The Alphabet Stories: Unsure
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Ben paced his apartment while Charlotte sat on the sofa, hugging her knees watching him.
He stopped in the middle of the room and raised his palm towards her.
“Can you stop looking at me?”
“Sorry,” she said. “Do you want me to leave?”
She went to stand.
“No. No, I don’t,” he said. “I just … I just don’t know if I’m doing the right thing by going to meet her.”
He’d tried to open up to Charlotte last night about his past, about his fears of meeting his sister, and whether he would hurt her. But he was too scared he might drive Charlotte away. So instead he’d been distant. And then he’d worried he might lose Charlotte for not being honest with her. In the end he’d come and slept in the living room, but that was hardly a great move to show he cared. But his old patterns were rising in him: negative thoughts about people. And the thought of hurting Charlotte or Amanda made it hard to breathe.
Ben didn’t want to call Jon in case Charlotte heard from the bedroom, but he’d become so desperate, he’d texted Edward at 2 a.m.
Are you awake?
Yes. You need to talk?
No. Charlotte’s here. Can we just text for a bit?
They’d texted back and forth for an hour, Edward trying to reassure Ben that it was normal for old thought patterns to try and sabotage during the healing journey, and that he was doing great. But Ben didn’t feel great. He told Edward it might be best if he didn’t meet Amanda in the morning. And added that it was Saturday and so why should Edward come and take him to Jon’s office on a Saturday. And why was Jon going into the office on a Saturday to do this?
Because you’re my brother, Ben. Because I love you. Because we care about you.
Ben had tried to muffle the sobs that sprung out of him, and typed through tears.
Edward, I don’t want Amanda to get hurt.
None of us do. I’ll be there, Jon will be there. It’s a safe space. Jon’s one of the best psychotherapists I know, Ben. I went through enough of them back in the day.
Yeah, he’s great.
So are you, bro’.
Ben started crying again.
How do you know?
There was a pause. And … I have a way with words sometimes. :-)
You do. I love you.
I love you too.
I might not be able to meet her tomorrow, Edward.
But Jon has arranged everything, and Amanda will be expecting me.
Yes. And you told me your heart wants to see her.
Ben felt his heart pinch.
I do and I don’t.
I know. And she may be just as nervous as you.
Jon told me she looks like me.
Yes. No pressure but I’m looking forward to meeting her.
That is pressure.
Sorry. Ben, you know Jon won’t make you. It’s your decision. Even if you decide you don’t want to once we get there, it’s okay, okay?
Ben sighed and wiped his face in his sleeve.
I’m going to see if I can sleep for a bit.
Sounds good. I’ll pick you up at 9 a.m.
Sorry for keeping you up so late.
This is a treat for me. I’m normally alone with my insomnia. Get some sleep, bro’, so you still look handsome for
Charlotte in the morning. ;-)
Ben snuggled down under the blanket, and before he knew it, Charlotte was waking him up with coffee and a croissant.
“Hey, sleepy,” she said. Placing the croissant and coffee on the floor, she cupped his cheeks and leaned over and kissed him.
“I’m sorry about last night,” he said.
“Nothing to be sorry about. You needed space, although I did miss you in the bed.”
She flushed and Ben melted.
“How did I get so lucky?” he said.
She perched on the edge of the sofa and ran her hand through his hair.
“I think, after a string of shit, luck was the mountain we finally climbed.”
He smiled at her and took her hand in his.
“Eat your croissant,” Charlotte said. “You’ve got 30 minutes before Edward picks you up. I need to use the bathroom.”
She kissed him on the forehead and rushed from the room. Ben sat up, ate half the croissant and then felt nauseous. He went to the bedroom, pulled on his jeans and a t-shirt, and returned to the living room, but couldn’t face his coffee. He started pacing.
Charlotte came back in yet said nothing, just sat on the sofa and watched him. He could feel her eyes on his back.
He didn’t mean to snap, but he wondered: was she watching him and thinking he was too much to handle? He needed to tell her.
“Charlotte, I … I, look I want to be honest with you. I just don’t know where to start with the mess of my past. Would you like to come with me to meet my sister?”
“I’d love to meet her, but maybe I wait in Edward’s car or outside Jon’s office first. I don’t want to intrude on your session or make your sister feel uncomfortable.”
“Why would you make her uncomfortable?” Ben said.
