Stunned Aimee stood up wondering what she was going to do. She’d never had to take charge before. Be the one to take control. The closest she had ever gotten was on the show when she had to look for the clues to find her mentor. She did a miserable job. She lost. What was she going to do now? Shaking as her mind ran in hundred different directions at once. A loud unexpected cry of pain snapped her out of her immobility. Rushing over to Gene “honey are you ok? Gene? Answer me baby.” Gene laid on his side, eyes clenched shut moaning in pain.
Biting her lip she grabbed her phone. Dialed 911. She gave the dispatcher a description of Gene’s symptoms and sighed in relief knowing help was on its way. Racing to the door she let the paramedics into the house. “Thank God you’re here. He’s in so much pain.” She followed them into the bedroom where they examined Gene. A chill went through her at the mention of a burst appendix. “That’s bad isn’t?” They nodded their heads not taking their attention away from Gene.
Aimee followed behind the gurney once the paramedics were ready to take Gene to the hospital. Aimee’s heart dropped as she surveyed the paparazzi milling around outside. Several ran up and blocked the paramedics progress to the ambulance shouting questions.
“Is his collapse due to alcohol poisoning?” Another shouted “did he overdose on drugs?” Followed by other callous comments and questions. Aimee couldn’t believe the feeding frenzy these reporters were in. Her hands curled into fists as they refused to get out-of-the-way. Couldn’t they see Gene needed help? Why were they standing in the way?
“Please get out-of-the-way!” she shouted at them “Can’t you see you’re in the way?” The crowd laughed at her as they continued to shout their questions. Her anger flared, she needed to get Gene to the hospital and she didn’t have time to be nice. All the hero’s in her games refused to let anyone stop them from helping the weak. She charged at the man leading the pack, screaming “get out-of-the-way ….” she shoved him out of the paramedics path. He fell backwards landing hard on his ass. As she forged ahead the paparazzi stepped aside. She heard the man shouting behind her that he was going to sue. She felt like shouting back but she didn’t have time to waste on that blood sucking rodent. She’d worry about the consequences of her actions later.
Groaning Gene moved restlessly on the uncomfortable bed. Tossing his head from side to side he blinked his eyes open, straining to see in the dark. Someone moved around on his right side a cool hand stroked his feverish brow Closing his eyes he drifted into a fitful sleep.
“Aimee why don’t you go home and get some rest?” William suggested “Casey and I will stay here.” He put a reassuring arm around her shoulders.
Shaking her head for the thousandth time “no I want to be here.” Leaning towards Gene’s bedside she caressed his hand along the side of her face. She found it hard to believe that Gene had become so important to her in such a short time. She couldn’t imagine her life without him. If someone would have told her she would meet the love of her life while competing on Sim Star Idol she would have thought they were crazy. She didn’t even think she’d get on the show in the first place. Then she met Gene and as the saying goes the rest is history. Her life had been turned upside down and inside out but she wouldn’t go back to the way it was. To the cold sterile existence of her parents home. The lonely solitary life she led and the few online friends she managed to maintain. Gene changed all that.
On the show she had been drawn to his self-assured, confident persona but in reality he hid his insecurities underneath that veneer. He really did wear his feelings on his sleeve. Until she met his family she never understood his need to prove himself when she felt he had nothing to prove in the first place. His mothers hostility and hateful words broke her heart knowing how they must have wounded Gene. She would never understand what motivated a mother to say such hurtful things to her own child. It’s amazing the things Gene had accomplished despite his emotional scars and setbacks. He was and would always be her hero.
He was the one who gave her the courage to stand up to her parents when they wanted to take her dream away. To change everything about her that they helped create. If it hadn’t been for their lack of support and neglect she would never have turned to video games and commentary. Now her parents were embarrassed because she wanted to do video commentary with her life. Gene had been her support. Her stronghold she ran to when their demands made her crumble inside.
Holding his hand seeing Gene helpless made her feel helpless too. This was nothing compared to when she found him whimpering in pain. It almost shattered her seeing him like that and all she could do was dither over what she was going to do. Thankfully she had come to her senses. A part of her wondered if she had reacted quicker then maybe he wouldn’t be so sick now. If he had gotten to the hospital just five minutes sooner maybe his appendix wouldn’t have burst spewing all its toxins into his system. It was the first time she had to rely upon herself. The first time she had to be the strong one.
She looked up as Casey came into the room carrying three large cups of coffee. Smiling she took one, taking a large swallow of the hot drink she followed him with her eyes as he gave one to his dad and sat down next to his brother. “Thank you again for coming,” Aimee said looking directly at Casey.
“Well thank you anyway. I really appreciate it.” Aimee took another swallow of her coffee waiting for the caffeine to kick in. When William and Casey arrived they immediately took control and found a private room for them to await word on how Gene was doing. Once they were well away from the prying eyes of the media Aimee found herself crying on William’s shoulder as he enveloped her in his arms. She felt for the first time what it felt like to belong, to be cared for. If her parents had been there she knew they would have taken the opportunity to belittle her. To convince her to give up her dreams, Gene, her life to come home and be molded into the daughter they wanted.
Her phone began to ring shattering the silence of the room. Jumping up Aimee grabbed it mumbling “hello.”
“Ms Vera where are you?” an agitated male voice bellowed into the room. It was then she realized her phone was on speaker but she didn’t have time to rectify that when her mind was trying to decide how to reply to the angry voice.
“I’m … ah … OMG I forgot.” Aimee stammered putting her head down as she realized she was scheduled to appear as a guest speaker at the video conference today. “I … I can’t …. I’m sorry I can’t make it ….. an emer…..”
