“There he is now! Welcome back, kiddo!” a familiar male voice said.
Everett blinked a few times , then left his eyes open, looking around for the source of the words. He found it to his right, it was his father, on his left was his mother, both smiling relieved.
“Hi dad! Hi mom!” Everett’s voice sounded raspy, as he looked around him, before directing his attention back at his parents.
It didn’t take him long to gather he was in a hospital room.
“Baby, you had an accident …” his mother told him gently.
“Yeah, I know. Except, it wasn’t an accident. Looks like I cannot even get that right.” Everett snorted a laugh, then cringed at the soreness from the impact, aggravated by the small movement.
“Son, one more word like that outta you and I will slap sense into you! I will not have you talk such crazy talk around your mother, or me for that matter.” his father’s concerned expression had changed into an angry one, while his mother only looked more worried now.
“Sorry mom. I didn’t mean it …” he lied. But he did not want to hurt his mom.
“It’s okay baby, I know you didn’t mean it. You would never do such a thing. Oh, that’s my phone, it’s Natty I better get that. Bye baby, I will be back to check on you later. If you need anything, tell daddy and we’ll get it for you.” she gently kissed his forehead, then answered the phone as she hurried out of the room.
“OK, Rett, I was not gonna say anything while your mother was in the room for what the fuck were you thinking!?”
“I apologized to her …”
“I didn’t mean THAT. I mean the crash. Mind breaking that shit down for me?!”
“Lost control…” Everett tried, but Liam interrupted him immediately.
“Do no insult my intelligence by lying to me now! The police knows too! They are not idiots, you know! No skid marks, no sign of you trying to brake whatsoever. If it weren’t for a weird angle of impact and front and side airbags, you’d be dead now. Assuming that was the idea, so please DO explain!”
“Oh, don’t you ‘dad’ me now! Do you know what it feels like to get that call that your child was in a terrible accident?! They don’t tell you what’s with the victim until you get there, so you picture all possible scenarios, while praying your child lives! Can you imagine how we felt?! Can you?! Not only did I worry about you, but about your mother as well! Your poor mom! And then to be told by police that it was an apparent suicide attempt, so I had to lie for you, so you do not come out of the hospital and go straight to jail!? No, Rett, you will be explaining yourself to me. You are in deep shit with me!” Liam’s voice had increased, even when he had stopped talking, his words still echoed off the walls.
“No, dad, I do NOT know what that feels like, because I will never know what being a parent means!” Everett nearly yelled back, his eyes welling up but he suppressed the tears of pain and anger. No way would his father see his grown son cry like a baby now too.
His father realized that his son was way more injured than it appeared, in a way no hospital could cure, and his face softened, the memory of the scary call, seeing his wife fall apart as they both had to fear the worst choked him up, so he turned away and diverted his attention to straightening out his oldest son’s bed until he felt able to speak again.
“We will talk about all that once you are home. They want to keep you overnight for observation, but that is merely precautionary. You were so very lucky, you must have had a guardian angel watching over you. Or two, probably, we both know who, and if they were still living, they would be very disappointed in you! My father moved heaven and earth to cheat death to be with my mother, for the most part of their lives together they didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but they did all they could to raise my sister and me as sound human beings to the best of their abilities and for us to not lack a thing, least of all love, and here you go, so much potential, and you do something this. I never thought I would ever say this, but you disappointed me today, Rett.” Liam looked as disappointed as his speech implied.
“Dad … it just hurts so much …” Everett’s words cut deep, Liam knew very well that his son was not talking about his minor injuries and bruises, still he remained firm.
“Here is what is going to happen, kid. Tomorrow, I will pick you up and take you home. By that I mean mom and my home, where you will stay until your mother and I deem you trustworthy enough to be out on your own again. Someone will check in on the beachhouse. But you will stay home, and not go ANYWHERE without supervision.”
“So you are going to go to work with me then? That’ll be fun, the boss getting dropped off at work by mommy and daddy.”
“Well, you won’t be. You will not be going to work.”
“Oh, so we are shutting the place down? Sorry, clients, boss had a mental meltdown, never mind your builds..”
