Wow! Time moves SO fast around here sometimes. It feels like only days ago that Vi and Micah walked in the door with Millie in their arms but it’s already her birthday so I guess it must’ve been longer. Lucky Auntie Rosie (that’s me!) gets to hold this little one over her cake while we all pretend she’s going to blow out the candles. Instead, Micah steps in and does the honours (surreptitiously, mind you) and I gently place baby Millie on the ground and wait for the “sparkle vision” to envelope her tiny frame.
And then, not seconds later, is toddler Millie. She’s so beautiful that me, along with Mama, Vi and Micah sigh a collective “Awwww” before Millie’s ever doting father rushes in to give her her first lesson in hygiene. Ew! Meanwhile, I’m a little distracted by this whole ‘birthday’ situation… I think it may be really poorly named since by no calendar is this the day Millie was born on. And that was a really great growth spurt too… I’m starting to think I shoulda paid a lot more attention during science class back in high-school. Maybe then this would make more sense.Stephen had been invited to Millie’s party, after all, Mama knew about him, I couldn’t get away with not inviting him. Unfortunately, he ended work long after the party was over but he still came by to drop off a gift for the birthday girl before he went home. He’s totally thoughtful that way, and I think that the bunny/bear will have a really happy little girl clinging to it come morning. I doubt she’ll ever let it go! That bear is WAY less creepy than the one she shares the crib with. That one gives me the heebie jeebies, for real. I’m spending lots of time with Stephen lately, and it’s kinda nice. I feel really pretty safe with him and since he’s SO active at work he’s really cool with playing it low-key with me in the evenings, or afternoons or mornings or whatever. It’s nice not to have the constrains of work hours, y’know? We spend a bunch of time at his house his sister’s house, cuddled on the couch and watching TV or movies. He’s looking for a new place, one of his own, but the new real estate agent, Mr. Twallan, has sold literally every house in the town so he’s having a tough time. We play chess at the park once a week. It’s a good way for us to exercise our brains and it gives us a chance to really talk since we tend to get err… distracted… when we’re alone together. I love having a man with some experience. It’s during one of these games that I decide it’s time to be honest with him about some of my issues. My commitment issues to be precise. He winces as I tell him about how I feel about marriage and love and relationships. I know he’s really family-oriented and he should know where I’m coming from and I guess, where he stands with me in regards to all that.Mama’s taken charge of teaching her granddaughter to read and speak, it’s SO cute coming up the stairs to see them huddled on the floor amongst their (yes, their) mess of toys with Mama reading and Millie flipping pages whenever she feels like it. It’s just as well they’re using the book, Mama doesn’t always use real words anymore. Sure, we know what she’s saying, they’re understandable in context but Millie doesn’t need to start using them just yet. She’s catching on quick and often sits around gabbling to herself but I think (and don’t tell Vi, or grandMama) that Millie’s learning as much from the books as she is from TV. She loves the thing as much as I do!Vi’s really been burning the wick at both ends, if y’know what I mean. If y’know what I mean, please tell me? I picked that phrase up from Mama and I’m not sure it means anything at all. Either way, she’s working really hard now that she’s off of maternity leave. I think she feels like she’s making up for lost time since she was used to working so hard and the she got all pregnant and I think she thought, in her grand master plan, that she’d be a rock star by now. Not a wife and mommy. It doesn’t help that Micah really wants another kid, I hear them arguing about it all the time but she insists that they should be ‘settled down’ whatever that means, before they have another baby. I think they’re pretty settled here. Just check out the garden in the back yard!Somewhere between her mom and dad working their bums off and Mama teaching her to talk, Millie’s started walking. None of us sat down to teach her but she wanders all over the place now! Thank goodness she hasn’t figured out stairs yet ’cause she’d be out in the middle of the road in a heart beat. Trust me on that one. She likes the yellow lines painted on the street. Calls them “smood” and “shyie” and she doesn’t understand it when we call the road “dangerous” and “not for children to play in.” Strange kid, really.Millie is totally the center of attention here at the house. So much so that when we’re expecting company (and she knows all the signs by now) she plops down with “Foggles” by the front door and chews on his ear and if you leave her upstairs she screams like a banshee! This means that the second anyone walks in the door they’re staring down at a beaming little girl putting on all the little girl charm she knows. Where she picked it up? Who can say! But true to form on the night of Violet’s “birthday” she was very much in the way when guests started to trickle in.
When Violet was blowing out her candles, Millie was still gazing hopefully at the door, looking to garner a little more attention. We cheered ourselves hoarse for Violet! She’d been kinda anxious about this whole “being an adult” thing, going on and on about how old she was getting and how little she’d accomplished. She was, like, two steps away from going on national tours with the band! Seriously! Lucky for her, when the ahem “sparkle vision” (yeah, Mama’s rubbed off on us) was through Vi didn’t look so much as a day older.
