Broken book title

Broken
August 2011

-3rd book in series

Synopsis

Chapter Excerpts

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Chapter Excerpts

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three


Chapter 1

The English light filtered into the cramped flat, distorted by the haze overshadowing the few windows located throughout the studio. Her last home, the one-bedroom flat in the South of France, had been more spacious but admitted no more light. The one before that had been in Spain, and the one before that one in Scotland, and the one before that one in Italy; each had been larger but similar. Filtered light had become Tamara's reality, darkness her faithful companion. Day and night, flooding her thoughts, her hopes - inescapable. She'd tried time after time to shake the past, set it aside, and start over, but the crippling trauma of her childhood in Detroit wasn't easily shaken. Fourteen years had passed, and the grip of despair was as strong today as it had been the day she ran away from home. She'd been mastering the art of running ever since.

Being alone with her thoughts was something Tamara vigorously avoided, but she hadn't figured out how to run from them too. The cell phone rang, jerking her consciousness back into the apartment. It rang and rang, yet she made no attempt to answer. There was a brief peaceful pause and then it started ringing again. The pattern continued for nearly five minutes until she grabbed the phone and belted out, "Why don't you stop calling?"

"Because we must talk," Remo responded in his Italian accent.

"There's nothing to talk about. How did you find me anyway?"

"You've never been lost to me."

Tamara hoped she had eluded Remo with the move to the English countryside several months ago. The phone hadn't rung, with the exception of several calls from her brother Don. He was the only one she'd given the new number, careful not to let it get in the hands of Remo. Somehow, yet again, he'd found her. Between Remo chasing her around the world and her mother relentlessly tracking her down, the strain of running had grown tiring. She shouldn't, wouldn't, or couldn't anymore. But her options were limited. "Remo, you have to let me go."

"That I cannot do. We belong together."

The allure of his accent had once been a soothing melody. That was four years ago. Now the sound of his voice served as a constant reminder of how vile men could be, demanding, defiant, disrespectful, living with no regard for the emotional damage they forced upon others in pursuit of what they wanted. "We've had this conversation, over and over. Nothing is going to change my mind. We're over, done, finito."

"We're not over. We'll never be over, not as long as we're alive."

"What is that supposed to mean? Are you threatening me?"

"Of course not, why would I threaten my love, mi amore? I am only reminding you of the love that we share. It is worth protecting with my life."

"Remo, you can't keep doing this, hunting me around the world. You have to stop this. I won't let you do this anymore." Weariness was determined to speak up for her when she didn't have the strength. "I don't love you anymore."

"I can't accept that," he said, elevating his tone. "When I pledged my love to you it was on my life, and I will honor it until death." He spoke with a sharp edge of seriousness.

"You don't have a choice. I'm done. Let me go."

"Never. I will see you soon so that we can talk in person. I'll get you to change your mind. I'm sure of it." She disconnected the call, refusing to hear any more.

Tamara panicked. She didn't know what to expect from him. She recalled the time he'd climbed up the trellis and tried barging through the window of her third-floor unit in either Italy or Scotland. She couldn't remember exactly; forgetting unpleasant details was a critical item in her survival kit. Thank goodness it was the one day she had locked the window. She was certain that he was capable of doing anything to her with some twisted idea of protecting their shattered love affair. Second-guessing herself, she briefly considered packing up and heading out, not sure how far away Remo was.

Twenty minutes passed and a rap on the door sent Tamara into a fury. She was terrified. Calm down, she thought. Get it together. Get a plan quickly, think, think. The narrow window didn't offer an exit path. Besides, there was little probability that she'd survive the four-floor drop to the ground below. Another knock and she froze in her steps. She wasn't considering calling the police. That would put her in the metro police system and possibly make her whereabouts public. She couldn't take that chance. Tamara had sacrificed years of stability for anonymity, but the weight was heavy.

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Chapter 2

There was no more time for preparation. This was the defining moment. "Tamara, are you in there?"

"Don, what are you doing here?" he heard his sister shout in a tone that sounded like it had a glimmer of enthusiasm, or at least he hoped it did. She opened the door rather quickly. "Come on in," she said, guarded and seemingly a little nervous. Her reaction appeared normal to Don, given his impromptu visit. He was aware of how important her privacy was and was prepared for her discomfort. It was something he was willing to risk if the visit could foster reconciliation between his mother and Tamara.

"I'm not alone," he said, reaching for his mother. Madeline stepped into view.

Tamara stood still. Madeline did too. Fantasizing about their reunion didn't compare to watching it play out live.

Mother greeted Tamara, seeming standoffish for a person who hadn't seen her child in such a long time.