“Wrong again. Your business is in good hands. Corbin and Donna are handling. He is an expert architect and has run offices bigger than yours. And she was his assistant then, for many years. It will all be fine. I am supposed to tell you that the Boudreaux project was approved by the client. Corbin seemed pretty happy about that.”
“Wow, yeah, that is pretty big. ”
“On that note, I will leave you be, kid. Stay out of trouble for the time being. I love you son. Glad you’re okay. But again, never ever attempt something like this again!” Liam said while hugging his son, a little longer than usual.
“Love you too, dad.” Everett meant it. His parents were the best. It was horrible of him to do something like that to them. They were the last people on earth he would ever mean to hurt.
Recovery was speedy. At least the physical damage was gone in less than two weeks. Mentally it was a long way. Natty had come for several visits and it did Rett good to see her. They were peas in a pod, still. Brianna came over often, Jake still lived there and it was like when they were all children again, just the six of them. The good old days. Truly.
But whenever he was alone, left to his own devices, for any extended period of time, his mind dragged him into a deep dark place.
Everett would change from his sweet, quiet, polite self to a cold, rude cynic within less than an hour and it was hard work to get him back to his normal self.
At that point his parents did not care about his pleas and involved his doctor, who ran tests and prescribed a pretty strong antidepressant.
The new medication took a while to take effect, but once it did it left Everett feeling mostly numb. Natty was the most successful in making him chuckle and smile sometimes, but for the most part, he had lost all joy in living. Especially when she had to go back to Del Sol Valley for her acting.
“Hey baby boy … I wanted to make sure you are – ahem – stable enough, but this came when you were recovering.”
His mother handed him the card that had arrived at his home the day of the accident, with the jungle on it and the “Wish You Were Here” printed on it.
He took it, looked at the cover, then tossed it into the trash without ever turning it over.
“Do you not want to read it?”
Liam had been making a sandwich, and looked over at them.
“Leo….” he gently spoke his wife’s nickname, shaking his head, to which she shrugged.
“I know who it’s from, mom. And I don’t give a shit what she wrote, where she is, what she’s doing. Loving her almost killed me. In more ways than one. And I almost ended up hurting the few people who REALLY care about me. No more. She can be gone and stay gone. Hope that bitch is having fun in the jungle swinging from vine to vine.” his tone was bitter, he got up and went into the backyard, from which you could overlook the ocean. He saw the lighthouse, … and the beachhouse, just behind it the Auditore Mansion.
If only they were all still around.
What would he give now to be able to go over to his grandparents, maybe have their neighbor Ezio there and witness him and Blaine squabble. That would fix his sadness immediately. Nobody could sit through that with a straight face.
He heard someone walk up behind him, then felt his father’s arm around his shoulders.
“I let grandpa down. He thought Katie and I ….” Rett could not finish, but felt his father’s embrace tighten.
“No, you did not. Your grandpa may have been right, but he could not foresee her issues. Boy, whatever made her that way is not something anyone could have guessed, and I doubt it can be just fixed. Your grandpa loved you so much, Rett, from the first moment you two met. He would not want any of this for you. And he would be here to tell you to let it all go.”
“I always thought one day I would have a son or a daughter and could be a dad to him or her like you were to me, and grandpa was to you. I worked so hard to have something to hand down. Instead, this.”
“Rett, I know this is going to sound like bullshit to you now, but believe me, you will love again. I had my heart broken very badly before, and I messed up REALLY bad. Worse than you. So believe me when I say that I understand you better than you think. When I finally decided to live again, I met your mom. Rest is, as they say, history. You will find your girl. And you will be a dad, a damn good one. I know that. And I will be the best grandpa I know how to be.”
The two men stood outside wordlessly after that, as no more words were needed, until they were called in for dinner.
When they entered the dining room, only three place settings had been put out.
“Where’s Jakey?” Rett asked
“He’s with his boyfriend.” Leonie answered
“Young love…” she shrugged, smiling.
“Why does he not just invite him over? So we all can meet him.” Rett asked.
“We have met him, and he has been over. Jake just thought it would be better not to rub your face in it… at least not right now.”
“That’s stupid! I am happy for him. And I want to meet that guy too! Big brother needs to approve and stuff, right?” Everett smiled faintly.
