This chapter is Rated PG 13
Author’s note: Another long chapter! I’m trying to pack as much as I can into the last remaining chapters of this generation. I apologize for the length, and hope that it’s not too much to read!
“I’m worried about her.” My grandmother whispered to Melody as they stood in my door way wearing matching frowns.
“Do you think it would help for her to talk to someone?” Melody commented, her eyes full of worry.
I closed my eyes, blocking out Melody and Meredith’s worried gazes. I couldn’t stand the way they talked in front of me, like I couldn’t even hear them when they were hovering in my doorway whispering loud enough to wake the dead.
My grandmother rubbed her forehead absently, her eyes full of worry. “I’m starting to think that’s our only option at this point. I just don’t know what else to do…” Meredith Drake’s lower lip trembled, but I felt nothing, only emptiness where I should have felt guilt. “But I know she’d never agree to therapy. But It would help for her to talk to someone don’t you think?”
My ears perked up at the word ‘therapy’ My grandmother was right about one thing. I would never in a million years agree to talk to a complete stranger about my problems, but if it would get them off my back I would pretend to go, and I would lie for all it was worth. “I’ll go.” I said dryly from the bed. “By the way. Have I mentioned I hate it when you talk about me right in front of me like I’m not even here? If your going to talk about me, at least do it out in the hallway.” I commented. Then closed my eyes once again, feeling a ripple of pleasure at the look of shock that registered on their faces.
“Oh Maddy, I’m so worried about you.” My grandmother rushed into the room with her arms outstretched, her eyes full of tears.
“I’m fine.” I lied, my voice devoid of all emotion. “I’m really tired. Can you please just leave me alone for a while.” I sighed, I was always tired it seemed.
“Madeline, baby all you do is sleep. I know you’re hurting, but Mika wouldn’t want this. He’d want you to be happy.” Meredith hovered beside my bed, wringing her hands anxiously.
I could say a million things, but I bit my tongue and swallowed down the bitter pill of emotion. How dare she mention his name. I closed my eyes and felt the tears burn behind my eyelids, instead I said, “Please don’t. Just go set something up. I’ll go to therapy. Whatever you want. Just leave me alone.” I closed my eyes and listened as their footsteps retreated down the hall, leaving me alone at last.
One month and four days, that’s how long it had been since Mika left. One month and four days was long enough to rip my heart to shreds rendering me unable to feel anything but despair and heartbreak. All I felt was cold, and empty, like the inner light that had once been inside me had been extinguished the minute Mika left with his grandfather. Not a second of the day went by when I didn’t think of him, and prayed that he was ok.
I didn’t remember much about that night, it was all a blur, like it never really happened. It was like I was stuck in a waking nightmare I couldn’t wake up from, wondering if I had simply dreamed the entire thing. The bruises from that night may had faded, but the scars on my heart would never heal, not in a million years.
Meredith had wanted to go to the cops that night, citing her friends in the police force would know how to handle the situation, but I had made her promise she wouldn’t, or it would have made Mika’s sacrifice for nothing, and possibly put him–and us, in great danger. I had to trust that Mika knew what he was doing, and keep the hope alive that he would find his way back to me…
Melody and Mason were staying with us for a while Melissa was in rehab, for the third time. None of us had much hope that she would recover, but we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t talk about a lot of things. The tension in the house was so thick you could slice it with a knife and serve it. Melissa’s first stint in rehab lasted a couple of days before she got herself kicked out for having a guest smuggle in drugs which she tried to sell to the other addicts. She ended right back in a few weeks later, promising she would take it serious this time, but ended up discharging herself after one night. Since she admitted herself, there was nothing they could do to stop her. I could only hope that the third time was a charm, even though I had long since given up hope. I didn’t even know what hope ment anymore…
“Madeline?” A small timid voice said pushing open my bedroom door slightly.
“Hi Mason.” I tried to smile at my little half-brother. Now days it always seemed as if smiling hurt. My cheek muscles forgetting what it felt like to smile. “You can come in.” Mason creeped into the room quietly. He was such a quite child, and moved around the house like he was afraid to make noise, but lately, he was the only person I could stand to be around. We were a lot alike, lost souls who felt like nobody understood them.
“Why is grandma crying downstairs? Was it something I did? Does she not want us here anymore?” He stood beside my bed his eyes shiny with tears. My bruised heart squeezed in my chest like it was grabbed by an icy fist.
