Katrina was on the floor watching her baby brother play with his cousin. They were only a few months apart in age. She smiled sadly picking at the floor. She heard the door downstairs open and close and jumped to her feet. “Grandpa” she said as she ran down the stairs to greet him. He looked up from kissing Grandma to smile at her. She never failed to feel safe when he was around and Daddy wasn’t. It was good to feel safe. To feel loved. She wanted to feel that way all the time. “Can we go and see daddy?”
He knelt down and drew her close “anytime you want sweet pea.”
She smiled at hearing her dad’s pet name for her. She squeezed him tight blinking back the tear that threatened to overwhelm her. “When can he come home?”
“I don’t know. Soon I hope,” Gene glanced up at Aimee who frowned a bit.
“He’s coming here isn’t he?” Katrina asked picking up on the silent exchange. “He’s not going there with her, is he?” She looked from one to the other “you can’t let him. She won’t take care of him like I can.”
“Sweet pea your dad doesn’t want you taking care of him.”
“I know but he needs me,” she sobbed into his shirt “he needs me,” she repeated.
“Shh your dad needs you to be a kid not his nurse,” Gene soothed.
“Besides” Aimee knelt beside them “I’m going to be there to help your mom take care of your dad.”
“You are?” she sniffed “promise.”
“I promise,” she reached out and brushed the little girls hair from her eyes “he won’t be alone.”
“Thank you! Thank you!” she cried kissing both of her grandparents. Relieved now that she knew her dad had someone she knew would help him. Putting her hands behind her back “why can’t he come here?”
“We” again the silent exchange between the two adults “honey your dad wanted time alone with your mom.”
“Why?” she asked her voice rising “she doesn’t care about him. She never went to see him in the hospital.” She looked at Gene tears welling in her eyes “she gave my sister away.”
“Awe honey” Gene picked her up unsure how to reassure her “I know this is difficult for you to understand. I wish things could be different.” Squeezing her tight while her tears soaked into his shirt he continued “your mom made some bad decisions…”
“Like giving Kara to that man?”
“That’s one of many” Gene agreed “she regrets doing that but sometimes we have to live with the mistakes we make.”
“Daddy’s not going to like what she did,” she sniffed lifting her head from his shoulder.
“No he’s not,” Gene agreed kissing her cheek “he needs time to discuss things with your mom.”
“Why can’t he do that here?” she asked her voice small.
“No” he sighed Katrina was to intuitive for him to gloss over the truth. “What they need to discuss requires privacy and a decision that only they can make.”
“Are they going to get a divorce?” she asked “I know what mommy did was bad. But I don’t want them to get a divorce.”
“Sweet pea I really don’t know. If they do it won’t be your fault.” Gene told her wishing there was more he could say or do to reassure her.
Ian sat alone in the room his parents had turned into his bedroom on the main floor of his house. Celia had barely looked at him led alone spoken more thant a single word to him since he came home. There were things they had to discuss, one of which were the divorce papers his lawyer had drawn up for him. It had been one the most difficult decisions he had ever had to make. Yet he kept coming up with reasons why he shouldn’t go through with it. So the papers remained in the drawer where he had put them.
“Ian shouldn’t you get dressed?” Aimee asked coming into his room.
Frowning Ian shook his head “why should I?”
Blinking Aimee heard the anger in his voice. Understood it. Shared it. Mostly she tried not to react to it knowing it wasn’t her he was mad at. “You’ll feel better once your dressed….”
“I doubt it,”he huffed before relenting “fine” he grumbled at seeing the disappointment in her eyes.
Once he was dressed she asked “are you hungry?”
“No” he grunted ignoring the emptiness in his stomach.
“You need to eat,” she insisted.
“Why do you ask if your just going to ignore everything I say?” he bristled in irritation.
“Because I’m your mom…”
“And you know best,” he finished for her with a slight lifting of the frown that was beginning to become habitual.