I’ve been back at the easel again lately, and it’s felt a lot like relearning, I guess I spent SO much time with the renovations and sculpting that I’m not used to this kind of work anymore? Anyways, I made a portrait of Micah – first one I’ve ever made and I think it’s pretty good – it was a present for Violet for her birthday and man did she just gush over it! I’m so glad she likes it enough to hang it in their room. I think its kinda, I dunno, swirly?
You know those moments where everything feels so nice and light and natural and happy? That’s what a day strolling in the wilderness with Stephen feels like. We pack a picnic, we pick a spot to eat and then we wander around like children, laughing at the beetles and skipping rocks in the pond or using some of Mama’s old fishing poles and hoping to catch a fish (we always throw them back.) It’s just relaxing to not have any pressure put on you, to gaze into the eyes of someone who you can really be ‘you’ around and know that they’re being who they are. It’s great.You know those moments where everything feels so awkward and uncomfortable and unnatural and uncalled for? That’s what it feels like when on one of our perfect outdoors days Stephen turns around, gazes into my eyes and well, he makes a mess of it all.
“Rosie, I hope you know how much you mean to me. I love the time we spend together, every second of it. I never thought that when I moved here from Twinbrook I’d find anyone half as special as you living in the same town as me, but Rosie?” He pauses and my stomach flips. I think I know what he’s going to say next and I don’t want to hear it. “I love you.”Three small, stupid words and he’s ruined our whole relationship. While he searches in the tome of poetry he brought with us so he can “find just the right words to express the way [he] feels” I turn my back to him. This way he can’t see the horror and fear that want to plaster themselves across my face. He KNOWS that isn’t what I want to hear, he knows I’m not in this for love or marriage or any of that junk. And I know that he only thinks he means it. How many stupid boys have told me they love me in the past just to run off with some other girl? I’m sure this is where it starts. Now he’s going to get clingy, now he’s going to expect me to say it back. Tough luck… It’s a shame our ‘honeymoon’ phase couldn’t last forever.
I’m trying to distract myself from the sour turn my relationship has taken and I guess I’m also finding ways to fill the time so that I’m not calling Stephen or thinking about Stephen… I’m reading more now than I did after Daddy died and I went through every book he wrote, back to back. I started with novels, but they’re full of ever-lasting-love and happily-ever-afters and I really just don’t want to read that junk. Now I’m scooping up every book I can on painting and sculpture and chess… I haven’t been this well educated on my interests in my life! Why don’t they teach anything worth learning at school? From morning to night I’m reading or applying new techniques to my art, I think it’s going great but that may just be because it’s a wanted and wonderful distraction from, oh, y’know, life. I’ve hardly spoken to Stephen since his err… declaration? I just can’t bring myself to answer his calls and I’m straight up ignoring 3 out of 4 and I’m blowing him off with excuses like, 9 out of 10 time I DO speak with him. But, I mean, I haven’t been totally neglecting him. We went for coffee a couple weeks ago. Maybe three? I just can’t bring myself to face him for long, to see that look in his beautiful eyes – all full of promises and, from experience here, lies. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss him. I really really do. I just can’t trust that he loves me and I sure don’t know what I’m feeling for him, other than frustrated. Frustrated that he ruined something good. Frustrated that I can’t bear to be around him. Frustrated that everywhere I go, in everything I do, I see glimpses of him. I mean, I can’t go to places that I never took him without seeing the colour of his hair or thinking he’s around the corner. I smell his cologne in a breeze and I’m going crazy. I can’t escape this frustration… And that’s just so frustrating!!Is it wrong that I’m sorta glad that Mama’s just sort of spilled her marbles all over the floor? It’s been a couple months of me being absorbed in not being absorbed in Stephen and now I get to focus on something else. She’s taken to just sort of wandering around the house looking… Mopey. She’s started leaving her dirty plates out again and I swear there’s been a spot on the mirror in her bathroom for like, three days. She’s stopped showering too and now sits and sulks about something or another with tears in her eyes. Every now and then she lets out this desperate, mournful, wail and it’s heartbreaking. Oddly enough, Millie’s gotten moody as well. It’s not that she doesn’t tend to scream and cry – she’s a toddler, of course she does – but since she’s learned to talk she’s always told us just what’s wrong. “HUNGY!!” or “POOPY!” are commonly heard echoing around the house along with the less frequent cries for Ma, Da, Gamma or Zee. She’s not usually very picky about who consoles her though but lately, she’s just been yelling “DAAAAABAAAAAAAA!!” By yelling I mean it’s just as heart wrenching as Mama’s cries have been and we can’t do anything except for wait for her to cry herself out. We all know what “Daba” means to us, but to Millie?Mama’s been locked in her room all night. Violet says I can’t leave her in there and then leaves for work and that just leaves me standing in front of Mama’s bedroom door, working up the nerve to knock and find out what’s going on. I knock and there’s no answer, just sniffles so I let myself in and move over to where my Mama has tears streaming down her face.
