Gene followed Casey into their parents house. His thoughts on how Aimee would react when she saw his face. Not well he was sure but there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot he could do about it now. If he was really lucky she would still be playing video games in Michael’s room. If she was, then he might be able to take her aside without shocking her too much. As soon as Casey was inside he made a beeline for his son, Gene smiled glad he was able to accomplish that much. Eddie needed his dad ….. “OMG” Aimee’s frantic voice interrupted his thoughts. “What the hell happened to you?” she ran up to him tenderly inspecting the damage to his face. “Were you in a car accident?”
Shaking his head trying not to let the laughter building inside him out as he tried to reassure her. He found it amusing that she immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had been in an accident. It was touching how concerned she was for his well-fare even if he found it difficult to accept, even a little embarrassing. He tried to stifle his laughter not wanting to hurt her feelings. Taking her hands in his “I’m alright.”
“But your face …” Aimee bit her lip looking down she could see dried blood on his shirt. She was used to seeing blood from playing a few of the more violent video games she tried out but never in reality. It was more horrifying seeing someone she cared about covered in …. she caught the twinkle in his eye. How could he find this amusing?
Holding Eddie, Casey approached them “this must be Aimee,” he held out his free hand in greeting. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Smiling shyly she asked “can you tell me what happened? He won’t give me a straight answer.”
Looking confused Casey turned to Gene “didn’t you tell her?”
Noticing Gene shake his head in reply to Casey’s question Aimee growled in frustration. “Will someone just tell me what happened.” She turned pleading eyes towards Casey and shot Gene an exasperated look “and don’t tell me he’s fine. His face tells me otherwise.”
“Aimee, honey it’s nothing,” Gene attempted to placate her. A stabbing pain shot through his side leaving him breathless. He put a hand to his side as the pain subsided “I’m fine really.”
Looking at him in concern “no you’re not. You’re in pain.” She shot Casey a questioning look as she asked “tell me what’s wrong?” Casey shrugged in response and Gene simply shook his head. Tapping her foot as she glanced between Casey and Gene “I’m waiting for an answer.” Pointing a finger at Gene when he opened his mouth “and don’t gloss over the truth like I’m some sort of shrinking violet. I’m tougher than I look.”
Gene snorted in amusement sending another jolt of pain through his side “don’t I know it. I told everyone on Sim Star Idol you were.” Glancing at Casey he sighed “go ahead tell her.”
“I beat him up….”
“You what?” Aimee shouted at him. “He came here to help you and you beat him up.” Her voice rising as her imagination ran away with her.
“Aimee…..” Gene began but broke off as she glared at him.
“Is this how your family deals with things?” she moved a step away from him unsure what to think, to feel or say at the moment. All she wanted was to run as far away from him and as she could get.
Casey mumbled “I’m sorry ….”
Gene gave him a tight-lipped smile “it’s ok.” Nodding his head towards something behind him he said “you have your own tempest to deal with.” Casey sighed as he turned towards Lynn who was coming up behind him. Watching for a moment, Gene turned his attention towards Aimee who had taken refuge on the couch. Sitting beside her he attempted to put his arm around her. She cringed away from his touch, sighing he let his arm drop to his side.
They sat there in silence locked in their own thoughts. While Gene tried to figure out what he could say to reassure her that he wasn’t a loose cannon she spoke first. “I don’t know what to think or feel,” her voice small and low as she spoke. “Does this happen a lot? My parents never fought, at least not where I ever saw. They mostly never spoke to each other or me.” She wiped at her cheek as a tear ran down it. “I said I wasn’t the shrinking violet type but I guess I was wrong. I wasn’t expecting this. You must think I’m an idiot.”
“No,” Gene said his voice low. He reached across and wiped another tear as it ran down her cheek. He smiled when she didn’t flinch from his touch. “What can I say? My family’s a little dysfunctional but whose isn’t? No we don’t usually lash out in violence but sometimes when your covering up your feelings with alcohol like Casey was. You do and say things you wouldn’t normally do. I’ve been there. I’ve hurt the people closest to me. I knew it was a possibility when I came here.”
She nodded listening to his deep voice taking comfort in his gentleness with her. Leaning into him she turned towards him “you let him hit you, didn’t you?”
“What makes you think so?” He winked at her “I could just have terrible aim and missed every punch I aimed at him.”
He hissed in pain when she leaned into him putting pressure on his side. Pulling back “you are hurt,” she eyed him in concern. Grabbing his shirt she tried to lift it so she could see what the problem was.
