When my brother met Deanna everything changed. It was September 2009. I was off the hard stuff, dabbling in pain meds and weed. My life was about baking and getting baked and it suited me just fine. Serge was as busy as ever, but when Deanna Yip walked into his life I knew she would never completely walk out.
She had been applying for a job as a house cleaner, or so he told me. She was meant to meet with the office manager for the interview, but when Serge saw her walk in the door he insisted on speaking to her personally.
As it turned out, Serge talked Deanna into applying for an office position and she became his personal assistant within a month. I met her shortly after when they came to my house for a drink.
“Marie, this is Deanna,” Serge announced as soon as I opened my front door. “This is the up and comer from work I’ve been telling you about,” he said proudly. The look on his face saddened me because I saw fate play itself in his irises. He was head over heels for this woman, she knew it, and God help us all she would use it. She would use him and leave him.
Deanna held her hand out to me as it wanting me to kiss it- palm down and flexed prettily. I reached out to shake it and spite her. Looking me up and down, she declared: “You’re pretty,”. Her words were saturated with meaning and if I knew her better I may have been able to gauge it.
I looked to Serge but he was staring at Deanna. “Thanks,” I replied quickly.
Deanna was part Japanese, part Québecois. Her hair was the colour of coal with highlights of an indigo blue if the sun hit it just right. Her eyes were hazel, large and expressive. She was tiny in body, but impressively large in presence. And yet she was beyond all of that. She was all-encompassing. She took you over completely. She would tell you a sad story and you would move mountains to help her. You felt compelled t o, as if your very existence were dependent on her happiness. All who met her fell in love with her, but it was a needy love.
I feared for Serge but could not bring myself to do anything further. There was a feeling so sure within me that I could do nothing; that this was part of his journey and I was not to interfere. It was exhausting. I felt heavy even though I was thin and old although despite being in my twenties.
It all flashed before me that very afternoon: the lightning-fast courtship, the commitments, the heartache, the estrangement. I was left with a headache and the duties of a hostess. I served them their red wine with forced civility and tried not to look at Serge too often lest he catch the hopelessness on my face.
I could remain distant and just observe. My big brother was smitten with a woman who was, in my opinion, towing the line of bad and evil. I had many moments of compassion for her. I could close my eyes and see her bathed in light, could see her opening up to it and leaving her cold, cruel body. But then she would choke. She would shake it off and settle back into her earthly form.
One afternoon she visited me at my bakery. It was a grey and rainy day in October. I was by myself and hadn’t seen a customer in hours. And as the bells rang against the door and I heard high heels clicking on the wooden floor, I knew precisely who it was.
“Marie? Are you here?” Deanna’s sweet, tiny voice drifted deceptively to me as I was cleaning out the oven.
“Just a second,” I called to her. My body filled with dread, but I schooled myself to breathe and remember she was only a person, a scared and lonely person just like everyone else.
I came out from the back covered in flour, my hair in a messy bun and crocs on my feet. Deanna stood in black tights, black Louboutin shoes, a fitted black wrap dress, perfectly manicured and coiffed. She looked like a china doll, but her eyes were shrewd. Deanna had seen the world, not in a global sense, but rather she had experienced the depths of human nature in its violence and its hunger.
“I’m so glad I caught you here alone. I’ve been wanting to clear the air about something.” Her voice was level, her fingers were laced together in front of her as she walked casually to the counter I stood behind.
“Oh?” I asked. “What about?”
She fixed her gaze on me and would not let go. “I know you hate me and I’m wondering what we can do about it.”
I breathed deeply and brushed some flour from the front of my apron. It didn’t occur to me to lie, but I was aware that I would need to be careful. “Deanna, I don’t hate you,” I said slowly. “Serge is my brother. I’m a little protective. Is that so wrong?”
She tilted her head back slightly, breathing in, taking my words and assessing their truth. “Of course not,” she replied, waiting for me to elaborate. That little trace of ease had left her face. She was all business now.
“He’s completely infatuated with you. I know that.”
She raised an eyebrow. “But?”
I cleared my throat and raised my head, standing my ground. “Forgive me for saying so, but I don’t see that you love him. I just don’t see it. At least it’s clear to me that you don’t love him as much as he loves you.”
Deanna narrowed her eyes. “Fair enough. I won’t deny that he does have…stronger feelings than I do.” She took a step closer and set her hands on the counter, leaning forward. “But I want him, Marie. I want to be with him and I resent you standing in the way. I won’t have it.”
I stepped to the side, breaking our locked eyes for a moment. “Have you told Serge how you feel?”
She smiled a slow, mocking smile that admitted at some level that I had power over her- that Serge would ultimately side with me if it came down to it. “I haven’t. I thought we could work this out just the two of us.”
I gave a quick laugh at that. “Did you now?”
Deanna scowled. “Listen, are you going to tell Serge that you don’t like me, that I’m not good enough for him? Because he’s starting to pick up on your vibe and it’s making me…I don’t like it. I think if you got to know me we could avoid a lot of…unpleasantness.”
I blinked in surprise. “Are you threatening me, Deanna?”
She didn’t reply, preferring instead to hold the silence.
Rolling my eyes, I sighed and said: “Listen, you don’t know me very well so I’ll tell you. I don’t like confrontation; I don’t like drama. I will not interfere with you and Serge no matter how wrong I think you are for him. He hasn’t asked for my opinion and so I have said nothing. I will hope and pray that he gets through all of this unscathed, but I won’t interfere. I pray you don’t hurt him.”
Deanna laughed. “Oh that is hilarious! You worry about me hurting him after all the shit you’ve put him through? You have got to be kidding me, Marie. Between the drugs, the booze and the men in your life, it’s a small wonder that Serge is still sane. Let’s drop the angelic act, ok?”
A small wave of guilt washed over me and she saw it. “Serge has had problems with the ways I’ve chosen to cope with life…”
“That’s one way to look at it. You’re a fuck-up, Marie! He’s been picking up the pieces of your disasters for years. He’s told me all about it. He worries for you constantly.” She slapped the counter in dramatic flair. “You are the reason he takes sleeping pills, the reason for his high blood pressure, the reason he smokes. He feels like he’s got to take care of you, but you refuse to be taken care of. You are one selfish bitch.” The last sentence she spat out. She gave me one last look of disgust before she turned on her heel and left.
It’s unnerving to see yourself and your choices through the eyes of someone else. And I knew Deanna was enjoying this set-down, but I would have been lying to say it didn’t break my heart. It was something that lingered in my thoughts, but I had pushed aside for fear of it killing me. Serge was disappointed in me. Serge loved me, but it drained him, harmed his health even.
This was a turning point. From that moment on I resolved to sink into my work. My self-destructive tendencies became something else entirely. They transformed into a call to something higher, something lovelier.
I would be a better sister for him.
To be continued….
**originally written November 2012**