The woman walked past, smiled at little Blake, then said
“What a beautiful young couple you are. And your little boy really favors you both!”
“Uh – yeah …. ummm…” Ethan stuttered as a squeaky voice and foot patter came towards them.
“Mommy, mommy! Hungyyy. Help! Pleeeease!” the little girl with the dark curly hair and coffee-brown skin making a non-Caucasian influence undeniable, squawked excitedly as her light green eyes, an exact match to the young woman’s on the bench, then affixed on the young woman’s, briefly smiling at the young man.
“Ok, my sweet darling, we’ll go home and have dinner.” Esmée told the bright eyed toddler.
“Oh! That little girl is … umm … is she adopted?” the woman inquired now.
“Nope. Homemade with tender love and care.” Ethan growled.
“Oh, dear. Well, – umm – that is … also …. nice. Have a nice day, you poor sweet man.” the woman was obviously thinking she stirred up some cheating scandal on the perceived couple’s home front and scurried away.
Ethan shook his head to himself before scooping up the toddlers to head home.
“So it happened again.” Ezzy moaned, rolling her eyes.
“Yeah, dad will get such a kick out of it. He just loves this bullshit. You should see him messing with people when they spout such shit when he is around. Sarcasm is deep with that one, I swear it is like watching some stand up special on TV. One day I’ll tape him, I swear.” Ethan said.
“I know, dad does it right. I get so angry. I never understood why Nick was always so hung up on this bi-racial thing, but now I really get it. Nobody ever said anything when he and I were out. But the comments you and I have caught out with the kids since I came back … wow. And why does everybody just assume we are a couple? I mean, we may not be identical twins but there is a definite resemblance here. Hello? I think it is astounding how presumptuous people are.” Ezzy shrugged.
“Yeah. Nobody would DARE say anything with Nick being buff as he is. He’s not one to back down from a fight. And if he can fight them with fists, he could pull the lawyer card. But trust me, I get it. Not only have people just assumed for years that Ally is my baby too, result from having my hands in two different mother-cookie jars with Blake and her looking so different, now that you’re back they just think we are a couple and those are our kids. Trust me, before you woke, whenever Amy and I were out together with both kids … she used to get really mad about this. Man….”
Ezzy gave him a brief glance. He never spoke about Amy, and Ezzy chose to make light of it all instead of a direct answer.
“What? Don’t like the sound of banjos? Would you then be my ‘bro-band’? Or a ‘hus-ther’? Or do you have to fully say brother-husband? At least they feel sorry for you when they see Ally, thinking that for sure I cheated on you with her dark skinned daddy.” Ezzy laughed now, after watching Ethan’s facial expression and was highly amused, her initial anger dissipated.
“Honestly Ez, I love you, but if there is a term for that kind of relationship, I really don’t want to know. I guess it does take a special kind of person to feel that way about their own siblings, but I am happy to report I am not one of that crowd.” Ethan chuckled as he was playing with Blake who was squealing with delight, and now all four of them were laughing.
Hearing Esmée’s laughter made Ethan feel good, gave him hope. It had taken a while for her to get there.
Instantly a flashback hit Ethan. He remembered the day when his mother got the call from the hospital, that she had woken up, in the middle of a work meeting at EC Architects. Normally none of them answered phone calls in meetings, but when Evey saw that it was the hospital, she got up immediately, Everett called a break and all of them followed Evey to listen.
Ethan remembered it like it was yesterday, those first few seconds where you are wondering if it was a dream or reality, before you start rushing out the door. He remembered that so well, remembered his mother’s face, his grandfather’s facial expression, his uncle Joshua’s sharp inhale, remembered his own heart stopping, then pounding hard, even though now that had been months ago.
They all were out the door within 5 minutes, Everett being the calmest, so he drove them all. Always one to abide all rules, he had never seen his grandpa speed like he had that day.
He remembered bursting into her hospital room like the Kool Aid man with his family, to have Ezzy blink up at them, confused. She was fully lucid, recognized everybody and everything, couldn’t quite understand why all were laughing and crying, hugging and just acting what had to seem weird to her.
She remembered coming to the hospital in labor, except that her movie ended the moment she fell into the coma. She missed the last few years completely. The first thing she asked about after waking was her baby, and was shocked to learn her baby was already a toddler.
But not as shocked as everybody was when she asked that inevitable question about Nick. They all danced around it for an entire day, until they could confer with a doctor, who basically told them it was best to ease her into the truth and avoid lying to her.
Ethan asked to be the one to tell her.
He took her to a bench outside, the doctors encouraged her to walk as much as she could safely muster to get the circulation going.
After listening to his sister happily commenting on how nice a day it was and how good the sun felt, he had to sit there and rip her heart out.
The hardest thing he ever had done, but he felt it should be him.
Nick was his best friend, Ethan felt somehow oddly responsible for it, and she was his twin sister.
Had to be him.
Never had he witnessed anybody cry harder. He hated himself for telling her.
Ezzy took the news hard, but leaned heavily on her brother.
And she was resilient.
Once awake, her recovery had been much smoother and faster than anyone had dared to hope.
