Waking the next morning Ian stretched anticipating a good day. His parents had called the night before with news that Matty was getting better and would be moved from ICU to the burn unit soon. He was going to have a date, well picnic with Celia. He couldn’t help but smile at the prospects. Things were finally going in the right direction. Ian went to check on his sweet little angel smiling down at his daughter he hoped he was doing the right thing for her. Did she need the drama that Celia would no doubt bring to their lives? Ian was sure of only thing Katrina deserved the chance to know her mother whether or not they got back together.
Walking into the kitchen he surveyed the contents of the fridge to see what mouth watering concoctions he could come up with. A gourmet cook he was not. With the staples of peanut butter, jelly and a few strawberries he wasn’t going to wow anyone with a fabulous picnic. There were a few leftovers that had seen better days. He closed the door on the uninspiring contents and glanced at the wall clock. Did he have time to run to the store? He’d have to chance it or they’d all starve to death.
Staring up at the ceiling Celia absently rubbed her stomach wondering if Ian would be able to tell she was pregnant. Should she tell him about the baby? Would he think she was only trying to get back together with him because of the baby? Shaking her head she sat up wiping fresh tears away. She couldn’t, not today anyway.
Looking at her reflection in the mirror she made a face at herself. It was going to take a tonne of makeup to hide the red puffy eyes and blotchy skin. That’s what she gets for crying herself to sleep the night before. Why hadn’t he wanted her to come over last night? It had hurt more than she thought it would for him to reject her. It was like being stabbed in the heart. Was he rejecting her to get even with her for how she had hurt him? “No,” she said out loud “Ian’s not like that.”
Walking into the living room she stared at the TV absorbed in her thoughts. “Something happened,” she muttered.
Staring at the one picture she had of her infant daughter she sighed. “I wonder what you look like now sweet pea?” she curled into a ball on the couch holding the framed picture of her daughter. Why had she let things get so bad? Why had she left Ian and Katrina for the professor? She didn’t have the answers and if she did they wouldn’t matter now.
After several minutes she put the picture down. Sniffing back tear “I’ll have to prove to Ian that I’ve changed. I don’t like the person I’ve become. Whatever I do I can’t give up.” With renewed determination she went into the tiny kitchen “I’ll make Ian’s favorite dessert and bring that to the picnic.”
Aimee sat staring at the still and silent form of her seventeen year old son. Matty should have been out enjoying life. Running around using up his boundless energy. He most definitely should not be connected to machines that were helping him to live through this nightmare. Wiping a tear away Aimee decided this was the worst part of being a parent. The helpless feeling you had when they were sick or hurt. The absolute terror you felt when you almost lose them. Holding her stomach she smiled despite her tears. The baby, babies she corrected herself were doing fine. The doctor had been concerned about the stress she was under and had insisted she come in for an appointment.
The door swung open and Gene walked in. His presence never ceased to bring a smile to her face. Aimee would always be thankful for the show that brought them together. Neither one of them had won but it didn’t matter they had the greatest prize of all, each other. No amount of fame or money could ever be as good as what they had accomplished together. Grabbing his hand once he was sitting beside her. She whispered “I’ve got something to tell you.”
Looking into her gorgeous pink eyes he smiled as he gently kissed her lips. “Good news I hope,” he said knowing she had been to see the doctor. “Is the baby alright?”
“We’re all fine,” she giggled up at him. At his look of confusion she added “we’re having triplets.”
“We’re….what? Triplets? You’re sure?” he gasped as his face drained of color.
“Gene….Gene are you alright?” Aimee asked as she watched him go completely white.
Leaning forward Gene took several deep breaths muttering “I don’t believe it…I don’t believe it.” After several minutes he sat up eyes wide with shock. “Triplets,” he repeated as a huge grin spread across his face as he drew her close “this is wonderful news.”
“Really,” Aimee asked incredulous at his response “you’re not mad?”
“Why would I be mad? It took both of us to make those babies. I’m as much at fault as you are. We’ll have an over stuffed house for a while. It’s not like we can’t afford to have them.” Gene kissed her forehead “I’ll get in tough with the contractor who did the apartment upstairs. We’ll add on to the house. Unless you want to buy a new one.”
“Absolutely not,” Aimee swatted his shoulder “I love our house.”
Coming out of the grocery store Ian was confronted by an angry young man. “Leave my sister alone” he shouted.
Holding Katrina in one arm and multiple bags in the other Ian was at a distinct disadvantage. “Excuse me do I know you?”
“No but you’re gonna know me if you don’t stop harassing her,” the blond male snarled coming closer.
Taking a step or two back Ian attempted to go around the guy in his path. “I think you have me confused with someone else.”
