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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Todd Revisited: Real Family (Chapter 29)

He wasn't sure how long he stood there outside Viki's.  The memory of Blair, trailing off, lingered.  He wondered why he wasn't just grabbing her up in his arms and showing her the love he'd felt the whole time he was gone, but, some things could just not be explained.  Instead, his mind continued to review the events from his past.  Sometimes, he found himself regretting ever leaving Ireland.  That had happened throughout his return to the states, and the days following, throughout his hospitalization for a "breakdown" as he called it internally, and throughout his life with Blair, Starr and Jack, when he fought to keep his sanity, with her sometimes unwitting help.

If he had stayed dead, in Ireland, he'd have been fishing with Aman now, and Blair, as sad as it seemed, would have just lived off The Sun and raised Starr without him.  Tea would have never met him and dealt with his emotional fallout from finding he was a shattered abuse victim.  Jack wouldn't even "be."  And, somehow, he was heading toward that kind of thought now, as hard as he had fought to maintain himself, and as long as he struggled to keep his mind, he still thought back to Ireland and how the only real, true parents he had known had helped him through.  

Parents.  Peter, Victor, Bitsy, and now Irene.  The birth mother he always believed loved him enough to save him was also responsible for his torture, despair, and loss of precious time with his family.  His mother.  Could there be any saving grace in this life called Todd Manning?  That was it.  He was alone.  Totally alone, except for the other parts of him in his head.  Living with Viki, accepted by Starr, and sided-with by Blair, he was still alone.  He felt he always had been, save a few brief moments of warmth since he left The O'Farrells in Ireland.  

That evening, at dinner, Lilly and Aman O'Farrell went all out.  It was almost as if they sensed what Todd had to tell them.  There was Lilly's famous traditional Irish stew, soda bread, champ, rack of lamb, and a couple of things he was not even sure about.  Aman had just returned home from the day's work, and Lilly had been working all day to prepare this meal.  "Somethin' special," she said, "for you, lad, for how hard you worked to get yourself together and on the mend."

He hadn't had as many dreams to speak of since The Big Truth, as he called it.  Pete had not shown himself at all.  Tom was still there, and he carried on conversations with Tom all along the way, in his mind's eye, never aloud, so no one would be alerted.  The only dreams he had now were of Blair and his child, waiting for him.  Sometimes he dreamed of going home, seeing the penthouse, Blair, there, in a white nightgown, with the baby in her arms, also in white.  Other times, he dreamed of making love to her in their room by the tall windows with the moon coming in.  But, the dreams of Peter were gone, and though he was pretty certain it was not permanent, he felt a lightness in his heart that he remembered from before his trip to Ireland.  He had to let them know, these fine people who had become his family for the past months.  Here it was the beginning of Summer, and excluding a stop at a private Swiss hospital to be certain he was physically all right, he was going back, to her, to his life.

He bounded in when Lilly called "time to eat!" and threw himself over a chair.  They'd had him working in the yard, pulling up weeds, planting, things to bring him "closer to God and closer to health," Aman had said.  He felt stronger than he had, though he dealt with a great deal of pain, he was healing.  

"Lad, you run in here like a banshee, will ya slow down?  You're makin' it obvious how old we are!"  Lilly teased.

"Sorry, milady" he imitated her accent as usual, "just gettin' meself a seat!"

She playfully hit his arm, and started dishing out the meal.  He, of course, had gained back the notorious appetite and fed himself well.  Aman and Lilly would often laugh at his dinnertime antics.  

When he had finished and they had their fun, he stopped mid-smile and said, "O'Farrells, I have to tell you something."

Immediately, the smiles faded from their faces, both of them.  Aman, who had his doubts along the way, had come to love him like a son, and accept him as he was; Lilly, well, it went without saying.  He was her child in her heart.  He took a breath.  It was evident to them that whatever he was going to say was hard and was not going to be what they wanted to hear, though they knew it was right.

He tried, but winced.  He heard Tom in his head, "You gotta tell em!  The baby is probably almost here, if not born already.  She needs her Dad, Todd.  She needs you."

Aman spoke, "Son," and Todd did not cringe, nor did the name cause him pain anymore from Aman, "we know."

Lilly began to cry openly.  She shook her head.

Aman continued, "You have to go.  It's time, eh?"

Todd could barely speak.  He tried not to look at Lilly, but he knew she was falling apart, so without making eye contact, he took her hand gently and squeezed it.  He gained his presence of mind long enough to say, "Yes, Aman.  My little girl is almost here, if not already."  He pushed back tears and the leaving and the new life he was going to greet soon enough.

Lilly pulled herself together just enough to say, "We love you, lad."

He smiled, a single tear leaving his eye and running over cheek where his scar sat, constantly reminding.  He squeezed her hand a little tighter.    

She continued, "And we love Tom.  And we even love Pete.  We love all of you."

At this point, Todd, overwhelmed, put his head into his hands, and reaching as deep as possible, he fought the urge to break down himself.  He ran all ten of his fingers through his long, silky hair, moving it away from his face, twisted with emotion.  Lilly had kept it up beautifully for him when he was unable to move, and Aman had trimmed it and kept it from reaching his waist throughout his ordeal.  He looked at them, each in turn.  "We love you, too.  You've given me things I can't ever repay.  Ever.  I'd never have been able to go back to my wife," he needed to pause, "and my new child, if you didn't help me and make me whole."

Tears were streaming from all three of them now, and no one seemed to care.  Aman was the first to speak.  "When do you go, Lad?"

He was still holding Lilly's hand.  "Tomorrow.  Morning.  I just had a request of you both."  Lilly and Aman watched, anticipating.  "I just want to go, I want our goodbyes to be tonight.  I can't go through it twice.  I just want to leave in the morning, get checked out at that Swiss clinic, and go back to my world.  Can I have that?"

