Wow everyone, I'm so sorry for taking so long to get this up! It feels like I haven't written anything in forever! I feel so ashamed, but my ACTs are done and school is ending soon so I think I'm back! I hope you guys won't be too mad.
Oh, and one last thing: I'm also sorry if I left any comments on any of your stories here at fanfiction and they've come up as only one letter or word. I have no idea why that's been happening. My computer has been acting up (yet another reason why I've been gone for a while), but hopefully it will be okay now. Sorry once more, and I hope you like chapter five!
Fallen Angels: Part Five
I once regretted the one thing that taught me the most about myself.
It all happened the day that Alison told me that she was pregnant. On the outside I was happy and jumped for joy along with her. However, when I laid next to her in bed at night, listening to her breathing interrupt the room's dark silence, I couldn't help but be afraid. I did not want that baby. Not when I didn't love its mother.
I can't lie; I did love her, but not as much as Lily. There was no way that I would love anyone as much as I loved Lily. But Lily had moved on-many times, in fact. I finally decided that it was time to give up on her and just look forward to the rest of my life. I tried to push Lily out of my dreams at night as best as I could. I tried, but my attempts turned more and more futile until I eventually stopped altogether. The days went by slowly until Alison finally went to the emergency room. I remained with her until the baby was completely out. After comforting her for a little while, I ran to pick up our son.
"Why is mommy so tired?" he asked as I led him out of his mother's room by his little hand. I smiled as I looked at him in his little white sweater with a picture of a train sewed into it. His jet black hair had recently been cut and shaped nicely.
"Because she had a baby, Dan. That's how you were born, too."
"How?" I couldn't help but laugh in delight at his big, questioning brown eyes. Dan was, and always will be, an intelligent child. He asked questions right from the beginning. I respected my son too much to give him the old stork lie.
"You'll understand one day, son." I brought him to the room where they kept the babies. There were a few small carts with plastic trays. I lifted my son up and put him on my shoulder. I looked through the shiny glass and pointed a finger once I found what I was looking for. "Dan, that's your new baby sister. Her name is Jenny."
Her staring eyes reminded me of two blueberries as they tried to figure out who the two strangers were looking inside at her. She was wrapped in a pink baby blanket, her tiny hands resting by her sides. Dan smiled widely, the few tiny teeth he had showing. He brought up a little chubby hand and waved it. Jenny stuck her tongue out.
Most siblings hate new babies at first for coming into the family and usurping their territory, but Dan loved his sister right away. In Jenny he found a playmate, and I found a pain in the middle of the night whenever she cried. I found a pain when her mother bought too much clothes for her and ran up the credit card bills. I found a pain when I held her on my lap and cradled her in my arms, thinking only about how she wasn't the child of Lily and me.
Jenny crawled early, only because Dan walked and she wanted to walk along with him. For a while she was satisfied with crawling but eventually she became frustrated when she couldn't run with Dan around the loft. Even though Dan got yelled at for jumping on couches and playing tag with himself, Jenny wanted to follow anything he did.
"That's children, Rufus," Alison said harshly to me at dinner one night. "All younger kids want to do everything the older ones do." She played with the teabag in her cup of steaming water. "Don't be overanalyzing her every move."
I couldn't help myself. As much as I kept thinking about whether I went with right mother, I loved my daughter. She was so young and vulnerable. I vowed to care for her the way that I cared for Dan. Jenny would get everything that I could give her, safety or anything else. And for a good parent-and as I've learned a not-so-good parent- that's a lot to give.
As Jenny grew, so did the closeness of our family. Alison went on small trips for her art displays but always came home happy. Whenever she was gone, there was not a day that went by without one of the kids calling her. They loved her art too, and always stopped by the Bedford Avenue Gallery that I opened up five years after Jenny was born. Jenny learned a lot from her brother, but there was one thing that she learned early on that I still don't know where she learned it from. Jenny knew how to be two people in one. At home she would be the nice little girl I knew who wanted ketchup on her macaroni and cheese. She would laugh with Dan and burst into his room and play camping with his football sheets. When she came home from first and second grade, though, I would see another side to her, one that I never knew existed until then.
