Title: Come Home
Story: The Gemini Occurrence
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Flavor(s): Blueberry Yogurt #11: out of my hands; Sour Apple #11: such a pity; White Chocolate #19: rage
Word Count: 2,095
Summary: 2018; Evette needs to make amends for her mistakes in one of two ways.
Notes: Evette Kessler, Laurence Kessler.
Evette had never wanted to be an empty nester. Genevieve was always her pride and joy, and to have her married off at 18 to a stranger is a low blow; only Laurence would do something so underhanded, something so vile just to watch her squirm. The house is a prison now, without Genevieve to keep her company, and Evette paces the floor during the day, sure she’s wearing down the wood.
She misses her daughter, desperately, and can’t imagine a life without her. She doesn’t trust Jude Downing, her own husband, or anyone else who thinks Genevieve’s marriage is a good thing. Evette had screamed that she was just a child, that she barely knew her husband, but no one had listened. No one had listened to her, including Genevieve. That naive little girl danced around in her wedding dress, spinning in circles to make the skirt billow up, and only said, Oh, mama, he’s so handsome. I’m so beautiful. We’re going to make a lovely couple.
Evette couldn’t disagree, of course. She supposed Jude was lucky he was so handsome, so rich, because if he hadn’t had any of those desirable qualities on his side, everyone else would have seen things the way she did. They would have seen him as a creep, a pervert, a disgusting person for seeking the attention of a 15 year old girl when he was 25. And now, with Genevieve just past her 18th birthday, Jude still ten years her senior at 28, Evette doesn’t find it any less repulsive.
Genevieve is innocent. She is too pure for a man like him. Already, she hears him talking about children, a family. Her daughter is just a child herself, never given a chance to attempt life on her own, and the thought of her having a baby? It terrifies Evette. It terrifies her that Genevieve may turn out just like she did, a prisoner in her own home, shackled to a man she doesn’t trust because he has money, and power, and can take away the only thing she’s come to love in the world.
Laurence does not, nor will he ever, care about her feelings on the matter. In his mind, all he’s executed is an exchange of property. Genevieve, his daughter, his flesh and blood, is little more than a pawn in the game he considers his life.
It makes Evette sick. It makes her sick, so she takes her pills and she takes more, until she’s catatonic on the couch with a sticky glass of wine dangling languidly from her hand. She leaves the lights off in the house so she doesn’t have to look at her own reflection, at the empty bedroom Genevieve used to sleep in.
Evette feels more like she’s grieving a physical loss than having lost a child to marriage. Genevieve is only a phone call away, but she feels as if she has lost her for good. One day, she’ll be forgotten entirely, Evette thinks. Genevieve will move away with Jude, and maybe they will have a child, and she’ll see her daughter and grandchild once a year, on Christmas. She’ll be a footnote in her own daughter’s life, if she isn’t already, and if Genevieve doesn’t care about her any longer, then no one does.
Genevieve was all Evette ever had in the world. Genevieve was it; she was everything.
Without her, Evette isn’t sure where she stands. The world had ended for her, the moment Genevieve walked out the door.
“You can’t keep doing this!” Laurence shouts, ripping the wine glass from her hand and smashing it on the floor. The red wine goes everywhere, splattering the wall like blood, beading its way down to the baseboard. Evette imagines it’s her blood; the image is satisfying, and she watches the wine instead of her husband. “It’s pathetic, Evette! Get off your invalid ass and do something with yourself!”
It’s only too easy to ignore him now that she doesn’t care about keeping the peace for her daughter’s sake, and so Evette doesn’t respond. She truly doesn’t care if Laurence gets worked up, if he tries to get violent with her. There’s no one around to see, and she can’t find it within herself to worry about the consequences.
“The house needs to be cleaned!” Laurence goes on, raising his voice. “You haven’t cooked in over a month!”
“Oh, do you think I care, Laurence?” Evette replies. She lets her head fall to the side and looks up at Laurence through her lashes. “You took my daughter from me and you sent her away. I don’t give a damn about what you want.”
“Don’t be dramatic, Evette. She’s a grown woman now! She can’t live with you forever!”
“You promised her to a grown man when she was only 15!” Evette shrieks, putting so much force into the act of yelling that she sits up, visibly shaking, wide-eyed and nearly foaming at the mouth. “You horrible, disgusting man! You’ve pimped your only daughter out to the highest bidder!”
Laurence slaps her across the face with violent crack. The silence that follows is deafening--Laurence staring down at his wife, Evette frozen in place, her eyes trained on the ceramic vase on the coffee table.
For a moment, Evette stares, imagining herself picking up the vase and smashing it over her husband’s head. At the very least, he’d have a nasty wound to nurse, a period of unconsciousness in which she could escape. It could kill him, too, and Evette isn’t sure which she’d prefer.
He’s still her daughter’s father. She knows Genevieve still loves him, still calls him ‘Daddy’ and presses kisses to his cheek when she sees him. He hasn’t been perfect, and Evette knows Genevieve knows it, but as much as she would love to she can’t take away Genevieve’s love for her father.
