“What Memories Do to Us”
“What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“No. You can’t go out with him.”
Trish put her hands on her hips and gave her brother ‘the look’. The same look their mother gave their father when he was really in trouble. “I’ll have you know, big brother,” she said, “that I can go out with whoever I want, thank you very much!”
“Not when it’s one of my friends,” Alex replied. He knew what his friends were like; he’d cheered them on in their ‘conquests’ often enough after all. The last thing he wanted was Trish becoming just another one of those conquests. Sure, Jeremy wasn’t like the other guys, not really. Alex thought of him as more or less harmless; he listened to the other guys’ stories, the same as Alex did, but never shared any of his own. Alex didn’t have any problem with Jeremy, but that still didn’t make him good enough to date Alex’s sister.
“Well, hold on a second now,” their father stepped in, holding up his hands to forestall any more arguing. “I’ve met Jeremy. He seems like a nice young man, and I’m sure he’s a perfect gentleman. Unless there’s something you’re not telling us, Alex?” His father gave him a questioning look. Alex hesitated, glancing at Trish. She was definitely what you’d call a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, and their father was just as protective of her as Alex was. Lately Trish had been drawing more and more attention from the boys, with her shimmering brunette hair, deep blue eyes, long eyelashes, and charming smile. Quite a few of Alex’s other friends had been commenting lately on her beauty, and a few of them had made some comments about her body that had earned them beatings from Alex. Of course, Jeremy hadn’t been one of the ones saying these things, but it wouldn’t be hard for Alex to say he had. One wrong word from Alex and their father would never let Trish go out with Jeremy. The only problem was that he couldn’t actually think of a real reason Trish shouldn’t be able to go out with him. He just simply didn’t want any of his friends near her.
“Well…” Alex thought about it for a long moment. All he had to do was tell a story of one of his other friends, and unjustly insert Jeremy’s name, and the date would be off. “No,” Alex sighed. “Jeremy’s a fine guy. There’s nothing wrong with him.” He couldn’t bring himself to lie about it just because he was being overprotective. It really was Trish’s choice, after all.
Trish was now giving their father a hopeful look, trying to hold back her smile. He looked at her for a moment, still hesitant, then nodded. “Alright then,” he clapped a hand on Alex’s shoulder, a sympathetic look in his eye. He obviously wasn’t happy about his ‘little girl’ dating a guy two years older, or even dating at all, but Trish was fifteen now, and starting to get past the point that she could be sheltered. Like Alex, their father was forcing himself to accept that it was Trish’s choice, at least so long as he knew that the guy was trustworthy. “You can go out with him,” he told Trish. She started bouncing on her toes happily, then gave their father a big hug.
“Thank you Daddy!” she squealed.
“But,” he continued, Trish pulling back from the hug and putting a pout on her lips, “first you and I need to have a little talk…”
“Oh, Daaaaad!” Trish pouted. “We already HAD ‘that’ talk!” she gave him her most disappointed look, the one that usually got their father to cave and give her her way.
“I know sweetie, but humor your old man,” their father led Trish into the other room to have ‘the talk’, while Alex went to his room to call up Jeremy and make some veiled threats about what Alex would do to him if Trish got hurt.
* * *
“No! I don’t want to!”
“Trish sweetie, come on. You need to go. We can’t have you getting sick again,” Trish’s mother was holding Trish’s jacket in her hands, trying to convince the little girl to put it on. “I know you don’t like going to the doctor, but you have to.”
“But Mooooom!” Trish pouted. She was eleven years old, and quite used to getting her way, most of the time anyway. But Daddy was at work, and she always had a harder time getting her way with Mommy, especially when it came to going to the doctor. “I don’t wanna go! I’m not sick, honest! I haven’t even thrown up or nothing!” she put on her most adorable pout, batting her eyelashes, though she had a feeling it was hopeless.
