CHAPTER 2 Watch Over You
Rebecca Noonan was bored stiff. She realized how lucky she was to be able to visit her grandparents but seven weeks on a remote farm in Vermont was enough to drive her mad. There was no question that this beat out her home life back in Lincoln but she missed her best friend terribly. Rebecca had met Natalie when she was nine years old on the elementary school playground. Even in grade three Rebecca was beautiful with long blonde hair and wondrous eyes the color of a summer sky, but she was quiet and withdrawn and didn’t make friends very easily. Natalie had lost her parents in a car accident and had come to live with her Aunt and cousin in Lincoln. Rebecca was dealing with her own demons and the pair became fast friends. She remembered it like it was yesterday Natalie with her sassy dark curls marching up and introducing herself as she flipped through a book. The other kids were put off by Rebecca and barely bothered with her but that didn’t discourage Natalie. She was determined that they were going to be friends.
Natalie held out a bag of cookies, “You can have one of my cookies; my Aunt baked them at her diner.”
Timidly Rebecca reached in and took a cookie from the plastic bag. She immediately felt drawn in by Natalie’s warm and outgoing personality.
“You have a huge bruise on your arm,” Natalie remarked.
“I fell,” Rebecca lied.
“I fall a lot too. My dad used to say that I was an accident waiting to happen.”
At this Rebecca’s eyes filled with tears. Natalie didn’t ask why, she just sat there on the bench quietly sharing her cookies.
Natalie quickly took Rebecca under her wing even though it would seem it should be the other way around. Natalie was the one who was new to town and on top of that she’d just lost her parents; but for some reason she decided that Rebecca needed her and she was right.
Rebecca lived in a small home a couple of blocks from the school. She had never brought other children home nor had birthday parties. Her father was a raging alcoholic who got very mean when he drank and her mother fell all over herself making excuses for him. There were holes in the wall from his fits of rage and it was not unusual to go months without power because her father would rather gamble then pay the bills.
Rebecca was the younger of the two siblings. Her sister Tara had run away from home at fifteen. She sent Rebecca letters but when her father found out there was hell to pay. He called her sister a good for nothing slut and forbid Rebecca any contact with her. Rebecca missed her sister terribly and refused to believe any of the horrible things her father said about her. She recalled many nights when her father was on a drunken rampage Tara would come to her room and they would lie face to face with their arms wrapped around each other. Her sister would tell her how special she was and that she had to be strong and stay out of her father’s way. She would hold her hand and stroke her hair until Rebecca drifted off to sleep. She cried every night for her sister. She didn’t blame her for leaving she just wanted to know that she was okay.
Her sister had always talked about how she was going to be a Doctor someday. Rebecca hoped that it would happen for her. When she was four Tara had asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said ‘a Barbie Princess’. Tara kissed her forehead and told her that was the prefect thing to be.
Her sister had taught her to pray. She didn’t pray like other kids did, on their knees with their hands clasped in front of them, because if her father caught her praying he would have a fit. He believed that religion was for weaklings and misfits. So in the dark, with her eyes closed tightly under the covers she prayed. She prayed for the same thing every night, for her father to leave and for her sister to come back.
Rebecca didn’t hate her mother, she just pitied her. She had no identity, no self-worth. Her husband had told her for so many years that she was a piece of trash that she believed it. When Rebecca started grade three she was pretty much fending for herself. Her mother was so busy trying to cater to her fathers every whim that Rebecca became nearly invisible. She had taken a growth spurt over the summer and when the school year rolled around she only had one pair of pants that fit. She wore them day after day even after pleading with her Mom for new clothes.
One day after school she walked into the middle of a heated argument between her parents. Her father had come home early from work to find her mother in tears reading a letter from Tara. Her father was furious; when Rebecca walked in he grabbed her by the arm and made her watch as the letter burned. He squeezed her arm so tight Rebecca was terrified. She peed in her pants. She was sent upstairs with no dinner and told not to leave her room. Her only pair of pants was soaked in pee and she couldn’t even leave her room to rinse them out.
