The Guardian - 12

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I wish you could adore
The way you did before
Now you're living through another year
Oh, the light you were
Will soon become a blur
As you're living through another year

Part Twelve– Another year
My continued apologies for the delay

Previously… at the precinct
“We…we want you to take off. Don’t worry about comp or sick leave. Your fellow officers pooled their FMLA time and you’ve got as long as you need for your Mom. We want you to know we’ve got your back, okay?” Darla shook her head at the sentiment, once again feeling undeserving. Jo noticed and stood up as she rubbed Darla’s back.

At one time in the very recent past, Jo had been mired in her own shame, but brand new changes in how she saw herself helped her see the same undeserved shame in Darla. Knowing love can do that.

The next morning at Louise Farnetti’s apartment...

“I’ll put on the coffee,” Tamika said as her overnight nurse fluffed the large bevy of pillows supporting Louise. The young man smiled at Louise and touched her hand.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of your family. Ma’am.” He repeated the smile and waved as he stepped aside as Jo sat down. The young man walked out to the living room to speak with Tamika.

“Til tonight. I expect we will see each other?”

“We can hope. Her other daughter and family are due in sometime this morning. It will be a bit hectic, but nothing we haven’t seen? I just hope what everyone needs to say or hear will be done this side of heaven. I’ll let you know how thing went when I see you tonight. And I will see you.” She gave him a hug before she went in the kitchen as he left,

A short while later…

A very determined knock sounded from the front door.

“Gina can’t have gotten here yet,” Darla thought. She opened the door to find a very welcoming smile attached to a familiar face,

“Hey, Darla, Lisa Kovic said as she stepped inside. She absentmindedly rubbed Darla’s arm as she walked past; leaving both a wee bit awkward. As she entered, she caught the attention of Tamika Bettencourt. Tamika nodded and smiled almost imperceptively as she walked into the bedroom. Jo rose from the couch and welcomed Lisa with a hug.

“You saved our lives, Lisa,’ she said, leaving the woman feeling even more awkward.

“No, I really didn’t.” Lisa said as she attempted to disengage from the embrace. Jo leaned further in and spoke softly but not in a whisper.

“If you hadn’t taken charge, who knows what the bastards might have done?” She kissed Lisa on the cheek.

“I…We…the guys down at the precinct took up a collection. We wanted to help?” She felt embarrassed by her presence, but continued.

“Jerico even persuaded Sipowitz to contribute. Seems Officer Stuck in the Past learned that his kid sister likes girls, and sorta had a talking-to by his brother. Will wonders ever cease?” She forced a laugh, but turned away when Darla smiled at the sentiment. As she turned, she once again caught the attention of Tamika, who smiled with another nod which silently conveyed the massage, ‘don’t worry.’

“Say…Would you mind if I met your sister,” she asked. Even though she barely had met Jo and only knew of Louise as Darla’s mother.

“Sure…I bet she’d welcome the company.” Jo said. Darla immediately became protective. In a matter of only a few hours, the apartment would be teeming with her own sister Gina and her brood. Jo noticed the look of concern and smiled even as she shook her head no to Darla.

“Thanks,” Lisa said as she was ushered into the bedroom. Louise looked up from a Cat Fancy magazine and smiled.

“Hi, Mrs. Farnetti? I’m Lisa Kovic. I work with…Darla and Alex.”

“Oh,” Louise said, following it with a brief coughin jag. She collected herself and spoke.

“Oh. She repeated,

“You saved my family.” Lisa went to shake her head no, but Louise had nothing of that and spoke.

“Come sit her next to me, Lisa, yes?” Louise pointed through the guardrail of her bed at the chair to her left. Lisa walked timidly, torn entirely in half with a need to meet Louise Farnetti despite the anguishing reminder of her own mom’s death.

“Jo told me about your mother,” Louise said, leaving the normally stoic Lisa Kovic in tears. Darla noticed her mother’s concern, and despite her best efforts, her normally dark brown eyes became a decided shade of green until her mother pointed at the chair to her right. Darla tried to act like she didn’t notice the gesture, but Louise punctuated her request.

“Come? Sit next to me and keep us company?” Darla’s nodded slightly and walked slowly to her mother’s bedside.

“You miss your mother very much.” A simple statement of fact, but enough to send Lisa over the edge. She placed her head wearily on the bedrail and began to weep. As she wept, Louise placed her hand on the woman’s head and began to stroke her hair. She continued to sob even as Darla’s eyes reverted to brown, so to speak as she recalled the painful similarity between her and Lisa.

Both losing their fathers and both with a mother who rejected each at one time. Lisa had grown close in the very protracted painful death journey her mother took, even as Louise was on the last legs of her own. Darla had met Jana Kovic in the middle of her three-year battle during a brief rally when Jana picked up Lisa at the precinct. It wasn’t fair that fate took Jana Kovic so soon after her reconciliation with Lisa; a similarity that was also not lost on Darla as her heart went out to the woman across the bed.