“That’s better,” Aimee beamed at him getting behind his wheelchair and pushing him towards the door.
“Where are we going?” he asked panic and anxiety clear in his voice. Grabbing the door jamb he halted their progress.
“To the kitchen. To eat,” she explained as if she thought he was being silly.
“I don’t want to eat out there,” his arms shook with exertion to keep his mom from pushing him through the door despite his protests. “I want to stay in here.”
“Ian you need to leave this room at some point…” putting her hands on her hips she frowned down at him “you can’t hide forever.”
“I’m not hiding…” looking up he found Celia staring in at him a look of fear and disgust mixed on her face. “Mom please” his plea broke through to her as she looked up and saw Celia. She pulled the wheelchair back letting the door slam shut behind them. Falling to her knees Aimee’s shoulders shook with helpless sobs.
Celia stood staring at the spot where Ian had been. She knew her reaction was cold, cruel and a hundred percent wrong. Overall she couldn’t help it. She couldn’t look at his shorn head, the livid raw burns and the scar on his once handsome face. It brought tears to her eyes and made her stomach turn and she knew she was going to be sick. More over she didn’t want to try to change her reaction. She knew he had seen a lawyer, had papers for her to sign. Her mission now was to get him to give her the papers then this nightmare could be over. He’d be free of her and she could’t hurt him anymore.
She deserved it. She was a terrible person. Her children hated her. She gave her daughter away to a monster just because she couldn’t deal with her anymore. Let someone else take the other two because she couldn’t be bothered to take care of them. She couldn’t even face looking at her husband and avoided being alone with him in the hospital and never once he was awake. She couldn’t see past the scars to the person he was underneath. She was a terrible person and deserve to be here.
She turned to go back up stairs to her room when Ian’s door opened. Aimee took one look at her, eyes narrowing in dislike as she growled “you weren’t supposed to be down here. You knew I was going to try to get Ian out of his room.” Celia stared at the older woman before shrugging indifferently. “Why Celia? Just time me why?”
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” she retorted “this is my house. I can come and go as I please.” She turned and fled up the stairs. Slamming her bedroom door shut behind her.
Stunned standing in the middle of the room Aimee shook her head as tears began to fall. She didn’t understand why Celia tried so hard to push everyone away while Ian tried so hard to hold on one minute then try to disappear the next. She couldn’t do it. Couldn’t help. It was more then she could cope with.
Pulling her phone out “Gene you need to come…”
“Is it that bad?” he asked keeping his tone neutral. He could hear the stress and near hysteria in her voice. Listening to her he knew she was crumbling under the pressure.
“It’s worse then I ever thought it would be,” she told him holding her breath as she tried to restrain the sobs that threatened to escape. “I’m sorry I can’t do it. Celia absolutely won’t be bothered to help and Ian refuses to help himself. I…I…don’t know what else to do.”
“So you’re calling in the big guns,” Gene quipped knowing it would bring a smile to her face no matter how brief.
“Yes” she sighed into the phone “he needs you.”
“We’ll switch places tomorrow,” he told her “do you think you can manage until then?”
“I’ll have to,” she told him breathing fast.
“Honey I know it seems bad right now but it will get better. We’ve been through our share of awful things and came out on the other side” he reminded her.
“I know but…” sighing her doubt evident in her voice “we wanted to. I don’t think they do.”
Matt watched his dad as he put his phone away “I take it things aren’t going well over there is it?”
“No” he stared into space for a moment “I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
“Maybe I could talk to him” Matty suggested “I’ve been through this.”
“Son I wouldn’t want you to have to relive that….”
“He’s my brother. I’d do anything for him,” Matty insisted. He knew all too well what it was like to survive being burned alive. Living with the scars both physical and metal. It wasn’t something he’d wish on anyone.
“If you think you can handle it” Gene agreed with him “I’m going over their tomorrow.”
