Chapter Five: And Then There Were Three
Charles opened his eyes focusing on the sun through his window. It seemed brighter than it usually was about this time. He turned his head slowly to the clock next to him and started. 9:30! He was usually up way before this for school. Could it be Saturday and he lost track of the days? He went over the days in his head. No, he was pretty sure that it was Friday. He leaped out of bed, practically throwing his school clothes on his body. He ran through his room stubbing his toe on the bed post as he looked around for his shoes. He felt under the bed for one shoe. Where could the other be? He pushed it on the wrong foot, but jetted downstairs. He was certain that he must not have been listening when his dad called him to get up. "Sorry, Dad, I guess I didn't hear you," he said breathlessly. "But, I couldn't find my other shoe." He ran through the sitting room as he stepped on something. He looked down to see the shoe under his foot. "There it is," he said. "How did it get there?" He must have left it after his parent's party.
"Charles, I have told you time and again to put your shoes away in your bedroom so you will find them the next day," Will said, but his voice was toneless and quiet. Charles saw his father slowly get up from the sofa, as though it required great effort to move. He realized that his dad was wearing his bathrobe over his nightclothes. He must have slept in the sitting room. The martini glasses and trays had been removed and everything had been cleaned as if it never was. The only evidence of last night's party was the faded stain on the rug.
Will faced his son and opened his mouth like he wanted to say something but thought better of it. He cleared his throat and tried to speak again but his voice wavered like he was fighting off emotion. "I'm sorry, I um, didn't wake you. I had a very bad night," he said. "I'll ring your teachers if you like. I have to go and make breakfast." He slumped into the kitchen in a way Charles had never seen from his father, slow, mournful, dejected. Something must have happened during the night.
Charles followed his father. Will stood slumped over the small cooker. "Eggs and bacon alright?" he asked. Charles nodded as his father quickly turned his head again, but not quick enough for Charles to see that his face was red and his lips were quivering. Were there also tears in his eyes? His father never cried! He stood over the oven for several minutes not moving or looking at his son, just silent.
Charles was instantly worried and frightened. The room suddenly seemed tense, alien, and unfamiliar to him. He walked closer to his father. "Dad, what's wrong?" he asked. "Did something happen to David?" He felt a lump in his throat not wanting to imagine what it could be. He was only slightly relieved when his dad shook his head.
"Mum?" Charles asked. His father looked at his son squarely and Charles didn't need to see him nod to know he was right. "Is she in hospital again?" Charles said picking the most likely and most hopeful scenario. At least if she were in hospital she wasn't well-where Charles was afraid she was.
"No, Charlie," Will said. He glanced at the oven as if deciding not to have breakfast just yet. "Charles why don't you sit at the table and we'll talk over breakfast, right?" Charles nodded and waited.
Within a few minutes, Will carried in two plates of bacon and eggs. He handed one plate to Charles and kept another for himself. Then he poured two glasses of orange juice. Despite the delightful meal, both only picked at their food. They were locked in their emotions, Charles because of fear and Will because of some sadness that his son was aware of but didn't understand. Charles put his fork down. "Dad, what's wrong, really? What happened to Mum?"
Will lay his fork down and put his hand on his mouth in deep thought."Well you know that we hadn't been getting on, even when she came back from hospital. It's been uncomfortable between us for a long time. Last night, we came to a decision, well that is your mother and I-my God-how do I say this?"
"-You're getting a divorce," Charles guessed. He felt hollow and cold inside. He should be crying. He should be shouting or something. But he couldn't feel anything.
"Not quite," Will answered. "At least I don't know."
"How can you not know?" Charles questioned.
"I mean, your mother moved out last night," he said. "She decided that she didn't want to live with us any longer."
Once again Charles felt ice cold. "Where is she going to live? Will we see her? It's just a separation right?"
Will shook his head. "I don't know, Charlie, she didn't tell me and I don't know when we will see her again. I guess she wants to be by herself for awhile."
Charles didn't speak so his father continued to talk. "Nothing's changed between us. You and your brother are still going to live here with me and you'll still go to the same school and it will be just like before when your mum was in the hospital. We'll carry on as we always do." He said with forced cheerfulness. Charles stood up as his father spoke. "We're fine. We will manage. Everything is fine."
Charles walked rose from the chair and moved from the kitchen almost in a trance. "Charlie, would you like me to ring the school and tell them you won't be coming in today?"
