Tag Archive | Teasha Ferris

Chapter 28 – Shattered

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Hannah jumped to her feet. “Teasha” she cried running towards one of her oldest friends. “Is Phoenix alright” she asked thinking that she was there due to his declining health.

“He’s fine” she sniffed returning her friends hug “it’s London.”

“London” she gasped “did she have an accident?”

“I wish” she shook her head “that would be so much easier if it were that simple.”

Hannah had been in the waiting room when the kids had flooded the ER from the party. Her mouth dropped open as she realized what Teasha was saying. “Oh no! She was at that party” pulled her friend into another hug. She could feel the stiffness in her body.

Stepping back she wiped her eyes dry. “Yeah. I can’t believe it. I keep thinking not my baby. Not my little girl. She’s too smart to do something so stupid. Too level headed. She wouldn’t do it.”

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“I’m so sorry” Hannah turned motioning towards the chairs “sit with me.”

Nodding Teasha let her guide her to the empty chairs. Taking tissue from her purse Hannah handed them to her. “Thank you” she sniffed after blowing her nose. “I’m still in shock. You can’t imagine how I felt getting that phone call telling you your baby is in the hospital.”

“I think I can” she murmured scanning the waiting room for her husband. Donovan had gone in search of someone to tell them something about their son.

“What” Teasha blinked up at her. “Why are you here? Don’t tell me. Temperance was there.”

“No thankfully she wasn’t” she chuckled a little “she’s done something equally as stupid though.” At Teasha’s blank look she continued. “She and two boys decided to go to the mainland to see Unity. If she would have waited I’d have brought her myself. But she couldn’t wait until I could do it. My dad’s are coming. Should be here already.” Sighing she shook her head “must be something in the water that’s making our kids do stupid things.”

“It may have been reckless but at least her heart was in the right place.” Teasha smiled at her. “Imagine how you’d have felt if it were Charity. You’d have done the same thing.”

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“Of course I would have” she cried “no questions asked. As a parent I’m forced to think of all the things that could have gone wrong. I’m scared. She’s so young and naive about a lot of things that could happen. Living on the island is isolating compared to the mainland.”

“Yet it hasn’t protected our children from the harshness of reality” she murmured, leaning her head on her friend’s shoulder.

“Reality sucks” Hannah enthused.

“You never did say why you are here” Teasha said returning to her earlier question. “If it’s not Temperance one of the boys?”

“Christopher” she said his name quickly. “We got a call to come here. That he was found on the beach. Hurt.” She turned to the other woman, “why is this happening? First Unity gets sick then London, now Christopher. What’s next?”

“I don’t know” Teasha almost felt ill. Nothing had prepared her for the fears that came along with being a parent. It never got easier no matter how old they got. “He’ll be okay” she whispered offering what little comfort she could.

“Donovan” Hannah cried breaking the hug Teasha was giving her to run to her husband. “How is he” she demanded not liking the blank glossy expression in his eyes.

***

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“Did you talk to the doctor,” she asked taking his hand knowing that whatever he found out wasn’t good. “Please tell me” she cried “I can take anything but this silence.”

“He…he” lifting his eyes to meet hers “he was raped. Someone violated our son and left him on the beach.”

Trembling in his arms as red hot tears formed behind her lids. “Who…was it that boy he went out with?” She had so many questions needing answers.

“I didn’t know he had a date” he mumbled. “If I ever get my hands on him. I’ll kill him.”

“I’ll help” she offered to angry to offer an alternative. Anyone hurting one of her kids was going to pay for it.

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“Do you know who he had a date with” he asked “the police are asking questions.”

“Can’t Christopher tell them” she asked confused.

“He’s refusing to answer their questions.” He ran his fingers through his thick red hair. “I can only imagine what’s going through his head right now.”

“Maybe I should talk to him” Hannah suggested.

“It’s worth a shot” he agreed “I just want this guy brought to justice. I’d think Chris would too.”

“He’s upset and scared right now” she reminded him. “Where is his room?”

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“I’ll show you” he took her hand leading the way down a corridor. Stopping in front of a closed door “he’s in there.”

Hannah could tell by his tone he didn’t want to go inside. “It’s alright. Wait out here. No I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you go home and see if my dad’s have arrived. I don’t want them thinking we forgot about them.”

Kissing her cheek he gave her a thin lipped smile. “I’ll do that. What do you think about your dad talking to Christopher? He’s gone through something similar when he was younger. Maybe he can get through to him where we can’t.”

“That’s a good idea” she agreed “I’m sure Christopher is wanting to pretend nothing happened and ashamed that it did happen.”

“He has nothing to be ashamed of” Donovan growled.

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“We know that but he doesn’t. He probably feels he should have done more to protect himself.” Hannah looked towards the door “I’ve heard a lot of excuses people tell themselves.”

“From your volunteer work at the shelter,” he said.

“Yeah. You know how I feel about this. I’ve seen the way it affected my dad throughout his entire life.” Putting a hand out she reached for the door handle. She never expected to put her training to use on her own son though.

The police officers looked up as she entered the room. They’d worked with her before on similar cases. She was good at getting victims to open up. “He’s all yours” the officer in charge said.

“I’ll do my best” she blinked back tears. “You might want to call someone else from the office though.”

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“Aren’t you hear from the office” he asked.

“No” she inhaled deeply taking her son’s hand. “I’m here for my son.”

Her words struck the officers speechless. “We’re sorry. We didn’t know.”

“That’s little Christopher” the older officer said “he used to come with you to the precinct full of smiles.”

“Yeah” she said somewhat distracted pushing his hair from his face. “Hopefully he’ll be that way again” she spoke with determination as if she said it enough it’d come true.

***

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“Mom” he whispered, “can you make them leave. Please.”

She ran her fingers through his long hair. It was limp and brittle like it needed to be brushed. “You know I can’t do that. They’ll leave when you tell them who did this to you.”

Moaning he buried his face in his pillow. “Nothing happened” he shouted “why won’t anyone believe me?”

“We both know that’s not true” she sat in a chair stroking his hair. She wanted nothing more than to pull him into her arms like she did when he was a little boy waking from a nightmare.

“I don’t care what they believe” his voice muffled by the pillow. “It’s what i want to have happened.”

“I know baby. I know” she talked in a calm soothing voice trying to keep both of them calm. “I wish that were true. The physical evidence …”

“Mom don’t” it was a plaintive cry “leave it alone.”

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“I can’t” she combed her fingers through his tangles. “I want to find the person who did this. Help me find him.”

“I should have been able to fight him off” he insisted on trying to turn away from her. “I thought I was able to take care of myself like I always protected everyone else.”

“Sometimes bad things happen” she soothed quoting platitudes. “Sometimes we find ourselves needing protection. You don’t have to be ashamed…”

“I should have done something” he protested.

”Why?” she demanded making him look up at her. “Is it because you’re a man? Because men are supposed to be able to take care of themselves?”

“Yes” he sobbed “I put myself in that situation. I didn’t want to go but I did anyway. I knew better.”

“Honey there’s no way you could have predicted your date would attack you. You couldn’t have known. It’s not your fault. I don’t care if you wanted to go with him. The moment you said no was when it should have stopped.” She moved to sit on the edge of the bed stroking his back. She’d done this countless times in the past when he’d woken from a bad dream or a thunderstorm. “You won’t believe it now but it will get better.”

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Nodding he accepted her words for what they were. Sighing he sat up too tired to resist. “It was Brandon.”

“The guy who helped you that one time” she asked shocked.

He leaned into her like he had as a little boy “I was uneasy all night. I only meant to have supper with him. I meant to leave right after.”

“Why didn’t you” she asked hoping she didn’t sound like she was blaming him.

“He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I didn’t know how to leave without offending him.” Wiping his eyes on the backs of his hands he continued “it was okay at first. He was handsy but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then he started to put hands places I didn’t like. He got angry when he tried to kiss me and I refused.”

“It’s alright” she whispered putting an arm around his trembling shoulders. “I’m here. He can’t hurt you now.”

Taking a deep breathe he said “he kept saying I should be grateful to him. That I owed him a kiss. It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to react. He kicked my feet out from beneath me. Pinning me to the ground.” Tears flowed down his cheeks as memories flooded his mind. “I tried to fight him. He just kept hitting me until I couldn’t.”.

***

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“Hey grandpa” Benjamin greeted giving each of them a hug. “No one’s home right now but I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

“Not even little Tempe” Rory frowned looking around. “Isn’t it getting late for her to be out.”

“Yeah well” he shrugging “she decided to hitch a ride to the mainland to visit Unity.”

Rory shook his head as Eddie leaped on what their grandson said. “What do you mean she hitched a ride? Didn’t someone go with her?”

“She was told to wait” he shrugged unconcerned. “She got impatient. Went with a couple of her friends.”

“I take it she went without permission” Rory stated a touch of pride in his voice.

“You know it” Benjamin chuckled. “You should have seen mom and dad. I’ve never seen them so mad, at least at their darling little girl.”

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“I’m sure she’ll be alright” Rory moved to assure his husband. “You and I both know Ryan and Charity will take good care of her.”

“That’s not the point” Eddie groused “she could have gotten hurt or worse….”

“She was with friends” Benjamin repeated grinning.

“Aubrey and London” Eddie asked hopefully.

“Nope a couple of boys” chuckling at the look they both gave him. “Will has been mooning over her for weeks now. I’m sure he saw this as an opportunity to play the hero.”

“Son” Donovan’s voice interrupted him “invite your grandparents inside.”

“Dad” he cried “where have you been?”

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“I’ll explain when we have your grandparents settled” Donovan said picking up a couple of bags and motioning for his son to take the rest.

