Storm Clouds On The Horizon
The sun was shining on a warm spring day, as Vicki drove into the parking lot at Newman Enterprises. It felt good to finally put all the drama of the past few months behind her. The Newmans had all been through an ordeal they wouldn’t soon forget. Little did they know, their ordeal was just beginning.
As she walked into the building and over to the elevators she smiled at people passing by and chatted with a few friends from work. She’d hardly stepped foot in her office since Abby’s court case began, which was evidenced by the mountain of paperwork waiting for her. “Great, looks like I’ll be pulling an all-nighter.” She muttered to herself with a small smile, grateful on some level for what she considered a distraction after the hectic pace of the past few months.
She sat down to work, but it was barely a half hour later when she found her concentration starting to wane. “Why can’t I concentrate? This is ridiculous! I’ve got a ton of work to do and I can’t focus. Maybe I need to take a break, then go back to this later. It might do me some good. But what can I do in the meantime? ” She walked over to the couch, picked up a magazine and started casually thumbing through it. “Forget it. This isn’t working either!” She exclaimed tossing it back on the table in front of the couch she was sitting on. “Wait a minute, maybe Mom’s still at home. I know she had a few errands to run, but maybe she hasn’t left yet.”
Quickly, she got up off the couch and walked back to her desk to call home. “Hi Mom, it’s me.”
“Hey, this is a pleasant surprise. What’s up?” Nikki replied, enjoying the first good mood she’d been in in months.
“Not much, listen. I know it’s short notice, but can you come to my office? I really need to talk to somebody.”
“Yeah sure. Victoria, what’s this about?” Nikki asked, as her instincts kicked in and the tone of her daughter’s voice registered.
“Nothing. I just need to talk to you. So, can you come?” Vicki replied evasively.
“I’ll be right there.” Nikki replied before hanging up the phone, grabbing her things and heading out the door.
Once outside, she stopped on the front porch and thought to herself aloud, as she looked at her watch, “One in the afternoon, I wonder what’s going on with her. Victoria never calls me in the middle of the day, let alone to ask me to come to the office because she needs to talk to somebody. She usually talks to her father, or Nicholas, if she talks to anybody about what’s bothering her. She never turns to me. I wonder what could be different this time. Wait a minute. … I don’t think I like the sound of this. There was something in her voice…she hasn’t been acting right ever since the whole case with Abby started. She’s been really distracted and distant somehow. I’m starting to get the feeling something’s really wrong here!”
Meanwhile, back at Newman, Vicki’s pacing in her office, unable to concentrate on anything. “What’s wrong with me? This is insane! I have a major business deal in the works and I can’t even sit still to look of the contracts that need to be signed before I even meet with the rep to finalize it!” She whispered to herself in frustration as she stood scowling out the window. The weather had changed drastically in the past little while. It had begun raining heavily and the sky was dark and overcast. “Great, just what I need to cheer me up!” She bit out, clenching and unclenching her fists as she watched the rain pound the ground. “I shouldn’t have called Mom, the last thing she needs right now is to be worrying about me. She needs to just enjoy her life right now. Why did I call her? Why?” Vicki asked herself, as her hand balled into a fist once again, and she slammed it down on the windowsill.
She was so distracted, she didn’t even hear Nikki walking into her office until she gently closed the door and called her name. Startled, Vicki whirled around, wondering who it could be. “Oh, hey Mom.” She said trying to cover up her startled expression by pasting on a strained smile.
“Hey, what’s going on? You sounded upset on the phone.” Nikki asked, eyeing her worriedly.
“Oh nothing, don’t worry about it. I’m just feeling a little boxed in, that’s all.” Vicki replied sending her mom another strained smile.
“Yeah right, come on talk to me. You called me over here for a reason. I want to know what it is.” Nikki replied, keeping her eyes locked on her daughter’s tense, and somehow drained figure. ‘She looks like she didn’t get any sleep last night.’ Nikki thought to herself puzzled.
“Let’s just say I need my mom.” Vicki replied on a somber whisper, unwilling to open up to her mom, even though she’d called her, anxious to talk to somebody. She herself didn’t quite understand it. “Then again, I’m not so sure I want to understand what’s going on.” Vicki told herself fearfully, as a little chill ran down her spine.
“Come on, Victoria, talk to me. I know you called me over here for a reason. And, it wasn’t just because you’re feeling ‘a little boxed in.’ Come on, talk to me. It’s obvious something’s going on.” Nikki persisted, unwilling to let this go.
“It’s nothing. I’m fine, really.” Vicki replied turning back to the window, unable to look her mother in the eyes, afraid she’d put it all together and realize something really was wrong with her. And yet, deep down, part of her wanted somebody to put it together and try to help her. “Who knows, maybe that’s the only way I’ll ever get out of this mess. Wait a minute, what am I saying? That’s the last thing Mom needs right now. If she starts worrying about me, all her plans for the baby will be ruined, or at the very least put on hold. I can’t let that happen; I can’t!”
