Here we are to the last part of A Story to Tell, just in time for the full book to be available on Kindle. I’ve changed the final story in the Kindle addition a little, changed some scenes, tightened and added a little more. If you’re a blog reader, you’ve read most of the story, but if you or someone else doesn’t want to click to each blog post for the chapters the link to the ebook is below. The book is free for the next five days to allow my blog readers the chance to snag a copy – at least it is if the promotion I tried to set up works!
As always, feel free to let me know your thoughts on the story in the comments. You can also offer suggestions for what you think should happen to Blanche (and Hank?) next as I am already working on the second part of the story, or book two.
Find your Kindle copy of A Story to Tell here.
Hard copies (paperback) will be available at a later date.
To read the other parts of the story click the link HERE.
The look on my best friend’s face when she saw me with two black eyes and swollen lip confirmed I looked as bad as I thought I did. She pushed my hair back off my shoulders, revealing another bruise and began to cry. I was too tired and too emotionally numb to cry with her.
We were standing alone on the sidewalk by the bus stop in the town she and I had attended high school in only three years before and I was holding a baby – my baby – on my hip. Emmy Stanton and I had been best friends since seventh grade. She looked at me with a mix of concern and anger in her eyes. I looked at her through hollow eyes, a wide-eyed, plump 12-month old baby in my arms.
“If I ever see that Hank again, I swear to God, I’ll kill him,” Emmy said angrily, wiping tears from her cheek. “Let’s get you and Jackson home.”
She lifted my son from my arms and kissed his cheek as he giggled and reached for her hair.
“Home,” I said softly. “I don’t even know where that is anymore.”
Home had been the place I had left a little more than three years ago when Hank Hakes had asked me to run away with him at the beginning of my senior year of high school. Home was the place I had longed for all these years but felt I had lost the night Daddy caught Hank and I kissing under the maple tree in the middle of the night.
Emmy put her arm around my shoulder and hugged me close.
“Home is where people love you,” she said. “It’s at your parents, who still love you, Blanche. Come on, let’s get going.”
I sat in the passenger seat of Emmy’s dad’s Chevy with Jackson on my lap, staring blankly at the road in front of me. The exhaustion from the trauma of the last two days had finally hit me.
“How long has this been going on?” Emmy asked.
I shrugged, staring ahead.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
I shrugged again, fighting back the tears.
“I didn’t want anyone to know,” I said.
“That he was horrible?” she asked.
“No. That I was.”
“Blanche, how can you blame yourself for what he did to you?” .
“I never should have left with him, Emmy,” I said. “I never should have thought I could change him when he started drinking. I never should have – “
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Emmy said, glancing at me as she drove. “Do you understand me? You thought you were doing what was right. You made a mistake, that’s all.”
I nodded but I didn’t truly believe her.
“What happened?” she asked.
“He was mad because he said I didn’t tell him I was going to a friend’s house.”
I closed my eyes, remembering Hank’s face a few nights before – the twisted grimace, the darkness flashing in his eyes as he lunged for me. I touched my swollen lip, remembering the sick metallic taste after he’d struck me, the searing pain in the back of my head, Jackson screaming from the bedroom and then the blood – Hank’s blood – when I’d kicked him hard in the face to get away from him, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious.
“Has he beat you this bad before?”
“No. Not this bad. The other times it was more his words than his fists.”
We drove the rest of the twelve miles to my parents in silence, other than Jackson giggling and Emmy giggling back at him.
When we pulled up in front of the house I’d grown up in with my parents and older sister, Emmy slipped the car into park and turned toward me.
“I’m not going to come in with you but I’m going to call later,” she said.
She touched my shoulder as I opened the door.
“When you’re ready you can tell me what happened. I’m here for you? Okay?”
My lower lip trembled but I fought the tears back again. I knew if I started crying, I’d never stop.
“I love you, Emmy,” I said and quickly climbed out of the passenger seat with my suitcase and Jackson.
I almost opened the door to the house and then remembered I didn’t belong there anymore. Daddy had barely spoke to me in the three years I had been gone. I knocked on the door and when Mama opened it her expression morphed through the emotions – confusion, then joy, then concern.
“Blanche? Oh Blanche! What happened to you?! Give me that baby!”
