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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 57

"Todd?"  Blair said softly, going to him again and hugging him from the back.

"Yeah, Blair?"  he said, but the words were hard to get out, and she noticed.

"Todd, it's all right, My Love.  It's all right to feel . . . like everything is going to be okay.  It's all right to hope in that."

He squeezed his eyes shut, covering her hands with his.  To do this, he crossed his arms over his chest, and met her fingers, running his thumbs over them.  Things would never change; there she was, always knowing him.

He heard her say, "You're afraid to hope in a happy ending for your mother, and for you."  She walked around to the front of him, and he tried for a moment not to meet her eyes.  "You still believe, somewhere inside you, that it's going to blow up for us, that things can't be good for us, or for your mom.  You're afraid to hope for that dream of her getting out of Mountainview and living with us, and the family being ultimately happy."

When he finally met her eyes, he couldn't stop himself from being drawn into them, and wanting to be drawn into her, fully, that very moment.  She's right.  When has she ever been wrong about me?  I want this so much.  This happy shit.  This normal, boring shit.  I want it and HER so much.

"She's going to be . . .okay."  He said, and his voice rasped.

She nodded, and ran her hand along his scar.  "Like you are, Todd."

He couldn't bear the beauty of the moment; it overcame him like a flood.  The next thing he knew, he had slipped his hand up through the back of her hair, and brought her mouth to his, as if he'd just returned from being away from her for eight years.


It hurt so much, what he did to me.  It always hurt, but it was worse then, because I was scared and it was cold and I knew I was going to die.  He hurt me with his body, like he did all those times.  And then, he kicked me in my side.  I wasn't ready for it, but he did, and I felt something crack in my body.

I asked him to let Todd go.  I asked him to give Todd back to his biological father and that made him angrier.  He kicked me again, and again, in my side and in my stomach.  I could barely breathe because it hurt, and I could feel blood coming out of me.  I screamed, but no one came.  I begged him to let Todd go, but the more I did, the more he hurt me.  Then he made a promise that Todd's life would be all in his hands, forever after that, until they both were dead.  

I started crying more, and asked him to finish me off, whatever he had planned.  He answered that he had lots of plans for how to end my life, and how to make Todd's a living Hell.  There was no more fight in me.  Nothing.  I cried, and yelled a little longer, but after that, I just stopped.  He just ignored it, as if I were not a person.  He had never loved me.  He had used me for every sick thing he ever thought of.  And I knew I was going to die.

He beat me everywhere there was a place to be beaten.  But I didn't die.  At one point, he got mad that I was still living, and went to grab his famous belt off.  I thought he was going to strangle me.  He probably meant to, but then he saw that during the first part, when he opened his pants, he'd flung the belt loose and it went into the swamp and disappeared.  He became very angry at this, and stomped around a bit.  I could feel blood coming from my lip, my head, dripping into my eye, and down my face, and everywhere else.  Blood was even coming out from inside me.  I was sure that I'd die, and Todd would be left to Peter's hand.

Just then, he said, "That freak of a son of yours, you kept him like a girl," and he tried to lift a very heavy rock from the ground.  And Ray, I knew, just then, what would come next, and I was so afraid, but at the same time, I was hoping for him to do it, crush me, and do it right, so I'd be free of the pain and the sadness.  

He couldn't get it loose of the soil at first, so he kept working on it, and he said, "You treated him like a baby, and made him into some pansy-ass wimp.  It's been my job, all along, to toughen him up.  Well, with you out of the way, there's nothing to stop me.  I'll break him, even if it takes years.  I'll teach him how to be a man and what it really means."

And I knew that he meant that Peter would teach Todd to be like him.  He'd torment him until he was.

He wrenched the rock free.  Lifting it with all his might, I knew it would be seconds more and then no more, no more light, no more pain for me.  But my baby, my son. I had to die knowing he would be hurt and beaten.  That's when I screamed out, "Do it!  Please," and the last thing I saw was him holding the very heavy rock over my face and it coming toward me, and then black.

The rest I can't really remember, not that much.  I heard voices.  I thought I was in heaven, or somewhere else.  I couldn't feel the pain anymore, or the blood.  I couldn't see Peter anymore, or anyone.  It was black, with voices.  Someone said, "She's alive," and the other voice said, "Holy shit, she's alive?  God, what the Hell happened to her?"

After that is not clear, because I think I might be dreaming or imagining it.  It sounded like Stick Falco, but I think I made it up, in my mind.  I thought he was there, and that he said, "I can't let him see her like this, let's get her out of here," but then it goes dark again when I try and still is a mystery if it were real or imagined.

That was the last thing before The Time of Black.  And when I woke from it, I didn't know names, places, or people.  I couldn't remember much.  I did remember Todd, but just as my baby, My Angel.  I did remember Peter but not everything he did to us, and I did remember Mitch, both with made up names.  And for some reason, I believed that Mitch and Peter both had something to do with my injuries.  I was confused.  I'd been so hurt.

It took weeks for me to be able to sit up.  More weeks for me to hold things.  And more weeks for me to move my arms and legs.  And more and more things slowly came back.  Not my memories, and not my mind.  And not my voice.  I could not speak ever.  No words could come.  It took almost two years for me to pick up a pencil and draw, and I've been drawing ever since.  

Later, they moved me to an institution, like this one, only really bad and mean.  They did terrible things to us there, more hurting with their bodies, but not me.  I fought them and I'd bite until I drew blood.  I wasn't having that happen again, ever.  They started to leave me alone after a while there.  It was too easy to take the others.  Most of them gave up where 'B' was concerned.  Then, the place closed down, and I was sent to St. Anne's.  Years had passed, but I thought my Todd was still a baby.  I met Sister Rebecca Katherine, the best friend I've ever had, Ray, and she led me, not on purpose, to My Angel and his lovely family.