“Victoria, what’s going on?” Nikki asked, picking up once again on her daughter’s strange demeanor.
“Nothing, Mother, I’m sorry I bothered you. Forget about it.”
“Sorry, no can do. I want to know what’s going on. I’m worried about you.”
“Why not? It’s simple, just let me get back to work, and you can get on with your day.” Vicki countered, trying to get her mother to leave, all the while knowing it wouldn’t work.
“Victoria, I’m not going anywhere, so you can stop with the hard sell.”
“Why don’t we just go home? It’ll do you some good to get out of the office for awhile.”
“Mom, I can’t. I’ve got too much to do, the only way I’ll get anything done is if I work straight through the night, and even then I’m not sure how much of a dent I’ll put in all this paperwork.” Vicki offered up as an excuse, motioning to the mountain of files and other paperwork sitting on her desk.
“Victoria, work can wait, let’s go.” Nikki’s tone brooked no argument, as she led her daughter silently out of the office.
“Why do I think I’ll regret this later? Why do I know I’ll regret this?” Vicki asked under her breath as they walked to the elevator, and from there out the front door.
“Because, you’ve always been much too hard on yourself and stubborn to admit when you’ve needed a break.” Nikki replied, glancing at her daughter as they got into her car.
“Gee thanks, Mother.” Vicki sarcastically replied.
“Hey, you asked.” Nikki countered with a half smile, trying unsuccessfully to lighten the mood.
“Let’s just forget it, okay?” Vicki asked, reaching for the door handle on her side of the vehicle.
“Freeze.” Nikki commanded. “It’s obvious you’re upset about something, and whether or not you’ll admit it, you want somebody to help you figure out what it is and deal with it.” She tenderly whispered, trying to reason with and soothe her daughter.
“What? Where do you get that from?” Vicki replied evasively, without making eye contact.
“I’m not blind.”
“You’ve been acting strange since Abby’s custody hearing began. And, it’s only gotten worse since the judge ruled. Is there something you want to tell me? Something about what happened in court that’s weighing on you?”
“So I’ve been acting a little weird, so what? Mother, I told you nothing’s wrong.” Vicki tried to play dumb.
“What do you mean, ‘so what?’ It’s obvious there’s something going on with you and it’s obviously beginning to affect your work.”
“I can handle it, Mother.” Vicki ground out.
“Oh really?” Nikki asked skeptically.
“Yes.” Vicki replied, trying unsuccessfully to force a note of confidence into her voice.
“Look me in the eye and tell me I’ve got nothing to worry about.” Nikki challenged.When her daughter didn’t, she replied “You can’t, can you?”
“No, Mother, that’s not it. I’m just tired of arguing with you. You’ll believe what you want, no matter what I say, so I might as well not say anything.” Vicki replied, her temper beginning to show.
“What’s supposed to mean?” Nikki asked defensively.
“Exactly that, I’ve told you I’m fine, but you don’t believe me. That’s fine, believe whatever you want.” Vicki replied defensively.
Silently, as tensions between them rose unbearably, Nikki started the car, and they began the long drive home in complete silence.
Vicki payed no attention to what was going on around her, she didn’t hear the din of blaring car horns, angry motorists screaming at one another, and screeching tires, as people waited for lights to change.
She didn’t see the bright blue sky, or the robin as it flew to its nest high up in a tree, nor did she feel the bright, warm sunlight beating down on her. She was far, far away in a place where chilling darkness and a paralyzing sense of foreboding surrounded her. She wasn’t aware of anything, and for a brief moment, it seemed total bliss.
“Victoria?” Nikki called her name, eyeing her worriedly. She’d been studying her the whole time. “I don’t like what I’m seeing one bit. She’s not acting right. I know we’ve had a strained relationship at times, but this is ridiculous. She’s stonewalling me at every turn!” Nikki said to herself pensively.
Shaking back to reality, Vicki turned to her mother, and distractedly asked “What?”
“Where were you just now?”
“I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.” Vicki distractedly offered up as an excuse.
“Look, why don’t we go to Gina’s for lunch and then go home?” Nikki asked, hoping she’d open up to her a little once they found themselves in a more relaxed setting.
“That’s okay. I’m not that hungry.” Vicki replied shaking her head.
“We don’t have to go in, but you need to eat. Whatever else may, or may not be going on with you, you need to eat.” Nikki countered.
“Fine.” Vicki replied tiredly.
Satisfied she hadn’t put up much of a fight, Nikki pulled into the parking lot at Gina’s, and turning to Victoria said, “I’ll be right back.” With that, she quickly shut the car door and started toward the restaurant.
