The Glass House
Summary: A confrontation with Jeff causes Anne to face some long buried and painful memories from her past. "By Word or By Act." inspired this short Homefront story.
Disclaimer: Homefront characters belong to their creators. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is being made. Some of the dialogue that appears in this story is not my own, but belongs to the writer of the Homefront episode "By Word or By Act."
Author: Tracy Diane Miller
It was very late, but she couldn't sleep. For what seemed like the hundredth time, Anne had glanced at the clock located on the small table nearby her bed- 3 a.m. He was still out there. Sure, he was a grown man, but he was still her son. And she was worried about him. He was so angry, so hurt when he left the house tonight. Anne never wanted to show favorites among her children, but she had always felt a special closeness towards Jeff. In a way her bond with Jeff seemed a perverse irony especially since he was the baby that she had never wanted.
The muscles in her legs felt lazy under the weight of polio. Faith and determination had helped her to make remarkable strides towards recovery. Anne could now stand albeit shakily and only for a few moments at a time before her legs grew heavy and defiant under the burden of her disease. But for Anne, standing represented a quiet victory over her plight. And she had vowed that she would walk again one day, walk without the need for artificial aids. Anne Metcalf had strength in the face of insurmountable obstacles. She always did.
To her, there was no honor in quitting whenever life's circumstances slapped her with a cold, cruel hand. Maybe the slap was meant as a reminder that Faith would always carry her through troubled waters. The Church had taught her that God was always listening, always hearing the faintest of whispers amongst the deafening rumblings of despair.
The seconds on the clock moved furiously and impatiently as they hurried towards the new hour. It was so quiet. The rhythm of her heart pounding offered an eerie contrast to the stillness of the house. Al, Linda, Charlie, and Mike were probably sound to sleep upstairs. Earlier, the baby had been crying incessantly. Sensing that Mike wanted his mother, Al brought him downstairs. Anne beamed when she saw her son. Polio had driven her into a necessary exile, a corner of the kitchen had been transformed by her family into a makeshift bedroom for her. Her limited mobility was a continued source of anguish for her. Not only had it stripped the proud woman of her independence but it had also erected a physical distance between her and her family. A flight of stairs became a formidable Mount Everest.
Anne lovingly stared at her son. She rocked Mike back and forth and crooned the Lemo Tomato Juice jingle to appease him. Soon, the sound of his mother's voice mingled with a chorus of yawns. A few moments later, Mike had fallen back to sleep. Al kissed Anne good night as he carried their son back upstairs to his crib.
It was the welfare of another son that made sleep elusive now. It was always hard for Anne to sleep whenever one of her children wasn't under her roof. When Hank was away at war, she reluctantly embraced insomnia on more than one occasion. Insomnia became an unwelcome and uninvited companion in her life. She couldn't sleep. Or, perhaps she didn't want to sleep. Sleep invited its own demons. The image of her eldest son using a trench as his bed and surrounded by the sights and smells of death and destruction, the dressings of war, unnerved her. How often had she prayed that the warmth of the Earth would protect Hank and keep him safe? And how often had the unexpected ringing of the doorbell rattled her and conjured up another frightening image of a stoic messenger of doom delivering a telegram announcing Hank's death. No one had been insulated from the casualties of war. It seemed as if everyone in town knew someone who had been killed, seriously injured, or missing in action. During the war, River Run shed a collective ocean of tears mourning and remembering all of its brave boys who wouldn't be coming home.
Thankfully, Hank had come home. But a senseless and random act of violence had robbed him of Sarah. Sarah wasn't the only one who had been killed by the bullet that ripped through the Metcalf home. A part of Hank had died along with her. Anne had desperately prayed that she could take away Hank's pain, but even a mother's love couldn't do that. Yet, she believed that somehow Faith would allow Hank to move forward with his life even if the hole in his heart caused by Sarah's death was something that he always carried with him.
Anne missed Hank very much and prayed for his safety every night as he struggled to carve out a new existence for himself in Chicago. Maybe Hank had fled River Run to escape painful memories. Maybe that was the only way he believed that he could survive.
Hank didn't know. She should have told him. She was his mother and she should have told him. There was no running away from memories.
