You Can Never Go Home Again


bob_icon.gif elle2_icon.gif

Scene Title You Can Never Go Home Again
Synopsis On a trip up to the Bishop summer home, Elle and Bob's destructive family relationship disintegrates.
Date August 1, 2010

Clayton, New York

There's a novelist that once wrote, "How far we all come. How far we all come away from ourselves. You can never go home again." That age-old adage is most familiar in its last sentence, but how often it is true? Going home isn't just about physically revisiting places of youth, it's about oging back to the way things were, to the innocence of childhood and the memories of the past. No matter how far back someone looks, they can never view the world again through the eyes of their childhood, untarnished by the scars of the adult world.

For the Bishop family, that has never been truer.

Situated on the water on the outskirts of Clayton, New York, the Bishop summer home smells like the past. The one-floor cabin-style ranch home views the saltgrass and white sands of a beach beneath a cloudless and sunny sky. This early in the afternoon, the presence of Bob Bishop in this house is a subtle reminder of just how hard it is to go back home. Seated in the kitchen under the darkly stained, exposed rafters in a breakfast nook, Bob flips thorugh an old scrapbook of photographs, his shoulders slack and head bowed, glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose.

Outside, the surf crashes on the beach and a warm breeze carries summer air in thorugh the open windows and stirs up the dust in this old house. There's ghost of the past here, in photographs of a happy family, in bookshelves lined with baby pictures and photos of the beach. Every piece of dusty furniture from the leather sofa to the courduroy recliner seems well-worn and aged, abandoned for so many years.

On his infrequent visits to this place, Bob is never truly alone, because the memory of his wife stays with him here in smiling photographs. But today, on this breezy Sunday afternoon, he has special company expected. Because today is the day — in Bob's mind — that he's going to tell Elle everything.

If only he knew it was likely too little.

Too late.

The entire trip here, Elle has been horribly silent, almost uncomfortably so. The mask has been kept up, yes, and she's been smiling…but she's not said a word wince their morning greeting. On the car ride up, she stared out the window, watching the scenery go past in quiet reflection. Her purse has been kept clutched to her lap, keeping that precious little slip of paper she obtained from Harper safe from prying eyes. She'll bring that out in due time.

Upon arriving at this summer home, Elle's first response was to stand at the beach, staring out over the surf. Did she ever spend time with her mom here? Did she ever build sandcastles with mom here? She wishes she could remember. Sadness shines in her eyes as she stands here, alone on the beach, trying to recall memories that are gone forever. If…if she had known about this when Phoenix had offered to heal her mind, she might have been more tempted by the chance of remembering something good.

With a small sigh and a shake of her head, Elle turns, heading back into the Bishop summer home. The mask is put back on as she slips into the house, bright blue eyes trailing over the dusty furniture, the bookshelves, the baby pictures and family pictures. Her fingers trace the pictures in particular, brow furrowing. For a moment, her poker face nearly fails her, but she quickly recovers it. The least she can do is find out what he brought her here for before she confronts him.

A small breath blowing away some of the dust from one of those baby pictures, Elle turns, her heels clicking on the floor as she heads toward her father. Hanging her purse from the chair, Elle seats herself across the table with her Barbie-fake smile. "Are those pictures of me, Daddy?" One hand gestures toward the shelves.

"They are…" and the answer is somewhat heavily stated from father to daughter. Turning around the scrapbook he's been looking through, it's pushed over to Elle, showing her a pair of photographs laid under a plastic sheet.

One shows a middle-aged blonde woman with wavy hair crouched on her knees in the sand, holding a blonde toddler with a bright smile in her arms. The little girl has a plastic shovel and pail in her hands and sand covering the entire front of her one-piece bathing suit. The second picture is of that same little blonde girl sitting with her back to the sliding doors ot the deck, colorful wrapping paper torn up all around her, smile broad and eyes bright as she holds up a stubby-framed Cabbage Patch Doll in both hands, eyes alight with youthful happiness.

"That one was the summer of '85. Your mother took you out to the beach, and you were running up one end and down the other, tripped and fell and got sand in your eyes." There's a weary smile that crosses Bob's lips as he looks down to the tabletop. "You were crying, and crying… and I didn't know what to do. I just— stood there, helpless, and your mother came rushing over and took you to wash out your eyes and get you smiling again. She— she always knew what to do. She was a born mother."