“You’ll like him. A very sweet boy. And Jake looks so happy when he’s with him. His name is Marty. A real cutie… if I were 25 years younger, not married and he weren’t gay … hmm hmm”
“Hey now!” Liam protested grinning, kissing his wife, while giving her a slap on the butt.
Everett smiled, a bittersweet smile. He was happy that his parents were still so much in love, but it reminded him that he was … not.
A few months passed. Everett felt more stable, but his mood remained on the more serious side, smiles were a rare occurrence, though he did not feel unhappy. Just not particularly happy. Somewhere in the middle.
He went back to work, but one of the stipulations his parents had put on him was that he could not bury himself in work and could not stay late. Corbin continued to help out, while Donna had started pre-screening candidates for the assistant position. Once she had a selection, she would have Everett meet with them to take his pick. Not something he looked forward to, but she was relentless. He even tried talking her into staying on permanently, but Corbin protested that idea right away.
Then the interviewing process begun. So far Rett had met with two nice ladies, seemingly capable. They were both great. Polite, nice, well-spoken, experience working for architects … but …
That night Rett was watching TV at his parents’ home, when his mother answered the gate alert. A while later she came into view.
“Rett, there is someone here to see you.”
“Who is it?” he asked, not very eager to speak to anybody not already present.
“Go and see, I am not your secretary, kiddo.” she gently patted his cheeks.
He got up and opened the door, when he felt as if hit by lightning.
She looked different and the same at the same time. Instantly he felt a wave of heat – then anger – wash over him.
“Hi Rett …” she said, attempting a faint smile.
Everett swallowed hard, then shook his head and slammed the door shut, walking back into the living room.
His mother watched from the kitchen, chewing on her lip.
“Did you hear what she had to..”
“It may not be bad if you were to just …”
“Mom, no. I do not give a shit what excuse she has now. Hope she enjoyed her vacation in the jungle. For all I care she can go right back to where she came from.”
“Rett, we all make mistakes and sometimes we have ghosts from the past haunting us. Sometimes we just need another chance, and some help…”
“Mom, seriously, how many chances am I supposed to give her, while she recklessly tramples my feelings into the ground?!”
“I am not saying you should give her a chance. Meet her for coffee, listen to what she has to say, and then you can still make your choice.”
“Mom, if you are so keen on her, you go and date her!”
“Son, do NOT speak to your mother that way!” Liam had entered the room and only overheard the last part.
“Mom, wants me to talk to Katie. Bitch had the forehead to show up at you guys’ door just now!”
“Leonie …” Liam tilted his head and gave his wife a look as if doubting her mindset.
“Liam, all I want is for her to get a chance to explain herself. Everett suffers from depression and has done things he is not proud of, things neither of us understands. I am convinced her past left scars on her soul that have never been addressed properly. And for some reason, certain things set off her defenses.” Leonie spoke passionately.
“Leo …” Everett’s father said.
“What? She does not have parents to take care of her. Only some drunkard uncle. She could be one of our kids, Liam. Imagine one of our girls hurting inside and nobody reaching out to help…” she looked almost at the verge of tears at the idea.
“Leo, baby, really. You cannot be a mother to everybody.” Liam smiled at his wife’s tender heart and motherly ways while hugging her tightly.
“Too late now anyway. She is probably not dumb enough to still be standing out there.” Rett said.
“But I know she is staying at the Copper Roof Inn Hotel …” Leonie grinned, her eyes more moist than normal.
“Fine mom, for you – and only for you – I’ll go listen to her bullshit excuses, and then I will be right back home.” Rett said in a resigned tone.
“Nope. The rule is you go nowhere unsupervised. You go, I go.” Liam said firmly.
“Dad, seriously? You know I am 28 years old, right?”
“I’ll go …” Leonie offered.
“No, you will not. You hopeless romantic cannot be trusted in this situation. You’d probably end up adopting the girl. You stay, I go. Come on, Rett. Grab your jacket or I will put it on you for ya.” Liam chuckled.
“Jeeze dad… mom, what have you done?!”
“Ha ha ha … sorry Rett … ha ha ha…” she laughed as she watched her husband and son leave.
Liam walked into the lobby with Rett, went up the the reception and asked for Katie, who told the receptionist she’d be right down.
