“Mom how do you know when a guy likes you?” Katrina asked as her mom was preparing supper.
Celia looked up from chopping green peppers for the autumn salad she was making. Smiling she found herself reminiscing about the first time she met Ian. “Does this have anything to do with August?”
Katrina looked down, her cheeks burning “he’s so nice but….” her voice faded troubled.
“But what?” Celia asked putting down the knife and moving to sit down at the table with her daughter. “Sweet pea that boy is head of over heals in love with you.”
“I wish I could believe that,” Katrina murmured “but he never tells me he likes me.” She looked up eyes brimming with tears “not once in the two years I’ve known him.”
“Aw honey have you ever told him you like him?” Celia watched as the girl shook her head.
“Boys are just as afraid of getting hurt as we are.”
“They are?” Katrina asked in a small voice “I thought boys had to make the first move.”
“Not always sweet pea. Sometimes the girl has to take the bull by the horns” Celia moved to get up “think about it sweetie. He may be waiting for a sign from you.”
Celia stopped when Katrina grabbed her hand “thanks mom,” she said jumping up from the table to give her mom a hug.
“You’re welcome sweetie,” Celia said squeezing her back.
Kara took a step back leaning against the wall a sly smile on her face. She knew Katrina like Augie, she just knew it. Her sister was so slow sometimes; especially when it came to boys.
“Sweetie what are you doing?” Ian asked as he come down the stairs and turned towards the kitchen.
Turning towards him Kara gave him a million watt smile as she ran up to him giving him a peck on the cheek. “Did you know Katrina likes a boy?” The frown that creased his forehead didn’t go unnoticed by Kara. It confirmed what she already knew, he wasn’t ready for his little girl to date. “It’s that boy that always comes over to do homework.”
Ian exhaled slowly “I thought so,” he murmured “my girls are growing up.” He gave Kara a sad smile “so where’s your boy?”
Shaking her head she looked at her feet wringing her hands “I don’t have one yet.”
“Give it time,” Ian told her tilting her chin up “it’ll happen.”
“No it won’t” she protested turning her face away “I’m not pretty enough.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Ian told her “you’re a beautiful young woman. So you can get that silly idea out of your head.”
“Daddy” she whined “you have to say that even if it’s not true.”
“Sweetie have I ever lied to you?” he asked.
“No” she said in a small voice “but” she bit her bottom lip giving herself an air of dejection.
“But what?” he asked becoming concerned “did someone tell you you weren’t pretty enough for them?”
“Not in so many words,” she shook her head “but I know that’s why he won’t go out with me.”
“You like someone?” he asked in surprise.
Nodding she let a tear trickle down her cheek “but he doesn’t even know I exist.”
Wiping the tear away he asked “does he know ho you feel about him?”
Shaking her head, her blond hair sticky to her cheeks “I’m too scared to tell him.” Turing her eyes up to her dad pleading “what do I do daddy?”
He stroked her long soft blond hair “there’s only one thing you can do. You have to tell this boy how you feel about him.”
“What if he doesn’t feel the same?” she cried snuggling into him like she did when she was little.
“Then he’s not the one for you,” he told her “there’s plenty of other fish in the sea”
“Yeah but I only want one,” she sniffed.
“I know baby I know,” he said trying to comfort her wishing heartbreak wasn’t a part of growing up.
Later that night Garrett walked outside in search of something to do. With two older teenage sisters he was left to himself most of the time. Occassionally he was able to talk his dad into playing a video game but it was like playing with Grandpa. He could tell he was just going through the motions and offered him no challenge what so ever unlike playing with Grandma. He stopped when he heard Kara’s voice. He sighed taking a step backwards towards the house. Her voice was becoming louder so he ducked behind the patio furniture hoping she wouldn’t see him. Depending upon her mood she might accuse him of spying on her.
“So how about it?” she asked “will you be my date for the sweet hearts dance?”
Garrett couldn’t here the answer from where he sat. He watched his sister twist her hair around her fingers like she always did when August was doing homework with Katrina. He wondered if she was on the phone with him. He ducked his head as she turned in his direction.
“Please Augie. I know you want to,” she pleaded “what does she have to do with us going to the dance together?”
Garrett frowned as he listened. They must be talking about Katrina. He thought August liked Katrina. His hands clenched sensing that Kara was doing something underhanded and Katrina would get hurt.
“Augie” her voice was cajoling wheedling “if Katrina liked you don’t you think I’d know? We are sisters. We tell each other everything….”
From where he sat Garrett wanted to make her tell August the truth. He knew that Katrina didn’t tell Kara anything. They both told Kara as little as possible so that she wouldn’t use it against them later on. Somehow things always got back to their parents and Kara would be standing in the background gloating on a job well done. Sometimes he really didn’t like his sister very much.
