Sunday, May 14, 2017

4.35 Sometimes Nightmares Are Real (Finale)


"Phoenix" she called her voice filling the air around the red heads haven. Silence greeted her. She had come to inform him of the growing danger to their dimensions. She knew Phoenix would join the alliance. She had no doubt in her mind.
A groan alerted her that she wasn't alone. Turning she gasped as she came face to face with an emissary of council. As his feet Phoenix lay groaning holding his side.
"As we suspected" the man said his tone impassive.
Lifting her chin Quinn crossed her arms. She would not give this lackey from the council the satisfaction of seeing her squirm. "Whatever you suspect I assure you're wrong."
Dragging Phoenix to his feet he demanded "is this the mother of the children?"
"I don't know what you're talking about" Phoenix sounded hoarse but otherwise unhurt.
"Don't mistake my benevolence as stupidity. We know this is the one who has come to your dimension multiple times since the awakening. She's the mother isn't she?" He shook the weakened watcher "answer me. Is she the one?"

Recovering from her initial shock Quinn knew their worst fears had come to pass. The council was aware of the twins. She kept her face stoic and as unfeeling as she could make it. Phoenix had withstood the Emissaries interrogation to protect her. She would not make his suffering be for nothing.
"Pitiful creature" the emissary tossed Phoenix aside like a rag doll. "You" he pointed towards Quinn "why are you here if not to see your lover and kids?"
"I had important dimension business to discuss" she kept her tone aloof avoiding eye contact with Phoenix.
"I see" he rubbed his chin "Phoenix Cross by the power invested in me you are here with consigned to dimension duty for all eternity. The terms of your voluntary service have been revoked." He stopped his face softening as he helped Phoenix stand up "unless you care to save yourself. Tell me the mother of your children. Tell me and I will let you go home where you can live out your days like a normal mortal. Raise more children."
Phoenix shook his head as his body seemed to convulse "I'd rather rot here for all eternity then tell you."
"As you wish" the emissary stepped back allowing Phoenix to stumble forward "finish your business and leave" he instructed Quinn before vanishing before them.

Phoebe hugged her pillow to her chest. Squeezing her eyes tight. She could still see the hurt disappointed look in her parents eyes as she told them about the baby.
Her mother's gasp "I knew we shouldn't have let you date that boy."
Her dad's attempts to calm her as he said "I'm sure this had nothing to do with...."
"We don't know. Not for sure" her mother cried.
Frowning Phoebe felt as if she had missed something important. They knew something that she didn't. The looks that passed between her parents. The half finished sentences.
"Did you date his dad or something?" she asked glancing from one parent to the other.
"No of course not"Kimberly shook her head "no one knows who his parents are. Whatever gave you that idea?"

Her mother's protests did little to ease the growing unease that some mystery remained around Malachi. "You don't have to worry about Malachi anymore. He didn't like the idea of being a father" she hugged herself tight fighting back tears "we broke up. He got what he wanted and now he's gone."
"I'm going to kill him" Everett exploded bouncing from the couch.
"Daddy please" she cried "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Once she started to say she couldn't keep from saying it. The words dribbled from her mouth. Incoherent from sobbing.
"Aw honey" she felt her father's arms slip around her holding her tight "I'm sorry too." He kissed the top of her head.
"Tomorrow you're seeing the doctor" Kimberly said "after that we'll deal with this...bump in the road." She joined them wrapping her arms around her daughter and husband. "I know it feels like the end of the world but it's not. We'll get through this."
That was how many hours ago? Phoebe sniffed into her pillow. Her parents hadn't said it but she could hear it loud and clear. She had screwed up. Her entire future had changed. All her dreams gone at the snap of her fingers. She shoved her fist in her mouth biting hard to keep from screaming. Why had she been stupid? Why had she ever believed Malachi was the one? No one at fourteen ever met their soul mate.

"Phoebe" a small voice called from the partially open door "are you aright?"
"Go away" she cried
"You're crying" he persisted slipping into the room closing the door behind him "is it because of the baby?"
"What do you know about that?" she mumbled sitting up on the bed.
"I..." he picked at his fingers then glanced both ways as if he was afraid of being overheard "I listened to you tell mommy and daddy."
"You little sneak" she cried.

Shrugging he climbed on the bed beside her "how else am I supposed to find out about stuff? No one ever tells me. They think I'm a kid."
"You are a kid" she emphasized.
"Yeah" he sighed moving restlessly beside her on the bed "it doesn't mean I can't help."
"Ori"she rolled her eyes about to launch into all the reasons why a ten year old couldn't help when she stopping considering his sincere blue eyes identical to their mother's. She smiled gently at him "you're right you can help."
"I can?" he sounded surprised "of course I can" he amended confidently. "You'll be a good mommy" he leaned into her kissing her cheek.

"Really?" she asked surprised that he thought so. Half the time she thought he was a nuisance. Always hiding behind doors spying on her. Too bad he wasn't around that night when she and Malachi decided to make a baby.
"I think so" he leaned into her eyes drooping.
"I didn't think you liked me" she laughed as he put his head in her lap.
"I don't" he yawned "it's a brother thing."
"That doesn't make any sense" she went on a for a few minutes telling him why it didn't make sense stopping at the sound of him snoring. Short of letting him sleep with her she scooped him up and carried him to his room.

