EXPOSURE

The Fourth Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!

Credits:

Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan

 

Episode Seven: PUNCH LINES

How I got here is a simple story. How I’m ever going to live it down may not be.

I look at my bruised knuckles. While I’ll probably regret what I did for a long time to come, it was very satisfying at the moment I did it.

I hear the door to the jail open, and the laughter of two of my sisters-in-law. Oh, God, take me now. I close my eyes and shake my head. When I open them again, I find Katherine and Rene.

Standing there.

Grinning at me.

"Get me out of here," I mumble.

Rene taps on the bars. "Not exactly a look I would have picked for you, Kels."

Katherine smirks. "You know there’s a sheriff in Arizona or someplace that issues pink underwear… maybe you could go there and pick a fight too."

"If you love me, if you really love me, you will pay my bail so I can go home and take a shower."

"No, if we really love you, we won’t take a copy of your mug shot and have it blown up into a twenty-six by thirty inch poster." Rene giggles.

I get up and walk over to the bars. "Please, please, get me out of here."

"Relax, jailbait. They’re processing the paperwork." Katherine looks very close to laughing. "So are you going to tell Harper?"

"Not like I have a choice. I got arrested for punching an ex-girlfriend of hers in the face."

"Should we go get you boxing gloves or will you continue with the bare knuckles thing?"

"Rene, I’ve already committed simple assault once today. What makes you think it’s not like potato chips?" I cross my arms and wait.

She looks to the door where the cops are, scratching her neck in an exaggerated manner. "Wonder what’s holding up that paperwork?"

I lean against the bars with my forehead and close my eyes. "I can’t believe I did that. I hit that woman."

"Kels, you didn’t merely hit her. You knocked out two teeth and cracked her jaw. Robie is at the hospital right now trying to get her squared away so she won’t sue you."

"Oh, God! Harper is never gonna forgive me for this."

Katherine is rubbing my shoulders through the bars. "I know you’ve been stressed, but what did she say that made you hit her?"

I shake my head. "She said something about Harper and it made me mad."

"So you punched her square in the face?" Rene shakes her head in amusement. "Damn, woman, I wish you were my girlfriend. I’ve never had anyone fight over me before."

"Rene, bite me."

"I don’t think so. I like my teeth where they are."

 

* * *

 

Langston’s office is cold. Extremely cold, in fact. It’s because I have just handed him my resignation letter. He looks up at me, his eyes piercing. "What the fuck is this, Kingsley?"

"Paper."

He crumples it up and tosses it away from his desk, as if it were an unclean thing. "Then it’ll burn easily." He takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair. "I don’t accept it."

I laugh at his bullheadedness. I cross my legs and pick imaginary lint off my wool trousers. "Seek therapy, Langston, because when I walk out the door, I’m heading to pack up our offices and go."

"Why toss away your career simply because your wife wants to stay home and raise babies? It doesn’t make any damn sense to me."

I fight back the need to say it doesn’t need to make any damn sense to anyone except Kelsey, but I don’t waste my breath. Someone like him will never understand making family a priority. It certainly consists of more than displaying your kids pictures on your desk and pretending you know them. "It is what it is. I don’t regret my decision, only the timing of it."

This he latches on to. "So you do want to stay!"

"I had planned on finishing this season up with you, but then I was planning on leaving. Kels surprised me by moving before then. I won’t, however, be apart from my family for any length of time. While this is early, it isn’t unwanted."

Langston’s face settles into a petulant look that I remember seeing on Lucien’s face all during childhood. "I don’t like it."

"I don’t recall asking if you did." We’re not going to get anywhere in this conversation. I uncross my legs and stand up, extending my hand across his desk. "Thanks for a good year. I learned a lot from you."

He takes my hand and shakes it. "Who you going to work for now?"

I shrug. "I have no idea. When I land somewhere, I’ll be sure to give you a call, hit you up for a favor or two."

"Like I’d help you now," he teases. "Besides, the phone lines work both ways."

