Chapter: 06–Try Not to Remember (Part 01 of 02)
Rating: PG-13 for adult language and situations, mild sexual content
Author’s Notes: Chapter’s title is taken from the title of Sheryl Crow’s song of the same name.
As always, thank you for reading! I’m glad you’re in this for the long haul! :) If you have any questions or comments, just leave them in the appropriate areas and I’ll try my best to get back with you.
Tuesday, September 19th, came and went as any other ordinary day. And just like any other ordinary day, Bree Van De Kamp woke up extra early to make breakfast for her daughter and to get a head start on the day’s chores. There was nothing particularly remarkable about that Tuesday except it was the one day of the week she dedicated herself specifically to cleaning the house and shopping for groceries. Once her prescribed chores had been completed, she filled the remainder of her time by planning parties, putting together the dinner menu for the next two weeks, baking pies for the upcoming church social, making phone calls and giving money to a couple of volunteers that came to her door asking for donations on behalf of the local senior citizen center. She even found time to reward herself once she finished everything on her agenda, however the usual glass of wine had been traded in for a half-hour in front of the television watching the soap opera that had only recently become a guilty pleasure of hers. Nothing whatsoever reminded her that Tuesday, September 19th, was, in fact, something of a milestone. No, the whole day it never dawned on Bree Van De Kamp that she had quietly reverted to being a single woman.
It wasn’t until Friday that she received the divorce papers in the mail telling her that she was no longer Mrs. Rex Van De Kamp. Since the curtains had officially closed on one stage of her life, she chose to mark the epochal occasion by exorcizing her house of the phantoms leftover from a past that included heartache and sorrow. Though a typical Friday in the Van De Kamp household consisted of cleaning the rugs and disinfecting the kitchen and bathrooms, she decided to devote the day to ridding any and all momentos of her marriage from the premises. Any pictures featuring Rex were switched out with that of a family member or dear friend, all of his trophies and awards were wrapped in bubble paper and placed carefully in a box and anything else that even remotely caused her to think of her husb–ex-husband–was promptly removed from sight.
Electing to embark on the cleansing process in Rex’s former office, she began taking down the copious amount of awards that decorated the wall. As detached as she wish she could be from the current task, she couldn’t prevent her emotional side from surfacing each time she held a plaque in her hands. She’d told herself not to care and to cast out all sentimentality for her own good, but she was powerless to do so and could only chastise herself for the delicate way with which she brushed the tips of her fingers over his name on one of the plaques she remembered having hung herself. That precise plaque, she recalled, was given to him in recognition of his extensive pro bono work in the Fairview community, rightfully earning the town’s recognition and thanks. He’d worked twelve-hour days and six-day weeks in order to provide surgical service to those that couldn’t afford it. Bree had been so proud of him and had wept with joy as he walked to the podium to accept his award. It was a rare display of public emotion which hadn’t anything to do with appearances, rather it was about the tremendous pride she had in her husband.
Once the awards had been evicted, it was then time for the trophies to go. One by one, she systematically put them away, tucking them thoughtfully into a box and making sure they wouldn’t break when moved. Of the many trophies that littered Rex’s desk and the tops of several file cabinets that filled the room, there was one in particular that jogged Bree’s memory. It was the one Rex received upon winning the statewide Medical Professionals golf tournament, an annual competition held exclusively for the doctors in the state. For years he’d practiced his game awaiting an invitation to compete. When he was finally asked to participate, to everyone’s utter astonishment, he emerged the victor after his first tournament ever, beating some of the finest players including the two previous winners. After the awards ceremony wrapped up, he went over to his wife, kissed her and then whispered seductively in her ear (it was very apparent to Bree that Rex was high on post-victory machismo hormones), “What do you say we go home, put the kids to bed early and I’ll show you some of my best strokes?”
“Rex Van De Kamp!” she’d laughed and blushed, hoping no one else could hear him.
“How would you like to sleep with a champion tonight, Bree? Maybe we can recreate that hole-in-one that I effortlessly shot on the seventh green,” he flashed her a wicked grin, obviously reveling in the age-old, primeval ritual of the conqueror showing off his spoils for the female so he could lure her to his cave and have his way.