Once they were inside and sitting in the living room with fresh brewed tea Eddie turned to his son in law. “What’s wrong? Where’s Hannah?”

Giving him a sad smile “never could pull anything past you.”

“It’s just unusual that Hannah isn’t here,” Eddie said.

“Nothings happened to Temperance on her little excursion I hope” Rory gave him a worried look.

“No Charity called to let us know the kids are safe and at the hospital. For now it’s best she stays there.”

“Where’s Christopher” Benjamin asked coming into the room “I wanted to ask him if I could borrow his bike tomorrow.”

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“I’m sure that’ll be okay. I doubt he’ll be wanting to go out.

Frowning Benjamin asked “what’s going on? Mom’s never out this late unless she’s been called out to help with a victim…”

Resting his elbows on his knees Donovan leaned forward kneading his neck. “Something happened this evening to your brother. He’s going to need all of us to help him through it.” Looking towards Eddie “we’re hoping you’ll be able to help us cope with this.”

Understanding and terror flashed in the older man’s eyes. He took Rory’s hand squeezing it hard “I’ll do what I can.”

Benjamin looked from one man to the next confusion prompting him to ask “what’s going on?”

Gulping loudly Donovan repeated everything he learned from the police. How Jace had found him on the beach beaten and almost catatonic. “He’s in a vulnerable state right now. We need to create a safe area for him to come home to.”

“It was that guy wasn’t it? Brendan?” Benjamin paced around the room unable to sit still. “It’s my fault. I convinced him to go out with him. If I hadn’t none of this would have happened.”

Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare /

Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare

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“Hey man I’m so sorry” Malcolm coming into the break room “I just head. I’m so sorry.”

Jeremy sniffed shaking his head. He’d heard the same words before. Said the same words. They didn’t mean a thing until you were the one the words are directed to. Meaningless stupid words meant to make the person saying them feel better.

“You’ll get through this” Malcolm assured him gripping the other man’s shoulder. “Think of your son. Tristen needs you.”

An unreasonable rage flared like a supernova inside him. Jumping to his feet fast enough to knock the chair behind over. “This is all your fault. Come to Isla Paradiso. The best place to practice medicine and raise a family.”

“Whoa” raising his hands as if to defend himself. “This isn’t my fault. I didn’t make you come here. I didn’t force your daughter to take drugs.”

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Jeremy’s face contorted sinking to his knees. “My sweet little girl” he sobbed “I couldn’t protect her. Couldn’t save her. I wasn’t there when she needed me.”

“For goodness sake man pull yourself together” Malcolm said coldly. “You’re a grown man who deals with life and death everyday.”

Several nurses shot him glares like death rays. “Who the hell do you think you are? The man just lost his daughter. Have some compassion.”

“My daughter has the good sense not to mix pharmaceuticals with alcohol.” He peered down his nose at the woman who dared speak to him in such a manner.

“Want to bet” the woman glared at him.

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“You couldn’t afford to lose” he waved a hand in dismissal. Glancing at the clock he turned his attention to his sniveling coworker. “Pull yourself together at least long enough to finish your shift.” He ignored the gasps of disapproval from the nurses gathered in the room.

Jeremy stood up rubbing his swollen eyes “I quit.”

“You can’t just quit” he objected.

“I think he just did” the nurse who had confronted him before said with a smirk.

“Don’t be ridiculous” he scoffed “you can’t just quit.”

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Walking towards the door Jeremy “as you pointed out, I have a son who needs me. I let you talk me into a different kind of lifestyle that cost me my daughter. I won’t lose him too. He and I are going home.”

“You were barely scraping by” he reminded him.

“True but we were happy. My daughter was alive.” Running a trembling hand through his hair “that’s the life I want for my son. It doesn’t matter the money or prestige.”

Watching the door slowly close behind him the nurse said “I guess you’ll be needing a replacement.”

“I guess I will” he grunted. He was about to follow Jeremy from the room when an officer stuck his head inside. “Can I help you?”

***

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“Excuse me, I’m looking for Doctor Malcolm Schmidt” the officer said stopping him.

“I’m he” he grumbled irritation making his voice gruff.

“Are you the father of Olivia Schmidt” he asked

“I am” he spoke in a terse clipped tone aware of the curious interest of the nurses behind him. “Shall we talk somewhere more private” he extended an arm inviting the officer to follow.

“Sir” the officer nodded allowing him to lead the way. “Were you aware your daughter was named as one of the organizers of this evening’s disastrous teen party?”

“That’s ridiculous” he postured “my daughter would never do that. “She wouldn’t even be at such a party.”

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The officer stared back at him letting his words hang in the air. He opened his notebook reading what looked like chicken scratches. “Several kids named her as one of the organizers. We’ve dispatched a squad car to your home to pick her up for questioning.”

“You have no right” he growled.

“I believe three dead teenagers and a dozen others in the hospital is all the rights I need” he retorted.

“She’s a minor” he blustered “you can’t question her without parental presence.”

“That’s why I’m here,” the officer informed him “I’m your escort to the police station.”

Jerking his arm away from the man’s touch Malcolm glared at him. “I can’t leave. I’ve lost on ER doctor due to this travesty. I cannot leave the ER unattended.”

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“I have my orders sir,” the officer said politely with a hard edge.

“I have responsibilities. Patients,” his voice rose. Curious onlookers stared at them.

The sound of someone clearing their throat made both men turn to look. “Doctor Olson” he gasped. Looking around at the bystanders his eyes fell upon the nurse from earlier “you called the director.”

“Of course” she shrugged “someone had to do something.”

“You’re relieved from duty” Doctor Olson said with a note of finality in his voice

Without further argument Malcolm found himself sitting beside his daughter in an interrogation room. “Daddy” Olivia cried “make them listen to me. I keep telling them they made a mistake. Tell them I wouldn’t do what they are accusing me of.” Her large eyes wide and innocent seeming despite her too tight clothing and short barely there mini skirt. Her face was caked with makeup making her look years older than her 16 years.

“Don’t say another word” he snapped “we’re not saying anything until our lawyer arrives.”

***

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Teasha held the door open for Phoenix to enter before her. There was no way she would ever be prepared to see her little girl in a hospital bed. Her eyes misted as her stomach churned as she took in the dark charcoal smudges around her mouth, bloodshot eyes and swollen lids.

“I’m sorry daddy” London sobbed holding her hands out to him.

Phoenix took them in his but it was Teasha who spoke first. “How long” fear making her voice gruff as anger gnawed at her insides.

Biting her bottom lip she stared at her feet sticking up from the thin hospital blanket. “I don’t know” she mumbled.

“You don’t know” Teasha repeated wanting nothing more than to take her daughter by the shoulders and shake her until her answers made sense. “That’s not good enough” her voice rose in the small room.

London inhaled sharply eyes darting to her father. “I never took anything before. I really wish I hadn’t today either.”

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Phoenix patted her hands “why baby? Why did you?”

“I don’t know” she mumbled shaking her head as tears threatened to break down the damn she had around her feelings.

“Don’t lie” Phoenix gazed intently back at her.

Teasha sat on the edge of the bed, shoulders shaking as her anger dissipated. “I’m sorry for yelling baby. I was so scared. The thought of losing you.” Lifting her face, tears glistened on her cheek “you’re my baby. I love you.”

“I know mom” she sniffed “I just wanted to be accepted.”

“Accepted by whom” Phoenix asked “none of your friends were at this party.”

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“Not them” she sighed “at least not the friends you know.”

Stroking her daughter’s long dark hair “did you have a falling out with Temperance and the others? Is that why you’re hanging out with kids we don’t know?”

Tucking her hair behind her ear, shaking her head. “It’s not that. I just wanted to friends who didn’t know …” Her eyes slid towards her father. Covering her face with her hands “I’m a horrible person. I’m the worst daughter ever.”

Reaching over Phoenix tenderly dried her eyes. He gave his wife a look of understanding and he could see it in her eyes that he was right. “I’m sorry sweetie but you have to tell us what you’re feeling. It’s the only way we’ll be able to help you.”

“ I wanted to be normal” she cried. It was as if the damn was broken and she couldn’t stop talking. “I was tired of being the responsible one. Never being able to do anything but work and school.” Taking a deep breath she met her father’s sincere eyes and knew how much she’d hurt him. “I didn’t want to be the girl who had to come home every day and check on you.”

Teasha’s sharp in take of breath and Phoenix’s bleak expression confirmed she was a terrible person. “I know it wouldn’t change anything. Not really. I am still that girl but for that moment I was someone else. Someone without any cares in the world.” She looked away unable to see their devastated faces anymore. She wanted nothing more than to be the little girl they thought she was. “I know saying I’m sorry isn’t worth much but it’s all I’ve got.”

***

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Quenten threw the door open leading into his son’s room. “What the hell’s wrong with you” he demanded before his brain had the chance to notice the machines in the room. His son was lying on his back eyes closed connected to several beeping machines.

Slowing as his brain caught up with his mouth he dragged himself forward. Despite what his eyes were seeing his brain insisted it had to be a mistake. A horrible joke of some kind. “Micah” his voice cracked as he reached for his son’s cold limp hand. Nothing the doctor’s had told him had prepared him for this. Nothing. He’d been told but he hadn’t believed.

He felt someone take his hand. Her words meant little to him. “Quenten” she tugged on his hand “the doctor wants to talk to us.”

Dragging his eyes from his son he tried to focus on the tired older man’s face “how is my son?”

Glancing at the boy he shook his head. “I wish I could say he’ll be alright. At this stage we were lucky to stabilize him. He’s still in critical condition. His organs are shutting down.”

