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Authors: D.M. Hamblin

Tags: #General Fiction

Once Broken (6 page)

BOOK: Once Broken
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Barbara settled into her chair, took out a large notepad, and crossed her legs. “So, let’s start learning more about you. Do you have siblings?”

Jackie’s story started in a nonthreatening manner.

“How do you feel about your parents?”

“Oh.” Jackie said, as her crossed leg jiggled a bit. “My mother has issues. My dad’s deceased.” With each probing question from Barbara, Jackie delved further into her story. She relived the night her father died and the loss of her family as she knew it.

Barbara standard response was some version of the same analytical question. “How did that make you feel?” Jackie was grateful for the nearby box of tissues, each time she dug deeper into how it did make her feel. No people-pleasing answers allowed. This was the real deal.

At the end of the first session, Barbara summarized. “The death of a parent, particularly when it occurs so early in life, is extremely traumatic and leaves profound scars. Jackie, you need to grieve that loss and from what I’ve heard, it’s a process you haven’t begun. You weren’t allowed to attend his funeral. You weren’t given any emotional support. In fact, your Mother Superior provided a crystal-clear message that if you grieved you should feel guilty. I can help you. This is a safe place where we can work together. You should be proud of yourself for taking the critical first step.”

They agreed to meet weekly for the time being. Jackie left Barbara’s office feeling drained, supported, and relieved. Barbara made a lot of sense.
How did that make you feel?
She shook her head.
For a few simple words, that question packs a wallop.

Chapter Seven

November/December 1974

ackie was determined to get over Tony Salvucci. Number one: I’ll avoid going anywhere he may be, starting with Sammy White’s. Number two: When he invades my mind, I’ll evict him!

Old habits die hard. She couldn’t stop obsessing.
Was he at Sammy White’s tonight? Was she with him?
Sometimes her heart ached to see him, but the longer she went without expecting to see him, she more impervious she became to his pull on her. She put full attention into college, work, friends, and moving forward.

Mr. Dooley’s was an Irish pub in the center of town. The long mahogany bar ran along the length of the room, and the pool table and darts in the back room attracted a somewhat rowdy but fun clientele. Sully, Vic’s friend, bartended there a few nights a week and encouraged Jackie and her friends to drop by. Mr. Dooley’s seemed to be the perfect new hangout and she became a regular. Obviously, getting over Tony would involve meeting other men and, at nineteen years old, Jackie met lots of them.

One night while playing pool at Dooley’s, she met a friend of Ellen’s boyfriend named Steve Arsenault. Steve and Jackie played against Ellen and Joe. It was a fun night ending with Steve asking if he could call her. By the end of the week, he called and asked her to dinner. At work, she told Ellen that she and Steve had made a dinner date for the following Saturday night.

“That’s great! Are you excited? Steve’s a great guy and not bad looking either. He’s tall, the way you like them. And that wavy blond hair is gorgeous.

“Oh, I agree. He’s adorable. He seems nervous, like he’s trying to impress me. It’s funny.”

“That’s what you want! It’s always better to be pursued. But you didn’t answer my question. Are you excited?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Oh Jackie, don’t blow this. He’s a great guy.”

“What? I’m going. I’ll be nice. How excited am I supposed to be?”

“So maybe having low expectations will work well,” Ellen said.

Saturday night, Steve picked up Jackie and was a perfect gentleman. He took her to Finnerty’s, an upscale restaurant a few towns over. They were seated at a cozy table in front of the fireplace. But as Steve pulled out the stops to impress his date, she remained engrossed in thoughts of Tony. Steve didn’t make her laugh like Tony did. He didn’t make her quiver.

The following day, Ellen asked about Jackie’s date. “How was it? Did you have a good time?”

“He was nice. Quite a gentleman.”


“And what?”

“Will you see him again?”

“I don’t know. We had no chemistry.”

“Steve told Joe
felt chemistry.”

“Well chemistry can’t be one-sided. I didn’t.” She didn’t dare confess that all she felt was loneliness because it fired her desire for Tony.

Jackie became an expert at first dates, one after the other. But each man made her long for the magic she felt with the man she couldn’t have. She told Barbara about each date and her obsession with Tony. Barbara continued asking her magic question: “How does that make you feel?” With Barbara’s guidance, she continued to dig deep for answers and remained committed to leaving Tony behind.

