The Fourth Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Five: Dont Lose your head
I look down at my chest and recoil. So much blood.
This is what death looks like?
I never expected it to be quite so messy. I always pictured those nice, clean deaths where you get a couple extra minutes to say goodbye to everyone and sneak a Sinners Prayer in there.
What is that on my shoe?
Probably more of Peters brain. Its all over the place. That and his blood.
I hear gagging and find Cora hurling all of her breakfast on the rug. Great. The air is filled with the scent of sweat, blood, vomit and death. Wayne lays dead near the window, Peters head is spread over the living room. This is nasty.
It suddenly hits me. Its over. Im free.
Hot damn and hallelujah!
I push myself up from my spot on the couch and walk over to Cora. "Lets get out of here."
She wipes her mouth as best she can on her shoulder. Cora gets up and we begin walking toward the kitchen door. "We should tell them were coming out. Keep your hands held out from your body. Itd be a damn shame to get shot by the cops."
"Im sorry about this, Harper." She looks back at the room and the two dead men. "I never thought itd be like this. I only wanted someone who wouldnt hold our people up to contempt." She blows out a deep breath, full of sorrow. "I messed that up."
"No worries, Cora. But you have to explain it to my wife."
* * *
"Look at me, maam," the paramedic says, tilting my head up so he can examine the gash on my head better. He attaches a butterfly bandage to it, and swabs it with a betadine soaked gauze pad. I flinch back and consider smacking him. Seeming not to notice, he begins looking at my jaw and throat. Im very tender from where Peter kicked me. "Youre lucky he didnt crush your trachea, maam. One slip of his boot and "
"Ive got lots of lives," I mutter, hoping I never use them up. I look around and wonder where Kels is, figuring she would be here. I notice its getting dark outside and I wonder how long we were held in there. I didnt seem that long. "What time is it?"
He glances at his watch. How can he see it in this light? "Its about two oclock in the afternoon."
Even as the thought hits me, the dark closes in.
* * *
Im sitting in the back of the ambulance when I hear her call my name. "Harper!? Harper!?"
I want to jump out and run to her, but, with my current luck and lack of vision, Id fall down and break my neck. I grip onto the gurney and lean forward. "Kels?"
I hear her making her way through the crowd, and then the truck dips as she climbs up into it with me. Suddenly, my arms are full of her as she body slams me. For some reason, it doesnt hurt when its her. She kisses me ardently, completely oblivious to anyone else around us. "Thank God, youre all right," she murmurs against my lips.
"Hi, sweetheart," I whisper. I wrap my arms around her tightly, using her as my anchor in this latest storm. "Sorry about this."
She kisses me again and I feel her tears against my skin. "Youre okay, thats all that matters."
I lean forward and brush my lips against hers, wanting to pretend everythings okay for another moment. "How are the kids?" Oh yeah, I can do denial.
"Fine. Theyre in Albuquerque. I left them with Brian and a guy with no neck." She pulls away, as I no longer feel her breath on my face. "What were you thinking, Harper? Why did you leave Jeff behind?"
"Cora asked me to." God, I hope my girl doesnt hate my adopted family. "She was concerned about the Diné. She didnt want anyone else here who could talk about the story."
Kels blows out an exasperated breath. "You cant put other peoples interests in front of yours, Harper. Youre too important to me. To Brennan and Collin." She rakes her fingers through my hair, and I try to refrain from flinching. "I dont care what anyone else thinks. Or says. Or does. Youre mine, Harper Lee. First, last and always. Get it?"
I nod, recognizing the truth of her statement. "Im sorry."
"Now, where are you hurt? Besides the obvious." She touches my jaw gently and tilts it so she can see the entire extent of the bruising. I know it looks horrible. Her thumb brushes near the gash on my forehead and I grunt. Her touch stills. "Im sorry, Tabloid." There is a long pause. "Why arent you looking at me, Harper?"
