The Guardian - 13

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Sister I need you more now than I ever did
I've been thinking again, I've been thinking again



Part Thirteen– Sister (Reprise)
My continued apologies for the delay


Previously

“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 accompanying…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.


Across town…

A man and a woman sat in a booth at the back of the crowded restaurant, confident their conversation was safe under the noise of the diners.

“You really think… This isn’t a good idea,” the woman said as she idly pushed her eggs around the plate. The man grinned in response.

“It’s a great idea. No one knows what the hell is going on. You did your job. No time to get cold feet.” He snapped, but quickly softened. He reached across the table and grabbed her hand.

“One more day and we’ll be on a plane to destinations unknown. You know I’m right, right?”

“Yes,” she said with only a small bit of hesitation. The plan just had to work, didn’t it?

“I’ve got to pick up a few things even if we are traveling light. I’ll meet you at the motel in about an hour.” She went to rise and he grabbed her wrist.

“Don’t take all day,” he exaggerated but his urgency still seemed to push her. She nodded and walked out. The man grabbed his phone and tapped an icon. A moment later, he spoke.

“Of course. And this was easier than we had hoped. What? Yes, you’re off the hook. I’ll make sure there are no loose ends. Yes. In two hours…Yes….” He hit ‘end’ and pocketed his phone. Another grin crossed his face, broader and almost diabolical.


Meanwhile…

Jo peeked in and waved to Louise and the girls. April and Aubrey sat on either side of the bed and had their cell-phones out, showing Louise some of the kind notes each had received on social media about prayers for her from their friends.

“Could you get us some tea?” Louise had changed but still felt the need to prove herself. She added a seldom used phrase from their childhood.

“Pretty please with sugar on it?” Jo smiled, remembering kinder safer time for them, but when she turned her eyes filled with tears. So much time lost, she hoped there would still be time enough to say what needed to be said. She walked into the kitchen, but not before rubbing Gina’s shoulder. Her niece turned and smiled.

“You folks want some tea?” Nods all around and a quick return to long-delayed apologies. Gina spoke.

“I….” She bit her lip and shook her head. Paul stared at her with a piercing but loving look. She took a deep breath and continued.

“When Daddy left… we were kids, you know?” Darla tilted her head in question. Of course they were kids. Gina picked up on her questioned expression.

“Oh…we were kids and didn’t understand. Mommy was…” She paused and looked toward the bedroom and lowered her voice.

“Mommy was so angry at Daddy, but he wasn’t around, so you and I… It must have been our fault. Like we sent Daddy away. And then Connie got sick and Mommy was… “ That giant elephant had departed middle of the room for the most part more than a few years before but Louise’s problem with pills left its mark on everyone. Gina became the mom but was emotionally out the door.

“It wasn’t fair, Dar,” she snapped, but her demeanor quickly returned to remorse.

“I was stuck trying to take care of Mommy and help the nurses with…with Connie. You were just… I’m so sorry. It wasn’t your fault, but when you started talking about this....” She used her hand in a broad gesture to point to Darla’s body.

“Oh fuck,” she said as she looked again to the bedroom door.

“When Paul and I… I got pregnant, and we had to get out. Connie was already …. Gone,” she gasped, feeling guilt slam against her once more.

“We made a life for ourselves…two little girls and a mortgage and a brother who was….” She sighed and shook her head in self-correction.

“You just being yourself after you got back left me with one more excuse not to care. I was angry at Daddy, at Mommy, at you. I was even angry at Connie for dying, is that fucked up or what?”

“I…” Darla interrupted.

“It was my fault that Daddy left. That Mommy… that Connie got sick. That you went away…My fault.” Darla lowered her face and began to weep. Gina hugged her and kissed her face.

“NO! No,” she softened, continuing to kiss away Darla’s tears.

“I… I know I didn’t get sick to be punished. Connie didn’t die to punish us. But when I got sick, I thought about how much time I wasted being angry and hateful. Like I forgot how sweet Connie was when she…. Like we had all the healing right in front of us.”

Darla nodded and touched her chest.

“I was so angry when Connie died, but it took seeing…When Amani died, I just couldn’t waste any more time hating. I stopped hating Mommy and I finally stopped hating myself,” Darla sobbed

“What about…me?” Gina gasped.

“I never stopped loving you, Gee… Never.” She held out her arms and Gina fell into her as both women sobbed. Paul looked over to Jo and mouthed ‘thank you.’ Jo had never given up. Every day from the moment Louise rejected her until now was filled with an abiding faith and a life of prayer that now served to knit her family back together.


