In which Dianna's daughter is dead and not her son, because today is the one-year anniversary of when Jennifer left N2N to start training for Spider-man. Granted, Alice and Brian left too, but I missed Jenn the most. Thanks and enjoy.
She's not here,
She's not here,
Love, I know you know
She's been dead
For sixteen years
You've got to let her go…
"Natalie Goodman, do you have any idea what time it is?" Natalie froze as her mother got up from where she was sitting.
"It's four o'clock in the morning, and I was sitting here all night counting the ways you could have been killed!"
"Oh yeah?" Nat raised an eyebrow. "And what were the top three tonight?"
"Swine flu, serial killer, gang war…"
"Mom!" She stamped her foot…she really did. "You've got to stop watching the nightly news!"
"Are you snorting coke?" Diana screamed after an after thought as Natalie walked up the stairs.
"Not at the moment!" The next morning, Gabe, Diana's son, came down those same stairs.
"Hey Mom," he said, that next morning. "I'm gonna be home late tonight is that okay? I've got basketball practice and then I promised Henry we'd do some extra drills after. I'll take care of homework before I…um, Mom? Mom? Are…are you listening? … Mom?"
"What? Oh. Gabe…right, right, I'm listening…"
But they both knew she really wasn't.
"Okay…so, um…yeah." Gabe took the brown paper bag with his name on it off the table. Hopefully he actually had a normal supply of sandwich(s) in his lunch today. Although, probably not. "Bye." Gabe said curtly, and then walked out the door.
"You're going to be late!" Diana yelled to her daughter as she sleepily sashayed down the stairs.
"That's so unfair, Mom – you have no idea what I do all day!"
"Piano before school, class, key club, then tennis."
Upon entering the garage, Gabe didn't expect to see the car that totaled. Who's cat did they crush under the tire again? Oh yeah. Theirs! This was great. Just great. Now what was he supposed to do? Take the school bus? As a senior? He'd rather die! So, Gabriel Goodman did what he had to do…bribed that new junior for a ride.
"Hey, Henry, it's me Gabe…" he said into his dying cell phone. "Yes, Gabe the quarterback! So, how's about we make a little deal? I can pretty much guarantee you a spot on the team this year if you give me free rides 'till my car's fixed." Muffed words from the other end of the phone followed. "Yup, that's right! Guaranteed!" The junior hesitated, then complied. "Great! Yeah, I live on Walton Way. The house with the red door. Later, Henry…and thanks!"
Did Gabe ever mention that he really hates math? And…that he really really REALLY hates Mr. Batcher, his math teacher? Gabe's convinced that he's failing him just because he somehow knows his home life sucks so damn bad. Just another example of the man trying to keep him down. Oh look! Here's the man now…
"Gabriel Goodman!" He bellowed from halfway down the hallway. "Do I have to keep hounding you for your work, young man, or are you finally going to take some initiative for yourself?"
"Mr. Batcher, s-sir, I have a perfectly good explanation for why I haven't done my homework the past few weeks, I – "
"Don't say your dog ate it!"
"Okay…" Gabe gritted his teeth. "Would 'my bipolar-depressed mother ate it' work?"
"No," he said, totally emotionless still. "You'll have detention if you don't make up this work, young man! I'd at least try if I were you!"
"Yes sir! But…I am trying. Every single day."
The next day was Saturday. Saturday. To any other teenager on the face of the earth, Saturday was the best damn day of the week.
But not for Gabe Goodman.
Saturday was the day that Gabe had to take his mom to Dr. Madden whenever she so needed it – it was pretty much like being a doctor on call. You had to be prepared for the worst every second. And he was pretty sure that he had read every single magazine in Dr. Madden's waiting room, when –
"Chloe, please, if you'll just admit that – "
"I don't have a problem you quack!"
Who the hell – ?
There was a blonde girl, about seventeen or eighteen, charging out of another doctor's office in the building. Her hair was tasseled, her face a little red.
She stormed out, and Gabe felt like…like cupid had just shot his ass with a freakin' love arrow.
Oh yes, this would not be the last of Chloe.
Not if Gabe could help it.
"Hey!" he called after her, but she kept on running down the stairs as the clomp clomp clomp of her angry steps echoed. Gabe followed her; she wended down one flight of stairs, Gabe the one before.
