The last post was about how Annabelle has asked Chris if she can spend the day with him on 21st December. It was only Ralph (and Robin of course) who remembered that it would be three years since Annabelle’s baby daughter had died of meningitis. I split this section up because it was long…so here is the second part of their day together.
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
“Rob told me that you are going back to New York for Christmas.” mentioned Chris.
“Robin told you right.”
“So you’ll be with your family for the holidays. That’s great Annie.”
Annabelle shrugged her shoulders, “Yeah well, I have my eye on a Nobel Peace Prize – but, I’m not getting my hopes up yet.”
“Surely the Nobel Peace Prize would be better than a light saber!”
“Well, I flunked Annabelle-ology it seems. I never made it to Jedi, so, yeah I’ll have to see what else I might qualify for. If World War Three has not been declared by the end of Christmas Day, maybe I’ll be in the running.”
Chris paused before adding, “Rob said it will be pretty much hell for you.”
“Hell hath no fury like a family scorned…or something like that.” grinned Annabelle.
Chris raised his eye-brows, “First Dean, now the family hey?”
Annabelle shook her head, “No not at all, You cannot compare Dean to my family. It would make Dean look like a saint, and that would just be wrong.”
“What’s so bad about your family Annie?”
“Aaaaagh! “Bad” is not the right word I guess. They are not bad people. I know that. They are decent people. They always made sure there was food on the table and I never went without what I needed physically. But a family reunion is always an opportunity to exalt certain members of the family and to punish the black sheep of the family.”
“The black sheep of the family?” Chris raised a skeptical eye-brow.
Annabelle raised her hand, “That would be me.”
“Why are you the black sheep?”
“I’ve been asking myself that since I was a little girl Chris. I think I was an inconvenience. I’ve heard my parents tell people I was an accident. But I don’t think they got over the surprise of me. They were more excited about my older sister and brothers getting married. Then they were all excited about having grandchildren. Added to the general not being part of their plan, I seemed to have a habit of breaking things, or knocking something over, or injuring one of my nephews and making them cry. I would be sent to my room in shame with no dessert.”
“So you have never forgiven them because they didn’t let you have dessert?”
Annabelle looked hurt, “As I got older, well, it was a different kind of punishment. The little ones in the family were praised and made out to be little angels. I was flunking math and science. I wasn’t on any of the sports teams. I couldn’t draw for toffee. I gave up trying to play the tuba, do you know how horrendous it is trying to drag a huge case with a tuba through the Bronx on the subway to and from school? Stupid music teacher should have given me something small to learn, like a flute.”
Chris laughed. “Annie, this is not why you are dreading seeing your family is it?”
“It’s not funny Chris. My parents were always arguing about money. But they would buy all sorts of expensive toys for the little ones at Christmas. They would give me stationary for school.”
“Stationary – very practical gift. More useful than toys.”
Annabelle flashed her eyes at Chris, “I know you think I am stupid, but it was years Chris, years and years, my entire childhood, of being treated like I was the trouble maker, the runt of the pack, watching my nephews and nieces be spoilt and made a fuss over. Being compared to them, being sent to my room, shouted at in front of everyone, told I was clumsy, stupid, hopeless, selfish, never going to succeed if I didn’t try harder at school and it built up ok…it built up and then, before I knew it, I was googling how to go about killing myself – ok.
“Ok Annie, ok.” Chris reached for Annabelle but she pulled away.
“They are not bad people, my family are not bad people. It’s not their fault. I know I am the one with the problem. At thirteen I was so lonely and so miserable, but found I was too scared to try to kill myself, so I found a different way to deal with the way I felt, I started cutting myself.”
“And they never even knew?”
Annabelle shook her head, “Can you blame me for falling in love with Dean and leaving home to go with him? Does it make me a bad person? Does it explain why I hung around a group of jerks who were abusing alcohol and drugs and wetting themselves or being sick in the back of the tour-bus? Do you think there is anything that I can ever do to redeem myself in my family’s eyes for giving up the chance to go to college, to follow a rock band who made the kind of music my parents hate, and always looked as if they had only just got out of bed?”
“I’m sorry Annie.” Chris took a deep breath and rubbed the back of Anabelle’s back. “I think you are brave to be going back to somewhere you felt so unhappy..”
“What hurts the most is the thought that if our daughter had lived, that they would have compared her to their other grandkids. I can’t bear the thought that she would have felt like I did whenever we had a family get-together. I’m relieved she never had to face that kind of rejection. One last time Chris. One last time, and from now on I want to spend every Christmas with Robin, somewhere other than with my family, who never liked Dean, and never liked Robin, and hardly even acknowledged that they had a beautiful little granddaughter who died before they met her, other than suggesting it was something we had done wrong, or that we didn’t take her to hospital early enough.”
