Timber headed for the kitchen and was examining the empty fridge when her visitors entered behind her. “No luck.” She said disappointed, staring into the refrigerator as if it might suddenly grow food. “Sometimes there’s food,” she told them enigmatically.
“No problem,” Remy assured her. “Coop is with us and he just went to get a pie.”
That news seemed to cheer Timber and her smile appeared. “Coop! Oh, this is a good dream! I haven’t seen Coop since…” she paused, the smile gone. “You know, for a long time.”
Both Remy and Scott did know. Since the funeral.
“Puck Puckett is here too,” Remy informed her. “Do you know him Timber? He seems to think you have a relationship.”
“Pete’s here?” Her face fell. “Why would Pete be here? I would never dream Pete.”
“You do know him then?” Remy pressed.
“My roommate from college married Jay Metzger; remember Jay? And he and Pete were tight, so I’d see him once in awhile. I know him some.”
“Ok. As long as you know him,” Remy said. “You do know he and Jordie didn’t get along?”
Timber was off her stool as if she’d been shot. “No!” She scolded Remy. “Don’t say his name. I can’t hear their names.” She was visibly distressed. “Please Remy. I can’t hear their names. This is why I don’t call you. I don’t say their names here.”
Remy’s arms went around Timber and he pressed her head into his chest.
“I’m sorry, Timber.” He soothed her. “I’m so sorry.”
She sobbed for a minute before she got control of herself pushing away from him to shuffle to the sink and wash her tear stained face with a wet paper towel before turning back to face her friends.
“I’m sorry.” She apologized. “Sometimes it still sneaks up on me, you know?”
“It’s Ok” Scott mumbled at the same time Remy muttered, “Really, don’t worry about it Timber.’
“So come tell us what you’ve been up to,” Remy sat down on one of the six stools that surrounded the kitchen’s island, three on each side. He patted the one next to him suggesting Timber take it, while Scott took a stool on the other side. Timber brought glasses and put ice in a crystal bowl and the bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label by her elbow, and perched her right butt cheek precariously on the edge of the stool.
“It seems like you fell off the face of the Earth.” Remy told her.
“Well,” she began hesitantly. “I’ve been travelling.”
“Travelling!” Remy smiled. “That sounds wonderful. “Where have you been?”
“Oh, Alaska. And Australia.”
“Wow!” Scott interjected. “Two places I’ve always wanted to go. So what was Australia like?”
“It was hot. And… pretty.” Timber seemed to struggle for something further to say, and the guys exchanged a look that confirmed they suspected that Timber was, for some reason, lying her ass off.
“I suppose Alaska was cold and pretty, huh?” Scott said.
Timber gave him hard look, but decided to ignore him, dropping three ice cubes in one of the glasses with a hand so shaky she had to put down the bottle when she tried to pour from it.
“Here, let me.” Remy came to the rescue, pouring two fingers of the Black Label into each of the glasses, adding a substantial amount of ice and sliding one across to Scott.
“To old friends,” Remy raised his glass in a toast.
“Old friends,” Scott seconded, holding out his drink across the counter expecting to clink glasses.
“Old friends,” Timber said through eyes once again filled with tears, but raised her glass only a few inches in front of her with a hand that shook so badly a few drops spilled on her shirt. Timber seemed to sense the men’s eyes on her, and squirmed on the stool, trying to get comfortable.
“So you have any Christmas plans Timber?” Scott asked setting his glass down.
Timber finished her drink set her glass on the counter and pushed it toward Remy, who refilled it without comment.
“I’m going to Aspen,” Timber answered in what was clearly another falsehood.
“Aspen!” Remy repeated. “That sounds like fun. Who you going with?”
“You know, some friends from work.”
“From work eh?” Remy said. “Alaska, Australia and Aspen. All the A places, eh? And not a single post card for me?”
“Oh well, I plan to send you one when I get to Zaire.” She joked and the guys laughed politely.
“Well, as long as you haven’t forgotten me,” Remy told her.
“Of course not.” Timber assured him. “I think about you all the time. Are you still seeing that Dr. Hatchet?”
“Dr. Heckert, and yes, Samantha and I are still an item.”