"I’m sure we’ll work together in the future." Wow. It feels weird to be closing this chapter of my life. I never thought I’d walk away from a position like this. Never thought I’d want to. "I’ll go get our things and head out."

I am halfway out the door when he calls, "Be sure to leave the company stapler behind, Kingsley."

 

* * *

 

Even though Mama places a cup of tea in front of me, and hands me an ice bag for my hand, I can tell she’s not pleased.

"I’m sorry." It sounds meek and it’s supposed to.

"What could someone possibly say that would lead you to violence, Kelsey?"

"I’d rather not repeat it. It’ll only make me mad again." I press the ice to the knuckles that are now swollen and an ugly shade of blue and purple. "I readily admit it was not one of my best moments."

"Have you told Harper yet?" She busies herself by the stove with what I’m sure is going to be a wonderful dinner.

"Not yet. I’m going to wait until she gets back from New York. This is not something I want to tell her over the phone." I sip my tea. "‘Hi, Honey, went to the gym this morning. Ran into an old girlfriend of yours. We got into an argument. She insulted you. I punched her. I got arrested.’" I shake my head. "No, I think that kind of thing is better told in person."

I look over when I hear Brian in the doorway. He’s holding Collin up and waving his little hand at me. "And in this corner we have ‘Punch’ Kingsley weighing in at a hundred twenty pounds…"

I hold my good hand out for my boy. "Very funny. Are they being good today?" I kiss the top of Fuzzy’s head as Brian settles him in the crook of my arm.

"They’re not quite 4 months old, how bad could they be?" He straightens and heads for the stove to give Mama a kiss on the cheek, the little suck up. "Good afternoon, Mama."

"Bon jour, Brian. Where’s my granddaughter?"

"Right over there in the carriage. Since Mommy chose to get arrested this morning, we had to have a bottled late lunch so now we’re having a late nap." He gives me a saccharine grin as he pours himself a cup of coffee.

"You can be replaced," I grumble, while rocking Collin. He looks up at me and gives me his silly smile. Even though I know I have to face the music when she gets here, I wish Harper was home. I miss her.

"So, Champ, you gonna tell me what happened?" Brian practically chirps as he jumps up on the counter and sips his coffee.

Mama turns the heat down under whatever she is cooking and leans on the counter next to Brian. Both of them give me expectant stares.

I feel so stupid. I’m going to call my therapist and see if he has any extra time this week.

"I went to the gym this morning. I ran into someone Harper apparently had a brief romance of some sort with. Words were exchanged. She finally said something I didn’t like and I hit her. It’s pretty simple really."

Brian chuckles. "Guess that’s why they call it simple assault."

I frown. "I let my temper get the best of me, and I shouldn’t have done that. Let’s hope I can get out of it with a lawsuit, a fine, and time served. I’d rather not go to jail. I don’t like jail." I take another sip my tea hoping it might soothe my nerves. "You know, come to think of it, I’d never been in jail until I met Harper. Now I’ve been there twice. Very impressive charges too. Prostitution and assault." I have to joke now or I swear I’m gonna cry.

I definitely need to call the doctor.

It helps when I look up and see the barely hidden smile Mama has on her face. She’s not as mad at me as she’s letting on and she’ll forgive me eventually.

 

* * *

 

Frankie helps me put the last of Kels’ office items into a box for shipping. He looks profoundly sad that she isn’t coming back. "Is there anything else you need, boss?" he asks me, almost for nostalgia’s sake.

"I think we’re good to go, Frankie." I finish adhering the mailing label on the box. It’ll be home tomorrow before I am. Lucky box. "You’ve been terrific help, as usual."

He nods. God, I think he might cry.

"Look, your Aunt Kendra might shoot me for saying this, but when I figure out what I’m doing, there will always be a job for you with me. You’re a good kid, and you’re going to be just fine. Kels and I think the world of you."

"Thanks. Why wouldn’t Aunt Kendra want you to say that?"

I smile. "Because the job will be in New Orleans. I think she’d miss you. But, who knows, maybe we’ll steal her too."