"You'll be a good mommy" Ori's voice echoed in her head. It was a comforting thought to think someone thought she'd be a good mother. She let it lull her to sleep.
A couple hours later she tossed her head restlessly on the pillow whimpering in protest. Sweat dotted her forehead and upper lip "no please don't...."
"Good mommy" a voice she hadn't heard in over ten years cackled in her head "good mommy, mommy, mommy."
"Go away" Phoebe shouted "please go away."
"You're never getting rid of me," the wandler taunted.

"Why? How?" she cried "dollie's gone. She was the link. Go away."
"Oh poor little dollie" the wandler taunted "her sacrifice was for nothing. You've been touched. I can come and go as I please now. You'll never be alone again."
"No please" she whimpered "you were gone. I know you were gone."
"I was never gone. Just hibernating" the wandler sniffed sighing contentedly "you're fear is delicious. I could feast upon it forever."
"No leave me alone" Phoebe begged "rainbows and hearts. Unicorns and puppy dogs."

"We're not in the darkness anymore" the wandler scoffed at her feeble attempts to get rid of her "those tricks won't work on me."
"Where are you?" Phoebe cried groping in the dark shivering. It was like a cloying damp cloak had been thrown over her head, smothering her. She sat up straight in bed the first light of dawn appearing in the sky as she glanced out her window.
"I'm inside your head" the wandler whispered as if she sat beside Phoebe "the silly woman who commissioned me to torment you as a child had me touch you. A wandler's touch is terrifying and wonderful. Many don't survive."
The Wandler's voice filled Phoebe's mind "why are doing this to me?"
"You're special" the wandler's laughter deafened her "I didn't think we'd be united so soon."

"Leave me alone" Phoebe begged holding her stomach as a sharp pain stabbed her.
The wandler shook her head her voice taking on a teasing tone "it's so much fun being here with you. If I left I wouldn't have any fun. I know you wouldn't want that."
"Yes I would" Phoebe screamed as the pain increased to intolerable levels in her stomach. "Daddy, mommy" she screamed stumbling from the bed.
"You really are a stupid little girl" the wandler gave her one more twist before taking what she came for..

Kimberly held onto Everett's hand sitting in the sterile impersonal waiting room. She squeezed her shut as images of running into her daughter's bedroom assaulted her. Phoebe lay semi conscious on her bedroom floor writhing in pain. "She's lost so much blood" she mumbled for the hundredth time.
Everett squeezed her hand. He heard her talking through her fears while he remained silent. What could he say? What could he do? "She'll be alright" he murmured so many times the words had begun to lose their meaning.
Kimberly nodded her tears streaming from her eyes "hold me," she pleaded a testament of how much they had been through recently. "I can't lose her too. First Grandma now this."
Beverly had been a huge part of their lives. Her absence would leave a hole in their lives that wouldn't be easily filled. They hadn't had a lot of time to absorb the tragedy of her death before being slammed with news of Phoebe's pregnancy. Everett jerked upright when he saw a doctor come from the OR.
Hastily he went to meet the surgeon halfway "how is she? How's my daughter?

Blinking the exhausted man rubbed his temples "we got the bleeding stopped. It's a miracle you found her when you did." He have each of them a silent nod and smile "she should make a full recovery."
"Can we see her?" Kimberly asked clinging to Everett.
"She's in recovery" he gave her a brief grin "once she's in her own room I'll have the nurse come get you." He turned to leave then stopped "her case is puzzling if it weren't for the bleeding I'd swear there was no baby."
"Are you saying she wasn't pregnant?" Everett demanded "we saw the test results...."
"I didn't say that" the doctor yawned "there's plenty of evidence in the womb she had been pregnant but no evidence of a fetus. I've never seen anything like it in my twenty years of practice."

Shocked Everett let the man go turning his attention to his wife "our baby's going to be aright" he assured her holding Kimberly tight as she cried on his chest.
"I know" she sniffed "I'm happy really I am. It's just....what if she's right?"
"We got rid of the wandler almost ten years ago. It can't come back" he kissed her forehead "we destroyed the doll it was attached to. Phoebe was delirious and didn't know what she was talking about."
"I'm sure you're right" Kimberly sighed wrapping her arms around his waist "seeing her like that on the floor. Hearing her saying it was back...."
"I know I was just as scared as you" Everett admitted "everything is going to be alright now. I promise."

“Keenan” Lydia yawned stumbling into the living room brushing her disheveled hair from her face “it’s 2 AM! What are you doing?”
“Can’t sleep" he mumbled glancing at his phone frowning.
“Hold up - just stop” she demanded as he tried to hide his phone from her view.
“It’s nothing” his voice sounding irritated as she persisted to reach his phone.
“I’ve known you too long Keenan. This isn’t nothing” she sat down motioning for him to join her. She smiled seeing the reluctance in his face as he sat beside her. “Just because you don’t want to talk about something doesn’t mean it’s nothing.”
He remained silent staring at the far wall of their living room mumbling again “it’s nothing.”
“It’s your father isn’t it?” her gentle persistence earning her a nod from her husband.