Looking out the window at his side, Bob's eyes stare distantly at the crashing surf. "The other picture is from the Christmas of '88… it— was the last Christmas we spent together as a family, and your mother and I spent forever tracking down one of those dolls for you." There's a snorted laugh and a shake of his head, and Bob looks back to Elle from the window. "We could run an enormous group like the Company, but we were helpless trying to find popular toys at Christmas…"

It almost brings tears to her eyes, looking at these little freeze-frames of the past, of an unobtainable normal life. Her finger trails over the picture of the blonde woman, almost…longingly. That was her mother, once. This place was her life, once. Summers spent here that she'll never remember, lost forever in the Company's ambitions.

His commentary makes this moment even harder, that poker face more difficult to keep up. Though Elle may have trouble understanding her emotions, she knows that this is possibly the saddest she's ever felt. She wants to just cry right now. To scream at her father that she already knows what he did, that she loathes him for taking every single good thing in her life and shattering it to pieces.

She quietly flips through the scrapbook for other pictures of her mother and herself, swallowing quietly; these pictures, the happy memories this house displays, simply makes it even worse. Here, she was a happy child, smiling and playing and laughing and skinning her knees. She smiled, she cried, she was normal. Until, of course, everything was taken. First, her mother was ripped from her, both in body and in her memories. Then, her life was stolen and she was honed into exactly what the Company always wanted.

And for all of these years, Elle has grinned and beared it. No praise, no love, just pain and suffering and misery. And though she did everything she ever could for her father, it never seemed to be enough.

Well, it's gotten to be enough for her.

Elle Bishop glances up at her father quietly, faking another smile that doesn't reach her eyes. "I didn't even know these pictures existed…"

"It was easier for you that way," is as much the truth as it also is the easy answer. "I— After your mother died, I didn't know what to do. I stepped down from my position at the Company, took some time off and left things in Charles' hands. When you found out that she was gone, you were… you were inconsoleable. I hardly knew how to explain things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to you, I— I didn't know the first thing about being a father." There's a tightness in Bob's throat as he admits that, folding his hands together and staring down at the table. "How was I supposed to explain death to a six year old?"

Looking back to the window at his side, Bob's eyes focus on his own muted reflection in the window glare and his voice takes on a distant quality. "I asked Charles if he'd help me make you forget. He was reluctant, but… eventually he caved in. It was hard enough when Simone's mother died, but she was older and… Charles knew how to be a father to her."

Breathing out a sigh, Bob looks from the window to Elle, expression sagging heavily. "I wasn't ready for parenthood, wasn't ready to be a father, and I took what I thought was the easy way out time and again, thinking i was protecting you from terrible things. I— " he huffs out another sigh and rests his head in his hands. "I was afraid to fail you, and I did anyway."

For a long moment, Elle only stares at her father, suddenly finding resolve in her poker face. What looks at her father isn't the smile, but a dull, almost dead look. So what Harper told her was true. Every bit of it. And no matter how she looks at it, no matter how she tries to see her father in a favorable light, Elle can't help but reach the same conclusion time and time again.

How could he? How could he look her in the eye all of these years, knowing what he's done? How could he take away a little girl's only happy memories because he didn't know how to tell her about it? How could he take so much away from her, and still demand so much?

How could he?

It is a long, painful silence that occupies the next few moments as Elle stares at her father with that mask of no emotion. Then, slowly, she reaches into her purse, drawing out that photograph and sliding it across the table to her father. When she speaks, her voice is tight and controlled, trying to conceal the emotions churned up by all of this. "You forgot to mention how the Company killed her." She lets that mask slip, just a little, to reveal some of that intense anger that boils within her gut.

"How many more lies are there, dad? How many more lies am I living right as we speak?" She sneers at her father, suddenly. "What gets me is how, for twenty-six years, you have spent nearly every day looking me in the eyes, knowing everything that you have done to me, and you didn't even bat an eyelash. You didn't even blink wrong when you overlooked every little bit of effort I made to get your attention. You lead me to believe that my mother was some //bum who just up and left us when I was little." As she speaks, the tears well up, making her eyes sparkle.

Horror washes over Bob's face as the color drains out of it. Silent for a moment, there's confusion that dawns as the horror bleeds away and Bob's brows furrow with something between frustration and indignance. "Who— who told you that, Elle?" Both of Bob's hands tremble, his throat tight and eyes looking glassy with the misting of emotion that has crossed them. "Who would— " his eyes divert to the table, hands wringing together before coming up to hold his head in them.

