"Just sleep baby." Oneshot.
OH MY GOD! THE HURRICANE IS MAKING US LEAVE OUR BEACH HOUSE! EVERYONE IS BEING FORCED TO EVACUATE. THANKS A LOT MOTHER NATURE! I sure hope none of my stuff gets ruined. I'll be really pissed! (Sorry about my little rant there.)
“Just sleep baby,” he whispered, his strong hands stroking my hair. My eyes were heavy, ten tonne weights on my eyelashes, but I couldn’t sleep. I never slept. He did…every night he would say that he wouldn’t go to sleep before me but he always did. Sometimes I pretended and then when I heard his breathing turn deep I knew I had won the battle. But most of the time the daily grind of being my husband became too much for him and he drifted off without a thought…he was only human after all.
This night was no different. It was raining outside but I sat on the porch anyway. Normally the overhang would protect me from the drops falling from the gutters but tonight the direction of the wind meant that it hit me directly in the face. I was soaked through within minutes. I didn’t feel it though. I just thought of him, he would be home soon. Twelve hour hospital shifts were a bitch, but if we wanted to keep this house they were also necessary. Twelve hours of looking after the loonies of Belleville and then he got to come home to one of his very own.
It was exactly 8.30pm when he pulled into the driveway, the headlights of the clapped out Honda Civic shimmering in the puddles on the concrete and the trails of raindrops on my face. I smiled and waved at him as he grabbed his backpack from the passenger seat and got out of the car. His nurses’ smock immediately soaked through, clinging to his bulky frame. “What the fuck are you doing?” he shouted over the clatter of the heavy rain. It was like an orchestra, a symphony of the elements. He wasn’t angry, there was a smile on his face and he laughed as I walked down the porch steps to meet him. “You’re going to catch your death,” he murmured in my ear as I hugged him tight. “How long have you been out here?” He pulled away and looked at me, the smile still plastered to my face. He was home, and that was all that mattered. The days without him were just about bearable but the nights were the worst. When he could come home and we could sleep together in the same bed were the nights when I actually thought my life was okay. I signed to him that I had been out there about an hour and he made an evil face at me. Maybe if I was ill he would be allowed to have the time off work.
Yeah that’s right…I signed to him. I’ve been dumb ever since I was five years old. Just one day, out of nowhere…poof and my voice was gone. I don’t really remember a moment when I could speak; it is like it has been erased from my memory. Throughout my teenage years I gave up on ever being normal, ever having friends, and ever finding love. But I was eighteen years old when I saw Gerard pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair down a hospital corridor. I was there for my weekly evaluation with the psychiatrist. I watched him. You know when you can sense someone watching you? Well he sensed me alright, because his head shot over to look. He didn’t stop walking, just smiled almost lazily. I just remember blushing and averting my gaze. I saw him every week for two months. I thought it was strange that he always seemed to be there when I was. He later told me that he would go that way deliberately, just to catch a glimpse of my face. I always wondered whether he knew I was a freak, or if he just thought I was visiting someone else. That day when I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see his caramel eyes staring at me I found out.
“Hey,” he signed. I stood open-mouthed. One, he knew that I signed, and even more amazing, he knew how to sign. He grinned and I felt a shiver along my spine.
“Hi,” I signed back.
“I saw you signing with the doctor,” he explained. I nodded and half-smiled shyly. My head bobbed up and down as I stared at my feet and then back at him, over and over.
The silence around us was immense and I began to wonder what his voice sounded like. I realized that he thought I was deaf not dumb and I quickly explained.
“I’m not deaf,” I signed quickly, his brow furrowed as he tried to follow my hand movements.
“Oh,” he said aloud and I shivered once more at his deep, mellow intonation.
“I just can’t speak. Thirteen years now.”
“Oh okay. Well I’ll start again then,” he laughed and I bit my lip to suppress more shivers. “Hey. I’m Gerard Way.” He held out his hand and I shook it once, his palms were soft.
“Joanna Miller,” I signed once I had my hand back. “You work here then?” I loved the way his nose wrinkled up when he concentrated. I loved the way his eyes were wide with interest as I signed. Like he actually cared about what I had to say.
“Nah. I just wander these halls in this god awful outfit for fun,” he said, his sarcastic tone made me want to laugh out aloud. I wanted to so badly at that moment. I smiled wide. Sarcasm – my favorite form of humor. He looked relieved that I hadn’t taken offense and his laugh was quiet. “I’ve worked here for eight years. Psych staff nurse now.”
