Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Chapter 8: The Distance Between Us
After decades of being an artist, Dakota decides that she's had enough. She no longer enjoys painting the way she used to, but before she retires she wants to create one last masterpiece. She paints a portrait of Phillip, the way he was when they first met. She tries to capture his gentle spirit in her painting, but in her opinion she failed miserably. She immediately sells the piece to the consignment store, happy to be rid of it.
And life drags on at the West household. The two women quickly find themselves falling into an easy routine. So long as Lily maintains straight A's in school, Dakota gives her full reign to do as she pleases, no questions asked. Likewise, as long as there are leftovers in the fridge and a tidy house to come home to, Lily leaves Dakota alone. The relationship suits both of their needs, so neither woman makes any effort to change it.
Dakota has become quite restless since Phillip left, and she finds herself frequently going out on the town. Tonight, she heads to the Downie, a local sports bar, to enjoy a few adult beverages.
As she stands impatiently waiting for her drink, she feels a pair of eyes on the back of her head. She turns around to discover Morty Roth, Lily's father, watching her. He grins at her and slowly walks over to say hello. She is surprised to feel a tingle of excitement in her stomach as he approaches, a cautious sense of anticipation.
They sit down at the bar together, and he orders her a drink.
"How've you been, Dakota?" he prods her gently. "It's been a while."
"I'm doing fine Morty. How about yourself?" She is shocked to hear a tone of tired defeat in his voice. He sounds much older than she remembers.
"Oh, I've been good as ever, I guess. Do you remember Stella?" he asks softly, referring to his ex-wife, Stella Roth.
Dakota nods. How could she forget? Stella was the reason Morty abandoned her, leaving her alone to raise their unborn child.
"She passed away last week, from old age." He sounds sad and empty as he tells Dakota about her death.
"I'm sorry for your loss Morty," Dakota responds. She doesn't really know what else to say.
After a few drinks, the conversation lightens up a bit.
"I heard about Phillip's marriage," Morty says.
Dakota laughs. "Who hasn't? Talk about wedding of the century. Well, for Riverblossom Hills anyway."
"I didn't go, but I heard it was very, uh, pink."
"It looked like a strawberry cupcake threw up on her dress," Dakota snickers. She doesn't handle alcohol well. She never has, really.
Morty finds it funny though and giggles at her snide comment.
"Dakota," he begins. "I want to see you again. Soon." Dakota abruptly stops laughing and looks up at him, searching his face for clues.
"Alright," she agrees after a moment.
"Really?" he sounds excited.
"Sure, why not? I'll come over tomorrow night, and you can cook me dinner."
"Done," he replies immediately.
The next morning, Lily decides to pay a visit to Phillip.
"Hey Phil!" she grins as she walks up to him.
"Lily!" He is always excited to see her, no matter how busy he is. "Come in! Come in!" he says as he ushers her through the front door. "The whole family's home today. Gina's upstairs doing God-only-knows-what but, ahah! Here's Matilda!" Lily can't help but notice how happy he sounds.
She picks up Matilda and gives the adorable toddler a little tickle. The child looks more and more like Phillip everyday.
"The house looks great Phil," she tells him earnestly. And she means it too. She finds the cheerful atmosphere in Phillip's home refreshing. The cold distance between her and Dakota feels stifling sometimes.
Next, Lily heads upstairs to say hi to Gina. Her mom may have issues with the woman, but Lily doesn't mind her so much. The fact that she's good friends with Gina's daughter Dolores doesn't hurt either.
"Wow, you're pregnant Gina?!" Lily's never been one to tiptoe around a subject.
Gina attempts a smile, but it looks more like a grimace. "Yes, pregnant one more time. We weren't really planning on having more children, but oops! Here we are again!" Lily laughs awkwardly, not quite sure how to respond to Gina's comment.
Gina proceeds to launch into a tirade about Lily's mother. Lily stands their patiently listening to Gina's rant, trying to figure out a polite way to excuse herself, when Phillip appears.
"Alright Gina," he laughs. "I think Lily needs to be heading home. Dakota might be worried about where she is."
"Oh, right." Gina stops, realizing she might have been a tiny bit rude.