“He…called” Keenan raised his phone where it still showed the ID of the last caller “he’s a mess. Mom was his life.” His heart thudded against his chest a dull persistent ache “I’m afraid the clan elders will try to force him into a marriage he’s not ready for.”
She gasped clutching his hand “it’s too soon. They wouldn’t be that heartless would they?”
“I wouldn’t put it past them” Keenan sighed “I don’t think they care how much he’s hurting. They just want an heir they approve of.”
The bitterness in his voice was all Lydia needed to hear to know how much her husband was hurting. "I wish..." she bit her lip. She hated having the castle guard anywhere near her home. It disrupted her routine not to mention scaring the girls "we should have your father come stay with us."
Grunting Keenan shook his head "it didn't work so well the first time he was here. Not to mention the guard and elders would never allow it now."
"We can't just leave him in that dreary old castle by himself" she protested.
He tugged on her hair "it's really sweet of you to offer unfortunately it won't work."

"Why not?" she demanded.
"He needs the castle guard for protection" he mumbled.
"The castle guard didn't do much for Beverly" Lydia pointed out "she was on castle grounds when Sarafino got to her." Tears blurred her vision "where were the guards when she needed them?"
Nodding Keenan sighed "I've wondered that myself. Why was she there? It's so unlike her to go wandering around by herself."
"You believe Serafino's story don't you?" Lydia said dismayed.
"I do. He killed her but..." his voice flat emotionless "I just don't think it's as easy as that. There's more to it."
"Silver" she hissed the hated name from her lips.

"I'm afraid so" he agreed "no one else benefits from Beverly's demise. The elders would have waited until she passed away from old age. Now they're taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity."
"Serafino still had motive" she pointed out not quite convinced "he wanted to rule Moonlight Falls."
"After his assignation attempt the elder's would never consider him" Keenan let a bitter laugh escape "that was a delusion that Silver capitalized on. Silver wants my dad. Beverly was an obstacle preventing Silver from getting what he wants."
"Oh Keenan" Lydia cried reaching out to him. Her fingers encountered stiff taught muscles.
He moved away from her touch mumbling "the elders were right to be scared. I am a monster" he mumbled.
"No you're not" she protested brows knitted in confusion "you are not Silver." She took his hand holding it against her cheek "you are my husband. The father of our children. If you are a monster so are they."
He knew what she was trying to do and for a moment it lifted the weight from his heart. He took her in his arms held her tight. Would she still feel the same after he did what he knew he had to do? or would she look at him like he the monster he knew he was?

"No I won't do it" Adam shouted eyes darting around the assembled clan elders.
"You don't have a choice" his once trusted friend and mage informed him.
"I thought you were supposed to have my back" Adam accused his voice hoarse.
"I do" Alanon insisted "I have to also weight the good of Moonlight Falls against the needs of one individual. The people need the reassurance that an heir will give them."
"There is a an heir" Adam stated as the air of the small conference room pressed in around him. He felt trapped in circumstances he had no control over.
"He's not the type of heir we need. He has too much power" Alanon shook his head "the people won't back him."
"He's my son" Adam protested scanning the obstinate faces of the assembled clan elders. Each one bearing the responsibility of their people on their shoulders. "Keenan would never hurt anyone" he attempted to make them see reason.

"You can't say that" Alanon spoke softly "anyone can hurt anyone if given enough reason."
"It hasn't even been a month since wife...." he choked. He just couldn't say it. His eyes watered despite his best efforts to remain stoic.
"You're letting your humanity take control of your emotions" Alanon hissed without hint remorse or sympathy "pull yourself together. Emotion has not bearing on duty. Providing a viable heir is the duty of the Esteemed One."
Adam glared at Alanon his eyes boring into his head. His vampire rising, taking control pushing the hurt and pain away. For a brief moment he felt nothing. Under the influence of that moment Adam snapped "fine we'll do it your way. You give no choice." He paused staring intently into the assembled men and women "send me your selections. I'll choose from among them."
He walked from the room slamming the door on the stunned faces of the clan elders. His anger allowed him to make it back to his room before emotions once again took control "what am I going to do?" he cried in the still empty room "I can't do this. I don't want to do this."
He reached for the photograph of Beverly smiling from the frame "I should have renounced my appointment as Esteemed One. I don't want it. Never did. Why did I let you convince me to do this? All they want is someone they can control. A puppet they can control."

Special Chapter - Patrick

Jeff glanced around his new home. It wasn't much but it was his. He sighed with a building sense of satisfaction that he was finally moving in the right direction by making the decision to split from Lisa. What other choice did he have after what happened at Rita's six months before. It was over. Had been over for a long time. He had been clinging to the remnants of what they once had.

Moving to Moonlight Falls to be near Tommy and his family was the best decision he could have made. Talon was a ball of energy that kept him on his toes; especially now that Talon had discovered how to use his wings. His favorite past time now was evading being caught and Jeff spent the majority of time with his grandson chasing the little scamp around the house.

Talon's infectious laughter filled his tiny house as he attempted and failed to catch the little bumble to put him down for his nap. A loud knock interrupted their game of cat and mouse. "Patrick" Jeff cried upon opening the door and finding his eldest son grinning in front of him. Pulling him into a quick spontaneous hug "come in and close the door before Talon decides to escapes."

