Leaving Zach’s room Teasha went to the back porch. She stared into the darkening sky. It scared her to think of a world without her brother in it. She realized now he should have been in therapy a long time ago. When all of this started probably. He had been so fragile then. No one wanted to push the issue. Now if they wanted him to survive they had to push him. A tear rolled down her cheek. The last couple of months had been almost impossible to get through.
Worry for her brother. Concern for Phoenix. Coupled with the nagging suspicion Zach had done something really terrible. Dexter had gone missing the night he confronted Zach. What had happened between them? Had Dexter forced himself on Zach? Had Zach hurt him while he was fighting back? The police had questioned all of them before they left university. They came here to question Zach. So far they had made no arrests but the nagging thoughts persisted. She groaned audibly squeezing he eyes shut. She hated herself for even thinking Zach could be capable of hurting anyone.
The door opened behind her. She turned to face whoever it was who had come outside to join her. “Sweetie” Ramsey said his voice unusually gentle “you talked to Zach.” It was a probing inquiry. A hopeful request she could enlighten him as to what was going on inside his son’s head.
“I think he might be pregnant” she confided in him.
“Waylon’s or that….” Ramsey grimaced unable to say the other boy’s name “I’ll kill him.”
“I don’t know” she said deciding to be honest “it might be Zach’s way of making the situation more tolerable if he believes the baby is Waylon’s.”
“In other words he had sex with Waylon after whatever happened with….” he fell silent, hands balling into fists imagining what he’d do if Dexter were suddenly in front of him. “We can always do a paternity test” he conceded through clenched teeth.
“Zach won’t like that” she pointed out “Waylon will no doubt back him up.”
“So what is this Waylon guy like?” Ramsey asked.
“He’s a good guy” Teasha smiled as she recalled how he would walk Zach to and from class. “He seems to understand Zach” she leaned her head to the side “it’s almost like he knows what it’s like to be hurt.”
Ramsey nodded looking out across the night sky “if he’s such a good guy why did they break up?”
“I wish I knew” she said quietly. She stepped forward hugging her dad “I’ll try to get Zach to open up more. You know how he is. He holds everything inside until he explodes.”
He snorted in response “we’ll all continue to try.” He brushed her hair from her face. He gave her a reassuring smile “we won’t let anything happen to him. I promise we’ll get through this.”
She nodded giving him a kiss on the cheek “I know dad.” She smiled before moving to go back inside the house. Leaving him to stare out into the growing darkness.
She closed the door behind her. She expected to find the triplets watching some boring show on TV or playing video games. Instead Bruce was standing waiting expectantly for her. His light blue eyes reflected his worry. “If you’re looking for dad he’s outside” she offered feeling uncomfortable under his steady gaze.
“Thank you” he acknowledged making no move to join Ramsey outside.
“Is something wrong?” she asked becoming more certain something was up the longer they stood staring at each other.
He took a step forward engulfing her in his strong arms. “Sweetie I’m so so sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” she demanded her voice rising “what’s going on?”
Taking her hands he led her to the couch. When they were seated he said “I received a call from my Aunt…..”
“The one with contacts in the military” Teasha asked feeling her pulse quicken. “Did they find him? Is he alight? Please daddy I need to know.”
“His plane was found” Bruce confirmed “a couple of weeks ago.”
“He’s dead isn’t he?” she started to shake.
“They found him….alive” he watched her as she soaked in his words.
“Alive? He’s alive” she sniffed as fresh tears and shock swept through her. “Where is he?” she grabbed his arm clinging to him like he was her life-preserver.
“He’s in pretty bad shape” Bruce explained “he was injured from the crash, lost at sea with little to no food and water, no medical attention….” he sighed watching as the hope drained in her eyes “it’s a miracle he’s lived this long.”
“But he is….alive” she squeezed his arm.
“Yes he’s alive” he affirmed.
“I have to go to him” she jumped to her feet heading towards her room.
“Teasha wait” Bruce called after her to no avail. He followed her into her room. Stood watching as she pulled out her suitcase and began filling it. “Honey slow down a minute. You can’t just leave.”
“Why not?” she demanded “you would leave if it were one of us or dad.”
“I would” he nodded “Phoenix can’t have visitors yet and even if he could you’re not married.”
“I love him daddy” she asserted undeterred by his comments.
