Aimee remained silent during the ride home despite all the questions whirling around her head. She kept shooting looks at Gene while he drove. Catching her worried glance he smiled at her “it’ll be ok.” His confidence quelled her fear, stalling her desire to question the boy in the backseat. Gene had always known what to do. She had no reason to start doubting him now.
“Well,” she demanded once Gene came into their room after settling August in one of the guest rooms.
Shaking his head Gene sat on the edge of the bed. “He’s refusing to talk,”he told her.
Folding her arms she glared at her husband “I want him gone.”
“Aimee,” his voice held a mild reproof “please be patient. For me.” He got up moving towards her, his dark brown eyes still held the same vitality they had forty years ago.
“Why?” she mumbled against his shoulder “he broke our granddaughter’s heart. Left her alone and pregnant.”
“I know,” he sighed “I don’t know why but I have a feeling he didn’t want to do any of that.”
Giving him an uncertain glare she asked “what makes you think that?”
“It’s just a feeling,” he kissed her forehead “give it time, please. I’m sure I can get the truth out him.”
“Alright I’ll try,” she put her arms around his waist “but I can’t promise for how long I’ll be able to keep quiet.”
“Ian I’m worried about Katrina,” Celia said turning towards her husband giving up on the pretense of pretending to sleep.
“I know,” came the ready reply telling her that he wasn’t sleeping either. “I’ve been thinking a change of scenery might do her some good.”
“Are you thinking of sending her to Sunlit Tides to stay with your parents?”
Nodding Ian sat up “everything around here holds too many memories for her. I want her some place that isn’t full of memories of the things she no longer has. Maybe it’ll help her heal. To make new memories without August.”
His voice held such conviction Celia wondered if this was something he had felt when she had run away from him all those years ago. Where would she be if he hadn’t stuck around hoping she’d come back to him? “Ian…” her voice shook with a million emotions but whatever she was going to say was lost to the ringing of the phone.
“Hello? Dad?” Ian stood “Is something wrong? Mom is she…”
“Calm down Ian. We’re fine. Your mom is fine.” Genes reassuring chuckle did more to calm Ian’s frayed nerves then his words.
Looking at the time Ian glanced out the window “why are you calling so late?”
A slight pause while Gene decided on the right thing to say “well son…we ran into someone today at the beach today.”
Ian’s anxiety shot right back up imagining Kara had shown up Sunlit Tides. “Dad I want you to hire a body-guard for you and mom.”
“Whatever for?” Gene asked his attempt to sound innocent only increased Ian’s anxiety.
“Dad this is no laughing matter. If Kara’s there you and mom are in danger.” His voice rose as he paced the bedroom floor.
“Who said anything about that girl?” Gene asked his own voice rising.
Attempting to calm himself down. Ian took a deep breath “if it wasn’t her than who?” Something told him he wasn’t going to like the answer but he had to know. “August,” Ian stared blankly over at Celia as he asked “are you sure it was him?”
“What fool question is that? Of course I know it’s him. He’s in my spare bedroom,” Gene told him “the boy was rummaging through the garbage for food.”
“Is he alright?” concern for the boy who would have married his daughter coming through in his voice.
“He’s thin, dirty and weak other than that he’s fine,” Gene informed him “he’s asleep at the moment I hope. I needs a good nights sleep.”
“What was he doing there? Why did he leave like he did?” Ian shot one question after another at his father.
“I’ll let you know when I find out.”
“What do you mean you’ll let me know?” Ian asked “hasn’t he told you anything?”
“He was in no condition to be interrogated,” Gene shot back “I want answers as much as you do. We have to be careful or he’ll run again.”
“Ok ok thanks for letting me know,” I an told him “tell mom I love her.”
“Will do,” Gene smiled into the phone “love you son.”
“Love you to dad,” Turning to Celia Ian sat on the bed “they found August rummaging through garbage cans at the beach.”
“Oh no” she gasped “that poor boy…”
“Poor boy” Ian cried indignantly “he left our daughter without a word of explanation. Not to mention abandoning his daughter…”
Taking his hand Celia kissed his fingers “I know you’re upset but we don’t know why he left. He could have a good reason. What if Kara was behind it?” She looked into his worried violet eyes “she did threaten that he wouldn’t see his wedding.”
