Hands of Women
As Haddie pulled into her sister’s driveway, she was reminded of a time when Emma almost moved away, her husband, Dan, being tempted by outlandish job offers from all over — the man was highly intelligent when it came to anything cyber related.
It was a tense time in her sister’s marriage. Emma wanted to stay in Florida, wanting her kids to be around family, around Haddie and Sam. And it wasn’t Emma simply throwing a fit — her sister wasn’t like that. She had had a pure, deep desire to stay put, her instinctive mother-bear gene kicking in and unable to release its claws. Dan understood after many heartfelt conversations with his wife. They stayed, Dan working for a computer software company, even though he was probably over-qualified for the position. He sacrificed money and prestige for his family and never once held it over Emma’s head, knowing it was the right choice.
Bee and Rosie squealed with delight when Haddie came through the door of their modest home, running to greet her. Haddie bent down to hug them at the same time. “I’ve missed you guys.”
Her sister walked into the family room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. “Thanks for the proof of life. I was beginning to worry.”
Haddie shot Emma an apologetic wince. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry. I’ve been so preoccupied.”
Emma shook her head, knowing how Haddie got lost in her creating. “It’s no excuse, Haddie. The girls have been asking about you.”
“Aunt Haddie, want to see our new puppy? He’s so cute, and he plays, and he licks me all over.”
Haddie’s eyes widened, and she laughed at Rosie’s excitement. “Sweetie, I’d love to see your puppy.” After shooting Emma a look of shock, knowing how allergic her sister was to dogs, Haddie followed her nieces into the laundry room which led to the backyard, Emma following behind them.
“I finally caved, agreeing to allergy shots. What can I say? They wore me down. Although, Dan was the worst.”
Haddie and her sister were nearly fifteen years apart, their parents always claiming how Emma was a gift and not an accident. Since Emma was so much younger than she was, Haddie always felt as if she were Emma’s mom rather than the older sister, raising her along with her parents. It left their relationship feeling a bit odd. But when Emma had the children Haddie was unable to, they became closer, Haddie loving how Emma had made her an aunt. She adored those two little girls with everything she had.
Haddie was going out of her mind, waiting on information from Sarah, determined to forge ahead with her plans no matter what the stakes. As Haddie and her sister sat out back, she watched Bee and Rosie run with their new schnauzer snipping playfully at their heels, knowing she didn’t want them growing up in a world filled with boys who were already being taught that it was their job to be tough, then projecting that toughness onto women. She didn’t want them ending up with guys who were raised with “real men don’t cry” and “we’re the protectors — the fixers.” Women shouldn’t need protection from men. They should be able to walk down a street after the sun set without fear of being attacked or worse. They shouldn’t have to dress in a certain manner, just to appease the urges men were unwilling to control. No, Haddie’s nieces would not grow up that way if Haddie had anything to say about it.
Sometimes Haddie had nightmares about waking up in a cold, barren jail cell, calling out for Sam. She had that dream more than once. Knowing what she was about to step into had severe consequences — she knew that. But when she thought of a man trying to control or abuse one of her nieces, she knew she couldn’t stop. They didn’t have a hundred years. They only had now. And that’s why Haddie would be in this until the end, even if it meant losing Sam and Emma. Her convictions were that powerful.
After an afternoon of baking cookies and decorating them with pastel sprinkles, Haddie needed to get to the grocery store before heading home. She had just pulled her SUV into a parking slot when her new prepaid cell phone vibrated in her pocket. Haddie’s shaky fingers wrestled the phone out, scanning the text message that came through.
SUBJECT HAS BEEN ADMITTED PER HIS GP, COMPLAINING OF LETHARGY, LACK OF CONCENTRATION, AND BLISTERING LINES ON BACK OF ARM. SPEECH IS SLOWER THAN NORMAL.
Haddie read the text three times, throwing her head back against the car seat in relief. It was very much the same results as the computer stated due to his age.
Another text came through as her thoughts bounced all over the place.
DRS ARE BAFFLED
It was too soon to gloat or claim victory, but she knew Dr. Hilton would be fine — just different. Haddie knew once he was released from the hospital, there would be no way of keeping tabs on him any longer. But she still had Jim, knowing she would find out one way or another how he was doing after his altercation with her glove.
Haddie quickly grabbed the items she needed to make tacos, realizing she had a few hours before Sam would be there, hoping to extract some more sap from the branches that were still alive in their water source. It wouldn’t be long before the roots amassed enough that she could plant them. But where? Possibly keep them in a larger container in the greenhouse? Haddie would probably have to go back eventually to retrieve more, knowing it was risky.
Extracting and scraping the sap was tedious work. Haddie’s muscles ached from how tense she remained during the entire process. She kept reminding herself that she was doing this for all women, taking out the bad seeds so good men could shine. She believed this to be true in her heart.
