The shouting could be heard from the street, even though all windows were shut.
“I am NOT being unreasonable, Ethan, YOU are! How can you expect me to want to live this way for this long?! This was to be temporary. Temporary! By now I have been raising your sister’s child along with my own for nearly a year, a YEAR! That is NOT temporary! Not to mention that we used to have countless fights not long after Blake’s birth, when I wanted another kid and you said we could not make that work. Looks like we actually CAN make two babies at the same time work. Guess it just depends on who is asking, huh!? I always knew your sister outranks my wishes, but this is the cherry on top!” Amy yelled her frustration at her husband.
“Just bashing on someone who cannot defend herself or is there a point to all this?” Ethan yelled back defensively. He was worn out by worry and too much work and the last thing he wanted was another fight with his wife.
“There is a point! Two actually! Firstly, nice to know that I was good enough to breed one baby with you and to raise your sister’s, even though you denied me a second child of my own! But that stops now! I have had enough! This is not the 1950s where the man gets to make all decisions and the wifey has to just deal with it! I am DONE dealing! I want to work. Have an actual career. Do something with my life, while I still have the chance. I studied just as hard as you did, and barely got to work in my field before giving you the child you begged for. I am going to get a job again and this time YOU will have to figure out how to make that work. Enough is enough, Ethan! I am still here too. I count too!” Amy was so angry that she looked near tears.
“Sure, and I will just take the babies to work with me?” Ethan growled dryly. He had no fight left in him. After a full day of work, he just got through feeding two babies, bathing them and then wrangling them to go to sleep, both unruly and uncooperative. Now he wanted to kiss Amy goodbye to go to the hospital as he did every night, but Amy confronted him immediately.
“I honestly do not care what you do! The agreement was that we co-parent, remember?! That included you, too. Instead what has really happened was that I had to quit my job to not only take care of our baby full time – pretty much by myself – but also someone else’s, a fact I was just confronted with, nobody ever asked if I was even okay with it. Not saying you are not a great dad, you are, dedicated too but when you take care of the baby – or shall I say babies? – you ignore me completely. As if I were invisible to you. So I sit at home, completely shut out of your life, I am lonely and wondering what happened to us and our little family, the life as we planned it, wondering if you even still remember me, if you still love me, while you run off and spend every free minute with your family and Nick, leaving me behind, never even asking me to come along, then you come home sad and tired, I barely see you a few minutes until you go to bed or fall asleep on the couch. What about me, Ethan? What about us? Remember us? There once was an us, not just a you, you, you and yours!” Amy’s eyes seemed to spark for anger.
“What do you want me to do?! Turn my back on my family, on my best friend, and all this heartbreak and play happy house with you ignoring the sad truth and dire reality?! I didn’t choose this either, Amy! But I cannot leave them all hanging to figure all that out alone now.” Ethan defended himself desperately.
The fight continued bitterly until Amy snorted in capitulation, shook her head as tears began to roll down her face, then grabbed her keys, slammed the door and left. Ethan just let her, he could not move, paralyzed with feelings, and felt like weights were tied to his feet.
This was only one of many fights just like it, they seemed to happen nearly daily now, wearing down Ethan even more to almost his breaking point. Between this and the usual stress at work, the worry about his sister, the worry about his best friend, worry about his parents and now even his marriage apparently on the rocks he was beginning to feel helpless and perpetually tired.
Worst of all, he knew Amy was right. She was getting the short end of the stick here. But there was nothing he could do about it.
He was already stretched way too thin. And he was afraid that the one day he’d skip visiting Ezzy at the hospital would be the day her body gave out. While her daughter had recovered and was home with him now, Ezzy had never woken from the coma.
At some point after this last fight Ethan ended up begging his parents to watch the babies, as Amy made good on her word and found employ as an Engineer.
KC immediately volunteered for baby duty, since it was much easier for him to stay home, a luxury Evey as the CEO of EC architects and now sole provider couldn’t afford, just like Ethan couldn’t just abandon post. Even though Everett had come back from retirement and helped out a lot, as had Joshua, they needed the CEO, Evey, and her right hand Ethan there most days.
While KC joked about being a stay-at-home grandpa sometimes, he did it without real complaining. Despite the many years that had passed since his terrible childhood, he had never forgotten the chance he had once received, without which he would have none of this. Seeing his beloved children, and his Evey hurting, pained him. If he could help, even a little, by watching his two grandchildren, he would do it with a smile.
