Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

In The Spirit of Revisions #7 — the whole story, please!

| Filed under Fiction Relationships writing Writing Life

Hello Readers, well, now that this story is ready for some exposure, I am posting it here with the hope that when you read it, you will also respond. One thing, though, it hasn’t been fully edited and may have some minor editing and formatting left. I hope that by now the story is better, having edited over one third of the original word count. It is now under 5000 words. I hope you like it and have a great Fourth of July.
Mind, Body, Spirit
By Ann Chiappetta © 2017

“Wake her up.”
Something warmer than the frigid aluminum gunwale touched my face.
“Amy, get up, babe, its Cole, get up and open your eyes.”
Cole? Why did he sound like that? He sounded worried. I opened my eyes and met Ray’s bruised face, He pointed a pistol at me, his hand steady.
I clutched Cole’s hand. The gun had all my attention. The blueish gun metal glinted dully in the shafts of light breaking through grey November sunset. We were heading out of the harbor. I turned, getting my bearings and ignored the pain in my head. We were approaching an island just outside the basin. As we got closer I picked out an Arial tower. I knew then where we were going, Governor’s Island.

The events of the last two hours finally came back with consciousness and I retched. I felt the boat shift. The top of the old jetty could be seen, covered in icy slush and debris.

“Take the line and tie up,”
Cole secured the craft,
Get her out.” Ray ordered, steadying himself with the handle of the outboard motor, pointing the way with the gun. We splashed and slid our way up the submerged slab of concrete. The icy water soaked our legs up to the thigh. It was so cold, I stopped feeling like puking
Ray watched us, trying to keep his balance on the slick ramp after climbing out of the dinghy. He was still a few feet from the dry land, his hand on the line when the water surged up the ramp and knocked the boat into the back of his legs. He stumbled and fell to one knee, the icy water dragging him down. Cole sprang, yelling,
“Amy, run!”
Cole knock the gun out of Ray’s hand before I turned and headed up the rocky shoreline. The gun skidded down the ramp under the dinghy and was lost. I started to run, but then I stopped, feeling dizzy and out of breath. I found something to rest on, closing my eyes.

Strong hands pulled me up, “Amy, babe, we’re almost safe, but to be really safe we have to climb.”
“Cole? Is that you?” He was pushing me from behind.
“We can rest up there. Let’s go.”
We started up the rusty ladder. Cole helped by moving my hands and feet as we made our way up. Once we reached the last third of the tower, the wind hit us so hard we grabbed at the iron rungs with renewed desperation. It was almost dark now and I started to cry from the pain in my head and the cold and wind ripping at us.
“You’re doing great, just a little farther then you’ll be safe,” said Cole kissing my head.
The tower platform was still so far away. Cole pressed closer, lips pressed to my ear so I could hear him above the gusting wind.
“I love you Amy. Don’t give up. We’ll find a way, but we have to get to the top.”
I shook my aching head and buried it in his damp shirt. “No, I can’t. I’m so tired.” I felt his body jerk, and then I felt the thump-thump below us on the ladder. Ray was coming
* * *
I met Cole in 1983 while working in a linen shop in a seaside town called Montclair. He had just been hired as our new stock clerk. My first impression of him was that he had long, attractive legs and muscular thighs clad in khaki hiking shorts. My manager, Miriam, a petite Latino, Tooke two strides for every one of his as they made their way down the center aisle to her office. By the look on Miriam’s face, she was upset about those shorts. A few minutes later, she came back to the main counter and took me aside.
“That new young man you saw, his name’s Cole. I want you to show him how to bring up stock. He can’t work the floor because he came to work in shorts and it’s against our dress code. But he can work in the basement for today.”
“No problem,” I nodded and went to meet Cole.
I found Cole on the loading dock steps, smoking a cigarette. I lit one of my own and then leaned on the railing.
“Miriam said we should get to work in the stock room.”
I didn’t need to introduce myself; a red and white tag on my shirt did it for me. It read, AMY–ASST. MANAGER.
I looked down at his legs again.
“Can you go home and change?” I asked.
He laughed, a smirk pulling his lips, “No, I live on my Dad’s Yacht in New Rock. It’s too far.”
I crushed out my cigarette and looked at my watch, not sure if he was telling me the truth about living on a yacht.
“Cigarette break’s over, let’s get to work.”

