NaNoWriMo novel 2011: part 23

She nods. “I know what you mean. Sort of. My dad was kind of like that. When I was born, my mum told me, he was gutted that I was a girl and blamed her for it. You can imagine how pissed off he was when my sister was born. Another girl! I grew up knowing something wasn’t quite right with me. Except at nights when he’d whisper- no. I can’t go there.”
“Won’t,” I whisper. “Gives you control over it.” She nods, closes her eyes. In the blurred part of my focus I sense Lily turn in her seat; her attention beams into the space between Rebecca and me.

“Won’t. I won’t go there.” She opens her eyes and looks at me, “and I will when I want to. But the thing is, with my Dad, he used to ignore me a lot of the time except when he was playing power games like tickling me too long. I hated it. He’d suddenly spring out of one of his comatose telly watching moods and grab me and start tickling. I’d shriek, which he loved. My mum would come in from the kitchen to see what was happening. He’d tickle more and more, harder and harder and I’d be writhing around unable to get my breath properly, nevermind tell him to stop.” A big, fat tear slides down her cheek. “I felt so helpless. I hated it. I couldn’t make him stop. Then my mum’s voice would cut in telling him to let me go and I remembered I wasn’t alone. There was someone else in the room with us but she’d still waited all that time before helping me. And, of course, he didn’t let me go immediately. It carried on until he decided it was time to stop.” She swallows. “When my mum told me he’d wanted boys and was disappointed when I was born I was angry at her. I thought she was trying to get between me and my memory of him. It was important you see that I believed he adored me so I didn’t have to think about the other stuff, the night stuff.”
“Wait. Did your Dad die?”
She nods. “Killed himself like yours did. Only mine did it in his car with a hosepipe running from the exhaust. I used to think it was a peaceful way to die until I saw a film where someone did it. Breathing in those noxious fumes… it’s… well… violent. A really violent end. He didn’t just slip away peacefully. He choked himself. Suffocated himself. A bit like your dad really. Hanging, choking on fumes. It’s all clogging up the airways isn’t it?”
She’s right. “It’s like they were stopping themselves from saying something they really wanted to say.” My eyes implore her. She nods. “I wonder what it was…”
“Perhaps my dad wanted to say… I don’t know. I can’t begin to imagine what kind of fucked up thinking was behind some of the things he did. But maybe, really, he just needed to say how worthless he felt. I guess he expressed that all the time in his actions. Maybe if he said it, it might have changed his actions.”
“What? How do you mean?”
“Well, when you name something it stops. There’s something about expressing it verbally to another person that changes it. I guess it changes direction. Instead of being circular it breaks out, becomes free. I don’t know. I’m not explaining it very well.”
“I kinda see what you mean. It stops the unconscious cycle if you can say what it is.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Nearly. I don’t think it stops it. I don’t know. I think it makes it conscious and that gives you a choice about the action you want to take…”
“If any.” Lily’s voice makes us both jump.
“Forgot you were there, Lily. Intense conversation!” I smile at Lily. Rebecca crawls to the cream sofa and climbs onto it, curling her legs beneath her. “Come and join us, Lily,” she pats the seat next to her.
Lily rises into a stretch. “I’m going to leave you kids to your intense conversation. It’s time I exercised these old muscles. We’ll speak soon though. Eh?” She moves towards the hall, “no, no, don’t get up. Stay comfortable. Bye bye!”
I hear her feet shuffle down the hall and the click of the front door. We are alone together. I look down at the coffee table then up at Rebecca’s face. “Did your Dad leave a note?”
“No.”
“Do you know why he did it – killed himself?” My heart hammers against my numb chest.
“No and yes. I don’t know for sure. It’s something I’m not prepared to look at yet.” She blinks rapidly.
“Sorry. I guess I was hoping you’d be able to give me some insight. Selfish.” I pick at my thumb.
“S’okay. I understand. That’s what we’ve been doing. Helping each other understand although your dad sounds very different to mine!” She laughs without humour. “Yours sounds capable of love.”
I don’t know what to say to that. Her Dad sounded like a monster. Cold. Power hungry. I feel a bit guilty for having a nice Dad. Didn’t hers have any redeeming features? “Didn’t he have any redeeming features?”

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