Eight and Twelve
I have certainly had worse days than this but I cannot remember feeling any
lower than I do right now. Probably, I have felt worse. Certainly, I've
committed more grievous sins but today I did what I swore I would never do.
I denied Samantha.
It's just one of those questions that people ask to make small talk. Only
hardly anyone ever tries to make small talk with me and now I remember why I
like it that way.
Scully and I stopped at the drug store this afternoon before going on to the
crime scene. I needed sunflower seeds and she had forgotten her toothbrush.
This might seem a little petty, but the fact that she had forgotten said
toothbrush amused me to no end. Her overnight bag is always perfectly packed;
all her little travel-size toiletries neatly aligned and accounted. I have an
image of her packing at home. She stands with a pre-printed form called
"Overnight Bag Checklist" and marks off the pre-determined items one by one.
Ivory Soap - check
'Secret' Deodorant - check
Moisturizer (face and body) - check
Toothbrush - check
Toothpaste - check
Razor (or whatever women call them) - check
Shaving cream - check
Make-up - check
Manicure kit - check
This is one of several dozen or so images of Scully I have tucked away in my
mind, falling into the same category as Scully Watching a Movie and Scully
Dusting the Furniture. It falls nowhere near the category of Scully Getting
Ready for Bed or Scully In a Bubble Bath. Images so vivid they feel like
memory. Story of my life.
"I needed a new toothbrush anyway."
She was sounding pretty defensive as we walked into the drug store. I had just
made some crack about her not-so-minty-fresh breath and using a twig as a
toothbrush like some kind of pre-historic beast woman. Scully Look #321: We
are not amused (yes, that's the ROYAL WE).
"I believe you, Scully. At least, I *want* to believe. It would shake my faith
to the core to think you had been so careless as to forget your toothbrush for
no good reason."
Peering back at me over her shoulder, she almost smiled. It was a good day.
The monster we are chasing is of the purely physical variety, meaning no
dredging up of old ghosts for either of us. There is no abduction of innocents
here, no religious undertones, just a good old-fashioned wolf-man feeding off
the local livestock. For Scully and me this trip is practically a vacation.
I picked up my sunflower seeds and glanced through the magazines but didn't
find any of my usual upscale reading material. Scully was taking her sweet
time in picking out the perfect toothbrush to scratch along those pearly whites
so I walked up to the counter to pay, hoping she'd get the hint and hurry it
The lady behind the counter was throwing a quizzical stare my way as I
approached. They are not used to Armani suits in Between, Georgia.
"You're those FBI Agents aren't ya'?"
"Yes," I got her name from the tag on her shirt, "Lorraine. I'm Special Agent
Fox Mulder. Do you know anything about the recent claims?" I handed her my
sunflower seeds, picked up some Chap Stik while I was at it.
Lorraine laughed. "Oh, you mean the werewolf? College kid prank probably.
We're not too far from the University, you know. No, it's just glorified cow
tipping if you ask me. Why when I think of some of the trouble my brothers
used to get in around here....
"That'll be two-seventy-three, please."
I pulled out my wallet to pay and looked back to see if Scully was coming. She
was holding two toothbrush boxes up to the light for comparative analysis.
Figures. I decided there was no harm in some idle conversation with the
zaftig, middle-aged woman. Sometimes I don't exhibit very good judgment about
"So, your family's from here?" I asked.
"Yeah, my folks still have the same ranch here they've been working for fifty
years. Just up the road a ways. It's where me and my brothers and sisters
found most of our trouble, or it found us, depending on who you ask."
"So you have a big family?"
"Four brothers and two sisters." I guess I felt a twinge of envy at her smile
as she said that, her affection for them was apparent. "What about you Agent
Mulder? Any brothers or sisters?"
"No." I don't really know how I sounded when I said that. Was there a catch
in my voice or did I appear cool and collected? How good of a liar am I? I
guess I sounded pretty calm, because she just continued to smile.
"An only child, huh?"
"Yes. An only child." Suddenly I felt Scully behind me; her gaze on my back
was like a physical force. She had heard me. I was frozen in place, unable to
turn around and face her.
"Well," Lorraine continued, "I admit, there were times growing up that I wished
I was an only child." She was still smiling I know. I remember her smile very
clearly because I couldn't believe that she did not sense the sudden tension in
the air. I will remember her face at that moment for the rest of my life
because it was honest in that moment when I was not.
I guess I must have nodded at her and stepped aside for Scully to buy her
toothbrush. It's hard to remember. I had denied Samantha's existence and for
what purpose? To avoid awkwardness in conversation. I still can't believe I
I went ahead and walked outside while Scully finished up. I remember vividly
the fertile Georgia landscape, the stifling humidity that greeted me as I
stepped out into the parking lot. The old guilt, the guilt that I do actually
manage to forget for days, even weeks at a time, filled me.