“I figured you’d have sent an invitation if you got married.”
“Of course I would have, but we are not contemplating that at this time.” Remy informed her.
“I don’t know Remy,” Timber teased him. “You aren’t getting any younger, you ought to put a ring on it before your looks go.”
Scott pulled on his drink struck by the irony in that statement.
“What about you, Scotty?” Timber asked. “Have you found the woman of your dreams yet?”
“Still searching. But old Coop is hooking up with a Supermodel.”
“Oh dish!” Timber grinned at the news their introverted friend had hit the dating jackpot. “Which one?”
“Carolina” Scott informed her.
“Oh, I know who she is!” Timber squealed. “She’s gorgeous. And way out of his league.”
“Exactly.” Scott agreed. “But she has a swim suit modeling job down in Turks and Caicos and he’s meeting her down there for Christmas.”
“We need to hire ourselves a paparazzo to dog his ass all over the island,” Timber ventured, and for a moment she was the Timber of old, planning capers.
The sound of the front door opening and Coop’s voice calling “Pizza!” broke the train of the conversation and Timber fled the stool, scampered out of the kitchen and threw herself into Dylan Cooper’s arms so insistently Puck had to rescue the pizzas Coop was carrying. Left alone staring at one another over the kitchen island, Remy and Coop both registered their shock at the condition they found their buddy’s widow.
“Dude, we have to do something,” Scott whispered to a pensive Remy.
“What?” Remy asked.
“I don’t know, but something. Call somebody? Doesn’t she have some family?” Scott asked.
“A sister in London who takes care of their mother with Alzheimer’s.” Remy told him. “And Jordan’s parents moved to Florida after he died.”
“Well the state must have some mental health department,” Scott suggested. “She is not all right.”
“We can’t do that to her.” Remy argued. “Abandon her to the state and go home for Christmas? This is Timber, Scott.”
“It used to be Timber.” Scott muttered.
In the entryway, Timber clung to Dylan Cooper.
“Timber! They found you!” Coop whooped and returned her embrace, holding her until she finally broke it off.
Timber turned away from Coop and greeted Puck who now had pizzas in one hand and a 12 pack of Pepsi in the other. “Hello Pete, she brushed his cheek with a kiss. “Welcome to the Lilley Pond.”
“Yeah, nice place you have here Timber.” Puck offered. “It’s good to see you.”
“He’s not here, you know.” Timber told him, her face serious, her eyes hard.
“What?” Puck asked, confused.
“He’s not here. I didn’t know if you’d heard. He’s not here anymore.”
“Of course I know, Timber.” Puck said quietly. “I guess you mean why wasn’t I at the funeral. And it just didn’t seem appropriate, you know?”
Timber nodded twice, but made no comment, took the pizza boxes from him and walked back toward the kitchen. “Pizza!” she smiled at Remy and Scott who broke off their hushed conversation when she entered and shared a “what the hell has happened” look with Dylan Cooper behind her back as he and Pete Puckett followed Timber in.
Timber opened the top pizza box, exclaiming with delight that it was mushroom, onion, green peppers, her favorite. “I almost never have pizza anymore,” she told them, helping herself to a slice and nibbling off the corner. “You know a whole pie for one person… “ Almost immediately she made a face as if it were too hot, or not tasty, and put it down on the open lid of the box.
“Oh, shoot. I’ve been living alone for so long I’ve forgotten the amenities. Plates. I have plates,” and with that announcement she stepped to a cupboard over a very fancy looking espresso machine, standing on tiptoe to reach the second shelf where the stack of plates was stored.
“Let me help you with that,” Remy offered coming up behind her, and as he was about to reach for the plates, Timber’s sweater and shirt rode up revealing a strip of skin, all of it black and blue and green and yellow.
Before he even fully realized what he was doing, Remy seized Timber around the waist, turned her so that her head was buried under his arm and yanked up the shirt. Her entire back was black and blue.
Coop, Scott and Puck were frozen in place staring in disbelief at what they were seeing. Timber squirmed, trying to free herself, causing her pajama pants to slip enough to reveal the top of what looked to be an open sore. Shocked, Remy yanked down the left side of her pjs, to reveal what looked to be a 6 inch rug burn.