Rex hadn’t been prepared for Bree’s uncharacteristic answer when she gave it, but just as ancient cavemen secured mates for themselves with a club and a grunt here and there, he had successfully reeled his normally kempt and reserved wife in with a trophy and a few bad golf puns. He didn’t discount the manly way the sweat trickled down his face or the way his shirt was sticking to his skin, but somehow he knew the trophy was the key. He’d told Bree later that as long as the bad golf puns worked, he resolved to keep using them until they found themselves in bed panting with their arms and legs entwined. They must’ve worked because the next thing out of Bree’s mouth drove Rex absolutely wild.
“It’s a deal, Dr. Van De Kamp, but only if I can be your caddy. I have expertise in handling your equipment that I think you’ll find very satisfying...”
In her mind, Bree could still see the way Rex’s eyes widened and mouth dropped open. He’d stammered, attempted to say something about a long iron, when he took a step backwards and ended up tumbling down a steep slope into the algae-covered pond of the golf course, somehow chipping a small part of the trophy in the process. Even now, Bree giggled ferociously at that memory. Donning a nostalgic smile on her face, she tenderly beheld the damage to the award inflicted by Rex’s raging hormones. It had been ten years, but the memory was as fresh as it if had happened yesterday. Tempting as it was for Bree to keep the meaningful token for herself, she knew she had to dispose of it. The memory was a happy one now, but it would only become painful as she struggled to come to terms with the divorce and the loneliness that would inevitably follow.
It took several hours to pack everything and when she finished, there were five big boxes sitting on the living room floor, waiting to be carted off. It actually hadn’t taken as long as she originally anticipated, probably due to Rex dropping by a couple of months ago to clean out his closets, desk and shelves. He refused to take anything in the house, just his necessities. A part of Bree wondered if he’d done so because he didn’t want any reminders of his wife or their marriage. She knew he was angry with her. It was she who’d filed for divorce without giving him any warning whatsoever. They hadn’t talked from the time Bree was admitted to the hospital until the day they’d met to divide their assets, nothing of which Rex would take. Bree was to keep everything: the house on Wisteria Lane, the house in Aspen, both cars, the joint savings account... The expression on his face as he left the lawyer’s office still haunted her and she felt somewhat guilty, but then she recalled his hateful words to her the night he’d caught her with Orson. None of that mattered now, she repeatedly told herself. It was all over and done with. She was divorced and there was no sense in worrying about any of it.
Knowing that Rex would be coming over later that evening to pick up Danielle, she left the boxes where they were rather than put them in the trash. Perhaps he’d want to take them home seeing how they were his things. Typically, when Rex came to get Danielle he waited in the car for his daughter. Secretly, she was glad she didn’t have to see him because even though there was a piece of paper saying that she and Rex were no longer bound to each other, her heart said otherwise. She saw their connection in their children who resembled both their parents. Also, she had her memories to remind her they were once a loving, happily married couple and they were filled to the brim with images of Rex and her from their earliest days together to their last meeting. She couldn’t simply pack those up and throw them in the trash and at times, that seemed like a good thing for she didn’t know if she could ever part with over twenty years of her life.
Once the chores had been tended to, Bree sat down on the couch and enjoyed a cup of tea. The silence was deafening, but she was slowly getting used to it. For a whole year prior to Rex’s return from the dead she’d been alone, so it wasn’t as though she was unaccustomed to the solitude. However, she hadn’t planned on divorce feeling so empty. Over the past three months she’d hosted a couple of dinner parties for her friends from Wisteria Lane and she couldn’t help but feel a little jealous as she looked around at them: Lynette enjoyed a passionate relationship with Tom, who doted on her, and although Mike was still in the hospital with a coma, Susan technically did have someone to whom she could give her love and attention, and while Carlos and Gaby were having a rocky go of things, deep down, Bree could see there was a tender affection that would always be between them, that transcended any vicious argument or hurtful words and accusations.
As she sipped her tea, she thought about how everything related to Rex occupied a rather small spot on her living room floor. It saddened Bree to think that twenty years of marriage plus an additional four years of dating could be summed up in five measly boxes. In a few hours, Rex would carry them off to his car and he would be out of her life for good. Danielle was seventeen, so it wasn’t like she’d have to see him other than for the purpose of updating him on any behavior problems and disciplinary actions or emergencies concerning the kids. If she wanted, she’d never have to see Rex again. She was, in all respects, free.
