“This is your house?” Kara asked as she looked around the small room with distaste.
“Be nice,” Katrina chided her.
“You don’t want to be here any more than I do,” Kara proclaimed causing her sister to lower her head cheeks flaming red.
Celia tried to keep a smile on her face as she listened to the girls bicker amongst themselves. She tried not to let her disappointment show. She had tried so hard to get Ian to agree to let them stay the weekend with her. A year of visits where the kids just sat and stared at her refusing to talk. Another year of therapy as a family before the kids began to thaw towards her and began to call her mom again, everyone except Kara. She still refused to talk to her in civilized tones. Always ready to dig up the past and throw it in her face.”So what would you like to do? Watch TV?” she asked hoping to interest the girls in something other than her small house.
“Do you have Netflix?” Kara asked sitting down on the cheap couch.
“No I…uh have basic cable,” Celia told her turning the TV on.
Garrett her wide-eyed “that things old.”
Chuckling a little she nodded “but it still works.”
While she adjusted the knobs to get the picture to come in Garrett watched her with interest before announcing “I’m hungry.”
“What would you like to eat?” Celia asked hoping it would be something simple.
“Ice cream” Garrett requested hopefully with a smile.
“Pizza” Katrina suggested remembering how her mom would burn even mac & cheese.
“Fillet mignon” Kara said her eyes defiant challenging.
“Kara” Katrina cried tugging on her sister’s arm “you know she can’t cook. Ask for something else.”
Crossing her arms Kara looked from her sister to her mom. “Fine” she waved her hands around dramatically “pizza. I want pizza.” She stomped away letting her unhappiness be known to everyone.
Clapping her hands Celia put on a show of pretending to be happy saying “Pizza and ice cream it is then.” She walked into the adjacent kitchen and started to get the pizzas out of the freezer.
Katrina watched her mom for a while. She knew she was trying. Looking at her sister who sat sullen on the couch Garrett beside her engrossed in the TV show he was watching. “Can’t you give her a break?”
Looking up Kara scowled at her “why should I?”
Katrina’s eyes slid towards Celia as she said “keep your voice down.”
“I don’t care if she does hear me,” Kara spoke louder to prove her point. “She doesn’t deserve a break. She was mean to daddy…”
“So were you,” Katrina pointed out “or have you forgotten that?”
“That’s different,” Kara sputtered.
“How?” Katrina cocked her head to the side “I don’t understand. You both said mean horrible things to daddy. How are you any better than her? She’s our mom…”
“Don’t call her that” Kara stamped her feet as she stood from the couch “don’t ever call her that.”
“Whether you call her that or not doesn’t change the fact that she is our mom,” Katrina told her trying her best to keep calm. “Can’t you see she’s trying?”
Kara curled her fingers into fists “no no I don’t” she cried throwing herself on the couch covering her face in her hands. “I hate her.”
Katrina was about to console her when Garrett tugged on her arm “am I supposed to hate her too?” he asked.
Pulling her six year old brother close Katrina knelt in front of him “is that how you feel?
His eyes slid towards Kara before shaking his head “nnno” he stammered.
“Of course he doesn’t” Kara lifted her head glaring at them “she doesn’t even know her.”
“I do so,” he shouted back “she’s nice.” He moved closer to Katrina as if using her as a shield between him and Kara.
“She’s not nice,” Kara growled at him “she hurt daddy….”
“People change” Katrina told here raising her voice “she’s not the same person she was then. If you’d open your eyes and let go of the past you’d see that.”
“Maybe I don’t want to,” Kara mumbled.
It took every ounce of willpower not to insert herself into the conversation going on in the living room. It saddened her that Kara disliked her so much. She hoped her dislike wouldn’t rub off on the otheres; especially Garrett. Garrett had been the first one to warm up to her. The first one to call her mom. She wanted to protect her relationship with her son.
Katrina had been stand offish at first but warmed to her continued visits as if seeking reassurance that she would continue to come. Celia didn’t want to give that up for anything either. She remembered how it felt the first time her daughter wrapped her arms around her in a hug. Precious memories that she cherished and she tried not to think about during the three she was away. She was finally realizing how long three years was in a child’s life. She had missed so much and gave up so much. Kara was proof of that.
Kara did all she could to push her away. It took a enormous effort to continue to try in the face of her hostility. No matter what Celia did she couldn’t break through the girl’s walls. The family therapist backed Ian in his decision not to let Celia move in with them until there was a change in the girls attitude towards her. Celia was trying to be patient, trying to understand but she she wanted to have her family back, her husband back.
