April 1, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 3

“Calm yourself, Rowan,” Eron said stiffly. “I said no such thing. I’m simply presenting the findings from that long ago day, facts now part of the archives because that’s all the elders had to work with.”

“I beg your pardon, Eron,” Rowan said contritely, head bowed like a school girl being chastised. Her mentor’s opinions meant a great deal to her and she would no more insult Eron than she would her own father. “Please, continue.”

It was rare for Eron to lose his temper. A telling sign as far as Damon was concerned that his old friend was more upset by Debra’s evaluation than he let on. Theron stepped away from the bed, feeling uncomfortable at seeing his superior and the head of medical-science rebuked in front of witnesses, and busied himself with gathering up the last few blackened towels and tossing them in the hamper.

Cold drink in hand, Eron glanced at the empty doorway and stalled for time. “By the end of the day, the reached consensus was that only Trevon, Edith, and Debra had been in the backyard, the gate presumably opened at one point, and left slightly ajar when Trevon went into convulsions. And Edith, overcome with grief, had passed out leaving Debra alone in the yard.”

Glancing at the doorway again, Eron finished off the cold juice and tossed the glass bottle down the recycle chute. “A neighbor heard Edith screaming and went to investigate. Only Trevon and Edith were found and the back gate was closed. Without further evidence, the elders assumed the tension-spring automatically pulled the gate closed when Debra, unable to wake either adult, pushed it open and stepped through. Fortunately the irrigation ditch was empty of water at the time or Debra would most likely have drowned after falling down the ravine.”

Rowan kept waiting for a ‘but’ that never came and finally asked what everyone else was thinking. “But after evaluating Debra, you don’t think it happened that way anymore?”

“Only two people survived Trevon’s death. And both of them were severely traumatized. Debra has no memories of that day on a conscious level. Her link to Trevon, and the brutal shock of separation caused by his death, erased those memories forever.” Looking for confirmation, Eron met Damon’s baffled eyes.

“It’s true,” Damon agreed, wondering what new evidence Eron could have found if Debra’s memories of that day were gone. “I don’t remember that last link with my father or much of what happened that day. The memories are just gone.”

“What’s going on, Eron?” Rowan asked earnestly. “I’ve read many of the archive files that pertain to Debra, looking for something to explain her psychic difficulties. If Debra’s memories can’t tell us about that day, and the archives say Edith can’t remember that day, I don’t understand what it is you’re getting at.”

“I lied,” Edith said breathlessly, standing in the lounge doorway, tears glittering in her eyes. Manton stood just behind her in the hallway, feeling cleaner from a quick shower and a change of uniform, his large hands resting lightly on Edith’s shoulders as though offering support.

Eron gave Edith a kindhearted nod and gestured for her to come in.

Debra groaned, drawing everyone’s attention back to the wheeled bed. Long, slender hands made feeble motions of helplessness as her system purged the last of the drug from her body. Eyelids slowly fluttered open, seeking out Damon, his mind gradually separating from her own and ending the reassuring meld. Theron promptly raised the head of the bed, helping Debra in her efforts to sit up.

Smudged faces, framed with oddly sticking out hair, stared at her, a perplexed frown creasing Debra’s brow. “I gather things didn’t go as planned,” she grimaced, longing to spit the awful taste from her mouth. Intense dark eyes zeroed in on Rowan and the tranquilizer guns sticking out of her smock pockets. “I don’t recall anything being said about shooting me. So why was I drugged?”

“After we’re through here I’ll take you down to the crisis room so you can see why,” Rowan said drolly and offered a bottle of water. Fingers coated with maintenance cleaner rubbed an itch on the side of her nose and came away covered with bits of black. “Damn,” she muttered, certain it would take at least a dozen showers to get this crap out of her hair. “Your defenses kicked in again when things went a little sideways.”

“We’re all okay,” Damon offered. “The extra precautions worked.” He fingered aside several loose strands of hair from Debra’s face. No sense mentioning the crisis room needed to be completed gutted and rebuilt. Later would be soon enough. “You were only out about fifteen minutes, just long enough for me to reestablish the meld again and make you feel safe.” He placed a quick comforting kiss on her lips.  “Eron has been giving us some background information about your situation.”

“What did you find, Eron?” Debra quietly asked, eyes focused on her dirty thumb stroking across Damon’s knuckles. With the moment finally at hand, she was suddenly afraid to hear the answer.

