|Primary Characters:||Jack. Ennis, Alma|
|Spoilers:||Yes, for the movie Brokeback Mountain – but not that much|
|Warning:||m/m, non-con, violence, AU|
|Description:||Ennis turns out not to be as loving as some other people thought. One night that becomes evident. The consequences are hard to foresee.|
I didn’t think it was a good idea, but when it came to Ennis I couldn’t really say no. If he told me to do something, I did it. That must have been how it was for Alma. Of course, poor Alma never got much out of it, not like I did, at least at first. In the end, I – but that came later.
That first summer, when it was just me and Ennis, I never worried about the consequences. What we did – it was all so simple and right. Just him and me. I’ve never been that happy before or since. Later on, others became involved, clouding the issue, but back then, there was never any regret.
When I came to see him at home, that first time after he’d been married, I never intended to let things go so far between us. There are people who will say I have no shame, but I never meant to kiss him, with his wife close by, where she might be able to see us. It was just that I’d missed him so much and seeing him again – anyone who’s ever been in love will understand. Unless you think what we did was evil.
I was raised to believe what we did was a sin, but when it happened, I just couldn’t see it that way. It felt good, not just physically but in every way. Right. If that makes any sense.
But right after we did it, my conscience struck me and I began to worry that poor Alma might have seen us. It turned out she had, but I didn’t find that out until much later. If I’d known she was in there, crying, while we took off, to have such a great time together, I would have felt guilty.
That was one thing. Next time we met, I tried to keep myself in check. Ennis might have wanted it differently, but somehow, we managed to hold off. Again, I had no idea, other than that Alma thought we were just two good friends, having a vacation together.
If I’d had a better marriage, it might have struck me as odd for a man to go off on vacation without his family, but at the time, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I wanted it too badly. We had to go without each other for so long. All those long months, without any love.
Then the third time I came to visit, I arrived late. Ennis wasn’t in a good mood and I couldn’t see why, not until later. I was just so happy to see him. He was standing there, looking every bit as good as he had that first summer. I couldn’t help stopping there, by the truck, watching him. Just enjoying the sight.
“What are you waiting for? Come on in.”
I wasn’t paying much attention to his tone, being too busy staring at him, thinking ahead to the trip and to our time alone together.
Again, I went to say hello to Alma. What I was doing was bad enough, without me being impolite, as well as everything else.
She looked sad. This time, I couldn’t escape the look in her eyes. It was the first time I began to wonder how their marriage really was. At the time, I’d believed I was the only one having troubles in my marriage. Me and Lureen never stood a chance. Obviously, we were physically incompatible, but in other ways, we could have gotten along just fine, if it hadn’t been for her dad.
“How do you, ma’am?”
“I’m alright, mr Twist. Thank you for asking.”
Ennis was staring at us, impatiently.
“Alma’s got dinner ready, don’t you?”
I raised my eyebrows inquiringly. What did Ennis have in mind? Surely he didn’t intend for us to sit down to dinner together all three of us? And what about the children? Did he expect me to pretend I was just an ordinary guest? I began to feel uncomfortable. Taking a woman’s husband away from her, like I was doing, was bad enough, but every minute I was in their house, would be a cruel mockery of their marriage.
I nodded civilly at Alma, but all I wanted was to get back into my truck and drive off. With Ennis. This wasn’t right.
“Go on, Alma. Set the table.”
She hesitated, looking as if she too, had some objections. This was all wrong. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, but Ennis’ face was closed, and didn’t encourage any opposition. I was waiting for an opportunity to see him alone and the moment came, only minutes later.
Ennis gestured for me to sit down, on the couch and I did, while Alma vanished into the kitchen, pulling the door closed behind her.
Ennis sat down himself and grabbed the remote control. The sound of the tv would drown out our conversation and I assumed that had been his intention all along. Still, he didn’t look at me, just kept his eyes fixed on the screen where a game was going on.
“What is this? I thought we’d be leaving at once?”
“I expected you hours ago. I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.”
He sounded gruff, as if somehow I’d offended him. It occurred to me that he was trying to punish me, not worrying about the impact it might have on his wife. That was an aspect of his personality I’d never seen before. It concerned me, but I was still looking forward to our trip and being alone with him, so I tried to ignore my misgivings.
“Traffic was bad, especially the first half of the trip. A truck had overturned on the freeway and there were mile-long queues.”
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s have dinner and then you can have the spare room. We’ll leave tomorrow at first light.”
Again, I felt a stirring of unease. Spending a night under his roof, with his wife and kids there, was just all wrong. I opened my mouth to say so, when another door opened and a little girl walked out.
“Daddy – I want a glass of water.”
A look of dismay flew over Ennis’ face.
“Alma, what are you doing up? I thought I told you to go to bed.”
“I know, but I can’t sleep. I’m thirsty. Who’s that?”
She glanced at me, not at all shyly. Despite my concerns, I forced myself to smile. Looking at this little girl reminded me of my own son. Not that LD ever gave me a chance to be a dad to him.