When I realized Cole was sticking around, I started taking him seriously. We talked and joked as we stocked the shelves. One Afternoon, while we were sitting on our stools folding fifty cent napkins, The Most Boring Job in Linens, Cole said that he had broken up with his girlfriend.
“Why?” I asked.
Cole stopped folding and looked at me, “Well, she’s still a virgin. And we weren’t alone long enough to find out if she wanted to change her mind,”
I blushed when he looked at me. I wasn’t a prude, but at that time, I hadn’t been alone with a guy in over a year.
I caught his smile, and I smiled back.
It wasn’t a shock when, after that conversation, we found ourselves alone together. Cole and I walked through town one fall evening after our annual inventory. Sometime after the first mile he reached for my hand. As we made our way under the I-95 overpass, we were arm-in-arm. We came out from under the overpass and I stopped, facing him. “Do you like me, Cole?”
He smiled down at me, “Yes, very much.”
“Then make a move.”
His hands cupped my face and we kissed. His touch overcame the loneliness I’d been feeling for a long time and I gave into the passion. Sometime later, I showed him to a private spot known to a few of my friends by the town reservoir. We jumped a low fence and I led him to the spot. We cleared the rocks and twigs from the grass and laid our jackets down, spreading them out end to end. Suddenly, I felt like it was the first time I’d ever slept with anyone. It felt as if I’d gone back to being 16 again.
He knelt down in front of me.
“This place is perfect.” I said
He pulled me down next to him and kissed me
“Amy, I’ve wanted this to happen for so long.” He said, “Let me show you what you’ve been missing

We dozed off around 3 a.m. and awoke with the coo of the mourning doves. It was then that I saw the scars. The pre-dawn light revealed them. I had felt them during our loving session but seeing them gave my stomach a tug. I didn’t ask him about them, but couldn’t get them out of my thoughts. We parted at the fence and got ready to greet the day with only a few hours of sleep. But it was worth it.
When I walked into the linen shop at nine that morning, Cole was already there sweeping the floor.
“Hi Amy,” he smiled. We just stood there staring at each other, goofy grins on our faces. He broke the silence.
“Did you get enough sleep?” His hazel eyes danced with mischief.
“Not enough, how about you?”
“It was rough, but I managed some on the bus ride this morning.

I went down to the basement and put my purse and jacket in my locker. Miriam was at her desk crunching yesterday’s numbers, manicured nails tapping on the calculator keys. She glanced up, her eyes narrowing as she watched me get a cup of coffee and sit down on a chair.

front’s done, do we have any deliveries today?” asked Cole, standing in the doorway to the office.
Miriam was quiet, her shrewd gaze taking in first Cole, then me.
“Thank you, Cole, the delivery sheet’s upstairs behind the register.”
He nodded and turned to leave, both of us watching him go.

She waited until Cole was out of ear shot then playfully shook her finger at me,
“Just remember to be on time when it happens again.”
“I wasn’t late today.”
She looked up at me, then glanced at the doorway where Cole had just been, a knowing smile on her lipstick red lips,
“Trust me, you will be.”

It turned out Cole was on a strict curfew for our late night of love-making. He was so furious about it that he didn’t admit it until after quitting time. We stood outside the store, arm-in-arm. I rested my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, wishing we could be together again tonight. I felt his body heat through the polo shirt and thought about those scars. We walked to the bus stop and took seats under the small shelter.
“Cole, how did you get those scars?” I asked.
“Scuba accident.” He answered.
He got up to look for the bus. I didn’t know what else to say, so I stayed quiet. He stood with his back to me for a long time.
“They’re just there to remind me to be careful.” He said.
“To be careful? About what?”
“Here’s my bus. Don’t worry, okay?” he turned to me and smiled, pulling me in for a hug and kiss before jumping on the bus.

I turned things over in my mind as I walked home. I was sure those scars on Cole’s chest and back were not accidental and I had a good idea who inflicted them. By the time I made it home that night, I decided on two things: I had to move out and when I found a place, I’d ask Cole to move in with me.

+ *

On the evening of Cole’s 18th birthday, we hopped on his new motorcycle and rode up to a small brownstone building overlooking the harbor.
“I have something to show you.” I said, taking off my helmet. He got off the bike and followed me inside the building and up to the second floor. I took out the key, entering the one-bedroom apartment I’d just rented. He looked around, finding the bedroom. As soon as I stepped over the threshold, he snatched me up and deposited me onto the bed.
“I love you, Amy.” He said, covering me with kisses.

