By 1971, Led Zeppelin were gradually becoming the greatest band in the world, and near the end of that year they released their fourth album, widely known as the “four symbols” album, and songs like “Stairway to Heaven” were cementing their place in rock n’ roll infamy.
Meanwhile, my little world was falling apart. I supposed it was only lucky for the band that most of the recordings for the fourth album were finished after my huge row and subsequent separation from Robert. But while they were somehow keeping the peace between them, probably through the use of many groupies and many drugs, and touring the world, I was stuck in my own little hell.
Soon after my embarrassing night of drunken confessions, in fact the next day, I flew back to England and moved into, at least temporarily, my parents’ house with Thalia. Not that they were overly happy to have me there; at first it was ok mum and dad were supportive of me. But as pieces of what had actually happened fell into place, especially in my mother’s mind, she grew more and more distance from me. Thankfully though she wasn’t taking it out on my daughter and would gladly take care of her needs when I wasn’t around, which happened to be a lot. I fell into a deep depression, sleeping most of the days away and turning to alcohol whenever I could. I cried often, for my marriage which I had all but ruined, and the friendship I might never have again with the other three people who had meant so much in my life since I could remember. Especially Jimmy. Even in mourning my life with Robert, I mourned the times I had spent with Jimmy. I longed for both at any given time. And frankly that sunk me more into a depression. What had I become? I claimed one thing, but I was really another; I wanted to be a loving wife to one man, but I was also the lover of another. I led a double life. I was a pretender, a con artist. The only time the guilt didn’t consume me was when I was with either of them. And now that I was with neither, it was eating me alive. I had even resorted to things I never thought I would- I was cutting. The pain felt farther away and less apparent when I took the knife over my arm or leg. And at least temporarily, it was gone. I was mess.
“Juliet,” I heard my name whispered softly after a knock on my door and saw the hall light stream in on the wall. Quickly, I pulled the bed covers up to hide the marks on my arms and turned toward the voice. It was my father, of course, and he gave me a forced smile, “Hello dear. I just wanted to see if maybe you wanted some dinner tonight? I don’t know when the last time you ate was and you know that’s not good for you.”
Hmph, I thought, food was the last thing on my mind these days. Anything to please myself was. What was the use? However, I lifted my head, “I suppose I could eat. I’ll be down shortly.”
Dad nodded and I could see the relief in his face as I complied, and he shut the door behind him. I got up slowly and turned on the bedroom light. The sun was already setting outside as I looked myself over in the mirror. I had lost some weight since the ordeal and turned this way and that to examine my frame. I looked awful and I knew it; standing there in a pair of Robert’s old boxer shorts and a t-shirt, they both hung off me. I could just make out a few red lines on my right thigh and I turned my right wrist towards the mirror and saw a few deeper marks there. Sighing, I dug through my dresser drawers and found a gray sweater and put it on over the t-shirt. I then slipped on some jeans from the floor and brushed my hair briefly. Looking back in the mirror I thought it would have to do; I had dark circles under my eyes from jointly not washing makeup off at some point and not sleeping but I wasn’t about to put any effort into doing anything about that. I then turned and walked to my door, turned the light off, and headed down the stairs.
The smell of Yorkshire pudding assaulted my nostrils and my mouth started watering right away. I almost doubted mum was doing anything for me at this point, but she must have known that was one of my favorite things in the world to eat! My stomach grumbled as well. Actually that was not entirely true, mum and dad were both doing a lot more for me than I cared to realize. When I reached the foot the stairs I saw mum in the kitchen setting the table and humming to herself, and dad sitting in his favorite chair in the family room holding his granddaughter and reading the newspaper, or trying to as she grabbed at it and tried to rip bits of it off. I stifled a giggle, probably my first in weeks, and braved a walk into the kitchen. I noticed there were not yet any glasses out for drinks, so I went to the cupboard and got three out and filled them with water, all the while mum was standing at the stove putting the food onto plates and not saying a thing. I set the full glasses on the table and then sat at what was my usual spot, folding my hands in front of me. In a few more minutes mum was placing the plates of steaming food in front of their settings and when she got to me I moved my hands. It was the first time in a while she and I made eye contact. She sighed and I saw her eyes were wet. She was fighting off tears. I frowned, feeling part guilty and part angry and went to the living room to tell dad dinner was ready.