Ennis got up and ungraciously went to the bathroom. The sound of running water told me he was going to give the child her drink and get rid of her. It was much the best thing, but in the meantime, I was alone with the daughter of the man I was sleeping with.
My internal struggle must have been completely lost on her. She looked up at me, trustingly, with a smile on her face.
“Hello. Who are you?”
“My name is Jack. I’m a friend of your dad’s.”
“Oh. Do you have any little girls?”
“No, but I have a boy.”
She was standing just a few paces away from the couch, looking at me, with curiosity stamped all over her face. I couldn’t help smiling. It was rare for my own kid to look at me that way.
Apparently, those few words meant we’d made our acquaintance. Now that the ice was broken, Alma moved closer and put her hand on the armrest, leaning closer. She studied me shamelessly, then grinned as if we were somehow friends now. I couldn’t help returning her grin.
Without my noticing, Ennis had returned and he called out her name, curtly.
She turned and faced her father and the smile vanished.
She took one sip, but couldn’t finish the water, under her father’s disapproving stare. Ennis grabbed the glass out of her hand, put it down on the table, then pulling her along not very gently, he took her into what had to be the girls’ room. He returned so soon, I couldn’t imagine he’d said goodnight properly. I couldn’t help wondering why he was in such a bad mood.
Again, Ennis sat down beside me, but he kept glancing over his shoulder towards the kitchen. I was wondering if he intended to kiss me again.
“Is your kid that unruly?”
I might as well have kept quiet. He went on, as if he hadn’t heard me.
“I’ve taught her better. It’s all Alma’s fault. She keeps spoiling those girls.”
Impatiently, he got up, and now I realized his mind had been on dinner, not me.
“Alma? What are you playing at? I thought dinner was almost ready.”
She appeared in the doorway, her face pale and I could have sworn her eyes were red too.
“Sorry, Ennis. I’ll set the table now.”
I got up, intending to offer her my assistance, but a dark look from Ennis held me back.
Ten minutes later we were seated at the table. Alma didn’t sit down with us. She ran back and forth between the kitchen and the living room, serving us. Ennis kept calling her back, complaining about one thing after another. My unease deepened.
At last dinner was over. I really didn’t want to spend the night at his house. At this point, I was almost ready to leave and forget about our trip. Almost, but not quite.
Alma hastily made up the bed in the spare room, then disappeared into her own bedroom. Ennis said goodnight and followed her in there.
I couldn’t help overhearing part of their conversation. His part anyway. She spoke too softly for me to hear and anyway, she didn’t say much. Ennis was scolding her and at one point he raised his voice so much I was afraid the kids would wake up. Finally, the household settled down.
Though I was tired after my long trip, I couldn’t relax. Lying like this, so close to Ennis was tough. Part of me, a part that wouldn’t be silenced, kept dwelling on the way it felt when he touched me. Another part of me, couldn’t help returning to his changed behavior. Or was this who he really was, when we weren’t together?
Suddenly, I heard a floorboard creak, then the door to my room opened. I started violently, then realized it was just Ennis. My hand began to fumble for the lamp that was standing on the table beside the bed, but a sharp word from Ennis stopped me.
He moved closer, then sat down on the bed beside me. The sound of the pulse in my ears became deafening. At some level, all I wanted was for him to touch me, but I hadn’t let go of all sense. Doing it like this was impossible. I had some decency. Surely he didn’t mean for us to do it here, with his family so close by?
But it soon emerged that he did. His hands began to move across my skin and before long, I felt him tear off my undershirt. The bed creaked when he lay on top of me. His mouth covered mine and for a while, everything else faded into the background.
Then I felt his hand inside my shorts and I forced myself to put a stop to things, before it was too late.
“Hey. This isn’t such a great idea. Why don’t we wait until we’re on our own? Out there -”
He ignored me and went on. Soon he had my shorts down by my knees and began to rub against me in a way that banished all coherent thought. It had been so long.
Afterwards, I was filled with shame, like I’d never been before. What sort of man was I to do this, under my married lover’s roof?
He just got up and vanished back into Alma’s room.
I heard her say something, but it was too softly for me to discern the words. Ennis’ reaction was more audible.
“It’s none of your business. Back off or -”
She must have said something else, but all I could hear was the sound of a dull blow. Was he hitting her? I sat up and listened more intently. There was no doubt about it, Ennis was beating his wife. I felt torn in two. How could I interfere in something this private? On the other hand, judging by what I heard, he really was hitting her hard enough to do real harm.
I hated to hear those dull thuds, when his fist must have hit soft flesh or her body hit the side of the bed or the wall.
She must have tried to muffle her cries so as not to wake the children, but I could still hear a low sobbing and gasps of pain, in between punches.
Before I knew what I was doing, I was out of bed and silently making my way across the floor towards their room. Again, I hesitated. How could I trespass into his personal business like this? Then again, I couldn’t stand by while he killed his wife either.
So, gingerly, I pushed the door open and looked inside. Alma was lying on the bed, her face all bloody. Ennis kept punching her face and abdomen. Already, I could see big bruises covering her upper arms. She seemed to be barely conscious.
