We're sitting at the breakfast table when Mom says, "It would've been better if the two of you had never gotten together." She sets down a glass of orange juice in front of my father before continuing, "He isn't anything at all what I pictured you with. I thought you and Chris would've worked things out. You boys had so much in common."
Dad mumbles something in response. It's too quiet for me to hear, but I can tell from the expression on his face that he's just as perturbed as I am. Although I know he isn't happy with Frank, he doesn't want to completely shut him out either. And that's what Mom's trying to do.
She has no idea how badly she hurts me. Frank may be different than anybody else I've ever gone out with, or even had an interest in, but I never doubted that our relationship was a good thing. I wasn't sure with his sudden mood swings that it would remain that way, but that wasn't enough to make me turn my back on him. I love Frank and we promised to be there for each other through the good times and the bad. Right now he needs me. Unless it gets to be too unbearable, I don't intend to readily break that promise; Frank is too important to me.
So instead of letting her convince me otherwise, I continue to visit Frank at the hospital. He looks better everyday. The medication they have him on helps take the wild, crazy look from his eyes. He tells me, "I feel so much calmer now. It's like my thoughts have settled down and instead of rushing to get things done, I have time to actually stop and think."
I nod my head in understanding. Ever since I met Frank, he has been always on the go. He moves from one activity to the next, one interest to another, with little to no thought about the consequences. His reckless behavior has gotten him in trouble in more than one way.
"You look a lot better than when you came in." I tell him honestly.
Frank clears his throat awkwardly. He shifts in his seat and wrings his hands, so that I know what's coming before he even says it.
"Um... about that night... I'm really sorry about what happened. I don't know what got into me, but you know I would never go out of my way to hurt you, right?"
It's the most sincere apology I've ever gotten from him. Maybe it's the fact that I know instead of trying to handle things on his own, when he leaves here, Frank is entering into a twelve-step program where can rely on the strength and support of people who have problems like he does. Or maybe it's the tone of his voice, which is softer than it usually is and reaches past his lips and to his eyes. He's a different person when he's sober. Not that he's an angry drunk or loses control of himself all the time, but he's a lot less vulnerable. Like if he lets his guard down, he might get hurt.
"Holland?" Frank interrupts my thoughts. Then he says again, "I really am sorry."
He looks at me so earnestly that I smile and say it's okay. I can't bring myself to downright forgive him. No matter how much I love Frank, what he did is still burned into the front of my mind. It may always be there, but despite that, and the fear that it will happen again, I want things to work out between us. I don't want to be completely disillusioned about love. But at the same time, I have to tell myself to be realistic.
Even if he does get better, Frank will never be cured. He will always be an alcoholic. If we're going to be together, this is something I'm going to have to come to terms with. He's going to have relapses. And if the doctors are right and he does have a bipolar disorder, then he's going to need medication to help with his moods. But I have to stand against the odds. Otherwise our love for each other would serve no purpose.
And that's scarier than anything else that could be thrown my way.