written by: Phyllis P. Colucci
Franco reached for Rosalie’s chef-style apron hanging from the pantry doorknob and tied it on before placing the steaks in the frying pan. He then sat back with a glass of wine in hand, crazy thoughts in mind, and the sound of sizzling steaks tapping at his eardrum. The kitchen permeated with the fresh aromas of garlic, onion, parsley and basil, a soothing mix which helped calm Franco’s nerves. Franco sunk deeper into his chair, proudly looking around the kitchen, hoping the results of his culinary efforts would somehow calm Rosalie as well. He even surprised himself with his cooking. He hoped that this dinner he prepared would give Rosalie an evening of solace, even for a short while, until they could piece together the day’s events.
…Franco then took a long whiff of the pleasant food odors lingering in the kitchen. Pleasant food odors that he created. He just couldn’t get over himself. He took another whiff…then another. Chuckling under his breath, he lifted his wine glass and boastfully toasted himself in a moment of self-absorbed bliss. Cooking proved to be a welcoming distraction for Franco this afternoon. He then gazed over at Rosalie as she lie sleeping on the sofa. She looked like an angel to him, without a worry in the world. A far cry from what she looked like a half hour ago - a frightened little mess. That sad vision of Rosalie just tore at his heart. Franco knew he had to work very hard from this day forward in order to get Rosalie through all of this. Hopefully Ms. Price helped put the “voices from the cellar” to rest for her, allowing he and Rosalie to focus on the warning from her parents. This all sounded so out there for Franco but, before today, there was no explanation and no hope for Rosalie. At least now they have something to work with and somewhere to start. Franco silently thanked Maria as well, for bringing Ms. Price to Rosalie’s aid.
…As Franco set the table with the multi-colored, flowery-patterned dishes from the china closet, he heard Rosalie’s sweet voice from behind whispering, “You look so cute Franco. My macho construction worker running around the kitchen trying to put dinner together. It smells pretty good too, and you look so sexy in my apron. I can’t wait to dig into one of those steaks Franco. I’m famished.” Franco chuckled heartily and proudly, of course.
Always the gentleman, Franco pulled out a chair from the table and helped Rosalie to her seat. He poured her a glass of wine, then carried the food over to the table like a waiter at an upscale restaurant. Rosalie was grinning from ear to ear, admiring Franco’s every movement as he made their plates. They both settled down to enjoy this wonderful dinner together, silently knowing that soon they would have to speak to each other about today. They lifted their wine glasses and tapped each other’s glass as Rosalie made a toast. She said stoically, “To us Franco, to my wonderful parents up in heaven, to Ms. Price for coming here today and to my dearest friend Maria for being so kind in bringing Ms. Price to our home.” They both took a sip of their wines, then indulged in their luscious steak dinners. Franco, wanting things to move along at Rosalie’s pace, just sat quietly until Rosalie was ready to speak.
…Rosalie slowly cut off a piece of the large steak sitting on her plate, dipping it into the mix of sautéed onions and steak juices surrounding it. She placed it into her mouth, savoring its soft texture and reveling in its flavor. Her taste buds yearned for another piece. She continued to joyfully devour her meal, as Franco watched in awe. He was trying to ascertain whether or not she was mindlessly eating to avoid any conversation about what took place today, or was she truly enjoying the delicious meal he had prepared for them.
Franco wanted so much to discuss Ms. Price, her findings, and Rosalie’s parents. The silence was truly testing his patience but he had to endure it for Rosalie’s sake. He didn’t want to push her. He was fighting hard not to ask her about today, but he was losing that battle with each passing moment. Although he utterly enjoyed watching Rosalie indulge in her meal regardless of whether it was mindless eating or true enjoyment of his cooking, preferring the latter of course, Franco couldn’t restrain himself any longer. He took a huge sip of his wine, gently placed his wine glass down in front of him, then asked, “Rosalie, tell me, what did you think of Ms. Price?”
As Rosalie continued to eat and drink in displaced merriment, silence moved throughout the kitchen like a deep fog settling all around them. Franco knew this silence all too well, and recognized it for what it was. Rosalie shutting down. This happened quite often whenever something frightened Rosalie. She would clam up as if she were a little child hiding her face in the corner, thinking no one else could see her now. Franco hated being tuned out like this, but he accepted Rosalie’s behavior as part of her panic disorder. He knew it would be short-lived, as always. It was just Rosalie’s way of temporarily protecting herself from facing reality. It was Rosalie’s way of surviving. To Rosalie, silence was golden. She would eventually come to her senses and address today’s events with a renewed strength, as if she never avoided it in the first place.
Unfortunately, Franco could not accept nor deal with Rosalie’s childish attitude this time; disorder or no disorder. They needed to talk about the day’s events. This was too serious an issue to dance around. Suddenly Franco stood up from his chair, looked over at Rosalie, and demanded an answer to his question. So again he asked, “Rosalie, what did you think of Ms. Price’s visit today?” He would no longer accept silence for an answer. Rosalie sensed this as she felt his eyes upon her and, although Franco was now expecting tears to roll down Rosalie’s cheeks, she instead rose to her feet, looked Franco straight in the eye and said, “Please put up a pot of espresso. We’ll talk over coffee. I promise.” Franco calmly obliged, elated that Rosalie was willing to open up and talk.
He cleared off the dinner table, put up a pot of espresso, then watched as Rosalie left the kitchen, heading straight for the comfort of her sofa. She glanced back over at Franco, and gave him a reassuring smile. Although perplexed, he continued to stare at Rosalie with enough sense to smile back at her to ease the tension. Rosalie, although feminine and very sweet, was a complicated woman and Franco knew to handle her with kid gloves. He then went about his business in the kitchen. Franco actually loved washing dishes, especially when he felt anxious. Tonight there was something very soothing and comforting about the warm water and “ocean-breeze” scent of the dishwashing liquid that seemed to calm his senses and relax his mind.