“Hey – take it easy.”
Ennis whirled around and stared at me, his face so utterly transformed, it was almost as if it was a different person, not the man I knew.
“Back off. This is none of your business. How would you like it if I tried to interfere with your dealings with your wife?”
“Ennis, please. She’s had enough. Look.”
“Shut up. Don’t try to tell me how to handle my wife.”
I became aware of another sound. The girls had woken up and were crying.
“No, you come on. Don’t you dare tell me what to do.”
I was trying to get a good look at her face. Her eyes were closed and she wasn’t moving. Was she even breathing? Ennis was right. I had no right to interfere, but on the other hand, how could I let him kill his own wife?
So I walked closer, not sure what I was going to do. Maybe I had some vague idea of distracting him, but if so, I was being stupid. He came at me, and before I even saw it coming, his fist had made contact with my face. Before I had my hands up to defend myself, he hit me again, this time in the abdomen. I doubled over, coughing and retching.
When I looked up, Ennis was gone. I heard the front door slam and moments later, the sound of an engine starting up.
By the time I had managed to get to my feet, I couldn’t hear the truck anymore.
I stood over the bed, awkwardly touching her face. She was so different from Lureen, I almost didn’t dare to touch her. Somehow, I knew, that I’d crossed a line that I couldn’t back down from. Ennis would never forgive me.
I’d come to realize that he considered Alma his possession, just like the girls and anything else in this house. That night, it occurred to me that was probably how he looked at me too. Something that belonged to him and that he could do whatever he liked to. I didn’t have any problem with that, but it made me worry for Alma’s sake and the children.
The sound of the children crying, distracted me, but I knew I had to find out how badly she was injured. Reluctantly, I put my fingers to the side of her neck. When I felt a pulse, relief flooded over me. Her eyes fluttered open and she started violently and pulled back. What would she think?
To my surprise, she reached out and touched my face. Her fingers came away covered with blood. Not until now, did I notice a dull ache in my nose and lips.
“Did he hit you too, mr Twist? I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about me. Are you ok, mrs Del Mar?”
“Yes, don’t worry about me. I have to go and see to the children. Where is Ennis?”
“He drove off.”
She nodded. I thought I detected a glint of terror in her eyes. Wasn’t this the first time Ennis had lost his temper with her?
She tried to get up, but the first time, she fell back. After some hesitation, I helped her up. Holding her up, helped steady her and after a few minutes, she was able to walk on her own.
She ran into the children’s room and apparently, she was able to comfort them. The crying died down. I took the opportunity of going back to the spare room to get dressed. It had suddenly occurred to me that here I was standing around, in nothing but my shorts. The thought of what Ennis and I had just done, made my cheeks heat up. What if she’d been able to guess?
Or – what if that was exactly what she had done? And dared to confront Ennis about it? Was it my fault that she’d been beaten to within an inch of her life? It increased my discomfort. Clearly, I had better leave, before my presence cost someone her life.
But once Alma returned from the children’s room, I realized that I couldn’t leave her here to Ennis mercy. What would he do to her when he returned? The enormity of the situation I was in, made the pulse pound in my ears worse than from the excitement before.
Could I take another man’s wife from his home? And his children? But by now, I’d come to understand that if I left Alma, Ennis might well kill her. Not to mention what he’d do to me. This was insane. I loved this man. Up until tonight, I’d believed he loved me too. With a chill, I realized that he might simply have seen what he had as a pleasant pastime.
It hurt to find the world turned upside down. But now there was no time to lose. No matter what I felt, deep down, I had to help Alma get away. If Ennis killed her, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Strangely enough, this knowledge didn’t in any way change my feelings for him. He might be capable of murder, but I still loved him and wanted him as much as ever.
“Are the girls ok?”
“I was able to calm them down.”
Something about the way she said it, told me that this was far from the first time Ennis had lost his temper with her.
I broke off my train of thought, when I noticed her gaze on me. It looked as if she was about to say something, but appeared to change her mind. In the end, I was sure what she said wasn’t what she’d intended to.
“Let me see to that, mr -”
“Jack. Call me Jack. Never mind that. Are you ok? Do you feel dizzy or nauseous?”
She shook her head, not in denial, merely as a way of saying there was no time for that.
“Mr Twist – Jack – I can’t stay here. This time – it’s never been this bad before. Would you drive me and the children somewhere?”
“Of course. I’m -”
As if she’d read my mind, she waved away my apology. She turned away and began to pack. Less than half an hour later, we were getting into my truck. Alma Jr looked at me in a way that told me she trusted me. Despite everything, that made me feel proud. I wished my own son had ever looked at me that way. The younger girl apparently accepted things as they came, because I couldn’t detect any signs of panic or distress. Soon enough, she lay down, with her head in her mother’s lap.
Alma Jr sat up, watching me, for a while longer, then she too leaned against her mother and closed her eyes.
I couldn’t believe how things had changed. Here I was embarking on a completely new life. It was something I never would have expected to happen. I was leaving Lureen and our son and worst of all, I would never be able to see Ennis again. Yet, despite all that, I couldn’t regret what I’d done.
