Eddie sat with Tommy and stroked his hair while the boy cried. After about 15 minutes, he put Tommy, Leo, and Sheena in the van and started to drive around looking for Mercy. She didn’t have her cell phone or her shoes.
He went to Alicia‘s house first and rang her doorbell. Mercy wasn’t there, but Alicia was sympathetic. She said how hard it was to be married and have kids, and respected for how hard he worked and everything that Mercy was going through.
He took the van to the next cul-de-sac, and found Mercy sitting cross legged in the grass with her friends Becky and Jennifer. Mercy’s back was turned, but Becky saw him. Eddie waved.
Mercy didn’t turn around. Finally, Sheena had to use the bathroom, and he got out and asked Becky if she could use her bathroom. Tommy and Leo started to get restless, and Eddie let them out of their car seats so they could go to the grass and see their mother.
Eddie stood by the car, and Jennifer came over. “Mercy is just having a really rough time. She doesn’t feel safe. I think maybe we should just tell the kids that mom is not feeling good and then she can be with us tonight, and we will talk to her and then she’ll be back in the morning.”
He tried to explain. “Look, I have to work this weekend. I can do the bedtime stuff without her, but I need her there when I go to to work tomorrow.” He found these games asinine. He addressed Mercy directly, 10 feet away. “Honey, you’re frightening the children. I need you to come home so that you can help keep them on track. I have to work all weekend and I cannot be taking care of them like this.”
Mercy nodded and got in the car. They loaded the kids in and drove back to the house. “I’m sorry I got upset,” he said, in a conciliatory tone.
Mercy didn’t say anything. He went into the house, got his things, and went to the basement. He put on his headphones, turned to the playlist with his saddest songs, and try to draw a picture of his feelings so that he could tell a story about it. He wept.
She came down twenty minutes later and leaned against the wall, her hands in her bathrobe pockets. “Look, I want to understand you. I want to be there for you.”
He put down his pen. “I am not trying to get out of my marriage. I’m not trying to get out of this relationship. I am not trying to do anything, just tell stories that I think are fun and that express some part of me that is very difficult for me to talk about in my regular life. You are the only person who knows my secret identity. You are the only one who is reading these things and applying them to Mercy and Eddie Donnelly. Everyone else is reading them as fiction or blog posts written by some random person. I don’t say that I’m a man. I have a fake name. I have a fake location. When you want to tell the real truth, you don’t do it with your own name attached. That’s just being an adult. Being an adult and professional means that you can’t ever tell the truth.”
“Are you reading the Book of Urizen anymore? I don’t see you wearing your sun pendant.” She re-tied her bathrobe. She always brought up faith when she wanted to shame him into conformity.
“Urizen doesn’t speak to me anymore. He hasn’t for a long time. I’m starting to think that I might be Urthonian.”
“Oh my God.” She covered her mouth. “I can’t believe you said that. You said that our faith in Urizen kept us together, and it always would. You promised when we were kids.”
“Mercy, I still believe what I did when I was 19. I have made an earnest sincere effort to apply every teaching. But I’ve been sent to hell every day at work, and I live there. You don’t know what I have to endure just to get through the day.”
She shook her head. “When I read all that stuff, I just can’t help but feel awful because I know how much you suffer. I just think that if you stop and tell me about it I would understand. Maybe I wouldn’t get it at first, but I would if you kept trying. You have to get rid of this stuff and come back to church.”
Eddie’s brow started to furrow. “The voice I use to tell stories is the same one that tears me to shreds with anxiety if I don’t use it. I’ll endure an endless replay of every shitty thing that’s ever been said to me. But if I’m writing, it leaves me in peace. It’s like I take the part of me that is trying to kill me and I turned into my right hand man.”
Mercy pursed her lips and looked at the floor. “What would your father say?”
“I love my dad but this is not his life. He’s not the one who has to go out there and do what I do. He has his own life and his own struggles. He and my mother made me who I am. But now I’m the one who asked to figure out what to do with it.”
“I’m starting to worry that you’re mentally ill. I hate to say that but I just know you’ve been struggling so much at work and you’ve been under so much pressure, and it’s not easy to have three kids and try to raise them all the time.”
“I am trying to tell you that I find our love so compelling that I want to write stories about it. I’m not drinking. I’m out with other women. I’m writing stories. I’m trying to hang onto some part of my sanity. Do you know how much I used to write about killing myself before I started Carson Colt? I just don’t want to feel alone all the time. I know I have to suffer if I’m going to redeem any small part of this world, but I need to have people I can talk with to flesh out my ideas. I don’t want to turn into some embittered crank.”
She sighed and crossed the basement to him, putting her arms around him without fully embracing him. “Eddie, will you come to bed? I’ll go sleep in with Leo.”
“I’m fine down here. I’m going to sleep and then we can talk about it more tomorrow.”
They prayed and he went to sleep. His sleep was restless. He dreamt one of his high school friends was lifted aloft by many hands to rape him, like a huge sex toy. He turned on the couch, and was still dozing at 7:30. He turned over and saw Mercy crouching next to him. “Ah!!!”
She laughed. “I just wanted to share something with you. This is that series that I was telling you about, where Urizen was a young man. She showed him a movie on her iPad. He watched about five minutes of it. It was about a young woman and her first experience with the faith, and how the experience carried her through difficult times.
Eddie appreciated her olive branch, but he had to get to the Emergency room. “Honey, thank you for sharing with this with me. I want to watch more. But I really have to get going.“ He ran upstairs and started putting his clothes on. He said good morning to his children, who asked to play with him. He said he didn’t have time, because he had to work. He promised to read them their comics and play cars with them when he got home.
There was a detour on the way to work, and he was five minutes late. The resident who he was taking over for was the little bitchy one who hated him. Studies started rolling in. He was scolded by the pulmonary attending for saying there was small embolism in areas obscured by artifact. Then, Eddie got a call from his Dad, which he declined because of the workload. Then he received a message from Dolores, Mercy’s aunt, saying how much she supported them and how she was sure everything could be fixed.
When he had a break, Eddie called his dad. When Mercy got really upset with him, she called Eddie’s mother and father so that everyone could disapprove of Eddie together. “So it’s my understanding that Mercy is on her way to Dolores’ right now?”
Eddie was taken aback. “I didn’t know that. She didn’t say anything or text me. I was expecting them to be at home when I got home today.”
“Oh you’re working today!”
“I’m working 9 to 9 today and tomorrow. I really wish that she and I could’ve talked about this more, but this is the what she wants to do.”
He finished his workday, and went home to an empty house. In the doorway, he got a text saying, “I made it to Dolores’ house. I love you unconditionally!”
He didn’t send the text he typed. “I can’t believe you fucking left me.”