Conviction of the Heart
Thanks to all of the incredible reviewers and a very special thanks to KatharineTheShrew!
Jarod remained seated on the bench, overlooking the pier and the pacific ocean, even as the mist gave way to a downpour. Passersby returned to their cars and homes and the businesses littered along the streets nearby and the world became as gray and desolate as he felt inside. Jarod didn't move. He welcomed the rain, hoped it would wash him clean, wash away the pain and all of the stains that remained on both his and Ms. Parker's life.
That seemed impossible. Any happiness, any future seemed out of reach despite everything he'd done, and how hard he'd worked to secure that future, their lives.
She didn't even want to work through the problems and who could blame her? Jarod stood hours later, soaked to the bone. All his tears used up, cried out. There was nothing for him in California. Only rain. Pain. He drove himself to the airport.
Parker awoke abruptly, just as she had every night since the ordeal she'd barely escaped alive. The same nightmare. The same fucking nightmare! Only when she reached for the light, did she realize she was still asleep.
Or am I?
Jarod was not supposed to be seated in the wicker chair near her vanity mirror. He wasn't supposed to gazing at her, tears in his eyes, looking as if he'd aged ten fucking years in only fifteen hours' time. There wasn't supposed to gray in his hair, not that much, or lines on his face, not so deep, not so many.
It took her a few minutes to realize that he was really inside her home, inside her bedroom. The reaction came slowly and with a gasp.
Suddenly, she felt naked in the navy cotton track-pants and white long sleeve shirt, she felt naked in the bathrobe she slept in, even though buried under blankets, even though she lived in the relentless southern California heat.
Terror screwed up her face, she tried to blink him away. That didn't work.
Jarod was still there. He was in her home, several feet away. He was in her fucking bedroom!
She began trembling, and no matter how she tried to stop the shudders, they wouldn't cease.
What the fuck are you doing here! She wanted to scream, tried to scream, couldn't even fucking breath.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Miss Parker. I swear I'm not.."
"W..." She attempted to reach back for the Ice Queen but the Ice Queen had frozen rock solid and had been shattered from the inside out. Parker was a shell of her former self, hollowed out and living in terror. She tried again. "W..what" Those were the broken words she uttered and that was not at all how it had sounded in her mind. "I'm so...sorr..sorry about the baby, I'm so sorry but I couldn't..."
"I'm not here to hurt you. I'm not here to talk about the b..baby, I'm not, I don't blame you for making that choice, I don't blame you and I'm not going to hurt you. I promise."
"I can't leave you. I can't." He whispered. "You need to take a deep breath, Miss Parker. Just breathe." Jarod offered his help.
"I ...no...please.." She was gasping, struggling, hyperventilating. Parker reached for the nightstand and Jarod thought she was going for the gun, which was in his possession, hidden away out of her sight so that it wouldn't further terrify her, but then he realized he'd been wrong with he heard the pill bottle rattling and watched her pop off the lid and pour two pills into her trembling hand.
"No." He tried to stop her but they were in her mouth and a glass of water was suddenly in her hands.
It was the only way she'd been able to meet him. She had scheduled him in during her regularly scheduled dosage, her fear fix. It was why she'd been so insistent on having prior knowledge of when he'd arrived.
She had to swallow down drugs in order to function. This was her life now, this, a two bedroom bungalow with an adjoined kitchen and dining room, a bathroom and a spacious glassed in (the glass was both tinted and shatter proof) back porch overlooking the pacific ocean. The porch could serve as sun room or greenhouse but it's where she painted and sketched, it's where people came to life in the the portraits she drew. She could see out, enjoy the view and the sun shining in on her but no one see in and further more, there was a high tech security system. No one could break in. Except Jarod.
"Okay." He whispered. "I'll give you a minute."
"Can..." No, Parker, damn you, don't ask him. Tell him! "You have to leave. Now. I can't do this."
"I think the sooner.."
"I don't give a damn what you think!"
There you go, girl. Reestablish yourself as a force to be reckoned with.
"I'm worried..about you."
"So am I, Jarod but I'm still here. I survived. I'm making the most of what I was able to salvage of my self." And that wasn't saying much.
"It's hasn't been easy to pick up the pieces."
She shook her head, agreed.
"For me either." He whispered. "That's why you almost killed Broots."
"He opened the door and.."
"It was his house. He only wanted to see if you needed anything, and he knocked first."
"The gun...it went off. I swear." She was trembling again.
"Breathe. Deep breaths." His voice so hypnotic as he spoke. It was the voice that haunted her sleep, woke her in the night. It terrified her.
"You're very pale." Jarod whispered. "Awfully pale. I noticed on the pier this morning and I couldn't get on that plane..I won't get on that plane until I know that you are not hurting yourself. What are you doing to yourself? Cutting? Anorexia? Bulimia? All of the above? You're very thin so.."
"You think I'm sticking my finger down my throat? You think I'd have to do that? A single memory could induce vomiting, Jarod. One thought, one second spent in the past, and I lose my lunch, no finger necessary, so if you came to lecture me.."
"I came here to make sure you are okay."
"I'm not okay. I may never again be okay but I'm here. I'm alive and Freud tells me that that's all that matters. Sometimes I wonder..."
