"Any sane person would have left long ago. But I cannot. I have my sons." ~Princess Diana

Broken Thoughts, Broken Trust

They say they understand, but they don't. They can't. They say they're sorry for your loss, but they aren't. Not really. It's just something they know they're supposed to say, so they say it. But it has no meaning to you. They're just words, and they're so empty because people don't know what it's like, how it feels, so when they say it, it has no meaning. Not to them, and least of all to you.

Deep down you know you're not the only one who's ever felt this way before. But just feeling it makes you feel alone... so very alone...

You're tired. You're sick and tired of wandering through each day that passes. You're tired of waking up to a new day that isn't new at all, because you know that you're going to feel exactly the same as you did the day before. You're tired of going through the same routine, all the time, but you haven't the energy to change it. You're tired of feeling. You're tired of not feeling. You're tired of feeling like you can't feel at all because then you'll feel the pain and the misery all over again and you'll feel like it's swallowing you whole. You hate that feeling. You can't handle it anymore.

You're tired of people telling you that you need to eat, and then shoving food in your face. You're tired of everyone telling you to rest when you spend half the day in bed already. You're tired of everybody telling you to take it easy. Take what easy? It's not like you feel like doing much of anything anyways. You're especially tired of people you don't even know telling you to take care of yourself. What's the point? Why can't they leave you alone? You're tired of everyone telling you what to do. You want them to stop telling you what to do.

"Including you!" Cecelia audibly declared in the confinement of her room. The voices grew louder with each passing day. Three months since Tyler's accident, one week since Richard's, and the fight within her was ebbing faster away than it had been before. And she could almost physically feel her sanity going with it...

How can you hold onto life when half your soul is already dead?

How can you find it in yourself to survive when the loneliness and depression is eating you inside out?

"You're the one feeding it," the widow grated out between clenched teeth.

When they sealed the coffin, that was the sound of your heart being torn in half. When they lowered it into the ground, you couldn't understand why what was left of your tattered heart was still beating.

"Stop it," the woman cried out. "Just stop!"

How can you stand to breathe? How can you stand to even be here anymore?

The truth is that you can't.

Cecelia cupped her hands over her ears, even though she knew it wouldn't help any. The voices were seeping out from a dark corner of her own mind, and she didn't know what power she possessed that would drag the little creeps back under their blanket of shadows. "No," she cried, shaking her head. "I won't leave them; not like Richard did. I can't."

Who said anything about leaving 'like Richard'? No... this will be different. Slow. Painful. The voices will drown you, and there is nothing you can do that will stop it.

"I don't have to listen to you!"

You're right: you don't. But you will. Because there's nothing left for you to do.

"You're wrong," Cecelia sniffed. "There is still plenty for me to do."

It doesn't matter. You won't make it. You know that you won't survive this.

The woman could think of no response as she walked out of her room and busied herself trying to find something productive to do. Anything to distract her focus, to silence the voices in her head. There had to be something in this house that needed touching up. She was done sitting around.

It's amazing the changes that come over people when they're stressed, hurting, and trying their best to stay sane.

Although JC wasn't quite sure if his mother was quite sane anymore, despite her best efforts.

Cecelia had started cleaning. She cleaned everything. She swept the porch. She beat the rugs. She polished the silverware. She even washed the walls, and still nothing was ever quite clean enough. The kids' rooms were never perfectly spotless. The living room was always in disarray. Her children offered to help and keep her company, so now she had them cleaning 'round the clock – both literally and figuratively speaking.

The only rooms she never touched were Richard's study and the nursery. The doors to those particular rooms were always supposed to be shut, and if they weren't, whoever the nearest child was in Cecelia's relative vicinity was the one that got a scolding – didn't really matter whether or not it was that person's fault. Of course, whatever she said was meant for everyone, but still... When the lecture is aimed at you because you're the one who just happens to be there, it tends to feel like you're being singled out as a target – especially when you're the one who gets the most earfuls.

Even Elizabeth couldn't escape her mother's new obsession with cleanliness; not that she tried or even complained about it, which was nice. No longer the flawless model of perfection, the girl's morning chores were simple: work in the garden after breakfast, come right back in, wash up, and then wash clothes. Then maybe wash the doormat, if necessary. And then sweep the porch, wash again, help with lunch, and clean up the kitchen. Washing even after going no further than the porch steps quickly became a rule. Step outside the door, and you have to wash when you come back in. It was maddening.

Also, Cecelia hired some neighbors to build a vertical fence around the backyard, up the sides of the front, and up and down the road a ways, cutting off their quick access to the woods almost entirely. It made the backyard feel... contained. Outside was supposed to be an escape for the kids, but now it felt as cramped out there as it did inside the house. The only spot Cecelia had left open in the back was a little grass trail that cut through the woods and eventually led to a small clearing. The clearing had been turned into a private cemetery, where Tyler, Richard, and the children's other deceased siblings had been laid to rest. The fence had been built up the edges of the trail and then boxed around the clearing. There was no longer any quick way to cut through the woods to get to the neighbor's anymore (because the fence was too tall to climb), unless the kids went down the road a ways and circled around where the fence ended and then got into the woods that way, which made the little hike between properties take a lot longer than it used to.

Another thing that had recently changed was that their mother constantly had to know where her kids were and what they were doing... even more so than usual. The days that they did go to the neighbor's houses alone were few, since Cecelia usually chaperoned them herself. Her excuse was to get out and see her friends, but the kids knew better. While becoming much more protective of them than was really necessary, she was at the same time unintentionally giving them the impression that she didn't trust them. Maybe, deep down, she didn't.