She took Jackson in her arms and he giggled. He didn’t see her often, but he still seemed to know she was special. With one arm she held him and with the other she pulled me close and kissed the top of my head and then my cheek. I winced, her lips against the bruise sending pain rushing through me. Tears were on her cheeks as she pulled away from the hug. She was laughing and crying at the same time.
“I’m so happy you’re here,” she said, without even asking me why I was there or if I was staying or why my face looked like Sugar Ray Leonard’s punching bag. “Let me get you two something to eat and then we’ll talk.”
I sat my bag on the floor and stood awkwardly inside the front door as she walked toward the kitchen talking to her grandson, asking how his trip had been and if he wanted a cookie. I heard her put the kettle on the stove for the tea.
Daddy was sitting in his chair reading his paper and looked around it only briefly, then snapped it open in front of his face again. I stood there bending my ankles back and forth nervously, unsure if he was planning to say anything or simply ignore me. The only sound was the clock on the wall ticking and Mama talking to Jackson in the kitchen. I stood there for several moments before I closed the door behind me. I didn’t know if I should speak or simply walk to the kitchen with Mama.
Daddy finally lowered the paper slowly, folding it and laying it on the small table next to his chair as he cleared his throat. He looked over at me, his eyes traveling from my face to my worn shoes and back to my face again, pipe in his mouth.
“I’m guessing by that bruised face and that bag, you’re going to be staying awhile,” he said gruffly.
He paused and furrowed his eyebrows. When he continued his voice was firm, his jaw tight.
“If you’re going to stay here you need to understand some things,” he said in a calm, measured tone.
He took his pipe out of the corner of his mouth and pointed it at me.
I looked at him, waiting.
“You will agree to be done with Hank,” he said. “I mean done done. You even think of going back to him you will leave this house and never look back. Do you hear me?”
I nodded. I didn’t have a problem with that rule. I never wanted to see Hank again.
“He’s never allowed on this property,” he continued. “He’s not allowed to have contact with you or with Jackson.”
I nodded again.
“You’ll pull your weight around here,” Daddy said. “You’ll do what your mama and I tell you and you’ll abide by our rules. Do you understand?”
I nodded, looking at the floor as I felt tears fall down my face.
Daddy stood and I tensed, as he walked toward me, unsure how to react.
“Blanche…” his voice softened, and I felt his hand on my cheek. I looked up and saw a tender expression – like the ones he’d used to look at me with before that night with Hank. His eyes were bright with tears. “I know I’ve been real hard on you these last few years. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just knew you had such potential and it hurt to see you throw it all away.”
“I still have potential, Daddy,” I said.
Daddy nodded and I could see tears rimming his eyes. He put his arms around me and pulled me close, startling me. My daddy had never been a hugger.
“I’m glad to have you home,” he said in a voice thick with emotion. “And I swear to God if I ever see Hank Hakes, I’ll shoot him for what he’s done to my little girl.”
I pushed my face into my daddy’s chest, breathing in the smell of Old Spice and tobacco. I cried hard, my tears soaking the front of his shirt. It was a homecoming I had never expected, a reconciliation I never thought would come.
Laying in my old bed that night I still felt tense, unable to relax, unable to rid my mind of the images of Hank coming toward me. I laid on my back, looking at Jackson asleep in my old crib. I tried to remind myself I was safe now, Jackson was safe, far away from Hank. I was home. I was with my parents and they still loved me. My future should be, could be, bright.
Still, I couldn’t shake the fear, the foreboding, the dread that I’d never be free of the darkness I’d seen in Hank.
I spent the first few weeks back home in a state of constant fear and dread. I flinched if a pot was dropped. I woke up crying with nightmares. I woke up several times a night, obsessively laying my hand against Jackson’s back. By the second week of being home I was tired of my family looking at me sadly, treating me gently and somehow blaming themselves for my mistakes.
“I shouldn’t have left you up there,” Mama said.
“I knew something was wrong the day of my wedding,” Edith said. “I should have pushed you to tell me what was going on.”
“I should never have told you to go back and push through,” Lillian said. “If only I had known. . .”
“I should have ..”
“I wish I had. . .”
“If I hadn’t. . .”
Mama, Edith, Emmy, Lillian. All feeling like they had some hand in a fate that had all been because of my own actions, my own failures and foolishness.
I didn’t leave the house those first two weeks home, not even for church. I didn’t want anyone to see me, to have to watch faces transform from shock or horror to sadness or pity. I also didn’t want to see the disapproving glances, sure many in our small town thought they already knew the full story.