Late afternoon at the precinct breakroom….

“Hey Petrovic? How’s our girl doing?” Lisa paused as her face grew hot.

“Uh… the precinct…” She quickly added. Alex chuckled as he poured coffee into two dark blue NYPD mugs.

“Dark, no sugar?” As he poured half-and-half, he mused silently,

“Wow, she really fits in.” Handing a mug to her, he sat down at the table across from her and smiled wryly.

“What?” Lisa said, her face tilted in a defensive, questioning posture. He caught her meaning and replied as he placed his mug down.

“Listen, Officer Kovic… You might get by with the strong-as-iron thing with some of these guys, but you.re…. readable.” Since Lisa’s sexuality was no secret, Alex’ word was puzzling. She squinted a bit and he continued.

“I’ve known you since you got here from Brooklyn. You’re diligent and nobody’s braver than you, sister.” He smiled as she blushed, big brother guy that he was.

“But you’re caring and sweet when no one is looking. Giving, in fact. Like helping people you care for when nobody’s looking. You know?” Her eyes widened in a small bit of dread.

“I know that you paid for Louise Farnetti’s extra help… don’t pretend… you’re a lot of things, but you’ll never win Tony.” She went to protest but Alex laughed softly.

“Besides, I know Tamika and the agency, and I was at the office adding my own help when her supervisor asked if she could call you about some details.” He reached over and patted her hand.

“Your secret ...secrets are safe with me.” Lisa pulled her hand back.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said weakly before continuing.

“It’s no secret Shari and I split. But….” Her eyes began to tear up. She realized she was crying and looked around in panic.

“It’s okay, Lees… Nobody else knows. You said something a while back about being hurt,,, we were riding together one time while Darla was at some training. Your… your mother’s death was hard, but you weren’t hurt by it… “ She grew red.

“I mean someone did something to hurt you.” She nodded and lowered her face a bit.

“She had an affair with some med sales rep… that’s why she move away…” Lisa bit her lip and followed it with a gasp.

“She moved out months ago, but…”

“I’m so sorry, kid. Nobody deserves that; especially after losing your Mom.” He patted her wrist again and this time she didn’t resist.

“And there was no one to talk to. Uh… One evening after our tour, Jerico had a late doctor’s appointment and I was all alone in the locker room. I thought I was alone since it was well past shift and I was thinking about Shari. I just started crying; my eyes squeezed close, you know?” Alex could only imagine.

“I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and Darla was staring at me… Like I… She didn’t ask any questions at first, but her eyes… like I was the only person in the world.” Lisa turned away.

“Oh, I know she was still dealing with her fiance’s death even after all that time, and I knew about her mom…” Lisa cringed at the word, still recalling her own grief. Alex nodded, a half-smile and tender eyes urging Lisa to continue.

“But in that moment…. I knew she was crying for me….For me. Alex. And I…. You have to believe me. I didn’t want… It was too soon.” Alex nodded, finally realizing he had read Lisa Kovic all along as she looked around again, hoping the solitude of the moment remained. Her lip quivered as she recalled the morning. Alex Petrovik wasn’t the only one who read her, but really, her feelings were not obvious or broadcast for all to see.

“I…” was all Lisa could get out before she threw caution to the wind, so to speak. Privacy be damned, since the gentle touch by another at the urging of Louise Farnetti gave the brave girl a wee bit more courage as she wept freely, all the while repeating,

“I love her, Alex… I love her…”

Life can be tricky
And sneak up on you
Like a tiger looking for pray
We've had our share of surprises
There must be a good one coming our way


Meanwhile…

Reunions arise from all sorts of life decisions and divergent paths. The Farnetti family was experiencing a renaissance of sorts as the rift between mother and daughters and sister to sister was being healed. Jo Bianchi took no pride but a great deal of relief and peace over her answered prayers. She stood against the kitchen door frame, arms folded in a self-hug. A moment later she felt a hand touch her back.

“Jo?” She turned to find the face of Tamika Betencourt smiling at her even as Tamika’s hand guided her away from the isolation of the kitchen.

“We’ve know each other for a very long time, Jo. I know there’s more going on than just this,” she said, using her hand in a broad gesture to indicate the relaxed conversation between Gina and Darla.

“It’s wonderful, Dear one, but you seem a bit distracted, and I know you well enough to know there’s more to be done. But you never ask…” Tamika pointed upward.

