“So how’s the club business going?” Everett asked, directed at KC, who never replied, instead stared into the void.
“KC…” Evey nudged him from across the table.
“Sorry what?” he asked, as if awoken from a dream.
“Dad asked you about the club.” Evey summed up.
“Club’s going well. Been topping the earnings from the prior months each month, more people are coming monthly too.” he said, addressed at Everett, who listened with one eyebrow raised.
“A-ha. So what is really on your mind, son? You’ve been somewhere else ever since we got here. Assuming it is a lonely island without any toddlers and not another woman…” he smirked.
“Daddy! KC would never. It’s about his parents, they …” Everleigh said, but KC interrupted her.
“Why not KC? Clearly it occupies your thoughts a great deal. Maybe we can help you. You are our son after all, never mind that “in-law” part.” Katie said softly.
KC felt cornered as five pairs of eyes were on him now.
“His old man is in the can, called him and wants to be a family now…” Josh said, chewing.
“Thank you, Josh!” Evey shot him death stares.
“You told him?” KC asked appalled.
“They tell each other everything!” Emmi interjected.
“Glad to hear somebody is getting updates in this family…” Everett said.
“Oh jeeze. It’s not that I don’t want to share with you guys. There is just nothing TO share. You all know my family is trash. Somehow I was pulled down from the attic. My guess is they want something. Money or who knows what. My father’s been to prison more times than I care to think about, so that is not it. He is not a white picket fence kinda family man, so I am not buying the remorse spiel. In other words, I am going to bury it all and move on. There, now you had the update.” KC spoke with quiet resignation in his voice. Why did this rotten business have to surface at all?
“If it is so simple, why are you so distracted by it, kid? I know you and I didn’t start out as a dream team, but like Katie said, you ARE my son now too, and if something is weighing you down, I want to help. And truthfully, I get where you are coming from. BUT – you have children now. It’s not only about you and your choices anymore. If it is at all feasible, they should eventually at least meet their grandparents. Both sets.” Rett said.
“None of them is coming into this house!” KC spoke firmly, shaking his head.
“Fine, meet them in a public place then, somewhere on neutral ground, over dinner maybe.” Everett suggested.
“Hell no! I doubt any of them even know basic manners or have an ounce of social graces, let alone know how to even chew with their mouths closed. I am not exposing my wife and kids to that.”
“We could have a BBQ at a park. If we’d all come, you are in the majority and maybe they will at least try to behave. And if they really cannot chew with their mouths closed, at least it falls in the grass.” Josh said, making him and Emmi chuckle.
“You want me to introduce them to ALL of you? HA HA HA HA Not in a million years. I finally earned your respect and acceptance Everett, no offense, but that was hard enough. If you all meet them, if you all knew where I came from, I would get put up for adoption ASAP! No way, Jose!”
“You underestimate me, son. I admit, in the beginning I really wasn’t too thrilled with you, not with that rap sheet you had. But I will let you in on a secret, now that you have a daughter of your own: there will come a day where she brings home that boy and you start imagining your little girl, that little toddler right there, that image will pop in your head and you start thinking what used to go through your head about girls when you were the age of that boy. THEN you will understand me. Hoping I will still be around and we will resume this talk then. Now all that aside, I like you son. You are a good kid, no, you are good man. A great guy, with a lot of great qualities and I could not have asked for a better man to take over taking care of my little girl than you. So, whatever demons you think your family are, we can handle them, because you are part of our family, and we Camerons are stubborn as hell and don’t let go easily.” Everett said
“Why don’t you two get a room?” Josh said smirking.
“I am not sure what the cut-off age for spanking is, but I am willing to chance it, Josh!” Everett told him, suppressing a grin.
“You would have to catch me first, old man.” Josh taunted his father.
“Call your father an old man again and you will find out how fast your mother can be.” Katie warned smiling.
“He is not fast at all, last time he ran from me he got 5 feet before rolling his ankle. I ended up taking care of TWO toddlers for the entire weekend.” Emmi said, making everybody laugh.
By the time everyone went to their respective homes, it had been determined that Everett, Evey and KC would go visit KC’s father in prison,
KC was not keen on the idea, but any of his attempts to dodge the planned visit failed.
So it happened.
KC wanted to sink into the ground as he was walking towards the prison building with his wife and father-in-law. He had almost forgotten where he came from, what his family had been like. In his mind he usually thought of himself as just another guy like so many others. But he wasn’t. You cannot deny who you really were. And today, Everett and Evey would see. Urgh.
They passed the security, were brought the the room and seated. The door opened and Deangelo Cullen was brought in, his handcuffs removed and he stepped to the table.