By the third week I was itching to leave the house and take a break from dwelling on the sadness my mistakes had caused.
“Blanche, we’re going over to Edith’s to bake some cookies,” Mama announced one morning. “Get your hair combed, get out of that faded old dress and let’s go.”
Edith and Jimmy had moved into Dalton, into a modest, but attractive two-story home on Second Street. Standing outside the house, holding Jackson, I marveled at how different our lives were now – how we had taken paths I hadn’t expected. While I had once worried that Edith would end up a forever flirt, breaking boys’ hearts, I was now amazed at the change in her, and in the life I thought she would never have.
“I made us some iced tea and some finger sandwiches to eat while we cook,” she said as we took off our sweaters. “And Mrs. Janson next door loaned me her playpen for Jackson. Have you seen these new pens yet? They are so convenient. We need to get you one.”
Jimmy stood up from the table and smiled.
“Well, you ladies enjoy yourself, I’m going to slip out and do some more – uh – manly things,” he said, winking.
“I’m sure you’ll be back to enjoy the results of our efforts, however,” Mama said as he hugged her.
“You bet I will,” he said. “I’ll need it after I’m done working on Frank Billinger’s old truck.”
“Is that thing still working?” I asked, surprised.
Frank’s truck had been putting around town since I was a small child, kicking out loud noises and black smoke, bringing more than one anxious elderly lady to the brink of a heart attack.
“It was until yesterday,” Jimmy said. “I’m really not sure I can bring that thing to life, but I also don’t know how to convince an 84-year old man he needs to buy a new truck if he still wants to drive.”
“Which he shouldn’t even be doing,” Edith said.
“Yes, last week he almost ran over Mrs. Simpson crossing Main Street,” Mama said.
“Well, anyone could almost run over Mrs. Simpson,” Jimmy said with a laugh. “She’s only about 3 feet tall, as skinny as a baby tree, and moves as slow as a turtle.”
“If only Mr. Billinger drove as slow as a turtle.” I laughed.
“That would solve a lot of problems too,” Jimmy agreed. “Anyhow, enjoy baking cookies, ladies. I’m off to torture myself trying to piece that truck together.”
As we mixed the cookies and chatted Jackson slept in the playpen.
“He’s so beautiful, Blanche,” Edith said, watching him as she dropped cookie dough on the baking sheet. “And you really are a great mother. Isn’t it crazy to think you’re a mother? Especially since you were the one who didn’t have any interest in being a parent.”
I laughed. “I know. You were the one always planning out weddings and talking about how many children you’d have one day.”
Edith smiled as she slid the baking sheet in the oven.
“Well, for now we will start with the one and see what happens after that,” she said, patting her belly.
“Are you expecting?” she cried..
Edith nodded. “We confirmed it with Dr. Chadwick to be sure before I told you.”
Mama and I took turns hugging Edith.
“I’m so excited for you!” I said, hugging her tight. I pulled back and looked at her. “Have you been sick at all?”
“Not too bad,” she said with a smile.
“You’re lucky,” I told her. “I was so sick I could barely function.”
Mama and Edith started talking about baby clothes and what room in the house they could turn into the nursery. When Jackson started crying, I walked into the living room, lifted him from the playpen and cradled him against me.
“You’re such a good mom, Blanche,” Edith said. “You’ll help me through all this won’t you?”
I jostled Jackson as I walked.
“I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask advice of, but I’ll try,” I told her.
“Oh, Blanche, I’m so excited to be a mom and we can raise our kids together and take them to the park and they’ll play together and –“
“Here, get started and learning how to be a great mom,” I said with a grin, handing her Jackson and reaching for a diaper out of my bag. “He needs a change.”
Edith sighed and scowled at me.
“There is no better way to learn about being a parent than experiencing it firsthand,” I said, laying the cloth diaper over her shoulder. I patted her other shoulder and walked back toward the kitchen.
“Good luck!” I called over my shoulder. “I’d help but the cookies are burning and I need to pull them out.”
“Do you want some lemonade?” Emmy asked, taking a glass from the picnic basket she’d brought to the park.
She’d invited me to have a picnic with her in town, at the park across from the theater. She said I needed to get out, take a break, and think about something other than Hank and all that had happened. I knew she was right, but I’d resisted the idea, preferring to remain hidden at Mama and Daddy’s, caring for Jackson, helping Mama with chores around the house. Mama had sided with Emmy, offering to watch Jackson, assuring me there would still be plenty of work left when I returned.