“We pulled a lot of strings to get you on the panel. We expect you to be here.” the man steamrolled over her attempts to explain “be here or else.” The line went dead.
“Jerk,” Aimee shouted to the air. “What?” she asked looking around at their stunned faces. “He is, you heard him. But I should go if I want to be retained for future engagements.” She looked over at Gene’s silent form on the bed sighing, torn between her commitment and her desire to stay.
William stood up, putting his arms around her “he’ll understand.” He told her “he knows how much this means to you and he’d be the first one to tell you to go. He wouldn’t want you giving up your dream just to watch him sleep.”
“I know but ….” looking down at herself “I better go and change. I should at least try to look presentable.”
“If you like Michael can go with you,” William suggested “sitting here all day is going to become long and boring.” Looking at his teenage son “go enjoy yourself.” At Michael’s attempted protest he continued “you know as well as I do that Gene wouldn’t want everyone sitting around staring at him.”
After Michael and Aimee left, William slumped down into his chair mumbling “I’m so tired of holding vigil at my kids hospital beds.”
Looking worriedly at his dad Casey moved to the chair Aimee had been sitting in. “Gene is going to be ok.” He said trying to reassure his dad.
Rolling his head to look at Casey. William gave him a tired smile “I know. I just never stop worrying about you kids. It’s something that’s never going to change, no matter how old you are.”
“I guess,” Casey fell silent staring at his brother’s sleeping form. It was strange, almost unnatural seeing Gene like this. He was always so full of energy. You always knew he was there the minute he stepped into the room. Leaning forward he peered at Gene’s face hoping for some hint he was waking up. Sighing he closed his eyes as he leaned back in his chair blocking out how weak and helpless his brother was lying there in the hospital bed. Turning towards his father surprised at how tired he looked. He had never noticed the faint lines around his eyes and mouth the scattered grey hairs. His father was getting old. “Dad you can’t continue like this.” Casey spoke his thoughts out loud.
“Like what son?” William asked giving his son a concerned look from his piercing green eyes.
“She’s going to send you to an early grave …”
“She who? Your mother?” William sighed sitting up staring sternly at Casey. “She can’t help….”
“Don’t hand me that line of bull,” Casey interrupted him. “She could if she wanted to. It’s easier to give in to the impulses then trying to control them.”
“You’re being a bit harsh don’t you think,” William scowled at him. “It’s not that easy with mental illness.”
“Then maybe it’s about time you open your eyes and make some changes,” Casey suggested pushing back at this dad. He had to open his dad’s eyes to the damage that woman was doing. It was time he confronted it and Casey hoped to god he made the necessary changes before it was too late.
“What do you mean?” William felt like squirming under Casey’s scrutiny.
“Mom isn’t getting any better, is she? She’s getting worse. What are you going to do when she picks a new target? She’s always used Gene as her whipping boy. What are you going to do when her next target falls to pieces? Follows Gene down the road to self-destruction. ” Casey got up, pacing the small room. “I’m not trying to be harsh or judgemental. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. It’s like my eyes have been opened and I’m seeing things differently.” Stopping in front of his dad “don’t you care what effect she’s having on the kids?”
“Of course I do,” William shouted back hurt that it took his son to point out what he had become blind too. “What do you want me to do?” he asked in anguish “give up on your mother?”
Their eyes locked as Casey mulled over this dad’s question. briefly he wondered if he had the courage to be brutally honest. Sighing he turned away “yes, yes I am. I’m sorry.” Turning back towards his dad kneeling down he continued “can’t you see there’s a decision that has to be made? Mom can’t be helped but you can’t let the kids suffer because of it. It’s time you accept there’s nothing you can do for her but there’s a lot you can do for the kids.”
“Has it really gotten that bad?” William mumbled beneath his breath. “I hoped the cure would be ready soon and this nightmare would be over. They’re so close and I’ve waited so long to get my wife back.”
“Dad what if she’s never the same? What if what you’re in love with is just the memory of who she was? Is that really worth the welfare of your kids?” Casey sat down beside him putting his arm around his shoulders. “Dad I wish I could say the woman you married was still inside her somewhere but I can’t. I don’t know if she even exists anymore. I’m sorry.”
Leaning forward William put his head in his hands giving vent to his pent-up tears. Casey was right. It was time to make a decision. He couldn’t continue to put the children in harm’s way. The Jessica he knew no longer existed. The Jessica he had now couldn’t be trusted alone with the kids. He was tired of coming home finding her shouting and spewing hateful twisted things at them. Thankfully Lynn was there and offered to watch the kids while he was at the restaurant. Michael was already showing signs that his mother’s treatment was effecting him. He had become so withdrawn lately and William feared that Jessica had already found her next victim. Michael wasn’t as strong as Gene was. It wouldn’t take long before he was self-destructive. That was the reason why he brought him along despite the days away from school. He simply didn’t trust Jessica not to tear the boy to pieces while he was gone. There was only so much Lynn could do. She couldn’t prevent Jessica from opening her mouth.
Casey sat silent, watching his father’s shoulders shake with his sobs. He was sorry that he had to be the one to rip his fathers blinders off. Make him see Jessica for who she was. Whether she could help it or not was debatable as far as he was concerned. If she ever changed, it would be up to his dad if he took her back but until then he was better off without her. “Dad I’ll help you anyway I can with the kids. I’ll back you up when you seek custody of the kids. I doubt though that mom will seek custody of any of them.”
“Count me in too,” they both jumped hearing Gene’s voice weak but full of conviction.
“Son you’re awake,” William smiled in shock and relief seeing his son looking back at him.