Vicki barely gave any indication she’d heard her mother, except for an almost imperceptible nod of her head. “Thank God she’s gone. This is crazy; I’ve got to get a hold of myself. Mom playing detective won’t help anybody; let alone me! The further away from each other she and I are, the less she knows about what’s going on with me, the better. But, how do I get her to leave me alone, she won’t stop until she finally figures it all out. The funny part of it is, she thinks I know what’s going on. Well, it could almost be funny, if whatever’s going on weren’t ruining my life!” She whispered looking around ruefully, wishing she was anywhere but there.
“Hey Gina, how about two orders of lasagna, some coffee and tiramisu?” Nikki asked as she stepped up to the bar.
“Coming right up.” Gina replied, as she headed to the kitchen in the back of the restaurant.
As the tone of Nikki’s voice registered, she turned around and walked back to the bar, where Nikki stood waiting patiently for her order, deep in thought. Cautiously, she asked “Nikki, is everything okay?”
Sighing, Nikki replied, “No. Something’s going on with Victoria, I just wish I knew what it was. She won’t talk to me about it.
“Is there anything I can do?” Gina asked, trying to be supportive.
“No, but thanks anyway.” Nikki answered, giving her old friend a brave smile.
“Okay, let me know if there is. I’ll be right back with yoru order.” Gina replied, before disappearing into the kitchen.
“Why won’t she talk to me?!” Nikki asked herself frustrated as she waited by the bar, pacing.
Moments later, Gina was back with her order. “Here you go.” She said, handing it to her.
“Thanks.” Nikki replied, forcing a smile and walking out of the restaurant to her car.
‘Well, at least she didn’t try to take off.’ Nikki thought to herself somewhat grateful.
“Hey, I hope lasagna is okay.” She said, sliding into the driver’s seat.
“I told you I’m not hungry, so whatever you want to eat is fine with me.” Vicki replied calmly.
“Victoria, you need to eat.” Nikki countered sternly. Then, lightening up, she added, “Humour me, okay?”
“Okay.” Victoria replied in a small voice that didn’t sound like hers at all.
As Nikki started the car once again, the drive home was another silent, tension filled one, which left her with more questions than she’d started off with, and still no answers.
They finally got home, and just when Nikki thought things were going to get better, that her daughter would finally open up to her about what was going on, Vicki announced she had other plans.
“I’m gonna go for a walk, be back later.” She said heading out the door.
“Oh no you’re not. You’ll sit here and eat, understand?” Nikki asked sternly.
“Fine.” Vicki replied, flopping down on the couch, and looking up at Nikki sullenly.
“Victoria, what is going on with you? Why don’t you want to eat? It’s like you can’t even stand to be in the same room with me for more than thirty seconds. What is it?” Nikki probed none too gently.
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m just not hungry.” Vicki maintained.
“Well, just eat something okay?” Nikki pleaded as they walked into the kitchen and she unpacked the food.
Lunch was yet another silent affair.
Once the dishes had been cleaned and put away, Vicki announced, “I’m gonna go for a walk, be back later.”
“Not so fast.” Nikki said and Vicki stopped in her tracks.
“I want to know what’s going on, Victoria. You’ve been acting strange all day.” Nikki replied, hands on her hips, shoulders squared, prepared for yet another confrontation.
“I told you. I’m fine.” Vicki lied through her teeth and walked into the living room with Nikki following her.
“No, you’re not, and you’re not going anywhere ‘til I find out what’s going on with you!”
“Leave it alone Mother, just leave it alone.” Vicki warned cryptically.
“Give me one good reason why I should.” A frustrated Nikki countered.
“Okay, how about you’re wasting your time and you’ve got better things to do.” Vicki replied.
“I’ll decide when I’m wasting my time.” Nikki replied frustrated.
On a defeated sigh, Vicki replied, “I’m sorry I worried you, let’s just drop it okay? There’s really nothing for you to worry about. Like I said, I was just feeling a little boxed in at the office that’s all. Why don’t I just go back there and let you go on with your day?”
“No, you’re not and I want to know what’s going on. You’re not going anywhere ‘til I get some answers, so deal with it.”
An agitated Vicki exclaimed “I’m fine!”
“Sorry, I’m not buying it. I get that you’re feeling boxed in at the office. What I don’t get is why?”
Distractedly, looking around the room Vicki replied “I wish I knew. But, no matter how much I want to shake it, I can’t help feeling like I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“What, what do you mean?” Nikki asked, as she sat there thoroughly confused.
“I mean exactly that. So I have the job at Newman, so what? Does that really mean anything?” Vicki asked in a far off, defeated voice.
“What? Victoria, what are you talking about? This isn’t like you at all!” Nikki asked, alarmed by what she was hearing. “I don’t understand why you’d be feeling this way. You’ve accomplished more in just a few short years than I have in my entire life.”
Scoffing, Vicki replied “What? What are you talking about? That’s not true. At least, it’s not the way I see it. I may have accomplished a few things on the business front, but that’s where it ends.” Nikki can do nothing, but sit and listen dumbfounded as she continues. “Face it Mom, that job is all I have going for me. God knows I’ve got nothing in the way of personal accomplishments to be proud of.”