"Mother," Tamara responded.

Don didn't expect Tamara to make a move. They had invaded her space without notice. He was glad she'd opened the door. Don recognized that there was a strong possibility she might not have, especially if she'd known Mother was with him. Thank God for His many blessings, he thought. His mother and sister continued standing and staring at one another. Neither made an effort to talk or budge from her position of strength. The gulf between them remained. "I knew you'd find me sooner or later."

"You did?" Mother said.

"Yes, I did."

"You haven't made it easy."

"Ditto," Tamara said.

"Did you want me to find you?"

Tough question, Don suspected it wasn't going to be easily answered by Tamara. Her feelings could range between an emphatic no and a gleeful yes.

"I bet everyone wants to have at least one person in the world who will never give up on them."

"My darling girl, I'll never give up on you," Madeline said, closing the gap between her and Tamara. "You are my only daughter, and I will always, always love you," she said, stepping even closer.

Mother grabbed Tamara and held her. Don squeezed past them, determined not to disrupt the reunion that had been fourteen years in the making. Don was content. He'd lit a spark. He expected the journey to total family restoration to be long and bumpy, with many sections unpaved, but the first step had been executed with perfection. The ladies were talking without fighting, which was a great sign. His abilities were limited. Keeping the spark of restoration burning was up to them. Don eased out the door to tell the cab driver to go on, since it looked like they would be visiting longer than planned.

He hustled back up the four flights of stairs to Tamara's flat. Her phone was ringing. Tamara and Mother were both sitting on the sofa sleeper.

"Nice place," Madeline said, glancing around the room. It was so small she didn't have to get up from her seat to take in the entire flat.

"Oh, come on, your master bedroom closet is larger than this condo," Tamara said. Don knew it was true but it didn't really matter.

"At least you still remember a few things about home."

"There's a lot I remember, and most I'd like to forget."

Don could feel the harmony evaporating. The mere mention of home had Tamara sounding irritated. "I'm so glad to have both of you together," he said, fanning the flame, unwilling to watch it burn out so quickly. Mother and Tamara were cordial. Both seemed to avoid personal topics, as if they were maneuvering through a minefield. Thirty minutes into the visit, they were still chitchatting, and Don was pleased.

The phone rang, interrupting the conversation for the second or third time. "Your phone has been ringing off the hook," Don said. "Go ahead and answer it. We don't mind."

Tamara cleared her throat. "I-it's okay, whoever it is will call back."

"They have been calling back, over and over," Madeline said.

"It's okay, really. I'm not bothered by the phone. I'm busy and that's that," she snapped.

Okay, Don thought. He'd leave the subject alone. Stirring up unnecessary unrest was to be avoided. The visit was going relatively smoothly, better than he expected—almost too well.

"How long are you planning to stay?" Tamara asked.

"Why? Are you ready for us to leave already?" Mother asked. Tamara didn't offer a response. "I guess that's our answer, Don."

"I didn't say anything," Tamara snapped again. "Don't put words in my mouth."

Mother's neck stiffened and her eyes widened.

Don could feel a storm brewing. He had to jump in to facilitate calm. "We did come unannounced. So, if you have other plans and need us to go, we understand."

"If we go, I'm hoping that you're coming with us," Mother said.

"Where?" Tamara asked.

"Home, of course, Detroit. Three tickets and we'll be home together, finally. I really am excited about us being together."

"I'm not coming back to Detroit," Tamara said, leaping to her feet. The phone rang again and she ignored it again.

Mother stood too. "Don told me you were ready to come home. That's why I'm here."

Don stepped between the ladies.

"Did Don tell you the terms that I want?" Tamara blurted. Madeline crossed her arms and reeled back on her four-inch-high stilettos. Don had hoped the conversation wasn't going to deteriorate so drastically. The first half hour had given him a false sense of security. "Don, didn't you tell her what we discussed?" Tamara yelled, becoming increasingly irritated.

"Yes."

"Then tell her nothing has changed."

Before Don could respond Madeline was talking. "You don't have to pass a message through Don to me, at least not today. I'm standing right here. You can say whatever you need to say to me directly."

"Fine, I'm not coming back to Detroit or to DMI unless you leave," she said, standing firm.

"Why do you hate me so much?"

Tamara looked away briefly and then back at their mother. "Why do you always have to push and push? Why can't you just leave some things alone?"

"Maybe I could if I knew what you were talking about."

Don was totally dejected. The two rams were locked in a duel that neither could win or was willing to lose. It was brutal watching the two go at it. He wanted to stop the disagreement but knew there was little chance of his succeeding. They were both too pigheaded to back down. He could only watch from the corner.