"Would you stop following me?" She demanded.
"But…why would I want to stop following you?" She rolled her blue eyes when he said this. "So…where are you headed? Because, you know, I'll probably follow you…"
"I don't know where to go, okay! I can't go home now!"
"Well, I never want to go home. Everyone I live with is seriously wacked. But, hey, you can come home with you for dinner if you want!"
"Okay, so," Chloe rolled her eyes again. "You'd invite a girl you've barley said two words to into your house, just because…what? Because you think I'm hot or something?"
"No…well…yes, you are totally hot, but I know how it is. I mean, with wacked up households. I'm Gabe."
"It's kind of creepy that you know."
"When did he get a…girlfriend?" Diana wasn't really sure if she was seriously asking Natalie the question, or if it was rhetorical. "How…how did I miss this?"
"Well ya' kinda miss a lot these days, Mom," she said, sitting down next to her mother.
"Do you think they're in love?" Diana was afraid of the answer.
"Who knows?" Nat said. "They're young. They're horny. It happens." She starred at the little bottle of pills in her mother's hand. "What are you going to do with those?" She asked.
"I don't know Natalie…"
"But…but…" She sniffled. "You do know what they're trying to do, right? The pills, the doctors…it's all for one purpose and one purpose only! They're trying to make me go away for good!" Natalie grabbed the bottle from her mother's hand.
"Wait, Natalie – " She stopped. "What would your father say?"
"Nothing," whispered the girl. "If he doesn't know."
"Are…are you sure it's a good idea?"
"I think it's a great idea!" Nat brightened, smiling. "I think you're brave!"
And she flushed the pills away.
"Gabriel!" Dan turned around to see his son walk in with a blonde girl, hand-in-hand. "And this must be…Zoey – "
"It's Chloe!" Natalie corrected.
"Come in, come in! Why don't you join us for dinner!"
"Um, Dad, Chloe can't really stay!" Gabe protested. He wanted her too, but he didn't know his dad would be this…crazy. "She's got, um…homework!" Nothing. "Surgery!" Still nothing. "Rabies!" Dan handed the girl a plate. "Oh, forget it…"
"Okay, it's someone's birthday!" Diana emerged from kitchen, carrying a birthday cake, candles all lit. Natalie smiled.
"Who's birthday is it?" Chloe asked. Gabe, from next to her, sighed heavily.
"My sister's," he answered.
"I didn't know you had a sister…"
"I don't." He squeezed Chloe's hand. "She…she died a few months after she was born. I was only two; I don't really remember her. I mean…I kind of remember being in the hospital a lot…but not her…" Gabe stopped himself as Dan, his father, stood up.
"Mom?" Natalie stood too, looking from her mother to her father. "Dad?"
"She's not here, Diana. She's not here. I know you know…"
"Let me walk you home, Chloe," Gabe said quickly, and whispered to her. "Sorry."
"It was a pleasure meeting all of you!" She yelled to the Goodman's on her way out.
"Diana," Dan continued softly. "She's not here. She's dead. She's been dead sixteen years! You've got to let her go!"
"Mom, don't listen to him!" Natalie insisted. "Of course I'm here! I'm right here! You can see me!" She put her hand on her heart. There was nothing – no heartbeat, no pulse, nothing to indicate that she was at all living – but she knew her mother would feel a heartbeat. She'd feel it because she believed that she could feel it. Natalie replaced her own hand with her mother's.
"Diana!" Dan yelled. "There's nothing there!"
"Don't listen to him…" Her daughter whispered. "You feel that, don't you? That's my heartbeat. You can feel my heart beating – you can feel me breathing. You can see me, right here, in front of you. You know I would never lie to you, Mom. Don't listen to him. Listen to me. I'm right here, and I'm not going anywhere. Listen to me. Listen to me, Natalie, your daughter…"
"Were you happy when you got married?" Dr. Madden asked, the next day in theropy. Natalie cringed – she hated when her Mom went to therapy. Couldn't she see that this was just another way they could separate them?
"I thought I was…" Diana answered.
"You thought you were?"
"Yes," Diana said. "Most people who think they're happy really aren't happy at all. Most people who think they're happy are really just stupid."
"Were you happy when your daughter was born?"
"Tell me about her," insisted Dr. Madden. Natalie curled her lip.
