Month: November 2016

5.6: Empty

Y’know, I’d never really put much thought into what a “New Year” really means until now. Sure, you switch over to a new calendar, and spend the first two months training yourself to write the date properly. Other than that though, January first has always just felt like any other day to me.

But this year feels so different. And not in a good way.

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This is the first year of my life I’ll be living without Luc. Probably the first of many. And it feels so empty without him. Lonely, almost.

And I know how ridiculous that sounds. I spent so many years away from him, with an ocean between us. Why should this feel any different?

But it does. It really does.

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Still, they say a new year is supposed to be a new beginning too, right? And it has been, for some of us.

Clara and Florian are expecting another baby. It was kind of a surprise when they told us… But not an unpleasant one. It’s just complicated. Lots of mixed emotions. We’re all thrilled for them, of course… But I think that’s the problem. It feels so strange to be happy… To be celebrating a new life when we’re all still reeling from the pain of a lost one.

I think it’s something we’re all struggling with right now.

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And Clara and Florian aren’t the only ones with something to celebrate. Gus got accepted into an apprenticeship position at one of the law firms downtown. He’s finally one step closer to becoming a full-fledged lawyer. We’re all so proud of him, and I know he’s proud of himself too, but… There’s just something so sad about celebrating without Luc.

We all feel it.

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I just keep dreaming of the day when things can start feeling normal again. When it feels okay to laugh and celebrate and be happy. When I’m not haunted every day by that last phone call. When I don’t feel Luc watching me in my sleep every night. When I don’t hate myself for all those wasted years.

I’m fighting so hard to keep my head above water right now. To stop myself from drowning in all this. But it’s not easy.

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And watching the people I care about struggling too doesn’t help.

We can’t all be as lucky as Gus and Clara.

Poor Zayne. Ever since his breakdown at Christmas, he’s been having such a hard time. Acting out at school. Withdrawing from his peers. Not smiling as much as he used to.

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Dr. Becker says to keep an eye on him, but that this behavior is pretty normal for someone in Zayne’s shoes. “Working through the grief”, he calls it.

But that doesn’t make it hurt any less to see him like this. I really, really love that kid. The longer I’m around him, the more he’s starting to feel like one of my own. Which also means that seeing him in pain is hurting me more and more.

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And he’s not the only one.

I’m so worried about Papa. We all are. He hasn’t been eating very much, for months now. And he’s been drinking so much more than he ever did before… It’s almost scary. I mean, he’s not doing anything scary. He doesn’t yell or get angry. He doesn’t even drink every night. But when he does, he’s just… not himself.

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We’ve all tried talking to him about it… We try telling him alcohol isn’t the way to solve his problems. And that’s when he gets angry. He won’t listen to any of us. He won’t let us help him. I don’t know how much longer I can stand seeing him like this.

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And you know what the worst part is?

There are days when it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. To just drink until the pain stops. Until the terrible thoughts fade away. Until nothing matters anymore. Until I can pretend to be happy again.

Because I realized something recently.

I haven’t been happy for years. Years.

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Don’t get me wrong – my girls bring me so much joy. They’re my whole world. My life wouldn’t be the same without them.

But deep down inside, the happiness just isn’t there. And it hasn’t been for a long time. Not since before I moved to Willow Creek. I can see it all so much more clearly now.

At first I was just plain angry. At my family. At Mark. At myself

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Then the sadness came. I think it lasted even longer than the anger.

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After that, it was the guilt. It was overwhelming. Like I was drowning in it.

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But now?

Now I just feel empty.

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Interlude: Regret

Zayne’s breaths were slow and even as Mark carefully rose from the bed, taking great care not to wake the little boy.

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He hesitated for just a moment as he reached the bedroom door. The moon’s soft glow crept in from the window, bathing the large portrait of Zayne and his parents in a dim light. Mark’s eyes traced his daughter’s figure, pressed so closely to her husband and looking down so lovingly at her son.

I love you, honey. I miss you so much. He closed his eyes for a moment. And I’m doing the best I can for Zayne. We all are. I promise.

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“Is he asleep?”

Mark was surprised to find Jocelyne pacing back and forth outside the bedroom door when he emerged. How long had she been out there?

He nodded. “It took a while, but he calmed down and let me put him to bed.”

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“And… how was he?” She asked nervously. “Once he’d calmed down?”

A soft sigh escaped Mark’s lips. “He feels terrible…. Wouldn’t stop apologizing… He thinks he ruined Christmas.”

Jocelyne dropped her face into one of her hands. “Jesus. The poor kid. This was all my fault. Every year Elliot and I tell the girls to ‘write’ to Santa… I just wanted Zayne to be included too.” She shrugged helplessly. “It was just a bunch of scribbles. If I’d known what he’d written, I would’ve –”

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“I know.” Mark interrupted gently. “Don’t beat yourself up over it, okay? Zayne’s been unpredictable these past few months. There was no way to know this would happen.”

It was still painful to remember Zayne’s meltdown from earlier that evening. It was probably one of the worst he’d ever had. Christmas had been painful for all of them, and they’d known Zayne would be no exception. But when the little boy discovered that Santa did not grant his Christmas wish of bringing his parents back, everything fell hopelessly apart. He cried, he screamed, he threw things, and finally sprinted up the stairs to hide in his bedroom.

“Thank God for you, Mark.” Jocelyne said seriously, breaking the silence. “I don’t know what we would have done without you. You’re the only one he’d listen to.”

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“Yes… And I haven’t the slightest idea why.” For a moment, he almost laughed.