The boy stopped for a minute. "No, I want to go." He said. He then slowly walked into the sitting room where his shoe lay. He picked it up and held onto it. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the cabinet where his mum had kept all of her glass objects; antique vases, porcelain figurines, small little knick knacks that she bought at various stores. Charles remembered the many times where it fell to him to dust and clean them until they sparkled. He walked slowly over to them and pulled open the catch. What was going to happen to them now? Would he still have to take care of them or would they sell them? He picked one up, a small figurine of a little girl in a pink shepherdess outfit and absently bounced it on his hand. Maybe they could send them to her, wherever she was going, or maybe she would come back as if nothing had happened. Charles warily put the figurine back on the stand but accidentally leaned it too close to the edge where it fell to the floor and shattered.
The falling figure broke Charles out of his trance and he tensed expecting his Mum to run to his side yelling at him. The young boy winced and cowered in anticipation, but then he remembered, she wasn't going to yell at him anymore. She was gone. She wasn't coming back, maybe never. All of the dusting that he did for the figures. All of the killing himself cleaning the entire house. All of the babysitting and interpreting for David that he did, none of it mattered to his mother! He looked at the figures with a grin.
Charles straightened up and then picked up another figure, a small glass bell. He rang it at first softly then shook it hard and dropped it on purpose. "She's not here! She don't care!" He yelled. He then picked up a vase and dropped this one to. "It doesn't matter what I do to them! She's not around to say!" He yelled as he dropped another item and then another"I'm glad you're gone, you old cow!" He then dropped a few more in triumph feeling like a soldier who was mercilessly beating his enemies in war.
When Will heard the first object drop, he barely reacted. If it were Charles being his usual clumsy self, he would go in later and clean it up. The poor boy was probably so distracted with the news that he wasn't watching where he was going. He looked around the kitchen trying to find something to do, when he tried to force himself to read the Daily Telegraph. He then heard the next crash and then another. He became alarmed and ran to the sitting room where he saw his son. ""I hate you!" Charles yelled as he broke several more items. "You can go to hell for all I care! I hate you you bitch, I hate you!"
Will ran to his son and grabbed his shoulders."Charles," he said as he shook his son. A bottle had fallen from the boy's hands on the floor with all the other shards. Charles sank down onto the floor exhausted, his hands and knees getting cut from the shards.
He looked up at his father seeing him for the first time. "It didn't matter how good I took care of them, or the house, or David, nothing mattered to her!" He sobbed in his father's arms like a small child. "I don't matter to her or to anyone!"
"Shh, that's not true," Will assured him. "That is not a bit true. You certainly matter a great deal to your brother and me." He then slowly led his son away from the massacre and bandaged his hands and knees and led him upstairs. He then rang both his school and the hospital telling them that they were both taking a personal day and cleaned up the messes in the kitchen and sitting room.
A few times Will tried to go into Charles' room to talk to him, but the boy was always asleep, avoiding him. He let him sleep, hoping that eventually his son would be ready to talk to him. He looked in on him a few times, but he was so still and silent in his bed, that he didn't want to disturb him. He wanted his boy to open up and not swallow his anger. He was so worried about another outburst, but he also knew that he couldn't push Charles to speak and that he would when he was ready.
Charles lay in his bed. He didn't really sleep, but he didn't feel like moving either. He just lay still exhausted with the rage and numb from other emotions. If I get out of this bed, everything will be like before, he said. No not like before, everything will be better than before. Mummy will be home and not ill. Dad will still be Dad. And David, David will hear and everything will be perfect. The boy felt his lip quiver, but tears could not come. He couldn't break from the shell he put around himself. A few times his dad tried to get his attention, but Charles just ignored him so caught up in his grief.
He continued to lay until he felt his stomach growl. He didn't realize how long he slept until he glanced out his bedroom window and saw that it was evening. He also heard music coming from downstairs. An unmistakeable beat of The Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road," Great, Charles thought bitterly, why don't I just stab myself in the heart and feel better? Charles slowly walked downstairs.
His father was seated on the floor his long legs spread out near a blanket with several baby toys. He had picked up a multi-colored rattle and tapped David on the shoulder. David grinned at the rattle as the colors swirled. He then picked up the rattle and almost put it in his mouth when his Dad laughed and removed it shaking his finger and signing no, with an emphatic shake of his head and returning the rattle as David looked at then put the pacifier in David's mouth. Even though David moved around, Charles saw that he didn't stray too far from the speaker that was seated on the floor next to him. He dropped the rattle and moved closer putting his tiny hands on the speaker and just sat there through the song as though mezmerized.
