Chapter Five: Gavin
Gavin emerged from the bedroom with George. Both men looked weary and Gavin still didn’t understand any more than he had before. Helen had refused to speak. When George and Mary started discussing the New Year’s Eve party that happened so long ago, Helen put her hands over her ears and closed her eyes. When her father mentioned the lights Helen began to rock gently, hunching her shoulders up around her ears. When George mentioned the media attention and all the talk of UFO’s, she began to scream.
Gavin watched as Helen’s body stiffened but she threw him off when he attempted to comfort her. She shouted at them all to leave her alone, then continued to scream, holding her hands over her ears and closing her eyes to shut them out.
Mary held her as she screamed and rocked with her as she quieted. As Helen calmed, she opened her eyes, but didn’t seem to see her husband’s worried face, or her father standing close. Her eyes didn’t seem to focus at all.
Mary began to cry quietly and George explained in hushed tones that he’d seen something similar happen before with Helen and knew it was time to call in the doctor. He told Gavin that this was something they wouldn’t be able to deal with on their own and just as she had when she was fourteen-years-old, Helen would need the help of experts.
Gavin blindly followed his father-in-law across the landing. His mind filled with the sight of Helen’s vacant eyes and the sound of her heart-rending scream. He was only half aware of Janine standing on the stair, her face contorted by grief and concern. Terry was standing behind his wife, supporting her. George waved them away and shook his head. Terry guided Janine back down the stairs and Gavin followed his father-in-law into Courtney’s room, where they sat side by side on his daughter’s bed.
Gavin looked around at the typical teenager’s room, trying to focus his mind on his missing child to make him forget the image of his wife’s face.
‘I’m sorry, Gavin,’ George finally whispered. ‘I didn’t realise how close to the edge she was.’
‘I think it’s time you told me what this is all about, George. What was all that you were saying about UFO’s and lights in the sky? I didn’t understand any of it.’
‘I know, Gavin. It’s a long story and it’s not an easy one to understand. Helen was such a gutsy lass.’
‘Well you can’t blame me if I say I find that hard to believe, Dad.’ Gavin was intrigued. George seemed to be describing a different person.
‘Of course, that was before the Christmas that changed her life.’ George looked into a photograph of Courtney’s smiling face. ‘She looks so different to her mother doesn’t she?’ He nodded at the picture and Gavin turned to look. ‘But you know,’ he paused and smiled. ‘Our Helen was a lot like Courtney when she was fourteen. Her laughter would greet me when I came home from work. She filled the house with mischief and merriment.’
Gavin didn’t recognise the girl that George was describing and George smiled and nodded. ‘I know, you wouldn’t guess it from knowing her now, would you?’
Gavin shook his head.
‘Our Helen was the last person any one expected to have a nervous breakdown. She just wasn’t the type. The morning we found her on the floor of her room, with that awful empty look in her eyes and the stiffness in her limbs… ’ George swallowed. ‘Well, it was a morning that I’ll never forget. She was like that for months.’
Gavin gasped, ‘Months!’
George nodded again. ‘The doctors told us to put her in one of those hospitals for the disabled but Mary wouldn’t hear of it. We cared for her at home. The specialists kept visiting and eventually, Helen began to get better but she was never the same girl she’d been before. She was much quieter.’
‘What happened, Dad?’ Gavin was impatient to hear the reason behind Helen’s illness, but George didn’t seem to have heard him and continued talking as if Gavin hadn’t spoken.
‘She’d built this barrier around herself. There was a steely edge about her. Nothing could touch her, nothing could hurt her and she shut everyone out. It was as if she decided she didn’t want or need any of us. I felt that she thought we’d let her down in some way.’ George’s shoulders slumped and his lips started quivering.
‘How could she think that? Anyone can see that you worship both your girls.’ Gavin didn’t like to see his father-in-law so upset.
‘She was a child, Gavin. How could a child know that we were as powerless as she was? I still feel guilty for not believing and not understanding, until it was too late to help her.’
Gavin wanted to interrupt and ask what George meant but George continued.
‘She couldn’t wait to leave us. I could see what she was doing. All she had to do was pass a few exams to get a place at a far away university. She spent all her time studying. Always had her head in a book. I should have been proud when she left home and went to Edinburgh University but all I felt was empty. When she wrote to us about the wild parties, the demonstrations and protest walks, I thought she might be getting over it. Then she told us about you.’ He lifted his face and smiled bleakly. ‘And I thought she would be safe at last.’
‘Safe from what?’ Gavin was anxious to know what all this was leading to.
George gazed at a photograph on Courtney’s bedside table, of Gavin and Helen in the early days of their marriage. Gavin wondered now, why he had married Helen. He wondered, not for the first time, why Helen agreed to something that she obviously found distasteful, though Gavin, to his shame did not come to realise how she felt for many years.
Even on the wedding night, as Gavin fumbled under the sheets, desperately trying to make her respond to his gentle caresses, Helen had been cold. She held herself stiffly against him. He had whispered endearments, holding back, trying to be as gentle as possible with her, realising that she was inexperienced. He mistook her gasps of fear for gasps of pleasure and realised far too late that she was afraid of intimacy. He’d suffered mountains of undeserved guilt, for hurting his new wife so deeply.
‘What is it all about, George?’ Gavin wrung his hands in his lap. ‘What happened in there?’ He nodded his head at the room across the landing.
‘Helen has left us for a while,’ George tried to explain as Gavin looked questioningly at him. ‘She’s retreated. Gone inside herself, if you like.’
‘She does that a lot, goes quiet, unresponsive.’ Gavin shook his head slowly. ‘But it’s more than that isn’t it? This is different.’
‘Yes.’ George let out a long breath. ‘I’m sorry, lad. It’s all my fault.’ George stared at his feet. ‘I pushed her too far. She didn’t want to remember.’
‘Remember what?’ Gavin was getting impatient. His daughter was missing and could be anywhere, with goodness knows whom and here they were discussing Helen’s problems. ‘She’s done it again!’ He hissed and shot to his feet.
‘What are you on about, lad?’ George looked confused.
‘Helen!’ Gavin spat the name. ‘She’s even managed to upstage her own daughter’s disappearance. She’s made herself centre of attention again! Well it’s the last time. I’m not standing for any more of this nonsense!’
‘Gavin, wait!’ George reached out and grabbed Gavin’s arm as he moved towards the door. ‘Get your coat, it’s time that me and you went for a walk.’
‘Where to?’ Gavin was reluctant.
‘You’ll see. There’s something I think you should see.’
George led the reluctant Gavin from the house, leaving behind the desolate garden, the soggy paper plates and the dripping, wrinkled balloons as they walked through the summer morning drizzle. They fell into step, side by side in silence, Gavin’s mind was racing ahead, as he tried to imagine what George was about to show him. He looked up as he realised they were heading for George’s house, only streets away from his own.
Silently, he followed George, who walked slowly, looking older and more infirm with each step. He didn’t know what George had to show him but he knew from the old man’s expression that it would be important, that it could be the answer to his life of struggle with Helen and the key to her attitude towards their daughter and to Courtney’s disappearance.
George’s steps grew even slower and Gavin became afraid of what the old man knew and afraid of what he was about to be told.
To be continued…….
If you can’t wait to read the rest, They Take our children, Book one, The Truth Revealed, is available in Amazon.
They Take our Children, Book Two, Taking Control, is also now available.
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