Stress was building inside him to the point he felt like he would explode at any moment. He hated not knowing where his brother was. Not knowing if he was alright. Most of all he hated not being able to do anything about it. Sighing Casey picked up Eddie from his crib.
“Daddy sad?” Eddie snuggled into him sensing something but unsure what.
“Yes Eddie I am,” Casey looked at his son feeling his small arms slip around his neck, “not so much now.” Holding his son while thinking about Robert he wondered if he’d be able to do what Robert did to keep his family together. He wasn’t sure if he was strong enough to leave everything and everyone behind. He hoped he’d never have to find out.
“Mr. Bennett?” a voice inquired.
“Yes,” he replied.
“This is the nanny agency calling regarding the allegations of harassment that were filed several months ago.”
Heart quickening Casey fumbled the phone in his hands almost dropping it “and.” he nearly shouted.
“We have elected not to pursue the allegations further; however Ms. Matthews is no longer employed by the agency. We will be glad to send over another nanny to replace ….”
“What?” Casey yelled into the phone. “You can’t just fire her for no reason. Those allegations were false ….”
“It wasn’t our decision to dismiss Ms. Matthews.” The dispassionate voice continued “she gave notice ….”
No longer listening to the voice droning on Casey threw the phone across the room. She quit. How could she quit? Quit and not him. Falling to his knees as the room spun around him. ‘No she can’t leave.’ He wouldn’t let her leave. Taking a deep breath he pulled himself off the floor. He went to get Eddie dressed and for the first time in Casey’s carefully scheduled life he didn’t give a second thought to his responsibilities or obligations.
Storming into his parents house, carrying Eddie in his arms he yelled “Lynn get your ass out here.”
William looked at his son and down at Eddie, wide-eyed and scared, he got to his feet and took his grandson and nodded Casey towards Lynn’s room. It was about time his son acknowledged his feelings for her, he could only hope it wasn’t too late.
Taking several deep breaths before he barged through the door without knocking. Stopping short as he saw Lynn calmly packing her suitcase. She looked up “what do you want?”
“I want … I want ….” Casey stammered trying draw words from his befuddled brain that had gone completely blank. “Why are you doing this?”
“I’m leaving, isn’t it obvious?” she said waiving her hands at her things in various states of packed.
“I can see that, but why?” Casey moved closer, hands clinching. “The agency dropped the charges and told me you quit. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s none of your business,” she snapped at him, her green eyes sizzling.
“Is this some sort of punishment?” he ran his fingers roughly through his hair. “You’re the one who said no not me. I’m the idiot who wanted to marry you.” She turned away grabbing more clothes from the dresser. Casey reached for her trying to get her to turn around “Lynn please I love you.”
“Love! You don’t love me. You like the idea of taking care of me.” Getting close she yelled in his face “I don’t need to be taken care of. I can take care of myself.”
“Is that what you think?” Casey stepped back releasing her “you’re not some project to me. Lynn I love you, no strings attached.” He turned and walked towards the door. Stopping he looked back at her unrelenting demeanor. He shrugged “if you don’t know the difference between love and obligation, there’s not much I can do to convince you.” Shaking his head he muttered “why do I even try? “
With a heavy heart he went in search of his son. Finding him in the nursery “dad can Eddie stay her for a few days?”
“Sure son we have plenty of things he can wear. You don’t need to worry about bringing anything for him,” William suggested.
Smiling Casey nodded grateful his dad knew he wouldn’t want to come back and run the chance of seeing Lynn again. “Thanks dad. I’ll call when I’ve had a chance to clear my head.
“Son I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had asked her to marry you. I thought she was upset because you hadn’t told her how you felt about her.” William looked at his with concern “if you need to talk I’m here.”
“I know dad I appreciate it. But I’ll be ok. I just need time to clear my head.”
Hugging Eddie “you’re going to sleep over for a while with Suzie and Anthony.” Eddie nodded his head excited to spend time with his playmates. “Be good for Grandpa.”
“I will daddy,” smiling Casey handed Eddie to his father and slowly left the room.
“Casey?” a soft voice called to him. Looking up he saw Lynn standing outside her room. “Can we talk?”
“Haven’t we said everything there is to say?” he shot back at her “or have you changed your mind?” He leaned against the wall refusing to show the hope that filled his heart.
“No I’m sorry,” she shook her head. “I just …. I don’t know ….. can’t we be friends?”
“Friends?” he scoffed “I don’t want to be friends. I want you to be my wife. Not out of some misguided idea of taking care of you, but because I love you. I want you. Heart, soul and body because we complete each other.” Eyes shimmering he looked at her hoping she would change her mind.
Looking away she mumbled “I don’t know I …. I …. need time.”
