Willow reveals part of her painful past.
“Willow have you seen Grandma again?” His voice was just above a whisper.
The question shocked her. Why now, would he ask this? Willow turned to him hating what she must do. She had to lie to him. She couldn’t tell him about seeing Elena at his mom’s house. He would undoubtedly ask if she had understood what his grandmother wanted and she couldn’t tell him the truth. She couldn’t tell him that Elena had indeed spoken to her and that now she understood. “No” she whispered the lie.
Gerard opened his eyes and looked over at her. “Do you think she’ll appear again?”
“I don’t know.” She answered truthfully.
He sighed, “Did it bother you that you couldn’t understand what she wanted the last time you saw her?”
Willow nodded, “It’s pretty rare when the dead appear and I don’t know why.” That was a true statement.
“I wish she would come back.” He said closing his eyes again. “I’d really like to see her again.”
The sadness in his voice touched Willow’s heart. She reached over and laid her fingers on his cheek. “She’s not gone, Gerard. She’s always with you.”
Gerard marveled again at how Willow’s touch affected him. But he realized this time that while her touch sent a sensation through his body it wasn’t sexual. Her touch was soothing, calming. He reached up and pulled her fingers away from his face.
Willow thought he was brushing her hand away but he lowered it with his to the bed then interlocked their fingers. She smiled. “But I do promise you that if she appears again and I can I will try to help you see her.”
“I know you would.” Gerard said softly. “You’re a good woman, Willow. I’m not so fucked up that I can’t see that.”
“You’re not fucked up. You’re hurting. There is a difference.”
He opened his eyes and stared at her. “You really don’t think I’m fucked up?” There was anger in his voice. “Yeah, Sugar I’m fucked up. I let my life get out of control because I put my faith where it didn’t belong. I gave my heart away and it was trashed. I’m fucked up and it’s all my fault.”
Willow shook her head, “Loving someone is always a gamble.”
“You’re a fine one to talk. You told me you won’t ever get into a relationship again after that guy hurt you.”
“Gerard, my situation is different than yours. Do you really believe I wouldn’t love the chance to be with someone who loved and accepted me?”
He sat up and leaned back against the headboard narrowing his eyes. “I don’t understand why you think it’s so impossible to find a guy who would accept you.”
Willow sighed, “Yeah, there are tons of guys who would want someone like me. Just think about it. I’d be great to bet on in a game of poker. All I’d have to do is listen in and I’d know what hands the other players are holding. Yeah, or I could charge grief ridden families for information about their departed loved ones. Oh but don’t forget there is that pesky little detail about me. I’d know when the guy was lying to me. I could hear when we’d walk down the street and he’s see a girl that turned him on. I’d know when he was making love to me but thinking about someone else.”
“But wait.” Gerard said trying to take in everything she was saying. He could see how upset she was becoming and he was confused. “You don’t know for sure it would be like that. Maybe if you were with another guy it would be like it is when we have sex. Maybe your mind would go quiet.”
Willow sat up and quickly got off the bed. “Maybe but I’ll never know.” She had to get away from him quickly before his words made her cry. He was encouraging her to find someone else and that hurt.
“Willow, wait.” Gerard said totally confused. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Everything is fine.” She grabbed her clothes off the floor and headed towards the door.
Gerard watched her feeling helpless. He could see she was hurting but he didn’t know what to say. He had just been trying to point out that while he could never love again that maybe she could find someone to share her life with. Suddenly a frown marred his face. Why did that thought bother him? He wasn’t such a bastard he wanted her to be unhappy, was he? He was still trying to figure out his own emotions when she bolted through the door. When he heard the bathroom door slam he shut his eyes and sighed. This had all been a mistake. Willow wasn’t the kind of woman who could have a casual sexual relationship and yet she had agreed to the idea so quickly. It had to be because of the crazy sexual attraction they shared. She’d admitted she experienced the same feeling that passed between them every time they touched. If only he understood what it was maybe they could both deal with it better.
Willow was lying on the bed staring into space when she heard the apartment door close. She realized with a heavy heart that Gerard had left. All day she’d been so excited at the thought of going out to a movie with him but that wasn’t going to happen. She closed her eyes and fell into a troubled sleep.
Hours later when she awoke the room was dark. Glancing at the clock she was shocked to see it was almost midnight. Her stomach rumbled reminding her she’s missed dinner. She got up and crept quietly to the bedroom door. The apartment was silent and she assumed that meant that Gerard hadn’t returned. She decided to grab something from the kitchen, take a shower, then go back to sleep. What else was there for her to do?
As she passed through the living room she gasped when Gerard’s voice came out of the darkness.
“Why are you sitting in the dark? You scared me.” Willow said straining her eyes trying to locate him in the room.
“I’ve just been waiting to see if you were gonna get up or sleep through till morning.” Gerard explained. “I brought home Chinese. It’s in the kitchen.”
“Oh” Willow was surprised by his thoughtfulness. “I am kinda hungry.” She admitted. She could make out Gerard’s silhouette as he stood.
“Me too.” His voice was getting closer.