So, there is what happened to me, at least what I can remember.  There are pieces missing, I know.  There are things I won't ever remember.  But that is what happened and what caused The Time of Black.  Maybe you are right.  Maybe I did everything I could to fight Peter, especially in the end.  I still wonder, what I could have done better, to protect My Angel, but I am not sure anyone was strong enough against Peter Manning and his rage.  And my baby, my son, was left with that animal for years, while I was off somewhere, didn't even know who I was.  To find out, later, that he did that terrible thing to a woman, and more bad things after to others, I almost could not believe it.  But then, I realized how much damage Peter had done to him and to me, all those years and I understood.

I forgive Todd, Ray, and I love him. And I know he's a beautiful man inside, because I saw and loved that beautiful child.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 56

After a while of holding her in his arms, Bea finally pulled away from Ray, and sat back, sighing.  Her tears were under control; she had taken a tissue from his desk, and though it was crumpled in her hand, she proceeded to flatten it against her leg, and then use it to dry her face.  She took a few breaths, and they remained in silence as he walked back to the other side of his desk.  He sat, and waited for her.  She sniffed, sighed, and coughed.  Finally, she looked up, making eye contact with him.  He said, "Enough for today."

She shook her head "no."

His expression must have read confusion, because he could feel it all over his face.  "No?"

She shook her head again.  She just sat, pulling at the tissue, and he instinctively handed her the box.  She took another and weakly half-smiled.  He said, "Maybe it would be best if we started this again another time."

She responded in the same way:  a negative head shake.

He decided to wait it out.  The woman had kept these things inside her for over thirty years.  It would be her decision how and when it all came out.


"It's so boring in here," Sam said.  "When can I get my cast off?"

Jack, who was heading down the stairs to meet Jenna at the gym, stopped in Sam's doorway.  "Hey, Squirt.  Sorry you're laid up still."

"Can the cast come off, Jack, just for a minute?"

"No, it can't.  People can't put casts on and off."

"Well, it's annoying being trapped up here.  And being alone.  And not being able to play."

"That's what you get, you little runt.  You get what you deserve for jumping off the stupid roof."

Sam looked forlorn at best, and then said, "Can you get my other comic books, please?"

Jack, slightly irritated to be held up, gave in and smiled, "Sure, PeeWee, where are they?"

"In the drawer, I think.  Mom cleans up a lot in here."

Jack went and fished out the comics and handed them to Sam.  Before leaving, he said, "I have an idea," and went back to his room.

In a few moments, he returned with his tablet.  He said, "Here, look," and set up an app for Sam that had access to all of the Marvel Comics.

Sam smiled widely, "Wow, thanks, Jack.  You're really gonna let me use your tablet?"

"Sure.  I trust you.  You're my brother.  Besides, what can you do to it?  Just don't let Ray at it.  He's like a running machine and falls all over the place."

"And hides."

"And hides."  Jack went to the door.


"Yeah, Sam."

"I love you for a brother."

"I love you, too, Sam.  Don't read too much, you'll get a headache."

Sam opened the application and downloaded his first comic, when Blair peeked into the room.  "Hey Little Man, how ya feeling today?"

"I'm good.  Just bored of being in the bed."

"How did you get a hold of Jack's tablet?"

"He gave it to me, to use.  He was real nice to me, Mom, look."  

He showed her the Spiderman comic he had on the screen, and she said, "That's really nice of him.  He loves you, that's why he's nice."

"Well, sometimes he's not that nice.  But yeah, he loves me.  He even said it."

"He's your brother."

"Yeah.  Good thing you and Dad dock-ded me, Mom.  That way, I'll always be with you.  And Jack will always be my brother."

"Yes, it is a good thing," she said, hugging her middle son to her chest.  "it really is."

"Mom, when can I get the casts off?"

"Well, that's still another week or two away, Sam."

"Oh," he looked down to the tablet.  "This sucks."

"Hey, where did you get language like that?"

"Jack says it.  You said it once.  Dad might."

"All right, I get the point, but it's not very nice, okay?"


"Your father and I might have to go away for a few days, I want you to know that.  We're not leaving you forever, or even for a long time.  Just a couple of days."

Sam's eyes widened.  "No, Mom, I don't want you to go."

"I know, Sweetheart, but we have to take care of something."

"Who's going to take care of me?"

"Sister Rebecca Katherine.  Jack, and Jenna."

"What about Aunt Tina?  And Ray?"

Blair thought it over, but still responded, "It will be all right, Sam.  Trust me, it will work out perfectly."  She kissed his forehead and got up.  "Need anything?"

"No, I'm okay.  I have all of the comics to read."

"All right, Sweetie.  I'll be downstairs.  Text us if you need something."

"Okay, Mom."

As she left his room and headed to the staircase, she wondered if he were right.  Sister Rebecca Katherine, all alone to handle Sam's needs, plus the baby, who was now a speed racer, and run interference with Jack and Jenna?  Someone would have to stay behind, either she or Tina.  She headed to the lower level of Courtown Demesne.


Finally, Bea reached across and took her pencil, and saw that the tip was broken.  She looked at Ray with questioning eyes, and he said, "You broke it when you were writing out what you last wanted to tell me."

He took it from her and sharpened it.  He knew she had an affinity for pencils.  She'd been offered pens on many occasions, but never took them, or took them and smiled, and tossed them unceremoniously into her pencil box, and got a pencil anyway.  She had once written to him that it was the sketcher in her that needed a pencil in her hand.  He smiled to himself, and brought back the pencil, sharpened.

She began to write, and then quickly turned the pad.

I'm ready.  I need to finish this.  If I don't, what good will it do?  I'll just go back to my room, and end up pushing it away, and you'll have to start again trying to get it back out.

He smiled at her assessment of things.  "All right.  I can see that happening.  I admire your drive to see this through."

It's for my son.  And his family.  If I get better, I can get to know them.  Maybe be normal.  Maybe live with them, like he said.  I would be able to watch Ray grow up, and the new baby, and Sam.