We celebrated moving in together at a local pizza place and walked back to the apartment. As we made our way to the front door of the brownstone, Ray Tabman, Cole’s father, stepped out from beside the stoop. He looked at Cole, and then at me, his lip curled in a sneer. The reflection from the brownstone’s lamp made his eyes look dark and threatening.
“Out celebrating?” he asked.
“Go home Ray,” Said Cole, leading me up the steps to the door. “Let’s go.”
“Don’t bother coming back to the yacht for any of your shit, it’s all with Davey Jones,” Mr. Tabman called after us, laughing.

Ray’s appearance seemed to affect Cole more than he wanted to admit. He tossed and turned from nightmares. The lively, crooked smirk I loved was gone. He made love to me as often as possible, however, an almost desperate need to touch me, to prove to me that he was worth keeping seemed to be the theme. He was distracted and I often found him lost in thought. At first, I thought it was because he had changed jobs, finally working as a carpenter’s apprentice and going to school.

Then one evening in early October, he came in late. I looked up from the book I was reading,
“Cole, what happened?”
His mouth and nose were bloodied and one of his cheeks was already swelling. I helped him off with his coat; He winced when it dragged over the knuckles of his right hand. He held it up,
“Not broken,” he grunted, flexing his already bruising fingers.
“What happened?” I repeated, going into the kitchen to get ice.
“Ray,”, He said. “Jesus, he was slapping Daisy around,”
My heart sank,
“What were you doing at your dad’s?”
After that night in front of our apartment building, Cole had avoided Ray and his step-mother, Daisy as much as possible.
I placed one ice pack on his cheek. I wrapped another around his right hand.
“Daisy asked me to help her move out today. She said that Ray was going to be late tonight so I said yes, as long as she was sure I wouldn’t run into him.”
He popped the two aspirin I gave him into his mouth and washed it down with a beer.
“My boss let me out a little early and I got to the yacht while the bastard was beating her up, throwing her clothes into the water, “He chugged his beer, finished it, and asked for another before continuing.
“I ran in and pulled them apart. He swung at me but I got in a few good ones. I helped Daisy out and took off,”

I wet a paper towel and cleaned some of the dried blood from his face.
“No cops,” he said, “I know your Dad would help me but I don’t want you involved, okay?”
“But …”
He cut me off by pulling me onto his lap,
“Promise me, Amy, promise me you won’t tell your Dad. I know Ray. If we ignore him, this will all blow over.”
I looked into his eyes and what I saw made me feel uneasy. I sighed and put my head on his shoulder,
“Okay, I won’t tell Dad,”

That night, Cole fell asleep quickly but I didn’t. There were too many unanswered questions running through my head. In the morning I woke up to an empty bed. Cole had gotten up before dawn and left. He sometimes did that whenever he was commuting to Jersey or Manhattan for a job. the questions were still rolling around in my head as I drove to work.
Once I got to the linen shop, our annual inventory soon distracted me. It wasn’t until Miriam and I had locked the front door at seven that evening that I remembered those questions. Miriam, astute as ever, picked up on my mood.
“Amy, what’s the matter?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know …I’m worried about Cole,”
Miriam stirred honey into her tea. We were alone in the store, the quiet safety allowing me to tell someone about the past year about Cole’s scars, about Ray Tabmann’s violence, and finally about Cole rescuing Daisy from being beaten that night on the yacht. Miriam listened, sympathetic,
“I guess what I’m most afraid of is that one day I’m going to get a call that one of them is in the hospital or worse.”
I looked down into my cup, unable to shrug off the feeling that something bad was going to happen. When I looked up at Miriam, she was frowning. “Just be careful, I don’t want it to be you.”

Cole’s motorcycle was parked in front of the brownstone when I arrived. As soon as I opened the lobby door, wonderful smells of roasted garlic, wine, and tomatoes filled the air, making my mouth water. I followed the aromas to the apartment. I smiled, taking in the romantic scene: the little two seat table was set with candles, dishes, and a bottle of my favorite Chianti. Cole came out of the kitchen wiping his hand on an apron tied to his trim waist, a lopsided grin breaking across his bruised face.
“What’d you cook?” I asked, carefully kissing his swollen lips.
“Angel hair and meat balls.” He answered in between kisses.
He leaned in and pressed his hips against me, playfully.
“What about dinner?” I teased, pressing back.
“It can wait.” He answered.