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“Isn’t there anything you can do” Quenten asked hands curling into fists.

“We’ve done all we can do” he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I suggest you prepare yourselves for the worst.”

Gulping Quenten stumbled forward almost falling to his knees.

Moving fast Cassidy put an arm around him holding him close. “He’s strong. He’s going to get through this.”

Moving like a man lost in a fog he stared at his son. He dropped to his knees hands steepled in prayer. It was something he hadn’t done in years. His lips moved begging to whoever was listening for their help.

Cassidy followed his example kneeling beside him. Dante stood back watching. One thought running through his head. What if he had told his dad sooner. Maybe this could have avoided? This was his fault. He could have saved his brother if he’d only acted sooner.

Chapter 26 – Disturbing News /

Chapter 26 – Disturbing News

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Douglas sat on the opposite end of the couch from where Kyle sat. He could feel Kyle giving him quick little glances like he wanted to say something. “What?”

“Are you still mad at me?”

Without taking his eyes from the TV Douglas asked “what makes you think I’m mad?”

“Oh I don’t know” he moved his hand indicating the space between them. “Maybe the fact you refuse to sit by me.”

“Maybe you stink” Douglas said trying to keep his face straight but his lips twitched.

Making a production of smelling his pits Kyle shook his head. “I don’t. So what’s up?”

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“You can’t be that dense” Douglas complained.

“I know I was getting on your nerves at the store. I thought you’d have gotten over that by now.” He heaved a sigh “I’m sorry.”

“Really” he asked laying the pillow he’d been hugging to himself between them. “Are you really sorry or are you just saying that because you think it’s what I want to hear?”

Grinning Kyle scooted closer “both.”

“Figures” he chuckled putting a hand on Kyle’s face before he could lean in and give him a kiss. “You’re not that charming to get away with such a lame apology.”

Rolling over onto the floor Kyle got on his knees in front of Douglas. A mischievous glint in his eyes “do you want a demonstration of how sorry I am?”

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Running his tongue across his bottom lip anticipating whatever Kyle had in mind. “A demonstration would be most welcome. He leaned back, eyes closed. The movie playing in the background all but forgotten as Kyle released his zipper. The discordant sound of his phone a jarring interruption.

Groaning he brought the phone up “hello.”

“Are you alright” his sister asked in his ear.

“I’m fine” he tried to get Kyle to quit to no avail. “What do you want?” he asked trying to keep his voice normal.

“Do you think you could stay with Kyle for a few days?”

“I don’t see that being a problem” he bit down on his lip to keep from moaning.

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“Are you sure?” she asked, “I don’t want to put him out?”

“Sis I’ve got to go” he disconnected letting his phone fall from his fingers. Moaning loudly as Kyle worked his magic on him.

Grinning Kyle crawled into his lap “what did your sister want?” he asked between kisses.

“She wanted to see if I could stay here for a few days” he managed to say between kisses that were becoming more and more heated. “I hope that’s alright with you.”

“Depends”

“On what” he asked as if he didn’t already know.

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“I’ll need plenty of hugs and kisses” he tugged on Douglas’s shirt “among other things.”

“What would those other things entail?”

“Let me demonstrate” he said grinding against him.

“What if I wanted to watch a movie” he asked not really caring if Kyle had wanted to cuff him to the bed for days.

“There’s plenty of time for that later” he stood up taking Douglas’s hand and leading him to the bedroom. “Right now there’s more pressing needs.”

“I know exactly what you need to relieve that pressure” he grinned reaching for his boyfriend.

***

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“Jace what’s so urgent that I had to drop everything to come over here” Jason demanded walking into his best friends place.

Pointing towards Christopher sitting like a statue on the couch as silent tears rolled down his cheeks. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Jason gasped seeing his childhood friend in such a state. He wondered how Jace had been able to function so far being more of a scardy cat who jumped at his own shadow. “Do you know what happened?” he asked even though he doubted he knew.

“I….” taking a deep breath as the reality of the moment came crashing down upon him. “I found him like that. On the beach crying. I barely got him here.”

“Should have called the police or an ambulance” Jason said frowning at his friends almost catatonic state.

“No” Christopher moaned shaking his head “no police.”

“Well” scratching his head “at least let us take you to the hospital to get checked out.”

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“No police” he repeated looking away.

“No police” Jason promised “just a doctor to fix you up.”

“Okay” he whispered letting Jason pull him to his feet. “I should have known better. Done something.”

“Don’t worry about that now,” he said “let’s get you fixed up.”

Turning to Jace he said “call his parents.”

Staring at his phone like it had grown a head “what do I say?”

He could hear the panic in his friend’s voice. He obviously had reached his limit. “Tell them that your a friend of Christopher’s and that he’s been hurt and to meet you at the hospital.”

“What if they start asking questions” his face blanched.

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“Just do it Jace” he snapped losing his patience as he struggled to keep Christopher upright.

Staring into space a moment before calling out “wait for me. I’m coming with you.” Pulling Christopher’s other arm over his shoulder “I’ll call from the car.”

Jason cringed listening to Jace’s conversation. Maybe he should have called himself but he couldn’t do it and drive too.

“They’ll meet us there” Jace said breathing hard. “I hope I never have to do that again.”

“You and me both” Jason agreed.

By the time they’d gotten Christopher inside and being looked at by an overworked doctor his parents arrived. “What happened?” Hannah demanded as soon as she saw Jason.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m hoping the doctor will be able to tell us something.”

***

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Glancing at her husband Teasha could see he had the same worried expression on his face as she did. “You’re worried too aren’t you?”

Nodding he tried to force a smile on his face. “I wonder if we forced her to grow up too fast. Too soon. She never got to be a child.”

Reaching for his hand “this isn’t your fault. Every teenager rebels against responsibility at some point.

“This is more than the average teen rebellion” he persisted “we’ve pushed her beyond her tolerance.”

“You still think she’s the one taking your pain meds, don’t you?”

“I do” squeezing her hand “I know you think it’s me not remembering taking them but I know it’s not me.”

“Alright let’s say you’re right” Teasha said. “Why is she taking them? I haven’t noticed any drastic changes in her attitude or behavior.”

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“Neither have I accept for her reluctance to help out around the house.” Shaking his head “all I know is she looks guilty every time we bring up the pills.”

“I’ve noticed that too” sighing “I don’t know what to do. Why didn’t she tell us she was having a problem?”

“I don’t know” Phoenix shook his head “maybe she was afraid of disappointing us.”

“We need to sit her down and have a good long talk with her” she said.

“The last time we tried that she refused to talk” Phoenix reminded her. “We don’t want her feeling cornered.”

“Then what” she cried.

“Let me think about it” he said “maybe a little father daughter time will help.”

“If that doesn’t work I’ll give it a try” she said giving him a tearful sniff. “I hope we’re not too late though.”

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The ringing of her phone interrupted them. “Hello” Teasha said “OMG. Is she alright?” Looking at Phoenix eyes wide with shock. “We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

“What’s happened” Phoenix demanded watching as tears slid down his wife’s porcelain cheeks. “Teasha tell what’s happened.”

“London…she’s being taken to the hospital.” She gulped “she was at a party. Several of the kids had gotten ill.”

Blinking as he absorbed her words “is she alright?” He struggled to breath through lungs that felt as if they’d been flattened by a steam roller.

“We need to go to the hospital,” she repeated. “That’s all I know. They wouldn’t tell me anything else.”

“Okay go” he said as much as he wanted to be there to support his wife and daughter he knew it would take less time if Teasha went alone.

“I can’t do this alone” she cried pushing him towards the door. “I need you there with me.”

***

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“How long have you known Micah has been going to these parties?” Quentin demanded his voice rising bouncing off the walls.

“I didn’t know for sure. At least not until tonight” he glanced towards Cassidy as if asking for help.

“You suspected” Quinten yelled “you should have told me.”

“Yeah right” he scoffed, “the only thing on your mind has been your new wife. You didn’t care how we felt about you getting married. If you had, maybe Micah wouldn’t have needed to turn to drugs and parties.”

“Don’t blame this on me or your step mother” he thundered.

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“Of course not” Dante rolled his eyes “blame me for not telling you. Don’t accept responsibility for the fact you weren’t paying attention. Maybe if you had noticed ….”

“I’ve had just about enough of your smart mouth.” His nostrils flared breathing hard. The chime of his phone distracted him enough to pull it out. “What” he shouted “he’s what? Where? Is he alright?”

He sat heavily on the couch holding his head in his hands. Cassidy moved towards him touching his shoulder “what happened? Was it Micah? Is he alright?”

“That was the police” he said wrapping his arms around her waist. “Micah’s been taken to the hospital. Evidently several kids have been taken to the hospital.” He raised angry accusing eyes towards his son.

“Quentin” his wife warned “whatever you’re about to say don’t.”

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“But he” he jerked to his feet.

Tugging on his hand “don’t say it. You’re upset. You’re not thinking straight. Don’t say something you’ll regret later.”

Taking several deep breaths he nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. We need to get to the hospital. They wouldn’t tell me how he was doing.”

“He’s going to be alright” Cassidy assured him. “We have to think positively.”

Getting up Quintin headed towards the door like a man on a mission or possibly living his worst nightmare. He could only hope his son was alright. He just couldn’t lose him.

Chapter 25 – Running / Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare

Glitter – Chapter 9 – Seek Beauty

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It had been a day since London had announced she needed a break from all the responsibility she was under. Teasha couldn’t help but wonder if she had really put that much stress on her daughter. That had never been her intention. A tear rolled down her cheeks “what have I done” she cried.