Time passed, and her thoughts of Tony were diverted by the stimulation David provided.


David decided to enter the Air Force and was scheduled to leave after Christmas. Sitting at Mr. Dooley’s with Jackie and Ellen, Tara asked Jackie, “Hey, why didn’t you tell me about David?”

“What about him?”

“Don’t play dumb, Jackie.”

“Dumb about what?” Jackie looked at Tara with raised eyebrows.

Tara and Ellen exchanged a worried glance when they realized that their friend didn’t know. “Yikes, I can’t believe he didn’t tell you of all people,” Ellen said.

“Tell me what? Geez, you guys are annoying tonight.”

“Jackie,” Tara said, “David signed up for the Air Force. He’s leaving at the end of the month.” Her friends braced for a reaction.

“What? No way! Tara, you’re mistaken. He would’ve told me
Who told you?”

“Jackie, it’s true,” Ellen confirmed. “David told me himself yesterday. I figured he
have already told you!”

“Yeah.” Tara nodded her head. “I overhead him talking to someone the other day. By the time he realized I’d overheard, it was too late. So he told me.”

“No way! You must have misunderstood. You know David, he’s always telling stories.

“I’m sorry, Jackie. I don’t know why he didn’t tell you, but it’s true. He wasn’t kidding,” Ellen said, while Tara nodded again.

Jackie depended on David as a friend and confidant. She loved him in a way that she had never loved any man. How could he leave her? She rose from her seat at the bar and grabbed her coat and purse.

“I’ve gotta see him now. I’m going to call to see if he’s home.” She threw a five-dollar bill on the bar.


David answered the door coughing, trailed by thick black smoke.

“David, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he managed to say through a coughing fit. “I wanted to be romantic so I lit a fire and forgot to open the flue. Shit! Help me with the windows, will ya?”

Jackie laughed so hard and choked so violently that she had little strength to open the heavy brownstone windows. The frigid December air rushed in. When effortless breathing was resumed, they settled on a rug before the open flames, while the smoke dissipated.

“Want some wine? Of course you do.” David said, answering his own question. He returned from the kitchen with a glass of Mateus for her and a beer for himself.

The suspense was agonizing. Jackie took a deep breath and confronted him. “Tara and Ellen told me tonight that you joined the Air Force. They were shocked that I didn’t know. So was I! Is it true?

“Jackie …” His hesitation was her confirmation.

“Oh my God! You’re
leaving?” Her heart sank; she sat motionless.

“Jackie, listen …” He rose to his knees and looked into her glistening brown eyes. “I didn’t tell you because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. You know I’m an Air Force brat. And I’m going nowhere at The Stockyard. The recruiter promised me all kinds of great shit. It’ll be great for me!”

“Jesus, I need a cigarette for this.” She took one of his and he lit it. Moments of silence hung in the air. Expressionless, with a tear rolling down her cheek, she imagined the emptiness in her daily life without David.

“Jackie, I spent my whole life making and leaving friends. I’m a pro at it. But leaving you … is different.” His voice cracked. Jackie held back sobs. They hugged each other and resolved to spend every minute of the remaining few weeks of his civilian life together. The dread of losing her best male friend swept her into a world of emotional chaos.


In therapy the following week, she filled in Barbara, who knew about David and Jackie’s friendship and that she wasn’t romantically interested in him.

“I’m devastated.” Jackie swallowed the lump in her throat. “I can’t imagine my life without David. I love him more than I thought I did.”

“Why do you think that might be?”

Maybe I never knew how much I loved him?”

“Or maybe it feels like you’re losing your dad again?”

Jackie gasped.
How can I confuse losing my dad with losing David?
“I don’t know. I think it’s crazy! Maybe I’m crazy? Now I’m obsessed with David. I want to spend every minute with him.”

“Before he abandons you?”

“Oh my God.”

“Could it be that by interpreting David’s joining the Air Force as abandonment and loss, you’re actually giving yourself permission to release the pain you never expressed when your dad died? And you’re trying to hold onto him the way you wanted to hold onto your dad?”

