The driveway was made up of gravel and stone and wound around to the back of the house. DeWayne drove the rental car slowly, not wanting to chip any paint or ding up the vehicle.
Rob’s eyes roamed the property. The memories he had felt like someone else’s. He felt like he’d never seen the modest brick house before and he didn’t feel like he was coming home at all. He felt
like a stranger.
“Stop here.” Rob suddenly put a hand on D’s arm. They were halfway up the drive and he felt he couldn’t go any farther. “I can’t do this.”
D put the gear in park and let the car idle. He didn’t speak.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Rob asked.
D shrugged. “What should I say? This is your choice to make, Rob. I can’t tell you what to do.”
“Yeah, but sometimes I wish you would. It would make things so much easier.”
“But it wouldn’t help you.”
“I need a Valium. And I could sure use a drink.”
D reached into the center console. “I have the Valium. But I don’t have any Jack.”
“Give me two.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure!” Rob was close to panic. “Please!”
D shook two of the blue pills into his hand and dropped them into Rob’s palm. Rob tossed them in his mouth, chewing slowly. They were bitter but he didn’t care. He was desperate.
“I don’t feel ready,” he whispered. “Get me out of here, D, please!”
D put the car in reverse and backed to the road, turning expertly around.
“I don’t care. Anywhere but here. Let’s find a bar.”
They left the area and drove down the main road. D passed up several bars before spotting a Denny’s. He turned into the parking lot and pulled into a space. Killing the engine, he looked at Rob.
“How about a cup of coffee instead.”
“Coffee? Christ, D.”
“Come on. Let’s go.”
They left the car and entered the restaurant. The hostess seated them in a booth, placing menus in front of them.
Once they were settled with steaming cups of coffee in front of them and the waitress was gone, D studied Rob.
“What weighs so heavily on you, my friend?”
Rob was silent for a moment as he thought of what to say. “It’s my mind,” he finally said. “It keeps chasing my thoughts from one subject to another. I think about everything. It just about
drives me crazy sometimes.”
“That’s why you need the Jack?”
“Yeah, and the Valium. It’s the only way I can fall asleep and stay asleep.”
“Maybe you should see a doctor?”
“Did that already. Lucy’s idea.”
“I don’t even want to say.”
“It’s okay, Rob.” D looked straight into Rob’s eyes. “We’ve been friends a long time now. You should know what you tell me stays with me. And I know what I tell you stays with you. It’s the way it
Rob hadn’t thought about it until now, but, yes, D always kept the things to himself. Maybe that’s why Rob was so comfortable around him. D would never jeopardize their friendship. Rob
was secure with that knowledge. He decided to tell him.
“The doctor said I might have clinical depression, or that I’m manic depressive. That means…”
D heaved a heavy sigh. “I know what that means.”
“In other words, I might have a mental illness. I was so shaken I didn’t tell anyone. Not even Lucy.” He looked at D from the corner of his eye and wondered if D would reject him now.
But D was quiet for a long time. Rob grew impatient waiting for him to speak. “So?”
“So? What do I think? I think the doc might be right. It would explain a lot of things.”
“Like what?” Rob asked.
“The suicide attempts. The mood swings. The outbursts. What did the doc do for you? Did he prescribe any medication?”
“I don’t know. I never went back.”
“Do you think that was wise?”
Rob took a sip of the coffee. It had cooled so he took another sip. “Have you ever known me to do anything wise?”
D snorted. “Guess not. So tell me what bother’s you so much that you can’t sleep.”
“I lost my mother when I was thirteen,” he said. “We thought it was a car accident, but the autopsy revealed an aneurysm that blew in her brain. She was already dead when the car left the road and
toppled over into a ditch. It landed on top of her. She was only a mile from home.”
“Christ, Rob, I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. It was tough. She was my world. I don’t guess I’ll ever get over it.”
The waitress appeared with the coffee carafe in her hand and refilled their cups. She asked if they were ready to order. D handed her a twenty and told her to just keep their cups filled.
After she left, Rob took a sip of the coffee. It was too hot to drink so he set the cup down. He felt empty inside and the memories left him numb all over. He felt as if he was telling someone
else’s tale when he started to speak again.
“My father was adamant that all of us kids learn to sing and play an instrument. I remember the first time he made me try to sing. He hit a chord on the guitar and tried to goad me into
learning that note, then he put the guitar in my hands. I was petrified. And I was too embarrassed to sing in front of my brothers. I couldn’t explain that to my dad. He wasn’t such a great
listener. I got so scared I pissed my pants and ran to my mother. It caused a big fight.
“My dad stormed out of the house. He came home drunk and raped my mother.”
“Jesus, Rob,” D said.
“Yeah. And when I thought he was beating her, I snuck out of bed and looked through the opening in the door. My dad saw me and made me come into the room. He raped her in front of me, D. And he
made me watch. He told me it was what all women wanted, and I had to remember that for when I got older.”
“Your father was crazy, Rob. I hope you realize that.”
“I guess.” He shrugged. What did crazy mean, after all? “One night right after one of the girls was born, I can’t remember now which one, he got pissed off for some reason and knocked her head
against the wall. Her head hit a nail on the wall, and she blacked out. I thought for sure she died that night.”
D didn’t say anything. He was sure there was more, and Rob wasn’t done yet.
“Mom was very religious, and we went to church twice a week. Dad and my brothers sang in the choir. Actually, they were the choir.
“After my mother died, dad made it clear there would be no more church. We weren’t singing for free anymore and he set us up some gigs in local bars where he knew people. We worked from ten until
two in the morning, five nights a week.”
“Didn’t you have school?” D asked.
“Sure did. And we had to go, too. Dad refused to let us stay home just because we were tired. If he had to work his day job to support us brats, then we could make it to school.”
“Damn, Rob,” D exclaimed. “The bastard was heartless.”
“He probably still is.”
“So, what about his wife now? Greta, is it? How did all that come about?”
“Oh God." Rob vigorously rubbed his hands over his face. “I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about that yet, D.”
“You’ve come this far. I think you can handle it.”
Taking a deep breath, Rob began to speak.
When he finished, D sat back, stunned.
“She raped you, Rob,” he said, his voice low. “You do realize that, don’t you?”
“It wasn’t rape,” Rob said. “How can a guy be raped?”
“Rape is a relative term. It can apply to either gender. Do you know how many guys I saw come through emergency after being raped?”
Rob shook his head.
“There were plenty. And I spent some time in court testifying for them.”
“They went to the cops. The cops arrested the perp. That’s usually how it goes. You should’ve done the same. How long ago did you leave home?”
Rob heaved a sigh. “Well, I was seventeen when my dad threw me out. So, two years ago.”
“Christ,” D swore. “You were just a kid. Hell, you’re still just a kid.”
“I’m not a kid anymore, D. Lucy helped me grow up fast. Did you know she's ten years older than me? She fainted when I told her my age.” He laughed at the memory. “I sure do miss her. I wonder
where she is?”
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