Puzzled Patrick did as he was told followed by a good looking green eyed male. Patrick watched in wonder as Talon buzzed past hovering nearby to inspect the visitors. "Is that him? My nephew?" his eyes sparkled with fascination and curiosity.

"That's Talon" Jeff laughed as his grandson came up to Patrick putting an inquisitive finger on his nose "that's your Uncle Patrick."

Giggling Talon squealed and darted away before Patrick could grab him and hold him. "He looks so much like Tommy. It's amazing and shocking at the same time," he said watching the boy hovering behind Jeff's shoulder.

"He keeps me on my toes that's for sure" Jeff said ushering them to the couch "What brings you to Moonlight Falls?" Inwardly he was expecting the worst. A plea for help in managing Lisa. That seemed to the only reason his children ever invited him over or showed up at his house unannounced.

Taking Brice's hand in his Patrick smiled warmly at his dad "I wanted you to know that the procedure was a success."

Jeff's brows knitted together as he puzzled over his son's announcement. What procedure? Then it clicked leaving him grinning "congratulations." He bounced up to give each of the young men sitting across from him a hug "I'm so happy for you."

"Thank you dad that means a lot" Patrick squeezed Brice's hand "we're both excited to be parents. We were hoping you might be able to help us with something."

Brice nodded encouraging him to continue. Jeff held his breath knowing what that help was going to be and dreading it.

"We're hoping you might be able to introduce us to Peter Van Winkle so we can thank him. If it weren't for his work and dedication this wouldn't be possible. He's done so much to help same sex couples have their own biological children. We'd just like to thank him" Patrick continued unaware of the relief that his words were giving his father.

"I'll see what I can do" Jeff said "Peter's been busy working on a project recently."

"If nothing else we'd like to write a letter thanking him. Do you think you could see he got it if we can't meet him?" Brice asked "I know Patrick would prefer doing it in person but we don't want to disturb his work either."

"No we wouldn't want to do that" Patrick agreed taking his husband's hand "there is something else we need to discuss with you. We've been offered positions with the ...."


Loud banging interrupted them. Jeff went to see who it was at his door. His smile faded upon sight of Lisa's displeased snarl "what are you doing here?"

"They did it didn't they?" she was practically screaming as she shoved past Jeff into his house "which one of you is the abomination?"

Standing Patrick shrugged off the supporting hands of his husband "I guess that would be me." He stared coldly at the woman who gave birth to him "you're going to be a grandmother."

"I refuse to accept that thing as my grandchild" she spewed spittle across the room "how dare you embarrass the family in this way.

"Lisa" Jeff hissed her name in disbelief at what he was hearing "what's wrong with you?"

Focusing her attention on her soon to be ex-husband "this is all your fault. Allowing them to make their own decisions. I had a nice pretty girl picked out for him. She'd have made him a good wife but...." she waved a hand towards Brice "he chose that."

"That's enough" Jeff grabbed her arm attempting to guide her towards the door "this is my home. I won't tolerate you insulting my son or his husband in this manner."

"You won't tolerate it?" she snapped her eyes darting to his face "you don't mind that your son is going against nature? Marrying a man. Getting pregnant. It's all ok with you."

"You're drunk" Jeff said catching a whiff of her breath.

"Just a few drinks on the plane" she dismissed his words.

"You need to leave before you say anything else you'll regret" Jeff opened the door hoping she'd take the hint and leave before she completely wrecked her relationship with her son.

She looked over his shoulder towards the two young men. Brice was rubbing Patrick's back in slow rhythmic circles. For a brief moment her eyes softened "we used to be like that" she murmured.

Nodding slowly Jeff sighed "we were once upon a time."

"Until I mucked it up" her voice was full of regret.

"It takes two" he sighed "I could have fought harder to be more of a presence in my own family."

"Meaning  you should have told me no sooner and more often" her voice was hardening a sure sign she was building towards something.

"Among other things" Jeff argued "it's to late now. It's in the past."

Jeff walked her outside debating within himself if he should let her drive. "Give me the keys" he held his hand out.

"I can drive" she refused knocking his hand away.

"Lisa either give me the keys or I'm calling the cops" he said not taking the chance. He couldn't live with the woman but he couldn't let her hurt herself or someone else by driving in her condition.

"Fine" she threw her purse at him letting him dig inside it for the keys.

"Wait here" he commanded running back to the house. "Will you guys wait here for me while I take your mother to the hotel?" he asked hoping they wouldn't want to leave after this "make yourself at home" he said when they nodded.


A couple of hours later Jeff entered his dark and silent house. Disappointment flooded through him. He had wanted to spend time with his oldest son instead it had take him forever to disentangle himself from Lisa and her drunken ramblings. Turning on a light he spread out on the the couch. A moment later he jumped to his feet "Talon" he cried. Where was his grandson? With everything happening he had completely forgotten about the boy.

"Talon" he called running for the spare bedroom where he put the boy for his naps. He switched the light on running for the crib. Empty. Had the boy gotten out while he had been dealing with Lisa? Was the boy buzzing around outside alone perhaps lost in the dark? Racing for the front door he flung it open coming face to face with Patrick.