Lilly was beyond being composed.  Aman looked straight into Todd's hazel-green eyes and said, "Yes, Son, you can.  We'll oblige you."

And the rest of the evening, they spent talking over the times they had; reminiscing of the bad and good, making promises (and at least two were making prayers), saying things that had to be said, and making up the bed by the window for its last night, complete with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Tom.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Todd Revisited: Decision (Chapter 28)

He'd been through worse before.  He knew that.  In fact, if he took time to think it over, his whole life had been one horror over the next, with some sprinklings of beauty, honest feeling and depth mixed in.  When he surveyed it though, he realized just how much he had been through, and what that meant.  As he stood now, how could they wonder why he was so desperate to get his life back?  Before he was a Lord, he had nothing.  He had a branch from someone else's Christmas tree with tin cans, strung popcorn and what he thought was a useless key on a chain.  He had built that paper.  The Sun was his.  He had worked it from a tabloid nothing to what it was before Victor had gotten his hands on it.  It had made him somebody.  How could he bear to lose that?  

This day was going to prove to be important but fell flat.  He went to see his brother, asked him to leave his office, wanted to take back what was his, but it didn't pan out.  The wuss called the police, and Bo showed, telling him there was no proof he was Todd.  No proof I am me?  I was tortured for 8 years.  I remember threatening your wife, Bozo, in the beach house.  I can describe every minute of it . . .

He stopped himself.  Blair had pulled into the driveway at Llanfair.  She had offered him a ride "home."  He remembered, "I don't have a home, he took everything away from me."  In his pocket was the photo of Starr he took of his brother's desk.  He took it out briefly and peeked at it for strength as Blair got out of the car.

"I told you, Todd, not to get into this angry thing again."  

He got out, walking aside her up to Llanfair.  "This angry thing?  It's not like someone dropped a glass and broke it, Blair.  This is my life."  

She looked across to him as they walked.  He wanted so badly to touch her, even just to hold her hand, and he held back.  He could tell she was holding back also.  He feared that one touch from her would send him into oblivion where he might fall right into her arms, but he didn't want to do that.  Neither did she, but he wondered what her reasoning was.  His was obvious.  He couldn't fall into that without making her understand how wrong she was for every doubting him.  He had to make her see that, and if he touched her, he'd never be able to stand his ground.  She, on the other hand, was probably in her denial thing, telling herself and everyone that she didn't really love or need him.  He knew better.  If he weren't so angry, he would have focused on her behavior in his brother's office; the door flew open, she and Tea came in.  Tea went to Victor, she went straight to him.  She intervened with Bo, Tea was against him, siding with Victor.  She tried to calm him, while Tea stood by her husband.  She told him she would take him home, trying to diffuse things.  All he could see was the injustice of everything.  And he believed she did also.  

There was just always this "thing" she did, to deny her feelings for him.  He could remember the countless times she had done it.  It went as far back as denying she loved him after they lost their first child.  He knew then she was fighting it then, but he proclaimed his love for her anyway, because it was the most grand thing that had ever consumed him, and still was to this day.  She'd deny her own name if it helped her avoid facing things. They stopped on the landing outside Llanfair. 

"I promise you, first thing tomorrow, I'm gonna wake up and find you a good lawyer,' she said, "cause Tea, she is a shark."

Why was it that Sam immediately came to mind?  He pushed it away.  Can't deal with that now.   "And she's on his side."

"And I, am on yours," she half whispered.  He loved that.  Can't deal with that, either.  

"So just get in there, and get some rest, and promise me you'll stay away from Victor?"

"It won't be hard.  I really can't stand the guy."

He saw her face change.  "Whatever," and she walked off, apparently disgusted with him.  

He watched after her for a moment.  So much went through his mind, not limited to walking after her, grabbing her arm and swinging her around into a kiss, or yelling after her not to bother.  All this inside him was such a jumble.  Instead, he felt for the gun, in the back of his pants.  He held it, cold and firm in his hand.  "I don't think I'm going to be needing a lawyer."  

She pulled away and he watched the car for a few minutes until it was gone, turning out of the end of the drive.  She had called John to make sure he was telling the truth, after all she knew and felt about him.  His anger boiled subtly in his gut.  Yet, there she had been, beside him.  The only one who was.  He was still seething, but not enough to Let it overcome him.  He didn't have the emotional strength to deal with how she had disbelieved him, and didn't run to him after he kissed her the first night he showed himself.  He found himself leaning against a pillar when Pete reared his head.

"Stop whining over her.  You're such a sap, Todd.  You're a man, not some kind of Romeo."  Immediately, Todd banished Pete from his mind's eye.  He heard himself say aloud, "No."

One thing he was frightened of, or had been, was Pete making an appearance again and hurting the wrong people.  He would be glad for Pete's help when he shot his brother through the heart, but he was scared to let him out or let him have his day.  What if Pete took control of him, and he hurt Starr or Blair?  Since the first day Pete was born, he had feared it.  He thought back to another time when Pete's presence had made him uneasy. 

Over the following few weeks, Todd had gained his strength back with the help of Aman and Lilly.  Ireland was turning greener, and he worked day and night to get use of his legs back.  He knew that the time to leave them was coming upon him.  Aman had fashioned some crutches out of tree limbs, and he used them every day, walking up and down the cottage floor, and later, out in the sunlight as Winter began to thaw.  He spent time thinking of Blair and the baby; of Tom and Pete and who they were; of what he had endured and what he was destined to do to change his life.  He knew he had been on the right road when he left, and now, had to get back to that life.  He also knew that he would have to spend some time in a hospital to assure that his injuries had healed well enough, and he had gone lengths to access his Swiss accounts and arrange something discrete.  He was on his way.

