and a neighbor dropped in to see how she was doing. The neighbor had a key and let herself in. When she found Mom, she rushed her to the hospital. They were able to save her, but just barely. That’s it for Ferguson history 101.” Rafe picked up his burger again and started eating. I had no idea what to say after such a revelation, so I didn’t say anything. On the one hand, I was sorry I had asked, but on the other, it was time. If we were going to be serious, then I had to know more about him. I was only sorry that his past was so unhappy. I thought of a question to ask, but I wasn’t sure if I should push it. Me being me, I did.
“How’s your mother now?” Rafe kept eating, and for a minute, I was sure he wasn’t going to respond.
“She pulled herself together,” he said after a pause so long, I was afraid I’d have to repeat the question. “After years of beating herself up and periodically trying to kill herself, she decided to live. For me.” He smiled a smile devoid of real warmth. “She kicked my father way to the curve and refused to see him again. She works as a waitress in New Jersey; she gets by.”
“What about you?” I blurted out, my tongue running away with me. It’s just that after six months of hearing nothing of his past, I wanted to know everything I could. “Do you ever see your father?”
“No,” Rafe said, his eyes flashing. “If that asshole ever tried to approach me, I’d fucking kill him myself.” He forced himself to calm down before continuing. “He wouldn’t try to contact me, anyway. He never had much interest in being a father.”
I wisely shut up because I knew the laws of diminishing returns. The more I hounded him, the less he would tell and the more he would resent me for asking. I had learned more about his past in the last ten minutes than I had in the entire time we’d been dating. I absentmindedly bit into my now almost inedible cheeseburger. Something Rafe had said had struck a nerve. Not personally, but in relation to the case. I frowned and replayed the conversation, but I couldn’t remember what it was. Rafe and I finished our food in silence before returning to the waiting room. My mother was in the same position she’d been in when we left. Mona and Michele were gone.
“Heard anything?” I asked as we neared her.
“He’s out of surgery,” my mother said with a sigh. “He’s going to be fine, but he’s pretty groggy so they suggest we go home. We can see him before we go. I’ve already seen him. Mona and Michele are in with him.” She led us to my father’s hospital room, but we had to wait until Mona and Michele were done as there could only be two people in the room at a time. As soon as my sister and her partner came out, Rafe and I went in. He looked so small and frail in the hospital bed, not at all like his usual self.
“Hi, Ba,” I said softly. “How are you?”
“Hello, sir,” Rafe said. “How’s the arm?”
“I’m fine, Trish, Rafe,” my father said with a soft smile. “So much fuss over a little bullet hole. They want to keep me overnight, but I don’t see any reason why I can’t go home.”
“Stay, Ba,” I said, carefully patting his good arm. Just looking at his bad arm made my own arm twinge in sympathy. Even though it was on its way to healing, it still hurt like hell. I still took the pain pills, though I was trying to cut down. “Let the nurses take care of you for one night.”
“Such a waste,” Dad mumbled. It was clear that he was falling asleep so Rafe and I left after I kissed him on the cheek.
“Let’s get out of here,” Mona said abruptly as Rafe and I met them in the waiting room. “I hate hospitals.”
“I’m going with Mom,” I said firmly. “She needs some company.”
“I’m staying here,” Mom said with a tight smile. “Your father needs me.” Mona and I glanced at each other but knew better than to argue. Once my mother made up her mind about something, she rarely changed it. Rafe, however, didn’t quite realize that yet.
“You sure, Van?” He asked, putting his arm around her shoulders in concern. “You look beat. It might be better for you to go home and get some rest.”
“I’m staying,” she said simply. “As long as Bob is in the hospital, my place is besides him.”
“Would you like me to bring you anything from home?” Rafe asked, giving Mom a hug. Mona and I rolled our eyes at each other while Michele looked on in amusement. She’s been around the family enough to know the way we operated and took our weirdness in stride.
“No, thank you, Raphael. I’ll be fine.” Mom kissed Rafe on the cheek, gave him a quick squeeze around the waist then let him go.
“Suck up,” I said good-naturedly to him as the four of us left the hospital.
“I’m just concerned about her,” Rafe protested, slinging his arm around my shoulders. Since I hate it when guys do that, I shrugged it off. He took the hint and put his arm around my waist which I didn’t mind in the least.
“Is it over, Dodo?” Mona asked me plaintively, her arm around Michele’s waist. They were garnering more than a few curious stares along with a few angry looks, but they both ignored the attention. I kept telling them they should move to San Francisco and experience what it’s like to not be the minority, in more than one way. “Please tell me that there’s no more danger.”
“I don’t know, Mona,” I said. “I wish I did. The detective told me that they’re pretty sure it was Shannon, but they aren’t positive. They suggested I wait a few more days before moving back into my apartment.”
“I can’t take this much longer,” Mona said sadly. I relinquished my hold on Rafe and went up to my sister to put my arm around her. Now people were really looking at us strangely, but I paid them no mind.
“Baby, it’s ok,” I said softly, hugging Mona to me. I wished she were screaming at me because that meant that she was good and mad. When she got quiet, it meant that she was scared, and that was the last thing I wanted. As irritating as Mona was when she was angry, it was infinitely better than when she was sad or scared. “I’m not going to get hurt any more. I promise you.”
“Really, Dodo?” Mona’s face brightened as I lied to her, which reminded me of how young in spirit she could be sometimes. She was the last of the siblings to stop believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I sometimes thought her tough exterior was to mask the innocence she deemed unseemly.
“Really.” I hugged her one more time reassuringly before returning to Rafe’s side. We lagged behind as Mona and Michele strode briskly towards the car.
“You shouldn’t be making promises you can’t keep,” Rafe said to me in a low voice. “It’ll be even more devastating if something does happen to you.”
“I don’t want my sister to worry about me,” I retorted. “I’m the oldest, Rafe. I do what I have to do to protect my siblings.” We dropped the subject as we hurried to catch up with Mona and Michele. Just as we reached the car, my cell phone rang. It was Detective Bradley.
“She lawyered up,” he said in a disgusted tone. “It’s going to be hours before we get anything from her. Just wanted to let you know. How’s your father?”
“He’s out of surgery and resting,” I replied as I slid into the car.
“I’ll keep you updated.” It occurred to me that somewhere down the line, Detective Bradley had become, not exactly friendly but no longer hostile to me. Of course, the good Detective Sands still hated me, but that didn’t bother me as long as Detective Bradley kept me informed. I relayed the non-news to the others in the car, and that pretty much did it for the conversation to the parents’ house where Mona dropped off Rafe and me with an admonishment to be careful.
“I better be going,” Rafe said as we stood outside the house. “Work tomorrow and all. Call me when you hear anything about the psycho-woman.” He kissed me on the cheek then was gone. I went upstairs to take a shower and in general, to wash the stink off me. It had been a long day and though it was early, I was ready for bed.