Tugging on her hand Phoenix gave her a worried look. “Don’t blame yourself. I should have let you hire the live in help you suggested. Maybe if you had this could have been avoided.”

“It’s not your fault” she protested giving his hand a squeeze.

“Than whose is it” he asked “London is reacting like any normal teenager would. She’s tired of taking care of me.”

“No” she gently lowered herself onto his lap. “Don’t do this. London loves you. Sure she gets upset because she doesn’t have the average life other kids her age have. That doesn’t mean she loves you any less. In time she’ll learn that her friends have problems she doesn’t have. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

“I know” he sighed running his hands up her arms. “I just can’t help but wonder if we expect too much from her. She shouldn’t have to take care of me on top of getting good grades and keeping a jog.”

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“If it makes you feel better” Teasha nodded with determination “I’ll call the agency and arrange to have someone come over during the day.”

“Oh” he murmured glancing away.

“Hey” she gently moved his face towards her “don’t shut me out. I thought that’s what you wanted. Tell me it’s not and I won’t call.”

“It’s not that” he leaned forward resting his forehead against her. “It’s just suddenly real. I won’t be even remotely independent.”

“They’re not going to keep you from doing what you want” she protested “they’re just going to help you when you need it.”

“It feels different when it’s not your family” he lifted sad eyes to meet hers. “It doesn’t make sense I know. It’s just how I feel.”

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“It’ll take time to adjust” she lifted his chin up “if it doesn’t work out we’ll try something else.”

“Alright” he agreed letting her kiss his lips. On his worst days he often wondered if he should have told Teasha to forget all about him. Maybe things would have been better for all of them if he had.

“Don’t” she cautioned.

“Don’t what” he grumbled wishing he had legs that worked so he could easily go some place on his own to think.

“Shut me out” Teasha stroked his face “I love you. London loves you. You know she does.”

He chuckled a little “I know I just worry I’m the reason she’s like this.”

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Teasha gave him a smile “I’ll talk to  her. I promise.” Snuggling into him she rested her cheek on his shoulder. She didn’t want him to see the worry in her eyes. She was afraid this was more than their daughter rebelling against the rigors of taking care of her dad or the rigid rules of that were in place to insure Phoenix received the best care they could provide him. There was something more.

Phoenix stroked her long dark hair that was just beginning to show strands of gray. He hadn’t missed the hooded looked in her eyes. He knew she was trying to hide her concern from him. He hated being trapped in this chair. At times he felt more of an invalid when his wife and daughter tried to shield him from the problem. He wished she would allow him to help. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

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“I know” she whispered softly “sometimes I forget. I’m sorry.”

“Something’s bothering you about London” he said watching her closely.

“Yes” she sighed leaning into him “I think there’s more to it then her wanting a break.”

“The pain meds” he asked.

“Yeah if you didn’t take them…” she let her half formed thought fade.

“Then she did” he finished for her.

Nodding she sniffed a little “it’s a dangerous slope she’s on and I’m scared.”

“So am I” she squeezed her tight “what do we do about it?”

“I don’t know” she admitted” but we have to do something.”

***

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“You’re late” Dante stated the moment he heard his brother come home.

“Look who learned to tell time” Micah clapped his hands scowling at his older brother. “Where’s Dad?”

“Upstairs” Dante rolled his eyes “where else would they be?”

“Then why all all the attitude over me being a little late” he demanded flopping into a chair.

“I’ve had to listen to them” Dante whined “they’re not exactly quiet.”

“You’ve got a point” Micah conceded “but you could have gone outside or something.”

“It’s my house too” Dante protested “why can’t they be considerate of us?”

Shrugging Micah shook his head. There was no answer to that. It was a complaint he’d heard before. Deciding not to add fuel to his brother’s complaints he asked “what’s the emergency?”

Before Dante could respond their father came into the room. “Nice of you to join us” Quentin groused adjusting his clothes. Cassidy followed close behind her new husband sitting beside Dante on the couch.

Micah glared at his father. “It’s not like you were waiting for me” he gave Cassidy a sideways glance his lips thinning at the irritating sound of her repressed giggles.

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“That’s beside the point” Quentin glared “you were supposed to be home an hour ago. Where were you?”

“I’ve got things to do and places to go” Micah shrugged nonchalantly.

“Cut the crap” Quentin snapped crossing his arms.

“Why don’t you act your age” Micah demanded jumping to his feet.

“Sit down” his father ordered.

“I’m not a dog” he growled intent on leaving the room.

“Get back here” Quentin called “we’re not done.”

Ignoring him Micah walked from the house. The pictures on the living room wall vibrated from the force of the slamming door.

“Do you know what’s up with your brother” Quentin demanded.

Shrugging Dante shook his head. If Micah wanted him to know then he’d have told them. Until then he wasn’t going to be the one to squeal on him.

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“You must know something” Cassidy tried to persuade him.

Flinching from her touch Dante jumped to his feet. “Maybe it’s you” he shouted running from the room and up the stairs to his room.

Sitting beside his wife Quentin sighed taking her hand “I don’t know what’s gotten into them.”

“I think it’s obvious” Cassidy spoke softly her hair falling into her eyes. “They don’t want a new mother.”

“They’ll adjust. Just give it time” he brushed her hair back “I promise things will get better.”

“I’m not so sure about that” she tried to smile up at him despite the tears floating in her eyes.

“Maybe this wasn’t a good idea” she murmured.

“This isn’t your fault” he insisted “the boys will grow to like you. They just need time to get to know you.”

The expression in her eyes showed she wasn’t convinced. “I think we were to wrapped up in how we felt that we didn’t stop to consider how it would affect them.”

***

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Raven came to a skidding halt a few feet from where Will sat glumly staring into space. “Hey what’s up” he asked letting his bike fall to the ground without attempting to use the kickstand.

“I hate this place” he complained holding his head in his hand.

“We can go someplace else” he offered.

“I didn’t mean this place I meant here in general” Will grumbled “I want to go home.”

“This is your home now” Raven said sitting on the ground beside his friend.

“You don’t understand” he snapped “your parents are still together. Your mom didn’t drag you halfway across the world from everyone and everything you know.”

“True” Raven acknowledged “I don’t know what that feels like. I imagine it’s terrible. But I thought you said your Dad was a jerk and that’s why you moved.”

“He is” he mumbled “that doesn’t mean I want to be here or see mom dating someone else.”

“Ah that’s it then” Raven said as if a light had just went off inside his head. “Afraid your mom will fall in love again….”

“I already have a dad” he growled “I don’t need another.”

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“Still that no excuse for the way you’ve been acting” Raven pointed out.

“I haven’t been that bad” he protested getting to his feet.

“Wanna bet” Raven challenged.

“Alright” Will stuck his chin out stubbornly refusing to accept what Raven was hinting at. “Tell me one time where I’ve been a jerk to someone. I mean without a reason.”

Considering the challenge Raven knew how to wipe the insufferable smirk from Wills face. “How about the time you knocked Temperance Bennett down and refused to help her home?” He knew he had him when Will looked away kicking at the loose gravel. “I may not like the girl but even I know that was a jerk move.”

“You don’t like any girl” Will said as if that was reason enough to dismiss his friends words.

“That’s beside the point” he said in a stern almost angry tone. “A jerk move is a jerk move no matter the gender involved. I also recall how a few weeks ago how you told me how much you liked the girl.” He could see he was getting to his friend by the way the color in Will’s cheeks deepened. “You even went so far as to say you thought she was beautiful. A goddess among girls.”

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“I did not” Will protested “I never said she was a goddess.” He looked away the wind blowing his already messy hair. Releasing an aggravated sigh he asked “was I really that bad?”

“What do you think” Raven asked.

Kicking at some loose pebbles Will’s shoulders rose and fell “I guess I ought to apologize.”

“That would be a step in the right direction” he agreed.

“Her dad’s going to kill me” Will mumbled.

“If her brothers don’t beat him to it” Raven said clapping him firmly on his back “at least you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing her face again before you die.”

“Ha ha very funny” Will snapped without amusement. A goofy grin replaced the sour expression he had been wearing when he said “but at least I’ll die happy. I mean who wouldn’t want to see her pretty face right before they died?”

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“Ugh” Raven moaned “spare me the details.”

Smiling at his friend Will asked “have you told Mr Wonderful yet?”

It was Raven’s turn to look away “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Uh huh” he nodded enjoying himself “you’re about to get your chance.”

Turning Raven groaned closing his eyes as if he were in pain “that’s not who I think it is, is it?”

“Depends on who you think it is” Will laughed out loud at his friend as he looked around desperately for someplace to hide.

***

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“Hey” Will waved at the approaching boys. “What’s up” he asked as they waved back.

“Not much” Aaron shrugged.

“Says you” Riley grumbled at his older brother.

“I’m not the one working myself up into a coronary” Aaron rolled his eyes. “Casanova here has been rehearsing what to say when he asks a girl out.”

“There’s a first time for everything” Raven mumbled staring at the ground.

“Tell me how it’s done” Riley begged eager to have someone else’s input other than his brothers.

“You’re asking the wrong person” Will snorted.

“Shut it” Raven warned glaring at him.

“I’ll take any advice” Riley said desperate for help.

“He can’t help you” Will insisted.

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“Can’t or won’t” Riley eyed Raven suspiciously.

“Can’t” Will said “he’s never asked a girl out either.”

“Oh” air escaped him in a defeated sigh. “I guess I’m doomed then.”

“Just tell her you like her” Aaron urged “what’s so hard about that?”

“It sounds easy enough” Riley agreed uncertainly “it’s not like you know. You’ve never asked a girl out either.”