“Haven’t you eaten?” Willow asked.
Gerard snapped on the lamp. “Nope, I was waiting for you.”
Willow stared at him. “You we’re waiting for me?”
He nodded for her to follow him to the kitchen. “Yeah, I mean we did have a date tonight. Dinner and a movie.” He turned on the kitchen light and walked over to the counter. “It’s a little late for a movie but we still have dinner.”
Willow watched as he took the cardboard take-out containers from of the fridge. He had really felt bad about their missed date too? “I’m sorry I fell asleep.” She said softly.
Gerard worked on preparing their dinner as he answered. “I knew you didn’t want to talk to me anymore. I got that. I figured it was best I just let you sleep.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to you.” Willow fell silent as she struggled to explain. “I was just upset.”
“Because I don’t understand how hard it is for you to deal with your gift.” He said without looking at her. “I’m sorry.”
Willow didn’t know what to say. That was part of it but not all.
He turned to look at her. “But I think you’re keeping something from me and it’s really fucking me up.”
“What?” Willow was shocked at his words. “I don’t understand.”
Gerard decided to just lay it all out. “You told me about the guy who you were in love with. That married bastard. But when you were talking earlier you said some things that don’t make sense.” He took a deep breath knowing that he might anger her. “The way you talked about a guy using you to make money. That seemed to come from deep inside you.”
She stared at him knowing he’d touched on a truth she had tried to bury.
“Willow, who did that to you? Who tried to take advantage of you?” Gerard’s voice was gentle. He saw tears spring to her eyes.
“My dad.” Willow whispered looking down. “It was my dad.”
Gerard had been afraid that might be the answer. He didn’t want to push her so he asked softly, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Willow had never really talked about it with anyone.
He saw her struggling to make a decision. “It’s okay if you don’t want to.”
Willow blinked back the tears. “I’m just not sure I can.
Gerard could hear the pain in her voice. “Why don’t you take a seat in the living room and I’ll bring our dinner out in a minute.” He wanted to giver her time to gather her thoughts.
Willow nodded and left the kitchen.
Gerard heated two servings of Beef and Vegetables then added an egg roll to each plate. He carried them into the living room and sat them down on the coffee table. “What would you like to drink?”
“Uh, water is fine.” Willow said with a small smile.
“I brought green tea I could warm up.” Gerard offered.
“Oh, that would be nice. I love green tea.” She was really impressed with his thoughtfulness.
“Back in a minute.” He jogged off towards then kitchen and soon returned with two cups of tea and two fortune cookies. “Can’t forget these.” He said with a smile as he sat the cookies down on the table.
Willow looked down at her plate and realized she’d suddenly lost her appetite.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it.” Gerard said again hoping to put her at ease. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s just I’ve never told anyone before and I don’t know where to begin.”
Gerard took a sip of his tea. “I know you said your dad and mom were both uncomfortable with your abilities.” He said tiring to help her ease into the subject.
Willow sighed, “Oh yeah, that’s true. They really did have me committed to a psychiatric hospital. When I was fifteen they divorced. Mom was tired of putting up with dad’s affairs. For years she looked the other way but she just finally had enough.” Willow looked down, “Neither one of them wanted me at first but I ended up staying with my mom.”
Gerard’s heart went out to her. “They were fools, Willow.”
She shook her head. “Dad was angry with me because he thought I’d told mom about his latest affair but I didn’t. She knew about Tina just like she knew about all the rest of his girlfriends.”
“So you stayed with your mom?”
“Yeah, we moved to a little apartment in Kansas City. Mom worked two jobs because dad was always late with the child support. I got a part time job after school too trying to help out but it was never enough. Then I started having problems in school and I guess for Mom that was the last straw. She called my dad and told him she couldn’t deal with me anymore.” When she looked up he saw the tears in her eyes. “I overheard the phone conversation.” Her voice broke, “and I heard what mom was thinking. She wished her life had been different. She was wishing she’d never married or had me.”
Gerard shook his head. “Some people don’t deserve to have children.”
Willow stared at him a moment then continued. “Anyway the next morning she drove me to my dads place. It was a little apartment in a bad neighborhood. I was scared but I tried to act tough. I tried to act like it didn’t make any difference to me where I stayed.” This time her tears began to fall. “But the truth was I just wanted to go home with my mom. I just wanted her to love me.”
Gerard couldn’t take her tears. He sat his plate down on the table then reached over and took her plate off her lap. Once he sat it down next to his he pulled Willow over and enclosed her in a hug. For several minutes he simply held her while she cried. Holding her this close was making it difficult for him to concentrate but he knew he had to forget his own feeling. “What happened?” He finally asked softly.
Willow swiped at her eyes. “I hated it at my dads. He had all these creepy friends who would show up at the apartment at all hours of the night. I hated how they looked at me.”
Gerard swore softly.