“You seem distracted,” Emmy said, pouring lemonade into my glass. “What’s on your mind?”
I shook my head and laughed.
“I think you know what’s on my mind.”
“So, what are you thinking about him? Do you miss him? Do you hate him? Do you still love him?”
I sighed. “I can’t say I miss him, no. I don’t exactly hate him, but I also don’t have a great deal of love for him. Many times, I feel sorry for him.”
I looked at Emmy and then looked down at the lemonade in my hand.
“He was running around with other women, Emmy. Or at least one woman.”
Emmy’s jaw tightened. “Having affairs and smacking you around,” she said stiffly. “Well, he was just a winner, wasn’t he?”
“Not a winner in what he should have been, no,” I said. “Why didn’t I see it before? When we were sneaking around behind Mama and Daddy’s back?”
Emmy shrugged, sipping her lemonade. “He was handsome. He was charming and exciting. And he never showed that side of him. Who knows, maybe the stress of having to be an adult for once just got to him and he snapped. Maybe that dark side of him was always there but the stress brought it out. You may never know why he changed, or if he was always that way, but what you do know is that you had to get away from him. It was the best thing for you and Jackson.”
I looked down at the blanket Emmy had spread on the grass, thinking.
“Are you still blaming yourself for all of this?” Emmy asked. “Because you’re not to blame. You may have made a mistake in leaving with him, but nothing you did could ever excuse what he did to you. You get that, right?”
I nodded but didn’t look up at her.
“I don’t think you do,” Emmy said. “I think you’re still sitting there, blaming yourself for the fact your husband turned out to be a horrible man who beat you. Do you hear what I just said? It sounds totally crazy.”
I knew it all sounded crazy. I knew, deep down, I shouldn’t be blaming myself for what had happened between Hank and me, yet, I still did, in so many ways.
“I’m trying not to,” I said after a long period of silence. “And I’ll keep trying.”
Emmy took my glass from my hand and put it in the grass. She took both my hands in hers and told me to look at her.
“Blanche, I’m going to keep praying that God shows you that you did not deserve to be hurt, that you are worthy of happiness and that you are worthy of love. And I want you to pray the same thing. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes,” I said. “I can and I will.”
“Thank you,” she said. “Now, I have some big news to share with you. Remember that guy I told you about from my typing class at school? Sam?”
“The one with the gorgeous blue eyes?”
“Yes! That one! Well, he’s asked me out. I’m hoping you’ll help me choose a dress to wear Friday night. We’re going out to dinner at Yanuzzi’s and then to a movie. What do you think?”
“Of course I’ll help!” I said. “We should go over to Rita’s right after lunch and see what we can find!”
Emmy squealed, the same way she always had when we’d been growing up. In that moment it was like we were teenagers again, before I’d grown up too fast. Our lives were before us, like a clean slate or a wide-open road. In my case, though, my life wasn’t only mine to live. It was mine and Jackson’s and any decisions I made now had to include him. The thought wasn’t sad to me, but sobering, a realization of the responsibility I had to us both now that a new life was before us.
I looked out of the kitchen window as I washed dishes and saw headlights moving toward the house. When the headlights pulled into our driveway, my stomach lurched with a sense of foreboding.
“Who could that be this time of night?” Mama asked, standing behind me, drying her hands.
My heart pounded fast in my chest as I heard the skidding of tires in the gravel and the truck door slam. I knew it was him. I lifted Jackson from the highchair, holding him against me. Rushing into the front room, pulling the curtain aside, a shudder rushed through me as I saw Hank swagger toward the front steps. Images of the night Hank beat me flashed in my mind and I closed my eyes against them.
Daddy stood up from his chair, walked across the room and looked over my shoulder. He swiftly turned and walked toward the front closet.
“You stay here,” he said firmly, flinging the closet door open and withdrawing his shotgun from the back. “I’ll handle this.”
“Daddy, what are you going to do?”
I had felt liberated and brave when I walked away from Hank, but now terror filled me.
Daddy’s jaw tightened. “Stay in the house.”
He opened the gun chamber, slid three shells in it, and slammed it shut. Ripping the front door open he walked briskly onto the porch while Mama and I stood in the living room, looking through the curtain of the front window, me holding Jackson, her standing next to me.