Her laughter broke into his thoughts. “See that wasn’t so hard now was it?” she asked “so you’ll pick me up at six?”
Garrett decided it was time to leave while her back was turned. As he was backing out of his hiding spot he knocked over a pot of his mother’s flowers making a loud clanging sound. His heart sank as he heard Kara say “I’ve got to go.” She ran up the steps and grabbed his arm before he was able to get away. “Why were you spying on me?”
“I wasn’t honest,” he cried as she twisted his arm behind his back “owe you’re hurting me.”
“Tell me what you heard,” she demanded.
“I didn’t hear anything,” he attempted to say.
“Liar,” she snarled in his ear as she frog marched him down the porch steps. When she was sure no one could see them from the house she shook him “now tell me the truth. What did you hear?”
“I hate you,” he shouted at her “you act all nice but you’re not. You don’t even like August…”
“So you did hear,” she smiled in triumph pushing him hard against the fence “you’re right I don’t like Augie….”
“But why?” he asked trying to move away from her.
“Because I want whatever little miss perfect has,” she snarled pushing Garrett against the fence “you’re not going to tell anyone about what you heard.”
“Am too,” he said trying to push her off him “you shouldn’t be so mean.”
“You haven’t seen me mean yet kid,” she told him with a wicked gleam in her eyes “if you tell anyone you’ll regret it.” She gave him one final push before she walked away.
Sinking to the ground he brought his knees up to rest his head on. He tried not to let her get to him but when she got like this it scared him. “Garrett” he heard his mom calling for him to come inside. He got up and made his way inside.
“It’s time for your bath,” Celia told him as soon as he came inside “you know it’s too late for you to be outside by yourself.”
“I know” he grumbled going past her.
She frowned as he walked past her “what were you doing out there?” she asked coming up behind him.
Shrugging he mumbled “nothing.”
“Garrett” she said her tone not exactly severe but one he couldn’t ignore “were you in a fight?”
“No” he denied he looked up saw Kara glaring at him from behind his mom’s back “I…I…fell,” he stammered.
“Leave the kid alone,” Kara demanded “it’s bad enough the kid’s clumsy he doesn’t need you ragging on him.”
Celia turned to ace her daughter “do you know anything about these bruises?”
“How would I know? He just said he fell” Kara glared at her mom “don’t go and blame me for your son’s lack of balance.”
“I didn’t accuse you of anything,” Celia told her “I simply asked if you knew anything about what happened.”
“Well I don’t,” she said “come on lil bro it’s time for your bath.” She stepped around her mother, grabbed Garrett’s hand before either of them could protest.
“Ian we need to talk,” Celia said as she come out of the bathroom.
Ian looked up from the book he was reading “about what?” he asked closing the book.
“It’s about Kara…”
“Honey you’re still not concerned about her are you?” he asked “her therapist said she’s doing a lot better.”
“I think we’re missing something,” she hesitated knowing Ian didn’t want to believe that Kara was purposefully hurting her siblings but something had to be done. “Garrett is covered in bruises again…”
“You don’t seriously think Kara had anything to do with it, do you?” he asked in disbelief “that’s just ridiculous. She wouldn’t do something like that.”
“If you had seen the fear in his eyes when she came near him tonight you’d think differently” she told him “you’d know same as me. She isn’t right Ian.”
He was about to protest further but he could tell Celia believed what she was telling him. He didn’t understand the animosity between her and Kara but it had been there growing stronger ever since Kara injured her sister. Celia believed then Kara had done it on purpose. “If it’ll make you feel better I’ll talk to Garrett in the morning.”
“Thank you,” she said giving him a small smile “I do hope I’m wrong but if she is hurting her brother we can’t let it continue.”
“No we can’t” he sighed “I just find it difficult to believe.”
“I know,” she leaned into him “you only ever see her sweet side.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of this. I promise,” he told her giving her a lingering kiss.
“Thank you for not brushing my concerns aside,” she said as he led her to their bed.
“I’ll never do that. If someone is hurting my kids I want to know about it.” He kissed her again “I’ll talk to Garrett. You and I both know he can’t lie to save his life.”
“I know” she laughed a little “the poor kid is an open book just like his daddy.”
Ian gave her a quizzical look “is that a good or a bad thing?” he asked.
“It’s a good thing,” she kissed him “definitely a good thing.”
“Rise and shine my grumpy little bear,” Celia said upon entering Garrett’s room in the morning. Most morning’s Garret would greet her with a growl like a bear whose hibernation had been interrupted. Frowning she went over to the bed “Garrett honey are you alright?” He forced his eyes open to peer up at her. “Did you fall asleep crying?” she asked seeing how red and raw his eyes looked.
