Happy Life After War Day!
For Marc and Angie, I was going to put up a profile like last week’s, but after some thought, I realized nothing can give you a clearer picture of who they are, were, than letting you see it as it happened. The following is an excerpt from their back-story, which hasn’t been released yet.
Marc: Age 12
There are a few things you should know about me before we go any further together.
I was born lonely and I’ve spent almost every day of my life that way. Existing in a home with no laughter, no emotions at all but indifference or coldness had me longing for someone who could brighten my life even before I was old enough to recognize her. Isolated and forced to deny who I was, I lived a separate life from the other Gypsy’s in the neighborhood.
A second thing you should be aware of is how badly my mother crushed my faith with her rabid hatred. To say she loathed our wild, heathen roots, would be putting it mildly and despite being nearly full blooded Gypsy, I was raised in a home that was Christian. From the clothes and furnishings, to the regular attendance of every meeting, prayer chain, and baptism we were invited to. There were crosses and plaques and so many scripture lessons that I got lost in them. Literally. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe. It’s was more like I didn’t know which theory to pick; our heritage or this new culture that didn’t fit me right.
The last thing about me that matters, was that I loathed our way of living and just as soon as I got the chance, I planned to leave for good. That promise to myself was what helped me through all the mornings I started out on my knees, praying to a God I hadn’t heard of until my dad left us. The rest of our huge clan loved the system Mother Brady had set up, especially the men. We were sent out of town every year to learn the family business, allowing for mostly unsupervised exploration of the world. How to sell and be respectable, that’s what the Brady’s were known for now. Not for being Gypsy spawn, as Mother Brady referred to those around us who refused to hide their heritage. And I hated it. It felt wrong. I loved our culture, the small bits I’d been able to learn behind her strict back but I didn’t cross her, not then. I knew who was boss.
A last note; I’ve noticed that life is full of irony. Laying unseen on the fringes of our day to day schedules, it’s everywhere but we can’t see it until it’s too late to be changed into something wonderful. Like the love that blindsided me. I spent years waiting and longing for the time to come when I too would be allowed to go out of town for training and escape my lonely existence. Then Angie filled my heart and I spent a decade hating each and every time I had to leave her. Life is often ironic. And painful.
Angie: Age 7
There are a couple things you really need to understand about me before Brady takes us any further into my private hell.
The most important is that I’m older than my age at any given time. I always have been. People say it’s because of what I’ve seen and heard during my short life but it’s really because of who I am, deep on the inside.
I also have a lot of secrets. I don’t mean the kind you giggle about with friends. I mean the kind you carry your whole life. Like my mother being a Gypsy whore. Don’t frown. It’s only the truth. I’ve been hearing it since I was a baby and I can’t tell you how many of her “friends” patted my head on the way out our trailer door. That’s how I ended up with a new step father. And my first awful secret.
Georgie is big and loud and likes to have me sit on his lap and wrestle. I don’t like him very much but at least he doesn’t hit me like he does momma sometimes. I figured out if I don’t tell him no, he don’t get mad at me. I still get scared though. It’s like he’s waiting for something and it’s about me. I hate being so little! They lie to me all the time and I have to pretend I don’t know what they’re thinking.
But I do. That’s another one of the things I’m hiding from the world. I can hear thoughts. Yes, even yours. I can also talk to ghosts. Well, one. The Witch inside has been whispering to me ever since I can remember. She was burned at the stake a very long time ago and was able to transfer her soul into a community well. The first person to drink from it, my Gypsy relative, was invaded. Now, we’re born with it, every seventh generation. That’s me. The neighborhood ladies tell me it’s supposed to get stronger as the person gets older. Scary, cause it’s pretty strong now. It’s the reason I found My Brady. Which brings me to my other huge pretense.
Being at home was a bad thing for me all through my childhood and I spent as much of it as I could exploring and hiding. Sometimes, when I was very bored or upset, I’d follow thoughts. I liked being able to track people down, it was fun, but I never showed myself. On one of those adventures, I found a boy of eleven sitting in the rows of corn that lined one side of our trailer park.
I’d followed his thoughts because they were a mirror of how I was feeling. Alone, almost desperate, he matched the pull of that need with the open misery I saw in his eyes. This was someone like me. I’d never known that before.
He was scared and ashamed too because he had to pretend he wasn’t Gypsy and because his family was so cold to him. He had all sorts of hard rules and he was only allowed to be around the right kind of people. Even at seven, I knew that wasn’t me.
The boy stayed in the corn all day, sometimes talking to his self but mostly just quiet and thinking, trying to find an escape. It was how I spent most of my own free time and I can’t tell you how strong the urge was to come out. It began a bond that was unbreakable.