“Doesn’t matter” Aaron shrugged glaring at his brother “it’ll work regardless of gender.”

“Why don’t you demonstrate how it’s done” Will suggested pushing Raven forward “ask Raven out.”

“Um” Raven gave Will a desperate look that somehow conveyed his need for help and the wish to kill at the same time. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

Shrugging Aaron stepped forward “I don’t see why not. It’s not like I’m actually asking you out or anything.”

“Yeah right” Raven agreed. Hesitantly he stepped forward struggling to breath. He looked up at the boy who occupied a place in his most erotic dreams.

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Smiling nonchalantly Aaron winked at him. A small smirk spread across his face as if he knew exactly the effect he was having on the other boy. “I’ve been meaning to ask you  something for a long time now.”

Raven squeaked when Will nudged him forward reminding him he was supposed to say something. “Um yeah what’s that” he gave Aaron an almost pleading look.

“I like you a lot and would like to know if you’d like to go out with me sometime” Aaron stepped forward staring into the other boys eyes.

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Panic flashed in Raven’s eyes a moment before he too stepped forward. The next thing he knew he was smashing his lips into Aaron’s. A dream come true except Aaron wasn’t reciprocating. He was standing there frozen. Thinking it was from disgust Raven broke free and fled the area as fast as his feet could carry him.

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“Is that a yes” Aaron yelled after him laughing hard at the retreating boy.

“Don’t be mean” Riley cautioned “he’s embarrassed enough.”

“He has nothing to be embarrassed about” Aaron smiled “that kiss was nice” turning to Will “does he like me?”

“That’s fairly obvious don’t you think” he shook his head “you’re not going to beat him up are you?”

Riley knew that despite the bland look Aaron wore his eyes were bright with excitement. “You like him too don’t you?”

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Shrugging Aaron said “I didn’t say that. All I did was give you a demonstration of how to ask someone out. Hope you learned something from it.” Turning he walked away in the opposite direction that Raven had disappeared into.

“What do you think just happened here” Riley asked Will confusion making his voice squeaky.

“I think if I wasn’t already a dead man walking Raven would kill me” Will said with a devil may care grin.

“You set them up” Riley laughed enjoying the moment someone was able to get something over on his older brother.

“Maybe” he shrugged “I’ll never tell.”

Chapter 8 – Style of Wisdom / Chapter 10 – Beauty Finds Me

Glitter – Chapter 8 – Style of Wisdom

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“Maybe Kaia’s dad is right” Temperance suggested watching her friend leaning against a tree catching her breath.

“It’s just a little nosebleed” Unity objected.

“Yeah maybe the first two not the four or five that came afterwards.” She crossed her arms “I don’t think that’s normal.” She nibbled on her bottom lip not wanting to mention how pale Unity had become. For someone who had spent all her life on the island she should have been a lot tanner.

“Don’t look at me like that” she dried “I’m pale because I’m inside a lot more lately.”

“I guess” Temperance said unconvinced.

“If I was really sick don’t you think I’d know it” Unity insisted “I’m fine.”

“Promise me if you get anymore nosebleeds you’ll tell your mom” Temperance insisted.

“There’s nothing wrong with me” Unity pushed her away “don’t worry.”

Walking backwards Temperance said “if you die I’m going to kill you.”

“I’m not going to die” she giggled.

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“Hey watch it” a boy called out right before he plowed into Temperance.

Unity ran to where Temperance lay sprawled on the ground “Temp are you alright?”

“Get this goon off me” she cried struggling beneath the bulk of a young teenage boy.

“I have a name you know” he grumbled getting to his feet.

“Why should I care what your name is” Temperance demanded inspecting herself for damage. A couple of bruised and scraped knees. Nothing much. She looked up sharply when Unity gasped in shock. “What’s wrong?”

“I know you” Unity pointed at the boy “you’re my cousin.”

The boy gave her a hostile glare. “Our mothers were adopted by step siblings. I don’t see how that makes us anything.”

“Excuse me for trying to include you in the family” Unity wrinkled her nose at him.

“Um guys” Temperance winced as she attempted to put weight on her right ankle. “My foot really hurts.”

“What do you want me to do about it” Will growled.

“You could carry her or something” Unity demanded “it’s your fault she’s hurt.”

“Is not” he protested “she’s the one walking backwards not paying attention.”

“Why don’t you just go” Temperance interrupted the boy her best friend had been arguing with. “I’ll just call my dad to come get me. You should stay though. I’m sure my dad will want to meet the boy who hurt his little girl then refused to see her home safely.”

“Why would he want to do that” he asked without thinking it through.

“You really are dumb” Unity slapped the back of his head. “Her dad will beat you up.”

“I’d like to see him try” the boy challenged confident he could take on an old man. Listening to Temperance as she spoke to her dad he decided to leave changing his mind. “I’m out of here” he scooped up his skateboard and took off downhill.

“Coward” Unity called after him.

Temperance giggled as she sat down to rub her ankle. “I don’t know…he was kind of cute.”

“Really Temp” Unity shook her head at the girl “only you would think that he was cute.”

***

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“Were you embarrassed when the girls were ogling your dad” Aubrey asked her best friend.

“Well” Kaia shrugged “maybe a little. I mean they’re my age and he’s my dad. It was just kind of gross.” They walked for a while silence “what about you? Didn’t you think he was cute?”

“Not really” her blond curls blew around her face. She gave her friend a penetrating look “if I tell you something you have to promise not to tell anyone.”

“I promise” Kaia vowed glad the girls had accepted her into their group.

“I’m not really into guys” she whispered. She stepped backwards blinking in surprise as Kaia erupted into giggles.

“Is that all” she cried “I was expecting some deep dark secret. Maybe an admission of who you like.”

“You act like you already know” Aubrey pouted.

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“It’s not like it’s a secret. I see the looks you give London when you think no one is looking.” Kaia giggled making a face at her friend “I promise I won’t tell.”

“Pinky swear” Aubrey held her pinky up.

“Pinky swear” Kaia agreed linking fingers together. “Are you going to tell her?”

Glancing away she slowly shook her head. “I don’t know. I mean I tried once but she kept interrupting me and changing the subject.”

“Sounds like she’s not ready or not interested” Kaia surmised. “Who else is there?”

“What do you mean” Aubrey asked.

“You know what I mean. Keli. I’ve seen the way she looks at you.” She gave Aubrey a knowing grin. “You should ask her out.”

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“I’ll think about it” Aubrey said kicking dirt around with the tip of her shoes. “Do you really think she likes me?”

Kaia stared into her friends hopeful blue eyes. “There’s only way to know for sure. You have to ask her.”

Biting her lip she gave it some thought. “I don’t know. I mean I haven’t even told my parents yet. Me showing up with a girl on my arm isn’t the way I want to let them know I’m gay.”

What are you waiting for” Kaia asked. “I’m sure they’ll support you. I mean they have gay friends. What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid” she protested in a loud squeaky voice. “I’m their only child. What if they want grandchildren someday?”

“You’re not making sense” Kaia shook her head. “Lesbian couples have babies all the time not to mention adoption.” She gave her friend a serious look “what’s with all the excuses?”

“I’m not making excuses” she protested “I’m weighing all my options.”

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“Life isn’t perfect” Kaia said “sometimes it’s messy. Uncontrollable. Things happen when you least expect it.”

“Not for me” Aubrey shook her head “I know exactly how things should go.”

“What if I tell you Keli’s walking towards us right this second” Kaia asked giggling at the horrified expression on her friend’s face.

Grabbing Kaia’s hand Aubrey took off running along a side road that would take them twice as long to get home. Running alongside Kaia demanded “what’s wrong with you? You could have just asked her. Now you’ll have to explain why you ran away. If she lets you explain.”

“I wasn’t ready” Aubrey gulped for air “it wasn’t perfect.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect” Kaia felt like shaking the frustrating girl. “Your drive for perfection just might cost you more than your prepared to pay.”

“I know” she crossed her arms “I can’t help it.”

***

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“Hey Micah” she waved at the boy riding towards her.

Stopping Micah sauntered over to her “did you enjoy the party last weekend?”

“Yeah….sure” she gave him a weak smile “my hurt for days afterwards though.”

“You’ll get used to it” he assured her “so we’re planning another one on Friday.”

“I don’t know” she looked away “we may be out-of-town…”

“Everyone’s counting on you” he protested “I told them you’d be there.”

“I can’t” she shook her head trying to take off on her bike when Micah reached out and grabbed the handle bars.

“What’s your hurry” he demanded “surely your dad can get along without you for a few hours.”

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“Let go” she pleaded.

“Not until you tell me you’ll be there” he insisted giving her a level gaze.

“I can’t” she cried “my mom will get suspicious if I take too many too often. The bottle is pretty low.”

“I’m sure your mom has already ordered a refill” Micah said using his most persuasive tone.

“My dad needs these pills” she objected her stomach twisting in panic.

“Hey you’re the one who wanted a way to escape reality” he pointed out “you liked how it made you feel didn’t you?”

Nodding her cheeks burning with guilt over what she had done. Sneaking her dad’s pain medication. Letting her mom believe he was taking more than he should. The constant arguments. “I can’t do it” tears rolled down her cheeks.

“You want to feel good again don’t you” he asked gently wiping her tears away. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape reality. The release from all the pressure your parents put you under.”

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“Please” she begged “don’t make me do this.”

“I’m not making you do anything” he let his hand fall away from the handlebars of her bike. “I know you don’t want your friends to suffer anymore than you want to suffer. Believe me we’ll suffer if you don’t come.”