"Dad what's wrong?" he asked seeing the panic in the older man.

"Talon...I can't find him" he searched the darkening yard wondering which way the boy would have gone.

"Talon?" Brice asked "did Tommy bring him back?"

Staring at the young man Jeff demanded "what do you mean back?"

"Well" Brice looked at Patrick before responding "they came by the house while you were gone"

Running a hand through his hair "did they take Talon with them?"

"Of course they did" Patrick laughed "do you think Brice and I would leave the boy alone?"

"I..." Jeff sighed bursting into helpless relieved laughter "I didn't know what to think. I forgot all about him while I was dealing with your mother."

"You forgot about him" Patrick sounded incredulous. Turning to Brice "remind me when our little one comes not to let him babysit for us."

"Don't worry I will" Brice said solemnly.

Jeff looked from one to the other despite their solemn words their eyes were dancing. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were planning on moving here."

"We are" Brice confirmed.

Walking over to the couch Patrick sat down "we were going to tell you earlier but were interrupted. The police department asked us to set up their forensics lab."

"I'm so proud of you" Jeff said "you've worked hard for this I know."

"You're not disappointed that I didn't become an investigator?" Patrick asked .

"Not at all" Jeff smiled "I would have been more disappointed if you had done something you didn't want to do."

"Thanks dad" Patrick looked relieved "mom had a fit when I told her."

"Don't worry about that. She's always wanted someone to take after her father" Jeff explained "she loves you despite how she acts. She's just letting other things cloud her judgment."

"You're too nice to her dad" Patrick said "you always were."

"Yes well" he shrugged. What could he say "old habits die hard."

"Yes they do" Patrick said softly glancing up at the man beside him. Brice had spent a lot of time helping him see what Lisa had been doing to him. They had met at the police academy. Patrick had been dating some girl his mom had set him up with, too afraid to let anyone know he had no real feelings or attraction for her.

At the time Patrick would have denied it about himself. That was until he met Brice. He had felt the difference in the way his body reacted to the man. His heart would speed up at the sound of his voice. Whenever Brice entered the room it was like he brought the sunshine with him. Patrick couldn't take his eyes from him. Every touch no matter how brief or inconsequential it was felt like being on fire.

He had never felt that way with Tanya. His mother's choice for him. In a remote way Patrick knew she was pretty. She was nice. Her voice had a nice ring to it. She just didn't make him come alive when she was near him. Half the time he didn't even know if she was in the same with him. Brice was different. He knew every move he made. When he left the room it was suddenly cold and lonely without him.

He still would have been in denial if it weren't for that day that brought them together. They had been assigned to work together. Patrick would always remember how Brice had joined him setting his books aside. "I've seen you watching me" his green eyes seemed to hypnotize him as he struggled to find something to say. "That's ok. I like you too" Brice had given him a bright flash of his white teeth as he sat down "I'm glad we're working together. I've wanted an excuse to introduce myself to you."

Patrick tried to convince himself that they were just friends over the next few months. He invited Brice to come with him to meet the family. To this day he still remembered the hateful glare his mother had given Brice upon meeting him. Brice had leaned over wrapping his arms around him whispering in his ear unconcerned "I don't think she likes me."

"Don't be ridiculous" he objected "of course she does. It just takes a while for her to warm up to people."

He had thought it strange afterward how his mother had insisted on inviting Tanya over. He had spent the weekend fending off his girlfriends unwanted attentions.

After returning to the academy Brice had put a hand on his knee "your family doesn't know, do they?"

"Know what?" he asked choking on the words to afraid to admit what he had begun to suspect.

"That you're gay" Brice squeezed Patrick's knee before removing his hand "I know you're not ready to admit it yet either. Just do yourself a favor and don't let your mom convince you you're something you're not." 

To Patrick's surprise Brice leaned over placing his soft lips on his in a soft tender kiss. It wasn't the mind blowing kiss he had read about or the earth stopping kiss he watched in countless movies. It was one full of promise. His lips tingled afterward leaving him breathless as he watched Brice get his things. It was an entirely new sensation. Something he had never felt with Tanya no matter how many times they had kissed.


Pulling his mind from the past Patrick turned to Jeff "why did you retire?"

Shrugging Jeff moved restlessly on the chair he was sitting on. Looking down he tried to avoid the interested stares he was receiving from his son. "I realized I no longer enjoyed what I was doing." He sighed shaking his head "it wasn't important anymore. I'm a consultant here in Moonlight Falls and will probably be working with you on the Forensics Lab."

"Did you lose interest because of the pressure mom put on you to make the next promotion?" Patrick asked worry in his purplish blue eyes.

"That wasn't all of it" Jeff admitted "I missed my old partner. It wasn't the same without him. Plus I wanted to be home more but that meant spending more time with your mother and dealing with her disappointment. I wasn't ready to admit her dreams weren't mine." He stopped unsure what else to say "I'm proud of you son for being able to stand up to her. You were able to let yourself be true to what you wanted to be."

"Thanks" he murmured in response. Patrick felt somewhat uncomfortable accepting the compliment. Most of the time he felt like a failure. He had almost given in to his mother's wishes that he marry Tanya. He might have married her if it weren't for that single kiss Brice had given him in the car that night.