I take a deep breath. How should I tell her? Direct always seems to work best. "I cant see, chér."
I am loathe to repeat the words, for fear of making them real. I shrug, and give what I hope is a brave smile. "Its happening again."
* * *
Ten hours later, Im sitting in the chair next to Harpers hospital bed. This is too fresh a scene for me. Its only been a few months, less than a year, since I was previously in this position.
Harper is now asleep. Although, the doctor said the nurses would come in and wake her every couple hours to check on her condition.
Upon arriving at University Hospital, Harper was immediately taken in for a series of X-rays. The doctors were concerned about her spine, jaw and ribs. My spouse certainly tries to keep doctors employed. I need to examine her for a bulls eye drawn somewhere on her body.
The doctor assures me that there is no injury to her spinal column, but she does have three cracked ribs. Her chest is wrapped and the gash above her eyebrow is covered by a white gauze. Fortunately, there was a good plastic surgeon on staff and he took care of stitching her up. He says it shouldnt scar. I almost hope it does. Maybe itll teach her to be more careful.
I smooth out the tension in her forehead. She must be having a bad dream. Even though the doctor said he thinks the blindness is temporary, the result of swelling from her head injuries, she doesnt believe him. She wont until she opens her eyes and sees me. I feel the same way.
"I love you," I whisper. My cell phone vibrates against my hip and I step out into the hallway to take the call. "Hi, Brian. How are the twins?"
"Theyre fine. Sleeping like babies," he jokes. Sobering quickly, he asks, "Hows Stud?"
"Same as her kids."
"Good. You should get some sleep too, Kels. Youve been running on adrenaline all day."
I yawn at his suggestion. It has been a long day. I awakened to a gunshot over my cell phone, flew like a bat out of hell to New Mexico, arrived to find my partner held hostage and injured, supervised the coverage of the incident for the network, and then took my hurt spouse to the hospital. I miss my bed, my children, and my partners eyesight, most of all. "I will soon, Brian. Thanks for the concern."
"Always. Can we come visit you both tomorrow?"
"Absolutely. Well figure out how to smuggle the babies in somehow. Or Harper will tear apart the hospital getting to them." Blind or not, shell be a terror if they try to keep them away from her.
"All right. Well be there early."
"Sounds good. Good night, Brian."
I hang up and wander back into the room. A nurse is in there, awakening Harper, as prescribed. "Ms. Kingsley, wake up." She takes Harpers hand in hers and pats it gently.
I walk over to the other side of the bed and lift Harpers other hand and kiss her knuckles. Theyre scraped from falling during her forced march, but otherwise are fine. "Sweetheart, time to rise and shine."
Harpers eyes flutter open and she turns toward my voice. "Ill rise but I refuse to shine," comes the old joke.
"I can handle that right now," I assure her. "How are you?"
"I hurt." Since she doesnt mention her eyesight, I assume its still not there. I squeeze her hand to communicate that I understand.
"I need you to answer a few questions, Ms. Kingsley." The nurse releases her hand and steps back from the bed. "What day is it?"
"The day after I got my ass kicked." I clear my throat in gentle reproach. Its Lent after all, shes not supposed to say words like that. She continues, "It was Thursday when we went to the blanket factory. Is it Friday yet?"
The nurse smiles. "Technically, but its early. Whats your name?"
"Harper Lee Kingsley."
"Good. What year is it?"
"Two thousand one."
"Who am I?" I join in and ask, a teasing note in my voice.
"The love of my life."
I think Ill keep her.
* * *
This is the second time Ive woken up in a hospital bed with Kels snuggled next to me. Im ignoring my screaming ribs, because I would feel worse without her near me. We really need to stop this. Of course, that would require me not getting into these situations, and wheres the fun in that?
The fun is just outside the door, if my hearing still works right. Eyes still arent back online, which terrifies me. Right now, though, I get to be strong. I can fall apart later. Hopefully, I wont need to. No matter what, though, Ive seen Collin and Brennan. They are written on my heart as clearly as Kels, and forever will be there.
