This wasn’t going at all according to plan Kara thought as she watched Augie walk away from her. No doubt anxious to call Katrina. Just once she’d like to see her sister fail at getting something she wants. It felt like the universe was out to get her Kara thought Every plan she devised backfired. She stomped her foot causing several students to turn and stare at her.
Refusing to acknowledge anyone Kara followed after Augie. The least he could do is give her a ride home. She went the gym doors expecting to find the blue haired boy waiting for her. Sighing when she didn’t see him she turned towards where she thought Augie would be. She ought to know where to find him after all the time she spent watching and following him.
There was a small commons area where students liked to hang out. No doubt Augie was there letting off steam. She smiled as she saw the object of her search. She was about to open the door when she saw the two uniformed officers that were standing to the side. Quickly she moved away from the door. That little weasel of a brother must have blabbed.
“Daddy did I do the right thing?” Garrett asked after the police men left his room.
“Son you did exactly right” Ian assured him.
“Will Mommy be able to come home now?” he asked picking at the hospital blanket.
“I hope so” Ian told him brushing his son’s hair back.
“I told the truth. Why wouldn’t they let her come home?” Garrett was on the verge of tears. He hated crying. Hated being weak. It’s what Kara always reduced him to no matter how much he tried to resist her. That was why she was so mean to him that night and hurt him worse than usual. If he had only agreed to not telling Katrina everything would have been alright. Everything that happened since was his fault. “I’m sorry.”
“None of this was your fault,” Ian told him “Kara shouldn’t have hurt you to make you cover for her.”
“I know Daddy” Garret hung his head “I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“Son I love you,” Ian repeated “I want you to come to me no matter what. It doesn’t matter who it is. I need to know. I can’t protect you otherwise.”
“Daddy I’m sorry,” Garrett cried wrapping his small arms around his father.
“Shh,” Ian soothed rubbing his son’s back “it’s going to be alright.”
He held his son until Garrett fell asleep in his arms. Afterwards Ian moved to a nearby chair and watched over him. So many thoughts churned inside his brain. Ian wasn’t hundred percent sure the cops believed Garrett about Kara. He got the feeling that they didn’t believe a fifteen year old girl would beat her little brother up. Ian had to admit he found it difficult to believe. He knew without a doubt Garrett wouldn’t lie. He wasn’t the kind of kid who lied easily or well. All it took to break the kid was a certain stern look and the kid was a puddle of mush apologizing and spewing out the truth.
Kara on the other hand was a different story. Ian now knew her to be a master manipulator. How had he been blind to it. How much of the current situation could have been avoided if he hadn’t believed her innocent act? He wanted to believe she was what she pretended to be. He could see it now. His desire to make up to her for letting her down as a child led to this. This was his fault. A glaring failure of his parenting skills. His failure as a father. He leaned forward cradling his head in his hands as the tears started to fall.
Racing downstairs Katrina yelled “Grandpa, Grandpa.” she called frantic to find someone to talk to. Her younger Aunts and Uncle were still at the dance since they all had dates. She was the only loser who hadn’t gone. She should have been faster and asked August herself. Instead she allowed her sister an edge. That was her fault for not expressing how she felt. A mistake she wouldn’t make again.
“Is something wrong?” Gene asked coming into the room.
Holding her phone up Katrina announced “August says the police are looking for Kara. I thought you said they needed more than she said testimony?”
“I did and they do” Gene said rubbing his chin “I wonder if Garrett finally spoke up.” He moved away knowing Katrina would follow to make a phone call. As much as he wanted to protect her she needed know what was going on “Ian is everything?” He listened for a moment while his son made an attempt to compose himself.
“Dad I’m a complete and utter failure,” Ian announced unaware that Katrina was listening or that his Dad had him on speaker. Gene held a finger to his mouth signalling Katrina to stay quiet. Ian continued “none of this would have happened if I had been a better father. I’m a failure….”
“Ian” Gene spoke firmly into the phone “get a hold of yourself. Your family needs you to be strong. You couldn’t have known what Kara was doing.”
“I see it all so clearly now,” Ian protested “all the times she had all the right answers. Pointing fingers at Katrina so she’d lose my trust. The bruises that Garrett refused to discuss. How could I have been so blind?”
“Ian I know you don’t want to hear this but now is not the time to wallow in self-pity. Your family needs you. You will always see what you could have done differently. That’s all in the past. You can’t change it. All you can do is learn from it and move on.” Gene took a deep breath as he felt Katrina snuggle into him seeking comfort “now tell me what’s happening.”
They could hear Ian sniffle in the background but eventually he said “Garrett told the police that Kara was the one who hurt him.” He took a deep breath exhaling slowly “but they aren’t telling me what they’re doing or whether Celia will be released.” His voice wavered as he continued “they mentioned something about calling social services. Dad I can’t lose my kids.”