Jocelyne, Mari and Jonas, Colette, Clara and Florian, Gus… They’d all tried so hard to get through to Zayne, but he simply would not listen. Not until Mark sat with him. He couldn’t help but wonder if he’d simply gotten lucky. Maybe by the time I got in there, he’d started calming down on his own. He wondered.

But no matter what the reason, Mark was just grateful it was over.

“Did everyone else clear out while I was in there?” Mark continued.

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Jocelyne nodded. “Oma and Opa helped Elliot tuck the girls in, then headed off to bed. Remi and River were getting tired, so Clara and Florian took them home. Noah has to work tomorrow so he went home with Gus a little while ago. Elliot left a few minutes ago…” She paused for a moment, sighing. “And maman’s helping put Papa to bed.”

Mark’s face fell at the mention of Jocelyne’s father. By the time Zayne had his meltdown, Tobi was in no state to help. He’d been throwing back drinks all day, from what Jocelyne had told him. And as the evening wore on, it became clear that she was not exaggerating. The thought both saddened and worried him… In all the years he’d known him, Mark had never seen Tobi have more than a beer or two at dinner.

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“Jocelyne… someone has to talk to him about this.” He replied softly. “I mean… This isn’t the first time, right?”

Jocelyne shook her head. “It’s only been a handful of times, but… yeah. There are bad days. And believe me, we’ve been trying to talk to him. But you know my Papa.” She sighed. “You know he won’t listen.”

Mark nodded. Unfortunately, she was right. “Well, I guess this won’t be topping any of our ‘best Christmas’ lists, huh?” He managed a small smile, trying to lighten the mood.

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To his relief, it seemed to work. “Yeah, definitely not.” Jocelyne returned his smile. “But I guess it could have been worse, all things considered… We knew this would be a hard one.”

“Yeah, we did…” Mark shook his head. “Y’know, all night, I just kept waiting for the doorbell to ring. Something in me just kept expecting them to show up at the door…”

Jocelyne’s smile faded. “Me too.”

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She reached forward with a small white hand, her fingers almost coming to rest on Mark’s shoulder. But before they could, she pulled away, clearing her throat softly.

“It’s getting pretty late.” She continued. “And we’ve all had a long day. You’ll probably want to head home soon…”

He nodded slowly. “You’re right… But… I did have something I wanted to give you first. I didn’t get a chance to before.” He beckoned for her to follow him, then headed back downstairs to the living room.

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“It’s nothing special.” He assured her as he watched her open the box. “Just some old books I thought you might like. Back when you were at school, I remember you mentioning a few classics you hadn’t had the chance to read…”

Jocelyne laughed softly as she examined the covers of the books in front of her. “I remember… And I also remember almost giving you a heart attack when I told you.”

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Mark’s smile widened. “Hey, there are some books it should be a CRIME not to read, Jocelyne.”

“Yeah, according to you.” She teased.

And countless scholars around the world.” Mark insisted.

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“Seriously though… This is very sweet. Thank you.” She smiled at him for a moment. “But I’m not sure if I can really accept…”

Mark’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

She bit her lip before speaking again. “I just… I think you need to stop this.”

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“Stop what?”

“I know what you’re trying to do. You’ve been doing it ever since I moved back home…” Jocelyne shook her head slowly. “But it’s not that easy. We can’t do this, Mark. We can’t go back to how things used to be.”

There was a sudden heaviness in Mark’s chest. Had he truly been that obvious? Had he really managed to reveal his feelings so easily? There’s no point in denying it now, is there? Still, she had it all wrong. And he needed her to understand.

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“Jocelyne… I don’t want us to go back to how things were before.” He explained gently. “We shouldn’t. And we can’t. We’re not the same people we used to be. I know that, you know that…” Mark paused for a moment. “What I want is a chance to start over.” He said at last.

“Start over?”

He nodded. “Back to square one. No expectations. No rushing into anything. Just… a second chance. For both of us.” His voice shook nervously as he spoke.

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It felt like an eternity before she replied. Mark felt his heart racing in his chest as he waited for her to say something – anything.

At last, she opened her mouth to speak. “No.”

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“W-what?! But… Jocelyne, I –”

“It’s too late now. You know that.”

“Jocelyne, it’s never too late.” Mark replied almost desperately. “Just one chance. That’s all I’m asking for.”

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Jocelyne shook her head slowly, her expression suddenly darkening. “And what the hell do you think you’re doing anyway? What, now that Hazel and Luc are out of the way, I’m fair game again?”

“WHAT?!” Mark felt his neck burning as a rush of anger bubbled up inside of him. “How can you even SAY that?!”

“Well it’s true, isn’t it? Six fucking years you could have picked up the phone, Mark. But you never did. And now that Luc and Hazel aren’t standing in our way – now that it’s convenient for you – you come crawling back to me?!”

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“It’s not like that at all!” Mark cried. “I wanted you to move on, okay? I knew I hurt you. I knew I didn’t deserve you, so I tried to let you go. But when I saw you again at the memorial… That night we spent together…” He left the thought unfinished. “You can’t tell me you didn’t feel it too.”

“It doesn’t matter how I felt!” Jocelyne threw her hands up in frustration. “I don’t have time to play these games with you anymore, Mark. You’re right. I am a different person than I was. I’m not a little girl anymore.” She shook her head. “You’re Zayne’s grandfather. You’re going to be part of my life now. I’ve accepted that. But I won’t let you pull this shit with me. I won’t let us fall into the same mistakes all over again.”

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“B-but I –”

“Look, it’s been a long day for both of us. We’re tired. We’re stressed.” She interrupted him abruptly, her voice curt and cold. “You need to go before one of us says something we’re going to regret, okay?”

“Jocelyne…”

“Goodbye, Mark.” She rose to her feet, turning away from him. “Merry Christmas.”

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