“What’s wrong, baby?” Another awkward if perhaps healing moment when Darla realized that the endearment, at least at that moment, was meant for her and not Lisa. She went to speak, but no words escaped her lips as she closed her eyes andbegan to cry without sound. Louise grabbed her hand, only to release it seconds later. A moment after that, she felt the hand grasp hers once again. She was almost shocked when she opened her eyes to find her mother had placed her hand into Lisa’s. Louise smiled and nodded before calling out.

“Jo? Could you bring three cups of coffee?” A few moments later Jo had entered the room with a tray carrying four mugs of coffee and a pint of Half & Half. Jo smiled and spoke.

“Louise doesn’t keep any sweetener in the house. I hope you don’t mind?” Lisa looked up, blinking back tears and spoke weakly, but with a slight smile.

“Nope. I take mine dark, no sugar.” A preference that seemed to be the choice of all of the Bianchi women, so to speak; laving Darla shaking her head in confused if increasingly peaceful pondering.

Oh, what a waste of time it is
To indulge inside of bliss
Getting ready for another year like this

Another year to lie
Another year goes by

Somewhere else…

“The man sat on the desk chair with his feet resting on the bed; his cell phone against his left ear.

“I really don’t care at this point what you feel like. We started this together and we will finish it. I know… I know. I don’t like that any more than you do,” he lied.

“Just a few more days, and you can go back to whatever floats your boat. I, my dear, intend to find some nice island getwaway in the Pacific somewhere with no ex-wives and maybe a nice girl to keep the nights warm.” He breathed out. Convincing was his middle name? Wasn’t that what the guys in the agency said?

“Give me two days to get everything set, and then we wrap this up tighter than a Christmas present. Yeah. I’ll call you tomorrow with the time and place.” He clicked off the cell abruptly. Had he ever bothered to notice, he might have known that everyone he ever worked with considered him rude and obnoxious. But even if he had, he would not have cared, owing to those very apt descriptions. Rude might not be too hard to ignore, but arrogance could lead to disaster.

At Louise Farnetti’s apartment, early afternoon.

Lisa Kovic had left only a short while before; leaving Jo grateful, Louise energized, and Darla confused, scared, and oddly still moving into a much- needed peace.

A knock came at the door. Jo practically leapt from the couch; hobbling a wee bit as her left foot had fallen asleep. She opened the door to find Paul Manicone standing with April and Aubrey at his side. The girls seemed a bit subdued, especially for two teenagers, but Jo knew pretty much ‘why the look?’

“Gina’s parking the rental.” Paul and the girls stepped inside and were greeted by awkward, nearly fearful hugs from Darla. April pulled her closer, surprising Darla.

“It’s okay, Aunt Darla…” For years it seemed it would never be okay, even with the girls covertly excited about having an aunt instead of an uncle. They loved Aldo, of course, but it was likely that their acceptance, albeit electronically, helped Darla through a transition wracked with disappointment and doubt. But what really surprise her was that Paul stared at her briefly before smiling with a decidedly obvious nod ‘yes.

“Maybe you two can go give Grandma a hug? I’ve got something I have to talk about with Darla and your Dad and your Mom?” Jo blew out a semi-relieved breath as the girls waved while walking into the bedroom.

“Gina wanted to walk over to the florists, so…” Paul seemed okay up to that point, but he began to tear up. Jo stepped closer, embracing the husband of the woman who had rejected her and Darla. Paul hadn’t followed suit so much as agree with Gina, leaving the family fractured for the most part. Jo turned to Darla.

“I didn’t want to say anything, since Gina wanted to be the one to tell you." Darla’s eyes widened in near fear, leaving Jo frustrated that she hadn’t quite said what she wished. Her frustration abated immensely when a voice came from the doorway.

“Don’t worry. I’m okay! Really!” Darla looked past Paul and Jo to find her sister smiling; perhaps the first time in years she had displayed any expression of affection toward Darla. But accompany…or rather what did not accompany the smile was Gina’s long red hair – replace with a greyish brown haircut that looked more suited to a Marine recruit. Ironically.

“I guess I owe you an explanation?” Gina said as she stepped past Paul’ He squeezed her shoulder and she smiled tearfully, but still with a calmness Darla could not recall.

“But first?” She walked swiftly to Darla and threw her arms around her sister.”

“I’m ...I’m so sorry,” was all she could manage before she fell further into Darla’s embrace as she wept.

Oh, your goal is safe
But is it all you crave
As you're living through another year

Oh, what a waste of time it is
To indulge inside of bliss
Getting ready for another year like this

Next: Sister – Reprise.

Another Year
Words and music by
Gert and Sarah Bettens
As performed by K-Choice

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