“Leave me alone” she begged taking off as fast as she could on the dusty island road. She could feel Micah staring after her. He was so sure she’d do as he requested. Could she afford to lose the only thing that helped her cope?

She felt lethargic and heavy all day after the party. She could live with that if it meant she could feel that wonderful weightless feeling again. It made her feel like she could do anything. No worries. No responsibilities. The opposite of what her life was really like. With a heavy heart she opened the door to find her parents waiting for her.

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“You were supposed to be home an hour ago” her mother cried as soon as she opened the door.

“I went to the beach with the girls” she stammered.

“The least you could have done was text us to let us know you were alright” her mom said.

“I know I’m sorry” she cried “it won’t happen again I promise.”

“I’ve heard that before” Teasha crossed her arms “what’s up with you?”

“Why does something have to be wrong with me” London shouted “don’t I deserve a break? None of my friends have to come home and take care of their dad.” She ran up the stairs ignoring the stunned looks being exchanged between her parents.

***


379“Are you ready to go” Mindy asked as she came into her office.

Jumping a little Coral placed a hand to her chest. “Oh” she gasped.

“I didn’t mean to scare you” Mindy said watching her.

“No it’s not that” she shut her Kindle down. “I was so absorbed in the book I was reading. You just startle me.”

“Sorry” she apologized “are you ready to go?”

“Soon” Coral gathered her things “did you finish that design you were working on?”

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“Almost” Mindy mumbled “I couldn’t concentrate…”

“I shouldn’t have bothered you” Coral cried believing she was the distraction.

“It’s not your fault” she assured the jumpy girl. “I’ve been having trouble with this design from the start. Something just isn’t right.” Shrugging Mindy sighed “I just can’t figure it out.”

“Can I see” Coral asked. She could see the reticence in Mindy’s eyes. “Never mind it’s alright. It’s like trying to read a book while the author is still writing it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok” Mindy smiled “you don’t have to apologize. I’m a solitary worker. I don’t often show my designs with anyone until they’re complete. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”

“It’s ok I understand” Coral assured her walking from the room. “It doesn’t keep me from being curious though.”

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“It’s a good thing my work room is locked” Mindy said locking the office door and turning the lights off as she went. “I wouldn’t want you succumbing to curiosity.”

“Don’t worry I won’t let it kill me” Coral giggled “sorry it’s the saying curiosity killed the cat. I’m not a cat so …. Um yeah.”

“You need to relax” Mindy said ushering her out of the boutique. “I know what you were trying to say

“Sorry” she mumbled “I ramble when I get nervous.”

“What’s to be nervous about” Mindy asked leading the way to the car.

“What time is it” Coral asked staring up at the darkening sky.

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“Almost ten” she shrugged “I got carried away.”

“I had no idea it was no later” Coral said “I must have really been absorbed in my book to notice the passage of time.”

“Are you hungry” Mindy asked “I might be able to scrounge something up at home but I haven’t been shopping in weeks.”

“I’m good” she patted her bag “I have granola bars. Want one?”

“Yes please” Mindy held her hand out “I’m starving.”

“If your hungry why don’t we go through a drive thru or something” Coral demanded.

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“Aren’t you tired” Mindy asked “I know you want to get to be sometime tonight.”

“I’m fine” she rolled her eyes “it’ll take a few extra minutes and if I’m that tired I could sleep in the car.”

“Well if you don’t mind” Mindy made a u-turn and back tracked to the center of town. “Would you like anything” she asked as they waited their turn in the drive thru.

“Um” her stomach growled reminding her that it had been a long time since lunch. “A big mac.”

“With fries” Mindy asked with a grin.

“Make it a meal. Change the coke to a strawberry shake” Coral instructed.

Chapter 7 – Seek to Know Truth / Chapter 9 – Seek Beauty

Glitter – Chapter 5 – Everything Nice

325

“Daddy” London glanced up from her desk where she was working on her homework. “Did you need something?” She had seen him straining to reach something that was just out of his reach on the floor.

“My pillow” he said sitting back with an irritated scowl. “It fell out of my chair” he attempted to reach for it again stretching as far as he could. His fingers scraped the edges of it but no dice.

Moving quickly London retrieved the pillow. “Is that better” she asked placing the pillow behind his back. She watched him for a moment looking for signs of discomfort.

“Do I pass inspection” he asked catching her watching him.

Instead of answering London threw her arms around him. “I love you Daddy” she cried squeezing him tight.

“I love you too sweetheart” he reciprocated attempting to mask the pain her unexpected hug ignited.

“Daddy” she sounded worried “are you ok?”

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“Sure I’m fine” he lied giving her a huge grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You don’t have to lie to me to protect my feelings” she reprimanded him. “I can tell you’re in pain.”

He gave her a quizzical look “you can?”

“Yeah it’s in your eyes” she touched his skin around his eyes “you’re all tense right through here.”

“Sorry” he apologized “I am in pain. The air is too cold and humid around here.”

“Do you your pain meds” she inquired “I can get them for you. Mom showed me how just in case.”

“No not yet I can manage” shaking his head rueful “at least until Mom gets home.”

“Are you sure” she asked her voice taking on a tone he knew she picked up from her mom. “The best way to manage pain is to nip it in the beginning before it gets too bad.”

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Looking at his daughter he nodded in agreement. It was amazing this grown up little person was only ten years old. She spoke about pain management like it was a normal everyday topic of conversation. He supposed it was for her. “If you know where Mom keeps it then I’ll take some.” He regretted the necessity of needing a gatekeeper on his own meds; especially his ten year old daughter. Unfortunately it was necessary after he had inadvertently taken too many when one of his other meds affected his memory and he couldn’t remember when or how many he had taken. It was a scary time for all of them.

Without hesitation London went to retrieve the meds for her dad. Returning she held out a glass of water along with a couple of pills to him. “Take these Daddy” she instructed.

“Thank you sweetheart” he murmured accepting her offerings. It was depressing to think how fast his little girl was having to grow up because of him and his condition. He wanted her to have a normal life not one that included taking care of him.

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“Don’t be sad Daddy” she gave him a grin “I like helping. I’m going to be a doctor one day. I’m going to make sure no one else has to be in a wheelchair.”

“Don’t you want to be something more exciting” he asked feeling guilty for robbing her of her carefree childhood. It reminded him too much of how he had joined the military thinking that was how he could honor his father who died for his country. He didn’t want London feeling obligated to follow a course she thought he wanted her to do.

“What could be more exciting then helping people” she asked “I love you Daddy. I like helping you. I hope one day I can help other families not have to go through what we do.”

The conviction in her soft spoken voice was enough to ease his conscience. He knew her goals could change as she got older but so far it hadn’t wavered since she was old enough to know what a doctor was and why her daddy was permanently attached to a chair with wheels.

***

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Late that evening Teasha joined Phoenix in their room. “How did she take the news” he asked.

“As well as could be expected” she gave him a tired smile.

“I suppose she hates me now” he mumbled looking away.

Silently Teasha crossed the room. Gently she knelt beside his chair holding his face. “Our daughter loves you. She understands this will help you.”

“But” he blinked back frustrated tears as they rolled down his cheeks. “She shouldn’t have to sacrifice her happiness for my health.”

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“She’ll see her friends every summer” Teasha assured him “she’ll be ok.”

“She’ll have to go to a different school” he said “she likes it here. I just don’t think we should uproot her from everything she knows.”

“I agree it’s going to be difficult and it’ll take time to adjust but we have to do this. Believe me when I tell you she’d rather have you than any of the things she’ll be giving up in the move.” Stroking is face remembering the way it once was so full of life. “You’ll see this will be good for all of us.”

“I hope so” he leaned his forehead against hers. “I just don’t want her hating me because of this.” Closing his eyes he knew all too well how difficult it had been on his family to move every few years. Being an army brat meant moving wherever his dad was stationed at. His younger brother resented each and every move. Phoenix didn’t want that for his daughter. He never wanted to see his daughter looking at him the way his brother looked at their dad.

“She won’t” Teasha assured him. “She loves you. She wants you to be healthy. She’ll understand why we need to move. You’ll see it won’t be as traumatic as you think.”

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A soft knock on their bedroom door interrupted them. “Come in” Teasha called squeezing his hands hoping to reassure him.

“Mom. Dad” London murmured as she entered their room. Her eyes were red rimmed “are you sure we have to move?”

“I’m afraid so” Teasha said “I know it’s going to be difficult to leave your friends behind but it’s the best thing for Daddy.”

London lifted her eyes up before stepping forward. “Why can’t we move to Isla Paradiso? It’s an island too. Why does it have to Sunlit Tides?”

“That’s a good question” Phoenix said looking towards his wife. “We asked the doctor for suggestions and he suggested Sunlit Tides maybe Isla Paradiso could be a possibility. What do you think?”

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“I think it’s worth looking into” Teasha agreed “we already have a houseboat on the island so moving there wouldn’t be too bad. Plus London knows a few people there already so it wouldn’t be like starting over.”

“Thanks Mom” London sighed with relief “I’d go anywhere if it meant helping Daddy but if it could be somewhere we already know than all the better right?”

“We’ll check into it” Teasha assured her. She moved to her daughter drawing her into a hug “I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too Mommy” she squeezed  her arms around her mother’s neck. Next she approached her dad “Daddy I love you too” she leaned in close kissing his cheek “I hope you know that.”

“I do” he nodded thankful that she had come to them with the suggestion they hadn’t considered. He hoped the doctor would think it was a good alternative.

***

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A few months later they were sitting on the deck of their houseboat enjoying the evening breeze coming in off the ocean. “Are you ready for school to start” Teasha asked her daughter sitting across from them.