“Then one day I made a mistake. I got home from school and dad had some of his friends over and they were playing poker. I sat down in the living room and tried to do my homework but they were in the kitchen at the table playing and their thoughts were so loud I couldn’t concentrate. I was getting pissed. When the game was over and they left my dad started cussing because he’d lost so much money.” She shook her head. “If only I’d kept my mouth shut but I was pissed and I told him that I thought it was funny because the guy who had won the pot had been bluffing like he’d been doing the whole time. Dad just stared at me.” Willow sat up slightly growing angry at the memories. “It was like a fucking light bulb went off over my dads head. For years he’d yelled at me for saying I could hear a person’s thought but suddenly he realized that if I really could then he could use my gift.”
“He wanted you to listen in to everyone’s thoughts so you’d know what hands they held.” Gerard said starting to understand.
“Yeah, he got all excited about it. He started telling me that we could come up with a way to send signals to each other. I was supposed to tell him what I heard so he could win.”
“What did you do?”
Willow took a sip of her tea then settled back in Gerard’s arms. “I told him I wouldn’t help him cheat like that. But he didn’t listen. He told me that he owed a lot of money to some bad guys and I could help him out. He started telling me how much he loved me and that when we got enough money we’d move to a nice place and things would be just great.”
“You didn’t believe him, did you?”
Willow’s laugh was hollow. “Gerard, I could hear what he was really thinking. He was planning it all out. As soon as he could he was going to line up some high stake poker games. Then when I was old enough we were gonna go to Vegas. His thoughts were running a mile a minute. I just stood there staring at him. I stood there hating him because he didn’t love me. He just wanted to use my gift that he’d always thought of as bullshit before.”
Gerard absently stroked her arm with his fingertips. “What did you tell him?”
“I started shouting at him because I was so hurt. I told him there was no way in hell that I’d help him cheat and that I hated him.” She closed her eyes. “I should have just shut up.”
Something in her voice sounded wrong. “Why? What happened?”
“When I told him I hated him he shouted back that he’d always hated me too but that it didn’t matter because I was going to help him.”
“He fuckin’ threatened you?” Gerard asked in shock.
Willow remained silent.
“Sugar, what happened?” He whispered.
When she started sobbing he hugged her tightly. “He slapped me across the face and I fell backwards. My head hit the corner of the coffee table and I was knocked unconscious.”
“Shit.” Gerard muttered. “I’m sorry.”
Willow tried to get her emotions under control. “It turned out for the best when I woke up I was in the hospital. There had been so much blood that dad had called an ambulance. Guess he was still thinking I was gonna be his little money maker and he didn’t want me dying.”
Gerard wanted so badly to say something to take away her pain but he didn’t know where to begin. How any parent could have treated their child like that pissed him off. “How did it turn out for the best?”
“When I came to in the hospital my Aunt Joan was there. She had come with mom. When Mom asked me what had happened my Dad piped up and told them I’d tripped on the rug and hit my head on the coffee table. I just sat there hating him more and more. Suddenly Aunt Joan looked over at my parents and told them that as soon as I was released from the hospital she was going to take me home to live with her. At first my dad stated to tell her that he wouldn’t allow it but Aunt Joan just stared at him a minute then told him if he tried to stop her she’s tell the police what had really happened.”
Gerard realized what she was saying. “You aunt could hear people’s thoughts too.”
“Yeah.” Willow confirmed, “She could. She had listened to my thoughts and knew dad had hit me. After I got out of the hospital I went to live with her and I was happy. Aunt Joan loved me. She could only hear thoughts not see the dead so she wasn’t a freak like me but she understood me.”
Gerard took a hold of her shoulders and turned her to face him. “You are not a freak and don’t you ever fuckin’ say that again. Do you understand me? Why would you say that?”
Willow dissolved into tears again. “My own parents didn’t love me. I am a freak that no one, other than Aunt Joan, has ever loved.”
Gerard wished with all his heart he could tell her he loved her. For the first time since his divorce he truly wished he could love again. He leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead. “You are beautiful woman, Willow. Never forget that. You are beautiful inside and out.”
Willow didn’t believe him because she knew the truth about herself. She never should have told him the story. Now he’d feel sorry for her and she hated that thought. She didn’t want Gerard’s pity. She wanted something from him she’d never have. She wanted his love.
Gerard struggled with what to do. Finally he decided to try to lighten the mood. “Hey, our food is getting cold. And you know what?”
Willow wiped the tears from her cheeks, “What?”
“Well since you slept already if you’re not too tired we can still have our dinner and a movie. I’ll reheat the dinner and you pick out a movie for us to watch.”
She felt emotionally drained but she didn’t want to be alone. She just wanted to pretend that this would all end without heartbreak. “I’d like that.’ She said softly.
Gerard nodded. “One thing first though.” He pulled Willow to him and kissed her deeply. He couldn’t resist the temptation. He forced himself to break away knowing that it would get out of hand quickly and that was not what she needed right now. He didn’t want her to think sex was the only thing that made him want to be with her because he realized that wasn’t the truth. He was drawn to this woman and he knew he had to be careful.
Willow smiled at him. “A kiss at the start of a date? I thought that was supposed to be at the end.”
Gerard smiled, “Oh Sugar, I’m sure we’ll figure out something special for the end of the date.”