"Let's not do this," Tamara said. "I'm not rehashing twenty years of family problems. I've spent the last fourteen years getting away from you and the nonsense, and I don't appreciate you popping into my place acting like we're one big happy family when you know good and well we are far from it."

"Maybe, but what have I done to you? What have I personally done to hurt you and cause you to be so bitter?" Madeline asked, pointing her finger into her own chest. Tamara's ringing phone was barely noticeable anymore. "I might not be perfect, but I won't apologize for loving my children and trying to protect each of you."

"Funny, look around, Mother; do I look protected?"

"This is your choice. I have an eight-bedroom mansion back in Detroit, but you prefer to live on the run in a place like this," Mother said, sweeping her hand to take in the small room.

"Now, that should tell you something. I'd rather live in this pit than stay in your big house. So, back to your original question, no, I'm not coming back to Detroit unless you're gone."

"Let's all calm down and take a breath," Don said. He'd heard plenty. Their conversation wasn't headed anywhere good. He had to intervene and restore what could be saved. "We can work this out. Maybe you can go on a long vacation while Tamara returns and gets acclimated. After a month or so of cruising down the Mediterranean, you come home and we take a day at a time."

"No way, Don, I've laid out my terms. All or nothing for me," Tamara said.

"Don, stop," Mother replied. "Don't beg Tamara to change her mind. It's not necessary. I've already decided to leave. So, you see," Madeline said, letting the palm of her hand brush over her hair and her gaze slip to the floor, "there's no more discussion needed. If you want to come home, then come. I won't be a problem. I'm out of there. Give me two days to get home, packed, and on my way."

Don was disappointed but had no energy left to intervene further. Some fires were so large they had to burn out on their own. The one raging between Mother and Tamara was one of those.

"Can you go now?"

"I'll go, but can you at least tell me why you're so angry with me, to the point of staying away for fourteen long painful years? You've punished me and Don. All I'm asking is for an explanation. Why? Help me understand so that I can walk away with some peace."

"Mother, I don't know what peace looks like, feels like, or smells like," Tamara said, spitting the words like nails at their mother. "How can I give you something I've never had?" Then for a moment she seemed to be cracking. "You know what? The whole thing was a bad idea. Just forget about the whole thing. You stay in Detroit, Mother, and I'm going to stay here. I've survived this long, and I can go another fourteen years without your help. Now, can you just go, leave, please go?"

At first Madeline seemed like she wasn't budging, but Tamara was too riled up. She snatched her jacket and yanked the door open. Don didn't immediately decide whether to stay and comfort Tamara or run and console Madeline. His grand idea of uniting the two hadn't completely failed. At least his mother got a chance to see her daughter in person. That constituted a miracle and had to provide some sense of relief.


Chapter 3

They were gone and Tamara could breathe easy again. She'd reclaimed her space. The walls were no longer closing in. She heated a teapot, replaying the words exchanged during the visit. Mixed emotions filled her. Madeline was her mother, an undeniable piercing reality. She was born to love her, but that didn't mean she had to like her, not with her constant pushing and attempts to force Tamara to accept the Mitchell family on Madeline's terms. Madeline made it hard to like her, but it didn't stop Tamara from loving her. Seeing Don was comforting—honestly, seeing her mother was too.

She poured the water into a cup, constantly replaying the words like a recorder set on repeat. The anger had vanished and a pinch of loneliness was setting in. Having her family there wasn't so bad, she thought, taking a seat on the small sofa. The phone rang but she didn't answer, unwilling to release the warm feeling she was experiencing toward her family. It was rare, unexpected, but well received. The euphoria forced her to rethink her decision about going home. The more she reflected, the less eager she was to push her mother away. She had to forget the whole idea. When Don first asked her to consider returning home, there was interest. Seeing how distraught her mother was changed her mind. She wasn't out to crush Madeline, not really, although there were times when the pain carved deep in the pit of her soul cried out to be shared with the perpetrator. Andre clearly was her rapist, but he hadn't been alone in crafting the destruction within her mother's mansion. There were many contributors who helped create the perfect environment for hell to dwell on earth.

The phone rang so much that it wasn't readily noticeable to her anymore. Whether it was Don, Madeline, or Remo didn't make a difference. Her brief slice of euphoria was certain not to last, but she'd cling to it for as long as possible by blocking out the sounds, tastes, and smells around her. Tamara was simply trying to survive.

The phone wouldn't stop. Caving to reality, she snatched it up, consumed with frustration. "Remo, what do you want?"

