Claire reveals part of her past.
“What’s going on?” He asked taking a step closer.
“I am sorry. I did not mean to wake you.” Anna answered softly. “I was speaking with Claire.”
“It’s three in the morning. What’s wrong? Did she call you?”
Anna skirted the question and said, “There was a problem with the tour bus. The band stopped at a hotel for the night.”
Gerard, who was still half asleep yawned, “Oh, shit. Hope they get it fixed. It’s a pain in the ass to change busses.” He moved closer and reached for her, “I woke up and you were gone.”
Anna’s arms went around his waist, “I am sorry.”
“Shit, you’re cold.” Gerard hugged her closer, “Come on, I’ll throw a few more logs on the fire.”
Once the fire was blazing again they laid down snuggling close. “So Claire is at the hotel too?” He asked.
Anna smiled, “Actually she and Bob are sharing a room.”
Gerard’s eyes grew large, “No shit?” When he saw Anna frown he quickly added, “I mean I’m sorta surprised is all.”
“There were no more rooms so they had to share.” Anna explained.
“Oh, well.” Gerard was pretty sure Bob wouldn’t mind that at all but he thought it best not to say that. “Bob is a good guy.” He added.
Anna laughed, “I like how you added that last part. Was that to relieve my worries?”
He leaned up on his elbow so he could study her face, “Are you worried?”
Anna sighed, “I worry about many things.”
Anna did not want to have this conversation. She reached up and brushed the stray hair that had fallen in his eyes, “Go to sleep. We will talk in the morning.”
He frowned but then laid his head back down. A moment later he spoke “I couldn’t help but hear part of the conversation. I heard you urging Claire to tell Bob something.”
Anna had been afraid of this. “Yes, that is correct.”
He looked over at her, “Does that mean it’s none of my business?”
She didn’t like that he sounded hurt. “No, I am sorry if it did sound that way. I was urging Claire to tell Bob something that is very painful for her to speak of. Her memories are always triggered by storms and they were experiencing one as we spoke.”
“A storm? Shit, it’s not even raining here.” He thought a moment, “Think she’ll tell him?”
Anna knew Claire would tell him because that is what she had demanded. “Yes.” She answered simply.
Gerard closed his eyes yet he could feel that Anna was still watching him. He smiled as his hand gently reached for hers. “So things are going exactly as you had hoped?”
It took her a minute to realize he had heard her speak those words. She rolled over partially covering his body with her own, “Yes.” She brushed a kiss against his lips, “exactly as I had hoped.”
Bob took the phone from Claire’s hand and walked back over to the desk. He plugged it into the charger than returned to the bed. “You okay?” He asked gently. He had hoped talking with Anna would make her feel better yet she still looked very upset.
Claire looked up into his eyes. “Yes, I am fine.”
Bob didn’t believe her for a moment. He moved back to his bed and crawled beneath the covers. “Still storming.” He said hoping she’d return to her original spot beside him.
Slowly Claire walked over to the bed and lay down beside him. Bob reached over and snapped off the light plunging the room into darkness. A moment later a flash of lightening illuminated the room. He saw that Claire’s eyes were shut tightly. He thought that it might help her to talk about her fear of the storm. “Have storms always frightened you?”
Claire took a deep breath, “No, not always. My fear of storms comes from a memory of what happened during one.”
Bob gently touched her cheek, “If you don’t want to talk about it I understand.”
Claire was torn. Anna had told her to explain her fear to Bob. She had been shocked at first because this would be a hard thing to accomplish without lying about part of the story. As much as she wanted Bob to understand she didn’t want to lie to him. She sighed.
“Go to sleep, Hun.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek.
“I am afraid to tell you.” She whispered.
Bob gave her a light squeeze, “Don’t be afraid to tell me anything.”
A bolt of lightening zigzagged across the sky as Claire began to speak, “When I told you my mother abandoned me as a baby that was a lie. I lived with my mother in a one room flat until I was six.”
“In London?” Bob asked remembering she’d told him that was where she’d been born.
“Yes.” Claire answered. “In a very rough part of London.” She took a deep breath and forced out the words, “My mother was a prostitute. I do not believe she had any idea who my father was nor do I think she cared.” A tear escaped her eye as she continued, “I could lie and make up a story about how she slept with men so she would have money to care for me but it would be just a lie. My mother was a drug addict who would do anything to make the money she needed to buy the drugs. What I have never understood is why she had me.”
Bob gently pushed the soft curls off her forehead then deposited a small kiss, “I’m fuckin’ glad she did.”
Claire sighed, “On my sixth birthday she came home with a man I had never seen before.” Her voice became shaky as she became lost in the memories, “He was carrying a bakery box. It was a cake for my birthday. He told me that my mother had said today was my special day. There was something about him that frightened me. His eyes held madness. I tried to explain to my mother but she would not listen.”
