This damn hand is really getting on my nerves, the itchiness is just about driving me bananas, I think as I sit staring off through the french doors. My self-imposed exile has been going on now for over a month and I’m bored. I realized during this time here that I will always have the demons I’ve come to know, but now, now I know that I can talk about it, I can acknowledge it. I didn’t quite work through all that before and boy did I suffer because of it. I allowed myself to hide it all away for fear that my weaknesses would drive people away. What I didn’t realize though was that by doing that, by blaming myself for not saving my sister, for thinking that I somehow deserved my accident, that I couldn’t protect Taylor or be the person I thought I should be for her was really what was pushing them away. I’ll never be fully over some of those things but I’m working on it. Taylor wasn’t the reason I started living again or anything crazy, but she was the reason I was willing to try. She showed me that despite all the crap in my life, someone would still see me as perfect.
I couldn’t see that until I left her, left my life. It was so hard to drive away from my house that morning knowing that I didn’t know if I’d see her again. Was it worth it? Was it worth the risk of losing her, absolutely. Despite all the happiness she brought to my life, the truth was it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to keep me from sliding back into those ruts where I’d question myself, question her desire to be with me, even if it didn’t seem that way on the outside, my mind was a battlefield. I worked real hard to keep up that charade too, until that night when I couldn’t hold it back any longer. In the moments that followed my stunning show of horrible punching skills I was more scared than anything else because a part of me enjoyed letting it out. It was what had scared me all along, since the phone call that my sister was gone. It snowballed from there, picking up every little negative thing, every little difference, every change I had to make, every thing I had to give up or do differently they were all in there just waiting to get out. Didn’t matter in the moment who it hurt or took down with it, it just had to come out.
“Hello,” I say answering on the first ring.
“We should be getting in around noon tomorrow, is there anything you need?” my mother asks on the other end.
“Nah, I’m not incapable mom, just bored. I’ve already got everything stocked for when you guys get here, I really can’t wait to see everyone,” I tell her, and it’s the truth.
We chit-chat a bit and then hang up, leaving me once again to my own devices. Mainly leaving me to try and shove this pencil down my cast as far as I can. I know the risks, but really over four weeks of this and I’m going batshit crazy. With little relief, I decide against continuing, even though in my mind I’m already unbending the hanger to get further in. I wheel out onto the deck, overlooking the ocean and I wish she was here. I’ve wished that same wish for weeks, at different times, not only when I’ve been taking in the gorgeousness around me but also when I was at my lowest. We haven’t spoken the whole time I’ve been here, no texts, no emails, no facetime and I’m not going to lie, it’s been the hardest part. Becca has been spending a lot of time with Taylor though so I hear the hand me down tidbits from Ethan when we talk. At first, I begged him not to tell me about what had been going on, but as time wore on and I missed her more and more I caved.
At my mother’s insistence, everyone and I mean everyone will be arriving tomorrow. She was still angry with my father about playing along with my exile and this was her way of making it known. It will be a week and a half of Turner shenanigans at their finest. The first time we’ve all been on a vacation since we were in high school. This house will more than accommodate us all, it’s got eight bedrooms, a tv room, jacuzzi, private beach, elevator and more. It reminds me of a house we rented with a bunch of family when I was ten, it was the best vacation I’d ever had, all those people under one roof.
When I go back inside I go to get a drink from the fridge but I stop, noticing a little instant photo. There was one there this morning, a picture of her hand, sans ring mind you that had arrived in the mail with a little note just a few days after we got here. This picture is different, though, it’s me, watching the waves crash. My heart nearly explodes when the realization of what this means hits me. She’s here.
Five weeks and we haven’t spoken, no texts, no emails, no letters. Nothing. What if he’s changed his mind? What if he hasn’t really changed at all and just has everyone fooled? I can’t see Helen insisting that we take a family vacation if he hadn’t but inside I’m so freaking nervous that I can’t help but think the worst. When I walked into his house, our house it was the loneliest I’d ever felt. The warmth of everything Elliot was somehow drained from it. I walked around aimlessly for hours not sure what to do with myself before I found his chicken scratch letter and the box. I knew he’d been hiding something for a long time, he kept dashing to the garage and almost choked Ethan once when he asked if he could take the bike for a ride. Well, here it was, what he’d been guarding out there.
The robins egg blue box, a letter and a ridiculously bad selfie that made me chuckle. His black eye and stitched up face, cast on his right hand, they were all present and accounted for in it. Without a thought I found myself tracing his face with my fingertip as I absently stared at the box. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore I read it and cried. Then I spent the next few days being angry with him. Angry that he could just up and leave and not even consider what that would do to me. Angry that he felt so ashamed of himself, angry that his anger won out finally. Then I did it. I took a picture of my hand, sans ring, and wrote him a little note, two can play this game I thought as I sealed the envelope and drove to his parent’s house and begged Helen to send it if she wouldn’t give me the address.