"Tom, you ok?"  He asked, sitting in the sunlight with Aman's too-big jacket on.  It was mid March, and still a bit crisp and chilly, even in the sun.  

"Yeah, I'm ok,"  he heard the boy say in his mind.  "Are you ok, Todd?"

"Yeah, I'm ok.  I'm ready to go, at least soon.  I have to get home."

Tom said, "To Blair.  Yep.  You better.  That baby's gonna be born soon!"

Todd replied, "I know.  My daughter.  My baby girl."  His eyes glistened, and he hugged himself in the cold air.

"Yeah, gee, you're gonna be a dad after all.  Wow."

"I know,"  he said, gazing off.  

"No, Todd."  Tom said, "I know what you are thinking.  You won't let Pete come out and hurt her.  You won't.  Ever."

Todd shook his head.  In his mind's eye, he ended the conversation with Tom by saying "Never."  He assured himself that Pete, who was standing silent in the background, would not be making appearances any time soon.  He was certain he could accomplish that himself, alone.  He had not heeded Lilly's suggestion to visit a psychiatric hospital.  He was sure that his journey through the pain of recovery and the emotional pain of discovery was enough to keep Pete at bay.  Besides, at this point, he KNEW Pete and Tom, knew how they were born, and believed he could control them now.

He looked across the countryside, from the landing of the place he had called home for months.  The rolling, green hills.  No wonder people called it "The Emerald Isle."  Everything was green, even in the cold weather, it seemed.  Trees, and bushes, and patches of grass were everywhere, every shade of green ever imagined.  In the far distance, sheep were in clusters around the bluff.  His eyes brimmed as he stood up.  He had to find a way to say goodbye to Ireland, Aman and Lilly once and for all.  He had to get home to Blair.

Even though, all these years later, he understood Blair and knew she really loved him, he could not forget that she forgot him  In her own way.  Yes, that was exactly what she did.  All the various times he had been separated from her, he never forgot her.  He made a decision.  He knew the truth, deep down, but he had to fight it.  She was his wife.  Always.  And, he was her husband.  That fact was probably more true than any other for both of them.  But, he would fight to the end to get his life back, and then make Blair realize that this time, both of them had to transcend the past and change, whatever was to come for them.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Todd Revisited: Knowing (Chapter 27)

That night, he played the events of the day over and over.  He'd taken the gun, and vowed revenge.  But when he got there, he couldn't do it.  This was his brother, his twin.  He was part of him, no matter how much it all hurt and seemed so wrong.  And, Tea loved him.  He owed her that, at least.  He had left them to their private moment, removed the cartridge from the gun, and went back to Viki's, defeated but mildly proud that he hadn't given in to his demons and pulled the trigger.

Sleep, the elusive spirit he had chased for years.  The times he had slept best were over ten years ago, before he went missing, when he lived with Blair and his children at LaBoulaie.  He'd actually been able to calm everything inside him and rest.  When he was with Blair, nothing else seemed to plague him.  Throughout his life, they had gone forward and backward, over and over, and to most, it probably seemed strange or wrong, but to him, it was the very life he held inside him.  He could tell by their first conversation, though, at LaBoulaie, that she was not really accepting him.  Inside, he feared that she actually was better off without him in her world.  And this simple fact angered him more against his brother, so...he had taken the gun.  He wanted to believe he never would have used it.  But, he was not sure enough to fool himself into it.

Sleep, the elusive spirit.  It was a haunting thing, when he was alone.  When he was with her, he could do it, for a reason he couldn't quite grasp, but without her, in the past he was prone to waking hours, pacing, working nights and currently, just nightmares.  The worst dreams now were either of The Agency and the torture, losing Blair some horrific and gruesome way, or Peter and the Reaper.

The Reaper had not appeared in his dreams until much later in his life.  In fact, The Reaper had made its first appearance when he returned to Llanview before to take his life back.  In one vivid dream, he had pulled the robe off The Reaper to reveal himself.

Peter had begun appearing when he was in Ireland, another time after being separated from Blair.  Could it be that Blair was his stabilizing factor, to the point that he needed her to be sane?  Slowly, the nightmares changed and revealed themselves to be memories of his abuse.  That cloud of pain had been hanging over him so long.  Most days it was that he could conquer it alone, with hard work and a family.  Other days, he wished Ray Martino would walk in his house and sit with him for hours.

Now, the dreams were a remix of his whole collection; torture, The Reaper, Peter, sprinkled with Ireland, pain, recovery, losing Blair, losing his kids, and everything else that could be considered Hell was in his heart and head all night, every night.  Except when he was with her.  He would definitely have to look into that in the morning.  He turned over and invited sleep to her place in his tormented mind.

Things changed then.  On the 8th day, Todd woke up.  Lilly said, "You came back to us, lad," in a soft, tearful voice.  

Todd appeared more weary than before.  He looked at her, and weakly smiled.  "I guess so, Lilly."

"Do you remember . . ." She asked.  She didn't want to let him know that he had talked the whole dream scenario aloud, as if reliving it.  She knew what he had endured, she had pieced together his own words when he was "dreaming" it.  After her own good cry, she had come back ready to help him face himself.

He motioned her to be silent.  "I remember.  I remember everything, some of it makes sense to me now."  He turned away, covering his face with his hand.  His shoulders shook; she knew he was crying, but not sure what exactly to do.  But he knew she really couldn't help, except sit there and hear him.  He attempted to gain composure, while she put her hand on his shoulder, which almost made him weep more.