“I know exactly who you are. Mr Goodie Two Shoes. Think your too good for my sister.” Shoving Ian he continued “Beth is ten times better than you.”
Shaking his head Ian hurried to his care hoping the guy would get the hint and leave him alone. As he put Katrina in her car seat and the groceries in the trunk he could feel the man staring at him. When he went to get in the car the guy grabbed his arm.
“I mean what I said,” he growled “leave her alone.”
Jerking his arm free “I have no intention of going near her again.” Opening the door he turned and said “you should tell Beth to leave me alone. She’s the one who broke into my house. She’s the one playing stalker here not me.” Ian scooted into the car and shut the door in time for the guy to punch his fist into the window with enough force to crack it.
“Daddy,” Katrina screamed from the backseat upset from the altercation. Ian took his phone out and dialed the police as he watched the psycho jump on the hood of his car screaming at him and punching the windshield.
A few minutes later an officer approached the car on foot ordering the man from the car. Once he was subdued Ian was summoned from the car. “Thank you officer.”
“Did the assailant do that?” the officer pointed to the crack in the side window and the scratches in the hood. Nodding Ian turned to get Katrina from the car as she was screaming at the top of her lungs. “It’s ok princess daddy’s here.”
“Bad man go way,” she demanded her brown eyes streaming with tears.
“Shh the bad man can’t hurt you,” Ian soothed as the man was escorted to a police car.
Smiling up at the house Celia walked towards the porch. Knocking she waited a moment before knocking again. Frowning after waiting five minutes with no response she sat on the porch fighting back tears. Ian stood her up. Never in a hundred years would she have believed Ian would do this to her. Laying the strawberry torte on the porch beside her she gave way to the tears that were hot behind her eyes.
Bolting upright at the sound of a scared little voice screaming “daddy bad lady.”
“Honey that’s not a bad lady,” Ian soothed as the little girl struggled in his arms “Celia I’m sorry I’m late,” he said as he approached her.
Refusing to look up she shrugged “I guess I deserved to be stood up after everything I’ve done.”
Staring at her Ian shook his head “I didn’t do this on purpose…”
“Then why?” Celia looked up makeup running down her face “we made plans and you weren’t here….”
“I have a good reason,” he said struggling to hold the bags and his daughter at the same time. “I’ve got to get this food inside before it’s beyond saving,” he said going up the steps past her glaring face.
“What no apology?” she shouted suddenly mad at his seeming indifference.
“I said I was sorry but …” his words were cut off by Katrina’s frantic screams and her attempts to climb closer to him as Celia came closer to where they stood. Dropping the bags he wrapped his arms around the panic stricken little girl.
“Celia please if you haven’t noticed already Katrina is freaking out. Please take a step or two back before she claws me to death.”
As if realizing for the first time how upset Katrina was she took a step back then another. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize….”
As if to compound the situation even more Katrina started screaming “bad lady go way. Bad lady go way.” Despite Ian’s efforts to calm her she became more frantic.
“I’m sorry Celia maybe it would be better if you left,” Ian said giving up “I’ll call you later, ok?”
Nodding Celia turned and fled from the house her little girls screams followed her “bad lady go way.”
Celia ran past Gene’s attempts to stop her. Looking behind at her panic induced flight he didn’t notice where he was putting his foot. The loud crack as the plate broke and squish of the strawberry torte beneath his foot caused him to look down. He lifted his foot carefully with a look of disgust he removed his shoe so he wouldn’t track the mess into the house. Picking up the remnants leaving his shoes on the porch Gene entered the house to be greeted by the screams of his granddaughter. Taking in the scene Gene found Ian unsuccessfully trying to comfort a distraught toddler who was doing her best to break the sound barrier. Bags of food were scattered on the floor with contents seeping out from broken jars and containers. “Son, what’s going on?”
Turning Ian looked as upset as Katrina sounded. “Dad,” he choked out fighting back tears.
Sidestepping the mess on the floor Gene simply held his arms out to Katrina who went to him willingly. “Hows my girl?” he asked his granddaughter.
“Bad lady,” she mumbled pointing towards the door.”
“Oh please don’t get her started again,” Ian pleaded “I can’t take much more of her screaming.”
“Grandpa won’t let anything happen to you,” Gene assured the little girl. She closed her eyes content in his arms and was soon fast asleep.
“How did you do that?” Ian asked mystified.
Shrugging “what can I say? I have the magic touch.” Moving to put Katrina down on the couch he frowned as she clung to him in her sleep. “Clingy little limpet isn’t she?”
Ian nodded distracted bringing his hands to his head moaning “this is such a mess.” Meaning more than the mess on the floor.