Suddenly, it hit her, really hit her that she was divorced. It hadn’t felt real before, when she was just waiting for the whole process to be finalized. Even when she held the divorce papers in her hands, it was impossible to conceive how it would feel to be a single woman again. But there, in her living room, at exactly four twenty-nine in the afternoon on Friday, September 22nd, Bree bid a tearless good-bye and officially closed a chapter of her life. Still, she wondered if she’d done the right thing by getting a divorce or if she’d been too hasty. Admittedly, everything had happened so fast and before the ink had even dried on the divorce papers, the marriage was over. She cast doubt on her decision of having seen a lawyer to start the proceedings before consulting Rex and she worried as to whether she could’ve made it work with her husband if they’d stayed married. Her therapist advised her against dwelling on the past, but Bree couldn’t help but think about such things, especially when she was reinforced by such silence and loneliness. As she gazed around the room, she saw shadows from a life that had been too brief, scenes that included Rex and she realized no matter how much of Rex’s stuff she packed up and gave away, he’d still be with her. There were some things that just didn’t fit in a box.
Before she would allow herself to linger any longer in the thick fog of doubt and grief, Bree did the only thing that could take her mind off her troubles: she cleaned. The household duties that were swept aside to allot time for removing Rex-related items from the house were attended to and along the way, she decided that a little deep cleaning wouldn’t hurt. When Danielle arrived home from work at seven-thirty that evening, she found her mother in a cleaning frenzy. The vacuum was out as well as the carpet shampooer and the steam cleaner; the furniture had been shuffled around and the air smelled of impeccable cleanliness. Danielle knew that she was probably the only person in the world, save her mother and Andrew, that could smell ‘clean’. It appeared that her mother was hard at work and though she used to be content to leave it at that, since her mother had come home from the hospital a few months back, Danielle made an effort to keep an unsuspecting eye out for her to make sure she was ok.
It had taken a lot of forgiveness before Danielle could even speak to Bree again. It hadn’t occurred to her exactly how debilitating her mother’s drinking problem had gotten until the night she found Bree lying unconscious in bed. Afterwards, she kept her feelings in regards to that incident a secret and hadn’t let on to her mom how truly terrifying the whole situation had been. She wasn’t much of a demonstrative person, but she did love her mother and, unfortunately, came to take advantage of the fact that her mother was always there when she needed her. It had been her mother who was the constant figure in her life, her touchstone and perpetual source of emotional support. And while Bree was hospitalized for three weeks, the sadness caused by her mother’s conspicuous absence turned into hostile resentment. Yet again, it seemed that Danielle had been left to defend herself. Not even Rex’s presence could console Danielle’s longing for the parent that had been with her since before she was born. The depths and affects of the long-term suffering her mother endured was incomprehensible to Danielle because Bree had always kept her feelings and emotions perfectly well-guarded and in check, never allowing anyone to glimpse of the turmoil that stirred just below the surface. There was never a sign that things had gotten so out-of-hand that her mom could no longer deal with them properly. What upset Danielle so much was that Bree never let anyone know that she needed help and waited until she couldn’t handle it anymore and consequently fell apart emotionally. In her heart, she partially blamed herself for her mom’s condition. Maybe if she’d paid closer attention to her instead of acting like a stubborn, selfish teenager or maybe if she hadn’t been so much of a handful and caused her mother to worry relentlessly or maybe if she’d been at home rather than at the party she’d sneaked off to (she’d lied and told her parents she had to work that night)...
With a lot of love and patience they were working through their problems. Bree gave Danielle space and allowed her to freely vent her frustrations without consequences, which often resulted in taking her daughter’s verbal abuse. It was hard telling who ended up feeling the worst because when Bree retreated to her room at bedtime, she frequently lay awake for hours weeping over the awful things Danielle had screamed at her and Danielle, upon hearing her mother crying her eyes out from the other side of the bedroom wall, would feel like an insensitive monster. Deep down, though Bree was doing well at home and had refrained from drinking any alcohol, Danielle still feared losing her mother. The recurrent dreams about Matthew Applewhite’s death had abated in the last few months only to be replaced by those in which her mother’s death had been a common and persistent theme. She knew those nightmares weren’t real and that death in dreams was purely a symbol invented by the cryptic mind to give visualization to one’s incognizant fears, however the feelings that lurked longed after she’d been startled awake were anything but symbolic. The unnerving terror she experienced was so horrific that oftentimes she would slip quietly into the bedroom next to hers to make certain that her mother was there, warm and breathing.