Thalia was dozing on her grandfather’s chest as he continued to read the newspaper. He looked up and smiled at me, “Dinner ready?”
I nodded. He put the paper on the small table next to his chair and began to get up, but not before I held out my hands and he handed my daughter to me. Thalia quickly took to the form of my body, placing her head on my shoulder. I closed my eyes and smelled her hair, that baby smell was so soothing. I followed dad back into the kitchen then and shifted Thalia to my right side as I sat down.
Looking to mum then dad, dad began a short prayer and soon we all began eating. It was a quiet dinner but I was in heaven! In the last few weeks I hadn’t eaten much but crackers and other small things. I hadn’t had such a hearty meal in ages! I ate quickly and then went for seconds, taking once again to holding my daughter on my hip and not waking her. For the first time in a while, I was feeling normal again.
I set my plate down and as dad saw I wasn’t sitting down just yet he motioned to me, “Why not put her in her crib if she’s asleep?” I agreed and went to the living room where we had one of the two cribs for Thalia and set her down gently on her stomach, covering her with a blanket. I rubbed her hair lovingly and kissed her rosy little cheek.
Coming back into the kitchen I went to another cupboard and pulled out a bottle of white wine, took out another rather tall glass and poured myself a drink. As I sat back down, I saw my mum glance up at me and quickly back at her plate and then take up her glass of water and look in another direction. I continued eating my second helping and drinking my wine pretty quickly. When I finished my plate, I took it to the sink and rinsed it, and then went back to the cupboard for the wine again. This time I poured the rest of the bottle in my glass.
I felt mum’s eyes on me as I set the bottle in the sink also, “Haven’t you had about enough of that for tonight Juliet?”
I sat down in my chair again trying to ignore most of what she said and choosing my words carefully, “I like a drink after dinner.”
“Yes, after dinner, before dinner, in the middle of the night!” she exclaimed as she got up and took her and dad’s plates to the sink and began washing them.
I sighed as softly as I could to myself, knowing if mom heard it, it would only exasperate her more, “I can have a drink if I want, it’s not like I’m giving it to Thalia in my milk now that she’s on more solid foods.”
Mum let the soapy sponge drop into the sink and turned around, bracing herself on the counter, “Oh and how would you know what she’s eating, cooped up in your room all the time as you are? You’ve barely been around her in weeks! How can you call yourself a mother, Juliet?”
I stood up and felt the blow of her words, “How can you say that? I’m doing the best I can!”
“Well then your best isn’t good enough! Your father and I have practically been raising Thalia since Robert left you.”
I felt anger welling up inside me, “How dare you mention his name.”
“Oh I forgot, it wasn’t your fault he left you, you just went and had a fling with Timmy or Jimmy or whatever his name is. I thought I’d raised you better than that Juliet!”
“I- He-“ I couldn’t make up a sentence for the tears welling up in my eyes. I knew I had ruined my marriage, but hearing it from someone else’s mouth, namely my own mother, made it all the more real. I felt like a piece of trash, and I guessed that’s what I was. I cast my eyes to the floor, “It’s all my fault.” Tears filled my eyes as I quietly walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to my room. I shut the door and then fell to my knees, sobbing uncontrollably. All I wanted to say was ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ but the person I wanted to say it to wasn’t there. I was at a total loss with no idea of what to do with myself and no light at the end of the tunnel.
After a few minutes, I got up and sat on my bed, feeling blank and speechless. I opened the drawer on the nightstand next to my bed and found my other trusty way to temporary get rid of my pain- my razor. Getting it out, I rolled up my sweater’s sleeve to unveil my right wrist, which already had marks on it. I bit my lip as I put the sharp edge to my flesh. I pressed down and closed my eyes, but I couldn’t move beyond that. Frustrated, I threw the razor to the end of my bed and slumped back on my pillow.
Next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes- I had fallen asleep. Rolling over and looking at the clock I noticed about an hour had passed, and I didn’t feel much better. In fact, I didn’t feel better at all. I lay there a few more minutes before I had an idea. I knew the band were back in England for a break so I dialed the one person I knew I may still be able to count on.