Everett got up and offered his hand, which KC’s father took, visibly surprised.
“Hello, I am Everett Cameron, this is my daughter Everleigh, your son’s wife and mother of his twins.”
“Ah, twins. That part you missed last time, kid. Nice to meet you, both. Good being able to put a face with … well, I actually didn’t even know your name, darlin’.”
“Her name is Evey, not ‘darlin’.” KC barked at his father.
“You may not remember this, but we have actually met before. A long time ago. I believe you may remember my father, who used his fists on you and another man after we came to pick up Evey from your trailer home.” Everett told KC’s father.
KC’s eyes grew wide. He had forgotten all about that as well. (Read here)
“Ah, yeah, I remember vaguely. My memories fail me often, I am sure you figured out that I have never been a picture-perfect father. I got my flaws. To my defense I never wanted a kid and I was so damn young when his mother ended up knocked up. Raising a kid is hard when you are young, dumb and not settled.”
“Some rules about how to treat a child should be obvious if you are old enough to make one. Rule 1: feed it, frequently, Rule 2: don’t bounce its head off the ground…” Everleigh said dryly from across the table.
“Evey! Come on. But she is right, all that sounds like an excuse to me. My son and his girlfriend ended up unexpectedly pregnant at a very young age too. He married her and they are doing just fine. He will graduate college next year with excellent grades and she is in art school.”
“They got themselves something I never had: wealthy parents. Supportive ones. I never met mine. Grew up in the system, have no clue who they even were. All they left me was a note with my name on it for whoever would find me on the church steps. His mother’s story is pretty much the same. I don’t know what foster homes are like today, but back when they were hell. I just didn’t know how to raise a kid. I didn’t know how life worked.”
“Neither did your son and he made something of himself.” Everett argued.
“Only because I had Evey. And your father. And his father. And the whole village it took to get me to where I am now.” KC told him quietly.
KC’s father chuckled, then said
“You have always been an honest kid. I told you last time, I know I messed up and it is too late to fix. You don’t need any fixing. You turned out great. Look, maybe it was the getting sober, maybe it was the diagnosis, but something made me sit back and tally up my life. Didn’t take long. The only thing I have to show for is you, kid. I am a fool, uneducated, brain eaten away by my bad choices, but what’s left is enough to know that you have been racking your brain about why I called you after all that time. What kinda scheme I am brewing up now. Truth is, there isn’t one. I am running out of time fast and I wanted to leave this world knowing that I told you that it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t that I didn’t like you, I was just messed up and didn’t know how to get out. After you went to live with the moneybags I went to get myself clipped, you know the babymakin’ parts, so I wouldn’t accidentally end up dragging another kid down with me, who may not be so lucky as you were. Your mother didn’t, I am sure you met her kid. Your aunt got herself knocked up again too. Fools. But I guess they saw the light too. I don’t know if they can make it, so if you want to put all that money you are paddling around in to good use, maybe help his mother and aunt get to a better life. By the way, whatever you told Tansy worked. She came back to see me and we made up. So, thanks, son.”
“Didn’t do anything. I was too shocked finding a sister and cousin I knew nothing about.” KC admitted.
“And I am not as wealthy as you seem to think. We are doing okay, but I don’t have mountains of cash to throw about.” Everett said.
“From where I sit you are the wealthiest person I have met. And what about you Evey, cat got your tongue? You are not scared of your father-in-law, are ya?” Cullen addressed the last part of his words at Evey, who had been mostly a quiet observer.
“Not scared. I remember you. I remember you all too well, and what you did to KC. I’ll never forget that. I saw you do it! You are disgusting! I am quiet because I am trying to figure out your angle. I am not buying what you are trying to sell. If you were as sick as you say, no way would they keep you here. You are playing us. Just don’t know what for – YET.” Evey told him straight out.
“Got yourself a feisty one there, son.” unimpressed he addressed KC.
“You have no idea. But she is right. I am not buying the dog and pony show either. You almost had me buttered up. Almost.”
“What do you want from me? Fall apart and cry and beg? You got all that dough, why not share some. Maybe I am not as sick, but I am not a healthy man and not getting any younger. The way I lived my life, I am not going to set records for old age. I’d be lucky if I make it to 55. If you would remember where you came from, you could help us out and we all would be better off.”
“Oh, let me tell you, your son remembers. That is why he is the man he is today. My daughter and father may have helped, but he did all that on his own remembering you. That being said, I am not your personal piggy bank, neither is your son.” Everett told Cullen.
