This one was inspired by a song. I dug out my old Third Eye Blind albums again recently and there's a few songs on there that just strike a chord every time I hear them. This one, 'Wounded', is one of them and I just knew that eventually I'd sit down and write something for it. However... this is McPunisher at her best. Sorry, but is it my fault that the lyrics are so terribly gloomy and downbeat? ;o)
This does not play in any Joaniverse that I've ever written for. But I will admit that I borrowed Karen from the Butterflies Joaniverse. Hope you forgive me, Deb.
And just for the record: I usually don't like these kinds of stories. I hope I managed to make it a little less cliché than some of the stuff you read online.
The subject matter is kinda dark and depressing. Don't read this if you're looking for a happy and uplifting story.
Adam reflects on something that happened to Joan and estranged them, now determined to bring change to Joan's life and help her deal with it. Adam's POV.
Rating: PG-13 for language and adult themes
These characters and settings are not mine. Nor am I claiming they are. They are property of CBS, Barbara Hall Productions, Sony or whoever else they might belong to. I'm not making any money out of this, although I wish I was.
The song 'Wounded' belongs to Stephan Jenkins, Kevin Cadogan, 3EB Publishing/EMI Blackwood Music/Cappagh Hill/BMG Music (BMI) and whoever else might own those rights.
"How's Joan?" I ask Grace as we slide into one of the booths of the Delva Bar where we often hang out, like we used to for a long time.
"I don't know," she replies with a shrug. "Haven't talked to her in a while."
I just nod, sadly, sipping at my beer. It used to be the three of us. Always. Now there's just Grace and me. And sometimes Grace's girl, Karen. But somehow you're missing. I don't get to say your name anymore. Jane. The name only I used for you.
I don't really know what happened. No, that's a lie. I do know what happened. I just try not to think about it too much anymore. You went away to college, we kinda lost touch for a while. You eventually came back, and then your world fell apart. It was that one night, I still remember Grace calling me:
"Rove. Listen. Something happened to Girardi."
I knew then it was bad news. Something about assault and rape and hospital and— I don't think I fully understood then. I couldn't think straight for days. I tried to see you, but they wouldn't let me. Helen was sympathetic but firm. She had tears in her eyes when she turned me away in the hospital.
It took me weeks to pluck up the courage to call you. You were different. We didn't connect, it was awkward, and I felt completely helpless. God, maybe I should have tried harder. I always asked Grace how you were doing. I wish I could have done something more. But you wouldn't let me, always turned me away. Eventually, I gave up.
I mean, we tried, didn't we? Grace and I dragged you down to the bar a few times. You were always reluctant, detached, like you wanted to be anywhere but there—with us. You were antsy, fiddling around, anxious to get out of there. You used to speak so easy. Now you're afraid of the world. It's like walking with the wounded. Did I take you for someone stronger than you really are?
"I think I should go and talk to her," I suddenly blurt out.
Grace silently sighs. "Didn't you try so many times before? You have to give her time. She'll come around."
I shake my head, determined. "How much more time, Grace? Jesus, it's been months. How many? Four? Five?" My voice gets slightly bitter and angry, but not at her, at the world. "I mean, I get it that she's hurt and scared and wounded. But she can't hide forever." I'm quiet for a moment, then, just above a whisper, I add, "I miss her."
Grace takes a long look at me. "Yeah," she says just as quietly. "I do too."
My heart hammers in my chest as I stand in front of your door. It's strange to be standing here, I've been here many times before, years ago. You moved back in with your parents after the... incident.
I raise my hand to ring the bell, the sound reverberates through the house. I know you're home because I called Helen on the phone earlier, asking her if it would be okay to come by. She sounded relieved that I asked, I think she's also concerned that you're withdrawing a little too much from the real world.
I try to prepare myself for seeing your face as you open the door for me, but it's Helen's warm smile that greets me. She pulls me into a quick hug. "Adam, so glad to see you. How are you?"
"Not so bad," I mumble. "Can't complain."
She nods. "Come in."
I walk through the hall, stopping unsurely near the stairs. Helen stands next to me and I have to swallow. She places one hand on my shoulder. "Are you afraid she doesn't want to see you?"
How can she read my mind so easily? "I don't know," I mutter, looking down. "I never thought it'd be like this."
In a sad voice she says, "Yeah. Neither of us did."
"Does she want to see me?" I question.
"I can't speak for her, but maybe she needs to. What are you gonna tell her?"
"I..." I stammer. What am I gonna tell her? "I think maybe it's time someone told her that she needs to face what happened. That not everyone out there is bad and that it's doing no one any good to hide out."
Helen looks shocked for a moment, but then contemplates my words. She nods slightly. "You know, I try not to push her, but maybe you're right. Maybe it's time for a reality check, as much as I hate to admit it."
I press my lips together, not sure what to reply.
"Just be gentle," she says, giving my shoulder a squeeze.
I nod. "I will."
I gather all my remaining courage and walk upstairs. Your door is slightly ajar and I stand in the doorway, watching you for a moment. You're sitting in front of your computer, low music coming from the speakers; your back is turned to me.
I softly knock on the doorframe and you turn around. I'm not sure what I can read in your face as you see me. Shock, gladness, surprise, fright? Somehow it seems like all of them mixed into one.
"Hey," I croak, for lack of something more meaningful to say.
"Hey," you mirror my greeting reluctantly.
"Can I come in?" I hesitantly ask.
"Sure," you mumble without too much enthusiasm. Can you sense why I came? Or is this just what you've been reduced to by the fool who hurt you? I mentally kick myself once again for not reading the signs back then. The group of friends you used to hang out with that I didn't really know, they had never impressed me much. So I tried telling myself that I needed to trust your judgment. And by doing that, I missed the mark.