"Are you cutting again?"
"That was college. My father...he...I-I tired of his excuses. I was alone because I pushed everyone away, just like my father pushed me away. He pushed me away and he controlled me at the same time, he controlled my classes and where I studied and who I spoke to. He controlled everything, Jarod. I.." Parker said in angry growl. "I needed to control something, to relieve some pressure. I needed to numb myself, I needed to take all of the pain, all of the emotional pain and put it somewhere else, divert it elsewhere, convert it to physical pain, to something I could handle, to something that would finally heal. It's something I don't expect you or anyone else to understand."
"The physical wounds healed but the emotional ones never have."
"Maybe you do understand."
"That's what I was raised to do, Miss Parker. I can help you." He stood and that single move sent her scooting away towards the other side of the bed.
"I don't need help, the cutting ended during my junior year. I'm not anorexic or bulimic and the pills...are for anxiety."
"Does your doctor...the one who wrote that script...does he know that you're depressed? You leave the house only to teach and only three days a week, your groceries are delivered, you spend all of your time in the safety of your walled in, glass porch."
"It's where I work, it pays the bills."
"You're planning to quit the teaching job. It's too stressful to walk outside isn't it?"
"That's right, push me away too, just like you always have. That's what you're doing. You're fencing all of the danger out and those same fences that keep others out...keep you fenced in. You think you're protecting yourself, you think you're safe. Miss Parker, you live just steps from the ocean. Have you even walked on that beach since you arrived her last year?"
"I don't have time."
"Then I suggest you make time. Do it for yourself. Please. Your fear of leaving the house is making you sick and it's a vicious cycle really, because the sunshine could help you with the depression but the longer you hide in this house, the more withdrawn you'll become, the more depressed you'll become, the sicker you'll feel. You deserve a life. You deserve to live. If you die alone here, I'll never forgive myself."
Parker watched the tears tumble down his cheek.
"Don't make me leave you. All I want to do is ... to help you. That's all I want to do. Please, let me help you. Please. I'm not above begging, Miss Parker, not if means that you live. I need...I need this too, I need some reason, something.." He was sobbing and on his knees. "I have to make this right. For you. For myself."
With difficulty, Parker cleared her clouded mind enough to realize that if Jarod had intended to hurt her again, he would have already done so. And once she'd seem that stunning light of rationale and knew that safety was not an issue, she searched herself further. She clung to the truth, the truth she believed to be true in her heart, that Jarod, under normal circumstances, would have never done anything to hurt her or anyone in any way. He would protect her at all costs. Even now. He needed to reach out as much as she did and knowing Jarod, he'd probably never even mentioned his own welfare, his own torture or the abuses he'd suffered to anyone. No one knew his story, that he'd lost control in the end, lost control of himself. He had snapped and taken lives, had become the evil despite struggling his entire life to never become one of them, to never be Lyle, to never be cruel. He'd become the evil that he'd been faced with, that had been thrust upon him. He'd been drugged, coerced. Just like her. And she knew that he needed to heal, and that perhaps, they could help each other in some small way because they knew how severely they'd each suffered and no one else could understand that kind of suffering.
"There's another bedroom."
His face changed suddenly, features turned from a sorrowful, pleading face, to relief. The tears remained, his gasps for breath continued but relief filled him.
"There will be rules." She blurted abruptly. "You can't come in here like this again. No more sneaking into my bedroom...it's off limits to you. This is my room! I will need my space, some time."
"To adjust. I know. I won't pressure you. The healing process can't be rushed. All I ask right now, is that you take a walk on the beach tomorrow..I don't have to be there. You can go alone. I won't do anything that you don't want me to do but you have to get some sun, some air."
"Jarod, I don't know if I can be your friend, some days I won't even be nice to you. You might want to rethink this."
"No. I want to help you. All I care about is your health. If you want my friendship, if you want anything at all, I'm here and available but like I said, I won't do anything, I won't say or suggest anything and I won't seek anything else from you. I'm only here to help you heal, to encourage you to continue teaching or to do something, to leave this house. I have quite a bit of money, I'll pay the rent.."
"I don't rent. The house is mine, paid for in cash."
"Then I'll pay property taxes, the electric bill, all of the bills. I'll do the shopping, repair the leaking faucet outside and anything else that needs to be done. I'll cook for you and see to it that you're getting the right doses of the appropriate medication. I'll be here to talk, to make sure you're taking care of yourself, that you keep living. Sydney's right, you know. That's what matters, Miss Parker. That's all that matters right now and I know it doesn't hardly seem worth it, but eventually, you'll smile again, and then, soon after that, you're going to even laugh and then, one day, Parker, you're going to finally be free of the past, free of the fears, and even free of me if that's what you want. But that day can't come and you can't do any of those things if you're not alive. Now..." He said, walking towards the door. "If's okay with you. I'll uh, I'll go to my room. If you have second thoughts, though I hope you don't, I will leave. Just tell me."
"I'll tell you."
"Okay, then. Goodnight."
She nodded, watched him leave and didn't lay back down, didn't sleep at all the remainder of the night.
Neither did Jarod. He lay in the bed and listened to the nearby ocean and was just thankful for the opportunity to help a friend.
It was a beginning.