“I know you do” he walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her. “My point is they won’t let you see him. You’re not family. You’re not even his girlfriend.”
“What am I supposed to do” she cried dropping the shirt she was holding to the floor.
“Until he’s better and they allow visitors outside of family there isn’t much you can do.” He stroked her hair wishing there was something he could do to ease her pain.
“Except hope and pray” she mumbled against his shoulder.
“There’s plenty you can do around here” he suggested “we need all the help we can get with Zach.”
“Alright” she sniffed wiping her nose on the back of her hand.
“Use a kleenex” Bruce told her with a touch of humor.
“Sorry” she mumbled grabbing a Kleenex from the box on her nightstand.
The next day she threw a box towards her brother where he lay on his back staring at the ceiling. “What’s this?” he asked inspecting it.
“What do you think it is?” she rolled her eyes starting to lose her patience with him. “I told you I was going to get you one. Now go take it.”
He stared at her a flicker of annoyance in his eyes. “I’ll do it later” he said laying it aside on his nightstand returning his gaze to the ceiling.
“No” she put her hands on her hips “you’ll do it now. You can’t pretend nothing is wrong.”
She hadn’t slept well and combined with her worry over Phoenix her patience was at an all time low. “Take the damn test Zach.”
He jumped at the sound of her voice. “I’m sorry” he mumbled automatically. Apologizing seemed to be what he did most now. It seemed he was always doing or saying something that required it. It was an automatic reflex to raised voices and perceived slights.
“Zach I’m not mad at you” she sighed trying to get a firm grip on her emotions.
“You are” he stood taking the test. He stumbled to the bathroom eyes focused on the floor.
“Alright I am” she affirmed “I’m sorry.”
He nodded accepting her anger but not the apology. What else could he do? He closed the door behind him blotting out her face and words. Wondered what she’d do if he just said he took the test and didn’t? Several minutes later he took the damn test even though he already knew what the results would be. He’d been sick and nauseous for weeks now.
Minutes passed while sat slumped against the bathroom wall staring at the positive results. His ears were ringing as he wondered what his next move should be. He was going to be a father. Waylon was going to be a dad. He had to tell him. Would he be happy? Would he be like everyone else and assume the baby was Dexter’s?
He covered his face with his hands as an image from that night came to mind. Dexter knocking him to the dew drenched ground. The long grass concealing them from the casual viewer. Zach struggling beneath him getting in a few good hits. Dexter had been better at evading his fists than he had been. The punch that had Zach seeing stars, the weight of Dexter pinning him to the ground, the sloppy insistent kiss Dexter forced on him as his hands groped at his clothes. The sense of humiliation of what was about to happen. The helpless feeling he had at not being able to prevent it as Dexter’s hands slipped past the waist line of his jeans. The desperation that drove Zach to drive his elbow into Dexter’s nose. The blow that finally dislodged him allowing Zach to roll out from beneath him. He could still remember the way it felt as his fist connected with Dexter’s face, over and over again. Then the frightening moment when he thought he was going to die staring at the object Dexter had pulled from his jacket…..
“Zach are you alright in there?” Teasha’s voice broke through his daze ending the moment before he could remember what happened next.
Vincent perched on the edge of his bed. His room was in the process of being painted. A half assembled baby crib stood where his stereo used to be. This time next year he’d be sleeping on the couch when he came home for the summer. What were his parents thinking? People their age shouldn’t be having babies.
When he said as much the hurt in his mother’s eyes reproached him. The disappointed tone his father used when they spoke had him regretting his ill chosen words.
Laying back on his bed closing his eyes he refused to believe he was jealous of a baby that wasn’t even born yet. He had wanted a little brother or sister for years. He didn’t want one now that he’d be almost twenty when it was born. He was old enough to be its father and his parents the grandparents. What were they thinking?
He sat up wondering what his friends were doing. Teasha and Zach were out. He didn’t feel up to walking through an emotional minefield with them. Same with Divia. She spent most of her time at the hospital with her dad. He wondered about her sudden interest in her dad and the guilt she must be feeling. He had lived next door to the girl all of his life so he could only imagine what she must be going through right now.
He could call Ryan. He sat up pulling his phone out. Did he want to spend time with a guy who would do nothing but talk about his girlfriend? He was happy for the guy but he didn’t feel up to having his nose rubbed in it. Hannah? Not her either. She was just as bad as her cousin if not worse. She and Ryan were probably gloating together over their satisfactory love lives.
