Wednesday, January 05, 2011

No Regrets

The book I'm working on right now deals with a family dysfunctional enough to make The Osborne's look normal. They've got issues. There's a mystery surrounding the death of their mother, they're not sure who to blame because they don't really know how she died, and over the years the five siblings have pretty much avoided any contact with one another. But the family estate is falling apart and they must decide what to do with it and their father, who's showing signs of dementia. This brings them all back under the same roof, and life gets pretty interesting. A conversation between Gray, a rock star whose recent infractions have cost him his career, and his older sister Liz, a lawyer, goes like this, (sorry about the formatting):

Liz put her head in her hands for a moment. The action made him uncomfortable. Like she was plotting his swift conviction. Or worse.
When she faced him again, her cheeks were red and blotchy, her eyes glistening. “We all have our issues, Gray. I don’t know how you ended up on drugs and frankly I don’t care. If you’re really serious about quitting, then I want you to know I’m behind you. I’ll help you any way I can. But…could you just tell me, Gray, what in God’s name made you think you had the right to shut us all out when you got thrown in jail? Because I’d really like to know.” She pressed her palms down on the desk and pinned him with a desperate look. “Tell me why I had to hear about it from a colleague and not from you.”
Gray clenched his hands together to keep them from shaking. “I already had a lawyer.” He studied the holes in his jeans and waited for his heart to quit thumping so hard.
“I didn’t want to be your lawyer, Gray.” Anger fizzled as a new inflection crept in. One he hardly recognized. “I wanted to be your sister.”
It was hard to breath again. He’d been struggling for weeks. Drowning under accusations, floundering in the murky waters of regret. He looked up and shook his head. “I was ashamed. I didn’t know how to tell you.”
The compassionate look she wore brought sudden tears to his eyes.
“Did you do it?”
He inhaled, picking up a long-forgotten scent of the pipe tobacco that used to fill the room.
He’d been running from it so long he wasn’t sure what it looked like anymore.
“I don’t know.” The admission settled heavily, pushing down his shoulders. “I have no recollection of that girl, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t there.”
“Oh, Gray.” Liz ran a hand down her ashen face. She didn’t have to spell it out for him.
“I know.” He shrugged and glanced around the room. “My career is in the toilet. I wasn’t exactly frugal with my spending and I didn’t have a savings plan. I don’t know what the future looks like for me anymore, Liz. At the moment I’d say it’s kind of bleak.”
She nodded, picked up a pen and twirled it between her fingers. “What does your agent say?”
“He…uh…thinks I should lay low for a while. He’s too nice to get rid of me, but I’ve a feeling he won’t be calling anytime soon.”
“Are you broke?”
Gray leaned forward and stared at his shoes, the idea nauseating. He let out a breath and sat up. “Pretty much.”
Liz didn’t smile and he was grateful. She tapped her pen against the desk and shook her head. “That’s too bad. I think Lynnie thought you were going to bail her out. Since that’s not going to be the case, we’ll move forward. The sooner we can sell this mausoleum the better. You should get enough from the sale to pull you through. Get you on your feet again.”
“I guess.” Doing what, he wasn’t exactly sure. “Lynnie doesn’t want to sell?” Since he’d been back, his little sister seemed to be avoiding him. He wasn’t sure why exactly, whether it had to do with the crap he’d been through or his reaction to seeing Cooper. He suspected it was the latter.
Liz snorted and threw the pen down. “Lynnie, as usual, is thinking with her heart and not her head. She doesn’t see the big picture, Gray. She has no concept of reality.”
“Must be nice.”
“Going through life with rose-colored glasses on? I don’t think so.”
A strange sort of laugh escaped from the cavern of his soul. “Seems to work for her. I’m willing to give it a shot. Why are you so hard on her?”
His sister swiveled the leather wingback to face their mother’s portrait. “I don’t know. I just…I suppose I feel sort of responsible for her.”
“She’s not a kid anymore, Liz. You need to lighten up.”
“Yeah? Seems to me you haven’t exactly been Mr. Congeniality lately.”
Gray flexed his shoulders and grimaced. She was right. He needed to talk to Lynnie. "I know. But I’m feeling better today. For the first time in a long while, I feel almost…normal.”
Liz grinned. She was really quite pretty when she wasn’t scowling. “Should I alert the press?”
“Why don’t we keep it between us for now.” He twisted the ring on his thumb and pondered his next question. “Did you ever wonder, Liz…what really happened the day Mom died?”
She snapped her head around and stared. “We know what happened. Dad told us.”
Gray gnawed his bottom lip and shook his head. “I know. He said they were arguing and she tripped and fell down the stairs. But…what were they arguing about?”
“I don’t know, Gray.” Her voice rose a notch. “Why don’t you go ask Dad? I’m sure he’ll have no trouble remembering.”
Gray had thought about it—thought about coming out here and confronting the old man—many times over the last five years. And now it was too late. “Does David know? He was home that weekend, right?”
“Yes, but he had the flu. He was sound asleep at the other end of the third floor. By the time he heard anything, it was too late.”
“What about Lynnie?”
“Gray, for God’s sake!” Liz sat forward and glared. “What does it matter? Lynnie was twelve years old. She doesn’t know anything!”
“Did you ever wonder though…I mean she was so quiet after…the funeral and everything. Didn’t really speak for a long time. She…”
“She was in shock,” Liz hissed. “We all were. Do I need to remind you what Dad was like, Gray? He was probably in one of his drunken rages and pushed her down the stairs for all we know.”
“Is that what you believe? You and David? Really?” He’d mulled over that scenario as well, but it didn’t make sense. For all his faults, Pops never got physical with anyone, and he would never have done a thing to hurt their mother.
“Leave it alone, Gray. And please don’t go asking Lynnie about it. She’s got enough to deal with right now.”
“Yeah, okay.” He would leave it alone. For now. “Since we’re here, I figure we can give Lynnie a hand, you know? Maybe fix up the house a bit, help with Dad.”
“Be my guest.” Liz fired up her laptop again and put on her business face. “If you want to be useful, Grayson, go make us a pot of coffee. Real coffee, please. Not that stuff your girlfriend was serving this morning.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
“No?” Liz raised a thin eyebrow. “That statement smacks of regret, baby brother.”
Gray lifted his shoulders and somehow found a smile. “Life’s full of ‘em.”