For instance, Dan always let Jenny play with him and his friends whenever his friends came over to play. He had a few friends when he was little, ones who never withstood the test of time. Sometimes it was obvious that Dan didn't want her to join them, but he still allowed her to without argument. When Jenny had friends over as she got older, she told Dan not to bother her at all. If ever he came in her room when her friends were there, she often became annoyed and spoke to him in a tone that made him look like anything but a human being. I told her to stop, but Alison warned me not to be forceful.
"She's just in that stage where she's making friends and thinks her family will ruin her chances at being popular. Don't worry about it, Rufus. Jenny will be alright."
As I watched her talk to Dan more and more like that when her friends came over and listened to her laugh along when some of them laughed at kids in her class, I could only hope that Alison was right. There was one day, though, where I could no longer stand by and be silent. Jenny came home from second grade and asked for some cold lemonade.
"How was your day?" I asked as I took the pitcher out of the fridge. "Did anything interesting happen?"
"Sasha fell into a mud puddle today," she said about a girl in her class. "We all laughed." I put the pitcher down and looked at her in disbelief.
"You laughed at her?" I asked. Jenny averted my eyes from mine. "Jenny, you know that was mean of you. What if you fell and everyone laughed at you? Would you like it?" She was quiet for a minute before whispering no. "Exactly. So don't you do it to other people."
"But Beth and the other girls all did it too!" Jenny said, as if that redeemed her. I shook my head.
"I don't care what the other girls do, Jenny. You are my daughter and my daughter will not be mean to other people." Jenny sighed exasperatedly, the way her mother did whenever she was angry at me for one reason or another. I got down and looked her straight in the eyes to show her that I meant business. "Promise me that you won't do that again." She looked down for a minute again before nodding slowly. I could tell that she was feeling bad.
"I won't, daddy."
That was the last I heard of any cruel intentions for a while. Jenny spoke to Dan normally again, even in the presence of her friends. That second person was buried for a long time before being resurrected. I had heard of the cruelty of today's generation of kids, and I did not want that to be my daughter.
For Jenny's seventh birthday, Alison and I bought her a sewing machine. She was into knitting at the time and was gaining a new love of putting fabric together. When Jenny opened the sewing machine, she nearly died of happiness.
"Thank you mom and dad! Thank you so much!"
Ever since that birthday she studied fashion magazines and took notice of what every other girl was wearing and sewed her own similar creations. I noticed that whenever Jenny seemed stressed out over school or something that had happened to her, she retired to her sewing machine. I started to be able to tell whenever she had a bad day. She would walk in with a heavy backpack and a sad dog expression on her face. I would smile.
"Going to the sweatshop?" I'd ask her. At this she would smile back at me.
"You know it." Then she would go to her room and shut the door. Not only was sewing her comfort, but her ability to make clothes was a huge talent that I complimented her on many times. I always tried to support her in everything good that she did.
"You could be a fashion designer one day," I suggested to her one day. "Like Coco Chanel or Eleanor Waldorf." Jenny laughed.
"Dad, since when do you know designers?"
"Oh I don't know, ever since I had to buy your mother expensive things for her birthday when we were going out," I replied. My daughter smiled, then her smile became a line of question.
"Dad, how come we don't ever get designer stuff?"
"You know we can't afford that, Jenny." I didn't want to have the embarrassing "why we aren't that rich" conversation, but it seemed like there was no getting around it. "Why? Are your friends all getting designer things?"
"No. It's just that I look in these magazines at this stuff, and I always ask mom for some of it for my birthday or Christmas and you guys never get me any of it. I thought maybe you just didn't like it."
"That's not it. It's just that not all of us have extra money to spend on frivolous things like that." She nodded, but I could tell that she looked a little downhearted. I felt sad, because I wanted to badly for her to have everything, and I couldn't get it for her. I tried to cheer her up. "Besides, why would we need designer clothes when we have the best clothing maker in the world right under this roof?" Jenny smiled cheerfully, and I knew my job was done.
When Jenny was in sixth grade, she came home and asked me an important question. Well, one that was important to her.
"Dad, I just got invited to this party on Saturday night. Can I go?" she asked me in a sweetened voice. Dan, who sat at the table with his mother, sighed.
"Yeah, why not go and spend a few hours with those lovable people who have to have other people over telling them they're great just to convince themselves that they're great?" Dan asked sarcastically. Jenny turned to him.