Especially after they had brought Ally to her.
It was like a miracle cure for Esmée.
That little girl had taken to Ezzy right away, immediately accepted her as her mommy. And Ezzy loved her little daughter the instant she saw her.
Ethan remembered her holding little Ally and his son for the first time.
She seemed so happy for a moment, but then the dark cloud of memory hit and her face changed to sad until Ally and Blake started talking to her.
Instantly she smiled at the children, her smile different than before, bittersweet.
Ezzy had to stay at the hospital for a few days, naturally she had to slowly ease into walking again, into eating. Her muscles needed to be build up again. Her reactions were sometimes slow, making it impossible for her to drive a car yet.
After her release from the hospital she lived at her parents for a few weeks, but then decided she wanted to move into her own home again with Ally.
So she moved back into the house on the cliffs, Katie and KC would take turns staying with her in the beginning, but Ezzy, every bit the strong fighter she had always been mastered it quickly.
Ethan was living in his home again, too, with little Blake. Amy had vacated it.
Ethan’s mind wandered again, to a time before Esmée had woken from her coma, as he thought about the day in court, that took away the last inch of hope for his own happiness he still may have had then.
He had stubbornly refused to sign the divorce papers, always hoping Amy would change her mind again, but she didn’t and eventually the divorce became a reality Ethan could no longer deny.
There had been a meeting with the two attorneys to go over the requests prior to the court date for the divorce and custody decision for Blake.
When her attorney told them she would wave all custodial rights entirely Ethan felt like the ground had been taken away and he was falling into an endless abyss.
Ethan tried to change her mind. She cried, so very hard did she cry, but didn’t change her decision.
Then the day in court. Ethan was numb and stiff, just answering when addressed. Until the judge began his ruling.
“Your honor, please – PLEASE – don’t do this!” Ethan interrupted, but one look at the distressed and emotional young man instantly changed the look of anger in the judge’s eyes to one of compassion.
“Don’t let her do this!” Ethan insisted more quietly, but stopped when he looked over to the other table and saw Amy crying hard.
“Mr. Cameron. I have seen a lot of cases in my 27 years as a family judge. Against popular perception most judges are not heartless monsters. I have heard the worst dirty laundry aired, terrible accusations made and even worse ones proven. But this case – your case Mr. and Mrs. Cameron – may well be the saddest one I have ever had to rule on, nay, the saddest I have even heard of. You are a kind young man, high integrity, and very clearly a great father. Raising your sister’s little girl while working so much. Raising a fine young boy almost on your own. And it is also clear to me, Mrs. Cameron, that you love that child very very much and I see the sacrifice you are willing to make, and why. Therefore I will abide by you and your council’s wishes and rule as follows: the sole custody as well as full right to determine if your ex-wife is allowed to see your son if she so chooses will be given to you, Mr. Cameron. Mrs. Amy Cameron has voided all such rights. I also proclaim your marriage as disolved. The court is herewith adjourned!”
The sound of the gavel on the wood sounded like the bells of doom to Ethan. He felt numb.
As he looked up he saw Amy, blinded by tears, being lead out of the courtroom by her attorney.
He still loved her.
And she still loved him, he could feel it. During the entire divorce proceedings not one single harsh word had been exchanged between them. No accusations, no hatred. Just two people at a crossroads, unable to continue their journey together.
She loved their son, had always been a great mother. And Blake often cried for his mommy, breaking Ethan’s heart.
Especially when in bed at night, alone in a bed they used to share, he himself cried for his son’s mommy.
He’d give anything to reverse all that, to have Amy back in his arms.
When he begged her to reconsider in the pre-court meeting, she told him she HAD TO leave the town, the Greater San Myshuno area just had to get away from it all. She had to get far away from all the hurt.
Her father had moved somewhere years ago and she was going to go live with him. He had a friend who could get Amy an engineering job. She cried when she told him that while all this was the hardest decision she ever made, it was the only one. She could not pull little Blake away from the network of family he had here, to live with just her and her dad. There was no other family for her.
That day in court was the last time he had seen her.
There had been one phone call after that day, they barely made it past the greeting when both of them cried inconsolably, unable to talk at all.
“ETHAN! Hellooooo?!” he now heard Ezzy’s slightly annoyed but amused sounding voice as she stood before him, smiling.
“Sorry, what?” he asked.
“Are you okay, bro?” she smiled gently at him.
“Yeah, just … thought of …. stuff.”
“Let’s get our babies fed, they are getting cranky. They need naps and we all need sustenance. I’m volunteering to cook, if you are up to it.”
“Sounds great, Ez.” Ethan forced his best and most believable smile.
Ethan and Blake were playing as Ezzy was making dinner for all of them, humming a familiar tune.
“What is that song?” Ethan finally asked.
“How can you be Nick’s best friend and not know all of his obsession songs from the 80s and 90s? That man drove me nuts with it. Especially this one. And now here I go, humming that crap. It’s ‘Ship of Fools’. I don’t remember all the lyrics, but what I remember, fits our situation. I do feel like we are all sitting on a ship of fools …. some line is something like ‘why is life so precious and cruel…'” Ezzy told Ethan.