“I’m sorry honey, but you have to. Come on,” her mother took Trish by the shoulders and started steering her towards the door, handing her the jacket. “If we don’t take you to see the doctor, you might have another relapse. Your T-cell count is getting low again, and you know that’s when you start to get sick.” Trish didn’t entirely know what ‘T-cells’ were, except that they were white blood cells that did something to keep her healthy. She knew they fought off bacteria and viruses and stuff like that, and when there weren’t enough T-cells in her blood, it made it easy for her to get sick. Though she didn’t know what made them get low, and even the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her. All they knew how to do was give her medicine to fight the symptoms.
“It’ll be okay honey. You know the doctor is just there to help you,” her mother patted her on the shoulder as she led her out the door, though Trish didn’t say anything. She kept her head down, wishing she had some other way out of the visit to the doctor’s office. She thought about trying to run away until Daddy came home, though she didn’t think that would do her any good. So she just kept her head down and let her mother lead her to the car, wondering why it was that she always had to get sick.
The ride to the doctor’s office wasn’t a long one. Trish spent the entire ride staring out the window at the buildings passing by. Her mother kept talking the entire time; encouraging words, empty sympathy, all of which meant nothing to Trish. Her mother didn’t understand, and Trish couldn’t find the courage to tell her. It was just too embarrassing. At first she thought this was some kind of punishment. This was what sick girls have to go through. But none of her friends had to go through what she went through. None of them feared going to the doctor the way Trish did.
She had thought she was finally getting better. It had been over two months since the last time she’d had to go. Her parents still insisted on testing her blood every day, and every day she sat there scared while she waited to find out her fate. She had been trying so hard to stay healthy, and doing everything they’d told her to do. She was eating the right foods, and getting plenty of exercise. She’d convinced her parents to let her start taking self-defense classes, and they’d agreed that the classes were a good form of exercise. Trish hadn’t told them why she really wanted to take the classes. She’d been practicing hard every day, and was already at the top of her class.
As much as Trish hoped for the car ride to last longer, all too soon it was over, and her mother was leading her into the doctor’s office. She kept her head down the entire time, barely listening as her mother said hello to the receptionist. While her mother made small talk, Trish wandered over to the waiting area, dropping down into a seat. There were a few other kids there, most of them younger than Trish, playing with the toys and video games in the waiting room. Trish was getting too old for the toys, and the games didn’t interest her. Being here didn’t put her in a playful mood. She ignored the other children, ignored her mother when she tried to cheer Trish up, and ignored the sick sensation in her stomach that had nothing to do with illness. Then, as much as she tried to ignore it, she heard the receptionist call her name. It was time.
“Everything will be fine, sweetie,” her mother said as Trish dragged her feet towards the door, where a nurse waited to lead her back to the examination room. She said nothing during the usual preliminary tests: blood pressure, temperature, measuring her height and weight. The nurse then handed her a gown and left so Trish could get out of her clothes.
She sat there, holding the folded robe in her hands, staring at the floor. She didn’t want this to happen again. She saw tears falling onto the light blue cloth of the gown, then her face was buried in it, stifling her sobs. It was in this state the doctor found her a few minutes later.
“Good morning, Patricia,” Dr. Simmons said, smiling in the way that always sent a chill up Trish’s spine. He showed too many teeth, and even when his mouth was smiling his eyes never did. His eyes were looking at Trish, and she fidgeted in her seat. She pulled the gown down from her face and clutched it to her chest, staring at Dr. Simmons with no expression on her face. “How are we today?” he stepped forward and brushed his fingers across her cheek, brushing her hair back over her ear. She held perfectly still, breathing slowly and carefully.
When she didn’t respond Dr. Simmons lifted her chin with his fingers so her eyes met his. “Not feeling very talkative today?” he asked, his voice still in the same steady tone he always used. Trish swallowed a lump in her throat, concentrating on her breathing. “You didn’t change into your gown, Patricia,” Dr. Simmons said, taking the gown from her hands and placing it on the examination table next to her. She held her hands in her lap, her fingers tightly closed. “Here, let me help you get that off…” Dr. Simmons slid his hands down her arms, and reached for the bottom of her shirt.
“No!” Trish felt her heart racing as she brought her arms up in between the doctor’s, sweeping her arms to either side in a rapid motion that knocked Dr. Simmons hands away. He stepped back, a stunned look on his face.