Coop let out a noise approximating a groan, but no one made a comment. Scott Avila was frozen with a piece of pizza halfway to his mouth.
“Remy! Remy! REMY!” Timber screamed at him, until he finally let her escape, angrily yanking up on her pajamas and down on her shirt to hide her injuries.
Timber looked at the faces of the four men and held out a deformed hand in a “stop” gesture.
“This isn’t what you think,” she told them in a gathering panic. “This is not what you think.”
It was Puck who spoke first, his voice calm. “I’ll tell you what I think, Timberlain. I think someone put his hands on you, and now you are going to give me his name and I am going to go put the top of his head on the cement and pound on the bottom of his shoes until they are level with the ground.” Puck’s voice suddenly rose a notch, “And them I’m going to piss in the goddamn hole. What the fuck is wrong with you Timber? Do you have some need to be with men who treat you like shit?”
Puck’s shouting sent Timber into a teary panic. “You aren’t listening to me,” she searched the faces of Scott and Coop but found no sympathetic eyes, just shock and horror that Timber read as disgust. Though it was Remy who had outed her so embarrassingly, she turned to him now as her only hope of an ally.
“Remy. Remy,” she pleaded. “Remy, nobody hurt me,” Timber insisted, but could see only signs of disbelief on his face; on all the men’s faces. “I’m not even hurt, really. Please, just let me explain.”
“All right Timber. We’re listening. Remy said quietly.
“Ok. Ok.” Timber took a deep breath and swiped at the tears in her eyes, tugging again at her sweater to be sure it covered her back. “Just let me explain. “I know this looks bad to you.”
“Ya think?” Puck interjected.
Remy gave him a look and told him to “let her talk.”
“This looks bad,” Timber tried again. “But really it’s not. It’s like a blister. You know? Like when a pitcher is having a good day and they can’t catch up with his fastball and they’re waving at his curveball and he’s in the groove. And then around the fifth inning he starts to get a blister. And you think the blister is going to be a bad thing that will throw off his game, and it hurts, and it looks bad, so bad the umpire might be called out to take a look at it. But the thing is, the blister makes the splitter drop off the table. And they’re up there golfing at it. They’re golfing t it! He’s striking out the side and the blister is helping him. And that’s what this is, it’s like the blister. It looks bad, but if you knew, you’d see it was a good thing. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt and it makes me so happy. If you could see that you’d understand. I’m happy now, and I haven’t felt that way for so long.”
Timber searched the faces of her friends and found no likely ally.
“Timber.” Remy reached for one of her buried hands. “Sit down here baby.”
Timber allowed him to lead her to a stool and sat carefully, leaving her left cheek off the seat. Remy put the piece of pizza she had nibbled on in front of her and asked Scott to pour her a glass of Pepsi, indicating with his head for Coop to sit down across from Timber. Scott brought the cola and sat down next to Coop. Puck remained standing, leaning against the kitchen sink.
“Timber,” Remy began gently. “Every year they send someone around to talk to us about domestic abuse, and I admit, I don’t understand it, but I know for some reason women feel they need to protect their abuser.”
Timber sighed, pushed the pizza away and lay her head in her arms on the counter.
Remy pressed on, rubbing the back of her neck. “Timber, every one of us in this room wants right now to go do the kind of violence to this guy that he did to you, but we’re not going to do that, ok? We’re not going to go hurt him. Ok? Remy asked again when Timber made no reply. “Ok?”
Timber looked up at him. “So you’ll drop this?”
“No Timber,” Remy said sadly with a shake of his head. “Someone hurt you sweetheart, and we can’t just let that go. Is that why you’re hiding back in the pool house Timmie? Is that why you have a loaded gun? Are you afraid of this guy?”
“No.” Timber insisted. “There is no guy. No one is hurting me. Why won’t you believe me?” she whined, and again hid her face in her arms.
“Why don’t we believe you Timmie? Maybe because ever since we came here you’ve been lying your ass off to us. You’re traveling in Australia, the glass man’s coming, the gun’s not loaded, you’re telling lies you don’t need to tell. That makes me wonder what the hell the truth is Timber. And we all saw with our own eyes what the truth is.”