Next thing I know, he has thrown himself against me in a bear hug, squeezing me tightly. I hug him back. "We have a ton of extra rooms. Come down and visit us over the summer, okay?"

He nods and backs away fro me, wiping his eyes. "Okay." Before I can say anything more, he dashes out of the office.

I stand there and feel sorry for him for a long moment. He’s a good kid who finally has a place to call home, a true parent in Kendra, and a bright future. I’ll miss having him around. And having to revive him around my girl.

My cell phone vibrates against my hip and I reach for it in hopes it’s Kels. Caller ID, however, tells me it’s not. "Hey, Matt."

"Hello, Harper. You ready for lunch?"

"On my way down," I confirm, shrugging on my jacket and walking toward the elevators. "Will you be in that big ass limo of yours in front of the building?"

He laughs softly. "It beats a cab."

 

* * *

 

Damn, that hurts. The doctor tsks at me as he wraps my hand. "You should have known by the bruising it was more than a sprain, Mrs. Kingsley."

"I felt so silly I simply wanted to go home."

"A fractured hand is nothing to sneeze at. I think we got to it before you could do any more damage to it. You should be okay in two or three weeks."

"Great. Thanks. Can I go home now?"

"Yup, you’re free to go," He presents me with the clip board. "I need you to sign the release.

I raise my bandaged left hand. "You’re joking, right?"

"Ah, right." He signs the paper in my stead and I stand up to leave.

As I clear the curtain, I see Robie, a tall drink of water in the desert that has been my life today.

"Kels, dear, I tried the house and Brian told me you came to get your hand checked out. What’s the word, Slugger?"

"Fractured."

"Ouch." He grimaces. "I have good news and bad news. What do you want first?"

We begin walking toward the exit. "Oh, hell, let’s throw caution to the wind. What’s the bad news?"

"This little incident is gonna cost you about ten thousand dollars a knuckle to keep out of the courts."

"It goes to show if you punch a slut, you pay the price. Does that mean no charges too? Or only no lawsuit?"

"That’s the good news. No charges, no lawsuit. You cut a check. She goes away. You handle all reasonable and necessary medical bills too."

I nod. "All right. Could have been worse."

"Could have been much worse, given your celebrity and wealth. Fortunately, you have a wonderful attorney. I also negotiated a gag order into the settlement so when her jaw heals up, she won’t be able to talk about it."

"I think I love you."

"Glad to hear it, because there’s a little more bad news. There wasn’t anything I could do about it."

"What?" I groan.

"They towed your car. Apparently you parked in a restricted zone."

I resist the urge to go bang my head against the wall. "I should have stayed in bed today." I look at my brother-in-law. "My brand new Mercedes in now in the city impound lot being chipped and dinged within an inch of it’s life, isn’t it?"

"Probably."

"You wanna give me a lift home?"

"Don’t you want to go get your car?" his tone is incredulous.

"No. I want to go home and take a long hot bath before Harper gets home. I want to make sure the babies are bathed and ready for their Mama when she gets back from New York, and I want to pretend like this day never happened. I will get my car tomorrow, when I can pretend it ran away from home and was found by the local Mercedes catcher or something."

"It isn’t just a river in Egypt anymore, is it?"

"Oh, no, it’s a very real part of my inner being at the moment." I loop my arm through his and we make our way to the parking garage. "It will be for the next few hours, at least."

 

* * *

 

I think it’s almost absurd that Matt and I are eating at this dive of a restaurant. Located on the Upper West Side, it’s a Mexican-Chinese food restaurant. I never even knew that combination existed. This is not the high class, elegant dining I expected from a man as wealthy as my father-in-law.

"This is our little secret, Harper," he says, as if reading my mind. He drops the paper napkin in his lap and tosses his silk tie over his suit shoulder, to protect it from any dripping fillings. "Amanda would chew me out for days if she knew I was eating here." He picks up a huge burrito and takes a bite.

I take a bite of my chicken and broccoli. It’s not bad. "How the hell did they come up with Mexican and Chinese food as a combo?"

Matt smiles; it’s obvious he had the same question. "The owner was raised in Mexico, the son of Chinese parents."