“Wow. So that means you’re kind of in charge of me if I ever get admitted,” I signed and cocked an eyebrow. I realized I was flirting but the way that Gerard was reacting to what I said told me that maybe I was good at it. He kept taking shuffling steps to stand nearer to me, his eyes sought out mine at every opportunity and he laughed when I signed things that weren’t even funny.
“I’d be happy to be in charge of you,” he said softly and I blushed profusely. We didn’t have chance to say much else as my doctor called me into his office, he was surprised to see Gerard standing there but said a short hello.
“Hello Dr Winters,” Gerard replied, not taking his eyes from my face.
“Nice to talk to you,” I signed, my fingers moving with fluidity.
“You too,” he said softly, almost mimicking the softness in my gestures. I turned and walked into the office, taking a backwards glance. He was still standing there, his thumb running along his stubbled chin thoughtfully.
We ‘talked’ every week after that. I don’t want to hinder you with the details. Basically I fell for Gerard Way, in all the cliched, technicolor, Withering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, ways you could think of. My parents weren’t very pleased that he was ten years older than me but that didn’t stop the secret dates to the cinema, late-night walks through the park, kisses underneath the tree outside my bedroom window, which I would then climb so my parents wouldn’t hear the door slam. My relationship with him was a cheesy romantic-comedy, the sort of film relationship that you always wish for but never got. Well I got mine when I met him. We married when I was twenty-one, got the house at twenty-two, I developed paranoid schizophrenia at twenty-three. Yeah, kind of forgot to mention that…in romantic-comedies, the heroine doesn’t usually have a mental illness does she. That’s when real life kicks in. We didn’t argue about it, Gerard just silently understood.
Three years on since my diagnosis and not one cross word between us. There are just the endless daylight hours alone when Gerard has to work to pay the mortgage and my medical bills – no-one wants to give someone like me a job – and the endless darkened nights of sleeplessness.
Gerard lit the fire that night after our clothes got soaked through in the rain and we sat nude beneath warm woolen blankets, holding each other close, and watching steam rise from the clothes-horse in the corner. His hands caressed my face aimlessly, as if he was blind and he was trying to recall my face in his head. I sighed loudly, about the only sound beyond an unintelligible squeak that I could utter.
“I love hearing you sigh,” he said, his voice muffled as his lips found the soft skin above my collar-bone, which made me sigh even more. He saw my eyelids drooping and then shooting back open again. They would get me if I closed my eyes, even Gerard couldn’t protect me.
“Just sleep baby,” he whispered and I tried. God I tried. But soon his own breathing evened out and I turned my head to see his dark eyelashes teasing the skin underneath his eyes, as his lids fluttered in sleep. His breathing was deep and steady, the occasional sound from his lips as he dreamed. I hoped he was dreaming of a world where he could hear me saying “I love you.” I knew that was what he desired above anything else and I wished with all my heart that I could give him that. But it had been twenty-one years now since I had lost my voice. Every passing year had brought less and less hope of it ever returning. My doctors spent less time focusing on my lack of speech now; the schizophrenia was their main concern. They tried to get me to tell them why I had lost my voice in the first place. Psychoanalytic treatments and hypnosis attempted to turn me into that five year old again, tried to tease the underlying secrets out of me, but my mind refused to let go, refused to break the chains that enslaved me. There was a secret there. I had seen something, heard something. Something which had scarred me and my future marriage forever.
The shadows closed in around me as I felt my eyes drop close. I tried to tell myself no. Tried to stop those waves of slumber breaking over me, but it is human nature to want to sleep, to crave that feeling of weightlessness and anonymity. My body betrayed my emotions. The voices in my head, those people that had come to populate my mind began to speak. They warned me about what would happen if I went to sleep, that I would never wake up again. But it was no use; the dreams that haunted me that night were bloody, violent scenes that even the most gory horror films shied away from. When I woke up my cheeks were soaked with tears and I was clutching Gerard tightly, my nails digging into his skin. I was breathing loud and fast, and as I looked up I saw he was staring at me. His hazel eyes were cloudy and confused.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” I signed, after I had removed my fingers from his flesh.
“You need to sleep,” he said, his face began to burn red as he realized that he had in a way betrayed me. He knew what happened when I slept; I had described it all to him so vividly. As if to assure him that I understood I pressed my lips to his lightly and he clutched me in his arms almost painfully tight. “Fuck, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he repeated over and over. But I didn’t really understand what he was apologizing for. I pulled away after a few minutes and asked him why he was sorry. His face was masked with a pain that I had never seen before, a pain that I didn’t even want to begin to understand.
