Steele of My Innocence 6/7
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2000
Linda <>

Part 6

"My dear Laura and Frances. You should not have learned the truth this way."

"The truth? We're so far from that point, I can't even begin to imagine what shape the truth will take." Laura spoke quietly and evenly, but Harry could hear the emotion waiting to brim over.

Even Frances was subdued. " What happened to Da--our father? How did he die?"

"How do any of us die? I can tell you he died with your names on his lips."

Laura snorted. She couldn't help it. This woman, Dominique, was going too far. "I hardly think so."

"Croyez moi. I was there, at the end."

"Yes well, that's painfully obvious." Laura was just warming up, Steele could see. "It's also painfully obvious where HE wasn't!"

"Laura, Frances. Your father loved you both very much, c'est vrai. And you don't need me to tell you that. Search your hearts. You know it's true."

"I don't know anything of the kind. If there was anybody who needed to do some soul-searching, it wasn't me! And apparently he went to his grave never having done any of his own. How could he--" Laura's words choked in her throat. She felt as if she couldn't breathe. Turning to Harry, who had silently reached her side, she mumbled, "Is it hot in here?"

"No, Darling, but I think we could both use some air. If you'll excuse us for a moment. . . ." With a hand on her arm he steered her out of the room, down the stairs, and out into the street below.

"Laura, tell me what to do. Tell me how to make this better for you."

"Better?" Laura was incredulous. She began to stride purposefully down the sidewalk, while Harry raced to keep up.

"Where are we going?"

"WE aren't going anywhere! I need some time on my own! A wave of your hand isn't going to make this go away!" As soon as the words escaped her lips, she regretted them. One look at his face and she could see that she had hurt him. Was this the pattern she would resort to whenever things got sticky between them? Was it only in wounding him that she could control her own anger, her shame, her disappointment? Sigh. "I. . . I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. Why do I DO that?" She seized his hand and pulled him with her. "Why don't you clobber me one when I get like that?"

He was torn. He refused to believe that it was in his or her best interests to allow her to pull this kind of nonsense whenever her emotions were on overload. On the other hand, this wasn't simply any other day. She'd been handed her father again, albeit an imperfect, flawed man who could never live up to her childhood image of Daddy as the knight in shining armor and the Atomic Man combined. But Steele was less concerned about Laura's relationship with Thomas Holt than he was with her relationship with the father of her child. He pragmatically concluded that this was not the time to go down that road with Laura, so he fell in step with her. Laura continued puzzling it out. "Did you get a look at that place? It was almost like a-a shrine. What does that mean?"

He hesitated, having narrowed the possibilities in his head and decided that Laura wasn't ready to hear any of them. "I don't know, Laura. But I do know how you can find out."

A walk around the block helped Laura calm down enough to return to the flat. Frances, Donald, and Dominique were having coffee. An uneasy truce had clearly been negotiated in Laura's absence, but now the combatants returned to the battlefield again.

Dominique parried Laura's first thrust.

"You say he loved us."

"He did."

"Those are just words, you know! Anybody can say 'I love you.' When did he show it?" Touché, Laura, Harry thought, but the irony of Laura's line of reasoning was not lost on him.

"Laura, even though your mother and father may have had a stormy marriage, surely you can recall the love your father felt for you!"

Frances was spurred by Dominique's last remark. "MAY have had?! And, and she did everything she could to make it work, to make him stay. She walked on eggs around him! She lived for him! And what did he ever do?"

Laura considered this. Her sense of fairness and her newfound ability to see her parents' union a little more objectively, given her own recent marriage, made her question her sister's assessment, but she was less interested in her parents' failed relationship than in Thomas Holt's shortcomings as a father.
"Look, I'm talking about him skipping out on Frances and me, not my mother. Why did he waltz out of our lives for good?"

Now it was Dominique's turn to look befuddled. "But my dear, he was only following your wishes, yours and your mother's of course."

Frances asked what Laura could not. "What are you talking about?"

"Why, once your mother made it clear to Thomas that neither of you wished to see him again, of course he was hurt, but he respected your feelings even if he didn't share them."

"Our mother--"

"She explained that you girls wanted nothing to do with him, but he was grateful that she passed along his letters. . ." Dominique looked from Frances and Laura to their husbands. It seemed that Thomas wasn't the only one who had to answer for deceptions.

End Part 6
To Part 7