3:30 a.m. Jeff still wasn't home. Anne's heart sank. Jeff was so angry and hurt when he left the house. But Anne also believed that Jeff felt betrayed...betrayed by her, by his mother. It had been unspoken, but Anne sensed that Jeff had wanted her to choose between him and the loyalty that she felt for her husband. She hadn't made that choice even as she refused to confirm or deny Jeff's suspicions that Al was a Communist. Yet, Anne wondered whether Jeff had interpreted her silence as her choosing Al over him. The memory of their confrontation assaulted her mind:
"He didn't marry me under false pretenses." Anne said.
"You knew before you married him?" Jeff asked, the shock evident in his voice.
"We talked about it, yes. He told me his ex-wife was a Communist. I asked him if he was." Anne revealed.
"What did he say?" Jeff probed.
"I'm not going to tell you." Anne responded.
Jeff fell back against the icebox. His mud green eyes ere glazed over with disbelief. The sting from his mother's words hurt even more than the beating that he had suffered this evening at the hands of some men who had mistaken him for a Communist.
"You don't trust me?" He asked her.
"I trust you with my life." She reassured him. "But my husband believes very strongly that this is a matter of principle."
"Well your son believes very strongly what his mother always told him which is don't be afraid of the truth." He shot back.
Don't be afraid of the truth.
She had heard those words a long time ago as her faith had been tested and her dreams shattered under the reality of her first husband's infidelity. An onslaught of long buried and painful memories crashed against her psyche like an angry tidal wave. Anne remembered a young bride who had spent the wee hours of so many nights waiting for a husband who was spending his nights in another woman's bed.
Sadly, everyone that she knew, her friends and family had cautioned her against marrying Steven.
"Steven Metcalf…that boy is trouble. Mark my words, Anne." Her father had said. But she wouldn't listen. Anne fell in love with the tall, dark-haired young man with soft brown eyes that were sprinkled with a hint of rebellion. She was a 'good girl.' Why did she feel so enchanted by the danger that she saw in Steven's eyes?
It seemed that Steven had most of the young ladies in River Run captivated under his spell. That he was handsome and charming there was no question. Yet, Steven was an anomaly. He was confident but there were sprinkles of shyness that percolated underneath the surface. And he was a dreamer who promised to share his dreams with her.
"River Run is okay, but there's a whole, great big world out there just waiting for us to grab hold of it. Let me give you a piece of that world. I love you, Anne." He had said.
So, at the tender age of seventeen and against her parents' wishes, Anne married Steven.
Anne remembered gazing at her three young children sleeping in their rooms oblivious to their father's 'other' life. She had been careful to construct the perfect fantasy for her children to safeguard their memories of their father. "Daddy isn't home. He had to work late." To Hank, Linda, and Jeff, she wanted to preserve their belief that Daddy was a hero who worked hard to provide for his family. But she knew the truth. How many nights had Steven stumbled into the house, drunk and smelling of the perfume from one of those nameless trollops that he slept with? She could handle the odor from the liquor. It was the stench of infidelity that those women left all over him as their calling card that nauseated her.
Steven didn't deny his infidelity. The first time it happened, he begged for her forgiveness and promised that it would never happen again. He blamed the pressure of work and booze. He insisted that he loved her. He pleaded with her for another chance.
"I love you, Anne. I'm so sorry. Forgive me?"
And she did. The Church had taught her about forgiveness, about the sanctity of marriage. Steven would change. He had to. That first night that she discovered that he had cheated on her, she silently vowed that she wouldn't allow him to touch her ever again. But then she felt guilty. She was his wife. It was a wife's duty she told herself.
A short while later, Anne discovered that she was pregnant with Jeff. She worried what the strain of another child would do to her already fragile marriage. Anne didn't want another baby, but she convinced herself that this pregnancy was a blessing from God.
Steven and Anne Metcalf perpetrated the perfect illusion. In Church, she watched as Steven seemed to soak in the sermons about the sanctity of marriage yet continued to add to his indiscretions. He gave generously to the Church even as massive debt plagued them.
The glass house had cracked, but she refused to acknowledge that.
The sound of the front door opening shook Anne from her musings. She struggled to sit up in her bed and turned on the lights.
"Jeff?" She called out hopefully.
She heard familiar footsteps approach the kitchen. Then she saw him. They gazed at each other. Jeff was hesitant for a moment, but then he proceeded to her bed. He hugged her tightly. Then he kissed her.
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too."
A moment later, Jeff disappeared upstairs to his room. No other words had been exchanged between mother and son that night.
No other words were necessary.