As he focused on getting his senses back in control, he remembered everything.  Like a flood over him, he remembered Blair, his wife, she was the blonde woman in the glen who he loved more than life, who was pregnant with his child when he left her to . . . help Marty.  Marty, who he had brutalized himself, as Pete, a few years before, when he lead a gang rape against her.  He winced.  He remembered Vicki, Ray, Rebecca, Powell, everything that had happened to him until this day.  The accident was foggy, but the shooting was clear as a bell.  He knew who he was.  He was Todd Manning.  But he also remembered Peter and what he had done to him as a young man to break him into bits.  Tears flowed and he could not seem to stop them.  Knowing, somehow, Lilly spoke.  "Maybe you don't need to stop them, lad."

He turned toward her and put his face onto her hand.  She gently wiped the tears away before more followed.

"I know who I am, Lilly."

"Yes, lad, I know."

He searched her face for some kind of guidance.  "I hurt people.  I hurt you."

"No, lad, you only did some nasty talkin'.  I've heard worse on HBO."  She smiled through her tears, but he couldn't.

"Lilly.  I did something.  I did something, something like what happened to me."  

Her chest tightened.  "All right, lad.  It's all right.  That's in the past.  It's over with now."

"No it's never over.  This will never be over."  He was so despairing she was frightened for a moment.  What if he tried to end his life?

"It IS over.  It's not happening now.  Look at me."  He obliged.  "It's not happening now.  None of it.  You're safe, that's all behind you."  She moved to sit on the bed next to him, taking his head into her lap.  "It's not happening now, do you know that?"

He sniffed.  "Yeah, I guess so.  It's not happening now," he repeated.

"No, it's not," she petted his head, his long hair streaming onto her apron.  "It happened a long time ago."

"I have to tell you.  I did terrible things.  You don't want to be near me."

"You are not getting me out of here, young man."

He stuttered, and after a great deal of hesitation; "I raped someone." 

She had the suspicion, since he had said he did terrible things, that it was not going to be easy.  But, she also knew why from his recent dreams.  "It's behind you.  And you know why it happened now, don't ya?"

"I don't know," he was shattered.

"Yes, you do.  You know why.  Do you remember Tom?"

"Yes.  I know Tom.  Now I do, I mean."

"Do you remember someone else?  A mad, angry young man?"

"Pete.  Yes, I remember him.  I know them.  I didn't before, but I do now.  They helped me cope with the truth, I guess, all this time.  They helped me hide it.  But it went all wrong.  When I got hurt, I did the things that were done to me.  Or I tried to."

"Yes, lad."  She still petted his hair.

"Blair," he said.  

"Who is she, lad?"

"She's my wife.  She's pregnant with my daughter."  He openly cried, not seeming to care to hold it together any longer.  Then, alarmed, "I wanted to rape her once, to punish her.  When she hurt me, I almost hurt her, too.  I just didn't know it was Pete.  And I never knew why."

"Well, now you do, don't ya?  And you can make sure that never happens again.  You can tell Pete to stay away, and you can love and take care of Tom.  You can make sure Pete doesn't do that again, now that you know.  You can try and understand him."

"I have to get home, Lilly.  I have to get back to her.  I love her so much."  He sighed, closing his eyes.  The tears ceased and he realized how tired he was.  "Lilly, I couldn't ask for a better mother than you.  You've been that and more," he said, as he drifted off.  

She looked to heaven and closed her eyes as well, squeezing a few last drops out of them.  Gently, she lifted his head from her lap and let him sleep.  He needed the rest.  She knew he still had a long road.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Todd Revisited: Birthday (Chapter 26)

Listening to Jack broke his heart in two.  First Starr, falling into his arms without his even having to explain himself.  Then, Blair, checking him out by calling McBain, instead of just knowing.  And then, Jack, calling him Scarface.  In his mind, he knew the kid was right, he wasn't his father, not the way things had been.  But at the same time, he couldn't help but feel pangs of love pulling him toward his son, and making him wish things were so different.

The gun was heavy in his front pocket, where he had stuffed in quickly when Jack had walked in on him raiding the safe.  Blair.  Again, she blows it.  He rolled his eyes, thinking back to how she offered him the gun, tried to shrink him out of killing Victor, and then left the safe open.  A small part of him wished he had just took her and held her instead of arguing with her.  "It wouldn't be us, would it?"  he said aloud, and shirked it off.  He had bigger things to do.  He was going to blow Victor off the face of the earth and get back everything that was his.  

He admonished himself for calling Jack names.  He should have been able to hold it together better than that.  He knew, after all this time, that Jack had missed out as much as he did.  He thought back to their interaction again, and regretted most of it.  And, he vowed to never let it get out of control again.  His worst fear was becoming his adoptive father, Peter Manning, and he didn't even want to come close to something Peter would do.  His whole time being a father, he had worked so hard to make sure he never crossed any lines into Peter territory where Starr was concerned.  And yet, the interaction with Jack, though probably deserved based on what everyone told him, had sprinklings of the Manning Manner.  Of course there were things that no one else really knew that Peter had been capable of.  He knew, in his soul, that he would no longer ever be capable of those things, because he had seen, first hand, what it had done to a soul.  That soul was his own.
Lilly put a cold towel back on Todd's head, hoping to see him stir.  She would, at this point, a week later, settle for Pete cursing at her, if he would just change his position, or his focus, and come back to them.  It had been seven days, and six hours, and he was staring at the same spot on the ceiling, as if to burn a hole.

As the other seven mornings, the cold towel didn't stir him.  Neither did the smell of breakfast, the slam of the door and the wheels of Aman's cart going to work, or her calling to Tom and Todd, softly.  Once, she even called to Pete.  If Aman had known, she would have been in trouble with him, and he probably would have called the doctor, or worse, the police.  She had tried just about everything.

