Walking into Matty’s room Aimee found Ian with his head in his hands. The picture of dejection. Smiling sadly she sat down putting an arm around him “did you and Celia have a fight?”
Looking up his eyes red, Ian laughed harshly “more like our worlds collided. We’re so different mom…” Rubbing his eyes feeling the grit behind his eyelids “mom she thinks I don’t understand how the world works. Is it wrong to not want to see all the bad things? I know horrible things happen all the time. I’ve lived through a few of them …. what right does she have to say I don’t know what the world is like?”
Patting his hand Aimee sighed “have you told her anything of your past?” Watching as he shook his head no “then how is she supposed to know your anything but the pampered son of celebrity parents? Communication is key in any relationship. I learned that the hard way. Don’t repeat my mistakes by assuming Celia knows more than she does. She hasn’t been here long enough to know what you’ve experienced.”
Standing Ian rushed to the door “I have to catch her before she leaves…”
“Ian stop,” Aimee called after him.
Pausing at the door Ian turned towards his mom “what?” he barked.
“Your dad is talking to her right now,” She got up and put an arm around him “he noticed she was upset. Give him a moment to calm her down. Then you can go out there.” As she finished speaking the door opened and Gene walked in saying “Ian why don’t you go out there and talk to Celia.” As Ian walked past Gene touched his shoulder “this time put aside your assumptions and really listen to her.”
Nodding Ian slipped through the door. Looking around he found her sitting alone in the waiting room. Walking up to her Ian said “I’m sorry.”
Looking up with tears in her eyes “so am I.” He handed her a tissue as he sat beside her “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you cry before,” he remarked.
“I don’t often at least not anymore,” she leaned into his shoulder “I guess we both have a lot of things to learn about each other. I didn’t mean to judge you.”
“I didn’t either. Mom told me I had to learn to communicate better. Then dad told me to listen to you,” Ian said with a note of fondness in his voice.
“You really love your parents don’t you?” she asked in wonder.
“I do,” he said “they’re really both remarkable people. I hope to be as brave and strong as they both have been through out their lives one day.” He stopped speaking to ask “what’s so funny?”
“You are,” watching him frown Celia reached for his hand “most people want to be the exact opposite of their parents Ian. You don’t know how rare it is to have two loving parents. I’m not laughing at you but at myself because I’d give anything to have parents like that.”
“What happened to your mom?” he asked softly.
“A long slow agonizing death by cancer. When she died it was almost a blessing. She wasn’t in pain any more.” She took the tissue that Ian handed her and dried her eyes. “Ian would you mind sharing your dad with me?”
“I don’t see why not,” he said easily.
“Good I mean thank you,” her cheeks reddened a little “it meant a lot that he cared enough to come and talk to me. Do you mind if I come to him for advise?”
“Not at all. I’m sure my dad would like that.”
“Thank you,” turning to him “you see Angelica was right about me. I don’t have anyone who cares about me except the housekeeper and she’s away right now. Claudette’s the only mom I have as pathetic as that sounds. My Aunt is always gone on tours.” Looking away she added “I thought families like yours only existed in fairy tales and TV.”
“Here let me give you my dad’s cell number. That way if you have something you need to discuss with him you can call him without going through me. You can of course call me but sometimes you might need an adult to talk to. My dad has always been there for me and I know he’ll do everything he can to help you if he can.”
“I think your determined to make me cry today aren’t you?” Celia said her eyes brimming with tears.
A week later Gene was startled awake by the incessant ringing of his phone. Grabbing it he croaked “hello” rubbing his eyes wondering who was calling so late.
“Mr. Bennett?” came the faint reply.
“Celia?” he asked sitting up wide awake “is something wrong?”
“I didn’t know who else to call,” she spoke in hushed tones as if she was afraid of being overheard.
“Are you alright?” Gene asked sensing the girl was in some sort of danger.
“I’m scared…” Gene listened to her strained breathing. His heart racing as he heard her sharp intake of breath and the deeper tones of a very angry male voice speaking in the background “where’s that bitch?” A muffled response he couldn’t quite hear followed. Leaning over to Aimee who was watching anxiously “call the police,” he whispered.