“Fine take all the time you need. Runaway see if I care.” He pushed off the wall and stormed out of the house. Slamming the door behind him.
He had no idea where he was going just that he had to put as much distance between him and her as he could. Tires squealing as he rounded the corner. He fought the urge to let the momentum slam his car into the passing trees. Oblivion would be nice. Block out all the pain. The anxiety. The worry. Stomping on the brakes he missed the tree by mere inches. Throwing the car into park, leaned against the steering wheel. Heart racing he closed his eyes to black out what almost happened. How could he have been so reckless? For a split second he thought he was going to do it. He almost did do it. At the last moment Eddie’s face flashed before him, the moment he stomped on the brakes.
Shaking his head he dragged himself out of the car. Trembling he leaned against it. Shaking he wrapped his arms around himself, what was he thinking? He had always thought Gene was a coward for attempting suicide. Now on the other side of the darkness that could drive a person to it, he had a new perspective. He had a new respect for what his brother must carry around inside him.
He really needed someone to talk to before succumbed to something stupid. Patting his pockets, then searching the car he mumbled “where did I put it? I never leave home without my phone.” Overwhelmed with the sudden urge to either laugh or scream he remembered his phone was lying in pieces on his living room floor where it had collided with the wall.
Punching the steering wheel he screamed. Throwing the car into gear, he knew he should turn around. He had every intention of turning around instead he found himself stopping in front of Roberts abandoned house. “Where are you brother? I need you.” Giving up al sense of time and propriety he gave in to his pent-up emotions.
He must have cried himself to sleep as tried to stretch the kinks from his body. He had woke up laying across the front seat with the middle console digging into his side. Moaning he rubbed the soreness in his body. Looking at the dash 11:00. ‘Good thing I Eddie with dad,’ he thought. Staring sullenly at the dark silent house he wished his brother was there to give the advice he needed a shoulder to cry on. Lost and alone he had a desire to punch Robert for not being there for him. Guilt quickly replaced the anger. Getting out of the car he knew he should go home or at least back to his parents house Neither place held any appeal as Lynn’s face intruded into his thoughts. Why wouldn’t she say yes and marry him? Why did she insist he was only asking out of a misguided need to protect her? Why did all the women in his life not love him back? What was wrong with him?
He drove, not knowing or caring where. Eventually he stopped in front of a building. Getting out he walked to the door, upon entering his senses were assaulted by the loud music, vibrating deep within him. Wrinkling his nose at the alcohol stench as someone belched in his face. ‘This is a bad idea’ he told himself as he approached the bar. ‘I should just turn around now,’ he said as someone knocked into him on their way to the bathroom. What was he doing here? This wasn’t his scene at all. He should just go home but home was dark and lonely. Sighing he sat on the stool as the bartender placed a drink in front of him “I didn’t order this.”
Shrugging “you look like you can use. Drink it don’t drink it. Your choice.”
Casey eyed the drink ‘one won’t hurt’ he sighed as he took a sip. It had a fruity taste with hint of alcohol, not bad. It was gone before he knew it and another replaced it. As the night wore on he felt his anxiety lift and he was finally able to relax.
Something was scratching his face as he groaned causing his head to ache even worse than it was already. What happened? Prying open puffy red eyes he blinked from the sunlight peaking through the broken shades. Where was he? The scratchy surface beneath his face smelled of stale smoke and vomit. Pushing up he nearly fell off the couch he had been sleeping on. Head swimming bile rose up and he added his own vomit to the already putrid smelling couch.
Rolling off the couch he laid his head down as tried to piece together the events of the night before. Maybe it would give him a clue as to where he was. Closing his eyes he heard someone clear their throat behind him “good you’re awake.”
He knew that voice, the bartender. “Wh … where am I?” he croaked through cracked dry lips.
“Room behind the bar. You were too drunk to drive last night,” she laughed behind him. “Gene would love to see you like this.”
Casey squinted his eyes at her, groaning as he recognized her. She was the girl who had given Gene drugs for the first back in high school. “Great, just great,” he mumbled.
“How the mighty have fallen,” she laughed again “too bad Gene has turned to the other side. He used to be a lot of fun.” Kneeling down she said loudly “now get up and get out.”
“Don’t worry I’m going,” Casey struggled to get to his feet.
Sighing she grabbed his arm and pulled him roughly to his feet and shoved him towards the door. As he staggered out her wicked laugh followed him out. Making it to his car he breathed deeply of the fresh morning air. Of all the luck, why did it have to be her to see him at his worst? He never drank led alone get drunk. “Never, never again.” he mumbled even as he said it he knew he had liked it. Liked the feeling that all his cares and worries couldn’t touch him and he wanted to experience that feeling again.