“The only good thing you ever did was father KC and then get your balls chopped off to not make more kids you can make miserable. You are a monster and a liar. And disgusting. I am so done here. I’ll wait in the car.” Everleigh did not even try to be polite anymore. She spoke her peace, got up and left.
“Wait up, Barbie, I am done here too. You know, daddy dearest, I’d make some stupid joke now, but you’re not even worth that.” KC jumped up and followed his wife.
“Go on, make your grand exit too.” Cullen turned to Everett.
“No, I actually think there was some truth to what you said. I think you just cannot help the crook in you, like second nature. I think you actually do give a damn about your son. That’s the thing about kids though, we only get them for a short time. Once they leave the nest, they are not ours to control and they sure don’t owe us anything. We are the lucky ones, if they choose to share their lives with us.”
“You are a smart man. I ain’t smart, but guess I don’t need to tell you that. I knew that boy was through with me. The only way I could see to make him change his mind was to tell him I was dying, maybe he’d take pity on me and give me a chance.”
“Lies never last. You would have had a better chance being honest with him. You got him to come here before he thought you were sick. And how did you imagine that lie to work out in the end, when years pass and you are still alive.”
“Like I said, I never was much of a thinker. Any chance you could talk to him? He clearly looks up to you ..”
“Maybe, but the one that needs convincing is my daughter. She is the one who was bound and determined to save your kid, against my will. Sometimes our kids know better than we do. I better go now too. All I can leave you with is a word of advice: whatever lies you would tell to make people like you better, use them instead as a measure for what to strive for. If he sees you trying, KC may come around. You need patience, if you are serious about making amends. Took you 29 years of doing nothing.”
Everett stood up, the men shook hands silently, then the officer placed the handcuffs on Cullen and lead him away.
Watching him disappear, Everett smiled to himself and said quietly that only he could hear
“I am becoming my father after all. Dad, if you can hear me wherever you are now, I hope I at least made you proud.”
Shaking his head, he turned and left.
The meeting with KC’s mother, aunt and half-sister went significantly better, and was rather brief. It was held at the Beach House, Katie cooked. KC aunt, Josh, Emmi and Coleton were present also.
Sally McCoy cried when she saw the twins, nobody doubted it was genuine. Everybody was polite towards each other, shared a meal then KC’s mother and aunt left with Rosemary. Once they left KC sank onto a chair, exhaling.
“Damn. Glad that is over.” KC moaned.
“Hey man, knock off the cursing around the kids. They are like parrots on speed at that age.” Josh informed him.
“You would know. Most of the time I feel like I walked into a sailor’s hangout when over at your place.” KC retorted grinning.
“Yeah, Emmi, you really should not curse so much.” Josh deflected grinning at Emmi, who looked surprised at the joking accusation.
“Kid, you forget we raised you.” Everett helped out.
“So that’s where those two learned all those naughty words…” KC joked.
“If you worked as an architect long enough and had customers change their mind ten times in a single day requesting designs ranging from ‘are you serious’ to ‘need a magic wand for that to work’, causing you sleepless nights each time, you would curse too.” Everett laughed.
“Seriously now, that went well, don’t you think?” Evey asked.
“Sure, my life’s dream finally fulfilled.” KC’s words dripped sarcasm.
“Oh come on, KC. They are not bad at all. And I had an idea … daddy, Josh-y, kitchen. Now!” Everleigh ordered.
“Oh crap, what did I do now.” Josh moaned.
When they reemerged Everleigh wore a victorious smile.
“KC, we had an idea on how to help. Your father owns the land the trailer park is on. If we recycle some stuff from other sites and whatever is usable on the trailer park, we can design a simple home big enough for all of them, and suitable for children at pretty low cost, especially if we all are hands on and you with your mad skills building stuff. That way, the root cause is fixed, they would finally have adequate living conditions without paying rent, and maybe we can swing a playground for the children. Sounds like your mom and aunt are on the right path with their mindset. Maybe we can all ask around for better jobs, maybe find a cheap car, so they don’t all have to share one unreliable one. Can’t do much about the strip club across the street or the prison next door, but at least something, right? And the kids could have friends over without being embarrassed. Not much anybody can do about your father, but hope dies last, so maybe he’ll get struck by lightning and changes his ways or something.
KC smiled, shaking his head, as he got up and pulled Evey into his arms.
“I really don’t deserve you. You are too good to be true. That is a great idea, even though I should be mad, I asked you several times to leave this alone.”
“Your lips said that, your eyes wanted to help.” Evey smiled up at KC.
“Did his eyes also say to reel me into it? Like I don’t already have my plate full.” Josh complained.
“Shut up son.” Everett said.
