Sorrows into the night.
Let us not take our sorrows into the night
but give them light of day
that they may become shadows
and not consume our lives.
Helene stared out the window of the airplane. Like her granddaughter, she was mostly silent for the short flight from New York to Montreal. Their three day trip had been eventful in many ways. Unexpected outcomes left Hélène and Valery feeling a little out of sorts.
Valery started the trip as a whiny young woman, complaining about everything. Over the three days she was able to draw her past and present together. The time spent with her cousins was so different from what she expected. The vision of some poor relative begging for a pittance from an elderly grandmother was shattered when Valery came face to face with two complete families, financially comfortable, who mixed with both the rich and the powerful yet intermingled comfortably in a secret life below ground. The young woman, out of her depth, could hardly reconcile the two worlds and yet in a few days she came to appreciate the richness of both.
Cathy, her host and Holly, a half-sister were both first cousins to the young Canadian girl. Both were the progeny of Madeleine, a vague and shadowy figure from the past whose disappearance at a young age paralyzed the family left behind in Montreal. During her life Lena, as she became known, had given birth to two children in New York. Both were lovely, genuine, young women welcoming their Canadian cousin with real affection. As Valery reflected on just how wrong she had been, she let out a deep sigh.
'Nana, I have been such a fool. I just don't know how many times and how many ways I can say that.'
'Is that what you have been thinking about?'
'That and Mama. Really, it has taken me this long to understand the deep hurt that has lived inside my mother for as long as I can remember. I forgot all about it as I got older but when my Dad died, I remembered seeing Mama's eyes. They had the same haunted look like when she used to stare at the photo of Cathy and Holly's mother.'
'You are very perceptive. Many children could not see that. They see what they want in their parents.'
'Are you talking about Aunt Petra?'
Hélène didn't want to admit that her granddaughter was right but she hated to discourage the awakening of a new, more evolved persona. 'I suppose I am'.
'It's her loss Nana. Would have been mine too if I didn't come with you. I know I was a pest but thank you for this chance,' Valery acknowledged reaching for the strong but aging hand of her grandmother.
Hélène was deeply gratified by her granddaughter's candor. It helped to ease the ache in her heart. Everything about the trip had the potential to mend many fences. Philippe, Lena's biological father, tried to behave as if he had come to terms with their rather unusual relationship. On the first night when she had been busy ensuring everyone was fed, he kept a respectful distance, collaborating easily when necessary, not asking any probing questions. Philippe did inquire off-handily about Ledgister but his question was phrased in an odd way. Her reply focused on the assistance the musician provided in helping her to prepare the baptism song. After that he kept a respectful distance, getting to know Valery in both a kindly and professional way.
Hélène tried to recall if she missed any triggers in his conciliatory tone but her preoccupation with the festivities blocked out much of the nuances of their conversation. As a rule, they rarely spoke French unless alone. She didn't hide from a more intimate conversation with Philippe but at the back of her mind, Howard's energy was a constant. The need to keep their unorthodox relationship a secret was not a hardship but Philippe was very perceptive. Hélène. still wasn't ready to acknowledge publicly that she had been having a clandestine affair with the married Governor.
The slowing and directional shift in the airplane signaled the beginning of the end of the flight. Helene checked her seat belt and Valery's, wondering why she thought of the words beginning of the end. In her unhappy heart she knew that Howard and his general absence from the weekend festivities was a signal of some problem. She avoided thinking too much about any possible implications of his temporary departure from her life. She refused to dwell on similarities in the return trip allied with her departure from New York. As the descent into Montreal began, she feared a descent of their beautiful relationship was also on the horizon.
Their passage through customs and immigration was swift. As they made their way to the exit Valery stopped, hugged her grandmother and spoke quite earnestly.
'I know its late Nan, but I really would like to go home if Uncle Nate doesn't mind taking me.'
'Of course, you need this time to review everything with your Maman. Please call me tomorrow.'
In fact, Hélène. didn't mind being alone at all. She needed time to think and process some very cryptic texts from her absent lover.
Busy with State work. Can't make it down tonight.
Hope you are enjoying yourself. Will call if I can.
Meetings all day then reception later.
Overwhelmed with paperwork. Hope it went well.
Hélène read and reread the few texts. They were so unlike the Howard she had come to know. He never signed off without a word of love or affection. It was more like his diary than reassuring words to a lover. She sighed, was desperate to call him but held off. Instead Hélène let him know that she arrived home safely and thanked him for allowing Ledgister to partake in the Friday evening celebration. There was no reply. She went to bed with a heavy heart.
Their last meeting at the house in Albany had been full of laughter, food, music and love. Everything he had done, to make their relationship exciting and yet normal, played over and over in her mind. She wondered what could have brought about the change. All along, the tenderness between them only reinforced the love they shared.
There was no doubt that Howard was busy. During the Christmas visit in Montreal he pre-warned that the months of January and February were likely to be busy with State affairs and yet he found a few hours here and there to play house with her in Albany. Although Ledgister was privy to their relationship, he had given no indication at the Friday night party that anything was amiss. Only the fatigue of travel eventually shut off her mind's meanderings and allowed sleep to overtake the negative thoughts.
By 5:30 am, Hélène. was up. She forgot to plug in her phone overnight to charge. The battery was dead. She dragged herself out of bed and found the charger, hopeful that there would be a message, but 2 minutes later, with the flickering of a little energy into the cell, her text box was as dead as the phone had been. It was way too early to call. She sent another message and hoped for the best. Instead of trying to sleep, Hélène went to the kitchen, prepared a light breakfast, dressed and went for a walk. The city was dark and the temperature was icy cold with lots of snow on the ground. It suited her mood. She pressed on hoping that some explanation would be waiting for on her return home.
