By now you know I am gone. I know I have hurt you. I have no right to ask you to forgive me. But I’m asking. No I’m begging you to please forgive me. I have no desire to watch you suffer more than you have already. I love you with all that I am. Always will love you.
As hard as this will hurt you it’s for the best. I need time to find who I am. Somewhere along the line I lost myself. I was so busy pushing you away I lost myself. I will never be able to forgive myself for the things I’ve done and said.
You are not a monster. I can’t stress that enough. You have no idea how many times I wanted to take you in my arms and tell you that it didn’t matter. The scars, the burns only added to your beauty but the bitterness inside my soul and self-hate I kept bottled up inside me had me saying and doing things I didn’t mean. I saw the way I was hurting you and your eyes pleading with me to be myself. It seemed the more I hurt you the better I felt about myself. Sick I know. It was reprehensible. It couldn’t continue.
I was too weak to tell you the truth. I wanted you to divorce me. I pushed and pushed until all your family turned against me, despised me. Yet when you looked at me it was like you still saw me. The me I was running away from. You don’t know how that scared me and how I hated feeling that way. I wanted to make you see that you were wrong that I wasn’t that person anymore so I hurt you that much more. I had to make you see that I wasn’t worth your love and forgiveness.
I hope one day I will be the person you see. For once in my life I want to look in the mirror and tell that person staring back at me ‘I like you’. I can’t do that and until I can I’m no good to anyone. I know this will hurt but in time I hope you’ll understand why I had to go.
You are my light Ian. I will always love you,
Ian wiped tears from his eyes as he folded the well worn letter that was starting to fall apart from use. Why did he keep tormenting himself? Why couldn’t he just walk away like she had? He caught his reflection in the mirror. It no longer hurt to see the scars that had faded with time but would never be gone. A lasting imprint to the past and the job he loved but could never do again.
He put a hand up and traced the scars lightly with his fingers. He could still hear Celia’s voice as she told him he made her sick. It was comforting to read the letter she left when she left the hospital. It never quite wiped out the hurtful words though. They still echoed in his head. He frowned at his reflection noting the changes that had happened in the past three years since the fire.
His hair had grown out although it wasn’t as long as it once was. He had chosen a more grown up style to reflect his almost twenty-eight years. He could walk with the aide of a cane. His days of being a fireman were over though. He no longer had the speed and ease of movement he once had. Katrina was in the double digit’s now since celebrating her tenth birthday a month ago. Kara was nine and a lot more subdued then she used to be. More prone to cling to him then she had ever done in the past. Garrett was four years old and had no memories of who his mother was. Most of the time Ian felt like he was running to catch up with all the changes and falling behind the older they became.
“Dad” Katrina called for him from downstairs. He could tell something was wrong by the tone of her voice. It sounded angry which was unusual for her normally happy disposition.
His suspicions were confirmed when he heard Kara yell “don’t let her in. She’s done enough…”
Sighing Ian ran a hand through his hair on more time. As much as he hoped this day would come he wasn’t prepared for it to be today. “Daddy” his son’s high pitched excited voice broke through his thoughts “there’s a lady here with blue hair.”
“Blue hair like yours?” he asked.
Nodding Garrett tugged on Ian’s hand “she’s real pretty.”
“Not so fast bud,” Ian told him as he limped behind his son. Garrett let go of his hand in favor of bouncing down the stairs in his usual bustle of energy
At the bottom of the stairs Ian took a moment to rest to gather his scattered thoughts before facing her. The woman had her back towards him. From what he could tell she looked the same with a few minor changes. Her hair was a little shorter but otherwise the same beautiful girl he remembered. His heart leaped into his throat threatening to choke him.
Kara saw him first “daddy you should be resting.” She frowned at him clearly unhappy he had been disturbed by their visitor.
“I’m fine,” he smiled down at her giving her a wink. She smiled moving to take his hand.
Katrina turned from facing her mom. She went to stand on her dad’s other side. “I tried to make her leave but she wouldn’t go.” She stood by his side arms crossed a silent sentinel waiting to go into battle.
The woman turned “can we talk?” she asked.
Her voice sent shivers of excitement down his spine. He stared at her for a moment before answering “it’s been a long time.”