When he got up to leave, I was careful to stay back but my heart called out to his. I didn’t want him go yet. And he looked at me! Or at least it felt that way and I realized I knew him. I’d seen his picture on the wall of my new stepfather’s den. The boy was my family, a forbidden side of it that I hadn’t even met. Despair, thick and smothering, settled over me and I crept away.
But stay away, I couldn’t. Less than a week after first spotting My Brady, I was trailing him where ever he went in the neighborhood. It didn’t matter that his mother loathed me even more than the other Gypsy’s or that my new stepfather had put his hands up my dress in exchange for letting me out to play so early. As long as I got to see him, I was okay. He quickly became my unknowing light in the darkness.
A month after that, I couldn’t stand to be away during school hours too and began ditching my classes for his. I’d linger behind the bushes and watching him read, laugh with his friends, and stare out the glass with an expression I longed to ease with the comfort of my little arms. To say I was obsessed would be an understatement.
You see what I mean about my age? I was years ahead and only Brady understood.
So those were my burdens. It was as if all nine planets had collided at my birth, creating an inescapable hell that followed me most of my life. Can you guess which secret I would have given up the quickest? My gifts. Why? Because hearing into people hurts! I’d get up and pass my mother’s door and hear her jealousy of my youth and my looks. Then I’d sit across from her new husband and try to choke down a meal while he thought of his plans to watch me in the shower later or peak under the blanket while I slept. To start every day that way! If I hadn’t known, I could have at least stolen a few hours of happiness without worrying about what was coming later.
As it was, I spent the years between four and seven in a blur of fear and loneliness, praying for someone to be my friend. When I finally found My Brady, I couldn’t let go. I needed him too much.
Marc & Angie
My mother hated anything that reminded her of our Gypsy caravan background. For one of the family to flaunt it openly was a sin not easily forgiven. We had relatives that were missing from the holiday gatherings for years over such breaches of Mother Brady’s rules. Some were never allowed to return, where others, like me, simply refused to go back under her thumb.
Why she refused to accept who were really were, was no mystery. Her own parents had been killed by an angry mob after a Gypsy couple had robbed and murdered a bank teller in town. My grandparents had been in the wrong place, at the wrong time and it gave my mother a fear that only grew when my father abandoned us shortly after being exposed for a thief and adulterer. From that moment on, she and everyone suddenly under her reign had to conform or be driven out. Considering that she inherited all the loan notices and property deeds, there wasn’t much argument. A fanatical defense against the horrors of her teenage years, my mother grew into a cold person afraid to love or show emotion, even to her children. As a result, we didn’t have much feeling for her either, beyond fear.
Appearances seemed to be all that mattered to her and since a house with no love was all I’d ever know, I didn’t understand the power of the warmth I was missing. I just accepted that my elder brother and sister held value in her eyes and that I on the other hand, was a potential embarrassment waiting to happen. I stayed out of trouble as best a Gypsy boy can and kept grades and friends that she approved of. The Neighborhood kids, I never spent time with. They danced on the sidewalks in front of their parent’s fortune shops and played their music openly. My mother would cross the street to avoid these reminders of her past and she fully expected us to do the same. The only person I ever knew that crossed her on it and wasn’t punished, was her brother.
Georgie not only married without telling her, it was to a Neighborhood “business woman”. A Gypsy Madam who ran a rustic fortune telling shop as her cover for taking in male clients, it was exactly the type of people my cold as ice parent had been pushing away. Man, the fight!
It shocked everyone when Mother Brady allowed his wife to officially enter the family. I never found out why she gave in but I’ve always been grateful to her for that one thing. Because Georgie’s new bride had a little girl that I instantly felt something for. It wasn’t love at first sight, not at those ages, but it was powerful, just the same.
“This is your uncle’s new wife. Frona.”
My mother’s tone told me she didn’t like the loudly dressed woman filling her doorway and I kept my voice cool. “It’s nice to meet you.”
The Gypsy woman wasn’t very big but the colors of her skirt and top were confusing to my twelve year old eyes. We never had red or purple in this house. Mother barely tolerated blue jeans.
“You must be Marc.”
I nodded, knowing not to put my hand out to her but the fortune teller didn’t seem to notice the insult.
“Maybe you can help me?”
I felt the Matriarch beside me tense and kept my mouth closed. I wasn’t sure why this woman was here or why my mother wasn’t throwing her out and it made me uneasy.
“Angie needs the bathroom. Can you take her?”
That one snort from Mother Brady told me I shouldn’t agree and I opened my mouth to give her directions but a stunning little girl of about seven stepped from behind my newest aunt and I froze.