“Taylor, he asked us not to do this…” she had started.
“You know as well as I do that he can be an idiot. Please, I could easily text him, but this, he started this and I need to, I need him to get this…” I begged.
With a hug, she swiped the letter out of my hand and then began to tell me the details of our “family” trip.
“A week and a half, we are all going. Everyone. Everett decided to play into this little retreat and well I didn’t like it, but now I see it for what it could be. I haven’t had a family vacation with all of my children in a very long time and now, well I’m going to have one,” she said boldly.
“Can you at least give me details on what to pack?” i asked with a chuckle at her sudden attitude.
“Pack for fun in the sun,” was all she offered.
The next few weeks dragged on and on, sure Becca and Jenna were trying to keep me busy by going shopping for this huge vacation but it was his voice I missed the most. They couldn’t fill that void but they sure did try. I was surprised to come home three weeks in and find Everett on our porch. He smiled when I approached, and I took that to be a good sign.
“Hey stranger,” I said unlocking the door, “Come in.”
“I won’t take up too much of your time sweetie, but I wanted to talk to you for a minute,” he said following me through the house to the kitchen.
“No worries, I don’t think your daughter in laws have anything planned for me tonight. I swear Ethan and Mark probably feel like bachelors,” I joked.
“I’m sure…” he chuckled.
“So what’s up, is he okay?” I asked unable to stop myself.
“He is. That’s what I wanted to talk about actually. I know he’d probably be very angry with me if he knew I was here but Taylor, it’s incredible. I’ve watched him suffer for so long, watched him try to push us all away, since before he got hurt… since Emma. These last few weeks, though, between pining for you and his sessions with Joe, my son, the Elliot I’ve missed for so long has finally started to show up. I’ve never seen him as angry or hurt as I have in these weeks, but honestly, I think it was exactly what he needed to really get through all of the bad he’s been dealt. I know he played a good role over the last twelve years or so but that was exactly what it was a role. It wasn’t the same. I don’t’ even think he realized he was doing it after a while,” he says excitedly.
“I’m glad he is working through it, really I am but is it something that is going to happen every few years? Are we going to have to put everything on hold while he gets his act together? I don’t want to live like that…” I said before I knew how hurtful it would sound.
“Taylor, I know that you have reservations… that you have legitimate concerns. I’m here though to tell you, he’s trying. He’s trying to find a way to deal with those frustrations and that anger when it happens as opposed to just pushing it down. I got to witness first hand how his previous coping mechanisms worked, and then during the first week we were there I saw him at war with himself. I watched him break down that barrier and get frustrated and then instead of figuring a way around it, confront it head on. It seemed to get easier for him as the days went on to just voice his frustrations, his fears. It was different, he was different, Taylor,” Everett says with a look of surprise.
“Is it going to be such a difference that he isn’t the man I love, though?” I ask, not quite sure what to say.
“I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Remember the day you got him with whipped cream? How alive he was that day? That Taylor, that was my son, not the brooding miserable person we’ve been treated to on most days… When he first met you, I knew, maybe a few days after because he couldn’t stop smiling, for the first time in years. You know I think about how hard his life must have been all these years living in that constant conflict, never really being able to express what he was feeling, can you imagine?” he asks, catching me off guard.
“Actually I can. I lived that way with Nathan… I knew what to say and how to act to keep the peace until one day I just gave up. By then though it was too late, and you know the rest,” I answer honestly.
“I didn’t mean to bring that up…” he says his eyes finding a speck on the floor.
“No worries, I, for the most part, can talk about it with no issue, it’s other things that trigger the issues now,” I say, patting his arm.
We sit in silence for a few minutes before his phone rings and I can hear Helen on the other end of the line. The way his lips turned into a smile at seeing her face pop onto the screen is cute and as I watch him animatedly trying to explain why he isn’t home yet I have to laugh. When he hangs up he just shrugs his shoulders and smiles.
“Sounds like you need to get home, I know she hasn’t been too happy with you lately,” I joke as I walk him to the door.
Pulling me into a side hug, he sighs, “I know. I just don’t think she knew what else to do with him and having him so far away, for so long when he was so up in the air scared the daylights out of her, you know?”
“I think that’s part of it, but I also think that she’s mad you didn’t even ask her for her opinion too,” I offer with a smile, looking up at him.
“Because I knew what it would be sweetie, sometimes you just have to go with your gut,” he says squeezing me tighter.
I watch him leave, waving as he pulls away and I really think about the things he said. Elliot must have told him that we haven’t had any contact at all because he wouldn’t have stopped otherwise. As the night goes on the more I find that I’m trying to see what they see for the first time, not just my version of Elliot. To me, he has never been any different but to them, he was.