Nodding Aimee grabbed her phone and slipped from the room to make the call. “Celia honey the police are on their way.”
Crouching on the floor of the closet with the phone pressed close to her ear she heard Gene tell her the police were on their way. She should have called them first but in her panic she called the only adult she knew cared about her. Her breath caught in her throat as the door handle rattled above her head. Closing her eyes she prayed they wouldn’t open it. She screamed as the door was flung open “there you are,” Malcolm announced with triumph “Scott I found her.”
Scott came racing over to join him “Mal we’ve got to get out of here. The cops are coming,” In the distance was the sound of police sirens.
“You stupid bitch,” Malcolm growled as he hit her before running after Scott.
Ducking into her closet Celia grabbed for her phone only to realize Malcolm had smashed it with his foot when he grabbed her. Shaking she went downstairs to meet the police.
“Miss Nugget do you have anyone we can call to come be with you?” Officer Barnett asked.
Shaking her head Celia replied “my Aunt is away on tour and Claudette is away for a family funeral. I….” she hesitated before adding “maybe my boyfriend’s family…Gene Bennett.”
Smiling Officer Barnett said “gather a few things Miss and I’ll drop you off there on the way back to the station.”
Gene and Aimee were up pacing the floor ever since Gene had heard Celia’s scream as Malcolm grabbed her. They hoped the police had arrived in time. They had debated over waking Ian and decided against it. Gene had tried calling Celia’s number but never received an answer. The sudden knock on their front door sent a shiver of apprehension through both of them.
Opening the door Gene was greeted with the sight of Officer Barnett and Celia. “Of course she can stay with us until you reach her Aunt,” Gene told the officer. Once the officer had left Gene drew the girl into a hug and despite her best efforts not to she broke into tears.
“I’m sorry,” she said pulling away “I don’t normally break down like this.”
“It’s alright,” Gene assured her “I hope you don’t mind sleeping on the couch.”
Shaking her head she smiled up at him “I don’t mind. It’s better than any empty house.” She saw the flash of anger in his normally gentle eyes.
“I’ll be back with a pillow and blankets” Gene said walking away “make yourself at home.”
Looking around the room Celia smiled it was nothing like what she imagined Ian’s house being like. “I know dear,” Aimee spoke from behind her “I thought the same thing. But I liked it and kept it the way Gene had it when we moved in together. Understated but it suits us. Gene would never feel comfortable in an ostentatious house. He’s not big on showing off his money.”
Celia looked curiously at Aimee. She had never given much thought to her. She knew she enjoyed playing video games and doing commentaries but not Celia didn’t know much else about her. Out of curiosity Celia asked her “what do you think of someone like me?”
“I think your good for my son” Aimee told her smiling at the girls look of astonishment. “Ian’s too much like me. He needs someone to force him to look at the harsher realities in life. I can tell your surprised by my response, why?”
Shrugging “I thought you wouldn’t like me because of my background. No parents, Aunt away all the time, only adult supervision from the housekeeper….”
Giving the girl a spontaneous hug Aimee said “goodness no Celia. Why would I do something like that? When I was growing up my parents were too busy making money to notice or care they had a daughter who needed them. I had very few friends and the one’s I did have only liked me for my money. I turned to video games and my online friends. I didn’t even realize how much I was living in my virtual world until I met Gene.” Leading the girl towards the couch “it’s late and we both need sleep. We can talk more in the morning.”
Watching Gene and Aimee walk up the stairs Celia smiled. She hadn’t expected when she met Ian that she would find a family where she would be accepted despite her lack of family ties. She felt for maybe the first time since she lost her mom that she was safe and accepted. She fell asleep easily despite the nights terrifying events. Waking to the sounds of breakfast being made as several people moved about trying to be quiet and failing. She sat up and began to fold the blankets she had slept on. Jumping when Ian spoke behind her “Good morning sleepy head.”
“Morning,” she mumbled turning towards him.
Ian frowned as he saw the ugly bruise and black eye she had. “What happened?” he asked reaching out to touch her cheek.