"That all makes perfect sense, Bea.  Whenever you're ready."

And with that, she began to write, stopping to rest and think, and then returning to her pad and pencil, scribing the words that she needed to present to him and to herself.  

After quite a bit of time, she handed the pad to him, but had torn off a small piece of paper, and handed that to him as well.  He read that first:

Thank you, Ray, for comforting me when I needed it, and for helping me.  I am very tired now, and I want to rest.  Can we talk about it all next time?

He looked down to the notepad, the page filled with her handwritten memories, and noticed that it continued onto the back of the next page.  He said, "If you're feeling all right, and that's what you want, then yes, we can."

She motioned to him as if to ask if he would read it.

"Yes, of course.  I'll read it right now, after you go, if that's what you'd like."

She nodded.  Smiling warmly, she extended her hand, and he took it.  She squeezed it in a feminine, soft handshake that said "thank you," and turned to go.

He said, "Barbara Manning, you're quite a strong woman."

She looked back and smiled weakly, and then simply shrugged.


"Todd, we just can't leave Sister Rebecca Katherine with all this.  Either Tina or myself should stay behind.  Ray's too much on his own, never mind Sam in the bed, and two teenagers who are in love.  That's a lot for her to handle."

"Are you saying you want to stay here, Blair?"  Todd said, looking into her eyes for her answer.

"I don't know what I'm saying, we just have to realize that this is a lot to ask anyone."

He thought.  "It is, actually. Ray alone could make Sister's 'blood pressure cry out like a banshee,'" he mocked her brogue.

Aiden said, "I hate to be the cause of the trouble.  Perhaps I can go alone."

Blair spoke up, "No.  If Todd had gone alone, back to his childhood home, he . . . well, he may not have been able to discover everything he did."

Todd looked at her, knowingly.  "Blair knows.  She's . . . Blair."

Tina said, "I could stay."

Todd saw both Tina and Aiden's faces, and said, "Well, I don't know that anyone wants anyone to stay, it just seems like it makes sense."

Dorian said, "Nonsense.  You have me, your father, and Sister Rebecca Katherine, plus Shaun and that helicopter man.  That's more than enough to round up a two year old, a boy who can't move, and two teens."

Todd raised an eyebrow.  "You'd have to move into the house."

"So?  What are families for?  Jack might not like it very much, but it is what it is."  Dorian said.

"Just be sure Jenna is not the one moving into the house," Blair said, smiling.

Dorian smiled back, "I'll explain to your father, Todd, I'm sure he won't mind at all.  More time for the grandbabies."

Todd said, "Jack should be expected to help, especially tracking Ray the Explorer."

"Fine, he will be."  Dorian said.  "You shouldn't change your plans.  This is all too important for that.  Todd, you shouldn't be separated from Blair, not in this situation at least, and it seems Tina here has come to be important to you, Aiden.  It seems logical."

Todd put his hand on Dorian's elbow, and said, "Thank you, Auntie Dorian."

"You're welcome, Todd.  Just take care of my niece, and make sure she and that baby come home safe and sound, will you?"

"I will.  You know that."

Dorian did know.  She had never been so certain that anyone would put their life first for Blair until recently.  "I do.  Let me go and tell your father the news."

Todd looked at Blair, and before either of them had time to speak, Tina said, "What the Hell got into her?  She hates you, Todd."

Blair said, "No, no she doesn't."

Todd changed the subject, "All this reminds me, I should call Llanview to check on my mother . . ."

Tina looked at her brother, puzzled.  

He said, in response to Tina's look, "She doesn't.  Not anymore, I guess.  Of course, the next time I screw something up, she'll be on the pitchfork trail, but until then, she's kind of softened toward me, I guess."

Aiden said, "I don't know much, but from where I stand, it's because she finally sees what everyone else does, eh?"  Everyone turned to him, and waited for him to complete his thought.  "Ya love Blair, more than y'ar life.  What else is there?"


Ray poured a glass of water, lifted it to his lips, and drank.  He'd not been in sessions like these in a long time.  Since Todd, why don't you say it?  You've not had things like this come up since you worked with Todd Manning in recovering memories from his torture and then, his past.  In recent days, most of the work had been with typical mental illnesses, helping patients through nightmares, counseling them on the importance of medication, enlisting them to follow doctor instructions.  And then it occurred to him; these things were because they would likely never be well.  There were no goals of getting them free of things; these patients were in Mountainview for a reason, and most of them would never live outside its walls again. 

Bea, however, was beginning to seem like an exception to that rule.

He lifted her handwritten pages, and began to consider the task of reading them, when he got a phone call.  "Hello?"

"Hey, Ray, what's going on?"  Todd said from the other end. 

"Nothing much, really."  He paused, then, "Actually, Todd, I don't know why I said that.  It's quite the opposite."

"Is she all right?" Todd said, some worry building in his gut.

"She's fine.  She's made a major breakthrough.  She's remembering how she became mute."

Todd swallowed.  "Is it bad, Ray?"

"Is it bad she's remembering?  No.  Is what she remembers bad, yes."

Todd closed his eyes, and Blair appeared behind him, slipping her arms up under his from behind, she rested her head on his back.  She'd heard his last comment, and she held him close.

Todd said, "What's going to happen to her?"

"Likely, she'll get well, Todd.  She may never speak again, I do believe there's damage to her speech center that prevents it, but she'll get emotionally well.  Like you, Todd.  You're cut of the same mold, somehow.  No relation, but still, you're her son."

He choked up, and stayed quiet a moment.  Blair, who knew what his tensing up meant, ran her hand on his head, and he turned back over his shoulder to look at her, handing her the phone.  As she answered, he walked away from her a few steps, and covered his eyes with his hand by perching it on his forehead.

Blair said, "Hello?  Ray?  It must be you."

"It's me, Blair.  Is he all right?"