Several minutes passed and the room grew still. The storm outside had passed but the storm of emotion inside Claire’s mind was raging. “He moved in with us. My mother loved him and his drugs. A few weeks later they told me we were all going for a ride in the country. I remembering getting into his car that morning.” Her voice trailed off a moment. “It stunk of alcohol, I hated it.”
“Claire don’t do this.” Bob touched her face, “You don’t have to.”
“I do.” She said finding her voice. “I want you to know.” She took a deep breath, “We drove for hours and I fell asleep in the car. When I woke I saw we had stopped in front of an abandoned house.” Her body shook, “A terrible run down house. My mother asked him why we had stopped. He laughed and said this was where we would stay for the night. She grew angry. I do not know what he had told her but it was obvious she had expected something else. They fought but in the end she told me to get out of the car and we followed him inside. There was no electricity so he lit the candles he had packed. I remember being afraid, it was so dark and it was beginning to storm. I just wanted to go back home.” Again she paused but soon continued. She wanted to finish so she could once again bury the memories. “He threw a blanket down in a corner of the room and told me to go to sleep. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the sounds of the storm and their voices but both grew louder. Mother was yelling at him. She was angry and wanted to go home. She called him a fuckin’ pig and then I heard him slap her.”
“Fuck” Bob muttered. He pulled Claire closer encircling her with both arms.
“She cursed him and slapped him across the face. I was watching and I saw him hit her again and she fell. I ran to her but she pushed me away and lunged herself at him. He was not expecting it and he fell. I ran to her but suddenly she pushed me away and I started crying. I did not understand, I did not see he had a knife in his hand.” She was crying now, “He stabbed her in the stomach and she felt to the ground. Over and over he kept stabbing her. I tried to make him stop, there was so much blood…” Her whole body began to shake.
Bob held her whispering comforting words while she sobbed.
“And then he stopped and he turned to me.”
Bob tried to prepare himself for what she was about to say. But instead of speaking she reached for the zipper of her hoodie and pulled it down. He heard the soft swoosh and was confused a moment until she took his hand. Slowly she moved it to her chest stopping just above right breast. His fingers could feel the scars.
“He pushed me down on the ground and started cutting at my clothes. He cut through the material and into my skin.” She hated that she had to lie about the viciousness of the attack but she could not tell him the truth. Her voice became hollow as she spoke the lies. “I do not remember anything else. Two days later a farmer found me. He had left me there believing I was dead.”
Claire allowed herself to remember the truth in her mind. The fear, the pain and the figure she’d believe was an angel who had made it all stop.
Words did not seem adequate. Bob reached across and snapped on the light. In the soft glow he looked down at her chest. Instinctively she tried to cover her bare breast but he gently pushed her hands away. His eyes were on the network of scars that covered her skin from the base of her neck and down her stomach. He looked into her eyes a moment then leaned down to gently kiss the largest scar. Then he slowly zipped her hoddie, snapped off the light then pulled her into his arms.
An onslaught of emotions overcame Claire. They were so intense she did not know how to react.
As he held her in his arms he realized he’d never felt anything like this before. He wanted to protect her, he wished with his whole heart there was someway to change the past.” I am so sorry.” He whispered.
She had stopped crying. “After that night I became terrified of storms. I know it is foolish but I can not keep the memories from coming back.”
“There is nothing foolish about that, Claire. My God you were a child. What that bastard did…” He tried to control the rage he was feeling.
“I know I need to learn to deal with my fears.” Claire said softly, “I do not want to be a weak person.”
“You’re not a weak person. You are a strong, beautiful woman.”
She smiled sadly, “I am neither.”
“You’re wrong. Maybe you don’t know it but I do. And you are a deeply caring woman. One I am just beginning to know.” He kissed her cheek, “One I want to know.”
Claire spoke quickly, “How can you say that? We have known each other such a short time.”
Bob laughed softly, “Some things you just know are right. The first time I saw you, you took my breath away. The first time we talked, the first time I looked into your eyes, I knew there was something there.”
His words filled her with happiness yet the chance of this ending badly was so great. “I do not ever want to disappoint you.” She whispered.
“What if I disappoint you?” He asked softly, “What if you get to know me better and you don’t like me?”
Claire was sure of only one thing, “That could never happen.”
Bob hoped it was not the wrong thing to do but he couldn’t stop himself. He lifted himself on his elbow so he could lean down and kiss her lips. They were soft and the kiss was sweet. Reluctantly he pulled back and lay back down. He knew in his heart he would need to take things slowly with her.
“Goodnight.” She whispered reveling in the memory of the kiss.
“Goodnight, Hun.” He too was thinking about the kiss, such a simple act and yet it had felt like a promise of things to come.