Brian knocks and then enters, pushing our double-seater stroller into the room. I hear the bodyguard outside my room greet Mr. No Neck. "Morning!" Brian trills happily.
I kiss Kels on the forehead and squeeze her, trying to gently wake her up. "Chér, we have company."
At the sound of my voice, Collin begins gurgling and flailing his arms, thumping them against his side of the stroller. Id recognize my boys happy sound anywhere.
"Someone is glad to hear you," Brian confirms. I hear him unstrap my son and bring him over to us. "Look whos here, Collin!"
I hold out my free arm and Brian settles him down against me. Collin immediately begins gumming my arm. "Hi, buddy!" I chuckle. "Just dont kick my side, okay?"
Kels presses herself to a sitting up position beside me. "Look who snuck in," she coos, and leans over me to kiss Collin. "Good morning, handsome."
"Morning, gorgeous," Brian singsongs. "It was so easy to get back here with the bodyguard. No one wanted to mess with him. Doug would be so jealous to see me with such a stud."
Kels chuckles and then leans over me, caressing my cheek. "How are you, Tabloid?"
"Status quo, but getting better by the moment."
"Let me get Brennan and you can be perfect."
* * *
I am still holding Brennan in my arms when someone enters the room. Im okay with her as long as I take shallow breaths and dont move much. Kels is in a nearby chair giving Collin his breakfast. It only took him a few minutes in the room to realize his Mommy was around and he was hungry. Brennan is happy in my arms, snuggling up under my chin.
"How are you, Harper?"
"Im good. I feel a lot better today."
"Good." I hear him write some notes on my chart. "How do the ribs feel?" He sets the chart aside and reaches around Brennan to feel my sides.
I suck in a breath when he grazes a particularly sensitive spot. "Sore. Im okay, if I dont twist. Or breathe deeply. Or let anyone touch me."
"Or sit up on your own," Kels adds from her seat.
"True," I allow and brush my lips against Brennans sparsely foliated head. "I need sleep and some TLC."
"How are your eyes?" He tilts my jaw up and shines a light in my eye.
I know this because I can make out the pinprick of light. "I can see a dot."
"You can?" Kels asks, her voice a little unsteady.
The doctor slides his hands around my neck and feels the back of my head. "Good, that means the swelling is going down. Your sight should soon be back to normal in that case." He lifts the gauze from over my gash, now a well stitched up gash, and makes sure it is healing correctly. I assume hes okay with it since he covers it back up. "You are suffering from, I presume, post-traumatic transient blindness, a result of your being struck on the head with the rifle butt. Over the next few days you might suffer from headaches, confusion, irritability, anxiety, nausea and vomiting. You need to take it easy for the next few days."
"Does that mean I can leave here?"
"You dont like our luxurious accommodations?" he chuckles. "I think if you promise to behave, we can let you out. However, Ms. Kingsley, you should know that traumatic brain injuries are cumulative, and theyre not pretty. Its why Troy Aikman should retire while his brain isnt pudding."
Another reason why I love New Mexico. Everyones a Dallas Cowboy fan here. They dont have any other real options. "Itd be hard to lose him though."
"I know, but you dont want to take something like this lightly. You need to be more careful, Ms. Kingsley. It looks like you have a lot of people depending on you." He squeezes my shoulder and then leaves the room.
I tilt my head to kiss Brennan once more, at the exact moment she decides that Im getting a little too close. Her fist, though tiny, connects with my nose with a solid thump. I blink and her precious face comes into view, full-colored and glorious. Her green eyes hold mine for long moments and we share a smile. "Hi, gorgeous."
My eyes dont leave my daughters, but I can see Kels and Collin rise from the chair in my peripheral vision. After settling Collin into the stroller, she moves over to me, cautious in her approach. "Harper? Whats going on over there?"