I was hurting all over, and I don’t mean physically. The loss was far more painful than the blows Ennis had rained on me. I’d lost everything, in one single night. But I knew I’d had no choice. For better and for worse, Alma and I were bound together, in a way Lureen and I have never been, or even Ennis and me.
That day, when I first saw Ennis with that man – Jack Twist – my life fell apart. I’d known something was wrong, even if I’d never been with a man before our wedding night, but I’d never guessed what was missing. At the time, I put it down to my own shortcomings. I wasn’t attractive enough, or I didn’t know how to please a man. For a while, I kept hoping Ennis would be able to show me what he wanted me to do for him.
Even when I became pregnant with Alma Jr I was still thinking things could turn out ok. Ennis was a good husband in other ways. He provided for us. As if I didn’t know how many men would leave their families with no thought of how they’d survive without their support.
But after Jenny was born, I’d already realized nothing was ever going to work out. Not the way I’d foolishly thought when I was a girl.
But he was still good to us. He still provided for us and looked after us. I told myself I had to be grateful. How many women didn’t even have that?
Then he began to hit me. I really tried to please him. Not in bed, but in other ways. But he didn’t like my cooking and he didn’t approve of the way I raised the girls and sometimes, I was foolish enough to question him.
Like that day he decided that Jack Twist would spend the night. I couldn’t believe he was serious. How could he take his – that man into our home and expect me to serve him at the table?
In all fairness, I have to admit that Jack didn’t approve. He looked as if he might object, but in the end, he said nothing and accepted Ennis’ dinner invitation.
I was so upset, my hands were shaking and I couldn’t do anything right in the kitchen. When Ennis yelled at me, I almost dropped a dish. Then I heard that Alma Jr was up and talking to Ennis and Jack, and I wanted to run out there and get her back into her room before Ennis lost his temper, but I didn’t dare.
When Ennis was in that mood, whatever I did was enough to set him off. I couldn’t bear to have him explode into violence when the girls could hear him.
So I hurried dinner along and clumsily waited on them. It seemed Jack had no appetite and I was afraid Ennis would use that against me. When they’d finished and Ennis told me to go to bed, I was ready to do anything as long as he didn’t hit me.
I lay on the bed, listening to him going into the spare room to Jack, so relieved I was crying, yet miserable too. What sort of woman was I, if I couldn’t please my husband in any way? I felt ugly and stupid and useless. At the same time, I couldn’t help wondering what Ennis was doing to Jack.
Did men like being used the way Ennis sometimes used me? Whenever he did, it left me aching and sore and at the same time feeling dirty and soiled. I told myself to just gratefully accept Ennis’ absence and hope and pray he wouldn’t come back more angry with me than before.
But when he did return, I couldn’t help asking him if he loved Jack. Just as before, when I’d asked him Jack really would be spending the night, he instantly turned on me. That time, he’d just snapped at me. Now, he took his fists to me.
I must have blacked out and when I came to, I saw him punching Jack too. My head felt heavy and I couldn’t see clearly, but Jack’s presence in our room told me he’d come in to stop Ennis from beating me. I couldn’t believe anyone would do that for me. Especially not Jack. Not with the way he must have felt about Ennis. But there was no other explanation.
When Ennis stormed out, I was filled with relief. It would give me time to get away. If I could persuade Jack to take me and the girls. In a way, I’d be comfortable with that. A man like that surely wouldn’t expect any intimate favors in return. At least I hoped so. I remembered Ennis telling me Jack was married too and had a child.
But I had no choice. If that was what he wanted, I’d freely give myself to him, if only he took me away from Ennis. What would happen to the girls if I died? What would Ennis do to them if they provoked him?
As it happened, Jack was nothing but gentle and respectful to me. He touched my face softly and spoke kindly to me. I didn’t even have to ask him to take me and the girls away. He seemed to sense there was no other choice.
As we drove off in his truck, I forced myself not to look any further than getting away from Ennis. I’d deal with one thing at a time. Somehow, I’d keep my girls safe, that was all I could think of.
Jack kept on driving as the sun came up. When the girls needed to stop, he stopped and waited patiently while they relieved themselves.
We came to a rest stop and he asked me if I needed to freshen up. I thought we’d come far enough away from home, so I said yes.
It felt odd going into that restaurant with another man, but no one else seemed to notice. After a while, I began to relax a little. No matter what else he was, Jack seemed to be a very different man from Ennis. Gentler. Less prone to lose his temper.
He bought us lunch there and while we ate, he didn’t once yell at the girls or scold me. I can imagine his mind was busy dwelling on the situation he’d found himself in. Neither of us spoke about anything other than what to order and things like that.
It was odd, but the girls seemed more at ease with him, and they’d only known him for a couple of hours. Despite the strain he must have been under, he took time to answer their questions and chat and joke with them to the best of his ability.
I noticed that he seemed to be fond of children. That made me wonder about his own child. I felt guilty that he’d lost his own marriage and the chance to ever see his own son again, because of me. But with the girls listening, I couldn’t bring it up and anyway, there was no reason to believe he’d even want to discuss it with me.