“Why not tonight?” Matty asked frowning “if mom is having such a difficult time…”
“I wish I could but Katrina has her play today. I promised I’d be there. She’s been through enough. She doesn’t need me disappointing her too.”
Shaking his head Gene refused to give in “she’s sacrificed enough for her parents. I won’t ask her to do this too. She deserves to be happy and if I can give her a little bit of light by being in the audience cheering her on that’s what I’m going to do. Ian’s problems’ will still be there tomorrow. I won’t crush that little girls spirit anymore then it already has been.”
Moving close Matt wrapped his father into a hug “you’re the best.”
Cheeks flaming Gene shook his head “all I do is my best,” he mumbled brushing his son’s sentiments aside.
Matt stood staring at his brother’s back. Ian had sat gazing out the window for the past hour refusing to acknowledge his presence. Scratching his head Matt came to a decision “you’re not the only one with scars….” Stony silence greeted him as he pulled his sweater of his head “I have to look at mine everyday.” Matt walked around the statue that was his brother. “Look at me,” he demanded.
Ian’s eyes flickered, widening in shock as he took in the puckered stretched scars that marred his brother’s chest and upper arms. “I know what you’re going through.” Matt said kneeling in front of him “it’s not easy living with the scars. The pain when something irritates the skin. The frustration when the skin doesn’t stretch the way it should…”
Eyes transfixed on his brothers scars that criss-crossed over his skin Ian raised a tentative hand to touch the damaged skin “I…I….can’t” his hand dropped into his lap and helpless tears poured from his eyes.
“Ian it’s ok to cry. To grieve for what was lost but it’s not the end,” Matty put a hand on Ian’s knee “it does get better.”
“When?” the word almost exploded from the depths of Ian’s soul.
“When you stop feeling sorry for yourself,” Matty told him gazing into the troubled violet eyes of his brother “you have to want to get better before you can. Please Ian we love you. We will help you. Don’t shut us out.” Matt pleaded as he watched his brother close in upon himself. “If you won’t do it for me, for mom and dad. Do it for your kids. They need you…”
“What good am I to them like this?” Ian shouted “I…can’t…walk.” He shouted he individual word into the stillness of the room. “I can’t do anything,” he covered his face giving in to despair.
Grabbing his hands Matt pulled them away from his face “you can’t because you haven’t tried.” He held his brothers face firmly between his hands Matt continued “I refuse to let you give up. Starting today I’m going to be your worst nightmare. You may have chased off all your therapists and mom but you won’t get rid of me or dad so easy. We’re here to stay whether you like it or not.”
Ian tried to jerk his face from his brothers grip but it proved too formidable. Staring daggers at him he asked “why?”
“We love you,” Matty let his hands drop from Ian’s face in favor of hugging him close “you never gave up on me and I’ll be damned if I give up on you.”
Gene stood by the door watching the exchange between his sons. His stomach tightened and twisted at the sight of the burn scars littering Matt’s body. He knew how much that cost his son to do. To bare himself like that in front of them. Blinking back tears Gene nodded when he saw Matt looking up at him. He was never more proud of his son then at this moment. Clearing his throat to announce his presence he walked over to them. Laying a hand on Ian’s shoulder he reached into the drawer and took out the divorce papers. “Dad….don’t,” Ian said his eyes locked on the papers as Gene took them.
“Don’t what?” Gene asked “you had these drawn up for a reason. Why are you holding on to them?”
“I…I…don’t know,” he swallowed convulsively “please dad….”
Standing up Gene moved towards the door “son it has to be done.”
“Dad,” Ian turned his wheelchair around struggling to follow “don’t” he filled the word with the full force of his anger, despair and helplessness.
Turning around Gene frowned down at him “why? Tell me why I shouldn’t Ian?”