Nikki tried in vain to convince her daughter what she was saying wasn’t true, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. “Sweetheart, that’s not true. You know that’s not true; you’ve got plenty of things to be proud of.”
Victoria bitterly replied “Like what mother? You tell me, what have I accomplished that’s really something to be proud of? What do I really have going for me? You tell me, since you’ve got all the answers!”
Unspeakable pain wrenching her heart, Nikki could do nothing but sit there, tears glistening in her eyes.
“Just what I thought. You can’t think of anything, can you?” Vicki angrily shot out.
With a somber whisper, Nikki asked, “Victoria, where’s this coming from? I don’t understand.”
“I don’t know,” she replied truthfully.
Defeatedly, Vicki asked, “When it’s all over will anybody remember me? Or, will I be just another ‘poor little rich girl,’ somebody who looked like they had it all, but didn’t really? Will anybody remember me for having done anything worthwhile, or will I be remembered for making a mess of my life at every turn and just generally being a disappointment and a liability to my family and everybody else I care about? Will anybody remember me at all?”
Shocked, Nikki exclaimed “What?”
“Think about it for a minute. All I’ve ever done is hold you and everybody else back. Because of me, you had to give up on whatever dreams you might have had. Who knows, you might have been as big as Dad is in this town, if it weren’t for me.” Vicki reasoned with a chilling air of cold detachment.
Thoroughly confused, Nikki asked “What are you talking about?”
Tiredly, Vicki tried to further explain her position. “Mom, face it. If it weren’t for me, you would’ve been able to do so much more. Instead, you were stuck raising a mealymouthed, mean spirited, spoiled brat, who was, and still is too stuck up and self-involved to know when I’m hurting this family.” Her voice dripping with contempt for herself, and what she’d done to her family over the years, Vicki continued. “You really need to cut your losses.”
“Just what does that mean?” Nikki asked angrily.
“Forget it. Why you and everybody else I care about haven’t given up on me is beyond me!” She whispered, her voice low and cracking, as she choked on her words, and her anguish bubbled to the surface, fighting to break free. Tears glistened in her eyes, but, she bravely fought them, wanting more than anything to protect her family from what she considered to be her problem. ‘I need to deal with this on my own. There’s no reason for Mom and Dad to get dragged into it.’ She thought to herself, determined to make the situation work.
Sick of hearing her daughter unnecessarily berate herself, Nikki stepped in, exasperated and well beyond angry. “Okay, let’s get one thing straight right here, right now. Don’t ever, ever let me hear you talking like that again, got it?”
Wide eyed, Vicki nodded and fell silent.
Satisfied that her daughter was ready to listen, Nikki took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and continued. “Now, let me tell you something. There is nothing, nothing I would’ve rather done than raise you and your brother. Do you hear me? I wouldn’t trade the time I spend with you and Nicholas for anything in the world! Am I getting through to you?”
In a small, desolate voice, as tears burned in her eyes as she looked at her mother, Vicki answered, “Yeah, it’s just….” Her voice trailed off as she looked away, unable to bear the sight of the torturous pain raging in her mother’s eyes; written all over her face.
“Just what?” Nikki gently asked.
Slowly looking up at her, Victoria answered fearfully “Sometimes I just feel like I’m on the outside looking in.” Then, trying to make light of the situation, she asked “Stupid huh?”
Reassuringly, Nikki answered, “Not really. We all feel like that sometimes.”
A stunned Vicki replied, “What? Come again?”
Wit a small smile, somewhat to be getting somewhere, that she was finally beginning to open up, Nikki replied “Seriously, we all have days where we think about giving up. Trust me, you’re normal.”
“Uh-huh. Yeah right. This may be normal for everybody else, but come on. Mom, I’m over thirty years old. I should have my head on straight by now.”
Once again, Nikki tried fruitlessly to reason with her. “It’s not about having your head on straight, it’s s about being human.”
Vicki bitterly replied, “Okay, if that’s the case, then why is it I haven’t seen Nick like this?”
Nikki calmly replied “Everybody’s different, just because you haven’t seen him acting the same way for the same reasons, doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the same way sometimes.”
Vicki mockingly replied, “Yeah right. Give me a break. What could he possibly have to worry about? He’s got it all! Besides the job at Newman Enterprises, he’s got a great wife.” “Tell Sharon I said that and I’ll deny it,” she added with a small cheeky smile, momentarily forgetting about the turmoil raging inside her. Sobering, she added “He’s got two wonderful kids, and God knows he’s got a better relationship with you than I’ve ever had.”
Although she had been deep in thought, trying to figure out some reason for her daughter’s strange and disturbing behaviour, Nikki was jolted back to reality as the implication of Vicki’s words sank in. “What? Where did that come from?”