"He was just overcome with feeling, for a moment.  Is everything okay?"

"Yes.  I was just telling him that Bitsy will be fine, likely, she will recover, like he did."

Blair knew where his heart was in hearing this.  She said, "Thank you, Ray, for everything you're doing for Todd's mother, and for what you've done for him, and us."

"You're welcome.  It's . . . well, it's what I do, Blair."

"Good night," she said.

"Good night," Ray set the phone back into the receiver.  He lifted Bea's papers and began to read.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 55

Todd and Blair came down the stairs, holding hands, and rushed faster when they heard commotion coming from the morning room.  Stepping inside, they realized quickly what had happened.  Aiden was leaning against Tina, whose face was forlorn and worried, and Dorian was examining him.  Todd moved closer.  "Aiden, you okay?"

"I don't know.  I was looking through the albums, and was working on Spiderman Junior's.  And, I suddenly got the pain, so strong, I collapsed onto the floor.  Tina came in and found me.  I feel like an invalid, or a decrepit old elf."

Todd leaned down and put his hand on the man's shoulder.  "You're not old," Todd said, smirking.

"Ah, but I'm a decrepit elf, then, eh?  Ya Americans, such smart alecks all the time."  He closed his eyes, and was white as a sheet.

Todd said, "Hurting?"

The man nodded.  Tina, whose fingers were in his hair, sniffled a little, and wiped a tear with her knuckle.  "He was just lying there, and trying to get up."

"I'm afraid, Blair, that I've made a mess in your home," he said.

"No, no bother, Aiden.  It's nothing we can't fix."  Blair said.

"I was just looking at the photos of Sam, and came to the more recent ones, and the next thing I knew, I blacked out and was on the floor."

"Well, you're doing all right now, but your blood pressure was off when I got here," Dorian said.

"Ah, blood pressure.  It might be up, right now," he said, smiling into Tina's face.

"How can you joke?"  She said, a bit flustered and slightly angry.

"I'm used to it, My Lady.  It's something I've come to live with.  It's all right, precious."  He reached up and drew a line through the hair on the side of her face with his finger.  "Ya mustn't cry or worry.  It's something I have grown up with.  I'm sorry if it upsets ya.  Besides, who's joking?"

"I'm not worried about me," she said, turning to Todd.  "Are you going to help him?  Can you?  Please?"

"I plan on it.  Which is a good discussion I guess.  Aiden, Blair and I are going to go with you to Innishcreg.  We'll help you find your family again.  We'll be there for you when you start to uncover the truth, whatever it is."  Todd added.

"Ah, Blair, ya agreed to this?  Ya must hate the thought of Innishcreg."

"To be honest, I don't love the idea of being back there, but wherever my man goes," she said, slipping her arm through his, "I go.  No more of that separation stuff."

Aiden said, "Innishcreg could always use the beautification, but . . ."

Tina interrupted, "I'd want to come along.  If it would be okay."  This brought all eyes to her.

"I suppose, if Aiden doesn't mind, you could.  We could ask Sister Rebecca Katherine, Jack and Jenna to watch the kids."  Todd said.

"Hold it, all of ya," Aiden said.  "I'm not entirely sure I'm going to be heading back to Innishcreg right now."

Todd turned quickly, as did Blair.  Todd said, "Aiden?"

He propped himself up on his elbows, and his color returned.  "I think I'll just deal with what I've got.  Seems when I get close to thinking about the past, this happens.  It's worse the more I try."

Todd looked to Blair, and her expression was one he'd seen at times, in her eyes, toward him.  Sympathy.  He read it clearly.  He said, "Well, Tina, why don't you and Blair go on into the kitchen and make something for us to drink, maybe some tea or  . . ."

"Irish coffee!  That's what I'd like the best, if ya please."  Aiden said.

"I can arrange that," Blair said, taking Tina by the arm and helping her off the ground.  "Let's go, sister-in-law.  Let's do this," she led her out of the room.

Dorian began to get up from the floor, and Todd offered his hand and she took it.  She stood, facing him.  "Physically, he's pretty much all right.  Whatever it was, has passed."

Aiden was still on the ground, now attempting to get up.  Todd reached down, and supporting him under both arms, he helped Aiden to standing.  "See, I'm in the best of health, Pal."

"We need to talk," Todd said.  "You've changed your mind?"

"I . . . I'm not sure what to do, Todd."  Aiden's face was stricken, and Todd recognized it as fear.  "Maybe things are well enough left alone, or should be."

"I've been where you are.  And as hard as it was, it was worth it in the end.  I feel . . . free."  Todd said, and Dorian, who was still in the room, stood, motionless, listening.  Todd continued, "I feel different.  Yeah, it was hard.  There were nightmares, cold sweats, flashbacks.  It wasn't simple.  But now, I'm glad I did it."

Aiden sat on the sofa, and Todd did, too.  Dorian turned to go, but instead, she said, "Aiden, if I may?"

"Dear Lady, what could I lose by hearing ya out?  Ya just tended to my pains."

"Todd's been through many things.  For the most part, he has discovered the darkest and most terrible things about his life, and the abuse he has suffered at the hands of a very sick man, his adoptive father."

Aiden swallowed; Todd could see his Adam's apple working in his throat.  

Dorian continued, "Did your parents burn you?  Or hurt you?  Beat you or lock you up in a cellar?"

Aiden looked to his hands, assuming the worst about his new friend.  "Todd, is this what ya meant when ya said your past . . ."

Todd interrupted, "Yeah, that's about the size of it.  Throw in a little perversion, and you've got it covered."

"I'm sorry, I don't know what to say, Mate."

"There's nothing for you to say.  I think Dorian brought it up for a reason, which I'm sure she'll enlighten us with . . ."

"You know your childhood, the part you remember, was it anything like that?"  Dorian asked.

"No.  Nothing like it.  Everything I remember with my parents, was just loving, regular family.  Early morning Irish breakfasts, the sheep, the farm, the green hills.  That's all."  Aiden said.