It had to be true.
Haddie had the kitchen scoured and taco meat simmering when Sam got home from work. Earlier, she went for a swim, attempting to relax her mind, her body gently bobbing on top of the water after her workout. She wondered about Jim and Dr. Hilton, knowing she was doing a favor for all women who were in close contact with them. But now that her husband was home, she compartmentalized her thoughts, attempting to shift all focus onto him. It was the only way.
Sam walked out onto the back patio, holding up a bag of something when he stepped through the door. “I had to stop at Walgreens on my way home, so I picked you up a treat.” When he got closer, Haddie made out the red and white bag: Jelly Bellies, her guilty pleasure.
Sam bent down and planted a kiss on her cheek, placing the candy on the table. “Thank you,” she told him.
Sam nodded. “What’d you do today?”
Haddie attempted to remain relaxed, focusing on the details she could share with her husband. “I went to see the girls. Can you believe Emma caved and got them a puppy?”
Sam grinned. “Yes, for some reason I can. I bet the girls were thrilled.”
The memory of the girls introducing her to Ollie resulted in a smile. “Yes, they were.”
Sam pulled a chair out, sitting down beside Haddie. “How about after dinner we go to The Reef for drinks. Greg’s band is playing tonight.”
Haddie knew she could use the distraction, so she agreed. “Sounds fun.”
After chitchatting about their days, Sam stood, his chair scraping across the terracotta tile. “I’m going to change clothes.”
Haddie watched him go inside. What would Sam think if he knew what she had done? He always supported her, agreed with her when she vented her frustrations to him. But to what extent? She knew there was no way he would condone what she had done — what she was about to do. Haddie was developing relationships with strangers — women who she was certain would step up for her cause. But would they really when asked? It’s one thing to post about it, but would they act on those words?
Sam and Haddie shared a simple meal outside with Sam rattling on about a new shopping center breaking ground any day now while Haddie pretended to be interested. It was a lucrative deal for Sam’s company with Sam receiving a huge bonus — it was great for them both. After dinner, Sam drove them to The Reef, a bar situated on the beach with tables galore outside, the surf from the ocean barely audible over the musicians. Sam’s old buddy from college still performed in the same band since his early thirties, showcasing the oldies but goodies.
As Haddie watched their server flit from table to table, she couldn’t help but notice the way one man thought it was okay to grab her backside. Haddie saw how she tensed, rolling her eyes as soon as her back was turned. And it wasn’t the first time. Did that man really think it was okay?
“Why are you staring at that man?”
Sam’s question startled Haddie, and she was embarrassed that he noticed. “It’s not because he’s attractive, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Sam smiled. “By the way you’re throwing daggers his way…no, I wasn’t thinking that.”
Haddie glanced at the man again, then back at Sam, her frown lines prominently displayed. “Did you notice how handsy he is with the server? It’s disgusting.”
Sam turned his head toward the table again, studying the man, but the server wasn’t anywhere around for him to see what she’d been talking about.
“You want me to have a word with him? Remind him about his absence of manners?”
Haddie knew Sam was serious, the tightness in his eyes a dead giveaway. “No, no need to make a scene. His day will come…”
Sam lifted a questioning brow. She only smiled at her husband.
Haddie hated that she had to notice everything that went on around her. Why couldn’t she simply put on her blinders, oblivious to the behaviors of entitled men? Because it wasn’t who she was. Haddie was an observer, an investigator. She was simply unable to turn it off. She didn’t know how to look the other way. But she knew she had to try, not wanting to ruin Sam’s night out.
In her attempts to relax, Haddie had one too many glasses of wine, feeling quite mellow. Sam laughed softly when Haddie slid her hand up his thigh, something she always did to let him know that she was in the mood for some fun. He leaned over and kissed her heatedly. “Time to get you home, love.”
Haddie gave him no disagreement, thankful to be leaving, her watchful eyes forever drifting to the jerk with grabby fingers, hoping one day someone he knew asked for a glove to be sent.
They drove home with the windows down, the salty air flowing through the car and settling in Haddie’s hair. Sam’s hand wrapped in her own, resting on her thigh. She loved living in Florida, especially down in the Keys. Life was easy here, simple. Sam enjoyed his job and she was happy once she left teaching and all its bureaucracy. Why couldn’t she ignore all the injustices in the world?
Sam decided to take a quick shower before bed, leaving Haddie lingering in the kitchen, getting the coffee ready for the next morning. Her purse was perched on the counter, and she heard a vibrating sound against the quartz surface. Her stomach clenched since she knew her everyday phone wasn’t on silent.
Holding her breath, she reached inside, retrieving her link to Sarah. When she read the one-line text, her knees buckled.
THANK YOU FOR THIS!
Haddie covered her mouth with her hand as she fought back tears. “You are so welcome, my friend,” she whispered to no one.