We got back in the truck and kept driving south. I don’t know if he had a plan or was just trying to put as much distance between himself and Ennis. Again, I couldn’t help thinking of the two of them together. I wasn’t a child. Not like when I first married Ennis. If he’d had these kinds of relations with Ennis, surely that meant he’d been in love with Ennis, just like I had been?
If that was true, how could he bear to leave him, just because of me? I didn’t understand, but I was too grateful to question my luck.
That evening, by the time he began to look too tired to continue, he stopped at a motel. As he booked the room, he kept glancing apologetically at me. I was too tired to worry much about the night ahead. Besides, I didn’t think he’d be demanding anything from me, not with the children in the room. All I wanted was to stretch out on a bed and get some rest.
To my surprise, first he went out and got some sandwiches for supper, then he helped me put the girls to bed. Again it struck me how good he was with the children. They seemed to like him and showed no signs of wondering about our sudden departure.
Alma Jr especially, seemed to have taken to him. Jenny might have been too young to pay much attention. Once the children fell asleep, he glanced at me anxiously.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to call attention to us. There’s no need to be concerned. I’ll just sleep on the couch.”
“No, I can’t let you do that, mr Twist.”
“Jack. You might as well call me Jack.”
“And it’s no trouble. You take the other bed. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re paying for this room. The least I can do is let you have a proper bed. I’ll sleep with the girls. It’s no trouble.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it. Look. The couch is just as comfortable as the bed.”
Fine. If that was the way he wanted it, I couldn’t waste this much time arguing about it. In my position, I couldn’t afford to question my luck.
But even though I was streched out on the bed, and he sitting on the couch, he kept glancing at me. If I’d been less tired, I might have worried about his intentions. As it was, I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. My whole body was sore and it hurt to breathe. Ennis must have cracked a few ribs. My jaw hurt too, but I don’t think I was seriously hurt.
“Mrs Del Mar -”
“Alma. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t call me by my first name.”
“Alma – listen – I -”
I watched him curiously. What did he want? He looked uncomfortable and I couldn’t help wondering what was on his mind.
“I – I’m sorry. About – all this and -”
My mind must have been working sluggishly, for me not to have seen it sooner. He was wondering if I knew. About him and Ennis. Well, at least I could put him out of his misery.
“It’s ok. I know. I saw you, that first time you came here. Through the window.”
His face colored and he looked away. For a while he remained silent. I didn’t think he was going to say anything else, but it seemed he struggled with himself, then appeared to come to a decision. Grimly forcing himself on, he continued speaking, softly, so as not to wake the children.
The inadequacy of what he was trying to say seemed to hit him and he broke off again. But it wasn’t his fault, at least not only. Ennis had made a choice a long time ago and I realized that it had always been too late for us.
“It’s ok. You didn’t make him the way he is. If it wasn’t you, it would be someone else. Am I right?”
That didn’t seem to have occurred to him until now. It hit me that in a way, he was still so vulnerable. I’d lost faith in my marriage a long time ago. Seeing Ennis kissing another man had been a shock, but after I’d had time to think about it, it had actually been a relief.
It wasn’t my fault. Nothing I could have done would have been enough.
“Mr Twist – Jack – don’t feel bad about that. I’ll tell you one thing – when I knew, I was relieved. Relieved that it wasn’t my fault. He shouldn’t have married me, but that’s not your fault. I haven’t thanked you for saving my life. It was brave of you. I – appreciate it. For my girls’ sake, as well as mine. And – I’m sorry too. For your loss. I wish – I hadn’t been the cause of your pain.”
He drew in breath and it sounded as if he struggling to keep himself under control, but when he spoke again, his voice sounded more firm.
“No. Don’t say that. I couldn’t let him kill you. Ennis brought this on himself. It wasn’t your fault or mine.”
I nodded, even though he couldn’t have seen that. He was right. It was Ennis’ own fault. I had a right to ask. We were married. He was the one who had broken our vows, not me. I was still scared Ennis would come after me, but I was relieved that Jack had been so kind. For the first time in years, I felt a touch of hope. It felt as if the girls and I had a future.
That night, I found it hard to go to sleep. I’d just come to realize that this was only the beginning. One action always leads to another. Just like when Ennis and I had first discovered what we could have, that summer so long ago. Back then, I had foolishly thought we could take that pleasure and walk away unchanged. It didn’t work that way, and now I knew that saving Alma’s life wasn’t the end of it.
I’d taken responsibility for her and the girls and I’d have to follow through on that. In any case, there was nothing waiting for me at home. Lureen and my son had never really belonged to me and I was beginning to see that Ennis and I had never really belonged together no matter how much I’d wanted that.
In another life, we might have been able to live together as if we were married. There would have been no need to drag two innocent women into our mess. But all I could do was live in the real world, and in this world, I’d made a commitment. I wouldn’t back away from it. Alma and the girls needed me and somehow, that felt good, no matter what I’d lost.