This 8th day, she did her usual routine, and made lunch, washed laundry, and did household chores.  Of course, she did not watch him every moment, so she had missed the instant in which his hand twitched.  His eyes blinked a few times but remained stiffly focused on the ceiling.  He was dreaming, and in her daily work routine, she had no idea what he was coming upon in his mind's eye.

He was back in the living room, on his birthday, with Michelle and the cake and the lighter.  Like a film being rerun, he watched it all happen again, just as all the other times.

The girl smiled, and said, "Are you going to light the candles?"

Tom had stepped in as he did many other nights.  The same. "No, Todd, put that back."

"I gotta light the candles, Tom, leave me alone."

"Todd, no, come on. He's gonna be mad at you."

"I can take whatever he dishes out."

"What if you can't someday?"

Todd felt doubt rise in his throat. "I dunno, Tom.  Leave me alone, seriously."

"Why get him all mad? Put the lighter back."

He saw himself take it, relish holding the cool metal, and ignore Tom. He felt powerful then, even for that short time.  Smiling, he reached out with the flame in hand. He started to light the candles, when the door flew open, and his father stepped into the room, enraged.

"What are you doing with that lighter?"  he screamed, and Michelle began visibly shaking.  The cake almost toppled from her hands, but Todd reached out and steadied it, taking it and moving it to a nearby table.  Tom was watching from the corner.

"Nothing, Dad, I just wanted to . . ."

"You have disobeyed me for the last time."  Peter Manning's voice was loud and penetrating.  Michelle raced to the door, and pulling it open, she left without uttering a word.  Peter laughed. "Give me the lighter."  He brought his voice down lower. "Now."

Todd handed the lighter to his father, sure of what was coming next.  "You're going to burn me, right Dad?"

Peter did not answer.  "Why, that's not good enough for you?  You need something else?"

He didn't respond.  He pulled up his shirt sleeve and readied himself.  His father put him through the ritual of forcing him to hold his hand over the flame as long as he could, without crying, and he had gotten so good at it; he would go into his head every time, or let Tom take over and be somewhere else.  He did as he was asked; he never shed a tear.  His father would make it go longer and longer, but no tears.  Todd was determined.

Peter stopped the lighter suddenly, as if defeated.  He looked at Todd.  "Don't think you won, because you didn't.  You will NEVER beat me, if it takes me to hold your hand over that flame until it turns to ash and falls off."

Todd looked up at him, and something snapped.  He tipped his head back and spit into Peter's twisted, incensed face.  Why did he do that?  What made him?  And why hadn't he EVER remembered this?  

The next events were moving like a slow motion film.  Peter put the lighter on the table, and unbuckled his belt.  Todd knew what was next, but he didn't flinch.  Before he could even think of a way to escape, Peter had grabbed him and shoved him down to the floor, face down, lifting his shirt almost over his head.  Todd could see Tom out of the corner of his eye, standing, watching.  "Stay away."  He said softly to him.  Peter began the ritual of beating his back, using the end of the belt with the buckle.  "I'll teach you," Todd heard, "I'll teach you to obey me.  I control you, you don't control me."  Tom's image started to blur in Todd's eyes.

Tom reached his hand out, "Let me take a turn, Todd."

Todd shook his head no. Though he refused to cry out, tears streamed from his eyes and he shook all over.  He couldn't let Tom have this.  Not this time.

Then he saw Tom look up toward Peter with a ragged look.  He heard Tom, "No!  No Dad!"  

Peter had stopped the beating, but Todd heard familiar sounds of his father's pants zipper, and panicked.  Tom was yelling as loud as he could, but soon after, Todd could barely hear anything but the pounding of his own heart and could only feel excrutiating pain he never imagined.  Tom was begging to take over, Todd refused, and faded into nothingness until Peter finished with him.  He could barely understand what was happening to him, but knew it at the same time for exactly what it was.  A few times, he tried to speak, but didn't.  Within a few minutes that seemed like days, it stopped, and Peter got up.

Todd rolled himself over, barely able to move.  His father stood, sneering, repeating words he couldn't make out, almost like he was speaking another language.  Then as suddenly as a flash of lightening, Todd was standing by Tom, looking at Peter being strangled by another  Todd.  "Tom, who is that? Tell me?" he cried.

"I don't know!  I don't KNOW!  But he's gonna kill Dad."

Both were amazed at the sudden strength that came over the tall, lanky fourteen year old as he attempted to choke the life out of Peter.  And that was when the door flew open, and The Coach came in through the door, pulling Todd off his father, by prying his fingers off his father's neck.  But it was the teen's reaction that horrified them both.  "Get your fucking hands off me!"

Sam stepped back, alarmed, the look in the boy's eyes was unrecognizable.  He said, "Todd, it's me, Sam."

"I don't care who the fuck you are, get your hands off me now,"  he stopped, "I'll kill you.  I'll kill you both."

Tom stepped forward, saying, "Todd, I have to go.  That guy's going to hurt Coach and Dad and you're going to get in trouble."

Todd said nothing.  When Tom turned and looked, Todd was staring straight ahead, unable to move.  Tom shook him.  "Todd?  Todd!"

Sam somehow got the other guy to calm down.  Peter was screaming about pressing charges; the scene was a mess of pain and sound.  Tom stepped back.  "Todd, let me go."  He couldn't take over.  

Todd, in his trance, stared into the angry boy's eyes across the room by Sam and said, "Yeah, I hear you.  I hear you.  Not The Coach.  Ok, Pete.  Ok.  I won't tell, ever."  Of course, Tom  didn't hear anything, but he just watched in terror as Todd kept repeating himself softly.  