Her mother never came to check on her, to comfort her and tell everything would fine; she never did.
Long after her Dad had passed out from the rum she tiptoed quietly downstairs to the laundry room and scrubbed her pants till her knuckles were raw then made her way back upstairs and hung them to dry out her bedroom window. It was the very next day, sitting alone on a playground bench with a bruise on her arm wearing pee stained pants that Natalie Whitney offered to be her friend
Rebecca rolled over and opened one eye. Sure enough it was light outside. She was tempted to put the covers over her head and go back to sleep but as soon as she heard Gramps get up she decided she might as well begin the day. She would help him feed the chickens and clean out the coops before Nan made breakfast. As terribly as she missed Natalie it was nice to feel part of a real family.
She met Gramps in the hallway and though he mumbled his usual morning greeting he seemed uneasy and appeared not to have slept much. She followed him into the kitchen where she expected Nan to be waiting. Nan came from the living room appearing as ill at ease and disheveled as her Gramps. Her Nan asked her to sit down and she had the frightening feeling that someone had just pulled her stomach out her throat.
“There’s someone here to see you,” her Nan said, squeezing her hand tight.
Before she had a chance to speculate she walked in. She was as radiant as she’d always been. Her golden hair was long and cascaded in loose curls down the small of her back. Her almond shaped eyes, dark and exotic belonged to a woman, not the girl she called ‘sister’. Rebecca was scared to move for fear that she would disappear like so many times in her dreams. Tara was the first to step forward, she wrapped her arms around her little sister and dissolved into tears. Her grandparents wiping away their own tears left the girls alone.
“Becca you are so beautiful.” Tara pulled away to look at her and smiled through her tears.
“I know what you must think of me Becca, leaving you behind the way I did…..”
Rebecca interrupted, “I never blamed you, I just prayed that you were alright.”
They sat alone at the kitchen table with their fingers laced together and talked for hours.
Tara lived in Boston where she would be attending Harvard Medical School on a full scholarship in the fall. She’d always been bright and she knew that hard work would be her only ticket out of the poverty and abuse she’d suffered much of her young life. When she was fifteen she saved her babysitting money and took the bus to Boston. She was pretty and always appeared to be much older than she was so she had no problem finding waitress jobs. When the school year began she convinced the elderly lady that owned the rooming house where she lived to become her legal guardian so that she could enroll in high school. She worked hard in school and waitressed nights and weekends. She graduated high school with honors and was the Valedictorian of her senior class. She attended four years of University taking advantage of scholarships, bursaries and every other opportunity that was available to her. One could only envy the svelte figure she managed to keep by existing on little other then Kraft dinner and hot dogs. She graduated at the top of her class with a Doctrine of Science and was anxious to begin Medical School in the fall. Her desire was to be a surgeon and anyone who knew her had no doubts that that would happen.
“I came back to see you Becca, a month after I ran away. Dad threatened me within an inch of my life. He wouldn’t have me influencing ‘the good daughter’.
Tara continued, “I’ve been in contact with Nan and Grandpa for awhile now. They worked really hard to convince Mom to let you come here. She doesn’t know I’m here. She would never have let you come.”
Rebecca sighed, “No matter what he says to her Tara she knows deep down it isn’t true. She loves you.”
“Becca.., “she began, “Mom isn’t capable of loving anyone because she doesn’t love herself. Nan and Gramps have offered to help for years but she keeps making the same old excuses for him.”
Rebecca knew all too well. ‘Daddy’s tired, daddy doesn’t feel well, and he works so hard, he’s worried about money”
“They never knew how bad it was for us. Now we are going to help you, you never have to go back there.” Tara promised.
Rebecca pulled away from Tara and stood up, “I have to go back. I’m all Mom has.”
“You are not responsible for her Becca.” Tara argued, “She is supposed to be responsible for you but she failed you the moment she put you in the same room as that vicious drunk.”
“I have friends there Tara, a life…..” Rebecca’s voice trailed off.
Tara pulled her close and soothed her the way she did when they were little. “You don’t have to decide this instant Becca but please think about it.”