Slouching in the uncomfortable chair Gene scowled at everything in general. He hated hospitals. Hated being a patient. Hated visiting, watching over someone he loved fight for their lives while he could only sit helplessly by and watch. He hated feeling helpless period.
He hated the lack of privacy as he moved to allow the nurse room to check the monitors his dad was connected to. He tried to curb the unreasonable irritation he felt whenever they barged into the room to check something. Aimee stirred beside him, yawning as she took his hand.
Turning to look at her, he marveled at how perfect she was. She was the calm to his storm. He couldn’t imagine life without her The corners of his mouth curled up as he peered into her eyes. She had the most amazing eyes. He felt he could lose himself within their beauty. Blinking he mentally shook himself. Chastising himself for dreaming of a future that would never be. She was still the shy reserved girl he met so many months ago on the set of Sim Star Idol.
At first she aroused his curiosity. He wanted to know how a girl as pretty as she was had become so caught up in video games that she wanted to become famous for video commentary. Then it became a challenge to see if he could get her to open up to him, to see him as a person. Then that fateful night before his first elimination. He thought everything he had beeing working for had been lost. All his doubts and self-loathing were bubbling to the surface. Then watching how Jordan and Ashton were so lovey-dovey and he had no one. He had thrown his relationship with Tracee away the second he decided to do the show. He turned to alcohol, like he always did, to soothe his feelings. Then he heard her voice asking him what he was doing. Obvious answer was he was drinking but it was more than that he was hiding from himself, running away from what could be back to what was.
He was so afraid of never accomplishing anything worthwhile in his life. He had gone on Sim Star Idol to prove to everyone that he could stand up to temptation and win. But here he was drinking again, an absolute failure again. That simple question spoken so softly brought him back to his senses. Made him realize the person he had to convince wasn’t his family but himself. He had to stop seeing himself as a failure, the loser. She had given him the self confidence, the courage to put the second drink down and walk away. He hadn’t known it then but he knew it now. At that moment Aimee Vera had stolen his heart. Where his heart used to be was now just a dull hollow ache.
Blinking he kissed her hand before turning to watch the nurse complete her checks. he wanted to be patient, give her time. The last thing he wanted was to pressure her into an intimate relationship she wasn’t ready for. Why wouldn’t she allow herself to make the commitment? Wasn’t he enough? No that wasn’t a question he wanted an answer too. He knew he wasn’t good enough for her. He could never be the man Aimee needed him to be. He just hadn’t expected it to hurt so much when she realized it herself.
Reaching out Aimee gently turned his head so he was facing her. “Gene somethings troubling you, what is it?”
Shaking his head he opened his mouth to speak when someone walked into the room. “Excuse me I was told I could find a Mr. Gene Bennett in here.”
“I’m Douglas Richardson from child welfare,” the man introduced himself “I regret to have to inform you that Tracee Allen died this morning while ….”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Gene interrupted “but what does that have to do with me?” Tracee and him had broke up almost eight months ago.
“Well … um …. she listed you as the father of the …..”
“Father ….. what the hell are you talking about?” Gene asked feeling like he had become the victim to someone’s idea of a bad joke.
Looking around the room the man suggested “maybe we should take this into the hallway …”
“Yeah alright,” Gene said following the man out while Aimee looked on stunned. Leaning against the wall Gene eyed the man in front of him. “Well I’m waiting for an explaination,” he snapped rather enjoying how the guy jumped.
“Right … ah … um ….” he sputtered. Shaking his head he pulled in a large gulp of air before beginning again. Niether man noticed as Aimee came out of the room and silently observed the proceedings. “Like I said before, Tracee Allen died this morning after coming into the ER in labor. There were complications during deivery. The doctor’s did everything they could to save her but they couldn’t. The babies are up in the Nicu. Tracee listed you as the father. I’m sorry for your loss.” He tentatively reached out and patted Gene on the shoulder.
“She never told me,” Gene muttered “I didn’t know.” He pounded a fist into the wall behind him. “Why didn’t she tell me?”
Jumping back Mr. Richardson stuttered “I … I don’t know. The hospital needs you to sign some papers taking custody of the babies….”
“Papers … what papers?” Gene fought for control as he felt his world crashing down around him.
“For the care of your children,” the man explained “if you’d follow me I’ll take you to Mr. Fullman’s office.”
“Children? Oh god this is real …. I’m a …. a father,” Gene said as panic swelled up inside him and the old familiar urge to drink rode in the waves of panic. Swallowing he pushed himself off the wall and started to follow the man. Outside an office door the man left him standing there alone. Gene clenched his teeth tight to keep from begging him to stay. He needed someone, anyone but he had no one not even Aimee.