Looking at her mother through cold, detached eyes, Vicki simply replied “It’s true. Think about it.” Bitterly, she went on. “The only time you two ever really fought was when he and Sharon were dating and you two didn’t really get along. We, on the other hand fought constantly, practically from the time I started to talk. First, it was about my pathetic attempts to get you an Dad back together, then it was about guys in general. And then, well, it was open season. Take your pick. We’ve fought over it all.” Her voice dropped once again, bitter desperation crept into her soul inch by inch, as she looked at her mother, dreaming of days that had long since passed; days when nothing else mattered but her family and friends. She couldn’t help but remember the days when she’d been happy and confident in her own abilities, and secure in knowledge that her family and friends would always be there to support her, that they’d always be there for her, no matter what. Chills washed over her, as she realized , perhaps for the very first time that those days would never return. Bitterly, as if mourning something, or perhaps someone that she’d never see again she whispered, “Now you’re telling me nothing’s really wrong? Needing to lash out at somebody, she exclaimed “Come on!”
Vicki’s harsh words brought Nikki out of her trance. She tried in vain to make her daughter see things weren’t nearly as bad as they appeared. “Victoria, it wasn’t all that bad.” She didn’t dare take her eyes off her daughter, for fear she’d try and disappear again.
Surprised and unwilling to change her position, Victoria replied mockingly, “What? In what alternate universe?” A little calmer, she continued. “The more I think about it, the more it seems like this is as good as it gets.”
A confused Nikki asked “What are you talking about? You’re not making any sense.”
Exasperated, Vicki went on to explain. “You and Nick have the kind of relationship I can only dream of. You talk about everything.” Before Nikki could respond, she hastily continued. “Look, I’m not blaming you at all. Like I said, I can’t look past my nose to see when the people I care about are hurting. I’m way too stuck up and judge-mental for no other reason than I apparently enjoy seeing the people I love hurt.” She began to shift uncomfortably, feeling the weight of her mother’s unwavering gaze. Slowly, she went on; her eyes scanning th room, not daring to meet Nikki’s piercing gaze. “I guess, deep down, I get some kind of warped pleasure out of it, or something.”
At her daughter’s words, Nikki’s jaw dropped, and her eyes widened in disbelief.
Argumentatively, Vicki continued. “Is it? I’m always hearing about how mothers and daughters are supposed to be so close, and how that’s supposed to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest relationship in your life. If that’s the case, tell me what’s wrong with this picture?”
“Nothing.” Nikki whispered, as she tried to bludgeon the fear blooming within her.
“Yeah right.” Victoria couldn’t, wouldn’t be convinced.
“Victoria, what are you talking about? What do you want from me?” Nikki asked, sounding tired and defeated.
With a little shrug, she replied. “Nothing. Forget I said anything.”
“I’m not going to do that.” Nikki replied strongly.
“Why did I come here?” Victoria asked, totally ignoring her mother’s presence. Turning to Nikki and attempting to make eye contact for the first time since the discussion began, Vicki whispered, “All I’m doing is upsetting you.” With that, she rose unsteadily from the couch and began walking to the door. It took an act of will not to turn back, she knew she’d seethe anguish shining from her other’s eyes; anguish she couldn’t bear the sight of.
“Victoria, we have to talk about this. Wait!” Nikki frantically called after her.
“Why bother? It won’t change anything.” Vicki replied, her voice flat and distant.
“You don’t know that for sure.” Nikki argued.
“Yes, I do.” Vicki replied confidently.
“How?” Nikki asked skeptically.
“Instinct, Mother.” She replied tightly.
Hurt, Nikki asked, “So you won’t even give me a chance, is that it?”
“No, I won’t give myself a chance to mess things up for you. Face it, I’m ruining your life! This is a time when you should be thinking about nothing but how to decorate the nursery, and how many ways you can spoil the new baby. And, think about this, you’ve finally got everything you’ve ever wanted; everything you’ve ever dreamed of. But, you’re wasting your time worrying about me? Why?” Victoria asked irrationally.
“Don’t be ridiculous. This isn’t wasting my time!” Nikki exclaimed angrily. Softly, she whispered, “I’m worried about you.”
“Don’t be, I’m fine.” Vicki answered, trying her best to get the bald-faced lie past her lips, so she could make a quick getaway.
Seeing right through her daughter’s tired, weak facade, Nikki replied gently, “It’s obvious you aren’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be acting like this.”
“Gee thanks, Mom, you just finished telling me nothing’s wrong with me, and now you’re telling me there is. Talk about a one-eighty.” A little calmer, she asked, “Like what?”
Nikki decided to humour her daughter a little bit and play along, hoping to get some answers. “You’re trying to push me away and make me believe that nothing’s wrong when we both know there’s something going on.”
“Just leave it alone, Mother.” Vicki warned tiredly.
“Why? Give me one good reason why I should.”