Will looked up as his older son walked down the stairs. "So, you're up finally."
Charles nodded and sat on the floor next to his father and brother. He nodded at David as the song on the Let it Be album changed over to "For You Blue" "What's he doing?" Charles asked pointing at David.
"Well remember in class when we talked about how deaf people can feel vibrations in music?" Will asked. Charles nodded. "I suppose that's what he's doing. I noticed it by accident myself several days ago once when I was home and playing some records. David just crawled over and sat next to the speaker. Just sat there, through the album and then the next one. I've been playing music for him ever since. Haven't I Little Man?" He said emphatically tickling the infant who let out one of his characteristic laughs.
Charles felt a slight stab of envy that David shared something with his father that he knew nothing about but just as quickly let it go. "He just sits there?" Charles asked.
Will nodded. "Sometimes through several albums. He even has his favorites. Of course The Beatles, and their solo stuff. Like father like son, eh? He seems to like some of the Stones, The Doors, and The Animals. He gets a bit confused by Dylan, though I suppose the mumbling is harder to understand through vibrations. Enjoys Motown, sort of almost dances to them. He relaxes through things like Carole King and James Taylor though sometimes The Carpenters make him fall asleep. A bit disturbed by Gary Glitter, though I don't blame him for that." Charles giggled but then he remembered, how could he laugh during a time like this? He sighed and lowered his head dejected. "You're not here to talk about your brother are you?" Will asked slowly.
Charles looked at his feet feeling like he was going to cry again. "I was hoping that it was a dream what you said. I thought that if I came out of bed, then it wouldn't be true and I just imagined it. But I didn't did I?" Will sadly shook his head. "She's gone isn't she?" Will nodded. "Is she gone forever?"
Will shrugged. "To be honest, Charlie, I don't know. I don't know if she ever will come back, or what will happen next. We just have to take it one step at a time, just like everything else that's come along." He nodded at David. "Just like with how we managed with David."
"It's my fault," Charles said his eyes filling. He wanted to unburden the feelings that he kept inside his chest for so long.
"Charles your mother and I had a lot of problems-" Will began but Charles shook his head.
"Not just that, but everyhing is my fault, everything even David being- the way he is," Charles said. "Everything!" He started crying again.
"Charles your brother's condition had nothing to do with you," Will said almost laughing at the preposterous notion. "It just happened."
"No, you don't understand, it really is my fault," Charles replied. Will looked confused at his son but Charles continued. "I remember Dr. Givens telling you that David might be deaf because Mum took drugs and alcohol. You see while Mum was pregnant one day I saw her taking some pills with one of her bottles. I remember from health class, our teacher saying that pregnant women shouldn't drink or take certain medicines because it could make the baby come out all funny so I said to her 'Mum, I don't think you should be doing that' and Mum said-she said-" Charles couldn't continue.
Will nodded rubbing his son's shoulder. "Go ahead Charlie, you can tell me what she said."
Charles continued. "She told me to 'Mind my own fucking business!' and she slapped me so hard my glasses fell off. So, I didn't say anything more, even though I knew she had taken them. I didn't say anything, because she needed me to look after her and even after David was born and we found out- I still didn't say anything! I was supposed to look after her and look what happened! And now she moved away because I didn't do a good enough job!"
Charles sobbed into his father's arms as Will's heart sank. What his son said explained so much, particularly how protective the boy was of his infant brother and his mother. He wanted to take care of them, because he felt that he failed them. Will rocked his son as though he were a baby himself. "My boy, my poor little boy," he said soothingly to him. "I had no idea. You listen to me, you are 10 years old! It is not your job to take care of your mother and your brother. Your only job is to be a kid!" He sighed realizing that he too had contribued to these feelings. "Perhaps I too have been relying on you too much expecting so much from you and in my own way forcing responsibility on you. I am so sorry. I never realized what it could do."
"You needed me to help you out," Charles said.
Will nodded. "Yes, I have. But I've been treating you like another adult, another parent, expecting you to take on all of these burdens, and have been ignoring your needs. I've been forgetting that you need my attention too. I haven't been treating you like a kid, who needs to be cared for and loved." He kissed the top of his son's forehead and whispered. "And you are loved very much."
"That's alright Dad," Charles said. "But it still doesn't take away the fact that I caused David's deafness."