As long as he lived Gene would never forget the look on Aimee’s face as he followed Mr. Richardson. She hated him, it was obvious. The condementory words she uttered as he walked away proved it. Her words echoed in his head “How could you do this to me? I should have known better? I should have listened to my parents.” How was this his fault? He hadn’t known Tracee was pregnant. He was blind sided by this as she was. But one thing was clear, Gene knew Aimee wasn’t going to be there when he got back. When he needed her the most she would be gone. Everything they had was ruined, lost forever.
He spent an hour signing papers. Arranging for the needed care for the babies he felt had no connection to him. He was dazed, confused and scared. He desperately needed someone to hold him, to tell him it was all going to be okay. Towards the end Mr. Fullman handed him a pamphlet saying he should consider all his options.
Walking out of the office Gene sank into the nearest chair before his legs gave out. Shaking he put his head into his hands waiting for the room to cease revolving around him. Wishing this was all a bad dream he glanced down, his eyes catching on the words “experience the joy of bringing family together.” I wanted a family he whispered but she’ll never take me back now. Not after what she said to him “I should have listened to my parents. They told me you weren’t any good. That you’d only hurt me. Guess what they were right.” Wiping his eyes he got unsteadily to his feet making up his mind that before he signed any papers he had at least see what he was giving up.
Upon entering the nicu he was directed to a room where he could see the babies. Staring down at them he was struck at the wonder of how perfect they were. Two beautiful little girls. He was told they would have to stay in the nicu for a few weeks until their lungs were developed enough they wouldn’t need assistance to breathe. They were small but otherwise for being almost ten weeks early they were doing quite well. As they slept peacefully in their cribs Gene slipped to his knees and wept for everything he had lost.
For their mother who didn’t deserve to die so young. Despite his growing dislike for Tracee’s persistent phone calls he now realized she may have been trying to get up enough nerve to tell him about the babies. Maybe he should have been nicer to her, allowed her to talk, given her a chance to tell him. For the first time he regretted his decision for going on Sim Star Idol. If he had stayed as Tracee had wanted him too then she might not have died. Staring at the pamphlet he knew he should sign the papers, what right did he have to raise children? They deserved better than him. All he would do was mess up their lives.
“No I …” Gene looked down and smiled into the eyes of his daughters.
“It’s important they have physical contact. Sit down over there and I’ll bring them to you,” the nurse told him in a kind motherly tone. Once Gene was seated with a baby in each arm he felt somehow calmer than he had in a long time. It somehow felt right.
After a couple of minutes the nurse took them back asking “Have you come up with any names for these darlings yet?”
“No I … I didn’t even know they existed until today,” Gene told her surprised at her kindness.
After a couple of hours Gene decided it was time to go back and check on his father. Picking up his things he couldn’t find the pamphlet he had been given. The nurse stood watching before handing it to him. “Thank you,” he mumbled.
She smiled “you won’t be needing it,” she told him confidently. “These darlings will be going home with you. Don’t worry about not knowing what you’re doing. No parent ever does.” She patted him on the shoulder “you were always my favorite on Sim Star Idol. I voted for you every time.”
Speechless Gene mumbled thanks and scooted out the door more confident leaving then he was when he entered. He may not know where his relationship with Aimee was going but he knew he couldn’t give up his daughters. He knew it all along, he just needed to hear he could do it from someone else. Stopping at the nearest trashcan he tossed the pamphlet.
Aimee watched Gene walk away, shoulders slumped. His manner like that of abject rejection. She couldn’t believe the hateful words she had screamed at him. Gene was the best thing that had ever happened to her and she went and threw it away. How could she have told him her parents were right? Gene hadn’t hurt her, just the opposite he had made her feel like a real person. Within his arms she felt cherished and loved for the first time in her life.
As soon as the words left her mouth she wanted to run after him, beg him to forgive her. She let the moment slip away as she thought about all the people staring at them, at her and she couldn’t move. Muttering to herself that she would talk to him later she walked back into William’s room. Ignoring the voice in her head telling her to go after him, telling her Gene needed her. She sat down and buried her head in her hands crying. What possessed her to imply that Gene had cheated on her? That he had somehow did this on purpose to humiliate her. She acted like she was jealous of Gene’s relationship with this woman. Everyone knew on Sim Star Idol that Gene had broken up with his girlfriend over his decision to do the show. That was no secret. She had no reason to doubt him. He had never done anything to make her think he had ever cheated on her.