“Three years” she said softly “you look good.”
“So do you,” he acknowledged shuffling slowly to the table, the girls beside him.
Celia shook her head “alone. I want to talk to you alone.”
Nodding he turned to the worried little girls “why don’t you take your brother upstairs to play.”
Both girls shook their heads “no” Kara said firmly “we can’t trust her.”
“Honey it’s ok to be upset but I really need to talk to her. Please go upstairs.” Ian requested. He could see Kara’s eyes slide across to her mother a look of distrust in them. Grudgingly she nodded taking Katrina’s hand both girls turned to do as their dad asked. Stopping Katrina turned and addressed Celia “we’ll be watching you.”
Celia snorted as she watched the girls walk away. “They’ve grown so much” she mumbled to herself.
“Kids tend to do that” Ian said dryly crossing his arms “what do you want?”
Waving a towards the kitchen table and chairs “can we sit down and talk?”
Sighing Ian followed her and sat down. He felt the old familiar tug on his heart. He knew if he let her she could wrap herself around his heart again. He felt defenseless in her presence. For the kids sake he had to keep a distance, maintain control. “What do you want?” he asked again emphasizing each word his voice gruff unbending.
“I…” she swallowed “this is so much harder then I thought it would be.”
“What did you expect?” he asked letting is buried anger out in his voice.
“I thought,” she stopped hesitating “I thought that everyone would be happy to see me.”
“Really?” he asked letting out a short derisive grunt “why would you think that?”
“They’re kids. Why wouldn’t they be happy to see their mom?” Celia spoke her voice becoming petulant. She looked up “and you…”
“What about me?” Ian asked glaring at her “did you think you could waltz back into my life and pick up where you left off?”
“Have your feelings changed?” she asked looking down a momentary look of unease in her eyes.
“That’s beside the point,” Ian shook his head “I have to think about the kids.”
“What do they have to do with this? With us?” she asked frowning.
“They remember Celia. The girls remember what you did. They heard the things you said. They’ve been hurt same as me.” He drummed his fingers on the table “Garrett doesn’t even know who you are. I have to consider how this would affect them.”
“They’ll get used to it,” she reached over and grabbed his hand “please Ian give me another chance.”
He stared at her hand so small but it had the power to overpower his better judgement with one single touch. He pulled his hand back letting it rest in his lap. “No Celia. It’s not that easy. I took you back once before and you still left. What reassurance do I have that you won’t do it again?”
“I’ve changed,” she reached for him again only to have him jerk from her touch “I got help. I saw a psychiatrist.” Tears rolled down her cheeks “please Ian I know I messed up. I know this is where I want to be. Where I belong.”
“Is it Celia?” he asked moving to stand “I spent the last three years wiping away tears and holding my girls as they tried to figure out why their mommy left. Why mommy didn’t love them enough to stay. Do you have any idea what you did to them?”
“I’m sorry” she mumbled “I didn’t think….”
“No you didn’t think. You didn’t think about me or the kids. You only thought about yourself.” He moved to get up.
She reached out and touched his shoulder “I’ve changed Ian. Give me a chance to prove I’ve changed.”
Turning to her, eyes swimming with tears he was fighting to keep back. “From where I stand you haven’t changed. Not really. You’re still thinking only of yourself. Not once have you asked about the kids….”
Moving closer her hands up entreating “I can see they’re fine. You’ve done an amazing job considering…”
Snorting Ian stood up crossing his arms “considering what? That I almost died from a broken heart. That I was a cripple raising three little kids on my own. I don’t get you Celia. Wasn’t I good enough for you when I really needed your love and support? Now that I don’t need you, you want to be a part of my life again like the past never happened.” Turning his back on her “Celia please just leave.”
“Ian please” she tried to put her arms around him “give me a chance to prove to you I want this.”
The girls went upstairs with their brother. While he played with his trucks they sat and watched. “Why do you think she’s back?” Kara asked out loud.
Shrugging “I don’t know” Katrina mumbled ramming one of Garrett’s trucks into the car he was driving causing the little boy to laugh delighted that his big sister was playing with him.