“Well, Edward is going in there with you too. It might seem a bit intimidating for her if I’m in there too, especially if she is coming on her own.”
“Oh,” Ben said. “You’re right.”
He walked over to her and grabbed her hand.
“But you’ll come with me to the office? Meet her afterwards if … if it goes okay?”
She smiled up at him and he wished he could just stay there all day.
“Of course I will,” she said.
He went and brushed his teeth, took off his clothes and had a quick shower. Edward arrived 5 minutes early and Ben exhaled.
“Good,” he said. “I’m going crazy waiting around.”
Edward thought it was a great idea for Charlotte to come and wait in the car. When they arrived at Jon’s office, Ben stopped and turned to Edward.
“Do you think it is all right that you are coming in with me? I don’t want to make her feel outnumbered.”
“Jon asked her and she was okay with it. I can wait out with Charlotte if you like?”
“No.” Ben grabbed Edward’s hand. “I want you there. You remind me how I want to be. I want to be the goodness you see in me. It will be better if you’re there.”
“Okay, let’s do it. Ready?”
Ben managed a nod despite wanting to run.
Edward knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Jon said.
“Oh, God,” Ben said.
Edward squeezed his hand.
“We’ve got this.”
He gestured for Ben to open the door. Ben exhaled and walked into the room. He stopped and Edward walked into his back. They both mumbled sorry to each other and Ben heard a giggle he hadn’t heard for years.
He turned back and saw Amanda sitting in an armchair next to Jon. Ben stared at her and tears started streaming down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“I know, but you don’t need to be. I do,” she said. “I am so sorry, Ben.”
Edward led him to the sofa and they both sat facing Amanda.
Jon introduced Edward to Amanda while Ben tried to see through his tears. She did look just like him, more than when they were younger.
“Why are you sorry?” he asked.
“I hid when you were hit so I wouldn’t be hurt too. I didn’t protect you. I saved myself.”
“It’s what I wanted. It’s why I had to run away, to protect you … from me. I’m scared to be near you right now.”
Amanda shook her head.
“No, what you told me was wrong. I didn’t understand until I had some hypnotherapy. You told me you killed our parents and I was glad. But you didn’t, and you didn’t kill Aunt Yvette either.”
“No. Thoughts are powerful and although you did wish it, you didn’t make the truck hit them.”
“And Aunt Yvette?”
“She had clogged arteries. You know how unhealthy she was - in body and mind. You didn’t make her heart stop, Ben.”
“How do you know? I wished them dead and it happened. All three of them.”
Ben wrung his hands and stared at them.
“Because I know you. You protected me. You cared for me. With all that Mum and Dad did to you, you were the only one who gave me hugs, tucked me into bed at night, told me stories about a world of green people who were all kind who watched over us at night, when their world woke up, so we were safe to sleep.”
Ben looked up.
“You remember the green people?”
“I remember everything. The good and the bad.”
“I’m sorry, Amanda. I want to believe you, yet I’ve spent a lifetime knowing I killed them.”
“Maybe it’s time to reframe that now,” Jon said. “Thought you had? Or had thoughts or wishes that you believed caused their deaths? We can work on it.”
“Okay,” Ben said. He wasn’t convinced, yet he wanted to believe what she said could be true.
“But then ….”
“Then I deserted you for no reason. I left you with no one.”
“I knew why.”
“You did? Were you angry?”
Amanda shrugged, tears forming in her eyes.
“Sad. I knew you told me you had killed them, so I knew you had to run away, but I didn’t want you to go.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Me too,” Amanda said. “I’m sorry I didn’t find out the truth sooner. I was stubborn, afraid to see anyone. You’ve had to carry that belief that you were a murderer all this time. I can’t imagine how that’s been for you. I’m so sorry.”
She burst into tears.
Ben was trying to process all she’d told him. He’d kept away and he could have taken care of her. He hadn’t killed anyone. Could this be true?
Jon had suggested as much, and Ben had not wanted to believe it in case he let his guard down and someone got hurt.
“Ben, I’ve already spoken to Amanda. I’d like to suggest you both come and see me together a few times, as well as continuing to see me separately. How does that sound?”
“Good,” Jon said. “Ben, is there anything you want to say?”
Ben studied his hands and nodded.
“I’m grateful for my parents.”
“What?” Edward said.
Ben looked up, smiled at Edward, then reached out and took Amanda’s hand in his.
“They gave me my sister.”