Sunday, October 9, 2016

Judith by M Teresa Clayton: Chapter Twenty

JUDITH by M Teresa Clayton
Chapter Twenty 

“Self-revelation is a cruel process. The real picture, the real you, never emerges. Looking for it is as bewildering as trying to know how you really look. Ten different mirrors show you ten different faces.” - Shashi Deshpande 

Every night it was the same thing. You get numb after a while, Judith thought to herself while staring blankly at her reflection in the vanity mirror. You forget where you are, who you are, what you’re doing. No need for names. Nevertheless, the regulars want you to use them anyway; Dan, Robert, Alex, William, Michael, John… names, they mean nothing to me… “Just a blur of names without faces. I don’t know them; I don’t even know me…” She whispered to herself.
Again, she continued the monologue in her mind, I suppose it makes it all seem more personal, more like real desire rather than the business transaction that it is. Just play along. Yes, just pretend.
I can block it all out except that incessant harping from that dreadful woman in the mirror, Judith thought as looked again at her reflection. It was changing.
You smell like a sewer, Judith. How many men have filled you with their waste this week? You are just like your mother, festering with decay - the two of you. Just look at you Ju–DITH! You have become your mother, a two-bit whore. Your stomach is distended with the curdling cream of monsters and degenerates.”'
She could never understand why she didn’t throw it out, hack it into pieces and burn it. She never understood why she even bothered to uncover it just so she could paint her face to look alive and brush her long chestnut hair… perhaps seeing her own reflection in the mirror was like seeing her mommy again.
“Mommy? Are you talking to yourself again?” Lily had come into the room unnoticed. “I thought I heard you talking to someone.”
“No baby girl, we’re just getting ready for our big date tonight.”
“He is so nice, Mommy,” she smiled coyly. “Not like those other men.”
“What other men?” Judith asked in the calmest voice she could manage.
“The men who come here at night; they make pig sounds. It scares me sometimes. It sounds like they are hurting you?” Her angel eyes were searching for something in Judith’s expression.
“We are just fine, baby. What ever gave you the idea they are hurting mommy?” She tried pushing away the feeling that somehow Lily knew.
“I watch them … sometimes.”'
“Oh my god, no!” Judith ran over to Lily and picked her up. It took her a moment to collect herself. “No, they aren’t hurting Mommy. We are just playing… games.”
She couldn’t imagine what Lily had witnessed. She didn’t want to know. “It is very important that we never say a word about mommy’s friends and the games we play to anyone, do you understand?”
“Okay mommy, it’s our secret.” Lily reached her arms around her mommy’s neck and hugged her tight.
It’s okay Judith, I sing her to sleep and help her to forget what she has seen.
“Come sit here with mommy and we’ll brush your hair.” Lily stood between her mother’s legs facing the mirror. “Let’s put this pretty barrette in your hair and you will look just like mommy.”
The rap at the door made her heart jump. Judith and Lily ran to answer the door together. Their giggles were rewarded with the sight of a huge bouquet of roses. “Oh, Ross, they’re beautiful.
“I want you to remember our first date, Judith. It’s an important night.” he smiled sweetly to her.
“I’m ready,” Judith answered. “All we have to do is take Lily downstairs to Mrs. Henderson’s for the night. Let me get these into a vase and we can go.”
As Judith found the vase and filled it with water she could hear Ross and Lily talking and laughing in the living room. The sound was magical; a fairytale too good to be true. She finished arranging the roses and set them on the table, pausing long enough to inhale their sweet perfume as it filled the room. Too good to be true…
The restaurant was intimate and plush. The smell of all the delectable dishes being prepared was overwhelming as Ross pulled out her chair. Judith smiled demurely and sat down as he gently guided her chair in. The room was aglow in amber from the flickering candlelight and it felt as if she had entered a dream.
'Ross was a gentleman throughout dinner. They enjoyed each other’s company and he managed to capture her heart with his ability to discuss an array of interesting topics and making her feel important by asking her for her thoughts.
After a wonderful dinner, Judith and Ross took the long walk home through the park holding hands and talking like two love-sick school kids. “Where is Lily’s Daddy?” he finally asked.
“He died,” Judith answered curtly.
“I didn’t mean to pry. I was just wondering how he could leave two beautiful ladies like you and Lily,” he apologized. “I guess I also wanted to know if there was any competition… you know?”
