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27 July 2007 @ 01:06 am
Starting Now (1/1)  
Title: Starting Now
Fandom: Prison Break
Characters: Christina Scofield, Aldo Burrows, Lincoln Burrows
Word Count: 2,333
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None
Summary: In the wake of Aldo's unexpected departure, Christina struggles to come to terms with the fact that she is alone.
Other: This story is based loosely on the song "Starting Now" by Ingrid Michaelson. You might also note that I stole the title, too, because I'm uncreative like that. Please forgive how rudimentary this whole thing is. It's just what came of an itch to write something a little different and somehow I doubt that I'm going to grow to fancy it anymore than I do now. Which is not a lot.
Author's Note: Prison Break and its characters have been manipulated here without the knowledge or consent of 20th Century FOX Television. I am not affiliated with the show, its production companies or cast members and no copyright infringement is intended.



...I want to crawl back inside my bed of sin, I want to burn the sheets that smell like your skin. Instead I'll wash them just like kitchen rags with stains, spinning away every piece that remains of you... "STARTING NOW" by INGRID MICHAELSON


***


The day that Christina loses Aldo is the day that she loses herself. The same day that she begins to feel as if she's losing her mind.

On that fateful morning, Christina is busy helping their son work his arms into the sleeves of his shirt when Aldo breezes into the room. The sway of her heavily pregnant belly makes it difficult for her to stay crouched down to Lincoln's level without feeling as though her lungs are being compressed and she straightens up as soon as her aid is no longer needed.

When Lincoln's tousled head pops through the collar, Aldo ruffles the little boy's hair further and chucks him on the chin with a playful smile. He kisses Christina sweetly on the forehead just like every other day as he prepares to head off to work. He pats her burgeoning stomach and tells the bulge of baby Michael's foot to be good, promises her that he'll be home for dinner. Nothing in his actions is indicative of the fact that this will be the last time their little family is all together in one place. Nothing in his good-natured voice hints that they will never see each other again.

It is not until over an hour later that Christina learns the truth.

She cooks finicky young Lincoln his breakfast - two egg whites and wheat toast with strawberry preserves; the one and only meal he insists on having every morning - and goes outside to see him off to school. Christina stands on the curb as she always does, waving with one hand and cradling her midsection with the other, watching as the rumbling yellow bus carries her firstborn away and already anticipating the time it will bring him back.

When the bus finally turns the corner and Christina can no longer see it, she makes the short trek back into the house with designs on going back to sleep for a few cherished hours.

By the time she makes it to the top of the single flight of stairs she is clutching the polished banister and panting, cursing her inflamed ankles and the ache in her back, wondering why she hadn't chosen to simply nap on the couch.

Had she made that hindsight decision originally and remained on the first floor of the house, Christina might have been able to spend just a bit longer in guarded, ignorant bliss. She would not have made it back up to the master bedroom until much later in the day and she would not have found the letter left with a precise, loving touch squarely on her pillow.

Aldo's hand has always been characteristically elegant and when Christina unfolds the single piece of paper from the envelope, his neat, sinuous cursive swims in front of her gaze. The letters, all curvaceous and serpentine, make it hard for her to focus on them individually but when she does, she only comes to wish that she hadn't.

My Darling Christina,

When I think of the day that my life was changed for the better, I think back to the day we met. Do you remember it as well as I do? I remember that you wore your hair in a braid halfway down your back, curls coming loose around your face like some kind of dark halo. I remember that white skirt, pressed and prim and certainly what you thought to be proper. More than that, I remember that when the sun shone through it from behind, I could see the silhouette of those long, long legs. Most of all, I remember when you looked at me and smiled. I knew I'd never be the same.

With the memories of meeting you remaining so vivid and dear to me, I always thought that when it came time to say goodbye to you, it would be just as profound.

I wanted to spend another fifty years by your side. I wanted to hold your hand through the inevitable ups and downs and let go only when we're both old and grey and the good Lord sees it fit to part us. I wanted forever, Chris, but you have to know now that we can't have it. It's a choice that has been made for us; a choice that I'm making to keep you and our boys safe.

I'm walking away for you.

I know it's hard to understand what could possibly make me come to this decision, but know that it's for your own good. Even as I write this, my heart is splintering and all I can do is be selfishly thankful that I won't be there to see your face when you realize that I'm gone and I won't be coming back.

I can't stand to see you cry. Not my girl; my blue-eyed beauty. The world lights up when you smile...


Christina crumples the paper before she ever finishes reading, confusion paralyzing her mind, despair rocking her shoulders, furious tears blinding her vision.

You got your wish, Aldo she whimpers to herself, crushing the precious, offending letter to her chest, I'm crying now and you're nowhere to be found.

***


When the spontaneous tears have finally run dry several hours later, the time stretches ahead of Christina as bleak and barren as a desert landscape. She has miles to go before she can sleep and the trek is not an easy one.

She carries Aldo's letter in the pocket of her faded denim overalls, pausing to feel for its already tattered corners as she navigates through the hours until three o'clock.

She is on auto-pilot as she scours the dishes in the sink, re-rinsing them even after they are spotless and packing them into the cupboard one by one. She waters the cheery purple and yellow pansies in her windowsills and becomes so immersed in watching them hang their heads in what she imagines to be a reflection of her pain that they are drowning in a river of shifting soil before she is finished.

She spends nearly an hour meticulously painting her nails rosebud pink to pass the time and destroys her hard work in another five minutes, chewing down to her cuticles as she stares off into space. When she finally looks down to see her fingers raw and bleeding, she registers no pain but begins crying again, great heaving sobs that seem strangely out of place when her cheeks remain bone dry.