Okay, that helps to explain it. "So Amanda is watching what you eat, eh?" I snicker.

He waves a fork in my direction. "Chuckle all you want, Harper. Kels will do the same to you in a few years and few pounds."

"As if!" I am indignant. I have always been lean and mean.

He shakes his head. "You kids, always think you’ll be young forever. In my day, I was quite handsome."

"In your day?" I echo. "Did they have electricity and running water?"

"Not on the ranch, actually, but everywhere else, yes." His blue eyes sparkle. "I’m not that old, thank you." We eat in companionable silence for a few minutes, clearing our plates. "How are my daughter and grandchildren?"

"The grandchildren are amazing. Every day one of them does something new. They’re learning so much. Their personalities are shining through too. I’m afraid that Brennan got Kels’ looks but my will. Collin the reverse."

He smiles. "Claire is surprising us too. She started singing the other day. Didn’t make a damn bit of sense, mind you, but it was definitely singing. We found her in the morning, happy as can be."

"Must be nice to wake up that way."

He nods vigorously. "They sure understand things better than we do. She’s keeping me young. I want to see her grow up to be as fine a woman as Kelsey. This time, though, I’d like to be able to take some of the credit."

It is true. No one at the end of their life wishes they had spent more time at the office. I intend to have no such regrets. My daughter and son will know me, warts and all. "You will."

"Not if I eat this stuff too often," he crumples up his napkin and tosses it onto his empty plate. "How is Kelsey doing?"

"She needs some TLC."

"Which you will provide?"

I nod vigorously. "Absolutely. Thanks for letting your assistant oversee our house getting packed up and sent to New Orleans."

"Glad to be of help."

"I appreciate it more than you know. It lets me get home to my wife tonight. I don’t know of anything better."

 

* * *

 

Brennan and I are on the phone with Grandpa Stanton, while she lays back against me and stares at the toy in her hands. She always seems to be studying the things around her. This is the child that will want to know why the sky is blue. I just know it.

"You’re not coming back to New York, are you, sweetheart?"

"Not my plan at the moment, Dad. No, I hate New York. Always have. That’s why I went to L.A. in the first place. Going back there merely reinforced that fact for me."

"Not that I can blame you. It’s not as if you had a pleasant life here."

"You and I are past that. Let’s not dig it up again. I don’t need more stress in my life at the moment. What I do need is to know if you think the financing is a possibility."

"Don’t see why not. We’ll file articles of incorporate, form a board of directors and find investors. You need to do the hard work and find the talent."

"Talent won’t be a problem. I just have to see if she’s interested, and then start making some other calls. I’ll be in touch in a few days. Hey, you think maybe you can break away for a long weekend and bring Amanda and Claire for a visit?"

"We’d love it, sweetheart. We’ll talk about it next week, after I check Amanda’s schedule, okay?"

"Wonderful. Thanks, Dad."

"You’re welcome, baby. Talk to you soon. Make sure you kiss Brennan and Collin for me."

I hang up the phone and kiss my little girl’s head. "Your Grandpa is a pretty good guy."

Brennan looks up to me and offers me the soggy ear of the toy she’s been chewing on. "No, thanks sweetheart. Mommy has had her fill of baby spit today, but you go right ahead."

She smiles at me and resumes chewing on the toy. I know good and well she didn’t understand a word I said, but it certainly seemed that way. Yup, she’s gonna be trouble. "You’re a little keg of TNT, Brennan Grace. You are so gonna keep your Mama and I on our toes all our life, aren’t you?"

 

* * *

 

Our apartment feels so empty without my family. I miss the constant activity that this house has known. I miss Kels, the twins. Hell, I even miss Brian. I gotta get home.

I am walking through, picking up any of our most personal items, things I don’t want my father-in-law’s employee to see. The toys, mine and Kels, are obviously first in the duffle bag. I really don’t want to ever explain them. Especially not the purple one.