Fighting off her attempts to pull his shirt up he teased “you have to get me into the bedroom before you get to take my clothes off.” He stood up to leave when she caught his hand tugging him back towards her.
“Are you sure you’re alright,” she looked deep into his dark brown eyes “don’t lie to me.”
Leaning down he kissed her “I’m fine. Casey didn’t hurt me.” Smiling “he just messed up my pretty face.”
Concern filled her eyes “then why does your side hurt?” she asked standing and putting her arms around him.
Shrugging “I don’t know, lucky punch” he joked. “It’s probably has nothing to do with Casey punching me. My side hurt before I went over there.”
“Maybe you’re getting sick. The stomach flu is going around.” She felt his forehead “you do feel a little warm. How do you feel?”
“Miserable. I feel nauseous and it’s getting worse.” He smiled down at her “want to be my nurse.”
“If I didn’t have to be back for that guest panel at the convention I agreed to do tomorrow I’d suggest we spend the night.” She bit her lip thinking that maybe she should cancel so that Gene wouldn’t feel pressured to go home tonight.
“Oh yeah” he put his hand to his head “I forgot you had that speaking engagement tomorrow. We better start back now.”
“No I’ll just cancel ….”
“You can’t do that. You’ve been looking forward to this.” Thinking for a moment he suggested “would you mind driving? That way I can rest on the drive home.”
Hugging him tight “I don’t mind driving.” She was amazed he had remembered how important this speaking engagement was to her. She was going to talk about the growing role of girls in the gaming community. It was a guest spot she was offered due to her appearance on Sim Star Idol. Even though she didn’t win and was eliminated the third week into the show she had been receiving more opportunities to speak on panels. Despite the lack of support from her parents Gene had encouraged her to accept the engagements. It was something she could do while he was still on the show and the exposure was giving her career a boost in the right direction. Her video commentaries were more popular than ever. She stiffened in Gene’s arms as Jessica walked into the room.
Noticing how rigid she became Gene whispered in her ear “did something happen between you two? Did she say something to upset you?” Looking down and away Aimee nodded. Grabbing her arms Gene looked at her probing further “what did she say?” Shaking her head once again near to tears she refused to meet his gaze. Tilting her chin up so she’d have to look at him “tell me.”
Biting her lip she gazed into his eyes “I can’t.” Eyes shifting towards Jessica an involuntary shiver ran through her “at least not here.” Pleading up at Gene “please can’t we just leave?”
Heart hammering inside his chest as he considered what Aimee told him. He should have known his mother would say or do something. He shouldn’t have left Aimee here alone. But what choice did he have? He should have known this would happen if she came. Pulling her close “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have left you alone anywhere near that woman.”
“Awe isn’t that a pretty picture,” Jessica sneered at them “the drunk and his whore.”
Gene felt Aimee stiffen in his arms. Choosing to ignore his mother for the moment he pulled Aimee closer to him feeling her warm breath on his neck. Glancing down at the girl in his arms “do you have everything ready to go?” Aimee nodded against his chest “good then go get it and wait for me in the car.”
Looking up at him anxiety plain to see in her pink eyes “come with me.”
“I will …. I want to tell Dad and the others we’re leaving.”
Nodding “ok,” she gazed into his eyes pleading “you won’t take long?”
“Give me five minutes,” he smiled reassuringly at her then winked “but I fully expect you to come and rescue me if I don’t make it out of here alive.”
Smiling despite herself Aimee went to get her things. Gene eyed his mother wondering what she could have said to upset Aimee so much that she felt she couldn’t tell him. Knowing his mother it could have been anything. As he stood there he noticed when Aimee slipped out the door, relieved he shrugged as he moved off to tell his dad he was leaving. He really had no desire to get into it with his mother.
Heading towards the door his was way blocked by his Mother, Gene sighed. He should have known that he wouldn’t be able to leave without confronting her. He really didn’t have the energy or desire to fight with her. He moved to slip around her, as he passed Jessica grabbed his arm “don’t bring that bitch around here in the future. You’re whore isn’t welcome here.”
Stiffening Gene’s hands curled into fists “what the hell? Aimee’s not a ….. don’t talk about my girlfriend like that.”
Laughing Jessica said “girlfriend? That little mouse of a girl? Don’t make me laugh.” She squeezed his arm tighter “there’s no way you could ever get a girlfriend. You’re just a weak, good for nothing dead beat drunk that I’m ashamed to call my son. You’re a damn disgrace. A waste of space and energy.”