By two o'clock Christina can't stand to be alone in the house any longer. The big, open rooms with their high ceilings and abundant windows suddenly seem empty and oppressive. Not so long ago she and Aldo had dreamed of filling the space with the sounds of little feet, raucous laughter and screaming infants. They would have Lincoln and baby Michael and another two or three children to join them. They had been well on their way.

But now she is a single parent. She will live for her boys and they for her, Christina tells herself, locking the haunting dreams behind the front door as she leaves the house.

Even with an ungainly waddle of a gait, it only takes a few minutes to reach the bus stop at the end of Madison Street and Christina finds herself with more burdensome time to kill. She sits on one side of the the bench by herself, the empty space beside her an open invitation that is never taken by the occasional passerby. But the minutes fly by at a surprising warp speed as she watches traffic crawl up and down the quiet residential road, hoping at the sound of every approaching engine that she'll see her husband's familiar black sedan heralding his return.

When at just after three the school bus pulls up to the curb and Lincoln appears at its open doors, Christina sees, more than ever before, the man who is now gone reflected in the face of the little boy.

Struck by the resemblance, Christina is mewling softly to herself by the time the smiling youngster comes into her arms, aglow with stories of art projects and recess antics that make her swallow her sorrow and listen as they make the walk home hand-in-hand.

By dinnertime even Lincoln's keen child's intuition does not seem to have absorbed the stigma of the house he's always known and the changes in his mother's demeanor. When he asks Christina with tentative enthusiasm when his father will be home, she bites her tongue and sends him to his room with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Overjoyed by the prospect of eating in forbidden territory, Lincoln seems to forget that Christina has not given him an answer and is gone before he has the chance to see her cry.

Not much later that night when Christina climbs into bed, her tear ducts are like leaky faucets, turning on and off with little or no warning. When she buries her face into her pillow and smells Aldo there, she is unable to remember ever being so keenly aware of his scent and cannot be sure whether or not she is imagining it or if she only notices it now because he is gone. In light of the discovery, though, she knows she will never be able to sleep if she is breathing him in with every passing moment and so she strips the bed bare in a flurry of white linens.

She crumples and twists the sheets and the pillowcases and even the duvet cover until she is able to toss them all into a far corner, banishing them along with her longing for Aldo.

Christina is so exhausted by her grief and her vain efforts to simply function that she can't bring herself to re-dress the bed. Instead she climbs atop the barren mattress and rests her head on her naked pillow, only feeling relief when she turns out the light and isn't confronted with the same musk of her husband's skin to accompany the ghostly afterimage of his face that she can't seem to shake.

***


A half an hour later when the phone begins to ring, Christina nearly doesn't answer it. Sleep had finally begun its languid crawl across her consciousness and she is tempted to ignore the persistent noise in favor of being able to grasp peace in the form of nocturnal oblivion.

It clatters for a long minute on the bedside table before she finally reaches for it, pushing onto the hip that is all but lost in the swell of her belly as she brings the receiver to her ear and croaks out a hello.

"Chris, it's me." Aldo's voice is crisp over the miles of telephone wires and so familiar that she expects to roll over and see him crawling into bed beside her.

Christina is suddenly on alert, breathless with a vertigo that even lying down can't quell and when he speaks again, she is chilled to the core with the possibility that maybe he has changed his mind. That all of this has been a mistake.

"Christina? It's Aldo...I know...I told you in the letter that I wouldn't contact you. It's too dangerous but I had to see if you were--"

"The letter?" Christina is sitting straight up then, wriggling back to lean against the solid headboard as her voice becomes shrill with nervous energy. "That letter, Aldo, good God--what were you thinking? Of course I'm not okay. But I will be when you come home. Where are you?"

"A payphone. Look, Christina, I'm not coming--"

"No, where are you? Where are you, Aldo? You have to come home now. Come home, it's getting late." Her voice becomes laden and water-logged with tears in spite of herself and she can barely hear herself think over the cadence of her heartbeat in her ears.

"I can't tell you where I am. And I can't come home."

Christina thinks that she can hear his voice being dappled with rain hitting glass and filling the silence between them as his words kick her harder in the stomach than the tiny person nestled inside of it ever has.

"Aldo...dammit, Aldo, I don't understand," Christina sniffles, her tears burning her eyes and bittering the back of her throat. "What is this all about?"

"It's all in the letter. At least...everything that I can tell you. The why's don't make a difference, do they? All that matters is that I have no choice but to leave and stay gone. And after this phone call...you won't hear from me again, but I want you to know," Aldo's words crack under the sound of distant thunder and seem to grow distant, "I'll be watching out for you and the boys."

"Aldo, don't talk like that. Why can't you just--"

"I love you, Christina." She has never heard him beg, but his tone is a plea that shatters her.

"No! You can't hang up the phone!" Christina's voice rises in panic and she grasps the phone in her own hands until her knuckles are white. "You can't hang up, Aldo. You have to--"

"Please. Please just tell me you love me...I need to hear it. You're breaking my heart."

"Breaking your heart? Breaking your heart? What do you think you're doing to me? To us? What the hell are you thinking, Aldo?"

"Christina...can't you tell me that you love me? One more time?"

"I love you," She bleats the words, her voice so thick that she isn't sure it will be able to squeeze its way through the cables to reach her husband's ears. "I love you more than anything but can't you just--"

And then there is nothing but the dial tone.

Starting now, she is alone.
 
 
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