Shattered

The headlights of the bus were bright and the chains of the gate glistened. I stepped behind the bushes as I saw his polished shoes descend the bus. He unlocked the chain from the gate, though it was below his knees, and walked on the stones laid in the grass.  I glared at him with astonishment, and then slowly walked behind him until he reached the door.

The year was 1998 and candles were lit in the hallway. The television set I once gave him was gone, and only his father’s radio remained.  He hung his coat in the closet and moved to the library where he lit a cigar from his golden case. I remember that Christmas—Albert was fourteen. His eyes lit up as he saw the shiny case and nudged me to read the inscription for him. My happiness for him became sympathy as I tried to take the case away from him.

“Dorothy! Give it back!”

“No, Albert! Father, how could you?” I exclaimed with anger.

“Just give it to me!” Albert shouted.

“Give it to him, Dorothy. Give him what he wants,” father said.

Albert read the inscription, buried his face in my lap and began to sob.

“Become my son. Become a man,” read the case.

“You’re disgusting,” I stated strongly.

“Don’t you dare speak to your father like that!” mother shouted.

“Anne, please,” he smiled. “What do you think, Albert?”

“Don’t answer that,” I whispered.

I remember that silence, that silence where my brother was deciding between the consequences of being honest and pleasing Father.

“How could you, Albert?” I ask myself. “How could you give into to him?”
 
A tear slid down my face, for that memory was so painful. And to look at him now...this wreckage was unbearable. I turned the other way and began to walk. Suddenly I heard the front door close. There stood my darling brother. He was handsomely, tall but skinny as a rail. I put my hand over my mouth to prevent him from hearing my sobs.  He walked to the old Rolls Royce in a slouchy, youthful way—I wanted as so much as to reach out to him, shake the daylights out of him and bring out the boy I knew.
 
I followed Albert to a bar that once thrived. Now it seemed Albert was its only customer. I knew that every word I would say to him must be delicate. He sat there on a stool with a brandy in his hand and a cigar in the other. I stepped over the threshold and moved to the waiter.

“I would like a martini,” I stated.

“Aren’t you a bit young for a drink?” the waiter asked.

“I’m not,” I smiled, “but he is.”

Albert looked at me with anger and then sadness when he saw who I was.

“Hello, Albert,” I smiled. “May I sit here?”

I never knew what Albert was thinking at that moment but something told me he appreciated my being there.

“What do you expect me to say?” he said staring into his drink.

“Hello,” I laughed, “ and maybe why you’re--“

“Dorothy,” he sighed. “You know my reasons.”

“Yes,” I smirked. “Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m here?”

“Okay,” he turned to me and looked me in the eye. “Why are you here?”

I should have known he would have responded in his usual smart alec manner.

Never have I been able to respond to him in that manner without laughing.
“Well,” I started, “ before I die I would like to contribute to humanity, and you, my friend, are no contribution to humanity.”

He laughed and I smiled. It was a split second of bliss for me, and then he saw his cigar case and all became sullen.

“Father was a true contribution. He did everything right.”

I did not bother arguing with him, for stating the obvious was a big problem for him.

“Whatever you say, Albert.”

“But you don’t agree,” he argued.

“No,” I laughed, “ I don’t.”

The bartender hovered at our end of the bar, eavesdropping. Suddenly we grew uncomfortable. Albert laid down money for his and my drink and walked outside.
“Wait!” I ran. “Where are you going?”

“Home,” he stated and moved towards his car with his head down in shame.

I followed him home. When I stepped out of my car I could see the old Rolls Royce and the house full of lights, but there was no sign of Albert.

“Oh, Albert! Where are you? Come out from where you are!” I said loudly.

“In here, dear!” someone said cheerfully.

“Oh, God. What is that?” I asked myself.

The front door opened and Albert stood there with mittens on and a fresh baked banana bread in his hands. I rushed to view him more closely, scared for what Imight see.

“Oh! Hello, Dorothy! How are you? You look just fine! Come on in! I have turkey!” Albert smiled with lipstick and eye shadow on his face.

“Ma?” I asked quietly.

“Of course, Dorothy! Who else would it be?” Albert said happily, motioning his hands for me to come in.

We entered the kitchen where candles were lit and the finest silverware was set.  I was not expecting the evening to be like it was, a candlelit dinner and sitting down to turkey and cranberry, listening to “Ma’s” newest recipes.

“So what have you been doing these days?” Ma asked me.

“Oh, nothing much, some traveling I guess.”

“Where?” she asked with interest.

“Italy, Spain, China—mostly East of here.”

I could no longer hold my burning question with in me! I just had to know!
“Ma, do you love Albert?” I asked shyly.
Her expression froze then a laugh crept out. Had I said the wrong thing?

“Of course,” she laughed. “Why wouldn’t I love my own son?”

“It seemed that you two were never-,” I searched for my words carefully, “close.”

“No, we weren’t,” she confessed. “His relationship with your father was--hard to watch.

I thought it was best not to butt in.”

I understood what she meant by “butting in.” I always had the impression that she was afraid of my father. Perhaps she thought he would kick her out if she stood up to him or deprive her of extravagant pleasures.

