After the police arrived and took Gene’s statement, the crazy lady was arrested for attempted kidnapping and assault. As the officer let her to the back of the squad car Gene called after them “do me a favor. Make sure that all the ‘T’s are crossed and the ‘I’s are dotted on this one. I don’t want to worry about her getting out on another technicality.”
Smiling the officer replied “we’ll do our best Mr. Bennett.”
An EMT was giving Gene a disapproving look as he limped on his ankle. “Sir we need to get you to the hospital for ex-rays and stitches….”
“Yeah yeah I know the drill,” Gene rolled his eyes trying to keep his irritation from showing. The last thing he wanted to do right now was go the hospital. Not when he should be at home hugging his children and kissing his wife. They needed him to reassure them. He turned to the paparazzi holding out his hand “thank you doesn’t seem enough….”
“You’re welcome,” he said with a smile “besides I had an ulterior motive.” Waving his camera “I’ve got a hell of a good story.”
Laughing despite himself Gene said as the EMT ushered him to the back of the ambulance “I guess you earned it. Thanks again.”
The paparazzi stared after the ambulance as it merged into traffic. He shaking his head he never thought he’d ever lose his objectivity but after all the years he’d harassed Gene and his family it felt good to help instead of obstructing. If any celebrity deserved a break it was Gene and the paparazzi was almost tempted to destroy the pictures he took of Gene’s struggle with the crazy lady. He wouldn’t though, he wasn’t crazy. He liked his job too much to do anything like that.
Gene left the hospital against doctor’s orders. “You have a severe concussion and need to be monitored…”
Shaking his head “I’m going home,” Gene said as he waited for the taxi to arrive. “I’ll sleep better at home with my wife and children around me.”
Opening the door to his house he was confronted by several worried faces as they all jumped up to hug him. “Daddy we were so worried,” the twins said together.
He smiled at them “as you can see I’m alright.”
Jasmine lightly touched the bandage above his eye “no you’re not,” she said quietly.
“Sure I am,” Gene smiled at her “they wouldn’t have let me come home if I weren’t,”
She looked at him quizzically before smiling and hugging him again “Love you daddy.”
“Love you too sweet heart,” Gene squeezed her tight.
“We should have told you sooner,” Stephanie said looking at the floor.
Tilting her chin up Gene looked at her. Shaking his head “it’s not your fault. You told us and that’s what matters.”
Looking up she mumbled “if we had been quicker than that lady wouldn’t have hurt you or tried to take the boys.”
“Honey you had no way of knowing that would happen. By telling us the boys had left the yard helped us to find them quicker. It kept the lady from being able to take them.” Gene pulled her close “for that I’ll be eternally grateful.”
Stephanie kissed Gene’s cheek “love you daddy.”
“I love you too,” he squeezed her tight before letting her go. The girls wandered off to their bedroom whispering together as they went.
“Gene I….I’m sorry,” Michael hung his head “I should have paid closer attention to the boys.”
Shaking his head Gene put a hand on Michael’s shoulder “it’s not your fault. Your not responsible for looking after the boys. I am….”
“But….” Aimee started “it’s not your fault either. It’s that crazy woman’s fault….”
Wrapping an arm around her waist and one around Michael’s shoulders Gene smiled. “It’s no ones fault. We all needed eyes in the backs of our heads to keep track of all these kids…”
“So you’re not mad at us?” Matt looked up with tears streaming down his cheeks.
Kneeling in front of his five-year old son Gene gently drew him close “no I’m not mad at you. Matt I love you but what have I told you about leaving the yard and talking to strangers?”
“Not to,” he mumbled clinging to his dad.
“It wasn’t his fault,” Ian said coming to his brother’s defense “it was mine. I wouldn’t play with him….”
Looking at Ian for a moment Gene turned to Matt “is that why you left?”
Nodding Matt sobbed “no one wanted to play with me. The girls locked me out of their room, called me a brat. Michael was busy studying and Ian was playing a game.” He stopped, breathing hard. His lip quivered as he continued “I only wanted to go to the park…”
“Ian what do you have to say…. why did you leave the yard?” Gene looked at Ian. Ian was so much quieter than the other kids preferring playing video games to more active outdoor activities. Gene didn’t doubt Matt had been irritating his brother with is boundless energy and constant pestering to play.
“I went to look for Matty. I felt bad for not letting him play. I saw him and I thought I could catch up with him without anyone knowing we had left. I’m sorry….” Ian broke down crying. Gene hugged him “I should have told you but when I realized we were in trouble it was too late.”
“It’s not Ian’s fault,” Matt said sticking up for his brother. “I shouldn’t have taken off by myself….I’m sorry”
“I know you are,” Gene looked at his boys taking a moment to fully appreciate what had happened and that they were safe. “I love you both so much. I’m so thankful that your home and that you’re safe.” Words escaped him as tears clouded this vision.
Ian looked at his dad worry in his violet eyes. He didn’t remember ever seeing his dad cry before. It was scary in a way knowing that their dad loved them so much he would put his life on the line for them. Ian was only six and he felt a weight fall on his shoulder. He loved his dad so much and he wanted his dad to be proud of him. “Daddy we’re sorry,” Ian spoke quietly including his brother in his apology.”
“We won’t run off again,” Matt added wrapping his arms around Gene’s neck.
Later that night Gene and Aimee were getting ready for bed when their door was thrown open. Startled Aimee sat up “what’s wrong?”
Two little boys slowly walked over to their bed “we can’t sleep,” Ian said his voice barely above a whisper.
Nodding Matt added “we’re scared.”
Aimee turned towards Gene who smiled “want to sleep in here with us?”
The boys nodded as they scrambled into bed snuggling close to Gene. Matt said “I keep seeing the scary lady every time I close my eyes. Daddy please don’t let her take me.”
“She won’t take you I promise,” Gene told him “you’re safe. Close your eyes and think about all the things you like and people who love you.”
Ian mumbled from the other side of Gene “I’ll think about you and how you rescued us.”
Gene smiled down at his sons as they drifted off to sleep in his arms. Aimee leaned over and kissed his cheek whispering “I love you.” Her eyes sparkled as she added “hero.”
Shaking his head denying it. Aimee nodded her head towards the boys “you are to them.” Looking at them as they gripped his t-shirt Gene smiled content to have them close. “I can’t think of a better hero for our boys to have,” Aimee said slipping into bed beside them. Propping her head up she added “you’ve been my hero for years.”
“Aimee I….” Gene choked over the emotional lump in his throat. He had never seen himself as a hero just someone who had something to prove and did what needed to be done. An average guy with issues but never once had he imagined he’d be anyone’s idea of a hero. A hero was always good, did the right thing and never doubted himself. That was what he always thought a hero was. It fit his dad and his brother Robert but not him. He was none of those things. The idea made him uncomfortable. He was far from what a hero should be. Looking into Aimee’s eyes, feeling the boys clinging to him in their sleep he saw himself in a different light. For that moment he thought just this once maybe that description fit him. It wasn’t so bad being someone’s idea of a hero.