Chapter 8: Sorry

Johns Cove is perfect, especially late at night when the moon is full and no one is around. I was scared at first, because it’s dark and I’ve seen too many movies where a monster waits to grab you under the water, but it’s warm and peaceful and perfect and I’m still alive. I sit on the end of Phil’s dock with my feet in the water and stare at the moon’s reflection in the water like that’s it and that’s all there is.

“Is anyone here?” I ask the moon’s reflection, just in case.

The water ripples gently against my ankles, a gentle caress. If there is a monster, he’s giving me a free pass.

. . .

When Mom looks at me, she stares at my left cheek, which is just a pink bruise now. “Your Dad called.”

“He … did?”

“Yes, first thing this morning, he calls me and says he’s coming this Saturday to bring you home.”

Panic is beating a tattoo on my heart. I shrug stiffly. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

She glowers. And stares some more.

“It’s mid-August. I’d be leaving in a couple of weeks anyway.”

“You told him.”

I drop my gaze to my feet. “I told Edward. We tell each other everything.”

“Did you tell him that you don’t love me anymore?”

How could she say that? “I’ll always love you,” I gasp. “You’re my mom.”

She shakes her head. “I told you I was sorry. I wasn’t myself that day, I didn’t mean it. You know that, right? I was just worried sick about you, that’s all, and I lost my temper. Don’t you believe me?”

My inhale is shaky. I hope she doesn’t notice. “I believe you. But I want to go home.”

This is your home, too.”

It’s Phil’s home. “I’m sorry,” I say.

“You’re sorry? For what?” Her glare is back.

“Uh…” Am I supposed to tell her that I’m sorry for wanting to go home? Because I’m not. “I’m sorry that I disobeyed your rule about the boat,” I say softly.

She sighs loudly, dramatically, and waves her hand as if to dismiss what I said. “Is this about Phil? Are you leaving because I’m with Phil now, and not your Dad? Because that’s not fair, Isabella Marie. I’m entitled to live my own life. And Phil’s a good man. He takes care of me.”

Dad took care of you, too. “It’s not about Phil,” I say. “I just want to go back home, that’s all, I promise.” Am I not entitled to live my life?

Her face is pinched and pale with anger. “It’s going to get better. I won’t, I won’t lose my temper like that again. It’s inexcusable, I know. And I know I hurt and scared you.”

And now she’s in tears and I’m split in two—part of me wants to run far away, and part of me wants to comfort her. I can’t keep up with her. I don’t know what she wants from me.

“Give me another chance, Bella!”

“Mom, I don’t know what you want me to say,” I choke out. “I miss Edward. I miss Dad. I miss my friends. And I want to go home. Please don’t punish me for that.” It’s only when I break down into tears that she comes to me, like me losing control is the only thing she can finally understand. Or wants to understand.

“I’m sorry, Bella. I never wanted it to be this way. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself anymore. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Me, too,” I cry. What else is there left to say? How many times can you say I’m sorry until it doesn’t mean anything anymore?

. . .

When Edward and I were much younger, Mom had us kneel at the sides of our bed with our hands pressed together under our chins, and say a prayer before bed. I say it now just because it comforts me.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Not that I think I’m going to die or anything. I just like the idea of having God’s ear right now.
“God, please help Mom get better. And I’m sorry about the all the swearing,” I add and then I fall into an uneasy sleep. 

Four more days until Dad comes.

. . .

Phil wants to take me out sailing, just me and him. Inside I’m turning cartwheels. Outwardly, I sigh like I don’t care, and then shrug like I’m giving in.

“Where’s Mom?” I wonder.

“Zumba class.”

We laugh.

“I swear, that woman will try anything once,” he says.

I agree. I know.

It’s windy today and the boat glides like silk on glass. We go really fast, really smoothly. The wind is strong enough that it whips some of my hair from my band, and for a moment I’m blinded. When my hair blows as hard as it does in this wind, it stings.

“So I guess you’re going home early,” Phil says later.

I stiffen. Not him, too.

“It’s whatever it is, you know,” he says when I don’t answer. “I just don’t want you to think you aren’t welcome here.”

“I don’t. I like it here. It’s really nice.”

He gives me a calculating kind of look, the kind that means he stares at me longer than I’d like. “She’s hurt that you’re leaving, though, your mom. She feels things deeply. Doesn’t always know how to react to things, you know?”

I turn away and scowl at the water. He is not standing there telling me about my own mother.
“She cried and cried last night in bed. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Cat’s still got my tongue.

“Kinda worried me. Made me think that maybe you oughta think about staying through the end of August, like what was agreed to in the first place.”

“My Dad wants me home,” I say. And I want to be home, so there! You’re not the boss of me!
“I know. I understand. I guess I was just hoping that you could talk to him, maybe ask if you could stay a bit longer.”

I look at him in surprise. Didn’t Mom tell him that I was the one who wanted to go home now? Not that it matters. I use my worn-to-death failsafe. “I’m sorry. But I have to do what my Dad says.”

He scratches his face. “Yeah. Yeah. That’s understandable. I just wish it wasn’t causing her so much pain.”

When he looks at me, I give him a look of woe and shrug again. I am the sorriest shrugger ever.

. . .

Edward’s voice is light and playful. “We’ll be there Saturday. I’ll get to see the lake and the boat that got you in trouble,” he cackles.

“The boat didn’t get me in trouble, I did,” I laugh.