“I’m sorry things couldn’t be different,” he said softly and I nodded in understanding.
“Come on. You’re going to be late for work and I’m going to be late for my appointment,” I smiled and got up from the sofa. My neck was stiff and I winced as the sharp pain shot through my muscles. Gerard rubbed my neck gently but firmly and I leaned back into his body. He knew how to distract me.
“We have time,” he breathed in my ear and I shook my head, although my hands were thinking otherwise as I ran them down his bare thighs. “We always made love when I get home. Last night we didn’t…” I twisted round his arms to face him and grinned wide as I signed that he was the one who had fallen asleep. He considered this for a moment with a mischievous look on his sleep-rumpled face before picking me up without warning and not putting me down until we had reached our bedroom.
It was different having sex without the cloak of darkness surrounding us, instead we were lit with the early-morning sunlight instead of late-night starlight. But that wasn’t the only thing that was different. I felt like something bad was going to happen as Gerard thrust into me deliberately slowly, over and over. I had never been flooded with such conflicted feelings before, intense pleasure and intense suspicion.
My suspicions were grounded in truth. The panic and the confusion that I felt when we arrived at the hospital was unprecedented. Normally I was greeted with tea and biscuits in Dr Winters’ office, that day I was greeted with the explanation that Gerard had asked Dr Winters to section me. I turned to him, he was still standing in the doorway to the office, and even his thick dark hair couldn’t hide the guilt that was written all over his face. My breathing became so labored with the tears that I was trying to hold back and my head shook from side to side in a silent plea for him to take it back. “Take me home,” I signed to Gerard, my hands shaking. He too shook his head but he could voice his reasons, unlike me.
“I can’t do that Joanna,” he whispered, staring down at me through a curtain of hair. “I can’t do this anymore baby.”
“So you’re just fobbing me off to the loony bin,” I signed, my anger had replaced any understanding I could possibly possess. “What happened to in sickness and in health?” Right now I wished that I could scream those words at him.
“I’m doing this because I love you…I love you Joanna. You don’t even know how much. I just want you to be better.” I clenched my fists. Why couldn’t he just accept me as I was? I pressed my fists to my forehead and then did the only thing that felt like it replaced my voice. I punched my fists into his chest, crying silently as he flinched but didn’t move away.
I felt the grip of Dr Winters on my shoulders but didn’t stop. I didn’t stop until a nurse passed him a syringe which he plunged into my arm. I stopped them, as the paralyzing drug raced through my system, I stopped doing anything. Stopped fighting, stopped thinking, stopped worrying, stopped loving him. I stared up into his swollen eyes from crying and something fell into place, as if my anger had cut one of the strings that tied up my past in a parcel. Before the darkness that I could hear rushing in my ear, covered me I said three words to him that felt like nothing but I knew they hit him like a train. I said them aloud. The first words I had spoken in twenty-one years, my voice now one of a woman’s, not a child’s.
“I hate you.” They weren’t the words that he had wanted to hear from my mouth but they are the words that reflected my feelings towards him at that moment as I fell to the ground.
One Year Later
I twisted my wedding band around my finger as I waited by the large bay window. Gerard had visited me every day since I got here eight months ago but I never spoke a word. Now I could speak I realized that I liked it better when words weren’t possible, it had been easier in that world of silence, although at the time it felt like anything but easy. Gerard would talk for hours as he sat beside me, sometimes I would look at him but most of the time I was ambivalent to his presence. It didn’t matter to me if he was there or not. I wondered whether it was just the drugs that were making me unresponsive to him, or if I actually hated him. This uncertainty was what stopped me from divorcing him because sometimes late at night I ached for him.
They had found out my secret. My unlocked speech had also unlocked the memories of a five-year old me. The images of that night coming back to me, shocking me and disturbing me even more than I already was. My mother stone cold dead on the bathroom floor, my father above her clutching knife stained with her blood. The threats from my father, the aftermath of punches and kicks stretching on until I was fifteen, his remarriage to the woman I had thought was my mother but who was now just another person in my life who had betrayed me. I had blocked all this out, a whole chapter of my existence. A chapter which determined who I now was. A chapter I just wanted to erase once more.