“I didn’t put you in shackles, Josh, to drag you off to the coal mines. You can say no and not help.” Everleigh told him.
“As if! Course I’ll help. But you gotta let me give you grief for it, it’s my brotherly duty.”
“It’s duty all right. Big steaming pile!” Katie said.
“Oh dang, shackles – that reminds me! I can’t believe I almost forgot! I needed to be somewhere. Sorry guys, I have an important appointment with Heath!”
“A what? With Heath? Were you gonna tell me about that?” KC was taken aback.
“I was, but I was waiting for a text, it came when they all were here. You can come, KC. It’ll be cool. But I ain’t telling what or where. Mom, dad, so sorry to do this, but can the twins stay over tonight?”
Evey’s parents agreed, the kids were already asleep anyway, KC drove Evey to the home on the cliffs, they loaded a reluctant Heath into the Jeep and drove to Willow Creek.
Parking in an unfamiliar spot, Evey lead them to a building.
Large, impressive and artfully illuminated.
“City Hall? What the … Evey, it’s late, they are closed.” KC told her.
“Not tonight. Come on.” she lead the way, both men followed, exchanging a glance and a shrug.
They entered, the door was unlocked by a security guard after Evey knocked, they went up one floor and ended up in a large hall.
The town hall.
The question marks over KC and Heath’s head soon turned into amazement as the Mayor waved Heath towards him.
Charlie, or Mayor Charles Ellington, was concluding a speech into a rolling camera with the words
“…and therefore, without further ado, I would like Mr. Heath Grainger to be the first of many who have been illegitimately sentenced to the very inhumane, demeaning and outdated concept of involuntary servitude to be officially pardoned. Mr. Ranston, if you would please.” Charles smiled.
A man came from the background with a contraption and within seconds the collar snapped open and fell to the floor at Heath’s feet.
Mayor Ellington shook his hand, carefully recorded by rolling cameras.
“Congratulations Mr. Grainger, and welcome as the first official immortal citizen with all of his rights reinstated immediately. You may sign some documents over there and within approximately 6 – 8 weeks you will receive your official ID – and voters registration – in the mail. As of right now you may do anything I am allowed to, and the same laws apply to you. Do you have any words to share?” Charlie pointed to the camera, but Heath was too discombobulated, only managed a quiet “Thank you.”
It wasn’t until they reached the lobby that he said
“I am free.”
“Like a bird.” Evey confirmed.
“How did you do that, Little Leigh?”
“Connections, man. I got my ways.” she smiled big.
“So, what are you gonna do with all that freedom, man?” KC inquired.
“Buy a ring and propose to a girl.” was Heath brief response.
“YAS!” Everleigh cheered.
“Wow, from shackles around the neck straight into ball and chain. You must really like being owned.” KC grinned at him, while shaking his hand to congratulate him on his liberty.
“Oh really, KC? Tell me more about how horrible marriage is?” Evey’s tone playfully testing.
“It’s a dream come true.” KC gave her his best smile.
“That’s what I thought!”
“Wait, who are you gonna propose to? Not that runaway bride?” KC asked Heath.
“KC! Sam is crazy in love with him. And he with her. Am I right? They are just taking it slow … REALLY slow …”
“She is expecting my child.” Heath stated plainly.
“Ha, if THAT is taking it slow, I wanna see what you all a quickie, Barbie!” KC laughed, as Evey’s chin hit the floor.
“How did that happen?” she managed to say, mouth still agape.
“I’ll be happy to demonstrate once we get home, especially since we are kid-free for the night. Let’s get Heath home first, I have a feeling he is itching to share the news … WHOA! Hey buddy … tread lightly there … told you once, that one is mine!” KC joked as Heath suddenly pulled Everleigh into an embrace, holding her tight like a drowning man would hold a lifesaver, as silent tears began to flow.
“Goddamn it you two, you are gonna get me all sobby too and who is gonna drive anybody anywhere then? But heck, I tell you all a secret, I am a sucker for happy endings!”
Weeks had passed since Heath’s liberation.
“So what did he want this time?” Evey asked from the kitchen as KC walked in. His father had called many times for KC to visit him again to discuss something important. Finally KC had enough, gave up and gave in, went to hear him out, to hopefully shut him up.