“Patricia, it’s alright,” he put the smile back on his face. “I just need to give you an examination. We’ve done this plenty of times, it’s alright,” he stepped forward again, and Trish pushed herself off the table, her feet hitting the ground and her fist hitting Dr. Simmons stomach. She was a small girl, but she’d been taught to put her full body weight into a swing. She’d been taught where to strike to do the most damage. She let out a fierce scream as the doctor bent over, the wind knocked out of him, his hands clutching his stomach. Before he could recover Trish continued on through the motions she’d learned in self-defense class, stomping her heel down on his toe, then shoving him hard while he was doubled over in pain. Dr. Simmons slammed onto the ground, grunting in pain, caught so off guard by the sudden assault that he hadn’t had time to react. Trish didn’t bother to wait and see what he would do; by the time he hit the ground she was already running for the door.
Later that night, Trish was sitting alone in her room. Her mother had been both furious and worried for Trish, begging her for hours to explain why she had attacked Dr. Simmons, but Trish had refused to say a word. Her mother had asked her over and over again: Did he do anything to you? Trish hadn’t been able to tell her mother anything; she had simply said she didn’t want to go back there, ever again. She was sure her mother suspected what Trish wasn’t telling her, but she wouldn’t admit to it.
Now, Trish’s father was home, and her mother was downstairs explaining to him what had happened. Trish wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but she fully expected to get grounded at the very least. She sat on her bed, staring at the floor, and realized she didn’t care. She didn’t care what happened to her now; she never had to go back to see Dr. Simmons again, and that made it all worth it.
She heard a knock at her door, and looked up to see Alex standing there. Her brother was thirteen, and starting to be a bit of a pain, but she still looked up to him. “Hey…” he said, stepping into her room. “I heard mom and dad talking…”
Trish simply nodded, looking back down at the ground. “So what happened?” Alex asked, coming in and sitting next to her, a concerned frown on his face. Trish looked up at him, her eyes growing moist. Alex frowned deeper, then put a hand on her back. “What?” he asked again.
Trish got up and went over to the door, looking up and down the hall to make sure their parents weren’t upstairs. She heard their voices coming from the living room downstairs; they still seemed to be deep in conversation. She shut and locked the door, then went back to sit next to Alex. She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. “Promise you won’t tell Mom and Dad?”
* * *
Trish came home from her date with tears in her eyes. Alex was downstairs, watching an old movie. Their parents were already in bed. Alex looked up at Trish, his fist clenching in anger, Jeremy’s soon to be bruised face flashing before his eyes. “What happened?” he asked, getting up from the couch.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Trish headed for the stairs, wiping at her eyes. Her hair was a bit disheveled, and Alex noticed her blouse wasn’t tucked in.
“Trish…” Alex stepped towards her, his tone a mix between concern and anger.
“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” she screamed at him, rushing up the stairs and into her room. Alex watched her for a moment, then grabbed his jacket and headed out the door. The city was a blur in his vision as he sped towards Jeremy’s house, blocking out everything but the image of his former friend’s face. By the time he got to the house, he was in a blind rage. He pounded on the door like it was Jeremy’s face, and it took only a moment before Jeremy answered. He still had his jacket and shoes on; he must have just gotten home a few moments before Alex got there.
“Alex, wha-“ Alex’s fist cut off Jeremy’s question, knocking the other teen back into the house. Between blows from Alex’s fists Jeremy managed to get out a few protests and yells for help, “Wait…I didn’t…Stop! Stop man! I didn’t touch her!” Alex was beyond listening to any excuses. No one touched his sister.
It was only a few moments before Jeremy’s parents were roused by the sounds of their son being beaten and yelling for help, and Jeremy’s father pulled Alex away, his arms still swinging. It wasn’t until then that Alex found his voice, “You son of a bitch! She’s my fucking sister! Get off me!” he struggled against Jeremy’s dad, but he was a construction worker and far stronger than Alex, even with all the adrenaline pumping through him.