That night, I had an idea. We could go south, maybe to Phoenix or west to California. If we settled there, no one would question where we were from. If Alma wanted me to, I’d take care of them. In a way, it was my fault she’d ended up in this situation, so it was up to me to provide for them.
I was stunned to realize that the thought of that didn’t fill me with dread. Sure, I was missing Ennis so much it hurt, but I’d lost him anyway. I wasn’t naive enough to think I meant enough to him that he’d forgive me for meddling in his private affairs. After what I’d done, I’d better run far and fast and keep on running, until I was sure he’d never be able to find us and finish what he started that night.
If it hadn’t been for Alma and the children, I might have let him. Life would be empty and grey, with no hope of ever seeing him again. But I wasn’t alone in this. I couldn’t let him hurt Alma again.
Eventually, I drifted off to sleep. In the morning, I had made a plan I thought would work out. There was no time to discuss it with Alma and find out how she felt about it, so I just helped her get the girls ready. I got them breakfast, then carried their things out to the truck.
In the next bigger town I traded it in for a van. That might help keep Ennis off our tracks. Alma didn’t comment. It looked as if she approved.
We kept driving until nightfall. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Alma until the girls were asleep. Tonight, she looked less distressed. She’d put some stuff over the bruises on her face, covering them up pretty well. In my case, people would just have to keep wondering. But men ended up in fights. Nothing unusual about that.
I’d decided to tell anyone who asked that someone had made a pass at my ‘wife’. Why not? No one would question that. But as it happened, no one ever asked. Everyone was too wrapped up in their own affairs to bother with anyone else’s.
When Alma returned from the bathroom, I decided to tell her about my plan. But first she had something to say to me.
“Tonight you’ll sleep on the bed. No, I’ve made up my mind. I’ll sleep with the girls and you take the bed. Please. You’re paying for all this and I have no way of paying you back. So let me do this.”
I should have known that would be on her mind. So I hastily assured her it was ok. I was more eager than ever to explain to her that she had nothing to worry about. She wouldn’t have to compensate me in any way.
“I’ve been thinking. If you want me to, I could continue to provide for you and the children.”
A look of concern flew across her face. I could almost read her mind. She was too proud to accept my help, but she knew she’d have no way of supporting herself and the children. That was the first time I ever considered what it might be like to be a woman. Always dependent on her father’s support or her husband’s.
“Mr Twist – Jack – I -”
“No, it’s alright. It was my fault you ended up in this situation. The least I can do is take care of you and the children. Besides – I’d be happy to do it. I – have a boy. Did – did you know that?”
I’d been about to ask her if Ennis had told her, but I couldn’t bear to say his name. It was still too painful.
“Yes. I feel terrible about you having to leave your family like this. That’s why I can’t accept -”
“It – was never a very good marriage.”
I seemed to read something on her face and again I felt myself blush. She thought I meant because of – the way I am. In a way, that was true, but that was only half of it.
“My father-in-law – he never – I don’t know exactly why, but he never gave me a chance. I’ve never been allowed to be close to my son. Sometimes I’ve been thinking that maybe he’s heard something about me – or – that it’s just too obvious. Anyway, it won’t make much difference if I’m there or somewhere else.”
“But what about your wife? Does she know?”
Yes, that was the question. At times, I was almost sure she could guess, at others, I thought she could have no idea.
“I don’t know. I – couldn’t tell her. But whether she knows or not, she’s – given up on me. Her father never let us -”
Alma kept watching me attentively, and it seemed to me, she read a lot into my words, maybe more than I could guess, but aloud, she said nothing about that.
“Jack – I – won’t deny that I was devastated when I saw you and Ennis together, but if he’d only told me the truth, I would have understood. Don’t blame yourself. It sounds as if your father-in-law has a lot to answer for. Besides, don’t worry about – appearances. I wouldn’t have been able to guess if I hadn’t seen you two together.”
In a way, that was a relief. But this conversation was getting far too personal, so I forced myself to move on.
“I was thinking, we could start a new life. In a city. If you don’t mind, I think I know how we can – explain our relationship. We could tell people we’re brother and sister.”
She looked so relieved, I knew she’d been concerned about me and my intentions towards her. I was glad I’d been able to put her mind at rest.
“That’s an great idea. Let’s do that. And – again – thank you – for everything.”
“Don’t give it another thought. It’s the least I can do.”
So we settled into our life together. No one questioned our relationship. They must have felt we were enough alike to be brother and sister. I wish I’d had such a good brother. He provided for us in every way the same as Ennis had. Frankly, he was much kinder and more patient than Ennis had ever been. He never lost his temper with me or the girls.
They accepted him without question and soon it was as if we’d never lived any other way. Still, I wondered. I could sense that he still loved Ennis and missed him and my heart bled for him. As for me, the beatings had killed all my feelings for Ennis a long time ago.
There were times I missed someone to love me, but I’m no fool. Many women don’t have anyone to look after them as well as Jack takes care of us. We don’t lack anything.