“Argh, lots of empty banter, but after circling forever he finally landed the plane. I knew it! We both did! He had some ulterior motive all along. Wants me to write him a glowing recommendation for his next parole appeal. Said his attorney told him that if an – and I quote – ‘esteemed citizen’, and by that they mean me – wrote a letter about how he is a better man now and should be released into society again it would carry a lot of weight, especially me as his son, owner of a renown club, married to the daughter of the owner of EC Architects, which is well known for the commercial buildings your firm designed all over the vicinity.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Nothing I would repeat in front of you, Barbie, but it sure wasn’t yes. He can sit there for the 7 years he’s got left. Kept saying he ain’t gonna live that long. Well, sucks to be him. So, what’s for dinner?” KC was apparently done with the conversation and scanned the kitchen for food. Unsuccessfully.
“We got Heath tonight, KC.” Everleigh reminded him.
“Sounds pretty tough, but I am hungry enough to try anything right about now.” KC grinned.
“We’ll go eat after the rehearsal. You forgot, didn’t you? Not even the fact that you didn’t get mauled by two noisy toddlers and a bear of a dog gave away that there may be something up? Mom and dad are watching the three of them overnight, as we all planned a week ago.”
“Figured they were tied up and muzzled in the closet. You’re not famous for your patience, Barbie.”
“Well, maybe then the fact that I am dressed up, that didn’t ring a bell? No?” she asked, trying to hide her amusement.
“You always look good enough to eat.” He grinned before planting a big kiss on her cheek.
“Hardee har har.” she rolled her eyes, but smiled appeased.
Then the day of the wedding came.
Heath and Samantha’s big day.
Only a few months ago this seemed like utter utopia. But here it was now.
Two people’s dream about to become reality.
A simple wedding, but Heath and Sam wanted to get married before she started showing and both wanted the baby to be born into a marriage.
KC was Heath’s best man, and Everleigh was the matron of honor for Sam. Since the Mayor and his wife would attend as guests of honor, they found a locale in Willow Creek, where the mayor lived, near the City Hall building.
While helping him get ready, KC teased Heath about Sam leaving him at the altar again, but Heath just smiled and told him he was not worried about it, nor about the baby.
He now was able to access hospitals.
He could be there for the birth, regardless.
Too often in the past had he wasted too much of what little happy times he was granted with worrying.
Not this time.
The ceremony was beautiful, the venue lovingly decorated.
The young couple looked so very happy.
Once the crowd had moved over to the bar area, KC clinked his glass, and smirking told everybody
“Well, since I am the best man tonight and found out that it is customary to hold a speech, I guess here goes. I’d love to tell you all what an honor it is that this dude thought me important enough to be his best man, but we all know in reality it’s pretty slim pickings for him in the friends department. And if Sam wouldn’t have been just that much quicker, Everleigh would be addressing you now and I’d be wearing a frilly dress, flowers in my hair and wearing lipstick as Sam’s maid of honor.”
He paused briefly as everybody was laughing, KC chuckled as well, before continuing
“Joking aside, truth is, we are friends, the pale skinny one and I. Took us long enough, but a while back I realized that he is a great guy, lots of integrity, who would do anything for a friend. Literally ANYthing, so if you need somebody to disappear, make friends with the groom. Ha ha ha … In all seriousness, I know what it’s like having been dealt a shoddy deck by fate, and I know what it means to have someone in your corner. Heath and I share a lot of history and go way back. When we both finally got our priorities straight, we had to become buddies. Heck, that man over there kept calm and helped bring my children into this world, when I was about to jump straight into the nutty pool when my lovely wife suddenly decided to just give birth right then and there. I really hope nobody is recording this but I am gonna say it anyway: I love you, man. You are the best friend a man can wish for. Except Evey of course, she’s also a helluva lot easier on the eye, no offense.”
KC could not say any more, Heath had come up to him and both hugged, talking to each other but nobody else could hear their private exchange.
After the toast the party resumed, people ate, drank, danced, had fun.
KC was laughing with Evey and the bridal couple when something got his attention.
“What the …?! I’ll be right back.”
Without a word of explanation he walked off towards the entrance.
“What are you doing here?” KC’s tone was rough and unwelcoming.
“Why didn’t you help me out, son? All you had to do was write something nice, to give me a chance. You got your chance, why can’t I have one too?”
“You were sentenced for 10 years for a reason. Yeah, I looked up what you did. You got 3 down already, the rest will fly by. How did you get out anyway?”
“They let me out for the night.”
“For what?” KC snorted a disbelieving laugh.
“My son’s funeral.” KC’s father said plainly.
Deangelo Cullen brandished a gun he pulled from from the back of his waistband.
Before KC could react he saw the gun aimed at him, all he could do was stare into his father’s cold eyes then down the barrel of a gun, as a shrill female scream cut through the night, just before the gun exploded into a bright light and a shot echoed through the night.
“KC – NOOOOOO!” Evey screamed, her eyes wide in fear and disbelief.