"Then it's worth going back to see them.  You won't be opening any doors to any chambers of horrors, you'll just be trying to bridge the gap between times.  It might be hard, but as a doctor, I can tell you that Todd's right.  Facing it head on is best.  Later, you will be liberated."

Aiden stood.  "I'll go.  Y'ar right, there's nothing to fear.  Nothing that I can't handle."


"What's happening, Bea?  What are you remembering?"

Through her sobbing, she continued to write:

He took me away.  From Mitch.  From home, from Todd.  From everything I knew. He came and got me, from Mitch's camp.  I didn't want to go.  Mitch had promised me we would get my baby back, my son.  Peter said no, and made me leave with him.  He put me into the car, and drove off.  I asked him, over and over, I asked him to bring me home, and to let me get my son, and let us go away.  He wouldn't.  He just WOULDN'T stop.  We drove and drove.  I tried everything, begging and crying and he just kept going.  He didn't even talk to me, he just drove.

"It's okay.  I'm right here.  Take all the time you need.  If you want to stop, we can.  You just say so.  We can wait, you can take a break."

Ray had never seen Bea so distraught.  Her tears flowed, and her eyes and nose were beginning to redden and swell.  Her breathing was close to hyperventilation, so he suggested she stop and try and breathe through her nose.  She did, bringing herself to a calmer place, considering.

Bea hugged herself, as her son often had in the very same room and the very same chair, and rubbed her arms.  Ray said, "Are you cold, Bea?"

She shook her head "no," and continued rubbing up and down her own forearms, her expression pained and tired.

"Are you finished for today?"

She shook her head "no," again.  She hesitantly picked up the pencil, and wrote.  After a while, she turned it toward him, and collapsed back against the chair, her head lolling to the side, her gaze staring off past him.  He noticed that her tears were continually streaming.

He read it to himself:  

He'd found the letter.  It was on the seat, in the car.  Peter had found the letter from me to Victor, asking for his help.  He had never been so angry, not that I could remember.  He drove us so far, into the deep forest.  I was so scared.  That was when he started to talk to me.  He said terrible things.  He said he was going to kill me.  He said he was going to hurt me, with his body, again.  And then, I was almost ready to just let it happen, once and for all, until he said that once I was gone, Todd would be all his, and he could do whatever he wanted to him.  

I screamed and kicked and begged, and nothing worked.  He didn't care.  He came around to my side of the car, and when he went to open the door, I had to do something.  I grabbed what I could find, and it was a long flashlight.  When he yanked the door open, and pulled me out, I swung and it hit him in the side of his head.  He was angry, but I ran.  I ran and ran as fast as I could to get away from him.  I headed into the woods, and my legs and arms were bloody from the branches against me.  I didn't care.  I ran faster and more to get as far as I could away from him.

When I came to a grove, I stepped into a marshy natural pool, and sunk above my ankles.  I fought to go on, but in my struggle, I kept sinking more and more.  I'd stumbled into a swamp, and it slowed me down.  I looked back and saw him coming at me, and his face was . . . it was so bad.  It was so full of hate and rage, I knew it was the end for me.  And all I could think of was that after he did it, after he hurt me and killed, me, he would go back and hurt my boy.

He came to the swamp.  He called me a whore, and asked me to come to him.  I said no, and by then, I was up to my waist in swamp water.  He reached out and after setting his foot at a good strong part, he grabbed me by my hair and dragged me out.  He pulled me to my feet, and he stood me in front of him, standing me close enough that I could almost feel the heat from him against me.  That was when he threw me to the ground and hurt me, the way he always did, and Ray, I can't say more today, I can't.  It still hurts me; I feel it.  

I need to stop now, or I feel like I will never be able to go on and get to the rest of the truth.

After a few moments, Ray looked up.  Bea was quietly crying, still hugging herself.  Her salt-and-pepper long hair was disheveled, and strands fell in front of her face.  It struck him just then that she really had been Peter Manning's most vulnerable and most traumatized victim.  Todd, even though he was a child when it all began, was actually stronger.  He'd been more resilient, and though it had devastated his life in other ways, Ray could see that the road was going to soon be very much clearer for Todd than it would for her.  Her features were fine and petite; her skin was not ravaged by time.  In fact, she looked much like a porcelain doll, the way she was leaning in the dim light of evening in his office.  He said, "Bea?  Are you all right?  Please let me know you're okay."

She didn't move at first, but after a few minutes, she lifted her head, and then put it back down where it was.  Ray got up, and went in front of her chair.  Crouching, he put his hands gently on her arms.  "Bea, I'm sorry for what you have been through.  It will get better."

She lifted her head again,and slowly leaned toward him, until it rested on his shoulder.  He wrapped his arms around her and told her the truth:  she was brave, and she would be all right.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 54

"I'm going to talk to Blair about this.  She's going to have some trouble with it, I'm fairly certain."  Todd said, standing.  Aiden was taking the next photo album off the table.

"I understand.  If she doesn't want ya to go, I'll be able to manage.  Possibly, I can get someone else to go with me."

"Let me talk to her first before we jump to conclusions."  He left the room, and Aiden continued to look through the photo album.  The one he was holding was dedicated to Jack.  The baby was beautiful, with Todd and Blair, at his christening, in a white gown.  Aiden smiled to himself.

Turning the pages, he viewed the times of Jack's life, and closed it with a grin.  Finally, he took the one that had Spiderman on the front.  "Sam," he read off the cover, and opening it, he browsed through.  Turning to the last few sleeves, he saw the little, bespectacled boy smiling from the pages, and he closed his eyes, trying to see himself at the same age.