“What you THINK the truth is. What you THINK the truth is.” Timber cried back. “Listen to me. No one is hurting me. I’m ok. I was’t for a while, but I am now, and you are going to screw it up. You are going to screw everything up.”
“OK Timmie,” Scott spoke up. “If no one is hitting you, tell us how you got those bruises on your back? Did you have a mountain climbing accident in Alaska? Did a Kangaroo jump up and down on you back in Australia? How did you get that rug burn on your butt? You didn’t just wake up like this, Timmie.”
“Yes! Yes I did! Not one morning, not a single morning, but yes, this just happened. It just happened, but it’s not something you need to worry about. The bruises don’t hurt. They don’t hurt at all. And the sores hurt a little but I’m doing ok. I’m happy. I’m very happy.”
There was silence in the kitchen with all eyes on Timber who sat head down sniffing. After a long thirty seconds, Coop stood up, rounded the kitchen island and sat down next to Timber
“Are you sick Sweetheart? Is that why you’re so thin? Is that what’s happened to your hands?”
At the mention of her hands Timber crossed her arms over her chest and hid them from view but made no attempt to answer Coop’s question. “Timber.” He tried again. “If you want us to believe no one is hurting you, then I think you owe us an explanation.”
That seemed to rouse Timber’s anger. “Do I Coop? I owe you an explanation? I haven’t seen you in two years Coop. I haven’t seen you in two years Scotty. I haven’t seen you in a year and a half Remy. You are just three guys who used to be friends with my husband and excuse me if I don’t think I owe you anything. Now I didn’t ask you here. I don’t want you here, and I am asking you to please leave. In fact, I am not even sure you’re really here at all. I think this is just a nightmare. It was Christmastime, and I was thinking about you, and you sneaked into my dream, and when I wake up you’ll be gone.”
“Timber.” Remy told her, “If you want us to go, we’ll go. But we cannot leave you here unless we know this guy won’t hurt you again. If we go, we’re going to the police and we are going to tell them what’s happening here.”
“No!” Timber exploded. “No! They’ll lock me up, and they will take all my money and I will never get out.”
“Timber, that’s crazy. Is that what this guy is telling you? Has he brainwashed you into believing the police are out to get you?” Scott demanded.
“Timber,” Coop asked. “Does this guy have access to your money?”
“THERE IS NO GUY!” Timber shouted.
“OK” Remy walked over to the wall phone and picked up the receiver. “911 it is Timber. EMS and police.”
“No!” She shouted again, “No! So help me Remy, if you call the police, I will tell them you raped me. I will tell them all four of you have been holding me prisoner in the pool house, and that you gang bang me ten times a day, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not true because they will have to investigate, and your famous faces will be in the press, associated with a rape charge, and I can tell you from personal experience that even when it’s a false claim, it will hurt you. Now get out my house and leave us in peace.”
Remy hung up the receiver. “Us Timber? Who’s ‘us’? You and this guy who is beating the crap out of you?” He took out his cellphone and laid it on the counter. “You want to cry rape Timmie?” Here’s my phone. 911. Call the number. Because that call ends with you getting some help. That call ends with this asshole facing assault charges and a restraining order. That call ends with you not looking like an Auschwitz survivor, and if I have to face a rape charge, have at it, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
The only sound in the kitchen was Timber’s anguished sniffling. Finally Coop stood up, fished his cell phone out of his pocket and laid it next to Remy’s. “Me too, Timmie. Do your best darlin’ because I am not walking away from this.”
A third phone landed on the counter as Scott added his saying, “Page Six here I come.”
Timber continued to sob uncontrollably but made no move to reach for the cells. The sight of the phones however, gave Remy an idea. “Her cell phone.” He told Scott and Coop. “This guy’s name will be in her cell.”
Scott looked from Remy to Coop. “She said she was trying to sleep and it kept beeping so she put the phone in a box. So I guess we start with the boxes closest to the bed and work our way outward.”
“Let’s do it.” Coop agreed and the three friends headed out to the pool house, leaving Timber crying at the kitchen counter with Puck to stand guard.