I kiss Brennans nose. "Nothing. Just making goo-goo eyes at my second best girl."
"Its amazing," Kels voice is light and teasing. "I try for two years to knock some sense into you, and she does it in thirty seconds." Kels sits on the bed beside me and tilts my face toward her. "I love those eyes. You keep playing with them like this and Im going to take them away from you."
I laugh at the absurdity of the comment. "I promise, chér. No more of this nonsense. Because these eyes love gazing at you." I follow up the comment with a heartfelt kiss.
"Glad to hear it, Tabloid."
Before I can reply, Brennan lets out a laugh. A real laugh.
Kels smiles, "Another country heard from." She hands caresses our daughters head like a talisman. "You think we should take her home with us, Brennan? Even though shes a big troublemaker?" Brennan coos at her Mommy. "Yeah? I think so too. I think well keep her."
"Whew!" I mock sigh. "I was worried for a moment there. And, congratulations, Kels, on making our daughter experience her first laugh."
Kels joins our daughter. "Her first out-loud laugh, maybe. Harper, I have a feeling this baby has been laughing at me for weeks."
"Really?" Im intrigued. "What makes you say that?" God, I love this woman. I could easily spend a lifetime, and more, learning everything about her.
Now with our latest crisis seeming to have passed, Kels features relax into an easy smile. I realize upon seeing it, how long its been missing. "Shes been giving me the Mommy, youre silly look. Chewing on her fingers and playing with her feet while I get caught up in diaper tapes, and button up sleepers the wrong way, and bang my head on the changing table when I bend over to pick something up."
"No wonder you made her laugh. And, I have a little favor to ask before we jet out of here."
"The Diné have a ceremony for their children, upon their first laugh. And seeing how you just now made Brennan laugh "
"If the doctor says its all right, then well stay."
I smile. I can hardly imagine the doctor prescribing me to get the hell out of New Mexico.
* * *
Im worried about Kels. Somethings not right. She agreed to this ceremony, I know, for me, and not because it means anything to her. Now that were staying, theres no graceful way to change our minds and come back later. I wish we could. I think our family needs to steal away together for awhile. This year has sucked so far.
Our ride up here is short, especially since Im not driving. No Neck, who appears to be our senior bodyguard, is behind the wheel. Kels very clearly explained to me that where we go from now on, our bodyguards go, and that there are to be absolutely no exceptions to this rule. I need to obey that dictate. I want my girl to feel better.
We climb out of the minivan and are greeted by Cora and Johnny. Coras arm is in a sling, having separated her shoulder during our little adventure. I see unshed tears glistening in her eyes and she wraps her good arm around my shoulders, hugging me tightly. "Harper, Im glad youre okay."
I grit my teeth and ignore the screaming of my ribs. Theres no need to make her feel worse about this. Lord knows, she never intended what happened to happen. I make a fist and tap my forehead. "Hard stuff. Almost impossible to break."
Cora turns to Kels and reaches out to take my wifes hand. Holding it gently, Cora cant even meet Kels eyes. "I owe you a profound apology, Kelsey. I am grateful that you would again come here to our home, knowing that I nearly caused you to lose part of yours. Please accept my apology and my promise that this will never happen again."
"Cora, of course I accept your apology. Harper came here because she felt the need to help you. She is a part of your family too, and we will always support family." My wife smiles and reaches out to curl her arm around mine. "Id just prefer we do it with less bruising next time."
"Absolutely. And, Kelsey, we consider you part of our family, as much as Harper. You are her second half, the second of her two spirits, without you, she would be incomplete. Please, consider this your home as much as hers. And as much as it belongs to your children."
"Thank you. Thats very kind of you."
Whew. Weve gotten through the first hurdle of the evening. Okay, time to lighten this up a little bit. "Would you like to meet the two most amazing children in the entire world?" I turn around slowly and begin releasing the twins from the confinement. Brennan lunges into my hands, happy to be free. I hoist her up and kiss her chubby cheeks. "Ooo, youre getting so big," I gasp. I think it has more to do with my injury than her weight, if I am completely honest.