After all, she had trusted Richard, hadn't she? She had trusted him to be a father to her and JP Theron's children. But as soon as his own son died, he... well, he broke his promise to be faithful through the good times, and the bad.

The man knew he had been second choice. He knew that his wife still loved her first husband. He also knew that a large percentage of his pay that he shared with his wife was sent monthly to support Theron's delicate care. But, even still, he loved Cecelia, even if he always loved her just a bit more than she loved him. Despite knowing that he would always be second place in Cecelia's heart, Richard made a promise of unconditional love and faithfulness to her, and her children. Then he broke it. So much for 'As long as ye both shall live'. The man didn't even say goodbye.

JC sighed distractedly before realizing that the soapy water had already run down the length of the living room window and was dripping onto the rug. Eyes widening, he rushed to clean it up. By the time he was done, the soap was out of it, but the rug was still wet.

Oh well, he thought to himself. It's just water – it'll dry, with or without my help. And besides, mother didn't see it happen. She doesn't really have to know about it. I mean, after all: just because I'm responsible, it doesn't mean I'm stupid.

But, just to be on the safe side, as he stood up to continue drying the window, JC shifted his feet to stand over the wet spot, just in case Cecelia did come in. Ever since she got it in her head that cleaning was a twenty-four hour-occupying virtue, the woman could see both every little mark on the carpet, and every made-up smudge on the glass. It was like a curse.

At the moment, Michael was upstairs polishing the wooden banister, while Liz was in the kitchen with Cecelia, starting lunch – meaning they would all get a break, soon. JC's job today was to wash all the windows. Even the old attic window, even though no-one hardly ever went up there anymore. Finished with this one, JC put his rag into the basin before carrying it to the next window. He was going to wash the outsides, too, but only on the first floor. Cecelia had strictly forbidden him to climb up and do the outer panes, which annoyed her son greatly. He was the man of the house now, and she wouldn't trust him enough to wash the second floor windows. No matter his protests, the woman wouldn't budge on the subject. It was incredibly frustrating.

Also, now that she could see every smudge and piece of dirt, real or imaginary, the curtains in her room were now closed on a permanent basis, so that she wouldn't have to look at it until she hired someone to wash the outer pane. JC always used the position of light in his room to know what time to get up in the mornings. Now that his mother's room was always dark, even in the daytime, he wondered how she knew when it was time to wake up.

If she's even sleeping at all, that is.

Aside from his mother's seemingly abrupt change in character, there were two other things that occupied JC's mind the most these days: Michael and Elizabeth, and getting a job.

JC scrubbed harder as he thought about the job situation. Friends and neighbors, relatives and the church community were all helping out, but JC couldn't wait till they could all stand on their own two feet with a comfortable sense of independence.

JP Theron's parents were long dead, but JC had met and instantly fell in love with his Stoker relatives when he was a boy. Even though they weren't blood relatives, they were family. The boy could remember when he was seven, sitting down at Papa Ferris' feet, listening to the older man's comforting southern drawl spin somewhat exaggerated tales of his days as a cop. Ever since he listened to those stories, JC wanted badly to be a police officer. He really did. But it would break his mother's heart, knowing that her son had taken on such a dangerous career. She couldn't stand to lose him, too. So JC would have to settle for something else for now, in order to get them by.

But the real problem with getting a job would be that he wouldn't be around to watch his siblings anymore. To be more specific, he wouldn't be able to protect Michael from his sister anymore. After all, just because they had a lot more chores now than before, with their mother's newfound repulsion to grime, that didn't mean that Elizabeth hadn't found any time to play any of her favorite 'games' anymore.

Cecelia had nearly had a heart attack when she opened the cupboard underneath the sink one day to find Mike huddled in a little ball inside, his arms wrapped tightly around his legs and his knees pulled up close to his chest. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut and his entire frame shook with slight tremors. After his mother asked what on earth the boy thought he was doing under there, Mike had opened his eyes and replied, "I'm playing hide and seek with Elizabeth."

Cecelia had pulled the boy out by his elbow and started brushing the cobwebs off his clothing while telling him to hide somewhere less dirty from now on. As she did so, Liz had appeared in the doorway, with a triumphant grin on her face. Mike had appeared more dismayed than afraid, although he had every right to be the latter. Let's just say, that once again, he 'lost' that game to his sister. Just as always.

How could their own mother not see it? How could she not see the fear in Michael's expression every time Liz openly waltzed by him? If JC had to leave, then he couldn't trust either Liz to leave Mike alone, or trust their mother to do anything about it.

And another thing that was bothering him: Michael had gradually descended from telling half-truths to downright lies when it came to explaining his latest injuries – injuries, most of which, he had learned to hide pretty well.

JC just didn't know what to do. Every time he tried to talk to Michael... he just didn't know how to get through to him – to get him to open up. The boy had closed up like a clam.

I don't see why he won't talk to me, JC thought with just the barest hint of anger. I can't think of any reason for him not to trust me. It's not like I'm the one hurting him!

And talking with Elizabeth was like talking to a crafty rubber wall in a dress. She was always deflecting his accusations and somehow turning the conversation into something about him, or dragging their mother in on it. Three years before legal adulthood, and the girl was still smugly fluttering her innocent little eyelashes behind the safety of her mother's skirt. JC felt ready to scream at times, but for the sake of Michael, he forced himself not to. Everyone else had fallen apart on the boy somehow, except for JC.

And I'm not going to start now, the teen had long ago decided. I'm the strongest one in his life right now; he needs me.

I just wish he'd trust me to help him.

If only someone here would just trust me...