Putting his arms around her Ian pulled her close “I know. We’ll find out soon enough once dad has a chance to talk to him. in the mean tie we won’t mention this to Katrina.”
“Ok” Celia agreed hoping that they’d be able to give their little girl the happy ever after ending she deserved.
August woke up late the following day. Blinking he jumped out of bed unsure for a moment where he was. It had been a long time since he slept so well or so soundly. Heart beating fast he recalled how he ran into Katrina’s grandparents at the beach. Hunger had drawn him out of his hovel earlier then normal that day.
He sat down on the bed looking for his clothes. They were no where in sight. He was sure he had left them piled in a corner near the door. After his shower the night before he hadn’t wanted to put on the same dirty clothes he had been wearing for who know’s how long. For once he wanted to enjoy the feeling of being truly clean. Grabbing the towel he had taken from the bathroom he walked towards the door. He reached for the door knob, heart pounding in his ears What was he going to do when they started asking him questions? What if Kara found out? He couldn’t live knowing he caused her any harm. But would Kara really know? It’s been over a year since she demanded he leave. Would she still exact retribution after so long?
Sighing he dropped his sweaty hand to his side. He didn’t know what to do. He owed them for what they did for him. Once he walked out that door he’d have to tell them something. They wouldn’t let him go with just a thank you.
Squaring his shoulders he made sure the towel was secure before opening the door. The living room was empty much to his relief. There was a love murmur of voices coming from the kitchen. He stood uncertain until Aimee came from the kitchen her smile fading as she called for her husband.
Gene came over to his wife nodding towards August saying “pancakes are in the kitchen, help yourself.”
Clearing his throat August asked “mmmy clothes?”
“Those rags you were wearing are worthless,” Gene said “I threw them out.”
Panic engulfed him along with icy cold anxiety “I … you…” he spluttered.
“Don’t worry I made sure there wasn’t anything left in the pockets,” Gene gave him a reassuring smile as he passed going into the kitchen.
It felt good to be in a civilized house. Eating something other than stale, moldy, spoiled scraps harvested from garbage cans. He breathed a sigh of relief as he found he meager belongings. A few wadded up dollar bills and coins. Ignoring them he picked up the most important, valuable possession he had. A faded, worn and cracked picture of him and Katrina as they posed for their engagement pictures. He didn’t know what he’d do if ever lost that picture. It was his last hold on the best thing he ever had in his life and the reason why he was living like a homeless vagrant.
He kept jumping every time he thought Gene was returning to the kitchen. He felt like a trapped animal facing sure death. As he finished the last of the pancakes he heard the front door open and close . Did they both leave? Were they leaving him alone in their house? Did they expect him to stay?
His worries ceased when Gene came into the Kitchen saying “Aimee went to get groceries and to buy you some new clothes to wear. Can’t have you running around the house in just a towel now can we?” He chuckled a little his eyes held a certain glimmer of humor in them putting August at ease.
“Thank you,” August murmured standing up intent on barricading himself in his room until he had some decent clothes to wear.
Patting the chair he just vacated Gene said “why don’t you come back here and have a seat. We have some things to discuss.” There was a sternness in his voice and a somberness in his eyes that had August hanging his head in compliance.
“I know what you want to know but I” he stopped swallowing convulsively “I can’t tell you.”
“Then I’ll tell you what I know,” Gene told him not to be thwarted as the boy resumed his seat. “Kara threatened you and Katrina. That’s a fact. She told you that you would never see your wedding day.” Gene watched the boy closely. Saw how his eyes flickered then became clouded. Sighing Gene continued “Katrina’s brakes were tampered with. The police suspect you did it…”
“They what?” he cried standing up shocked “I’d never hurt her.”
“Oh” Gene gave him a long thoughtful stare “what do you call leaving him alone in the hospital? Don’t you think that hurt her?”
“I was trying to….” he snapped his mouth shut afraid he’d already said too much.
