Well, if you read the last part in her story, you will be aware that Annabelle’s Christmas with her family didn’t go very well at all. How will she feel after such a disappointment? Will she regret she made the effort at all? What will she do now that she is alone again? Will the same feelings of rejection that she has battled for years creep in and cause her to lose her battle with self-harm again?
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
After leaving her family and catching the subway back into central Manhattan, Annabelle began to feel disappointment creep over her. Although she had expected something to go wrong, it was not what she had wanted. She had put so much effort into preparing for Christmas with her family. All the time and thought she had put into shopping for gifts and writing touching words in their cards, seemed blisteringly futile. All of her hopes for some kind of peace, some kind of affection between her and her family, seemed to have been scorched by their anger.
The familiar mix of something she could only describe as guilt or shame or self-loathing as a result of her failure, their rejection of her, invaded and she felt that same old urge to injure herself for some relief.
At just the right time, Annabelle had another call from Dean, asking who was it who had screamed down the phone at him. Although she realized it must have been her sister Alicia, she made light of it and told Dean she had left Christmas dinner with her family early. Dean picked up on the strained tone in Annabelle’s voice: “Nan, do not tell me you’ve been sent packing on Christmas Day!”
“I wasn’t sent packing Dean. I left of my own accord.”
“I knew this would happen. Your parents are complete kooks, I don’t know why you even bother with them.”
“They are not kooks.” Annabelle contested, “But I just don’t get it Dean. I honestly tried. When you said to me that my parents had their own way of showing love, I tried so hard you know. But it just didn’t work, somehow, nothing I tried worked.”
“Shall I ring yer Dad and tell him what I think of him?” threatened Dean.
Annabelle said in a child-like voice, “I have a feeling that would not help.”
“I’m really pissed that they can knock you around like this. Idiots,” it was clear by the tone of his voice how incensed Dean felt on Annabelle’s account.
“The only thing I am annoyed about right now is that they blew up in my face before we had any dessert. The only reason why I even went was to try to get in on my mom’s Christmas pudding. To leave without that is a fail.”
Dean waited, “Huh…it’s not right Nan. I know they break your heart pretty much every time they speak to you. It’s just not right. What are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to have to head back soon. It doesn’t feel very safe with the streets being so empty. Maybe I’ll walk around for a bit until I find a grocery store selling some kind of Christmas cake. There is going to be a grocery store open somewhere isn’t there. New York doesn’t ever completely stop does it? I bloody deserve some kind of treat Dean. Slice of pudding and a bottle of red would be a decent way to end this day of peace and goodwill to all mankind.”
“Just do not let them crush you. You have to be strong. Do not let however it is your feeling make you want to hurt yourself. Don’t Nan.”
“Thank you Dean. I’m round the corner from the hotel I’m staying in and to tell the truth, I’m avoiding being on my own in that room. I don’t want to give into it. I want to fight it.”
“You must fight it. I’ll be praying for you.”
Annabelle was struck by the expression Dean had used, “Dean, do you really pray, or are you just saying that? You said the same kind of thing in New York.”
“I pray Nan. Not all the time. But there are some things you just can’t handle on your own. You were one of them. I think I prayed almost every night at one stage with you.”
The thought of Dean praying provoked a laugh in Annabelle’s throat which she fought to suppress, “I didn’t think you were religious”.
“Hah! I’m, not into religion, they’re all friggin con-men. But I pray all the same, when I need to. I go direct to the Boss-man himself.”
After the telephone conversation ended, Annabelle continued to trudge along the street to keep herself away from the solitude of an empty hotel room. The thought of Dean praying seemed very bizarre to her. Annabelle had never prayed. At school there had been prayers said by someone when the classes assembled in the school hall. After “9/11”, and whenever there was a big earthquake or a mass shooting, the class would all bow their heads and one of the teachers or a visiting minister had offered a prayer. She had not really listened to the words. It all felt so sombre.