After that, Liam went to read a magazine in the background, giving his son and Katie space. When she stepped off the elevators she saw Everett right away and came over to him, smiling but it was not reciprocated, so she sat down.
“Thank you for coming to see me Rett…”
“What do you want?” he said with hostility in his tone ‘…and what the hell am I even doing here?’ he thought to himself.
“Apologize, mostly. And explain myself.”
“No need to apologize and I really do not care. Was great catching up.” he got back up.
“Rett wait, please…” her eyes begged him to stay. He thought about it, then sat back down.
“Is this the moment now where you tell me we have a secret child together? Always happens in the movies right about now..” his tone was dripping with sarcasm.
“Cynicism is not a good feature for you, Rett, you are way too kind a man to pull that off. And no, no secret kids. But I do have to wonder about what kind of movies you have been watching…”
“Since I am on parental-imposed house arrest unless I want to go out holding mommy or daddy’s hand, I watch whatever they watch. Mom likes romance stuff and drama.”
“I can tell. Did you get my card?”
“But you didn’t read it, did you? Rett, I am so sorry how things ended between us, I …”
“No. Save it Katie. It won’t wash. Not this time. I cannot keep doing this. This love – umm – this relationship we had – it’s toxic. I cannot handle it. I do not WANT to deal with it again.”
“Rett, maybe we could be friends …”
“Can we at least meet for dinner at some point?”
“I’d rather watch paint dry. Katie, I am over this. Count me out. Go back to where you had to hurry off to so urgently. Looks like you got your time in the jungle at last. Congrats. At least one of us got what they always dreamed of.”
“Everett, I am trying to tell you that I have been thinking. A lot. The jungle is perfect for that. And I realized that I do want all that what you want. Be your wife, mother of your child…”
Everett laughed loudly, but it had a joyless undertone.
“You really must think I am in idiot par excellence if you think THAT will work on me now. You want to marry and have a child? Congrats, you’ll be sure to make one unlucky man’s life incredibly unpredictable, so much is certain. But I can tell you, that poor fool won’t be me. I’d rather die single and childless than do THIS again. I gotta go. Bye Katie. Oh, and please, have a heart and leave my poor mother out of this. She is too sweet a person to be dragged into your schizophrenia.”
Katie sniffled briefly, looked like she was about to cry, but managed to regain her composure. That small show of weakness and pain managed to send electricity through his entire body, rendering him incapable of moving, while she spoke again, her tone pleading.
“Rett, please. I love you, I do! You are the ONLY person I love. You gave me back hope, and trust in other people. But I am messed up, I know that now. I want you, and I want to make you happy. Which is why I freaked out. My parents were happy, a team, indivisible. The best parents imaginable. Until I messed up in school and the bullying started, when I fell in love with the wrong boy. After that, everything fell apart – they fell apart – and it was all MY fault. I broke it. I broke them. Had I not fallen for that damn boy, we would never have moved, mom would have never run off with another man, daddy would still be alive and mom, grandma and grandpa would never have had that fatal accident. It was all MY fault! MY FAULT. I did not want that to happen to us, too. I was mortified of losing you, Rett, so much that I messed up and lost you anyway. It took me a long time to understand why I felt the way I do. And I understand why you are mad at me, and that you have every right to be. But I need a chance. Please, just one more chance – only one – and maybe a little patience and your help. I know I am asking for a lot here, but if you ever truly cared about me, you will at least consider it. I am already in therapy, but it is so very hard to do it alone. At least be my friend, Rett. Just a hand is all I need. Someone to believe in me.”
“Great monologue. You should try out for a movie audition.”
Everett told her coolly as he watched her deflate in the chair as he jumped up to walk away while he had the strength, but his legs would still not move. He closed his eyes. Exhaled, forcing himself to remember the pain she had caused him, then managed to get his legs to function again, as he walked over to Liam.
“Let’s go, dad. I need to get out of here.” Crossing the lobby he briefly looked over at where he and Katie had been talked, and saw her still standing there. She looked lost, broken – and incredibly sad. She still got to him. After all that she had put him through. Everett hated to admit this, if only to himself, but he hated seeing her like that.