I look around, try to find somewhere to sit. I choose the edge of the bed, careful to keep my distance from where you're sitting in the desk chair.
An uncomfortable silence ensues. I have so many things I want to say to you, but they're at the tip of my tongue and won't come out. I suppress the overwhelming urge to stand up and envelop you in a hug and tell you everything is going to be all right. But my fingers catch the sparks at the thought of touching you when you're wounded.
"So, why are you here?" you ask, not able to hide the subliminally accusing tone from your voice.
I lightly shrug my shoulders. "I wanted to see how you were doing."
"Oh yeah? Well, I'm doing fine."
I know that's a lie, but I don't call you on it.
"Are you still looking for a job?" I ask casually. I know from Grace that you lost your old one when you didn't go back after your medical leave ended.
"Yeah, I... Kevin said he'd try to see if he can get me something at the TV station."
That sounds like cheap pretense, only to placate me into thinking you're actively looking. All I can do is nod.
"Grace and I went to the bar the other night. We were thinking about going out to Six Flags next weekend—Karen, Grace and I. You wanna come?"
You are silent for a moment. "I don't know. I have some stuff I need to take care of."
Oh yeah? Like what? I wonder. I know you just don't wanna say flat-out no. I can read it in your posture and expression that you don't want to go. Maybe it's time to make my stand now.
"Jane," I start. "Don't you think it's time you went out there and showed the world that you're stronger than this?"
You look at me with large eyes, shocked. "What?" you whisper.
"You can't hide in here forever," I state, aware of the fact that maybe I'm coming on a little too strongly.
"Who says I'm hiding?" you say, your defenses up now.
"When was the last time you went out? When was the last time you did something fun?"
You stay silent, because I know you don't remember. Probably not for a long time, maybe not since... before.
"Come with us next weekend," I plead. "And I promise that we won't do anything you're uncomfortable with."
"I don't want to," you whisper after a long pause.
"I know you don't," I say in a low voice.
You suddenly look up, defiance in your eyes. "Oh, do you? Do you know what it's like?"
I shake my head. "No. I don't know what it's like. I never claimed to understand the measure of pain and humiliation that you've been through. And I don't know what to do to make it go away. All I know is that it hurts seeing you like this, that it hurts that I can't do a fucking thing about it."
I stop suddenly, shocked at my own words. In a dejected voice you say, "No one can do anything about it."
I press my lips together, get up from the bed, take a step closer. "That's where you're wrong."
You almost shrink back, as if you're afraid I'm gonna come too close. The scared look in your fawn-like eyes pierces my heart. I take a step back again, because the last thing I wanna do is hurt you, threaten you.
I can see tears filling your eyes because you know you're hurting me, though unintentionally. "Adam," you just whisper desperately.
I stand there, kneading my hands absently in front of me. "The guy who put his hands on you, he's got nothing to do with me," I simply state.
"Yet you're afraid to talk to me."
"No, that's not true."
"I'm not gonna hurt you, Jane," I force out, feeling tears stinging in my own eyes. I try to blink away the images of him touching you.
"I know you won't," you tell me, but you saying it doesn't mean you believe it.
"Then why are you afraid of me touching you?" I state the obvious.
You slump and sink lower in your chair, not able to say anything in return. I take another, careful step closer. "Please let me show you that you don't need to be afraid."
I open my arms a little, giving you the opportunity to act upon it. You look up at me, reluctant. I know you don't wanna take the crucial step and I retreat, letting my hands fall at my sides.
But you surprise me by getting up, your eyes shimmering with tears. I stand still as you move closer and take my hands at either side of me, drawing them up so they're between us. Tears roll down your cheeks as you whisper, "I don't want to be afraid anymore."
The sob working its way up my throat chokes me and all I can do is lift your hands to my chest to place them there. You don't withdraw and lean your head against my shoulder and I know it's okay to draw you into that embrace that I've waited so long for.
My arms slowly, carefully come around your back and I hold you like a fragile piece of china. In your ear I say in a gentle voice, "I've missed you. So much."
I know you're crying and I draw you closer, hold you. We stand there for a long time, until your sobs subside. I don't dare move, all too aware that this house of cards might crumble any second, but yet hope it's built of sturdier material.
You finally pull away and look at me. "What did you mean when you said I was wrong?"
"About what?" I ask, puzzled.
"About no one being able to do anything."
"The one person who can do something about it is you. It's you who's gonna want to do something about it. You know you have all the help and support in the world that you need. Your family, Grace, Karen, me. But you're right about that we can only help you if you will let us."
You nod, then ask, "How?"
"By letting us show you that you don't need to be scared anymore. By taking mini steps and asking for help when you don't think you can go the way alone. I know that it's hard, and that it's a long and winding road. But one day you'll be there and tell them, look at me, this is my battle scar, and I'm back now."
"Yeah," you acknowledge.
I lean back a little and study your face. "You know how people say they took your pride away? That's bullshit. Nobody took your pride away."
Your eyes fill with tears again, but I'm determined not to let you succumb to the sadness again. I gently push you away. "Let's go. Right now. Just the two of us, down to Mercer Creek, take a walk. Just get out of here for a little while."
I see the initial resistance in your eyes, but it is quickly replaced by defiant intent. "Give me a minute to change into different clothes."
"Okay," I acknowledge. "I'll wait downstairs."
In the kitchen, Helen looks at me questioningly. I smile at her. "We're gonna go out for a while. Take a walk at the creek."
Helen knows full well what that means and I can see how her eyes well up as well. She draws me into a tight hug. "Thank you," she whispers into my ear.
"You're welcome," I tell her. "It was time."