Chapter 4 Will and Helen

Will and Helen were about to settle into bed that night.

"Darling, have you talked to the kids recently?"

Helen's forehead furrowed, "Talked to the kids? I talk to them every day Will, we both do." She shook her head a little not quite sure what he was asking.

"Yeah. About -- important stuff -- what concerns them --."

She sighed, "Will, just spit it out. We've been married for over 20 years..."

"Yeah." He tried to figure some way to summarize his conflicting feelings, and finally found the word. "Judith."

Helen looked at him, "Oh," she sighed. "I've not talked to them in the past few days...You remember, I did take Joan to talk to Dr. Dan."

"Yeah, but I heard that she walked out. I never have liked therapists much. He talked us into sending her to that summer camp, but she just seemed wierder one she got back."

Helen lifted an eyebrow, no one got to call her children weird, not even her own husband, "First, she's not weird. She's a teenager. She's a teenager that's had a lot happen, her brother being paralyzed, she had Lyme Disease, her best friend was murdered, of course she's going to change, act out a bit, but she's been...handling everything...remarkably well. Second, she didn't walk out. She finished the session and asked that she not have to go back. Since she'd gone the once and he wasn't concerned and she hasn't been doing anything destructive--" Helen paused then went on, "I'm actually more worried about you."

"Me? I'm fine." But that statement sounded utterly unconvincing, even to him.

Helen gave him the look that told him she knew he was lying, "No you're not. Don't you start lying to me. Not now."

"Italian men aren't supposed to admit to weak feelings. Except in opera, and I've never been much for opera."

Helen gave him another look, "William Gerald Girardi, don't you dare pull that 'I'm a man, I have no feelings' routine on me. The man I married has never been afraid to show that he has feelings."

"All right, all right. I'm upset about Judith. Some people have been saying too upset, that I ought to withdraw from the case."

Helen propped herself up on an elbow, "And what do you say about that?" She wasn't going to say that she agreed to some extent. Not yet, anyway.

"I could claim that it's a matter of conflict of interest, that I'm too close to the issues. But it would feel like defeat. My daughter's best friend gets killed, and I can't even obtain justice for her?"

Helen studied him for a long moment, "But at what cost, Will? At what cost?"

"Cost? There's no cost. The county pays me to enforce the law---"

Helen sat bolt upright, "That is the biggest load of horse-shit I've ever heard come out of your mouth, sir."

Will was startled. Helen seldom swore unless she was very upset, as on the occasion when she called her sick aunt a "bitch". "All right, I know what you meant. That it's wearing me down. But I should be able to bear that, for Joan's sake. It was her best friend."

Helen looked at him, "Will, we all cared about her. Have you talked to Joan about this? And please don't tell me that you're her father, you're not supposed to be anything but strong for her. She's definitely a daddy's little girl, but give her some credit. She understands you're human too. And you're still her hero."

He thought he heard Joan's voice from another room. "Hey, did Mom just say s----"

"Yeah I did talk to her. It's hard to communicate with her. She keeps telling me 'Judith feels this' and 'Judith thinks that', like she was chatting with her spirit on her cell phone. Maybe it's her way of dodging the enormity of what happened. Anyway, she says I'm too overwhelmed."

Helen frowned at him. "Will, do you honestly believe that she's not accepting reality?"

"Lots of people don't. They visualize their departed ones of angels in heaven -- to me that's denying reality. Luke has a scientific theory -- I can respect that. What Joan's doing is more sophisticated, but it's still a way of being in denial."

Helen pressed her lips together, "And me? If I choose to believe the people I love don't cease when they die, does that mean I don't accept reality? Whether it's because of some scientific theory or because there's a God and heaven..."

"All right. You believe that and I don't. Let's agree to disagree. The point is, Joan thinks I'm getting too emotional."

Helen looked at him for a long moment, "I don't think she's wrong. Will, we are all dealing with this in our own ways, and it seems to me our ways at least let us still find joy in life, they don't take us from everyone around us, drive us so hard that we have nightmares or can't sleep, push us so hard that our boss and colleagues start to wonder if we should have some enforced time off. It seems to me, your way isn't working. I know you're just trying to do your job, you're just trying to make sense of it. But Will, the deeper you sink into this case, the farther away from us you become. I didn't want to say this earlier, but I think you should consider taking some time off from the case. Do a bit of soul searching."

"Should I talk to Lucy then?" Will knew that would irritate Helen and deflect her. Helen hated Lucy.

Helen looked at him, "I think you need to do whatever you need to, to get some time off the case. And I think you should listen to your daughter. Did you ever stop to consider why she believes what she does? Why she's so certain? Why any of us are so eager to believe what we do? Besides just trying to escape reality. I think you ought to talk to her again. And listen to her--you were right earlier, when you said she'd changed after that camp. But for a while, before she got back to 'normal', I suppose we were worried about her, remember? She seemed lost. She's not like that anymore. And trust me, people who try to deny reality? They're lost. You know I'm right."

His various evasions had all failed, "Yes. I know you're right. I'll tell Lucy to take me off."

Helen nodded, "Good. Maybe after you've had a bit of time for yourself you ought to consider spending some with Joan. More than just a few minutes. I think you both need it."

"I will. I'll pick her up at the bookstore tomorrow, and that'll give us an opportunity to talk."

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