He shook Todd's shoulder.  "Todd?"

Todd did not respond.  Tom just looked to Pete.  "Pete, I'll take over if you want me to."

Pete sneered in his direction, while Peter made up a story about what had happened that evening.  Just disciplining his son, he had said.  Sam reluctantly accepted the story, and left them alone.  Pete waited until Sam was out the door, and turned to Peter.  "If you ever touch Todd like that again, I will kill you.  I won't let anyone pry me away.  I'll fucking kill you, and squeeze your neck until you die and after you're fucking dead, I'll keep squeezing."  Pete said, walking down the long hall to his room, pain palpable and a certain degree of defeat evident.  As he passed the table, he stepped onto Michelle's cake, that had been tossed to the floor by his father, further destroying it in one movement.

"Happy Birthday, Pete."  Tom said, through tears. 

Todd said nothing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Todd Revisited: Broken (Chapter 25)

Vicki's voice could be heard from the library by both Todd and The Impostor.  "Good God, you look like Irene!"

Within moments, he was meeting his mother and discovering that he had a brother.  A twin brother, as a matter of fact, not a strange impostor.  But how?  As Irene revealed more and more of her story, he could not help but think about his legacy.  All of the parents he had ever known, aside from Bitsy, were out to hurt him in one way or another.  All three of them had evil intent and nefarious goals.  All three of them hated him. That was what he lacked most of his life, and had never really realized it as clearly before.  He never had a family, and a family was what he had always sought so much.

He had been taken from Victor's tomb.  The memories he could not access were becoming clearer and it didn't hurt thinking about the time right before his disappearance.  As she spoke, he was revealing more to himself, and he didn't get the terrible pain.  The story that she told was horrific; the things she had done to her children were painful at best, and she showed no sign of remorse.  He began to look at The Impostor as something entirely different.  He was a victim too, in his own way, if her story was true.  Hearing the words from Irene, "You, are my special one, my beloved Victor...and you're Todd," as painful and confusing as they were, also was liberating.  He was himself, and had nothing else to prove.  

He turned to his sister, when John took Irene off, and Victor, his brother, left as well.  She poured two drinks, and after recalling that she could no longer drink it, he downed both glasses.  

"I told you so," he said between gulps.

She started to laugh.  "I can't believe I'm laughing."

"It's the only way, really."

"Wow."  Both were taking in what happened.

He looked at the floor.  "C'have a hug?"

She crossed in front of him, clasping and unclasping her hands.  "My brother doesn't like hugs."

"Your brother was locked up for eight years.  The only time anybody ever touched me was to torture me.  I could use your hug now."

She embraced him with all of her heart.  Inside him, so many feelings stirred, but also, there was relief in an odd way.  This horrific explanation from the mother who birthed him and despised him was relieving as well as terrible.

As he sank into the "being alone" and absorbed more of what had happened, he also experienced a great sense of loss.  The mother he thought loved him enough to give him up to protect him, had done these horrific things to him and to his brother.  This brought him also to the thoughts of his adoptive father, Peter Manning, and what her simple act of giving him up for adoption brought into his life, and how it also changed him.  Most of what he ever did was imprinted by Peter's influence on his life and his own heart, in one way or another.  Everything he was ashamed of came from his own shame embedded in his own soul from Peter's branding of him with that lighter and the other horrors he had faced.

From the landing outside the cottage, Aman and Lilly heard a loud crash.  Startled, they both hurried through the door to see Todd lying on the floor.  "Fuck this!  I'm getting out of this fucking hell hole."  He was dragging himself across the floor toward the door, using his arms.  At the base of the table, he struggled, with success, to pull himself to standing.  The laceration on his arm, that had been almost healed completely, had burst open and was dripping blood down his elbow.  

"My Good Lord, Todd, what are you doing, lad?"  Lilly cried out.  "You're standing!"

"Oh shut up old woman!  Todd's gone.  Leave me alone.  Get the fuck out of my way!"

Aman came forward, stepping toward Todd.  "Stop it.  You don't talk that way in my house."

Todd stopped and propped himself on both elbows, looking up.  "What are you gonna do about it, old man?"  Todd lifted the kitchen knife from the table top.  Propped up by both arms, he struggled to maintain himself in a standing position, but his legs would not cooperate well and he staggered, leaning against the surface.

Aman became angry, and knew he was.  He could feel the ire in his throat and felt the red creeping up his neck and face.  "Don't make me do this, lad."

Todd bellowed into a deep, menacing laugh.  "Don't make you do what, lad?"  He mocked his caretaker with rage in his hazel eyes.  He waved the knife.

Lilly was beside herself.  She could not imagine what had brought him to this point.  She took a risk.  "Tom?  Tom, please come talk to us, Tom, dear."  

Aman did not want to hurt Todd.  He knew what that could cause, but at the same time, he had to protect his home and his wife.  Todd sneered.  "Tom?  That little sniveling bitch?  I could eat him alive.  Now are you going to move out of my way?"  His eyes were wild.

Aman began to step toward Todd, knowing that with his bear-paw hands, he could take him down easily, though a huge part of him didn't want to.  Lilly instinctively pulled Aman back.  "No," she heard herself say.  "No, Aman."

Todd stopped, still breathing heavy, watching both of them, the knife gripped in one hand, blood dripping now from the elbow to the floor in little channels.  

She stepped a small length closer.  "Todd.  Todd, I know you're there, lad.  I know you're there and that you're so hurt."

His face twisted slightly, but he seemed to fight to keep composure.  She continued.  "Todd, you don't want to hurt anyone, you don't.  You're just confused because of how you've been hurt, isn't that right?"

"Shut up!"  He howled.  "Shut up!  Now!  Fucking shut your mouth!"