She was pale, like paper, with tangled black curls that hung to her tiny waist. So pretty! I’ve never been sure exactly what it was that drew me so hard. It could have been the way she looked at me, like I was already hers, or maybe how cute that little face was, but I’ve always thought it was the warmth in those sky blue eyes. I was helpless against it.
Her angelic voice snapped me back into the cold reality of my world and I nodded, already able to feel the waves of disapproval now filling the hall. I would pay for this. “Come on.”
My mother watched us all the way down the long corridor, sharp gaze no doubt filled with surprised speculation. Until that moment, I’d done what she wanted and I’m almost sure she began laying plans right then. I think maybe she knew, watching that beautiful Gypsy girl lead her least wanted child down the hall, that later, when we were older, there might be trouble. That’s the kind of parent Mother Brady was. Sharp. Merciless.
I waited outside the door, wondering if I could escape my coming punishment until later. Mother wouldn’t forget but I could for a little while. Standing there, I’d almost forgotten why I was in trouble at all and when the bathroom door opened, I jumped.
She giggled at scaring me and the sound of it had me grinning back. She was a cute kid. Too cute for this family. “S’okay.”
I turned to take her back but stopped at her words.
“Do we have to? She doesn’t like me.”
Smart kid. And I had just been thinking about escaping for a while. Did this matter? I shrugged. “Probably not.” That made her smile, a full shine of happiness that no boy would have been able to resist, let alone one as isolated as I was.
“Where can we go?”
I was running through the options when her stomach growled, answering the question. “The kitchen. Come on.”
My steps were slow and I looked over to find her watching me with those eyes. What was it about them besides the fact that they were violet? “So how do you like being a Brady?”
She shrugged but didn’t answer and I felt something I couldn’t place right them, with her so close. I realized later that it was one of the many things we had in common. I didn’t care much for it either.
“You go to school yet?”
She nodded, little hands shoved into the pockets of her white dress like she was afraid to touch anything, even by accident. “Crosby.”
That meant my mother hadn’t really accepted her or she’d be going to private classes with the rest of us. It also meant that I’d never get to see her and even then, the sense of loss was there for me.
We moved quietly down another huge hall, surrounded by saints and dark colors but neither of us paid attention to these things yet. There would be time for guilt later. Right now, it was only Marc and Angie rebelling and I grinned at her suddenly.
“You sure are quiet for a girl.” That seemed to please her but it didn’t draw the smile I’d been looking for.
“Momma said to and... Mother Brady scares me some.”
For the first time in my life, I felt the urge to protect someone other than myself. It was a world apart from the boy who only wanted to get by so he could get out and I grinned again. “She likes bigger food. You’re too small.”
Those seven year old eyes frosted over and that cute chin became a stiff line. She didn’t tell me she hated those words or not to ever say it again but I felt both as if she had. Her age was a touchy subject, I thought, not knowing it would become one for me as well.
I nodded, not realizing what had happened. “I won’t. Sorry.”
Our eyes locked and when she stopped, so did I, curious and a little confused as to how she seemed so much older but it was more than that too. Her eyes held me and outside, thunder crashed heavily, making the ground shake.
We only stood there for a few seconds but it felt like forever. In those stunning blue eyes, I could see so much! There was another world in there, one that I wanted desperately to know of. In there, I’d always be wanted.
She looked away (let go of me) and I yawned, instantly tired and even more confused. What had just happened? Her eyes were blue now. How was that possible?
“I’m sorry. “She hesitated, sounding miserable “You can take me back now.”
Her eyes were lit up like a city skyline and I could almost see her skin start to glow. No way was I taking her back yet. I wanted some answers first.
I shook off that sleepy feeling as best I could and got us moving. The last minute was already blurring and I struggled to remember all of it. Later, when I was alone, I’d go over it and figure out what it meant. That it did mean something, I took for granted. It had been too strong to ignore.
I could feel her stealing looks at me, maybe to judge if I was angry with her and I understood that whatever had happened, had come from her and then went back into her. And also that she was keeping some really big secrets. As someone who knew that look in the mirror too well, it was easy to recognize.
The cook looked as surprised as I felt to be leading that little Gypsy girl into his perfectly polished kitchen and I didn’t ask him to do anything that might get him fired. I led her by the steaming pots of chicken soup that were destined for local shelters, fighting the urge to look back and see what she thought of the grand house my mother had put together over the years. Was she impressed? Intimidated?
I waved a hand at the table, where a plate of cookies and baskets of fruit sat with perfectly matched precision.
“What ever you want.” The words had a ring of familiarity that had my insides twisting. Did I know her from The Neighborhood?
