Chapter 7

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I woke early on Thursday feeling broken. I nursed Charlie went downstairs. I wanted to go over to the old house as soon as possible and finish up before we had to catch the train back to Bend. The thought of being separated from Charlie while I sorted through my things in the attic at the old house caused me great anxiety. It was a silly thought but I kept imagining Jeff arriving at Carmen's with police officers, boys I'd grown up with, now men. I envisioned them taking Charlie. Not because they wanted to but because they had no other choice. There would be nothing Carmen could do. I knew it wasn't really a possibility but I felt I had lost so much the night before out in the dark. I had given Jeff back what he had—or at least some of what he had. A mass of feelings had formed inside of me, mostly fear. Where there had been none, confusion existed. A part of me asked why he hadn't found another woman to take my place? I tried to consider the real possibility that he wanted to be with Charlie, but each time I imagined a future that included Jeff, an image of him walking down the street with his little daughter on his shoulders invaded. I hadn't thought much of it when Carmen had related it to me. Something about his walking by with his daughter, sometimes his wife. Carmen had sensed something that I now sensed too. Maybe he hadn't loved me. Perhaps, for some reason he had wanted to overtake me. If it hadn't been for Charlie perhaps he would have looked for another way to control me. Once our love affair was over, without the pregnancy, what would have had over me?

"The kids are still sleeping," Carmen whispered. She was wearing a long, satin bathrobe. He hair was ruffled from sleep but still retained its pretty waves. She poured me a coffee. Charlie was fussing and twirling his fingers in my hair. He would let out loud squeals and then look at me.

"He's going to be very funny. He already has a sense of humor."

'I think he gets it from you and Harry."

She raised her eyebrow and pulled a cigarette from her pack. She lit it and inhaled deeply. Charlie let out a little wet cough.

"Is he getting sick?" Carmen asked, her eyes growing concerned. She walked over and put a hand on his forehead. "He's got a little wheeze. I hope you'll be all right on the train back today."

"He does. I think he's got croup again. He was up last night. I had to take him and walk him out in the cold—in the night air—until his breathing improved."

"You mustn't have slept at all."

She looked up over to the clock. "It's early darling, are you going right over?"

I nodded looking down at the Formica tabletop. My eyes traced the burgundy stripe that ran down the center. I wanted to tell her about seeing Jeff, but I thought it would make things worse. My life was again on a precipice. Anything to disrupt it would make everything I was building topple. I would have nothing. I was so frightened on the inside, the anxiety was like waiting for bad news, but I had already received bad news. It was like a dream, the images of the three of us, in the dark outside the community house. I shouldn't have let him intimidate me. I could have stood up for myself. I felt so ridiculously weak. I hated myself.

As I sat with Carmen my mind lingered on this new development with Jeff. I didn't pick up my coffee, it sat in front of me. I had forgotten where I was. My emotions were so strong that I was almost paralyzed. As small and weak as I felt, maybe I had stood up to him. Maybe that was why he pushed back so hard. Jeff had always grown cold when I disagreed with him or argued with him. Isn't that exactly what happened last night? My feelings vacillated again. I knew he would follow through his threat. Would he really do what he said? I tried to piece his words together. What could he do to me? Then, it descended on me. The whole picture of his power. Just as he threatened, he could drive up to Bend—he already had before—he'd pull into the driveway and he'd walk past Charlie and me and ask Mary to get Frank. Mary would try to stop him, but he would be insistent. She'd run inside and look for Frank and try her best to prepare him and discredit Jeff. I knew in this fearful scenario that Jeff would not even look at me while I stood off to the side in the foyer, holding Charlie. I would ask him not to tell, but he would be determined. Things would be in motion and picking up velocity. Then, later Mary and I would wait in the kitchen while the men spoke, Mary straining to listen. I knew she would find a way to sneak out and get close enough to hear their conversation. I knew that Jeff would soften Frank, convince him. He'd find something to inflame Frank's worry for Charlie. I knew Mary would come back into the warm kitchen. Her face gone white, trying to find words for me. We'd both wait for Frank to come in and ask for Charlie, tell us that his father wants to see him.

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