When Danielle walked into the living room that night she was relieved to see her mother was getting back to normal and recovering her old ways. She hoped, however, that some old habits were gone, never to vex her mother again. The scene before her was mildly disconcerting because Bree was deep-cleaning, something that wasn’t a part of her usual Friday routine. Even Danielle was acutely aware that the last Sunday of the month was reserved especially for deep-cleaning.
“Mom, what are you doing?” she asked, waiting until she heard the answer before worrying.
Bree spun around and upon seeing her daughter, smiled broadly. “Hi honey! Did you have a good day at school and work?”
“Don’t change the subject, Mom. What are you doing? You don’t usually clean this late and you never deep-clean on a Friday.”
At Danielle’s tone, Bree sat the feather duster down on a shelf of the bookcase and crossed the room to her daughter. “I was bored, Danielle, that’s all. You know how I get when I’m bored.”
“Or when you’re trying to take your mind off things,” Danielle mentioned, bluntness thickly coating every word..
Bree was conscious that Danielle had taken to scrutinizing her every move. As precious and sweet as she found the gesture, it also troubled Bree to think she tormented her daughter on a daily basis with one irreversible mistake of the past. No matter how much she attempted to reassure Danielle that she was all right and capable of handling her problems, the teenager’s eyes were always upon her. Every minute of every day since the episode occurred, she wished dearly that it had never happened mainly due to the pressure that was thrust upon her daughter.
Placing a hand on Danielle’s shoulder, she rubbed it affectionately. “You don’t have to worry about me, you know. I’ll admit that I’ve had some things on my mind today, but it’s normal. I’m not going to stray down a path of self-destruction because I think about your father every now and then!”
“Why were you thinking about Dad?” she inquired, her curiosity piqued.
“I received my divorce papers in the mail today.”
“Oh. I thought you’d be happy? I mean, people get divorced because they don’t want to be married to each other anymore, right? Julie’s parents were ecstatic when they divorced.”
Bree chuckled faintly, “I’d hardly say I’m happy about being divorced. I think a more accurate description would be ‘relieved’.”
“Do you miss Dad?”
Hesitating for several seconds, she finally admitted, “I’d be lying if I said no.” In all truthfulness, she couldn’t envision a time in which she wouldn’t miss Rex Van De Kamp.
“Do all these boxes have to do with Dad?” Danielle gesticulated towards the five boxes sitting in the floor.
The expression on Bree’s face became more somber when Rex’s things were mentioned. “When I cleaned house today, I decided to remove everything that reminded me of him. I guess it’s just my own way of trying to move on. I was trying to make it easier on myself, but the more I put away, the more I remembered the old days.
“So, when he comes to get you tonight, tell him to come in and get his stuff.”
She gazed thoughtfully at the boxes as if they were coffins encasing the feelings that had long since died. But instead of disappearing completely, the ghosts of those feelings haunted her senses and reminded them of the sensations she’d once felt with her husband–the way she tenderly cared for him when he was sick, the way her stomach would turn into knots when he was up for a promotion, they way her legs trembled when he loved her. As much as she tried to erase any record that Rex was at one time an integral part of her life, there would forever be skeletons of happier times that remained between them. The experiences and anecdotes she carried with her would serve to immortalize the more memorable excerpts from their marriage.
“Are you sure you’re going to be ok?” Danielle questioned her mother with a trace of skepticism in her voice.
“As long as I have you, darling, I’ll be just fine.” Bree pulled her daughter in for a big hug and while Danielle pretended she was embarrassed and too old for such things, she melted into her mother’s embrace and enjoyed the warmth and closeness she found there.
“Mom, I’m too old for this,” she weakly protested, but it was just to save face.
“Are you too old for brownies, because I was thinking that when you return home on Sunday we could make some.”
“Can we have ice cream, too??”
“I think that can be arranged.”
“Then no, I’m not too old.”
Bree laughed and began peppering the top of her daughter’s head with kisses. Forgetting that she was suppose to be an uncaring, surly teen embroiled in adolescent angst, she giggled and managed a squeaky “Stop!” Loathing to admit it, even to herself, she savored her mother’s undivided attention and felt once again like the little girl that lived everyday in her mother’s shadow waiting to be showered with her affection. Danielle missed the days when her parents’ world used to revolve around her and her brother. There had been a brief period of time long ago when her mother hadn’t been so icy and distant which previously Danielle could only barely recall, but now all those emotions had been rediscovered.