Annabelle remembered some of the lights she had seen the evening before when she had walked around. She realized she was only a few blocks away from some of her favourite displays. Heading towards the Rockefeller Center and pondering over whether Dean prayed on his knees beside his bed or whether he actually had ever walked into a church kept Annabelle’s mind busy.
Looking up at the glowing angels on display provoked Annabelle’s thoughts even more. Religious studies was one of the subjects she had flunked at school. It’s not that she had found the lessons boring, but there was something mildly disturbing to her. The ramifications of what she heard in class were overwhelming to her at times. She found it very challenging to complete assignments which often required an essay long answer to a question that Annabelle was not comfortable with. The teacher had just presumed that Annabelle wasn’t going to put any effort into the class, so he ignored her, and concentrated on more eager students.
Annabelle thought to herself, “If Dean can, maybe I can.” Not knowing how to even go about it, she wondered if she should ring Dean again and ask him how to start, who she should ask for. Then she laughed at herself, “It’s not some kind of a switchboard system Annabelle, you just have to call out.” She felt alarmed, those thoughts were so loud it almost sounded like a voice in her head had uttered those words.
Annabelle sat on the wall and lent right back so that she could see the sky above the top of the buildings towering above her.
“Dear God, It’s Annabelle here. Annabelle Jane Riley I have lived in Blackwood, Wisconsin for a couple of years, but I am in New York for Christmas. I wondered if we could talk. I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch before now, I just didn’t think of it. I wasn’t really sure about you to be honest. But I’m pretty desperate at the moment, so I’m really hoping you won’t mind me…well, you know.
I have this problem. I’ve had it for a while. It’s something I’ve found hard to handle, and so have the people who have loved me the most. It’s ruined things for me and for them. I seem to get these intense feelings when things start going wrong, when I feel as if I’m going to get in trouble or as if everything in my life is about to fall apart. Sometimes it’s when I feel I just can’t take anymore. Sometimes it’s because I hate myself so much, I don’t even know why I hate myself, it just comes over me, it might be the way I look, or the way I’ve made someone else feel, or the thought that I’ve done something to make them hate me.
I don’t know if you’ve been watching, but, well I am hoping you know what I’m talking about. The thing is, there is a man who I think really loves me, and he can’t bear it. I was having counselling, but I pulled out because they labelled me a freakin psycho. I’m not a psycho God. I’m just tired, tired of being me. Sometimes I feel full of life, I don’t know whether it’s all the coffee I drink, but sometimes I could run for miles, but then I always seem to come crashing down. I don’t know why, but I seem to have wounds somewhere inside that never heal. The moment someone or something exposes those wounds, I just go to pieces.
I’m really sorry. I’m saying that now God, because that’s how I feel, but in all honesty, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be sorry for. I think I might have done something in another life because I always feel guilty, but I don’t know what for. Maybe you do. I wonder if you could help me out, because I feel really lost. And at the moment I feel so alone, I don’t want to be on my own tonight. But everyone I love, everyone who loves me, is miles away. I just wondered, if you wouldn’t mind, kind of hanging out with me for a bit tonight. I know it’s a busy day for you, Christmas Day and all, probably a lot of people calling in tonight. But would you please just help me hold it together, because I don’t want to hurt myself. Mainly for Robin. He doesn’t want me to hurt myself. I just need help so much. All I want to do right now is punch my head over and over. Please help.”
Annabelle’s silent prayer ended there. She held her breath waiting. Silence. As minutes went by and there was no answer Annabelle felt the chill of disillusionment creep through her. She felt so foolish for even attempting to pray. She felt a gaping empty void that was longing for something to fill it, but whatever it was she craved seemed elusive.
The dark of winter made it hard to know if it was eight o’clock or midnight. Annabelle pulled her phone out of her bag to check the time, it was only quarter past seven. Those ridiculous angel displays taunted Annabelle. She suddenly felt a need to get away from them and began to walk quickly.
She thought of her family enjoying the rest of the evening together without her, tucking into the Christmas pudding she had missed out on yet again! She thought of Robin, he would probably be fast asleep now. It would be three o’clock in the morning in Switzerland.