“Calm down, son, just calm down,” Jeremy’s father sounded surprisingly calm, though he looked at his son with a concerned expression. “Just settle down and we’ll all talk about this…”
“There’s nothing to talk about!” Alex finally pulled himself from the man’s grip, though his rage was expended and he simply stood there, clenching and unclenching his fists, staring Jeremy down. The other teen was still on the ground, though his mother had helped him to a sitting position. His eye was swollen, his lip bleeding, and the shape of his nose told Alex he’d broken it.
“Alex man, I swear, I didn’t…” Alex didn’t even listen to Jeremy’s protest of innocence. He stormed out of the house, his steps slowing as he went, his energy spent now that the adrenaline was fading. By the time he got in his car he felt ready to collapse; he leaned his forehead against the steering wheel, taking a few deep breaths. Jeremy and his family were standing in the doorway, looking out at him. Shooting them one last glare, he started the car and drove away.
Alex drove for hours, his mind in a daze. He was surprised at himself, but he didn’t regret what he’d done. He had to protect Trish. He knew she could look out for herself now, but memories didn’t fade easily. He drove with his thoughts and memories for a long time, finally pulling back up to his house late in the night. No lights were on, and everyone seemed to be asleep.
Alex went inside, and headed to the kitchen, pouring himself a glass of ice water to cool the burning in his throat. It wasn’t until then he noticed how cut and bruised his hands were. He had never been in a fight like this before, had never attacked someone before. The skin on the backs of his hands was split, and covered in a mix of his blood and Jeremy’s. Letting out a sigh of defeat he went to the sink to clean up. Then the lights in the kitchen came on.
“What did you do…?” It was Trish, and she was staring at his bloody hands, and his face; he must have gotten some of Jeremy’s blood on his face as well. “Alex, what the hell? What did you do?!” she had a look of horror on her face. His sister had never looked at him like that before.
“Trish, I’m sorry,” Alex hung his head, not ashamed of what he’d done, but of how his sister was reacting. “Maybe I took it too far, but Trish, look at what he…” he stopped, not really sure what Jeremy had done, looking up at Trish with the hope that she’d understand.
“’What he’ what, Alex?” Trish had her hands on her hips, glaring at him. “Jeremy didn’t do anything! He only got to second base, and that’s because I wanted him to!” her delicate face was turning red with embarrassment and anger.
Alex gave her a confused look. “But…when you came home…” A sick feeling started building in his stomach.
Trish crossed her arms, clenching her teeth for a moment to keep herself from screaming at him. “I came home upset because I made a fool out of myself,” her voice was tight and strained. “All Jeremy did was kiss me, until I took his hand and…well, y’know…” her face flushed deeper, and she clenched her teeth, taking a deep breath. “Anyway, I wanted him to, it was my choice…but then…” tears started to fill her eyes, her breathing growing erratic, “then I started…remembering.” She turned her eyes away, wiping a hand across her face. “And then I freaked out, and I hit him, because for a second I thought it was him,” Alex didn’t have to ask who she meant, “and then I felt like the biggest idiot, because I’m the one that…started, and I couldn’t even go through with it…” she dropped her arms to her sides, a look of embarrassed defeat about her. “And then you,” she glared at him, her defeat turning to anger, “you…! Alex, I can’t believe you!” she stepped forward, her fists raised, then collapsed against his chest, smothering her face in his shirt while pounding her fists against his chest. “How could you! He’ll never want to speak to me again! Alex, how could you!” she collapsed in tears, soaking his shirt, clinging to him weakly. He wrapped his arms around her…mute…lost…
“I’m sorry Trish,” he finally whispered, his voice hoarse. “I was just trying to…” she pulled back, looking up at him, her face stained with tears. He saw the pain he had caused her in her eyes. He couldn’t make any excuses for what he’d done. Jeremy, he would have to apologize to, explain things to, make excuses, and hope to fix things. But Trish…looking at the hurt in her eyes, he couldn’t even make an excuse. All he could say was, “I’m sorry…”
Trish nodded, wiping her face with the sleeve of her pajamas. “I know, big brother,” she whispered. “I know…” Without any more words she gave him a hug, kissed his cheek, and then headed back to bed, leaving Alex alone with his thoughts, his memories, and his regrets.