“Oh Mason, no.” I breathed. The tears I had been holding back spilled down my face. “She’s not mad at you. She’s just sad. She’s worried about me.” I said truthfully, knowing Mason would understand. “Having you and Melody here means the world to her. She loves you very much. She told me that. And you know I don’t lie.” I smiled reaching out to touch his smooth cheek. “What do you say we go to the park? How does that sound?”
“Really?” Mason asked his eyes full of hope.
“Really.” I confirmed. “Go get dressed, wear something warm, ok?” I smiled softly as I watched Mason scamper out of the room. I enjoyed every moment with Mason, and I now lived for the little moments where for a little while at least, he could simply be a ten-year old boy.
I frowned at my reflection in the mirror. I looked like hell, and it was evident I wasn’t taking care of myself like I should. My eyes were dark, and red rimmed from crying, my nose as red and shiny as Rudolph’s. I ran my fingers through my tangled hair, wincing at the pain as several strands pulled at my fingers. Mika would hate to see you now, I thought my cheeks flooding with color. He gave up everything so you could be happy. But how could I be happy without him, knowing he was alone and miserable, putting his life at risk every single day to insure my happiness. How could I live knowing that? How would I feel every morning looking into the face of my child knowing they will never know their father?
My hands encircled my belly. The bump seemed to grow more large each day. Under my baggy nightgown it was hardly visible to the casual observer, but even my grandmother could notice I was beginning to show. I couldn’t help smile at the thought of a mini Mika running around, but then my smile faded just as quick. How could I feel happy for anything without Mika?
“You ready kiddo?” I asked stepping into the living room where Meredith and Melody sat huddled on the couch together. It was obvious they were talking about me by the look of shame on their faces. I plastered a smile a mile wide on my face, my cheeks lifting in a fake looking smile.
“It’s good to see you up and dressed.” My grandmother praised, like I was a child who had brought home an A + report card. Melody bobbed her head in agreement beside her.
“Yup.” I said briskly, turning towards Mason giving him a smile. I didn’t have to fake it with him. He was wise beyond his years and seemed to know I was faking it, because he was faking it too.
“I’ll go with.” Melody jumped to her feet quickly, like pop tarts out of a toaster. “Getting some fresh air sounds nice.”
My grandmother looked down at her lap. This had obviously been her idea. She didn’t trust me to leave the house on my own and wanted Melody around as my babysitter. My cheeks flooded with color, and my head felt like a tea-pot ready to explode. But over reacting was only going to further prove that I was not myself, and it would only make them more worried about me.
“Maybe next time Mel.” I pasted that fake grin back on my face. “I kind of wanted to spend the day with Mason. I hope you understand.” I didn’t bother to wait for a reply and opened the front door stepping out onto the porch with Mason, squinting into the bright sunlight.
“They’re worried about you. I can tell. That’s how my sister looks at me all the time.” Mason frowned as we walked across the front yard.
“Are you going to be warm enough?” I asked, taking note of his light yellow coat, that looked more like a windbreaker then anything else.
I rubbed my arms briskly. It was a clear, sunny day, but the wind had a bit of a bite too it, and it seemed to blow through the heavy material of my sweater like it was a T-shirt.
“I’m fine.” Mason confirmed. “It’s plenty warm enough in the sun.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Mason stopped walking for a moment, and looked up at me, his green eyes questioning.
“You can ask me anything.” I said.
“Do you think the kids here will like me?” He asked chewing on his bottom lip, looking nervous.
“Of course they’ll like you. Why would you ask a question like that? Are you nervous about starting school here?” I asked.
He nodded, his thin little shoulders tense. I had a feeling it was going to be a hard adjustment for him to get used to a new school and a whole new set of kids.
“Kids at my old school didn’t like me much. They made fun of me.” We began to walk again. Mason walking very quickly, and I found it hard to keep up with him.
“Kids can be cruel.” I agreed, figuring it was best not to lie to him, even though I probably should have said something more along the lines of. ‘Just be yourself and everything will be fine.’ He was too smart for that. “But this is a fresh start Mase. New kids who don’t know anything about you or your life.”
“Do you really think so?” He asked looking up at me gratefully.
“I do.” I said, even if I wasn’t sure if I believed it myself.
The park wasn’t far from the house. The minute Mason saw the swings he took off running. It was good to see him acting like a kid once again, excited over a simple swing set.
“Look how high I can go!” Mason laughed pumping his legs for everything he was worth.
“Be careful Mason.” I warned, visions of him falling off the swing set and cracking open his skull plagued my thoughts. What kind of mother was I going to be?
“You sound like grandma.” Mason laughed. “I do this all the time, don’t worry!”