Selfishly, she wonders if Genevieve loves him more.
“I’m sorry,” Laurence says, lowering himself down onto the couch, sitting at her feet. “Please, darling, don’t cry.”
Evette didn’t even know she was crying. She raises a hand to her cheek and inspects her fingers, sure she’ll find blood on them. Instead, they’re slick but not stained, and she finally does feel the next tear that rolls down her cheek.
“You miss her, of course,” he croons, “and so do I. But Jude will be good for her! He can provide for her in ways that she’d never be able to herself. Like you, dear.”
Evette hates the logic of it. Laurence doesn’t have to remind her where she came from--Evette Neumann did not have wealth, luxury, security. She had a family, though, and a father who didn’t terrorize her mother. She had siblings who cared about her, brothers and sisters who would have fought tooth and nail for her, for their family. But then Laurence Kessler came into her diner and showered her with tips and affection and promises of a better life for her. And then she got pregnant, and she had to choose him.
She wishes she hadn’t. She wishes she would have gone home and raised that baby in the run-down farmhouse, in the bedroom she shared with her sister. That baby never even made it into the world alive, but at that point she was married and living on the west coast, so far from her family and anyone else who had ever loved her. There was only Laurence, and Evette wonders if that is how Genevieve feels. That there is only Jude.
“I didn’t want her to marry him,” Evette whispers. There’s nothing to lose; if her husband is going to listen to her, even for a moment, she’s going to speak. It’s her last chance.
“I know you didn’t,” Laurence replies, and she can hear him growing irritated. “But you saw her, Evette. She was radiant. She was ready to be a wife!”
“No,” she tells him, shaking her head. “No, she was ready to be loved. She would have married anyone. She didn’t know any better.”
“Good God, not this again.”
Not this again, Evette repeats in her head, closing her eyes. That’s how she feels, too, every morning when she opens her eyes and finds she’s in the same house, alone. Not this again.
“My daughter is happy,” Laurence insists. “She called last night to ask permission to host Thanksgiving at theirs this year. They want to bring together the family. She sounded so excited when I told her I thought it was a lovely idea.”
Evette blinks her heavy eyelids and lets them remain closed while Laurence speaks. The image of Genevieve running around, giving everyone drinks and placing steaming dishes on the table, reminds Evette too much of herself at Genevieve’s age, trying to impress Laurence’s family, trying to prove to herself that she was more than her upbringing. Her parents never met Laurence’s family; he was so much older than her and her own father disapproved so strongly that she had to sneak out, meet him at her diner in the middle of the night and let him take her away forever. At least Genevieve still has connections, for now.
“At some point, Evette,” Laurence says, his voice having gone cold once more, “you are going to have to be happy for her.”
“Never,” Evette replies, her voice barely above a whisper. “I know what this will do to her.”
If Laurence hears her, he doesn’t acknowledge her words. She feels the couch shift as he rises, and hears his footsteps leaving the sitting room, stopping just beside the bar. Evette sits there, silent and still, as she listens to the clink of ice cubes in a glass, the gentle sound of liquid being poured, and finally Laurence’s footsteps fade and disappear up the stairs.
It’s early in the morning when Evette picks up the phone and dials her daughter’s new number. She hasn’t slept a wink, hasn’t even moved from the couch, and sleep-deprived mania and desperation drive her to call. The thought doesn’t occur to her that Genevieve might still be sleeping; she needs to hear her daughter’s voice. She needs to talk to her, there’s so much that needs to be said.
The phone rings and rings, and finally the voicemail message cuts in. She does, finally, get to hear her daughter’s voice. You have reached Jude and Genevieve Downing. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it to the phone, but if you leave your name, number, and a short message, we will call you back as soon as possible. Have a lovely day!
Evette tears up immediately, a hand pressed over her lips as she waits for the beep. Her heart is pounding out of her chest, terrified of what she’s about to do. She knows she has to, though, that she’ll never get another chance. And Genevieve has to know. She has to know.
“My darling, it’s your mother. I was hoping to catch you but I suppose this will have to do. Please, listen carefully, I can only say this once. I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in this world, and all I’ve ever wanted is happiness for you. Pure bliss in this lifetime. Genevieve, I let you make a horrible mistake. You’re too young to be married, and I know, because I did the same thing at your age. I was poor, I was desperate to escape, and I was pregnant--a stillborn baby you know nothing about.
I had hoped Laurence would be the savior I needed, but men are rarely such things. They prey on women like us. My angel, the light of my life, he will destroy you. No grown man should pay attention to a girl at 15. There is evil in him, Genevieve, the same way there has always been evil in your father. And you don’t have to hate Laurence, he’s your father and I know how little girls feel about their fathers, but this man has taken my soul from me. He’s taken everything, and now he’s sent you away, and I’ll never forgive him. I’ll never forgive him.
I love you. I love you so, so much. Never doubt that. Remember to always put your happiness first, and when you have children, put theirs first. I didn’t protect you, and I’m so very sorry. I will never forgive myself for that. I love you, Genevieve. Please, come home. You and I can leave and I promise, from now on, I will protect you.”