“Jimmy! It’s Juliet,” I said trying to keep my voice from shaking.
“Jules? How are you?”
“I’m fine, I um-“
“Oh I’m not fine Jimmy, not at all.”
“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“I’m so depressed, I’ve never felt this bad before. Tonight I got into a fight with my mom and I- I just don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Well…. You could come stay with me…”
“Isn’t Charlotte with you?”
“No, she’s away for a few weeks, she took Scarlet to visit her grandparents. So I’m all alone in this big house. I could use the company, really.”
“I don’t know… I should really stay with Thalia. Though my mother basically called me the worst mother in the world. It doesn’t matter to her that Robert hasn’t seen his daughter in months…”
“If you come over we can talk about it some more. I’ll even send my car for you.”
“But you’re two hours away!”
Jimmy sighed, “Ok, I’ll come in the car too. Just be ready. My driver won’t mind, really.”
“As long as you’re sure…”
“Of course! I’ll pay him extra,” Jimmy replied. I could almost hear his smile.
I smiled, “Alright, I’ll be ready. Thank you Jimmy.”
“You’re welcome Jules. See you soon.”
I hung up the phone and frankly felt both happy and guilty; I was going to spend time with Jimmy for the first time in a while, but he was going very much out of his way for me. I was pretty sure he’d tell me to stop thinking about it so I tried to, and instead occupied myself by making up an overnight bag. I then showered and threw on something else- another long sleeve shirt, jeans and some sneakers.
I put my bag on my bed and then drew in a deep breath. I opened and closed my bedroom door and went downstairs. My parents were both in the living room watching nighttime television, dad still reading his newspaper. Thalia was nowhere to be seen; I imagined they had put her to bed. I lingered around the edge of the room for a few minutes till dad noticed me.
“Everything alright, love?” he asked, folding his newspaper and setting it on his lap.
I nodded, “Yes.” I was lying, but they didn’t know that. I went over to the couch where my mum was sitting and sat at the opposite end, watching TV too.
I looked over mum’s way briefly; she was sewing something and clearly giving me the silent treatment. I just curled my legs up to my chest and watched more TV. I also worked out in my head that by the time Jimmy got there, my parents would be in bed, so I didn’t really have to tell them anything about what I was doing. That made me feel a little bit better, so I went into the kitchen. My glass of wine was already cleaned up so I settled for a cup of tea. It was good to have something normal and simple back in my life.
“Good night love,” Dad said, coming into the kitchen. Kissing me on the head, “I hope you sleep well tonight.”
Oh I’m sure I will, I thought it myself. “Thanks dad,” I said aloud. I could already hear mum climbing the stairs and dad followed.
Sighing, I cleaned up my cup and then went back into the living room. Turning on the TV, programming was already off for the night so I just turned it off again and sat down. I felt restless, waiting for Jimmy to arrive. I went upstairs again, grabbed the book I’d packed in my bag and sat on the settee by the window so I could see the driveway while I read.
I suddenly heard the popping of stones under car tires. I had fallen asleep again! Looking down, there was a black Rolls-Royce parked; it had to be Jimmy. I quickly picked up my bag and went to the stairs. I stopped and looked behind me. Turning around, I walked back to mum and dad’s room and pressed my face against the wood of the door. Goodbye Thalia, I thought, mummy has to get better before she can take care of you again. I felt tears coming to my eyes, so I silently walked away and down the stairs. Locking the front door behind me, I went to the back door of the car and opened it. Jimmy moved over as I got in.
“Hi,” I said looking up at him as I put my seat belt on.
He smiled at me, “Hello.” The driver backed out the drive and soon we were on our way to London.
We were both silent for a time, before I spoke up, “ Look Jimmy I… I’m turning to you as a friend, not as a lover…”
“I understand, “he replied. He then moved closer and put an arm around me affectionately.
I put my head on his shoulder, “I hope I’m doing the right thing.”
“We’ll worry about that later,” he said, kissing the top of my head, “You can go to sleep if you want to, it’s quite a journey.” I fell asleep a few minutes later.
Read previous parts here.