Howard cursed the discomfort of the chair. Everything played on his nerves. He was sharp and cranky with everyone, pushing his employees to work harder, do more! He knew his actions were uncharacteristic but he was nearing the end of his second term and felt a real need to secure a legacy beyond being seen as the affable buffoon many thought him to be. Despite this weird public persona, his party was also pushing him to run again. They had no other viable candidate to put up against the opposition whose leader, with his youthful fervour seemed to be on a 'spend, spend, spend' campaign. The state was secure and managed within budget. Howard had instituted new programs to help young people grow. He ensured that the underprivileged had affordable food. His spending was balanced by tax cuts which supported small business around the state. There was much to be proud of during his eight years at the helm.
For much of that time, Rose, his faithful and hardworking wife had been at his side. She was a steady foil to his easygoing demeanour but Howard never took it for granted. He paid attention to her pet programs and activities and supported her when he could. Her illness and death left him sad for the losses in both of their lives but any personal relationship between them had been battered by the realization that they would never have children. For years, Howard blamed himself. Rose had assured him that she was tested and everything was fine. The tumour growth which eventually killed her had come later in life and did not impact their childbearing years.
As he sat in his chair listening to the chatter of his staff while they discussed upcoming events, Howard felt a rush of anger wash over him. The words in the autopsy report on his wife played over and over, burning into his brain, threatening to stifle him. Everything he had ever thought about his relationship with Rose was shattered. He didn't know where to turn. The enormity of it was overwhelming.
'Are you alright sir?' The words broke through the anger in his brain.
'I have to take some time. Please rearrange my calendar.' With that, Howard stood and left the room.
His stunned staff looked around at each other. They noticed the change and wondered if the Governor was suffering delayed grief. None felt close enough to question him. In fact the behavior was so unusual they wondered if a Doctor was needed. His secretary followed him out and stood bravely in front of him.
'Governor, is there something wrong? This is not like you.'
'I'm sorry. I just…. I can't do this today.'
With that, Howard proceeded down the hall from the meeting room towards his office. One look, at the furniture inside the beautiful room, nauseated him. Rose had been responsible for much of the elegant, old fashioned decor. He longed to rip it apart, every piece! Being destructive was not in his nature. Rather than explode and make even more of a fool of himself, he called his aide to get the car ready.
In the quiet of the back seat, headed toward nowhere, Howard acknowledged a longing to go to the beautiful home in Albany that he shared with Hélène but he could not trust her or anyone else in that moment. His world had been shattered. He didn't know where to turn, or who to consult. His eyes had been opened to a reality he never experienced. Everything he had learned about his grandparents, about the struggles of his mother and father and how their lives were enhanced by the love they shared, flew past his consciousness.
'Did I lack something which made me such a fool?' he thought, tears filling his eyes. 'Everything about my life has been a sham. Every woman I have trusted has let me down.'
Howard could have exempted Hélène but he didn't want to think about her, experience her pain, know how much she suffered. He did understand that it was as much if not more than he ever could, yet he was unable to find comfort in her words or her arms. Shame held him hostage just as potently as if his hands were tied behind his back. In depth soul searching beckoned. Howard shied away from all but the most basic and instinctive response to his dilemma.
Hélène. returned home to her empty house and silent cell phone. No email, voice or text messages awaited her. It had been almost twenty four hours since she last had any information from Howard following three days of cryptic, business-like platitudes. Outwardly, Hélène knew that he was a busy man doing a job which only 49 other men and women were doing in the United States. Put like that she understood the enormity of responsibility on his shoulders, especially for such a large state. She rationalized and reasoned her way through the many twists and turns of his failure to communicate during the course of the day. By early evening, she had run out of excuses.
When Rose was barely alive, he had the same responsibilities including the watch over his ailing wife and yet the lover in him found time to communicate through every means possible, including spur of the moment visits, sometimes for just a couple of hours. She broke down several times during the day and called or sent a text. None were returned. Anger and worry fought side by side in her heart and her head. The feminine, the mother, the care giver in her won out. All calls to his office were rebuffed with the news that he was out of office. In a last ditch effort to find out anything she called Ledgister. If Howard was out, he might have chosen to use his own vehicle rather than the state's limousine. The faithful driver was sure to be at the wheel or waiting if Howard was attending a meeting. She hoped to catch Ledgister at such a moment.
After the weekend get together, the pair had grown closer as friends and fellow musicians. The younger man was never disrespectful. He had come to the Friday night party bearing food but could only do so with the blessing of his boss. Surely Howard wouldn't mind if she spoke with Ledgister. If she had been planning a rendezvous at the house in Albany, the driver would have to pick her up. His response was deeply disappointing.
'I am sorry Madame Hélène. I ain't heard from him at all since Friday night. I don't get into his business at the capital office cause, you know, it don't seem right, unless he needs me for personal stuff. Do you want me to pick you up?'
Hélène hesitated. She desperately wanted to be closer to Howard, if he needed her, but his behavior spoke of distance rather than closeness. She didn't want to intrude if he was busy. She did want to be supportive, if he was troubled. Since she was in limbo, Hélène decided on doing nothing. It hurt to the core of her being but, relationships were a two way street. She declined Ledgister's offer, made sure to make it seem less about anxiety and more about desire thwarted before ringing off. Whatever ailed her lover, she was not meant to be a party to the process. If she was to be a participant at the end, she hoped it would be satisfying for them both.