The album crashed to the floor as a searing pain cut through the side of his head, so powerful it took his breath from him and forced him to collapse onto the sofa and onto the floor.  Gasping to get his breath back, and fight for consciousness, he grabbed onto the edge of the coffee table, and attempted to pull himself to sitting.  Unable to do so, he flopped back onto the floor, wincing in pain, trying to bring breath into his lungs, when he heard a sound.  Hoping desperately that whoever it was would find him, he attempted a second time to grasp the table, and ended up to pull it in such a way that items on top crashed to the floor.

When he opened his eyes again, Tina was looking into his face, and calling his name.  It was the same as usual; at first, the mouth of the person would appear to be moving in absolute silence, and then, after a few moments, the voice would kick in.  Finally, he heard her.  "Aiden, are you all right?"

"Little Tina.  Can't say I'm in the best form right now, eh?"

"What happened to you?"  she said, running her hand along his face.

"I was . . . trying to remember something.  The pictures of Sam, they . . . I don't know."

"Can you sit up?"

"I'm not sure.  It knocked the wind out of me.  Ya might have to help me."

Tina, without hesitation, pulled at his arm, while pushing with her other hand on his back.  After some work, she was able to get him to a sitting position, and he leaned against her shoulder, weakly.  "Thank ya," he said softly.  "How am I supposed to win the hand of a lovely lady like y'arself, if we keep meeting like this?"

She smiled, and ran her hand over his head.  "Don't talk about things like that, just rest.  Let whatever it is pass.  There, now.  Just . . . let it be."

He closed his eyes, and she felt him lean closer to her, relaxing.  

She reached in her pocket, and taking out her cell phone, dialed.  "Dorian, can you come to the house please?"


"Blair?"  Todd bellowed, in his typical way.  She poked her head out of Ray's room.  

"Todd, come here, it's the funniest thing!"

"What?" he said, rounding the corner.  Ray was under the crib, his feet sticking out of one side, and that was all they could see.  "Wow, he's trying to hide from us already?  He knows the Mannings, all right."

"Oh, Todd, stop."  She said.

Todd crouched down, and taking hold of the baby's ankles, gently pulled him out from under the crib.  His terrycloth onesie made him slide easily, and he belly-laughed.  Blair, folding her arms, also smiled, and watched.  Todd said, "You sneaky little guy."  He turned the little boy toward him and kissed his cheek.  Handing him to Blair, he got up off the floor.

She said, "You were calling me?  What is it?"

"I have to talk to you, Blair."

"This sounds like something I'm not going to like."

"It's about Aiden.  He wants my help."

"You should help him, Todd.  He's . . . pitiful.  You know how I feel about that."

"I know.  Me, too.  He's stuck.  Like I was, I think.  I want to help.  He wants me to go with him back to where he grew up."

"Oh, that sounds like a decent idea.  It might help."

"Yeah, that's what I thought.  We found out something.  Aiden has seen me before, and I have seen him before also.  He used to work at the Wild Swan . . ."

"Stop right there, Todd Manning.  Where exactly does Aiden come from, Mister?"

"Um, well, don't you want to hear the rest of the story?"

"Um, no, I don't,"  she said, sing-song-voiced, folding her arms again after putting Ray into the crib.

"Well, it's . . . come on Blair, don't give me a hard time on this.  The Men of 21 are dead and gone.  John got them."

"You almost died there.  What do you want me to do?"

He looked at her, and moved closer.  Taking his hands to open her arms off her chest, he put them around his waist, one at a time.  "I want you to trust me, to love me and to let me do this for Aiden."

She softened.  "Can I go with you?"

"Maybe.  I don't see why not."

She relaxed into his arms.  "Okay.  Maybe, it's all right then."

"I don't want you worrying.  Nothing will happen to me."


"Yeah.  I promise.  I was this close to death, a lot of times, and here I am.  You think a visit to the old isle of darkness is going to hurt me?  We're going back to his parents' house.  How dangerous could that be?"


"Broham, I did as ya asked me," Sister Rebecca Katherine said, walking into Dorian's guest wing, and sitting on the couch.  "Where's ya girlfriend?"

"She's at the house, supposedly rescuing the lad who collapsed again."  Timothy said.

"Ah, Aiden.  That's what I'm here about."

"What did ya think?  When ya met him?"

"Aside from the fact that he is a dear boy, something in his eyes remind me of someone."

Timothy sat across from her.  "So, I was not imagining it."

"Ya weren't.  Not that it means much.  I can't exactly think of what it is."

"I thought I was seeing things.  I am glad ya saw it, too.  I'm relieved.  The thing is, there's more."

"What are ya thinking, Brother?"

"Could he be a relative?  Could Johnny have had a son, and we didn't know.  Or he didn't even know?"  Timothy pondered. 

"I don't think so.  He just shows up, in our lives this way?"  she seemed frustrated by the suggestion.

"Creena, why are ya carrying on that way about this?  So closed to the idea?  The possibility."

"I . . . can't explain.  It's . . ." her voice trailed off.

Timothy put his hand on her arm.  "Ya had a feeling.  One of your knowings.  When ya were with him, ya had one."

The nun looked to her hands.  "I don't know, Timothy.  I don't know what it was, but yes, something happened when I met the lad.  I recognized something about him, somehow, but I'm not sure what it means."

"I knew it!"  he said, jumping up.  "I knew I was not batty, in the least.  There's something there.  Perhaps he's related to us, to the Brodericks?"

"Stop, Timothy, now.  We don't know.  Ya have to reel it in before ya get too swept away.  If ya don't, then, when it turns out to be nothing, or worse, something we were not expecting, ya will be deflated."

"Pray on it, Sister."

She wrinkled her brow.  "Pray on it?  Are ya suggesting that prayer has power, Broham?"

"Perhaps.  With everything that's gone on in the past few years, me thinks it's about time I ought to at least consider it."

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 53

"I wanted to try something today, Bea.  It's something I haven't asked you much about.  I thought it might help you to feel better about things."