"For your information," she said matter-of-factly, "those people happen to be my friends and they personally invited me." She looked back at me brightly. "So can I go, can I?"
"What kind of people are going to be there?" I asked. I remember putting a hand on my chin as Alison looked at me with bulging eyes.
"Just Beth and some more of my friends. And her friends."
"What about them?"
"Will there be boys there?"
"Probably…" I looked at her austerely.
"Dad, I'll be fine! I promise that I'm not going to do anything!"
"I know that you won't do anything, but…" I sighed and looked at my wife for help. "What do you think, Alison?" Jenny turned to her mother hopefully.
"I think it would be fine," Alison replied. Jenny pumped her fists in joy, another thing she had learned from her brother. I looked at Alison with a raised eyebrow.
"You don't think she's a little too young to be partying?"
"Oh Rufus, it's not going to be anything huge. I went to parties at her age and it was nothing like our high school or college parties."
"Mom, you don't really get it," Dan chirped in. "Things are a little different now." Jenny sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Come on, Dan! Can't you be on my side for once?!"
"Your brother's only looking out for you," I said. "I don't know if this is such a good idea."
"Dad! It's only a party! I'll be fine! Come on, mom said it was alright!" I stared as she looked at me pleadingly.
"Alright, alright." I finally gave in, and it didn't feel too good. Jenny screeched happily and ran over to give me a hug.
"Thanks dad! You're the best!" Then she turned and ran to her room. "I'm going to go make something I can wear right now!" she called out behind her shoulder. Then she closed the door. Dan shook his head and smiled wryly.
"I can't wait to see how this ends up," he said. Alison looked at him.
"Maybe you should be going to this parties too, Dan. Make an effort to get involved with some people. You are graduating soon and you have no memories of your last few years."
"I read a few incredible books that I'll remember for a lifetime," Dan said. "I'd rather do that then go to a party with a bunch of fakes and bitches."
I went to bed that night, thinking about what Dan had said. I knew that Jenny didn't feel that way. When she came home from that party, she was extremely happy. For the rest of her sixth grade year and all through summer, Alison and I sat through many of Jenny's stories.
"Susan stole Tarnisha's boyfriend and Tarnisha was crying all day."
"You wouldn't believe it! Someone walked in on Rose throwing up in the bathroom! Everyone thinks that's the reason why she's so thin!"
I never thought that Jenny followed that crowd too much-until I discovered a pack of cigarettes in her open backpack one day. I was so enraged that I just stormed to my room and told Alison when I was finally ready to.
"Don't be so hard on her," Alison said.
"Alison, our daughter has taken up smoking."
"I'm sure she isn't addicted or anything. It was probably just an experiment."
"That doesn't make it right."
"I know, but just don't be too harsh, okay?"
When I approached Jenny with the cancer sticks, she said she only tried one in front of the other girls and that she didn't like it. I checked the box and saw that only one was missing indeed.
"Did they force you to try it?" I asked her. She put a hand on my arm and looked at me assuredly.
"Don't worry, dad. I may be going to a lot of parties and hanging out with different people, but I'm still the same old Jenny, alright?" I smiled a little, thinking about how her personality had not changed even though the people she hung out with had.
"I know," I replied. "I know."
I left her room and crushed the box of cigarettes under my shoe before tossing them into the garbage. Dan never found out about the whole ordeal, and I don't plan on ever telling him. Eventually things happened and Jenny broke off with those friends of hers. I don't remember the full story, but I guess one of them got alcohol poisoning in the summer before Jenny entered seventh grade. Then Jenny went back to being friends with a group who didn't party as hard, and she became her normal self again. Her actions confused me so much.
"It's just a faze," Alison said. "It's only a faze."
Before I knew it, Jenny was in seventh grade and Dan was a freshman in high school. Alison and I had raised enough money to send Dan to a private all-boys school on the Upper East Side of New York called St. Jude's. It was the brother school of a private all-girls school named Constance Billard. Dan had done so well in school and we didn't want to send him to one of the average high schools that were close by. We searched for anything better and came across St. Jude's. It was known for being an esteemed school and we all felt that Dan could accomplish much there.