“Why not? All that can ever come of you trying to figure things out, all that will ever come of it is a lot of heartache and heartbreak for you and this family, and I’ve done that long enough. Like I said, all I’ve done is hold you and everybody else back. Because of me you had to give up on whatever dreams you might have had. If it weren’t for me, who knows what you could’ve done with your life, what you might have accomplished.” Somberly, she continued. “Look , Mom, I don’t fit in here, or anywhere else. The sooner I accept that, the better off we’ll all be.”
A confused Nikki asked, “What are you talking about?”
“I think that’s pretty clear.” Vicki cryptically answered, fiddling with a cushion beside her, as she walked back to the couch and sat down.
“No, not to me it isn’t.” Nikki answered, the desperation clearly marked on her face, straining her voice.
Shaking her head, as if she still couldn’t believe Nikki didn’t, couldn’t believe Nikki didn’t, couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, and why she felt the way she did, Vicki said, “All I am is a source of embarrassment to you and this family. Face it, I don’t belong here!”
With anguish shining from her eyes, Nikki whispered, “That’s not true!” Forcefully, she continued. “You belong here! This is your home!”
With tears streaming down her face, Victoria weakly whispered, “No it isn’t. Not anymore.”
Resisting the urge to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, Nikki exclaimed, “That’s ridiculous!”
“Is it?” Vicki asked skeptically. Before she could answer, Vicki continued to try and make her point. “Thank about it for a minute. When was the last time we did anything together as a family? Everybody’s always so wrapped up in their own lives that it doesn’t feel like we’re family anymore. We’re just a group of people who happen to be living under the same roof.” With that, she got up off the couch. At first, she was a little unsteady, but then she turned on her heels and began walking out.
Nikki tried in vain to stop her from leaving. “Victoria, wait a minute! Let’s talk about this.”
“Why bother? It won’t change anything.” Vicki countered harshly, before closing the door quietly behind her.
Once outside, she whispered,”What am I going to do? I can’t go through this every day. I can’t!” Tears fell freely from her eyes, unheeded and unabated, as she leaned against the door for a moment, trying to gather up the strength to leave.. “But, where do I go?” She whispered out loud into th spring day.
Meanwhile, inside, Nikki’s still in the living room, sitting on the couch in tears. Slowly, her hands beginning to shake slightly, she picked up the phone.
“Victor needs to know about this.” She said to herself as she began to dial the number. With a frustrated sigh, she remembered “He’s at a meeting.” She decided to try anyway.
“Hello?” Connie asked.
“Hi, Connie. Is Victor there?” Nikki asked, sounding tired and defeated.
“I’m sorry, Mrs Newman, he’s not back yet. But, I can give him a message if you want.”
“No thanks, Connie, that’s okay.” Nikki replied, before hanging up the phone. She tried to reach him on his cell phone, but got nowhere. She decided to try again, go no answer, but left a message. She waited a few more minutes before trying again and leaving another almost frantic message. Frustrated and beginning to get scared, and even more nervous, she slammed down the phone and began to pace.
“This isn’t working, I’m going to lie down upstairs.” She decided, and headed up the stairs.
Once there though, she found herself in Victoria’s room. Slowly, deliberately, she began to pace the room. She didn’t notice the clear blue sky, nor did she feel the sun, or the warm spring breeze, as her stomach knotted and chills coursed through her; chilling her to her soul.
She fingered objects scattered around the room, as her mind took her back in time; back to a time when things were much simpler, and neither she, nor Victoria had a care in the world beyond what the next day would bring. For Nikki, being a mother wasn’t just a job, or an obligation she had to fulfill. It was, and always would be the best thing that had ever happened to her. Her children were the most important thing in the world to her, and to see her daughter so withdrawn, and in so much pain, while she herself could do nothing but sit back and watch the situation slowly deteriorate was like a dagger piercing her heart.
As she sat on Victoria’s bed, and picked up a teddy bear victoria had had since she was a child, Nikki whispered in a shaky voice, “Where did we go wrong?”
Shaking back to reality, Nikki shuffled back down the hall and downstairs. Once there, she tracked down Miguel and asked with a sad, far-off voice, “Will you get the family albums out for me, Miguel?”
“Of course, Mrs. Newman.” He replied, and headed towards the stairs. Then, noting her demeanor, he asked, “Is anything wrong? Is there anything I can do?”
“No, but, thank you, Miguel.”
Minutes later, Miguel returned with a few boxes filled with photo albums.
As she looked through the albums, Nikki was reminded of a life that, although she knew was hers, seemed so long ago and so far away, a life that she wished with everything in her she could relive, if only she’d been given the chance. “Oh my God, I had totally forgotten about this picture.” She whispered with a watery smile. She sat there, gazing at the picture of Victoria when she was a baby. “Life was so much simpler then…” Her voice trailed off, as she continued to flip through the albums and she thought to herself, ‘Where did I go wrong?’ As she continued to flip through the albums, tears poured down her cheeks as she looked back on a time when she and her daughter so much were much closer, with the cold realization that she may never have that again, and an intense fear seeped into her degree by degree.