“You don’t think she want’s to come back do you?” Kara asked after a moment of thought
“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Katrina said continuing to drive the truck to the delight of her brother.
Kara frowned at her sister “what can we do about it?”
“I don’t know” she bit her lip “it’d be nice to have a mom again.”
“We have Grandma and Aunt Payson. We don’t need her,” Kara stood up kicking one of Garrett’s trucks as she went.
“Hey you did that on purpose” Garrett shouted as he charged at his sister.
Grabbing him before he could attack Katrina kissed the top of his head “It was an accident.” She looked at Kara willing the girl to apologize.
Ruffling his hair “yeah I’m sorry. Did I break it?” she asked diverting his attention.
Picking up the overturned truck he smiled up at her “it’s ok. Sorry.”
“It’s ok bud we’re all a little worked up.” Kara told him sitting down and pulling him into her lap.
“Is that lady really my mom?” he asked after everyone had fallen silent for a while.
Katrina and Kara exchanged glances over his head before Karina said “yes she is.”
“Aren’t mommy’s supposed to live with their kids?” he asked “doesn’t she love us?”
“I don’t know bud I just don’t know” Katrina told him. She saw the flicker of hurt in his eyes so she quickly added “but we love you and daddy loves you.”
“And Grandpa and Grandma” Kara added.
Smiling at them Garrett laughed “Uncle Matt and Aunt Payson loves me too.”
“That’s right bud” Kara pulled him close “we have everyone we need.”
Looking at the time Katrina decided to go downstairs to get a snack for everyone. Coming down the stairs she heard her parents talking. She could tell her dad was upset. It reminded her of when he had been hurt and mom had been mean to him. She just knew she was back at it again. Stomping her foot she demanded “daddy told you to leave.”
Ian turned around at the sound of her voice “Katrina honey what are you doing down here?”
“Garrett was getting hungry” she explained.
Glancing at the clock he realized that he had been going in circles and getting no where with Celia for over three hours. “I’m sorry sweet pea I’ll make us all grilled cheese sandwiches.”
Katrina nodded pointing at Celia “she’s not staying is she?”
Looking at Celia’s blank face Ian shook his head “no she’s leaving.”
Shaking her head Celia turned pleading eyes to Ian “all I want is a chance…”
“It’s not up to me,” Ian scratched his head looking at Katrina who was staring daggers at her mom “you have three kids you’ve hurt. They have to want to give you a chance too. I won’t bring someone into their lives that will hurt them.”
“What about your happiness?” Celia asked.
“It’s not always a matter of my happiness” he walked into the kitchen. Rummaged though the refrigerator for the ingredients he needed to make dinner. “I have three kids that need me to think of their happiness over and above my own. I won’t hurt them to satisfy my needs.” He looked up from what he was doing “if it makes you feel better I’ll say it. I do love you but sometimes that’s not enough. I need to know that you’ll be here when we need you.”
“I will be,” Celia cried stepping closer to him “I’m here now…”
“You are” he conceded “but will you be here when I or the kids need you? Will you be here when things get tough? When things go wrong? So far your track record proves you won’t be.”
Nodding she wrapped her arms around herself “can I …can I come to visit?”
Ian looked up to find that all three of the kids had come down and were huddled together listening “I’m not trying to keep you away from your children. You’re their mother. They need you in their lives.”
“No no no we don’t” Kara cried.
“All we need is daddy” Katrina added.
“And Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Matt and Aunt Payson “Garrett chimed in.
“You wiped me out of their lives” Celia accused looking at Ian.
“No Celia you did that when you left and never came back for three years. You have no one to blame but yourself for how they feel about you.” He stacked the grilled cheese on a plate “come on kids time to eat.” He put some plates on the table along with the grilled cheese sandwiches.
“I’m willing to let you try to rebuild your relationship with the kids” Ian told her escorting her towards the door “but I can’t give you that chance you want. It’s something you have to earn. If you want it bad enough and the kids are willing to give you one. I’ll consider it.”
She walked onto the porch “I won’t give up,” she said turning to Ian “I’ll do whatever it takes to get my family back.”
“I hope you mean that” Ian told her moving to close the door “I really really hope you mean that.”