“No way, those row boats have minds of their own.”

“You’re nuts.”

“I feel nuts.”

“I can’t believe Dad is letting you come, too. I’m so glad.” I didn’t think Dad had that kind of money. Maybe he planned to stuff Edward in the stow-away compartment?

“Yeah. Well, it was either that or leave me at the kennel.”

“Shut up.”

“Three more days,” he says. “Hey. I have a face, but no eyes. I have hands, but no arms. What am I?”

“Oh,” I squeal. “I know this one!”

. . .

Rose is the only one I level with, because I don’t want to worry Edward. Plus, it seems like I’m always complaining to him. He probably needs a break.

“She’s avoiding me and Phil is trying to talk me into staying. She’s always got something to do or some place to go. I’ve spent more time with Phil these last few days than I have with her in a week.”

“But she’s calmed down, though? She’s not being super weird?”

“I don’t know. I only see her when she’s coming or going. She seems fine then, though.”

“Well, maybe she’s just avoiding you so she won’t burst into tears again.”

I doubt it. I think it’s more like she’s pretending I’m already gone. “Maybe.”

“Well, I’ll see you day after tomorrow. Alice is planning a welcome home pool party.”

I whine and laugh and the same time. “Who’s coming?”

“The usual peeps. I think Seth, too.”

“Really?” I’m excited.  

“No, Bella. Not really. Geeze, what’s wrong with you, girl?”

“You can’t tease me about Seth,” I say. “Has he found the perfect girl yet?”

“I don’t think so. Well, we can ask him on Sunday when you’re back.”


. . .

I’ve got ants in my pants. Dad and Edward are supposed to be here any time now. Mom’s got ants in her pants, too. I’d like to think that she’s excited about seeing Dad again, but I’m afraid to hope where she’s concerned anymore. It’s better just to think that she’s being oddly happy again, and for no good reason.

We’re in the kitchen making dinner because Phil and Mom want Charlie and Edward to spend the night—something that’s not going to happen, according to Edward—but Mom and Phil don’t know that. And so Mom and I are making parmesan crusted chicken breasts, broccoli and mashed potatoes. She also wants us to make Grandma Higginbotham’s peanut butter crunch cookies. Which doesn’t make any sense, or maybe it does, because Charlie doesn’t care much for sweets and Edward doesn’t like peanut butter.

“They’re going to love this chicken,” she says as she shoves the baking dish into the oven. “I’ve made it for Phil before and he just raved. Even Kate was impressed.”

Kate thought Mom didn’t cook well at all. “That woman should be banned from the kitchen for life,” she told me once. “She ruined a skillet and a sauce pan.” And then she’d said something in Russian. It sounded like bet-reh-nay steh-lov-yay.

“I’ll be right back. I gotta go get my iPad, it has the recipe,” she says.

Phil’s coming in just as she’s leaving. “Keep Bella company. We’re making peanut butter crunch cookies.”

His face lights up. “My favorite.”

Ah, the cynic in me thinks. So that’s why we’re making the cookies.

I’ve peeled and quartered all the potatoes when Phil tells me he’s going after Mom. “That woman would forget her head if it wasn’t attached,” he tells me.

Yep. I know.

I’m covering the potatoes with water when I hear him yell her name in a blood-curdling way. It sends my heart right into overdrive. What’s happening now?

I set the pan on the oven to boil and wonder if I should stay here, because I don’t want to get in the way of their arguing. It’s enough just to handle my own. And then Phil yells my name.

“Bellllllla! Bring the kitchen scissors! Now! Hurry! Now!”

Geeze. One now will do, I think as I pull the black-handled pair of scissors from the wooden knife block beside the refrigerator. As I pass through the foyer, the front bell sounds and my heart leaps. It’s Dad! He’s here!

“Belllllla! Hurry! Please hurry!”

Growling my anger and impatience, I run for the back office-slash-library where Phil’s voice is coming from. He’s awful demanding. As I round the corner and come into the room, I see him with his arms around something hanging from one of the wooden rafters. What the?

Phil commands my gaze. “Set the chair up,” he tells me in a staccato tone. “Climb up and cut the rope. Now. Hurry. Now!”

And then suddenly I see what the thing hanging from the wooden rafter is. It’s Mom. Still in her tiny jean shorts and red halter top. One of her shoes is missing and that bare foot is twitching, twitching.

“Now, Bella, before we lose her!” he roars.

I stumble as I race to the overturned chair, and everything loses color, and then I’m pushing the chair up and it’s heavy and I’m weak.

“Up on the chair,” he tells me. “Hurry, you can do it, hurry.”

I climb on the chair, and he’s sweating because he’s trying to hold Mom up so the rope doesn’t cut into her throat—oh, God, it’s bleeding, don’t look—but he wants me to cut the rope with the scissors. And I have to look, have to look, have to look. Her eyes and mouth are wide open, and her face is gray, and her neck is black and white. No sounds. No movement from her. She doesn’t see me. She doesn’t see Phil.

And I’m screaming because I’m not tall enough to reach! I’m not tall enough.

Phil shoves me off and leaps on the chair, but it tips over and I see his face contort in anguish as Mom’s feet swing in front of us.

And Dad is there, and Edward, too, and it takes all three of them working together to cut her down. 

. . .

The answer to Edward’s riddle for Bella: a clock

Kate’s comment about Renee: Flighty gibbet

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