“Hey, there, Mr. Robbins.” Hank sounded as cocky as ever and it made my blood boil. “I’m looking for my wife and son.”
“Get off my property, Hank.” Daddy raised the gun in front of him. “You’re not welcome here.”
“You can’t keep me from seeing my wife and my son,” Hank said sharply. “I know they’re here.”
“Yes, I can,” Daddy snapped. “And I will.”
The light from the porch fell on Hank’s face as he stepped toward the porch. I could see faded yellow and brown marks under his eyes and across his nose.
“That’s my boy in there and I’ll see him if I want to!” he shouted.
“I told you to leave.” Daddy’s voice sounded like the growl of an angry bear.
“She’s still my wife!”
“Not for much longer! She’s filing for divorce and you’ll agree to it, Hank.”
“She’s still my wife and I’m not signing any papers!”
“You’ll sign those papers or I’ll pump gun powder into your –“
“You wouldn’t dare, old man,” Hank challenged.
Dad took another step forward and then stood in place, the gun clutched close to his chest. “No one beats my daughter and gets away with it.”
“I never touched her. She fell into that table. It was an accident.”
“And I bet that broken nose of yours was an accident too,” Daddy said. “You’re lucky that’s all that happened to you. I’m telling you right now, Hank, get off my property or I’ll shoot you, without a moment of hesitation or an ounce of regret. You’ll have worse than a broken nose when I’m done with you.”
“You’re going to shoot the father of your grandson?” His voice was mocking. “The man who made your little girl a woman?”
Daddy tightened this grip on the shotgun and I turned away from the window, kissing the top of Jackson’s head as he pulled at my hair and squirmed to get down.
When the sound of the gunshot echoed in the house I screamed and Mama cried out, clasping her hand over her mouth. I was convinced Daddy had shot Hank and that within the hour the sheriff would come and drag Daddy off to jail. I rushed back to the window.
Mama swung the front door open as Daddy’s voice boomed into the darkness. “That was a warning shot, Hank! Get back in your truck or the next bullet will be in your head.”
Hank was looking at the ground a few feet in front of him in shock.
“Y-you could have killed me, you crazy old man!” he sputtered in disbelief.
“I could have, and I still can. Now go before I have to.”
Hank looked at Daddy with wide eyes, in shock, then turned on his heel, climbed in his truck and left without one of his brazen comments this time.
“I won’t have him called Jackson Hakes,” Daddy’s voice was firm as my hand hovered over the divorce paper, shaking. “He’ll take our last name. He won’t have that stain of a name attached to him – not ever. Do you understand me? And you’ll take ours back too.”
Daddy was still fired up from the previous night and I knew his anger wasn’t directed at me. I nodded and then scrawled my signature across the page. I had just turned 20 and within weeks I would be divorced. I felt numb at the thought, trying to push the emotion deep down so I didn’t cry in front of the lawyer or and the young secretary looking at me with curiosity.
“She won’t have to see him at all to have this finalized, correct?” Daddy asked.
Jerry Fiske, the local attorney he’d hired to finalize my divorce from Hank, nodded.
“That’s right, sir,” Jerry said. “We’ll take care of that part of the paperwork. None of you will have to see him again.”
Daddy nodded his lips pressed tight together.
“Good,” he said, taking Jackson from my arms. “Come on, let’s head home and celebrate your freedom from that piece of garbage. I’ll even splurge on some ice cream.”
I knew I should want to celebrate, but I didn’t feel any more free than I had before I’d signed the papers. My bruises had faded to a dull brown and yellow and now the makeup covered them, but the bruises on my heart were still there. I couldn’t say I loved Hank anymore, but I mourned for the pain locked inside him and for the scars he’d left on my heart and Jackson’s life.
My family seemed to think Hank was behind me, where he belonged. Maybe they were right but I couldn’t help worrying and wondering about what was now ahead of me.
A woman with grey streaks in her dark brown hair was standing on the front porch, hands clasped before her, shifting nervously from foot to foot. Her straight hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail with loose strands falling around her face, thin, drawn, dark circles under her eyes. Her black overcoat was frayed and her dress was plain gray with faded flowers. She began to wring her hands, her eyes lowered as I stood in the open doorway.
“Hello, Blanche,” her voice was barely audible. “I’m – I’m so sorry to bother you. My name is Marion Hakes. I – oh- I shouldn’t have come – “
“Mrs. Hakes?” I asked. “Hank’s mom?”