She sat across from Ray, holding her pad and one of the pencils that Sister Rebecca Katherine had gotten for her.  She wasn't sketching.  Instead, she had her full attention on her doctor.  She looked at him, quizzically.

He continued, "I wanted to ask you about The Time of Black."

She frowned, and then, she shrugged.

"I know.  You can't remember a lot of that.  I thought I could help you try."

He noticed that immediately, her hands began to shake, and she wrung them together to try and stop it.  He waited for her response, and then saw her slide her chair toward his desk, placing the pad down between them.  She looked into his eyes, and hers were filled with fear.  She shrugged one shoulder, timidly.

"Are you willing to try?  It might really help you, Bea."

She picked up her pencil, and hesitated.  She began etching a fluidly perfect scroll on the page, and made it into the curled stem of a flower.  Under it, she wrote, AFRAID.

"I realize that.  But you're safe here.  If it's too much, or you get too afraid, we can stop talking about it.  Does that sound okay?"

She frowned again, and her bottom lip was trembling.

He said, "Perhaps you're not ready."

She wrote.  I am confused.  I want to be ready.  I want to fix things.  I want to maybe get better.  Todd said if I get better, I can live with him and Blair and the children.  And Mixie.

"Mixie.  Is that the dog?"

She nodded.

"He wants you to live with them.  That would be wonderful.  You could spend time with him and the children and see them grow up."

It's too late for Jack, he's already grown, and Starr, too.  She has her own baby.

"Yes, she does.  She's a grown woman, and Jack is almost a man."

But there's Sam.  He's a lovely little boy.  And there's Ray.  Named after you.  He's very cute.  He reminds me so much of Todd.

She began to cry.  Ray said, "It's all right, Bea.  Ray should remind you of Todd.  He's Todd's child."

He's almost three.

Ray was aware of the significance of the age.  "I know.  He's growing fast.  And the faster you are better, the faster you can be there to see him grow, and get to know Sam, and the new baby, Blair, Jack, and Mixie."

She smiled through tears.  I'm so afraid.

"I understand."

I'll try, Dr. Martino.

"Call me Ray, Bea.  I promise I'll be here the whole way.  No matter what."


Todd opened the door.  Aiden was standing there, hands in his pockets, looking rather sheepish.  "Am I still welcome here, Pally?"

"Yes.  You're welcome here.  Come in, it's cold."

He entered the foyer, and said, "I still can't get over the place.  Much like a mansion.  For rich people."

"Well, I guess that might include us."

"I thought about everything ya said today, and I want ya to know, I am considering it.  Ya made some sense."

"I'm glad I made some.  Seems like a step in the right direction.  So what can I do for you?"

"I . . . have been thinking about it.  Thought maybe a few more words with ya might give me the strength I need to delve into this.  It won't be pretty.  I fear the physical pain more than anything else."

"All right, how can I help?"

"Listen, I suppose."

Todd saw that the man was seeking a way to move forward, and having been there himself, he led him into the morning room.  They sat in the comfortable living space, and Todd offered him something to eat.

"No thank ya, not right now."  Aiden said.  Todd noticed him looking around the room, and then sitting forward and running his hand along a few family photo albums.  "I don't think I can eat when I am dealing with memories."

"Hmf.  I can relate to that."

"Ya said ya've had terrible bouts with memory loss.  Were ya injured?  I mean, ya have the scar."  He traced it on his own face in the same place as Todd's.

Todd leaned back.  "No, I wasn't injured, that way.  I mean, there are reasons I blocked it out, but this injury wasn't about that.  This was well-deserved."

"I get the feeling ya weren't always the man ya are now."

"You'd be feeling right."

"Ah.  But, the reasons, the blocking out.  Are ya saying the mind can do such a thing?"

"Yeah, I am saying that."

"I always thought I just didn't remember, and never would."

"Maybe, I guess.  Depends on the physical injury and what it did to your brain.  If you have brain damage that's extensive enough, I guess that could block things."

"But not you."

"No.  My mind protected me, all my life."

"And ya were ready?"

"I guess.  Yeah.  All of the sudden, I just decided somewhere in here," he pointed to his temple, "that it had to come out.  I feel . . . different, since it did.  Even though it was so hard."  Aiden didn't answer for a moment.  He looked at the albums on the table, and continued to run his fingers along the edge of one of them.  Todd said, "Go ahead, if you want."

Aiden opened the album.  He'd chosen the one of Starr first.  He said, "She was a sweet child, eh?"

"Yes.  But if you knew Starr, she definitely was her father's daughter.  She's had her feisty times."

"She's pregnant here, so young," he said, as he fingered through the pages.

"I was away.  In captivity.  Yeah, she was young."

"Your wife seems the same, Paddy.  Hasn't aged much."

"No, I guess she hasn't."

He closed the album, and looked to a second.  Before opening it, he said, "How did ya get the scar, if ya don't mind saying?"

Todd said, "Like I said, I deserved it.  Let's just say that.  A woman hit me with a pipe.  In an alley."

Aiden's eyebrow went up.  "Ya'r still ashamed.  That means that ya never wanted to be what ya were."

Todd said, "I don't think I ever wanted to be the man I was, but I was him, regardless.  I spent time in prison.  I've spent most of my life suffering, different ways."

"Seems like more than enough.  Like Thornhart said.  He alluded to . . . ya hurting people."

"Hmf.  People.  Okay, yeah."

Aiden opened the album.  It was the book of his early life with Blair.  Upon seeing his photo, with his goatee and long hair, Aiden pulled the book closer.  He said, "I know ya, Paddy.  I knew I'd seen ya before.  Now, I know where."


"We'll start slow, and we'll never do more than you can handle," Ray said.

I'm not sure what I can handle, Dr. Martino Ray.

He smiled.  "All right, we'll begin very slowly, then.  What can you remember, before the Time of Black.  Try and get as close to it as you can."