She smiled sadly as she checked on the pizza. They had been separated for over five years now. Neither one of them wanting to take the final plunge into divorce. What if Kara never relented? Would they forever live in this limbo? Taking the pizza out she shook her head. She hoped not but all she cold do was continue to try. She wouldn’t give up. Not this time. She would persevere. “Pizza’s ready” she called gaining the kids attention “come and get it while it’s hot.”
Celia was about to drift off to sleep when she heard what sounded like a moan. Sitting up she listened for the sound to repeat itself. When it didn’t she lay back down, closed her eyes “it must have been my imagination,” she mumbled. A couple of minutes later the moan occurred again. This time she got up and went to check on the kids.
Katrina and Kara were both sound asleep. Closing their door she went to check on Garrett. Opening his door she found him thrashing about on the bed. Moaning louder this time he opened his eyes as she approached his bedside. “Mommy I don’t feel good,” he whimpered.
She put out a tentative hand feeling his forehead. It was warm and clammy. Heart racing she stood immobile unable to think what she should do. She felt the old familiar desire to run away. She didn’t want to be the one to take care of someone sick, weak, infirm again. Again? it was then she realized what she had been doing all this time. She had been forced to be the sole care giver when her mother had gotten sick. She had needed to be strong to support her sick mother who was dying of cancer. She had been so young and had no one to rely on and no where to run. Now all these years later any situation that reminded her of how weak and needy her mother had been she wanted to run as far and as fast as she could before they died on “and it would all be my fault,” she said out loud.
Looking down at her little boy she knew this time she had to stay. Had to be the one he could rely on. She couldn’t let the girls do it all. She had to pull herself together. She sat on the edge of the bed asking “Garrett where does it hurt?”
“My stomach hurts” he opened his eyes a little “I think I’m going to be sick.”
She grabbed a nearby trash can and held it for him to throw up in. The more he gagged the more it brought up images of her mother suffering the after effects of her chemo treatments. She knew she was trembling when she helped Garrett lay back down wiping his mouth. “I’m sorry,” he moaned.
“Oh baby it’s not your fault,” she told him softly.
“I’m thirsty,” he whined.
She rubbed his back before getting up “I’ll be right back with some water.”
Celia helped Garrett drink the water holding him while he drank. She put a cool cloth to his fevered forehead. She even read to him from his favorite book until he fell asleep. She snuggled up close to him afraid she wouldn’t hear him call out if she went into her room.
The next morning the girls woke up early. Kara looked around the small room “Garrett never came in here last night.”
Shrugging “he must be getting used to sleeping by himself again.” Her brother had gotten into the habit of waking up during the night and crawling into bed with one of them.
“I don’t like it,” Kara complained “I’m going to check on him.”
Opening Garrett’s door Kara demanded “what are you doing in here?”
Opening her eye Celia sat up confused for a moment as to where she was. Looking at the indignant girl she smiled slightly “Garrett was sick last night…”
“Probably from the food you fed us,” Kara retorted.
Stretching Celia stood up “not likely since we all ate it and only Garrett got sick. It’s probably a 24 hour stomach bug.”
“Mommy” Garrett mumbled “I’m thirsty.” Celia went to help him drink the water she left on the side table. Kara stood watching.
“Did you call Daddy?” she demanded “if Garrett’s sick we should go home.”
“I’m feeling much better now,” Garrett told her “I don’t want to go home…at least not yet,” he amended upon seeing the hostility in his sisters eyes.
“Garrett will be fine,” Celia assured the girl. Turning to the boy “how are you feeling this morning?”
“Better,” he told her.
“Do you want something to eat?”she asked him smoothing back his hair.
“No just water,” he eyed his sister who was clearly not happy “can I watch TV?”
“I don’t see why not?” Celia told him picking him up and carrying him to the couch. Handing him the remote “you can watch whatever you want.”
Crossing her arms Kara corrected “no bad or scary movies.” She went on to list everything they weren’t allowed to watch.
“I know,” he told her rolling his eyes “I just want to watch cartoons.”
“Kara sweetie” Celia called trying to gain the girl’s attention “can you keep an eye on your brother while I take a shower?”
Kara kept her back turned towards her mother. A silent refusal to acknowledge her.
Sighing Celia was about to resign herself to a day of smelling like vomit when Katrina offered “I can watch him.”
“Thank you sweet pea,” Celia smiled at the girl as she walked past her into the bathroom.
Katrina gave Kara a stern look “you should be ashamed of yourself.”
“What for?” the girl demanded “she’s the one who said he could watch anything he wanted. I was just pointing out the rules.”
Putting her hands on her hips “you know what she meant and so did Garrett. Isn’t that right bud?”
“Yep,” he replied engrossed in his cartoon.
“Give her a break,” Katrina suggested “she’s trying.”
Kara turned to look out the window. She hated it when Katrina was right. Celia was acting the way normal mom’s act when their kid is sick. Sighing she turned to her sister “do you really think she’s changed?”