“What do you remember about your father?” Eron asked, his eyes compassionate as her head came up, confusion clear on her face.

A small gasp sounded. Debra glanced toward the sofa and blinked in surprise. “Edith, I didn’t know you were here.” Her aunt’s erratic heartbeat resonated in her head. The woman reeked of fear. Whatever was coming, Debra braced for the worst and hoped to survive the heartbreak.

Sad eyes watched Edith as Debra answered Eron. “Until I came here I grew up believing Jeffrey Hall was my father. No one told me any different.” Damon squeezed her hand, reassuringly. “I have no memories of my real father. I don’t even know his name.”

Tormented, tear-filled eyes held Debra’s gaze. “Trevon was your father,” Edith blurted, needing to get the truth out as though her life depended on it. Tired of the secret and living with the shame, Edith held her breath and prayed to see forgiveness this day.

At first comprehension was slow in coming. Blood flushed her cheeks as Debra struggled to understand. Lips moved in silent agitation, her breath audible and brows deeply furrowed. Eyes slowly widened and gaped at Edith as the blood drained from her face. “Then . . . you’re—”

“Yes,” Edith cried, “I’m your mother. I’m so sorry for what happened. I didn’t mean it. Please, Debra, believe me. I didn’t mean it.” Rushing to take her daughter’s hand, Debra instinctive leaned away in confusion, chest heaving, a heaviness closing in about her, unable to get enough air.

“She’s hyperventilating,” Damon warned, feeling Debra’s heart racing, her thoughts spinning, throwing out flashes of the past, of wishes and torment.

Theron hastily dropped the head of the bed and Rowan flattened her hand over Debra’s solar plexus, letting the heat of her touch-healing relax the diaphragm while applying pressure to several nerves at the base of the neck and shoulder.

The attack eased almost immediately. Damon kept Debra on the bed, giving her time to catch her breath and a moment to adjust to the truth. Their bond allowed him to reassure her there would be no more surprises. The secret of her parents was the last hurdle to overcome.

Gut-wrenching sobs intruded as reality slowly returned to normal. Held tightly in Manton’s brawny arms, Edith cried in abandoned wretchedness like a child. Both Eron and Manton encouraged their friend to let it all go, to get the poison of the past finally and forever out of her heart. Now they could all join together on the same path toward obtaining a new future.

The tightly knit group of family and friends all watched as Debra shifted off the bed and moved to stand before Manton as he gently rocked Edith. Defenseless against such heartbreak, the big man waited for Debra’s judgment with tears glittering in his eyes. Today the Thalian nation would judge the consort’s compassion and control toward her people.

“Edith,” Debra said, sounding lost, her hand resting lightly on the older woman’s shoulder.

Slow to turn around, Edith finally faced her daughter, sniffing loudly and wiping streaming tears from her face. Manton remained behind her for support in case his instincts were wrong.

“I’ve always loved you, Edith,” Debra began slowly, softly. “I can’t tell you how many times I wished you had been my mother instead of Dorothy.” The familiar heartbeat continued to rapidly pound in Debra’s head. “You’re still afraid, so there must be more to tell. I just want you to know . . . I love you mother.” With a moist, lopsided grin, she gave Edith’s shoulder a little shake. “That doesn’t mean I’m not mad as hell at all your manipulating and deceptions. But I am ready to listen with an open mind.”

Surrounded by grunts and chortles of good humor from the others in the room, Debra glanced at Damon. “In the last few days I’ve learned that shit happens to everyone and we all do the best we can with what we’ve got.” She touched fingertips to Edith’s wet cheek. “I know you, the kind of person you are, and I know you love me.”

Edith threw herself into Debra’s arms, fiercely hugging for the first time as mother and daughter. Now it was tears of joy sliding down her reddened cheeks. But Edith wasn’t alone. Giving them privacy to enjoy the moment, the others stepped away, blinking back tears and dabbing at wet lashes.

Holding her mother at arm’s length, Debra suddenly laughed at the wide smudges of black soot smeared across the front of Edith’s green summer top and cotton pants. Frayed nerves made ruined clothes seem like the funniest thing since slapstick and had everyone laughing uproariously.

“Please,” Eron choked, holding the stitch in his side. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed so hard. Seeing those he loved flushed with happiness sent a surge of hope through his soul. It was time to reveal the final pieces of the puzzle. “Please, everyone find a seat and I’ll tell you what I found during Debra’s evaluation.”

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