Once I hinted to Jack that I would never question him if he felt he wanted to go out at night and meet – someone. He didn’t reply, but at least he knew my feelings about it. I’d never sell him out. Whatever happened, I’d cover for him, if anyone became suspicious. As far as I’m concerned, a man is entitled to live his life the way he chooses to, as long as he doesn’t hurt anyone else.
As the years went by, I think we were almost happy together. I should never have allowed myself to let down my guard.
One day, when the children were in school, Jack returned home for lunch. He’d found a job at a wholesalers, selling timber.
I would always have a meal ready for him. After all, it wasn’t too much to ask, in return for all the sacrifices he’d made for me and my children.
In the time we’d been together, he’d never once yelled at me or complained about my cooking. Today, I had made pancakes.
I sat down at the table and ate with him, something I’d never dared to do, with Ennis. He always expected me to wait on him and nothing I could do would satisfy him.
I had absolutely no premonition about what was about to happen. One second, Jack was telling me about his day at work, the next, I heard the sounds of glass shattering. A window at the back of the house had been broken.
Jack was on his feet and heading into the back room, before I had time to get up. I wanted to call him back, but it was too late. There was the sound of a dull thud, then more, as if someone was pounding something with his fists.
I ran into the room but when I saw what was going on, I froze. Ennis was standing over Jack, a rifle in his hand, kicking him in the abdomen and the groin. Jack whimpered in pain and seemed more than half unconscious.
Ennis didn’t stop until Jack wasn’t moving anymore. I couldn’t even try to get away. When Ennis caught me, all I could think about was that I didn’t want Alma and Jenny to come home to find our bodies here.
Ennis was unshaven and wild-eyed and he stared at me so coldly, I knew he was going to kill me.
“Bitch. You thought I wasn’t going to find you? Think I was going to let you get away?”
As he spoke, he casually slapped me, first rather lightly, than harder and harder. His fingers ate into the flesh on my upper arms, hard enough to leave bruises, but that was the least of my concerns.
He’d put the rifle down when he began to hit me. Dragging me by the hair, he pulled me closer. At first I thought he was going to rip my clothes off, but that was stupid of me. Why should he want to? All he was after was revenge.
After a while, he seemed to lose interest and he threw me down onto the floor, then kneeled over me, slamming his fist into my face. I could feel my nose crack, and blood splash my face, then I faded out. My last thought was of the girls. We hadn’t run far enough. I’d failed them.
In his contempt for me, he must have neglected to hit me hard enough. I don’t know for how long I was out, but eventually, I realized that I could see again. He’d taken Jack into the bedroom. The door was standing ajar, so I could see everything, but I was unable to make a move to get to the telephone or outside to get help.
My jaw felt loose somehow, and my nose hurt, but at the moment, all I could focus on was what was going on in the bedroom.
While I was out, Ennis had tied Jack to the bed. Now he was straddling him, slapping his face again and again. When that didn’t cause a reaction, he went into the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. He poured it into Jack’s face. I remembered thinking it wouldn’t work. That Jack was already gone.
But eventually, he began to make some sounds. Low moans, nothing else, but at least it meant he was still alive.
That seemed to satisfy Ennis. He tossed the glass to the floor, where it shattered.
His voice was no more than a low growl, but I could hear every word he said.
“I told you. Didn’t you listen to me? My wife. My children. And you just couldn’t respect that, could you? First you turn me into a – Oh, yeah. It’s your fault I’m like this now. That I can’t enjoy sex with a woman. You tempted me. You turned me into this. But that wasn’t enough for you. You had to take my wife too. What did you do to her? The same I did to you? Did she like it as much as you did? Answer me.”
He slapped Jack’s face, but failed to get a reply out of him. This seemed to infuriate Ennis so I was afraid of what he’d do.
“You know what? I don’t care anymore. She’ll get what’s coming to her and so will you. But first – ”
Ennis went back to the kitchen and this time returned with one of the sharp carving knives Jack would always whet for me.
I gasped, but I don’t think he heard me. Though I didn’t want to watch him killing Jack, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed. Somehow, I had to see what was going on.
He cut off Jack’s clothes and threw them to the floor. For a while, he remained straddled over Jack’s chest and I couldn’t see what he was doing. It was the sounds of pain Jack made that alerted me to what had to be going on. When he got off him, I could see that Jack’s face and chest were covered with blood. A dull sense of hopelessness settled over me.
What really broke my heart was that I knew Jack still loved Ennis. And Ennis had to know that. Maybe he’d never loved Jack. Despite everything, that filled me with rage. How could he throw Jack’s love back into his face like that? It was so unfair. Jack was the kindest, gentlest soul in the entire world and Ennis – just didn’t care. I wished there was something I could do, but I knew that if I made any move, he’d hear me and finish me off. So I just lay where he’d left me, helpless.
I could see Ennis getting on top of Jack and I suddenly saw what he intended to do. When he had done it to me, It had hurt so much, and now he was going to do it to Jack, right before he killed him. I had to blink to clear my sight.
His right hand was busy doing something in between them and I thought I knew what that was, but when I heard Jack scream, I realized what it was he was really doing. Not the knife too. I bit my lower lip to stop myself from crying out too.
