- Steele of My Innocence 6/7
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2000
"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
"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
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."
"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
"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
Frances asked what Laura could not. "What are you talking
"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."
"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
End Part 6
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