Will shook his head. "Charles, there could be a number of reasons why David is deaf. What your mother took is only one of the possibilities and besides it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that he is. Now we could blame ourselves for it, or your mother all day, but there comes a time when we have to stop blaming people and just move on with what we have been given. Your brother is a wonderful boy and he would be that even if he weren't deaf. It's just a part of him, just like his curly hair or your knobby knees and near-sightedness are a part of you. But it's not all of him. The all of David is that he is a brilliant wee boy with a sweet smile who is friendly, bright, outgoing, obviously loves music and colors and his big brother."
"And mum?" Charles said. "Why did she go?"
"Your mum had to do what was right for her," Will said. "Sometimes when two people love each other as we did, you try and try to work on your problems but the more you try the worse they get. I think that she wanted to make things work, she really did. Being a wife and mother was all she knew how to be, so I don't think that she came to this decision lightly, but she knew that her and I could never be happy with each other, not the way we were when we first married. She just was unhappy, not at you, but with everything around her, and the more she tried the unhappier she got. Sometimes when two people are unhappy together, the best that they can do is be apart."
"Maybe then she can be happier even if she isn't with us," Charles said.
Will nodded. " What I told her to. It's something that I have to work through. Maybe like you, I thought that I was supposed to take care of her, protect her, perhaps then I could fix her. But she didn't want to be fixed, at least not by me. She needs to find her own path and I have to learn to let her go. We both do."
Charles cried soft tears. "Do I have to let her go now?" he asked.
Will smiled and laughed. "No take as much time as you need." He held his son tightly as David toddled over to his father and brother, the B side to Let It Be over. Will moved his fingers up and down the baby's stomach as the little boy laughed. "I think that things will be different from now on."
"It will be just you looking after us," Charles said. "What's going to happen? Are you going to work as much? Will Mrs. Becket still come? Do I need to look after David? I can't cook that well! What if he gets sick again and you're not there?"
Will shook his head. "Charles calm down, as I said before we will take it one step at a time. We will still have Mrs. Becket and even if we don't, we'll find someone to help us out. I will see if I can work during the day while you're in school or at night when you're asleep and be on call only on occasion. I still may require your services as a baby sitter every now and again but I will try not to do it too often. Anyway, we still have plenty of time and don't worry so. You lean on me, not the other way around got it? Just know it's alright."
"No it isn't," Charles objected.
"No it isn't now," Will said agreeing with him. "It's not alright, but it will be because we'll work towards making it that way." There was a long silence as Will held onto Charles. David tapped his father on the knee as if to get his attention. Will jokingly removed his son's hand. David tapped his father's knee again, this time more insistent. Will looked up and laughed."Oh the record's over." He signed to David. "I know what you want me to play."
David smiled as his father gently removed himself from his son's grasp and stood up. He opened the cabinet which contained his record collection and pulled out a 33 LP, a Bing Crosby Christmas record. "Let's see it's too early for Christmas." He pulled out David Bowie's Space Oddity. "This one?" A look of disappointment crossed his infant son's face. Will then pulled out another one: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits. "This one? Well if you insist." He was about to take it out of the sleeve when David shook his head and pointed at one end of the cabinet. Will signed and put his hand to his mouth pretending to be in deep concentration. "Well I can't imagine what you want me to play, except-" He then took out another record, Stevie Wonder's Talking Book. "Is it this one?" David's face lit up and he grinned at the two boys as he put the record on the turntable and placed the needle on the edge. He turned to the boys right before the song came up. He signed. "This one is your favorite," to David.
The opening music to "You are the Sunshine of My Life" began as David crawled to the stereo. Will sat next to Charles as he hummed the music to Stevie Wonder, another of Will's favorite singers. Charles leaned on his father's shoulder as Will scooped David up in his large arms and held him in his lap. The infant faced his father and put his tiny hands delicately on his father's throat feeling the vibrations on his throat as Will sang along. Charles smiled nostalgically remembering when he was little his dad sang "And I Love Her" changing the lyrics to "And I Love Him" to fit his then small son. "Dad," Charles asked his voice small. "Can we listen to A Hard Day's Night after Talking Book is over?" he asked.
"Of course we can," Will said as he wrapped one arm around his older son's shoulder and hugged his infant son closer to his lap. "Of course we can." He then sang changing the lyrics only slightly, as he and his sons held each other tightly. "You are the sunshines of my life/That's why I'll always be around/You are the apples of my eyes/Forever you'll stay in my heart..."