“Trying to what?” Gene pushed “come on son I’m trying to help you. They only way I can do that is if you trust me.”
“I do trust you” August cried “I don’t trust her.” He ran his hands through his too long hair pulling on it.
Smiling Gene knew it wouldn’t be long before the boy broke. “Who? Katrina?”
“No not her,” he mumbled “I’d trust her with my life.” He sank back into the chair head hanging low.
Grimly Gene pressed on “as I recall you spent a lot of time on your phone before you left the hospital that day.” August lifted his head staring blankly at him “I believe it was Kara. What did she tell you to do? Did she threaten Katrina’s life if you didn’t agree to leave?” He left the questions hang in the air.
Slowly August nodded his head, his shoulder’s slumping. “She said the next accident would be more successful. That Katrina wouldn’t walk away from it.” Looking up with tears in his eyes “what else could I do? I couldn’t put her in danger. I knew by leaving she’d hate me. There was nothing else I could do.”
“Hello mother,” the cold disdainful voice startled Celia as she released the melon she was inspecting for ripeness. It cascaded into the others causing a melon avalanche crashing to the floor.
Whipping around eyes round with fright and hate Celia faced her second born daughter. Heart pounding in her chest she demanded “why are you doing this to us?”
“Because I can,” she crossed her arms an unrecognizable gleam in her light blue eyes. “You have what I want most in the world. As long as your here with him I’ll continue hurting everyone you love.” She took a step nearer leaning in close “one by one they’ll disappear until it’s just you and him. Then I’ll get rid of you. Make him watch so he knows for sure that you will never be coming back.”
“You’re out of your mind,” Celia pushed her away “he’s your dad…”
“No John is” Kara smirked “but I took care of that.”
“Ian raised you like one of his own,” Celia tried to reach the girl “he’ll always love you as his daughter. Can’t you see that you don’t have to be jealous of the rest of us?”
“All I see are obstacles that need to be disposed of” Kara snapped reaching her hands out fingers curling as if she wanted to strangle her mother. “If you leave now of your own volition it’ll save me a lot of trouble.”
“Is that what you told August to do?” Celia asked before caution warned her to keep quiet.
“He told you?” Kara asked pure spite dripping from her words “he shouldn’t have done that. Now I’ll have to make good on my promise.”
“No please it was just a guess,” Celia pleaded “he left. He didn’t tell us anything.”
Rage sparked in her eyes and Kara glared at the older woman “It doesn’t matter. She has to pay the price.” She turned and walked swiftly away.
Shaking Celia stumbled after her. Leaving her cart full of food abandoned and forgotten. By the time she managed to follow Kara into the parking lot she was nowhere to be seen. Stumbling to the car Celia managed to call Ian “I made a terrible mistake.”
Ian felt the phone tremble again his ear as he listened to Celia’s hysterical sobs. “Honey calm….”
“Don’t you dare tell me to calm down,” she screamed “not when that maniac is after our daughter.”
“What are you talking about?” Ian asked feeling like he was falling down the rabbit hole again.
“Katrina” she screamed “she’s in danger.” She sobbed losing control “Kara said she had to pay the price. Oh god it’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Heart constricting Ian ran up the stairs towards Katrina’s room. She looked up startled as he burst through the door “dad what’s wrong?”
“You have to leave now,” he told her.
“What’s happening?” she asked watching as he pulled out clothes from the closet and piled them onto her bed.
“You’re mother just received another threat against your life….”
“She what?” she cried covering her ears as her daughter picked up on the anxiety in the room and began to cry.
“Kara made threats against you” Ian told her calming enough to pull her close “I have to keep you safe and the only way I know how to do that is to send you away. You’re going to stay with your grandparents in Sunlit Tides.”
“Why? Why is she doing this?” she demanded.
“I don’t know sweet pea. I just don’t know.” He kissed her forehead “pack what you need and buy the rest when you get there. I’ll call your grandparents and let them know your coming.”
Nodding “if you think it’s necessary,” she sighed moving to pick up Sara from her crib.
“I’m not taking any chances when it comes to Kara,” Ian told her as he moved to the door to make the arrangements.