I present my daughter to a very appreciative audience. "This is Brennan Grace Stanton Kingsley."
Cora ooos and aaas and nudges Johnny to hold out his hands to take my little girl. He takes her carefully and turns so Cora can inspect her. "She is absolutely beautiful." Cora looks from mother to daughter. "She is a carbon copy of you, Kelsey."
"Lets hope not. I dont think the world could stand two of me."
Oh, honey, I dont know about that.
"I hope she has a better temper." I notice that Kels has edged a little closer to our baby and is keeping an eagle eye on her. Such a good mom, she is.
I lean in to get my boy. Instantly, his hands are wrapped in my hair. "Ow. Ow. Ow," I chant. "I should know better than this by now."
My wife takes pity on me and leaves her watch over Brennan to extract me from my captivity. "You wont ever learn, Harper." She kisses us both and hands him to me.
We all turn around, glad to find Brennan still in Johnnys arms and safe, and I hold up Fuzzy. "This is Collin Lee Stanton Kingsley."
Johnny chuckles. "Thats one hairy fellow."
Kels joins him. "Thats our Fuzzy. I hold him personally responsible for all the heartburn I had while I was pregnant."
"I think we can hold him responsible for mine as well," Johnny continues good-naturedly. "Hell be a good looking buck."
I beam when Kels replies, "Hes got his Mamas good looks."
I hoist him up so we are cheek to cheek, the pain from the action is intense, but I am beyond caring. "Yup, nearly twins. Though my hair doesnt stand on end so much."
"No wonder youre so proud of them," Cora beams. "Come in, our clan is waiting for its newest members."
Kels smiles and retrieves Brennan, and we head inside for the ceremony.
* * *
Shadow greets us when we come inside, placing her bony hands over their hands and saying an incantation over them. We wait in respectful silence while she blesses them. Upon finishing, she turns her sharp gaze, not at all diminished by time, on us. "Welcome."
"Hello, Shad. You look good."
She frowns and lifts a gray eyebrow. "I look like I will soon be with the spirits of my mothers and fathers before me." Before I can object, she waves me off. "Your two are beginning their walks, and I am glad to see them start their journey."
So am I. "Tell us about the ceremony, please. I only know that they are taught generosity."
Shadow nods. "Before it begins, Harper, you will pass out salt to the guests, and, Kelsey, you will pass out fruit." Before I can voice my question, it is answered. "The salt represents the Salt Woman; she was the first to perform this ceremony. The fruit is to show that Kelsey has been fruitful, and made you wealthy by the gift of the children."
"Thats the truth," I affirm.
"The reason why the ceremony takes place at this time is because your children have both laughed, and displayed delight in this world. They have learned this from you, by watching you both daily. It is a good sign that they have laughed so young. We worry about those children who do not." She sighs, obviously caught in the memories of those children she has known. "Since they delight in the world, they need to learn not to horde it, but to care for others in their prosperity. Each of you will give a pinch of salt to the babies, some bread and some meat. Then you will take it away. This symbolizes their gift to you, a charitable nature."
We nod, taking it all in.
"Typically, this is the time that the Diné child receives his or her name. It is a gift to them from their grandparents. Since neither of you come from Diné parents, with your permission, I will serve as the babies grandparent."
"Of course it would be all right," Kels says warmly.
"Just dont name my boy Horace or something awful life that," I tease, and then hope to hell her fathers name wasnt Horace. Note to self, know that type of stuff before joking.
* * *
Our no neck bodyguard helps me settle down onto the couch. He saw I was in pain, broke into my conversation, and took control of the situation. No wonder Kels likes him. He then surprises me by going over to one of the clan and collects my son. "I thought you might like some company."