He slowed to a stop, dragging his heels in the dirt to slow himself. “Do you think mom is going to get better?” He asked looking down at the ground like he was counting each individual blade of grass.
“I don’t know.” I said honestly, holding tightly to the rusty chains of my swing. I wasn’t going to lie to him. He was too smart for that, and would be able to tell I was lying, and there would go our trust out the window. “She has to want to get better. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I think so.” He frowned. “Do you think she wants to get better?”
“Deep down I think she does.” I said honestly. “But she has to listen to the doctors, and we both know that she’s no good at doing what people tell her to do.” I stood up and followed Mason over to the teeter totters.
“Do you think she’s going to die?” Mason asked sitting down on his end, as I sat down on mine. The wood and metal cold underneath my butt.
“I hope not.” I sighed.
We were quiet for a while, each lost in our own dark thoughts.
“Do you want to have a boy or a girl baby?” Mason asked finally, changing the subject.
I smiled softly. “I don’t care as long as the baby is healthy.”
“Do you think he’ll come back?” Mason asked his feet dangling in the air.
“Who?” I asked sadly, even though I already knew the answer. He was talking about Mika. He was one observant little boy.
“You know. The dad. I heard grandma and Melody talking about him. Why did he leave? Does he not love you anymore?”
A tear slipped down my cheek, and for a moment I couldn’t find the words. “It’s a long story Mason, I’ll tell you about him some other time, ok?” I said finally.
“Ok!” Mason jumped off the teeter totter so quickly my butt slammed down on the ground. I laughed lightly, watching him run off towards the slide.
I sat down in a patch of grass next to the pond and watched Mason play on the slide. My heart felt heavy, like it weighed too much to carry inside my chest. Would I ever stop hurting or was this my life now? Going through the motions pretending to smile while inside my heart was breaking. I wasn’t sure I could live like this. Did I even have the strength too?
I wasn’t sure, but I had to try. Mika would want me to try. I stood up and joined my little brother on the slide.
“It’s getting late Mase.” I said finally, noting the darkening sky and the shadows that played upon the grass.
“Just a little while longer?” He begged looking up at me.
“Afraid not, it’s almost dinner time, and grandma will have a fit if I don’t get you home in time to wash up for dinner.”
“I’m hungry anyway.” He said. “Grandma is a good cook. I love it when she makes tacos.”
“She is.” I agreed. “Taco’s sound great.” My stomach rumbled, once again reminding me I was eating for two.
The short walk home was short and relatively quiet. Mason too wore out from playing to pepper me with questions, for which I was extremely grateful. As much as I loved getting to know my little brother he sure could ask the tough questions that I wasn’t yet willing to answer.
“We’re home.” I yawned opening the front door and stepping into the warm living room.
“Mason, go wash up for dinner.” I smiled as I watched him scamper up the stairs, eager at the thought of a full belly.
I sniffed. I didn’t smell dinner cooking. The smell of beef cooking should had made my mouth water…
“What’s for dinner?” I asked stepping into the living room. My grandmother and Melody sat rigid on the sofa with tears streaming down their faces. “Ok, who died?” I asked wearily, rubbing my forehead feeling a headache coming on. I know they were worried about me, hell I was too, but this was enough…
“Madeline. You shouldn’t watch this!” My grandmother gasped, tears streaming down her face.
“What’s going on?” I asked feeling my heart start to sink.
“And once again, late breaking news out of North Port Virginia tonight…” The TV blared from the corner.
My head whipped around to face the tv so quick it could have given me whiplash.
“Once again, an explosion has rocked the downtown area of North Port’s factory district tonight, in what appears to be a meth lab explosion. So far two are confirmed dead, but the body count is expected to rise as the recovery effort is underway. Officials on site at the blast says it appears to be a case of sabotage.” Mika’s grandfathers face flashed across the screen and my face crumpled, as my blood froze in my veins. I hung onto the wall for support, my knees feeling weak. “Authorities say this man, Victor Dimarzo had ties to the drug trade that has been plaguing North Port for years. So far he is one of the two confirmed dead…”
Two dead….those words buzzed around my brain like an angry bee. I felt my face go deathly pale. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!
Two dead, the words echoed in my head like a song stuck on repeat. Who was the other confirmed dead? Sabotage? There was only one person I knew that was brave enough to do something like that, especially if it would guarantee my safety. Mika!
At the thought of his name, my vision dimmed and I fell forward onto my knees. No, Mika can’t be dead! I thought as my head hit the carpet. It’s just not possible….
I heard someone screaming, and it took a minute to realize that the one screaming…was me.