Oh, I'm in The Evil One's commune.  It's a sunny day, lots of fresh air.  We're in the mountains somewhere.  I've remembered this one many times.  Ray, I believe that The Evil One may not have been responsible for hurting me.  I don't think he was the one.  Not anymore.  I've dreamed of this, often.  I think . . .

Ray paused.  Not wanting to push her or plant thoughts in her mind, he strategically waited.  She continued with her pencil. I think I was in love with him.

Ray said, "All right.  That's very, very good, Bea.  His name was Mitch.  Mitch Laurence.  Do you remember that?"

Names were always bad.  I always had trouble with them after The Time of Black.  I had to make up my own.  But yes, now I remember that.  His name was Mitch.  I loved him, and he loved me.  I was so confused before about who hurt me and when, I think things were just jumbled together, like soup.

"Hmf.  You're right.  That's just what it was like.  Hard to pick things out and separate them."

She nodded.  

"Can you get any closer to The Time of Black?" he asked, softly.

She closed her eyes again, and this time, it was quiet a bit longer.  Finally, her eyes popped open and she scrambled for the pencil, writing furiously.

This scares me.  My heart is beating so fast.  I am not sure I can do this, Ray. It is frightening.

"I understand.  If you can't, then wait.  I understand, Bea."

She sat, staring past him for a moment and then began to write.  He took me.

"Who took you, Bea?"

Peter.  The One Who Hurt Us.  He took me away from Mitch.  Mitch did not beat me into The Time of Black.  Peter took me away from him.  Peter took me . . .

She suddenly sucked air into her lungs so that it was audible, and then covered her mouth, and shook her head no.  Trembling over most of her body, she continued to shake her head back and forth in a gesture of denial.  Ray reached out and grabbed her other hand.  Holding it, he said, "It's all right.  You're in my office, and nothing can hurt you."

She began to cry, and slightly rock.  After a few moments, she pulled her hand free from his and took the pencil.  Shaking as she wrote, she composed herself long enough to scribble her words, then pushed the pad toward him, and broke down, her head on her arm, both resting on his desk.

I remember.  I remember everything.


Todd waited.  Aiden said, "I knew there was something about ya . . ."

Todd couldn't deny that he had had the same feeling when meeting Aiden.  Something was familiar about the man, but hadn't been able to place it.  Aiden began, "I left home when I was sixteen, wanting to branch out on me own.  I went into town in Innishcreg and got a job at the Wild Swan.  I was a barkeep.  Worked for a man named Caneelly."

Todd interrupted, "White-haired guy, secretly a killer and terrorist for The Men of 21?"

"That's the one, Paddy.  I worked in that bar for a few years before I realized I was in deep in the knowing.  I had to stay apart from my family for fear that something would happen to them.  So, I never went back.  I saw ya.  In the Wild Swan.  Ya were . . . getting a gift, from a woman.  She was a pretty lass, long hair, it wasn't Blair.  She was handing ya something . . ."

"A Celtic cross," he said, remembering, and hugged himself with his arms.  "That was . . . Marty."

"She gave ya the gift, and I was watching.  Ya took it, but ya seemed different, sort of standoffish.  I think that's why I remembered it so clearly.  I must have been nineteen or twenty then, eh?  Right before I left and joined up with the RA21 to fight the evils of The Men of 21.  Caneelly had told me too much, tried to get me to go on his side.  Promised me riches.  Said he saw promise in me, he did."

"I can see him doing just that."

"He was part of it all along."

Todd nodded.

Aiden asked, "Who was the woman?"

"Thornhart's wife.  She wasn't then, but she is now.  That's where they first met.  It's also where he and I first met.  And, it's where I was shot in the back after being mistaken for him and left for dead."

Aiden paused.  "My God.  I remember that story, among the patrons.  An American was shot dead in front of the tavern.  That was you, Man?"

"That was me.  I thought I could be a hero.  Let's say I had things to make up to Marty.  I thought I could lead the guys who were after Thornhart away, or trick them.  They shot me dead in the back.  Blair was waiting for me.  It was two days after our wedding . . ."

"The one in these photos, with the golden balloons?"

"Yes.  I left her to go make it up to Marty.  Blair was pregnant with Starr.  She had to deliver her without me.  She thought I was dead. . . Maybe I was."

"All to make it up to the woman, eh?  Marty, ya said?"


"I won't ask what it was you were making up for, but it must have been deeply paining ya."

Todd didn't answer.  Instead, he said, "So, for you, we can work backward.  My first memories of some childhood shit could curl your hair, but I never remembered it until later.  My revelations went from my teenage years, backward.  Maybe for you, it would be the same."

"Maybe.  I can go back to the day I left my home, I guess.  That would be the next thing."

"It would.  Logically."

"I can do that.  But Lad, how did ya face all this?  What made ya do it?"

"Necessity, mostly.  My mind wouldn't hide it any more.  Things happened, over time, that brought it out.  Being held captive was part of it.  The handlers used my childhood against me.  Things they knew . . . were done to me."

"Evil wretches."

Todd kept going.  "Then, my life with my children and Blair.  Being taken again, by Leona, losing my daughter, bringing down Hesser, and finding my mother again.  Trying to avenge what happened to her."

"I see.  Were ya ready for all these memories?"

"Are we ever?  Not sure about that.  But it was worth it, even though it was hard.  It's all me.  All of it helps me understand me.  And you'll do the same.  At least that's what I believe.  But I didn't always.  I've come to that understanding after hitting rock bottom for so long.  It took me years to be able to feel things."

Aiden looked directly into Todd's face, and after a short silence, he said, "Terrible things were done to ya, with The Men of 21, but terrible things were done to ya as a boy, weren't they?"

Todd shrugged.  "I guess."

Aiden closed the album.  "I think I need to go back.  To my home, on Innishcreg.  I think I need it, to help me remember.  Will ya help me?"

"Why not?  Haven't been to old Innishcreg in years.  Can't say that I missed it, but it probably missed me."

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