“You never ask for anything for Jo Bianchi. You need to trust god to this whole family and maybe think about just what it is that you want, yes.” Tamika drew Jo into a sisterly hug.

“He comes by. He wants to give you space because of all that today represents.” Jo felt like disagreeing; her emotional default set to unworthy. She closed her eyes, wondering just why Alex had stayed away, given the day’s importance. She wasn’t angry so much as confused and scared that her always-present belief that shewas unloveable pushed hard against her heart. She was about to speak when Tamika thrust an envelope into her hand.

“I’ve got to attend to Louise, Jo. Go sit down and take a bit of time for yourself. There’s fresh coffee, okay?” Tamika stepped away, her hand lingering in encouragement before she went to check on Louise.

Jo walked back into the kitchen and poured coffe into the mug she’d abandoned hours before, She sat down and placed the mug in front of her as she eyed the envelope.

JO

She recognized the handwriting and sighed, fearing the worst. She opened it and sighed once more, her eyes avoiding the writing until something hopeful urged her to read.


Dear Ms. Bianchi,

I know the day’s demands may leave you feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t want to interrupt with a quick phone call, and I can’t get there until my shift ends. I wanted to tell you two things that you really need to know.

First, your family comes first for the time being. All the love you’ve put into this day is seeing fruition, but there remains a very real sadness for what is to come. You remain in my prayers, such as they are.

Second?

Convention demands that things are what we expect, but circumstances require otherwise. We’re old enough to know what we want, and I know what you need… what we both need. And what you do need at this time is hope. The moment may come all too soon, even today or tomorrow…” Jo looked up and gasped. As a nurse, the reality of the moment was too strong to deny. She blinked back tears.

“A phone call is not proper, and you need to know now so that the hope this message intends will see you through until tonight.” She sighed again, a fear unlike any other she had ever known seemed to hit her hard. What if what I hope for never comes to pass? But even more painful fueled by that doubt in herself? What if what I long for does come to pass. She resumed reading even as tears spilled from her face.

“I love you, Giuseppina Marie Bianchi. I have always known you were the woman for me. I want to spend every day loving you, and I hope you feel the same. I’ll see you tonight. Until then, all my love to you. Alex

With that one last sentence, every bit of self-doubt and shame and sadness was washed away like cleansing rain, soft and fragrant and beautiful. Jo looked away and sighed deeply in peace before lowering her head to the table where she wept freely in joyful relief.


The precinct….

Lisa and Alec were finishing their coffee when Sipowitz stuck his head in to the break room.

"Hey, Petyrovic? Cap wants you in her office." He paused and noticed the somber look on Lisa's face.

"Hey, Kovic? You switchin' teams?" He laughed until Lisa put her hand to her face, stifling a sob. Alex picked up on it and faced Sipowitz,

"We're talking about Darla's mom, Sipowitz. Give it a rest, huh?" Sipowitz shook his head slightly before taking another step in his own transformation. He looked away, feeling a good amount of shame over his behavior. He turned around to them and frowned.

"Sorry. I... I know you're close to the family, Al... I lost my dad last year, and I..." He looked directly at Lisa.

"I know it was really hard when your mom died. I...I was a bastard, and I'm sorry...I'm so sorry," he said as he looked to Alex for help with an exit. Alex nodded and smiled without comment. Sipowitz nodded in return before speaking again.

"Let me know if there's anything else I can help with?" He smiled at Alex and spoke one last time.

"Lisa? You're a good cop, and I shoulda said this sooner. You're..." The words got stuck and he just smiled before walking out. Lisa looked at Alex before bursting into tears once again. Alex rubbed her arm as she wept, hoping that things had to get better for the rest of the day. He would not be disappointed. He heard the chime from his cell. He opened it to find a display – 1 new message. He scrolled to messages where the first entry read ‘unavailable.’ He hit the accept icon and the message appeared.


Yes – Jo


Meanwhile…

Jo had drifted into a much-needed half-sleep. She awoke with a start when she heard Aubrey call from the bedroom,

“Mom? Aunt Jo? Somebody? There’s something wrong! Nana? Wake up? Wake up?”

So I'm better when you are around
I might say I don't need any advice
But I wear the clothes that I found
In the back of your closet
Wherever you hide
Secrets that nobody ever will find

Next: Resonate



Sister (Reprise)
Sister (Reprise)
Words and music by
The performer
Sarah Bettens
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Y36xczxitg



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