“Mama! Mama, what’s wrong?” She gives me a surprised look before collapsing into my arms. I haven’t noticed just how frail she’s gotten until right now.
“Oh Rosie… It’s your daddy! Connor… He’s gone!”
I wasn’t really expecting that so I hold her close, compose my thoughts “Mama… Daba’s been gone for a long time… Mama… We… We buried him years ago.”
This just makes her sob louder so I hold her until she’s done and then tuck her into bed and wait in one of the arm chairs until she falls asleep. How am I going to take care of this?
I set my alarm to wake me at the same time as Mama usually gets up – way too early – and intercept her on her way to the computer. She would’ve sat there playing that silly football game all day long if I hadn’t. By 9:00am we were both fed, dressed and standing in front of Daddy’s grave. He’s the only one here and I have the fleeting thought that he must be lonely. I haven’t been here since the funeral. Mama breaks down again, running her fingers over that numbers that make the last date engraved into the stone. She’s talking to him and I don’t need to know what she’s saying, it’s not my business and I think it would just make my watery eyes turn into crying. Finally, Mama turns to me, her eyes red.
“He’s really gone…”
“I know Mama.”Neither one of us is ready to leave yet, I think we could both stand in front of that grave for the rest of the day but it’s hot out in the sun so we move over to the shade and settle on the bench. It’s quiet, there’s nothing for us to say. I’m watching the bugs skim along the top of the pond, contemplating the lack of fish (and life in general) and Mama’s staring off into space (not unusual) when my phone rings. I practically jump out of my skin, the noise jarring me back to reality. A sour reality. It’s Stephen. I’m in no mood to talk to him right now so I slip my phone back into my pocket and we sit there until he hangs up. Sit there until the chimes tell me he’s left a voice message and then the chimes that he’s left me a text. He’s damn persistent, I told him I need my space!“That poor man.” What?! “He obviously cares about you quite a lot, dear, to still be calling.” I don’t know what to say, but I guess she’s not expecting a response ’cause she keeps going. “You know that not all men are like the boys you’ve dated, don’t you? Some are honourable and kind and I think your Stephen is one of them… Just like Connor was.” Her voice cracks on Daddy’s name. “When’s the last time you saw him or talked to him? Actually talked, Rosie. Haven’t you seen the look in his eyes? He loves you and I think – don’t look at me like that, Rose, it’s not becoming – I think that if you let yourself you could love him too. No, you don’t have anything to say to me. You call that man back and you apologize for how you’ve been treating him and I expect to see him at Millie and Micah’s birthday.”I couldn’t bring myself to disobey Mama, not while she was in such a fragile state, so I made the call she told me to make. In between that phone call and the celebration itself though, there was enough time for me to continue to not see Stephen. So, life continues as normal. I paint, I sculpt, I cuddle with Millie and watch television and so on and so on. I have to do what makes ME feel good, right? I’m really enjoying the painting I’m doing, and I’m enjoying even more the money that I’m receiving from selling my paintings at the consignment store. I still haven’t been able to muscle any of them into Daddy’s old pickup and even if I could, the thing’s such a rustbucket at this stage that I think it would just fall apart under the weight. Maybe it’s time for a new car?Not all my pictures get sold. I’ve saved some for Millie’s room when she grows up (so soon!) and I’ve wrangled a fair portrait of Dad from my memory to hang next to Mama’s. Mama loves it, I can tell ’cause it makes her cry. It’s not as good as the one I did of Micah and neither is as good as the one of Mama which Vi made ages ago but like I said – I did it from memory. I do think it may be nearly time for me to step away from portraiture ’cause I don’t think I’m much good at it. I figure I’ll do one of Violet at some point and that’ll probably be my last. I don’t like doing them that much anyways, it doesn’t exorcise any of my imaginative demons and I find the whole experience sort of… Unfulfilling. That may be because I’m painting them in an unfinished room though. I think my next step is to build that studio for myself… I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach. Maybe just one butterfly but it has been with me all day. In the shower, tidying the house, getting the cakes, there’s just been that niggling little feeling in my gut. When Stephen drove up, the butterflies multiplied and when he stepped out of the car, I swear my heart did a little flip… Traitorous organ! I went to meet him outside, to say hello in private since the rest of the family is milling around the downstairs. I try to keep it light, like nothing has happened but he’s being standoffish and I guess I can’t blame him for that. I try to pretend that this is just another day and everything is natural and normal but as I turn to go inside, once he’s been invited in, he stops me with a hand on my shoulder.