"About my daughter…?"
"Why do you think she's still around?" He continued to ask questions that seemed particularly insulting to Natalie. "Who is she? What is she?"
"I'm not just in your memory," Natalie called, knowing her mother would hear her loud and clear. "They're trying to make me go away!"
"Where does she come from, do you think?"
"They're trying to convince you that I'm gone for good! I'm not gone, Mom! I'm still here! I'm alive!"
"Four times a week?" Gabe demanded, back at home. "That's a lot, isn't it?"
"Gabe, I don't know…it's what the doctor recommended!" Dan answered.
"This isn't going to get better, is it? She's never going away!"
"I don't know, Gabriel…" Gabe snorted at his Dad's answer.
"This is one of those times when you could just be a typical parent and lie and say yes!"
"Yes!" Dan said.
"Oh, gee, thanks!" Gabe yelled sarcastically. "That's comforting!" He stormed up the stairs.
"You know what, Gabriel, this isn't about your comfort!" His father yelled back. "It's about helping your mother!"
"Diana…" said the doctor, back in therapy. "Isn't it time you let her go? Isn't it time you free yourself from all this? Wouldn't you like to go home, clean out her room, and spend some time with your son and husband?"
"Mom?" Natalie called frantically. She was loosing her. "Mom?" No…she couldn't loose her! She was all Natalie had left… "Mom!"
"Yes," Diana simply said. "Yes, I would."
Diana let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding in.
That music box…
They used to play it for her, and, even if it were just for a second or so, she'd stop crying. She might even smile. Diana didn't think twice about it – she wound up the music box, that same sweet melody playing as she closed her eyes. Good, sweet memories flooded back to her, and she nearly smiled. Natalie hugged her mother.
"I miss this, Mom," she said, closing her eyes, too. "I wish it could be like this all the time."
"Me too, Natalie…" Diana whispered. "Me too."
"It can, you know. I mean…it really can be like this all the time…"
Diana's eyes shot open: "What?" she asked.
"Well…" The brown-haired girl walked around her mother. "I know this place, this place we can go…" she paused, and then whispered: "Mom, you'd love it. It's beautiful. It's always sunny, it never rains…but it's not just that…" Natalie smiled. "Mom…we can be free there. You and me. Together." She held her hand out to Diana.
"Natalie…I – "
"Please, Mom," her daughter whispered, her hand still outstretched. "Come with me."
She took her daughter's hand.
"Goodman, Diana," Dr. Madden spoke clearly into his recorder. "Found at home unconscious on the floor – multiple razor wounds to the wrists and forearms. Self-inflicted." He sighed. "Currently sedated and restrained. ECT is indicated." He pressed the button on his recorder so it would stop recording. "Damn it!"
"Gabe, I mean, I have my problems, but this is like the fourth night this week I've had to come find you at some random club…" said Chloe as she and Gabe arrived at his house.
"Chloe, you should go. I'm like 70% more normal now." Nothing. "Seriously, my dad's bringing my mom home from the hospital this morning, and you don't want to be here!"
"Will you call me?"
"Just go, Chloe," and she did.
"We're here!" Dan yelled as he was opening the door.
"Hey," said Gabe, walking over to them.
"And who are you?"
"A little lose of memory is perfectly normal," Dr. Madden explained.
"We don't care about what's normal!" Dan yelled. "We haven't had a normal day in years!"
"The memories are there, somewhere," He continued. "Find some pictures, keepsakes, anything that could help her remember…and the memories will return with time…"
"Should…should I tell her about –?" Dan whispered to the doctor, when Diana was out of earshot.
"When she's ready."
"Do you know what these are, Diana?" Dan asked, after pulling out boxes of old stuff, with Gabe's help. These particular things weren't 'old stuff' by any means, however…
"They must be…tacky trinkets, from, I guess…Atlantic City?"
"No, actually, Di they're our wedding rings…"
"It's going well!" Gabe yelled in, sarcastically.
"And here's a flower from our wedding," Dan pulled out a flower from the first box. "It was everything we'd hoped…"
"Um, Dad…it was raining, it was Portland, you eloped…" Gabe shrugged. "I mean, Portland?"
"Well, Gabriel, you could help me here!"