Before Jackie had time to absorb Barbara’s questions, Barbara said, “I’m sorry, Jackie. Time’s up for today. We’ll have to pick this up next week.”

“Thank you.” Jackie left the room with a soft sob, dabbing her tears with a tissue. Once in her car, for the first time in a long time, she drove to the cemetery. She placed a blanket on the cold earth and sat at her father’s grave, sobbing for as long as it took for her to stop. Finally composed, she got up, swept the gravestone, and told her father she loved him. Walking to her car, she spotted a stout middle-aged man walking away from a newly filled grave and toward his car that was parked across from hers.

The stranger greeted her. “Hello, young lady. Whom are you visiting?”

“My dad. And you?” She sniffled and wiped her tears.

“My wife. I miss her terribly. When did your dad die?”

“Twelve years ago.” She couldn’t help but chuckle.

The gentleman looked at her sympathetically. “It takes as long as it takes, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, I guess it does. You take care.”

“And you too.” Before the man closed his car door, he added, “Your dad would be so proud of you, you know.”

Jackie nodded because she couldn’t speak. Her tears flowed again as the words she’d craved for twelve years echoed in her head.


The night before David’s flight, a rowdy farewell party was held at his apartment. By three a.m., Jackie was the only guest left and they stood at the door in aching silence. David took her hands in his. “Jackie, I must have said good-bye to hundreds of people in my life. But saying good-bye to you … I can’t do it.”

David pulled Jackie closer to him, buried his face in her shoulder, and sobbed. She felt his warm tears on her shoulder and jolted into emotional overload, she cried with him. She cared for him more at that moment than she had realized. Weeping in each other’s arms, neither wanted to leave. They accepted the stalemate. David took her hand, led her back into the apartment, and into his bedroom. The undertow of affection made the sexual act itself secondary.

David left that morning. Jackie was grateful that her first time had been with someone she loved so much. She couldn’t have asked for more, except that David go AWOL before even arriving at Lackland AFB, Texas.


January 1975

Basic training was brutal. David’s depressing letters urged her to write cheerful ones as often as possible. As time passed, she felt unusually tired and sporadically nauseated. The thought of pregnancy occurred to her, but she dismissed it.
Pregnancy is like death. It happens to other people.
Soon, she learned the ludicrousness of her analogy. Pregnancy and death
alike. They happen to everyone. And it happened to her.

Physical discomforts and tormenting emotions ran in close competition. She was too exhausted to think. But thinking was all she did.
What can I do? I love David. But I can’t call him and hurl such an announcement at him then zip off to Lackland AFB to marry him. I can’t have a kid at nineteen years old.
The idea of telling her mother and raising a child alone was preposterous. Terrified and desperate, she mulled over the impossible choices. Each alternative appeared more dismal than the other and the clock was ticking.

Abortion. There is absolutely no way I can believe it’s not murder. If I did nothing, the baby would grow into a child. Therefore, if I abort it, logically I have killed it.

Adoption. How does a person go on living without knowing the fate of a child she’s brought into this world? I couldn’t endure the constant wondering if that four-year-old was mine, that ten-year-old, that twenty-five-year-old…

Keeping the baby. How can I be a single mother at nineteen years old? I love David, but do I love him like I would love a husband? Could I be a serviceman’s wife with a child in tow? And how would I know what my life would’ve been otherwise?

Telling David. Should I tell him in a letter? Should I wait until he’s home next month? Damn! This wasn’t supposed to happen the first time!

She decided to tell him during his leave. And she scheduled an abortion, just in case. While she waited, she fought panic—and prayed for a magical solution.
Maybe I’ll miscarry. Maybe I’ll stop sleeping twelve hours a night and be normal again. Maybe my mind and my stomach will stop somersaulting. Maybe I’ll stop crying.


Jackie stood at the gate at the airport. Her stomach flipped as she spotted him walking down the corridor. “David!”

He ran to her. Dropping his knapsack he bent to embrace her. “I’ve missed you so much!” Jackie wiped her tears with her sleeve. “Hey, are you okay? You’re supposed to cry when I leave, not when I come back.” When she didn’t react to his joke, he knew something was awry. “What’s wrong?” He lifted her face by her chin. “Jackie, what is it? Tell me.”

BOOK: Once Broken
3.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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