Feeling restless he ran up the stairs determined to find something to do other than feel sorry for himself. At times like this his thoughts always turned towards Trinity. He found himself wondering what she had wanted to tell him in the waiting room. When he had finally gotten to see the doctor she had been gone when he came out. He knew he had missed something important. After that he had gotten busy with writing term papers and studying for exams. She left soon after to see her mom in Monte Vista.
“Where are you going son?” his father’s voice came from behind him.
“Out” he muttered. It sounded harsher than he meant it to. He was so tired of his parents hovering over him.
“When will you be back?” he asked.
Shrugging Vincent rolled his head from side to side. “When I get back” he replied evasively. “I’m not a baby. I can come and go as a I please.”
“For an adult you sure act like a child” Milo said.
Vincent squeezed his eyes tight. He could hear the gentle rebuke in his father’s voice. The disappointment as well as disapproval. Sighing he turned from the door. “I just have a lot of things to think about.”
Gesturing toward the table Milo asked “want to tell me about it?”
Vincent hesitated before nodding “I don’t know what good it will do.”
“You’ll never know until you try” Milo said taking a chair and indicating for Vincent to sit down. Reluctantly his son moved to the proffered chair while Milo went to the fridge for drinks. Setting one in front of Vince he sat down opposite him. “What’s on your mind? I know you’re not happy about the baby. I have a feeling though that’s not the only thing wrong.”
Vincent stared at the soda in front of him. He reached for it. Popped it open. Took a several gulps hoping to stall long enough until his father lost interest. Setting it down he sighed “why aren’t I enough?”
Milo blinked sitting back tapping his finger tips on the table. “What gave you that idea? Your mother and I never meant for you to feel that way. We love you.”
Shaking his head Vincent could feel the same old frustration rising inside him. “No that’s not it. Yeah I was shocked, even jealous of the baby. It’s like I don’t belong here anymore.” He slapped his hand down on the old table they’ve had since before he was born. Milo got up for a cloth to wipe up the spilled soda from his overturned bottle.
“Your room” he said quietly.
“My room. That’s a laugh” Vincent crossed his arms pouting “it’s the baby’s nursery now. This time next year it’ll be full of baby things and I’ll be sleeping on the couch.”
“Vincent” Milo’s voice was firm causing Vince to look up “you’re an adult. This time next year you could have a girlfriend. You could be planning to get married. You won’t be living here forever.”
Vincent stared vacantly at the smooth surface of the table. “I know it’s just….the only girl I want won’t give me the time of day.”
“Oh” Milo chuckled “now we’re getting somewhere.” He shook his head at the scowl his son was giving him. “Son if it were only the baby and the loss of your room I’d be worried we didn’t raise you right.”
Vincent slumped back in his chair with an air of defeat. “I’m sorry” he mumbled “I’ve been acting like a spoiled brat. I know you and mom don’t have a lot of money because of me…”
“Our financial problems aren’t your fault. The medical expenses were worth it. We chose to incur the expense because we wanted the best for you. We don’t regret it. We had to be frugal with what we had. We had to do without but not once have we regretted it.” He moved around the table “we would do it all again if we had to.”
“Thanks dad” Vincent looked up at his dad tears blurring his vision.
Over the next couple of hours he confided in his parents everything that had transpired while he was away at school.
“Does she know how you feel about her?” His mom asked having joined them and moved them to the living room. She was curled up beside her husband on the couch.
Vincent shrugged from where he sat on the floor. “She told me from the start she wasn’t into relationships.”
“I think you’re missing something” Jillian persisted “she went out of her way to take care of you when you needed help.” She gave him a severe glare that said his drunken night out was going to come up again “she wanted to tell you something. I think it might be important and what you want to hear.”
“It’s too late” he whined “she’s in Monte Vista and I’m here. I’ll never know what it was.”
“Not with that attitude” she snapped “stop wallowing in self-pity and do something. If you want the girl figure something out.”
Figure something out. Easier said than done. He couldn’t just buy a plane ticket. He didn’t have the money and by the time he saved up enough school will have started. He could call but he couldn’t afford the long distance bill. Once again he could feel defeat pressing in around him.