“Because….because I lover her” Ian screamed his conflicted emotions forcing there way out “I wish to go that I didn’t but I do.” He reached his hands out straining to tear the papers from his dad’s hands. “I know I shouldn’t. All she’s done has hurt me and the kids but I know she’s only doing it because she feels she doesn’t deserve us. She want’s me to give her those papers. I’ll that would accomplish is justify her feelings.”
Arms crossed Gene’s frown deepened “why did you have the papers drawn up in the first place?”
“I was angry and hurt,” he leaned forward breathing hard “I wanted to hurt her the way she had hurt me.”
“Yet you haven’t given her the papers,” Gene knelt in font of him “why?”
“It’s not what I want,” Ian lifted his hands towards his dad half pleading half imploring “I want my family together and divorcing Celia won’t help me get Kara back.”
Taking his son’s hands he squeezed hard “neither is shutting yourself away helping you get your family back. Ian is getting your family back really that important to you?”
“Yes, yes it is,” he gave his dad a firm nod “I would do anything for my kids.”
“Anything?” Gene questioned “including doing everything we tell you to do. No matter how hard? No matter how difficult or impossible?”
“Yes, yes and yes,” he said “I want my kids back.”
“Good,” Gene nodded. Taking the papers he crushed them in his hands “The first thing you need to di is give these to Celia.”
Appalled Ian shook his head “not I can’t. I won’t I love her.”
“I know son but does she love you?” Gene asked him “if nothing else these papers will hopefully give her a wake up call. She needs to know what she did was wrong. She needs to know her actions have consequences.”
Tremors jerked Ian’s head around as he tried to nod acceptance “I know but what if she signs them?” his voice low, hoarse, desolate “I can’t do this on my own.”
“You’re not alone,” Matty said from behind him “Payson and I will help you.”
“As will your mother and I” Gene told him ” you can’t continue to limp along like this. You have kids that need you. They need a stable home. They need to know that they won’t be discarded, sent away when things get bad.”
“Is that….” he struggled with the words “is that how my sweet pea feels? Does she think I don’t want her?”
“It’s how she feels about her mother. She remembers how Celia gave Kara to John. She knows that Celia fell apart and refused to take care of Garrett. She shouldered that weight herself.” Gene squeezed Ian’s hand “she was afraid that you wouldn’t have anyone to take care of you. She wanted to be your nurse because she didn’t trust her mom to do it. “Standing up and turning towards the door “so you see why you need to pull yourself together.”
Stunned Ian nodded watching his dad slip from the room. “He knows what he’s doing,” Matty said from behind him.
“I know and that’s what scares me?” Ian muttered staring sullenly at the door.
Heaving a heavy sigh Gene looked up the stairs. He wasn’t looking forward to this but it was for the best. It should have been long before now. He understood Ian’s feelings but something had to jolt Celia before things completely fell apart. Knocking on the door he waited for Celia to respond
Several minutes later Gene was still pounding on the door demanding “Celia we need to talk.”
Scowling through the crack in the door she growled “what do you want?”
“Nothing much” Gene retorted “except to deliver this.” He held the divorce papers out to her forcing her to open the door to take them from him.
“Well its about time” she said grabbing them as she started to shut the door.
“What do you mean by that?” Gene asked moving to block the by sticking his foot in the door. He hadn’t expected her to just take the papers. He had planned on talking some sense into her.
“Exactly what it sounded like,” she snapped slamming the door.
Pain shrieked through him as the door crushed his foot. Lights flashed before his eyes as he hung his head trying not to pass out from the pain. His mouth hung slack growing dry as his brain screamed in agony. Eyes round with shock “I’m sorry” she cried as she realized what she had done.
“Help…” he licked his lips trying to draw up moisture to his parched mouth. She put an arm around him helping him into a nearby chair.
“I’m a jinx,” she muttered “everything I touch falls apart.” Running a hand through her long hair “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m so so sorry.”
Grabbing her wrist before she could wander away Gene spoke loudly, distinctly “get Matt.”
Nodding she fled from the room.