“Yes I do,” Katrina nodded affirming her words “She wants us to be a family again. Don’t you think it’s time we give her a chance to be our mom again?”
“What if she leaves us again? What if she hurts daddy again? What if…”
Katrina shook her head “I don’t know. There are no guarantees…”
“That’s what I’m afraid of” Kara said as she sat down next to Garrett “what do you think bud?”
“I like her,” he told her taking his eyes from the TV “she’s our mom. She should live with us.”
“I agree with buddy” Katrina said “she’s our mom. It’s time she comes home.”
“I still don’t like it,” Kara said “but if you two want her to come home I won’t fight you on it. At least with her I know what we’re getting.”
“Yay” Garrett cheered “we’re getting a mommy.”
“I wish I was as happy about it as you” Kara mumbled getting up and going into her room.
Two years later Ian and Celia were sitting together on the couch sharing a quiet moment before the kids came home from school. Glancing out the window Ian stiffened. Sensing his unease Celia turned to see what had caused it. A young blue haired boy was getting off the bus talking to Katrina. Smiling she turned to Ian “you knew this day was coming.”
“I know but she’s so young,” he protested.
Patting his hand she kissed his cheek. “She’s fourteen. It’s natural for her to become interested in boys at this age.”
“I don’t like it” he grumbled.
“Be nice,” Celia admonished as the kids came into the house.
Ian walked into the kitchen to meet them as they entered the house. “Who is your friend?” he asked.
“Oh hi dad,” Katrina smiled up at him “this is August.” She introduced the boy standing beside her “we’re working on a project for school.”
Some to the tension drained from Ian’s shoulders “Ok as long as you stay down here.”
“We will dad,” she told him with a smile. Turning to the boy “don’t mind my dad. Once he get’s to know you he’ll like you.”
August nodded watching Ian as he limped back into the living room “if you say so,” he said doubtfully. “What happened to his face?”
A cloud came over Karina’s face “he was in a fire several years ago.”
“He was a firefighter” Kara interjected.
“Was?” August asked thinking of the obvious limp and visible scars.
“He was lucky wasn’t killed,” Katrina told him “it was a terrible but he can’t work anymore.”
“But he’s still a hero,” Kara added in case August thought otherwise.
“I never thought he wasn’t,” August muttered in response to Kara’s intense almost intimidating stare. Turning to Katrina “so that project, where do you want to work on it?”
“We can set everything up on the table as long as we’re done before we eat supper” she told him. As they were setting up what they needed Kara followed them and plopped her book down in the middle of their space. “Kara can’t you find some place else to do your homework?”
Looking up from her open book she frowned “I don’t want to. I always do my homework with you.”
Biting her lip “I know but we need the space. Please just this once.”
“Fine,” she huffed gathering her things and stomping off.
August followed her with his eyes sighing in relief when she was gone “is she always like that?”
“Pretty much” Katrina shrugged unphased by her sisters behavior.
Later that night as the girls sat up talking in their room Kara gave her sister an appraising look. “You know you”d be really pretty if you’d ditch the braids and glasses.”
“I’ll never be as pretty as you” she replied watching as her sister preened under her praise.
“I could give you a make over,” Kara suggested “you just need to accentuate the positives and use a little more make up.” She tilted her head to the side “you definitely need contacts. Why don’t you ask daddy?”
“I…I did” Katrina stammered “I can’t wear them.”
“Why not?” Kara demanded “you’d look tons better without glasses.”
Hanging her head so that her braids fell forward hiding her face Katrina muttered “the eye injury I received when I was little make it impossible. Something about scar tissue…”
“Oh” Kara said laying back on her pillow a slight smile on her face. “We’ll have to come up with something else then; especially if you want to catch Augie’s attention.”
“Who says I’m interested in August?” Katrina asked pulling the blankets up thankful she had turned the lights off so Kara couldn’t see how flushed her cheeks were.
“Then you wouldn’t mind if I made a play for him?” Kara asked “Augie’s really cute.”
“You can’t do that,” Katrina protested.
“So you do like him,” Kara persisted “Augie and Katrina kissing in a tree K . I . S . S . I . N . G….”
Throwing her pillow at her sister “that’s not funny.”
Tossing Karina’s pillow back Kara had a huge grin on her face. Her normally calm and put together sister was acting like a love struck teen girl suddenly coming face to face with her crush. Turning on her side Kara muttered beneath her breath “we’ll see how you act when someone takes the guy of your dreams.”
Katrina settled into bed eyes closing thinking of a certain blue haired boy that made her heart flutter and her stomach churn. Her last thought before she slipped into sleep was his smile and how it made her feel weak at the knees.