She pulled an apple free with care and I handed her a napkin to hold under it, thinking her choice had made me uneasy. Who turns down chocolate chip cookies?
I watched her from the corner of my eye, almost unable to look away as she bit into the fruit. Years later, I recognized it as an Adam and Eve moment but right then, all I could see was her age. I had a playboy under my mattress (and a backup on the top shelf of my closet) and I considered myself nearly grown. What did I want with this little baby?
“I won’t always be this little!”
The cook smiled at what he assumed was baby talk but I froze again. She’d heard my thought!
“Of course not. You will grow and be even prettier.”
We ignored him, lost in that first discovery and I opened my mouth, unsure what was about to come out.
Very glad of which way I was facing, I snapped my mouth shut and schooled my face before turning to see both parents in the doorway, their clothes clashing in a horrible warning.
“Yes, mother?” My tone was perfectly bored but my pulse had tripled.
Two sets of narrowed eyes went over us and the cook, who’d flinched back, terrified.
“What are you doing?”
My Mother’s voice was like stone but before I could dig a hole, Angie saved us.
“He gaves me apples!” The little girl let out another giggle, this one so annoying that I took a step back.
“Gave me one apple.”
She corrected herself, sounding exactly her age and I hoped she knew I didn’t mean it as I rolled my eyes. “Can I go now?”
It sounded like I couldn’t wait to escape and I left under my mother’s curt nod but I could feel her surprise, her pain. My Angie.
I hid in the front tree as soon as I was out of sight and I stayed there, waiting, thinking. No one I’d ever known had affected me so strongly and when she and her loud parents stepped from the house, her eyes went straight to mine, as if to say it was the same for her.
Even across the distance, there was a spark, a sense of us being connected. It said there were things ahead that we weren’t ready for but I couldn’t look away, even after I felt my mother’s sharp eyes find my hiding place too. That little girl was someone I wanted to know and I set my mind to it right then, that I would.
What I didn’t count on was how determined my mother now was to keep us apart and with her years of being in charge, I stood little chance against her manipulations. Many of them, I didn’t even recognize for what they were.
“I saw the way you were looking at her, Marcus.”
I’d been expecting the ambush and flinched like I hadn’t heard her steps outside my door.
“I always make you jump.” She moved into the room, an imposing figure in her black and white suit. “I wonder why you are so easy to spook.”
Right now, it was because her cold eyes had gone first to my bed and then to my closet.
She was silent for only a short pause and I tried not to tense.
“Do you like her?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
I added nothing for her to build on and no lie to be trapped in and her eyes narrowed under those thick glasses.
“You’ll stay away from her.”
I would not! My thoughts were often the opposite of the words forced to come through my lips.
I went back to combing my hair, trying not to watch her. Did she know about my magazines? I barely heard her move and then she was behind me in the mirror, cold blue gaze trying to dig into my heart and see what evil I’d allowed into our lives.
“It’s a sin. Lusting for your family is incest and I’ll not stand for it.”
I didn’t try to tell her it wasn’t like that. She wouldn’t have understood and by the time it was over, she’d have twisted my words into a confession.
“You’ll be punished.”
I nodded again, trying to ease the damage I was about to take. “I am sorry, mother. They were so bright!’
Her face softened a bit, thinking I hadn’t liked it either. “Yes, but temptation is everywhere. You must be strong enough to resist. How can I send such a weak boy out of town next year?”
That was hitting below the belt but with her eyes watching me, I hung my head and pretended a shame I felt only for allowing her to treat me this way. Soon, the day would come when she couldn’t keep me here.
“You’ll spend the summer working for your aunt Judy.”
I looked up in surprise. I’d been asking to go since I was ten and the change of subject threw me off, distracted me. “What?’
Her eyes never changed but her tone was as warm as I’d heard in a long time. “You’ve been a good son, an obedient son, and I’m being lenient with you this one time. It’s still punishment. There are cows and pigs to be branded, hay to be baled, and horses to be cared for. You’ll work, but you’ll also have fun with your cousins. Next year, you’ll start the training. Best get those childhood notions out of your system now.”
She drifted from my room a few minutes later, the plans for my departure the following morning already set. Not wise enough to see how I’d been tricked, I was vaguely unhappy to be leaving Angie so soon after meeting her but I was overjoyed at getting to work on Judy’s farm. I was being set free a year early.
Played like a banjo around a campfire. Clever, simple, it began a pattern of hurt that repeated over and over through our years together. I was always being ripped out of Angie’s life.
Marc and Angie
This story will be released in late 2012- early 2013.
Next Week: The Twins
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