Even as he says that, my girls appears behind him. "Mind if we join you then?" Knowing my ready answer, Kels and Brennan sit down.
Our little family. "So what do you think about all of this Maska?" I ask Collin. He frowns, a furrow forming between his tiny brows. God, thats cute. Kels smoothes down his hair. It refuses to stay put, of course. "I like your new name, little man." It means strong. He is. He made it through being born. Shadow also said that she can tell he will be good-natured and have a streak of originality in everything he does. It certainly exists in his hairstyle. I let him wrap his hand around my index finger and he pulls it into his mouth, chewing happily. "And how are you Manaba?" Brennans name means restless, and she is.
"Shes very happy," Kels replies for our daughter. "Of course, she just ate. That always makes her happy."
I leer at my wife. "Lord knows, it always makes me happy." I lean over, ignoring the loud protests of my ribs and I nuzzle her neck. "Lets get out of here."
"Oh, now theres a plan I can totally get behind."
* * *
Pulling a blanket up over Harpers shoulders, I watch her turn on her side and curl up into the couch as we fly for home. Glancing to my right, I find Brennan and Collin all settled down and sleeping quite soundly as well.
I take my seat across the table from Brian. Hes shuffling a deck of cards hes been playing solitaire with. "Gin?"
"Sure, why not? I need to make a call though, so give me a minute."
"No problem. Ill stack the deck."
I grin and pick up the phone. "You do, buddy, and itll be the last thing you stack."
He looks at me and makes a clawing motion as he hisses and meows.
"You aint seen nothing yet." I lean back and look at the keypad, punching the number in by rote. I hold the phone by tilting my head slightly, and I pick up the cards Brian has dealt. "Richard! Just the Executive Producer I was hoping to get a hold of. Hang on a minute, will you? Let me put you on speaker, Im getting a kink in my neck." I hang up the receiver and rearrange my hand.
"Yeah, I know how hard life can be on a private jet, Stanton."
I roll my eyes at Brian, who has the good grace not to laugh out loud.
"Richard, let me cut to the chase here so I dont waste your valuable time. I quit."
"Watch it. Harper and the kids are asleep here." I glance over to confirm that is still the case. "Call my attorney. She and my agent have everything ready for the network bosses."
"Kelsey " he sputters for a moment, but I decide not to let him linger.
"Its not you, Richard. Its me. I need out. I need to quit. Im going to combust if I dont get my life under control. I assure you, its better this way. It wouldnt do the network or the show any good if I had a breakdown on the air. And thats exactly where Im headed, if I dont get out now."
"Is there anything we can do?"
"Accept my resignation and let me buy out the contract. I cant, and wont, be coming back."
"Are you heading back to New York now? Harper still has a job here, you know."
"I know. I would imagine Harper will be back in a few days, but, right now, Im flying to New Orleans. Harper took a pretty bad beating and needs a few days to heal. Then shell be back. In the meantime, Sam is on his way back in with a hell of a story. Itll be a ratings grabber. Use it in good health."
"Damn, you do know how to ruin a mans day."
"Didnt mean to ruin your day. I thought you should know."
"I do appreciate the heads up on this so it doesnt blindside me later." I hear him sigh. "Stanton, whatever happens, take care of yourself. Youre too talented for the industry to lose you. I hope to work with you again someday."
"Thanks, boss. Im sure our paths will cross again."
"You tell Kingsley to get better and get her butt back up here. Im going to need her to handle some fall out."
"Will do. Take care of yourself, Richard, and umm do me a favor?"
"Go home and see your wife and daughter. Im sure they miss you." I reach over and hang up the phone. I glance over at Brian. He looks totally shocked.
"Holy shit!" He raises both brows at me. "Can you do that? Quit like that?"
"I hope so, because I did." I look at my hand again and rearrange it one more time. "Gin."
Things are looking up already.
* * *
I kneel down and gently shake her. Were about to land; I should probably clue her in so its not a complete shock. "Harper? Come on, sweetheart, wake up. Were almost home and about to land."