“It was a mistake, Ross. Plain and simple, we were young and things – well – got out of hand,” she explained. “It wasn’t as if…” Her voice trailed off.
“… you were in love?” He filled in the gap.
“It had nothing to do with love, Ross. He wanted it, so he got it, plain and simple, like I said.”
Ross stopped and took both of her hands into his. “You don’t owe me an explanation, Judith,” he said to her. “I care, that’s all. I care about you and Lily.”
Judith dropped her eyes from his. She felt so dirty and unworthy of him.
Ross took her chin and nudged her face upward so she was again looking into his eyes. “Did he know about Lily?”
“No. He died that night, after we...” she hesitated. “No, he never knew.”
“Oh, Judith, I am so sorry…”
“Don’t be. I wasn’t.” Again, her eyes fell away from his.
“Look, Ross,” she explained. “It was an accident. They found him that night on the track behind the school. There wasn’t any way to tell what got a hold of him. Wasn’t much left, if you know what I mean.”
“Okay, let’s change the subject,” he insisted.
Judith could sense his discomfort.
“I know it’s our first date and all,” he continued, “but I’d like to see you again if it’s okay with you and I’d, well, sort of like it to be just me you’re seeing.”
“Are you asking me to go steady?” Judith turned shyly away, blushing.
“Well, yeah – ‘suppose I am,” he answered more confidently.
Without answering him in words Judith reached up and kissed him on his cheek. He wanted to be in a relationship, exclusively… with me…, she thought to herself. Imagine that.
“Ross, I,” Judith hesitated then continued without looking him in the eye, “I just don’t think it would be a good thing for you and I to jump into anything.”
“We’ve been seeing each other for a while now at the park. We’ve talked enough and shared laughs as well as concerns. I feel… He tried to meet her eye as he said it, but Judith would not return his gaze, “I feel something for you, Judith. Something deep.”
“Ross…” She started.
“No, no more hesitations, no more excuses.” He kissed her forehead tenderly. “I’m not asking you to profess your undying love for me; I just want to give this a chance… a real chance, for both of us.”
Judith looked up into his face and saw the sincerity of his feelings reflected in his eyes. “I’m not dating anyone else, Ross. I haven’t been dating. I suppose it is okay to agree to date you exclusively, but I can’t make any commitments…”
“Shhh. That’s good enough for me,” He smiled down at her. “I won’t push. I know there is still a lot we do not know about each other. I am willing to give you all the time you need. I will be right here when you feel like sharing. I won’t judge you, Judith.”
“What you don’t know,” Judith bit her bottom lip hard. “What you don’t know about me, Ross, there is so much… I don’t want to hurt you, hurt Lily…”
“How about you?”
“How about me.” She echoed. “I don’t even know who I am anymore. I just know I love my daughter; she is my ‘everything’. That’s all I care about, I must protect her.”
“I agree with you.” Ross surprised Judith. “We can take it slow and be very careful not to hurt the girls. But, you’ll have to forgive me if I believe in you.”
He squeezed her hand tight and again put a gentle kiss to her forehead before placing her hand securely in the crook of his arm and escorted her home.
Ross said goodnight at the door and kissed her hand. “I had a wonderful time tonight, Miss Burton.”
Her heart was beating hard as he waited for her to close her door. After she turned the lock, she heard his footsteps as he walked away.
Judith fell onto her bed and looked up at the ceiling. He hasn’t even touched me or shown me any disrespect, she mused. Maybe there is a prince out there for me… maybe Ross is MY prince, she thought as she drifted into sweeter dreams.
The next morning Judith was jolted awake. It was HER. She had forgotten to cover the mirror! SHE was laughing out loud and it kept on and on without stopping.
Judith covered her ears and looked around for something to cover it – where is it?
Judith! Really? Don’t tell me you have fallen for it; for him. You know there is no such thing as something for nothing. Prince Charming? Really? How stupid you are!
Where was that damned coverlet?
Do not listen to her, Judith. She will only break you down; confuse you. Find the coverlet and shut her up.
Have you told him how you pay the rent? Does he know what you do with all those men? Have you shown him what you can do… when you really put your mind to it? More laughter.
There it is! Judith reached under the pile of dirty laundry, lifted it out, gave it a shake and threw it over the mirror.
Ignore her. Judith, she is a monster.

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