“Mommy I hurt all over,” he moaned closing his eyes again.
“Where do you hurt?” she asked him.
“All over but worst on my side” he grimaced as she pulled the blankets back and pulled up his night shirt.
The large bruise along his rib cage had her gasping in shock “Ian” she yelled “get in here.”
Upon hearing her frantic call Ian raced into his son’s room “what’s wrong?”
“Get over her and look at your son,” she demanded barely able to breath led alone speak.
He stared speechless at the darkening bruises “what happened?” Ian asked appalled at what he was seeing “who did this?”
“I fffell” Garrett said in response.
“Son those bruises didn’t come from a fall,” Ian told him “please tell us the truth.”
“I fffell,” he repeated “I fffell…”
“Alright son,” Ian gave in feeling it was more important to get his son help instead of arguing with him. “We’re going to take a little ride and see the doctor ok?”
“No” Garrett made a plaintive cry “I don’t want to….”
“I know baby but the doctor will help with the pain.” Ian told him. Turning to Celia “tell the girls that we’re taking Garrett to the hospital and have them get themselves off to school this morning.” Nodding she ran off to tell them. “Ok son I’m going to pick you up. It may hurt when I move you.” He bent putting his arms around his small son.
“Ok daddy” Garrett agreed gritting his teeth.
“You can’t be serious,” Ian said standing between Celia and the officer.
“Stand aside sir,” the officer commanded “or I’ll have to arrest you for obstruction.”
“She didn’t do it,” he shouted taking a step forward.
Celia put a out a restraining hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright Ian. I’ll go with them. You need to be here for Garrett.”
“But you didn’t do it,” he protested not wanting to let her go.
“I know but only Garrett can tell them that,” she kissed his cheek “tell him I love him.” She stepped forward surrendering to the officer.
Ian cringed as he watched the officer snap handcuffs around Celia’s wrists and escort her from the hospital. Her suspecions about Kara were becoming all to appallingly real. He flashed back to that morning the way the doctors looked at her like she was a monster. Ian knew that whoever had beat his son leaving all those nasty bruises was indeed a monster but it wasn’t his wife. The hand imprint around Garrett’s upper arm was too small to be his which let him off the hook. But it was almost a perfect fit for Celia’s hand.
Garrett had clung to him refusing to answer any questions. It was too suspicious for the doctors who had to call it in. It all happened so quick it left Ian’s head spinning. Celia was going to need a good lawyer and all the support he could give her. Ian took his phone out and called the one person he knew he could count on for help. “Dad,” he croaked “I need you.”
“How could you?” Katrina demanded of her sister “you knew I liked him. How could you go behind my back and ask August to the sweet hearts dance?”
Shrugging “you snooze you lose. If you liked him you should have told him.”
“You knew I was going to ask him at school today.” Katrina grabbed her sister’s arm “the least you could have done was tell me you called him before I went and made an utter fool of myself in front of everyone at school.”
“You’re just upset that he like me and not you,” Kara yanked her arm loose “how does it feel?” Kara asked “knowing Augie likes me and not you. What’s the matter little miss perfect? Does it make you mad that I got what you wanted?”
“This isn’t a contest,” Katrina stated taking a step back from her, appalled by what her sister was saying. “August isn’t a prize to be won. He’s a person deserving respect.”
“Aww ain’t that sweet,” Kara cooed “you two really are made for each other. Too bad I got him first.”
“You’re joking right?” Katrina looked at her sister “please tell me your not just using him to get at me.”
“He’s mine and I’m not going to let him go,” Kara smirked “you can watch me walk off with the man of your dreams.”
Despite the hollow feeling in heart and the tears building behind her eyes Katrina said “if August prefers you then me he deserves what he gets.” She clapped her hands together in mock approval “bravo on winning by any means possible and unfair tactics.”
She turned to walk away when the front door opened. “Oh good your home,” Aimee said upon seeing them.
“Why are you here?” Kara demanded.
Aimee was taken aback by the brashness of the question. “Grandma what’s wrong?” Katrina asked ignoring her sister.
“Garrett’s in the hospital” Aimee watched as Kara’s lips curled up in satisfaction and hesitated before adding “the police think your mom is abusing him.”
“What?” Katrina cried “mom wouldn’t do that.”
“They must have some pretty convincing evidence otherwise they wouldn’t have arrested her,” Kara pointed out not quite able to disguise the smugness she felt from her voice.
“What did you do?” Katrina screamed at her.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Kara taunted with a smirk.
“Girls now isn’t the time for this. I want you to go upstairs and pack a bag. You’re coming to stay with us until this is all settled.”