Poor Gray. Let's hope things work out for him - grin -. But that got me thinking.
I don't want to have a life full of regrets.
I want to live every day the best way I can. I want the people I love and care about to know how I feel
about them. I don't want to leave things undone.

This weekend we're attending a memorial service for a dear lady I only got to know a few years ago. She died too soon. I regret that I didn't spend more time with her.
But life's like that, isn't it?
We get busy with our own stuff. Things get left undone. Unsaid.
We end up with regrets.
Sometimes we can fix it. Sometimes we can't.
It's the start of a new year. A new beginning. Do you have any loose ends you need to tie up?


Bonnie R. Paulson said...

WOw, great writing!

I don't know that I believe in regrets. Is that sad?

But then again, I usually don't hold back when I have a good thing to tell someone. I hug and kiss and tell them I love them.

Thank you Cathy, this was a good reminder to check and make sure nothing goes undone. Hugs!

Katy McKenna said...

I can just IMAGINE my 4 siblings and me being holed up in our childhood home, trying (or trying to avoid....) facing facts. Great story you've got going here!!

Catherine West said...

Thanks, Bonnie and Katy! I'm having a lot of fun with this story. I don't know how it will all end yet though! It's cool when our characters can teach us something though, isn't it?

Heather said...

I love this exerpt! Thank you for sharing it with us. I don't have any loose

Wendy Sargeant said...

Cathy, I love the sound of that next book. Please visit aussiewriters.blogspot and let us know when it's out.
Wendy S
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