"Alright…fine…" Gabe walked over to his mother. "Here's the headline in the paper when you spazzed at Costco, here's the damage to the Honda when you showed me how to park it…"
"Did we crush somebody's cat beneath the tire?"
"Yes, ours!" Gabe yelled, pulling out another picture. "Here's me making the winning shot at the play-off game – me and Dad are wondering where you are…"
"I remember this! I hid out in the car!" Diana yelled.
"That's it, you're getting it, Di!" Dan called as Diana continued to look over pictures.
"Wow…" she looked at her son. "Your life has kind of sucked, I think…"
"That's it, you're getting it, Mom!"
"Hey," said Chloe, finding Gabe at school later that same week.
"Hey," he answered.
"How's…how's your mom?"
"She's…" he hesitated, and then sighed. "Chloe, she's not good."
"I'm…so sorry…" she looked down, then back up at his blue eyes. "So…there's this dance. It's girl's choice…March 1rst. Do…do you, maybe, want to go?"
"Chloe, I want to…but with everything that's going on with my mom…besides, I don't really do dances…"
"Do this dance with me."
"Chloe, I…" the bell rang. "C-come over later. We'll talk then. Okay?"
"Okay…" and she did.
"Oh. H-hi Mrs. Goodman. I-I was just looking for Gabe." The blonde girl stuttered.
"Chloe…" Diana squinted. "How old are you?"
"You…you remind me of someone…" But it still hadn't come to her. "Gabe's in his room."
"Thank you, Mrs. Goodman."
"No, thank you." The girl went up the stairs at that, Dan appearing at his wife's side.
"Dan," she said. "There's something…something I'm missing…" and it ate away at her. "I know it's there. I can feel it tugging at me, I can almost see it…"
"The doctor said the memories would return in time," said Dan. "Give it time, and it'll turn up…" Then:
"It's been four weeks since the treatment and the memories still aren't there!" Diana complained to her doctor. "Something's just not there! I don't know how this started, so how do I know when it's over?"
"Have you talked about your depression, your delusions, and your daughter?"
"He didn't tell you…about…?" Dr. Madden sighed. "You should talk with your husband some more."
"My…daughter…?" Diana whispered again.
And again Diana found herself listening to that music box. Natalie wanted to scream, or cry, or…something!
"Mom…" she murmured. "Mom, why are we in here? I don't like it in here!"
"I don't either. But we have to face our fears."
"Diana?" Dan asked, entering the room. Nat jumped involuntarily. "Why are you in here?"
"Why didn't you tell me about her?" She picked up the music box. "And this?"
"That – that's nothing! Just an old music box!"
"You know it's more then that! It's the first thing you gave me when I was pregnant…the second time!"
"Diana, don't! You this'll help but it won't!"
"She was so cold…so sick…they never said we caught it too late, they said we did all we could for her…just sixteen months old…"
"Then that doctor simply said…'your child is…'" She didn't finish the sentence, and there was silence throughout the room. Finally, Natalie whispered the word that all three of them feared so much:
"Dan, how did she die?" No answered. "How did she die, Dan?" Still nothing. "Why? Why!"
"Diana, even the doctors missed it. There was nothing we could have – "
"How did my daughter die?"
"IBO. Intestinal bowel obstruction. We should Dr. Madden."
"You say she died as a baby, but I remember her older."
"We should call Dr. Madden," he repeated.
"What was her name?" No answer. "Dan, what was her name?" But he had the phone to his ear.
"Mom, you can't just refuse treatment!" Gabe yelled from outside the doctor's office. "You can't just give up!"
"I'm not giving up. I'm only beginning." There was silence, until: "Now go onto your dance, I'm sure Chloe's waiting for you."
"Mom – "
"Go," and he did.
"Mom…" but she didn't finish.
"Natalie," she went over to her daughter, the girl with the russet-red hair flinching at the sound of her name again. "It's time you start thinking about your own happiness."
"It's not happiness…it's Heaven."
"But…but I can't…"
"Shhh…" Diana hugged her daughter, putting both their hands over the girl's heart. "Natalie, there's nothing there."
"What...what are you...?"
"You don't have a heartbeat, Natalie," she continued. "That's because you died sixteen years ago. I don't know if that means I'm 'better'...but I know I didn't know that before. Natalie..." she hugged her daughter one last time. "Be free."
And she was.