Gene felt himself losing grip on his anger as he was transported back through time and he was once again the screwed up teenager wondering why his mother enjoyed tearing him apart. A part of him was appalled that she could still get inside his head, push his buttons, strip away all his hard-won self-worth leaving him empty inside. Her words penetrated to the core of his being as he wondered why she hated him so much. This time it felt more threatening as it wasn’t only him but Aimee too. A wordless growl slipped through his teeth as he turned towards Jessica intent on wiping that sneer of triumph from her face. A tug on his arm caught his attention, turning he looked into a pair of worried pink eyes.
“Gene,” Aimee said firmly “let’s go. She’s not worth it.” Looking into her eyes he felt a calmness settle over him. He sighed letting go of his anger he pulled free from Jessica’s grip as he made his way past Aimee who was glaring at his mother. He felt rather than heard his mother moving up behind him.
“What’s the matter? Has the bitch taught you how to jump yet?” Jessica taunted as he walked away. He turned around to face her but Aimee put a restraining hand to his chest. He looked down into her pleading anxious eyes as she whispered “I love you.”
Torn between his desire to silence his mothers hateful taunts and his need to comply with Aimee’s wishes and just walk away. The man he wanted to be warred with the hurt little boy who wanted to prove himself. “That’s right run away and don’t come back.”
Standing between the two Aimee dropped her hand from Gene’s chest as she turned to glare at Jessica. “Shut the hell up bitch. Gene doesn’t need you tearing him to pieces. What kind of mother are you?”
Jessica opened her mouth to reply when William came up behind her, putting a restraining hand on her shoulder. She turned on him and lashed out but he caught her hand before it connected and pulled her away from Aimee and Gene.
Casey came up beside Gene and put a reassuring hand on his brothers taught shoulders. “I’m sorry I never realized how awful she was. I should have been there for you when we were kids.”
Shrugging Gene sighed “that was the past. Let’s just move on and do better from here on out.” Gene gave Casey a hug “pull yourself together and take Eddie home before mother dearest gets her claws into him.”
Smiling Casey nodded “we’re on our way there now. Thanks for being there for me.”
“You’re welcome,” Gene told him as he got into the car. “Come to Starlight Shores sometime and I’ll show you where the stars live.”
“I’ll do that,” Casey yelled as they drove away.
Leaning his head on the cool window Gene sighed in relief as he watched the house grow smaller in the side mirror. Aimee glanced over at him from the driver’s seat “that was terrible. I never realized that your mother was so awful. It’s amazing you’re not more messed up than you are …. I mean …. I. That sounded worse than I meant.” She reached over to hold his hand.
Turning away from the window Gene smiled “thanks for coming to my rescue.” He lifted her hand to his lips.
“Wake up sleepy head,” Aimee shook his shoulder “we’re home.”
Groaning Gene stretched getting out of the car. “Did I sleep all the way?” She nodded “sorry, it must have been a long drive.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Aimee told him taking his hand as they walked towards the house. She found it hard to believe there were still paparazzi milling around the front yard. Didn’t they ever sleep.
Coming into the house Gene turned towards the gaming room. “Hey where do you think your going?”
“I’m going to bed,” Gene told her yawning.
“You’re not sleeping on the floor,” Aimee told him “you’re not feeling well and need all the rest you can get. Your sleeping in the bed and I’ll take the sleeping bag.”
Frowning “why don’t we both sleep in the bed? You didn’t have a problem sleeping with me on the floor. How’s the bed any different?”
Laughing “it’s not but I don’t want whatever you have.”
Sitting up Aimee groggily looked around her wondering what had woken her up. Looking at the clock it had only been a couple of hours since they had gone to bed. Shrugging she laid back down trying to find a comfortable spot on the floor. Opening her eyes as she heard something that sounded like a low moan. Getting up she peeked out the window wondering if it was something the idiot paparazzi had come up with to lure them out so they could take bogus pictures of the them in their night-clothes. Gene was right, living with him was anything but ordinary. There it was again, a little louder this time. It sounded like a wounded animal in pain. Yawning she decided to see if Gene was awake and if he could figure out what was making that whimpering moan.
She knocked softly on the door she waited for a response but only heard that awful whimper of pain again. She opened the door a crack and the whimper was louder this time “Gene ….” she called softly and heard the whimper again. Was that coming from Gene? Approaching his side of the bed she switched on the lamp on the nightstand. He was curled up on his side drenched in sweat. Gently she reached out and shook his shoulder “Gene are you alright?” her voice had a distinct tremor to it. “Gene” she spoke louder trying to wake him as he moaned again clutching his side.
After a minute or two Gene opened his eyes gritting his teeth “Aimee? I ….” he doubled over in pain moaning “hospital ….” he panted “side hurts …. bad.”