She flashed back once again to when her daughter was first born and took a shuddering breath, as she silently prayed for everything to turn out alright. She shut her eyes tight to stem the flow of bitter, hurt, and most of all frightened tears. Nikki’s afraid that now, even her prayers may go unanswered, afraid that this was now another case of ‘too little, too late,’ and the knowledge of this rocks her to her very core.
Still flipping through the album, Nikki’s smile once again bloomed when she came across a picture of her, victor and Victoria, which was taken when Victoria was a little girl. “Our first Christmas together, it seems so long ago now. Victoria was so happy, not a care in the world.” She whispered, as she silently closed the book. “The million dollar question; can we ever g get that back? Will I ever get my daughter back?”
She opened the photo album once again, and was reminded of what she once had. Slowly running her fingers over another picture of Victoria and her father, Nikki was transported back in time, back to when she first found out about Victor having enrolled Victoria in boarding school. “I was angry at first, but then I started to think maybe that was the best place for her, maybe that w was where she needed to be. But, more and more, I’m not so sure. If I hadn’t done that, maybe we wouldn’t have grown apart. Maybe we would still be as close as we were back then…” Her voice trailed off as she shook her head sadly, and continued to have bittersweet memories wash over her.
Slamming the album shut, she picked up the phone and tried to contact Victor once again, still no answer. Taking a deep breath and trying to calm down, Nikki phoned Nick. Listen, I know this is short notice, but, I need you to come over here right away. Something’s going on with your sister, and I need our help.”
“I’ll be right there.”
She quietly sat down on the couch, and began looking at the photo album once again. Feeling restless, she left the album on the table in front of the couch, and began to pace the livingroom. Stopping at the window, Nikki stared out it blankly, oblivious to what was going on around her; consumed with whatever was tormenting her daughter and finding a way out of it.
As he walked in, Nick saw the photo album left open to a picture of Nikki, Victor, and little Victoria. Picking it up, he smiled, recalling the many happy times they’d spent together as a family. “What’s up, Mom?” Nicholas asked as he walked into the living room and saw her standing by the window intently looking at a picture of little Victoria and her. She didn’t even look like she’d heard him. She just stood there by the window, frozen, staring at the picture.
“Mom?” Nick called out, once again.
“Oh Nicholas, I…I didn’t hear you come in.” Nikki replied in a small voice, as she dried her tears.
“Mom, what’s going on, what happened?”
Slowly, Nikki began to recount her strange encounter with Victoria before she left.
“That doesn’t sound like Vicki at all.” Nick replied with a confused expression, as he faced his mother, eyeing her worriedly.
“I know. I’ve tried to get through to her, I’ve tried very hard, but she won’t let me in.” Nikki confessed somberly.
“Mom, you can’t give up. From what you’ve told me, Vicki needs you. She needs you now more than ever.” Nicholas replied emphatically.
“I know, and I’m not, but I don’t know how much more I can do. Nicholas, you’ve got to talk to your sister, try and get her to open up to you. That’s the only way I can think of to get her out of whatever she’s gotten herself into. It’s the only way to help her with whatever she’s going through, whatever’s hurting her so much.” Nikki asked, her eyes pleading with her son to help her fight for her daughter.
“Okay, I’ll talk to her. I’ll do what I can.” Nicholas replied, before turning to leave. Noting his mother’s strange demeanor, he turned back around and asked, “Is there anything else going on, anything else you want to tell me?”
“What are you talking about?” Nikki asked tiredly.
“What else happened? What else did she say to you that has you so upset, so scared? And don’t try to deny it, I can see it in your eyes.”
“Nicholas, please don’t push…” Nikki pleaded, turning her back on her son, and slowly walking to the fireplace to lean against the mantle.
“Mom, tell m what happened, I need to know. It’s the only way I’ll be able to help.” He persisted. “I want to know what’s going on. Mom, I need to know what’s going on.” He softly pleaded.
“Nicholas, I really don’t want to talk about it,” Nikki tiredly replied.
“Mom, talk to me. I want to help. Please, I can see you’re upset, I know you’re hurting. Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”
“Alright, you want to know what’s going on, I’ll tell you!” Nikki exclaimed, needing to lash out. Realizing how she must sound, speaking to her son that way , when all he was trying to do was help the situation, Nikki sheepishly apologized. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have spoken to you that way. I’m just worried about your sister, and I don’t want you to worry about me. Victoria is my only concern right now. Nothing is more important to me than finding out what’s going on with your sister and helping her through it. Whatever it takes, I’m not losing Victoria. I’m not giving up on her; not now; not ever! I promise you I will get my daughter back!”
“Of course you’re not going to lose her, you’d never give up on her. What do you mean you’ll get her back? You’re not making any sense,” A confused Nick asked.
“Now more than ever, I realize I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and just what they’ve cost me.”
“I’m paying dearly for them, Nicholas.”