“Yeah I guess” she shrugged “I wish I knew someone in my close. Justice at least is in the same school along with Unity.”

“Justice will be in middle school sweetie” Phoenix pointed out.

“Oh” she sighed “you’re right. I thought we’d be in the same school. I guess it’ll just be me and Unity then.”

“Unity is in fourth grade isn’t she” Trinity asked leaning against the railing.

“Yeah a year behind me” London turned towards her dad who was busy lighting a fire to roast marshmallows. “Unity says I need to decide who I want to be my boyfriend before school starts. How do I do that if I don’t know who my options are?”

“She said what” Phoenix choked on the words “you’re way too young for boyfriends.”

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“I’m ten Daddy not a baby” she rolled her eyes “what do you think Mom?”

“Well” Teasha glanced at her husband who was still glaring into the fire. “I agree with your father. You are too young for boyfriends.”

Standing she dramatically stomped her feet. Rolling her eyes she announced “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“Understand what” Teasha demanded “and before you answer cut the attitude or you can go to your room.”

“Fine” she sighed “a boyfriend gives you status. Someone to do your homework with. Someone always to be your partner for in group activities in class or projects. It’s not like we’ll be doing any gross mushy stuff.”

“Oh a friend” Teasha said relieved.

“Does it have to be a boy” Phoenix asked still stuck on boyfriend.

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“Argh” she cried stomping towards the door “Why do I even bother. Why do you insist on asking questions when you know you won’t like the answers. All I want to do is fit in. I’m the new kid. The one on one wants to be friends with.”

“I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to get a boyfriend” Phoenix persisted watching her slam the door shut but did little to keep her from eyesight.

Looking at the fire Teasha laughed “I guess we get to eat all the smores.”

“I guess so” Phoenix agreed “thanks for backing me up. I know you didn’t think it was a terrible idea like me.”

“No not terrible. Just too soon” she sighed “I was hoping not to have to deal with boyfriends and hormones for at least another year or two.”

“A year” he gasped “I want her to be my little girl longer than that.”

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“We have no choice” she sighed sitting on his lap “she’s growing up and boyfriends are going to be a part of the package.”

Wrapping his arms around her Phoenix sighed “I’m not ready for this.”

“Do you think I am” she teased giving his cheek a quick peck “we’re getting old.”

“Speak for yourself” he said giving her a tender kiss on the lips “I’m planning on being young forever.”

“Keep telling yourself that when you see all the kids tomorrow at the resort.” She leaned her head on her shoulder “the teenagers out number the kids now.”

“For tonight let me pretend we’re still as young as we were back in college” Phoenix grinned at  her.

“Alright” she conceded taking his hand and watching the moon rise over the ocean.

***

316317Smoothing the wrinkles on her dress London mumbled “I’m a mess.”

“You shouldn’t have let Justice talk you into racing him” Unity giggled.

Temperance nodded linking arms with Unity “I think someone has a crush.”

Unity’s eyes grew large “do you like my brother?”

“No” London’s cheeks grew hot as both younger girls giggled at her.

“Good” Aubrey said joining them “you can dance with me instead. I promised Daddy I wouldn’t dance with any boys.”

“Oh” London bit her bottom lip “I was hoping to dance at least once with Benjamin and Justice.”

“Good luck with that” Temperance giggled “Jason has already been bugging Benjamin to dance with him.”

“Does Jason like Benjamin” Aubrey asked.

315314

Shrugging Temperance nodded “he acts like it. It’s kind of cute in an annoying sort of way.”

“Don’t go to thinking you need to be annoying to get Justice to notice you” Unity advised turning to London “I guarantee that won’t work. Justice doesn’t like clingy people. At least that what he says.”

“Did the older boys bring dates” Aubrey asked. They all knew she was referring to the three teen boys Christopher, Noble and Loyal.

“They’re too busy mooning over Dakota and Montana” Temperance giggled “they’re gorgeous and older.”

“Which means” London asked.

313312

Giggling Unity said “which means the boys are out luck. I mean my brothers are cute but they’re doofasses.”

Pointing towards an older man pushing his way through the crowd of people Aubrey asked “who is that guy?”

“He’s not supposed to be here” Temperance said turning to Unity with concern.

Unity shook her head “he promised he’d be good or I wouldn’t have told him.”

“Who is he” London asked repeating Aubrey’s question.

“That’s Zane” Temperance frowned “Unity’s other grandpa.”

“Oh” the two girls nodded wide-eyed. They had all heard about Graham’s first husband but neither of them had seen him before.

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“Hey Gramps” Noble said cutting him off from going any further.

“Out of my way” Zane said straining to see Graham through the milling guests.

“He doesn’t want to see you” Loyal said joining his twin. “Why don’t you leave before you make a scene.”

“He’s my husband” he snapped attempting to go around the boys.

“Ex husband” Noble corrected “has been for almost fifteen years.”

“He didn’t know what he was doing” Zane protested “this is ridiculous to keep me from the resort we built together. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Says you” Loyal snickered.

“We’ve see you talking to old man Hollis” Noble added “if you really cared about Grandpa like you claim you’d have cut all ties with that creep.”

“Mr Hollis has done a lot for me” Zane protested.

“Sure he has” Loyal agreed “like having you beat up.”

“Ruining your marriage” Noble added.

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“All so he could get his grubby little hands on our resort” Charity said joining her sons. “Boys I’ll take care of this.”

Nodding Loyal said to Noble “you stay. I’ll go get Dad.”

Zane eyed the boys with distaste “they act like I’m the enemy or something” he complained.

“You are” Noble growled.

“That’s enough” Charity chided him even she was proud of him for standing up for Graham. Turning her attention to Zane she said “Dad you promised you wouldn’t come. Not today.”

Zane craned his neck trying to catch a glimpse of Graham in the crowd before someone warned him he was there. He wanted to see his face without the perpetual frown that his presence always brought on. “I love him. I had to be here. To make him understand….”

“It’s too late for that” Charity shook her head “leave him alone. He’s happy shouldn’t that be enough to convince you he’s moved on with his life.”

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“I need to talk to him” he entreated her like she hadn’t said anything “to explain why I did all of this. I did it for him.”

Putting a hand up Charity signaled for him to stop. “No dad. You did it for you. Daddy would have been happy running the dog shelter you had before you sold it and borrowed money to buy the resort. Daddy never wanted to it. That was all you. It was you who went to the one person you knew Daddy hated, Donnie Hollis. You took his dirty even though you knew how much it would hurt Daddy.”

“Do you really think I would do something like that to intentionally hurt him” Zane asked. “I wouldn’t do that. If I had known I’d have done things differently.”

“Somehow I don’t believe you” Charity shook her head sadly hugging her arms tight around herself. “You knew he’d be devastated once he found out or you wouldn’t have felt the need to lie about where you got the money.”

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“That’s not….” he stopped as a hand came down heavy on his shoulder. Turning he looked into the serious disapproving eyes of his son-in-law.

“Mr Koehler it’s time for you to leave” Ryan said firmly “we don’t want to hear anymore of your lies.”

“I” he swallowed looking into his daughter’s eyes “I’m sorry” he mumbled turning and allowing Ryan to escort him from the property.

Chapter 4 – Sugar and Spice / Chapter 6 – Summer Jobs

Hannah – Chapter 39 – Second Chance

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Teasha retreated to the back porch. She just needed a moment to herself. Her timid, over emotional twin brother was engaged. He was a few short months from becoming parents of twin daughters of his own and getting married. She should be happy for him. She wiped at an annoying tear that rolled down her cheek.

“Sweetie” Bruce’s voice called to her from the open door leading into the kitchen. “What are you doing here by yourself?”

“I needed some fresh air” she sniffed hurriedly drying the wetness from her cheeks.

“It’s difficult isn’t it?” he said quietly coming up beside her “watching your brother be so in love and happy.”

Her face crumpled, bottom lip quivering “it’s not fair” she cried as she felt him pull her close “all my friends are engaged. I can’t get away from it. I want to be happy for them but I can’t.”

“It’s going to be alright” he rubbed her back in slow rhythmic circles “your day will come.”

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“When?” she demanded her voice muffled from her face being buried in his chest.

“When the time is right” Bruce sighed “I wish I could tell you when sweetheart. I simply don’t know. It could be tomorrow. Next year. Ten years from now.”

“That’s not helping” she laughed a little despite herself “would it be alright if I leave tomorrow for school?”

Pulling her close he placed a soft kiss on her forehead “if that’s what you think you need to do than yes. I wish you’d stay but I’m just your old man. What do I know?”

“Daddy I love you” she leaned in close placing a kiss on his stubbly cheek.

“I love you to sweetheart” he squeezed her tight “I know how it feels to have your world crumble beneath your feet. If you need someone to talk to I’m your guy.”

 

She gave him a curious look “didn’t you and Dad just fall hopelessly and madly in love from the moment you met?”

“I wish that were true” his eyes took on a far away look “when I met your dad I was the rebound guy. I was madly in love with him trying desperately not to show it.”

“Were you afraid he’d break our heart or something?” she asked as she toyed with her shirt.

“I guess in a way I was. He had been hurt by someone who hadn’t realized how much Ramsey cared about him. I was convenient. It didn’t work out.” He tweaked her nose playfully “sometimes magic happens the second time around.”

“Thank you daddy” she hugged him tight before leaving to go inside.

Bruce followed her inside, watching as she congratulated her brother and Waylon then moved to her dad. Ramsey gave him a startled look when she released him from the fierce grip she had around his neck.

 

“What have you been telling our daughter?” Ramsey asked a moment later coming along his side.