“Son what’s happened?” Gene asked having given up trying to disentangle himself from his Katrina’s grip. “I’ve never seen Katrina this upset …”
Celia ran until she reached her tiny house. Tired and out of breath she leaned on the door sliding to the floor. Covering her ears with her hands trying to blot out her daughters terrified voice telling her to go away. She’d never be able to forget. What had she done to make Katrina to hate her so much? Is that why Ian wouldn’t come to her house last night? Why he didn’t’ want her coming to his? If she was such a horrible person what was she doing having another child?
Feeling nauseous she ran to the bathroom. Laying on the floor shivering she ignored her phone as an incoming call came in. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. Not now not ever.
“Dad she’s not answering,” Ian said looking up at him.
“What do you expect me to do about it?” he asked still not understanding what was going on. “Who are you trying to call?”
“Celia,” Ian said as if he expected his dad to already know. He paced the kitchen floor trying her number again “come on answer,” he muttered.
“Ian why don’t you tell me what happened.” Gene suggested “the way Celia ran out of here I doubt she’s in the mood to talk.”
Frowning Ian followed his dad into the living room “I don’t know where to begin…”
“How about at the beginning.”
Sighing Ian told his father about Beth’s unannounced appearance in the house. How it frightened Katrina then the encounter with Beth’s brother in the store parking lot.
“Well that explains why Katrina is so upset if all this has happened in front of her. I do agree that she shouldn’t be subjected to anymore strangers but you do need to talk to Celia.”
“How? she won’t answer her phone,” Ian protested frustration showing in his stance.
“Something like this shouldn’t be done over the phone.” Gene looked thoughtful for a moment “I’ll tell your mother I’ll be late so I can stay and watch Katrina until you get back. Besides I want to call the locksmith to get the locks changed. I don’t like knowing that Beth was able to get in the house so easily. You’re positive the door was locked?” Ian nodded “and you informed the police?” Again Ian nodded “ok you’ve done everything you can do. I’ll get the locks changed.”
Ian got up moving towards the door. “Um son,” Gene called out stopping him.
“Do you think you could clean up your mess before you go?” Gene pointed at the sleeping baby then at the bags of oozing food.
“Sure dad,” Ian bent to clean up the spoiled food and broken containers. Picking up the broken plate he asked “where did this come from?”
“I think Celia brought it,” Gene told him “I unfortunately stepped on it when she ran past me. I think it used to be a strawberry torte.”
“Oh man” Ian said sounding disappointed “she remembered that was my favorite. She must have brought it for the picnic we never had.” Once the mess was cleared up Ian moved towards the door “thanks dad.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Gene wave him off careful not to disturb Katrina in his arms.
Driving up the address Celia had given him the night before Ian frowned. It wasn’t a nice neighborhood. Getting out of the car making sure the doors were locked he walked up the sidewalk to Celia’s front door. Ringing the doorbell he tapped his foot while he waited. No response from inside greeted him. He banged his fist on the door calling her name. Growing concerned he pulled his phone out and sent Celia a text. “Come on Celia let me in,” Ian called into the night “I’m worried about you.” As he was about to leave a light came on inside and the door opened a crack.
“Please just leave me alone,” she pleaded with him as she was closing the door.
“Celia please let me explain,” he pleaded.
“What is there to explain? My little girl hates me,” she cried shaking her head “she’s better of without me in her life.”
Sticking his foot in the door “I’m not letting you shut me out of our life. What happened with Katrina wasn’t your fault. Please let me explain.”
Opening the door she let Ian in. “How can it not be my fault? I stayed away too long She doesn’t know me. I heard her,” she gulped sobbing “she called me a bad lady.”
“Oh Celia that wasn’t you,” Ian reached out and pulled her close ignoring her attempts to pull away. He held her tight as she cried on her shoulder. When she calmed somewhat he maneuvered her to the couch and sat down. He told her what happened with Beth the day before then with the guy in the parking lot.
“Was that why you weren’t home?” she asked through her tears.
“Yes. I wasn’t standing you up like you think. I wanted everything to be perfect for our picnic. Instead everything went to hell. It was too much for Katrina to handle. She just couldn’t handle meeting another stranger….” Ian stopped realizing what he just said “Oh Celia I’m sorry….”
“I am a stranger, aren’t I? I’m a stranger to my own daughter.” She sat up scooting away from Ian “I’m such a mess. If I were you I’d run as far away from me as I could get.”
“I guess it’s a good thing I’m not you then isn’t?” Ian quipped eliciting a short sad laugh from Celia.
Leaning her head on his shoulder “Ian why do you keep giving me chances? All I ever do is hurt you? What do you see in me that keeps you by my side?” She sighed looking up at him putting a finger to his lips as he opened his mouth respond. “No don’t. I don’t deserve you or another chance.”
“Sometimes when you don’t deserve them is when you need them the most.” Ian squeezed her tight.