She rolls over and opens one eye completely and tries to open the other. She ends up squinting, letting it open as much as it can in its slightly swollen state. "Is it snowing?"
"I dont know. Do we get much snow in New Orleans in March?"
"Heck, no. New Orleans in March is already heating up. Might even need the air conditioning on already. Not that well have that trouble here."
"Well, then I hope the air conditioning is functional at the house. Im going to be busy enough without sweating and stinking the place up." I grin, realizing she has no clue. She hasnt caught on yet to the fact were in New Orleans. Give her time, shes a bright girl. Shell get it eventually. Brian is shaking his head and hiding his smile behind his hand.
"House? Our house?" she squeaks, the light breaking through. She sits up too rapidly, based on the pain that streaks across her face, and peers out the window with a long relieved sigh. "Home."
"I said we were going home, Tabloid. I meant it." I carefully turn her face so shes looking at me. "I want us to spend a few days together, simply resting and relaxing. We need a break."
"Im all yours. We dont even have to tell the Conspiracy were in town until you cant stand the sight of me anymore."
I have to laugh. "Honey, you should have given more thought to covert visits before you bought the house right next door the Robie and Rene. The entire family will know were home within ten minutes of our arrival. But I trust them to give us time to get settled before they all come over."
"Thank God you love me even when I do silly things."
I sigh. "Oh boy, isnt that the truth?" I stretch and roll my shoulders. "Lets get everyone home and settled in, shall we?"
* * *
With all of us fed and settled in for our first night home, Harper and I cuddle up together on the couch to watch a couple old movies and truly, totally relax. Were thousands of miles away from anyone who will harm us, or who wants to make our lives miserable. Much like Scarlett OHara, I will think about that tomorrow. Tonight Im perfectly comfortable snuggled up tight with Harper. She insists on holding me, despite her ribs, but I wont argue with her. I need her close.
Brennan and Collin are fast asleep, and Brian decided to go see how the French Quarter survived Mardi Gras. I guess now would be a good time to fill Harper in on the fact Im unemployed.
"Umm, sweetheart, I think theres something you should know."
She smirks. "Youre really a fifteen year old boy named Kevin?"
I take the time to peer down my shirt and confirm that is not the case. "No. Something you want to tell me?" I tease back.
She laughs hard and peeks down my shirt as well. "I thought those were real."
I playfully slap her hands away. "They are very real." I settle back against her and slowly let out a breath. "Before we landed today, I called Langston and quit my job."
She gives the top of my head a kiss and whispers in my ear, "You let me miss all the fun?"
"There wasnt that much to it, really. I think he knew it was coming. From your lack of reaction, you did too. Do I look like the totally stressed out whacko I feel Im becoming, or what?"
"Not at all, chér. You look like a woman with new and improved priorities. I think youve made the right decision, if you care about my opinion on the matter."
I raise her hand and kiss it, holding it tight under my chin as I nod. "You know I care about you opinion, but I had to get out. I had to get out of the business, and I had to get out of the city. Its not me anymore." I flick my eyes around this room, our house. "This is me. This is home now. I need to be here. I need to raise our children here. I need to be with our family."
She smiles, her arms tightening around me. "How could I ever argue with that? All my life, all I hoped for was a woman who could love me and my family. I got you, babe," she warbles in imitation of that old Sonny and Cher song. "I dont plan on ever letting you go."
"Yeah, well you know, Langston was pretty quick to remind me you still had a job and he expected you to come back to it."
"What do you want me to do?" She pauses and then adds quickly, "And, I mean, want. Not what should I do. Or what would be best for my career. What do you, Kelsey Kingsley, want me to do?"
"Im not going to reply that question, because the answer is obvious. I always have and always will want whats best for you. You need to decide that is. I wont be put in that position. Its my job to decide whats best for our children, not whats best for you. I love and Id love to have you home and close by. If you need to stay in New York a while longer, thats fine too. You can come home on weekends. Thats why we have a jet."