Flinching she jerked away from his touch “it’s nothing…”
“That’s not nothing,” he scowled at her “you slept on our couch…” Turning towards his parents who were standing in the kitchen “what happened?” he demanded.
Gene looked over at Celia who hung her head before replying “Celia had some trouble with Malcolm last night. She called me and your mother called the police. They arrived before Malcolm could do anything else.”
“Is that true?” Ian asked turning towards Celia for confirmation.
Nodding she lifted her eyes up to him “Malcolm wanted to scare me into not testifying against him. I won’t let him scare me. I’ll testify.”
“I thought it was something like that,” Gene said quietly “I don’t want you putting yourself in danger…”
“I can handle it,” Celia asserted refusing to give in to fear “Malcolm has to be stopped.” She looked around the room at the faces of everyone who had become so important to her in such a short time. “I can do this. I will do this,” she was adamant in her conviction and determination to testify against Malcolm.
“Ok,” Gene said excepting the girls decision “but you shouldn’t be left alone in that house while your Aunt is away. You’re welcome here anytime.”
Ian gave his dad a brilliant smile as Celia slowly nodded her head “I’d like that thank you.”
“Good that’s settled then,” Aimee grinned setting pancakes on the table “let’s eat.”
Looking around the table Celia giggled “this is like a TV show where the whole family sits down to a meal and eats together.”
“This is normal for us,” Jasmine smiled at her “we do lots of weird family things around here.”
“We kind of like it though,” Stephanie added
“I think I do too,” Celia said quietly “I wish Matt was here so he could enjoy this with us.”
“He will be soon,” Gene told everyone “I received a call from the hospital this morning. He woke up last night.” After the cheers died down Gene said “your mother and I are going to the hospital right after breakfast. So if anyone wants to come with us be ready to leave in twenty minutes.”
As they were walking out the door a limo pulled up. Stopping Celia stared as her Aunt got out. “What’s wrong?” Ian whispered in her ear. Before she could respond her Aunt called out “Celia get your stuff. We’re going home.”
Gene went to talk to the irate woman while she continued to yell at Celia to get in the car. When her Aunt was like this it was pointless to argue so Celia turned to Ian “tell Matty hi for me.”
“I will,” he assured her giving her a tight squeeze “call me later?”
Nodding Celia got into the limo beside her livid Aunt who announced through clenched teeth “I had to cancel my appearance tonight because of you.”
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled “I didn’t have a choice.”
“That’s no excuse,” her Aunt scowled at her “my fans paid good money to see me perform. Now because of you I had to cancel my show.”
“It’s not like I asked Malcolm to break into the house and attack me…” Celia began only to shut her mouth at the angry unreasonable look her Aunt gave her.
“You should never have gotten involved then none of this would have happened,” came the heartless response she had grown accustomed to from her Aunt. Charity Wells only showed her sweet side to her adoring fans but as soon as the cameras were off she could careless what was happening to anyone as long as it didn’t impact upon her life.
Upon arriving at the house they were greeted by a well dressed man in an expensive three-piece suit. “Ms Wells I’m Malcolm Moore Senior. I would like to discuss this unfortunate affair between your niece and my son.”
Celia’s Aunt nodded and led him into the house. Turning to him she asked “what do you want?”
“Your niece is causing my son considerable trouble by testifying against him. I would like to offer her a fully paid scholarship to her choice of university upon graduation. All she would have to do is say she was mistaken when she said she recognized Malcolm as being among the boys who attacked the young Bennett boy.”
“That sounds reasonable….” Charity Wells stated moving closer to the man “but what’s in it for me?”
Bunching her hands into fists Celia shouted “you can keep your dirty money. I don’t want it and no amount of money will make me lie for you and that despicable son of yours.”
Ignoring her Mr Moore continued “I am prepared to double my offer and fully fund your next tour Ms Wells…”
Celia watched her Aunt consider his offer “you can’t make me change my testimony.”
“No but we can keep you from testifying at all,” Mr Moore stated standing up blocking her path to the door.
“Celia be reasonable,” her Aunt told her.
Ignoring them Celia ran from the room. Feeling the doors to the trap closing in around her. If only she had a phone she could use to call for help….