TITLE: The Mended Chain
By TJ Nickel
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I want to change the ending, add onto it, and make more out of the title through symbolism. However, I'm stuck for now as to whether this piece should ever be picked up again. A writing partner at the time I wrote it replied: "NOOOOO!" Was she right?
Jerry fainted at the birth of his daughter. He may have died had Leslie been a boy. He recalled that his mother went into a coma when he was born and couldn’t hold him for the twenty days she slept. That was the tale, even though father never told it convincingly and mother told it with an extreme merriment.
Jerry woke up after only a few minutes, and he raced to hold Leslie, prying her almost rudely from Julie’s mothering embrace. Julie smiled at first at his ambition, but sadness crept in slowly - watching him dance with Leslie and ignore her, that he didn’t thank her, that he didn’t know what she’d just accomplished, that he didn’t seem to know she still existed – and then Julie’s stats dropped and her mind sunk into darkness for a true twenty days.
Julie awoke to see Jerry beside her bed, smiling and giggling, singing and swaying that miserable bundle of envy. Jerry’s eyes didn’t catch hers for twenty straight minutes as the melancholy took on a more concrete form. When he finally turned, she attempted to close her eyes and pretend sleep, but it wasn’t swift enough and Jerry jumped and proclaimed her life to all.
“She’s alive! She’s awake! Come! Come now!”
He hollered from the doorway, all the while holding Leslie, still rocking her perfectly. The nurses rushed in, helped Julie out, one offered to hold the baby for Jerry and he quickly pulled away from the nurse, terribly offended one instant, terribly joyous and in song, singing to Leslie, the next. Julie wanted to die, but she couldn’t.
Julie was diagnosed with depression and given medication after medication to help her. All the while, what would have helped most would have been Jerry’s return to a job and her being faced with the child’s necessity. Her own guilt of having let it cry too long may have awoken her into picking her baby up and falling in love with her. There wasn’t a chance. Instead, she and Jerry agreed, if agreement is the right word where their isn’t a necessary coercion and yet the second party is too doped up and in mental and emotional shackles to cognitively agree, that Julie would return to work and Jerry would stay at home with Leslie.
And so it was for years. Julie worked. Jerry watched. Jerry’s life was Leslie’s, and Julie’s malcontent went unnoticed, unchecked, and nearly enjoyed. Julie missed pre-school years, even the children’s Christmas play. Julie missed homework activities, friends, and shopping for little girl’s clothes. Jerry didn’t miss anything of Leslie’s and missed nothing of Julie.
They slept in the same bed, but never was another child to be made. The fear of a boy still resided in Jerry, although Julie thought it would be just the cure. Finally, they spoke about it all - one night after being rejected once more Julie turned to Jerry and inquired.
He was so very happy to share. Oh, he was so happy. A secret he’d never told her about in the ten years of their relationship’s existence, he told her with an extreme merriment. He explained how his mom had not been there for him as a baby. He told her about how his dad had begrudgingly taken care of him then. He told of how his father forced the mother to care for him. He told her all of this with a smile. And then he told her of mother’s revenge. Still smiling, he explained how mother treated him coldly, harshly, then warm as a very young boy and how her warmth evolved over time. He told her that she was his first. He continued smiling. Then he explained, “But that won’t happen to us. I’ve broken the chain.”
Julie didn’t think ‘us’ included her, at least not in a personal sense. She dropped her head as if to cry, then picked it back up only to focus her right fist on its target. Jerry flipped from his legs-folded position from the bed and tumbled onto the floor.
Jerry hadn’t been angry in years. The next ten years of their relationship never saw him happy. She sent him to work, quit her own job, fell in proper love with her daughter, and watched him like a hawk.
They slept in the same bed, but never was another child to be made. Jerry no longer feared a boy. One night after being rejected once more, his anger died out and something more concrete set in. He asked her in a voice she hadn’t heard in more than fifteen years, “Can we finally enjoy our daughter together?”
So she forgave him and they made a boy.
When the boy was born, they worked together as normal parents might. Jerry was still working and Julie was taking care of the kids and working part time. Leslie was now fifteen and her beauty was definitely from the looks of her mother. Jerry resisted his urges to take on the first young years of life for Jacob, but it took nearly all his strength. The rest of his strength evaporated into the air above their bed in the lonely, yet together, nights after Jacob’s birth. He had no anger and he had no more of his new self. He couldn’t reinvent his old self and had no new self to become.
So, he became his mother.
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