Why was she jealous? She was jealous of someone who had thrown Gene aside because she couldn’t see the man he was becoming from the person he was. Why would she be jealous of someone like that? The plain and simple truth was she jealous over the fact that they shared an intimate moment that resulted in a baby. It was the intimate relationship that Aimee longed for, dream about but had so for denied herself. At every opportunity she had rejected Gene in his advances even when she was the who initiated them. For what? Approval from her parents. In a sea of her failures and embarrassments she wanted her parents to be proud of her.
Wiping her eyes Aimee realized she had let the man of her dreams, the man she loved just walk away. She hadn’t tried to stop him. To support him. She just stood by and watched him go. Everyone was going to hate her for what she had done. She couldn’t undo it. She was no better than Tracee, she didn’t see Gene for who he was. He deserved better than her. She had no choice. She couldn’t stay. She would go home become the person her parents wanted her to be.
Upon entering William’s room Gene found Evelyn sitting holding his father’s hand. “Where’s Aimee?” he asked even though he knew. She was gone.
Looking up Evelyn gently laid William’s hand down. Sadly she looked up at her younger brother. “She left. She said she was sorry but she was going home.” She got up and ran to Gene gathering him close as he began to cry “Gene I’m so sorry.”
Leaning he head on her shoulder “she left. Left without saying goodbye.” It was too much. Watching day after day his father fight for his life, to find out he was a father and to find out Aimee left without a word. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. His mind sing songed two words “she left. She left. She left. She left.” It echoed in his head. He felt Evelyn holding him tight, trying to soothe his tremors. “I’ve got to stop her.” He pulled away and ran.
“Gene is that you?” a familiar voice from his past asked. Laughing the girl wrapped her arms around him “it’s been so long.”
“Not long enough,” Gene muttered recognizing her from high school. His day was completely shot to hell as he faced the girl who started him on the road of drug abuse all those years ago. “Celeste” he uttered cringing as he said her name.
Looking at him she smiled “you look like you could use a little pick me up.” She grabbed his arm and began to lead him towards the parking lot. “You wouldn’t believe it but a few months ago Casey came into my bar and got completely wasted. You would have enjoyed it.”
“Don’t be like that Gene. I didn’t give him anything he didn’t want.” She smiled up at him. “Come with me to the bar and I’ll gather the old gang and we can relive our wild and crazy high school days.”
“Celeste I don’t do that shit anymore,” he tried to extricate himself from her.
“Just for old times sake,” she pouted “remember how much fun we used to have?”
“Actually no,” Gene looked at her as he felt his resolve slipping. He could really use something to help him relax. Shut his brain off. Forget that Aimee left him.
“That’s better. Come with me and I’ll have you feeling good in no time.” She purred leaning in close bringing her mouth onto his.
Leaning back against the car Gene struggled to get out from underneath her. She was stronger than she looked or he was still weak from his appendectomy. “What’s wrong with you?” she spat at him as he managed to push her off him. “It was just a kiss.”
“No it wasn’t just a kiss, Celeste,” he pointed at the paparazzi busily snapping pictures of them. He pulled his phone out. As it rang he muttered ‘come on answer the phone. Please answer the phone. Answer the damn phone. Where the hell are you?” He was about to give up when a voice on the other end groggily said “hello”.
“Hospital parking lot. Celeste is hot on my trail. Hurry brother before I do something stupid.” He walked towards the parking lot entrance as he tried to avoid being stopped by over eager paparazzi. “Talk to me Case,” he pleaded.
“I’m on my way,” Gene heard someone shuffling around then a different voice came on the line “Michael?”
“Yea it’s me,” came the soft-spoken reply. “Casey can’t talk and drive at the same time.”
“I don’t care who I talk to as long as they talk,” Gene muttered walking fast.
“What happened Gene?” Michael asked not liking the note of desperation in Gene’s voice.
“Aimee left me. That’s what happened. Not a word or explanation. Just gone,”Gene gulped for air trying to keep the tears at bay. The last thing he wanted to see was a picture of him crying on the front page of some gossip magazine. “I thought everything was fine between us until today. Then all shit let loose and she leaves.”
“Calm down, we’re almost there,” Michael told him. He felt anger flushing through him. He liked Aimee, trusted her. How could she do this? She promised she would never hurt Gene. She lied. He hated her. “I’m sorry what did you say?”
“I said I’m a fucking idiot to think Aimee could like a guy like me. You know what I did? I bought a ring. I was going to propose to her. I wanted to get married. What a fucking idiot I am.” Gene looked up as Casey pulled up beside him. Without waiting for the van to come to complete stop Gene jumped in.