She shuddered, but did not back down.  Aman's fists were clenching and unclenching, she could see, but she kept on, very softly.  "No.  This isn't what you want, and this isn't you."

He laughed menacingly again.  "It's not?  Then who the fuck do you think I am, huh lady?  I'm not Tom, that little wuss.  I'm not Todd either, you moron."

Aman spoke up.  "Since you're so brave to talk this way to a woman, why don't you tell us who you are and take some responsibility?"

He smiled a horrific, pained smile.  "Pete.  I'm Pete.  What's it to you?"

Lilly immediately somehow knew what to do, and spoke even quieter.  "Pete.  Pete, stop this.  You don't want to be like your father, do ya?  You don't want to hurt us, like he hurt you?  Like he did to you, whatever he did?  We know it was horrible, we know it was bad, Pete.  We know."

Lilly watched his face change, relax and loosen, and he immediately dropped to the floor, staring to the ceiling, as if dead.  "Oh Aman!"  She cried.  "Is he breathing?"

"Yes, now help me woman, get his legs."  They struggled and carried him back to the bed.  Lying him down, Aman said, "We have to call a doctor."

"No!" she shrieked. "No we can't.  If you do he'll be put away somewhere, Aman, we can't let it happen to him.  Hasn't he had enough?"

Aman was finding it harder and harder to accept his wife's devotion, and he was afraid for her.  "What do you mean to do with him, eh?  Now he's turned violent against us, it will only be a matter of time."

She went to her husband, gasping both his hands.  "Please, Aman, please?  He won't hurt us. He won't.  If he wanted to, really, he already would have.  Please.  Look at him, he can't even move.  He's staring at the ceiling like he's finding his God,"  her voice quivered.

"Since it's the weekend, and I'll be home, I'll listen to ya and keep watch."

"Yes, just a few days, Aman, please."  Then more thoughtfully, "Something had to bring this Pete out, maybe he's on the brink of remembering something so awful he can't face it.  Please, Aman, we're all he has."

"I'll just say this, when the boy is healed, and he wants to go home, I'd like to find this father of his, and pan his bloody head in."  Aman himself forced a few tears back.  He knew she was right, something abominable happened to him to break him this way.  He was a man, just as Aman was, and something had broken him into human shards.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Todd Revisited: Missing Pages (Chapter 24)

He wasn't really in the mood for this joker.  He chewed his sandwich.  Although, this could be fun.  Taunting The Impostor all he could, at every turn, they found themselves in the library again, him eating his sandwich, and the other walking about looking . . . impostorish.

Neither was ready for Vickers when he came in.  "Hello Todds Manning."

Not humorous.  One thing lead to another, and he found himself in the confusing web of David Vickers' world.

"Only the real Todd Manning will be able to answer the following question," Vickers began.  "How many pairs of hands other than my own did baby Jack pass through before getting back to Todd and Blair?"

"Really?"  Todd said.

"That's your test?"  The Impostor asked.

"Answer the question."  David said matter-of-factly.

Todd talked first, "I thought Jack was Max Holden's kid, so I gave Jack to a Mexican nanny called Polumba."

"Paloma," said Impostor.

"Tomato."  Todd said.  "She gave the kid back to Blair."

"So I took him to the . . ."  Impostor began.

"No I took him to the airport,"

Impostor said, "Pawned him off on a baby broker . . ."

"But the baby showed up again, so I gave Jack to some Mexican nuns. . ."

"Who gave him to you."  Impostor was seemingly disinterested, bored.

"...because you said," to David Vickers, "that Jack was your adopted love child with your gay lover, Todd."

"Still gives me nightmares," said The Impostor.

"Tell me about it," said Todd.

"Well looks like I have my answer."  David said.

Puzzled, Todd got up.  "Ya know, I've been gone a long time.  A lot of things have changed.  So I take comfort in the things that are still the same.  So I'm glad to see that you're still a complete idiot."

The Impostor spoke up, "besides, this guy has already been quizzed about my life.  He's got all my memories."

"Yeah because they're my memories."

Todd's only recompense in this conversation was to bring up his mother, Irene.  The three of them tossed around her name and what she might know, before threatening David into bringing down the diary.

"We Todds don't bargain."

"We Todds take."

And when Todd grabbed a tissue to grab David's tongue with, he ran out of the room in fear and brought the diary back, leaving it for them to fight over.  "Looks like you two are going to have to learn how to share.  happy hunting."  And with that, Vickers was out of sight.

Of course, thinking it over later, he realized how babyish they were being about it, but they did fight over it, and had to be refereed by Vicki, who came home just in time to see them pulling at it between them and raising their voices.  She intervened and helped them, by reading parts of it aloud.  Of course, what they really wanted to know and to hear was missing, since pages were torn from the book.  As she read, especially the part about him being given away to Peter Manning and Bitsy, he could not help but feel a slight sense of panic within.  It wasn't visible to those in the room, but it was there, in the pit of his stomach, the way it was when he first started remembering his real truth and heard a conversation between Lilly and Aman back in Ireland.

His thoughts were interrupted by the accusation of the Impostor that he ripped pages out of his mother's diary.  And this altercation was also interrupted by a doorbell, which Vicki ran off to answer, handing the diary to him and leaving them alone in the library.  With the mention of Peter Manning and his mother and the diary, he found himself lost in thought.

"I'll listen, but you brought me back off the road, for Goodness Sake, wife, it has better be important and not a load of blarney!!"  Aman said, leaving his fisherman cart and running to the door.  She met him on the front landing.

"It's bad, Aman.  I think our boy is very sick."

"Why, what happened?"

She explained in detail the events of the last few minutes.  He was without words.  "Let me call the doctor, ay?"