I also pack up our photos and home videos. I won’t leave those to chance and the whims of moving men. Other than that, I don’t know of anything else I need to carry down. Our wedding blanket is already in New Orleans, it flew with Kels out to pick me up. The twins have more toys than any two kids can play with.

Nope, nothing more. Time to go home.

 

* * *

 

Robie and I unload the last of my bags from the trunk of his car. I was surprised to find him at the airport to pick me up. He’s been weird the whole ride home, chuckling for unexpected reasons. I can only attribute it to good sex with Rene lately. Same thing happens to me with Kels too.

I shoulder one of the duffle bags and grab the other up in my free hand. "I’ll see you tomorrow, older brother. Thanks for the ride."

He laughs and pats me on the back. "No problem, little sis. Always glad to lend a helping hand." This comment send him into a laughing fit, nearly doubling him over. "Night." He heads merrily into his house and I walk to mine.

I unlock the door and step in, immediately resetting the security code. I drop the bags down and look around. Wonder where my girl is? It’s not that late. I head up the stairs and turn into our bedroom. Nope.

The next logical place is the nursery. I find all three of my loves in there, stretched out on a blanket, awake, happy and playing. Collin has his feet in his mouth, as usual. Brennan is gumming happily on a soaked toy. And Kels is massaging her fingers which stick out the tip of a cast.

Something happened.

"Mama’s home!" I announce.

Kels gets up from the floor and comes over to me. I notice her balance is a bit off getting up. Guess the cast is heavy. "Welcome home, Stud! I’ve missed you."

I grab her around the waist and pull her up against me, kissing her so she knows I missed her too. "Hi, Little Roo. What happened, darlin’?" I hold her hand gently and examine it.

"Umm …" she flushes bright red, "I had a little … incident … at the gym."

I arch an eyebrow. "Incident? Did a weight fall on you? I’ll have Robie sue their ass and we’ll own the gym when we’re done." I lift her hand and kiss her exposed fingers.

"No, nothing like that, sweetie. This was my own fault." She takes her hand back and gives me a squeeze around the waist. "It’s all squared away, but we need to talk." My heart hits my foot, but, fortunately, I can see that the twins are fine, and Kels clearly isn’t upset with me. Everything is fine. "Why don’t you spend some time with the babies? After we put them down for the night, I’ll tell you the whole story."

I kiss her forehead. "Okay. Sounds like it must be a good one." I drop down on the floor and scoop up Brennan. "Hi, gorgeous!" I blow raspberries on her tummy, eliciting happy laughs. "Mama missed you today. I did." I kiss her nose. I pick her up and hold her up next to her Mommy, looking between the two of them carefully. "She looks so much like you, Kels."

"Double chin and all?" Kels teases.

I place Brennan in her Mother’s arms. "That’s why you’re hitting the gym. Literally," I tease back. Leaning back, I take in the picture of my two favorite girls. "Ah, Little Roo and RooToo."

Kels loses it. "RooToo? Oh, Tabloid, she’ll never forgive you for that one."

I grin, pleased that we finally have a nickname for our baby girl. "It could be worse; it could be RooToo D2."

"Don’t even go there, Tabloid." Kels shakes her head at me.

I take Brennan back and snuggle her close. "You like that name, don’t you, my girl? RooToo? So you can grow up and be just like your Mommy?" Brennan bonks me on my nose. "I’ll take that as a yes."

I lay her back down on the blanket and scoop up Collin. "Hey there, Fuzzy!" He slumps against me, trying to burrow under my skin. "How were they today?"

"They were great today. We went over and saw Mama and Papa. We had a nice lunch there."

I groan. "What did you eat?"

"You don’t want to know. There isn’t any left."

I stick out my lower lip in a pout. "You couldn’t even save your beloved wife a plate?" I mock sigh. "I guess we’ll have to stop by there tomorrow and get some more."

"We can do that."

I may grow to really like this unemployed stuff. "Thanks, darlin’." I glance down and see that Collin is sound asleep against my chest, and drooling his little heart out. "Looks like it’s bedtime." I move carefully so as not to wake him and lay him in his crib, tugging his blanket up over his torso.