"I was going to explain all of that to you…" he murmurs into his hands, "I— " everything he'd planned for today, turned on its side and broken in front of him. Now there's just his daughter's rightful fury and his own hopelessness.

"Who told me this isn't any of your concern, Daddy." Elle's expression doesn't change as she slowly takes the picture back, tucking it back into her purse. The tears still threaten at the back of her eyes, and she has to blink them away a few times, even as she watches the emotions this revelation brings. "Everything I know about my history was never even told to me by you. It was always other people who told me, then I confirmed it with you."

The girl crosses her arms, turning her suddenly angry gaze away from the man with a huffed sigh. Then, she slowly raises to her feet, moving to a picture of her and her mother that are framed on a shelf. "When were you going to tell me that it was the Company that killed my mother? That it was YOUR Company that killed her? And did you think it would be okay?"

She picks up the picture, hugging it to her chest as she turns to stare at her father, tears starting to smear her makeup a bit. "Did you think that everything would be okay? That I would be okay with the fact that you erased my mother from my memory?" Click, click, click go her heels, and Elle is standing over Bob, that picture still held close to her chest. "How many more lies, daddy? How do I know that everything isn't a lie?!"

The mask begins to slip, and tears suddenly stream forth from the little blonde's eyes.

Twenty-six years, Bob Bishop has been struggling to come to terms with being a father. Only in the last year has he ever thought that maybe he should have tried to be a father more than thinking about it, long after it was already too late. "Elle," is croaked out thorugh barely parted lips, and Bob can't look up at her. "The— I didn't know the truth either," isn't what she wanted to hear, and when Bob looks up there is something unusual in his expression that hasn't been there in much of her childhood memories — emotion.

"Arthur Petrelli had dozens of researchers killed and masked it as an accident. I— I had no idea what even went on until after Arthur's presumed death when we went into his private files. We had no idea the things that Arthur and Maury had been doing behind the scenes, no idea of the lengths he was willing to go through to cover up his own mistakes. Elle— sweetheart— you have to believe me. I— I had nothing to do with your mother's death."

Jaw trembling and eyes filled with emotion that seem so impossible for one of Bob's stoicism, Elle is confronted by the one thing that tears most children apart, their parents in tears. "I loved your mother… I— my life fell apart after we lost her. I— I would never— " there's a tension in Bob's back as he twists to look over at the girl looming over him.

"Elle, I swear… of all the things I've done and the mistakes I've made, I— I never— ever would have hurt you or your mother." Which is hard to admit, given that hurt Elle is most of what he's done his entire life. "I never meant to hurt you…"

Elle watches. Listens. If their history wasn't what it is, if she didn't know what she knows…she would have been torn apart by the show of emotion from her father. Indeed, part of her pulls toward him when he shows that he really does feel emotion. As her own tears flow, silently ruining her mascara, Elle slowly turns, taking a few steps away from her father, not wanting to look at him right now.

While she certainly can't blame him for the death of her mother, that doesn't change that her memories of her are nonexistant. That doesn't change what has happened already. Blue eyes find their way to the ceiling, sparkling and red from her tears. "I…really don't know if there is any way to salvage this, Daddy." This is followed by a pregnant pause, the girl hugging that picture frame even still. "That's all well and good…but what makes me so angry is that you lied to me. And it seems to me, that's all you ever do." She sniffs quietly, turning to look down at the ground, her back still turned to her father.

"I'll never, ever get that back, Daddy. You defamed my mom since she died…you lied to me all of these years about her being nothing more than a bum. All of this after you erased all traces of her from my memories. You actually made the effort to convince Charles Deveaux to do it." She frowns. "Because of you, I'll never have those memories. I'll never know if mom and I ate pancakes and what they tasted like, or what her voice sounded like, or what it feels like to hug her…"

And suddenly, the mask falls, and Elle is softly sobbing. "You've stolen everything from me!"

And Bob agrees. The nod he gives, small and weary, comes dipping in as he looks away from his little girl and over to the distant scrapbook. "I don't think we can…" is quietly offered in agreement with a tight, weary voice. For the last two years, Bob has been looking progressively more and more tired, more world-wearied and weak, and now it seems this last broken thread of his life snapping has caused him to sink into his chair and the wrinkles in his brow to seem all the more deep.