“Yes, I – I – Blanche, I wanted to ask – could I . . .” her gaze drifted down to Jackson who was leaning against me, clutching at my skirt. Tears filled her eyes. “I wanted to know if I could – if it was okay with you – if I met my grandson.”
I laid my hand against the top of Jackson’s head. Fear filled me as I wondered why she wanted to meet him, what she might say to him or try to do. I’d never met her before, and I didn’t know if Hank had learned how to be mean only from his father.
At the same time, I felt sorry for her – knowing Hank’s dad had died the year before and hearing from Jimmy that Hank hadn’t shown up for the funeral. I’d never tried to contact her, always afraid doing so would mean unwanted contact from Hank.
“Why don’t we come out on the porch and sit awhile,” I said, finally. “Jackson wanted to play in the yard anyhow.”
She smiled slowly and nodded.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “That would be nice.”
We sat in the wooden chairs on the porch and I held Jackson’s hand, pulling him against me as he stood next to me, watching the grandmother he had never met with eyes green like Hank’s.
“Hewo,” he said, sucking his thumb.
“Hi, honey,” Mrs. Hakes said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Who you?” Jackson asked.
“I’m – I –“ Mrs. Hakes looked at me and I could tell she wasn’t sure what to say. I wasn’t either.
“I’m a friend of your mamas,” she said quickly and let out a quick breath.
I smiled at her and she seemed to relax some, laying her hands on her lap.
“How old are you now, honey?” Mrs. Hakes asked.
Jackson held three fingers up.
“I this many!” he announced.
“Oh my! Such a big boy,” Mrs. Hakes said, smiling.
“Why don’t you go play,” I told Jackson. “Your trucks are over in the sandbox.”
Mrs. Hakes watched him run away, one strap of his grass-stained overalls unhooked, his face stained with dirt and peanut butter.
“He plays hard doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he certainly does. And then he crashes hard at night.”
“Hank used to be like that,” she said with a far-away expression.
We sat in silence for several moments, a breeze blowing across us, Jackson making engine noises as he drove his trucks through the sand. Mrs. Hakes looked at me, wringing her hands again.
“Blanche, I’m sorry – I’m sorry for what Hank did to you.”
“Mrs. Hakes, you don’t need to apologize –“
“I do,” she said softly. “I do because – because I thought I raised him better. I thought he’d be different than his daddy. I didn’t know he’d turn out just like him.”
I thought about all the rumors Edith told me she’d heard about Mrs. Hakes after I left with Hank – how Hank’s father, Henry, had beat her when he was drunk, how he’d been doing it for years and how Hank had sometimes stopped him, trying to protect her, taking the beatings himself. Henry had died in a car accident the year after I came back home. I had a feeling his death must have felt like a type of liberation for Mrs. Hakes.
“You did the best you could, Mrs. Hakes.” I reached out and laid my hand over her hands, clutched together, the knuckles white.
“My other son, Hank’s brother – Jerry – he took off when his Daddy died -just like Hank,” she said. “He visits some, brings me some money and lets me cook him some food. I never hear from Hank. Not since he left with you all those years ago. He asked me to leave his father. So many times. I wouldn’t go. I guess I thought – I thought someday Henry would change – that somewhere inside him was someone who was worth redeeming.”
Tears overflowed and streamed down her face. She looked at me, biting her lower lip, gulping a sob back.
“He never changed,” she continued. “He only got worse and, in the process, he hurt my boys as much as me. Maybe if I had stood up to Henry all those years ago none of this ever would have happened. Maybe Hank wouldn’t have become who he became – maybe we could have been happy. Maybe you could have been happy. . .”
I shook my head at her, still holding her hand.
“Mrs. Hakes I think maybe you and I both need to stop taking on the blame for what other people did to us. I think maybe we need to place the blame on the shoulders of the people who abused us instead of giving them a free pass. Our guilt is unfounded. We were never perfect, but nothing we ever did made us deserve the punishments we received at the hands of those who hurt us.”
Mrs. Hakes look startled at my words, then she bowed her head, fresh tears spilling over, her shoulders shaking. She nodded, silent for several moments, except for the sound of weeping. I stood up and laid my hand on her shoulder. She leaned into me and sobbed, pitiful sounds of healing ripping through years of pain.
“We’re in this together now, Mrs. Hakes,” I told her. “You’re no longer alone. We were both broken and now we will find healing together.”