She thought of Dean, it made her anxious to think about what might happen in his home as the day passed. If Rick and Lauren were there, as well as Dean’s cousin Michael and other friends who were with him, it was very likely that there would be heavy drinking and some kind of substance to intensify their high. The recollection of seeing Dean and his closest friends intoxicated caused Annabelle to shudder at the thought of it. Dean was advising Nan not to hurt herself, when the truth was, he was regularly risking his health and perhaps his life by the habits that had become commonplace to him.
Annabelle thought of Ralph in hospital. How she wished she was with him. It might be very lonely on the ward. She felt a mix of joy and a slight resentment at the thought of Burt and Pearl enjoying Christmas with family. Annabelle wished she had taken the chance to be with them. She also thought of Chris who was in Milwaukee for Christmas with half of his family. Even though his family were divided, he would still be happily enjoying their company.
But thinking about the people who loved her, didn’t seem to bring any comfort. Annabelle felt overwhelmed with bitterness. Then another sensation came up into her mind. She stood up and began to take large strides in the direction of the hotel. Once she was back up in her room, she lay on the bed and crossed her arms over her chest with her hands gripping each shoulder, “Please God, take me tonight. Don’t let me wake up in the morning. Just let me rest please. I can’t do this anymore.” Annabelle lay waiting. After a few minutes, she murmured, “Please.” Ten minutes later and she sat up sobbing, “Please, please, please, I can’t do this, I am just so tired of being alive.” Still no answer.
She felt rage within her. There was just no winning. There was noone she could turn to when she felt this desperate. Should she ring Robin? But it wasn’t fair to. He needed sleep. He’d been working long hours for several days. She didn’t want to ruin Christmas for anyone else. The anger at not being heard when she was begging in prayer, was intense. She caught sight of a claret coloured book sitting on the ledge beside the bed. Realizing what it must be, she lurched towards it, placing her hand on it and hurled it across the room. Then seeing what she had done, Annabelle immediately felt guilt and shame surge through her. She jumped off the bed and ran to pick the Gideon Bible that she had just thrown against the opposite wall.
She tried to neaten it’s pages. She sat on the upright chair and placed the Bible on the table, that held a tiny kettle, plastic tubs of long-life milk, and some sachets of instant coffee and tea-bags. She could see her reflection in the mirror above the table. Her face was red and blotchy. She could not bear to see herself. She slumped down resting the side of her head on the Bible, as if it was a pillow. She sat like that for some time trying not to feel anything.
An idea came into Annabelle’s mind. At first Annabelle tried to dismiss it, but it came back, and the thoughts were loud, very much like a voice. She fought the idea though. It was something she didn’t want to do. It would be boring, she knew she would not enjoy it. It made her feel sick to the stomach just thinking of the effect it might have on her. There was no point, how could it possibly help her now? Loud and clear her thoughts clearly challenged her, “How do you know Annabelle, unless you open it up and take a look?”
Annabelle sat up and opened the cover of the Gideon Bible. She looked at the contents page and noted a list of names and titles that meant nothing to her. But one name jumped out at form the other names: Luke. She had been sitting next to her oldest nephew Luke at the dinner table, hearing about all his accomplishments, but it was gratifying that the highlight of Luke’s Christmas had been chatting with Dean Mathers from Mildew on her phone.
“She said in her head, “I’m going to give Luke a try ok.” She turned to the page the contents cited as the start of the section entitled Luke, and she began to read. Several hours later, Annabelle had used up most of the instant coffee sachets and UHT milk pods on the table in her room and was laid out on her bed looking up. Still trying to digest the excitement and emotion and confusion and horror and wonder and encouragement from what she had read, she stared at the ceiling. There was something different about her, it took her a while to realize the fullness within her.
Her eyes began to grow heavy, and a contentment that pressed on her chest told her she would sleep well that night. Immediately reacting to another thought that ran through her mind, she said out loud, “Thanks God, that was absolutely amazing. I’m sorry I cursed you earlier. I didn’t realize what you have had to put up with yourself.”
Soon Annabelle was in a very deep sleep.
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?