It had helped him admit to himself that he wasn't happy living the life his mother wanted for him. He realized if he didn't stand up for himself he'd be miserable for the rest of his life. "It was an act of desperation more than anything else" he said out loud. He looked around the room at their startled expressions "me standing up to mom was an act of desperation. I was afraid of waking up one day and hating everything about my life." He looked at his dad "you gave me the strength to do it. I saw how unhappy you were. How much of a struggle you had but you never gave up. Don't let mom make you believe you were a bad dad. That's the furthest thing from the truth. You were a good dad even when you weren't there. Every minute we spent with you was time we enjoyed growing up. Other kids may have had their dads everyday sitting behind the newspaper at the table or watching TV never talking to them. You always wanted to know what we wanted or how we felt about things. It meant a lot to us."

Jeff's heart swelled within him. He had always believed that he had been a mostly absent father. That the little time he had spent with his kids didn't count for much.

It was a shock when someone pulled him close wrapping their arms around him. "I'm sorry" Patrick said "I should have told you sooner. Somehow I thought you knew how we felt."

"I thought..." he sniffed trying to maintain control over his emotion and failing. "It doesn't matter what I thought."

"Yes it does" Patrick insisted "you spent too many years believing what you thought and felt wasn't important."

"I should have been there more for you and I wasn't" Jeff mumbled feeling his son draw him closer "I wasn't there for all the games and plays you were in as kids. I knew how disappointed you were ...."

"Those were just things we did" Patrick rubbed Jeff's back like Brice had done for him a few hours before "yeah we wanted you there but it wasn't the do or die situation mom always made it out to be. She made sure you didn't find out about things until the last minute making it impossible for you to come. We never blamed you."

Jeff listened to his son's words. He heard the sincerity in his voice. Was this really how they felt? "I'm going to enjoy having you here," he said choking up as he saw the tears of understanding in his son's eyes.

"Good you can help us find a house" Patrick said winking over at Brice.

"And you can be our babysitter when we need a night out alone" Brice added.

"Deal" Jeff said smiling at them all "maybe I can be a better grandpa than I was a dad."

"Don't" Patrick chided "I love the dad I have. I wouldn't change you for anything."

It was nice to hear Jeff had to admit as he nodded accepting his son's statement. It didn't stop the doubts and self recriminations. He would always feel he could have done better, tried harder, done more. He couldn't go back. All he could do was go forward.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Special Chapter - Rita

Rita raced into the house. Dropping the grocery bags on the counter. She hurried to answer her phone. "Jason?" she said breathlessly.

"Did I catch you at a bad time?" his voice sounded distant.

"Yes" she said "I mean no" She took a deep gulp of air held it "I just got home from grocery shopping."

"Is your mother coming to town?" he asked.

She could hear the concern in his voice as well as the irritation she always heard when her mother came to visit. "It's the only time I buy groceries," she admitted "you know I always order out otherwise."

He chuckled a little "don't let her change your mind."

"I won't. I promise" her voice shook with uncertainty.
"Babe you promised" the disappointment in his voice reached her ears.
"I know I promised" her lip quivered as she leaned on the counter bringing a hand up to rub her temples "you don't know how she is." She could imagine him rolling his eyes on the other end of the call. He knew all too well what her mother was like. Her Mother would fight anyone to get her way. There was only one way to do anything, her way.
Rita had lived all her life complying with her mother's wishes. She was the good girl. The one who never caused any trouble unlike her baby brother Thomas. A slight smile quirked her lips up brightening her eyes. Her brother from an earl age made it clear he wasn't going to give in easily to his mother's wishes. He refused to answer to Thomas insisting it was an old man's name. Someone who smoked cigars and had handlebar mustaches with bow ties to complete the look. Rita often wondered where he had come up with that description. Not even their mother could alter his mind and he had been Tommy ever since.
"Rita honey" Jason's voice intruded upon her thoughts "are you alright?"
"I'm fine" she whispered into the phone "she won't stop me from joining you." She looked at the ring on her finger "Jason I really want to come..."

"Call your dad" he said suddenly before she could say goodbye.
"What good will that do?" she asked sounding deflated.
"You said he helped your brother...."
"Yeah" she bit her lip thinking. Her dad hadn't been around much when she was growing up but he had always been available to talk. There had been many times when she had been unfairly grounded and stuck in her room. She'd call him on the special phone he'd given her for such occasions. They each had one hidden in their rooms. A secret kept from their mother who would otherwise confiscate their phones as punishment for some perceived infringement of the rules. "I'll call him" she sniffed into the phone "I miss you" she murmured.
"I miss you too" Jason replied back. She could hear the smile in his voice as he said "I love you sweetheart."
She held the phone to her ear hoping he'd say something else. Reluctantly she laid her phone on the counter the last of the days sunlight glinted off her ring. A silent reminder of all the the secrets she wished she could share and couldn't.