While he was moving on top of Jack, Ennis shouted curse words and insults, making so much noise it gave me an idea. His rifle was lying on the table not two inches from me. If I could just get up, without him hearing me, I might just be able to –
I felt so dizzy, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get to my feet, but I knew I’d have to try. My fingers were so stiff, I didn’t think I’d be able to hold on to the rifle, but the thought of my children forced me on, though waves of nausea washed over me.
In a second, Ennis would be done and it would be too late. At last, I was on my knees, holding on to the rifle with both hands, clutching it close, the way my dad had taught me when I was a little girl. He’d told me to fire at the big rats that had taken over our back yard, but I’d never been able to bring myself to do it. But I knew how to shoot. I could pull the trigger.
Ennis seemed to be finished with Jack and was standing over him, holding something in his hand, something I hadn’t seen before. It must have been something he’d brought with him. He raised whatever it was over Jack’s head and –
It wasn’t until I’d already fired twice, that I realized I’d done it. He was still standing, so I fired again. The object he’d been holding in his hand dropped from his fingers to the floor. It was a wrench.
I could see the blood stain spreading across his back and side and onto the floor. Now that it was over, when we were safe, it hit me what I had done. I’d killed my husband. Jack’s lover. My daughters’ father. I’d killed a man.
Horrified, I flung the rifle away from me and cowered back against the couch. Only the thought of Jack, on the bed, made me struggle to move forward. I couldn’t stand, but I crawled. I had to know if he was still alive. There was something I needed to tell him.
The sound of sirens only barely managed to penetrate my concentration. My world had suddenly shrunk to include only my bed and the man who lay on it.
Pushing the thoughts of everything else to the back of my mind, I kept crawling until I reached the side of the bed.
Jack was still alive and conscious. His gaze travelled across my face. He looked so distraught, I knew he’d never forgive me. I’d killed the man he loved, how could he ever forgive me for that?
“Alma – d-d-don’t try to move.”
I wasn’t listening. Nothing seemed more important than what I had to say.
I felt myself blacking out and though I felt my lips move, no sound came out. Pressing my cheek against his hand, allowed myself to let go.
I knew right away that he was dead, just as I knew that he had been about to kill me, after he’d finished with me. This time, it was so different from the last time. It hurt, but that wasn’t really what bothered me. I had missed him so much and despite everything, looked forward to seeing him again. But he was looking at me like I meant nothing to him. The things he said made it clear to me that what we’d had had meant nothing to him.
Worst of all, I knew he was going to kill Alma and I had no way of knowing what he was going to do to the girls. Lying on the bed like that, I felt so useless. When it really counted, I had failed Alma and the children. No wonder LD had known what sort of man I was.
But none of that really meant anything, compared to the loss I felt. I knew I’d always miss him and nothing he’d said or done had changed the way I felt about him.
I’d blacked out and when I came to, I was lying in a hospital bed. My first thought was for Alma. I’d had no idea how badly she was hurt. When a nurse walked in, I asked her about Alma. The relief I felt, when she told me she was going to be fine, almost blocked out any thoughts of Ennis.
Nothing was ever said about what he’d done to me. The police report only mentioned the physical assault. That was fine with me. If they’d brought that other stuff up, it might have led them to ask why Ennis had done what he had.
For a while, I was afraid they would press charges against Alma for killing Ennis, but fortunately, it was deemed self-defence.
When they told me she was going to be fine, I’d assumed she’d soon be allowed to leave the hospital, so she could look after the girls. As time went by, I began to worry about her again. No one would tell me what was wrong.
Eventually, when I was well enough to walk, I asked to be taken to her room. When I saw her lying there, I realized she was being kept sedated.
I turned to ask the nurse.
“Why is she being sedated? I thought she wasn’t badly injured?”
After a glance at Alma, the nurse turned back to me.
I stood watching her blank face, until it hit me what was wrong. It must have been the shock. Blindly, I groped for the chair beside her bed, and when I found it, I sank down on it. I took her hand and held on to it.
She was struggling to say something and I leaned closer.
“It’s ok. Try not to think about it.”
“No. I mean – I – killed him. You won’t be able to forgive me, but – I -”
“Alma, you had no choice.”
“So you forgive me?”
It was plain that she didn’t believe me. She must have thought I was only trying to be nice about it. But it was true. The fact that I still loved him and knew that I would never love another man as long as I lived, didn’t change the fact that there had been no other choice. I might not have cared if he killed me, but there was Alma and the girls to consider.
“Of course. You did what you had to do.”
I bent over her and pulled her into my arms. She shivered but didn’t resist me. I’d never had a sister, but if I’d had one, I think it might have felt something like this. I wanted to make sure no one ever hurt her again. In a way, I think it was only fair, the way things turned out. I took her husband away from her. Now I would spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to her. And she’d saved my life. She’d done more for me than Ennis had ever been prepared to do.
But sometimes I still dream about how it used to be. When it was just me and him. On Brokeback Mountain, that summer so long ago. I had always known there would be a price to pay, I just didn’t know how much it would hurt.