"They were waiting up for you, you know." Kels lays Brennan in her crib and then comes over to rub my back. "They missed you too."

I turn around and embrace my girl. "I’m home now. Can’t get rid of me, you know. Langston nearly stroked out, but I managed to flee his evil empire and get back home to you."

"We are more than glad you’re home. Kiss our girl goodnight, and let’s go have that talk."

I do as directed and then take her hand. We walk down the hallway to our bedroom. I drop down in our large leather reading chair and pull her down onto my lap. "So tell me all about it."

"Okay. Where to start? Does the name Krista McKinney mean anything to you?"

I think about it for a moment and come up blank. I’ve never been good with names though. "Nope. Should it?"

"Hmm, let’s just say that she remembers you." Kels picks at the front of my shirt. It’s an obvious stall tactic and an attempt to appear innocent. I rub her back soothingly and get her to snuggle closer. "She felt the need to fill me in on exactly how she remembers you."

Realization hits. I wince. "Little Roo, I’m so sorry."

"Oh, Harper, don’t worry about it. I knew when we got involved this kind of thing could happen. I just didn’t expect to have the kind of reaction that I did."

Realization slaps me once again upside the head. "You hit her?"

She nods shyly. "Yeah. She said some things, and well, I kinda …"

I tilt her face up, so that she’s looking at me. "You were defending my honor?"

"She shouldn’t have said what she did. If she had just let me leave like I was trying to do, I wouldn’t have had to pop her." Kels grins triumphantly. "And I had to do it. I had to."

"Did you feel better afterwards?"

"Yes and no. I felt better. Then I felt stupid for letting my anger get the better part of me. I gotta tell you, Tabloid, at the moment of impact, it was the most satisfying feeling in the world?"

I slide my hand under her shirt and caress the skin I find there. "The most satisfying?" I purr.

"Okay. The second most satisfying, but it was pretty damn good."

I feel better now. "So what happened after you hit her? Did she apologize?"

Kels winces and ducks her head again. "I was afraid you were going to ask that. She pretty much called the cops and had me arrested."

"I’m sorry. Run that by me again?"

She gets up and begins pacing around the room. "I may have gone to jail for a few hours."

"You were in jail? They let you go, though, so it must not be so bad."

"Rene and Katherine bailed me out, and Robie has it all squared away. There’s really no need to worry about it anymore. I’m just sorry it happened. I feel really silly."

I push myself up out of the chair and walk over to her. "How are you? Otherwise, I mean."

"I’m okay. Getting better. Feeling better. So very glad to be home. And terribly glad you’re home." My girl looks over at me, a leer firmly intact, which sends a jolt of warmth through my body. "Want to take a shower with me and help me wash my back?"

I sense a diversionary tactic. There is so much for us to discuss, but I don’t think late Monday night is the time. Especially not when she wants us to be intimate, and is not pushing me away. "Your back, your front … anything of yours."

 

* * *

 

My psychiatrist gestures toward my hand. "Wanna tell me how that happened?"

"Do I want to? No. Will I? Yes. I got stupid and punched a bitch in the face to the tune of fifty grand, plus expenses." I grin. God, how butch did that sound?

"You didn’t really?" He smiles, arching a brow and drawing back a bit in disbelief.

"I did. I swear, I did."

He crosses his legs and leans back in his wingback chair. He sets the cup and saucer on a low table at his side and settles his hand on his leg. "You want to explain how this came to pass?"

"Sure, why not?" I settle down on the couch and prepare to tell the whole story. "I was at the gym, working out, minding my own business. This woman, who I don’t know from Adam, walks up and asks if I’m Kelsey Stanton." I gesture aimlessly. "Hell, I figured she was a process server or something, and it was from my mother’s attorneys so I said yes." I lean forward. "The first thing she says to me is ‘My name is Krista and I used to fuck Harper Kingsley on a regular basis’."

"Oh, my. What a way to open a conversation."

"Exactly. I turned to her and I said, ‘Good for you. I’m Kelsey Kingsley. I married her and I still fuck her on a regular basis. Sorry about your luck.’"

