The Bandbox Hat
Previously: Jesse was about to tell SarahJane why he left town after graduation and what’s going on with SarahJane’s sister Rachael. He was interrupted by a knock at the door. Rachael arrived. Jesse left. Rachael told SarahJane she’d suffered from post-partum psychosis after her baby was born and she left to protect the baby and her husband from herself. She ran into Jesse when she was in LA and he made a deal with her: she’d get psychological help and he wouldn’t tell her family where she was. April woke up and came into the living room.
“Who am I?” Rachael stared at April before glancing at me. “Who are you?”
I stood and pulled April close. “This is Jake and Anna’s daughter Rachael. She’s visiting me for a few days.”
Rachael’s expression softened. “Hi, April. I’m your aunt, too. Auntie Rachael.”
April recoiled as if slapped. “You’re Rachael?”
Rachael’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong?”
“My mom said you were the worst mother in the world.” April moved closer to me and I wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “She said you were … um … ego … egocentric? And … a saucer path.”
Instead of anger, amusement flickered across Rachael’s face. “A sociopath? Is that what your mom said?”
April nodded. “That’s right. A saucer—sociopath. What’s a sociopath?”
“I think that’s a question for your mom or dad.” I returned to the couch and patted my lap. “You can come talk to your Aunt Rachael and I’ll keep you safe from her egocentrism. I make no promises about her sociopathological tendencies, though.”
April settled herself between my crossed legs and leaned against me. “Are you laughing at me?”
“No, sweetie.” I rubbed her arms. “I would never laugh at you.”
“I was pretty selfish when I knew your mom so I can’t argue about how egocentric I was.” Rachael dipped her head and gazed into April’s eyes. “I did some stupid things and I made mistakes. Some people, like your mom, will remember my problems but others, like your Auntie SJ, will forgive me. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me, too.”
“Hey, I didn’t say I forgive you.” I kept my voice light though, because we both knew I would. That’s just who I am. Dishrag SarahJane. Damp. Pliable. Washing away uncomfortable feelings. Just like I’d done with Austin and Linda, letting them send me away with no explanation. Just like Rachael’s husband and baby deserved more than she left them, I deserved more from that show and that man and his mother.
“You need to go back to bed, April.” I unfolded my legs and helped her stand. “Rachael, you can sleep on the couch if you need a place to stay.”
She seemed taken aback as she cocked her head at me. “Why would I need a place to stay?”
I shrugged. “Don’t you need something from me? That’s why you wanted to see me, isn’t it?”
Her lips tightened and a small breath escaped her pinched nostrils. “I wanted to see you because you’re my sister. We lost our father recently. I miss you. I don’t need anything from you. I have a job. A house. A life, for crying out loud. Is it so hard to believe I can take care of myself?” Her voice grew louder with each sentence until I held up a hand to ward off any more volume.
“April, go climb into bed. I’ll be there in a minute.”
After April was out of sight, I turned to Rachael. “I’m sorry. You’re right, I just assumed.”
She nodded. “I guess I can see why you would.” She gave me a quick hug and stuffed a piece of paper into my hand. “Here’s my number. Call me whenever you want.”
I nodded and waved as she let herself out, then I lowered myself back onto the couch. That little revelation I’d had a moment ago had taken root in my heart and bloomed into a big showy bouquet and I knew what I had to do.
In the morning, I’d call Liam and insist on contacting Austin and Linda for an explanation. I deserved nothing less.