Chris was taken aback. He waited a few moments to let what she had said sink in, “Annabelle Riley – you are a strong woman. The more I get to know you, the more I feel you are quite extraordinary.”
“I’m so tired Chris. I just want to rest and not have all of this going on inside of me. I just want to be able to say goodbye to them and move on. One last effort and then I am just going to think of building a life with Robin.”
“You deserve some happiness.”
“We all deserve happiness. Well, ok not if you are a member of the mafia, or a serial killer. But the vast majority of people deserve happiness.” Annabelle smiled, “Why do I feel as if everytime we talk, I ruin your day up by dragging you through my tangled broken up world?”
“But I can’t get enough of you.”
“I’m afraid that I will drag you down Chris. I have already done it to Dean and Robin. I don’t want to do it to anyone else.”
“Annie, I think you are an amazing person. But when I hear what you have been through, I see a broken hearted little girl, I see a teenager injuring herself, I see someone loyal, having to care for her boyfriend when he’s drunk or high, I see a woman whose partner abandoned her for over eighteen months to put himself first, and yet forgave him, I see a mother who lost her little baby. And I feel immensely for you. It just makes me proud of you. I feel proud to know you, proud to be your friend. It makes me sad to think of what you have been through, but it is inspiring. Your strength, it is inspiring. In no way are you someone I get tired of. It’s completely the opposite.”
“When you told me about how you battled depression after your parents divorce, I found that inspiring. It gave me hope that it is possible to get over heartbreak and possible to get better.”
“That feels really good to hear. You are freezing. Let’s warm up in the car.”
“Do you think you could put up with my croaning again?”
Chris turned the radio on, “With pleasure Annie. You can sing your heart out!” So Annabelle did. She sang her heart out all the way back to Blackwood.
As they passed Cricklebrook, Annabelle sat up in her seat. A few miles down the road, she pointed to a lane “That’s where Robin and I were living when we first came here. There is a house at the bottom of that track, almost buried in the woods. The trees make it so dark and gloomy. That’s where Robin really fell apart.”
“I think Rob fell apart when he was in London, when he was without you. When he was with you he was holding it together. It was once he was on his own that he lost it.”
Annabelle let out a sigh, “You are very kind, but really he was truly exhausted by the time we got here. It had been a nightmare year. And all he had done was focus on helping me. He sacrificed his career, his home, and himself – all for me. When he came back to Blackwood to tell me what he had done in London, I should not have let myself get so angry with him. I should have remembered all that had gone before.”
“But all is good now though.”
“All is good now.” nodded Annabelle.
“And you can carry on making it up to him. You have a wonderful future ahead of you Annie, I am sure of it.” Chris put his hand over Annabelle’s.
“I intend to make it up to him Chris. I can’t wait to make it up to him. After all he has sacrificed, I am going to give him everything I have.” Annabelle smiled to herself with the knowledge she had not yet shared with anyone in Blackwood.
When Chris pulled up outside The Jennings’ home, Annabelle climbed out of the car and came around to speak to Chris through his window, “I have something for you Chris. Can you wait a moment and I will run in and get it for you?”
Annabelle’s feet skidded in her rush to get to the front door, but she managed to steady herself. Within a couple of minutes she was back at the car window leaning over to Chris. “Thank you for today,” she leaned over while holding a sprig of mistletoe up to the roof of the car, “Merry Christmas Chris,” her lips touched Chris’s who raised his hands around her face. Before drawing away, Annabelle gently nibbled at Chris’ bottom lip. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day, ever since you told me about how what happened to your lip.”
Annabelle shook her head and put her finger against Chris’ lips, “Have a great time with your family. “
Chris grimaced, “I’d love to say the same to you.”
“This is for you Chris. I’m sorry I am not very good at the whole gift thing, but you know, it’s something,” she passed through the window the wrapped gift Chris had seen her carry from the house. “There is a receipt inside, you can exchange it if you don’t like it.” Her face crumpled with awkwardness.
“Thank you Annie. I truly wish you some happiness over Christmas, and even if it’s as awful as you’re expecting, I just really wish you could have happiness every day of your life.”
While Chris drove back home, he could not help remembering the first time he had picked up Annabelle in the came little sports car. She had been embarrassed in case the neighbours saw them sitting in a car together. Chris debated in his mind whether it was a good or bad thing that Annabelle clearly did not care anymore what any prying neighbours thought of her friendship with Chris.
You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:
Kim, the creator of Writer Side of Life has given us some great writing prompts. Several of them appealed to me, but I have only chosen one to work on for now, because I am still playing catch up with blogging, after my trip to Australia:
I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?