"Fuck the jet." She grins and turns my head so Ill look at her. "Cant a girl get to hear, Harper, I love you, I need you, I want you once in awhile?" Her thumb caresses my jaw line, sending pleasurable skitters down my body. "Plus, its our job, by the way, to decide whats best for our children," she emphasizes the word our in her sentence. She pauses for a moment and adds, "I choose that both parents around on a daily basis is best. For me, for you and for them."
"You see, there you go. You made that one on your own. And of course its our job, but I meant I wanted you to do what was best. If you think being here is best, so be it." I snuggle closer, feeling better with each passing moment. "By the way, I love you, I need you, and I want you. Dont you ever doubt that. I wouldnt have flown to New Mexico after your sorry butt if I didnt love you." Id poke her in the ribs but I know Id hurt her. "Once youre all healed up, Im sure we can find a way to show you how much I want and need you."
* * *
"Ooo, Brennan, does Mommy want another red Mercedes?" Im holding her on my lap. Were kicked back in my big leather chair with our feet up on the desk, surfing the net and looking for a new car. "Or should we go for something else?" I look down at my daughter who is staring at the screen with wide eyes while she chews on my finger.
Her brother and her Mama have gone over to Uncle Robies to learn something very important about plumbing. Apparently her Uncle Robie flooded the downstairs bathroom and he required immediate assistance to bail him out before Rene got home.
Earlier today, Harper nearly had a coronary when I informed her I was buying a minivan and a Mercedes and calling it a life. She loves the fact Im ready to be here and settled. It was the minivan option she was grumbling about. When I offered to buy the one with the TV, the DVD and video game system, she was happy as a clam.
"Sometimes I wonder who the bigger kid is," I whisper to my daughter as I click on another color choice for the car. I cock my head looking at it and try to decide if I like that shade of blue. "What do you think, sweetheart?"
Brennan answers with a resounding raspberry, then proceeds to lengthen her response by drooling down her chin.
"Yeah, its not good, is it? Okay, next? How about green?"
Were moving on to my next option when the announcement is made that we have mail. I kiss the top of my daughters head and click. Its another job offer. I sigh. I know, I should be grateful theyre coming in, but, damn, I need time to rest. I hope everyone is still after me when I feel like going to back to work.
"Although this one could be fun, sweetheart. Wed get to go up to DC and nose around. We could see who King George intends to replace Richard the lamb to the slaughter Cheney with after he shuts off the power to his heart altogether."
Being home and unemployed could be bad. I could see becoming a major conspiracy theorist if left to my own devices.
Brennan blows another raspberry, reminding me we have far more important issues to attend to. Were planning a virtual trip to the local virtual toy store as soon as I decide on the color of this car. Theres a teddy bear shes got her eye on.
"Okay, but its coming out of your allowance."
* * *
I stare out the window and consider the question. Why am I here? I turn around and face the doctor. Hes an older man with a kind smile. I think were going to get along just fine.
"Im here, because I finally have everything I want in my life, but I feel like Im losing control. Im afraid Im going to lose my mind. I cant let that happen. Not now. So much has happened, and there are still so many things to deal with, and I feel overwhelmed ." I try to rush the words out so I dont have a chance to stop or censor them. If I do, thats a lie. He cant help me if I lie to him.
"Seems to me that you have a pretty good feel for whats going on inside."
"Yeah," I admit slowly. "but I can feel myself slipping away. Im feeling the need to start clawing to stay where I am and I dont want that. Ahead of me, I have my light, which is my own family and the family that has accepted me as their own. Behind me, theres a darkness and I can feel the pull. I dont like the feeling of it trying to pull me back. I dont want to go back there. I didnt like it there."
"Dont worry, Kelsey. We wont let you go back there. Youre going to be fine."
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