He spoke in English mixed with Italian. His dialogue was as random and confusing as his actions. He spewed demand after demand at her. The frustration she felt at the beginning of the call quickly converted to tension.

"You can't walk away from me. We are for life. I won't let you go so easily with my heart." His ranting was fueled by escalating rage. She could feel the heat.

"I'm not going to let you control me anymore. I can't do it. We're done, Remo. You have to accept this. It's over for good," she said, mustering her courage but not sure how he'd accept her betrayal.

"We can't solve this on the telephone. I need to see your face when you tell me these things. The telephone won't work. I can jump on the rail and be in London by afternoon. I'll see you. Ciao," he said, and disconnected.

Tamara held the phone, unable to move, scared. She hadn't told him her new address. How did he know? she wondered. Probably the same way that Madeline had, by hiring a private investigator to keep track of her, selfishly violating her space. Her thoughts swirled out of order with no continuity. She jumped to her feet, realizing that getting out of the flat was critical. Remo was unpredictable and she couldn't take a chance on letting him catch her. She scurried around the tiny space desperate for a plan. Peering at her checkbook and the cell phone again, she realized she didn't have much choice. Maybe it was time to go home. Her brother had made the offer and she couldn't discount it this time, so long as her nonnegotiable term was honored. Her mother couldn't be anywhere near Detroit or the state of Michigan, just to be safe. Mother wasn't a physical threat like Remo but her ability to orchestrate emotional despair was just as deadly to Tamara.

She fumbled through a small stack of papers on the two-seat table and stopped when she got to her checkbook. Seeing the equivalent of a $1,314 balance was sobering; she couldn't run too far with that amount. A plane ticket alone was around $600, which didn't leave enough for an apartment deposit and the first month's rent. Tamara plopped down on the sofa sleeper, fingering through her hair, searching for answers that weren't falling from the ceiling, no matter how she stared. There was only one option. As much as she hated the notion of going home to Detroit under duress and to her dysfunctional family, it didn't compare to the trauma that could come from Remo running around somewhere out there ready to do her harm.

Tamara removed her luggage from the wardrobe. She checked the time, careful not to let two hours catch her in the flat. Remo was definitely on his way, taking every possible shortcut to get to her. If he was going to be there in a few hours, she had to be out in one. Twenty minutes had already evaporated while she was calculating the remaining dollars in her skimpy account. Although she desperately needed help, Tamara was not going to let Madeline or Don know the full extent of her troubles.

She scrambled to get packed, constantly peering out the window and keeping a tight grip on every second. Clothes were scarce. Carrying excess from town to town had grown exhausting, and each move shaved away some of her belongings. Upon leaving France, she'd opted to bring only the two pieces of free checked luggage allowed on her flight to London. After ten or eleven moves, Tamara was sure she was at the core of her existence and only had items of value remaining. She looked around the room, a stark contrast from the plush accommodations that enveloped her childhood. Tamara stuffed the suitcase, not quite able to get in all five pairs of pants, eight shirts, her jacket, and her underclothes. She'd only take along one of the larger suitcases, plus the smaller knapsack as a carry-on. The other suitcase, along with a few shirts, would have to be sacrificed and stay behind. What else? she thought, looking around, combing the room while simultaneously keeping track of the time. Forty-five minutes gone. Her nerves were flaring up. Remo couldn't be taken lightly. She had to hurry. Suitcase zipped, knapsack latched and tucked under her arm, she was ready. Tamara opened the door and began pulling it shut. Wait. She rushed back in and snatched open the wardrobe, dropping the knapsack. She didn't have her passport.

Tamara rustled through the papers and trinkets left behind. She got to a huge clasped envelope and breathed a sigh of relief, drawing in a long stretch of air and slowly releasing it. She pressed the envelope to her chest. This represented the grand sum of her independence—passport, birth certificate, a copy of the first check she'd received for one of her paintings, and her Swiss bank account details. She extracted the papers partially, checking to make sure none were missing. Focused on her travel documents, her key to freedom, Tamara was unprepared for the photo at the bottom of the stack. She looked away, letting her bottom plop down to the floor. There was the family photo taken at Disney World with Dave, Madeline, Tamara, and her three brothers, Sam, Andre, and Don, right before her father left them. She held it, peering at the strangers on the paper. She was five years old when it was taken. The memory was raw, like it was yesterday. The time represented one of the rare moments when she recalled being happy, safe, and normal. The rest was a blur. Tamara shoved the papers and photo into the envelope. Fifty-five minutes gone. Time had run out. She dashed out of the flat with her suitcase and knapsack. Move number twelve was under way. She'd feel more secure when the plane was taxiing down the runway and there was no sign of Remo on board.

 

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