“Nothing much” he shrugged “just that sometimes happy endings sometimes required second chances.”

Ramsey snorted “she told me I better appreciate the second chance I had been given.” He pulled his husband close whispering softly in his ear “and I do.” He peered deeply into Bruce’s light blue eyes. The same blue eyes the majority of their five children had “I love you more and more with each passing day.”

Bruce gave him an impish grin “I love you more.” His eyes twinkled daring him to reply in kind.

Instead Ramsey pulled him closer, pressing his lips hard over his. Bruce’s lips yielded to his, their desire building as their bodies pressed hard against each others and their kiss deepened. “Let’s take this upstairs” Ramsey panted breaking the kiss. Without a word Bruce slipped his hand into his husbands following him the stairs.

***

615616

Teasha stared up at the dorm. It wasn’t going to be the same this year. All of her friends had coupled up. Her brother wouldn’t be here at all. She gave herself a little mental shake as a wave loneliness swamped her. She refused to believe she was petty enough to be jealous of someone else’s happiness. She couldn’t help but feel left out and left behind by everyone else.

She rubbed her hands up and down her arms. Shivering despite the warm breeze. She took a hesitant step forward when someone called her name. Stopping she looked around for the source. Frowning when she found who it was calling her name.

Her heart rose into her throat threatening to choke her. Indecision kept her rooted to the sidewalk while her thoughts raced through her head. Could she pretend not to have heard and hurry inside? With a sigh she turned with leaden feet to greet the individual calling her name. She hoped they weren’t in the same dorm. If they were all hopes of being able to avoid them would be gone. Swallowing she cleared her throat “hi Phoenix.” In vain she tried to keep her voice carefully neutral, devoid of all emotion.

Dispassionately she watched him maneuver his wheelchair along the sidewalk coming towards her.

He stopped a few feet from her. “I uh” he licked his dry lips as if he were nervous “I wanted to apologize for the way I acted when you came to see me at the hospital.”
She looked down at him anger flashing in her eyes. “Ok” she said expectantly.

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“Ok what?” he asked confused.

“Ok you can apologize” she crossed her arms waiting.

“Didn’t I just do that?” his brows knitted together.

“No” she shook her head “you said you wanted to apologize.” She tapped her foot on the sidewalk “so apologize.”

“You’re not going to make this easy are you?” he mumbled watching her intently.

“Should I?” she demanded “you told me to leave. That you didn’t want to see me. You made me feel like I was nothing.” A stray tear betrayed her forced facade of impassiveness.

“I’m sorry” he cried reaching his hands out to her “from the bottom of my heart I’m sorry.” He looked relieved and a little stunned when she took his hands instead of letting them dangle in mid-air.

“All I could think about was seeing you again” she blinked trying to hold back the tears she felt building behind her eyes. “I waited for weeks for any news of how you were. I wanted to be by your side the moment they found you.”

“Only to have me reject you” his voice full of regret “I am sorry.” He squeezed her hands tugging on them pulling her closer. “When I saw you. I thought I was dreaming. I realized then what an idiot i was for breaking up with you.”

“Why did you?” she asked “I would have waited for you. I would have supported you. Gone anywhere with you. Why did you not give me the chance to show you I would? Why did you let you mom and brother convince you otherwise?”

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“I was afraid” he looked shocked at his admission “I didn’t want you to turn into my mother, old and bitter before your time.”

“I’m not your mother” she told him kneeling in front of his chair “I know what it means to be the one waiting at home safe and sound while someone you love is in life and death situations. I’ve watched my parents do it each time Dad was called out on an emergency. The weeks he would be gone fighting wild fires. I watched daddy pace the floor worrying about him. Not once did I ever hear him complain about the time they were apart. Daddy always made sure when Dad was home he knew he was loved and missed.” Taking her hands she caressed his face “I could have been that for you. I wanted to be that for you.”

It was his turn to blink back tears. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you the chance. I thought I everyone would be like what I remembered my mom being like when I was growing up. I didn’t want that for you.” He glanced down at hands in his lap “you deserve so much more than I could ever offer you.”

“Who said I wanted more than you could offer?” she asked softly brushing his tears away.

He shrugged “I did. I should have talked things out with you.” His face crumpled in sadness “now it’s too late.”

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“You’re doing it again” she stood up her voice angry.

“Doing what?” he asked watching her.

“Assuming things” she crossed her arms glaring down at him.

“Look at me” he cried waving a self-deprecating hand at his legs “I’m in a wheelchair. I can’t walk. I can’t ask anyone to take on that burden.”

“You know what? You are an idiot” she whirled around and walked into the dorm without a second look back.

***

621622

Over the next few weeks she observed how others treated Phoenix in the course of the day. A few were cruel enough to purposefully do things to make it impossible for him to do things on his own without asking for help like moving things just far enough out of reach. Others would pretend he wasn’t there. Ignoring him every chance they had.

The worst, in her opinion, were the one who did things for him out of pity. It infuriated her to see them congratulating themselves on doing a good deed for someone less fortunate than them. He didn’t need pity. He needed friends. Someone who cared for him. Who would do things because they wanted to not because it made them look good.

There was a one girl who was a little to friendly, maybe even a flirtatious. It made Teasha’s skin crawl whenever she saw the girl slinking around the dorm. One evening Vincent looked up from the table where they were studying. He nodded towards the girl he whispered to Teasha “he should be careful.”

“What?” she asked blinking looking around “why?”

“That’s one of the girls who stole my wallet last semester after they got me drunk” Vincent explained.

“Are you sure?” she asked watching the girl “I thought you said they were blonde.”

“She was blonde” he shrugged “nothing says she couldn’t have changed her hair color.”

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Nodding Teasha stood up no longer listening. Walking over to Phoenix she asked “are you still looking for a tutor?”

Dragging his eyes from the pretty brunette Phoenix nodded smiling up at Teasha. “Yes I still need one.”

“Good” she smiled over at the girl “I’m available anytime you are.”

His mouth dropped open “you” he stammered “you want to be my tutor?”

“Sure why not?” she shrugged “I don’t have anything else to do.”

“Nixie” the girl whined ” why didn’t you tell me you needed a tutor? I would have been glad to help you.” She moved to sit seductively in his lap. Her hands slipping behind him.

Leaning over so that she was sure the girl would be able to hear her. “Take his wallet and I’ll break your arm” Teasha held the girls gaze until she wriggled off of Phoenix’s lap.

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“I never” she cried in a huff and stomped off her heels beating a hasty retreat.

“Feeling for his wallet Phoenix looked up at Teasha “how did you know?”

“She got a good friend of mine drunk last semester and stole his wallet” she shrugged as if to say it wasn’t anything. “It was just a guess she hadn’t changed her ways.”

“Thank you” he murmured preparing to leave.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I thought…” he glanced up at her with a sheepish grin “nowhere I guess.”

“Good because I was serious about accepting the tutoring position.” She sat down in a nearby chair. “So what do you need the most help in?”

***

625

Over the next few weeks Teasha grew to look forward to the times she could spend with Phoenix. At first it was focused on studying eventually as they both relaxed they learned to enjoy their time together. Closing her book she looked over at him. “Would you like to go for a walk?”

“Yeah I’d like that” he gave her one of his rare sweet smiles.

“I’ll even let you carry my books” she laughed handing him her book bag.

Balancing it on his lap he mumbled “I can’t hold all of this and operate my chair.”

“Tonight I’m driving” she giggled getting behind him and pushing.

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“I demand you take a breathalyzer test” he grumbled “you’re driving like a drunk.”

“Am not” she protested laughing as she zigzagged across the sidewalk “I’m just not good at direction.”

“Where are we going?” he asked deciding to just let her do her thing.

“The park” she grunted trying to push his chair over a curb “this isn’t as easy as it looks.”

“How do you think I got these impressive guns?” he flexed his arms showing off his muscles.

“When we go back to the car” she panted “you can give me a ride. We’ll see how impressive those guns are then.”

“Prepare yourself to be amazed” he laughed.

“She came to a stop inside the small park. She looked around for a free bench before resigning herself to sitting on the ground.

“Not there” he grabbed her hand “there’s plenty of room right here.”

Putting the book bags on the back of the wheelchair she glanced into his eyes. “Are you sure?” she asked.

 

“Yeah I’m sure” he grabbed her wrist pulling her to him.

Giggling she halfheartedly struggled to get away. His face was mere inches from hers. His warm breath blew across her skin sending shivers down her spine. She stared into his eyes as he brought his mouth to hers. His lips brushed across hers in a light feathery kiss.

Pulling back his eyes showing shock as he mumbled “sorry.”

“Do it again” she requested putting her arms around his neck.

He gave her a small sweet smile before tentatively meeting her lips in a kiss that grew more passionate making their hearts hammer against their chests. Pulling away “I wish…I…”

 

“I love you” she smiled at him “I’ve loved you for months. I wanted to pretend that I didn’t. The more I pretended I didn’t have feelings for you the more mixed up I felt. I don’t want to pretend anymore. I love you.”

He gazed into her eyes “what about my handicap?”

Tapping his forehead she gave him a gentle smile. “The only handicap is the one inside your own mind. The wheelchair isn’t who you are. It certainly isn’t the reason I love you. I love you for you. Always have. Always will. With or without the wheels.”

Resting his forehead on hers he breathed deeply “you’re amazing. A gift I don’t deserve.” He gazed into her crystal blue eyes “how did I get so lucky?”

“Don’t question it. That’s how we got in trouble the first time” she kissed his nose ” just accept the second chance we have and we might get our happy ending.”

Chapter 38 – The Truth Comes Out / Chapter 1 – Honeymoon’s End