Although happy that Rosalie was somewhat willing to open up now after her episode of silence during dinner, Franco is still angered by this constant display of childish behavior which he has had to deal with over and over again, all attributed to her panic disorder. He just wanted to scream out at Rosalie to go take her xanax, calm down and stop tormenting him with her silence. He just wanted all of that to go away so that they could deal with their issues like two adults, now and in the future. However, he knew if he did that, it would only push Rosalie back into a shell. She hesitated to take xanax unless her anxiety and panic disorder became unbearable. To Franco, it had become unbearable. He needs to find a way to gently discuss this with Rosalie in such a way that she could understand what this is doing to him and to them; and hopefully she can make an effort to fight this behavior somehow. Taking xanax may calm Rosalie down for the moment, but Franco knows it’s not the answer, although it does bring some peace and harmony at times. Xanax will only mask the issue. All the therapy in the world could not help Rosalie either. She’s been there, done that, and she’s told Franco time and time again that therapy will take her so far, the rest is up to her. So Franco’s hope now is that they can work through this together to stop these behaviors from stifling their relationship; especially now after Ms. Price’s findings. They have to work together to get to the bottom of things. Rosalie’s panic disorder and periods of anxiety, silence and shutting down, continue to hinder Rosalie’s ability to handle issues and various problems that come into her relationship with Franco. They need to fix this and remain a team. Franco can’t do it alone anymore. Franco is determined to work with Rosalie on this for the sake of their relationship, and tonight may be a reason to start…so with that, Franco closed the faucets, dried the dishes, placed the wet dishcloth on the kitchen radiator to dry, then joined Rosalie on the sofa. He took her hand in his, and presented her with a game plan so that they could work together and confront all that comes their way in a more productive manner than the way she has handled things in the past.
Franco stressed to her the importance of trusting each other and leaning on each other for support in order to strengthen their relationship and prevent further episodes where Rosalie shuts down to avoid confronting issues, even those issues that frighten her the most. Franco assured Rosalie that he would always be there for her, but that if she continued to childishly tune him out and use silence as a defense mechanism, there would be no room for him in her life. He further stressed that he loved her more than life itself, but if she isn’t willing to work with him and allow him to help her, especially now, she will ultimately destroy their relationship.
Rosalie was surely caught off guard by Franco’s new approach on handling things. She felt her heart sink, knowing that her behaviors could possibly destroy their relationship. She couldn’t imagine living life without Franco. That would be a fate worse than death. He was always there taking care of her and looking out for her, she didn’t want to lose that. They are boyfriend and girlfriend, partners in life, and they should both be looking out for one another; yet, she sometimes felt as if she was the child and he was the parent…Maybe she allowed that to happen all along, and Franco just stepped into the role…That’s a little bit dysfunctional, she thought. It’s time to grow up, and some things will have to change if this relationship is going to survive.
…Rosalie quickly assured Franco that their relationship was the most important thing in her life and that perhaps she just lost sight of things as she let her anxiety and panic disorder control her. She apologized to Franco for putting him through this for so long and promised him that she would work very hard to change things. She reiterated to Franco that therapy is out of the question, and xanax would be used as a last resort, but she is ready and willing to make the effort to work through her disorder so she can save their relationship. This was a wake-up call for Rosalie and she knew she had pushed Franco to his limit.
Franco pulled Rosalie closer to him and cradled her in his strong arms. She always felt safe from the world whenever Franco held her. Franco then told Rosalie that they should make tonight their first effort in changing things. He said in a caring manner, “Let us start by confronting everything that happened today. That’s the only way we can deal with this.” So he raised Rosalie’s chin up, kissed her on the lips, and once again said, “Rosalie, tell me what you thought of Ms. Price’s visit today. I think that would be a good place to start.” Franco then escorted his special lady to the kitchen for some good espresso and some serious conversation.
Rosalie knew that she had better respond to Franco’s request like an honest and mature woman, allowing them both to address this situation together, so that they could get to the bottom of those “voices” she hears from down the cellar. She has a wonderful man here sitting beside her who is willing to see her through this madness. What would she do if he ever left her, she asked herself. That thought left an unbearable emptiness in the pit of Rosalie’s stomach and she promised herself that she would not make that thought a reality. No, she will never allow that to happen. She brought Franco’s hand up to her lips and gently kissed it. She looked deeply into his dark eyes and felt their souls softly touch at that moment. She knew Franco felt it too as goose bumps travelled up and down her arms from the love she felt for Franco. That love would see them through. So Rosalie grabbed Franco’s handsome face with both hands and said, “Thank you Franco for having the heart and the strength to shake me up to save our relationship. Only someone in love would take the time to do that. You could have walked away and left me behind, which is probably what I deserve, but you chose to stay with me and make things work. I couldn’t love you any more than I do right now. You’ve given me the means to do what’s right for both of us. So if you’re ready to listen Franco, I’m ready to discuss Ms. Price and her visit to our home today.” With that, Rosalie and Franco sipped espresso while Rosalie made the greatest effort ever to speak candidly about the day’s events while Franco listened with undivided attention.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Another excerpt from my novel (ebook), titled "Voices". (Hearing voices, schizophrenia, confusion, fear, betrayal, mental illness, trust, love lost, love gained)
I retired from a Supervisory/Admin position with a Federal Law Enforcement agency in NYC, a few years back.
Presently, I am pursuing my passion for writing, and most of my writing has that New York edge.