“It won’t come to that,” Gene told him trying to sound confident “I’m going to call the lawyer.” Gene could hear Ian talking to Garrett in the background “I want you to stay put. Don’t worry about anything. I’ll take care of it.” Nodding towards Katrina “I’m going to have Katrina keep you company.”
“Dad I….” Ian’s voice sounded defeated “thank you.”
“Trust me son. Things are going to work out alright,” Gene told him squeezing Katrina tight.
“I do Dad,” Ian said before disconnecting.
Turning to Katrina “I want you to keep your Dad company,” Gene told her.
“But I want to go with you to see the lawyer,” Katrina protested.
“Honey I need you at the hospital,” Gene sighed “your Dad is frayed and not thinking straight. He needs to be reminded that he’s not a failure. The best way to do that is for you to be there with him. Can you do that for me? For your Dad?”
Katrina thought for a moment fighting the hurt feelings she harbored against her Dad. She wanted to refuse but in the end they had all been hurt by the same person, her dad included. The one person was her own sister. “I’ll do it if you think it’ll help,” she mumbled.
“Good girl,” Gene kissed her cheek “call me if things heat up there.”
“Like if social services show up?”
“Yes. Call me right away. Promise?”
She nodded thankful that she was able to do something helpful.
Celia looked up as an officer approached her cell. She hoped this meant she was being released. She hoped she wouldn’t have to spend another night behind bars. To her disappointment the officer continued past chuckling as he did. She felt anger bubble to the surface. How dare the man find amusement in her predicament. Breathe she told herself. Just breathe. She endured this torment for two nights already she could do it for another. And another? She shuddered at the thought.
Leaning forward she held her head in her hands. She wanted to go home. She wanted to hold her babies in her arms. She wanted to see Ian. Kiss his lips as he held her tight while he told her everything would be alright.
Groaning she cured up on her cot trying to hold back the tears that threatened to engulf her. The tears would destroy her if she let them. No one told her anything in this place. She had no idea how Garrett was doing. How Ian was coping or Katrina. What was Kara up to?
Kara slipped into the silent house. Some how she had avoided the cops that were at the school. If she did this right she should be able to change and grabbed her stash from under the bed. She smiled complimenting herself on her ability to plan her escape before she even thought it would be necessary.
Going upstairs she made sure not to turn on any of the lights. She wasn’t sure if the cops had the house under surveillance yet or not. Why tip them off to her presence if didn’t have to?
After changing she crawled under the bed and pulled out the backpack. Checked that her stash was there. All that hard-earned money, she thought recalling how she would bribe Katrina into paying to keep her mouth shut over some indiscretion that Katrina wanted covered up or how she’d torture Garrett into telling her where he kept his allowance. Then there was her Mom’s rainy day fund. She never took a large amount at any one time. A few dollars here and that it wouldn’t be noticeable. She had a few thousand saved up just in case she ever decided to strike out on her own. Now was a good a time as any.
Looking around she made sure nothing was out-of-place. She headed towards the stairs then retraced her steps to her parents room. She may as well help herself to balance of her Mom’s rainy day fund since she wouldn’t be around to get caught. It’s not like her Mom didn’t already suspect her of taking it anyway.
Satisfied she left the house and crossed the road towards the wood that bordered the Starlight Shores. She couldn’t wait to put this town behind her. Doors slammed behind her. A gruff voice shouted “stop you’re under arrest.” She hesitated a moment startled then broke out into a run. She heard them yelling for her to stop. Yeah right! Why did they bother to waste their breath? Wasn’t obvious that she wasn’t going to?
She almost made it to the treeline when one of the officers tackled her to the ground. She fell hard knocking the wind from her lungs. They started to recite her rights but she was too busy trying to breathe to pay much attention. She felt the cold metal of the handcuffs as it bit into her wrists. The finality as they locked into place.
She was dragged to her feet and marched back to their waiting squad car. One of the officers said “hard to believe that such a pretty little girl as this could be responsible for hurting that little boy.”
“Just proves you can’t judge a book by its cover,” his partner grumbled pushing her into the backseat.
She snarled at them “what happened to innocent until proven guilty?”
“Do you honestly expect us to believe your innocent?” the older officer asked from the driver’s seat looking into the rear view mirror as he spoke.
“Yeah it’s the law isn’t?”
“That’s why you’ll get a trial but don’t expect the jury to believe the innocent doe eyed act. Especially not after that cute little brother of yours testifies.”
“Plus we’ll testify that you ran upon sight of us,” the younger officer stated “you’re guilty alright.”