The feeling is like physical shock. My entire body and all my emotions have
clenched into a tightened fist. I denied Samantha. An anonymous stranger
asked me a simple question, one that often comes up in small talk, and I lied.
How could I of all people claim to be an only child? I built my whole life on
her. She is my foundation. At least that's what I tell myself. It's how I
have justified my obsessions.
I don't know anymore if I believe that Samantha is alive. I have conceded the
fact that she may be dead. Jesus, I hate that word. Dead. Even if she is
though, it is wrong, so wrong, to deny her.
Scully knows me and she knew immediately how my sin of omission would affect
me. She walked out of the store and stood next to me. In that way that she
has, she compelled me to look into her eyes. I half expected to see my own
disappointment reflected there but I only found compassion. Understanding too,
I guess. She reached up and put her hand on my arm, squeezed slightly and let
go. She was relaying strength to me and it worked. It got me through the
afternoon at least.
"Let's go," she said and we went.
The case has turned out to be pretty mundane. This afternoon we trudged
through a bunch of mosquito infested fields, searching for forensic evidence
and interviewing the local ranchers. Tomorrow, the piece de resistance, Scully
gets to assist in a cow autopsy. I think I'll skip that.
Earlier this evening we went and got some dinner at the town's only diner. I
take pride in the fact that Scully and I respect each other's need for silence
and she respected mine tonight. We discussed the case briefly but my mind was
with Samantha and Scully knew it. I wanted some time alone and Scully knew
that too, so we returned to the hotel and went to our separate rooms. It's not
our usual ritual. Normally we talk about work, rehashing the day's activities
until it's time for bed. Sometimes we just end up watching TV together for a
while. Whatever the excuse, we linger. Tonight Scully left me at my door,
allowing my solitude.
I am remembering Samantha. I'm sure that the few people who know me think that
I remember her all the time but it's not true. My search for Samantha has
mutated until it is not really about her anymore. I think about the quest, the
conspiracy and the lies. I think about what they've done to Scully and to me.
These things obsess me but it's not really about Samantha anymore. The
realization shames me.
Samantha Mulder, dead or alive, is my sister. She lived and breathed and
laughed and cried. By her very existence, she helped to define who I am. I
have been wrong to objectify her. Wrong to deny her.
A lady I never met before today asked me a simple question in innocence. How
should I have answered her?
I should have told her that I have a sister but she was taken from me when she
was eight and I was twelve. There would have been an awkward pause in the
conversation and Lorraine would have berated herself for asking the question
but at least it would have been the truth.
The truth is that I was barely four years old when Samantha was born and I
don't have many memories of my life before her. What memories I do have of
those pre-Samantha years are of my mother. I must have felt close to her and
loved because when Samantha was born I was overwhelmed with jealousy. Up until
then, I was an only child and being an only child was what defined me.
My first coherent memory is of the day Samantha was born. I woke up to find my
parents gone and Mrs. Miller from across the street sitting at our kitchen
table. She told me they had gone to the hospital and that when my mom came
back she would have my baby brother or sister with her. Afterward, she would
tell the story of how I stated with great conviction that I was having a baby
*brother* and his name was going to be Sam. Mother had let me pick out the
name myself and I picked Sam because of an early obsession with Dr. Seuss.
Convinced that my parents would stick to the program and bring me a brother, I
never even considered what to name the baby if it was a girl.
Looking back, I can see that my family was happy then. I walked the
neighborhood with my father that day as he accosted mere acquaintances and
forced cigars into their hands. He regaled them with her statistics. Healthy
baby girl, seven pounds, six ounces. The most beautiful baby you've ever seen.
Samantha's homecoming was an event. I was a little disappointed when I saw her
for the first time. She was kind of ugly, all pink and scrunched up and bald
and her head was shaped funny. I thought, this is the most beautiful baby my
dad's ever seen? I'm sure I must have been better looking than that. Family
and friends with faces long forgotten filled our home. They waited for a
chance to hold her, to stroke her head and to have her clasp their fingers.
Mother wouldn't allow me to hold her. She said I was too young and I might
drop her. To dissuade me from picking up my baby sister, my mother told me
that if I did not hold her just right Samantha's head would fall back and her
neck would break. She loomed over me and spoke with frightening authority.
"You don't want to accidentally kill your baby sister, do you Fox?"
I never asked to hold Samantha again. My fear that I would break her was a
real and living thing.
Even as a child, I was very well mannered and quiet. It never would have
occurred to me to cry for my parents' attention. Apparently, it occurred to
Samantha. My mother has claimed that from the time Samantha was born until she
was three she never slept for more than two hours at a time. I used to sneak
out of my room and crouch in the hallway to watch her rock Samantha night after
night after night.
From only child to oldest child. I was no different from anybody else in that
position. I became desperate and over-eager in my need to please my parents.