Lily mouths "thank you" to Phillip, before hugging them goodbye and heading on her way home. Despite Gina's antics, she quite enjoyed her visit. She misses Phillip more than she could ever have imagined.
Dakota shows up for her date with Morty right on time.
"You know, I've never actually been inside your house before," she tells him. "It's a nice change."
He chuckles. "It's quite nice to have you here, darling."
Wasting no time, he grabs her hands. "I've missed you baby," he says smoothly. "I've been such a fool all these years, with you right under my nose."
Dakota's no idiot. She realizes the timing of his renewed interest is quite convenient. Lily's almost grown up, and that means no more child support payments (not like he ever bothered to pay them anyway). Furthermore, she knows that he's feeling old and lonely, especially since the passing of Stella.
And to be honest, so is she. Her life has been so bleak ever since Phillip left, and at times, she's wondered what's left that's worth living for. She finds Morty's attention gratifying, and his flirtations make her feel young again. So what if he is just using her? Perhaps it is time she used him right back.
He wraps his arms around her and pulls her in for a kiss. She offers no resistance, loving the way his lips feel against hers. It's been a long time since she's been with a man, and tonight she is feeling passionate (*cough* horny *cough*).
Before long, she finds herself in a rather compromising position.
The sex is as fabulous as she remembers it being, better even. She ends up spending the night with Morty, only to wake up the next morning to an empty house.
As she gets dressed and leaves, she forcefully reminds herself that she was using him just as much as he was using her. Still, she can't help but wonder why it hurts so bad then.
She arrives home to find a very angry Lily waiting for her.
"Where were you last night?" she demands.
"I was out," Dakota replies vaguely. She is in no mood to discuss yesterday evening with her teenage daughter.
"You were out?" Lily repeats, her voice dripping with anger. "You were OUT?!" she says again, her temper rising.
"Lily! Calm down," Dakota scolds.
"You want me to calm down?! ME?!" Lily screams furiously. "You walk in here like nothing's the matter and then you tell ME to calm down?! I spent the entire night worried sick about you, wondering if you were lying dead on the side of the road somewhere," she shouts. "And this is the thanks I get?!" she asks incredulously.
Dakota has heard enough. "What the fuck is your problem Lily?!" she yells. "I have given you everything! The past 18 years of my life have always been about YOU! And this, this is the attitude I have to put up with?!"
Lily looks at her mom speechlessly, her face twisted with rage.
"You are the biggest mistake I ever made," Dakota spits. "And I'm through with it. From now on, you're on your own."
"Fine!" Lily shrieks, not wanting to let her mother see her cry. "I'm out of here!" And with that, she turns and runs out of the house, the door echoing as she slams it closed.
That day, the West household sits silent and empty, except for the murmur of Dakota's quiet sobs.
Broken and alone, Dakota ages into an elder at dusk that night. She reacted so condescendingly to Lily's concerns about her own safety, yet now that Lily has yet to come home the table has turned. Dakota's dark imagination torments her as she pictures all the horrible things that could be happening to her daughter right now.
So, this is not at all what I had planned for this chapter! I really expected to focus on Dakota and Phillip's relationship and then end it with Lily aging into a young adult and generation 2 taking over. But then, story progression threw a wrench in my master plan (which was merely a rough idea of what I was going to do with my story), and Gina got knocked up HOURS after her wedding to Phillip. Which honestly baffles me as I have the marriage to pregnancy setting on 3 days. Plus, Gina had only 1 day left in the adult life stage before becoming an elder.
But it's all good, because I really like the way this chapter turned out. When story progression tossed up that notification that Gina and Phillip were expecting, I seriously cursed like a sailor. Then, I sat there for like 15 minutes trying to decide my next move.
But back to the story! This chapter is very personal to me, as it focuses on Dakota and Lily's tumultuous mother/daughter relationship. My relationship with my own mom has seen it's fair share of ups and downs, so it was interesting getting to write about the problems a mother and daughter deal with. Although, I will say that my mother is nowhere near as mean as Dakota was to Lily.
Oh, and sorry if the ending seems rather abrupt/unfinished. I am working on my cliffhanger skills (and failing miserably), and I just wanted to stop the chapter before it got unbearably long.