He laughs. "Who pissed in your Wheaties, Kelsey?"

I shake my head. "I’ve gone over it a thousand times and I still have no idea what came over me."

"Okay, but that still doesn’t tell me how that," he gestures to my hand, firmly encased in a cast, "fits in."

"It takes a while. Give me a minute." I get up and cross over to his small fridge and get a bottle of water, cracking the cap. I take a long sip. "So, I walk away, hoping she’ll take the hint. I head into the locker room to change and leave."

"You were thinking clearly at that point?"

I nod and retake my seat. "Right. Just walk away. Leave. I don’t need this. But guess what?"

"She followed you."

"Give that man a cigar! She proceeded to tell me how she and Harper were, and these are her words, not mine, ‘fuck buddies.’"

He sucks air through his teeth and lets it out slowly. "Ouch."

"Yeah."

"Is that when you hit her?"

"No."

"Congratulations. I probably would have smacked her already."

I nearly snort water through my nose. It’s odd to hear your therapist admit they have a breaking point too. Clearing my throat, I continue, "You know, Harper makes me insane sometimes. I chalk it up to the fact that she’s so much younger than I am. I’ve always had to be the responsible person in my life. She’s allowed to make me insane, but, dammit, I don’t want other people talking trash about her."

"Makes sense you’d be protective of your spouse."

"Your children and your spouse. In that order. Had she said something about my children, I would have busted her right away."

He nods his head and gives me a signal to wait a minute so he can get something to drink, his tea empty. "I’ve got a feeling, I’m going to need it." After he gets a glass of juice and settles down, I continue.

"I go to my locker, still ignoring her, and she puts her hands on me like she going to spin me around and says, ‘So what’s it like, being married to a sleazy whore? You like the stuff everyone else in town has had?’"

"That’s when you hit her?"

"That’s when I hit her."

"How many times?"

"Once I think, but it may have been twice. I’m not entirely clear on that point. However many it was, it was enough to get me arrested."

"Wonderful. Exactly what you needed."

"You know, in a weird sort of way, this is no big deal compared to all the other crap I’ve been through. Granted, I didn’t need it now and I’m sure I could have handled it better. Jesus Christ, how much is one person expected to take on before they go off the deep end?"

"Good question. Ranks right up there with ‘how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop?’"

I laugh. "I wouldn’t know. I always bite into them."

He shrugs. "I figured you did. You seem to be handling this with a good deal of humor."

"I have to." I sigh. "If I don’t, it’ll be another thing. I don’t need another thing. I already have more baggage than TWA."

"Want to check a couple more pieces?"

"No, I want to go to the Bahamas and send it to Alaska."

"So you want to run away?"

"I did that. I ran home. I snapped and I ran home. I ran to the one place I knew I’d be safe, where my children would be safe, and where Harper would be safe in case I couldn’t salvage myself."

He leans back and takes a drink of his juice. "Salvage yourself?"

"I came to the one place in the world I knew Harper would be okay if I couldn’t handle it and something happened." It’s a quiet admission.

"Are you afraid you’re going to hurt yourself, Kelsey?"

"No." I deny it, but the knot is in the pit of my stomach. Then I look at him. I hate it when he looks at me like that. Six sessions and he already knows when I’m fibbing. "I don’t think so." I take a deep breath. "Had I stayed in New York it might have been different but I feel safe here."

"I see." He scratches his cheek. "Do we need to do something a little more proactive? Do you need a hospital or a support group?"

I shake my head. "No. That’s the point. I have my support group. My family is my support."

"Do you need more than that?"

"No, at least, not right now. I promise you, if I feel like I do, I’ll let you know. Okay?"

"Okay." He sets his glass down and tosses his pad to the floor. "Kelsey, I think you’re an amazingly strong woman, who has had more than the lion’s share to contend with. I don’t want to see you take that way out because in the short time I’ve gotten to know you, even with all your trauma, I would have a hard time classifying you as a victim. You are a survivor."

"Thanks. I needed that."

"It’s the truth."

<fade out>

 

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