"I wanted to take you up to her grave today…" Bob says in a hushed tone of voice, "it's her birthday. I— I thought you might like to say something to her. I've— ruined your life, Elle. I haven't been… deserving of being called your father, and every time I try to make something right all I do is break it more."

Looking up to Elle, Bob's tired expression seems to be hard fought to lose that sullen sadness to it. "But I've always been proud of you…" is hard for him to say without choking up, "I— have never once thought anything but the best of you. You— you've always been my little girl, and you've always been— " Bob's eyes close and one hand comes up to lift off his glasses so that he can wipe fingers over his eyes to dry them.

The petite blonde keeps her back to Bob, her hands wiping away tears and smudging her makeup even further. She really doesn't like this whole crying thing, and she fights hard to stave off the tears, which just keep coming despite all of her efforts. She doesn't quite like this situation in general. She doesn't like feeling so much. It's so much easier to be numb, to let everything wash right over you and deal with it in private. This…she feels all of it. That thread snapping, the realization that she'll never have the relationship with her father she once so desperately craved. It hurts.

The suggestion to go to her mother's grave is met with a nod. Yes…yes, that would be nice. Taking a deep breath, her words are shaky from her tears. "Yes…I'd like that…" She lifts the picture away from her chest, staring sadly at the happy image captured by a camera so many years ago. No memories are churned up by the image, though her mind certainly tries to recall.

Then, those words. Oh, how she wanted to hear those words for so many years! Some distant part of her heart, stifled and pushed away yet still there, soars high as she hears those words. Some part of her takes this to heart, a small relief in a sea of tumultuous emotions. But alas, all of the damage has long since been done; it just didn't show until recently. She manages a soft "Thank you," barely above a whisper.

There's a scuff of Bob's chair as he pushes it away from the table and slowly rises to his feet. "I have something I wanted to give you," is mumbled when Bob slips past Elle, walking thorugh the kitchen and into the living room, still in her line of sight when he approaches one of the book cases. Bob's fingers brush over the spines of books, then across the packaging of old VHS casettes, movies two decades old that have collected dust in the time that has passed since Eleanor's death.

"I was going to wait, but…" Bob's voice trails off as he pulls a VHS tape out in a black plastic case, then turns to look at Elle and offers it out to her. There's no label on the front, nothing but the matte black finish of the dust-covered case to entice her. Though she needn't speculate about the contents for long. "It's a video of your mother, the only tape I have. I— figured you could watch it when you're ready."

Elle watches quietly as her father walks past her, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand and avoiding any attempts at eye contact by keeping her gaze upon the floor. But she watches, out of the corner of her eye, as he pulls out that tape. As he offers it out to her, she takes hold of it, hugging that and the framed picture to her chest.

And for a long moment, she remains silent, staring down at the contents she holds, trying to sort out her thoughts. They're so jumbled right now. Part of her feels for her father. Part of her wishes that she could forgive him. The rest of her…there's no forgiveness for what he's done. The crimes against her…unforgivable. She frowns down at that video, resolving to watch it alone. He doesn't deserve that moment.

"Thank you…" She frowns up at her father, then. "Can we go to her grave, now?"

Seemingly staring into the bookshelf at one of the pictures of Eleanor and Elle together, Bob's focus is actually on his daughter's reflection in the glass. Viewing her indirectly hurts less than looking right at her, almost the way one might choose to view an eclipse without burning out their eyes. He smiles, belatedly, then nods solemnly and turns his back on Elle, one hand tucking into his suit jacket's pocket to withdraw the keys to his car.

"Of course," Bob offers in a hushed tone of voice, feet scuffing across the hardwood floor as he makes his way towards the front door of the house, "the cemetary's about fifteen minutes away, we can stop at a florist on the way and… and pick up some flowers for the grave." Tightness still dominates Bob's voice as he pulls open the front door, hesitating there before turning to look back up and over his shoulder to Elle, lips creeping up into a feigned smile.

Different masks now, there's no way to pretend they have a normal relationship after what's happened. This mask now is one of stubborn strength, and he'll maintain it as long as they have this weekend together. But to Bob, this is like losing Eleanor all over again and being in this old house is magnifying the memories of that day he found out she'd perished.

Exhaling a deep sigh, Bob steps outside and leaves the door open for Elle. On his way out of the house, he considers that famous line from James Agree's "A Death in the Family."

"How far we all come. How far we all come away from ourselves. You can never go home again."

You can go home again.

You just might not like what you find.

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