“We need to talk later.”Soon, we were all in place around the kitchen table, screaming and cheering with our noise-makers as Micah stepped up to one of the two cakes at the table and made a big show of making a wish. All of us, except maybe Stephen, know what he’s wishing for. Another baby. It’s no secret around here that he wants another one (or two, or three) and him and Violet have had more than one argument about it since Millie’s last birthday. Do you see what I mean about weird birthday timing yet? As the candles go out with a puff of smoke, the sparkles envelope my brother-in-law and when they clear… He looks exactly the same. Maybe with some fine lines around his eyes and I can see that he’s finding the joints in his fingers stiff but before he can explore that there’s one more cake!Mama was so honoured when Violet asked if she would like to hold Millie while she blew out her candles that she almost moved the date of the party up by two days. We managed to talk her out of it, clearly. Millie’s SO excited. I think it’s more for the cake than anything else, y’know? She doesn’t quite understand the birthday thing yet but she does understand dessert. In her eagerness for icing, Millie almost falls out of Mama’s arms ’cause she wants to blow out the candles right now! “Make a wish, sweetie!” Micah calls and Millie looks at him, wide eyed before yelling out her wish: “CAKE!”Once candles are out, Mama puts Millie on the floor and I can hear her whispering her calm warnings about ‘squidgy feelings’ and ‘sparkle vision’ and I try to catch Violet’s eye so we can giggle about Mama’s strange words like we did when we were kids. No such luck. Violet and Micah have their arms around one another and they’re watching their little girl with something that looks like sadness in their eyes. Something tells me that Micah’s wish will come true sooner rather than later. Millie shrieks with delight as she waits for the tell tale sparkles, beaming at each of us with her lovely smile before turning that same grin to the cakes that sit just out of her reach. And then, as expected, Millie ages up. Her first words as a child (and my is she beautiful) are “This is a great party!” followed by “Can we have cake now? Pleeeaaase mom!”Watching dad and daughter tuck into their birthday cakes I’m struck by just how similar they look and that’s not a bad thing in this case. I’m glad that we decided to have their celebrations together – Mama was in no mood for two parties to be so close together – ’cause it makes today just a little bit extra special. Stephen is hanging back, feeling uncomfortable I think, but Mama’s taking care of that and acting the consummate hostess by shoving drinks and cake in his direction even if he already has a plate and glass. He’s too polite to say anything but he has a small stack growing behind the computer that I’ll have to take care of later. After we talk. I’m nervous, which is weird, and also a little annoyed by how he keeps catching my eye and indicating that he’d like ‘later’ to be now. He’ll just have to wait until my cake is done and I can excuse us.No pleasantries, no chit chat, I can’t even convince Stephen to have a seat with me before the talk he wants to have begins.
“You’re pushing me away, Rose. No – you’re shoving and I’m tired of it. I don’t want to go anywhere and I don’t think that you want me to either. I don’t ask that much of you and I don’t think I put any unreasonable expectations on you. In fact, I think the last couple of months have proven that if nothing I am will to be patient and accepting but honestly, Rose, how long do you think I’ll hang around for if you’ll hardly give me the time of day? You KNOW how I feel about you and I don’t understand why that’s so scary for you. It’s LOVE Rose, it’s not going to kill you. Me maybe, at this rate, but not you. If I did something other than tell you my feelings for you, then let me know so I can apologize and we can move past this but this is exhausting.” How dare he be so calm and reasonable and accusatory?! I listen quietly, jaw clenched and vision slowly turning to red. How dare he!
“I TOLD you I needed time! I TOLD you that I wasn’t one for commitment, that I don’t believe in love and that I don’t want it. From day ONE you knew all that and now you come in here yelling at me about being who I’ve been since before you came along?? How dare you lay this all on my shoulders?! YOU told me that you loved me. YOU wouldn’t give me the space I asked for. YOU’RE the one who’s stressing out over the status-freakin’-quo and trying to tell me that it’s all my fault?! I thought we both knew where we stood and now it turns out that you don’t like it so you just want to uproot everything and move the stand somewhere else! And now it MY fault that I’m not willing to just go along with it? That’s ridiculous Stephen! Just ridiculous and so damn TYPICAL! More more more, can’t be happy with what you have, why not just go for mo-”
“I HAVE HAD ENOUGH! YOU LISTEN TO ME, ROSE CLARKE AND YOU LISTEN WELL!”
Are we saying goodbye to Stephen already?
Will Rosie ever settle down?
Is another baby on the way for Vi and Micah?
Why can’t I think of any more questions for this part where I always put questions?
More questions (and a story too) in Chapter 6 – Currentlyuntitledandunplayedoops!
R.I.P. again Connor. Thanks for taking such good care of Millie while I was story-lining.
I have no idea when the next chapter will be out. I’m heading out of town for a week to go camping with the family and as you may have noticed from the next chapter’s “name” I haven’t played ahead so… ANYWAYS! Have a great week!!