“Maybe,” she glared at them “but will the believe it? I don’t look like someone who would do all those awful things.” She batted her big light blue eyes at them. “I happen to believe I’ll get off fairly lightly.” She smirked at them confident in her ability to manipulate the jurors.
“Don’t you have any remorse for what you’ve done?” the young officer asked somewhat shocked.
“Why should I? I didn’t do anything,” she smiled sweetly at them as the game began.
“Daddy,” Katrina said walking into the hospital room. She was shocked at how forlorn he looked. It reminded her of how he was right after the fire. “Daddy” she cried again as he got up and wrapped her in his arms.
“Sweet pea I’m so sorry,” he murmured against her hair.
She felt the ice she had around her heart melt and fall away. Kara had tried to create a chasm between her and her father. She wouldn’t let her win “it’s alright Daddy. It wasn’t your fault.”
“I should have known…”
She listened to his heart beat for a moment feeling safe and secure within his arms the way she always felt as a little girl. “Why? It’s not like I wasn’t doing some of the things Kara told you about. She manipulated all of us.”
“I know sweet pea. Things will be different now. I should never have let things get so bad.”
“It’s not your fault,” she repeated pulling away looking up at him “I love you Daddy.”
“I love you too sweet pea,” he squeezed her tight before releasing her.
As they sat down beside Garrett’s sleeping form Katrina took her Dad’s hand “is he going to be alright?”
“I think so,” Ian told her smoothing the blanket out around his son. “He’ll feel better once his mother is here. He keeps asking for her.”
“Well his wait is over,” a voice announced from behind them.
“Celia,” Ian jumped to his feet as she ran into his arms. “Oh Ian I’ve missed you so much.”
“I missed you too,” he smashed his lips down upon hers “I love you.”
Katrina wiped her eyes watching her parents as they kissed. She wondered if she would ever have a love like theirs. She was aware of the troubles they had and remembered when they had been separated. There had never been a lack of love.
She wondered if August was the one for her. Despite how hurt she had been when Kara had convinced him to take her to the dance Katrina knew she would forgive him. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you loved someone?
Everyone glanced down when a small ecstatic voice said “Mommy you’re here.”
“Of course I am baby,” she smiled down at him releasing Ian to go to her son “they couldn’t keep me away.”
He looked at her in consternation. His smile turning to a frown “does that mean you escaped? Will they come and take you away again?” He sat up and threw his arms around her “you should run so they can’t catch you. They wouldn’t believe me when I told them you wouldn’t hurt me. I tried and tried to tell them.”
“It’s ok baby,” she smiled at him “they finally listened. They let me go.”
“They did?” he beamed at her “I was so worried that’s never see you again.”
“I’m here now,” she mussed his hair “you can stop worrying now.”
The trial came and went. No one was surprised that the jury was unable to deliver a unanimous guilty verdict. The phrase hung jury made the air heavy and thick with apprehension for weeks and Ian dreaded the day Kara would come home. She had spent the weeks before the trial in a psychiatric ward under observation. Now they had to make a decision.
As much as Ian hated to admit it he had to think about the welfare of his children. Not that he didn’t feel Kara was his child, that would never change. However he couldn’t let his emotions cloud his judgement any more than he could allow her to hurt the others. Garrett was finally sleeping through the night without waking everyone up with nightmares. Katrina was no longer acting out and trying to sneak out of the house to go to wild parties. They didn’t need Kara disrupting things.
“Celia,” he said turning to her one night “you’re right Kara can’t come home. She needs more help then we can give her. Reform school really isn’t an option since she wasn’t convicted.” He sat up looking at her “what do think about sending her to military school?”
Cuddling into him Celia closed her eyes “I think it’s perfect. She’ll learn discipline and hopefully respect for others and for following the rules.”
“I hope so” he sighed kissing the top of her head “I just wish there was more we could to for her. I feel like I….failed her.”
“You did everything you could for her,” Celia objected “I won’t let you think you failed. You didn’t. She’s responsible for who she is and what she’s become. All we can do is hope she sees what she’s doing and accepts help. Until then…”
“We worry,” Ian finished for her “that comes with the territory of raising children. We’ll always worry about them no matter how old they get.”
“I love you,” she said looking at him. She reached up and drew his head down to kiss him “thank you for never giving up on me when everyone told you to. I know you’ll do the same with Kara. Just don’t let her use that against you.”
“I’ll try not to. She knows my weaknesses better than I do though,” Ian returned her kiss “but I won’t borrow trouble from tomorrow when I can be enjoying today. I have a beautiful wife I love and adore. I have a beautiful daughter who has a good head on her shoulders. I hope she won’t make the same mistakes we have if she continues to see that boy. I’m too young to be a grandpa.” He ducked when Celia tried to hit him “and I have a brave son that I look forward to seeing the man he becomes. I won’t exchange any of that for anything.”