Tripping over the vacuum cleaner's cord Rita hurried to the door. Opening it wide her frown was replaced with a wide grin. "Daddy" she cried throwing herself into his arms "you came."
"I said I would" he squeezed her tight "honey I wish you'd call me without it being an emergency."
"Who said this was an emergency?" Rita demanded eyes darting away unable to meet Jeff's eyes.
"You're mother is coming isn't she?" Jeff stated following her inside the house. He could see the struggle inside her and wondered if he had done the right thing by staying with Lisa all these years despite their growing rift. Maybe if he had put his foot down sooner his kids wouldn't need him to be their mediator between them and their mother. Lisa wasn't a bad mother. She loved her children. She wanted what was best for them and thought she knew what that was regardless of what they wanted. He mentally shook himself to stop rattling off all the negative characteristics that had so plagued their relationship throughout the years, overbearing,  perfectionist, domineering, controlling.
Twirling a strand of her strawberry blond hair around her finger Rita nodded. "You know what she's like" she lifted her chin eyes pleading "she'll want to stop me."

Gently he took her arm guiding her to the couch "The work you and Jason are doing is important."
"I know" she lifted a trembling hand to her eyes wiping away the tears "it's just mother wants me to finish medical school...."
Jeff took her hand feeling as if someone had thrown a heavy cloak of regret over his shoulders. If only he had seen what Lisa was doing sooner maybe his children wouldn't be afraid to stand up to her and make their own choices Maybe if he had they would have the confidence to be who they wanted to be without fear of her displeasure.
"Daddy it's not your fault" Rita said as if in response to his thoughts "you couldn't have done anything about Mother. Maybe she can't help it. You know how her parents are."
"I know sweetie" Jeff sighed squeezing her hand tight "I just worry that I wasn't there enough for you guys when you were growing up."

"Daddy don't think like that" Rita protested leaning into him "you were there. Who else did I tell about my first date?"
That brought a brief smile to his lips. He could still hear the excitement in her voice as she told him everything about that night. Every nuance, every thought, every glance, every touch she had experienced. If he had let her, she would have named the butterflies inside her stomach for him. He had felt bad that he hadn't been there to be the classic scary Dad instilling fear in the young man's heart who dared to date his daughter. Instead it was him she had confided in. It was him she had shared the news with when she had her first kiss.
"What can I do to help?" he asked voice husky with emotion.
"Daddy your my guest" she protested.
"I'm here to help" his eyes sparkled with amusement "put me to work."

Jeff squirmed uncomfortably beside his daughter as Lisa stared coldly at them from across the table. Her nose wrinkled in disgust as if she had smelled something grotesque. "How many times have I told you not to interfere with me raising the children? I know them better than you do...."
"Mother that's not fair" Rita protested "Daddy worked hard but he..."
"He did work hard" Lisa hissed "he loved his job more than you."
Jeff could feel every muscle inside him stiffen at the unfair accusation. His jaw muscle twitched as it clenched hard enough to make his teeth ache. With extreme effort he spoke "I never put my job ahead of you or the kids."
"I suppose I imagined all those lonely nights when you weren't home or all the school functions you missed because of some big case you were working on. I was a good wife supporting you so you'd make the next big promotion. I never complained about the long hours or the weeks we spent apart." She tossed her napkin down "but it was me who held the family together. I was there not you. I've earned the right to point the children on the paths they should follow."
"That's the problem isn't?" Jeff tossed back at his estranged wife "they're following your path not their own. Can't you see they're not happy?"
"I'm doing it for their own good" she shouted "they'll thank me for it later once they see I was right."

"Mother stop" Rita cried "I don't want to be a surgeon. I want to be with Jason working for Doctor's Without Borders. They need good nurses."
"There's no profit in that" Lisa scoffed "surgeons help people all the time and they don't have to risk their lives to do it." Turning to Jeff she demanded "do you know where she wants to go?"
Jeff turned away from her angry visage his gaze softening on his daughter "I think Rita is capable of making her own decisions. I commend her wanting to be a part of something that would benefit so many others in need."
"Thank you Daddy" she said her voice quivering.
"Why do I bother?" Lisa rolled her eyes "you obviously have no cue what she intends on doing." She paused making sure she had their attention "let me enlighten you. She wants to go to Lunar Lakes. How ridiculous is that?"
"People are dying mother" an edge crept into Rita's voice "I see nothing ridiculous about that." Turning to Jeff "Daddy please tell me you don't think it's ridiculous too. I want to help those people get the medical treatment they deserve."
"Of course it's not ridiculous" he pulled her close hugging her tight.

"Typical" Lisa grumbled "I always have to make the difficult decisions to ensure she doesn't ruin her life. Don't you care she could die by going there? People are sick and dying in the streets."
"That's why I have to go" Rita entreated her hoping she'd understand "the people of Lunar Lakes need help. I can help them." Turning to Jeff "if I take proper precautions I'd be no more at risk than anyone else. I know what to do to protect myself. I can do this."
"I know you can" he said despite the fear that gripped his heart. Simbola was an awful disease that lead to an even worse death. "Sweetheart if this is what you want to do. Do it. Don't let me or your mother stop you. Just be sure you're doing it because it's what you want and not what Jason wants."
"I know Daddy" looking across the table where her mom still stood "I want to do this. I want to help those people. It's not about money or prestige otherwise I'd stay in Medical School and become a surgeon like you want me to." As Lisa opened her mouth to launch a protest Rita shook her head "let me finish" she snapped "I love you but it's time I live my own life not the one you want me to have. I've twenty-four years old. I don't need your permission to do this. I am going to do this."
Giving Jeff a piercing glare Lisa moved towards the door "you and I need to talk."
Jeff stood feeling like he was about to face a firing squad. Before following Lisa outside he stopped long enough to hug his daughter "I'm sorry."
"It's ok Daddy" she kissed his cheek "it needed to be said and I needed to say it."
"I'm so proud of you" he kissed her cheek before going outside to receive the blast the mother of his children was going to give him.

