We’re All We Need
We always mean,
To act on what we say,
So come on darling
Hurry hurry let’s go!
We’re all we need; ooh darling.
No matter now if the compass fails again,
‘cause in your love – I built a home
A distant siren briefly cut through the song with disdain and quickly disappeared; like a child bored with their toy.
With the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls filling the air, Jerome and Maxine danced around like two love struck teenagers. This anniversary was particularly special. Becoming a family had been so taxing; so the champagne was on ice; music almost at full tilt and love filled the room like rays of sunshine warming a cold winter’s day. Family. This was three years of unadulterated joy made brighter by the dark turmoil that had preceded it. It felt like that had been someone else’s life. Someone else’s darkness.
Maxine screeched the car to a halt in anguish. The sight of a mother and her new baby in a loving embrace was like walking over shards of glass, one for every day since she’d learnt the truth. She was infertile. The knuckles on her hands turned white as she gripped the steering wheel ever so tightly; that word swirling around in her mind like a savage tornado tearing anything remotely joyous into shredded shadows.
Jerome shivered. A cold shudder tap danced its way up his spine. A cat jumped on the window sill diverting his attention and there was Maxine sitting in the driveway; his mouth transformed into a brief smile which faded as he saw her expression. He placed the dish on the rack and removed the gloves. Opening the door, cold air rushed in to giving him his second shiver.
His voice broke her tormented daze; but only succeeded in stoking her tortured mind further. She finally exited the car. Locking it behind her Jerome cautiously took a few steps to meet her. His head knew what was happening. His heart didn’t want to. “Any shopping for me to help you carry?” his soft voice enquired meekly.
Silence. Her slow demeanour suddenly changed; as though her lawnmower cord had been pulled, springing her to life. She breezed past him, “Help? HELP!? Oh we both know how well that goes. No one can help and how dare you ask now!” she snapped. His long lost friend: helplessness rose in him again like bath water.
Storming through the threshold she dumped the groceries at the door and disappeared upstairs; leaving Jerome below in desperate contemplation. Slowly turning he dutifully picked up behind her before following her to the locked bedroom. Kicking into auto pilot he started as he had done so many times before.
“Sweetheart? Please open the door!” he pleaded.
He pulled at the handle, Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Please Maxine PLEASE! Let me in!” his voice cracked as he begged.
Driven by worry; panic.
Adrenalin shielded the pain in his shoulder.
The door started to splinter
Something was very wrong
Door and frame cracked as he burst through. His worst nightmare lay on the bed as living reality. “Nooooooooooo! NO!” tears filling his eyes as he launched at the cupboard to get towels. “Stay with me my love!”
Laying on the bed, blood oozing from her wrists her eyelids fluttered for a last glimpse of him as consciousness faded. He wrapped her wrists; the blood stained letter catching his eye like a flash of sun reflecting off a window. REJECTION LETTER. The heading burned his mind as he swiftly picked her up – dashing; each muscle working together as an orchestra; his love: the conductor. The house lay eerily silent, but the letter screamed.
The waiting room felt more like prison. Another minute. His leg bounced furiously. Hands clasped around the empty coffee cup. No doctor. The television entertained itself in the corner. Is she alive? Staff barely acknowledging his existence. Terror. It was as though he was about to be operated on and the anaesthetic wore off as blade met skin; but couldn’t talk. Pace back and forth. Sit. Look at the clock. Look at the nurse station. Panic. Pacing.
The third syllable hadn’t even been uttered and he’d twisted around.
“Your wife’s stable. She lost a lot of blood but thankfully the cuts weren’t too deep. She’s going to be okay,” he said with a faint smile.
Like the first spring rains, his mind was touched with hope as each word nourished it. Exhausted as though he had just run the comrades marathon; he collapsed onto the chair.
I will make this right. This isn’t fair. I will do whatever it takes for Maxine – we will have a family.
Maxine was putting the final touches to the vanilla cake with chocolate icing; the boys favourite. With the final dollop of icing done and candles placed, she stole a lick from the spatula and glided to the living room. Steadily placing it on the table she plopped onto the floor with a contented sigh. Wade sat quietly with a beaming smile directed at his parents. His blonde scraggy sun kissed hair shading his icy blue eyes from their gaze as they sparkled with happiness.
Her two favourites in the world. Maxine was in heaven.
The anniversary of their new life had almost quietly sailed by; like a butterfly navigating the breeze past a teenager engrossed in texting. Wade’s arrival had been a godsend. She lovingly placed her hand on his head and softly ran her fingers through his hair. “It’s amazing what a massive impact one little thing can have on one’s life” she stated thoughtfully, picking up the knife to cut the cake.
Jerome’s body tensed at her words. The memories flooded back. It was though he had travelled back in time in an instant. The candles gently fluttered in unison.
Ding Dong. The sound perked Jerome’s posture almost as if controlled by a puppet string.
“Don’t blow those candles out just yet son,” he said while rising from his knees “perhaps someone’s here for a surprise for you two” he murmured under his breath.