Four year old Fox Mulder always ate his vegetables and cleaned his room, he was
an excellent reader and he always always said please and thank you. Four year
old Fox Mulder resented the hell out of baby Samantha.
I saw her as an object then. She was a roadblock, standing in the way of my
proper position as my parents' most beloved child.
When she was three and I was seven, our parents had friends over to the house
at Quonochontaug. Samantha was toddling along the wooded path that runs
between the house and the water when she fell and scraped her knee. My father
rushed over to pick her up but she screamed at the top of her lungs to stop him
from helping her.
"No, I want Fox," she cried. Up until then I hadn't liked her too much so I
was surprised at the pride I took in the fact that she called for me. I went
to her and pulled her up. We walked back up to the house together,
hand-in-hand, and I cleaned and bandaged her knee. Even at that young age, I
recognized the look in her eyes as hero-worship. From then on, I didn't resent
her so much. I put up a fuss when she followed me around and mimicked
everything I said and did but I was secretly gratified.
I often heard other adults comment to my parents that I was a very polite child
and a good big brother. For a time, that was what defined me.
When she was six and I was ten, Samantha got her first two-wheel bike for
Christmas. It was one of those pink and white girly bikes with streamers
coming out of the handlebars. The weather was mild for December that year and
our parents decided it was OK for her to go outside and learn how to ride it.
In typical fashion, she insisted that *I* teach her.
I don't know that I have ever laughed as much as I did that day and it was all
at her expense. She was petrified. It took me hours to convince her that she
wouldn't fall if she put both feet on the pedals at once; that I would hold the
bike upright and she wouldn't tip over. It was almost dusk by the time she got
around to actually pushing the pedals. The sun was low in the sky and the
brown leaves broke underneath the wheels of the bike as I ran along side her,
holding onto the bike to give her balance.
Samantha was screaming at the top of her lungs, "Don't let go, Fox,
don'tletgoFox, don'tletgoFox, don'tletgoFox." After a while I did let go. She
pedaled for half a block with perfect balance and form before realizing that I
wasn't holding her up anymore. Looking back over at her shoulder at me in
perfect wide-eyed terror, Samantha promptly tumbled over into a pink and white
heap onto the hard ground. I wouldn't have said it at the time, but the only
word to describe how she felt was PISSED.
"You said you wouldn't let go, dumb-butt!"
"But Sam, you were doing it just fine until you saw I wasn't there. You were
just being a scaredy-cat."
"Was not!" God, thinking back on it, she had a powerful set of lungs. That
girl could scream. I don't suppose it was very helpful under the circumstances
that I couldn't stop laughing at her.
With time she learned to ride her bike well and we would ride down to the beach
together to play on the shore, escaping the tension that more and more filled
Later, when she was seven and I was eleven, Samantha took a nasty fall off the
swing set and broke her collarbone. She didn't scream but I could see from her
tears that she was badly hurt. I rushed in to tell my mother what had happened
and stepped back from the scene as she went to Samantha. A neighbor-lady came
over too and they were fluttering around my sister as the tears streamed down
her face. They discussed how they were going to get her to the hospital. It
was decided that they couldn't carry her through the house to the car because
she would get blood on the new carpet.
My eyes must have been like saucers as I took in the scene. That Samantha was
hurt, really hurt, terrified me. Later, when she was home from the hospital
and required almost constant attention, she milked the situation for all it was
worth and I became resentful again. Our relationship fell into the pattern of
most siblings; vague resentments, love, not-so-vague resentments and constant
What I missed most about Samantha after she disappeared, when she was eight and
I was twelve, was our shared understanding of the world around us. Our parents
were bound by a vague tension that occasionally burst into heated argument. We
would be sent off to our room where we would watch each other with nervous eyes
and wonder quietly if our parents would stay together at all. She counted on
me to protect her.
My parents did not talk anymore after she was gone. Not to each other and not
to me. It was a difficult adjustment to make, from only child to oldest child
and back to only child again. There was nothing to define me then except the
pain and the guilt. I lost Samantha and there could be no forgiveness. Not
from my parents and not for myself.
Today I denied her. Denied all of the memories and the events that defined me.
I denied my sister, who looked at me with worshipful eyes and rode her bike
next to me on the beach. I denied my mother's little girl.
Focusing on the pain of the loss, I have rarely spoken of her life. It is a
dangerous path; memories unshared often fade and I don't want to forget.
Scully has been through this pain too. Perhaps it is even worse for her.
After all she had Melissa her entire life; she has more memories to haunt her.
It is late and what I am about to do I would not do in the light of day. I
will go to Scully and share with her my memories of Samantha. I will bring my
sister to life again through spoken memories and I will promise Scully what I
have promised myself. A promise to never again deny my sister's life.
~~ The End ~~
Feedback makes me happy! If you are so inclined, please send me some:
Oh, yeah -- there really is a Between, GA ;) I imagine it is thusly named for
its location between Atlanta and Athens.