“If the clock could be turned back, would you change anything?” I asked.

“Turning the clock back...,” she repeated. “That’s a strange thought. Yes, I would change things, maybe being a better mother to you and your brother. Sometimes I fantasize Albert as happy, but you did the right thing.”

“I could have been a better daughter to you,” I stated, making sure my feelings for father were clear.

“We all could have been better.”

We all could have been better...such a bold answer. We could have been the best and brightest if she would have spoken up.

“I suppose that wasn’t the right thing to say,” she sighed.

“What?” I asked wearily.

“My saying that we all could have been better...I’m wrong. It was wrong for me to say that because you and I both know if only I had taken a stand, said something, our lives would be different. Albert’s life would be--,” she stopped as she carefully chose her words. “Albert would not be suffering.”

“If Albert were here,” I started, “what would you say to him?”

“Why on earth would he be here?” she laughed. “You know how much he despises my company!”

“Hold that thought!” I rushed. “Don’t move a muscle!”

I rushed to down the hallway to the library and pulled out a Silvertone recorder, replacing what was there with a blank tape.

“Darling, are you all right?” asked Ma with concern.

“I’m fine! Just wait! I’ll--one sec!” I shouted.

“Are you sure? You seem to be creating a ruckus out there,” she stated observantly.

“Can you wait one second? ” I shouted impatiently.

“Oh my,” she hissed.

The Silvertone screeched as I laid it on the counter in the room off the kitchen. The red light started to flash as it began to record.

“Sorry about that, Ma,” I rushed.

“It’s alright. Now, what was I saying? Golly, I can’t remember.”

“You said--” I started

“Oh I remember! Dear foolish me I can’t remember a thing these days!” she started carelessly. “You asked me what I would say if Albert were here. And I said...I said. Oops! "I seem to have forgotten.”

“Come on! Say it!” I shouted anxiously as I glared at the clock.

“I would say to Albert that I regret not protecting him. I regret choosing a failed marriage over something that is--much more important. I’m sorry, Albert!” she sobbed. “I’m sorry, darling. I-I promised I won’t let anyone hurt you! I’ll protect you!! Please, please forgive me!”
For some unexplainable reason a tear slid down my face. Was this closure for me?

“You are a man! No one is as big a man as you are! Never be ashamed of yourself, Albert!” She was now of the floor, hugging herself. The makeup was melting.

“It’s okay, Ma!” I pleaded. “Oh! He knows it, he knows you’re sorry.”
The hand of the clock turned to the hour. Ma was sun downing.

“Goodbye, Ma,” I whispered to myself. “Goodbye,” I sobbed.

“Dorothy?” asked a shy voice.
I turned my head only to find a scared man on the floor with mascara on his cheeks.

“Albert, will you come with me?” I asked kindly.

Albert got on his feet and walked with me to the pantry. I switched off the blinking red light and played the tape back.
           
“Sorry about that, Ma.”

“Its alright. Now, what was I saying? Golly I can’t remember.”

“Mother?” hissed Albert.

He looked at me with horror.

“What on earth is that?” he demanded.

“Come on! Say it!”
“Where is she? Is she here?” Albert asked.

“I regret choosing a failed marriage over something that is---much more important. I’m sorry Albert! Please forgive me! You are a man! Now one is as big a man as you are!”

“Listen closely to this part.”

“Goodbye, Ma. Goodbye.”

“Dorothy?”

“Me?” asked Albert.

“Albert, will you come with me?”
I turned around to find my brother on the floor, fainted.

“Oh! Albert! I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I cried.
 
An hour later, Albert had woken up and agreed to let me explain to him what I thought was wrong.

“It’s called multiple personality disorder. I’ve heard about it before.”

“Are you telling me that I’m -I’m sick?” he cried. “No! You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, I do,” I protested, “and so do you. Do you want me to play back that tape?”

“Of course not!” he shouted.
I moved towards him, to comfort him. This was a lot to deal with...for the both of us.

“Albert, it’s over.”

“What’s over?” he asked.

“You’re illness, you’re finished with it. You’re free.”

“Since when?” he joked.

“When Ma, when you, confessed to treating you badly you received closure, you may not know it, but you did. You understood that you did not do anything wrong and that you were victimized.”

“What about Father? Don’t I need closure from Father?” he argued.

“No, Albert, you don’t. After being with mother while she was sun downing I came to the conclusion that Ma’s not protecting you led you to believe that she was influencing father...which was partly true. But to hear her anguish towards Father, her regretful actions towards you, brought the pieces together.”

“You talk as though you were a specialist.”

So true but so wrong. After the events of that evening I felt as though I had observed things that some psychiatrists dream of seeing. I had lived years with questions roaming in my head. Now the pieces were finally put together. Many might say that I felt relief, but I don’t. Too much time has gone by for life to turn to normal. As I look upon the face of my brother I will always see a shattered soul.

I am a fourteen-year-old girl, whose passion is writing. During my spare time, I work on screenplays and watch films from the 1940s and 1950s. I live in Chestnut Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia,  and attend Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. My favorite plays are Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." The film that I consider the most spectacular is Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film, "Vertigo."