He waited until after we’d made love, eaten, and were sipping our favorite hazelnut cordial, to break the news.
“Look, I know you don’t like my dad but he’s made me an offer I can’t refuse,” He got up off the sofa and began to pace, “He’s going to pay me three times what the union pays plus help me with school. For once I can use him for what I want and when I’m done I don’t ever have to see or hear from him again.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
You’re going to work for him? After the way he treated you? Cole, he’s never going to change.”
He looked at me, his face strained and pale.
“look, all you need to know is that he apologized, “
“You don’t actually believe that, do You?” I asked, getting angry, “What kind of explanation is that? For Christ’s sake, Cole, he beat your mom, Daisy, and God knows who else or what else he’s done You can’t honestly tell me that you trust him after all that.”
“Trust me,” he said.
I met his eyes and let the anger and fear flow out. He dropped his gaze and ran his hands through his hair, pacing.
“I do trust you, Cole, its Ray who we need to stay away from.”
“Don’t you get it? He owes me. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure he pays up. I can handle him.”

I wanted to argue with him, tell him this was a bad thing. Ray Tabman couldn’t be trusted. Every time Cole took off his shirt and I saw those marks, I was reminded that Ray wasn’t like other people. I felt the hot sting of tears and frustration begin to surface. I stood up, facing him.

“You know what hurts the most? That you cooked and cleaned and bought my favorite wine and made love to me so you could feel better about telling me you’re going to throw everything away and go to work for a monster.”
I didn’t wait for a reply and turned away, “I’m going to bed.” I said, and left him alone in the living room with his decision.
* * *
The gusts were so strong up near the top of the tower that the whole structure hummed like guitar strings. The loose pieces twisted and clanged against the struts and the wind screeched, buffeting the tower platform. It had once housed radar and radio equipment but was now near derelict, rusted through in many places.
“Amy, go, He’s coming!” The terror seemed to transfer from Cole’s chest into mine, and I began to climb, the adrenaline spurring me. I felt for the platform and crawled into it, turning to help Cole. But he wasn’t there. I crept to the edge and looked down. He had stopped a good two feet from me, his hands trying to loosen a rusted piece of a broken strut.
“Cole, he’s coming.” I shouted Ray’s Khaki jacket loomed up from the darkness below like a shark, his face white and shiny in the dim moonlight.
“Amy? Amy, Open your eyes.”
I was thirsty, so thirsty. Something cold and wet slipped in between my parched lips. It tasted sweet and clean. Not salty.
What is she saying?”
“Dad?” I asked, wondering how he’d gotten on Governor’s Island. The world came into focus as a warm hand touched my arm and sweeter wet things were put into my mouth.
I had to save Cole from the monster. The iron struts were slick with ice. The fear for Cole won out over my fear of falling. I stopped climbing when I felt a clang vibrate through the tower. The moon was low but full enough to see the struggle taking place. I scrambled closer, noticing I had a broken piece of the antenna in my hand. I looked for Ray and found him, his khaki jacket up and to the right. I was closer than I thought and not sure how I managed it.
I shimmied across the slick cross beam and struck.
“Amy open your eyes.”
Something stroked my cheek and I turned toward it. I smelled cedar and sunflowers. I opened my eyes, the light making me blink and squint. Things came slowly into focus. Two sets of eyes met my watery gaze, one set green, like mine, and one set hazel, like …
“Cole? Dad?” I tried to sit up, but Dad eased me back onto the bed pillow.
Easy, sweetie, you’re hurt pretty bad.” He answered. Like a slap, my memory flared into life and flooded my mind. But it didn’t make any sense. All I could remember was that Ray had asked me to come to the yacht to pick up Cole.
“Ray?” I asked, looking from dad to Cole. They both looked away. Dad put his hand on Cole’s shoulder
“He’s dead, Amy.” Cole answered. It was then that I realized Cole was in a wheelchair. I started to cry.

* * *
Cole and I stayed in the hospital for a few more days and were released together. He’d suffered blood loss, a fractured leg and a deep gash on his side resulting from the struggle and fall off the tower. He and Ray had fallen together and Ray broke his fall, dying in the process.
“He was good for something, at least.” Cole joked, a hint of a smirk pulling his lips. It saddened me to see that it didn’t spread to his eyes; the black humor seemed to stall at lip level.
Dad and Miriam took turns helping me and Cole recover. Dad was especially helpful when it came to making our statements to the police, being retired from the local police force. I still couldn’t believe Daisy was dead. I still couldn’t believe Ray was capable of all he had done. I was still in shock about being cold cocked, dragged to an island in the middle of winter at gun point, forced to climb a thirty-foot tower to escape a murderer, and survive a fall.
“Earth to Amy?” Miriam’s voice brought me back to the present, and the soup in front of me. It was still too hot, so I blew on it.
“God, it was cold that night.” I shivered, trying the soup again.
“When I called that night to find out why you were so late for dessert, your Dad called one of his detective buddies and that got the ball rolling.”
I sipped the soup, the hot steam causing me to go back to that horrible night. It still came in short bits and pieces and I still couldn’t recall all of it, I did remember that I was going to pick up Cole for dessert at Miriam’s. It was her birthday and we were invited over for cake and coffee.
. Ray had asked me to pick up a six pack for him. Cole had gone with Ray to the yacht to pick up his paycheck. I brought the beer into the yacht and that was the last thing I remembered.