“What are you talking about?” Nick asked, thoroughly, and completely confused. He continued trying in vain to reassure her. “Mom, what’s going on, whatever it is, it’s not our fault! You have to believe that!”
“I’m not so sure, Nicholas. Somehow, I’m not so sure.” Nikki replied distantly, not looking at him. Turning to him, she continued bitterly, a note of anger in her voice. “It’s my job to know what’s going with my daughter and help her get through things when they go wrong, just as I’ve done with you.” Her voice filled with regret, and she looked up at him tearfully. “But, somehow I’ve failed this time.”
“Mom, don’t say that. You haven’t failed anybody.”
“You don’t understand, Nicholas. When your child is in as much pain as I know Victoria is and they’re doing everything they’ll do anything and everything they possibly can to make sure you don’t get involved; when they stonewall you at every turn, you have no idea what that feels like. You can’t possibly imagine how much it hurts, and I pray you never have to find out.”
“Why do I get the feeling there’s more to this than just Vicki and whatever she’s going through?”
“What are you talking about?” Nikki asked, trying to play dumb.
“Mom, you’re not acting right. There’s something else going on. And, I’m not at all sure it’s got anything to do with Victoria, at least, not entirely.”
Just then, Nick’s cell phone rang. “Hello? Oh yea, I’ll be right there.” As he hung up, he turned back to Nikki and, eyeing her worriedly said “That was Sharon. I forgot she was planning this dinner for us. I’’ve got to go. Will you be okay?”
“Yeah, go on, I’ll be fine.” Nikki answered, trying to paste on a brave smile, for her son’s sake. Hesitantly, he kissed her on the cheek and left.
Nikki walked back to the couch, where the photo album still lay. As Nikki’s looking at the photo album once again, she thought to herself “How did we get here?”
Just then, out of the corner of her eye, Nikki saw Victor walk in. Again, she pasted on a smile, hoping he wouldn’t notice how puffy and how red her eyes were, or how pale she looked.
“Hey.” She tried to force a light note into her voice.
“Hi, what’s wrong?” Victor replied, noting the way she looked, and concerned by it.
“Nothing.” Nikki replied turning away from him.
“Nikki, look at me.” He softly implored. Sitting on the couch beside her, he gently cupped her cheek, and turned her head around to face him. Wiping her tears with his thumb, he asked softly, once again “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I got the messages you left on my voice-mail. You sounded upset, so here I am. Nikki, what’s wrong, and why won’t you talk to me?”
Nikki wearily recounted her conversation with Victoria.
“Well you know, maybe this isn’t as bad as we think it is.”
“What?! Did you listen to anything I just told you? Because, if you did, I don’t understand how you can say that.”
“Sweetheart, I’m simply that, although it’s obvious Victoria is going through something and doesn’t want our help right now, it’s not necessarily time for us to panic, you know. Perhaps…I don’t know, perhaps she just needs some time to herself to figure things out and then she’ll be able to talk to us.”
“Victor, why does she need to do that? Why would she need time to do that? It makes no senses, not when all we’re trying to do is help her.”
Be that as it may, we need to be very careful how we handle this, if we try to get involved too much too soon, we risk making things worse, and I’m sure that’s the last thing either of us wants.”
“Yes, but I’m not sure we have the luxury of not getting involved.”
“So, you’re still convinced we need to act now, and we can’t wait to see how our daughter reacts to the situation.”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I think. Victor, you weren’t here earlier. You didn’t see the look in her eyes.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, it’s nothing I can put my finger on just yet. But, one thing is for sure something is wrong here; very wrong.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s nothing too serious. As I said, she probably just needs some time to herself to work things out, and then, once she’s done that she’ll come to us. She’s been under a lot of stress at work because of the Satin Acquisition, once things calm down thought, I’m sure she’ll be fine. I’m sure everything will be just fine, you’ll see. I really don’t think we have anything to worry about.””I hope you’re right…” Nikki’s voice trailed off, as she looked at the picture of little Vicki and Victor in the photo album, longing for a time long since passed, a time when things seemed simple, and almost too good to be true. It was a time when it seemed the world stood still. All the things that were so all-important to her suddenly became insignificant, once Victoria was born. Now, all that seemed a lifetime away.
Shaking back to reality, Nikki turned back to Victor, and offering a small smile, said, “Thank you for coming home so quickly.”
Teasing her, he replied, “You were expecting anything less?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect anymore. When I look at Victoria, I don’t even recognize her. But, whatever I have to do, I will not lose my daughter. I won’t!”
“What? Of course you won’t, of course you won’t lose her. Nothing like that will happen, I promise, okay. That won’t happen.”
Swallowing slowly, trying to rid herself of an intense, unrelenting fear sending chills coursing her entire body, Nikki whispered hoarsely, “I’m not so sure. I don’t even recognize her anymore, Victor. It’s like looking at a stranger.” She shuddered, and wondered aloud, “Are we already too late?”