He was like a water balloon filled with just the right amount of water and about three droplets away from bursting.
He opened the door and
There wasn’t a single pixel of colour left in his face terror became the shark infested waters that took over his ripple free pool.
The gun pointed directly at Jerome’s head. His jaw clenched; his grip tightened; finger tapping the trigger. His frame like an ancient Greek statue blocking the door.
“Honey who is it?” probed Maxine from down the hall.
Nobody moved. The imposter’s eyes raged; a bead of sweat dripped down his forehead. He may as well have been in Madame Tussauds wax museum. Jerome’s mouth hung agape, unable to make a sound; his eyes were the ones talking.
The moment felt like an age.
“It’s over. Your three year reign of terror on us is over” he said dripping with disdain. “I’ve waited so long for this day. Three years to the day in fact. Now, where… is…. my…… son…..”
The final four words barely coming out as emotion started to take over. Panic was suddenly replaced with bewilderment.
“How? I thought we were…. How?” was all Jerome could clumsily muster.
Maxine strained to hear the conversation to no avail. “Be right back my darling, just going to see who’s visiting us.”
“I’m only going to ask you this one more time – where….is….my….son”
The words came out far clearer and menacingly this time for Jerome not to answer; but it wasn’t Jerome that answered.
“Son?” decried Maxine with utter confusion splashed on her face. “That’s ridiculous! What do you mean ‘son’?”
“You stole my son!” Jonathan bellowed.
Maxine felt as though she’d just received a punch from a heavy weight boxer. Jerome’s soft eyes looked at her with his head tilted; as though that would somehow help make this revelation easier to understand.
“What are you talking about? He’s ours! Jerome tell him! There’s some kind of mistake” she cried in desperation.
“You’re going to give him back to me or else…” his words trailed off menacingly. His gun focussed on her now.
Maxine shook her head and raised her hands compliantly. “This is all so unbelievable” she said, “wait here – I’ll fetch him”
She back tracked out the room leaving the two men alone. That feeling from the waiting room exploded inside him; as though it had been a tiny spark from a dormant fire suddenly fuelled with oxygen. “Please don’t hurt me or my family”
“Family? You sick twisted bastard! This is not a family. It’s a LIE!”
Jerome dropped his head in shame. His mind raced for words; any words that could help them out of this situation. They had come so far. Silence.
Little Wade’s tiny frame appeared holding Maxine’s hand. Overwhelmed, Jonathan gasped as tears started streaming down his face. Wade’s five year old brain didn’t quite understand what was happening and feeling terrified latched onto his mom’s leg. Maxine calmly glanced across at her husband rooted in fear and took charge.
“Perhaps there has been some sort of misunder….”
“Don’t even dare! This is MY son and you took him from me!” his steady arm now quivering. Their gazes fixated on the gun. Waiting for that dreaded sound. The muzzle flash.
“Okay, okay – it’s just that you can see he is very scared now”
“That will all change the minute we leave”
Wade started to cry and clutched her leg even harder. Her demeanour remained unchanged. Her focus shifted from Jonathan as she dropped to her knees to comfort Wade. “It’s okay my angel, it’s all okay. Everything’s going to be just fine. There’s nothing to cry about” she said kissing the top of his head, “this man is just going to take you for some ice cream – you can even have your favourite!” she said, Jonathan catching her glare.
“Absolutely, you can have as many scoops as you want” he said bending down with outstretched arms.
Maxine ushered Wade to Jonathan, giving him an assuring nod; tears were still streaming. The family had been reunited and they were both crying now.
“Oh my boy how we have missed you! Mommy is dying to see you again” he eked out.
Maxine coolly stood up.
Jonathan slowly followed suit with Wade in his arms. Jerome hadn’t budged.
It happened so quickly it was like a Samurai sword slicing through a silk scarf. Terror and disbelief filled Jonathan’s eyes; with Wade slipping from his grasp, he dropped to his knees. Maxine’s calm demeanour now replaced with rage, she looked him dead in the eye holding his shirt in her grasp.
“This is MY family and no one’s going to take that away from me. No one”
His hand desperately searched for the knife imbedded deep between his shoulder blades but he couldn’t reach it. Life drained from his body as the blood pool rapidly searched for more of the floor to conquer.
“You’re safe Wade, mommy is here” she said calmly rocking him in her arms. Handing him to Jerome, she grabbed the phone.
Steady as a rock, as though she were a method actor paused before dialling.
“Hello emergency services? Yes! It’s awful! We’ve just had someone break into our house! He attacked my husband and he tried to…… and I…. I….I stabbed him” she said acting hysterical. Jerome was even more bewildered than when he’d seen Jonathan standing at the door. Now he watched as his wife transformed right before his eyes, like some human caterpillar. The conversation ended and as though a switch was flipped, simply straightened her dress.
“Everything is going to be okay now. We’re all we need, my darling, we’re all we need.”