Harbor patrol found us at about 2 a.m. battered and hypothermic, but alive. Daisy wasn’t as lucky. Her body was found in a shallow grave not far from the tower.

“The neurologist said I might not ever remember everything.” I touched the bare spot on my head where it was shaved and sutured, where Ray had struck me with the gun.
Miriam patted my hand, “Maybe that’s for the best, that way the cops will leave you alone.”

Later that evening, after Dad and my step-monster, Agnes, who was surprisingly sympathetic, left, Cole and I sat on the sofa, sipping hazelnut cordial listening to music. He was telling me about the questioning which took place earlier that day down at the local police station.

Neither of us had spoken much about what happened. My memories were still unclear. “The DA is satisfied with our statements.”
“What about Daisy’s family?”
“So far, they can’t find anyone, that’s why her boss had to come and, ah, identify her.”
He shifted his bad leg on the ottoman, wincing a bit. He looked like he was preparing to get up but then he settled back again, his hand covering mine. “Remember that night at the bus stop when you first asked me about the scars?”
I nodded.
“I thought that if you knew the truth, you wouldn’t want me anymore.”
His hand let go of mine. It looked like the calloused hand of a man twice his age.
“I didn’t tell you the truth then because I needed someone to believe in me. I thought that if you knew I let him hurt me like that, you would only feel sorry for me.”
Cole, baby, none of this is your fault.” I took hold of his hand and squeezed it for emphasis.
He went on as if he didn’t hear me.
“I risked everything and for what? I am such an idiot.”
I reached out and caressed his face. His eyes were squeezed shut and I could tell he was trying not to cry.
“I want to tell you something, but promise me you won’t say anything until I’m done.”
“I lied to you about why I started working for Ray. That night when I came in from fighting with him I couldn’t tell you what really happened because he threatened to hurt you. He said if I turned him in to the police for what I thought he did to Daisy, he’d kill you and pin it all on me. After what I saw that night, I believed him.”
He stopped talking, and took a deep breath,
“I got to the yacht club and found the yacht empty. After looking around I figured out that he and Daisy had a fight; It was a mess; blood on the floor and it lead out to the rear hatch. There were other things, too, like the throw rug from the rear deck was gone. The dinghy was gone; So, I waited for him. When he came back, he said if I tried to tell the cops about that night, he’d tell them I did it. I said, what did you do? He laughed and told me to go out to Governor’s Island and find out.” He clenched his jaw and shook his head before continuing,
“He said he’d hurt you if I went to the police. I lost it, I had him by the throat, I wanted to crush the air out of him, but I didn’t.”
I said nothing and held his hand.
“Daisy died that night, the night you came home all busted up?”
He nodded.
“Amy, I lied to you. He was making me do what he wanted and I was too scared to do the right thing. Don’t you see? It’s on me, Daisy, you, it’s all on me. I should have ended it,” he said, his voice breaking.
“Cole that’s not true, it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have saved Daisy,”
I scooted over to him and held him as he sobbed, a few tears dripped from his cheek to mine. After a while, he wiped his face on his shirt and sighed.

“Tell me something, did I make you and Ray fall?”
“No, I saw you slip and fall.”
“How did you fall?”
“He was trying to swing the pick ax and I grabbed it, he lost his balance and we both fell.”
“I don’t remember any of it,” I said., wiping away his tears with what I hoped were soothing caresses.
“I’ll never forget any of it,” he said in a tone that made me shiver.

After a while he bent to kiss me. I knew that kiss. It was full of so many things and I scooted closer.
“It’s going to be okay,” I said looking into those amazing hazel eyes.
He smiled and this time the smile was what I hoped for. I got up and got his crutches and helped Cole to the bedroom. After making love I lay awake for a long time, replaying the night of terror in my mind and finally fell asleep nestled up against Cole’s uninjured side. It was over. We were still alive and together. One day, I thought, after the healing, all this would be just memories.

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