“Yeah, seriously. How befitting. Hey Ez, can I ask you something very personal?”
“You can ask me anything, Eth. If it is something sexual I am not gonna answer, but ask…”
“As if … no, I was wondering … do you still love him? Nick?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, because he … left you. And Ally.”
“Nick didn’t leave us. Nick reached his breaking point. Needs to heal. He’ll come back. And he will love Ally just like we all do. How could he not? Look at her. She is perfect.”
“Wow. Either you are really a saint or I am the devil. I resent Amy for what she has put me and Blake through. For just leaving us both. How could she just leave her own flesh and blood? I don’t think I love her anymore.”
Ezzy turned to her brother and looked at him very seriously.
“No Ethan. I know you too well. You do still love Amy. You may be hurt, how couldn’t you be? Angry. I am angry at Nick. So mad at him. Livid. But I still love him. He is my ‘one’. Just like Amy is your ‘one’. She’ll be back one day. Just like Nick will be. Unless I get to him first.”
“Good luck finding him.”
“I don’t need luck. I know where he is. I am just giving him a chance to come to us first.”
“What?! Do you have clairvoyance since the coma?!”
“Nope. No need. I just know Nick. Can you set the table and grab the kiddos?”
Ethan was shocked at how easy Ezzy took all this.
Maybe she was right. Maybe his doom and gloom was wrong. Maybe this was not the end. Maybe it all would work out eventually.
He could not see how, but Ez’ calm confidence rubbed off on him.
At the same time far away a lonely man was wandering the beach. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but a feeling he wanted to remember.
Somewhere here he and the love of his life had found a waterfall.
Here on this very island.
A magical waterfall.
At least to them it had been.
His memories fully engulfed him, he shut his eyes and was taken back to that day. He could almost feel the sensations on his skin now.
They started out innocently playing in it,
then washing all the sand off themselves, then each other …
and all that inevitably lead to what newlyweds on their honeymoon do.
He would never forget the odd sensations all at once, undressing each other in public, even though this was a very remote spot, there was always a chance someone could have walked in on them. The thrill of getting caught as their kisses and touches became hotter and more demanding.
The feeling of the fresh cool water in the warm air, the water spray in their faces cooling their heated bodies. Feeling her like only ever he had felt her.
Suddenly he wondered if that was when they had created that baby. That growth inside of her, that parasite that took what meant the most to him in the world from him. Sucked the life from her.
He closed his eyes.
Surely by now she was dead. Dead and gone, only a memory.
Never again would he feel her gentle touch, never again would they have one of their heart to heart talks, never again joke till both of them were laughing with tears streaming down, never again would the stress and tension of work just dissipate when he held her, snuggled into his arms at night, never would they have one of their crazy impromptu lovemaking sessions when one would least expect it.
Gawd, if he needed another reason to be crazy about her, her sometimes mischievous, sensual, deviant ways would be it. Which man wouldn’t love their girl to show them in such a way they were wanted?
And then her spunk, her zest of life were what got him through everything in his life. When he was in that horrible rehab clinic, recovering from becoming an alcoholic after losing her the first time, she was what kept him there. He had hated it there. Every single second was like a year.
But when she came and told him to stay, then took him behind some bushes, right there in the the park of the clinic .. that was all it took. He would do anything for Ezzy. ANYthing. The only thing he could not do for her was face her death. If he were to see the life leave her body, watch her draw her final breath, he would run amok.
He would lose control and kill everything in sight, including himself.
Maybe he should do that now?
If there was life after death, maybe they would be reunited.
He wondered if that baby lived or if it had died by now. The one time he had gone to see it, it didn’t look like it could make to through the night, but nobody ever told him otherwise.
Ethan and Katie had tried so very hard to get him to hold that thing.
It was the devil incarnate. He hoped it had died. A slow, painful death. Like the one he had been dying every second of every day ever since Ezzy fell into the coma.
He didn’t feel alive anymore.
Had not for a long time.
But what had really send him over the edge was his mother.
One single time she came to the hospital, but instead of the calming words of encouragement Ezzy’s family always gave him, she told him that all this was probably for the better, as Esmée had never been right for him.
He lost it right there, he was about to beat his own mother, had his father not held him back, so instead he left.
He went home, except it felt like a torture chamber, everything there reminded him of Ezzy, felt like her, smelled like her.
His gaze fell onto a picture taken in Sulani. He remembered the two best weeks of his entire life.
That was where he wanted to go.
He wanted that feeling one more time.
Relive their time there.
He closed his eyes and suddenly found himself humming a tune.
At first he couldn’t place it, then he smiled faintly. He used to drive Ezzy crazy with it, not because she didn’t like it, but it would always get stuck in her head and she’d end up humming it for days after, making him laugh each time.
“Oooh, do we not sail on the ship of fools
Oooh, why is life so precious and so cruel?
I close my eyes and I try to imagine
What you’re dreaming
Why can’t you see what you’re doing to me
My world is spinning …”
He stopped, unable to sing anymore as he had started sobbing hard, only interrupted every so often by him calling a name into the dark solitude of nothing but the ocean crashing ashore.