She was still in stitches when she exclaimed, “Mom, stop, you still have cleaning to do!”
“Oh my goodness! You’re right! And your father will be here soon! I can’t have him see the house in this shape. You know, cleaning goes faster when there are two people involved...”
“I get the hint,” Danielle grimaced. “Ok, I”ll help you, but only on the condition we clean my way.”
“With music!” Danielle answered brightly. Before Bree could respond, Danielle ran upstairs to retrieve a CD from her room.
“Ok, but don’t turn the volume up too loudly! You know how I hate loud music! And that music you listen to is very atonal. Not to mention crude and... bad. Wait, Danielle, what about we just turn on the television?!”
“Don’t worry, Mom,” she said as she returned downstairs. “The music I picked out is appropriate for any age.”
Slipping the disc into the stereo’s CD player, Danielle turned the volume up and waited for the music to start. Bree braced her eardrums to be liquidized by that obnoxious music her youngest child listened to, but to her delight, the melody to one of her own forgotten favorites was emitted from the speakers.
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, see that girl, watch that scene
dig in the Dancing Queen...
“Come on! Start cleaning!” her daughter shouted over the song that filled the ostensibly hollow and saddened house with noise. For a while, it seemed that like days gone by, the house would again be enlivened with joy and laughter; at least for one night, anyway.
Friday night and the lights are low, looking out for the place to go, where they play the right music, getting in the swing, you come to look for a king...
As ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” played continuously courtesy the repeat option, Danielle helped her mother finish cleaning the living room. The catchy tune added an extra spring to the girls’ steps. Bree didn’t know housework could be so rapturous. Perhaps she’d been going about things the wrong way! Mentally, she made a note that from now on she would clean against a backdrop of music.
Anybody could be that guy, night is young and the music's high, with a bit of rock music
everything is fine, you're in the mood for a dance, and when you get the chance...
“Hey, Mom, ever dance on top of a table?!” Bree could barely hear anything over the music, but Danielle screamed loud enough that she picked up every word.
“I should say not!” she exclaimed, heartily appalled by the question. Just exactly what kind of person did Danielle imagine her mother to be??
“Never?!” Danielle’s facial expression aptly communicated her incredulity. “What is so wrong with you that you never danced on a table?!”
Placing her hands on her hips, Bree stared at her daughter quizzically, “Danielle, when have you had cause to dance atop a table?? Do you know what kind of irreparable damage can be caused by those shoes you wear??”
Rolling her eyes, she took a large step and hoisted herself on the coffee table and commenced dancing.
“Danielle Brooke Van De Kamp, get off that table this instant!!” Bree gasped in horror. Was it possible to be scandalized by your own flesh and blood in the privacy of your own home??
“No! Come on! Get up here!” she stuck her arm out to assist her mother, but Bree was having none of it.
“I will not! Now come down here! I will not have you galloping all over the furniture! It’s almost... it’s... offensive!”
Danielle proceeded to dance while talking to her mother, “Haven’t you done anything stupid and pointless just to do it? Just to have a good time??”
Yeah, she mused. There was the time Gaby, Susan and Lynette talked me into skinny-dipping, then we almost got caught by the police and I had to walk alone totally nude to Susan’s RV where I came upon Orson who lent me his coat and drove me home. “Absolutely not.” Her terse reply was almost too swift.
“Well, this one time, just trust me and do it!” Once more Danielle extended her hand to her mother. Bree thought that it was downright insane to even contemplate doing such a thing. How could she knowingly and willingly damage perfectly good furniture?? That was such a lovely table, too, made from the finest mahogany...
“God, Mom, stop being so old! You’re being like Grandma Mason!”
If there was ever a better time to prove your progeny dead wrong, it was at the mention of age and/or a comparison to one’s parents. Without giving the matter any more thought, she accepted Danielle’s help in getting on top of her beautiful, very expensive coffee table. She prayed it wouldn’t collapse while Danielle and she engaged in travesties that were probably far worse than anything ever concocted by Lynette Scavo’s boys.
Continued in the next post...