Jeff found Lisa outside with her back to the door arms crossed. He could feel the tense angry vibrations radiating from her. "I don't get it" she complained "you were never there when they were little yet all of them have become just like you."
"There are other ways of being there than just being physically present" Jeff pointed out wishing he could make her see what the rest of them could.
"I was the one there every day" Lisa continued as if he hadn't spoken at all "that should count for something."
"It does" Jeff agreed "but were you listening?"
"I'm their mother" she snapped "I know what's best for them. I see now I should have been stricter; especially with Tommy."

"You can't control them. That's not what parenting is supposed to be" Jeff walked up beside her "our job is to guide them as they become the people they want to be."
Snorting Lisa turned to him "they're ruining their lives. I don't want a fairy for a grandson. I don't want my daughter dying from some obscure disease when she could be home safe and sound."
"Lisa they're adults" Jeff could hear his frustration rising in his voice making it crackle with stress "they need to make their own decisions. Sometimes that means we're not going to like them. We're not going to agree with them. It's their lives to live not ours." How many times would he have to repeat himself before this finally sank in?"
"How can you be so lackadaisical about this?" she demanded pounding her fists against his chest "their lives are ruined and you don't care."
"Who says their lives are ruined just because they aren't doing things your way?" Jeff asked "Tommy loves his wife and child. He may not be a monetary success yet but he has a wonderful family and a book on the best selling list. That has to count for something."

"I suppose Rita quitting medical school to be with some guy she barely knows is fine too" she walked several steps away looking up into the sky.
"She's known Jason for six years" Jeff pointed out following her "he's her fiance not just some boy."
"He's what?" she cried whirling around gaping at him.
"They're engaged" he could tell Lisa hadn't known. Why did this continue to happen? Why couldn't the kids tell their mother these things instead of letting him spill it unintentionally for them? "I thought you knew" he tried to explain "Rita was wearing her engagement ring."
"Of course I didn't know. They never tell me these things" she turned around walking towards her car "I'm done. They want to ruin their lives they're on their own." She got into the car glaring up at Jeff as he held the door open refusing to let her go.

"Don't do this Lisa" he pleaded "not again. She loves you. Your her mother. She wants your approval."
"Then tell her to say in school" Lisa hissed.
"Why must there be conditions?" Jeff demanded "why can't you just accept them for who they are?"
"Goodbye Jeffrey" she said putting the car in gear.
He jumped back allowing the door to swing shut. He shook his head at her as she glared at him through the windshield. She knew how much he hated her calling him Jeffrey. The way she said it made his teeth hurt. Why couldn't she see the more she pushed the less she got in return?

The door opened behind him and Rita ran past him. "Mother wait" she cried "I'll stay. I'll go to medical school. I'll..." She stopped as the car drove out of sight.
Jeff ran up beside her. Dropped to his knees pulling her close "I'm sorry sweetie."
"Why aren't I enough?" Rita cried clinging to him "why does she keep asking for more? I thought I was doing the right thing going to college. She was so proud of me. Then it was medical school like being a nurse wasn't good enough." She looked up through her tears "I liked being a nurse. Talking to the patients. Calming their fears. I've seen so many doctors where the patients are just numbers. They have no time to get to know the people they treat. It's all so impersonal."
"Sweetie if that's how you feel why were you going to comply with your mother's wishes?" Jeff asked stroking her hair.
"I hate knowing I've disappointed her" she sniffed "I don't want to disappoint Jason either."

"I noticed you were wearing your ring," Jeff said "I thought you had told your mother about your engagement."
"I hoped she'd notice" Rita squeezed his hand "stupid huh?"
"No not stupid" Jeff hugged her "I'm sorry you're being forced to choose between them."
"What should I do?" she cried looking to him for answers "I don't want to hurt either of them but" she bit her lip unable to go on.
"But" Jeff tilted her face up to his "no one can make this decision for you. Only you know what's in your heart. Listen to it. I'll love you no matter what you decide."

A smile spread across her face "even if I make the wrong choice?"
"Even if" he smiled back at her "a wrong decision is something you can learn from. Just be sure you decide for yourself. Don't worry about what I want or what you mother wants. It's not our decision to make. It's yours."
"You think I should go don't you?" she asked a hopeful gleam in her eyes.
"I can't make this decision for you" he smiled down at her "I have every confidence that you can make it for yourself."
"Thanks Daddy," she hugged him tight "you always make things so much better."
She ran ahead of him towards the house. He watched her sadly. He knew eventually he'd be kissing her goodbye. She'd choose to join Jason in Lunar Lakes. He'd spend his nights awake worrying about her until the Simbola outbreak was under control. Hoping and praying his little girl wouldn't be one of it's many victims. He'd repeat to himself that it was her decision and he'd be proud of her regardless.