"Does this mean that I get to go to Constance Billard?" Jenny asked when she heard about her brother's new school.
"If you can keep your grades up and we can keep our income at this level, then probably," I said. Jenny was so shocked that she couldn't even gasp. She jumped up and down excitedly and began rattling off words.
"Oh my God, they're so rich and so cool and so stylish and so…cool there! They probably have all this expensive stuff and…oh my God!" She laughed a little and hopped to her room. Dan put on a fake look of confusion.
"Um, excuse me, but is she the one really going or me?" he asked sarcastically.
As soon as Dan came home from his first day of high school, he learned that the world of the Upper East Side was so much different than his own. For reasons I couldn't explain to him, I already knew that. Jenny seemed to know that too, except that she was anticipating joining that world instead of shying from it. She began to sew more clothes than usual.
"I wonder if this looks good enough," Jenny asked one day, holding up a pink beret that she made at the dinner table one night. I laughed.
"You know, you're not going there for another two years," I reminded her.
"I know, but I have to be prepared! Those people are always on top of things!"
For the longest time I wondered how she knew anything about "those people." Dan revealed it to me one day: there was a website that tracked every move of those Upper East Side teenagers. I even saw it myself one day. All I can say is that I don't know why it hasn't been shut down. It posts is lies and more lies, something that I just can't take. When I first laid eyes on that screen, I wondered what kind of parents would let their kids get away with such things. I wondered how they could be so uninvolved in their children's lives that they didn't know about this website. Then I saw Lily's daughter's name on there and became even more disgusted at the lack of parenting that was going on.
I was even thinking about going to the St. Jude's headmaster and reporting that website.
"Don't cause a scene," Alison cautioned. "We're the outsiders coming in to their world, and to just suddenly start things wouldn't be good. Besides, I think that if those teenagers have handled it all before, they can continue to do it. They're rich, Rufus; let them fight their own battles and let us fight ours."
As Dan became increasingly unpopular at St. Jude's and as I listened to Jenny's excited hopes, I couldn't help but think that our battles would somehow involve them and theirs would involve us.
The day that Jenny was waiting for finally came true: she set foot in the gigantic courtyard outside of Constance Billard. As I watched her go I was filled with sadness. The last of my children was off to high school with nothing but her preteen hopes and dreams ahead of her waiting to be achieved. Alison wasn't with me to see her off; she had gone to Hudson to work on her art. She said she needed some time.
"Jenny?" I said to my daughter before she got out of the car. She looked at me, and she looked a little nervous. The moment she had dreamed of for two years had arrived, and she seemed to be more than a little anxious.
"Yes dad?" I smiled at her warmly.
"I want to let you know that I love you and that I'm very proud of you. You'll be absolutely fine here." She looked normal and happy again, the way she always did whenever I told her how I felt about her.
"Thanks dad. I love you too."
She leaned over and gave me one last hug before leaving. I watched her go, both excited and scared for her. Dan had managed in the Upper East Side, and I only hoped that Jenny would as well. I felt that while I didn't have the money like the rest of those kids' parents did, I did have two great kids, including a kindhearted daughter.
When Jenny walked away and into that school, everything normal in my life walked away with her. Dan started dating Lily's daughter Serena, something that was more ironic to me then I let on. Jenny was nearly raped by Chuck Bass, the son of a certain billionaire, at a party. Although Jenny bounced back quickly, it scared the hell out of me to think what would have happened had Dan not come to her rescue.
The worst thing that happened was finding out that Alison had cheated on me with a man named Alex. When I found out, it pierced my heart like a million knives, even though I had already suspected it when she didn't return home after the summer or early fall. Dan certainly knew and I personally think that he hid behind his pain. Jenny, however, was crushed. She wouldn't tell me that she was, but I could tell in her face. Her eyes looked sadder and not the same after she found out that her mother had abandoned her, her brother, and her father.
"I'm going to the sweatshop," she would say after dinner a lot of the time. She would remain in her room for hours desperately trying to make things that could look as fancy as what Serena Van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf wore. I never stopped her.