She nodded.  "Aman, I was so afraid, not for what he would do to me, nothing like that, just for what he must have dealt with.  The things he said happened to him . . ." her voice trailed off and he put his arm about her shoulders.

"Now, there, there, woman, stop yourself.  You can't control what happened years ago."

"So sad, Aman.  How can people DO these things to their children?"

Aman did not say much, thinking back to what Lilly had told him weeks before about being frightened of the guest, when he had verbally attacked her without warning.  Inside, he though that there must have been much worse for their friend Todd Manning than what "Tom" revealed that day.  It was not over.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Todd Revisited: Contact (Chapter 23)

Lilly did the handwipe thing on her apron.  "Well, then, don't keep me in suspense.  Who is Tom, then Lad?"

He didn't know how to answer, not exactly.  "He's sort of like . . . an imaginary friend."

Lilly's face was so twisted with doubt he had to laugh.  "Okay, not an imaginary friend.  More than that, I guess.  He saved me."

"He saved ya?  From what, Dear Boy?"  she approached the bed, and grabbed her favorite chair, hoisting it close and sitting.

There was a pause.  As he was talking, he was also remembering.  "My father."

"How?  How would a child save you from your father?  Did you have a brother, or somethin'?"

"No, not a brother, not really.  I think he...I think he was another part of me.  Someone I could be, when I couldn't be me.  Does that make sense?"

She was puzzled.  He could tell she did not want to give her real thoughts.  "Tell me more," she said instead.

"I don't have all the details yet in my head, but I do know that Tom was a part of me.  He said in my dreams that he stepped in for me sometimes.  I can see him there.  I never thought about this before, but, maybe I'm just crazy."

"You're not crazy, now, you stop that kind of talk." She thought more.  "What would make you have this other person to 'step in' for you?"

He turned his head to the window, and got quiet.  

"Todd, are you all right, Lad?"

Turning back, she gasped when she realized he was no longer there.  "Hey lady, I mean, Miss Lilly.  Can I have some milk?  I'm real thirsty and hungry, too."

Lilly sat for a moment, serene and silent.  She observed, but couldn't find the words.  

He continued, "Miss Lilly?  Are you okay?  Did I do something wrong, because I don't want to get in trouble.  I really don't like it when people yell at me."

Lilly thought quick on her feet.  The only way to help him was to get him the information he needed.  "Oh, Tom, yes of course, lad, let me get ya your milk."  She ran to the kitchen, hastily grabbing a glass and filling it.  Running back, she handed him the glass and sat back down.  

"Hey, thanks for remembering my name.  That's cool."  He gulped his milk and wiped his mouth on his arm.  Holding out the glass, he said, "More please?"

Lilly got up, got the milk, brought a plate of cookies and sat there, speechless for a moment.  She was thinking.  "Tom, do you like those cookies I made?"

"Yes, lady, I do.  Very good.  Me and Todd don't get a lot of those."

"Well, you have as many as you like, then.  But can ya tell me something?"

"I can try!  I'm not that smart, though." He ate the cookies and innocently stared at her.

"Tom, where were you born?"

"That's easy!  I was born in Chicago, at Todd's house."

"Do you know when?"

"Yep.  Todd was six, and I was born right then."

"You were!  Well, imagine!"  She feigned pleasant surprise.

"Yep!  I came to help Todd.  Pretty much, he needed me."

She nodded.  "Why did he need you?"

"Our father, that guy, Peter Manning, boy, he was real mean.  He did terrible things to Todd.  But sometimes, I helped.  I'd come and take over for him so he wouldn't have to feel all of it all the time."

Lilly gulped, and felt herself becoming emotional.  Hoping not to scare off Tom, she said, "Well, glad to meet ya.  I have so much work to do in the kitchen!  I hope you don't mind?"

"No, go right ahead.  I'd help you, but I don't think I can walk yet."

"Yet."  She found herself smiling, "that's right, not yet!  Good attitude Tom."

He yawned.  "Lady, I think I want to take a nap.  I'll see ya later."  He lay down on the bed toward the wall, and all got quiet.  Within moments, she heard the calming allay of his regular breathing.  Clutching the dishtowel to her breast, she ran to the front door and looked out.  Signaling Aman to return to the house, she turned to look back at the sleeping guest to be certain he was still peacefully resting.

"What is it woman?"  Aman said.

"I've got somethin' to tell you, Aman O'Farrell, and you're sure going to listen!"

He woke up in Llanfair, on the couch where he had fallen asleep.  On the table was a newspaper, his paper, that he recognized, barely.  The headline read, "I am Todd Manning."  Of course, it was published by The Impostor, with his money, using his name and his business.  He put his feet up onto the coffee table and started to read the article.  "He's got to be kidding."

When Jessica came in the doorway, he didn't take the newspaper down.  He recognized her voice almost instantly.  He let her do her thing, then surprised her by removing the newspaper from his face.  In her surprise, he also saw something he desperately needed - recognition.  She knew him.  He was pretty positive of that.

Letting her go at the end of the talk was almost painful.  He did not want to see her go, because she had known him and seemed to accept him, regardless of what others were doing.  It was strange but he felt if she walked out, he might lose the only one believing him, but of course, he couldn't express that or stop her.  And she went.

He made his way into the kitchen, looking for food.  Taking a large piece of fresh bread, he made himself a very large sandwich (he hadn't eaten much in weeks) and brought it with him back to the library at Llanfair.  Coming into the foyer, he heard the bellowing of The Impostor, and stopped short, taking a huge bite.  Lettuce hung out of his mouth, and as The Impostor made a series of faces of disgust, he couldn't help but love the fact that his sister Viki, regardless of how unintentionally, had given him this moment.