I’ve been home for three days now. Maddie stayed home from school too, but I think she’s comfortable that I’m safe now, and wants to go back to being with her friends.
Raquel and Grant are staying in the guest room. Grant handles all media inquiries with an authoritative, “No comments at this time.” Raquel took all household tasks from me, and cooks a meal when take-out doesn’t sound appealing.
Honestly, I’m grateful to let them take charge. I’m not sleeping very well. It takes a long for me to drift off, and once I do, I’m wakened by horrible nightmares: sometimes Frank has me up against the wall, with his fingers around my throat, instead of Liz. Or, I am forced to pull the plug to Nathan’s ventilator from the wall, only to discover it’s Maddie in the hospital bed, screaming silently.
The ER doctor gave me a prescription for Ativan. I take one before going to bed, but it doesn’t work.
I’ll need the Ativan soon though. My parents are arriving any day now to relieve Raquel and Grant. I begged them not to come, but they insist.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my parents. I really do. Our family isn’t unusual for having some dysfunction, but as Tolstoy pointed out, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Once upon a time we were a happy family.
I was six years old when my brother Joel was born. It was just like getting a living baby doll. I quickly adapted to the role of big sister, or more accurately, self-appointed co-mother.
I sat near (my mother would say, practically on) him all of the time. When mom nursed him, I sat beside her, shirt up, with my baby doll held against my bare chest in imitation. I got so close up when mom changed his diaper that more than once I was hit in the face with a stream of his urine. Whenever mom let me hold him, I was ecstatic with love for my tiny, baby brother with curly black hair…
“Hey Niki, you’ve been journaling with that faraway look in your eyes for awhile now. Are you okay? Can I get you anything?”
I put down my journal and pen. “No, thanks Raquel. I’m okay. I’m writing about Joel. I guess Mom and Dad’s visit is making me think about him.”
Raquel tenses and pales. The corners of her mouth and eyes slacken a bit.
“Honey, are you sure it’s a good idea to dwell on that right now? I have the phone number of the therapist the social worker gave us. Would you like me to schedule an appointment for you?”
“No Raquel, really, I’m okay. I’m sorry for upsetting you. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“It’s okay, Niki. I’ve been thinking about Joel too. I hope Mom’s doing okay.”
“I guess we’re going to find out.”