Jenny even tried to make things better by going to Hudson and bringing Alison home. She and I talked things over, and even insulted each other. I couldn't stop throwing the cheating in her face, and she threw Lily in mine. Lily and I had been seeing each other and talking to each other a lot, unknown to the kids. But, after Alison and I got past that, things seemed to be a little better. Jenny's plan almost worked-until I found out that Alison was still talking to Alex. Alison blamed me about Lily again, who no matter how hard I tried I could not stray from. We realized that getting back together was never going to work. When Alison left for good (on Christmas), I was very sad and relieved. On one hand she was the mother of my children and the woman I used to love. On the other hand, I was glad that I could finally stop living a lie. When she left I turned and looked at my two kids, wondering how I was going to make it as a single dad. How was I going to take care of them all by myself?
Dan didn't seem surprised at all; Jenny looked devastated.
As for Alison's accusations about Lily, I'm not going to get into them. My personal life is long and complicated, and it would make me feel emotional and wishy-washy to look back on what took place between us before she became engaged to Bart Bass. I'll just say that she was the reason why Alison felt she was excused from her sin, and I finally just let her believe what she thought.
The worst thing happened when Alison left: Jenny began to change again, and I didn't even recognize her. I used to be able to tell what she was thinking and say the right things to her. After Alison left, Jenny talked and looked at me as if I was an embarrassment. Ever since she began going to Constance she changed a little. She came home with dresses and jackets that looked far out of her price range, and she even missed an art show that Alison hosted while she was here. But after Alison left, it got worse. Jenny's grades started to drop and she began hanging out with the richest and, I suppose, the most popular girls at Constance. She checked Gossip Girl about every twenty minutes. She sold her sewing machine so that she could buy expensive clothes. When I walked into her room and saw that missing from her shelf, it nearly drove me to tears.
The worst moment of all was on her birthday when I discovered that she stole a dress.
"It's what I have to do, dad! Or else I'll have no friends!" she exclaimed teary-eyed when I confronted her about it. I couldn't imagine what kind of friends would drive a person to steal in order to be able to hang out with them. Her voice became strained when she yelled at me, just like Alison. She reminded me of her mother so much, and I often thought about how her mother's advice may have encouraged her behavior.
Dan was a busy boy but I had a chance to sit down and talk with him at dinner one night when Jenny was out again.
"I just don't understand," I said to him. "When I look at Jenny I don't see my daughter anymore. I see this distant, materialistic…"
"Bitch?" Dan suggested. As much as it pained me to, I nodded in agreement. "Dad, I hate admitting it as much as you do, but Jenny must be like that a little bit if she's acting this way. I tried to get her away from that group too, but she didn't listen. You can't help the person that she chooses to be."
I was still lost. I knew that as much as Jenny said that being in that crowd would make her happy, I could tell that she wasn't. I didn't know what she wanted. I just knew what I wanted ever since she was born: to make her happy. I hadn't been happy in my marriage to Alison and I only wanted to raise Jenny so that things would be different for her. I felt like I had given her everything I could, and yet it still wasn't enough. Ever since Alison left Jenny had turned into the exact opposite of what I wanted her to be. I blamed the way she acted on myself because I didn't know what to do in response. I thought back to how I criticized the parents of those children on the Gossip Girl website. Then I thought about Jenny and I felt like lying down and dying.
I was so desperate that I even went to Lily and asked her what I could do.
"She'll come back to you," Lily assured. "It just may take a little time." But I didn't want to wait. I wanted everything to be back to normal right at that minute. But I knew Lily was right, despite my wishes. It would take time.
Jenny had even begun to date someone. His name was Asher, and I thought he was nice but shady ever since I first met him. Jenny walked out on me one night to go to a party with him, and when she came back home she looked absolutely shattered.
"Dad, do you think I could join you?" she asked as she looked at Dan and I playing Scrabble. I said that she could. She sat down beside me and, after looking at me sadly, threw her arms around me and cried heavily.
"I'm so sorry, dad. I'm sorry for everything…"
As I held her and as Dan looked on, I realized that she wasn't a bad kid, and that I wasn't a bad father. We were just new to two different worlds, the crazy Upper East Side and the hectic world of single parents. We both were confused and willing to do anything to make our situations work out alright. And just like with any other path we may take in life, mistakes can be made. But they can also be forgiven.
"I'm so, so sorry…"
What a difference time makes.
END OF PART V