It was better here at Crooksdale than it had been at the hospital unit. More treatment, different drugs, therapy rained down of my head but it seemed to be working. I could sleep now without the voices warning me, but I still didn’t sleep a lot because I craved his arms around me. I knew that the only words he had ever heard me say were that I hated him but when he arrived at the same time everyday, flowers in his arms; it was like I was dumb once more. He always tried to be cheerful, the nurse in him coming out. He always talked of ‘when’ I would get home. Sure, I was scheduled to leave here soon but if I was going back to him was another decision altogether.
I was torn from my thoughts as the nurse appeared in front of me, “Your husband is here Joanna.” The same introduction everyday. Hell, I knew he was coming, he didn’t need an announcement. I smiled reluctantly at her as she ushered him in. He whispered his thanks to her, before kissing me on the cheek and putting the bunch of daisies down on the coffee table. He say in the wing backed chair opposite me, crossing his one leg over the other. My eyes followed every movement before searching for his eyes. He seemed surprised when he looked up and saw me staring at him; I never stared at him anymore.
“What?” he grinned and I felt the corners of my mouth twitch as I turned my gaze once more to the fields outside of the window. Silence fell about us, but he didn’t seem uncomfortable. He seemed quite content staring at me staring out of the window. I wasn’t comfortable. I liked it when he spoke at top-speed, telling me the same stories over and over. I knew what he trying to do. He was trying to coax me into speaking…It was working. I took a deep breath and fixed my gaze on his again.
“How are you?” I said, and his face lit up. Not once in my eight months here had we ever talked about his feelings.
“I’m good. How are you?” It was a polite exchange but I didn’t want to talk about me anymore. I had enough of that with the doctors…I wanted to talk about his feelings.
“I don’t want to talk about me Gerard. I want to talk about you.” He smiled and blushed faintly.
“I like hearing your voice.”
“When it’s not throwing insults at you?” I fired back and his smile remained.
“I don’t care what you say…just hearing you say it is all that matters to me,” he said quietly, his gaze never faltering once. He paused awkwardly and took a deep breath very similar to the one I had taken before speaking. “I miss you Joanna.” It was my turn to blush at his heartfelt tone.
“We see each other every day,” I mumbled, as I ran my hands over my face.
“No we don’t. You see me…but I don’t see you.”
“Why do you keep coming? Anyone else would have given up by now,” I whispered and I noticed that he had edged his chair nearer to me.
“Because you’re my wife…and I love you.” My breath caught in my throat and I stared at my lap intently, only to be forced to look up once more as he took my hand.
“Why did you do that to me if you love me?” I said, trying to sound strong although my eyes were clouding over with tears.
“Love doesn’t always mean that your actions are happy ones,” he reasoned, clutching my hand tighter. I nodded and he tipped my chin upwards so he could fix me with that hazel stare. “Come home with me?” he whispered and I smiled despite myself.
“I love you,” I whispered back and kissed him quickly on the lips.
“That’s not an answer,” he chuckled.
“Yes it is,” I nodded and I stood up slowly causing him to copy my actions. “It’s time for you to go,” I said, eying the nurse by the doorway. “Plus you have work right?”
“I do,” he said hoarsely. I pulled him into a hug and I shuddered as his hands caressed my neck like they had done that last morning we had together. I pulled away and he walked slowly towards the doors.
“See you tomorrow,” I called after him and he turned smiling. He walked backwards until he reached the door, his eyes fixed on my form, framed by the sunlight streaming through the glass. I saw his car drive away but I wasn’t sad because I knew he would come back tomorrow, and every day until I was free. Every day until that last thread was severed.
“Who are you talking to Joanna?” I heard Doctor Winters ask and I opened my eyes, realizing that I’d been daydreaming again.
“No-one,” I whispered, my heart sinking as I realized that another day had passed without a visit from Gerard.
“How are you feeling today?” he asked and I shrugged I reply.
“Did you see Gerard today?” I asked instead, steering the conversation away.
“I did,” he replied and I smiled.
“Did he ask about me?”
“He always does Joanna,” he said softly.
“Why doesn’t he visit?” I felt like a child asking question after question.
“It’s hard for him too.”
“Tell him to come soon okay,” I said, I said that every day but it never seemed to work. “Tell him I love him.”
“He knows that Joanna.” I furrowed my brow in thought.
“Does he still love me?” I asked tentatively, my eyes still downcast.
“He told me to give you this,” Dr Winters said and he held out a white envelope which I took almost hungrily. I ripped it open and inside was a plain white card. I recognized Gerard’s handwriting immediately and felt my breathing deepen as I read his words. Maybe my daydreams really would come true.
“Come home with me?”
So what did you guys think?