By now, Nick had completely lost his ways. Merely a shell of his former self, since evidently he received bad news from the doctor, not only about Ezzy’s very slim chance to ever waking up again, which dwindled further with each day she remained in the coma, but even if she did, nothing would be as before.
There was no telling now if she would be able to function like before, if she would be able to walk, talk, eat on her own. And that was the best case scenario.
Nick took those news hard, like a death sentence. Over the past months he had just stopped going to work altogether and naturally had been fired. He had quit paying bills, so Katie had their attorney draw up some documents allowing her to take care of things with the house and related bills. Nick just signed whatever she handed him at the dotted line without as much as looking at it.
Ethan or Katie had to drag him away regularly to get a shower, most often he was well beyond ripe smelling, stained clothes and greasy hair, they had to force him to eat every so often. He just would not react to anyone else, just sat stubbornly in the waiting area or at Ezzy’s bedside.
Nick barely even spoke anymore, and if, only one-syllable replies.
But worst of all, Nick refused to take care of his child. He refused to hold her, feed her, even look at her.
He refused her as a being completely.
Even to acknowledge her or refer to her as his daughter.
The couple of times he had interacted with the baby, his glances were hateful and disgusted.
Everybody was afraid to leave him alone with little Ally.
The sad truth was that Ezzy had been a mother for nearly a year now, but didn’t even know it. Nick was a father, but had never even held his baby girl.
And then suddenly – without a warning – Nick was gone.
Gone without a trace.
No note, no message, no word, no hint.
The Camerons and Nick’s parents searched everywhere.
The police searched.
To no avail.
A few months later more changes had been put into motion.
Ethan was sitting at the table in his childhood home over some coffee, lost in his thoughts, when KC came to join him.
“How’s it going son?”
“Ah, you know, the usual. Tired, burned out, feeling like a failure, worst husband on record, only surpassed by worst best friend ever, but grateful I have awesome parents….”
“Oh come on son, don’t be so hard on yourself. It happens. Not your fault. Not all relationships are meant to last forever. And maybe she will change her mind after some cooling off.”
“Dad, I love you, but you suck at this pep talk stuff. I just received divorce papers, while living in my childhood room at my parents’ home, where I am raising my son and niece, while my soon-to-be ex-wife lives in the home we built to be our happy home, just like this one. Instead of happy, my home is broken, I am going to be a single dad, if my wife gets her way. My sister is still in a coma and my best friend has gone nuts. Wherever he even is. I really thought Nick would confide in me if he ever even as much as considered something like this. I thought our friendship meant something. It’s all so fucked up. If and when Ez wakes up, and she’ll ask me where Nick is, which we both know she will – I will have to break her heart by telling her that I have no fucking clue, but by the way sis, here is your 12 months old baby girl, who does not know you, does not know her dad, but is trying to call me ‘dada’, which makes my soon to be ex-wife fly off the handle and is REALLY hard to explain why my niece calls me daddy. Oh my gawd, dad, when did all this go so wrong?” Ethan looked extremely upset.
“Kid, I really don’t know what to tell you. I am sure Nick is fine and will come back after he figured out whatever he needed to get away to figure out. I always thought he was a solid young man. I am not sure what to make of him suddenly just disappearing either. But as harsh as this is gonna sound, blood relation is going to be my main priority. You, your sister and my grandkids. And my wife. Your mother is not doing well, I am not liking this at all. So glad Everett is still sharp as he ever was and is helping out. Just wished I could do more.” KC said.
“Dad, seriously, you are doing a LOT. You have nothing to blame yourself for. You are really the best dad anyone could imagine. You are what I have aspired to become, but pretty obvious that I failed. And yet again, here you are saving my ass. In other words: Thanks, dad. For everything.”
None of the men spoke after that, only quietly sipped their coffee, with the quiet understanding of love and mutual appreciation, while both were holding back emotions.
KC for hearing words he at some point never thought could be in his future and Ethan wondering where everything went so awry.
At the same time, far, far away from all the local heartbreak, a lonely man sat by the shore.
The locals knew nothing about him, just that he appeared one day and lived in one of the off-grid huts.
He never spoke. Not a single word. Just seemed sad and aloof, which is why they nicknamed him “Nuha”, which meant something like the sulky, sad, aloof one.
He never smiled either, unless you caught them at just the right moment in time, when his gaze would be faraway, a reminiscent smile would curl up the corners of his full lips ever so slightly.